It was another night of nobles and fine dining at some manor or such, a night of wine and lust. Music played as noblemen and ladies danced on the dancefloor, their silky and smooth outfits shining in the firelight. Despite being in his element, Jaskier just wasn’t feeling as jovial about the beautiful women or the knight that he’d exchanged glances with. He’d spotted a noblewife he’d fucked with and made mental notes to avoid the husbands, and spent his time flitting back and forth between tables, stealing food cheekily and sipping another’s wine.
Maybe it was too soon to be back in a ballroom like this, too reminiscent of a better time. When he had someone to chat freely with, instead of idle chatter with airheaded mayors and dukes.
A jig that had played came to a close and the dancers bowed to one another, the hall clapping. Jaskier had been part of the merry little band, keen to stay in the shadows this one time when the noblewoman, whose house this belonged to, called out to him.
“Play us a song, my dear Buttercup!” She raised her glass, clearly more sober than the rest of her party.
Jaskier began to protest, feigning sickness or performance issues.
“’Performance issues’ he says! Bah! If there is one thing I’ve remembered about you is that you never shy in front of a crowd, nor does your cock!” she cajoled, the women (and several men) in their group giggling as their husbands scowled.
“I’m serious, Ekaterina,” Jaskier argued as his fellow band members pushed him forth. “I am not suited to playing one of my adventurous tales on this night.” He tried pleading with a sad glance, knowing that his sweet Ekaterina would fall prey.
Right on the money. Ekaterina sighed and slumped back in her seat- perhaps not as sober as Jaskier first thought. Never one to disappoint, Jaskier repositioned his lute and contemplated for a moment before addressing the crowd.
“I may have one song for you all. It’s a tale about death and destiny, of heroics and . . . heartbreak,” Jaskier paused. The partygoers cheered him on, the dancers moving away to join the rest in the aisles to drown themselves in sweet alcohol. Their volume quietened as he plucked at the strings testingly, the memories of his songwriting cracking through the door of his locked memory.
He strummed and began to sing. As the lyrics rolled out, Jaskier felt his initial anger at Geralt, and let’s be honest at Yennefer too (because when wasn’t he mad at Yennefer), melt away into something sadder. He remembered how the couple lashed out like dogs, biting at each other’s’ throats with their hurtful words. Yennefer had glared at him as she left. He might’ve revelled in it, but it wasn’t long lasting.
Geralt had said he was the root of all his problems. Had it not been for Jaskier’s stubbornness and tomfoolery, they would not have met Yennefer. Had she not been the target of Geralt’s anger? Was she not the reason he took this out on him?
This melancholy felt too real. Every time he and Geralt parted ways, where he would spread Geralt’s wins and woes, he felt like they would cross paths. It felt like destiny, to meet him at random points around the Continent, and observe his current adventure. But this time . . . the furiosity in Geralt’s yellow eyes combined with his sharp words that sliced through Jaskier’s emotional barrier cut deep. Somber wasn’t what it is; no, he was mourning. He was allowing himself to feel the regret and frustration he’d kept away when he’d left King Niedamer’s mountain.
As he reached the end of the first chorus, Jaskier allowed his emotions to bubble close to the surface. Not only was it good for the song, but he felt as if this were the only therapeutic aid he could receive. He could faintly hear other instruments join in as he continued to sing, a beautiful melody that he hadn’t thought would accompany his song. The captivated faces of his audience didn’t delight him as they should’ve.
“I’m weak my love, and I am wanting.”
Jaskier had felt his voice drop and did his best to recover. But he was, and now he realised that no matter how he felt, how anguished Geralt’s words made him feel as he stung him in places that shouldn’t be stung, he was never going to be good enough. Jaskier couldn’t help but hate Yennefer, not because she’d threatened his balls and used him for magic, not because she always showed up everywhere to interrupt his adventures with Geralt, but because she could offer him the one thing Jaskier knew he couldn’t: a woman’s companionship.
Geralt was never going to look at him in the same way he looked at Yennefer. Fact, full-stop. So Jaskier endured it, for if he could not have Geralt in the way he wanted him, was it not enough to be with one another? To be travellers, companions, (or dare he say it) friends? It was why he always stayed, why he always managed to find the White Wolf again and again and again.
But now that it was gone, Jaskier had no more destiny.
As he finished his song, Jaskier felt the tears drop from his eyes, and when the last note was struck he quickly made to wipe it away. The crowd clapped, though not as heartily as before. Many of the women clung to each other sobbing softly, while the men were torn between scoffing his song away and consoling him.
Ekaterina stood up, rounded her table and walked right up to Jaskier. She grabbed his face and made sure he stared into her eyes. “That was beautiful,” she whispered. She pulled him close and hugged him.
It was very pleasant he found, but came to his senses that this was still a ballroom, and the eyes watching him were his clientele. He coughed and rubbed his nose, pulling apart from the lady.
“I think we should have another jig! How about it for ‘The Fishmonger’s Daughter!’” Jaskier shouted, strumming his lute enthusiastically. The crowd cheered, the music swelled back into action, and the dancers returned.
Ekaterina stroked his cheek and smiled. She pecked him very lightly, then hollered for the men to haul their asses off their stools and join her.
For one night more, Jaskier could pretend that he was alright.