Geralt woke up with a start, head pounding hard. This was definitely the last time he'd taken up a contract that the people refused to give him enough clues on to actually determine what he was facing. Just his damn luck that it had to be a fae, kidnapping people, out of all possible threats he'd learned to recognize. Even better, it was a fae powerful enough to send him only gods knew where before he could reach for any of his swords although he was fully aware that would do nothing to help.
But he supposed he should count himself lucky. He was still alive and still him after all.
His eyes flew over his surroundings. Walls decorated with paintings and trophies, a bed that was undoubtedly the most comfortable thing he'd ever slept on, all of it was pointing toward the bizarre scenario that whoever owned this place had far more money than to just get by. He definitely was no longer in the village where he'd gotten that contract, then. Judging by the sun shining brightly through the windows, he wasn't even in fucking Temeria.
And yet... somehow it didn't exactly seem like he was out of place. It was hard to explain, but after so many decades venturing the Path, never really staying in one place for long, he knew what it was like to feel like a foreigner like he didn't belong. Over the years, he'd learned to mute it, to fully ignore it because it was just everywhere he went. But it wasn't here. He had no idea where he was but still felt like he should know because the place meant something to him. It wasn't exactly home per se, but it came incredibly close to resembling one. Just like Kaer Morhen always would but different.
He let out a huge exhale. It seemed like the fae didn't just teleport him away, she also must have done something to his head.
A gentle knock on the door startled him and made him sit up. Huh. That was odd. Most people would usually opt to pound hard or never bother to do anything else besides barging their way in. This knocking was resolutely different from everything he’d known, though.
"Yes?" he let out on instinct anyway. He didn't know what exactly he'd expected, but a man dressed in colors so bright that would put even some of Jaskier's clothes to shame and with a look that was anything but spiteful and threatening to kick him out at this instant, was definitely not it.
"Are you alright, Sir? I know how you value your privacy, but I was just passing by and I couldn't help overhearing the noise. You were shouting in your sleep, I’m afraid," the man said with an accent Geralt would recognize anywhere. Toussaint? Was that where the vile fae had sent him? Possible, but that still didn't explain the weird vibe he got from the place and why this man he'd never met before was looking at him as if Geralt's presence didn't bother him at all.
"I'm fine," he retorted when he realized he was still supposed to give the man an answer and cursed under his breath, hoping he wouldn't have to address him by name anytime soon lest he wanted to make a total fool of himself. Had he lost some memories along the way? Was that why he couldn't remember what his surroundings meant to him? Or was this merely a dream?
"Did I-" he cleared his throat, trying to sort out the mess his mind was, but the man didn't look put off or annoyed, just attentive and with patience Geralt thought he'd never get to see on anyone's face again after becoming a witcher. It was baffling. "Did I hurt my head recently?"
The man frowned in thought. "Not to my knowledge, Sir. It's been a while since your last injury, but it was of mild nature and had absolutely nothing to do with your head. But you did express you were feeling particularly tired today and decided to rest for a bit, which is how we got here."
"Hm," Geralt said, suppressing a curse. He definitely didn't have any recollection of that or even the slightest bit of idea how much time must have passed ever since he'd met the fae. Months? Years? How much had he actually missed of his life?
"I think I need some air," he pretty much rasped, feeling weaker than ever when he realized that for all he knew Ciri could have grown up or even died already and he didn't remember. Had he and Jaskier ever managed to patch things up? Is he dead now too? They couldn't be, Geralt reasoned, but time was rarely merciful on witchers. Much less when a fae was involved.
"Of course, Sir, I shan't keep you," the man said and stepped away to let Geralt pass. When Geralt did so gingerly as if outside the room awaited him nothing but a lurking monster, of course, the man noticed right away. "Are you sure you're alright, Sir? Shall I call for Master Jaskier?"
And Geralt froze and let out a gasp as the words dawned on him, partly in relief because Jaskier was alive and he was here, and partly in frustration because while it answered a few questions, it did cause another load of them to pop up in his pounding head. But never mind that when he didn't have to contemplate on missing the last moments of Jaskier's life, on missing earning the forgiveness he in no way deserved but yearned for regardless. Jaskier was here, alive and well. Judging by the house the bard apparently owned, he was more than well. And while the thought of seeing him again terrified Geralt more than anything, he found himself incapable of saying no.
The man, it turned out, didn't actually have to do anything because just at that moment they both heard footsteps and Geralt was met with a pair of cornflower blue eyes that were cheerful and full of hope and never failed to see right through him.
"Oh, good, you're awake," Jaskier beamed before going very serious in an instant. "We're in a very dire situation, Geralt. Lives depend on it and I need your honest opinion." The bard came up to him and held out two small rolls of blue cloth that looked identical to Geralt and asked: "Which do you think is better suited for the wedding?"
If Geralt had been of a weaker nature, he might have collapsed right then and there. But sometimes being a witcher did have its merit. At least in some areas anyway. "Aren't they the same?"
Jaskier gasped and pressed one of the rolls against his chest in indignation in such a him way that Geralt couldn't help but smile. "How dare you, witcher? All this talk about your superior senses and then you say these two completely different shades of blue are the same? Can you even see anything?" The tone in his voice was teasing and Geralt basked in hearing it again after months spent contemplating about the mountain and all he'd said, shouted, and wished so desperately he could take back. Jaskier's eyes now shone brightly with affection and happiness, nothing like the raw hurt he'd left in them when his own heart had been roaring under the weight of everything he'd regretted the most. Could it be that he'd managed to make it go away with time? Or was this merely a dream?
"You see what I have to put up with, Barnabas-Basil?" Jaskier asked the man but his smile was still playful as he rolled his eyes. "Maybe you could help us with this."
The man, Barnabas-Basil Geralt remarked for himself, offered a look of total understanding as if he too was wondering from which tree Geralt had managed to fall this time before he replied: "As much as it would please me to help, I'm afraid I might be running short on expertise when it comes to something as intimate and important as someone's wedding."
Jaskier accepted that without any hard feelings and thanked the man anyway before Barnabas-Basil excused himself to go tend to his duties. Jaskier looked deep in thought as his eyes roamed over the fabric in his hands before he gazed back at Geralt. "I know what you're going to say. Go ask Regis. He's already in charge of the wine and helped out in many different ways already, he surely has an answer to this too. And you might be right, but call me old-fashioned, I do actually agree with Barnabas-Basil on this. Other people are just running short on expertise. It's your wedding and your opinion I care about."
Geralt was absentmindedly wondering who the fuck Regis was, when all of a sudden he blurted out: "My wedding?!"
And Jaskier, honest to gods, actually laughed and beamed, completely oblivious that Geralt was quite possibly losing his mind. "I'm sorry, I know I keep saying this, but it's just less surreal telling it’s 'your' wedding. But you're right, it's not just yours. It's ours."
Geralt had only a split second of reminiscing how soft the last word sounded coming from Jaskier's mouth before the bard took a step right into his personal space and placed a chaste kiss on his lips as if it was the most trivial thing and not one of Geralt's deepest desires he'd never managed to believe would actually come true one day. But it happened and it was taking everything in him not to touch his lips as if that would make the sensation stay and engrave it in him for good. What had that damn fae done to him? What had she done to Jaskier? Brainwashed him into thinking that this was what he wanted when it couldn't possibly be further from it?
"Geralt," Jaskier said, frowning and reaching for Geralt's arm, "what's wrong?"
Geralt didn't flinch at the contact, but it was a very close thing and took away all the strength he got left to be able to look this man he'd hurt so much in the eye. "I- I just need some air."
He hurried out of the house, ignoring everyone he passed by even though they were smiling at him, calling him Master Witcher of all things as if the whole situation he was in couldn't get any more ludicrous and stopping only once he reached a tree on a hill overlooking the villa. He sat down, back leaning on the huge trunk and arms left dangling over his knees, and stared aimlessly ahead willing himself to wake up if this was a dream and to get ahold of himself if it wasn't. He'd never seen anything like this, never been fooled to this extent. Could it still be an illusion if his medallion wasn't even humming? On what ground was he supposed to reverse what the fae had done? Was there even a way to reverse it?
"Hey," he heard Jaskier's voice and forced his eyes to focus on the man sitting down on the grass before him and setting the two rolls of blue cloth aside before his eyes went back to Geralt. "This is going to sound weird and insane, but it's not like I made it up so I ask you to bear with me and take my word for it. Because if you don't, no one will. You said something similar to me a while back when we were at the same spot we're right now. But then again, you don't remember that... do you?"
"No," Geralt murmured so wistfully he almost winced.
Jaskier offered a sympathetic smile. "And what's the last thing you remember?"
"Running into a fae somewhere in northern Temeria."
"When was that?"
"And the year?"
"1264," Geralt replied and watched Jaskier gape at him as if he'd just grown a second head. "What?"
"It's the 12th of June. 1275. Your last memories are from eleven years ago."
This time, it was Geralt who openly gaped. Eleven years left out completely blank. Erased. Gone. How...
"Seems like you're one of the few who got to experience traveling through time," Jaskier finished and Geralt stopped breathing at once.
"Bizarre, I know. Believe me, I thought the same thing when you told me."
"I told you?" Geralt asked as if that was the most insane part about the whole thing.
"The future you did. Obviously not in many words because you avoid details like the plague, but you did explain the basics. I may not have known which year you got sucked out of, but I do know this is not permanent. You'll get back to your time before this day ends and it'll be like you never left."
Except he had left, gotten a glimpse of his own future, and discovered what it felt like to be kissed by Jaskier. All that being a result of those eleven years that would be waiting for him once he got back. And as much as it did put his mind at ease that his stay here wasn't permanent, it also reminded him how many things had gone wrong and how many more could still follow. There was no way this was set in stone. And he could ask so many questions, hope that at least half of them got answered, about Ciri, Yennefer, Eskel, Lambert, Vesemir, why they were in fucking Beauclair of all places, but then he looked at Jaskier and was once again reminded of how everything his actions on the mountain and before had left on Jaskier seemed like it wasn't even there anymore when he knew Jaskier remembered. Geralt had fucked up hard, had been given shit about it continuously by everyone who knew, but none of that had ever come close to actually seeing Jaskier walk away and all the remnants of the dangerous hope he'd been harboring despite knowing better crushing down on him once he'd come back from the mountaintop and found Roach alone with Jaskier and his things long gone.
But now they were here, eleven years later, Jaskier looking at him as if he had nowhere else to be even though Geralt wasn't the one Jaskier had forgiven and found it possible to fall in love with. Instead, he was the one who had sent the bard away. In the harshest way, there was.
Which was why when the next time his mouth opened, the only thing that came out was: "You're here."
"Of course, I'm here," Jaskier said and scowled before his eyes momentarily widened. "Wait. When was the last time you remember seeing me?"
Jaskier blinked and his whole face turned red. "The mountain? For fuck's sake, Geralt, the last thing you remember of me is that and you still let me kiss you?"
"Not like I knew that was about to happen."
"No, I suppose you wouldn't. Gods, I wish the future you would've given me some kind of heads-up so I would actually know how to deal with this. But the horse's arse said no. Leave it to me to make a total fool of myself by kissing the man who wants to have nothing to do with me."
"That's not true," Geralt emphasized. "It’s not how I feel."
"I know that now. It took some time, but... wait. You telling me about this whole mess means that you will remember what happens here, which... You absolute delinquent fool. I can't believe you made me wait for so long before you let me experience for myself what it was like to kiss you while you already knew! You're so lucky most of the wedding preparations are already sorted and paid for or we would be having a completely different conversation right now."
Geralt sighed. Lucky didn't even begin to cover it. All this talk about the future him, weddings, and kissing didn't sound like the world he'd gotten used to through all the hardships that had come with it. It sounded like one of those fairytales he'd stopped believing in the moment he'd realized he would never see his mother again. Where was he supposed to fit in all that?
"You don't believe..." Jaskier trailed off and waved with his hands around, "all of this is real. I know it's a lot to take in. Especially since... here you are, probably still in love with Yennefer, and looking right into your future and seeing... me instead."
"Yennefer has nothing to do with this," Geralt cut him off, not even surprised that most of what usually held him back from speaking his mind had no power here where there was no such thing as consequences since none of this had happened yet. Jaskier could read him perfectly regardless and if this was a way how to give him the truth he rightly deserved after so many rounds of lies littered with indifference, then Geralt was going to give it to him.
"You're saying... that you don't love her like that anymore?" When Geralt nodded, Jaskier let out a soft chuckle. "I guess that makes sense. Even after over three decades, you can still find ways to surprise me."
"The last time I saw you, I hurt you and forced you to leave. So none of this makes any sense to me."
"Knowing you it will take those eleven years for all of it to make sense. But it will take much less for me to forgive you."
Geralt swallowed and looked away. "How?"
"Since when am I someone who gives away the ending before its due time?"
"This isn't one of your tales you sing for money, Jaskier."
"You're right. It's so much more than that because it's our tale that my heart sings for me. It's the most special tale of all and it's worth to see it through to the very end, Geralt."
"I don't even know where to look for you," Geralt said, voice wavering. "Can't you-"
"Give you a hint?" Jaskier asked and sighed. "Believe me, it's taking everything within me not to tell you exactly where I am in your time so you could come and sweep me off my feet because, in spite of everything, that is what I still want you to do. But that's not how it works, Geralt. It works in ballads and tales because they're meant to give people hope, to make them see beyond reality. To imagine and dream. It's why I could never make them accurate the way you want me to. Because that would just defeat the purpose of them."
But Geralt didn't want accurate. Accurate meant realistic and realistic meant hurt. And he hated the irony more than anything. "And this is the tale you decided needed to be accurate?"
"In all its glory," Jaskier said and smiled. "Not all of it was perfect, but looking back at it now, I know it was right."
"What if I change something and prevent this future?"
"You can't know that."
"You're missing the point, witcher. Out of the two of us, I have the memories of how this happened. I'm the only one who knows that," Jaskier claimed and shifted so he was now sitting next to Geralt. "Give me your hand."
"Why?" Geralt asked but gave it anyway.
"So I can read your future to you and for once be able to say that I was right about everything," Jaskier scoffed as if that had been obvious right from the start before he grew serious again and locked their eyes, not wasting even a second to look at Geralt's hand and "read" from it and just holding it between his own. "You are going to find me. It will take a while, but you will. And when you do, just have patience with me and I promise I will have patience with you too."
"And that's supposed to mean something because I'm the epitome of doing what others tell me to do?" Jaskier deadpanned but ended up giggling before swatting him. "Geralt! I'm telling you I am happy. With you. Why are you trying to ruin that?"
"Because I know you also hardly ever do what's good for you."
"True, but this is different. And I'll keep saying it until you believe me. Reaching this point won't be easy for you, but it's worth it. It really is. And you deserve it, Geralt. As for my forgiveness, you just have to start. And never stop."
Geralt didn't need any clarification on what exactly that entailed. In his own heart, he knew where he had done completely wrong by Jaskier, and even if despite all this Jaskier was telling him he wouldn't earn forgiveness in the end, it didn't mean he shouldn't try. Not because this was the future he wanted to have, but simply because he owed so much to the one person who had refused to leave him alone until he himself had given them no other choice. It could never be repaid, but starting and never stopping sounded like he would be on the right track and even if that track turned out to be never-ending, he wouldn't mind one bit.
"This is the part where you say something," Jaskier said, still looking right into his eyes. "Preferably not those grunts that sometimes can barely be called human, but as you know, I'm not particularly picky."
And because Geralt wasn't the epitome of doing what others told him to do either, he leaned in and kissed the bard instead. Jaskier let him and reciprocated just as enthusiastically as he did everything else, carrying it out for as long as their lungs could take, and even when their lips parted, the two of them barely moved, leaving their foreheads pressed against each other in embrace Geralt didn't wish to see end.
"I take it that was meant to be a yes," Jaskier broke the silence with a smile. "Starting and never stopping?"
"Something like that," Geralt agreed and mirrored the smile. Out of the corner of his right eye, he managed to spot the two rolls of blue cloth Jaskier had left behind and relished the irony that he now knew why they were indeed completely different. One was the color of Jaskier's eyes, while the other one was shamefully not.
"Cornflower blue," he said and smiled even wider when Jaskier just gaped at him. "For the wedding."
Jaskier narrowed his eyes in contemplation. "Bold of you to make that decision since we aren't practically engaged."
"You did ask me and I know he will say the same thing."
"That's fair. I wish you didn't have to wait eleven years to see the result, though."
“Hm,” Geralt dismissed, remembering eleven was only a number that normally wouldn’t count for much since time was a fleeting thing anyway. It would never stop just because he wanted it and his prolonged life wasn’t making that truth any easier. If anything, those eleven years would fly by just like the rest and make him feel even more yearning for something no magic or power could grant him. It was something he would always know, but the promise of those eleven years with Jaskier being part of it, of the most special tale of all playing right in front of his eyes, did bring a sense of closure he’d never sought but was glad beyond measure he had now. Those eleven years were yet to pass and even when they did, he would make sure they had countless more.
Nothing that odd when you were a witcher, but when you were a human, the same rules refused to apply. Or did they? "You haven't changed. Even after more than three decades, you still look the same."
"That’s… true," Jaskier admitted awkwardly. "It will be explained in due time too. As much to you as to me. So I’m afraid my lips are sealed."
"And I assume you won't tell me why Beauclair either?"
"It's not like I picked it. That's all on you, though you won't see me complaining. But don't worry, if two higher vampires who wear nothing but dark and gloomy clothes can be happy here, so can an old brooding witcher like you."
"Now that I think about it, I do see some of your hair going grey," Geralt teased and laughed when Jaskier swatted him in retribution. Even if he was meant to disappear from this time right in that moment, there would be no regrets on his end. Jaskier was happy and Geralt could question it all he wanted, but there was no erasing that from his memory now that he'd seen it so openly.
They ended up kissing a few more times after that and when the sun was setting and shining on Jaskier in the angle that was just about right, Geralt admitted that living in Beauclair of all places did have its benefits.
Jaskier didn't stray from his side the whole time. Not even when Geralt asked him to sing something, the bard resolutely said it would have to be without the lute since he had no idea when Geralt was meant to return to his own time and Jaskier didn't wish to miss his last moments here. Geralt remained completely speechless after that, but Jaskier just smiled at him and begin to sing.
Somewhere along the way, when the light was dying out, Geralt felt his eyes closing and the last thing he remembered was the gentle squeeze of his right hand and softly whispered words that would serve as his anchor for the near future awaiting him.
"See you soon, dear heart."
He wasn't surprised when he managed to find Jaskier only a few months later. Time had always been a relative concept when it came to the bard and "a while" could mean only a few days just as much as it could mean years. Jaskier was resolute on ignoring him the first few weeks, but Geralt vowed to leave only if Jaskier asked him to. No such thing happened even after a few rounds of shouting he rightfully deserved, though. Geralt started and never stopped. Just like he'd promised.
When it was time to return on the Path and Jaskier said he was coming with, Geralt used proper words to thank him.
That same year, Geralt asked him to come to Kaer Morhen with him for the winter. It took some time for it to truly sink in when the bard said yes.
They shared their first kiss in the library of all places since they were completely alone and the light of the candles illuminated Jaskier so perfectly that Geralt could no longer help it. It only took a few more minutes before Jaskier called him "dear heart" for the very first time. And when he received a handful of comments from both Lambert and Eskel about it the next day, it was with a warm smile that he rolled his eyes at them.
He found out Jaskier was part fae a year later when the bard ended up kidnapped by another fae that seemed far too familiar once Geralt got closer and saw her smirk at him.
"Still kidnapping people, I see," he said.
"Please, they're far too boring for me to stick with them. I stopped right after you."
"Then why did you kidnap him?"
"Because I happen to know he's not completely human."
Words weren't enough to describe how he felt after that even though he'd known Jaskier's mortality wouldn't be a problem for decades to come. Words were rarely enough most of the time, but he used them anyway. Especially, when he knew that Jaskier needed to hear them.
They still had moments of weaknesses when stress took over and they ended up fighting, but throughout it all, they stayed and figured it out. Together.
They headed to the coast to get away for a while and it worked just like Jaskier had said it would.
Geralt eventually lost count of how many times Jaskier made him a chaplet, but he never turned any of them down. Ciri caught up fairly quickly and always made one for Jaskier too so they would match.
It was Jaskier who proposed. If blurting out the idea right after performing for a wedding they happened to attend since it was in the village where they decided to spend the night could count as a proper proposal, that is. No Beauclair or Toussaint in sight, but that had never been a factor in this decision anyway. Geralt said yes in a heartbeat and completely ravished the bard the same night.
Even years after, there were still times Geralt would dream of being back on that mountain, but the place no longer haunted him like it used to. It was merely a reminder of something he wished never to repeat.
And it didn't. Because he'd started. And never stopped.
Those eleven years passed and more followed. The most special tale of all indeed turned out to be worth seeing it through to the very end.