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if this is the path i must trudge

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It’s a terrible thing, to feel your soulmate die.

Jaskier has sung about it, in the past. Heroic sacrifices and tragic romances, it’s wonderful material to wring the tears fom audiences and get a few extra coins for his trouble.

This is nothing like the songs.

He watches the mayor’s house crumble in front of him and feels part of himself crumble with it. It wasn't meant to end like this.

Geralt had never spoken to him about soulmates, and Jaskier had been afraid that should he asked he would find out that Witchers don’t have them. He’d told himself that he was happy enough as it was, no need to rock the metaphorical boat. He could love him from afar. He thought he could.

He sinks to his knees in the dirt, clutching the mark on his wrist in shock as if to stop the pigment from fading by sheer force alone. He can feel it, the empty place in his heart, no longer occupied by his soulmate. It’s not that it even hurts, it’s just numb, and how he aches.

But.

The elf is grinning down at him as if all is right with the world and “they’re alive,” he says, and he doesn’t quite know how to process it all at once.

“Bollocks,” he says.

And they are alive, he’ll give him that.

//

Holed up in an inn in Rinde later on, Jaskier stares down at his still-faded mark.

His soulmate must have died elsewhere, he decides, and had frankly ridiculous timing about it. It still hurts, it hurts so much, but it just doesn’t make sense. He’ll mourn them, of course he will; the truest love he never had. He’s fallen in love a thousand times, and had his heart broken just as many, why would this be any different?

He wonders what they were like.

He was so sure it was Geralt.

He rolls over, forearm tucked to his chest, soulmark cradled ever so tenderly against his heart. Perhaps grief will keep him quiet for a few days, give Geralt the peace he so desperately craved.

//

But the mountain.

Geralt’s wish.

They don’t even seem to notice he’s there, that’s what hurts the most. They argue and fight and scream in front of him as if his world isn’t splintering and fracturing around him. Geralt had made a wish. He had bound Yennefer’s destiny to his. He had made them soulmates. The bond he’d felt die as the house came down-

Jaskier’s going to be sick. He thumbs at his cuff, watching in detached horror as the pieces clicked into place. Yennefer storms off, and Borch gives Jaskier a far too knowing look.

“You did this?” Jaskier whispers.

There isn’t an ounce of surprise on Geralt’s face as he turns to face the bard.

“You knew?” He rips off his cuff, waving his faded soulmark at Geralt. “All this time I’ve mourned and wept and you just let me. Didn’t bother to explain, no, it’s fine because you got your precious fucking peace and quiet, didn’t you Witcher? Let me grieve because it’s just Jaskier, what does he matter when you’ve found someone better. Why even bother to save me at all?” he hissed. “You had a perfectly good out; could have just left me to to die by that lake.”

Geralt doesn’t say anything.

Why was I not good enough for you?” Jaskier screams.

The Witcher doesn’t even grace him with a response. He just turns around, staring off stoically at the distance like the hero Jaskier had painted him to be. Jaskier wants to kick him off the ledge.

 

Borch tried to reach out as he'd stalked back to camp, but he’d flinched away. “You knew,” he hissed, and once again he clearly wasn’t worthy of a response.

 

Yennefer whirled on him with a glare from the mouth of her tent as he approached the camp. “If he’s sent you to beg me back-“

Jaskier tries to give a mirthful chuckle but it comes out as a sob, turning away with a hand at his mouth. She watches him with a frown. He shakes his head, stumbling back from to the rock he’d sat on with Geralt earlier, head in his hands. Where is he going to go? He isn’t delusional enough to believe he could make it down the mountain alone.

This shouldn’t be such a surprise, he thinks bitterly. Geralt’s always detested his company, and made it entirely clear. Why would he want to share a bond with Jaskier when there was the beautiful, terrifying, powerful sorceress wherever he turned?

He can’t bring himself to look up when she sits next to him.

“What did that bastard do to you?” she asks gently, and Jaskier wants so desperately to be angry with her.

“I wish I could hate you,” Jaskier says in an unsteady voice.

He feels her eyes catch on his exposed, faded soulmark, hears as she sucks in a sharp breath. “Tell me he didn’t.”

Jaskier tugs the sleeve of his doublet down, somewhat fruitlessly. She’s seen it now, she knows.

“I’ll kill him,” she says, and moves to get up. He stops her.

“Stay,” he says, begging her silently to understand. She sighs, perfect posture slumping ever so slightly, and it’s the most human he’s ever seen her.

“I never wanted a soulmate,” Yennefer says, staring off at the view. “Never wanted to be bound to anyone. Never wanted people to make choices for me.”

Jaskier nods slowly. “I just wonder why he didn’t tell me to leave all those years ago. Or any moment since, if he really hated my company that badly. For someone so convinced he needs no one, he truly does love dragging others into his life.”

Yennefer huffs a laugh. “At least he doesn’t drag his child surprise along the Path with him.”

“Oh, she’s nearly thirteen by now,” Jaskier grins, “perfect adventuring age, that.”

A comfortable silence stretches on, the breeze against their faces warm under the hot sun.

“I was writing a song about you two.” Jaskier says after a moment. “You were a seductress, drawing him in with your thrall whenever he came close and destroying him with a kiss. You were an oncoming storm, tearing down anything in your path. I’m beginning to think it was quite the opposite.” He sniffed. “Shame, it was quite a good one too.”

“I dare say you’ll find inspiration elsewhere.” She shoots him a wry smile.

There's some commotion from across the camp, and the pit of Jaskier's stomach drops as he remembers that Geralt is still very much on this mountain top.

“Come on,” Yennefer murmurs, patting his shoulder. “You’re staying in my tent and then I’ll portal us both off of this gods forsaken mountain.”

“Oh, thank the gods,” he grins. “I was dreading the hike.”