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of music and motion and love

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Jaskier the Bard was a noble once, or so the story goes. A disgraced only child of a Viscount, who grew frivolous in luxury, and became so spoiled that he ran away from his duties. His poor family, the rumors cry, had no choice but to disown him. Jaskier the Bard, they say, gave up his privilege, went to find himself, because some part of him always knew that the world needed stories and he was destined to be their teller. And so he left and wandered and sang, and the world was the better for it, even as a Viscount mourned his only son.

It’s a very pretty story. In fact, it may be the prettiest story Jaskier’s ever fabricated.

~

When Jaskier was thirteen, his mother handed him a coin purse and told him to run. To run, and never look back.

He was thirteen, and still going by Julian. He was the youngest of four (five) siblings, and the most troublesome. He had never met a disaster he didn’t exacerbate or a song he didn’t sing late into the night. When he was younger, much younger, it was sweet. When he grew older, and his music began to ensnare…

His mother handed him a coin purse and rested a hand on the side of his face. The other side was bruised and scraped, his eye near swollen shut. “You must run. Before what happened to your sister happens to you.”

He looked at his mother, with eyes he had begun to realize were too blue, too different. “I’ll find her, Mama.”

“Run, Julian.”

Jaskier ran. He was two towns away by nightfall, and he outpaced the man that was not his father after all.

~

When Jaskier was four, he gathered a bouquet of dandelions from the fields. He was a strange child even then, flighty and musical, always humming and laughing and dancing. He liked bright things and shiny things and people watching him, paying attention to him. He had one older brother and two (three) older sisters, but they never wanted to play. He loved them nonetheless. That was the main thing about Jaskier, that confused so many. He loved. He loved fiercely and broadly and freely.

As youngest, the man he thought his father didn’t notice him much. And despite his constant noise and motion, he was a normal enough child, to his mother’s secret relief.

But when Jaskier was four, he slipped his mother’s watch and went to the field to gather a bouquet of dandelions. He climbed back into the yard, as stealthy as a child really cared to be, and crept over to the barn. In the barn, lived a secret. (The man he thought his father said the secret was a monster, a plague. His mother said the secret was his sister.)

“Hi,” Jaskier whispered through the crack in the barn door. “Mama telled me you were sad. But you shouldn’t be sad, ‘cause I love ya.”

He slid the dandelions under the door. He just barely saw a pale hand, caked with dirt, reach out to take them.

~

His father, his real father, died before Jaskier was born, in what they called the Great Cleansing. His mother was already married, to an altogether odious man, who she had already bore three children. When her first love appeared in the fields one midsummer night as if by magic, she was drawn back to him, like a moth to a flame. For one night, she was happy.

Nine months later, she held Jaskier in her arms, his eyes a bright, electric blue, and was grateful, so grateful, that she could pass him off as fully human. He had a chance, unlike her firstborn. He had a chance, and a mercifully straight spine.

~

“Tell me a story! Tell me a story!”

“Be quiet. You shouldn’t even be out here.”

“Pleaseeeee? Just one story and I’ll go ‘way.”

“Fine. Once upon a time, there was a princess. She was not beautiful, like the other princesses, or smart. But she was strong, even though she suffered under a horrible curse.”

“What kinda curse?”

“The night she was born, an evil monster placed a curse on her so that she could never leave the castle tower, until she was loved, truly and deeply. But the monster didn’t stop there. It cursed her to be unlovable. As soon as someone saw her, they would be repulsed and hate her on the spot. She would live out the rest of her life unlovable, and because she was unlovable, trapped.”

“That’s not fair!”

“No.”

“But there’s a happy ending, right? Right?”

“Time passed, and the princess spoke to no one, and no one spoke to her. One day, a young prince was wandering the castle when he came across a locked door. He had never found a locked door in the castle before.

“’Hello, is anyone in there?’ He said, knocking.

‘’’Yes,’ said the princess. She hadn’t talked to anyone in two years.

‘’’Would you like to come outside and play with me?’ Asked the young prince.

“’I cannot,’ said the princess. ‘I am trapped in this room forever. You would not want to play with me anyway, if you could see me.’ But the little prince did not like that answer and he did not understand how long forever was meant to be.

‘“That’s okay,’ he said. ‘I’ll come back tomorrow so that we can play.’ And the young prince came back day after day, and asked each time if the princess would come out and play. Each time she said no. One day, when he approached the locked door, he heard her crying. Instead of asking her to play, he ran outside and collected a bouquet of flowers. He slid it under her door. ‘Please don’t be sad. Even if you can’t play with me, I love you.’”

“And the curse broke?”

“And the curse broke. The princess stopped crying, threw open the locked door and left the castle forever.”

“But what about the prince?”

“Right. Well, she gave the prince a dandelion from her bouquet, and tucked it right behind his ear. ‘Thank you for freeing me, little prince. Once I explore the world, I will come back for you, and we will leave this castle forever.’”

“And they lived happily ever after?”

“Yes, she lived happily ever after. Now go back inside.”

“Kay. Good night, Yen. I love you!”

“Good night, little dandelion.”

~

Jaskier doesn’t find her. He searches for Yennefer, searches and searches, but he only hears rumors of court mages and powers beyond his understanding. He only sings, a bit. He probably couldn’t get close enough to a mage to even ask after his sister, so he decides on the next best thing. He’ll become someone, loudly, proudly, and his sister will come to him. Just like the princess comes back for the prince, she’ll find him once she’s explored the world.

Until then, he’ll start living.

He goes to Oxenfurt, as Julian Alfred Pankratz. He studies histories and poems and music, until the talent that came naturally as a child, that ensnared all who heard him is refined, is art. He teaches for a while, has a dedicated bunch of students, but by the time he’s forty years old he looks in the mirror and sees the same face he always has. There are no wrinkles, no gray hairs, and he abruptly remembers that he is magic. He is magic and he is not aging. He is magic and he cannot stay.

Julian Alfred Pankratz makes a name for himself, is well known throughout the continent, and yet Yen never comes. She must be dead. She must be, or else she would never leave him like this. The princess promised the prince.

Fine. That’s fine. He hasn’t seen his sister in more than thirty years. He can’t stay at Oxenfurt and never age, and there’s something stifling about it besides. He was a child of music and motion, and he thinks it’s time that he becomes that person again.

~

Jaskier sings Julian Alfred Pankratz out of existence. He scribbles in his notebook for a few hours, working out the feel and the intention of his spell. He doesn’t understand his magic, not really, and he never has. But when he finally picks up his lute, and sings, he knows he’s gotten it right.

So every man dies, so every man falls,
Even that Julian Alfred Pankratz!
A legend in courts, so sung in all halls,
Yet none can remember his face! Perhaps-
He fell down a well, or lay down in bed
With a pretty little thing in his lap!
His songs, they live on, but know that he’s dead,
That poor fool Julian Alfred Pankratz!

The next morning, he leaves a mourning Oxenfurt behind and takes to the road.

~

Jaskier sings and travels and falls in love with everyone he meets just a little. And then in a shitty little tavern in Posada, he finds a Witcher. Jaskier decides to keep him.

~

“Come on, you must want something for yourself once all this monster hunting nonsense is over with.”

“I want nothing.”

“Well, who knows? Maybe someone out there will want you.”

“I need no one. And the last thing I want is someone needing me.”

“And yet here we are.”

“Hm.”

~

After Cintra, and the mess of the Child Surprise, Jaskier wanders on his own for a while. He doesn’t quite know what he’s doing. Before the party, when Jaskier was leaning over Geralt’s bath, he realized something. Something he should have realized quite a long time ago. He’s in love with the damned Witcher. And Jaskier will have to leave him, when it becomes obvious that he doesn’t age, that despite almost a decade as friends, traveling the world together, Jaskier looks the same as he did in that tavern in Posada. How much longer before Geralt suspects? The barbarian might act like he has more muscles than brains, but if Geralt ever puts his mind to it, simply thinks about how much time Jaskier has followed at his heels… well.

After the Child Surprise and the mess of Cintra, Jaskier wanders, tries to put distance between the Witcher and his Bard. And, failing, comes back to Geralt again and again, for drowners and kikimores and ghouls. He sings ‘Toss a Coin’ in front of backwater taverns and village crowds. He writes ballad after ballad, and watches Geralt over the fire on nights they camp in the woods.

Jaskier watches and wants, so badly that it knocks him breathless some nights.

He was a child of music and motion and love. Now, somewhere in his fifth decade, more has stayed the same as not.

~

In Rinde, Jaskier finds Geralt in the woods, fishing for a djinn. Jaskier is magic and music, but ultimately untrained. Something in his gut, however, tells him that this is bad, bad, bad. All the poems and histories he’s ever read ascribe to djinns to tragedies.

So maybe he gets distracted for a moment when Geralt calls his voice fillingless pie. His music keeps him alive, thank you very much, and he can ensnare any number of people close enough to listen. He can alter the fabric of reality with his music! Literally sing people out existence. Stupid Geralt of Rivia has no idea what he’s talking about.

“Take it back about my fillingless pie.” He grabs the djinn’s container, and he can feel the magic around it. So perhaps it’s partly his fault what happens next. The wind in the trees, and his meaningless wishes simply because he wants to stop the tragedy before it begins. The magic doesn’t snap to him, doesn’t give any hint of obeying. It doesn’t make sense.

Geralt snarls, golden eyes flashing far closer than Jaskier was expecting. It’s a very inconvenient time to be turned on, but- “I just want some damn peace!”

Faintly, oh so faintly, Jaskier feels something click in the djinn’s magic.

Oh, fuck.

~

Jaskier, for all that he throws himself into danger at the drop of a hat, can count on one hand the number of times he’s truly been afraid. When Yen was taken, when his apparent step-father found out the truth, that banquet in Cintra when he wasn’t sure he or Geralt would make it out. And now, coughing blood, unable to help himself because he can’t sing, Geralt dragging him along. Jaskier is afraid. Afraid he’ll die, or never sing again which might as well be the same.

If he stops working magic, does that mean he’ll start aging?

He’s not even in the right frame of mind to appreciate all of Geralt’s manhandling! Jaskier has so many witty remarks to make about Geralt throwing him over his shoulder, about his actual concern. Geralt has never initiated this much physical contact before. It’s always Jaskier draping himself over the Witcher, washing his hair, leaning against his side. Unfortunately, Jaskier’s a little too busy dying to appreciate anything.

Then Geralt drops him in an orgy, while he talks to a vaguely menacing woman in a black dress. Jaskier can’t hear their conversation over his wheezing, or see much of her beyond the mask. Then he sees nothing at all.

~

Jaskier wakes confused, with only a slight tightness in his throat. There’s a woman with dark hair sitting at the end of the bed, and Geralt is nowhere in sight. He doesn’t remember falling asleep, or fucking whoever this is.

When the woman turns around, half-undressed with near glowing violet eyes, Jaskier feels a bit of the fog clear. Nope, definitely did not sleep with her. Something about her seems vaguely familiar, but very much not in the scorned lover way. Just the thought of sex with this extremely attractive woman turns his stomach. Nope, apparently just an evil witch.

He stumbles out of bed, and she follows, stalking after him. Where the fuck is Geralt?

“Express your deepest desires and you can be on your way,” she says, and the robe is just… showing everything. Even her voice seems familiar.

“Well my deepest desires are currently satisfied, thank you so much.” Before he can pull on his boots, her magic pushes him against the door. Again, he should repeat, where the fuck is Geralt? Jaskier might be magic, but he would rather not reveal that, thanks, and he has so little training that this woman is sure to wipe the floor with him.

And then, she asks him to… sing?

Well, if this sorceress is going to literally ask him to do magic, who is he to protest. ‘Toss a Coin’ has gained enough popularity, become rooted deeply enough in the public mind that it’s practically a bludgeoning weapon. He should be able to buy himself some time. “Toss a coin to your Witcher, o Valley of- penis. Oh god.” The magic twists away before he can make it do anything in particular.

There’s a knife far too close to something Jaskier would really prefer not to lose, and a smile on the witch’s lips. “Never mind. Was that magic? Does your Witcher know you have magic?” Those violet eyes have lost a bit of the coldness to curiosity. Why does she seem so familiar?

“Magic, I ha- have no idea what you’re talking about!”

She sends him flying across the room. Great. Amazing. Where the fuck is Geralt?

“Make your wish.”

Jaskier spits out a meaningless wish and runs. Geralt is there, which is very nice, and he even seems to be happy that Jaskier is alive, but they need to leave. Crazy witch woman is planning something very bad according to the magic in the air, and familiarity or not Jaskier would like to live.

So, of course, Geralt runs back inside. And the entire top floor collapses. Jaskier is just about to start composing a song to raise Geralt from the dead fuck him if he thinks he’s getting away that easily when the elf pulls him to the window. And he will never unsee that now, Geralt and the strangely familiar, crazy fucking witch. Great. He needs to scrub his eyes out with soap.

When Geralt finally wakes up (how is this his life?), they don’t stop traveling until the next town. Jaskier can’t stop touching his throat, and feeling vaguely put out that Geralt abandoned him after his near-death experience to fuck an insane person. Whatever. He makes Geralt pay for the ale, and gods have mercy he actually does it without shooting Jaskier a dirty look. Someone must be feeling guilty.

Jaskier sighs a little. A brooding Witcher is fun for no one. Time to push down his stupid jealousy and get the rest of the tale for his next ballad.

“So, who was the crazy witch?”

There’s something almost like a smile hovering around Geralt’s mouth. Jaskier tries not to feel bitter. “Her name was Yennefer, Yennefer of Vengerburg.”

Choking on ale hurts when your throat is recovering from a magical injury.

~

The first time Jaskier runs into Yen after Rinde, he’s eating a sad breakfast of gruel in a grimy tavern. She kicks out the seat next to him, and wrinkles her nose at Jaskier’s bowl. Her deep purple dress hugs her curves, and the material of her cloak is fine enough that Jaskier’s doublet looks embarrassing in comparison. Whatever. Some of them have far less biddable magical powers and a human reputation to protect, thank you very much.

Geralt is nowhere in sight.

“Hello, bard,” Yennefer sneers. “I’m so glad to see you again.”

Jaskier grits his teeth. “Crazy witch, what a pleasant surprise. Don’t you have orgies to instigate? Innocent villagers to burn to ashes? Beings of infinite power to foolishly sacrifice yourself to?”

A flash of annoyance in violet eyes. Jaskier scoops a dramatic spoonful of gruel, and twists his face into the mockery of a smile. When Geralt said her name, all those months ago, his first instinct after he finished choking on ale was to sprint back to Rinde. Yen was alive. After all these years, he and Yen could be together again, the prince and the princess freed from the castle at last. Then reality knocked those thoughts out of his head.

Yen was alive. And she had been, all this time. Clearly her little brother meant nothing to her after all. The princess never came back for the prince, never even cared to wonder what had happened to the little boy who loved her. Who picked her bouquets of dandelions and listened to her stories and told her she was beautiful. If she never gave a damn about him, then fuck it, she doesn’t deserve to know that he’s alive. And to top it off, she slept with his Witcher!

Suffice to say, Jaskier might love his sister, but at the moment he doesn’t like her very much. At least the feeling is mutual.

“That’ll have to wait, I’m afraid.” She sighs, tone regretful but her eyes vicious. “I’m far too tired right now, bard. The White Wolf kept me up all night, but I couldn’t bring myself to sleep yet. After all that exertion, I’m simply famished.” Yen pulls a bright red apple from her pocket. She sinks her teeth into the skin the same color as her lips.

Jaskier is the one who gave Geralt that name. Is he really so obvious in his affection that someone who met him once can use it as a weapon? Under the indignation, Jaskier tries very hard to ignore the jealousy, and the heartbreak. Geralt isn’t his. He knows this.

He still didn’t expect he’d lose Geralt to his own sister.

“My name is Jaskier, noble lady.” He makes the motions of a bow without rising. “I am but a dandelion to your magnificent rose. Alas, at least I may be loved without savaging the hands of my sweet.” Jaskier’s eyes widen, over-large. “Oh apologies, I forget that you’ve likely never had a chance to draw blood at all!”

One of Yennefer’s finely sculpted eyebrows twitches. At least Jaskier knows that she’s still vulnerable to his dubious charm. “If I never draw blood, it is only because no one dare claim ownership over me. You must know no one loves a weed.”

Ouch. Jaskier doesn’t let his smile falter, and his next words are a bit more vicious than they should be. “Patently false. If nothing else, I can attest to the love of my father, who mourns even now that his son left him to seek fame elsewhere. I’m sure your father was aching to be rid of a viper like you.”

Jaskier regrets the words as soon as he’s spoken them. It’s a low-blow, and a blatant lie besides. Their ‘father’ was all too eager to rid himself of the both of them.

Jaskier may be frozen, but Yen snarls. In the next moment, Jaskier finds himself unable to speak.

Panic washes everything out. He can’t breathe for remembering the djinn, remembering blood in his mouth, remembering fear. It takes a moment to realize that it doesn’t hurt, and by that point Yennefer has leaned in close to hiss in his ear. “If you won’t watch your fool tongue, I’ll take it from you. And considering that I drowned my ‘father' in his own blood, I don’t think his opinion matters very much.” She stands. Jaskier’s throat still refuses to make a sound. “Goodbye for now, bard. I have a Witcher to keep in bed all day.”

Jaskier spends all day and night unable to say a word. He maybe deserves it a little.

~

The second time Yen interrupts his breakfast, Jaskier is a bit more prepared. He’s not prepared for Geralt to trail after her, for all three of them to sit at a single dingy table. Yen smiles at him with something vicious in her eyes, and presses tight against Geralt’s side.

“Here, darling, let me get you something a bit more… edible,” she purrs, lightly dragging her nails over Geralt’s hand. She summons two plates of breakfast, steaming, for both her and Geralt. Jaskier wants to scream.

His only saving grace is that Geralt looks as confused by her behavior as he does tentatively pleased. The Witcher clenches his jaw, brow furrowing. “Thanks.” He finally settles on, and begins inhaling the contents of his plate.

“Witch.” Jaskier says. He hopes the venom is audible.

It must be, because Yen offers him a truly nasty smile. “Bard.” She pointedly does not offer Jaskier any breakfast. The gruel tastes like ashes on his tongue. They don’t snap at each other like the last time, since it feels almost… wrong with Geralt present. But even the Witcher can’t be oblivious to the sheer ice in their eyes. If Geralt notices, he chooses not to acknowledge it.

“We need to get moving. Head to the next town,” Geralt clears his plate. He looks at Yen, who is still pressed against his side, with something almost soft in his eyes. Jaskier bites back a flinch. That’s his look, Geralt isn’t supposed to look at anyone else like that! “You coming?”

“Life on the road, sleeping in the dirt?” Yen scoffs. “I’ll see you off, Witcher, but nothing more.”

“Hm.” Geralt almost sounds disappointed.

Jaskier seethes to himself, but keeps quiet. He doesn’t want Yen to change her mind.

Outside, Jaskier helps Geralt saddle Roach, grateful that the mare doesn’t nip at him anymore. He wormed his way into her heart, just like he did with Geralt, and Yen must be mad if she thinks he’ll go quietly. He’d never hurt his sister, not really, but Jaskier is creative. He has years of sibling torture to catch up on. As Yen yanks Geralt down into a searing kiss, he starts composing a tune. He’ll sing it the first chance he gets, and see how his sister likes a little revenge.

“Bard.” She smirks, and Jaskier almost doesn’t see the twitch of her other hand. A localized gust of wind catches him mid-step and he stumbles. For a brief moment, he thinks that he’s caught himself, but then he’s falling back into one of the troughs lining the stable.

His only salvation is that it’s one for water rather than food. His doublet and trousers are immediately soaked through, but at least they’ll dry. Jaskier spits out his mouthful of water, coughing, and scrambles back to his feet.

Geralt is… Geralt is laughing. Just a little, just the hint of a deep rumble, almost too quiet for Jaskier to hear, but there nonetheless. A bit of wet cloth is worth it for that. Yen offers Jaskier a cheeky little wave, before stepping through a portal and vanishing.

Fine, walking beside Roach in dripping clothes isn’t particularly comfortable. But Geralt seems almost… lighter, and as much as Jaskier’s chest aches, he won’t begrudge him that. Especially since, as the day starts to darken and Jaskier begins to shiver in earnest, Geralt pulls him up onto Roach. His Witcher is a line of heat down his back. When he wobbles a little, Geralt wraps an arm around his waist to steady him and leaves it there. Yen can’t take this away from him.

Despite his cooling anger, Jaskier still runs off for some alone time that night as Geralt sets up camp. The words come easily, a jaunty enough tune.

Yennefer of Vengerburg,
Fairest of the fair.
Trick a bard into a trough,
Prepare to lose your hair.

Your luscious locks, they shall return,
Though now they change to gray.
You look your age. Be grateful,
It’ll only last a day.

Jaskier falls asleep with a smile.

~

The third time he runs into Yennefer, he’s not even traveling with Geralt. Jaskier has found a court to winter in and build up some coin, while the Witcher retreats to his mysterious stronghold in the mountains that he won’t take Jaskier to. It’s fine, everything’s fine, he’s clearly not bitter at all. So when he spots Yen commanding the attention of the room in a lacy black dress, he sighs.

“Witch,” Jaskier greets, after he joins her leaning against a pillar. There’s something deeply traumatizing about the fact that three-quarters of this ballroom is fantasizing about fucking his sister. Deeply, deeply traumatizing.

“Bard.” She sounds dangerous, but less sharp than before. Jaskier decides to tone down his viciousness in kind.

“If you’re looking for Geralt, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place. The monosyllabic oaf abandons me every year for the winter,” Jaskier places a hand over his heart. “Every year he leaves me to starve and wither away unless some poor court takes pity on me. He’s been lucky to find me alive every spring, I tell you. My material becomes a bit repetitive after a few months, but thankfully this crowd is too drunk to remember what I’ve sung in the morning. I tell you, I live a hard-”

A hand clamps over his mouth. “Dear Melitele, do you normally speak this much when you aren’t busy glaring a hole in the side of my head?”Jaskier considers. He nods with her hand still covering his mouth. Yen rolls her eyes. “Well, be silent before I make you.” She takes her hand away.

Jaskier considers bombarding her with a stream of words just to be contrary, but he knows she can back up her threat. For all that he jokes, his position in this court is very much based on whether he can sing. His stomach won’t take kindly to emptiness were he to lose his voice.

“Why are you here, if not for Geralt?”

She glares at him half-heartedly. “What makes you think I have any interest in joining him in whatever… hovel he’s holed up in?”

“Oh, oh. You can’t get to him can you?” Jaskier grins. “His witchery cave that he disappears to is warded isn’t it?”

“By the gods, you’re annoying,” Yen mutters.

“I get that a lot.”

Jaskier hadn’t noticed before, but she’s been subtly herding him out of the room, somewhere more private. Is she about to kill him? That would make a nice ballad—a tragic story of fratricide.

“I need your help,” Yen tells him, when they’ve left the party behind.

Jaskier coughs. “Excuse me?”

“I would prefer the Witcher, but you’ll have to do.” She raises an eyebrow. “Your magic is good for more than petty little party tricks, I assume?”

“Rude! Absolutely rude and not the way to go about asking for help at all,” Jaskier starts. “You are really quite bad at this whole making friends bit. I suppose you’re like Geralt that way. Is that why you two keep fucking? Does your prickliness somehow attract each other? I swear, he calls my voice ‘fillingless pie’ and you call my wonderful, powerful, reality-altering magic a party trick. That’s it, I’ve decided you’re made for each other.”

Yen pinches the bridge of her nose in a strangely familiar gesture. The girl he’d known once, the sister he’d adored— she’d done the same thing when Jaskier had been a little too much. “This was a mistake. I’m not trying to be your friend.”

“Too bad, I think our resentful, ballad-worthy hatred has gone on for long enough. We can still be mean to each other, but we’re friends now.” Jaskier decides.

“Just do a job for me and I’ll give you coin.”

“The best of friends.” Jaskier is smart enough not to sling an arm around her shoulders, like he does with Geralt.

~

The ‘job’ is far more suited to another magic user than a Witcher. Besides, Geralt has weirdly strong morals and would probably at least question why they were robbing a lord’s keep. Jaskier shrugs and acts as the distraction he’d promised.

Yen’s face, when she exits with whatever treasure she was here for and sees Jaskier’s solution, is priceless. There is something otherworldly about an entire keep worth of guards getting beat senseless by their own armor. Jaskier is rather proud of this one. Another guard shrieks and drops as a pair of vambraces launch a helmet into his groin.

When Yen finally drags Jaskier through a portal, she’s muttering under her breath.

“Hey! I did exactly what you asked!”

“What kind of spell was that?” The whites around her eyes are starting to become a bit alarming. “That shouldn’t have been possible, that was an entire small army’s worth of armor to enchant. You should be dead.”

Jaskier scoffs. “I don’t use spells. That’s boring.”

The expression on Yen’s face says she would dearly love to strangle to him.

“Are you even human?”

Jaskier winks. “As human as you, my dear!”

She throws the bag of gold at his head hard enough to hurt.

~

By the time he runs into Yen again, it’s been more than a year and he misses her. If she spends any time in Geralt’s bed, she’s always gone by morning. Apparently seeing his sister again is enough to awaken all his old longing for her company. At least he has Geralt to distract him. They travel the continent in search of monsters and Jaskier writes song after song.

Once a year, Jaskier slips away to Cintra and sings a blessing at Princess Cirilla’s birthday feast. If Geralt won’t take responsibility for his Child Surprise, Jaskier can at least make sure she’s safe.

Things are quite normal otherwise, so he’s taken off-guard to open his eyes and find Geralt on top of him.

“Yen! Yen, I need you,” Geralt shouts. He’s clutching something in one hand. A rock? Jaskier can admit that of all the times he’s fantasized about Geralt on top of him, he’s never been calling out his sister’s name.

“G’ralt?” Jaskier tries to ask. His tongue is surprisingly clumsy. He coughs once, and tastes blood in the back of his throat. Geralt stops shouting out someone else’s name, and turns all that glorious attention onto Jaskier. Those eyes. He needs to write another ballad about those eyes.

“Jaskier. Stay still.” Geralt’s voice rumbles through him. The hand clutching the rock is covered in red. Blood? Is Geralt hurt? He tries to sit up, and pain rips through him. He collapses backward. Oh. “Dammit Jaskier! Stop. Moving.”

He lifts his head up enough to look down his body, and oh, oh that isn’t pleasant. Geralt’s other hand seems to be trying to keep his insides, well, inside. Jaskier absolutely doesn’t remember how they got here. He tries to think of lyrics. What could he sing to knit himself back together? But everything is foggy and slow. He can’t make his brain work. He’s going to die.

“G’ralt-” Jaskier forces his mouth to work. If he’s going to die, then he needs to make his last words worth it.

Over the blood pounding in his ears, he hears a furious wind, and Geralt whips his head around. Jaskier wants to cry. Is it too much to ask to have Geralt’s undivided attention as he dies?

“This better be important, I was in the middle of-” Yen! That’s Yen’s voice. Oh good, he can have his whole family here as he goes.

“Yen. Help him. Please.” Geralt’s voice sounds… rough. Like he’s gargled rocks. Maybe he’s hurt after all.

“Shit.” Yen’s face is suddenly in front of his own. Her eyes have always been so pretty too. Why does everyone he loves have such pretty eyes? “Geralt you need to let go.” Geralt says something Jaskier can’t quite make out. “Geralt, get off him now!”

Geralt’s weight disappears and Jaskier whimpers. Everything hurts. Where did Geralt go? Yen is talking again, and he tries to focus on her. His sister. He can listen to his sister. “This is going to hurt,” she warns him. Jaskier blinks, not understanding. “Geralt, hold his shoulders down so the idiot doesn’t make it worse.” Two strong hands press him down into the dirt. Yen says a word in Elder, and then everything is fire and Jaskier blacks out.

~

When he wakes up next, Jaskier is laying in a bed. He’s forgotten how comfortable beds are, damn Geralt for making him sleep so often in the woods. Wait. Geralt.

Jaskier sits up, and the blinding pain he was expecting doesn’t come. He looks down at his stomach, and there’s only a thin scar where he remembers his insides spilling outside. He’s about to call out, grateful to be waking up at all, but also anxious that he’s woken up alone. Before Jaskier can open his mouth, he registers the quiet huffs of someone else’s breath.

Geralt is asleep on the pillow next to him. He looks peaceful, in ways that Jaskier usually isn’t allowed to see, but there are dark circles under his eyes. Jaskier wants reassurance, he does, but the larger part of him insists he let Geralt sleep. The Witcher must be exhausted if he slept through Jaskier’s abrupt awakening.

So Jaskier lays back down and rolls onto his side. He feels a little tender, now that he’s paying attention, but when he stops moving the feeling goes away.

He falls asleep like that, watching his Witcher. The next chance he gets, Jaskier will sing a nice song for Yen, perhaps something that gives her flowers or fresh fruit. For now, he sleeps.

~

The point is— well, the point is that Jaskier forgives his sister, even as she rips his heart out by sleeping with Geralt. He forgives her, because despite everything she’s his friend, and he will always, always love her. Besides, for all that she gets Geralt in bed, Geralt in pleasure, Jaskier gets his own pieces of Geralt just for him.

He gets Geralt sprawled in a bath, boneless beneath his hands as he washes monster guts out of his hair. He gets Geralt, black-eyed and fierce after killing a monster, terrifying to look at, but so gentle when he pulls Jaskier out of whatever trouble he’s gotten into. He gets Geralt pressed against him on the cold winter nights, sharing a bedroll for warmth.

He gets Geralt’s half-smiles and Geralt’s almost-laughs when Jaskier is especially witty. He gets Geralt’s protection when Jaskier is threatened, and his grudging tending when he’s hurt. Once, he even gets Geralt’s humming when he thinks Jaskier out of earshot—Geralt’s soft humming of Jaskier’s latest ballad.

Yen might have Geralt’s heart and his love, but Jaskier is happy. He’s greedy enough to want everything Geralt has to give, sure, but this is enough. Yen even stops rubbing their relationship in Jaskier’s face! So if sometimes Jaskier’s chest aches, and his lyrics turn morose, he just has to remember that Geralt cares about him. Perhaps not exactly the way he wants, but he still cares.

It’s enough.

~

“Phew, what a day! I imagine you’re-“

“Dammit Jaskier! Why is it whenever I find myself in a pile of shit these days, it’s you shoveling it?”

“Well that’s not fair.”

“The Child Surprise, the Djinn, all of it! If life could give me one blessing, it would be to take you off my hands!”

~

After- well, after.

Jaskier has a good cry, but then the cry doesn’t stop. He cries his fucking heart out on the path out of town, until he has to lean against a tree or risk falling down. The funny thing is that he thought he knew heartbreak. Jaskier loves at the drop of a hat, hell he’s been in love with Geralt for decades and watched him be with dozens of other people, including his own sister. None of that compares to the hole ripping his chest apart.

Jaskier cries, and then finds a tavern and drinks the rest of his coin away.

It’s stupid, stupid, stupid, but without Geralt over his shoulder he can simply sing up anything he needs. And what he needs right now is to be drunk.

That only works for a few days, before he faces the inevitable and sits down with his notebook of lyrics. The words are easy.

Jaskier the bard, they say,
Died alone like he always feared.
Simply never got up one day,
Tired from all his years.

He died of a broken heart,
No Witcher by his side
His best friend tore him apart,
Left his chest open wide.

Jaskier the bard, they say,
Died alone like he always feared.
Mem’ry of him fades away,
His face no longer clear.

His Witcher, his sister all
Forget he’d ever been.
Love pushed along his fall,
No choice, but to start again.

It hurts to write, like pulling a thorny vine from his chest. Despite it all, despite everything, Jaskier likes being Jaskier. It’s comfortable, more comfortable than Julian ever was. Jaskier is a creature of music and motion, and that’s all he’s ever wanted to be.

Jaskier knows these lyrics are the right ones. The right choice. He’ll leave Geralt with only the vaguest memory of him, let his songs alone carry the load of rehabilitating Witchers. Yen is clearly fine. Jaskier will just… go somewhere else. There’s got to be more world out there somewhere, a place where his chest will stop hurting so much.

Jaskier knows these lyrics are the right ones, but when he opens his mouth to sing them, he finds his voice caught in his throat. He can’t. He can’t make himself do it. He should, but he can’t.

Fuck. Fuck!

He goes back to drinking, notebook heavy in his pocket.

~

Yen finds him one night, after he’s already too drunk to hold his head up, never mind make conversation. The world spins, but her violet eyes are a point of focus. He passes out.

When he wakes, head aching, she’s sitting by his bedside looking entirely unimpressed. “Are you trying to pickle your brain?”

“Yen.” Jaskier says. He pushes himself up to sitting and squints at her. Are those dark circles under her eyes? He didn’t think she could get those.

“Jaskier.” She looks even more unimpressed. “My question stands. Why isn’t that white-haired imbecile stopping you from drowning yourself in ale?”

Jaskier stares at her. It hasn’t occurred to him that she wouldn’t know. Doesn’t the whole world know that Geralt broke his fucking heart?

“Yen,” he says again. His voice sounds absolutely horrible. “I haven’t seen Geralt since the dragon.”

She stares at him. “You must be joking. You two are attached at the hip.”

Jaskier laughs, and once he’s started he can’t stop. “Quite unwilling on his part, apparently. Thought I’d give him the blessing he asked for and just. Take myself off his hands.” He’s still laughing, he thinks, until Yen reaches out for his cheek and her hand comes away wet. Oh no. No no no, he’s gotten over the crying, it makes his complexion look absolutely dreadful.

“Jaskier,” Yen’s saying, and her eyes are wide, her hands squeezing his shoulders too tight. “Jaskier, you haven’t done anything exceptionally idiotic since, have you?”

He snorts, wet and ugly. “What, like sing myself out of existence? I have the words written but I just couldn’t bring myself to-”

Yen is off like a shot, rifling through his things until she finds his notebook of lyrics. She opens a portal and throws it through.

“Yennefer what the fuck-”

She turns and slaps him across the face. Stunned, Jaskier holds his stinging cheek. “I didn’t think you a coward, bard.” Yen spits. “I thought you fought for the things that you wanted.”

Jaskier stares at her, utterly bewildered. “Where did you get that stupid idea? I let you have Geralt, didn’t I?”

Yen steps back, almost like he had slapped her in turn. Then her face darkens. “Oh. I think I might actually murder that fool of a man.” Jaskier opens his mouth. “Shut up. I’m angry with you as well.”

Jaskier shuts up. Or he intends to. What happens instead is that he says to his sister, “Let me buy you a drink.”

~~

(After Geralt finds Ciri, after Ciri finds Geralt. After they are safe for a moment, and then a day, and then a week without running. After.

After all that, Yennefer of Vengerburg says fuck it and portals into the middle of their campsite. Ciri screams, Geralt almost beheads her, and they… talk. For a long while. Their love is not meant to be. Not really.

After Yen slaps Geralt, and Geralt apologizes, and Ciri stares wide-eyed. After.

“Now that you’ve started to pull your head out of your ass, I’m not the only one you owe an apology to.”

“Hm.”

“Jaskier deserves an apology.” Yen says, very slowly and clearly.

“Since when do you give a shit about Jaskier?” Geralt snaps.

“Jaskier?” Ciri asks. “I know that name, but why would you need to apologize to him? I assumed he was dead?”

“Hm.”

“Geralt,” Ciri says. “He’s the only person you’ve mentioned more than once. Wasn’t he your best friend?”

“… Yes. Fuck.”

“Well, you great lump of stupidity, maybe you should’ve told him that occasionally?” Yen taps a finger against her lips. “Or even one time?”

“It’s okay!” Ciri says. “I can help you apologize! You can give him a bunch of gifts of his favorite things, and we’ll work on the words together.”

“Wow, Witcher.” Yen looks entirely unimpressed. “You need a child to help you apologize?”

“… Fine. I- miss his annoying chatter. It’s. Too quiet.”

“I knew it!” Ciri cheers. “What kind of things does he like?”

“Music,” Geralt bites out. “He writes it. His lute. His clothes. Stories. Anything shiny and gaudy and ugly. Chocolate with little chunks of nuts. Perfumed oil, but expensive, and a certain scent. Flowers, but especially dandelions.”

“Um,” Ciri says. “Wow, you didn’t need as much help as I thought coming up with things.”

After everything. After Ciri falls asleep plotting by the fire. After, Yennefer of Vengerburg pinches the bridge of her nose to ward off a headache.

Her magic must have latched onto the bard some point after they stopped hating each other so violently, because she always seems to know where he is now. She could fix this so quickly, by locking both Jaskier and Geralt naked in a bedroom.

Jaskier’s pining, she’s always recognized and understood, to an extent. But to realize that Geralt felt the same, well. She’ll have to come around more often, to make sure Ciri is exposed to at least one person with an ounce of sense. Those are plans for later. Right now, Jaskier owes her so many drinks and he doesn’t even know it.)

~~

Jaskier stops drinking after Yennefer starts visiting him. He drinks with her, of course, but something about knowing that his sister hasn’t forgotten him gives him the strength to start living again. He picks up his lute and he sings. His chest is still a gaping wound, but he’s not alone. He doesn’t move on, but he moves forward.

Which is why he’s taken completely off-guard when he follows suspicious noises into a clearing and sees Princess Cirilla, the Lion Cub of Cintra, Geralt of Rivia, and fucking Yennefer fighting off a pack of slimy monsters with very big teeth. And losing.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Jaskier says. He barely feels his mouth move. This is ridiculous. “Destiny’s a bitch.”

Two of the slimy monsters peel away to ooze in his direction.

“Jaskier.” Geralt says, as shocked as Jaskier has ever seen him. The Witcher freezes for a moment. They all do. Apparently none of them were prepared to run into each other like this. Oh, and he’s going to have words with Yennefer later. He saw her two nights ago! And she hadn’t mentioned anything about seeing Geralt. Then one of the monsters clamps onto Geralt’s arm. “Fuck. Jaskier, run.”

Jaskier takes a look at the losing fight, and decides to pull out his lute instead.

Jaskier has never been taught magic. Everything he learned, he learned by trial and error. When he sings, the words matter, usually. He doesn’t know why they matter, or why the order is important, but when he wants specific things he has to sing specific things. That makes sense at least.

But his magic isn’t always like that. Sometimes when he sings, the words don’t matter. The only thing that guides the magic is Jaskier’s own intent, and the strength of his song. He isn’t quite sure how it works, and he doesn’t use that kind very often. If he thinks about it too much, that amount of limitless, free-ranging magic is rather terrifying in its scope. The little that he’s experimented with it has shown it to be rather useless for finely detailed work, which is the only thing he tends to do anyway.

And yet. Two slimy beasts are surging in his direction, he doesn’t have time to fiddle with lyrics specific enough to function, and Geralt is bleeding. He might be furious and heartbroken and hollowed out inside but that doesn’t mean his Witcher is allowed to bleed. Also, he does love his sister.

Jaskier knows his intent, so all he has to do is sing.

“When a humble bard,
Graced a ride along…”

Damn, all that time singing in noisy taverns has really helped his ability to project. His voice echoes in the clearing, bouncing off the trees and thrumming deep in Jaskier’s chest. He feels the magic in the air, in his throat, in his very fucking veins. The monsters freeze, every single one of them. Jaskier purposefully doesn’t look at Geralt, who must be realizing now that Jaskier has been lying to him for oh, 24 years?

He can’t look. So he focuses on the monsters instead and keeps singing. They’re frozen, and his magic is so strong in the air that it’s hard to breathe. Jaskier can feel sweat gathering at his temples. He needs something simple. Something simple and strong.

“Toss a coin to your Witcher,
O Valley of Plenty, O Valley of Plenty…”

With the magic so thick that Jaskier can taste it, electricity and sunshine and music and flowers, with the magic pumping his heart and filling his lungs, Jaskier thinks Now. He doesn’t stop singing.

The monsters are still frozen, and Jaskier feels the magic slip out of his lungs. The two closest to him crumble to ash, slowly but surely. Jaskier’s knees start to wobble, and he sinks down the grass. He keeps his back straight and his voice strong.

“Toss a coin to your Witcher,
O Valley of Plenty…”

The one with its teeth in Geralt’s arm crumbles, as do the three surrounding Yen and the Princess. Jaskier heaves in air, but his circular breathing training was clearly not for nothing. His voice doesn’t crack. He can’t focus well enough to continue on in the song, but a repeat of the chorus should do nicely for the last bunch.

Jaskier sings until the last beast crumbles, until he’s sweaty and shaking. And when the last note fades, things happen very fast. Yen stumbles, surely fighting his enchantment the entire time. Princess Cirilla tilts her head and asks “Dandelion?” Geralt turns his own stumble into a run. Jaskier looks at the towering Witcher and his overlarge silver sword rushing towards him, and decides it’s in his best interests to pass out.

At least he was almost horizontal already.

~

When Jaskier wakes up, Yen is sitting on the end of his bed and staring at him. The flash of deja-vu is strong enough that he reaches for his throat on reflex.

“Good evening, bard,” Yennefer says. He can’t decipher the expression in her eyes.

Jaskier opens his mouth to reply and nothing comes out. His panic is real then. Yen must see it in his eyes because she hands him a jug of water. Jaskier sips, and the tightness in his throat eases.

“Yennefer.” His voice is a little scratchy, but not any worse so than after a long night of singing. “Is everyone okay?”

“You just sang a dozen monsters to ash, and you want to know if everyone is okay. Your idiocy astonishes me. What even are you?”

“The exact same as you,” Jaskier says, and he’s not even lying.

Yennefer scowls.

“Dandelion! You’re awake!” Princess Cirilla crashes through the door. “Geralt heard your voice from downstairs, he’s been worrying since we brought you here.” She’s gotten bigger since the last time Jaskier saw her. It’s been more than a year, since he was rather too depressed to go to her last birthday celebration. She looks older, something wary about her eyes and tattered around her edges. For all that she’s still undeniably a child, Jaskier doubts that she has much innocence left. He can’t believe she survived.

The hug catches him off-guard. He returns it though, and strokes her hair when she starts to cry just a little. She’s so quiet when she cries. It hurts his heart.
“They’re all gone,” she whispers. “The entire court.”

“I’m so sorry, Princess.” He hums a little, until she stops shaking as hard. Someone clears their throat from the doorway. Geralt is leaning against the door, watching them with something abnormally soft around his eyes. He’s not smiling, but he raises an eyebrow when Jaskier looks his way. For a moment, Jaskier forgets everything that happened, about the mountain and the words his Witcher can never take back. “Um. I can explain?”

“And that’s the other thing!” Princess Cirilla pulls away and her eyes are only a little red. “I never knew that Dandelion wasn’t your real name. Every time Geralt moped about Jaskier this, Jaskier that, I didn’t know he was talking about my special birthday bard!”

It’s like a shock of cold water. Jaskier looks down at his lap, avoiding everyone’s eyes. “I doubt he mentioned me all that much.” He doesn’t bother curbing the bitterness in his voice.

“We can deal with all your drama later,” Yennefer says, and she sounds so fed up that Jaskier actually lifts his head. She glares at him. “What was that little crack supposed to mean, bard? ‘The exact same as you’?”

Jaskier shrugs and doesn’t look at Geralt. “I’m not… quite human. Mostly human but… my father was a half-elf.”

Yen’s eyes widen. “How did you know I was a quadroon?”

“You’re part elf?” Geralt asks. He doesn’t sound angry, more confused than anything. Jaskier still can’t bring himself to look at the doorway. His heart aches.

“Other than eyes that are a little too blue and quite a longer life-span, I don’t have much to show for it.”

“And the magic.” Geralt says.

Jaskier closes his eyes. “Yes, that too I suppose.”

“How old are you?” Yennefer asks. “I always thought the lack of crow’s feet was suspicious.”

“Oh, somewhere around sixty I think. One really does stop counting.” Jaskier says, forcing a laugh.

“You’re immortal.” Geralt says.

“Yes, Geralt,” Jaskier snaps. “That is generally what I meant by longer life-span. Though elves are probably more long-lived than immortal but thanks to Calanthe they’re all slightly too dead for me to ask one.”

Princess Cirilla flinches and Jaskier hates himself a little more. “I’m sorry.”

“No, no, no.” Jaskier pulls her in for a quick hug. “It’s not your fault, I never should have said that, Princess. I’m sorry.”

“You can call me Ciri, you know,” she mumbles into his shoulder.

“Of course, Ciri,” Jaskier says. He gives her another squeeze. The weight of Geralt’s eyes are burning into the top of his head.

“Well!” Yennefer claps her hands and Jaskier jumps. “As entertaining as this talk of genocide is, and trust me it is truly riveting, I think Ciri and I should be going. I’m sure you two have things to discuss.” Panic clogs Jaskier’s throat. Yen leans over to help Ciri off the bed, and whispers into his ear. “If you try to magic your way out of this, I will hunt you down, and I will hurt you.”

The sound of the door closing is far too reminiscent of a cage clanging shut. Jaskier looks down at his hands. “So.”

“Hm.” Geralt grunts. For a second, Jaskier is so overwhelmed by loss that he has to fight back tears. Fuck. He even missed the grunting and growling.

“Great. We’re monosyllabic then,” Jaskier says. His voice is uneven. He soldiers through. “If you’re planning on yelling at me, we can just skip that part and pretend that I listened. I’ll be out of your hair as soon as they let us out of this room. I’m rather sure Yennefer locked the door, so I don’t know when that will be-”

“You’re afraid of me.” Geralt interrupts.

“What?” Jaskier makes the mistake of looking up. Geralt looks… uncomfortable, but that isn’t quite right. Jaskier doesn’t recognize his expression at all.

“Your heart is pounding. You stink of fear.” Is that… guilt? No, Jaskier must be imagining things.

“Yes, well, I apologize for my stink and ignoring that entirely creepy observation, I’m not quite sure what you expected. The last time we spoke you rather thoroughly stomped all over my heart and emotions as you indicated that our twenty years of friendship was a little more one-sided than even I had thought. Now,” Jaskier waves a hand. “You just found out that I lied about my origins and that I was secretly magic this entire time, so excuse me if I’m a little worried about how you’ll emotionally ravage me next!”

Well. That was a little more satisfying to get off his chest than he was expecting.

“It wasn’t.” Geralt says. It sounds like it hurts.

“Excuse me?”

“One-sided. You’re my ‘very best friend in the whole wide world’, Jaskier,” Geralt says. Jaskier can hear the quotes, remembers the steam rising from the bath, but he’s a little too busy feeling his world tilt off its axis to notice.

He’s lost at sea—slow and stupid. Why would Geralt say that. He crushes the hope that tries to bloom, reminds it of his anger, of if life could give me one blessing. “What?”

Geralt grits his teeth, but looks Jaskier straight in the eyes. (Gods he’s missed those eyes). “I. Need to apologize. For the mountain.” Jaskier is too stunned to really process that Geralt seems to be going through a prepared speech. “I was wrong. I was upset and I took it out on you. None of it was your fault.”

“Geralt-”

“I didn’t mean for you to leave.”

“You told me to,” Jaskier says, quiet. “You said…”

If life could give me one blessing, it would be to take you off my hands!

“I was wrong.” Geralt sounds firm, sure. “I never want you to leave.”

Jaskier wants to believe him so badly. Against his will, his eyes fill up with tears. He sniffles. Great, like Geralt will want him around now-

“Am I. Doing it wrong?” Geralt sounds worried. The stupid Witcher can probably smell the salt.

“No, no, no,” Jaskier waves him off and presses a hand over his eyes. “You’re doing it exactly right, that’s why I’m crying. Please, please do carry on.”

Geralt’s hand lands on Jaskier’s shoulder. It’s a solid weight, comforting. Jaskier yearns to press into it, but he makes himself hold very still. “I’m sorry.” Geralt says firmly. “I need you, Jaskier.”

“Fuck.” Jaskier speaks into his wrist. “Fuck. Geralt, you really hurt my feelings on that mountain. I can’t-”

“I have presents. For you. As an apology.” Geralt says, hand still clasping Jaskier’s shoulder.

Jaskier whips his head up. His eyes are probably all puffy. “Presents?”

Geralt’s lips twitch into an almost smile. “Yes, Jaskier, presents.”

“Well,” he sniffs. “Let me see the presents and then we’ll see about forgiveness. I better be impressed, Witcher.”

Geralt’s hand leaves his shoulder, and Jaskier is immediately colder for it. The Witcher grabs a bag from the fireplace, and then sits next to Jaskier on the bed, a warm line of heat all along his side. Inside the bag are- are treasures.

Silver strings, for his lute. A new notebook, bound in sleek genuine leather, embossed with a J. There’s a dagger in there too, encrusted with far too many jewels and probably useless in a fight. His favorite scented oil, which can only be found in a small specialty shop near Oxenfurt. There’s even chocolate with hunks of nut.

“This is all for me?” Jaskier asks, voice thick.

“Yes. Yen made a portal. For the oil.”

The amount of time and care that Geralt had to have put into this, in order to get all these things… Jaskier feels seen, in a way that he hasn’t in so long.

“Okay,” he says finally. “I forgive you.”

“Hm.” Geralt smiles. And it’s a little too toothy and a little too fierce, but Jaskier loves it, loves him.

Jaskier is five seconds away from doing something very, very stupid about that smile, when he hears the sound of a cheer. From the supposedly closed door. He rolls his eyes.

“If you two are done eavesdropping…”

Ciri and Yen walk back in, utterly shameless. Ciri is clapping, with a huge smile on her face. It looks like it hurts a little. Poor kid probably hasn’t been smiling a lot lately. Yen looks more smug than anything else.

“You did it! Just like we practiced.” Ciri slides onto Geralt’s other side, and he tucks her under his arm easily. Jaskier’s heart melts.

“Men.” Yen rolls her eyes.

Jaskier remembers, very abruptly, that his sister is a lying liar who lies. “Oh, Yennefer,” Jaskier says, in a sing-song voice. She immediately looks wary. “Don’t think I forgot about you sneaking around with Geralt behind my back. I saw you two days ago. Revenge is sweet,” Jaskier promises.

Yennefer narrows her eyes, and he feels a touch of foreboding. “So I’m assuming that since you two have kissed and made up, I can be giving you back your song notebook?” No. She wouldn’t. “Since you won’t be needing that tragic ballad to sing yourself out of existence?” Oh, she totally went there. Sometimes his sister is a bitch.

Geralt is a line of tension along his side. Ciri’s eyes are wide and hurt.

“Listen,” he wheedles, backing up. “I know you always yell at me for being reckless, Geralt—which for the record, is the height of hypocrisy from someone who hunts monsters for a living—but. But! I never sang it! So really I wasn’t reckless at all. Besides, the song wouldn’t actually hurt me, it would just make you all… forget about me? A little? Mostly you would forget my face and other specifics and think that I died.” Geralt growls, and Jaskier continues quickly. “But! And again I think we’re missing the point here, I never sang it. So no reason to be so grumpy and growly.”

Ciri looks a little overwhelmed by the wave of words, but Geralt is unfazed. And scowling. He misses the smile from earlier, where did that go?

“You’re an idiot.” Ouch. “I’m not letting you out of my sight again unsupervised.” And honestly, Jaskier doesn’t have a problem with that.

Tentatively, he scoots back over and leans his weight against Geralt. The Witcher doesn’t push him off or anything. Progress!

He doesn’t notice Yen looking between them with exasperated eyes.

~

So, Jaskier joins them on their travels. Geralt is careful with him at first, like somehow Jaskier having magic makes him even more fragile. After the third time Geralt gets himself injured instead of letting a monster so much as step in Jaskier’s direction, he sings a little ditty that leaves Geralt with purple hair and a paper sword for a day.

In other news, Ciri thinks he’s hilarious.

Yen comes and goes, and Geralt doesn’t seem to know what to do with their grudging friendship. She still trips him into puddles and he still sings her clothes too tight and her hair gray, but even Jaskier can admit that she cares for him a bit. Not as much as he cares for her, not with him still being the only one that knows the truth, but…

He thinks about it often now. Coming clean. With the magic and the elf-heritage and the visiting Ciri all off his chest, Jaskier has so few secrets left. He imagines telling Yen a thousand times, and only half end up with her murdering him. But he’s… scared. His only other secret, that he loves Geralt enough to tear him up inside, is something he plans to take to his grave. Their time apart hasn’t dulled it any. In fact, the exaggerated care that Geralt takes with him now (placing his bedroll closest to the fire, making sure Jaskier eats first, washing his hair for him in the bath) twists him up inside more.

Geralt didn’t do this before, did he?

Jaskier might be going insane. He makes Yen take him for a drink.

“Yen, Yen, Yennefer, I’m losing my mind,” Jaskier moans, face pressed into a dirty wooden table.

“Can’t lose what you never had,” she mutters, just loud enough for him to hear.

“Ouch,” Jaskier says. “But seriously, why is he doing this? My poor heart can’t take it.”

Yen rolls her eyes. “He’s trying to woo you.”

“Yen,” Jaskier flinches. His voice turns serious. “Please don’t joke about that. I know you think it’s, it’s funny or pathetic or sad, but please.”

She stares at him. “Bard, how stupid are you? I’m not joking.”

Jaskier shakes his head. “Geralt wouldn’t- he isn’t trying to woo me. He would never betray you like that. This is just guilt, or something.”

“Betray me?” Yen reaches over and pulls his drink away, as if that would sober him up. “We haven’t been together since the mountain, and neither of us plans on changing that.”

“What?” It’s Jaskier’s turn to stare, and Yen’s turn to lay her head on the table. She looks entirely undignified and Jaskier is overwhelmed with a fierce love for his sister, even as she groans something about men being first-rate idiots into the wood.

So Jaskier is losing his mind and Yennefer isn’t any help.

It comes to a head when Jaskier gets injured on a hunt.

It’s nothing, barely a scratch in the scheme of things, but Geralt goes ballistic. Ciri stayed behind at the inn for safety’s sake with Yennefer, so that leaves Jaskier alone with Geralt, a kikimore in far too many pieces, and an arm barely bloody.

“Okay,” he says, as Geralt growls and washes his arm and bandages what amounts to a bad paper cut. “Okay, I think we need to talk.”

“Hm.”

“With words, Geralt.”

“About what.”

Jaskier throws up his arms. Geralt growls, deep in his chest, as Jaskier messes up his bandaging. “‘About what?’ Are you serious? How about that growl? I’m not a porcelain doll, you know! I’ve done worse to myself shaving. Is there something going on that I don’t know about?”

“No.”

“Then why in the flying fuck are you acting like this? Wait,” Jaskier squints. “Is it even you? You’re a doppler, that would explain so much-”

“I don’t like seeing you hurt,” Geralt says.

Jaskier laughs. “Geralt, I’m human. Or human-ish, mostly human, whatever. That’s what we do. I got hurt before and you didn’t care this much.”

“I did. Care.” Again, that sounded like it hurt Geralt to get out.

“And that! You’re being what passes for verbose, and emotionally vulnerable. You washed my hair the other day, Geralt.”

“Hm.” Geralt grunts. It’s a frustrated grunt, and really, truly Jaskier would love to know what Geralt thinks he has to be frustrated about in this situation.

Jaskier opens his mouth for a witty reply, and then Geralt. Geralt kisses him.

Jaskier’s mind is completely empty. It takes a long time to reboot and kiss back, but it’s worth it for the hand Geralt curls in his hair. The Witcher tugs, just a little. Jaskier whimpers into Geralt’s mouth, and feels his stupid, stubborn lips curl up just a little in a smile.

“Wait, wait,” Jaskier gasps, he puts a hand on Geralt’s chest and pushes him back so that he has space to breathe. “Wait, what?” Oh, so eloquent.

Geralt grasps his chin, and forces Jaskier to look him in the eyes. “I want you.”

Oh, wow, and now Jaskier’s body has decided to very much get in on this. The one little functioning corner of his mind that sounds suspiciously like Yen goes Jaskier you fucking dumbass what are you doing you’re going to get so hurt but the rest of him says fuck it. So Geralt wants him for sex. Should Jaskier sleep with him and break his own heart when Geralt continues to sleep with other people? Probably not. Is he going to do it anyway? You fucking bet.

“Oh, fuck yes,” Jaskier says. He buries his hands in Geralt’s hair and pulls his Witcher back down.

~

“Yen, Yen, Yennefer, why the fuck did I do that?” Jaskier groans into another dirty wooden table. “He was, so, unbelievably good, which I’m sure you know but. Fuck. I shouldn’t have done that.”

“And why not?” His sister sounds somewhere between incredulous and infuriated but Jaskier doesn’t lift his head.

“Because. Because now we fuck, but I’m still in love with him and he doesn’t feel the same way! I’m literally breaking my own heart here I’m such an idiot.” Jaskier thumps his head against the table.

“Oh for fuck’s sake. Did you two even talk?” Yen demands.

Jaskier doesn’t reply. He just groans into the table some more.

“That’s it. I’m going to kill you both.”

~

Geralt hands him a bouquet. A bouquet of dandelions, of all things. Jaskier stares down at the flowers and thinks of a little girl locked away and the little boy that loved her. (Is it his and Geralt’s story too?)

The Witcher clears his throat. Fuck, but his eyes are almost the same gold as the flowers (there’s a ballad in that). “Jaskier,” Geralt says, very clear like he’s practiced. “I want you to stay with me.”

“Geralt,” Jaskier says, quiet. “Geralt, I don’t understand.”

“Not just for sex. For everything.”

Oh. Oh.

Well, shit. He understands Yen’s frustration now.

“Will you?” Geralt asks.

“Of course.” Jaskier throws himself at the Witcher. Geralt catches him, because of course he does. From behind a suspiciously placed tree, he hears Ciri cheer.

Jaskier’s far too busy sucking a bruise into Geralt’s neck to notice Yen bend to pick up the dropped flowers and mutter a preservation charm. He doesn’t see her staring at them, wistful and sad.

~

“I owe you so many drinks.”

“Bard, you have no idea.”

~

That’s all of Jaskier’s secrets now. All of them, except for one.

~

Jaskier was always going to tell her. Okay, not always. There were definitely times where his only plans involving Yen were a few protection charms and a see you never. But he got to know her again, and love her again, as someone a bit more sophisticated than a six-year-old boy. He always meant to tell her, but time passed and it just got more awkward, more… overwhelming.

How do you even start that conversation?

But they have time! Centuries of time.

He never means to tell her like this.

“Bard, if you don’t stop talking with your mouth full I won’t be responsible for my actions.” “Oh please, Witch, you’re just jealous that your mouth isn’t full of-” Jaskier looks over at Ciri, who’s giggling at them with her chin resting in her hands. “Food,” he finishes lamely.

Geralt snorts.

“No,” Yen waves. “Please, what were you going to say?”

Jaskier sticks his tongue out at her, the tavern noisy around them. “You’re such a bi- big meanie sometimes.”

Yen raises an eyebrow and Ciri laughs, full and loud.

The little troublemaker leans toward Geralt and stage whispers, “If that’s what all siblings are like, I’m so glad I never had them.”

Jaskier, with a big mouthful of ale, promptly chokes. Ale goes everywhere, and his eyes widen in panic. Ciri must have meant it as a joke, she must have, but Jaskier is coughing out a, “How did you know?” before he’s fully thought it through. The brief lack of oxygen to his brain really screwed him over.

“Wait really?” Ciri gapes, eyes wide. “The magic and the quarter-elf and the age and the eyes and the hair all seemed like funny coincidences but are you serious?

Geralt is still as stone to his right.

“… Julian?”

Jaskier turns, and Yen looks as shaken as he’s ever seen her. Her violet eyes are wide.

“Um.” Fuck, this really wasn’t what he had in mind. “Hi?”

Yen rears back and punches him in the face. Jaskier topples to the floor. Okay, yeah, he fully deserved that one. She proceeds to sit on his chest and put a knife to his throat. He probably deserved that one too.

“You’re lying,” she hisses, and digs the blade in hard. “You’re lying, you can’t be him.”

Jaskier swallows, and feels the blade bob against his neck. “‘Please don’t be sad,’” Jaskier quotes. “‘Even if you can’t play with me, I love you.’”

Yen drops the knife. Her hands are shaking. “What- what did the little princess say?” He’s never heard his sister stutter like this, not all grown up.

Jaskier meets her eyes. “She told the little prince ‘Once I explore the world, I will come back for you, and we will leave this castle forever.’ Why didn’t you come back for me, Yen?”

“I did,” she says, and to Jaskier’s horror her eyes fill up with tears. “I did, Julian, I promise, but he said you were dead.”

Oh. “Oh fuck,” Jaskier says. He sits up and pulls Yen into a hug. Hesitantly, tentatively, she hugs him back. Within seconds, her grip turns strangling. Jaskier lets her have it.

Over her shoulder, he can see Geralt holding Ciri back, which warms his heart more than it should. The Witcher’s face is unreadable. Jaskier closes his eyes and starts stroking her hair. The noise of the tavern picks up again slowly.

When Yen pulls back, she looks mostly composed, if a little raw around the edges. They sit back down.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” She asks.

Jaskier shrugs and looks down at the table. “I was… angry, at first. I thought you didn’t care enough to come back. I waited for years, and then when I left I became famous at Oxenfurt under the name Julian. Hell,” Jaskier buries his face in his hands. “My name as a bard was literally the nickname you gave me as a kid. I thought that if you wanted to find me, you would have, so that meant you didn’t.”

A hand wraps around his wrist. “Julian, of course I went back for you.” She pulls his hands away from his face, makes him meet her eyes. “It took years, but I went back and that fool of a man that called himself our father said you died of a sickness, a few years after I left. Good riddance, he said, and I drowned him in his own blood.” She squeezes. “I was always going to go back for you.”

“Right, um.” Jaskier sniffles a little, and tries to pretend that’s not what he’s doing. Right, lighten the mood, he can do that. “It also didn’t hurt that the first time I saw you after forty years you were naked and fucking the love of my life.”

Dead silence. Not a single laugh.

“You’re siblings,” Geralt says, with something like dawning horror. “Wait, the love of your life?”

Yen turns pale. “Oh no, oh no, I fucked Geralt. I tortured my baby brother for six years.”

“Whoa, hey there,” Jaskier raises both of his hands. “You didn’t know, it’s fine, I forgave you ages ago.”

“You,” Yen turns her glare onto Geralt. “You’re sleeping with my baby brother.”

“Yen, please don’t kill him.”

“Oh sweet Melitele,” Ciri whispers. She sounds far too delighted.

Yen freezes, and Jaskier can see the realization flash across her face. “The mountain. You broke up with us both on the same day?

Yeah, Geralt’s fucked.

~