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Real Again

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A decade comes and goes following Jaskier’s death. Unbelievable things have happened to him since then. Incredible things, like becoming a god and meeting others, and becoming more popular than he’s ever hoped to be. And being respected, which was new to him.

But...

Jaskier has been able to physically interact with the world a few times in fits of rage, his vengeful spirit flaring alive for a moment to throw something or move something or touch someone.

But when he tries to lift something in moments of peace, it’s as though his body passes right through it. The exception is when something is explicitly offered to him, which he can lift before it vanishes onto whatever higher plane of existence Jaskier is on until he returns it to the other one.

It’s frustrating.

It’s infuriating, not being able to interact, but he accepts it as part of his reality, and only forgets himself sometimes.

“Hello, Jaskier.” Jaskier turns over his shoulder from where he’s walking with Merten. Merten is a Manticore Witcher, and a bit of an alcoholic. Jaskier thinks of him as a kindred spirit.

Mother Melitele stands in front of him, her religious followers stretching even in the remotest area in Toussaint.

“Mother!” He greets, bowing just slightly. “What brings you to see me today?” Mother holds excitement in her posture, seeming pleased about something.

“You’re getting an important upgrade, boy-god,” she says. “It comes with its dangers of course, so I have to take you through the ropes.” She holds out a hand and Jaskier isn’t quite sure what he’s looking at— it’s a string, he thinks, but some part of him echoes Mother’s excitement, as though it knows what this means, is telling him this is good, good, good. Jaskier trusts her, so he takes her hand.

In an flash, the string moves.

He hears Merten curse, mutters Jaskier’s name in frustration. A wave of energy bursts through Jaskier’s body, and he feels—

He feels

Jaskier breathes, through lungs he didn’t have moments ago, feels the wind tugging on his clothes, smells the dry air, his mouth dries, he feels anchored.

A look at his palm and he sees, distantly, the swirl of the string over his body.

“The haze will fade as you adjust,” Mother tells him.

“What is this?” Jaskier asks, still looking at himself, touching his face. Something is different. “What have I become?”

“This is your body.” Mother says. “Your physical body. Your spirit is the same, it is unchanged, but you have something solid now.” Jaskier feels tears brim at his eyes, can feel his throat closing up with emotion. He nearly collapses to the ground in relief.

“I’m… I’m real,” he sobs, laughing, touching the wetness on his cheeks.

“Yes,” Mother says, and she’s smiling, opening her arms, and Jaskier surges forward into them, holding her, holding her.

Jaskier hasn’t had a physical form in almost eleven years.

“Thank you,” he sobs, sniffling, pressing his face into her neck, she smells like old faded blankets made by aged hands, like home, like unconditional love. Jaskier cries harder.

- -

Jaskier takes some time to adjust to his new reality, watched carefully by Mother, and instructed about what this means for him and his interactions with the physical world. For one, he can move things, interact with anything, because he lives now. It also means he can eat, and sleep, and touch people.

People can’t see him though.

“Stupid boy-god,” Mother scolds, watching Jaskier break his own heart by trying to chat with a young woman in a tavern. Jaskier feels like a kicked puppy. Mother tells him he can be seen, but people have to be able to acknowledge him. He learns that he exists on the edge of their vision, that he must announce himself before he can talk to people. He will go unnoticed by humans entirely, without saying someone is here. 

Jaskier thinks he can bear that. It’s not unlike how he was unnoticed when playing at courts, background noise that is aware of everything happening, forgotten unless he speaks directly to someone.

When he realizes this it becomes easier, and Mother takes him to a place where people’s belief in him has not spread. He passes unnoticed in groups, or by himself. When they get into a bustling market, Mother points to a clothing shop. It’s about time for Jaskier to get new clothes anyway.

“Don’t forget to pay her. I won’t tolerate you stealing under my watch.” Mother walks behind him, and Jaskier nods. He lifts a deep navy doublet from a table, with no small amount of enthusiasm that he’s capable of doing as much, and admires it for a moment. It’s nice. Fashion has expanded a little in the past decade, but doublets are still popular enough that he feels confident wearing it. He shows it to Mother, who tuts. “A bit dark.” Jaskier shrugs. It’s not like she was the one wearing it. There is tin embroidery on it as well, and he touches it, sending a whisper of power into it and turning it into gold. “Silver would have been easier,” Melitele points out when Jaskier has to take a breath after. He isn’t used to changing metals into other metals.

“But the gold matches so nicely, don’t you think?” Jaskier asks with a grin, waving off his dizziness. Mother rolls her eyes as Jaskier approaches the woman at the front, sliding the doublet over.

“Oh my!” She startles. “I didn’t see you there.” She puts a hand to her chest in shock. He grins, laughing. She seems to interpret it as him finding her entertaining, but Jaskier is laughing himself to joyful tears— he’s being spoken to, he’s being recognized— he has to take a moment to himself just to relax. “Yes, haha, very funny.” The woman smiles at him, blushing.

“Forgive me,” Jaskier says when he finally calms down. The woman shakes her head and looks down at the doublet. 

“Ten silvers for this,” she says. Jaskier is relieved that he has a fountain, suddenly— people tossing silver coins in that appear in his purse keeping him wealthy. He gives her the money and takes the doublet.

“I hope you have a wonderful day,” he says. Her name rings through his head as they make eye contact— Periand. He pats the table and focuses on the copper coins in her pocket, turning them silver with hardly any effort. Mother huffs, though she seems pleased.

“You too, mister.” She responds. Jaskier exits the shop feeling like he’s walking on air.

“I see what you mean now about them,” he says to Mother. “Thank you for teaching me.” Jaskier turns around, clutching his doublet in a hand, to thank her properly, but Mother is gone, leaving only her scent behind.

- -

Jaskier admires his reflection in a stream (he has a reflection!) with his new doublet. It clashes a bit with his yellow and bronze trousers, but he thinks there will be an opportunity to get new ones soon. He has cloth of a similar came in his sewing trunk back in Oxenfurt, if it hasn’t been raided by students yet. He hopes not.

Jaskier suddenly feels giddy again, banishing the yellow doublet to wherever it came from. He has clothes. A body. He is real now.

A familiar pull breaks him out of his celebrations. Of course, there is work to do. He follows the tug as he always does, the mechanics no different than how he followed without a body. Jaskier feels it more though— can feel the energy rush up around him, thrusting him away from the earth and across the long distance, until he lands— it’s Geralt.

Geralt is kneeling in front of a human, his head bowed, guilt permeating around him like a shadow. Jaskier looks at the figure. Claw marks across the ribs indicate they were shredded apart by whatever monster Geralt had been facing. A glance around and Jaskier sees the warg corpses.

“Poor Witcher,” he says to himself. He wonders then. Can Geralt hear him? Witchers have heightened senses after all. Geralt’s head lifts, and Jaskier watches him inhale deeply.

“Jaskier,” he says, voice gruff as it always was. Jaskier can hear more now, it seems, like he’s come out of water. Jaskier walks closer, his feet snapping twigs as he goes, and Geralt’s head turns in his direction. He’s looking at the ground first, no doubt hearing his footsteps as he has hundreds of times now, but then he freezes entirely. He blinks. “Jaskier.” His gaze moves up until he and Geralt are looking eye to eye, and Geralt stands, and Jaskier sees him trembling but knows he’s shaking just as much, can feel tears falling down his cheeks.

“Hi,” he breathes, taking a step closer. “You can… you can see me, can’t you?” Geralt’s eyes are wide as he nods. “You can hear me?” Another nod. Geralt nods again, repeatedly, as if he has no words other than this gesture, this desperate yes. Jaskier runs into his arms, uncaring of Geralt’s filthiness. A strong grip returns the embrace, and Geralt is still shaking, just as much as he is, but the Witcher sighs, tension lifting from his body while they hold each other for the first time in over a decade.

“You’re here,” he mumbles. “You’re here.” Jaskier Can tell he is fighting over the words, has so much he wants to say but he can’t because the words aren’t there.

“I’m here,” Jaskier says for him, and runs his hand fondly up and down Geralt’s back. They hug until they both stop shaking, reassured and relieved.

“Yen said you were a ghost. Eskel says he hears your voice. Jaskier, how are you…” Confused but happy is a good look on Geralt, Jaskier thinks, a smile spreading over his face as he steps back.

“I’ll explain everything in a bit. For now you need to get this poor thing back to their town.” Jaskier walks to the corpse, a young man with— oh. No wonder Geralt was feeling horrible. “Looks a bit like me, eh?” Jaskier feels a pang of pity for the brown-haired man, gently shutting his eyes.

“Yeah,” Geralt says. Jaskier can sense the sadness washing over him like a physical weight, and strides quickly back to his side.

“I can practically feel your self-loathing, Geralt. Do I need to sing Toss a Coin in your ear again?” He nudges him with his shoulder, then runs a hand over his back to soothe him. Geralt relaxes almost immediately, the gesture familiar after being repeated over and over for ten years.

“So that was you,” he huffs. Jaskier chuckles as he walks past, winking.

“You need a bath and some food, my friend. Let’s finish this up now. Come on.”

Geralt just grunted and got to work.

- -

Jaskier has missed being able to eat, he notices as he wolfs down his third bowl of stew. He’s willing to pay for both Geralt and himself, as it will be made up for by his followers later. Geralt looks almost impressed at how much he’s putting away, as if he’s not eating just as much with the offer of Jaskier’s money.

They eat in mostly silence, but when they’re approaching full they slow down to talk.

“A god?” Geralt asks. Jaskier is not a fan of the disbelief in his tone, though it’s understandable.

“That’s right.” Jaskier puts a hand on his chin. “Though Mother says I still have a ways to go before I match up with the others. Says that I’m young. I still have a lot to learn about, room to grow.”

Geralt looks like he wants to ask who he’s talking about, but Jaskier presses on.

“But I’m happy with my progress, and I really feel like I’m doing good work. Practically a dream job.”

“Doing what?” Geralt asks. He lifts his ale for a drink.

“Helping Witchers, of course. It’s all I did in my lifetime, why should my afterlife be any different?” Geralt gets a look in his eye and his tankard pauses in its path to his mouth. “What?”

“I should…” Geralt looks off into the distance. “Thank you, Jaskier.” He says. “For… For everything.”

Jaskier has heard him say the words before. Has watched his mouth move around the syllables when he’s lying on the ground half-dead from his wounds, when Jaskier sits beside him and helps him calm after a fight. He’s heard him mutter it before he goes to sleep, after Jaskier has sung lullaby after lullaby to chase away nightmares. But to hear it when Geralt can see him is… well, Jaskier can’t stop more tears from falling.

He thinks he’s been crying too much, lately. Jaskier wants to reach out and hug him again. As it is, he takes Geralt’s hand between both of his and presses it to his forehead.

“You’re welcome,” he says, tears still falling.

It’s overwhelming.