Yennefer stares at the waitress blankly. “What do you mean, you don’t serve wine?”
The waitress shifts from foot to foot, clearly uncomfortable. “I do apologise, but this isn’t a tavern, my lady,” she says, bobbing an awkward curtsey. “We simply… don’t have any wine for sale.”
Yennefer looks to Jaskier, who is studying the delicately-calligraphed menu with a furrowed brow, then back to the waitress. “The signage outside,” she says, slow and sharp, “says that this is a bar.”
The tips of the waitress’ ears are flushing pinker by the moment. “A dessert bar, ma’am,” she ventures. “Not a wine bar.”
“A dessert bar,” Yennefer echoes flatly, then draws herself up straighter, breathes in through her nose. “I have never,” she starts, icy as the snows piling past the window outside, “in my life heard anything as ridiculous as—”
“We’ll have two of the daily specials,” Jaskier interrupts, setting the menu back down on the tabletop and beaming at the waitress. He taps his finger against the scrolled handlettering on the parchment. “This ‘speciality spiced hot chocolate’ here – what kind of spices are we talking about?”
The waitress latches onto him like a lifeline. “Nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves, primarily,” she says. “With a light sprinkle of pepper, for added zing.”
Yennefer raises her eyebrows at the word ‘zing’, but Jaskier’s snowy boot nudges none-too-subtly at her ankle and she holds her tongue.
“Sounds delicious,” Jaskier says, as warm as the fire blazing in the hearth. “Would you be able to add a dash of star anise, just for me? I had this absolutely divine hot chocolate a few years ago in Cidaris, and I’ve been trying to recreate it ever since. From the glorious smell that’s coming out of your kitchen, I think I might be able to get closer to it here than I have anywhere else in the Continent.”
The waitress hesitates for a second, glances towards the kitchen, but then Jaskier leans a little closer, dials up the brightness of his smile, and—Yennefer is not exaggerating—bats his eyelashes. Yennefer sees the looseness in the waitress’ shoulders as she’s overwhelmed by the bard’s saccharine charm, and she rolls her eyes at the young woman’s ensuing flush. “We have a stock of star anise in the storeroom,” she says, dipping in another tiny curtsey. It’s clearly some kind of nervous twitch. “I’m sure I can persuade the chef to add a little extra.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful,” Jaskier praises. “One extra speciality spiced hot chocolate for me, then. And my lovely companion will have the strongest black coffee you can make.” He holds up a hand, pastes a serious expression onto his face. “And I mean the strongest,” he insists. “Take the strongest coffee you would usually make, then double it. Anything less and she’ll send it back.”
The waitress smiles, bobs another awkward curtsey, and promises to return as quickly as she can.
Yennefer unpeels her fur-lined coat and drapes it elegantly across the back of her chair. “I thought we were coming out for drinks, not confectionery,” she drawls, then bumps the side of her boot against the leg of the small mahogany table, knocking rapidly-melting snow off onto the floorboards. “I want a glass of wine, Jaskier. Not the speciality hot chocolate.”
Jaskier shrugs, unwinding a royal blue scarf from around his neck. “Which is why I didn’t order you the speciality spiced hot chocolate,” he points out, and Yennefer notes with a warm feeling in her gut that the scarf is the one she gave him as a gift last Yule, embroidered with silver thread and tiny seed pearls. “You’re getting coffee that’s as dark as your black little heart, my naiad.”
“And the daily special, apparently.”
Jaskier scoffs. “Give it a try,” he says, a little pleading. “Okay, there’s no alcohol which is a little… unexpected, I’m not going to lie – but we were drinking until past midnight last night. I’m a little hungover.”
Yennefer arches an eyebrow. “The best cure for a hangover,” she points out, “is to start drinking again.”
Jaskier laughs. “Maybe twenty years ago,” he answers. “But I’m not as young as I once was, and I think if I started knocking back more wine right now, my liver would explode.” He turns those wide blue eyes on her, flutters his eyelashes. “Please? For me?”
“Your flirting won’t work on me,” Yennefer says dryly, ignoring the spreading warmth in her heart at his foolish antics. “It’s worn out its welcome. No longer effective.”
Jaskier’s gaze flashes, and his lip curls. He leans forward, hands slinking beneath the table, and his long fingers dance across the velvet of her dress, warm and firm, gripping her thigh and squeezing. “Oh, I think my flirting is plenty effective,” he murmurs, sliding his knees between hers, pushing her legs apart ever so slightly – and Yennefer’s not about to admit it, but a trickle of familiar heat pools low in her belly. “But you’re right,” Jaskier says, sitting back, hands vanishing, knees returning to his side of the table. “I’ve overstayed my welcome. I’ll leave you alone, won’t bother you anymore.”
“I doubt that,” Yennefer says, deliberately crossing her legs beneath the table, pushing the still-damp toe of her boot a little too far up Jaskier’s inner thigh than is strictly necessary. “You’re obsessed with me, bard,” she drawls. “All those filthy poems you’ve written about me? All the crooning ballads you’ve sung about me?” She tosses her hair over one shoulder, utilises her long experience to firmly tamp down the urge to smile. “I’d be intimidated, if I weren’t quite so capable of ripping your spine out through your throat.”
Which, of course, is when the waitress comes back with their order and fixes Yennefer with a look of pure horror.
“Ah!” Jaskier exclaims, flashing that broad, bright smile at the waitress and gesturing in a way that Yennefer supposes is intended to be welcoming. “By the gods, that smells delicious.”
“The chef added star anise to the hot chocolate, sir,” the waitress says, setting a steaming glass mug down in front of Jaskier, then, in a surprisingly-brave move, meets Yennefer’s gaze. “And the coffee is double our normal strength,” she says. “I hope it’s to your liking, ma’am.”
Yennefer picks up the delicate glass mug, sips without expecting much – then pauses, and blinks. “This is… good,” she says, and sips again. “Very good.”
The waitress beams. “The beans are roasted and ground in house,” she says, setting a pair of small bowls down in front of them. “They’re grown on my great-aunt’s farm, down in Lyria – it’s an old family business.”
“Your great-aunt knows her way around a coffee bean,” Yennefer murmurs, wrapping her hands around the too-hot mug because, okay, it’s not wine, but it’s snowing outside, the fire is crackingly and warm, and she is a little hungover from last night’s excesses. She drinks again, ignoring the pleased little smile that Jaskier half-heartedly tries to hide, and nods. “Delicious, thank you.”
The waitress’ cheeks are flushed even pinker than they were when Jaskier was lavishing her with praise. “Thank you, ma’am,” she says, dips a final tiny curtsey. “I hope you enjoy your food.”
Yennefer flashes her a final appreciative smile, and watches as she retreats to the safety of the kitchen.
Jaskier smirks at her. “Now I see why my flirting isn’t working,” he says, cradling his hot chocolate in those long, nimble fingers that so effectively stripped Yennefer out of her clothes when they tumbled into bed last night. “Your attention is wandering, isn’t it? I’m boring you. You’re bored of your bard and your witcher so you’re moving on to pretty young waitresses in Kaedwenian dessert bars.” He sighs dramatically, and Yennefer is fairly sure that, if he wasn’t holding extremely hot liquid, he’d be pressing his hand theatrically to his forehead. “Oh, my heart. What am I to do? I am rejected!”
Yennefer snorts. “Rejected?” she asks. “You’re staying in a bed I’m paying for. The gold-and-garnet ring on your index finger, I bought you that last week – and those calfskin gloves in your pocket. You’re about as far from rejected as I can imagine.”
Jaskier shrugs, sets his drink down. “You just like to spoil me,” he says. “To lavish me with gifts. If I were a woman, I’m fairly sure I’d be dripping with new jewellery after every night I spend with you.” He pauses, grins at her, cheerfully filthy. “Although, as it stands,” he says, thick with innuendo, “by the time I’m done with you, you’re usually the one who’s dripping.”
Yennefer rolls her eyes and puts her coffee down. “Do we need to revisit the spine-through-the-throat conversation?”
Jaskier pulls a face. “Not if you want to keep in the waitress’ good graces,” he murmurs, then peers into the bowl. “Oh, now this looks good.”
“What is it?” Yennefer asks, retrieving her spoon and peering a little dubiously into her own bowl.
“The daily special,” Jaskier says, digging in. “Dark chocolate mousse with raspberry sauce and honeycomb pieces.” He shovels a spoonful into his mouth, pauses for a second, then his eyes go wide and he makes an incoherent noise that Yennefer’s mostly familiar with from the heat of Geralt’s bed at Kaer Morhen. “Oh. Oh, Yennefer, you have to try it. That’s fucking stunning.”
Yennefer fights the urge to roll her eyes, and tries a mouthful. The mousse is light and bitterly rich, the raspberry sauce is the perfect balance of tart and sweet, and the crunch of the honeycomb stops the whole dish from being just a slurry of soft, soft, soft. It’s… very good. She might even go so far as to say it’s excellent, as she takes another spoonful – but Jaskier’s sitting across from her, rolling his eyes and practically fucking moaning with every mouthful. “It’s good,” she says, sucking her second spoonful clean, “but not good enough to make you come like that, my naiad.”
Jaskier glares at her. “Take that back,” he says, chocolate mousse smeared across the corner of his mouth, and jabs his spoon down in the direction of his half-empty bowl. “This is better than sex.”
“Do you want to have sex with me ever again?”
Jaskier shrugs, returns to wolfing down as much mousse as he can. “Honestly, between you and the mousse,” he says, licking his spoon clean in a gesture that’s clearly calculated to fall somewhere between seductive and obscene, “right now I’d choose the mousse.”
“Is that so?” Yennefer asks, and, well, she’s never been one to back down from a challenge. She stands, full of all the sinuous grace she knows is oh so perfect at bringing out that particular light of stunned arousal in his eyes, then leans across the table, catches his lips in a sultry, seductive kiss that’s far too inappropriate for this particular establishment. Jaskier kisses her back, warm and wet and wanting, and then just when she feels his muscles start to tense, ready to suggest that they forget the mousse and get the fuck out of here, Yennefer pulls back, just a fraction, and ever so carefully licks the stray smear of mousse from the corner of his mouth.
Jaskier gets what game they’re playing in an instant.
Yennefer takes her seat, smoothes her skirts out over her thighs, and retrieves her mousse. She scoops up a spoonful, eats it slowly, and raises an eyebrow at Jaskier, a silent question.
Jaskier’s cheeks are flushed and his silver-streaked hair is roughly tousled, but he makes no attempt to make himself look even the slightest bit more presentable. “As lovely as that was,” he says, a rasp in his voice that Yennefer knows full well means he’s more than a little hard in his trousers, “I think I’d still go for the mousse.” His smile is wicked and flirtatious and, oddly enough, overflowing with love. “Nowadays I can only come, what, twice in a row? And that’s with the both of you dedicated to driving me to distraction. This mousse, though?” His blue eyes sparkle. “I could eat this all night long.”
Yennefer hums, licks her spoon clean, and picks up the menu that Jaskier discarded earlier. She studies it for a moment, skimming over the dozen or so options for mousse flavours, along with the multiple varieties of hot chocolate, the different blends of coffee, the teas, the herbal teas, the fruit teas – then huffs out a sigh. There’s far too much choice, so she looks up, catches the waitress’ eye and beckons her over. “Given the proven good taste in your family tree,” she says, ignoring Jaskier’s knowing smirk, “what would be your personal recommendation?”
“To drink or to eat?” the waitress asks, effortlessly professional.
“To eat,” Yennefer answers, then smirks back at Jaskier. “My companion seems to be labouring under the impression that the daily special is the best thing he’s ever eaten, but I’m sure you’re just as aware as I am that chocolate, raspberry, and honeycomb is simply… fashionable nowadays.” With a small rush of satisfaction, she sees the waitress’ expression flicker in genuine agreement. “While he might be perfectly happy to follow the tastes of the crowd—” Jaskier snorts, mildly offended. “—I am interested in some of the more complex flavour profiles that you have to offer.” Yennefer smiles, as sinuous as she knows how. “So what would you recommend?”
The waitress’ eyes are a soft, pale blue-green, and in the warm light of the fire they are almost luminous. “I have two recommendations,” she answers, tapping her choices on the menu as she speaks. “Firstly, the tea-infused white chocolate mousse with rosehip syrup and grated cardamom. That’s my personal favourite.” She flushes a little, and shoots Yennefer a faintly unreadable glance. “The second would be the chef’s favourite,” she continues. “Blackberry and cinnamon mousse, which is served with toasted almonds and a shot of our speciality almond brandy.”
Yennefer pauses, raises an eyebrow. “I thought you didn’t serve alcohol?”
The waitress looks a little embarrassed. “We don’t serve wine,” she corrects. “We do, however, have a small supply of liqueurs that pair with our desserts.” Her expression is vaguely pained. “I’m afraid we don’t serve them separately.”
Yennefer sighs, but, honestly, the chocolate mousse was delicious and she’s intrigued by the idea of white chocolate, tea, and rosehips. “Very well,” she says, and the waitress immediately looks immeasurably relieved. “I’m intrigued by both of your suggestions. We’ll have one of each.”
The waitress dips that little curtsey again. “Right away, ma’am.”
Jaskier eyes Yennefer as the waitress takes their order back to the chef. “I was joking before when I said you were leaving me for the waitress,” he says, voice low and amused, “but the way she was looking at you then, Yennefer?” He fans himself, a grin twisting his lips. “I know the third person to share our bed is usually our beloved witcher but I’d probably be okay with it if you wanted to seduce the waitress.”
Yennefer kicks him under the table and finishes off the last spoonful of her dark chocolate mousse. “I thought your days of chasing barmaids and stablehands were over?” she asks. “What was it you said: the only cock you want is Geralt’s, and the only cunt you want is mine?”
Jaskier flushes but meets her gaze head on nonetheless, unrepentant. “Not the most poetic expression of my love,” he allows, “but I do stand by it. No, no, my naiad, I’m not the one who’s making bedroom eyes at the waitress with excellent taste in chocolate mousse.”
“We don’t know if her taste is excellent yet,” Yennefer points out. “We haven’t tried her wares.”
Jaskier laughs. “Come on, Yennefer, it’s like you’re trying to make this filthy!”
Yennefer eyes him over her coffee, sips the rich bitterness with that inescapable, ineffable warmth threaded deep into her heart. “Maybe I am,” she says. “Maybe I want you to embarrass yourself with your dreadful puns and strained wordplay. Maybe I’m just trying to help you realise what a hack poet you’ve been all along.”
Jaskier grins. “You love my poetry,” he says. “How did you put it? It makes you feel like maybe all this madness could be worth it, if the world is truly the way it is in my verse.”
It’s Yennefer’s turn to flush. “I said that,” she observes primly, “while extremely drunk. Therefore I don’t think that you can use it against me like this. It was… uncharacteristic.”
Jaskier takes her hand, presses a featherlight kiss to her knuckles, then releases her once more. “It was the most beautiful thing you’ve ever said,” he murmurs. “And I will never let you forget it.”
“I wish you would,” Yennefer says dryly.
“No, you don’t,” Jaskier counters, laughing. “Ah! More mousse, excellent.”
The waitress returns, setting two small bowls down in front of them, along with two small shots of brandy and a grand total of four spoons, two the standard silver, two apparently… gold? Yennefer picks up a golden spoon—only gold-plated, she learns with a soft probe of Chaos—and studies it a little quizzically.
“That’s for the chef’s favourite,” the waitress explains, tucking her tray under her arm. “He insists that it tastes better with the gold spoons.”
Yennefer stares at her flatly. “And does it?”
The waitress shrugs. “You tell me, ma’am,” she says, then immediately flushes at her own familiar tone.
If she’s honest, Yennefer doesn’t mind. She appreciates a server with a spine. “We certainly will,” she says, then picks up one of the brandies, tilts it appreciatively to the waitress. “Cheers.”
The waitress ducks a tiny curtsey, and goes.
Jaskier’s just grinning. “Come on,” he says, hefting his own glass of brandy and touching it to hers with a soft chink. “Let’s try the waitress’ wares before you terrify the poor girl out of her own place of work.”
“If you insist,” Yennefer says primly. “This goes with the blackberry one, doesn’t it?”
“I believe so,” Jaskier answers, and flashes her a soft, affectionate grin. “Shall we?”
They drink the brandy, and eat the mousse. It’s lighter than Yennefer expected, almost melting on her tongue, and the toasted flaked almonds add a textural element that makes the whole thing really sing. She expresses as much to Jaskier, who just snorts at the implication that a dessert could sing – at which wilful misunderstanding, Yennefer rolls her eyes and kicks him under the table. She’s not entirely sure that the gold-plated spoon adds that much to the experience but she has to say, she does like the way it looks against Jaskier’s hot-chocolate-reddened lips, expensive and elegant.
“If you keep looking at me like that,” Jaskier says in an undertone, polishing off the last of the chef’s favourite, “I’m going to have to whisk you out of here and to somewhere with a horizontal surface.” His eyes sparkle with mirth. “Doesn’t have to be a bed, mind you, anything horizontal would do. A table, the back of a cart. A tomb, if you were feeling adventurous.”
“We are not,” Yennefer says, positioning the white chocolate mousse between them and digging in, “fucking on a tomb.”
“Why not?” Jaskier asks, a little petulant, then joins her in plundering the mousse. “Oh, fuck, that’s really good,” he mutters, licking it off his golden spoon. “You were right about the more complex flavours, Yennefer, it think I might die.”
“Don’t think you’re supposed to use the golden spoon for this one,” Yennefer observes wryly. “The chef would be horrified.”
Jaskier makes a dismissive noise. “From now on,” he declares dramatically, “I demand that I only be provided with golden cutlery. Silver? Pfft, for plebs. Pewter? Iron? I’m mortally offended.”
“Do you listen to yourself when you’re talking?”
“Not usually,” Jaskier answers, and chases a thick vein of rosehip syrup through the mousse. “Seriously, though, this is fucking delicious.”
Privately, Yennefer agrees.
She beckons the waitress over again as Jaskier makes more and more orgasmic noises, lost in a whirlwind of mousse. “Do you do any kind of tasting menu?” Yennefer asks, ignoring her lover as he practically licks the bowl. “Something that would showcase the full extent of the chef’s skills?”
The waitress frowns. “I’m afraid not, ma’am,” she answers. “Most people don’t tend to come in for more than one at a time.”
Yennefer’s more disappointed than she expected. “Pity.”
The waitress rallies. “If you’d like,” she offers tentatively, “I could have the chef put together small bowls of all our most popular flavours? It’s not an organised tasting menu, I’m afraid, but it would serve the same purpose.”
“Only if it’s not just your most popular flavours,” Yennefer says, smiling, “but rather the flavours that yourself and the chef and the staff here think are the best. I’m not interested in what’s popular. I’m interested in what’s good.”
The waitress straightens a little, meets Yennefer’s gaze head-on. “I can tell, ma’am,” she says, bolder, brighter. “I’ll make sure you only get the best.”
Yennefer watches her return to the kitchen, a spring in her step and a note of determination in her voice. “I like her,” she says, then grabs the bowl away from Jaskier and finishes off what little he’s left behind. “Really?” she asks, unimpressed. “You couldn’t leave me a single proper mouthful?”
Jaskier shrugs. “Flirt less with the waitress and you’ll get more mousse.”
“We’re getting more mousse precisely because I flirted with the waitress!”
“No, we’re getting special treatment because you flirted with the waitress,” Jaskier corrects, licking his golden spoon clean. “We’d get the mousse no matter what, mainly because we’re paying for it.”
“I’m paying for it,” Yennefer points out.
Jaskier grins at her. “You’re paying for it,” he says, trailing his fingertips across the back of her hand, “because I happen to have it on good authority—yours—that you like buying me things.”
“I like it more when you don’t brag about it so much,” Yennefer drawls.
“If you wanted a lover who doesn’t brag,” Jaskier answers, twirling the golden mousse spoon between his long, lute-calloused fingers, “you shouldn’t have fallen in love with a bard.”
“ ‘Love’ is a strong word for what I feel for you,” Yennefer says, poker-faced.
“Oh?” Jaskier asks. “And what word would you use, my naiad?”
“Apathy,” Yennefer suggests, dry as a bone, and Jaskier snorts. “Maybe I’d go so far as tolerance.”
Jaskier laughs. “And what about the things you whisper to me when we’re alone?” he asks, eyebrow raised. “The words of love, of desire, of loyalty and need and trust?”
“Momentary lapses of judgement,” Yennefer says dismissively, and sips her coffee.
Jaskier nods sagely. “Of course,” he says. “That makes sense. How foolish of me to assume anything else.”
“Quiet, bard,” Yennefer instructs.
“I’ll be quiet,” Jaskier says, sitting back in his chair as the waitress approaches with two more bowls of mousse, “if you buy me this lovely golden spoon.”
“I can’t buy the cutlery, Jaskier,” Yennefer says, exasperated.
“Actually, the spoons are for sale,” the waitress interjects, setting the bowls down between them. “Fifteen ducats a piece.” She gestures to the bowls. “This one is coffee, dark chocolate, and caramel,” she says, “and this one is apple, vanilla, and rum.”
“I do like rum,” Jaskier murmurs, his eyes lighting up.
Yennefer sighs, flashes the waitress a companionable smile. “Add his spoon onto the bill,” she says. “And keep the mousses coming.”
The waitress’ smile is warm and, Yennefer thinks, remarkably genuine. “Of course,” she says. “Anything else you need, please just ask.”
Yennefer looks across the table at Jaskier. His golden spoon is already buried in the apple-and-rum mousse, a pale green smear across the corner of his lips, and an expression of unmitigated delight is unfurled across his face. He’s completely disconnected from the world around him, caught up in borderline-orgasmic rapture over, of all things, a bowl of mousse, and as Yennefer watches, he curls his tongue around that golden fucking spoon, eyes rolling back in his head, performative and somehow deeply sincere all at the same time.
Her heart glows warm and soft in her chest.
“Thank you,” Yennefer says, glancing back to the waiting waitress with a smile, “but I think I have everything I need right here.”