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all we are (is dust in the wind)

Chapter Text

It takes four days for Tissaia to find her. Between the aftermath of the fight at Sodden, caring for the wounded and burying the dead, she’s left with little time and energy to focus on her magic and on the bond that connects her to Yennefer. The young—well, younger—witch remains silent. Tissaia tries not to let worry overtake her. In her spare time, when she wakes before the dawn, she wanders into the forest to look for some peace and quiet. At Sodden, the stench of charred corpses still permeates the air and she can barely remember what it feels like to smell fresh air. But the woods are good. She can focus and breathe deeply and she searches, again and again, everywhere, for any trace of Yennefer.

 

It takes four days. On the fourth day, Tissaia’s eyes open suddenly, and she listens. The wind rushes through the woods and she knows—knows—they are saying something.

 

Triss, she thinks. Triss, I have to go. Will you be alright?

 

It takes a minute for Triss Merigold to reply.

 

Still weak but getting stronger. Go. I’ll take care of the others here.

 

In a blink, Tissaia vanishes.

 

__

 

The lake is the first thing she sees. The magic is imprecise, hard to follow. She surmises Yennefer hasn’t recovered her full powers yet. In the horizon, mountains. Tissaia isn’t sure where exactly she’s just landed. Somewhere north, most likely.

 

On her right, what appears to be a small cottage on a rocky beach bordering the lake. Around it, green grass as far as the eye can see. On her left, thick woods of tall pines. She walks resolutely towards the wooden house. With every step, she feels the connection getting stronger and by the time she’s within reach of the door, Tissaia is almost running.

 

She stops herself, takes a deep breath and knocks on the door.

 

“Yennefer,” she calls.

 

Slowly, the door opens just enough for Tissaia to slip inside. No one is here to welcome her but there’s a fire crackling and the air is vibrating so she knows the other woman is here.

 

“Yennefer,” she tries again, softly, as she closes the door behind her.

 

A hand rises from under what seems to be a pile of blankets on a mattress, on the floor. Tissaia rushes at its sides and drops to her knees.

 

“I’m here, it’s me, it’s okay.”

 

Their eyes meet then. Yennefer looks frail, exhausted. Nonetheless, she offers a smile to Tissaia.

 

“Sorry, I’m a terrible host. I’m having a bit of a migraine, it’s a real bitch.”

“How long has it been going on,” Tissaia asks, worried.

 

She puts a hand on Yennefer’s forehead and notes there’s no fever.

 

“About as soon as I teleported here. It’s never happened to me before.”

“Well, you used a lot of strength and power at Sodden.”

“Yeah…”

 

Her eyes widen then, and she sits up, albeit with some difficulties. She reaches out and takes Tissaia’s hands in hers.

 

“How are you?”

“I’m—I’m tired,” Tissaia admits as she looks down. “The past few days have been hard, on all of us.”

“Days? How long was I out?”

“When did you wake up?”

“Yesterday, I think? I’m not sure. Everything’s a bit of a blur.”

“The battle was four days ago.”

“Oh… And… Triss? Sabrina? The others?”

“Triss and Sabrina will be fine. We lost most of the mages. I don’t know how many people I’ve buried.”

 

A quiet moment passes during which Tissaia stares at their joined hands. She can feel Yennefer’s piercing gaze on her, but she doesn’t look up.

 

“I was afraid I’d lost you, too,” she finally admits, her tone barely above a whisper. “You… you simply vanished.”

“Didn’t you suspect I would portal away?”

“Not immediately, no. I thought maybe the chaos had taken all of your essence and consummated you.”

“You underestimated me,” Yennefer concludes, no reproach in her voice.

“It appears so.”

 

The two women exchange a smile.

 

“The fire, I noticed there are no logs. Is it—"

“A remnant of my chaos,” Yennefer says, almost smugly. “I’m surprised it’s still burning.”

“Well,” Tissaia continues as she sits back on her heels, “I imagine you’re famished. I’ll go and see what I can cook up. You, dear, should really bathe. You reek.”

“Asshole.”

 

It’s said with no venom at all, for once, and Yennefer even complies. She stands up shakily and accepts Tissaia’s steadying hands on her waist with a small smile. Just as she’s at the door, Tissaia’s voice stops her:

 

“This cottage, was it you? Did you conjure it up?”

“With what was left of my strength, yes.”

 

Tissaia nods and with a wave of her hand, she shooes Yennefer out.

 

“The lake might be cold, so don’t take too long,” she warns.

“I won’t! And no peeping out the window,” Yennefer teases, always one to have the last word.

 

As busy as she ends up being in the small kitchen, Tissaia still catches herself throwing a few glances out. She convinces herself it’s simply to make sure the other woman is truly here after all these days spent looking for her. Acknowledging anything else would be too much, too soon and much too inappropriate.

 

When Yennefer steps back inside some time later, two bowls are set on the table and a wonderful smell coming from a caldron above the fire makes her stomach rumble.

 

“Sit,” Tissaia orders as she stirs. “It’ll be ready soon.”

 

__

 

They don’t talk much while they eat. A few words about the battle are exchanged, and Tissaia makes sure to let Triss know she found Yennefer alive and well, if weak. After their meal, she uses a few tricks to conjure up furniture for the cottage. Most importantly, a decent bed. Yennefer sighs contentedly when she sees it.

 

“That’ll probably be better to sleep in.”

“Hmm, I thought it would be nice to get a real night of sleep,” Tissaia agrees. “How are you feeling?”

“Better. Stronger. Could probably unleash a little chaos if needed.”

 

All the time they’d spent together in Aretuza, and Tissaia had never known Yennefer liked to joke. It was unsettling and yet it fitted her personality so well that she figures she should have known.

 

“No chaos needed, dear. Not yet, at least. Though the battle with Nilfgaard is far from over,” she adds somberly.

“Let them come,” the other woman replies, her eyes darkening with what Tissaia imagines to be rage.

“Oh I have no doubt they will. In the meantime, you must rest.”

“So do you.”

 

They share a look then. It wouldn’t take much for Tissaia to give the cottage more room, to conjure up a bedroom. But something in Yennefer’s eyes stops her from doing it. Instead, she nods and stands up, dishes discarded on the table.

 

“Come,” she orders. “Let’s take a nap. A lady my age needs her beauty sleep anyway. Don’t,” she warns before Yennefer can take a jab at her for that last comment.

“I wasn’t going to say anything,” she protests as she raises her hands in mock surrender.

“I know you, piglet. You didn’t have to say anything.”

 

And when they lay down next to each other on the bed, neither of them utters a word. And when they fall asleep to the sound of the crackling fire and their fingers somehow brush against each other’s, Yennefer doesn’t make a joke and Tissaia doesn’t turn away.

Chapter Text

When they wake up hours later, it is to the sound of pouring rain. Tissaia doesn’t linger in bed, embarrassed at having woken up holding Yennefer’s hand. If the young sorceress noticed, she keeps quiet. Her purple eyes watch in silence as her mentor pretends to be busy fixing her dress—which, in all fairness, needs some actual fixing.

 

“Let me help you,” Yennefer says as she approaches Tissaia.

“It’s fine, I can manage,” is the dry reply that comes her way.

 

She raises an eyebrow and shrugs.

 

“Fine, suit yourself.”

 

The cottage suddenly feels way too small for the two of them. Yennefer curses the rain. Her back to Tissaia, she lets her shoulder lean against the wall as she peers outside. What are they going to do now, stuck together in the middle of what appears to be a storm?

 

“It came out of nowhere.”

 

Tissaia’s voice startles her. In her reverie, Yennefer hasn’t heard her come closer, but the other woman is standing right behind her on her left.

 

“What?”

“The storm. It didn’t seem like it was going to rain when I arrived,” she explains, her tone now back to its earlier softness.

“This is why no one lives around here,” Yennefer says. “The weather is fucking shitty.”

“Language,” Tissaia chastises, more out of habit than real concern about politeness.

 

Yennefer turns to face her then, and they find each other’s eyes. Absentmindedly, Yennefer plucks a loose hair from Tissaia’s collar and drops it to the floor. Together they stand, appraising the other.

 

“Thank you for coming to find me,” Yennefer murmurs, looking away.

 

They might have been through hell together, but she’ll be damned if she ever earnestly thanks Tissaia for anything. Her timid acknowledgment is enough: Tissaia nods once and, in the same tone, replies:

 

“Always.”

 

__

 

Over dinner, long after the night has fallen, Yennefer tells Tissaia of her stories, of her adventures in Aedirn, and on the road. She reminisces about people she’s met and others she’s had to kill. Tissaia listens attentively, making sparse comments here and there. In all her decades of living, Yennefer doesn’t think anyone’s ever spent that much time wanting to just know her. It’s a new feeling. It warms her heart in a strange way but maybe that’s the fire and the wine they’ve been drinking all evening. More than once, she wants to stop, to tell Tissaia to look away and let her be. Being this open and honest and vulnerable… Yennefer normally hates it. She hates the fact that it doesn’t bother her too much this time even more. Yet something compels her to keep talking. Maybe it’s the wine—she will blame it on the wine—or maybe it’s knowing for once her words are heard.

 

When, finally, she finds herself out of stories, weariness in her bones, Yennefer finishes her glass of wine and stands up unsteadily. Instinctively, Tissaia reaches out across the table. Yennefer refuses her.

 

“I’m fine. I just need some air.”

“It’s still raining.”

 

Her objection falls on deaf ears. Yennefer slips out into the night. The storm has long faded into a drizzle, and she closes her eyes, enjoying the feel of the cold droplets of water on her face. For the first time in long, long years, it feels good to be alive.

 

__

 

It must be close to an hour before she goes back to the cottage. The fire is still burning bright, and with its inviting glow, Yennefer discerns the form of Tissaia’s body under the quilt on the bed. With as little noise as she can, she disrobes, dries herself off with a flick of the hand, conjures up a nightgown that she imagines wouldn’t make Tissaia scream in prudish indignation, and she joins her in bed.

 

Is it weird, she wonders, to be so close?

 

“Stop thinking,” Tissaia mumbles. “I can almost hear your thoughts.”

“I thought you were asleep.”

“I…”

 

Couldn’t, is what Yennefer guesses she was going to say. She understands. It’ll be a while before Tissaia stops worrying that she’s going to disappear into thin air.

 

“Goodnight,” she whispers.

“Hmm, you too.”

 

But Yennefer, despite the warmth of the fire and of Tissaia’s body so close to hers, despite her exhaustion, doesn’t fall asleep for a long time. She thinks about the stories she told that night. She thinks about her father and that day he sold her to Tissaia. She thinks about her pain and her hatred. She thinks about Geralt and the way she’d felt her heart sink when his truth had come to light. She thinks about Sodden and the horrors she’s seen there. She thinks about almost losing Tissaia. And somehow that’s the thought that keeps her awake most of the night.

 

__

 

When a ray of sun hits her face the following day, Yennefer wakes slowly, to an empty bed. She looks around the room and notices a bouquet of flowers on the table that wasn’t there before. The fire is gone, leaving no trace behind.

 

Her feet touch the now cold wooden floor and she shivers. It’s below average for spring, and her current location is particularly humid at this time of the year. She hurries back into warmer clothes and sets out to look for Tissaia. The door opens before she has a chance to get to it. In walks the sorceress, arms full of logs. She startles when she sees Yennefer standing behind the door.

 

“Oh, you’re awake.”

“Just now.”

“Good,” she says as she dumps the logs into Yennefer’s arms. “Take this to the hearth and I’ll start a fire.”

 

Yennefer stands rooted in her spot, shaking her head in amused disbelief.

 

“Back to giving orders again already,” she teases. “I liked it better when you were concerned about my well-being,” Yennefer adds, unloading the pieces of wood into the fireplace.

“Concerned? Hardly,” Tissaia scoffs.

 

Yennefer smirks at her. If there’s one thing she learned recently, it’s that she immensely enjoys getting a rise out of her companion.

 

“Oh come on, admit it: you care.”

“Shut up, piglet.”

“Make me.”

 

It’s a stupid thing to say, Yennefer knows, but it comes out of her mouth before she even thinks it through. She also doesn’t expect to have Tissaia standing so close to her—is that a new thing now?—and so when she turns away from the fireplace, Yennefer all but bumps into Tissaia who is definitely not laughing. Yennefer may tower over Tissaia now but her blue stare still makes her feel small.

 

“I could make you shut up permanently if I wanted, you know?”

“Does… Wait, is that a threat?”

 

That gets a genuine, surprised laugh out of Yennefer, and even Tissaia can’t suppress her smile at seeing her laugh.

 

“Well, what can I say, I must find ways to keep a semblance of authority over you.”

“So you resort to threats?”

“I don’t see what else would get you to shut up,” Tissaia says with a shrug.

 

Yennefer raises an eyebrow. She might have had the brief thought of being nicer to Tissaia, but the opportunity to mess with her is too tempting. She steps forward until they are so close they’re almost touching. Tissaia, to her credit, raises her chin and doesn’t move back.

 

“I can think of a few things,” Yennefer tells her boldly.

 

She doesn’t wait for a reply and leaves Tissaia frozen in her spot after one last sinful smile. If there’s one thing Yennefer does better than magic, it’s seduction. Her years on this earth have taught her it’s a weapon as powerful as any spell she can cast. Given by the long silence that follows, Tissaia isn’t immune to that either. Yennefer smiles to herself. That’s one new way to mess with her, then.

 

“So, how about that fire?”

Chapter Text

Later that day, the question of when to go back to Sodden is raised. It’s only been a day since Tissaia left Triss in charge but there’s much to do. The young sorceress keeps her updated on the situation there, on who didn’t make it and who’s healing well. When Triss asks her about her return with Yennefer, Tissaia stalls. She’s not sure why, but she lies and says Yennefer needs more time to rest. Triss doesn’t question her.

 

Sitting by the lake, Tissaia enjoys the sun with her eyes closed. It’s not too warm outside yet, but it’s nice enough and the air is pure here. She wishes they could stay longer, and then wonders why is it that she automatically included Yennefer in that wish. She could just as well spend time here alone, but somehow the appeal isn’t the same. She shakes her head. Those thoughts won’t do.

 

“Sabrina reached out,” Yennefer’s voice announces somewhere to her right.

“Oh?”

“Yeah, she wanted to, uh, hear from me, I guess. I told her I was doing better. Can I sit with you?”

“Are you really asking me for permission to do something?”

 

Yennefer laughs and sits cross-legged next to her. With a hand, she picks up small pebbles from the beach and throws them one by one into the lake. Tissaia sighs, eyes still closed.

 

“We’ll have to join the others soon. Tomorrow, if you’re up to it.”

 

To her surprise, Yennefer doesn’t reply. The occasional lapping of water is the only sound that breaks the silence. Tissaia chances a look at her dark-haired companion. Yennefer stays her hand then, drops the small pebbles back next to her and looks down.

 

“What is it,” Tissaia asks her.

“I don’t know. I don’t… I don’t want to go back. Knowing what’s waiting for us.”

 

The dead, Tissaia guesses.

 

“Our duty—”

“Oh please. We did our duty and it killed over half of us!”

 

There it is, the rage that Tissaia knew Yennefer was still carrying inside. She’s been waiting for a day to see it rear its head. Yennefer is chaos, now and always. She sees it in her eyes, swirling darkness in a midst of purple. Tentatively, she places a hand on Yennefer’s shoulder and rubs it slowly in a gesture she hopes is somewhat comforting and soothing.

 

“I know,” she agrees. “We both know life is unfair and that sacrifices are made, all the time. But there needs to be people like us to stand up for what is right, no matter the cost. The mages knew what they were in for. They fought bravely and we will have to keep fighting to honor them.”

“I might as well just head straight for Nilfgaard and annihilate them on their own turf.”

“They still have Fringilla. And this would be an act of war.”

“And what they did at Sodden, Cintra and who knows where else wasn’t?!”

 

Frustrated, Yennefer shrugs Tissaia’s hand off and gets up, walking closer to the lake until its small ripples lap at her feet. Dressed all in black, with a soft breeze in her hair, she looks like an empress of the night, Tissaia thinks. With grace, she stands up as well and dusts herself off.

 

“Nilfgaard will get what’s coming for them,” she assures. “In due time. Now, come. Let’s take a walk. Some exercise will do us good.”

 

Yennefer grimaces at the thought but follows her nonetheless, half a step behind.

 

__

 

Tissaia is surprisingly good company on their walk, in that she keeps her mouth shut and Yennefer is thankful for that because her headache still hasn’t subsided. Well, maybe it is the wine from the previous night. She’s not used to wine, she prefers a strong ale, but Tissaia is refined or something and she’s the one who made the rich, red liquid appear on their table.

 

Lost in thoughts, Yennefer doesn’t notice Tissaia has stopped ahead of her until she bumps against her outstretched arm, making her halt.

 

“What,” she asks.

“Shh. Listen.”

I don’t hear anything, Yennefer tells her with her mind after a few seconds.

Exactly. There were birds singing until about fifty yards back. The woods shouldn’t be this quiet, Tissaia explains. Let’s go back, slowly. Keep your eyes open.

 

Just as she finishes her sentence and takes a step back, an arrow flies past her and impales itself in the tree trunk on her left. Yennefer reacts first. With a wave of her arm, she puts up a shield around them.

 

“What the fuck,” she yells.

“We’re under attack!”

“Yeah no shit!”

“Can you see where it’s coming from?”

 

More arrows meet their end on Yennefer’s shield.

 

“No, and those aren’t just any arrows, they’re starting to pierce my shield.”

 

Tissaia grabs her free hand then, and the blue shield around them turns purple.

 

“Can you get us back to the cottage,” Yennefer asks her as their eyes meet.

“Hold on to me,” Tissaia orders and gets close enough for Yennefer to take her hand.

 

Yennefer’s shield breaks as soon as Tissaia withdraws her help and a wave of arrows comes at them at full speed. Tissaia sees them and she knows they’ll be faster than her magic so as she focuses on the cottage, she does the one thing she can think of: she spins Yennefer around and offers her back to the arrows. She feels two piercing her skin before she and Yennefer disappear into thin air.

 

__

 

“Fuck!”

 

They land on the floor, right by the door, inside the cottage, with Tissaia on top. Yennefer’s head bangs against the wood and she swears. At least she’ll know why she has a headache in the morning.

 

“Tissaia?”

 

Only then does she notice the two arrows stuck in her mentor’s back. Tissaia seems to be unconscious.

 

“Fuck, fuck, fuck!”

 

With no difficulty, Yennefer slides out from under Tissaia and lets the other woman lie face down. She hurriedly conjures up a pillow to place under her head and she kneels next to her to examine the wounds. The arrows aren’t typical, and a closer inspection makes Yennefer realize they’re enchanted, which can be a good thing when it comes to bodily injury.

 

“They’re paralyzing me,” Tissaia whispers, barely conscious.

“Should I take them out?”

Don’t touch them or they’ll paralyze you too. Use your magic.

“Got it. Any idea what paralytic agent they’re made of?”

Once I recover, I’ll find out.

 

With great care, Yennefer manages to extract the arrows and she feels relief when she sees their heads aren’t triangular which would have made more damage. Tissaia’s back is bleeding a bit through her dress, and once the arrows are out, Yennefer unfastens the laces with expert fingers.

 

“Don’t worry,” she says, “it doesn’t look too bad. I’ll clean the wounds and you’ll be as good as new. Though your dress is fucked.”

Fuck the dress.

“My, my, look who’s getting testy. I’ve stopped the bleeding. It wasn’t much, but I must prepare the ointment now. Can you stay still?”

You think this is funny?

“Right. My bad. I forgot.”

 

She didn’t, the temptation to make a joke was too much to resist. Yennefer suppresses a smile and hurries to the kitchen where her herbs are stashed. It only takes a few minutes to prepare what she needs, and she checks telepathically once with Tissaia in the meantime. The older sorceress isn’t doing too well. The poison is taking and she knows her heartbeat is getting slower. Yennefer’s powerful medicine should work as a cure if she can apply it to the wounds so it can penetrate the skin and reach Tissaia’s bloodstream.

 

“Alright, let’s see. It might sting a little, just so you know.”

 

Tissaia doesn’t wince or blink—not that she could, anyway. Still, Yennefer is impressed. If the roles were reversed, she’d be bitching and screaming internally. She has half a mind to scream on behalf of Tissaia. But her mentor remains calm, so calm that Yennefer wonders if perhaps this isn’t the first time she finds herself at the pointy end of a wooden stick. She’s noticed the little scars here and there on Tissaia’s back but she refrains from asking about them. Now’s not the time. She takes great care in applying the ointment on the creamy skin exposed to her. She knows it’s working because after a minute, Tissaia’s cheeks regain some color and she can even move the tip of her fingers.

 

“That should do.”

 

She disappears from Tissaia’s line of sight for a short moment and comes back with a blanket and another pillow. To Tissaia’s surprise, Yennefer lies down next to her and throws the blanket onto the both of them.

 

“What are you doing,” she manages to ask between gritted teeth.

“Well, the cure might take up to an hour to work and since I can’t magic you onto the bed…”

 

She trails off and, with both arms, brings Tissaia to rest her head on her shoulder.

 

“I hope to be a bit more comfortable than the floor.”

 

From the way Tissaia sighs, Yennefer thinks that she is. She probably makes a damn good mattress.

Chapter Text

“Calm down, Yennefer.”

 

Tissaia’s voice brings Yennefer out of her angry thoughts. They’re still entwined under the blanket and it’s been about half an hour now, so technically Tissaia should be able to move but she makes no attempt to and Yennefer’s been so focused on ideas of revenge that she hasn’t bothered to try and move herself.

 

“I am calm,” she declares.

“Your heart is beating fast and you’ve probably left an imprint of your nails on my back from pressing too hard.”

 

Indeed, Yennefer realizes as she retracts her hand from Tissaia’s back.

 

“Sorry. I’m angry.”

“I know. So am I.”

“Can you get up?”

“I think so but I’m afraid I’ll need help. My legs are asleep.”

 

She rolls on her back, slowly, and lets Yennefer stand up first to offer her a hand. Gratefully, Tissaia takes it and tries her best to hold herself upright, but she wasn’t lying: her legs are shaky and they almost give out from under her. Yennefer’s hands on her waist prevent her from falling.

 

“I’ve been known to make women go weak in the knees,” she jokes, “but even I am not that good.”

 

Her own hands to her chest to prevent her unlaced dress from falling down, Tissaia rolls her eyes and, when she feels confident enough that her legs will hold her weight, bypasses Yennefer who goes to follow, a big smile on her face, only to stop when her eyes find the two red dots on Tissaia’s back. Anger makes a swift comeback at the forefront of her mind.

 

“Stop staring, you’ll burn holes into me.”

 

Yennefer doesn’t stop until Tissaia conjures up a white chainse and a brown leather vest to go with a pair of pants. From memory, it is the first time ever that she sees Tissaia in something that isn’t a long dress. Absentmindedly, Yennefer bites on her lower lip then clears her throat and turns away.

 

“Right. You rest. I’ll—”

“Absolutely not. You will go nowhere; you’ll stay here until I am well enough to go back there with you.”

“I was going to say I’ll go get some water for a bath.”

“Oh. Hmm. Well, in that case you may go.”

“Thank you, kind madam,” Yennefer mocks as she sees herself out, leaving an embarrassed Tissaia behind.

 

__

 

As she watches Yennefer warm up the bath water for her, Tissaia thinks back on their beginning. How different she was, then. A frail and broken young woman with so much sadness and rage in her. Tissaia had seen through it, had felt the potential in the girl, felt it in her bones. Yennefer was power, she’d always known. Seeing her now, face devoid of her sultry make-up and body clad in a dark blue dress, it reminds her of a time long ago. But Yennefer now stands proud, her chin up in defiance, her eyes hardened and betraying nothing to the untrained eye. Tissaia still sees through her because she’s spent years learning from her, just as Yennefer learned from her. Behind the beauty and the cold demeanor, she recognizes the hurt woman from before. Magic hasn’t fully healed Yennefer. It’s made her stronger, for certain, and incredibly self-confident, bordering on arrogant. Annoying, and somewhat endearing. But it can’t hide the scars left by years and years of abuse.

 

Tissaia sighs and that gets Yennefer’s attention. Her eyes shoot up and she glances worriedly at Tissaia.

 

“Everything okay?”

“Yes, yes. Isn’t that water warm by now?”

“It is. I’ll, uh, give you some privacy. Unless you need help?”

 

The offer takes Tissaia by surprise. The thought of Yennefer helping her out of her clothes makes her swallow hard and she hopes it isn’t noticeable. At least Yennefer seems a bit uncomfortable, too.

 

“I’ll be fine, thank you,” she says softly.

“Right. I’ll be going, then. Do we still have wine? I need wine.”

“I believe we left some in the jug by the table.”

“Great. Thanks.”

 

She awkwardly makes her way to the kitchen and Tissaia’s eyes follow her until she holds the jug above her head triumphantly and opens the door with a “don’t drown” before she disappears outside. Left with herself, Tissaia smiles fondly and makes quick way of her clothing. The water is hot, not quite how she likes it but close enough, and she hums contentedly as she sinks deeper into the small tub.

 

“Fuck,” she moans quietly.

 

Not one to swear, really, but she’s only human and she hasn’t bathed like that since before Sodden and it feels divine. The warm water does wonders on her tense muscles and whatever spell Yennefer cast, it smells good. A mix of lavender and jasmine, she thinks. Tissaia takes her time to enjoy it and she does notice the water doesn’t grow colder which means Yennefer was thoughtful enough to enchant it and keep it hot for her. It feels so good that Tissaia could cry. She has to force herself not to fall asleep right then and there. Having her former student walk in on her sleeping naked in a tub wouldn’t do.

 

When she feels that a reasonable amount of time has passed, she regretfully leaves the tub and dries herself off with a flick of her hand. A knock on the door startles her and she rushes to the quilt on the bed, wrapping it around herself.

 

“What is it?”

“Are you done? It’s starting to rain,” Yennefer calls from outside.

“Uh, give me a minute!”

 

Maybe Yennefer doesn’t hear her, most likely she simply doesn’t care, because she walks in and stares blankly at Tissaia.

 

“I—I told you to wait!”

“It’s raining. My hair can’t handle that much humidity.”

“Well then turn around, at least!”

“Why, you don’t have anything I haven’t seen before.”

 

It’s clear that this has become a game for Yennefer, judging by her shit-eating grin. Tissaia squints her eyes and says a few words in Elder, and suddenly there’s a thick smoke in the cottage, separating them.

 

“Oh, wow, so mature,” Yennefer mocks. “You do realize I could wave my hand and make that disappear, right?”

“You do realize,” Tissaia replies as she makes the smoke vanish and steps forward, fully dressed, “that I could make you disappear if I wanted?”

“Back at it with the threats? I take it the bath was good.”

“Indeed it was. Where’s the wine?”

“Finished it.”

 

Tissaia looks at her with reproach in her eyes which earns her a smug smile. She sighs, one of those long-suffering sighs only Yennefer seems to get out of her and directs her attention to the arrows on the table.

 

“Hmm.”

 

She frowns. Yennefer follows her line of sight.

 

“What? What is it?”

“I’ve seen those before. They’re from a people up north. They fight against invaders and predators. They set up traps. I… I didn’t think the woods were part of their territory. We’re further north than I thought.”

“You know them?”

“No, not per se. But I’ve heard of them and I’ve healed injured soldiers in the past. Those arrows were all the people had to defend themselves. They pushed back against a small army.”

“What are they called?”

“The Grifdians, I believe.”

“Well I’m going to kick some Grifdian ass, then.”

 

She’s halfway to the door when a hand on her arm stops her.

 

“No.”

“What? They attacked us!”

“We were on their territory.”

“We didn’t know!”

 

Yennefer is getting frustrated and her eyes shine more brightly than usual, a sure sign of emotional turmoil. Tissaia steps between her and the door. Futile, she knows, because Yennefer could simply portal herself directly into the woods. But the young sorceress does no such thing. She keeps her eyes on Tissaia, waiting for a good reason to give up on her idea of revenge.

 

“And they didn’t know that we didn’t know. Attacking them now would be proving them right, and it would no doubt create a major conflict. Do we really need more of that?”

“They almost killed you.”

“Hardly the first time I have a brush with death.”

“They should at least know we weren’t a threat!”

 

Somehow, in her angry outburst, Yennefer has stepped closer and she now has Tissaia trapped between her and the door. Even with her back against the wood, Tissaia stares her down.

 

“Stand down, Yennefer. We’re not going back there.”

 

The air is vibrating with magic; Tissaia can feel it radiate from the warm body in front of her. Her own body reacts in kind. She’s always known Yennefer to be hot-tempered but they’ve never gone up against each other like that before. It’s exhilarating, and a bit scary. She enjoys it way too much. Yennefer doesn’t step back or look away. She remains still, tense, perhaps hoping Tissaia will move.

 

“This can go on to be the longest standoff in history,” Tissaia ends up saying with a small smile.

“Why did you take those arrows for me?”

 

The question catches her off-guard. She thought Yennefer hadn’t noticed.

 

“I saw them coming straight for you, I simply reacted.”

“It was stupid. You could have died.”

“Haven’t we gone over that already?”

“Do you really care so little for your own life,” Yennefer asks, hands up in frustration.

“I’ve lived more than half a millennium. You still have so much to do. It was an easy decision. Really, Yennefer, you shouldn’t be so up—”

 

The bolt of lightning that comes out of Yennefer’s hand and collides with the flames in the fireplace takes her by surprise. She quiets down and watches as Yennefer’s head hangs low, all tension gone from her shoulders.

 

“Just… don’t die on me, okay? How would I explain that to the Council of idiots in Aretuza, huh? Damn it,” she finishes with a sorry shake of her head.

 

She leaves a stunned Tissaia against the door and moves to sit on the bed, facing the fire. After a few deep and shaky breaths, the Rectoress finds her balance and approaches her former student cautiously.

 

“I won’t apologize for trying to keep you safe,” she says, softly. “I would make that choice again if I had to. What you can bring to this world, Yennefer…”

“My life isn’t more important than yours,” she interrupts harshly.

“In all my years in Aretuza, I have never seen a sorceress able to control chaos quite like you. I was supposed to die at Sodden. You spared me. Through your chaos,” she continues as she kneels on the mattress, behind Yennefer, “you still managed to protect me from the fire. No one else could have done that.”

 

Delicately, she slips both of her hands on Yennefer’s shoulders and feels them tense up under her touch. Still, Yennefer accepts it and begins to relax as Tissaia starts to massage them. In front of her, the flames shine brighter and hotter.

 

“I just didn’t want you to die,” Yennefer confesses, voice barely loud enough for Tissaia to hear.

 

Her hands pause for a second before resuming their task.

 

“Not long ago you wouldn’t have cared if I died,” she points out.

“That’s not true,” comes the immediate protest.

 

Yennefer turns around then, making Tissaia drop her hands back at her sides. They stare at each other in silence. Maybe it had been true for a time, Yennefer can admit to herself, but things had changed. Now she would give anything to preserve Tissaia and keep her out of harm’s way. Even if that meant taking out the entire Nilfgaard army on her own. She sees the way blue eyes fall to her mouth, and Yennefer has half a mind to just close the gap between them and press her lips against Tissaia’s, but she doesn’t. The Rectoress would no doubt push her away. Yennefer yearns for closeness. The events of the day scared her, as much as she hates to acknowledge it. Losing Tissaia has somehow become one of her worst nightmares.

 

With a slightly trembling hand, Tissaia pushes a lock of Yennefer’s hair back behind her ear and lets a finger trail against her jaw.

 

“Beautiful,” she whispers.

 

Then, as if coming to her senses, Tissaia clears her throat and gets off the bed, leaving a confused Yennefer behind.

 

“I’ll cook us something now that I feel better,” she announces, as if nothing has transpired between them, as if they didn’t just have a moment. “You should tell Triss and Sabrina that we’ll be heading back tomorrow.”

 

For once, it’s Yennefer who’s left without words.

Chapter Text

It’s like the events of the day have shed a whole new light on Tissaia. Yennefer can’t keep her eyes off her at dinner, and she has a hard time keeping up with the conversation her mentor tries to make. The atmosphere is awkward and Yennefer doesn’t do well with awkwardness, she never gets flustered and always has the upper hand, and yet…

 

“We’ll return to Aretuza tomorrow, since Triss told you the mages have regrouped there,” Tissaia tells her. “Foltest’s army will chase the remaining Nilfgaardians away.”

 

Watchful purple eyes follow her movement as she brings a spoonful of soup to her lips and blows lightly on it. Yennefer stands up so suddenly that she almost knocks over her bowl. It’s too hot in the cottage and she needs air. Tissaia looks at her, questioningly.

 

“Are you alright?”

“I’m going for a swim.”

“… In the dark?”

“What?”

“It’s dark outside,” Tissaia points out.

“Fuck.”

 

She wipes at her brow and turns away, frantically thinking of an escape. Concerned, Tissaia places her spoon next to her own bowl and stands up as well.

 

“Yennefer, you’re probably still exhausted. You should sleep. Or at least, enjoy a bath. Warm water would help you relax.”

 

Yennefer scoffs. What she needs is a bucket of ice water to plunge her head into and scream, but she can’t tell that to Tissaia.

 

“I’m fine. I’ll just… go to bed.”

 

She stalks over to the bed which somehow seems smaller than the previous night even though she knows that’s not true. Her mind is playing tricks on her and Yennefer wonders if the fact that she hit her head on the floor earlier isn’t to blame. Surely this isn’t really herself, right?

 

“I’ll bring you a cold poultice; it should help you feel better,” Tissaia says from somewhere behind her.

 

Yennefer sighs. She hadn’t meant to send that thought through their telepathic link. Weary, she sits on the bed and kicks off her boots. She’s about to change into appropriate clothing for the night when Tissaia appears in front of her, a cold compress in her hand.

 

“There,” the older woman says as she presents it to Yennefer. “Lie down and keep this on your forehead. It’ll cool you down and help you sleep.”

“Thanks.”

 

Tissaia stands there, looking at her, and Yennefer has to look up to meet her gaze.

 

“What?”

“Nothing. Good night, dear.”

“Yeah. You, too.”

 

Without another word, Tissaia goes back to the kitchen to finish her bowl of soup and Yennefer is left alone on the bed.

 

__

 

When Tissaia wakes up early the next morning, she feels warm. It takes her a few seconds to realize what she feels is the warmth of Yennefer’s body, pressed against her back. One arm holds Tissaia in place, firmly against Yennefer’s front. Tissaia frowns. She can’t remember the last time someone spooned her in bed.

 

“Yennefer,” she murmurs, hoping to wake the other woman gently.

 

Yennefer mumbles something unintelligible in Tissaia’s loose hair and tightens her hold on her, snuggling closer if that’s even possible. Tissaia allows it, if only because she imagines Yennefer has been craving affection for a long time and when she’s in such a vulnerable state, who is Tissaia to refuse her? She waits, a minute, then another. Outside, it’s barely dawn. She sighs and figures that maybe she can afford to go back to sleep for an hour. Surrounded by the warmth of Yennefer and of the fire still burning, Tissaia closes her eyes and wills herself back to dreamland.

 

__

 

This hand is definitely not supposed to be here, is her first thought when she wakes again, some time later. Yennefer is cupping her left breast and Tissaia simply cannot control how she reacts to that. She gulps and tries to delicately move that hand, but Yennefer seems to have other ideas. She whines as soon as Tissaia inches away and seems so profoundly asleep that a shadow of doubt appears in the Rectoress’ mind. Could Yennefer be messing with her?

 

So she decides to turn around, hand on her breast be damned, to face Yennefer. The sudden move makes Yennefer frown and stir a little. Tissaia takes a moment to study her face. Devoid of make-up like this, Yennefer looks so young and innocent. Her purple eyes open then, to find blue ones staring at her. Busted, Tissaia thinks as a feeling of mortification washes over her. But Yennefer doesn’t say anything. She stares back, eyes still a bit unfocused. Tissaia almost comes to believe the moment might not be as awkward as she feared when Yennefer speaks.

 

“Morning, creep.”

 

Just like that, the spell is broken. Yennefer laughs at her and Tissaia’s heart skips a beat and she has to get out of bed.

 

“Were you watching me sleep,” Yennefer continues to taunt her, watching in amusement as Tissaia gets up so fast you’d think the mattress was on fire.

“No!”

“Oh, really?”

“Well, yes, but that’s—that’s not…” She trails off, looks to the side and sighs. “At least I’m not fondling people in my sleep,” she huffs.

 

Yennefer’s mouth drops open, but then she’s back to smiling as wide as her face allows her to.

 

“So I get a little handsy during my sleep and you decide to gaze fondly at me?”

“Must you always be so insufferable,” Tissaia chastises, feeling herself going red. “Get up, lazy girl. We’re expected in Aretuza before noon.”

 

Yennefer doesn’t tease her more—for now—but Tissaia feels her eyes on her as she dresses for the day and then tidies up the cottage.

 

“You know I’m probably just going to make it disappear, right?”

“Why? It’s a perfectly good place to live in. You should rather keep your strength to open a portal to Aretuza.”

“If you want me to let it stand so you have a place to go on vacation, tell me.”

“Out of bed now, piglet,” Tissaia orders, walking towards Yennefer.

 

She uses a towel to slap her legs until Yennefer feigns pain and gets up.

 

“Fine, fine, I’m ready,” she says, magicking herself into her usual travel attire. “Dear lord, woman!”

 

Tissaia smiles, satisfied that they’re now all set to leave. A few words in Elder and the cottage suddenly looks like no one’s ever lived in it. She takes Yennefer’s hand and nods.

 

“Let’s go.”

 

Yennefer glances at their joined hands, and then up at Tissaia.

 

“You do realize there’s no need for you to hold my hand?”

 

__

 

“We will never speak of this again,” Tissaia warns her as they come to a halt in front of the immense doors of the academy.

“What? Oh, you mean that one time you held my hand for no reason?”

 

If looks could kill, Yennefer would be ashes. She throws her head back and laughs, to Tissaia’s dismay. The sorceress huffs and stalks forward, leaving a mocking Yennefer to catch up. Before they reach the doors, those open to reveal Triss. When she catches sight of Yennefer, she runs towards her friend and all but throws herself into her arms.

 

“I knew you would save us,” she exclaims in Yennefer’s ear.

 

Tissaia, hands clasped in front of her, watches them with a fond smile. Affection comes easy to Triss and she finds herself a bit envious of the woman. But then, Triss lets go of Yennefer and turns towards her before she pulls her into a hug.

 

“Thank you, Tissaia.”

“There’s no need to thank me, dear.”

 

She allows the hug and awkwardly pats Triss’ back, much to Yennefer’s delight, who’s grinning like an idiot at Tissaia’s obvious weirdness.

 

“Come, Sabrina and the others are waiting inside,” Triss motions for them to follow her. “King Foltest sent a messenger early this morning. They’ve pushed back Nilfgaard and are guarding Sodden Hill for the time being. Oh, and Geralt showed up looking for you,” she adds, throwing a glance at Yennefer over her shoulder.

“Geralt? Here?”

“No, sorry, I meant in Sodden.”

“Isn’t that man a Witcher,” Tissaia asks, a bit lost.

“He is, he saved King Foltest’s daughter from a curse,” Triss informs her.

 

Beside her, Yennefer scoffs and looks away, and Tissaia knows there’s history behind that. She doesn’t like the way the thought bothers her.

 

“I’ll go to my chambers before seeing the others,” she announces. “Triss, let them know I will join them all in the council room soon.”

“Very well.”

 

The doors close behind them, and Yennefer sighs. Home, sweet home.

Chapter Text

If there’s one thing Tissaia doesn’t expect, it’s for Yennefer to follow her to her chambers. She doesn’t even hear the other woman’s footsteps behind her and only realizes she’s here when she goes to close the door only to find herself face to face with Yennefer.

 

“Yes?”

“What?”

“What are you doing?”

“Uh, well, I wasn’t going to meet them without you.”

 

Yennefer walks past her and into the room. She whistles as she spins around to take in her surroundings. Tissaia doesn’t even bother to argue with her presence here. It’d be pointless. She does, however, argue when Yennefer plops down on her bed, carelessly and without grace.

 

“I don’t remember giving you permission to touch any of the furniture,” she says dryly.

“This bed is so comfortable I could fall asleep right now.”

“You woke up less than an hour ago, lazy piglet. Stand up.”

 

Yennefer complies with a pout.

 

“Come here,” Tissaia beckons. “In your opinion, which one of these dresses should I wear?”

 

In each hand, she holds a dress. Yennefer considers them for a moment, hums, then closes her eyes. When she opens them again, a whole new dress is laid out on the bed. Tissaia blinks, twice, then approaches it.

 

“What is this?”

“Think of it as a little present.”

 

With uncertain fingers, Tissaia touches the fabric. It’s fluid, smooth under her touch. The dress is long, with a train. If she’s being honest, it’s gorgeous. Deep blue, with silver lace at the cuffs and neckline.

 

“You’d look wonderful in it,” Yennefer’s voice says in her ear.

 

Tissaia shivers and prays it goes unnoticed.

 

“I could even lace it up for you,” the other woman continues.

 

Before Tissaia can answer, there’s a knock on the door and then Sabrina’s head appears through the door that she opens partially. She has a timid smile on her face.

 

“Sorry to interrupt. I just wanted to see you both before the meeting.”

 

If she finds it strange to see Yennefer stand so close to Tissaia, she doesn’t comment on it.

 

“Come on in, Sabrina. It’s good to see you, dear.”

“You, too. I was so worried,” she admits, not quite meeting Yennefer’s eyes.

“We’re both all right, no need to worry yourself now.”

“I’ll make sure a meal is served for both of you downstairs.”

“Thank you.”

 

With that said, Sabrina hurries back out of the room, leaving once again the two women alone together. Now composed again, Tissaia takes the dress and disappears behind a folding screen.

 

“You should change, too,” she tells Yennefer. “A dress would be nice.”

“Why? I think my ass looks nice in pants.”

“It does,” Tissaia grants her to Yennefer’s immense surprise, “but it’s no proper outfit for the academy.”

 

Stunned, the younger sorceress smiles to herself. She’s not sure exactly what’s been going on between the two of them ever since Tissaia found her at the cottage but it tugs at her heart and gives her a reason to stay in Aretuza for the time being. She intends to enjoy it.

 

“Very well, mistress. I’ll change.”

“Good, you can use the—”

 

Tissaia stops dead in her tracks as she emerges from behind the screen. Yennefer is down to her undergarments without a care in the world. Her breath catches in her throat at the sight of her.

 

“What are you doing?!”

“Uh, changing?”

“In the middle of my room? Why?”

 

Yennefer shrugs nonchalantly.

 

“I’m a woman, you’re a woman. Who cares?”

“I…”

 

Tissaia doesn’t complete her sentence. She heads straight for a drawer at her desk and pulls a small flask from which she drinks. A lot. Yennefer watches her, eyebrows raised, hands on her hips.

 

“Am I driving you to drink,” she asks, terribly amused.

“What do you think,” Tissaia bites back, slamming her flask on her desk.

“Good. You need to loosen up. That broom up your ass needs a rest,” Yennefer tells her breezily.

 

Tissaia doesn’t even look offended, that’s how used she’s gotten to Yennefer’s antics over the past couple of days. She waits, tense, as Yennefer takes a step towards her, and another, until her scantily clad body brushes against her shoulder. She looks down at Tissaia, whose eyes are trained firmly on the table in front of her.

 

“May I take a sip?”

“It’s empty.”

“Why can’t you look at me? It can’t be all prudishness. I mean, I know you’re a prude, but still. You’re old. You’ve seen some shit, and then some more. Am I not nice to look at?”

“You’re playing a dangerous game, Yennefer. Step away,” Tissaia warns her.

“I’m curious. You call me names, treat me like dirt, for years. Then you all but beg me to come back. You actually say please. We had a moment, before the battle. I think it might have been the first time I ever saw you smile. Genuinely smile. And I guess, what I don’t understand is that you let your guard down around me sometimes and I almost believe we can be friends. Well, friendly. But then the walls go up again, and you’re distant, and cold and unreachable. My question is, are you like this with everyone or is this special treatment for your piglet?”

 

Time stands still as Yennefer waits for an answer, an explanation to what doesn’t make sense to her. Surely Tissaia can tell her why their relationship is like no other she’s ever known. But Tissaia remains silent for so long that Yennefer starts shivering from the cold in the room. She’s about to give up and move away when Tissaia speaks.

 

“You talk in your sleep, do you know?”

 

Taken aback, Yennefer frowns.

 

“What does that have to do with anything?”

 

At last, Tissaia looks up. Her eyes linger on Yennefer’s lips for a second before meeting purple. When another shiver runs through Yennefer, she knows it’s not from the cold.

 

“Some rather… detailed images. Involving you and others. Sometimes this Geralt that Triss mentioned. Some other times, well. Me.”

“I...”

 

Really, what can she say to that? She rarely remembers her dreams, thankfully. Most of them are probably nightmares. Countless times she’s woken up, in tears at first, and then just sweat. The last time she dreamed of Geralt, it was rather explicit, so she can only imagine what Tissaia heard about herself.

 

“I’m not asking you to explain yourself, Yennefer. I believe in the importance of privacy. But surely you understand why I cannot entertain your little games.”

 

In the end, it’s Tissaia who moves away first. Yennefer is still frozen in place when she reaches the door and calls out to her.

 

“Get dressed. Join us downstairs.”

 

She slips out the door, leaving Yennefer to reflect on what just happened.

 

__

 

Tissaia is in the kitchen when Yennefer enters, fifteen minutes later, wearing a long, black dress with sleeves showing hints of crimson red when they catch the light right. She meets Tissaia’s eyes briefly and looks away. That’s a new development, Tissaia thinks. Perhaps it had been a mistake to reveal what she knew about the other woman’s dreams but in that moment, she hadn’t known how else to shut down whatever Yennefer had been angling to do. Acting as if she hadn’t heard the most obscene things coming out of Yennefer’s mouth during their time together in the cottage had been harder than anything and the mere thought of those words still make Tissaia feel hot and bothered, and this will simply not do. Yennefer is wildfire and Tissaia is too cautious to ever risk getting burned.

 

“There’s chicken, over there,” she informs her, “and corn in here.”

“Thanks.”

“The council meeting will start soon.”

“Hmm.”

 

The atmosphere is strained, with neither woman willing to talk. Tissaia thinks it’s a necessary evil, to keep Yennefer at arms’ length. Eventually, she’ll leave Aretuza while Tissaia stays behind to welcome new students. Their paths will cross again, under other circumstances. Less dire ones, hopefully.

 

Yennefer’s knife falls to the floor in a clatter, snapping Tissaia out of her thoughts. In the dimly lit kitchen where they both sit alone at a table, she can’t quite make out the expression on Yennefer’s face but she feels anger radiating off her in waves. It’s exhausting, to try and figure out what the younger woman has on her mind. Tissaia observes her as Yennefer pours herself some wine and drinks it all at once before wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. She’s tempted to reprimand her but something in her screams that this isn’t a good idea. Instead, she focuses back on her plate, finishes the last bite of chicken and gets up.

“I’ll see you in the council room,” she tells Yennefer softly, feeling a bit guilty for being at the root of Yennefer’s sullen mood.

“Why do I need to go?”

 

Tissaia sighs and lets her plate and cutlery sink into a bucket of water for dirty dishes.

 

“Because we’re going to need all the help we can get to convince the others to take disciplinary actions against Nilfgaard.”

“After how many mages were killed, you think they’ll still refuse to act?”

 

Yennefer scoffs in disbelief.

 

“You know Stegobor,” Tissaia replies, knowing it’s all the explanation she needs to give to convince Yennefer.

“Fine. I’ll see you there.”

 

Taking that as her dismissal, Tissaia leaves with no parting words.

 

__

 

She does remember her dream. It hits her right as they’re arguing with a faction of the Brotherhood, those who want nothing to do with politics and insist they must merely assist and guide kings and queens but cannot force their hands. Tissaia has both fists on the table and she’s leaning forward, furious, talking in a loud, thunderous tone that makes the youngest mages cower in their chairs lined up against one of the walls. The senior members seated at the table remain impassible but Yennefer can read a room like no one else—except maybe Tissaia—and she knows they’re intimidated by Tissaia’s ire. Next to her sits Triss, whose skin still bears the marks of the fire a soldier inflicted on her. Magic has given her back her strength and her voice but the scars will take time to heal. Sabrina looks murderous, and Yennefer half expects her to show her teeth at Stregobor, who seems to enjoy getting a rise out of Tissaia. Speaking of which…

 

Yennefer’s eyes dart back to Tissaia and that’s when she remembers. Her dream had started much the same, an angry Rectoress at her desk, yelling expletives at her about some nonsense that can only exist in dreams. Yennefer had been ordered to kneel and ask for forgiveness and she had done so. She remembers now, begging “Mistress Tissaia” to punish her however she sees fit only if she gives her one more chance. Oh, the horror. Yennefer’s eyes widen as the memory makes its way to the forefront of her mind.

 

Please, let me not have said that out loud. Let it not be what she heard; she prays silently.

 

Tissaia’s head swivels to the left and she looks at her, incredulous, fury in her eyes. Oops.

 

What is wrong with you?!

I did not mean to share that.

 

Stegobor clears his throat, redirecting both their attentions to him.

 

“We will consider your proposal, Tissaia. Let’s all sleep on it tonight and we will reconvene tomorrow, same time.”

 

The meeting is adjourned and everyone is quick to leave their seat and disappear off into the hallways of the academy. Everyone but Yennefer, who daren’t move, and Tissaia, head hanging low, who sits back quietly.

 

“Well,” Yennefer starts hesitantly. “At least he heard you.”

 

Tissaia, as if she can’t stand the mere sound of her, all but shoots out of her seat and stalks out of the room.

 

Chapter Text

It takes all of Yennefer’s courage to knock on Tissaia’s door later that day, after everyone has retired to their chamber for the evening, awaiting dinner. She hopes that the other woman has had time to cool off because they need to clear the air. Tissaia opens the door about three inches, sees who’s standing behind it and deflates. She doesn’t invite her in but doesn’t close the door either, so Yennefer takes that as her permission to enter.

 

“Make it quick, Yennefer. I’m tired.”

“How’s your back?”

“My—it’s fine. Thank you,” she adds after a second.

“Good. That’s good. Tissaia…”

 

Yennefer steps further into the room, mostly to buy herself some time to think about what she wants to say. Tissaia eyes her warily.

 

“I’m sorry that I made you uncomfortable with my… uh, dream.”

“Dreams. Plural.”

“I also don’t remember exactly what happened in them, so I don’t know what you heard…”

 

She trails off and looks at Tissaia expectantly.

 

“Are you waiting for me to repeat the words to you?”

“Y—yes?”

“I will do no such thing!”

“Why not?! At least you’ll realize how absurd it is for you to be so upset over something I clearly had no control over!”

“Clearly!”

“They’re just words, Tissaia!”

“Oh, so you’ve never consciously thought about fucking me?!”

 

In their screaming match neither of them noticed they’ve circled closer to each other, to the point where Yennefer feels Tissaia’s words on her skin more than she hears them. They stare heatedly at the other, chests heaving with something that’s not purely anger. Yennefer’s mind is swirling with images, and she knows it’s time to stop lying to herself, because Tissaia is right. She has been thinking about doing exactly that more than once, especially in the last two days.

 

“Tell me you haven’t thought about letting me,” she breathes, jumping headfirst into what could turn out to be a disaster.

 

Tissaia’s jaw clenches, and she searches for something in Yennefer’s eyes. Whatever it is, she must find it, because her tone is hushed and soft when she speaks again.

 

“Yennefer, this would be a mistake.”

 

The acknowledgement—or lack of rebuttal—of her own desires sends Yennefer reeling. She takes half a step back, stunned. She knew, deep down, that her charms couldn’t leave even the most stoic person in the world unfazed, but she’d never believed Tissaia would admit to feeling attracted to her. Then her brain catches up with her emotions.

 

“Wait, what do you mean, a mistake?”

 

But Tissaia doesn’t seem at all interested in explaining herself. She turns her back to Yennefer, finds herself looking at her own reflection in the full length mirror she has in one corner. Fleetingly, she notices how lovely the dress that she’s still wearing is, and her eyes catch Yennefer’s who’s still too close to her. There’s no taking back her words, Tissaia knows. She’ll have to live knowing that she admitted to not being indifferent to Yennefer’s… everything. She’s no immature child and humans make mistakes. Falling for Yennefer might have crept up on her but she’s been aware of her feelings for some time now and it’s her own fault that she put up no barrier to keep them buried.

 

“We do make a rather striking pair, don’t you think,” Yennefer purrs in her ear, bringing her back to reality.

“This dress is beautiful,” she grants her.

 

She can tell Yennefer bites back a comment by the way the other woman chews on her bottom lip. Tissaia hates the way it draws her attention. She notices how Yennefer’s hand twitches at her side, probably itching to touch her. She wonders how long her poor self-control is going to last.

 

“Why would it be a mistake,” Yennefer tries again.

“What good exactly would come of it,” Tissaia counters.

“Besides the obvious?”

 

There they are, Yennefer’s hands on her waist. She’s not even afraid that Tissaia will turn her into an eel for the bold move. To be honest, it’s partly her confidence that attracts Tissaia so much.

 

“I imagine you won’t stay long in Aretuza. You have a whole world to explore, new adventures to go on. How would that… arrangement work, then? You know I can’t leave Aretuza.”

 

Their eyes meet in the mirror. Tissaia’s betray nothing and she commends herself for managing to remain so stoic when Yennefer’s grip on her becomes more frank and firmer.

 

“I haven’t thought that far ahead,” Yennefer admits quietly.

“No, I didn’t think you’d had.”

 

Yennefer bows her head and lets her lips graze Tissaia’s shoulder. It’s so light that she barely feels it and yet it’s enough to send a bolt of lightning through her body. Tissaia must exert all of her willpower to not turn around in Yennefer’s arms and put an end to their shared misery.

 

“I will not lie to you and say that I could make Aretuza my home. We both know I’d die in here,” Yennefer continues as she slips her hands further until they rest on Tissaia’s lower abdomen. “But I am able to create portals that can take me anywhere I want, at any moment.”

“You’d use your powers to show up here for a night and be gone in the morning.”

 

It’s meant as a question but Tissaia can’t keep the bitterness out of her tone. She watches their reflections, sees Yennefer’s eyes close and she can’t suppress a shiver when the younger woman caresses her ear with her nose.

 

“I could stay longer,” she counters. “I could stay as long as you’d want me to.”

“I would hold you back.”

“From what? I’ve seen the world already. I’ve had my share of political matters and the likes.”

 

She brushes her lips against Tissaia’s neck this time and the Rectoress can’t believe she’s letting it happen, from a former student on top of that. She exhales, slowly, trying to reign herself in. Yennefer doesn’t know it, but she is so close to her breaking point.

 

“From meeting someone you could share your life with,” she clarifies after a few seconds to gather her thoughts.

 

Yennefer’s hands inch slowly lower and Tissaia has to react to prevent them from going further south. She places her own over Yennefer’s and gives her a disapproving look in the mirror. Yennefer has the audacity to smirk.

 

“I’m perfectly content with the way my life is at this very moment,” crimson red lips whisper hotly in her ear.

“You have the patience of a child. You’ll grow bored and go find someone more suited to your needs. Maybe this Geralt?”

“Fuck Geralt,” Yennefer protests immediately. “He is an adventure from the past. How could he ever compete with you? How could I ever be bored of you?”

 

Tissaia is running out of arguments and the more she lists them out loud, the more she realizes how weak they are. She knows Yennefer and she’s very much aware that when she has an idea in mind, nothing will deter her from pursuing it.

 

“I know you’re scared,” Yennefer tells her, nuzzling her. “I can smell fear on you, just as I can smell your desire.”

 

Well, that makes Tissaia close her eyes for a moment. She’s painfully conscious of how her body reacts to those words. She feels Yennefer’s… assets pressing into her back, pulling her impossibly closer.

 

“And I’m sure you’re not scared because we’re both women, no. You believe that I will take my fill and leave you behind. You’re putting up walls because you’re afraid I’ll hurt you.”

 

She doesn’t bother to reply. Yennefer is clever and she can so easily read people, so of course she has her all figured out.

 

“I can’t promise that I won’t, I’m not that presumptuous.”

 

Tissaia scoffs and Yennefer grins into her shoulder.

 

“All I know for certain is that I’ve never felt so much need and so much want for anyone ever. Being around you makes me better. Touching you makes me feel powerful and alive. Don’t you feel alive, Tissaia?”

“I—”

 

The words die in her throat. What she feels is more than simply being alive. It’s being on fire and soaring through the air at the same time. It’s terrifying, what Yennefer makes her feel. How could she ever put that into word?

 

“Stop thinking,” Yennefer murmurs before placing an open-mouthed kiss on her shoulder. “I know you want this as much as I do,” she reminds her, voice now thick with arousal.

“What do you want from me,” Tissaia whimpers, the last remnant of her control shattered.

“I want you,” Yennefer says as she pulls back a little and catches her eyes in the mirror, “out of this dress. Now.”

 

Tissaia knows, in that moment, that she has lost this war.

Chapter Text

Yennefer’s pupils are completely blown and the first thing that Tissaia notices when she turns around in her arms. She can read the surprise behind the shroud of desire. It makes Tissaia throb down there. Right now, she has the upper hand and she doesn’t want to waste it. She grabs the collar of Yennefer’s dress and crushes their lips together. A muffled sound that she thinks is meant to express shock leaves Yennefer but then Tissaia feels her hands on her lower back and she’s kissing back with fervor. Tissaia is a quiet lover, all shaky breaths and sighs, but Yennefer isn’t one to hold back in any aspects of her life. She moans into Tissaia’s mouth and again when she feels her mentor’s hands squeeze her ass.

 

“Fuck,” Yennefer breathes against her lips as they break apart for a moment.

 

One more kiss, less frantic, more languid, and Yennefer’s hands leave her back to find the laces of her dress. Tissaia strokes her cheek and neck appreciatively. She lets Yennefer undress her, watches as her long, nimble fingers work with ease on the laces of the blue dress she gifted her earlier that day. Yennefer, despite her urgency, takes her time in performing the task, as if to build up the anticipation. Now that she has completely surrendered, Tissaia almost wants to yell at her for not going fast enough. Instead, she lets her own fingers move up and run through dark locks of silky hair and marvels at their softness. Yennefer seems to enjoy her ministrations because she pauses for a second and lets her forehead fall gently against Tissaia’s.

 

“Yenna,” Tissaia whispers, “please.”

 

The combination of hearing her nickname and the word please coming from Tissaia has the intended effect on Yennefer. With renewed frenzy, she all but rips off the remaining of the laces and pushes the dress off Tissaia’s shoulders until it slides effortlessly down her body. She makes quick way of her undergarments, and then…

 

“Oh,” she inhales sharply.

 

Tissaia is a beautiful woman, she’s always thought so. In her elegant dresses and furry coats, she is supreme. But this? Yennefer is speechless. She has to take a step back to simply admire her lover’s body. Tissaia stands proud under her lustful gaze, in all her naked glory. She is majestic. Yennefer wants to devour her. Her eyes roam over pearly white skin, not knowing where to pause.

 

“Cat got your tongue,” Tissaia ends up asking after she deems it’s been enough time away from Yennefer’s embrace.

“Don’t worry, my tongue’s working perfectly fine,” Yennefer shoots back, eyes still unable to choose where to stop. “I suspected…”

 

She trails off, lets her hands wander on Tissaia’s skin.

 

“I knew that you’d be beautiful, but I didn’t expect such… magnificence.”

 

Tissaia’s body reacts immediately to the compliment, to the point where it’s almost painful. Yennefer notices and closes the small gap between them, allowing Tissaia’s breasts to rub against the fabric of her dress. Lips against her neck, she hums and holds back a groan when Tissaia decides to mark her as she bites into her collarbone.

 

“Oh fuck, yes,” she chokes out.

“Hmm, do you like that,” Tissaia asks her.

 

Yennefer nods vigorously and it’s all the confirmation needed for Tissaia to go back to working magic on her skin. Lost in sensations, Yennefer doesn’t even realize that she’s being stripped naked until she feels goosebumps from the sudden fresh air. Tissaia’s hands are everywhere on her, demanding, relentless, and Yennefer’s control is long gone. All she can do in the face of the onslaught is cling to Tissaia, nails raking on her back, and pant in her ear.

 

Tissaia is on a mission. Each moan and whimper and groan that she can get out of Yennefer, she takes greedily. Her fingers find their way between her lover’s legs and she feels Yennefer’s dig deep into the skin of her back, little needy breaths against her shoulder. It’s a minute before Yennefer starts to sway and Tissaia stops herself, much to the brunette’s disapproval.

 

“Don’t stop,” Yennefer pleads.

“Let’s take this to the bed, shall we?”

 

Somehow, the interruption snaps Yennefer out of her pleasure-induced trance and she’s the one all but dragging Tissaia to the bed.

 

“Sit,” she orders.

 

Tissaia complies, with the raise of a delicate eyebrow. Yennefer bends down to kiss her, all lips and tongue and it’s messy but divine. Blindly, she finds the pins hidden in Tissaia’s hair and pull them all off until the hair is free and she can tug on it just enough to dip Tissaia’s head back and kiss her more deeply. Tissaia hums in her mouth. When they break apart, she sits on the very edge of the bed and kisses Yennefer’s abdomen up to her breasts. Her hands glide over the bare skin of Yennefer’s ass and she looks up. Their eyes meet, then, clouded with unbridled desire. Yennefer knows she’ll never be able to look into anyone else’s eyes.

 

Either you fuck me or I will.

 

Tissaia’s words echo in her mind and Yennefer grins. Slowly, so that Tissaia knows exactly what is going to follow, she drops to her knees. Of their own accord, Tissaia’s legs part and her breath catches in her throat. Yennefer takes her time with her calves and thighs, and even if Tissaia’s hands in her hair try to guide her to where she needs her most, Yennefer maintains her slow pace. There’s something that she wants to hear, and she will not do anything before Tissaia says it. Even the sight of her mentor playing with her own perky breasts doesn’t break her resolve—although it does make her moan obscenely loud.

 

“Yen—Yen—Yenna, please,” Tissaia manages to say.

 

Finally.

 

“Please what,” Yennefer murmurs against the tender skin of a trembling thigh.

“Fuck me, please, I’m so—”

 

The feel of Yennefer’s tongue where Tissaia’s desperately been trying to lead her for what seems like an eternity cuts her off and her back arches off the bed as her mouth opens in a silent scream. In the back of her mind, a little voice mocks Tissaia for her eagerness. She couldn’t care less. Yennefer’s tongue and fingers are doing unspeakable things to her and Tissaia, usually so quiet and reserved, lets out wanton cries of pleasure that only seem to spur Yennefer on. It’s not long before every nerve in her body is on fire and she thinks she hears herself scream Yennefer’s name along with some expletives and perhaps even a few words in foreign languages. The younger woman is relentless and only reluctantly pulls away from her new favorite place in the world when Tissaia pushes blindly at her forehead.

 

Yennefer crawls up then, dull pain in her knees barely registering, and lays half on top of Tissaia, half on the mattress. She watches, enraptured, the pink flush of Tissaia’s cheeks, the heaving of her chest, as Tissaia tries to catch her breath. Then, Tissaia’s head turns to the side and a hand caresses Yennefer’s cheek, traces her glistening lips before Tissaia brings it to her own mouth and sucks on her fingers.

 

“Fuck,” Yennefer says, in absolute awe. “That is quite possibly the hottest thing I’ve ever seen.”

“Darling,” Tissaia starts as she moves closer, “you haven’t seen anything yet.”

 

From the glint in her eyes, Yennefer knows she means it.

Chapter Text

They don’t make it to dinner. Entangled in each other, half-wrapped in damp sheets, Yennefer and Tissaia bask in the afterglow. With her hair all mussed and her eyes soft and sleepy, Yennefer thinks Tissaia’s never looked more perfect. Absentmindedly, she plays with a brown lock under Tissaia’s gaze.

 

“Were there many women before me,” she asks, suddenly curious.

 

Certainly, with the things that Tissaia did to her, she was not her first dip into the lady pond. Tissaia, once so reluctant to share personal information, doesn’t even blink.

 

“Some. I’ve always found the experience of sex more enjoyable with them. They… know.”

 

Yennefer hums in agreement. The thought of Tissaia with other women doesn’t really bother her despite the wave of possessiveness washing over her. Her hand now trailing down Tissaia’s spine, Yennefer marvels at the softness of her skin. She wants to kiss it all again.

 

“Tell me about the scars,” she says instead.

“When you live for as long as I have, you’re bound to forget things. Many things. Those scars are a reminder of some events I do not wish to forget. Of some people I lost or couldn’t save. I carry them with me, always.”

“This one?”

 

Yennefer circles around one little dot of scar tissue.

 

“A boy. Couldn’t have been more than eight years old. I travelled with him for days, trying to bring him to his uncle. His parents were dead and I’d been the one to stumble upon him first. We were ambushed. I was stabbed, hence the scar. He took out the knife and killed my assailant with it.”

“Damn.”

“And then his head was chopped off by a man with a big sword who fancied himself a soldier.”

“Oh. That’s…”

“I know. None of those scars are good memories, Yennefer.”

“I’m sorry.”

 

Her hand stills, goes up to Tissaia’s cheek and brushes against it. Her lover welcomes the touch, closing her eyes. Yennefer wishes time would freeze and leave them together like this forever.

 

“Don’t fall asleep,” she whispers. “I’m nowhere near done with you.”

 

Tissaia’s lips stretch into a smile and she opens her eyes, shining with affection and amusement. Yennefer’s heart skips a beat, and then another one when Tissaia lifts herself up just enough to lay her chest on top of hers.

 

“Dear, you are not getting out of this room anytime soon, I assure you.”

“Hmm, am I to be your captive?”

“Would you mind?”

 

A devilish smile appears on Yennefer’s face and she shakes her head no. Does she mind? At the moment she feels like she’d die if something were to interrupt them. A naked Tissaia sliding down her body with a very clear purpose is definitely not something Yennefer will ever mind.

 

“Oh, fuck,” she moans as her hands immediately find their way to Tissaia’s hair.

 

When Tissaia hums in response, Yennefer almost loses her damn mind.

 

__

 

Breakfast in the main hall is an interesting experience. Surrounded by all those people that she’s known for centuries—or decades for some—Tissaia is expected to make small talk and pretend that everything is as usual. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Her eyes keep finding Yennefer’s and it doesn’t help that the woman seems to be staring at her, uncaring if anyone catches her.

 

Flashes from their night together keep popping into her mind. Tissaia drinks her hot beverage and suddenly she remembers Yennefer, head thrown back in the throes of passion, moaning her name. She coughs and waves Triss’ concern away.

 

“I’m fine,” she assures.

 

She takes a bite of her pastry and the image of Yennefer’s pretty mouth suckling on her nipple is in her head somehow. Flustered, Tissaia chews the buns as quickly as she can and swallows it. She needs to get out of here. Her eyes dart back to Yennefer’s, who has the audacity to wink at her.

 

It hits her instantly that those aren’t memories, they’re courtesy of her lover who’s been abusing their telepathic connection. Tissaia wants to get her hands on that pale throat and squeeze. A little. Truth be told, Yennefer would probably enjoy that. She sighs and drops the rest of the pastry back onto her plate. There’s only one thing she’s truly hungry for anyway.

 

Wait a moment and then come find me, she says through her mind.

Very well, mistress, comes the immediate reply.

Keep calling me that and I might develop a taste for it; you’ve been warned, Tissaia tells her as she excuses herself from the room.

 

No one seems to have noticed her strange behavior which is a relief.

 

Can you sit naked at your desk for when I arrive? I may have been fantasizing about that a lot.

 

Tissaia almost trips on her own foot. In surrendering to Yennefer, she has created a monster. A very lovely, very talented, very attractive monster, but still. She has a feeling they’ll be spending a lot of time behind closed doors in the next few days. As she makes her way to her chambers, Tissaia tries not to think about what will happen once a decision concerning Nilfgaard is reached. She knows Yennefer’s departure is inevitable and they will have to address it eventually, but for once she wants to live in the moment and not plan too much ahead. Who knows? With a war brewing between the mages and an all-out armed conflict between the kingdoms, they might be spending a lot of time together soon, fighting side by side. Allies during the day and lovers at night. Tissaia is torn between wanting that and being afraid of what a war would mean. Casualties. Deaths. Perhaps hers, or Yennefer’s. That would be unacceptable. She has half a mind to let the world burn and elope with Yennefer if peace is forsaken. Together, in their own little corner of this vast world. The idea fills her with longing. So much for living in the now, she thinks bitterly.

 

At last, Yennefer shows up. Directly into her room, no doubt having opened a portal from the hallway to here. Tissaia’s mood brightens at once.

 

“I believe I requested something from you,” Yennefer points out, stepping closer to her.

“And I considered it,” Tissaia replies on the same tone, “but decided that I would much rather have you undress me before we fuck on my desk.”

 

The use of foul language is something that turns Yennefer on insanely quickly, Tissaia noticed. She intends to use that weapon a lot in the future.

 

As Yennefer closes the gap between them and pulls her into a scorching kiss, Tissaia’s concerns fade away and she lets herself be swept in the feelings of happiness and love and desire. She knows nothing will ever come close to that. She knows her surrender to Yennefer was total and unconditional. She knows she belongs to her now, body and soul. She hopes that, deep down, Yennefer feels the same.

 

From the look in her purple eyes as their lips part, Tissaia thinks she does.