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Boredom and lack of inspiration was a dangerous combination. Jaskier had managed to ride the high of his success with the release of his latest novel but now the thrill was gone. He knew he ought to be writing but the words weren’t coming right and he had all but lost the voice of his main protagonist, Julian. His publisher and fans were all wanting the next installment to find out whether Dandelion does get together with his assistant, the wonderful Essi or whether Gerhart, the villain, would get his revenge. Frankly, Jaskier was tired of writing the cliches and wanted to do something new, something fun but beyond those concepts, he had no idea what it could be.

With a morning wasted staring at a blank document, Jaskier gave up and did what he had been advised to never do. He looked online for reviews and what the fans thought about the book. It was how he stumbled on a site that hosted fanfiction and Jaskier was delighted to see the level of engagement with his works. There was a lot of Dandelion/Essi content out there already. A quick dip into it was rather depressing because Jaskier didn’t think he could write better than what some people had already put out there. Though a tag caught his eye - Dandelion/Gerhart. It wasn’t as popular and, in fact, seemed to be written by fewer but more dedicated people. Some of it was straight up hate fucking or using sex as a way to end the greatest evil. After all, Dandelion was quite the irresistible heartthrob. But there were a couple of stories that had Jaskier clicking on out of sheer curiosity.

There was one writer especially who Jaskier couldn’t decided if they were serious or not. The_Rivian had 6 stories up, all Dandelion/Gerhart. Two lines in and Jaskier was slipping down on his chair, not certain he could survive this. The stories were, in short, bad. Awful. Repetitive, the sentences had no flow or variation. Almost every single paragraph began with a name. Cringing, Jaskier scrolled through the first one. Then the second one. It became a morbid curiosity to see if there was any improvement. There was none to be found. Every single story was much of a muchness. Yet, this The_Rivian had written them and put them out there for the world to see. Even if Jaskier couldn’t value the stories themselves, he had to give credit to the writer, they had guts.

Somehow, Jaskier couldn’t leave well enough alone. Something about the stories had him thinking. And it was truly flattering to think that his work had motivated someone to write even when they obviously had no talent, didn’t know the rules of punctuation or even capitalisation. Hitting the little heart didn’t feel right because Jaskier didn’t actually like what he’d read. However, he wasn’t the kind of person to leave hateful comments either. He wanted to reach out but had no idea what to say. In the end, he wasted some time making an account and went back to the last story.

I read through all 6 of your works. Why do you write them?

There. It was inoffensive, asked a question and maybe The_Rivian would help explain why they put their awful stories out for public ridicule. And, scrolling through three comments before Jaskier’s, he was sad to see that one was simply highlighting all the typos and mistakes while another was mocking The_Rivian for writing such cliched tropes and informing him that Dandelion/Gerhart would never become canon when Dandelion/Essi was a far superior and more appealing pairing. Well, that rankled Jaskier.

After getting so riled up, Jaskier decided it was for the best to close the browser and forget about it all. He was even doing quite well at it until his phone buzzed with an e-mail. It was a reply from The_Rivian.

cause evil is evil whether it’s lesser evil or worser evil. Dandelion isn’t good neither is gerhart. but  together they have hope and a guy like me can hope theirs a dandelion for me,

Everything about the sentence made Jaskier shiver and not in a good way. He wanted to sit down with The_Rivian and teach him the basics of written English. Yet he couldn’t help but try and imagine what the guy might look like. Obviously he considered himself a bad guy which was just heartbreaking all over. Maybe he was a rugged lumberjack or a mobster. Though no, the idea of a mobster writing gay fanfiction about a villain and a hero just felt a little too out there. Perhaps The_Rivian was an ex-prisoner, that could explain a lot, including the illiteracy. Jaskier knew he had to reply.

There’s always hope for everyone. Nobody is born evil, they just make bad choices in bad situations. Gerhart doesn’t see himself as the antagonist.

Within minutes there was another response from The_Rivian.

yuo get it, gerhart isn’t on purpose bad. makes bad choices while dandelion makes similar ones but is praised for it. their both killers but its okay for dandelion cause he is good guy. not fair.

Of course Jaskier ‘got it’ he was the creator of those characters. But he’d never thought about how similar Gerhart and Dandelion actually were. It was all a matter of framing their deeds and about the response of society to their actions. Maybe The_Rivian had a point and Jaskier hadn’t ever considered it before.

In The_Rivian’s profile there was a link to a social media page which Jaskier decided to follow. It led to a rather empty blog with just a few generic posts and a picture of a dog. Deciding to be brave, Jaskier clicked the button to open a chat with The_Rivian.

Hey, it’s Buttered-Cups from the comments on your story - Broken Dishes Not Broken Hearts. Thought I’d say hi in private.

Waiting for a reply was oddly nerve wracking Jaskier was used to people jumping at the chance to talk to him though, he had to remind himself, The_Rivian had no idea who he was. After a few minutes, what seemed like a painstakingly long message came through.

hello, not many care about danhart nice to find a fan- what got you in to them? I got audiobook read by author and his voice gives them love.have you read bard vs barbarian? its good but empire of stone better. gerhart and ermion are funny in that.

Honestly, Jaskier had never considered that the way he read the books gave anyone any ideas about romance between characters. It fascinated him to see what different people took away from his works. Chatting to The_Rivian was both fascinating but also infuriating at times. Mostly because he sounded like he had put so much thought into the characters, had developed theories and ideas (head canons as Jaskier learned they were called) which were so much better than his own. And, slowly, Jaskier began to see the worth of Gerhart as more than a cardboard cutout villain. There was a lot of unexplored depth to him and Dandelion too. While Essi was badass as she was, Jaskier wondered whether her and Dandelion would be better as a master and apprentice in the end, giving Essi the step up from assistant and, maybe later on in the series, a spin-off of her own adventures as a qualified spy.

Really, Jaskier was quite proud that not once did he ask Geralt about his spelling and general ability to write. In a way, it didn’t matter because he seemed to really enjoy the fandom in his own way. On his tenth story, Jaskier left a long comment, detail how much he adored the direction he took with Gerhart’s past, giving him reasoning, fleshing him out into a person. And when some idiot hiding behind the facelessness of the internet lashed out, Jaskier jumped on them, protecting Geralt like a good friend did. And, with Geralt’s help, Jaskier found inspiration and direction for his next book.

You ever write?

It was such an out of the blue question, Jaskier blinked a few times and laughed. How could he explain to Geralt that he was the creator of the whole series without it coming across as dickish or condescending. After all, they had been talking for over 6 months now.

I write stupidly long pieces. Almost finished up with my next one. I’ll show you when it’s ready?

Sure. Geralt’s replies tended to stay short usually. I have a surprise fur yuo.

Not two days later, the eleventh story by The_Rivian dropped and it was dedicated to Buttered-Cups for being the best friend possible. There was also a little side thanks to E for proofing reading the story and making it better. Reading it, Jaskier was torn between finding it the sweetest thing on earth but also cringing so badly. It was an AU about Dandelion and Gerhart meeting online and becoming friends. Even worse, it was left open ended about whether there was any romance between the two or if it was one sided all along. Jaskier almost deleted his entire profile as his first instinct was to run away. Instead, he took a few minutes to just breathe and think things through. So much love had been poured into the story. Knowing how long it took Geralt to write something, Jaskier could guess that it was a good three weeks’ worth of work in there. Plus, he’d asked the mysterious E to proof read it and whip it into shape so it was actually a little smoother and easier to read than usual.

A most interesting story, thank you for dedicating it to me. Actually, I wanted to ask, I’m going to be touring the country soon for work. Would you want to meet up for a coffee if I’m near you?

In true Geralt fashion the answer was a simple yes which was followed up by a city they could meet in. Jaskier absolutely tailored his book signing tour to kick off in the city, just so he could give Geralt a signed copy in person.

Rumour of new book coming soon. Herd any thng?

Skirting around the question delicately, Jaskier tried to play it cool. Because there was also a dedication in the book, printed on the first page, thanking Geralt for everything. And, selfishly, Jaskier really wanted to see his reaction when he discovered it and put together exactly who Jaskier was.

Rumours are always flying around. Though, I happen to have stumbled across a tidbit that it will be called Fool’s Hope and that it might be a bit of a mould breaker.

The hmmm Geralt sent back had Jaskier laughing.

Finally, it was time to start the tour, Jaskier was to be in the first city of his tour when the new dropped, he was to meet Geralt a few hours before it all went official. They had agreed on meeting in a cafe at a park, surrounded by people. It was safe for a first meeting and Jaskier had no idea what to expect. They didn’t really talk about life outside of the books, the odd scrap of information. Jaskier knew that Geralt had a dog called Roach and he worked part time with his brothers, something about teaching in a work setting. In exchange, Geralt learned that Jaskier loved music and had dreams of making it big in the world with his songs.

Geralt had reassured Jaskier that he would be there by the time he arrived.

youll know my by roach and white hair. been told im hard to miss.

With that in mind, Jaskier sauntered into the park and headed for the cafe by the lake. The book in his bag felt heavy and there was nervous excitement in the pit of his stomach. A quick look around and he saw a shock of long, white hair. The man sat facing Jaskier but his phone was up close to his face as he frowned at it. By his feet was a dog with a harness on it declaring him a guide dog. Oh.

“Geralt?” He asked, drink in hand.

“Buttercup?” Geralt looked up and eyes not quite focussed. “Your voice sounds familiar already.”

A hilarious thing to say, considering Geralt had listened to him read the books aloud for hours on end.

“Yeah. About that.” Not knowing what to do, Jaskier sat down and pulled the book out, pushing it towards Geralt. “I brought you this.”

Picking the book up, Geralt brought it up close to his face with a scowl. It had been such a bad idea, Jaskier was regretting it now. However, Geralt suddenly smiled.

“Is this what I think it is?”

“My newest book. Fool’s Hope.”

They sat in silence, the book dangling loose between Geralt’s fingers. Eventually there was a soft, resounding “fuck” and Jaskier had to giggle. This was ridiculous.

“Ummm,” he fidgeted with the hem of his shirt. “There’s a dedication in there. It says ‘to my dearest friend Geralt who opened my eyes to so many possibilities’. And that’s a signed copy too, with another little message and a phone number.”

“I should have known,” Geralt growled but there didn’t seem to be any heat behind his words. “You’re really Jaskier?”

“The one and only. Told you I was working on something longer that I’d show you when it was ready. It launches in 2 hours and I’m kicking off a signing tour in this city in 4 hours.”

“I fucking knew it.” Geralt chuckled. “No, that’s a lie, I had no clue. But I should have known.”

It was a good start to their meeting and Jaskier was glad to have met Geralt in person. Because he was eloquent if a little reticent. But, by the time Jaskier had to leave, he had a phone number saved in his phone and the promise of chatting more via calls which certainly made the rest of his book signing tour more enjoyable.

By the time Jaskier sold the rights to his books for a film adaptation and the premier rolled around, he was proud to say he had a plus one on his arm. Geralt looked incredible in a suit, even Roach the third had a little bowtie attached to her harness. Jaskier guided them to their seats. The theatre went dark and, on the screen, in large letters a message appeared which Jaskier’s voice narrated through the speakers.

My beloved Geralt, you’re the Gerhart to my Dandelion. There’s always hope for people like us.

In the darkness, Jaskier slipped a small box into Geralt’s lap and guided his fingers over it, opening it up and helping him trace the shape of a ring.