roots, a warlord au ch 8
Ciri is waiting for them when they get home. She's waiting outside, where the wards against portaling into the keep don't reach, several strides away from the gates, her hand in Jaskier's, Lambert and Eskel on either side of them both.
She doesn't smell like fear, only relief and joy when she barrels forward and launches herself into Geralt's arms.
"Papa your eye," she cries, small arms wrapping around his neck.
Geralt can only bury his face in her hair and smile, inhaling the joyful scent of a seven-year-old who's outside and not afraid and happy to see her family safe and home once more.
She's here, she's safe, the battle is over and he's home.
"Just a scratch," he assures her, pressing a kiss to her flyaway curls.
"Hell of a scratch," Jaskier says. He keeps his distance for now, giving father and daughter a moment together, but Geralt can smell the relief coming from him as well.
Geralt wants him closer.
Lambert blows right past him without a second look and practically tackles Aiden to the ground. "Figures you'd come back without any new marks on you," he says.
Aiden laughs and hauls him in for a kiss that is borderline indecent, neither of them caring that the Cat smells like smoke and is covered in mud and dust and blood. The other Witchers step around the reuniting pair- or over them when Lambert does finally wrestle his lover to the ground. Yennefer rolls her eyes and kicks them out of her way, skirts lifted to avoid the dirt and grass flying up around them as they roll.
"Missed you too, cutie."
Ciri places both hands on Geralt's face and turns him to look at her. "Is it going to scar? You have a lot of scars."
"I do," he agrees. "It might. We'll see what happens when it closes fully." He hasn't had the time to properly tend to the mark. It very well might scar.
He can't stop stroking his hands through Ciri's hair, can't wipe the smile from his face. She's outside and she's happy about it. No fear, no worry, just pure sunshine happiness radiating off her and joy about her family being complete once more.
Eskel slaps him on the shoulder, gives him a little shake before moving to greet the rest of the Witchers ready to get into the keep and fall into bed or raid the kitchens.
They're all fucking exhausted, hungry and ready for the comforts of home. The battle was long and tiring, White Flame men determined to take land that doesn't belong to them in the name of their false king. They were beaten back but it took days and lots of bloodshed for Geralt and his men to finally send them running. Then there was three days of tending their own wounded, of Geralt marching into Foltest's castle with Yennefer at his side and putting forth the new rules and order.
Foltest still has his kingdom. Geralt's not interested in ruling any more land than he has to but now the king has new allegiances, a freshly signed treaty and a new enemy in Emhyr.
The White Flame is no longer welcome in Temeria- which is now officially protected by the Wolf's armies. They've effectively cut Emhyr off from advancing in any direction. He'll have to go into Malleore or Talgar in order to spread his rhetoric, and they've been sick of him for years. He's finally cut off from spreading further into the Continent, finally stuck in his small corner and is being left there.
And finally, finally, Geralt is home.
Jaskier still hasn't come closer, merely watching Ciri hug her father with a fond smile.
So Geralt goes to him.
"Missed you," he says into Ciri's hair, eyes locked on Jaskier and hoping they both understand.
He hears Jaskier's heart rate spike.
"I missed you too, Papa," Ciri says, snuggling in closer. "I kept an eye on Jaskier like I promised."
"She really did. Wouldn't let me go anywhere alone." Jaskier huffs out a small laugh, eyes sparkling with amusement. His dark circles have faded slightly but he still looks tired. "I felt very safe with a fierce lion cub guarding me the entire time. Knew there wouldn't be any trouble while she was around."
He hesitates, hand stuttering in the air, but slowly- oh so slowly- Jaskier reaches up and gently touches the wound around Geralt's eye. Calloused fingertips trace over the edge of the mark on his cheekbone, sympathy shining in those deep blue eyes.
"Ouch," he says.
He goes to pull away, to pull back but Geralt chases the feeling, tilting his head into the touch, free hand coming up to circle Jaskier's wrist. Even if he couldn't hear Jaskier's heart rate ratchet up he would be able to feel his pulse scrambling under his fingers. It goes wild when Geralt turns his face, nuzzling into the touch and presses his lips to the base of Jaskier's palm.
Oh but the little stuttered breath that escapes Jaskier is delicious, and now Geralt's own Witcher-slow heartbeat attempts to match the pounding beat of Jaskier's.
Ciri bounces on his hip and flings herself down, deserting him to hug Yennefer fiercely.
Jaskier swallows audibly. "You should put some of Triss's salve on that," he says, voice dropped low. He doesn't look away from Geralt. In fact he comes even closer now, even daring to brush his thumb against the stubble that's formed on Geralt's jaw. "It's not a bad scar. Makes you look even more dashing somehow."
"Is that so."
"I didn't think it was possible but here you are." Jaskier bites his lip, tipping his head forward slightly, his nose just brushing Geralt's. "Here you are."
Geralt very nearly hauls him in for a kiss, audience be damned. He's right there, he's inches away, he's in Geralt's arms and is pleased about it- Geralt can smell the happiness coming from him. But there is an audience. They're surrounded by Witchers, Ciri is just a few feet away and Geralt knows that when he finally gets to taste Jaskier he's not going to want to stop at just a taste.
The moment is broken, of course, by Lambert.
"You all fucking smell," he announces. He's got one arm firmly around Aiden's waist, the other reaching out to clap Geralt on the shoulder. "Go bathe."
"They smell better than you," Jaskier says. He still hasn't moved away. Geralt takes full advantage of the closeness and slips an arm around Jaskier's waist, pulling him fully against his chest. Jaskier makes a pleased sound in his throat, his hand dropping from Geralt's cheek to his shoulder. "You've been stomping around the keep all week while they've been stomping through mud and goodness only knows what else and I think they're all cleaner than you are."
"It's my manly musk."
"If that's what you want to call it. I thought it was just an aversion to soap."
Aiden snickers, turning to press a kiss under Lambert's jaw before he untangles himself. "I vote we all take a trip to the hot springs. I could use a good soak."
Jaskier is still tucked against him and Geralt really doesn't want to let him go. So he doesn't. Everyone knows he's interested anyway and Jaskier isn't protesting. He is in fact leaning in and enjoying it so why can't he? He doesn't feel like parting with Jaskier quite so soon. He likes feeling him so close, likes having an arm around Jaskier's trim waist- finally filling out a bit after months of eating with Witchers.
Likes the smell of happiness radiating from him that's quickly taking over everything.
"Will you join us?"
It's been months since Jaskier's leg was healed, the infection finally leaving him after two weeks of healing attempts. He can walk much better now even if he still needs to rely on his cane for longer trips. The leg itself is scarred over, still a touch more thin that the right one and not quite as strong but his range of movement has improved drastically. He walks with a bit of a limp when the pains dig into him but today his movements are smooth and steady.
Jaskier tilts his head, considering it. "I haven't seen these famous hot springs yet. I'd love to." He starts to pull away. "You'd better head down without me. I'm still a bit slow on the stairs."
Geralt tightens his grip. "Together," he says, unwilling to let go of Jaskier just yet. "I'll help you."
Jaskier practically melts against him. His right arm comes up to clutch at Geralt's waist- just long enough to encircle it, enough to hold Geralt as tightly as Geralt is holding him, enough to make Geralt's heart stutter. "All right. Together then."
Gods Jaskier's smile could blot out the fucking sun.
Beside them, Lambert snorts. "Yeah this is real fucking cute and all but seriously, you all smell so fucking bad. Let's go."
Ciri drags Yennefer over, one hand firmly in hers and the other snatching Geralt's again so they're all linked together- Jaskier to Geralt to Ciri to Yennefer- and begins to pull them all inside.
"Lambert, you truly have the heart of a poet."
"I do not. You take that back."
Jaskier doesn't know what he was expecting when the hot springs were mentioned but it certainly wasn't this. He's had months to picture them and nothing compares to the scene in front of him.
He supposes he was picturing a medium sized room with a few pools in them- nice and calming, probably a little damp and steaming from the natural heat coming from the water. The reality is the undercarriage of the keep seems to span the entire width of the building, several pools of varying sizes dotting the room. They're all connected via small streams of water and appear to be different depths as well.
Vesemir is already in a pool along the far wall, arms stretched out behind him, head resting on the rock wall. Judging from the steam wafting up from the water, he's in one of the hottest pools. Only two other Witchers are in there with him- and one looks a tad too red for comfort.
"Pools on the left are a bit cooler," Geralt says from behind him. He's still got an arm around Jaskier, steering him around the Witchers that are all stripping and clambering over each other to dive into the water. "Hottest ones are on the right."
His leg is a bit peeved about the journey. It's not screaming quite yet but Jaskier has a feeling that he's going to need to sit down for most of the day after making the trip down all the stairs. Getting back up them will be fun, but the soak he's about to have is going to be more than worth it.
Also the view is... spectacular. There are a great number of attractive people and they are all very much naked. Jaskier doesn't know where to look. Should he avoid looking? He's probably not capable of not looking.
Gods above now Geralt is stripping.
He... he should probably also remove his clothes right? Right.
Jaskier tugs his shirt up and off, setting his cane against the wall before moving to tug at the laces of his pants. The seamstress- a lovely woman named Annabeth who has the most gorgeous freckles and charming laugh lines around her mouth and eyes- has offered to make him more clothes if he brings her the fabric he wants but Jaskier's refrained for now. He doesn't want to take something out of the tribute that someone else has an eye on and besides his clothes are just fine for now.
He does have to do laundry more often than most- he might live with Witchers but he's not going to smell like them- and he's never had so few outfits in his life, and certainly not such bland ones before, but it works. He manages. And he has no right to complain. If he wants more clothes he'll get them made. He's got some money saved up now (he was correct, Geralt pays more than a fair wage for a librarian) so he could perhaps, maybe one day make the trip down the mountain to the village and pick out some fabric.
Maybe he'll do that: no taking of cloth from Geralt's tribute, no overworking sweet Annabeth. And he'll have earned the clothes that way. Paid for with his own money, not given to him because he's a noble or handed to him because someone wants him to dress a certain way.
Jaskier manages to distract himself enough that he barely notices all the very attractive naked people around him until he's halfway to a pool in the center that looks like it wouldn't boil him alive.
Ciri streaks past them at a full sprint and jumps, folding herself into a small ball and landing in the water next to Jaskier's pool with a very large splash. Triss and Yennefer yelp and immediately begin splashing her when she surfaces, giggling.
Jaskier is surprised when Geralt slides into the water after him. He thought the Witchers would want the hotter pools.
Lambert plops in with no care about who he splashes or how much, sinking right under the water and scrubbing at his hair before he surfaces.
"How long can Witchers hold their breath?" Jaskier asks. He lathers up the soap and gets to work on his leg, hoping the massage and hot water will loosen the stiffening muscles slightly.
He made the trip down without help, only his cane and Geralt's arm firm around his waist so surely he can make the trip back up without embarrassing himself. Though he wouldn't object to being carried back upstairs if necessary... and if Geralt was the one to carry him.
Geralt's arm around him the entire trip down was wonderfully amazing. Being allowed to have his arm around Geralt as well was astounding.
"He won't drown," Geralt says, splashing his face. He winces slightly when soap gets into the scratch at his eye. "We've tried."
Lambert pops out of the water and aims a glare at Geralt. "I heard that."
Eskel appears behind Lambert and shoves him back under the water with one hand. He holds his brother down and snags a bottle of something with the other. "You've been using my shampoo," he accuses. Bubbles are blown in answer and Eskel sighs, kicking Lambert away.
Lambert is very close to Jaskier when he surfaces this time. "Huh," he says, blinking at a startled Jaskier. "You do have some good scars. That leg is something."
Jaskier hunches ever so slightly. He's not ashamed- there's nothing to be ashamed of with his scars. He has them, they're there and they're always going to be there. He's literally surrounded by a horde of attractive warriors at this exact moment and they are all littered with scars themselves.
Geralt's mark over and under his left eye is... certainly something. It adds character to his already handsome face and it is most definitely working for him.
But Jaskier's scars are still new to him, even though it's been over half a year now. The memories behind them are not good, bad enough to still yank him from sleep with a scream trapped in his throat. At least he mostly wakes with a gasp now, soaked in sweat and panting but no longer screaming.
Ciri hasn't had a nightmare in months. She still occasionally has bouts of sleeplessness but she's got methods to help with that. She'll find whatever Witcher is awake and drag them to the training grounds, or crawl into bed with Yennefer or Geralt, or even come find him in the library if he's awake. She's doing much better- it had even been her idea to go outside the keep and wait for everyone to come home, her hand clinging tight to Jaskier's as they waited for the portal to open.
"Lambert," Geralt growls.
Jaskier swallows. "They're pretty spectacular," he agrees, one hand tracing the visible marks on his chest.
"Eh, they're okay. You want spectacular? Check this out."
And then Jaskier is staring directly at Lambert's ass.
"Oh gods, put that away," Eskel groans. "No one wants to see that!" He slides under the water to rinse his hair and avoid the sight.
Jaskier merely tilts his head and considers the webbing of scarring marring Lambert's right ass cheek. "What in the world did you do?"
Lambert laughs, ducking back down under the water and turning to face him. "Old job on the Path. Got dragged into the water by a kikimora."
"Ass first," he confirms. "Hurt like a bitch. Thought I'd lose half my fucking ass that day."
Aiden latches onto Lambert's back and pulls him in to his chest, arms coming up to circle his (also scarred) chest. "Love, stop showing off your ass. You're going to make me jealous."
"It is a nice ass," Jaskier admits, scrubbing at his own hair now. "Too bad it's most of his personality."
Beside him, Geralt chuckles.
Geralt's very nice chest is right there and Jaskier is doing everything in his power not to look at it. Unfortunately he's surrounded by attractive no matter where he looks so he's going to wind up looking at someone. He slips into the water to rinse to avoid it for now and prays that his body behaves. Witchers can smell lust, he knows (thank you for letting that tidbit slip, Lambert) so they all know that he wants Geralt but a physical showing would be... embarrassing.
Geralt can smell it too. Geralt knows. And still Geralt touches him, pulls him close, wraps an arm around his waist. Smiles at him. Presses a soft kiss to his palm like Jaskier is some blushing maiden that warrants a gentle touch.
The gentle touch is more than welcome, always wanted. Jaskier would very much like to get his hands on Geralt as well.
"Oh, we spotted people coming up the mountain," Eskel is saying when he surfaces.
Geralt sighs, drooping into the water until only his head remains dry, the ends of his hair floating in the murky water. "I literally just got home."
"It's a large group of Elves," Eskel continues. He grabs a bar of soap out of Lambert's hands and scrubs at his chest, swatting Lambert's hands away when he tries to get the soap back. "They should be here in a day or two. Aiden, control your man before I fucking drown him."
"Then I'll worry about it in a day or two." Geralt's eyes slide closed. "Right now I just want to soak for a bit."
Two pools over, Ciri shrieks with laughter. There's a mighty sounding splash, then the sound of several people giggling. Geralt doesn't even open his eyes when he smiles.
Jaskier leans back as well, uncaring that his legs are trying to float in the water. They're all scarred and marked up in different ways. It's nothing to be ashamed of- and he's not. Everyone's seen them by now anyways and he's not about to hide them. It's just skin.
Geralt's hand bumps his in the water.
Jaskier doesn't think he's reading this wrong. He might not have a Witcher's sense of smell but he does know when someone is interested in him. Usually he wouldn't hesitate to leap into bed with anyone who so much as crooked a finger at him but Geralt... Geralt is the Warlord of the North. The famed and fabled White Wolf, protector of the people, enemy of the White Flame.
He's a good man, the best man and Jaskier- Jaskier is a librarian. He is- he used to be a Pankratz. Surely there are better people, people with less baggage and more heroic stories behind their scars that would be happy to warm the Wolf's bed.
Jaskier wants more than to fall into bed with Geralt. Oh he's certainly up for it if Geralt ever asks (what, is he going to say no if Geralt invites him into his bed? he's not insane), but he likes Geralt far too much for it to just be sex. And that scares him a bit. He has no chance of claiming Geralt's heart- he knows this and he's most likely going to get his heart broken along the way when Geralt inevitably finds someone better. But...
Jaskier slides his hand over Geralt's, twining their fingers together and pretends the flush on his cheeks is from the heat of the water.
Geralt doesn't open his eyes or lift his head, merely tugs on Jaskier's hand and pulls him in tight against his side, releasing his hand to drape an arm across Jaskier's shoulders instead.
"Aw," Lambert croons. He doesn't move from his position against Aiden's chest. Their hands are tangled together over Lambert's heart and isn't that just the sweetest thing?
Jaskier kicks a wave of water at him and snuggles in. Aiden cackles and wraps Lambert up tightly to avoid him striking back, bending to kiss his lover slowly and coax him into relaxing rather than trying to drown everyone or get drowned himself.
Silence falls in their little pool. Jaskier can hear the sounds of everyone around them, laughing and talking, jeering and even comparing injuries. The smell of soap and shampoo wafts up, water dripping and splashing as people come and go. Ciri is having a blast running and jumping into pools as she pleases. She soaks in a hot pool for as long as she can stand it and then runs to a cooler one and dives in, cooling off before running back to the hot one.
"Don't fall," Geralt orders his daughter, who laughs and keeps running.
He stays curled up against Geralt's side, head resting gently on a broad shoulder. He risks a soft nuzzle. Is rewarded with a deep purring sound reverberating through the wide chest he's propped up against. He does it again, smiling when the sound gets louder.
However Geralt wants him, for however long he's wanted, Jaskier will be happy to be had.