Leaning back in her chair, Triss surveys the tavern, filled with chattering humans, halfway drunk on ale and warm food, their faces bright with the arrival of spring as the chill of winter melts away. Triss had spent the winter with Julian, the only brother of hers who’s still alive, holed up in the same small village they always spend their winters in - it’s possibly the only village on the Continent where witchers aren’t hated, where Triss and Julian are given nothing more than a quick glance as the villagers get on with their quiet lives.
Once winter had retreated enough for Triss to travel safely, she had set back out on the Path, bidding goodbye to Julian, who headed up north towards Kaedwen while she started making her way down towards Redania, stopping every once in a while to take contracts in order to keep her purse full. She’s in the centre of Redania now, where the colours are bright and the people are joyous with the arrival of spring, and their joy is infectious, sending thrums of anticipation running through Triss as she shifts in her seat, the ale untouched in front of her.
The humans in the tavern give her a wide berth, seeing the gold of her eyes glowing in the dim light, the slash of scars across her face, the swords strapped to her back, but Triss pays them no heed - she’s used to it, and besides, she has more important things to care about.
The door to the tavern opens, letting in a gentle gust of spring breeze, and Triss snaps her head up, her slow heart speeding up slightly, only to deflate when a group of young boys stumble in, loud and raucous as they push and shove at each other, the door swinging shut behind them.
It’s only been a few days, she reminds herself. She’s waited longer.
She could wander around town, maybe, catch a glimpse of the colourful festivities that herald the arrival of spring. Or she could find a contract, keep herself occupied for a day or two.
Glancing out the window, she twists her fingers around her medallion, rubbing at the flower charm that hangs next to it, and takes in the view outside, humans rushing about their day through the crowded streets.
Everyone buzzes bright with the joy of spring, and Triss is suddenly acutely aware of how alone she is, sitting in a shadowy corner of the tavern as the world around her spins and hums with the anticipation of a new year. She taps her fingers on her medallion, tracing the image of the roaring Manticore, clutches at the flower charm, and wonders -
Two arms encircle her from behind, and Triss reaches instinctively for the dagger at her hip before she recognises the familiar scent of lilac, the familiar weight of those arms. She grins, twisting around in her seat, warmth filling her when she meets bright violet eyes.
“You were watching the door,” Yennefer murmurs, low and husky as Triss stands up, still held in the circle of Yennefer’s arms. “You should know that I wouldn’t come through the door.”
“It’s a normal thing to do,” Triss protests, reaching out to return Yennefer’s embrace.
“You do this every time,” Yennefer points out, amused, lips tilting up in a playful grin, and Triss leans down a little, presses a kiss to the corner of those enticingly red lips.
“Maybe one day I’ll catch you walking through an actual door.”
“You’ll be waiting for that day for a long time, then.” Yennefer rests their foreheads together, and they’re silent for a few moments, breathing each other in. Their armours are an uncomfortable barrier between them, but Triss lets herself bask in Yennefer’s presence, finally feeling warm and full after a long winter apart.
“Missed you,” Triss murmurs, and Yennefer hums in response, eyes bright and fond. She can feel the weight of numerous eyes on them, can sense the confusion and fear of the humans at the sight of two female witchers embracing in the corner of the tavern, but she ignores them, pulling Yennefer closer. “How was your winter?”
“Killed one or two corrupt nobles -”
“Just one or two?”
Yennefer rolls her eyes, continuing, “But otherwise I laid low. I couldn’t be bothered to cause too much trouble, and a nice villager actually offered to let me stay for the winter, so I was fine.”
“Really?” Usually, Yennefer somehow charms her way into staying at a noble household - humans fear her as much as they are in awe of her, and despite the reputation of witchers, despite the reputation of Cat witchers, Yennefer still manages to win nobles over with a sly, seductive smile and a sway of her hips. “How nice of them.”
Yennefer’s smile softens, her eyes going distant. “I didn’t expect… I saved her daughter from a fleder. She didn’t have anything to pay me with, so she offered me a place to stay. She was… she and her family were… they were nice.”
There is a quiet disbelief in Yennefer’s voice, and Triss aches for her a little, knowing how humans either fear and hate her because of her reputation, or they fall at her feet without actually seeing who she is. They don’t see how bright and fierce she burns, how she hides a heart of gold behind bloodied blades, how she holds Triss gently, like there’s no one and nothing she cherishes more.
Reaching up to brush a few strands of dark hair away from Yennefer’s face, Triss says, low and soft, “I’m glad. You’re a good person, Yenna, and I’m glad that the villager saw that and was willing to take you in.”
Yennefer hums, the same way she does whenever Triss compliments her, whenever Triss tries to get her to see her worth. “How was your winter?”
“Same as always,” Triss says with a shrug, pressing her cheek to Yennefer’s shoulder. “Same village. Julek was there.”
“Is he still gallivanting around the Continent as an annoying, foppish bard?” Yennefer asks, rolling her eyes, and Triss suppresses a smile. Yennefer and Julian have a playful rivalry - she’s spent some winters with Triss and Julian before, and the two of them get along by antagonising each other with teasing barbs while Triss watches them with amusement. They would kill for each other, Triss knows, but neither of them will ever admit it, and it makes her quietly happy that her brother and her lover, the two most important people in her life, get along.
“He is, and he’s having quite a lot of fun.” Julian smiles more now, seeming less burdened by the Path, and Triss is beyond glad to see that her brother is no longer so weighed down and jaded by the harshness of the Path.
“I’m sure he is.” Yennefer pulls away briefly, sitting down and pulling Triss down with her. “You got a contract?”
“If you didn’t turn up today, I would have gone looking for one,” Triss responds, bumping their shoulders together and wrapping an arm around Yennefer’s waist.
“I have one. There’s a lord -”
“Yes, I’ll be your backup,” Triss cuts in, knowing what exactly Yennefer is about to ask, and Yennefer sends her a quick smile, a brief flash of sharp teeth. “How bad is it?”
“One of the worst.” Yennefer’s voice is grim, and Triss shifts to face her, expression serious. “I don’t know who put out the contract, but - there are parents terrified for their children. I talked to them, and there are young girls and boys scarred from what the lord has done.”
Yennefer takes a shaky breath, barely audible, but Triss hears it and presses closer to her in reassurance.
“Whoever hired me was - mysterious. This might be a trap,” Yennefer mutters, fists clenching tightly enough that her knuckles go white. “But I can’t -”
Yennefer breaks off, but Triss has travelled with her long enough to know what she means - a lord who’s willing to impose himself on the young and vulnerable, to use them in unspeakable ways, a lord that Yennefer can’t let walk free. Triss wasn’t trained to kill humans - that’s mainly Yennefer’s job, even though many of Triss’ brothers, now dead, used to engage in the same kind of activity as the Cats and Vipers did.
But she’s more than happy to serve as Yennefer’s backup, even if Yennefer doesn’t quite need it, and this arrangement works for them, has worked for the past decades. They take whatever contract is available in a town or village, whether the contract is on a human or a monster, and they’ve fought together enough that they know each other's fighting styles as well as their own.
Triss gives Yennefer a short, sharp nod. “I assume you have a plan?”
“He will be leaving his mansion for a celebration in town tonight.” Yennefer’s tone has turned brisk as she details her plan, keeping her voice hushed so no one can overhear, and Triss listens intently. “The two of us together will be more than a match for his guards - or, if his guards are less competent than we expect, we could take him down without even needing to bypass his guards.”
“Alright.” The guards stand no chance against both of them, and Triss is fairly sure that Yennefer can do this on her own, but Yennefer is reckless, sometimes, and Triss is always there to catch her on the rare occasion she does fall, to heal her and patch her up. She feels more secure when she’s at Yennefer’s side anyway, watching out for her in the only way she can.
“We should rest before then,” Yennefer sighs, and Triss takes her hands in her own, brushing her fingers idly over bumpy scars and calluses that she’s traced thousands of times before.
“I have a room,” she murmurs, standing up and tugging at Yennefer, who gets to her feet with a grace that Triss almost envies. “You look tired; we can rest for a few hours, hmm?”
“I’m not that tired,” Yennefer protests, but lets Triss pull her towards the stairs. Once they reach the top of the steps, Yennefer tugs at Triss’ hand, spinning her around so they’re face to face and flashing a wicked grin. “We could spend the next few hours -”
“We’re resting,” Triss says, adamant, as tempted as she is - it’s been a long few months, cold and lonely, and though Julian is lovely company, he isn’t her Yenna. “Don’t look at me like that.”
“Are you sure?” Yennefer purrs, a promise bright in her violet eyes, and Triss is so, so tempted. She can’t stop herself from leaning in, tilting her head to capture that wicked grin with her own lips, and Yennefer sighs in satisfaction, winding one hand into Triss’ wild curls.
“As much as I love you,” Triss murmurs as she breaks away, reaching up to trace the scar that slashes over Yennefer’s right eye, “I think you need the rest.”
Sighing again, Yennefer follows her towards a room at the end of the hallway, shutting the door behind them as they enter the room, warm from the sunlight shining through the window.
Triss sets her swords to the side, grabbing comfortable clothes out of her pack and tossing them to Yennefer. They change out of their armour silently, and when they’re done, Triss seats herself on the bed, beckoning for Yennefer to join her.
Yennefer slips under the covers, slinging an arm over Triss, who presses their bodies closer together, their legs tangling together with easy familiarity. They face each other, bright golden eyes meeting luminous violet, their breaths mingling in the small space between them.
“Rest,” Triss breathes out, pressing a soft kiss to Yennefer’s forehead. Yennefer gazes at her, eyes sweet and soft and fond, and Triss brings a hand up, smoothing it over Yennefer’s eyelids, shutting them gently. “Sleep, Yenna. We’ll leave in a few hours.”
A soft gust of air escapes Yennefer’s mouth, but her eyes remain shut, and Triss listens to the slow beat of her heart, listens as her breathing evens out, feels the way tension leaks out of Yennefer’s body as she relaxes into Triss’ arms. Triss strokes her hair gently, running her fingers through dark waves, and Yennefer sighs in her sleep, pushing into Triss’ touch unconsciously, her face open and relaxed the way it rarely is when she’s awake.
Yennefer doesn’t usually let people see this vulnerable side of her, but she lets Triss see it, lets herself go whenever they’re alone, lets go of the burden of the Path, of the harsh gazes of people, of the expectations that weigh on her whenever she charms her way into court. With Triss, Yennefer is laid bare, free of the armour she erects around herself, the armour that she was forced to have from the moment she was brought to a witcher’s keep, and Triss is so, so infinitely grateful that Yennefer trusts her so implicitly that she lets down her walls, that Yennefer allows herself to be open, to be gentle, whenever they’re together.
Untangling her fingers from Yennefer’s hair, Triss brushes her hand gently over Yennefer’s cheek, pressing a soft kiss to the tip of her nose, before closing her own eyes, drifting off to the warmth of Yennefer’s breaths against her face, to the slow, steady beat of her heart.
When she wakes up, the sun has almost completely sunk beneath the horizon, the sky fading to a rich, dark blue. Their room is dark, faint embers flowing in the fireplace, but Triss can see perfectly well, easily able to make out the way Yennefer is watching her, the way she’s smiling, fond and sweet, and she can feel the way Yennefer’s fingers trace lazy circles over her face.
“Look who finally decided to wake up.” Yennefer’s voice is slightly husky, and Triss shakes off the hazy stupor of sleep to return the smile, leaning instinctively into Yennefer’s touch.
“We still have time, don’t we?”
“Mm.” Yennefer cups her cheek, and they kiss lazily for a few minutes, bodies twined together in a mess of limbs. Triss places a hand on the back of Yennefer’s neck, pulling her closer, and Yennefer tangles her other hand into Triss’ hair, fingers getting caught in the wild curls.
It’s nice, and gods, Triss has missed it - whenever they part ways, Triss always feels like there’s something missing, some gaping ache in her life, an ache that Yennefer’s presence soothes, that can only be brought to peace when they’re together. Now, entwined with Yennefer, kissing in the dim light of the setting sun, Triss feels whole again, veins thrumming with warmth, and she loses herself in the glow of Yennefer’s presence, in the joy of being together once again.
“My sunflower,” Yennefer whispers against Triss’ lips, and Triss pulls back to beam at her, taking in how her cheeks are flushed, her hair mussed and her eyes bright as they gaze at each other, Yennefer’s thumb stroking slowly over Triss’ cheek.
“My star,” Triss whispers back, delighting in the way Yennefer lights up at the endearment, eyes going sweet and soft. She ghosts a barely-there kiss over Yennefer’s lips before breathing out, “Love you.”
Yennefer’s eyes twinkle, seeming to glow in the semi-darkness. “Love you too.”
They stare at each other for a few heartbeats before Triss reluctantly mumbles, “We should…”
A sigh. “Yeah.”
Yennefer disentangles herself from Triss, and Triss mourns the loss of warmth as she watches Yennefer climb off the bed. They have a contract to finish, she knows, but gods, she just wants some time with Yennefer after so long apart, wants a few days of peace, filled with quiet moments and tender affection, filled with sweet kisses and warm embraces and soft laughter - a break from the Path, for once.
But they’re witchers, and they have a contract to finish.
Triss pulls herself out of bed, padding over to where her armour is laid haphazardly next to her pack. Yennefer is putting on her armour already, back turned to Triss, and Triss lets her eyes wander for a brief moment, her gaze roaming over the strong figure that Triss has explored so many times, tracing over the pale scars that decorate the dark skin of Yennefer’s back, scars that she’s touched and kissed, scars that Triss knows that stories behind, scars that write a tale of pain and loss and strength.
She allows herself a brief moment to just look, before tearing her gaze away, focusing on putting on her armour, piece by piece. Once she’s done, she straps her swords to her back and turns around, meeting Yennefer’s determined gaze.
Yennefer dips her head in a nod, her mouth a thin, tight line. Her armour, more lightweight than Triss’ own and allowing for a greater freedom of movement, hugs her strong figure, numerous knives and daggers hidden over her body, her medallion gleaming proudly on her chest. She looks dangerous, ready to take on the world and make those who stand up against her regret it, and Triss walks over, taking one of Yennefer’s gloved hands and pressing it to her mouth.
At that, Yennefer’s face softens, and she lifts her other hand to gently caress the charm that hangs next to Triss’ medallion, brushing her fingers over the curves and the petals of the charm. Triss reaches up to grab Yennefer’s wrist, bringing her hand close to her chest and feeling the thin metal of the bracelet that encircles Yennefer’s wrist, an innocuous golden bracelet with a thin, hidden blade.
The flower charm that hangs from Triss’ neck. The bracelet that encircles Yennefer’s wrist. Their gifts to each other, a promise to stay by each other’s side, an expression of devotion, of love.
“We should go,” Yennefer says slowly, reluctantly.
“We should,’ Triss agrees softly, but neither of them move, basking in each other, revelling in each other’s presence, Yennefer’s fingers wrapped around the charm and Triss’ hand wrapped around the bracelet, their bodies pressed close together.
It’s Yennefer who steps away, tilting her head up to press a kiss to Triss’ jaw before that same look of determination from earlier crosses her face once again, one hand moving to rest on the dagger at her hip.
“We will follow the lord from his mansion,” Yennefer states, and Triss pushes her mind back into the headspace of a witcher, reminding herself that, as much as she would like it, this isn’t just her and her lover, spending a sweet night tangled up in each other - no, they’re witchers, and they have a job to do, a contract to finish. “Then when we find an opening…”
Triss nods, straightening her shoulders. “Lead the way.”
The lord’s mansion is a grand, sprawling thing, towering and polished and gleaming, and Triss hates it already, hates the sheer, obnoxious wealth that it signifies, hates how its gleaming surface hides the darkness within. She and Yennefer are waiting outside, hidden by the trees, waiting for the lord to leave his mansion.
After a few minutes of tense silence, the gates of the mansion open and a group of guards stride out, a carriage in their midst that undoubtedly holds the lord. Triss meets Yennefer’s eyes, and when Yennefer nods, they follow the entourage on silent feet, keeping a good distance away so that their presence can’t be detected, but close enough for their enhanced senses to keep track of the group. The entourage heads towards the centre of town, pushing through the streets, where crowds of people part for them, and Yennefer and Triss stick to the shadows, careful to keep out of sight.
Then the entourage turns a corner, heading into a street that’s more empty, away from the bustle of the celebration, and Triss frowns, catching Yennefer’s gaze and quirking an eyebrow to indicate her concern. The scowl that twists Yennefer’s lips shows that she has the same concerns too, but when Triss jerks her head back towards the main crowd of people, trying to signal that they should leave, they should go, Yennefer shakes her head resolutely, her eyes hard with determination, and turns to continue following after the lord and his entourage.
Unable to do anything to stop Yennefer, knowing how stubborn she is when she gets like this, Triss can only follow after her, something like dread pooling hot and sour in her gut, a dread that only intensifies when the entourage takes more turns into streets that grow more and more empty, the bustle of the celebration fading and fading.
Triss tries to get Yennefer’s attention multiple times, tries to get her to turn back, but Yennefer forges on, a familiar stubborn glint in her eyes that tells Triss that nothing will stop Yennefer when she’s on a mission like this, fuelled and driven by fierce determination, and each time Yennefer shakes her head, refusing to leave, the dread in Triss’ gut grows, and she clutches at her knives a little tighter, glancing warily at the buildings that seem to close in on them with every step they take, keeping her eyes peeled and her ears open to any hint that there could be a trap.
Maybe the lord wants some privacy, Triss tells herself, trying to assuage her worry, even though she knows that her gut feelings are rarely wrong, knows that she can trust her instincts. The next street that they enter is utterly empty, only a few dim lamps lighting up the oppressive darkness, the buildings on each side tall and imposing, and Triss tells herself that she’s being paranoid, that everything is fine, she’s just being worried for no reason -
Her nostrils flare as she smells the sudden presence of at least a dozen more humans, and from the way Yennefer stiffens, Triss knows that she must smell it too. Slowly, so as to not draw any attention, Triss brings one hand behind her to rest on the hilt of her sword, ready to be drawn out, her other hand settling on the potions lining her belt. Next to her, Yennefer slides a dagger from its sheath silently, her other hand held open in front of her, ready to cast a Sign if needed.
Their eyes meet for a split second - and then a crowd of humans stream out from the shadows of the buildings around them, a few leaping from the windows to land on the ground, creating a barrier that stops Yennefer and Triss from reaching the lord, and blocking off both sides of the street, preventing them from escaping.
“Fuck,” Yennefer snarls as a group of the guards start charging them. Triss deftly pulls a bomb from her belt and tosses it at the approaching guards, releasing a fume that causes them to cough and sputter and rub at their watering eyes, and Triss uses the distraction to quickly down a potion, tossing one to Yennefer as well, her senses snapping into acute clarity as she leaps into the fight, swords swinging and knives flashing.
Triss usually tries not to get involved with fighting humans, but the lord and his guards leave her no choice. She quickly slits the throat of one guard and immediately twists around to jam a dagger into the throat of another. The fumes from the bomb have filled the length of the street, and Triss notes with gratification that all of the guards have been affected, coughing and wheezing. She ducks under a clumsy wipe from an axe, kicking her assailant in the gut and sending them flying backwards; there’s the whistle of a blade behind her, and she turns just in time to block the blow with her sword, using her other hand to drive her dagger through her attacker’s stomach, eliciting a howl of pain as her attacker crumples to the ground.
A small distance away, Yennefer is a whirlwind of gleaming blades and whip-fast movements, weaving through her attackers with barely a scratch and bringing them down with grace and ease, and when their eyes meet, Yennefer flashes Triss a sharp, wild grin as she sends a throwing knife hurtling through the air, the knife burying itself into the eye socket of a guard as she spins around to kick a guard in the face.
Energy pumping through her veins at the thrill of battle, Triss aims Igni at a group of guards trying to converge on her, singing their skin and causing them to drop their weapons. She cuts through them easily, but the attackers seem to keep coming, streaming from everywhere in endless waves, and Triss grits her teeth, trying to take stock of how many guards are left as she tucks into a neat roll to avoid a strike.
There are so many, and though both Yennefer and Triss are excellent fighters, far surpassing the skills and endurance of any human guard, they’re both tiring - a sword slashes a thin gash over Triss’ upper arm, and a wound opens on her back when she’s distracted with engaging in a fight with another guard. Yennefer’s movements are slowing, a knife coming so close to her head that Triss almost cries out in fear, and Triss can smell the coppery scent of her blood, oozing from a gash in her side.
They can do it - they have to, and they’ve faced worse odds in all the time they’ve been travelling together. The sea of guards seems to finally be thinning, with less than a dozen guards left between them and the lord’s carriage. The lord, Triss notes with disdain, is poking his head out from the window of his carriage, eyes following the fight as he barks orders to his guards.
“Get them!” the lord snaps out as Triss ducks low to slash at her attacker’s kneecaps, sending them tumbling to the ground. “Don’t let those fucking mutants defeat you, surely you lot can beat two measly women.”
At his words, Yennefer lets out a fierce snarl, yanking her blade from the jugular of one guard and starting towards the lord. Several of the guards jump in her way, but Triss, following behind her, casts Aard quickly, sending them flying backwards, hitting the walls of the buildings with a few loud cracks.
The two guards still standing make a feeble attempt to charge towards Yennefer, who grins, lazy and predatory, and Triss loosens her grip on her sword.
This is when Yennefer gets showy, she knows, and she’s unsurprised when Yennefer starts toying with the guards, easily parrying a blow from one of them and sweeping the other guard’s legs out from under them, sending them toppling to the floor as Yennefer spins around and leaps gracefully in the air, slashing her dagger over the face of the first guard and landing neatly on the body of the second, a loud crack echoing through the now-silent street, littered with bodies and flooded with crimson, soaking into the stones below.
Triss rolls her eyes, but it’s fond. Yennefer does like to show off, sometimes, and Triss does love watching it, the agility in the way she twists and moves her body, the speed with which her blades sing through the air.
“How’s that for a mutant, huh?” Yennefer mocks as she stalks towards the carriage, where the lord is struggling to open the door, eyes frantic as he tries to escape. But there’s no escape, and Yennefer stalks closer, stepping easily over the bodies at her feet, a dangerous smile on her face. “How’s that for a measly woman?”
“M-mercy, lady witcher,” the lord stammers out, hands shaking as he finally manages to open the door. He tries to scramble away, but he trips and falls over the body of one of his guards, and Yennefer stands over him, a hand on her hips, Triss watching behind her. “P-please, spare me, I have done nothing wrong -”
“You set up this trap, didn’t you?” Yennefer demands, and the lord’s throat bobs as he tries to clamber backwards, but Yennefer places a booted foot on his chest, stopping him from moving away. “Why?”
“I-I didn’t mean to, this wasn’t my fault -” the lord makes a gurgling noise when Yennefer puts more weight on her foot. “I wasn’t - please, mercy -”
“Do tell me, my lord,” Yennefer coos, low and dangerous. “You put out the contract, didn’t you? You set up this trap to ambush us - to ambush me, since I’m certain that you didn’t expect another witcher. But what I can’t figure out is why you would do this. Do tell me.”
“I wasn’t - I -” the lord blubbers, and Yennefer’s gaze sharpens into a cold, deadly glare. The lord yelps. “I wanted to capture a witcher, to know how you -”
He’s cut off when Yennefer drives the heel of her boot into his throat, and he chokes, sputtering, while Yennefer keeps her foot firmly against his neck, until he slumps, limp and lifeless. Yennefer stares down at him for a moment before stepping back, turning to look towards Triss with fury burning in her eyes.
“What a bastard,” she spits, sneering down at the limp body in disdain. One of the guards’ bodies shift behind her, but she doesn’t notice, continuing, “How dare he -”
Triss tries to shout a warning when the guard rises to their feet, but she’s too slow, unable to reach her knives or her potions in time to stop the guard as they bury their knife into Yennefer’s stomach. Yennefer manages to twist around and snap the guard’s neck, but it’s too late - the knife is buried into her stomach, and she hisses in pain.
“Yen!” Triss cries, racing towards Yennefer, who stumbles as she tries to take a step, wrapping her hands around the hilt of the knife, and Triss realises what Yennefer is about to do. “Wait, Yen, don’t pull it out -”
But Yennefer doesn’t listen to her, yanking the bloody blade out of her stomach with a choked grunt and tossing it aside, and Triss groans.
Yennefer never listens to her.
Predictably, Yennefer sways on her feet, and Triss manages to catch her before she collapses.
“I told you not to pull it out,” Triss admonishes, bringing Yennefer away from the piles of bodies and gently setting her down on the ground, back against the wall. “Now sit still.”
“I’m fine,” Yennefer grits out, but her jaw is clenched tight, her knuckles white as she fights through the pain, sweat beading on her forehead, and Triss rushes to examine the wound. It’s deep, blood gushing out even as the mutations in Yennefer’s veins work hard to heal it, but thankfully not as deep as it would be had Yennefer’s armour not stopped it from going deeper, and Triss fumbles to grab a potion from her belt, uncorking it swiftly and tipping it into Yennefer’s mouth.
“I’m fine,” Yennefer insists after she swallows the potion, grimacing at the bitter taste. She’s pale, and her movements are sluggish, violet eyes hazy and slightly unfocused now that the thrill of the fight has worn off, the injury hitting her in full force, and she lets out a gasp of pain when Triss gingerly probes at the edges of her wound.
“You’re not fine,” Triss mutters as she fumbles through the supplies on her, shoulders sagging in relief when she finds some of her medical kit. She cleans the wound with deft hands, Yennefer letting out occasional grunts of pain, and wraps it in bandages. Yennefer will be fine - she’s survived worse, Triss has helped her through worse and she’s easily the best witcher healer out there, and the mutagens in her veins will ensure that she’ll be back in shape in a few days - but Triss can’t help but worry, heart beating unnaturally fast in her ears as she applies pressure to the wound, Yennefer breathing in quick, pained pants that sound unnaturally loud in the deathly silence of the dark, empty street.
“You need to be more careful,” Triss reprimands, her hands shaking slightly now that she’s come down from the high of the fight and the frantic desperation of trying to patch up Yennefer’s wound, worry crashing over her like a wave. Her own injuries, far more shallow than Yennefer’s stab wound, have scabbed over, and the smaller injuries Yennefer has sustained have partially healed as well, but the depth of Yennefer’s stab wound sends Triss into desperate worry.
“I’m fine,” Yennefer repeats, then makes a face with a slight wince, fists tightening.
“You’ve been stabbed,” Triss points out, her heartbeat slowly returning to normal now that Yennefer’s wound has been bandaged, the blood loss stemmed. The wound is bleeding red through the bandages, but with the help of Yennefer’s mutations and Triss’ potion speeding up her healing, Yennefer will heal fine. Still, Triss can’t help but worry.
Reaching out with trembling hands, she brushes a few strands of hair away from Yennefer’s face, plastered to her skin by sweat and drying blood, and Yennefer catches her hand, bringing it to cup her cheek.
“What would I do without you, hmm?” Yennefer whispers, her voice rough from pain and her breathing laboured, and when she turns her head to kiss Triss’ palm, Triss can feel her exhale, shaky and heavy and so clearly in pain.
“Let’s get you back to the inn,” she murmurs, slowly helping Yennefer to her feet. Yennefer only tries to detach herself from Triss once in an attempt to walk on her own, but when she nearly falls to her knees as she doubles over in pain, Triss is there to catch her, slinging one of Yennefer’s arms over her shoulders.
Yennefer doesn’t protest, letting Triss guide her out of the street, carefully avoiding the bodies littering the ground. Triss remembers their early years together, when Yennefer had insisted on being stubborn, on being independent, on refusing any help and assistance. Over time, Triss has slowly coaxed her to trust, to let down her defences and let other people help, and now, Triss can’t help but feel a warm glow of pride as Yennefer leans on her without complaint, pride that Yennefer lets her close enough to help, pride that Yennefer trusts her.
As they exit the street, Triss makes sure to stick to the shadows, following back the way they came. The town is lost in celebration, humans dancing through the streets clad in bright, vivid colour, firelight burning bright against the darkness, and they’re too deep in their revelry to notice the two witchers on the outskirts of their celebration.
Hopefully no one will somehow find that street, soaked in blood and piled with bodies - Triss thinks about the Butcher of Blaviken, about the way witchers’ reputations had plummeted after that, and she knows that if anyone were to find those bodies, it wouldn’t be hard for them to connect the bodies to the two witchers staying in town. It does seem, though, that the townspeople hate the lord enough that they wouldn’t condemn Triss and Yennefer for his death, and as Triss guides a pale, weakened Yennefer back to the inn, she hopes desperately that this is the case. Yennefer is already injured, and if they have to deal with a mob of human hatred on top of that…
Triss pushes the thoughts from her head - it will do her no good to ruminate on such possibilities. Her priority is Yennefer, and making sure her injury is healed. Anything else is secondary.
The tavern is empty when they enter, everyone having left to join the celebration, and Triss slowly helps Yennefer up the stairs, making soft, soothing noises when Yennefer lets out grunts of pain as her wound is jolted and jostled. Triss fumbles to open the door of their room while holding onto Yennefer, who’s still leaning heavily on her.
“Let’s get you clean,” Triss says softly once she opens the door, kicking it shut behind them. Yennefer stumbles slightly, and Triss leads her to the chair in the corner of the room, helping her sit down, and Yennefer slumps back into the chair once she’s sat down, exhaling low and heavy.
As she lets Yennefer take some time to gather her breath, Triss darts into the bathroom, sighing in relief when she sees that the tub has been filled, though the water has gone cold. She quickly casts Igni to heat the water up before heading back to Yennefer, who’s probing at the bandages, hissing in pain.
“Yenna,” Triss reprimands, and Yennefer brings her hands away from the bandages with a sheepish smile. “I’m going to take your armour off, okay? Then I’ll clean you up.”
Yennefer hums in affirmation, and Triss slowly strips off Yennefer’s armour, piece by piece, careful not to jostle the wound too badly.
“Alright,” Triss breathes out when she’s done, examining the bandages, mouth tightening at the way crimson blooms bright against the bandages. “Let’s get you to the bath.”
Yennefer gives her a playful grin, rimmed at the edges with tiredness and pain. “Will you carry me there?”
Without a word, Triss hooks one arm underneath Yennefer’s knees, her other arm supporting Yennefer’s back, and picks her up as carefully as she can to avoid aggravating the wound. Yennefer wraps her arms around Triss’ neck, bringing her in for a kiss that Triss almost loses herself in before the smell of coppery blood pulls her back to reality, and she breaks away.
“You’re distracting,” she grumbles teasingly, carrying Yennefer towards the bathroom, and Yennefer chuckles lightly before wincing in pain. Triss gently sets her down in the tub and grabs some soap and a washcloth, taking her own armour off before kneeling to dip the washcloth in the warm water. She brings it to wipe at Yennefer’s face, swiping it over elegant cheekbones and a proud nose, over that pale scar slicing over Yennefer’s eye, over the lines of the face she knows so well, and with each swipe of the cloth, the grime and blood staining Yennefer’s skin is wiped away, revealing the rich brown that Triss loves so much.
Yennefer gazes up at her with brilliant violet eyes, lips twisted into a fond smile, and Triss can’t help but lean in, cupping Yennefer’s cheek with one hand and slotting their mouths together, kissing each other slowly and lazily before Triss pulls away, moving to run the washcloth over the delicate line of Yennefer’s neck then bringing the washcloth down to wipe across the broad line of Yennefer’s shoulders, taking the opportunity to massage them gently, kneading at the tense muscles underneath her hands, and Yennefer relaxes into her touch, eyes fluttering shut as a soft, contented sigh escapes her lips.
“Mm,” Yennefer hums, tension leaking from the tight set of her shoulders, her jaw unclenching underneath Triss’ ministrations, and Triss smiles, continuing to knead Yennefer’s shoulders for a few minutes before she moves her hands to brush the washcloth down Yennefer’s body, gently rubbing soap over those story-filled scars, washing away the dirt on her skin. She steps into the tub, carefully avoiding the bandages to wash Yennefer’s legs. Usually, this would be charged with tension humming in the air between them, an anticipation waiting to be released - now, though, Yennefer is injured, and there’s nothing but quiet intimacy as Triss’ hands roam over Yennefer’s body.
Once she’s done, Triss leaves the tub to grab a bucket of water, gently pouring it over Yennefer’s hair. Her hair is tangled, matted with dried blood, and Triss works out the tangles with her fingers, rubs away the blood coating the dark strands, kneading at her scalp until her hair is silky and clean.
“You’re too good to me,” Yennefer mumbles, opening her eyes to gaze up at Triss with affection. “Love you.”
Triss leans down, heart full and bursting, and brushes her lips over Yennefer’s forehead. “Love you too, dear star.”
Stepping back into the tub, she carefully peels off Yennefer’s bloodstained bandages, tossing them to the side and using the washcloth carefully wipe at the area around the wound, cleaning it as gently as she can. Yennefer sucks in a sharp breath when Triss presses a little too hard, and Triss leans up to press an apologetic kiss to her cheek.
She cleans the last of the dirt from Yennefer’s body, and Yennefer reels her in for a kiss, Triss carefully positioning herself over Yennefer to lock their lips together properly.
“I’m still filthy,” Triss murmurs against her lips, but Yennefer keeps kissing her, sliding a hand down Triss’ chest to settle on her waist, and Triss has to reluctantly detach herself from Yennefer. “We can continue once I clean myself.”
Pulling away slightly, Triss wipes herself down in quick movements, rubbing away the dirt and blood and dunking her hair into the water, and when she resurfaces, Yennefer is reaching for her, hand outstretched.
“Let me,” Yennefer breathes out, and Triss turns her back to Yennefer, feeling the way Yennefer’s slim fingers start working their way through the tangled curls of her hair. Triss’ hair has always been a nightmare to look after, but Yennefer is more than willing to help her through it. Yennefer gently works through the tangles, never tugging too hard, and Triss sinks into her tender touch. They’re witchers, but they get to have this, sometimes, a moment of quiet in the midst of the violence of their lives, a moment of intimacy they never thought they would have before they met each other.
“I’m done.” Yennefer’s voice pierces through the slight haze that Triss has fallen into, lulled into something close to sleep by the gentle movement of Yennefer’s fingers through her hair. She twists around to face Yennefer, pressing their bodies close together, and traces a hand over Yennefer’s cheek.
“We should get out,” she whispers, and Yennefer leans into her hand for a moment before nodding, gripping the edges of the tub to hoist herself to her feet, but Triss picks her up again with a playful smile, carrying her towards the bed.
“You should carry me more often,” Yennefer suggests with a sly grin as Triss puts her down to grab two towels and some fresh bandages.
“Remind me of that next time you’re injured,” Triss remarks, tossing a towel at Yennefer and using the other to dry herself off. “Maybe you need to return the favour.”
“Gladly,” Yennefer purrs, eyes glinting, and Triss swiftly rebandages her wound before climbing into bed behind her, throwing one leg over Yennefer’s and wrapping an arm around her. She buries her nose into Yennefer’s damp hair, stray strands tickling her face, breathes in the comforting scent of lilac and gooseberries, and Yennefer snuggles back against her, capturing Triss’ hand in her own.
They drift off to sleep like this, wrapped up in each other and far away from the rest of the world, the sounds of the celebration carrying faintly into their room, the scent of contentment and love hanging in the air.
It takes a few days for Yennefer to recover. The next day, she winces when she moves or tries to take a step, so Triss fusses over her, forbids her from leaving the bed. Yennefer tries to protest, but Triss shoots her a look and she acquiesces reluctantly - and, well, when Triss spends most of the day cuddling in bed with her, Yennefer can’t really complain.
When Triss goes down to the tavern to bring food up for Yennefer, the tavern patrons fall silent at her entrance, staring at her warily. Triss’ heartbeat speeds up as the warm glow from cuddling with Yennefer fades away to something sharp and cold, the blood-tainted memories from the night before resurfacing in her mind, and she braces herself for whatever will come - a cruel slew of words thrown at her for slaughtering the lord and his guards, or perhaps she will be attacked, assaulted by flying objects and fists. She readies herself to fight, or to run, to head upstairs and grab Yennefer and go -
Someone clears their throat, and Triss snaps her gaze towards the source of the sound, hand inching towards her dagger.
The person who’d cleared their throat is clearly a mother, face weathered with kind lines, a hand settled on the shoulder of a young child who barely comes up to her waist. “Thank you,” the woman says softly, locking eyes with Triss with only a hint of fear, and Triss’ mouth drops open slightly at the gratitude in her eyes. “Thank you, madam witcher, for what you and your partner did.”
“I…” Triss blinks, not quite sure what’s happening, unable to comprehend why this woman is thanking her.
“The lord. You killed him,” another person pipes up, and the tavern patrons murmur in agreement. “He’s been treating us horribly. You did us all a service, witcher. Quite fitting too, on the night of our spring celebration. Thank you.”
The words thank you are echoed throughout the tavern, and Triss has never been more overcome with shock. She’s been thanked before, of course, for saving lives and for killing monsters, but never like this, with such genuine gratitude and so little fear. Never like this, that first woman’s child running up to her to wrap tiny arms around her legs; never like this, the barkeep shoving a tray of warm, steaming food into her hands and two tankards of ale without asking for payment, promising her and Yennefer free food for as long as they’re staying; never like this, the innkeeper offering to let them stay without paying a single coin.
When Triss heads back up the stairs, a tray laden with fresh food in her hands, she’s still stunned, unable to believe what just happened. It’s only when she enters the room and sets down the tray that the full reality hits her.
The townspeople don’t blame them. They won’t be branded the next Butchers of Blaviken - they’re even welcomed here, and that’s - that’s a foreign feeling, to be welcomed by humans, not hated or feared.
“Triss?” Yennefer murmurs, watching her from the bed. “Is everything alright?”
Triss smiles, a sudden giddiness washing over her, and she brings the food to Yennefer, curling up next to her. “Oh, everything is more than alright.”
The next few days pass like this, Yennefer slowly regaining her strength as she and Triss spend most of the day in bed together, exchanging sweet, tender kisses as they rise with the morning sun, holding each other in warm, intimate embraces, gentle smiles and soft laughter - a few days of quiet, of peace, without stressing over another contract, without worrying about how humans might react to them.
The first time Yennefer manages to head down to the tavern without wincing, she’s surrounded by a gaggle of wide-eyed children, clamouring for her attention. Yennefer shoots a panicked look towards Triss, but Triss stands back with a fond smile, leaving Yennefer to hesitantly answer the children’s questions, watching as she agrees to carry them in her arms, letting them perch on her shoulders, slowly but surely taking naturally to the crowd of adoring children.
They’re both reluctant to leave when Yennefer finally recovers fully - it’s rare that a town is so warm, so accepting, and Triss wants to bask in the peace forever, but the Path beckons, contracts and monsters and endless days of travelling, cosy nights by the campfire and bright laughter on the roads.
They will return, Triss knows, strapping her pack onto her horse - but for now, they will journey on the Path, and she turns to Yennefer, pecking her on the cheek.
“Ready?” Yennefer asks, eyes gleaming in anticipation, and Triss smiles, thinking about the next few months, about travelling the Path, Yennefer by her side.
“Let’s go,” she agrees, swinging herself onto the horse, and together, they set out on the Path once more.