Disclaimer: I have only seen the TV show so please excuse my lack of knowledge of the universe!
This is rated mature essentially because it is based on a mature TV show so has scenes of violence, swearing and all that jazz.
It isn't the case that Jaskier might be in a situation that he should not be involved in, it's the case that Jaskier is definitely in a situation that he should not be involved in. He supposes that he should count himself fortunate that his spot behind the overturned table is just enough to keep him hidden from view of the creature, one Jaskier is unfamiliar with and the captain of the guard had no name for. He knows the most important features anyhow – that it has far too many teeth and far too many eyes.
"Yes!" Escapes Jaskier's lips as Geralt lands a hit against it, cutting through tough hide and causing a splash of blue blood to spurt out. Once upon a time, seeing this much gore and bloodshed would have made Jaskier feel faint. Now? Well, he does still feel a bit woozy, but it's accompanied by pride at watching his Witcher at work, doing what he does best.
If he could get it done a bit sooner, though, Jaskier would be eternally grateful. He's famished and his legs are starting to cramp.
The monster lets out an ear-piercing screech that has Jaskier covering his ears. He dares to lift his head above the table, just in time to watch Geralt hold the tip of his blade against the creature's throat. It snaps at the Witcher but doesn't strike out. Perhaps the smartest thing its done so far.
"Enough!" Geralt roars, his voice echoing through the uppermost chamber of the tower they're in. His voice holds so much authority, power, that the hairs on Jaskier's arm stand to attention. Something else threatens to stand as well and Jaskier shifts in his position, forcing himself to focus on the scene before him. Soon enough, Geralt will gut the beast and then they can be along their merry way, spending their hard-earned coin on a decent dinner, and perhaps even a bath. Melitele knows it's been far too long since he's been able to have a nice, relaxing soak and he won't deny that seeing Geralt resting inside one is a lyric-worthy sight. Oh, Jaskier could write poetry for days about the long, firm muscles of Geralt's thighs, the exquisite expression on his face as he sinks beneath steaming water, the little sigh he lets out…
"You don't need to do this."
Hold on a moment. What?
Jaskier sits up higher, despite the fact his assurance that death is not imminent is dwindling with every second Geralt doesn't get on with it already.
"Um, Geralt. I don't know if you remember, but this monster has already killed four soldiers and seemed, seems, very hellbent on killing us," Jaskier pipes up, because he doesn't remember Geralt getting hit on the head, but there is a chance it happened when they were running for their lives up the tower. Jaskier had been rather focused on making sure he didn't trip over his own two feet so that the Witcher behind wouldn't collide with him and they wouldn't die in a messy sprawl of limbs down hundreds of steps.
"Quiet, Jaskier," Geralt orders, his piercing golden gaze never leaving the snapping jaws of the beast. "I know what you are," he tells it. "And I know you can understand me."
The beast hisses, spittle flying out, and Jaskier wrinkles his nose.
"You are a Blastick. Probably believe yourself to be the last of your species." The creature, or the Blastick, doesn't confirm or deny. Jaskier isn't sure why it would, he's not convinced Geralt's got the right monster. "But that isn't true," Geralt continues. "During my travels, I came across a small group of your kind. In the mountains by Talgar. If you go now and cause no more trouble for any of the villages you come across, I give you my word I will not hunt you, nor any more of your species that wish to lead a peaceful life."
"Excuse me, Geralt, but are you quite sure this thing can understand you, because-"
"I said quiet!" Geralt interrupts and Jaskier's mouth snaps shut. "Do we have a deal?" The Witcher directs to the Blastick.
The Blastick, which had stopped writhing as Geralt spoke, regards the Witcher with all of its beady little eyes with something that could be considered curiosity. Then, with a movement so small Jaskier nearly misses it, it nods its head.
"Be gone, then. And remember. No more death."
He leans back, points his sword to the ground and just as Jaskier is convinced they're done for, that Geralt has made a truly horrendous mistake, the Blastick dives out the window. Jaskier can hear a scuttling sound as it climbs down the outside of the tower. Still, he waits until Geralt has sheathed his sword, a sign that the trouble has truly passed, before emerging from his hiding spot.
"So, um, what exactly was that? How did you know the thing could be reasoned with? And on that note, do you really trust it not to just go on another killing spree?"
"Centuries ago, Blasticks and humans once got along. Noblemen used them as guards, armies would fight alongside them. They were loyal companions, despite their appearance. However, it didn't take much for a Lord to spread the rumour that they couldn't be trusted, that they were vermin to be destroyed, and for people to respond. In a matter of days, their kind was nearly extinct. Those that are left do what they can to survive. Some remember the reason for their low numbers, and that is why that one went after the guards, the very ones they fought with, who later murdered them."
"And you really believe it wise to let them live now, with that vendetta?" Jaskier asks dubiously.
Geralt turns that piercing stare onto him, and Jaskier fights not to shift under the attention. "I do not kill what deserves to be killed. Should it continue to cause trouble despite my warning, then I will gladly end its life. Does that satisfy you?"
Despite the number of times it has now occurred, and how well Jaskier feels he knows Geralt, it never fails to surprise Jaskier when Geralt lets a monster go, when he goes against what legend would say is his only purpose.
"Well, I wouldn't say it satisfies me, per se, but I trust your decision, Geralt."
"Hm." Geralt begins walking back down the tower and Jaskier hastens to follow.
"However, we are going to tell the guards you killed it, are we not? Because people much prefer a tale of death and justice than one that highlights their own faults as a race. And we do need that coin, it's been an age since we've had something decent to eat. Oh, do you suppose we could get chicken? I could positively die for a leg of chicken and some potato."
"Jaskier?" Geralt says, pausing on the stairs.
Jaskier doesn't, because he knows that for all his grumbling, Geralt would find life terribly boring if he followed that command. Instead, he begins to test lyrics for his latest ballad as they may their way down.
"A Blastick with jaws that could cleave men in two but was no match for the Witcher who slew."
"Tell me, bard, where the Witcher is, and we can end this. You will be free."
A punch lands on Jaskier's already bruised to high hell stomach and he gasps involuntarily from the impact. Droplets of blood escape his lips.
"I keep telling you, I don't know," he rasps, his throat still sore from when he'd been strangled oh, was it yesterday, or the day before? Maybe it was even this morning. It appears that time becomes meaningless during torture. It is not something he's pleased to have discovered.
"You've travelled with him for years. You must know something." What Jaskier can keep track of is the number of people who have come to torture him. The first man liked knives. The second enjoyed fire. This man, whom Jaskier has named Razek based on a boy from university who was an utter pisshead, is the most primitive of them all and prefers to use his hands.
"All I know is that the Witcher and I are no longer acquainted," Jaskier tells him, the truth hurting almost as much as the blows. The last time he had seen Geralt had been months ago, when the Witcher had blamed him for, well, everything. Something that, to this day, Jaskier finds incredibly unfair but would forgive in a heartbeat if Geralt ever just said hello.
Which, he won't. Jaskier has resigned himself to dying in this dirty, shit-stinking dungeon. Geralt must have better things to do than save bards who let themselves get kidnapped in their breeches. At first, Jaskier had been terrified, because his was, in theory, not a life that should lead to an early grave (unless it came at the hand of a surprise, jealous spouse) but the truth is he could have died a number of times standing at the Witcher's side. To die protecting him is not a bad way to go.
No matter what barbed words Geralt has thrown at him in the past, he will not allow the Witcher to become hurt because he values his own pathetic existence more.
"You must know something," Razek demands, tone betraying his frustration. "Places you know he frequents, those who are better acquaintances of his." He grabs Jaskier's right hand, above the manacle. "Tell me, or I will break those clever little fingers of yours one by one."
Regardless of the fact he knows he is to die here, that all this is doing is delaying the inevitable, Jaskier's heartbeat quickens in fear. His hands, along with his voice, are his livelihood. Without them, what's left of him?
"I…," Jaskier licks his cracked lips. "I don't know," he answers and with a snarl, Razek takes his index finger and rips it back. The pain, sudden, sharp and intense, causes Jaskier to howl in pain. It's no worse than the slash across his ribs, or the burn mark on his shoulder, but with that finger, he has held chords that have made women weep, have inspired men to be brave. He has wooed ladies and gentlemen alike, changed the perception of a Witcher who deserves so much more than he receives.
"Do you know now?" Razek asks and all Jaskier can do is shake his head, before his middle finger is snapped ruthlessly.
"Shit! Shitting fuck, fuck," Jaskier wheezes.
"Willing to talk yet?"
Jaskier breathes heavily through his nose and raises his head so he can stare directly into cold, unfeeling grey eyes.
He's just received a swift punch to the face that brings tears to his eyes when the door slams open. He watches as Razek gets flung into the wall with a sickening crack, never to rise again. It takes a moment for Jaskier's sluggish brain to catch up, to realise hands are gripping the manacles, unlocking him. His legs fail to catch him as he's released, but he's caught by strong arms, pressed against a chest Jaskier could wax poetry about for years.
"Geralt?" His voice is barely louder than a whisper, shock quickly morphing into relief. He tilts his head back and oh, what a sight for sore eyes. Geralt's hair is a mess, blown back by strong winds and matted with blood, and his mouth is a thin, unreadable line, but he is there. For Jaskier.
"Can you walk?"
"I…," he tests his legs, it doesn't take long before they give out on him, due to either exhaustion, blood loss or a combination of the two and he grimaces. "I'm afraid not."
"I'll carry you then," Geralt says simply, and before Jaskier can even offer an opinion, he is flung over Geralt's shoulders, one of his muscled arms keeping Jaskier in place by his legs. It's not the most comfortable of positions, but it does allow him a very nice view of Geralt's ass, so he doesn't think of complaining. Frankly, he'd take being wheelbarrowed out in a pile of dung if it meant getting out.
By the time they make it outside, not even the gracious sight of Geralt's ass is enough incentive to stay awake. His injuries are all catching up to him and any adrenaline he'd had upon his rescue is fading. And so, it's with half-lidded eyes and a fading mind that Jaskier settles against Geralt's front upon Roach and says, "I didn't think you'd come for me."
The hand that holds Jaskier in place by his stomach briefly increases in pressure, only lessening at Jaskier's hiss of pain.
"It's my fault you were there. I couldn't leave you to die."
As reasons go, it's not the most poetic, but even so, Jaskier mumbles, "My Geralt, you do say such sweet words," before sinking into blissful oblivion.
When Jaskier wakes, it is to the sound of birds tweet their morning tunes and a faint breeze tickling the scraggly bits of hair that have grown on his chin. It would be an altogether quite pleasant wakefulness, if not for the way his body aches and his throat feels like he'll never even hum again, let alone sing.
"Ugh," Jaskier moans, as he tries to gather his bearings, remember where he is, what has happened. The torture slams back into his memory first, making him flinch unconsciously, but it is quickly followed by the rescue and that has him pushing himself up to sitting, despite the way his body protests at the movement.
Geralt's name has barely left his lips before the man is pushing aside the opening to the crudely set up tent they're in. For a brief moment, all they do is stare at each other. Jaskier's eyes trace a face he never expected to see again, and Geralt's stare at a place just by his forehead, before travelling down the length of his body.
"You shouldn't be moving," he says gruffly, and instead of allowing Jaskier to flop back down, he kneels beside him and guides him with more gentleness than Jaskier thought Geralt capable of displaying. At least, towards him. If he didn't think it would hurt so much, he'd pinch himself to check this wasn't all one horribly realistic dream.
"Stay still," Geralt orders. "I'll get some potions."
"Alright," is all Jaskier is capable of uttering. He can still feel Geralt's hands on him, cradling his head, resting against his uninjured shoulder. In that short space of time, he had felt utterly treasured.
Geralt isn't gone for long, and when he arrives back it's with glass bottles containing liquids that don't look like the usual healing balms Geralt once carried with him. Geralt notices Jaskier's confusion and says, "From Yennefer's collection."
Ah, well, that would make sense. Except…
"So, you two are on speaking terms again, then?"
Geralt nods. "A lot has changed," he offers without elaborating. And why would he? For all Jaskier knows, Geralt is going to wait until he's healed and then let him go along on his own, good deed of the day done. He doesn't owe Jaskier an explanation.
"I see," Jaskier says faintly. His fingers curl unconsciously, and when sharp pain flairs, he remembers what the most atrocious act was. "My fingers," he hisses, and as ashamed as he is to admit it, tears prick the corner of his eyes. The damage to his appendages had been much easier to bear when he believed death to be inevitable. To be alive, but with precious tools that may never work as they once did, may never strum a chord as they once had…
"Calm yourself, Jaskier." Geralt's low, rumbling voice breaks through the panic. He places a hand over Jaskier's, which he now notices have splints to keep him from damaging them further. "We are travelling back to Kaedwen. Yennefer has a house there. She will be able to heal your fingers."
It's testament to how much he values Geralt's words that they instantly soothe him and his future doesn't feel as hopeless as it just had.
"Not that I don't enjoy travelling with you on the road, would it not be easier to ask her to, you know," we waggles the fingers of his uninjured hand. "Portal?"
Geralt's teeth grit and he looks away from Jaskier as he replies, "We had a disagreement before she left for a trip and made herself uncontactable for the week."
"Ah, a lover's quarrel?" Jaskier asks, his heart tugging painfully at the thought that Geralt and Yennefer might have picked up where they left off, if Geralt is staying with her.
"Not exactly," Geralt grunts. "Now, let me take off your top."
"Oh, Geralt. At least buy me dinner first," Jaskier quips, trying to make light of a situation that is making his heart thump so madly in his chest, he would be surprised if it weren't unlike harsh bangs on a steel drum to Geralt's ears. They have seen each other naked plenty of times before, but never has Jaskier felt so exposed, so vulnerable to emotion. All the feelings he'd kept bottled up while travelling alone, they're spilling out in a way that leaves him unsure of how to behave, uncertain as to how to hide this part of himself from Geralt.
Geralt ignores his words and together, the two manage to get Jaskier out of what must have been a shirt of Geralt's because it sags against his thin frame and smells disarmingly like the Witcher himself. Which means he in turn now smells more like the Witcher. And it's that something.
Able now to get a clearer look at his torso, even Geralt can't hide a reaction at the sight of him. Purple and blues mottle his fair skin in a crude imitation of art. Burn marks and slashes litter the scene like comets raging through a night sky. Geralt's nostrils flare, and he quickly turns to the side, lifting a glass vial filled with dark emerald liquid.
"This won't heal everything completely, but it will speed up the process," he tells Jaskier before tipping some of the viscous liquid onto his chest. He hisses not from pain, but from how cool it is against his skin. Fortunately, Geralt warms it up by rubbing it softly into his wounds. Or perhaps it isn't so fortunate, because now Jaskier is convinced that this is how he's going to perish. He is going to combust from the feeling of Geralt of Rivia's calloused, strong hand rubbing soft circles on his pectorals. All Jaskier can do is lie there and breathe through the turbulent emotions running through his body in a valiant effort to calm the heart he knows Geralt must be able to feel beating wildly beneath his palm. He can only hope Geralt attributes it to adrenaline.
Geralt's hand has moved to his shoulder, where a particularly nasty burn lies, when he speaks, jerking Jaskier out of the nice, warm haze he'd been floating in.
"I'm sorry for what I said before."
That certainly gets Jaskier's attention. He blinks his eyes open and focuses on Geralt who is steadfastly watching the ministrations of his hand.
"You're sorry?" Jaskier repeats because he'd hoped for an apology, longed for one, but he hadn't actually expected to receive it. At least, not without copious amounts of prompting should his path have ever crossed the Witcher's again.
"Yes. What I said, it wasn't true. I was angry and I took it out on you. It is my actions that lead to this, and I hope you are able to forgive me."
For once, Jaskier is lost for words. Geralt must mistake it for unwillingness to speak, because he continues with, "I understand it may take time."
Jaskier's innards feel softer than the cake his mother used to bake him for his birthday. "Oh, you silly Witcher," he says, grabbing hold of Geralt's warm, slightly sticky hand. "Of course I forgive you."
Geralt's eyes widen a fraction. "Oh. Thank you." It's now Geralt's turn to be lost for words, something far more usual, and Jaskier pats his hand.
"You're very welcome, my friend."
The faintest hint of a smile graces Geralt's lips. "I'll let you rest. We will continue riding later when the sun is beginning to set. It should be a couple days ride from here."
"Thank you, Geralt," Jaskier says sincerely. "For everything. Oh, something I did wonder. How did you even know I was in trouble?"
Witcher's don't flush, but Jaskier was sure if they did, Geralt would currently be doing it. "I was looking for you," he says so quietly that Jaskier strains to hear him. But oh, is he glad he does, because that knowledge is enough to send joy sparking through his body like crackling magic.
"Why?" He tries not to make the question sound so exuberant but definitely fails.
"To apologise," Geralt says, and though it appears he is once again holding something back, Jaskier doesn't push. "That reminds me." He sadly finishes rubbing the last of Jaskier's wounds with the salve (his likely not very dashing black eye, but he would get another in a heartbeat if it meant feeling Geralt's large hands cupping his jaw, feeling his thumb brush against the swollen skin) and lifts himself up. Jaskier waits patiently, but the item in Geralt's grasp has him sitting back up despite both Geralt and his body objecting.
"My lute!" He cries and he really could cry. He'd quickly resigned himself to never seeing his beautiful instrument ever again, to having to just rely on his voice while his fingers and coin purse healed. "You found it!"
"Along with your other belongings. You hadn't long been taken by the time I reached the inn you were staying at. You still continued to sing about me." Geralt looks at him inquiringly, as if he can't believe that Jaskier would include his song in his set. Perhaps a reasonable assumption, considering how they parted, but there was nothing Geralt could do that would make Jaskier not want to sing his praises, to not want to show the public the man that was hidden behind titles of Butcher and Wolf.
"It is my most popular song," Jaskier tells him, instead of every other reason he could more truthfully reveal. "I'm not going to let your little tantrum spoil my performances."
Geralt rolls his eyes and Jaskier grins. He is passed his lute and while he cannot play, he runs a hand lovingly down the spine. Already, lyrics are forming in his mind for this tale.
"Tell me, Geralt," Jaskier says as Geralt bends down to sit by his side once more. "Which do you think works better, 'he fell to his knees to beg for forgiveness from his dearest friend, or 'a solitary tear fell down his cheek, as he grovelled for mistake to his greatest friend'. I'd need to work on the rhyming, of course…"
Geralt snorts. "I think you should go to sleep."
Jaskier sighs dramatically, but since it's swiftly followed by a yawn, he has to concede that Geralt's probably right. They put Geralt's old shirt back on Jaskier, which should not feel as comforting as it does, and he tucks his lute into his elbow like a child might cradle their favourite toy. With Geralt's protective presence watching over him, sleep comes easy to Jaskier, and he shuts his eyes with a smile.
By the time they reach Kaedwen, Jaskier has mostly healed apart from his fingers. There is little even magical potions can do for his poor, broken limbs and he hopes that Geralt is right and that they will be returning on the same day Yennefer is supposed to.
They are riding in a forest, one with leaves that shine like emeralds beneath the summer sky and animals that scurry without fear of being a starving man's dinner, when all of a sudden, in front of them is a manor. Large and grand. It looks like something that should be in the middle of an estate, not a forest, and Jaskier's mouth falls open at the sight of it. It's like he can hear the Geralt's smug smile as he says, "Yennefer has enchantments to make sure no fool can wander on the premises."
"I see," Jaskier says faintly, his gaze glued to rich amber walls, artistic shrubbery lining it. The windows are a sparkling white, some even sporting balconies – something Jaskier has only heard about, never seen for himself. He can scarcely imagine what the inside must look like.
It is a fitting, deserving home for a Witcher and his Sorceress. Jaskier wonders how long they will permit him to stay.
As he has taken to doing during their journey, and something that never fails to make Jaskier's breath catch in his throat, Geralt helps him off Roach and sets him on the ground so carefully that his injuries don't even twinge. He waits as Geralt puts the mare in the stables and then they head inside.
The interior is just as glamorous as the exterior. The floor is gleaming, polished wood with plush carpets that Jaskier aches to sink his feet into. The stairs are wide, leading to a second floor and pillars bearing intricate design hold it all together. Jaskier wants to explore, discover everything this wondrous place has to offer, but he stays by Geralt's side. The time will come where he demands Geralt give him a tour.
"You can stay in the East Wing," Geralt tells him as he leads Jaskier up the stairs. With his gaze more directly at Geralt's backside, he wonders what the washroom looks like.
Whether it might be communal.
Jaskier is suddenly very glad he is behind Geralt because otherwise the Witcher would see the blood rush towards his face, making him look like an ugly tomato. He mostly has himself under control by the time they reach the room, and stepping inside, he can't remember the last time he's ever been privy to such a glorious room. It's bathed in shades of blue, with a bed big enough to fit at least three, and a table bearing fruit and wine. His room has one of those novel balconies, and the view is of a lake that is sparkling in the light. All told, it's positively beautiful.
It's as if the room were designed for him.
"I take it the room is to your liking," Geralt says by the door, and Jaskier turns to see a hint of a smug grin on his face.
"My liking? Geralt, it's magnificent!" In fact, it's taking all of his willpower not to just jump onto the bed.
"I'm glad. My room is two doors on the right, should you ever need me. It might please you to note that the walls are soundproof."
"Please you, you mean," Jaskier says, though he doesn't really mind. Many a song will be born in this very room, he knows it.
Geralt looks as if he's going to say something more, but then his mouth shuts and he briefly closes his eyes. "They're back."
Jaskier's brows rise. "Wait a second, they?"
When Geralt is uncomfortable, his jaw tenses.
His jaw is very tense, and Jaskier worries.
"I didn't want to tell you, not until you were better but…my child surprise. Ciri. She's here. That is where Yennefer was. She had taken Ciri on a trip to help her learn to control her powers.
It takes Jaskier's brain a moment to link it all together. The party all those years ago, the recent fall of Cintra, the search for the lost princess… "So, you're a father?" Not perhaps the most important titbit of it all, but it's what Jaskier's brain focuses on.
"Hm." It's not a confirmation, nor is it a denial, which therefore means it's true. And well, isn't that a new facet. Geralt the father. The White Wolf, the Butcher, and his daughter. A princess.
"Well then, we'd best go say hello! I'm sure you've told her all about me, and if not, then there's an awful lot she needs to catch up on. So many tales of her father to hear!"
"Jaskier." Geralt's tone is exasperated, but Jaskier has been around him long enough to pick up the slivers of fondness interweaved. He claps Geralt on the shoulder.
"So, lead me to Ciri!"
Geralt shakes his head a little, but he moves, and Jaskier follows. They head back down the stairs where two figures are stood in the foyer. At the sound of their footsteps, both turn and the shorter of the two is instantly running towards them. Cloak still in hand, face flushed, the Princess of Cintra slams into Geralt and gives him a tight hug. Jaskier expects the Witcher to just bear the hug with his usual stoicism, but to his surprise, Geralt's eyes soften and one of his hands rises to cup the back of Ciri's head.
"Geralt! We didn't know if you'd be back already." She releases him and looks up at him with adoration. It's a sight so adorable Jaskier never wants to forget it.
"How was your trip? Useful?"
"Very! Yennefer took me to so many places, I can't wait to-" She cuts off when she spies Jaskier stood behind Geralt. Her back straightens and her eyes widen in recognition. "Oh, you must be Jaskier."
Jaskier's smile widens. "That is I. And you must be her royal highness, the Princess of Cintra. It is my absolute pleasure to meet you." Unthinkingly, he offers his right hand, and the two of them just stare at the splints holding his fingers.
"Yen, Jaskier is hurt. He needs healing."
"And hello to you too, Geralt," Yennefer says coolly as she walks up the stairs at a much more sedate, regal pace than her young charge. "Jaskier," she greets. "Allow me to see your fingers?" Jaskier angles the hand he'd held to Ciri in her direction. She lightly touches them, feeling the damage. "The breaks seem quite clean," she muses. "Healing them shouldn't be too painful."
"Not too painful. Delightful."
"Come along, Jaskier. We might as well sort them out now. Ciri, why don't you tell Geralt about our trip?"
"I promise to bring your bard back to you in one piece," Yennefer says, interrupting Geralt. Jaskier gives the Witcher a slight nod when his eyes search Jaskier's, needing confirmation he'll be alright.
"I'm sure I'll be right as rain in no time! And I do look forward to getting to know you, Ciri, I have so many stories of Geralt to tell you."
"That sounds nice," Ciri says, smiling. He smiles back before following Yennefer up the stairs to her quarters.
Interestingly, they are in the west side of the building.
Life has never been conventional for Jaskier, but even he has to admit, he never could have foreseen himself living the life he does now. With the lands becoming more dangerous due to Nilfgaard's invasions as they search for Ciri, the lands they can comfortably pass through decrease every day, and as Ciri requires training, Geralt, and by extension Jaskier, end up spending extended amounts of time in Kaedwen. It's been a long time since Jaskier had a place he could truly call home, always saying it was wherever his music brought him but in this manor with Geralt, Ciri, and even Yennefer, with whom he can now stand to look at without wishing he were her, he feels a certain peace. Oh, he still travels out on his own, gracing towns that will still welcome him with his music, where all he is, is a bard who enjoys to entertain, but now he has a place he can return to when his feet tire of wandering.
At the present moment, he is with Geralt, in a town not too far from the manor. Despite the fact their need for coin is not as desperate as it once was, Geralt gets bored if he's cooped up too long, and Jaskier needs new material. In fact, Jaskier is currently performing now, in celebration of Geralt taking care of a hoard of Basilisks. He is about to perform his last song, a reprise of 'Toss a coin to your Witcher' when a man at the back of the room cries out, "Give us something new, we've heard that one already!"
Jaskier would never normally bow to the demands of drunken louts, but the rest of the patrons cheer at his suggestion and Jaskier is forced to listen if he wants to keep his reputation.
"Alright, alright," Jaskier soothes, before the inhabitants work themselves into a frenzy and he's forced to duck out without even getting a sliver of duck. "Let me have a think."
Jaskier hadn't been wrong, the manor has and continues to be a source of inspiration for many of his latest songs, but a great deal of them involve a certain Witcher and Jaskier's hidden feelings. There are many he would never dare to sing with the Witcher present but there is one he might just get away with.
"Allow me to treat you to one of my newest songs," Jaskier says. "I call it, 'Foolish man's heart'."
It is more the ladies who cheer at the name, but it's what Jaskier expects. He settles up on a table and lifts a foot onto the seat, so that he may rest his lute upon his knee. In the corner of his eye, he spies Geralt in the corner of the room, taking a long gulp of ale. He watches the way his throat moves as he swallows, mirrors the action, and then turns his attention to the song.
There once was a man
Who could love with a look
Who wanted true love greater
Than that found in a book
He travelled the world
Met those handsome and fair
Found one who was better
Though they did not care
But a foolish man's heart
Does not follow his mind
It takes what it wants
Even if the other is blind
Still the man continued
He held onto hope
As he watched his love flee
Go off and elope
His heart yearned for one
He never would hold
But that didn't matter
For they were his gold
Because a foolish man's heart
Does not follow his mind
It takes what it wants
Even if the other is blind
A foolish man's heart
Will cause trouble and strife
But it will hold his love dear
Till the end of his life
As he strums the final chord, the crowd applauses, and Jaskier fights to keep the smile wide on his face as he takes his bow. He collects his coin for the show and then darts past the ladies looking to flirt so that he can slide onto the seat opposite Geralt. His heart skips a beat as the Witcher looks at him, unreadable. Does he know that his song was about him? Does he know that Jaskier will continue to love him, even as he loves others? Even if Jaskier now knows that the relationship between Geralt and Yennefer isn't the passionate, soul-bond connection he had once assumed, he also knows that there is no way Geralt could return his feelings. Could ever want him in the way Jaskier wants him.
"So, what did you think? I rather think that one has potential, judging from the response."
He expects a shrug, perhaps a 'hm', if he's lucky, so Jaskier is frankly astonished when Geralt says, "It wasn't bad."
Jaskier is half-convinced he has gone mad. "Not bad?" He cries. "Geralt, my friend, coming from you that is the greatest compliment I have ever heard. No review will come close to your approval!"
Geralt rolls his eyes. "Don't let it get to your head," he says dryly. "Oh, wait."
"Well, I wouldn't get so excited if you dared to grace me with a review more often. Look at me, I could cry."
"Don't get tears in the ale."
Jaskier glares at Geralt, who looks incredibly amused, and Jaskier can't keep up the charade. He sighs dramatically, and Geralt snorts lightly.
"I'm going to the restroom. A word of advice, you'd do well to rid your heart of Yennefer. She is not right for you."
By the time Jaskier is finished spluttering into his ale, Geralt is gone. When he returns, Jaskier doesn't even dignify the insinuation that the song might have been about Yennefer of all people with a response.
Honestly. Ignorant bloody Witchers.
It is the rare occasion that Jaskier is by himself in the manor. Geralt and Ciri are off for Ciri's first hunt, and Yennefer is off doing Melitele knows what, which leaves Jaskier free to do as he pleases. He is currently enjoying a long bath, one littered with petals and scented with rose oil, when he hears the bang of the large doors of the entrance opening. Jaskier just has the thought to put a sheet over the bath when Ciri is running into his room, unlocked because why ever would he need to lock it?
She doesn't take notice of his very naked (but thankfully covered) status as she gasps through laboured breaths, "Jaskier. It's Geralt. She has him."
That's all that's needed for Jaskier to leap out of the bath (modesty still protected) and begin putting on clothes. "Who has him, Ciri? What happened?"
"We were tracking some Drowners. I was going to kill one by myself. Except, as we were on the path towards the lake we came across a woman. She was on the ground and calling for help. I think Geralt knew something was wrong because he told me to stay back. I watched as Geralt helped the woman up, but then, then I heard her say, 'I've never had a Witcher before'. She- she changed, into a siren I think. Large wings, a tail. She struck Geralt in the leg and grabbed a hold of him, flying them both into the air. I tried to stop them Jaskier, I screamed, but then she screamed back. I knew I couldn't afford to be captured as well so I ran. I ran here. Jaskier, we need to help him."
"I know. It'll be okay, Ciri, I promise," Jaskier says, because this is likely the first time Geralt has been in real peril since he's come to live with him. He tries not to let his own worry show as he thinks. Sirens. What did he know about sirens? He knew they preferred the coast, but the coast was miles from here. Which meant this one was likely an outcast. Still, sirens preferred to live in groups so, for all they knew, this one had brought Geralt back to an entire lair of them. But, by the sounds of it, this one wanted Geralt. Alive, for now, at least. He had no idea how a Witcher would react to a siren's song. He had to hope they at least had some resistance. Saving Geralt would become infinitely harder if he didn't want to leave.
"We should call Yennefer," Jaskier decides, and he doesn't even need to hear the answer when he sees Ciri's downcast expression.
"Ah. Well." That was…not promising. Very not promising. He could only hope that in her case, she was just tied up in something very boring, important, and not dangerous in the slightest. "We can do this ourselves. We just need to plan, see what we can bring with us. Oh, beeswax! We'll need that."
Together, he and Ciri hunt through Yennefer's storeroom for potions and items that might be of any use to them. Or rather, Ciri searches and Jaskier yells suggestions outside the door. Ever since he decided to take a small peek while she'd been out and had accidently knocked a potion that could only be made under a new moon, he had been banned from the room. Physically. Any time he now tried to enter; a magical force pushed him away.
They ended up with potions of healing (that Jaskier hoped they wouldn't need to use), a tincture of concealment (so they may at least have the element of surprise on their side) and a collection of small vials that would combust when thrown (as a last resort). From his weapons room, Jaskier also takes one of Geralt's lighter swords, Ciri keeping the weapons she had intended for the Drowners. While he can't claim to be a master of the blade, he's attended a few of Ciri's lessons and has hopefully learnt enough that he shouldn't die immediately in a battle.
It's not the biggest vote of confidence for himself but it's all he has and at this point, he'll take it,
"Let's go to where he was taken," Jaskier suggests as Ciri mounts Roach, and Jaskier mounts his own newly acquired horse, Lilac. With them riding where Ciri and Geralt had previously walked, it doesn't take long for them to reach the clearing Ciri had described.
"She was there," Ciri says, pointing towards a large rock. "Leaning against that rock. The siren flew them in that direction." She points North East and Jaskier brings out the map he'd packed. While he's familiar with the roads around these parts, he's not as familiar with the outskirts region. That is more Geralt's expertise.
"There's a cave, here, by the edge of the river," Jaskier tells Ciri, pointing on the map. There is writing on the map, scribbled in Geralt's familiar handwriting, notes about what the Witcher has found during his travels. This cave, he notices, has very little writing surrounding it.
"Let me take a closer look," Ciri demands, shoving up close beside Jaskier. She stares hard at the crude depiction of the caves and then shuts her eyes, taking deep, measured breaths. This lasts for a few seconds before her face creases in frustration.
"I…I can't tell for certain," she says, "But I think he might be around there. It's a place to begin searching, at least."
Jaskier nods, rolling the map back up. He knows Ciri and Geralt have a special connection, one they're still trying to grow, and he knows it's not developing at a rate either of them seems particularly pleased about.
"We'll find him, Ciri, I promise," Jaskier says as they mount their horses. Even if the caves prove a dead end, and every other location after that, no matter what, he won't stop searching for his Witcher.
It takes them a few hours to reach the cave, and their horses have braved the burden with little complaint. They tie them to some trees a few miles away, with water and food as thanks. They each take a potion of concealment, one for healing, and Jaskier gives Ciri the vials of explosives save one for himself. During the brief respites they'd given their horses during the swift journey, they'd discussed the plan. Ciri is still not happy with the plan, but Jaskier is going to be damned if he lets Geralt's daughter go in before him.
First, they will both take the potions of concealment. Jaskier will enter the cave first, Ciri a few feet behind. The potion only works if one isn't expected. This way, if Jaskier is spotted, Ciri should still be able to keep out of sight. Jaskier will assess the situation, revealing himself if he thinks negotiation is possible, and should something go wrong, Ciri will use her powers, hopefully giving Jaskier enough time to cripple the siren and rescue Geralt.
As plans went, it wasn't on Geralt's level, but it would have to do.
"Remember, Ciri. Your life is worth more than mine," Jaskier tells her as they get ready to put the beeswax in their ears. "Geralt will never forgive me if you get hurt on my watch."
"And he will never forgive me if you get hurt on mine," Ciri argues. "But I promise to stick to the plan until the plan fails."
It's the best Jaskier is going to get from her, so he just has to trust she knows when that moment might be. "Good. Let's put these in then and take the potion."
Ears blocked with beeswax and bodies camouflaged, Jaskier and Ciri climb the rocks towards the mouth of the cave. Long ago, a waterfall might have lived here, but if it had, it has long since dried up. Moss clings to their hands as they climb, and Jaskier tries to keep momentum as they move upwards, ignores the odd weight of Geralt's sword on his back. He puts all his focus in not losing grip, or footing. He will not mess this up. He will prove to himself, to Geralt and Ciri, that he is more than just a foolish bard.
They go slower as they reach the top, careful to not make a sound that might draw any attention to them. Once they've both climbed onto the surface, Jaskier gives Ciri a single, sharp nod which she returns. Jaskier brings out his sword and heads inside the cave first, and with footsteps as silent as his own, Ciri follows.
For a moment, there is nothing, and the light from outside quickly disappears. Jaskier is taking care not to trip on anything in the darkness when suddenly, it's like he's transported into another place entirely. Light bursts into his vision, as torches are suddenly fixed to the rocky walls of the cave. Luxurious furniture that looks more suited to their manor is spread about a wide expanse. Jaskier would wonder about it, had his sight not immediately fixed upon the centre of the room, where a large bed sits. The bed, nice as it is, isn't what catches Jaskier's attention. No, it is the Witcher sat upon it, his leg a bloody mess and chains holding his hands together. His eyes are shut and for all intents and purposes, it would seem he is meditating.
The reason for that sitting beside him.
She is a beautiful woman, Jaskier has to admit. With long, lustrous scarlet hair that falls just above breasts accented by a lavish maroon gown, the siren's red-tinged lips are moving beside Geralt's ear, no doubt trying to seduce him with her deadly song. The sight of someone else singing to his Witcher, trying to woo him with their words, makes a fire burn inside Jaskier's chest and as light as he can manage, he steps forward, aiming his sword towards her.
He thinks he's achieved it, the tip of his blade close to her neck, when in the span of a blink she transforms. Wings sprout from her back, tearing through her dress. Her skin darkens and nails that had one just been sharply filed turn deadly. Jaskier can just make out a screech, one that causes Geralt's eyes to snap open as the bard narrowly ducks a swipe to his sword from…oh, yes. A tail.
"Who are you!" The Siren cries, her face turned towards Jaskier so that he can thankfully read her lips.
"It doesn't matter who I am," he says. "But you have my friend, and I would appreciate it if you would let him go. Lest I am forced to kill you."
She laughs. "You? Kill me?"
Jaskier stomps his left foot. He dives out of the way, just as Ciri's scream rings through the cave. It pushes both the siren and Geralt back, but the Witcher must have been expecting her to be close by because he manages to brace himself well enough to avoid hitting his head against the wall. Jaskier intends to use the moment to gut the foul thing when, instead of going for him as he'd anticipated, she flies towards Geralt. She locks an arm around his torso, lifting him up and holding the pointed tip of her tail directly above his heart.
Jaskier and Ciri freeze.
"You cannot have him," the siren tells them. "He is mine. He will become mine. He will love me and protect me. No love will be greater than ours!"
There are a few words Jaskier misses, but he understands the overall sentiment.
"Any love you share would be false, the result of cruel magic," Jaskier says.
"It would be love," she insists. "I would be granting the Witcher a gift. None can love a Witcher, and a Witcher cannot love in return."
Perhaps his next ballad should focus on just how much Witcher's can feel since it never seems to get inside anyone's thick skulls.
"That's not true. There are many who love this Witcher. Including me." He doesn't dare look at Geralt during the admission. Of course, he could just mean he loves Geralt as a friend…
The siren laughs again. "You? Love this Witcher? I don't believe it."
"Try me," Jaskier says, panicking at how close her tail is getting to his chest. "Test it. Let me hear your song. I will…prove my love for him by not falling under your spell."
There goes any hope of Geralt seeing his love purely as platonic. He focuses his attention fully on the siren who tilts her head at him.
"Even the Witcher was beginning to succumb to my song. What makes you think that you, a pathetic human, will be able to withstand it?"
"Because true love can overcome anything," Jaskier says with his hopeless, hopeless, romantic heart.
A foolish man's heart
Will cause trouble and strife
But it will hold his love
Till the end of his life
Jaskier might be a foolish man, but he also knows that he can trust his heart.
"If I do not fall for your magic," Jaskier continues, a slight tremble in his voice. "Then you will release Geralt and allow us to leave. If I do give in, then I am yours to do with as you wish, and you will let the girl be free." He makes no demands for Geralt because he knows she would not agree to them. Should he fail, then at least Ciri will be able to get Yennefer, the one who should have been here all along. Whose actions wouldn't have led to Geralt an inch from death.
He can hear the faint sound of both Geralt and Ciri calling his name. He ignores Geralt and looks behind to Ciri, mouthing 'trust me'. He might not have heard many tales of men resisting the call of a siren, but Jaskier knows his heart can belong to no one other than Geralt.
He faces back towards the siren. "I accept your deal," she eventually says. "And when you succumb, I will make you thank me for killing you."
Jaskier swallows. "It will not come to that," he says, wishing his brain could be as sure as his heart.
"Take out the wax," the siren commands and Jaskier follows the order best he can, grimacing at the feel of it crumbling away.
"Jaskier, don't do this," Geralt demands once he's finished. "Leave, now. I'll be fine."
Jaskier offers him the brightest grin he can manage. "Don't worry, Geralt, this is all going according to plan. I'll admit, this is not the way I'd exactly planned to tell you but, well, can't be prepared for everything, can you?"
Geralt starts to struggle and the tip of the siren's tail pierces skin, making him pause. "Struggle, Witcher, and I will kill you now. Then your friends."
"Geralt," Jaskier implores, "It's alright." He braces himself and then faces the siren. "Go on, then."
The siren's face twists into an ugly grin before the most beautiful sound Jaskier has ever heard leaves her blackened lips. Jaskier's eyes shut on their own accord, and in his mind's eye he sees a woman so lovely, he just has to have her.
"Yes, Jaskier," she croons to him, her words overlapping the sweet melody. "You want me, just as I want you. Come to me, that's it."
Jaskier's feet take small, unsteady steps forward. Yes, he does want to be with her. How could he not? She's amazing, gorgeous, his muse…
But wait, that wasn't quite right. No, something about this is wrong. Jaskier stops in his tracks, trying to make sense of what the music inspires in him, and what he knows to be true. She is a beauty, one any man would be lucky to have, but she is not the one for Jaskier. He belongs to another.
"Don't be so silly, my love. You and I are meant to be together. Just keep going, yes, that's right, and all will be well. I promise."
His right foot takes another step forward, but he forces his left to stay put. Songs can hold great power, and he has composed enough to know when one holds false lyrics. To know that love is greater than sweet, empty words.
"No!" Jaskier bellows, cutting through the music. "No," he repeats, trying to drown out the voice that beckons to him, that whispers promises of a life without want, without pain. "I don't want to be with you!"
"You do," she insists and Jaskier's body fights against his mind to move, to follow her. But there is one part of him stronger than it all, that keeps him where he is.
"Fuck off!" Jaskier cries and the song stops, sharp and sudden. His body tingles from the war that had waged inside it and he glares at the siren who is staring wide-eyed at him. "Fuck right off and let go of my Witcher!"
It becomes very clear that the siren was never going to let any of them go, no matter the outcome, by the way her expression morphs into one of pure fury. Thankfully, however, Geralt takes advantage of her shock to elbow the siren in the face, wrap his chained arms around her neck and squeeze. Jaskier, seeing her tail rise upwards and prepare to strike Geralt's unprotected back, is not about to let that happen. He charges forward with a yell and slices the thing, splattering green blood everywhere, including his face. The siren screams in pain until she can scream no more.
"Geralt!" Ciri rushes past Jaskier and flings her arms around Geralt, who thanks to his chained hands, can do no more than rest his head on her shoulder. "I'm sorry. I didn't want to leave you. I tried to stop her."
"I know, Ciri. I saw."
"And I'm sorry I brought Jaskier. It's just, Yen wasn't responding and-"
"Excuse me," Jaskier interrupts. "Did you not see what I just did? I think you should be saying, 'thank Melitele that I brought Jaskier!"
Ciri peeks over at Jaskier, Geralt unabashedly stares at him with dark eyes.
"What you did, Jaskier, was stupid," Geralt says. "The most idiotic thing you've ever done, and that's saying something. You had no guarantee your ploy would work."
Jaskier exhales deeply. "Except I did. It's as I said, true love can overcome anything." There was no point hiding it now. He had laid all his cards out, as it were. No point in trying to pretend no one saw.
Ciri extracts herself from Geralt and glances over at Jaskier. "I'm going to go outside. Come find me when you're done." She gives Geralt one last squeeze before running to the mouth of the cave.
"You can't mean that," Geralt says, once Ciri is out of earshot.
"You saw the proof," Jaskier says, looking at the dead siren. "And, I apologise if it makes you uncomfortable, if you feel I have deceived you. I want you to know I treasure our friendship beyond anything, but if this is something that you can't look past, then I will leave immediately."
Geralt doesn't move, and so Jaskier doesn't really know what to do. Perhaps he ought to start looking for a key…?
"That song," Geralt says. "The one in the inn. It wasn't about Yennefer."
Jaskier groans. "The fact you ever entertained the notion about Yennefer is frankly, quite disturbing. Yes, she is a beautiful woman. But she is also terrifying, and I fear even thinking of being with her could kill me."
"The same could be said of me."
"Except, I know you Geralt, and I know that beneath that gruff, scarred exterior, lies a fiercely loyal man. A man who will do what's right, no matter the cost. Who will save the life of an annoyingly chatty stranger, who will take in a child and raise her because it's his duty and love her because he is extraordinary. I didn't choose to love you, Geralt, but I wouldn't change it for the world, because there is no better person my heart could have picked. I know you don't feel the same, and all I ask is please, don't cast me aside again. I promise I will never act upon it. I will not now, nor ever, force myself upon you."
It will hurt, knowing that Geralt now knows the way he feels but does not feel it back, but it is a far better life than the alternative.
"Jaskier, you…fuck." The chains rattle as he extends his arms. "Get me out of these. The key is on the table. Inside that box"
"Uh, yes, of course!" He rushes to the table and finds the key in a small, intricately carved jewellery box. Quite a disturbing location, if you ask him. He kneels by Geralt, and the moment he has freed Geralt's wrists, his hands move to Jaskier's face.
And then, he's kissing Jaskier.
Geralt is kissing Jaskier.
It's rough, it's desperate and oh lords it's better than anything Jaskier's fantasies could have imagined. He runs his fingers through Geralt's hair, getting caught in knots and tugging against them. With each tug, Geralt's breath hitches and the kiss gets that much deeper, until all Jaskier can do is take it, and take it gladly.
He's breathless by the time it ends, his face hot, and Geralt's lips look delectably swollen, his hair a wild mess from Jaskier's ministrations.
"So, um," he licks his lips, and Geralt's golden gaze follows the movement. "Am I to assume then, that my feelings are not as unrequited as believed?"
"Fuck, Jaskier," Geralt grunts. "I thought you liked Yennefer. You could have any lady or lord you want. Why do you want me?"
"It was a surprise to me too," Jaskier says, patting Geralt's chest, except, it wasn't really. Yes, Jaskier probably could have any lord or lady he wanted, but he had always known his heart would yearn for something more, for something incredible. "Come, we should probably let Ciri know all is well. And once we get back…it would seem we have a lot of lost time to catch up on."
He winks at Geralt, and his laugh gets swallowed in another kiss, this one gentler and more of a promise of what's to come.
"You're going to have to change your song," Geralt says as he breaks away, their foreheads resting against each other.
"My what now?" Jaskier asks, because kissing Geralt is a very heady thing, and he's never going to be able to think straight again if it keeps happening.
"Your heart yearned for one he never would hold," Geralt recites. "It seems, you have me."
Geralt's golden eyes dance under the firelight, a smile tugs at the corner of his lips and there is no way that Jaskier can't kiss him again. And again. And again.
Ciri will understand.
Geralt and Yennefer's 'disagreement' was her telling him to stop sulking and go get his bard.
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