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Never again, forever again

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To never again lose someone I love.

That had been his wish. The desperate, desperate wish he’d whispered as the djinn had been wreaking havoc around them, fury given not-quite-physical form, pure wrath at someone trying to cage it once more after finally having freedom so near, almost within reach, but suddenly about to dissipate into wispy smoke once more, unreachable, an eternity of being bound to a mage’s will.

That in entire situation had been such a mess and he still thinks the fact that they all made it out alive was something of a miracle.

Even in hindsight, Geralt has to give it to the djinn and its ploy of rather successfully in hiding itself and its true allegiance, trying to outwit the bindings forced upon it by its last master, shackling it to obey whoever might reach for its leash next. It had even almost succeeded, hiding itself away, watching Geralt while not giving its true master away, jumping at anything that might count as a wish for it to fulfill, desperate for freedom, hoping that this time it might regain its free will. And if it hadn’t been for the rather messy end of that guard due to a few carelessly spoken words on Geralt’s part, he never might have realized he was the djinn’s current master at all.

Thing is, even when he had been looking for the djinn, Geralt had never intended to shackle it once he had gotten his wish of some damn sleep, fully intended to free it afterwards. One wish for the ability of nightmare-free sleep, one wish for the safety of himself and those he cares about, and the last wish to give the djinn its freedom while preventing it from taking revenge. Geralt has never had any interest in being anyone’s master, honestly abhorred the entire practice of enslaving a magical creature to another’s will on principle.

But then Yen, just when the djinn had almost succeeded in attaining its freedom, had tried to bind it once more, this time to herself. Even back then, Geralt had empathized with the djinn’s fury, the desperation, its desperation at the thought of being shackled for another eternity to yet another master, unable to break the bonds placed upon it.

So, when he’d found himself in that room, Yennefer utterly overwhelmed by the djinn’s power – for all her own magical prowess and her many years of practicing magic, clearly not having anywhere near enough experience with creatures to know when she was helplessly outclassed – Geralt had had a choice, so many choices of potential wishes to make.

The last of his three wishes, the deciding wish, the only thing that could reliably force a djinn back into its former prison.

All the options, the choices, had swirled through his mind, wishes and dreams and demands, including the option of his original intention to ultimately let the djinn go free, at the same time as the exact phrasing he’d need to eternally bind a djinn to his will darted through his mind, the exact, loophole-free phrasing you’d need in order to enslave another creature to his every demand, something he’d learned a long time ago. You know, just in case.

But in the end, he wished for none of that, none of the demands or pleas he’d thought of. Instead, he’d wished for something else entirely.

To never again lose someone I love.

Well, that’s not exactly right, not the actual phrasing he’d used, but it’s still what his wish had ultimately boiled down to in his mind.

A desperate wish, not at all based on the rather dangerous situation he had been in, caught between a mage’s powers and a djinn’s fury. It was the soul-deep, forlorn, desperate hope of a witcher who has walked this earth for longer than anyone should be forced to, always alone, never getting to keep anything he truly loves in his life, and so desperately afraid of losing the few people he had still had.

The djinn had disappeared only a fraction of a second after the wish had been uttered, too intent on grasping the offered freedom of a fulfilled contract to even bother with revenge for the attempted binding, unwilling to stay within reach of the mage who had just tried to force another set of shackles upon it.

And then, Yennefer had somehow managed to convince herself that Geralt wished for her to be bound to him or something along those lines.

He didn’t, not at all. He even doubts his wish had directly affected her at all, had barely even known her back then.

To never again lose someone I love.

Or rather.

To never again have to mourn someone I hold dear. To never again have to leave behind those who willingly stay beside me.

That’s far more along the lines of the actual phrasing of his wish.

So, he thinks Yennefer had likely just been lucky, spared due to the djinn’s desperation to be free instead of sticking around and taking revenge, something Geralt had counted on, had bet both of their lives on, knowing full well that if the djinn decided to take its anger out on her, once it was done, Geralt would have been next in line to feel its fury.

To this day he sometimes wonders whether it was the djinn’s sheer desperation to get away that made it grant his wish so easily or whether it might have been some sort of generosity on the creature’s part towards the one who didn’t try to cage it once more when given the chance.

Because with the vague phrasing of his wish, it could have been so easily twisted into something truly horrific. Best case scenario, the djinn might have decided to kill Geralt on the spot, thereby fulfilling his wish of never having to mourn anyone else again. It could even have killed everyone his phrasing might have included in his wish right alongside him and be done with it. Or on the more horrific end of the spectrum, it could just have well taken his ability to love at all, still fulfilling his wish if not at all in the way he might have hoped for.

But for some reason, the djinn hadn’t done anything of the sort, instead seemingly granting his wish in the exact spirit it had been spoken, a desperate hope whispered into the twisting maelstrom of its power, Geralt’s heart tired and heavy and all of him so incredibly exhausted from never getting to keep anything he has held dear at any point in his life, the endless fights and struggles and nothing ever staying his.

If anything, the djinn had taken his wish far more literally than he had honestly intended.

To never again have to mourn someone I hold dear. To never again have to leave behind those who willingly stay beside me.

These days, he is especially grateful for that last part of his wish. If only because it precludes the djinn’s magic from forcing anyone to stay beside him who might not want to, still gives the people in Geralt’s life a choice whether they want to actually remain by his side.

The wish certainly hadn’t been particular clever in its phrasing. More of a heart’s wish than a thought-out demand, and in hindsight, in the years afterwards, before he realized the full implications of how the djinn had chosen to grant his wish, he had barely managed to keep himself from cringing at the many loopholes he’d left, the many potential ways he'd left for potentially twisting his wish against him.

And now? Now it is a few centuries later, and the djinn’s magic still holds. Though in a way Geralt had never even dreamed of when he had uttered his desperate hope into the wrathful vortex of the djinn’s powers.

Because, well, the djinn did twist his wish into something Geralt had never intended, never even dreamed of. However, it’s result is something that Geralt will never complain about.

He only got the first inkling of how his wish might have been twisted when he realized that Roach had passed her third decade and was still trotting along by his side like she had ever since she reached her prime. It had been strange but – in a world full of magic where it’s impossible to know any being’s entire lineage – nowhere near strange enough for him to truly worry about at that point, just counting himself lucky to not have to give up his most loyal companion quite yet.

Then there was Jaskier. Geralt himself admittedly didn’t really notice the fact that the bard had stopped aging at some point, too used to forever-young faces and immortality of various sorts and extended lifespans in those he is even vaguely familiar with, to pick up on the fact that someone who should be aging very much wasn’t. He didn’t notice until Jaskier himself pointed it out to him.

Well, for a couple of years after the mess with the djinn the bard had just kept bragging about how fit he still was despite his age, delighting in how young he still looked even when he reached his fourties, when he neared his fifties. Geralt had rolled his eyes and thought none of it.

Until Jaskier’s behavior had changed, his bragging about his youthful appearance having stopped, the bard getting more and more twitchy with each passing year, obviously nervous about something, casting suspicious looks around himself, like he had been expecting someone to jump out at him or at least comment on something he very much didn’t want to speak about. Until even Geralt was starting to get worried and thus, one random night in the woods – with just the two of them settled around the fire, Ciri already asleep in her sleeping bag off to the side – Geralt proceeded to stare at the bard in unspoken question until Jaskier’s resolve had crumbled and he’d promptly devolved into a wreck of nerves and anxiety, rambling on about being in his fifties now and not at all looking like it and while he apparently thought that was kind of great not to be aging, there was definitely something wrong because he hadn’t really changed in the past couple decades and what if someone put a curse on him without him noticing and what if there were more side-effects?

Geralt had frowned, not at all liking the thought of some magic user daring to use their grimy powers on his bard, and he had promptly resolved to help Jaskier figure out the reason for his species-atypical lack of aging, promised to possibly even look for a solution in case it really was a curse. Even though a part of Geralt couldn’t help but feel desperately relieved at the idea that Jaskier might not be taken from him quite yet, even if only by age.

He still hadn’t connected any of it to the djinn.

It hadn’t clicked until Ciri reached her twenties, growing up normally, just like any other human girl might. Only to then promptly stop aging as well, just when she reached the age one might consider her fully independent, able to be making her own decisions.

It had been too many clues to ignore it any longer.

Roach had been going on her fifth decade then, Jaskier still looked like he was somewhere in his thirties, and Ciri stopped aging right when she reached full maturity.

Geralt had blinked, rather randomly thinking of the wish he had made to the djinn so many years ago.

He’d suddenly recalled Eskel’s drunken admission a few years back of having gotten injured during a hunt the month before, practically skewered on a fiend’s antlers, ‘more holes than flesh’ had been his exact description, bad enough that Eskel had apparently already accepted his own death, certain he wouldn’t be able to pull through. He somehow still had.

Same for Lambert and his far more cheerful account of getting completely drained by a higher vampire, to a point where his muscles almost stopped working due to a simple lack of blood in his body to fuel them, and somehow still managing to kill the thing and get away.

It was only at that point that Geralt finally realized that the djinn might have granted his wish in a much more far-reaching manner than he had intended or ever dared dream of.

When he had originally uttered that wish to the djinn, it had been born from his desperation to not lose anyone he let close again. He’d been thinking of the many friends and lovers he had lost to monster attacks or assassination or illness or simple strokes of bad luck. He’d been thinking of Jaskier who had barely made it through whatever the djinn had done to the bard in their original encounter. So, he had only wished to be able to keep those he holds dear around until it was truly their time to be taken from this world, when age or fate finally came calling. The thought that he might be able to keep them beyond that had never even occurred to him.

Not until that very moment of realization.

Still, to this day, it would be a lie to claim he regrets the outcome in any way.

To the contrary. Once that realization hit him, Geralt resolved to make sure he himself would survive for as long as this world will possibly let him. If only because he isn’t sure whether that wish he spoke so desperately, thoughtlessly, recklessly, might not have unintentionally bound the lives of the people he cares about directly to his own. He is simply unwilling to risk taking the others with him if he were to die.

So, him dying is not an option. Not anymore. Even if it means he’ll have to live on for yet another eternity.

Which isn’t a bad thought, not considering how his life has been turning out.

Sure, these days, several centuries later, the world has changed, full of fluorescent lights and sprawling cities and ever-evolving technology, everything far more convenient than it used to be but at the same time getting anything done also made far more complicated than it once was. Too many people with too many interests struggling for as much power as they can possibly grasp at the same time.

Then again, people themselves are still the same. Human nature forever prevailing, for better and for worse. A world of greed and cruelty and self-sacrificing love and unpredictable moments of kindness.

And while monsters might have learned to better hide themselves further into the shadows than they used to, they still very much exist, still interfere with people from time to time, even if the governments of the world try to keep the existence of monsters from the general population as best they can.

But with monsters still scuttling about in the dark, Geralt’s own role in life hasn’t really changed, despite the many centuries that have passed since.

He still takes contracts – though his employers tend to be governments these days instead of individual people or towns – and he still hunts monsters whenever they dare step out of line. With the rise of the age of technology, the world has broadened just as much as it has shrunk at the same time, but monster hunting mostly remains the same.

Sure, there was a time in history – these days carefully erased from any records anywhere – when his kind and anything magical was mercilessly hunted by humans, the very moment they discovered technology promptly thinking themselves powerful enough to take on the magical side of the world that they had feared before. They were wrong. For all their determination to figure out how to create witchers themselves, mainly driven by their greed and the promise of potential immortality, they also made the mistake of going after the mages at the same time with the exact same intention. There may not be many witchers – even less now than there once used to be – and by their nature they are far more suited for a brawl style sort of fighting, the same certainly isn’t true for the mages. Who promptly flattened any army daring to come for them, tearing apart entire countries, shredded governments to less than dust.

The sheer devastation the mages wrought within a mere few days in retaliation to the attack, proved to be a rather effective and lasting deterrent against any human ever trying to go after either of their kind again.

These days, few people know of them anymore, of the magical side of this world, and those who do, know better than to challenge their agency, independence, or freedom.

It’s been eight hundred years. Eight hundred years of them all just living on, in a world where magic and humans and monsters exist right beside each other as they always have, even if only a fraction of them know about it. And all throughout, Geralt and those he calls his remain utterly untouched by the passage of time.

Sure, some of their own people have definitely noticed the discrepancy of them not aging at all. And while the humans have no way of knowing better, anyone from their own side of the world, the magical side, is certainly aware that neither witchers nor mages are supposed to be truly immortal.

Witchers may age slower than most other creatures on earth but they do age. However, Geralt and those close to him just don’t anymore.

Same for Yennefer, who as a mage would age even slower than Geralt, but even mages do age. However, she has been just as untouched by time as Jaskier and Ciri have been, long since having surpassed any of the other mages who still live on in age, so very powerful in comparison that no one else can hope to come close, all the while still as youthful as she was several centuries ago.

She is also the best protection their kind has, the reason why no human on this earth, no matter how self-importantly powerful they might think themselves to be, dares reach for their powers anymore. Because Yennefer is many things but she is neither forgiving nor merciful and any vengeance she chooses to enact tends to be swift and utterly devastating. The Sahara comes to mind, where there was once a grand empire, but now buried beneath endless sand, drained of all life and utterly forgotten about by the world, in retaliation for their rulers daring to try laying a hand on one of Yennefer’s protégés.

Geralt is honestly more than a little glad that she took the revelation of her own immortality due to his wish to the djinn rather well, knowing that if she ever decides she wants him dead, he won’t last so much as a second beyond her set timeframe. Not if she focuses all her powers on taking him out, perfectly capable of removing any irritants from the world from a distance, without ever having to get close enough for him to be able to defend himself against her.

So, when she had appeared in his home one random evening – about a century after the whole djinn mess, after Geralt and her had already been back on speaking terms, though never quite rekindling what they had on that mountain during the supposed dragon hunt – he was glad when she only proceeded to nonchalantly settle into one of the armchairs in front of the fire, even as she watched him, expression neutral but eyes intent on him.

“You never wished for me to be bound to you,” she’d finally said.

A statement not a question, so he’d only hummed in reply, an affirmation without any additional details given.

She’d nodded, sighed, and then proceeded to invite herself for dinner at his place. Afterwards, she stopped staying away for decades at a time, apparently finally accepting that whatever hold the djinn’s magic might have over her, isn’t about her willingness to stay beside him.

Well, it kind of is, just not in the way she had originally assumed. Because, it’s her willingness to stay beside him that then also gave his wish power over her, not the other way around.

The point is, she clearly realized that whatever Geralt’s wish had been must be the reason for her complete lack of aging – Ciri and Jaskier and even Roach remaining unchanged also being a rather large clue – and likely even the reason why she heals so easily from even the most devastating of injuries, the reason why magical exhaustion doesn’t mean a slow, painful death for her like it does for others of her kind, the reason why she can even lose herself in magics that are known to demand the caster’s sanity in exchange without ever having to fear anything of the sort happening to her.

Because Geralt wished to never lose anyone dear to him again. And the djinn’s magic still holds true to this day.

Yennefer has never asked him about the exact wording of his wish, despite clearly being aware that only something as powerful as a djinn’s magic could succeed in superseding the touch of time for anyone Geralt calls his, the magic undeterred even despite Yennefer having temporarily cut ties, even despite Geralt sending Jaskier away for a while on the top of that mountain, until the bard stubbornly returned to his side like nothing ever happened between them, even despite Ciri not having been around at all when the whole thing with the djinn had happened.

He knows, even centuries later, she is still curious, still sometimes watches him, eyes narrowed in thought. But in the end, she never asks. Which Geralt is glad for. Because, he’d tell her if she did and he is afraid of the consequences her knowing might bring.

To never again have to mourn someone I hold dear. To never again have to leave behind those who willingly stay beside me.

But as a mage of her age and knowledge and power, she knows of the intricacy of certain magics, is aware that her knowing the exact phrasing of his wish might just be enough to undo the power it extends towards her. Geralt thinks she is likely right about that assumption and thus he is so very grateful that her curiosity doesn’t supersede her will to live, her determination to make as much of her life as she possibly can.

Same for the rest of the people he has kept close over the past couple of centuries.

He glances at the phone in his hand, the picture Ciri just sent him from her trip through the Amazon, a selfie of her proudly grinning into the camera, sword leaning against her shoulder, a nest of slain arachnomorphs visible just behind her. She decided on an extended, several years-long hiking trip around the world in between two of her identities once her old one ran out, using the chance of having to reinvent herself – as they all tend to do every couple of decades so as to not be too obvious about their forever-young appearances – for some time to get away from everything.

Geralt can’t blame her. Sometimes he himself misses the simplicity of the old days, of hunting monsters, traveling from settlement to settlement, from village to village, from town to town, always on the look-out for monsters giving the helpless locals trouble and nothing else to concern himself with.

Then again…

He cocks his head, listens to the sound of rustling sheets from upstairs where Jaskier is apparently waking, the bard-turned-international-pop-star turning over in their bed, hand sliding across the sheets as he reaches out towards his right, and promptly starting to grumble about Geralt’s absence from beside him.

Yes, Geralt really can’t complain about how his life has been turning out.

He lets the corners of his lips quirk up slightly, the stereo in the kitchen crooning one of Jaskier’s more sappy ballads currently playing on the radio, yet another international hit to blow the records – most of which Jaskier himself had set – out of the water.

Another plaintively soft grumble from upstairs and Geralt sets down his phone on the table as he levies himself up off the chair, fluidly grabbing the two mugs of already prepared coffee on the table.

And then goes to coax his bard from the bed. Or to let himself be coaxed into it. Either one is good with him.

He calmly ascends the stairs towards their bedroom, even as he absently considers whether, once their current identities run out, maybe he and Jaskier can follow Ciri’s example and do a bit of traveling.

It’s something they tend to do anyway, some more extended traveling every once in a while, Geralt in no way the only one between the two of them who might be prone to some nostalgia regarding the old days, wanting to revisit how they spent their first couple of decades as friends, how they originally met and the many decades after, even when they had long since become more than just friends.

Yes, some traveling before they settle into new identities once more does sound nice.

He finally steps into the bedroom, only to be greeted by the sight of two sleepy blue eyes blinking at him slowly, Jaskier clearly still halfway caught in the haziness of sleep, though it is rather promptly followed by a warm, lazily content smile curling on the bard’s lips at the mere sight of Geralt in nothing but sweatpants standing the doorway to their room. A room they have shared for the past forty years ever since they bought this house, though they’ve been sharing a bed for going on seven hundred years now. He smoothly crosses towards the bed, fully aware of Jaskier watching him, eyes half-lidded but still forever focused on Geralt.

Yeah, he thinks to himself, lips quirking up on one side as he settles on the edge of the mattress beside Jaskier's hip, coffee mugs already set aside on the bedside table, if only to better be able to lean over his bard, Jaskier already reaching out, hand softly trailing over Geralt's shoulder, chin tilted upwards, a wordless demand for a good-morning kiss. Another eternity of this?

Geralt thinks he would be perfectly alright with that.