Yennefer sees the bright, hopeful, joyful smiles that grace the faces of her daughter and her daughter’s newly wed wife, and feels her heart ache with a happy kind of sadness. Looking up at Geralt, who sits beside her, she notices that his eyes are glassy with tears as he watches Ciri and Cerys together.
“I’m so proud of her,” he whispers to Yennefer. He has always been the more emotional of the two of them when it came to parenting Ciri, but this time Yennefer cannot help but match his outpouring of emotions with her own tears.
She places a hand on Geralt’s arm and smiles as she watches Ciri search for them in the crowd before waving to them. Yennefer lifts her hand and waves back, leaning against Geralt and sighing, pleased.
Ciri — her daughter, even though they are born of different bloodlines — looks beautiful beside her wife, dressed in a fine white dress with pearls stitched into the skirts and emerald necklaces draped around her neck that Yennefer picked out for her. She thinks that she has never seen Ciri look any brighter or more joyful than on this day.
“I’m happy for her,” Yennefer says, leaning her head on Geralt’s shoulder. “We’ll always be her mother and father, but she has someone else now.” And Geralt, too, has something else other than Yennefer: he has his calling as a Witcher, and the bard who accompanies him and writes stories of the White Wolf.
Contrary to what some might suspect, Yennefer is not bitter about Geralt leaving her. Since the curse of the djinn had been broken, they had fallen apart naturally. Yennefer has realised that all the love she thought she had for him was all a product of the djinn’s magic, and when she had spoken to Geralt about it, he had been much the same.
It was Ciri who kept them together, even without the djinn binding them, but Yennefer has been ready to let go of Geralt for a long time, and she suspects he is ready to do so as well, now.
“Mother! Father!” Ciri comes up to them with her wife on her arm, flushed and grinning. “You should get up and be merry. Cerys and I are going to take the first dance, and I want you to stand, and watch, and be happy for me.”
Yennefer stands up and reaches out to grasp Ciri’s hand in hers. “We are happy for you, Ciri. More than we can say.”
Wordlessly, Geralt pushes forwards and he and Ciri hug, her arms thrown around his neck tightly as she squeezes him closely. “I love you both,” she whispers, looking over Geralt’s shoulder to Yennefer. “Maybe you’re not my real parents, but you are certainly better to me than my father ever was.”
Not hard to do , Yennefer thinks to herself, still bitter towards Emhyr var Emreis, but she pushes the thought to the back of her mind. Today is Ciri’s wedding, and she will resolutely refuse to bring up that man . Ciri should be happy today, not dwelling on the horrors the past holds.
She reaches out and gently pushes Ciri’s shoulder. “Go and dance with your wife, Ciri. We want to see you happy.”
Ciri’s wife — Cerys, she recalls, the Queen of Skellige — smiles and gently takes Ciri’s hand to whisk her away into a dance. The crowd at the wedding rearranges itself to allow the couple to stand in the centre and begin to dance. Yennefer finds herself far away from Geralt, in the middle of a group of loud Skellige men. She politely excuses herself and moves through the crowd to reach the front, closer to Ciri and her wife.
At first Yennefer’s gaze is entirely fixed on her daughter and her wife, but her eyes are drawn away by a sharp elbow in her side. She glances towards the owner of the offending elbow, brows narrowed, but it is only — Triss.
“What are you doing here?” Yennefer hisses in anger-bitterness-confusion.
Triss only shrugs. “Ciri invited me.” She is wearing fine orange silks — she had always preferred oranges over the blacks that Yennefer wears — and has a gold necklace around her neck, one studded with topazes.
“Oh.” Yennefer folds her arms and very distinctively does not look at Triss, instead forcing herself to focus on her daughter. Ciri laughs like the ringing of bells as Cerys spins her and dips her downwards, her pale skirts frothy and floating as light as air with how fast she moves in the dance.
She hears Triss sighing. “Look, I know that in the war, I did some things that you can’t forgive me for. Going along with Philippa’s plans for Ciri, for one. But she has managed to find it in herself to forgive me. It’s only you still holding on to that, Yen.”
“You don’t get to call me Yen anymore.” Though they have got their happy ending, Yennefer still finds herself distant and sour towards Triss.
Triss sighs again, and Yennefer might have been irritated if she did not know that she was the reason for the annoyance that Triss feels in the first place. “Please, Yen. You don’t have to forgive me. I just want you to look at me differently — like we are friends again. We were friends once: what happened to us?”
“The war with Nilfgaard happened.” Yennefer crosses her arms and looks back to where Ciri and Cerys dance together. They look happy and free, bathed in golden sunlight, and Yennefer wonders if it is only her who still allows herself to be chained to the past.
“Oh, Yennefer.” Triss’s words are hushed, her breath warm where it touches Yennefer’s neck. “All I want is for us to be friends like we were before.”
The combination of Triss’s lips so near her neck and her soft words remind Yennefer of one foolish night that the two of them spent tangled in sheets with their fingers sliding across each other’s bodies, and she reaches up to bat Triss away on instinct.
Triss seizes her wrist and holds it still. Her voice turns syrupy-sweet and deadly as she says, “Yen, I know that you are scared that I will betray your daughter again. And I don’t know what I can say to convince you to trust me, but I’ve been waiting for you to be in my presence without looking at me like I’m scum. You used to be so kind, you know.”
She presses one hand to her forehead and rubs hard. “I — ”
“Come on, Yen,” Triss coaxes her. “I’m right here. You just need to let me in again, that’s all.”
Closing her eyes, Yennefer thinks back to the nights before the Battle of Sodden, to the moment when she and Triss were reunited. They had been scared, indeed, but prevailing over all her fear and worry had been hope for the future. Hope that they would live out the battle, and win over Nilfgaard in the end.
They have done that, but what has been the cost?
When she opens her eyes again, she looks at Triss with a softened heart and a tiny smile starting to curl up the corners of her mouth.
Triss’s grip on her wrist loosens, and her hand slips into Yennefer’s. Their fingers link back together easily, as if their hands have been waiting for this moment to interlock perfectly together. Yennefer glances up and meets Triss’s eyes.
“I want to dance with you,” she says suddenly, and means it. The thought caught her askance out of nowhere, but now she wants nothing more than to feel Triss near her, to have the two of them dancing with each other. She — oh, she wants Triss.
Yennefer feels something warm in her stomach when Triss smiles and leads her out to stand in position, ready to start the next dance. The other couples rearrange themselves in the short gap between the songs, and she catches Geralt’s suspicious eye and smiles.
He may wonder why she now stands with her hand on Triss’s waist, curled around the belt of orange silk, and Triss’s thumb stroking over her shoulder. If he will wonder, then let him wonder: as Yennefer takes in a deep breath as the music swells into bloom, she has never felt more sure and clear-headed as she does now.
Triss is the first one to move, stepping to the left with the other dancers, and Yennefer follows her.
If she was scared, her eyes would be shut as she let Triss lead her in the dance. But instead, Yennefer keeps her eyes wide open and trained on Triss, feeling her body move of its own accord, for her heart and mind is too caught up in Triss’s snare for her to think as she dances.
The music swells, and Yennefer hiccups a gasp as she feels Triss dipping her downwards, her fingers clenching around Triss’s hip. A dark-red curl falls into her eye, and she brushes it away, feeling a smile turn up her lips.
“You like it when I do that, Yen. Don’t deny it,” Triss says with a grin, pulling Yennefer back up into her arms and into the steps of the dance again.
She does not respond immediately, instead continuing to spin and move with Triss in the dance with only a small spark of agreement bright in her eye. One of the musicians makes a sweeping movement, and she bites her lip as the music swells into a crescendo and she dips Triss downwards.
Triss’s nails dig into Yennefer’s shoulders, but she is laughing unabashedly, and soon Yennefer is laughing, too.
She thinks she might be half in love with Triss already.
“Where do you want to go?” Triss asks her a short while later, when the earlier liveliness of the evening has died down and the musicians are playing a softer, slower song. The two of them sway together, Yennefer’s hand on the nape of Triss’s neck, Triss’s arm wrapped around Yennefer’s waist.
“Everywhere,” Yennefer answers, the bare truth laid out.
“Then that’s where we will go,” replies Triss. “And what do you want to see? What do you want to do with me?”
Yennefer leans her forehead on the soft orange silk that covers Triss’s shoulder and murmurs, “Everything.”
She feels Triss drop a kiss to the crown of her head, quietly murmuring “Of course. I’ll give you everything,” for only her and Triss to hear. Yennefer lets out a choked-off laugh, running her fingers over Triss’s shoulder and feeling the warmth of her skin beneath the silks.
“I don’t think there’s nearly enough time to do that,” Yennefer mutters, though she is still smiling.
“Well, I will make time to give you everything. Fuck it, I’ll find some way to keep time still forever, so we can do it all. Together,” Triss insists, and she sounds so convincing, so determined, that Yennefer starts to believe that they can.
Just as she is about to foolishly tell Triss how fucking much she loves her, there is a tap on her arm and Yennefer turns to see Ciri standing there with her wife on her arm.
“Mother,” Ciri sighs happily, and they fall gracelessly into a hug. Ciri’s pale-white froth of veil has been thrown back to reveal her grinning face and messy blonde hair running down her back, and Cerys stands proudly beside her.
Yennefer presses her chin into Ciri’s shoulder and smiles. “Hello, Ciri. What have you come here for?”
Ciri shrugs. “I wanted to see how you were doing, but it seems that you are fine.” She looks at Triss and waves, strings of pearls fluttering in the light evening-night wind, and Triss waves back.
“I’m more than fine.”
Quickly, Ciri bounces up to give her another hug. “Me and Cerys are going to retire to our chambers as a married couple soon. I thought you should know.”
“Good luck.” Yennefer kisses her daughter on the cheek and watches proudly as Ciri turns to Cerys and takes the Queen of Skellige’s hand in hers, cheeks flushing pink as she glances from her wife to her mother. Gently, Yennefer nods and lets Ciri go to her wife without complaint.
As she watches Ciri and Cerys leave to great applause, she feels Triss’s arm surrounding her. Yennefer leans back into the warmth of the silks and Triss’s bare skin beneath them, feeling as if she is warming herself by a pleasant fire in the dark and desperate depths of winter.
“Cerys makes Ciri happy,” Triss observes as she sees the last of Ciri’s frothy pale train slip out of the door. “I think that Cerys will still be there when you’re growing old and grumpy.”
Yennefer glances up to Triss and puts on a face of mock-disapproval. “I don’t think I count as old and grumpy yet, just because you’re a little younger than me, Triss Merigold.”
“You love it,” is all the response Yennefer gets before Triss’s lips are upon hers. She reaches up to cup Triss’s cheek and bring their lips closer together, her eyelids flickering downwards and her mouth warm from Triss’s kiss and smiling from — this wonderful world that she never thought she would see.
And yet that world is here, spread out in a rich tapestry before her, all the same.