“If life could give me one blessing, Jaskier, it would be to take you off my hands!”
He’s not gonna lie. That one cut deep.
Twenty-two years of his life spent accompanying Geralt around the continent - paying for half their board, giving him baths, fixing his reputation, being his friend, falling madly in love with him against Jaskier’s own better judgment - and that’s the thanks he gets?
If he’d known he would be getting such a shit deal he never would have signed up for this heartbreak.
Maybe he would have anyway.
“I can hear you thinking from here.” A voice says, startling him. Jaskier yelps, swiveling around and nearly tripping over the empty air.
It’s been almost two months since Geralt basically wished him dead. Which means it’s been two months since he saw Yennefer.
Why is it that he still can’t be rid of her even now?
“Yennefer.” He says, trying to inject as much venom into his voice as he can. She just smiles at him, too wide and predatory to be anything nice He suppresses a shiver and slumps down into the closest seat. “So, what brings you to this lovely little town? Not here just to see me preform, I presume?”
She laughs, standing across from him.
“No. I’m looking for Geralt – heard your horrific voice down the street, and I know you two are practically tied at the hip, so – where is he?”
Her eyes narrow, and she sits down in front of him, eyes searching. It takes a moment, but he can feel her in his head, her touch soft but probing. He glares.
“It’s very rude to go poking around in other people’s heads, you know.”
“He’s not with you.” She sighs. “How disappointing.”
“I’m sure it won’t be long before he shows up on your doorstep, with the way you two are always going at it.” He grumbles. Nothing put a damper on his mood like Yennefer showing up in the middle of one of their hunts (Well – Geralt’s hunts. Jaskier tended to stay just far away enough that he could still see at least part of the action). Jaskier would be all but abandoned the moment she arrived.
“Hmm.” She hums, looking displeased. “Next time you run into our mutual friend, tell him I’m looking for him. Or don’t. Maybe I’ll have the problem solved by then.”
Jaskier scoffs, chest aching.
“I’m not his friend, and I doubt he’ll listen to anything I have to say even if we ever cross paths again.”
It hurts. It hurts just as bad as it did that day on the mountain, still, and he wonders when the pain will lessen.
Maybe it won’t. Maybe he’s doomed to this horrible feeling for all eternity.
She cocks her head to the side.
“Would stop staring at me, please?” He snaps.
“It is very odd, not seeing you trailing after him like a sad little dog.”
Alright. He’s had enough for today.
“Oh-ho-ho, wow! Thanks for that, lovely to see you Yennefer, as always, but I must be off. May we never meet again.” he stands abruptly and turns on his heel towards the stairs, where an already-paid-for, no doubt shitty room awaits him. He does not look back over his shoulder to make sure Yennefer leaves.
He sincerely hopes he never sees her again.
Destiny, of course, cares not for Jaskier’s hopes and dreams.
He can’t say he’s not grateful when he does see her again though, unfortunately.
He’s running, still struggling to pulling his shoes on and mourning the loss of his new doublet when a hand grabs his lute and tugs back hard enough that he falls on his ass with a pained yelp. He blinks dazedly up at the lute-grabber, stomach sinking when he recognizes them as the town’s blacksmith – the very man he had been running from in the first place.
Jaskier won’t lie – he’s a bit of a slut. But it’s not his fault ‘most every town he comes across has pretty men and women alike.
Not his fault he got caught with the blacksmith’s son, either – that, he blames entirely on said son and his nice ass and shiny blonde hair.
“M’ gonna skin you alive, bard!” The blacksmith hisses.
“Wait, ah, ah! How about you don’t do that and let me run away instead? Way less trouble, I assure you!” he gasps. The blacksmith hauls him up by the front of his delicate undershirt, undoubtedly ripping the lacework.
“You corrupted my boy! He’s ‘posed to be getting’ married two weeks from now!”
That, Jaskier didn’t know.
Let’s be honest, though, it probably wouldn’t have stopped him.
“H-hey, now, I think that’s a bit harsh. I didn’t corrupt –”
“Gentlemen,” A new voice – high and dripping with power only she could have, shit – says, interrupting them. Jaskier risks a glance to his right.
He’s not sure how long it’s been since he saw her last, but predictably, she looks the same. Impeccably dressed, lips painted crimson and purple eyes shimmering in the glow of the torchlights. She looks down to meet his gaze and raises an eyebrow.
“There’s no need for such violence, is there? Surely whatever this man has done can’t be that bad.” She saunters up to them, looking over the blacksmith’s shoulder. They’re not alone, it seems. His wife and horribly attractive son followed suit. Very rude of him, not to defend Jaskier’s honor.
“He…defiled my son.” The man says. Jaskier snorts.
“I’m sure that’s not true.” Yennefer smiles, and for a moment her eyes seem to almost glow in the dark. “You have no problems with this poor bard here. You made a mistake. So I suggest you apologize to him and return home. The streets are very unsafe this time of night.”
The blacksmith lets him go.
Jaskier’s not prepared for it, and falls back, no doubt scratching his lute on the stone street. It digs into his back, and he winces, rolling onto his side.
“Eh - my apologies, bard. Seems I caught the wrong man.” He says. Jaskier smiles thinly.
“None taken, good sir.” He stands, wiping off his dirty hands on his shirt. Its ruined anyway. “She’s right you know, terrible time to be out on the streets. So I’m just going to – to be off, then. Goodnight.” He bows awkwardly and turns, expecting to run right into Yennefer, and finds nothing but the empty street. He lets out a breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding and hurries off to nearest tavern. At this time of night, there isn’t really anyone there, but thankfully the owner is still up. He scrambles for his coin pouch and curses when he realizes it must have fallen off when the blacksmith got him.
“Here.” Yennefer sighs behind him, and a handful of gold spills out onto the bar top.
“Are you stalking me now?” Jaskier hisses, looking back over at her. She smirks.
“No. You’re just terribly predictable.”
“Wh – n-no I am not!” He sputters. She just looking him over with a bored expression and flicks her hair over her shoulder. The owner drops a key into his hand with a grunt and wanders off.
“You owe me now, you know. Two favors.” She tells him.
“Excuse me? Two?”
“Yes. One for saving you from a beating, and another for buying you three nights in what has to be the shittiest tavern you could possibly find I mean, honestly. I thought you had some taste.”
“Alright, fine. Two favors. What could you possibly need me for that you can’t do yourself?”
“So nice of you to ask.” She leans forward.
He’s not an idiot. He sees what Geralt and Chireadan saw in her. She’s beautiful, and perfect, and smart. She smells like lavender and roses and one can’t help but gravitate toward her when she enters a room. Even knowing how powerful she is, if they’d met any other way, he probably would have tried to sleep with her. Another check mark on his list - sleeping with a sorceress capable of killing him with a snap of her perfectly manicured fingers.
“Lord Głupiec is having a party for his daughter at his estate, and I need an in and something to serve as a distraction. Both of which you can provide.”
He raises an eyebrow.
“Aren’t you an all-powerful sorceress? Don’t you have connections? Why is it that you need a lowly bard to get you into a party? If I even could, anyway.”
“There will be other mages there, so I can’t exactly force them to let me in. Besides, even if there weren’t, I’d rather not have the brotherhood on my heels for being too much of a ‘problem’.” She crosses her arms. “Don’t sell yourself short, Jaskier, it’s not cute. You’re not just a lowly bard anymore. Maybe when you were younger, but now? The whole bloody continent knows the words to your songs, and you’ve played in a handful of courts and balls, including a few of Princess Cirilla’s birthdays. Jaskier is no one - Julien Alfred Pankratz, on the other hand...” she smirks. “Quite an accomplished man.”
“How do you even know that name?” He sighs.
“There is very little I don’t know.” She says simply. “I can arrange to have their current bard…disposed of. Just be ready by noon tomorrow.”
“Gods, you’re not going to kill them, are you?”
“Violence isn’t always my first resort, I’ll have you know. They’ll be perfectly fine. Just indisposed.”
“Why don’t I believe you?” He shakes his head and runs a hand down his face. She pats his face lightly.
“Just do as I say and everything will be fine. Unless, of course, you’d rather wait until I need you for something far worse?”
Really, truly, damn her.
As promised, Jaskier is ready by noon, and Yennefer comes to greet him outside the tavern, dressed even more lavishly than the night before. Her hair is up now, dress tighter, expensive jewels dangling from her ears and around her neck. It’s a surprise no one’s tried to rob her yet – although, maybe they can sense they wouldn’t live through the encounter.
“They’ll already be expecting you when we arrive, so all you have to do is tell them I’m your wife and walk in. You play your silly songs, entertain the lords and ladies in a way that won’t end with anyone’s spouses or parents wanting you dead in a ditch, and don’t cause any problems. Are we clear?”
He takes a deep breath.
She portals them just far enough away from the main entrance that no one could have possibly seen them and off they go. From his point of view, the party is rather dull. Yennefer disappears almost immediately after Jaskier starts to play. ‘Toss a Coin’ and ‘The Stars above the Path’ are his most popular requests, along with a few of his less famous songs about Geralt and some local favorites. He does as he’s told and keeps the court’s eyes on him throughout, all while ignoring the winks and looks the Lady of the house keeps shooting his direction. Yennefer returns halfway through dinner with the most bored expression he’s ever seen on anyone’s face, though that might just be her resting face.
“Tell me you got what you needed.” He whispers. “I think one of the men in that table over there recognizes me.”
“Relax. No one’s going to lay a finger one you while I’m here, darling.” She kisses his cheek and squeezes his shoulder, and he looks away, cheeks heating. He’s fairly certain that this is the first time she’s touched him since their terrible first meeting all those years ago.
“Try not to be so touchy in public, dear. It’s inappropriate.”
She huffs, the corner of her lips ticking up. It’s a more genuine expression from her than he’s used to, and it surprises him.
“I’d say we have an hour left, at most. We suffer through the rest of it as to not look suspicious and then your debt to me is paid in full. Deal?”
“Fine.” He narrows his eyes. “What did you even need from here? I know this is a lord’s house, but what could he possibly have that you don’t already?”
“Oh,” she hums. “I wasn’t here for him. Don’t worry about it, it doesn’t concern you.”
“Right.” He frowns.
“Excuse me.” A soft voice calls. Jaskier looks up an comes face to face with a startling amount of cleavage. He blinks rapidly, and finds the lovely face they belong to. The woman grins at him, gathering her shining auburn curls over one shoulder. “You’re the Witcher’s bard, correct? I heard you play at Princess Paveta’s betrothal feast. You’re…very skilled. I was wondering if I could acquire your services for a gathering of my own.”
He beams at her. “Well, I –”
“Sorry, he’ll be a bit busy. I’m sure you’ll be able to find someone else.” Yennefer interrupts. Her tone is sweet, but her smile isn’t, too many teeth and eyes narrowed. The woman frowns at her, but turns away with a huff. Jaskier glares.
“Oh, first of all, how dare you?”
“That was Lady Yvette Buaireil.” She says simply. “I know that look she was give you, and trust me, it’s not worth it. Her husband has captured and killed the last two men she cheated on him with, and Geralt will have my head if I let anything happen to you.”
He doesn’t remind her that Geralt tossed him aside like a bag of rotting meat.
“Did you ever get a hold of him?” He asks instead.
“No. I solved the problem on my own.” She rests her head on her palm. “So. That was you, who brought Geralt to Cintra that day. The day he claimed the Law of Surprise.”
Why is it that when I find myself in a pile of shit these days it’s you, shoveling it?
“Yeah, that was me. When the Lioness requests that you perform at her daughter’s party, you do it.”
“That was over a decade ago. Strange, for Calanthe to bring on a bard so young.” Yennefer comments. Jaskier chuckles to hide his nerves and grips his wine glass tighter.
“Well, as you said, I’m extremely talented.”
“And you’ve aged rather well. I can hardly see any grey in that hair of yours.” She hums. He raises a brow.
“Um. Thank you?”
She studies him for a moment, and he itches to check and make sure his glamour isn’t slipping, that he still has his necklace. But any movement now would just alert her to the fact that he does, indeed, have something to hide. So he knocks back the rest of his drink and smiles.
“Are you flirting with me, Yen? Because I must say, I don’t think I’m up for it.”
“Oh, you wish, Bard.” She pushes lightly on his shoulder. “Go and do your job. Try to avoid women with angry husbands.”
“Hmm. A hard task, but I’ll do my best.”
He sees her again, after that. Random encounters that barely last more than a few minutes. He says her name with distaste and finds he doesn’t actually mean that, still. She smiles at him with her too-white teeth and her blood red lips and he doesn’t hate her.
Yennefer can be cruel, at times. There aren’t many people she cares about, if there are any. But he comes to the realization that he would have liked her just fine if she hadn’t slept with Geralt.
Jaskier is a petty man, and that does still sting.
But he finds he can’t really hate her, anymore.
The next time they meet is in a small town just two days out from Caingorn. It’s smaller than most, more of a rest stop for weary travelers, and he’s having trouble gathering sufficient coin to travel any further. He was booed out of the tavern, even after he played his most popular hits, so he’s either not known here or the whole town lacks any sort of taste. After dodging a roll of moldy bread, he trudges over to the stables to his horse.
He’s a lovely horse, far more affectionate than Roach had been. He still misses her though, and her sass. No horse had ever been so expressive.
“You like my singing, don’t you?” He murmurs, petting the horse’s nose. “I'm weak my love, and I am wanting, if this is the path I must trudge, I welcome my sentence, Give to you my penance - Garrotter, jury and judge.” He sings softly.
‘Her Sweet Kiss’ is not a song to play when bartering for coin. No one likes a depressing bard, except maybe drowners and morticians.
His horse seems happy with it, at least.
“I don’t know whether to be flattered or offended.”
Jaskier closes his eyes.
“What are you doing here, Yen? Trying to blackmail another nobleman?” He calls. He hears her snort, and turns to find her leaning against a wooden pillar. She’s in pants, now, which is somewhat unusual, but she’s still definitely overdressed for just about any event, as always.
“I’m on my way to Caingorn, thought I’d stop through town and see if there was anything interesting here.” She pauses. “That’s song you were singing,”
He was really hoping she hadn’t heard that.
“I don’t –”
“It’s about me, isn’t it?” She asks, obviously curious.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He tries.
“‘She's always bad news - It's always lose, lose - So tell me love, tell me love - How is that just?’ Isn’t that what you always said to him, when we ran into each other? That I’m bad news?” He can’t really tell what she’s thinking, and it’s frustrating. He’s usually excellent at reading people – even Geralt, as hard as it may have been at times.
“It is.” He finally admits.
“When did you write that?”
“Asking a lot of questions today.” He notes nervously. She rolls her eyes.
“If you won’t answer my questions about the song, then answer me this – how long were you traveling with Geralt, exactly? Because if I recall correctly, we met about a decade ago, so it must be before that.” She crosses her arms over her chest.
“It wasn’t that long before.” He lies.
“Hmm. Really? Because he seemed awfully fond of you. I doubt that happened within a matter of months.”
“Geralt’s not fond of anyone except for Roach and you, maybe.” Jaskier huffs. She shakes her head.
“Stop lying to me.”
“Fine. I finished that song after he blamed me for every single one of his problems and told me to fuck off on that mountain. Are you happy now, Yennefer?” He snaps. She stares.
“The day we fought the dragon is the day he left you behind?” She almost sounds surprised, but she had to have known, right? Hadn’t her and Geralt spent the whole morning together?
“Yes. And I haven’t seen him since. So if you’re looking for him, best go look elsewhere.”
Yennefer comes up next to him and holds out an apple in her palm, which had most certainly been empty before. His horse munches on it happily.
“It’s horrible, isn’t it?” She asks softly. Jaskier frowns.
“Loving him. Geralt.” He stares at her, caught off guard. She gives him a look. “Oh, come on. don’t try and tell me you’re not. Unless all straight men write sad love songs about their best friends?”
He swallows thickly.
He is in love with Geralt. That’s a fact he hasn’t been able to deny for quite some time, now. He’s just never actually told anyone in real words. He’s sung countless songs about Geralt’s adventures and heroism, waxed poetic about his golden eyes and silky silver hair, the way his muscles ripple under his skin when he does something as simple as braid his hair. But to say it? Out loud, for someone else to hear so plainly?
“It’s…not easy, certainly.” He admits quietly. “And yet. Here we are.”
I don’t need anyone, and I don’t want anyone needing me.
“Here we are.” She agrees.
Its silent for a moment.
“So. Does he still think you’re human?” She asks.
“I – ah, what – I beg –”
She runs a hand down his horses’ neck. “What did I just say about lying to me, Jaskier?”
His hand goes to his chest, where he can feel the press of the amulet his wears underneath. It’s still there, still working, or who knows what could have happened to him. He’d thought the glamour was strong enough that she couldn’t see through it. Geralt didn’t seem to have while they were traveling together. Or maybe he did, but never said anything?
No, definitely not. If he knew, he would have given Jaskier a lot more shit for ‘Toss a Coin’.
“Maybe. Probably. I’m not entirely sure.” His shoulders slump, defeated. “How did you know?”
“You really haven’t aged since I’ve met you, you idiot. Whatever glamour you’re using isn’t doing it’s job properly.” She huffs.
He reaches down his front and pulls the necklace out from under his clothes. It’s a simple pendant, a singular flower etched into the front. She holds out a hand expectantly, and she hesitates.
“I’m…I’m not entirely comfortable taking it off, to be honest.”
She gives him a curious look.
“There’s hardly anyone in this town to see you, and if they do, it’ll take care of them.” She finally says. He takes a breath –
– and slips the necklace off.
Yennefer has no outward reaction to it. He expected as much. Overall, there isn’t much of a difference. His face becomes a bit more youthful, eyes somewhat brighter, and ears become much more pointed, but that aside, he looks the same.
She stands there, staring at him, for what feels like an eternity.
It’s probably closer to a minute, but for dramatics, let’s say its longer.
“You’re an elf.” She breathes.
“Mostly.” He grins, baring canines no elf should have. “Not totally sure what I’m mixed with, to be honest.” His parents were killed before he was old enough to notice he was different. Not that he’s letting her know that.
“Interesting.” She takes his amulet with a surprising amount of care and holds it close to her eyes. “The magic in this is fading, hence why it’s not aging you properly. A normal human would have a head of grey hair, by now.” The corner of her lips ticks up. “Especially after trailing after a Witcher for over a decade.”
“Damn.” He sighs, taking the amulet back. He slips it over his head and back under his doublet, not wanting to risk it falling off.
“I can re-enchant it for you.” She offers.
“Oh, um – really?” He narrows his eyes at her. “At what cost? I don’t have to help you into another nobleman’s house, do I? Go on a dangerous mission to fetch ingredients that you could surely buy yourself?”
“No. Let’s call it…a favor for another friend of elven blood.”
“Wha – did you just call me your friend?” he feels like his eyebrows are about to disappear into his hair, because he is definitely hallucinating that, right? “We’re not friends, Yennefer.”
“Hmm. Seems our dear Witcher has rubbed off on you.” She says dryly. He sputters, cheeks heating.
“You – we – Geralt –”
He doesn’t know what to say, and after a moment, he settles for an indignant huff and aggressively pointing his finger at her. She giggles, and the laughter reaches her eyes, and he feels…lighter.
Him, friends with Yennefer of Vengerberg?