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we know when to kiss, we know when to kill (if we can’t have it all then nobody will)

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Geralt doesn’t stop her.

So she does what she came here to do.

“You’ll never know if it was the right thing,” she says, Stregobor’s blood still dripping off her knife. Geralt’s looking at her face, though: not the knife, and not the body.

Stregobor would say she’s bewitched him.

But Stregobor can’t say things like that anymore.

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.

Renfri doesn’t know what to do with herself, now. There was never really a plan for after. She could keep living life as she has been, she supposes—that would be the easiest route, and the most familiar—but the thought doesn’t hold much appeal. She did what she needed to do, and now it’s done.

It’s done.

It’s done, and she’s survived it.

Renfri doesn’t know what to do with herself, now.

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She goes back to Geralt’s campsite, but he’s already gone.

Well.

What else did she expect, really?

.

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Renfri follows the road out of town alone, without a single one of her men or any witcher or anyone else at all. She has her weapons and her horse, and herself, and nothing else.

Her brooch, she supposes. She has that too.

She’s leaving something, even though there’s not really anything in Blaviken to leave.

Renfri kicks her horse into a gallop, because they may not really be going anywhere, but they might as well get out while the getting’s good. She doubts anyone in Blaviken wants to see anything but the back of her, and she doesn’t so much as glance back as she leaves.

Even though she’s cleaned the blood off, she still feels it. There’s a vicious satisfaction in the memory. She wants to never forget the way Stregobor’s blood felt on her hands, the way the life left his eyes, and she hopes he felt a fraction of the fear and pain that she has in those final moments. She hopes he suffered.

He deserved to suffer.

Really, she could’ve dragged it out a little more, for how long she waited to do it.

There’s a figure on a horse on the path in the distance. The figure is wearing a black cloak.

Renfri could slow down or stop her horse, but somehow, she can’t bring herself to.

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.

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“Where are you going?” Renfri asks.

“I’m following the Path,” Geralt says, not looking at her. Somehow, she can tell he doesn’t mean the road.

“Hm,” she says. “And where does that go?”

“Wherever I’m needed,” Geralt says. Her mouth quirks in amusement. It’s such a non-answer.

“Oh?” she says. “How interesting.”

Geralt looks at her. Her face, again; not her weapons or her unbloodied hands. He doesn’t say anything.

“Well, how about some company?” she says, smirking at him. Maybe she has bewitched him. Maybe that matters.

Maybe not.

She doesn’t know what to do with herself, perhaps, but she’s willing to experiment a bit.

“Hn,” Geralt says.

He doesn’t say no.

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Renfri doesn’t know much about monsters, but she’s very good at killing things.

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They don’t stay together. Renfri isn’t that sort of woman, and she doesn't think Geralt is that sort of man. She sees him time and again over the years, though, like a planet in orbit. He doesn’t change much, and his horse always has the same name. She doesn’t change much either, she supposes, though she at least thinks up different names for her horses.

She should look older than she does, she thinks one day as she’s cutting her hair in a little inn room mirror. She should, shouldn’t she?

Maybe that’s one of those things that don’t work on her, she thinks wryly, throwing her snipped-away hair into the fire.

“Are you awake?” she asks. Geralt stirs in the bed, then lifts his head.

“What is it?” he says. He sleeps around her. Renfri doesn’t sleep around anyone, herself.

“Oh, nothing,” she replies, smiling wickedly and crawling back beneath the blankets to put her hands all over him.

She sees him time and again, and he doesn’t change.

But she likes that.

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.

.

“Who the hell are you?” Renfri asks, wrinkling her nose. The boy sitting by the fire looks up, looking surprised. They told her in town there was a witcher with white hair out here. They hadn’t mentioned anyone else.

“Jaskier,” he says. He’s holding a lute, oddly. “At your service, assuming your service isn’t either murderous or boring. Who are you?”

“Renfri,” she says, eyeing him critically. “Where’s Geralt?”

“Well, I’m going to avoid answering that question because for all I know you’re a vampire or something,” Jaskier says. Renfri snorts.

“You’d already be dead,” she says.

“I mean, probably, but one never knows,” Jaskier says. He strums his lute. It makes a sweet sound, though Renfri doesn’t know much about music. She knows what she likes, at least.

“What are you doing out here?” she says.

“Writing,” he says, strumming his lute again. “You?”

“Looking for Geralt,” she says. “Obviously.”

“What for?” he says. Renfri . . . pauses. There’s not really an answer to that question, she supposes.

“He’s a friend of mine,” she says, because that’s true enough, and the boy lights up.

“How do you know him?” he asks. “And more importantly, do you know anything about any of his hunts?”

“I’m the Butcher of Blaviken,” Renfri replies with a pleasant smile. “And I know about plenty of them.”

Jaskier looks delighted.

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“What the fuck are you doing,” Geralt says when he finally shows up. Renfri looks up from her seat by the fire and shrugs. Jaskier pauses in his eager note-taking.

“Telling Jaskier about Blaviken,” she says. “And that time with the drowners.”

“Why?” Geralt says, frowning at her.

“Well . . . he asked,” Renfri says. No one really asks her things like that. Answering Jaskier’s questions is . . . novel, she supposes.

Anyway, she needed something to do while she waited for Geralt to get back, and it was this or fuck him, and he seemed more interested in this.

“She’s wonderful and I love her,” Jaskier announces. “You’ve been holding out on me, Geralt. You never told me you knew the Butcher of Blaviken!”

“They’re still calling you that?” Geralt says, his frown deepening.

I’m calling me that,” Renfri says. That’s a title she earned, and she’s proud of it. "I hear they're calling you the White Wolf."

Geralt looks pained. Renfri laughs.

"You do realize anything you tell him is ending up in a song, right?" he says.

"I like songs," Renfri replies easily.

"Hn," Geralt says. She smirks at him.

"Don't worry," she says. "I hardly told him anything indecent."

"I mean, I wouldn't mind more of the indecent stuff," Jaskier says. Geralt rolls his eyes. Renfri laughs again. Jaskier is ridiculous, but he's amusing. She doesn't know what Geralt's doing hanging out with a bard, but she's enjoying him, personally.

"Oh, I'll save the indecent stuff for next time," she says. "I wouldn't want to get through all my material in one go."

"Then there absolutely has to be a next time," Jaskier says feelingly.

"We'll see, won't we," Renfri says with another smirk.

.

.

.

There is, as it turns out, a next time.

There are quite a few, in fact.

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"The men said he was dead," Jaskier says.

"So he let something swallow him again?" Renfri assumes.

"Probably," Jaskier agrees. He's a bit less of a boy than he was the last time Renfri saw him, though he doesn't really look older. Geralt thinks he has elvish blood, but she's never actually asked Jaskier himself about it. "I suppose we'll have to get the innkeeper to arrange a bath."

"Seems wise," Renfri says, getting up from her seat. "You handle the innkeeper. I'll find Geralt."

"You always go find Geralt," Jaskier huffs.

"Sorry, which one of us is armed again?" Renfri drawls, raising an eyebrow at him. "Or do you expect music to soothe the savage beast?"

"It's probably dead by now anyway," Jaskier grumbles, folding his arms. He's still a bit of a boy after all. He's a handsome one, though.

“So quickly we forget the basilisk incident,” Renfri says.

“I refuse to take any blame for that one,” Jaskier says.

“How’d the scars heal up?” Renfri asks with a little smile, tilting her head.

“Perfectly well, thank you,” Jaskier says. “Better than Geralt’s.”

“Well, that goes without saying,” Renfri says, her tone turning wry. Somehow Geralt always manages to be the one taking the worst injuries—and pretending they’re nothing to be concerned by at the same time, of course. It’s a specialty of his. “Go fetch the innkeeper. I’ll drag our foolish witcher back while the water’s still hot.”

“Fine,” Jaskier says with a little frown. “Just don’t let him track in too many digestive acids, the locals always hate that.”

“I’m sure they’d hate being eaten alive by a monster more,” Renfri says.

“Yes, but in this case they’ll still be around to complain,” Jaskier says. She laughs, then claps a hand on his shoulder as she passes him. She supposes she hasn’t bewitched Jaskier in the same way as she may’ve Geralt, given how often they bicker over this kind of thing, but she rather likes that.

She rather likes him, really. And Geralt she likes very much indeed.

It’s . . . interesting, liking people. Sometimes Renfri still feels she’s still rather new to it, even with all the years it’s been since she met Geralt. It’s been a few years since she met Jaskier, even. It’s a bit difficult and sometimes she’s not sure how to maneuver through it, but so far she’s managed well enough.

Renfri can’t say that she likes many people, but the ones she does she wants to keep around.

So if she’s bewitched either of them . . . well, it’s only fair.

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She finds Geralt and drags him back, and he does in fact track digestive acid everywhere, and the locals do in fact not appreciate it, but Renfri couldn’t care less.

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“Tell me he hasn’t gone off with the mayor’s daughter,” Geralt says resignedly.

“Would I lie to you?” Renfri asks with a smile. Geralt rubs at his temple.

“Renfri,” he says. “Why would you let him do that?”

“He’s a grown man, Geralt, he can chase a pretty girl if he wants to,” Renfri replies in amusement. “Anyway, what was I supposed to do, chain him to the bed?”

“Hn,” Geralt says.

“The image does have some appeal, I suppose,” Renfri muses, and Geralt scowls at her. She laughs. “If you’re so worried about it, go find him. I doubt they got far.”

“They probably made it all the way to the mayor’s house,” Geralt says darkly.

“Well, that’s not very far,” Renfri replies reasonably. Geralt scowls at her again.

“It was your turn to watch him,” he says.

“I watched him last time,” she says.

“And the same thing happened,” Geralt says.

“Did it?” Renfri blinks innocently at him. In her defense, Jaskier’s rather good at getting into trouble, and most of her problem-solving skills involve unnecessary amounts of violence. And it’s not like Geralt’s much better at keeping an eye on him, really.

“I’m going to go get him,” Geralt says.

“Try not to raise a fuss this time, mmm?” Renfri says with another smile. “At least not ‘til you’ve gotten paid.”

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There’s a fuss raised, of course.

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Jaskier and Geralt are both asleep in the bed. Renfri dozed this afternoon while they were out; that’s good enough for her. Right now she’s sharpening her sword. Jaskier sleeps through just about anything, of course, but the fact that Geralt can sleep past the rhythmic scrape of her whetstone is . . . well, she likes that. Very much.

Renfri could’ve gotten her own room, and probably should’ve, but she’d rather keep an eye on these two.

Eventually someone’s going to try and take this from her, and she’s going to have to stop them.

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“Don’t kill anyone,” Geralt says.

“I mean, assuming they don’t deserve it,” Jaskier says. “Extenuating circumstances and all.”

“Jaskier.”

“I’m just saying!”

Renfri ignores them both, all her attention on the frightened man standing at the end of her sword, the bright blade pressed in against his throat just deep enough to cut. She doesn’t kill humans often, these days, but: extenuating circumstances.

“Renfri,” Geralt says. “They’re just a bunch of starving thieves.”

“They cut him,” Renfri says, sharp enough to cut someone herself. There’s a bright red line across Jaskier’s cheek that wasn’t there before, and blood dripping down to his collar past the handkerchief he’s holding against it.

“I am fine, technically,” Jaskier says. “Might scar a bit, admittedly, but hopefully it’ll make me look dashing.”

“They could’ve killed you,” Renfri says tightly.

“We weren’t gonna!” one of the other men says, holding his hands up in surrender. “We just wanted his coin!”

“Renfri,” Geralt says. He puts a hand on her arm. She almost slits this bastard’s throat anyway, but she lets Geralt’s hand weigh her arm down. He’s so eager to show mercy, she thinks spitefully.

Usually she minds that less.

“If I ever see a single one of your faces again, I’m putting my sword through it,” she says, voice flat. The men all nod desperately, then flee down the street into the night. Geralt turns to look at Jaskier.

"Any other injuries?" he asks.

"No," Jaskier says. "They just nicked me, really."

Renfri narrows her eyes. If it'd been a nick, Jaskier’d be complaining more.

"Show us," she orders.

"Really, it's fine," Jaskier says. Geralt grabs his wrist and pulls his hand away from his face. The cut bleeds heavier, blood dripping down his neck, and Renfri itches to go track down those thieves and cut them all at least as deeply.

It's much worse than a "nick", for certain.

"It needs stitching," Geralt says.

"Of course it does," Jaskier sighs. "Well, I really do hope the scar suits me. I'm going to have to come up with a much better story than getting mugged, too."

“Hn,” Geralt says.

They go inside. Jaskier takes a few shots at the bar, and Geralt stitches him up expertly. Jaskier complains every moment there isn’t a needle in his face. The bleeding stops.

Renfri still wants to kill someone. The ugly line down Jaskier’s cheek is all she can see.

“Well, that was fun,” Jaskier says conversationally. “I’m going to drink some more now.”

“You do that,” Geralt says dryly.

“Does it hurt?” Renfri asks, unable to take her eyes off that ugly line.

“Hardly a pinprick,” Jaskier lies. Her mouth thins.

Well, it was a stupid question on her part anyway.

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Jaskier drinks. So does Renfri. Geralt doesn’t. She doesn’t know why, but she doesn’t ask.

She drinks a lot more than Jaskier does.

“Renfri,” Geralt says quietly, putting a hand on the back of hers as she goes to order another drink. Renfri scowls at him.

“What?” she says.

“Don’t you think that’s enough for the moment?” he says carefully. Renfri’s scowl darkens into a glare.

“As a matter of fact, I don’t,” she says.

“It’s enough for me, personally,” Jaskier says, draining the last of his ale and setting down his tankard. “I’m going to bed.”

“Don’t bleed on the blankets,” Geralt says.

“Thank you for your concern, as always, Geralt,” Jaskier snorts. He stands up with a slight sway to his step and heads for the stairs. Renfri watches his back. She feels like if he leaves her line of sight right now, he’ll disappear for good.

“Mm,” she says, and gets up to follow him. There’s a bit more sway in her step than there is in Jaskier’s, but Geralt steadies her. She gives him another glower, but allows it. The important thing is following Jaskier before he disappears.

So she follows him.

Jaskier heads up the stairs to their room and opens the door and steps inside. Renfri catches it and steps in after, and Geralt brings up the rear.

“Well, you’re definitely drunk,” Jaskier says.

“Who cares?” Renfri says, and grips his jaw to make him turn his face and let her inspect that ugly line on his cheek more closely. It’s definitely going to scar. Maybe not too badly, given Geralt’s expert stitching, but all the same. Jaskier’s going to have that mark for the rest of his life, however long that is or isn’t.

She hates that.

“Yes, yes, just shove me around as you please,” Jaskier grumbles. “I don’t mind at all.”

Renfri stares intently at his slashed cheek and it takes far too much effort not to let her expression crumble. She knew someone would try to take this from her. She’s always known.

“Renfri?” Geralt says. Someone’s going to try and take him too, someday.

And someday they’ll manage it.

Renfri grits her teeth and tightens her grip on Jaskier’s jaw. He frowns at her. She can’t bring herself to let go of him.

“What is it?” he says, and it’s too many things to name.

“You’re an idiot,” Renfri says tightly, and then she kisses him. Jaskier makes a startled noise, grabbing her hips. She kisses him harder, looping an arm around his neck to pull him in closer. He kisses back, for a moment, and then stops himself and pulls back.

“Er . . .” he says, glancing towards Geralt. “Not that I’m necessarily against a little exhibitionism, but aren’t you two . . .”

“Get in the bed,” Renfri says, finally letting go of his face so she can shove him towards it. “Both of you.”

“Hn,” Geralt says.

“Oh, well, that’s alright then,” Jaskier says.

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Renfri doesn’t sleep around other people, but she has no intentions of any of them sleeping tonight.

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“Sorry about the fuss,” Jaskier says in the morning while Renfri’s running her fingers through her hair and getting dressed again. That ugly line on his cheek is even uglier in the sunlight. Geralt’s still dozing, his arm draped heavily across Jaskier’s naked lap.

“Don’t be,” Renfri says, checking her reflection in the little mirror. She’s a bit hungover and she looks it, but she’ll live. “Just don’t let it happen again.”

“That’s actually not a promise that I’m capable of making, you realize,” Jaskier says. “I am but a humble bard, after all.”

“I don’t care,” Renfri says. She keeps looking at herself in the mirror as she pins her brooch back on. She still doesn’t look as old as she thinks she should. She still looks like the same princess who was attacked in those woods and the same butcher who killed Stregobor in Blaviken.

She's still both of those people, and now . . .

Now she's this person too, she supposes.

"Well, I'll do my best, of course," Jaskier says. Renfri goes over to the bed and kisses him. Geralt stirs, his eyes opening. Renfri leans down and kisses him too.

"Of course," she says, and then she leaves, because she's not the sort to stay.

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She'll see them both again, Renfri knows.

And if she doesn't, whoever keeps them from her will regret it.