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Idée Fixe

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Julian Alfred Pankratz is born in a porcelain jacuzzi tub in front of a rolling camera.

His mother’s breaths come in gasps and pants with periodic moans and shouts thrown in for dramatic effect at the director’s behest, the amount of painkillers coursing through her ‘holistic’ veins enough to take down a horse. Lady Pankratz’ high tolerance of drugs requires enough morphine that, to make the birth of her first and only child painless, it also renders the babe himself still as his viscera stained body slips from her cunt and into the lukewarm bath. It isn’t until the umbilical cord is cut and he’s pulled from the water that he reflexively kicks his red feet as the midwife clears his throat and nasal passages. Then the babe’s pink lips part and he begins to wail, his lungs only newly acquainted with oxygen and unable to be much louder than a keening pup.

The camera is directed back to his mother before the midwife swathes the child in a blanket and passes him into the lax arms of the woman who gave birth to him. She coos and cuddles him to her breast, making a production of naming him Julian with her husband looming over her shoulder, until there’s the call to cut and wrap on production for the day and the expression of fond adoration drops from his mother’s face and her lip curls slightly in disgust.

“Can someone make it shut up, please? For the love of god, I’ve got a migraine to rival Jesus’ crucifixion,” she sneers and the midwife hurries forward to take Julian back. His mother’s assistants swarm the woman and help her out of the pink bathwater and into the bedroom, his father trailing after his wife without a glance back at the wriggling bundle in the underpaid midwife’s arms.

***

Julian’s infancy and foray into his formative years are broadcast on international television. His mother is very famous after all. He’s not exactly sure what she’s famous for, and when he asks he’s just told it’s because she’s very beautiful so they have people who visit them every day and hold cameras and microphones in their big, big house.

Julian loves the cameras because when they’re pointed at him people laugh and smile at him and his parents hug and kiss him. They play with him and listen as he talks. If the cameras are home his mother lets him cry on her very expensive jacket if he scrapes his knee and his father will let Julian sit on his knee while they watch football even if Julian finds it incredibly boring to watch a bunch of grownups kick around a little white ball. 

He also hates the cameras because when they’re pointed at his parents they yell at each other a lot. His mother calls his father an ‘unfaithful bastard’ and his father says his mother is a ‘vain bitch’ and they say they hate each other. Their faces will turn red but you can’t see it unless you look close because of all the makeup that they all have to wear when the cameras are around. Then his parents, chests heaving from screaming at each other, will start kissing and things will break as they knock them down off the table, the counter, the couch, wherever they are and they hug each other. Julian’s not allowed to stay in the room after they fight.

It’s important for Julian to remember that the people who come and go with the cameras aren’t his family, and they can’t be his friends either. He’s not sure why and when he asked his mother once she told him to be quiet and leave her alone before shouting for his nanny to come get him out of her room and “how did he even get in here anyway?”. When he learned about sharing he tried to give all the camera people some flowers but they just ignored him until his nanny took him away again.

Before the cameras arrive Julian has to remain in his room. His nanny, a new one every few months, will wake him up and get him dressed and bring him breakfast but he can’t leave his bedroom until the cameras are here. One time he woke up with the cameras already in his room and it scared him so he screamed and when the cameras left his room his father yelled at him for screaming until he started crying and Julian wasn’t allowed to leave his room at all that day. 

After the cameras leave Julian and his nanny will go outside in the yard so he can play by himself and his parents can do… whatever it is they do after the cameras leave and the chef will make them dinner that they’ll all eat in separate rooms unless the cameras want to see them eat dinner together like they do on the holidays. When Julian is three years old he starts squishing ants under his thumb just to see what happens to them and the way their tiny bodies flatten out and the concrete will get just the teeniest spot of fluids on it fascinates him. He tried to show his nanny but she had just nodded tiredly and continued talking on the phone.

When Julian is five he has a nanny named Shani who is very pretty and is always nice to Julian, even when the cameras aren’t around, and Julian loves her even more than he loves his mother and father. Julian likes to show Shani things. He shows her his toys, he shows her his toes, he shows her the cameras, the pool, and the piano. She always smiles when he shows her the things important to him and he loves her. He shows her a shiny beetle he finds in the grass and she puts it in Julian’s small palm for him and he smiles up at her as he crushes the beetle in his hand and says, “all gone!” Shani frowns at him when he does that.

Julian’s father likes to smile at his nannies, and he especially likes to smile at Shani. His nannies always smile back at his father, some smiles bigger than others, and Julian notices that after the nannies who give his father big smiles leave then his parents always have a big fight that ends with broken glass and screaming that he can hear through the walls. Shani smiles back at his father and they’re small smiles but his father still smiles more at Shani. Julian asks her if his father loves her like Julian does, an angry frown pulling at his lips as he thinks about sharing her with anyone, but she tells him that his father just thinks Shani is very pretty and doesn’t love her. Julian makes her promise to love him forever and stay with him and Shani laughs and tells him she’ll never leave him. His father smiles big at Shani that same day.

Shani leaves a few days later.

When Julian is seven he finds a baby bird under a tree in his backyard and he crouches down over it, looking at it with curious blue eyes. He looks up at the empty nest in the tree and then picks up the baby bird and goes to his nanny to show it to her. This nanny likes to smoke cigarettes and they smell foul and Julian hates them and hates her since she smokes them and ignores him as she plays on her phone. She’s smoking a cigarette and playing on her phone when he tries to show her the bird and she grunts at him without taking her eyes off of the device and he scowls and squeezes his hands angrily and there’s a small pop and the baby bird’s head is suddenly twisted. That gets the nanny’s attention and she looks at him with wide eyes and then she’s angry at him and tells him to dig a hole somewhere and bury it before his parents find out that she let him kill something. 

He buried it and washed his hands and spent all night thinking about the pop and the baby bird and how it was firm but soft in his hands and how it stopped breathing when he broke its neck.

When Julian is nine he befriends a cat. It’s a tomcat with matted brown fur and it’s missing an eye and a leg and one of its ears is chewed half off and Julian names him Charlie. Charlie eats the food Julian puts out for him and drinks the water that’s in the dish that Julian makes sure is always full and after two weeks of sitting with Charlie while the cat eats or lays in Julian’s yard Julian tries to pet him. The cameras are watching him as Charlie hisses at Julian and scratches him and Julian gets angry and grabs Charlie by the scruff of the neck before throwing the cat on the ground and stomping on Charlie’s head until blood stains the concrete and his white Chuck Tailors and the camera people and his nanny are all silent and staring at him in horror.

“I was nice to him,” Julian explains calmly in the heavy silence, “He should have been nice back.”

Julian is not allowed to leave his room when the cameras are in the house anymore.

***

Julian is homeschooled for the first eleven years of his life. His mother makes him learn ballet and violin and piano and his father makes him learn fencing and hunting and when he isn’t doing homework or practicing any of those he’s reading any of the many non-fiction books at his disposal. Sometimes he plays with the knife that he keeps stashed under his bed by sneaking out and finding something to cut up, usually there’s rats in his traps but one time he got to cut up a raccoon. The gardeners found his traps after a while and his knife was taken away and he wasn’t allowed to leave the house anymore. He’s allowed to watch television for thirty minutes each day on weekdays and an hour on weekends but that’s the only glimpse he gets into fiction as all the books he’s allowed to read are informational texts. His favorite one is a guide on poisonous plants.

When he’s twelve years old he’s sent to boarding school and he gives himself a new name after a poisonous, but beautiful, flower.

At this point, he’s started to hate his mother and father and he was excited to get away to school, to finally make some friends and maybe have people like him. When he arrives he learns he’s been sent to a school for troubled boys , which makes him frown in confusion. Julian’s not a troubled boy, he does what his parents and nannies and tutors tell him to, he excels in his studies and works diligently to improve his skills that his parents want him to have. He doesn’t know why he’s been sent to a school for troubled boys and when he asks his mother she sneers at him and says, “You know what you did, you little monster.”

He hates his mother.

His father walks him up to the front door, making Julian drag his suitcase behind him, while his mother waits in the car. The Dean of the school meets them at the door and invites his father in to show him the school so that he’ll know his son is in good hands and his father scowls and says, “Just fix him. We’ll be back to pick him up in the Summer.”

He hates his father.

Julian is brought into the school and shown around and then brought to the dormitories, barren bedrooms with two bunks in each room and a single window set in the wall. There are two other boys in his room when the Dean leaves him there and their names are Henry and Kellan and they don’t like Julian. They’re kicking him when their last roommate comes in and breaks up the fight, making Henry and Kellan leave and helping Julian to his feet and introducing himself as Valdo Marx and then suddenly Julian is being asked for his name. Julian blinks at him for one entire second before grinning and saying, “My name’s Jaskier.”

He doesn’t hate Valdo Marx.

***

Jaskier hates Valdo Marx.

That stupid, cocksucking, son of a whore got him expelled from the school for troubled boys and now Jaskier is on his way to a juvenile detention facility to await his trial.

He hates how much Valdo fucking Marx fooled him into trust, into love. Valdo Marx was Jaskier’s best friend for the three years he was subjected to that dumb school. Valdo Marx was Jaskier’s partner in crime, he didn’t think Jaskier was a monster for being fascinated by death and knives and blood, he didn’t call Jaskier an animal the first time he followed Jaskier out of the dorms after curfew and saw Jaskier kill a rabbit and dissect it just to see what was inside and feel the spark of power that comes from having control of a living creature’s existence on this mortal coil and then ending it with the twitch of his wrist. Valdo Marx just helped Jaskier dig a hole and then burned the remains of the rabbit in said hole with the matches and flask of lighter fluid Valdo Marx always had on him.

That’s why Valdo Marx was at the school for troubled boys , he had set the house of his school rival on fire when he was bested in a talent competition. He told this to Jaskier a week after Jaskier’s arrival, pride tinting his haughty voice and flicking his long blond hair over his shoulder. Jaskier wishes he set his parent’s house on fire and tells Valdo Marx as much and Valdo Marx laughs and promises to help Jaskier do it when they get out of this shithole.

Jaskier seethes as he glares out the window of the police cruiser he’s in the back of, blood still caked in the lines of his fingers and under his nails.

Valdo Marx helped Jaskier realize what people thought was other about him. Apparently, killing animals just because you can is the sign of a ‘sociopath’. Jaskier had looked up that word in the dictionary later and was upset because he’s not a sociopath, he loves people and making new friends and he thinks he has a wonderful personality. When he told Valdo Marx this, his friend ruffled Jaskier’s hair with a fond eye roll and said, “You’re not a sociopath, Jaskier. You’re a psychopath, but that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with you.”

When Jaskier was fourteen, two years after being admitted to the school for troubled boys , Valdo Marx kissed him right on the mouth and Jaskier thought he might love him. They have to sneak around, being in love is strictly against the rules, but Jaskier didn’t mind because it made their whirlwind romance all the more exciting. Jaskier would pick flowers while out in the forests that surround the school and if the petals were speckled with the blood of whatever hapless animal was his victim that night, well Valdo Marx didn’t say a word. Valdo Marx, in turn, would write Jaskier the most beautiful poems in invisible ink that needed to be heated over the flame of a candle to be read. Jaskier composed music, choreographed ballet, scavenged and whittled bone into jewelry, and foraged for the sweetest berries Valdo Marx could ask for. Jaskier did everything Valdo Marx wanted him to do because he loved Valdo Marx.

Jaskier doesn’t look out of the back of the cruiser as it drives away from the flashing lights of firetrucks and ambulances and the flickering of flames lights up the night, dancing on the leaves of the forest as plumes of smoke choke out the stars.

Valdo Marx asked Jaskier to steal for him when they were fifteen. Told Jaskier he desperately wanted the zippo that the Dean has since it’s a one-of-a-kind lighter crafted by tibetan monks. He really should have known better but Jaskier didn’t and doesn’t know much about the creation of lighters and he wanted Valdo Marx to love him as much as he loved Valdo Marx. So Jaskier had waited until well after curfew before sneaking into the Dean’s office and searching for the zippo, turning up empty handed upon his return to the dorms. He had apologized and begged Valdo Marx’s forgiveness and the arsonist had sneered and said he’d forgive Jaskier if the lighter was gotten.

So Jaskier set out again that same night, heading for the staff quarters and sneaking into the Dean’s chambers. The man snored like a chainsaw and Jaskier saw the neon orange of foam plugs stuffed into the ears of the wife sleeping beside the Dean as Jaskier searched the room stealthily. It took him much longer than he’d like to find the damn thing and his heart was pounding all the while, Jaskier doesn’t like to steal from people but Valdo Marx asked this of him and Jaskier would die for the boy. He was unable to relock the door that he jimmied open and prayed that the Dean would assume he forgot to lock it when he woke in the morning. 

Jaskier didn’t even get a kiss for stealing the alleged priceless zippo that just looked like an ordinary lighter to him. But that was alright because Valdo Marx was thrilled with his trophy, showing it off to all the boys the next day and the day after that and the day after that. Until word had spread through the entire school that the Dean’s stolen lighter could be found in Jaskier’s dorm room. Security had done an unscheduled search of their belongings and Jaskier was glad he kept his stolen knives strapped to the inside of the mattress frame of the bunk bed. He was less glad when the zippo lighter turned up in Jaskier’s desk drawer. He was angry when he was punished for stealing it with a caning. He was furious when he confronted Valdo Marx about it and his, now, firmly ex-boyfriend had just snickered and said, “Well someone had to take the fall, Jaskie. Better it’s the unstable psycho than the recovering arsonist.”

Jaskier looks down at the brown stains on his hands and how they dirty his skin, increasing the contrast against the silver cuffs that jingle around his wrists. A small smile tugs on his lips as he curls his fingers into his palms with the memory of his knife in his hand and the gush of warm blood that had spilled over his skin as the terrified green eyes of Valdo Marx met his own icy blue ones before they dimmed and focused on nothing at all anymore. 

Valdo Marx is reported missing after the Oxenfurt School for Troubled Boys is burned to the ground.

***

Apparently burning down a school gets you in major trouble. Jaskier can’t say he didn’t see this coming, he did just stand around outside after pulling the fire alarm to get people out of the building with the stench of gasoline rising off of his pajamas and blood staining his hands. He got to enjoy his handiwork for a while until the police noticed him and promptly arrested him and carted him off to the station where he was booked and his fingerprints were taken. The police don’t like him, which he finds rather rude since he smiled very nicely for their photos when he could have made a nasty face instead.

His parents don’t try to have a lawyer prevent him from being sent to juvenile detention. His trial is fast tracked so that “the PR nightmare that is Julian” is handled quickly and his parents can go back to pretending he doesn’t exist and focus on his baby sister who he only got to see for one month last Summer. He loves his baby sister more than anything or anyone in the world and once he’s in detention he starts writing her songs and poems and letters. 

Priscilla is a precious, beautiful girl and Jaskier will never ever let anything bad happen to her. His parents never write him or answer the phone when he calls so he never knows if Priscilla is getting his letters, if someone is reading them to her and showing her his drawings and letting her know just how much he loves her. He’s taken up watching his mother’s stupid show just to get glimpses of Priscilla, suffering through the same drama and yelling that plagued his own childhood as his parents have the same fights about his father cheating and his mother being vain that they did fifteen years ago. He hates his parents more than anything but he’ll watch them have poorly blurred sex on a fuzzy television every Thursday at 5PM just for the chance of seeing Priscilla.

He does see her in person twice per year for the three years he’s in detention. Once on his birthday and once on Christmas. Those holidays are marked with a one hour visitation where his parents talk at him about themselves because they don’t care about him and don’t want to know what juvenile detention is like so he ignores them to play with Priscilla on the floor the entire hour. Everytime he sees her she’s so much bigger than she was before and it makes him happy that she’s growing so well but also makes him furious that he’s missing it because he’s stuck here until he turns eighteen, just because he burned down a school and Valdo Marx went missing when that happened. 

He’s under no delusion that it wasn’t his fault, that he isn’t responsible for being locked away, he’s absolutely at fault and he applauds the police for their quick work in apprehending him. He’s a dangerous criminal in the making after all so he doesn’t blame them for their proactive measures against any future misdeeds. They have him see a court approved therapist and he pretends to have a personality disorder of some sort so that they can write him off as crazy and he won’t end up in real jail, at least not immediately. They give him medications that make him feel like he’s floating on a cloud but he takes them diligently until they trust him enough to stop checking if he’s swallowed the pills and then he hides them under his tongue until he can discreetly spit them out.

All-in-all, juvenile detention isn’t the worst. It’s not any worse than that school for troubled boys at least where you would get a caning for so much as not tidying your room to perfection. Since the detention facility is a government one, the guards don’t touch the kids for fear of outrage if it leaks to the public. These are children after all, kids who have done wrong but can be reformed and made better . Jaskier tries not to laugh whenever they tell him that he’s not a bad kid because he knows he’s not, he’s not a bad kid but he is a kid who has done bad things and the adults at the detention center never seem to be able to tell the difference.

He learns plenty of new things in detention and falls in love over and over again. He learns how to pick all sorts of locks from a girl with brown hair and black eyes who he kisses in a closet. He learns how to move so he’s completely silent and how to make the shadows hide him from a boy with alabaster skin and pale hair who bites Jaskier’s hand until it bleeds while being fucked in the showers. He learns how to build a bomb out of chewing gum, a battery, and some tin foil from a person with red hair and brown skin who sits on Jaskier’s face after lights out for hours , their moans muffled by Jaskier’s pillow that he thoughtfully handed them. 

He learns new things from so many people and he falls in love with every single one of them, his heart breaking every time they leave him. Jaskier knows he’s lonely, he’s neither stupid nor lacking in self awareness enough to not know what the aching feeling in his chest and the prickling on his skin is. He’s able to make it go away when he plays with Priscilla twice a year and when he beds anyone willing enough but once they leave him and break his heart the loneliness comes back more intense than before, just a little bit more. 

Jaskier is released from juvenile detention on the morning of the eighteenth birthday with new clothes, a prescription for a mental disorder he doesn’t have, and a smile on his face as he calls an Uber to pick him up. He’s been disowned after all, his very famous mother and father can’t be seen having a convicted felon for a son and aren’t going to pick him up from the detention center. He has the Uber stop at Walmart, promising to tip extra, and then take him home.

***

Jaskier is eighteen and he’s a kidnapper.

He’s not as torn up about this as he thought he would be, all things considered. He glances in the rearview mirror of the expensive, and stolen, car he’s driving at the sleeping face of Priscilla. She’s almost four years old now and she’s the most beautiful angel in the entire world, Jaskier can, would, and has killed for her.

When the Uber had pulled up in front of his parent’s mansion he had recognized the vans of the camera crews so he had the driver drop him off at a cafe a few streets away and tipped the driver heartily for all the extra trouble before getting a coffee and settling in to wait until the sun set. He passed the hours catching up on social media and whatever celebrity gossip he missed since he last heard the guards gushing about the latest trends and tea in the world of the elite. If anyone came to talk to him he greeted them with a happy smile and turned his baby blues on them, flirting away if they showed interest or ordering something else if it was someone who works at the cafe.

Once the cafe closed he graciously took his leave, thanking the employees and tipping heavily yet again with the money his parents gave him to pretend that they’re not heartless bastards. He then ambled around town into the wee hours of morning when the world is completely silent, muffling his footsteps, and mist from the sea makes the street lamps fuzzy. That’s when he walked back to his parent’s mansion and hopped the fence, finding the breaker box and turning off the power to the house and security system. He’s smarter now, and he had to make sure he didn’t get caught so that he could get away with his prize.

He then picked the lock on the backdoor and crept into the house, going to his mother’s bedroom first. He woke her up with a hand over her mouth and a bright smile, the cold metal of his blade pressed against the skin of her neck and her blue eyes, the same blue as his own, welled up with tears as he leaned down and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “It’s me,” he whispered, “Don’t cry, mummy. It won’t do you any good anyway.” He left her room with blood on his hands and his knife shining red in the moonlight as he entered his father’s room. 

His father didn’t deserve any of Jaskier’s words so he just slit the man’s throat and went to see if they still had any servants living in the mansion.

He’s driving a stolen car with a stolen child and blood staining his skin and he can’t find it in himself to care about any of that as he drives as far away as he can get on half a tank of gas, following traffic laws perfectly so that it isn’t discovered that he doesn’t have a driver’s license. He stops at a gas station to wash the blood off his hands and refill the tank of the car, watching the sun begin to peek over the horizon as the numbers on the pump tick up and Priscilla snoozes in her car seat.

Jaskier is humming quietly as he waits when a plain black sedan pulls into the station at the pump across from him and he glances up idly from his phone, curious to see who else is awake at this time in the early hours of dawn. The door to the car opens and he freezes as he watches the most beautiful man in the world step out. Ash blond hair tied up in a ponytail to show off a crisp undercut, tight black jeans over heavy boots and a studded leather jacket half zipped atop a plain black t-shirt, and hazel eyes that are so light they’re almost golden glance up to meet Jaskier’s own wide blue ones.

“Morning,” Jaskier’s future husband grunts in a voice that he can only equate to the sound of car tires on gravel and Jaskier just knows his cheeks are turning pink as he openly stares at the man, his phone hanging loose in his fingers.

“Hey,” Jaskier whispers and his breath catches in his chest when the man bends over to pull the lever in his car to release the gas cover. He’s certain he’s slack-jawed as he ogles this Adonis that pulled up in front of him and from the furtive glances the man is sending him as he pumps gas, Jaskier is being much too obvious about his staring.

The man clears his throat and gestures towards Jaskier’s gas pump, “Seems like you’re full.”

“I’d let you fill me,” Jaskier murmurs and the man cocks his head and squints his eyes slightly.

“Sorry, didn’t catch that. What’d you say?”

Jaskier blinks and shakes his head to clear it. “Thanks,” he says louder and puts the nozzle back in the cradle of the pump, “Where, ah, where you headed?” This is a bad idea but Jaskier is in love with this man and needs to know where to go with Priscilla anyway.

The man gives him a strange look before sighing, apparently resigning himself to small talk with Jaskier as the gray sky flushes orange with the break of dawn, “Toussaint.”

“What a coincidence, so am I!” He gives the man a blinding smile, slipping his phone into his pocket and clasping his hands in front of himself, “You live there?” The man grunts an affirmative and a thrill runs through Jaskier, that’s where he’ll go then. He’ll take Priscilla to Toussaint and raise her properly and find this man and they’ll get married and have a wonderful life together.

“Well, it was uh, nice talking to you,” the man murmurs and he looks a little unnerved by Jaskier who has just been silently planning their entire futures together while he beamed at the man. 

“You as well! I can’t wait until our paths cross again,” Jaskier chirps happily, his heart swelling at the polite smile sent his way. 

The man nods slightly and gets into his car with a muttered, “sure,” before starting the engine and driving away. Jaskier waits until the man’s car is out of sight before jumping back into his own vehicle and driving straight towards Toussaint.

***

8EEP531.

That’s the license plate number of the car belonging to the man Jaskier is in love with. Using that, it’s very easy to find out who his future husband is as he lays on the bed of a hotel with Priscilla watching cartoons. Jaskier inputs the plate to a website that he probably shouldn’t be visiting but has access to because of one of his loves from juvie, and he pays the $50 fee to run the license plate and find out who exactly this is. 

“Geralt Rivia,” Jaskier murmurs, a smitten smile spreading across his face as he copies the home address, blood type, social security number, phone number, and driver’s license number into his contacts. He knows he can’t just text Geralt out of the blue, he has to woo the man, and to woo Geralt he has to learn everything about Geralt. 

It’s easy enough to get Priscilla enrolled in an all day preschool slash daycare on mummy’s money once he’s moved into and furnished a flat for them. Then, while his sister is getting her head stuffed with all sorts of good education and life skills, Jaskier seeks out Geralt’s home address. It’s a crappy apartment building in the lower end of Toussaint with fizz-heads in the alleys and used condoms in the streets. Geralt’s car is in the parking lot so Jaskier parks his expensive care several blocks away before pulling up his hoodie and walking to the apartment building, lounging on the low wall in front of it with his sunglasses on and his phone in his face as he waits to see if Geralt goes to work or something. 

Geralt does not go to work or something before Jaskier has to leave to go pick up Priscilla from daycare, but that’s alright, Jaskier loves Geralt and can be very patient. He comes back the next day in a red leather jacket and black hat, sitting on that wall again all day to wait for Geralt. Geralt doesn’t come out of the apartment the second day either and Jaskier huffs, does his boyfriend have no social life? He’ll have to fix that, Geralt deserves as many friends as he could possibly want.

On the third day of sitting on the wall, this day wearing a deep blue hooded coat, Geralt walks outside with a leash in hand and a brown labrador at his side. Jaskier’s heart melts even further for this man, a dog lover on top of being gorgeous and probably the kindest man alive? He’s hit the jackpot! Jaskier follows at a distance so that Geralt doesn’t know he’s being tailed and watches as his boyfriend goes into a cafe first and gets two coffees and a bag that probably has pastries in it before sitting in the outdoor patio area and waiting. Jaskier tilts his head curiously to see who Geralt is waiting for until a gorgeous woman with jet black hair and olive skin sits down across from him, picking up the second coffee and sipping from it.

Jaskier wonders who she is and pulls his phone out to take a picture, he can look her up later to try and find her online. Someone as beautiful as her has to have a social media following that’s big enough to get attention via a Google search. He glances up to see Geralt laugh at something the woman says and Jaskier smiles softly, his boyfriend has such a beautiful smile, he just hopes that this woman is a friend of his and nothing more.

Through some vigorous and, frankly, outrageous Google searches, Jaskier learns that the woman is Yennefer Vengerberg, a formidable criminal lawyer and someone Jaskier would do better to have on his side rather than as an enemy. He finds her Facebook and is relieved that her relationship status says single before remembering he’s probably the only person who still uses Facebook so he looks for her Instagram, finding it with ease and relief that it’s not a private account. What’s less relieving is the number of posts with Geralt in them, and quite a few show the two of them kissing.

Jaskier is very open minded, while he’s relatively monogamous (with the right people he could be persuaded) he has no problem with people having a friends-with-benefits situation and he just figures that’s probably what Geralt and Yennefer have together. He decides to look more into Yennefer later and goes to sleep early so he can get a jump start on the rest of his life.

***

Taking care of a small child is not Jaskier’s favorite thing. He’s learned that playing with Priscilla for an hour on the floor, twice per year, and being around her all of the time that she’s not in daycare are two very different experiences. He loves Priscilla, loves her so, so much, but he’s starting to hate having her around. She hollers for him all the time and constantly asks him where their parents are even after he’s told her they’re dead. She spills drinks and makes messes and he’s stepped on so many toys it’s a wonder he hasn’t needed to go to the hospital yet.

He’s trying to figure out what to do about this while still following Geralt every day since he doesn’t have a job nor does he need one with the amount of money he has from his parent’s accounts, when he stumbles across an advertisement for an au pair . He contacts the au pair, sets up an interview, and learns her name is Essi Daven and that she’s a doll. Jaskier loves her, but he’s definitely not in love with her, that special kind of love is reserved for Geralt who he has been following for almost six months now. 

Essi takes the Priscilla problem off of his hands, telling him not to worry when he works late nights with her adorable little Polish accent. Letting him know that she’ll take care of Priscilla since she has a car as well and all her schooling is online so she can do it at night or during naps. Jaskier loves Priscilla with all his heart, but he also loves that he doesn’t have to try and be her parent anymore because that was too hard and he needs to focus on his boyfriend and his problems there.

The problem at hand being that Jaskier isn’t so sure that Yennefer is just a friend with benefits. Geralt spends an awful lot of time with her, meeting her for breakfast at that cafe at least three times per week if and when he isn’t working. They sit at the same table every single day so Jaskier buys a recording device online and tapes it under the table. It’s important that he knows what they’re talking about so he can learn more about his boyfriend for wooing purposes and also so he can figure out who exactly Yennefer is to Geralt. He’s not jealous, of course he’s not, he loves his boyfriend and trusts Geralt to make good decisions. He just wants to know, that’s all.

It’s with this device that he learns that Geralt is a private investigator. Not a particularly good one, and Jaskier sends his man a gentle apology as he thinks that, if Geralt hasn’t noticed he’s being followed yet. He also learns that Yennefer works closely with the police and court system as a public defender. He learns that Geralt also likes men when Yennefer teases him about it, which is a relief because it would be very awkward if his boyfriend wasn’t into the male form, and he learns that Geralt and Yennefer are definitely fucking. Which would be fine except for the fact that, a year into tailing Geralt and listening to his conversations with Yennefer, he hears Geralt say, “I love you.” And when she says it back Jaskier’s heart breaks a little.

But it’s okay! Geralt doesn’t know that he’s Jaskier’s boyfriend yet even though Jaskier knows everything about Geralt’s daily routine. What’s the harm in Geralt being a little in love with someone else until it’s Jaskier’s time to shine? He’s certainly had his fair share of loves, even if he’s cut back significantly on them since meeting Geralt. So it’s okay, it’s fine, Geralt is a little bit in love with Yennefer now but it’ll go away eventually.

***

It doesn’t go away.

Geralt and Yennefer go on bigger and grander dates, and Jaskier hates using that word for what they’re doing but he can’t just say they’re hanging out anymore. Not when Geralt looks so dashing (for someone else) and smells so nice (for someone who isn’t Jaskier) and comes home looking thoroughly debauched (not by Jaskier). Essi is concerned by how many nights Jaskier “spends at the office”.

Jaskier knows everything about Geralt now. He knows Geralt’s favorite flavor of ice cream (pistachio). He knows Geralt’s favorite movies (Lord of the Rings). He knows Geralt’s favorite cases to work on (lost pets) and least favorite (lost children). He knows the name of Geralt’s dog (Roach) and won her over ages ago. He knows Geralt had a daughter at one point and knows her name was Cirilla but he lost custody of her to her grandmother. He knows which side of the bed Geralt sleeps on and what Geralt sounds like when he’s pleasuring himself and where Geralt likes to go to spend time with friends. Has he crossed some boundaries? Sure, but it’s because Jaskier loves Geralt.

Three years after meeting Geralt and learning everything he can about his boyfriend, Jaskier is starting to worry about the Yennefer situation. The two of them haven’t broken up yet, in fact they’ve done the opposite and moved in together . Geralt lives in Yennefer’s flat in the upscale part of Toussaint, closer to where Jaskier lives, which is good since Geralt is in a safer part of town but bad because the security is better here and with a second person in the house Jaskier can’t break in anymore. He knew the layout of Geralt’s flat and the best places to hide so he wouldn’t be caught even with Roach’s keen nose since the pup loves Jaskier. It required a fuck ton of treats but she does. 

And then Geralt asks Yennefer to marry him and she says yes.

Jaskier visits her the very next day at her law firm with his knife in the sleeve of his bright, floral shirt and a happy smile on his face. He greets the security guard outside and the receptionist as he enters the building. He makes conversation with the assistant sitting outside of Yennefer’s glass office, the windows frosted for privacy. He casually asks how many people work in this building and learns that there aren’t very many here today because of a traffic accident blocking the highways. Jaskier feigns shock and sympathy over the terrible news while he thinks about the box of batteries and roll of tin foil in his car.

Yennefer invites him into her office and he closes the door gently behind him, sliding the lock shut silently.

“Good morning, my assistant said you needed urgent help?” She raises a perfectly shaped eyebrow at him as she sits down behind her perfectly clear desk, folding her hands on top of it. That stupid, ugly engagement ring shines on her left hand and Jaskier swallows down his boiling rage to keep a cheerful smile on his face.

“Yes, I am in desperate need of your help,” he nods and walks closer, perching on the edge of one of the small armchairs, “You see, I found out my boyfriend is cheating on me with this absolute witch of a woman. I thought they were just friends with benefits or something, I’m very open-minded so I didn’t mind very much, but I found out yesterday that the foolish man proposed to her.”

Yennefer raises both eyebrows in mild disbelief, “Sir, you’re aware that I’m a criminal defense attorney, correct?”

Jaskier nods firmly, “Oh yes.”

“Other than infidelity, have there been any actual crimes committed here?”

“Well, I would consider heartbreak a felony myself,” Jaskier sighs and dramatically looks out the window behind her, checking to see if her building is due for any window washers or anyone who could see the inside of her office, “But no, not yet.”

“Not yet? Can you please elaborate?” Yennefer leans closer and so does Jaskier, his smile pulling at his cheeks as it becomes a grin. He catches his reflection in the window and thinks he looks just a little bit unhinged, his eyes bright and bloodshot from the crying he did the night before and his hair messy from his hands harshly tugging at it.

“Sure. I’m going to kill her.”

She blinks in surprise, her jaw slackening just a little bit and that opening is all Jaskier needs. He surges forward, grabbing her collar in one hand and pulling her onto the desk before stuffing a handkerchief in her mouth with his other hand and turning her onto her back so he can look down into her eyes from where he stands at her head. His knife is pressed against her throat and he feels the blade bob as she swallows nervously.

“I’m very sorry, darling,” Jaskier pouts at her, “I’m certain that, in another life, we could have been great friends. You’re rather witty after all, sharp tongued and nasty as you are, it would have been fun getting to trade barbs with you.” He presses down on the knife and Yennefer whimpers, tears dripping down her face into her raven hair.

“You have such pretty hair, Yen,” he sighs, almost sounding remorseful as he runs his fingers through her tresses and scratches her scalp, “I’m sorry this has to happen. But you said yes and, well, that just won’t do. I love Geralt more than life itself, and someday he’ll love me, too. That can’t happen if you’re in the way though, my dear.” She screams and sobs through the gag and Jaskier just rolls his eyes, mumbling about dramatics and digging the edge of the blade further into the column of her neck.

“Goodbye, Miss Vengerberg. I can’t say it was good knowing you because that would be a lie,” Jaskier kisses her forehead before smoothly sliding the knife across her neck, the metal biting into her artery and blood flooding her olive skin. It turns her white blouse dark red and drips down her black hair onto the floor and Jaskier watches with a smile as Yennefer’s eyes stop twitching and life fades from them. 

He plucks the engagement ring from her finger, slipping it into his pocket, and exits Yennefer’s office with a cheerful tune whistling through his pursed lips. Before the assistant can speak, he’s stepped up behind her and slit her throat as well, the girl slumping over onto her computer as her keyboard fills with blood. Jaskier wipes his hands on a spare handkerchief as he steps onto the elevator and goes down to the lobby of the building, thinking about how to get rid of the receptionist and security guard.

Turns out he doesn’t have to. The receptionist is asleep and the guard is poking around in the parking lot as he peers through tinted car windows. It’s almost too easy to cut the throat of the receptionist before exiting the building and marching up to the security guard, stabbing him six times in the gut and finally slashing over the man’s neck to shut up his agonized screams. There’s blood splattered everywhere . It’s on Jaskier’s clothes, on his face, in his mouth, and so he covers the driver’s seat of his car with some plastic before driving back to his flat.

***

There were cameras at that office.

Jaskier finds himself in handcuffs once again, the dull metal gleaming under the buzzing fluorescent lights that cast the bland room in garish white lighting. He sighs and slouches down lower in the uncomfortable metal chair he’s been left in, the long chain of the handcuffs jingling as it slides along the hook in the silver table that’s bolted to the floor. He taps his fingers on the tabletop in a jaunty beat and hums absently before realizing the songs that vibrate on the back of his tongue are from Frozen, since that was what Priscilla was watching when the police knocked on their apartment door.

He’s just a bit of a fixer upper, he’s got a couple of bugs. His isolation is confirmation of his desperation for healing hugs, ” Jaskier lets his head fall back as he sings, staring at the stippled ceiling tiles. His voice echoes around the small room and he rolls his head to look at the mirror on the wall, wondering idly if there are people on the other side. He lifts his hand and waves at them, imagining police officers bustling by and crying mothers as they try to find their missing children and the rustling of papers amongst the chatter of the station. 

The door opens and Jaskier lifts his head up to look at the woman who enters. She’s itty bitty and wearing a stern expression, her dark hair pulled back in a severe bun and her eyes are sharp as she surveys his relaxed slouch. “Mr. Pankratz,” she says in an authoritative voice that demands his attention, “I assume you know why you’re here?”

He tilts his head at her and then rolls his eyes up to the ceiling, tapping his chin as he pretends to think, “Hmm, well I don’t think people get arrested for jaywalking so I’d assume it’s the people I killed, yeah?” She blinks in surprise, her set jaw slackening just a tiny bit, and Jaskier grins at her, “What, didn’t think I’d confess? Thought I’d demand a lawyer before they told me to just get on with it and maybe I’d get a plea bargain? Come off it, we both know that’s not how this works.”

Her jaw tightens again as she sits down across from him, laying a thick manila file on the table and flicking it open. Jaskier sees the photos of his newest mugshot paperclipped to the top of the file and smiles, he looks rather dashing in them if he does say so himself. He could do without the ugly, utilitarian background and the sign he had to hold with his arrestee number on it blocks the way his shirt very nicely frames his collarbone and chest today, but his smile is as beautiful as it always is and his hair is artfully tousled. Even the five o’clock shadow he’s sporting just makes him look a bit more rugged and manly, sharpening his cheekbones and giving his soft jawline a bit more definition.

“I look quite good in those, can I get a copy?” He points at the mugshots and the woman just looks up at him with irritation as she flicks through the papers in his folder.

“My name is Tissaia DeVries, I am the Toussaint Chief of Police. You will address me as Chief DeVries or just ma’am, is that understood, Mr. Pankratz?”

He leans back again and gives her a faux-serious, two fingered salute, “Yes, ma’am.”

She hums without any amusement as she purses her lips and looks back at the papers, “Mr. Pankratz, you’re currently being charged with one count of kidnapping, six counts of first-degree murder, and one count of voluntary manslaughter. You’ve already been charged with arson which resulted in three years spent in a juvenile detention facility. Since you were a minor before and your lawyer pleaded insanity, you weren’t charged with the death of one Valdo Marx in the fire that burned down your school.” Jaskier’s hands curl into fists and his eyes narrow at the reminder of that two-faced, malicious, whoremongering cad and Tissaia glances up when the links of the handcuffs shift.

“However, as an adult you will now be tried for his death and it has been labeled as voluntary manslaughter since the autopsy revealed slashes in the vertebrae of his neck. Does this all sound familiar?” She folds her hands together on top of the file and Jaskier sighs with a scowl.

“Yes, yes, it’s familiar to me, get on with it.”

“You are also being tried with the kidnapping of Priscilla Pankratz and for the murders of Julia Pankratz, Adam Pankratz, Yennefer Vengerberg, Triss Merigold, Sabrina Glevissig, and Istredd Aed Gynvael.”

“Who are those last three?” Jaskier frowns in confusion, he doesn’t recognize those names.

“Employees of Miss Vengerberg. My detectives are still pulling CCTV footage from your little… cross-country road trip from Kerack to Toussaint, but am I wrong in assuming they will find more evidence against you?” Tissaia regards him with disdain in her gray eyes and Jaskier finds he doesn’t like that at all. How rude of her to think she’s better than him! He knows what the police get up to!

“I suppose not,” he replies airily, slouching down and loosely crossing his arms as he watches the ticking second hand of the caged in clock on the wall. He’s been here for almost twelve hours now and his ass is really aching.

Tissaia hums and narrows her eyes at him, “Mr. Pankratz, it would be beneficial for you to come clean about any other crimes you’ve committed now, before I ask you for your motives.” Jaskier examines his nails in response, rubbing them on the denim of his jeans in an attempt to file the rough edges of his index and middle fingers. What, does she think he’s proud of what he’s done? He’s not insane, he knows he’s done a terrible thing. Taking the lives of other people, kidnapping his sister (although he stands by that being a rescue), burning down a school. All of these are things that criminals do, he’s fully aware that he’s a criminal. The thing is, though, that while he doesn’t feel proud of his actions, he doesn’t necessarily feel bad about them either. 

Oh, he feels bad that Geralt is probably upset and grieving Yennefer’s death, sure. And he feels bad that he can’t be there for Priscilla anymore since he’s going to be put in prison, that’s a definite. He even feels a little bit bad for the families of Yennefer’s employees, they’re never going to see the relatives he killed ever again. But he doesn’t feel any remorse for his actions. Killing his parents was logical. He was angry with them, and he hates them, still; but he had thought through his plan carefully and it was the logical thing to do. Now no one has to suffer their screaming matches and makeup sex and listen to them accuse each other of the same faults they’d been accusing each other of for eighteen plus years.

Killing Valdo Marx was… well it was therapeutic. It was the next step after killing animals for so long and Jaskier had been wondering what it would be like to kill a real person and then Valdo Marx made himself the perfect target by earning Jaskier’s ire. He still thinks it’s a bit poetic that, after slitting Valdo Marx’s throat, he burned down the school with that same zippo lighter that started the whole thing.

Killing Yennefer was necessary. If Geralt was ever going to love him, he needed to get her out of his way. He didn’t lie when he said he thought they could have been friends, and sometimes he wonders what might have happened if he hadn’t lurked in the shadows for three years as he watched them. What could have become of him if he’d approached them. Would they all be friends? Would they be in a polyamorous relationship? Or would Jaskier still be on the outside, peering in at Geralt and Yennefer’s love until he killed her anyway? He’s almost glad that he didn’t do any of that, it probably would have been much harder to kill someone he’s fond of than someone he dislikes. Geralt will get over his heartbreak, his boyfriend is strong and soft and kind-hearted and brave and if Jaskier can recover from broken heart after broken heart then Geralt can recover from just the one while he waits for Jaskier to get out.

Those other people were just collateral damage. And all the people those detectives are going to find as well. The gas station attendant where he met Geralt, the pool boy at that Marriott he and Priscilla stopped at in Brugge, the waitress of the Denny’s in Sodden, the businessman that looked at Jaskier just a little bit too long in the line to checkout at the grocery store, the dickhead that catcalled Jaskier outside a bar last Winter, the woman who tried to get in Jaskier’s pants when he said no this past Midsummer. The list goes on and they’re going to find a lot of it since Jaskier didn’t know that CCTV even worked, he thought those cameras were all for show to scare people into not doing crimes. Guess not.

Tissaia DeVries sighs when Jaskier remains silent as the grave and shakes her head, clicking her pen irritably for a few seconds before flipping it around her fingers, “Alright, let’s move on to motives. Why did you kill all those people? Why did you kidnap your sister?”

“I wanted to,” Jaskier shrugs casually.

“You wanted to.”

“That’s what I said.”

Tissaia squints at him, almost like she’s in disbelief, “There’s no other reasons? No other people involved? No other crime?”

“Nope,” he smiles pleasantly and shakes his head, his thoughts filled with Geralt, “I just wanted to.” 

***

They give him a lawyer anyway, a public defender like Yennefer was, and he tells them the same things he told Tissaia DeVries. During the trial, his lawyer throws around things to try and get a plea bargain for a shortened sentence like “insanity” and “emotionally unstable” and “mentally unsound”. Jaskier appreciates that the lawyer is trying their best.

The jury finds him guilty.

Geralt is in the spectator section during the entire trial, glaring at Jaskier with red-rimmed eyes and splotchy cheeks and Jaskier thinks he looks beautiful . He only wishes he wasn’t dressed in the horrible orange, scrub-like clothing that makes him stand out from everyone else in the courtroom. It’s like he’s wearing a neon sign saying “Look at me! Look at me! I did it! I murdered all those people!” 

Jaskier considers pretending to cry, but that would mean he felt bad, which he doesn’t. He thinks about looking emotionless, but then people might think he’s proud of what he did because he’s able to look indifferent. In reality, he is indifferent about what he’s done but people won’t understand that so he decides to smile. 

He smiles kindly to the cameras that are in the courtroom, broadcasting his trial on national television since they are charging him with an additional five counts of voluntary manslaughter on top of everything else. He smiles politely to the jury, giving them a cheerful wave when they look at him with contempt in their eyes. He even smiles at Geralt when he’s on the stand, a soft and tender smile that he hopes is projecting all of his love for the man to everyone in the room, letting them all know the real reason why he did what he did to Yennefer.

He’s given six life sentences, one for each count of first-degree murder, and an additional seventy-four years for manslaughter and kidnapping. It’s with a gentle smile that he’s escorted out of the courtroom and that smile stays on his face as he’s shuttled to the penitentiary. It grows into a self-satisfied smirk when he’s searched and his orange nightmare is swapped out for a gray-blue that fits a little bit better and matches his white sneakers more pleasantly. And it’s with a grin that Jaskier sits down on the cot in his cell, tucking his feet up beneath him and watching the prison guard close and lock the metal bars as the man mutters about nutters, a plan to get back to his love already unfolding in his mind.

Within three years, Jaskier is out.