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What's Engraved Upon My Heart (In Letters Deeply Worn)

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The thing is, this whole situation isn’t even really his fault to begin with. He was doing exactly what he was supposed to before he and Geralt meet up in the spring, which is playing in an inn in Oxenfurt and earning enough coin for him to take care of himself when Geralt takes him with him on the Path once again. He knows how to work a crowd- he isn’t renowned around the continent for nothing. And, yeah, part of that means that he looks at each person like he’s singing to them and them alone, throwing a wink to every person who looks smitten with his song.

At one point this had worked to his advantage, as there was almost always an attractive man or woman to spend the night with afterwards. But Jaskier hasn’t been into that so much nowadays. It’s not that he doesn’t appreciate their beauty or their praise, more that- well, he just doesn’t really feel up to it. He’d rather play until his purse is full is all.

But then this woman. She’d been watching him the whole night hungrily, which he’s used to. When she cornered him on the way to his room, he tried to break the news to her as politely as possible.

“But why?” She’d pouted, enhanced by the rouge coating her lips. Jaskier had no issue admitting that she was beautiful, with strikingly blue eyes and blonde hair falling in a plait down her back. Though even if he was looking for a partner, there was something about her that unsettled him, like she was looking into him rather than at him.

“I’m afraid I’m just, rather tired is all.” He looked around, trying to find an escape. When her hands snaked up to the back of his head, he’d felt himself panic and freeze up.

“Why do you lie to me?” She asked quietly. Her eyes flashed, and Jaskier realized that oh shit, she was a sorceress.

“I’m not- please, don’t-”

She lightly touched her fingers to his forehead, cutting him off as he waited for some curse to befall him. Instead, she just smiled softly and said, “Oh, I see. It’s your witcher, isn’t it.”

His jaw snapped shut. “What about Geralt?”

She frowned, her features twisting downward. “Well, that just won’t do at all.”

And everything faded away.

So here he is, sitting in the same fucking human sized bird cage that he’d woken up in. He wonders if she made it specifically for him, or if she’s just so batshit crazy that this is a normal occurance for her. Her room is weird but probably typical of witches, in a tower with open windows at the top. He thinks about Geralt a bit- they were meant to meet up soon, and he hopes that Geralt will know that something’s wrong when he can’t find Jaskier in Oxenfurt. At least, he assumes they’re not in Oxenfurt. He can’t confirm it because he can’t see anything outside the tower, and the witch has been generally unresponsive to his prompts. Since he woke up (which must’ve been hours ago at this point), she’s just been muttering to herself and drawing runes on the floor with chalk. It’s worth noting that he can see his lute and bags shoved up against the wall in one corner- the witch must’ve taken them with her, or maybe needed them for whatever insane ritual she’s working on.

“You,” she finally says with startling volume and clarity. “You are in a very interesting situation, bard.”

No shit, whose fault is that? he thinks, but a voice in his head that sounds suspiciously like Geralt tells him that now is a very bad time to be running his mouth. It looks like she’s about to monologue without his prompting anyway.

“As it turns out, I can help you with your problem.” She gestures to the room, which has been transformed into a whirl of chalk and ingredients that make some kind of ritual circle, at the center of which is- oh shit, he’s at the center. “Now, I haven’t had to use this spell in a while, so I do hope that I got it right.”

“Uh,” he says smartly. “I do appreciate all of, um, this. But I really don’t think I need a sacrifice-”

“Spell.”

“Right, a spell to work out my, ah, problem?”

She cocks her head. “You don’t even know what your problem is.”

He’d like to argue that his current problem is that he’s about to be used in some crazy witch’s spell, but they’ll probably disagree on that. She must take pity on him, because she sighs and smiles softly.

“You’ll need your witcher to get you out of this one. If I’ve done everything right, then it should reverse when…”

She closes her eyes and murmurs something beyond Jaskier’s earshot, but he gets the gist of it when the chalk on the ground begins glowing an alarming shade of red.

“Wait-”

Her eyes snap open. “When Geralt of Rivia speaks the truth.”

“What the fuck are you doing?” He asks- or, he tries to, but finds that his vocals are gone. All at once, he feels with unnerving clarity how his bones are shifting and his skin shrinking and his arms popping out of their sockets and what the fuck.

Everything is all at once very different. The cage stretches much farther above him than it did before, and it also shines unusually. Actually, everything looks different now, infinitely more colorful with shades he doesn’t even know the names of. His heart is pounding concerningly fast and hard- feeling like it’s going to burst out of his chest.

“What did you do to me,” he tries to say, except what actually happens is a weird pattern of chirps and screeches that his vocal cords should not be able to produce, except that they obviously can now. He tries to push himself up and finds that he can’t do so with his wings and he’s got fucking wings instead of arms, what the fuck.

“Interesting,” the witch says, and it sounds strange and loud and jarring. “How fitting for you, little lark.”

He’s a fucking bird. He’s a bird, with wings and weird vision and hearing and he really wants to find Geralt right now. In his first moment of clarity since this whole thing happened, he realizes that’s a thing he can reasonably do now. His wings stretch out beside him out of some unrealized instinct, and he lets them flap out alongside him before his feathers ruffle and flex and he’s suddenly in the air. Below him the witch starts yelling, but he ignores it as he leaves his cage. In no time at all he shoots towards the window and out of that godforsaken tower.

Distantly, he realizes that holy shit he’s flying, and the sensation is incredible. None of the ballads or poems got it right. They can’t capture the way he feels the air around him, soaring upward with warm drafts. A breeze ruffles through his feathers and he turns with it, trilling with the unbridled euphoria of freedom.

But Geralt. He has to find Geralt. Like before, his vision is horribly vivid and overwhelming. It’s like he can see everything, even down to the movement of small animals on the ground. He forces himself to focus, gliding in a circle until he sees a familiar landmark in the distance. He probably wouldn’t be able to see it with normal vision, but with whatever the hell is going on with his enhanced vision he can see the gate that towers over the bridge to Oxenfurt.

It feels weird to go against whatever instinct is telling him to go with the breeze guiding him away from the mountains, but he knows that Geralt has to be his top priority right now. The road below him begins to become wider, more well traveled. Each head of a traveler or animal catches his attention, but none of them are his witcher.

It isn’t until he’s almost to the city that he spots a head of white hair on a brown mare. It looks different with his vision, but it’s still so distinct that he has no trouble recognizing it has his witcher. Geralt is leaving the city, the ass, what if he’d missed him?

Partway into his dive, he realizes that he doesn’t really have a way to communicate with Geralt. Huh. He’ll figure that out on the fly (ha, on the fly).

Geralt looks oddly agitated, even before Jaskier reaches him. To the normal person he might look just as stoic as usual, but Jaskier notices the way his lips are turned down and his brows are furrowed together. Geez, what’s gotten into him?

Well, Jaskier landing on his shoulder and chirping in his ear probably isn’t helping.

Geralt just shoots him an annoyed look and lightly bats him off his shoulder, which, rude. He tries a different route by grabbing a strand of his hair and trying to tug it.

“What the fuck?” Geralt mutters, swatting at Jaskier with more force. It scares him a little bit, because on one hand Geralt could most definitely crush him with one hand and be done with it. On the other hand, Geralt is a good man and would never do that to a helpless lark. On the other other hand, Geralt also seems to be in quite a mood and might be acting out of character.

But also, fuck Geralt’s bad mood. Jaskier is a goddamned bird right now and he really wants to be human and as far as he knows, Geralt is the only one who can help him right now. His last resort is to swoop in front of Geralt and peck at the medallion that sits on his chest.

Geralt growls. “Fuck off, you-"

He stops short, glancing down at his medallion then back at Jaskier with wide eyes. Gods, his eyes are even more breathtaking now. He could stare at them forever. Ever so slowly, Geralt reaches for him, and Jaskier lets himself be pulled into his palm. With incredible tenderness, Geralt presses two fingers against Jaskiers back and strokes softly, almost absentmindedly.

Gods, Jaskier wants to cry. He found Geralt. He’s with Geralt, and Geralt will save him, and honestly even if he doesn’t at least he’s here and protected and safe.

“Where did you come from?” Geralt murmurs. Ah, right. The castle and the witch and also the fact that Jaskier is a bird when he’d really rather be a human.

Reluctantly, Jaskier peels away from Geralt’s hand and tries to gesture towards where the castle was. Geralt hums.

“Can you show me?”

Jaskier chirps an affirmative and takes off. He sees Geralt urge Roach into a run beneath him, and then they’re tearing down the path. The air beneath his wings, Geralt running with him- he wants to capture this feeling and hold it close forever, especially now that he’s got Geralt and knows that he’ll be turned back soon.

When the castle comes into view, Jaskier is able to take a better look at it than during his panic fueled escape. It’s old and dilapidated, and the tower in the center clearly stands out as being the only inhabited spot on the grounds. He circles it once to show Geralt before diving back down as Roach pulls up at the gate.

“You want me to go into the tower?” Geralt asks, and Jaskier tweets a yes. He tries to grab one of Geralt’s swords for good measure, latching onto it with his beak and flapping to no avail. Geralt hums and gets the message, drawing the silver one from the scabbard as he dismounts. “Roach, stay here. Lark, with me.”

Oh, the way his heart flutters at Geralt calling him Lark. And what a change in pace, Geralt telling him to tag along! How exciting. He decides to settle on Geralt's shoulder as he creeps through the grounds and into the castle.

As expected, everything in the castle is clearly unkempt from disuse. Geralt doesn’t stop to inspect anything, heading straight down the hall to a grand staircase in noticeably better shape than its surroundings. As they climb it, the environment begins to ripple and shift. From here, Jaskier can feel the vibrations of Geralt’s medallion. The closer they get to the top, the faster his heart beats, until they reach a set of ornate golden doors at the top.

Geralt tilts his head towards him and whispers, “Calm yourself, lark.”

Jaskier takes a deep breath and nestles himself into the gap between Geralt’s neck and his spaulder where he’s hidden. He has Geralt to protect him. He’ll be okay.

When Geralt kicks open the door, the room is even more disarray than before. The chalk is smeared and items from the shelves have been knocked to the floor. At the center of it all, the sorceress kneels, looking up when they enter.

“Ooh, a witcher!” She smiles, then narrows her eyes. “The white wolf, if I’m not mistaken. I was wondering when you might come.”

Jaskier feels rather than hears Geralt’s growl. “What did-”

His breath hitches. Jaskier follows his line of sight and ah, that’ll do it. In the corner of the room is Jaskier’s lute, along with his bag. The next connection comes naturally- Geralt’s gaze snaps to the cage in the corner and sure enough, there’s Jaskier’s clothing that he’d been wearing earlier.

“Where’s the bard?” Geralt snarls, and Jaskier is touched to hear that a note of worry laced under all that fury.

“Well, that’s a bit complicated,” she admits. “Spiritually speaking, I’d like to think he’s still with us, though there is debate-”

Geralt crosses the room to her in three quick strides, and before she even has time to blink her back is to the wall with his sword at her neck.

“What the fuck did you do to him?”

“I did your bard a favor, witcher. I freed him from the constraints of this realm.”

Jaskier wants to scoff but it just comes out as a slightly off pitch chirp. This woman has done Jaskier exactly zero favors, namely the fact that she is giving Geralt a load of horseshit with her weird metaphors. He turns to Geralt, expecting him to say the same, but freezes when he sees his expression. His mouth is set in a hard line and his brows are pulled together. He looks positively devastated.

“You better be lying.”

“I assure you, I am not.” Jaskier pokes his head up, and the witch cocks her head to the side. “Oh, hello little lark.”

The sound that tears itself from Geralt’s chest can only be described as an agonized cry, Jaskier fluttering away in surprise. The witch’s eyes widen as she seems to process the gravity of her situation, and Jaskier shrieks because wait Geralt you have the wrong idea.

It’s too late. In one devastating arc of his arm, the sorceresses head topples from her head.

Fuck.

Jaskier stares at Geralt in alarm. He stands stiffly, knuckles white on the hilt of his sword. He is, ever so slightly, trembling.

“Fuck,” Geralt whispers. “Fuck!” He grabs the nearest object- a vase that honestly might be worth quite a bit- and hurls it at the wall with such force that the shattering glass lands back at his feet. Jaskier jumps at the jarring sound. It brings Geralt’s attention to him, and wow, he’s never seen that expression on his face.

Geralt looks absolutely stricken, haunted with what just happened and guilted for startling Jaskier. Hesitantly, Geralt kneels and holds a hand out to him again. Jaskier bypasses it and flies back to his shoulder, nuzzling into his neck. Geralt’s breath catches and he brings his hand up to stroke Jaskier, leaning into the touch with vulnerability that he’s never seen from the witcher before.

Please, Geralt. I’m right here. Let me help you.

But Geralt doesn’t, because of course he doesn’t. Distantly, Jaskier realizes that fuck, he’s still a bird and Geralt thinks he’s dead and he has no idea how to fix it. He pushes it down right now, because Geralt is in a bad way. He needs comfort, and Jaskier can provide that.

Geralt takes a shuddering breath and stands, looking over to where Jaskier’s things are. He picks up the lute with such gentleness, like he’s afraid of damaging it. Besides the lute, everything here is either a useless trinket or a piece of impractically bright clothing that Geralt always disapproved of for travel. He knows that Geral knows that, and he’s surprised when Geralt gathers it all up anyway.

He makes his way back downstairs with surprising steadiness, the lute strapped over his back and Jaskier’s other things tucked under his arm. Roach is right where they left her, and she knickers when she sees them approach. Geralt leans his head against hers.

“He’s not here Roach.”

But I am, Jaskier thinks. I’m right here.

“It was a witch,” he tells her, and Jaskier is vaguely delighted at the revelation that Geralt confides in his horse. “A witch, sprouting all this nonsense about how he was spiritually… with us still…"

Geralt trails off with wide eyes, and Jaskier perks up with a pang of hope. Geralt reaches into his bags, digging through fervently until he finds an ornate box.

“Yennefer,” Geralt says into it. “Please, I need you. I’m sorry.”

Ah, so that was the xenovox. Geralt closes it and waits with bated breath. Jaskier can practically see the way he’s telling himself not to lose hope. Moments later, a portal sparks open to their left, and both Geralt and Jaskier breathe a sigh of relief as Yennefer comes through with her hands blazing, looking as incredible as ever. She stops short when she sees Geralt just standing there.

“Geralt, I know you know I gave you that for emergencies only,” she scolds. “And I’m no expert, but-”

“Yen,” he says, and something in his voice must reach her because she pauses and looks at him carefully. Jaskier identifies the exact moment she sees his lute by the way eyes soften. If Jaskier’s feeling generous, and he always is, he would even venture to say that she looks sad.

“What happened?” She asks.

Geralt tells her. He starts with how he and Jaskier were supposed to meet up one last time before winter in Oxenfurt, and that he arrived to hear that Jaskier had left rather suddenly before he’d gotten there, which explains the mood Geralt had been in when Jaskier found him. He tells her about how he’d just been leaving to search for him (and aw, Geralt was going to look for him) when he was intercepted by a lark.

“A lark?” She raises first one eyebrow, and then the second when Jaskier pokes his head up from the home he’s made at Geralt’s shoulder. They go impossibly higher when Geralt distractedly starts petting him once again, much to Jaskier’s obvious joy.

So he continues with the story, about how Jaskier (well, about an unnamed lark) led him to the castle and to the tower, where he found the witch and Jaskier’s things. Here, his words become short and clipped, and he ends the story of him killing the witch rather quickly.

“I’d wager that your lark there was the witches familiar and escaped when she- when Jaskier was there. Now that she’s dead, I suppose he’s bonded with you.

Jaskier wants to object because seriously, these are two of the most competent people he’s ever met, how can they not realize that Jaskier is the Lark, and also object to being anyone’s, thank you very much, but the tender look that Geralt gives him banishes the thought. He huffs softly against his palm. Despite all protests, Geralt always has been a bit of an animal person.

“But she didn’t say he was dead, Yen, and I couldn’t find his body. She said some horseshit about his spirit being with us, and freeing him from the restraints of this realm. That doesn’t mean dead.”

“I… I’m not so sure, Geralt. She sounds like she wasn’t exactly right in the head.”

Jaskier can tell that she’s trying to let him down easy, and Geralt must hear it too from the way he stiffens and looks down.

“Please, Yen. I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t…”

“I know, Geralt. It’s okay.”

Yennefer and Jaskier may have had a rough start to their relationship, but since she and Geralt split up for good he’s found himself appreciating her more and more. Now, he’s incredibly grateful that Geralt will have someone as incredible as her by his side.

Not that Jaskier can’t also do that. Because he won’t be a bird for long. He’s- well, he’s less sure of how it will come about at this point, but he’s sure it will happen.

“How about this.” Yen breaks the silence. “I’ll go investigate the tower and see what I can figure out from there. You head to the place I’m staying at and rest- and bathe, please- and I’ll tell you what I find later.”

Geralt nods, shoulders slumping. “Thank you, Yen. I mean it.”

“I know, Geralt.” She opens another portal for him, and through Jaskier sees the most lovely cottage surrounded by gardens bathed in the light of the setting sun. “Go.”

___

Geralt does go, taking Roach with him and stabling her behind the cottage. Jaskier flits around nervously, not quite sure what he should be doing. He follows Geralt into the house but not the bath, deciding to explore the cottage instead. It’s not what he wouldn’t pictured for Yennefer. It’s somehow perfect for them anyway. There's the kitchen, the sitting room, a small library that’s very Yennefer and a training ground in the courtyard that’s very Geralt. It’s so horrifyingly domestic. Jaskier loves it.

Geralt does not rest as ordered, instead pacing around nervously as he waits for Yennefer to come back. He cleans his swords, then straightens the room he’s staying in, even goes and picks an apple and sets it aside with a heartbreakingly soft, “Here you go, little lark,” when Jaskier’s stomach growls. He’s standing in the kitchen like he’s contemplating something ridiculous like baking when the air sharpens with the scent of ozone and in comes Yennefer.

“What did you find?” Geralt asks immediately.

“Not much, I’m afraid. The runes were too smeared to identify what she was doing in that room, and what I could read didn’t look like any spell that I know of.”

Geralt deflates, and Jaskier knows that Yennefer’s heart must be breaking right alongside his.

“I… I have one thing I can try, but it will take me awhile.”

His head snaps up. “What is it?”

“A tracking spell, of sorts. I can use some of his things, and see if it’ll direct us to Jaskier. But I don’t know if it’ll be good news, Geralt. If this doesn’t work-”

“Do it, Yen. Please. If there’s any chance that Jask is alive…”

Jask. Oh, the way Jaskier’s heart soars with that.

“Okay.” Yennefer nods, breathing out. “Okay. I’ll gather the ingredients tonight. And you-” she jabs a finger at his chest, “-need to actually rest, because I know you didn’t sleep while I was gone. The spell won’t be ready until late tomorrow anyway.”

Geralt exhales softly. “Okay.”

That night, Jaskier finds himself wishing he knew more about birds when he realizes he has no idea how to settle in to sleep. He tries curling up on a beam in the ceiling, and it doesn’t feel right. Burrowing into Geralt’s discarded clothes doesn’t work either. He’s trying desperately not to interrupt Geralt’s much needed rest, but when enough time has passed that he’s actually worried about what the health detriments on his tiny body will be, he decides to bite the bullet and land as quietly as possible on his bed. Geralt is lying on his back, breathing evenly when Jaskier lightly treads across his chest. He tucks his head into his feathers when he reaches his sternum. There, he falls asleep to the slow and steady sound of Geralt's heart.

____

Yennefer is already gone when they awake the next morning. She leaves a note, which Jaskier decidedly cannot read, which is- okay, that’s pretty concerning. Geralt doesn’t seem to be worried about it, training in the yard with his sword for most of the day. Jaskier explores the grounds, but doesn’t let himself stray too far from Geralt. It’s not hard to admit that he’s pretty worried about him. His witcher was always so hard on himself, and more than anything, he wants to be human so he can let him know it’s okay, please take care of yourself, I won’t be able to stand it if something happens to you.

So when Geralt seems to be going too hard for too long, Jaskier takes it upon himself to swoop down and peck at Geralt until he stops and lets him rest in his hand. He spends those breaks sitting on the benches in the gardens, cradling Jaskier in his hand and stroking him softly with the other. It’s on one such occasion that Yennefer returns with her arms full of various herbs and a small grin.

“You’ve made quite the friend there.”

Geralt jumps up from his seat, sending Jaskier flying in a warbling flurry of feathers. “Is the spell ready?”

Her smile drops. “Almost. We’ll have to do it in the attic, if you want to meet me up there.”

How ominous, Jaskier thinks, but he also can’t help the way his heart speeds up with hope. If this goes well, soon he and Geralt will be reunited. Gods, he can’t wait to give him a hug. If Jaskier turns back, he’s going to tackle that man and cuddle him for at least a whole day.

Not if, when. When Jaskier turns back. Yeah.

He hops up the stairs after Geralt, who doesn’t spare him so much as look when they get up there until Jaskier pecks at his ankle. Geralt paces across the room several times before Yennefer yells at him to be quiet, at which point he sits down and tries to meditate. Tries, because Jaskier decides that it would be quite funny of him to sit on Geralt's head while they wait (which, it is).

Finally, Yennefer comes up the stairs with two unassuming bottles. She hands the potions to Geralt before kneeling on the floor and drawing runes in an intricate pattern on the floor.

“What are these?” Geralt holds a potion up to the window.

“Your spell. If all goes well, then pouring it over the runes will turn the pool into a reflecting surface of sorts that will show us the bard.”

Geralt nods, and Jaskier can see the carefully suppressed glimmer of hope in his eyes. “And if he’s-” He swallows. “If he’s gone?”

Yennefer presses her lips into a thin line. “Then it won’t show us anything at all.” She sits back on her heels, the work evidently done. “Geralt, if-”

“I know, Yen.”

Her lips quirk upward. “All I was going to say is that you’re welcome to stay here for as long as you need. It’s no trouble. Now, are you ready?”

He hands her one of the bottles in answer, his face stony and impassive. It’s a sign of how nervous Yennefer is that she wipes her hands on her silk skirts before taking it and uncorking it. Jaskier flexes his feathers apprehensively.

Slowly and precisely, she pours the liquid over the runes and hands the glass back to Geralt. For a beat, nothing happens, and Jaskier feels himself tremble. Then, the chalk glows a deep shade of purple, reflecting through the liquid into prisms on the ceiling. Yennefer waves a hand over it and murmurs a phrase in Elder that Jaskier strains to hear; seek the truth. Jaskier leans forward, ready for them to finally see him.

And then, all at once, it stops.

No, please.

“Yen?” Geralt’s voice is so, so small.

She shakes her head slowly. “Geralt.”

“No, he’s-” Jaskier wants to cry, and doesn’t even know if he can. “Do it again. Please.”

She takes the second bottle without question, draws another set of runes with a shaky hand. She pours it, says the words, and it glows. Once again, nothing happens, and gods, Jaskier finally understands that he might not ever make it out of this nightmare.

Geralt takes a stuttering breath. “Fuck.”

“Geralt, I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”

The bottle in his hand cracks with how hard he holds it, cutting into his hand. “Fuck. Yennefer.”

Jaskier is overcome with the urge to protect his witcher, to hold him and comfort him and he can’t because he’s a goddamn bird.

Talk to me, Geralt. Say the truth, and I’ll make it better.

Yennefer stands on two unsteady feet. Geralt is staring at the wall, almost quivering. Hesitantly, she tries to grab his hand and he yanks it away.

“Geralt!”

“Fuck,” he gasps. “I can’t-”

He turns and bolts down the stairs. Jaskier is wobbly and unsteady, but he does his best to fly after him.

“Go help him, little lark,” he hears Yennefer whisper.

Geralt goes straight for his swords, uncaring of the cuts on his hand except for a small grimace as he grabs the hilt. Jaskier chirps impatiently, and Geralt ignores him.

He wants to scream. Geralt, you’re hurting yourself.

The sound of Geralt swinging his sword with wild abandon against the dummy startles Jaskier. Instinct tells him to fly away, and he ignores it to chirp in his ear. Geralt swats at him with surprising force.

“Fuck off.”

It’s me, my love, please listen to me.

He trills loudly, and he doesn’t understand how his vocals work but surely even Geralt must hear the desperation. If he does, he doesn’t stop.

Please, Geralt, I need you to stop.

He won’t give up, not when it’s Geralt, and he flies up to tug at Geralt’s hair just like he did when he first saw him.

“Fuck off!”

Geralt whirls around to swat at him and it lands, sending Jaskier careening to the ground. He’s powerless to stop his descent crashing against the dirt and feeling the bones in his wing snap and he screeches.

“Fuck, no, I’m sorry-”

Geralt falls to his knees, and Jaskier looks up at him.

I know. It’s okay, Geralt.

“I’m so sorry, little lark,” Geralt breathes. “I’m so sorry.”

Jaskier lets himself be lifted into his bloody palm, and then Geralt is running into the house and calling for Yennefer. Her eyes widen when she sees the feathery mound cradled against his chest.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” he repeats.

“It’s okay, you’re okay Geralt,” she repeats right back, and Jaskier thanks every god that Geralt has Yennefer.

“Can you help him?” Geralt asks, and Yen nods. Jaskier feels his wing move of its own will as the bones readjust and pull themselves together, sighing at the relief it brings. Geralt’s hand trembles as it brings Jaskier up to his chest, and all Jaskier can do is wish he could help Geralt too before he passes out.

___

When he comes to, he’s warmly nestled into a comforting space with his head tucked into his side. He hears a low rumble of a voice around him, and the intermittent high pitched plucking of strings.

He reflexively stretches his wings and finds them both to be in great shape. The noises stop.

“Are you back, little lark?”

Jaskier pokes his head up and sees Geralt staring at him with a soft smile. He must have built him a nest while he was out. They’re in the library, the fireplace casting an orange glow on everything in front of him. Now, Geralt is sitting on a fainting couch holding- oh, that’s his lute.

“I’m so sorry for hurting you. You never deserved that.”

Jaskier whistles quietly. It’s okay. You were already forgiven.

“Geralt?” Yennefer props the door open. “Do you mind if I sit with you?”

He sighs and gestures to the chair across from him, setting the lute aside. “I never understood how he could play that damn thing and make it sound good.”

Yen laughs. Looking closer, Jaskier can see that her eyes are rimmed red. “He did sound good, didn’t he? He was about the only bard I could stand to listen to.”

“Hm.” Geralt frowns. “I made fun of his voice. Said it was like fillingless pie. Don’t know why, honestly. Wish I hadn’t.”

“Gods, the first time we met, with the djinn, he got on my nerves so much. I wondered how someone who prattled so much could end up with so much power.” Jaskier tweets with as much malice as he can muster, and Yen chuckles. “Sorry, lark. No offense to your more vocal tendencies.”

“He was so young. He was only eighteen when I met him, did you know that? And I thought that he would leave eventually once he realized what the Path was like, what kind of person he was travelling with.”

“But he never did.”

“No,” Geralt murmurs. “He was the one who always stayed.”

It starts with a tremble of his lip, followed by a clenched fist and slow blink. Yennefer is at his side in an instant, rubbing at his back when his shoulders shake and he buries his face in his hands. Jaskier wobbles to his feet and flutters onto his lap.

“Fuck. Yen, he’s really gone. Jaskier’s gone.”

I’m right here, Geralt.

“Shh, I know.”

“He’s gone, and I never got to-” he breaks off with a choked sob, and Jaskier wants nothing more than to hold him safe in his arms.

“I’m so sorry, Geralt.”

“Fuck. I loved him Yen. I loved him so goddamn much.”

I love you too, Jaskier thinks, and he wants to scream it from the rooftops and whisper it in his ear and everything in between.

“Speak the truth, Geralt of Rivia,”

Geralt’s head snaps up, and he leaps over the sofa to draw his sword and Yen jumps to her feet and Jaskier’s bones shift and wait holy shit-

“What the fuck?” He hears Geralt growl, except he barely processes it as his body reshapes itself and his wings disappear and then he’s staring up at Geralt and he’s no longer mountains above him or vividly colored.

He chirps, except that it’s not a chirp and just a sharp inhalation of breath, and he brings his hands in front of him in wonder and thank the gods he has hands again.

“Jaskier?” Geralt breaths, dropping his sword to the ground. “Yen. Yen, please tell me-”

“It’s him.” She has his lute in her hands, the remnants of a spell already disappearing in the air around her and a grin spreading across her face. “It’s really him.”

“Geralt,” Jaskier says. “Geralt, oh gods, Geralt.”

Geralt dives onto the ground and wraps his arm around him, and Jaskier delights in the fact that he can wrap his own back around him. He buries his face in his neck, laughing and crying repeating Geralt’s name like a mantra. Geralt repeats his right back, sliding his hands all over him like he can’t quite believe it’s real.

“Jaskier, I’m so sorry, I never meant to hurt you, Jaksier-”

“Don’t you dare apologize to me you oaf, I just wanted you to be safe.” He pulls Geralt back, cupping his tear stained face in his hands. “Gods, I missed you so much.”

Yennefer huffs a laugh, reminding him that she’s in the room, and he jumps to his feet. “Yennefer, you wonderful woman!”

She puts a hand up. “Do not hug me until you have clothes on.”

Oh, he’s naked. He can’t bring himself to care. Still, Yennefer throws a pair of small clothes and a night shirt at him and orders him to put it on before he can wrap her in a hug.

“Thank you,” he whispers.

“Honestly, bard, I didn’t even break the spell.”

“Not that. For taking care of him.”

She nods and chuckles. “Of course, Jaskier. I’m glad you’re back.”

He lets the hug last a beat more before he pulls back and says, “Okay but seriously, why the fuck didn’t your spell work?”

She throws her hands up in the air. “Fucking transmutation magic! It messes everything up. Now you tell us how the fuck you even got yourself into that situation!”

So they sit down, Yennefer in the arm chair and Jaskier and Geralt leaning against each other, unwilling to let go completely. He starts with the tavern, and the sorceress (“It was not my fault this time, I swear,”) and the transformation. He describes his escape (“Incredibly daring, if I do say so myself,”), and his flight to find Geralt (“No ballad captures the feeling of flying, it-” “Bard, if you do not shut the fuck up and get through this story, I swear,”). They know most of the rest, but he tells it anyway. When he finishes, he’s got Geralt’s arm draped around him, his head rested on the chest behind him, and gods did he miss his witcher.

Yennefer stands and declares that she’s going to investigate the spell further and see where the sorceress came from. Just before she leaves the room, she looks at Jaskier again and says,

“I really am glad you’re back, Jaskier.”

And then Geralt and Jaskier are alone in the room.

“Gods, Geralt, I wish you would have felt what it was like. Flying isn’t the half of it, my vision was all enhanced too, things I can't even describe now that I’m back to normal. Is that what it’s like for you all the time? I can’t imagine, honestly. I appreciated the fresh perspective, but I’m quite happy to be human.”

“Jaskier,” he rumbles, and he realizes that he’s definitely been rambling. He takes a second to look at Geralt, really look at him. The bags under his eyes are dark against his pale skin, and twin tear tracks stain his face.

“I’m sorry Geralt. I know it was awful for you. I wish I could’ve-” He shakes his head. “It doesn’t matter. I’m here now, my dear witcher.”

“I know.” He leans forward. “I just- fuck, Jask, I thought you were dead.”

“I’m not, Geralt. I’m right here.” He closes his eyes, feeling Geralt’s steady heartbeat under his hand. And then, “Did you mean it earlier?”

“Mean what?”

“That you love me.”

Geralt’s eyes snap open and he leans back, looking embarrassed. “I… I did. I do. I’m sorry, Jaskier, I didn’t know if you-”

Jaskier closes the distance by pressing their lips together. Geralt’s eyes widen, and then he presses right back, his hands wrapping behind him and twisting through his hair. His lips are chapped and salty from tears, and their noses bump together and it’s everything Jaskier had ever hoped it would be. When he finally pulls back for air, they press their foreheads together with a laugh.

“I love you too, you foolish foolish man. I’ve loved you for so long, I’ve loved you so much.”

He’s crying again- they both are, and Jaskier peppers kisses all over Geralt’s face as he holds him.

“You can’t-” Geralt takes a deep, shuddering breath. “You can’t leave me like that again. I can’t lose you.”

“You won’t,” he promises. “I won’t leave you, love.”

“Good,” Geralt exhales.

Jaskier had wanted to write a ballad about the feeling of flight. He realizes, holding Geralt in his arms and being held right back, whispering his love and hearing it in his ear at the same time, that this love they share is no different. It’s the feeling of soaring into the sky, of sprinting with unbridled joy, and of landing softly in the place you know you can call home. It’s everything Jaskier has ever wanted, and everything he could ever need.

He wouldn’t trade it for the world.