Geralt watched in horror as the potion took effect.
First came fur, brown with white marking. Then whiskers, twitching fearfully, and ears shrinking and turning round. Then a head rapidly reshaping, as hands become paws, and then shrinking of the body, until Jaskier’s clothes plopped to the floor, and in them was the thrashing and jumping of a small creature that wriggled ferociously until it scuttled out of the pile.
The ferret that had been Jaskier looked around, trembling, back hunched. And then he darted forward, clawed up the witch’s dress, making her shriek and jump—and bit the corner of her mouth, hard, drawing blood. She grabbed him and threw him, but Geralt broke her flimsy spell with sheer horror and caught Jaskier before he could hit the floor and potentially be damaged. He had the dim idea that ferrets were quite hardy, but still.
Jaskier scuttled up his arm and hid around his neck under his hair, making small, angry noises. Geralt almost shivered at the strange feeling, but instead he drew his sword and advanced on the witch, who was holding a handkerchief to her mouth.
“Turn him back,” Geralt snarled.
The witch rolled her eyes, made a complicated gesture with one hand, and with a rush of wind so loud it turned the world white, Geralt and Jaskier were transported back to their camp.
Jaskier squeaked in indignation. Geralt blinked. Then he began cursing so ferociously that Roach, who was staring, snorted and backed away.
“--buggering FUCK!” Geralt finished with feeling, and sheathed his sword. Then he reached up and carefully extracted Jaskier from behind his neck, cradling his mate to his chest. The ferret-who-was-once-a-bard cocked his head, beady eyes glinting, then used Geralt’s armor to haul himself up on his back legs and press his nose to Geralt’s.
“How the fuck are we going to explain this?” Geralt asked, bewildered.
The spell did not wear off. It was a month of searching desperately for a cure, but there was none they could find. It was extremely frustrating.
Although, Jaskier’s new, squirmy little form was very useful. He stole documents and evidence for Geralt to produce to prove people guilty of whatever crimes had brought about monsters. He got into tight areas to find objects Geralt needed, like delicate plants, tiny magical items, or the dropped handkerchief of a dead woman so Geralt had a scent to work with. He even killed small animals like voles and mice and hedgehogs, stealing birds from poacher traps, to bring to Geralt for Jaskier’s meals when there were no other animals to be found.
However, Geralt really would have preferred an animal who didn’t constantly drape itself around his neck, nibbling fondly on his earlobe. He had to be far more careful moving with Jaskier boneless on his shoulders.
They made it to the mountains, somehow, and Geralt tucked Jaskier in his shirt, beneath his armor and cloak, to keep his mate warm. It was like having a very large, furry noodle in his shirt, shifting constantly but somehow never falling out.
Geralt was the first one back. With Ciri a full Witcher and hunting on her own, and no other children to train, Vesemir had gone back to the Path, as well. Geralt wondered if Vesemir was even in shape enough to work… then shook his head to get the idea out of his skull. Vesemir would survive. They all would. That was what Witchers did, after all. Survive and fight.
Dinner was quiet. Geralt chopped up a rabbit, ground up the bones, marrow and all, and gave it to Jaskier, who fell on the meal greedily. It was quite a difference from Jaskier who would fall over himself for seasoned food and turned green at the thought of eating bone marrow, raw or not. Geralt pet Jaskier gently as he ate his own meal.
“You’re tiny and soft, just like Lambert said,” Geralt murmured. “But I bet he never thought how vicious you’d be.”
Jaskier hunched his back and stomped across the table to Geralt, looking quite ready to bite him. Geralt grinned and rubbed his head with one calloused finger. “Don’t even start. You love me too much.”
Jaskier’s whiskers twitched, then he did a quick twist and bit Geralt’s finger, before returning to his meal. Geralt grinned wider. Jaskier hadn’t even drawn blood.
Three days later, Vesemir returned, a new scar on his forehead, but no other new wounds. He was very smug as he announced this to Geralt, who scowled slightly and said crankily, “Good. Can you help with this?” He held up Jaskier, ignoring the ferret’s wriggling.
Vesemir blinked, frowned, and peered at Jaskier. “Huh,” he said in surprise. “That’s not what I was expecting. What happened?”
Geralt explained, letting Jaskier gnaw playfully on his fingers as the bard-turned-ferret wrestled Geralt’s hand. Vesemir looked amused, then nodded and said, “I think I know which books to reference. First, though, I brought wine.”
Geralt and Jaskier both perked up, and Vesemir laughed.
To Jaskier’s disgust, he was not allowed any wine, no matter how sweetly he pleaded. Geralt picked him up and deposited him on Geralt’s shoulder, and the bard wriggled but eventually laid still, sulking.
Ciri, Eskel, and Lambert all arrived before Vesemir and Geralt could find a way to change Jaskier back. They all three immediately set to building many small obstacle courses around the keep, which Jaskier delighted in running through several times until he destroyed them. Lambert got the idea to shift the courses around so Jaskier didn’t get bored with them. Eskel was the most creative, and Geralt glared sullenly as Jaskier chose to drape around Eskel’s neck for the day.
Ciri made a tall-sided box and filled it with dirt and sand, explaining that one of the poachers she’d taken a job from had had pet ferrets who had loved to burrow. Watching Jaskier prance gleefully in the box and burrow and dig made everyone smile.
“He really does get bored easily, doesn’t he,” Eskel commented.
“He’s just easily amused,” Geralt replied with a shrug.
Jaskier bit him for that.
When Vesemir found the right spell, they had to call in Yennefer to perform it. She came, for some reason, complained about the keep, insulted Lambert and Eskel, hugged Ciri, snubbed Vesemir, glared at Geralt, and then picked up Jaskier and actually cuddled him, which made him writhe in outrage.
“Ferrets are the only good animals,” Yennefer announced. “Give me three good reasons I should change him back.”
Everyone looked at Geralt, who scowled and crossed his arms over his chest. “He can’t give you a good argument in that form,” he began, “It’s demeaning to have to provide enrichment, and you want to keep busy.”
Yennefer huffed in annoyance, but continued petting Jaskier as she thought. “...Alright, fine. Those are good reasons. How poorly stocked is your lab?”
She did apologize to everyone, oddly enough, by going back to her home and bringing presents for everyone, mostly small things. Ciri hugged her and said thank you; the other Witchers grumbled but accepted her gifts. She even produced a new outfit for Jaskier, “For when you change back and start complaining because you’re not attired properly.”
Jaskier, still offended by her cuddling him, hunched his back but didn’t bite.
It only took three days to prepare, and then Yennefer had a circle ready and ordered everyone out while she did the spell. Geralt paced by the stairs, waiting for the signal to go down.
Finally, a peal of laughter echoed up, and Jaskier’s voice screeched, “Stop laughing, witch! Just get rid of this thing so I don’t have to cut up my clothes!”
Geralt shook his head. Poor Jaskier. Tails really were the worst.
“Ah, fuck,” Geralt said, resigned.
The llama before him made an unhappy noise and snatched the apple from his hand, which had been meant for Roach. Roach, offended, snatched it from Jaskier the llama. Jaskier spat at her feet, and she put back her ears, a dangerous glint in her eyes.
“Both of you stop it!” Geralt snapped, and both animals looked at him. “I’ll cut it in half and get more. Jaskier, stop stealing from Roach; Roach, please don’t injure him.”
They agreed to this, both of them plainly sulking.
It was only two weeks this time before they got to the mountain. Jaskier spat on more people on the way than he’d stabbed in the past six months, and Geralt had to keep explaining that Jaskier may be bad-tempered but he wasn’t dangerous. This was proven a lie when Jaskier bit a man menacing Geralt with a sword in the middle of the street and drew blood.
Jaskier’s thick coat protected him from the cold, and he followed Geralt up the path easily, where usually he had to scramble a little on the steeper bits. Geralt looked at his split hoof once, curious, and immediately put it down when he saw it was not a hoof but toes with very long nails and pads like a dog’s. He did not know why this fact made his skin crawl. Jaskier just bent his head around and nuzzled Geralt.
Lambert greeted them first, and gaped at Jaskier. “You know you’re not allowed in Kaer Morhen,” he said finally.
Jaskier put his ears back and spat in Lambert’s face.
It was a grueling battle that Jaskier and Geralt lost. Vesemir decreed that no horse-sized animals were allowed inside, and it didn’t matter that Jaskier was not quite the size of a horse. He was too bit and that was that. And his shit was harder to clean up than a ferret’s.
Jaskier tried to bite Vesemir, but he dodged easily and smacked Jaskier’s nose. “Have to be quicker than that, lad,” Vesemir retorted.
So Jaskier was sent to the stables. Geralt, after a quick meal and hugs for his family, took his bedroll and blanket and set up to sleep there with Jaskier and Roach. He’d done it before, when Roach had the nerve to let a stallion mount her and get pregnant. Foal duty wasn’t too bad; he’d done it for Vesemir’s horse, too, before she died in a landslide. It annoyed all the Witchers that if they had mares, it was inevitable that there would be foals. But, well, Witcher horses were very choosy, so even though their lines were unknown, their offspring were strong and swift and fetched a good price.
Jaskier definitely wasn’t about to foal, but Geralt still wanted to at least spend the night with his mate.
It was, frankly, a little terrifying for everyone to leave the keep for morning drills to see Jaskier casually standing on top of the front gate, which was barely two feet wide. He looked to them, and made a noise very like a honk that held a note of smugness, and trotted over to the stairs—which had been crumbling badly and were not safe.
“No he isn’t,” Ciri said in disbelief.
“Yes he is,” Eskel said in resignation.
Jaskier trotted down the treacherous rubble that was the stairs easily and without disturbing a single stone. Unfortunately, they collapsed behind him. He didn’t even look, just continued down until he could mince across the courtyard and honk again.
Geralt began to laugh.
This time, the spell wore off at the next full moon, and Geralt was woken from sleep by a shivering, chattering, very naked Jaskier scrambling under the blanket with him. Geralt immediately rolled on top of him, blocking the freezing night air; Jaskier sight gratefully, and though he still shivered, he calmed enough to sleep.
Geralt tucked his face in the crook of Jaskier’s neck and hummed happily. It was good to have his mate back.
~TWO YEARS LATER~
“No,” Geralt said firmly. “I will not accept this. You are not Jaskier.”
The wolverine seated before him growled.
“No,” he repeated, more forcefully. “Jaskier smells like lemons and flowers and you smell like dirt and rot. I am going to wait here until Jaskier comes back from the witch and that’s final.” And Geralt sat down on a log with a thump, crossing his arms over his chest and staring into the trees.
Unfortunately, the afternoon and night passed with no sign of Jaskier. So at dawn Geralt sighed heavily and trudged to the witch’s hut, scowling. The wolverine followed at a trot, somehow keeping up easily.
The witch was on her front porch, feeding foxes. She grinned as Geralt stomped up to her, the wolverine following.
“Where is he?” Geralt demanded bluntly.
“You don’t want to accept that your lad is right next to you?” she snickered. The wolverine snarled. “Not now, dear. Well, Witcher, maybe I’ll change him back, if you clear out whatever is ruining my garden. I know it’s magical in nature.”
Geralt grimaced. “Fine,” he snapped. “You’d better keep your end of the bargain.” He glanced down at the wolverine and said, “Stay here.”
The wolverine looked up at him, somehow managing to express incredulity and offended dignity in exactly the same way Jaskier would. Geralt stomped away, around the house and to the garden, ignoring the witch’s gleeful cackling and the smell of the wolverine following him.
Three hours later, Geralt was staring down at the body of a cursed stag, whose legs had been savaged and its throat bitten right through before he could even get close.
“Oh,” he said to the wolverine. “Sorry, Jask.”
The wolverine, covered in blood and squashing a cabbage, looked smug.
~SIX MONTHS LATER~
“Not again,” Geralt groaned.
Jaskier the goat bleated at him in distress. Geralt knew it was Jaskier because he was wearing a small goat-shaped version of the outfit Geralt had last seen Jaskier in. It was unnerving.
This time they were in Kaer Morhen already. Jaskier had been “fixing” the lab, muttering angrily about Witchers with bad organizational skills, and then there had been a yell and an explosion and when Geralt had run downstairs, smoke was dissipating and Jaskier was not human. The smoke was still thick enough that Geralt was breathing it in, and he could feel his ears changing shape as he snatched up Jaskier and went back upstairs, coughing.
Eskel took one look at the goat in tiny silk clothes with blue eyes and perfectly curled horns and tried to snatch him from Geralt, who held on grimly.
“But he’s cute!” Eskel protested, looking absolutely devastated at Geralt’s selfishness. “I want to introduce him to Lil’ Bleater!”
“Eskel, I swear to fuck if you’re trying make my mate fuck your damn goat—” Geralt began hotly, making Jaskier bleat in horror, but Ciri interrupted by simply walking over and reaching up to rub his ear between her fingers.
“Very fluffy,” she said approvingly. “Hey, Uncle Eskel, feel these.”
“What the fuck!” Geralt yelled, as Eskel’s hand darted out to rub Geralt’s other ear. He tried to yank away, but his daughter and brother held on tightly and it hurt so he stopped. Jaskier wriggled in his arms, making angry goat noises.
Lambert laughed so hard he almost fell over, and Vesemir rubbed his temples, sighing heavily. Eskel kept trying to catch Jaskier, but Jaskier was nimble and bit hard enough to make even a Witcher yelp. Ciri helped Jaskier hide, too, and answered Eskel’s sharp questions with wide-eyed innocence that fooled no one.
Geralt tried desperately to find a cure, while Eskel chased Jaskier out of love and Lambert chased Jaskier just to be a dick. Vesemir watched the antics with the air of a disappointed elder, while also helping Ciri hide Jaskier and obstruct Eskel.
After a few days, Eskel brought Lil’ Bleater into the keep and let her loose. She wasn’t so little anymore, knee-height on Eskel, but he still doted on her, so along with being a mischievous brat, she was also spoiled. Vesemir decreed irritably that with her introduction, Eskel was now required to clean all goat shit, either Jaskier or Lil’ Bleater. Eskel agreed to this readily. Too readily. Everyone was wary.
And then Lil’ Bleater found Jaskier and decided he was good enough to mate with.
Jaskier was now not only running from Witchers, but also a very horny goat.
Geralt would have laughed, except he was too angry. He couldn’t quite bring himself to deck Eskel, though. His brother just wasn’t good at connecting Cute Goat with Bard Jaskier. Which was annoying, because Bard Jaskier was infinitely cuter than Goat.
Vaguely Geralt thought that it was strange that Jaskier hadn’t aged in the nearly fifty years they’d known each other, but he put it down to Jaskier just being himself. Maybe he’d just decided not to age, and he was stubborn enough that he won that. Geralt wouldn’t put it past his bard.
It took a week to find the cure, and a week to make it, and then Eskel was so upset that Lambert rolled his eyes and promised to bring a nice male goat next year, or even that spring, so Eskel could have the herd he obviously wanted. Eskel hugged him, which made Lambert protest loudly.
Jaskier’s first words upon changing back to human were, “Thank fuck! Lambert better keep his word because I am not going through that again just to breed the damn goat!”
~FOUR YEARS LATER~
“Okay, this one is a little better.”
Jaskier purred as Geralt pet him gently. He’d been turned into some sort of wild cat, about the size of a large domestic cat, but very stout and muscular and with fur that should not have been so soft. Geralt suspected a manul, but he wasn’t sure.
It was Yennefer’s fault, this time. They’d been bickering again, but the argument had gotten even more heated than usual until she snapped and hit him with an enchantment before portalling away.
And now Geralt was sitting in an inn three days from the mountains, petting his seemingly unconcerned mate. He pursed his lips, but Triss was in residence for a little while, so maybe she could help. Lambert was still courting her, in his own awkward way, and she apparently hadn’t realized that was what he was doing. Well, Geralt couldn’t blame her; Lambert’s flirting was even worse that Jaskier’s and not nearly as charming.
Jaskier yawned widely and rolled over on his back, trapping Geralt’s hand with his paws and gnawing lightly on his fingers. Geralt smiled.
“Aright, yes, you are very cute,” he murmured. “But don’t tell anyone I said that.”
Jaskier purred some more.
Jaskier was a good hunter, even better than he was a ferret and certainly cleaner than a wolverine. He also had an unfortunate tendency to trip people, especially angry drunks. Geralt was very glad when they were just a day away from home.
And then a snowstorm like he’d never seen down in the valley hit, lasting a full day and night, drifts building up to spill over roofs and block windows and doors. The villagers they were sheltering with were alarmed, but not in a panic; this hadn’t happened in generations, but smaller storms had prepared them. When the last cloud passed, everyone in the village, including Geralt and Jaskier, got to work digging tunnels and paths and looking for anyone who had been caught. Geralt and Jaskier found the bodies; there were three, two farmhands and the village drunk. They were all dead, but at least they were found before spring.
The deep drifts meant Roach couldn’t get through; so while Geralt dug his own path towards the mountains, trying to make it as wide as possible, Jaskier walked on top of the snow to go hunting. He often stayed out for a whole day, and once three; but that was because he was hunting in a wide area. He brought back as much as he could, and distributed his kills evenly. Everyone was thankful for him to help eke out their winter stores.
Once, Jaskier came back to the village covered in blood, a cut over his left eye, with a bloody human hand in his mouth. There was a feral glint in his eyes as he spat the hand out at the inn door, and then went back out without letting Geralt clean him.
Geralt followed, of course. When he came to clearer ground, he saw that Jaskier had mangled and killed three bandits. One was missing a hand. There was a woman, too, but her throat had been cut, and Jaskier hadn’t touched her.
Geralt gathered the bandits’ supplies and brought them to the village. Then he kept digging.
Finally, there was a clear enough route to the mountains that he could bring out Roach. Jaskier padded along ahead of them, and when they reached the pass, he helped Geralt clear snow for Roach. There was still blood in his fur, and he didn’t purr at all. Not even when Geralt pet or kissed him.
Triss took one look at Jaskier and sighed. “Flashy, but easy to reverse,” she told him and the Witchers. “Stand back, please.”
It only took five minutes for the cat to become a humanoid bard. Now Geralt could see it; the hard lines around Jaskier’s tight mouth, the tension in his body. He thanked Triss quietly and went upstairs. Geralt hesitated, then followed with a nod to the sorceress.
Jaskier was sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace, staring into the first tiny flickers of flame. He looked up at Geralt, and his eyes were haunted.
“They were going to hurt her,” he said. “So I killed them.”
Geralt nodded and walked over to sit next to him. It was always a shock, the first time you killed a human. Geralt was… worn down from it. Not numb, but tired. Sometimes, there was no choice.
Jaskier looked back into the fire. “The one who killed her. I tore out his throat. It was… it was easy.” A tear rolled down his cheek. “Just as easy as the cursed stag, when I was a wolverine.”
Geralt hugged Jaskier gently. He couldn’t think of what to say. He didn’t think anything he said would make it better.
~FIVE YEARS LATER~
Geralt stared in shock.
Lambert looked up at him guiltily.
The giant rabbit in Lambert’s lap placidly crunched a carrot.
“Don’t tell,” Lambert said.
Geralt looked at the rabbit. It was fully two feet long and looked entirely too smug. “Is that...” he trailed off.
Lambert nodded, and pet Jaskier gently. Jaskier finished his carrot and sniffed at Lambert’s shirt until he pulled out some lettuce leaves. There were a lot of bulges in Lambert’s shirt, and he smelled like dirt and vegetables.
Geralt squeezed his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose. “You know what? Fine. I won’t tell. But you better change him back soon.”
“I will,” Lambert promised.