Becoming a witcher meant giving up the right to a soulmate.
Everyone knows the stories, the fairytales of dread-filled gray skies and black seas until one fated meeting changes everything. Since birth, there is only one color allowed per person, one for every pair of soulmates. On the day they meet, that single color will bloom and explode in their fated’s eyes. Like a splash of dye over an ashen canvas, it will cover every fabric, every strand of hair and inch of skin until it spills beyond the barrier of the person into the nature around. Together, fated pairs will look toward the sun as it bathes the sky in a breathtaking display of blushing pigments. As every poetic story ends.
But witcher’s lives are changed since their early ages. Those who survive the trials will earn enhanced eyes, mutated by the careful craft of alchemy and witcher masters. Perhaps it is the very act of being altered beyond human limit, but their worlds transform. The pale-white corneas of so many common men turn to blue shades, amber tones, the rare vale-green of envious songs. Distinctions become so very clear, and the magic of meeting a soulmate—which should have been the thing to grant those colors—is forgotten.
Geralt has lived a long life already, in human terms. The novelty of seeing such vibrancy everywhere has faded with the years. He now snorts at the fervent obsession those of the high-born class have with travelling and joining as many courts and cities as their heritage allows. All for the slimmest chance to meet their fated.
A witcher is satisfied with his lot. Geralt more than most, with how his body has been enhanced beyond his own peers. He is in want of no one and nothing.
In Posada, there is a bard.
He sings a raunchy ditty and gets bread pelted on his chest, which is later stuffed into deep-cut pockets. Somehow, though Geralt has not done anything to garner attention, the bard comes to him, like a moth lured toward an enchanting light.
Which is to say, awkwardly and a bit wrong-footed, but relentless all the same.
Jaskier is his name, ‘Jaskier’ like the yellow weed-flower that can never be stamped out from gardens and roads alike. It is certainly fitting with how adamant he is with traipsing along the witcher’s path, even at the frightful mention of a contract for a devil.
And then the devil turns out to be a sylvan. There come a revelation of elves, threats of life, proposals for better alternatives to squatting in fear. A song in composition that would spread across the Northern Kingdoms.
At the end of it all, Geralt isn’t quite sure why the bard still sticks to his side. And he says as much when they stop at the next town, someplace nameless and unmarked in his own memorized map of the region.
“Why are you still here.”
It is a question, though by his delivered tone it would be impossible to tell it apart from a demand. Jaskier seems to understand what it is still.
“How do you mean? I’ve already said I’ve found a muse in you, and if it means lifting your name to a better standard, then that is what I shall do.”
They’re sharing drinks at the town’s pitiful tavern—’sharing’ is a strong word, when Geralt asked for a tankard and Jaskier jumped in with his own coin before the barmaid left. The ale is pale and shitty, the usual on the road. If the low quality insults the bard’s better taste, he doesn’t say so out loud.
“Right. For fame.” Geralt sneers into his mug and takes another disgusting sip.
“Fame’s not so bad, witcher.” There’s a complex series of gestures Jaskier flings about that somehow translate to the barmaid fetching some fruit for them. “But that’s not why I’m in a rundown village that stinks of baked horseshit. Ah, thank you, dear, take no offense, I adore horses.”
The barmaid scoffs when she catches the tail end of that conversation. At least she drops the platter on the table and not their feet.
Jaskier goes on as if unbothered. “I said you’re my muse and for a bard, that’s enough. I just want to write songs about real things. Not make-believe monsters. Even if I must embellish them a little for the public’s taste. Now have a bite! When’s the last time you had fruit?”
A good while, actually. But Geralt isn’t about to confess to Jaskier being right so he just grabs a deep red apple and bites in. It’s been a long time since he’s had a conversation with no end in sight. No motive other than...talking. Jaskier babbles about insignificant things, mostly about the smells and the meanest-looking faces in the crowd. He speaks as if guided by impulsive fancy, and there is no expectation over Geralt’s shoulders to contribute beyond a hum or a grunt that he’s listening along.
It takes a second with how comfortable he’s beginning to feel in the bard’s company, but Geralt—witcher, observant, the most colorsighted person in this corner of the world—notices how Jaskier picks at the fruits, raising a couple to his lips before indecision strikes him and he instead picks a peach. The palest in the plate.
Twice he’d looked at the same pair of plums. By shape alone, it could be mistaken for a sweet peach.
It hits him, suddenly. “You haven’t met your fated.”
The bluntness of his words visibly catches Jaskier by surprise. It’s not a veiled question this time, just an observation.
Reconciling Jaskier with his apparent blindness is genuinely difficult. He wears such strong colors. Matched and even. There are ways to keep track of that when you’re singlesighted, but with how easy Jaskier wears patterns and vibrant tones, even changing wardrobes as they’ve travelled, anyone would have thought him fully colorsighted.
More than anything, it’s a bittersweet relief. Back in Posada, Geralt had tensed under the layers of his armor, wondering if the only reason the bard had chosen to follow him was because he’d seen color in his witcher eyes, that somehow, the excitement behind Jaskier's cornflower blue gaze when siding up to his table had been at finding his match. Him, who purposely sits in the hidden corners of bars and taverns to remain vigilant yet unseen. Him, who wouldn’t know the first thing about dealing with a freshly colorsighted soulmate companion. It’s a match destined for disappointment.
“That’s because I haven’t met mine,” Jaskier says with open honesty and—Geralt hadn’t expected that. It is his turn to be taken aback. The bard even cringes as he adds, “Or, well, I don’t know if I have.”
“You...don’t know. Why’s that.”
“Well you see, I’m remarkably colorblind.”
Geralt blinks, apple long forgotten in his hand. “Colorblind.”
That’s a bold thing to say so nonchalant, and Jaskier has the nerve to roll his eyes afterwards. “Yes, yes, superstitious as it sounds, I am. And I don’t mean I see a dim shade of gray. I know for certain because my parents had me sight-tested. Oh, I know that expression—” he makes a point by waving at the answering rise of Geralt’s brows, “Sight-tests are common for, ah, highbred families, to test their children’s fate colors. There’s a romantic notion behind it, something about arranging as many fetes with fellow same-colored nobles. Even with the matters of destiny, we all try to wrestle back a little control. Silly, right?”
With all that said, Jaskier then takes a solid bite of his peach and hums appreciatively.
Colorblind. As much as there is said about fated meetings and colorsight, there is just as much recorded in infamy for the colorblind. It is superstitious, though Geralt doesn’t believe in any of that. They say it’s a curse, a jealous ill wish on the progeny of those who are lucky enough to wed their fated. They also say witchers are colorblind, which really just shows how ignorant people can be to justify their hatred for the uncanny.
Jaskier doesn’t look to be sensitive about it, however. An attitude which, in Geralt’s experience, is rarer than dragon eggs.
Now he’s just too curious to let it go. There are so few things he’s never encountered, never known or come to know. He sits up in his seat and puts his apple down. No point in finishing it when a muted bubble of eagerness otherwise occupies his thoughts.
“So you can’t see any color?”
“Not a one.” Jaskier hears the witcher’s interest and frowns, unfamiliar with Geralt clearly asking him things. “Why, can you?”
“Always. Part of being a witcher.” How could he track blood or know one potion from the others if he could not discern the slight differences between hue and saturation? It was all for practical means, Geralt does not fault the witcher masters for giving him a great advantage over most humans with hunting monsters and beasts.
“Huh.” A strange look comes over Jaskier’s face. Surprised at a new fact to overwrite old witcher tales, possibly. Geralt does match it with his own, because it takes a few seconds for the bard to say anything else, which is weird. “Oh, sorry, it’s just...funny, I think. A witcher who’s always been colorsighted, and their handsome bard companion who can’t tell a glass of water from a glass of piss."
Geralt grimaces from the mental image that provokes. “Tell me you haven’t actually drunk piss by mistake.”
“It’s purely figurative! Really, I’m not so careless.”
“This from the man who thought spitting Elder speech back at pissed-off elven jailers was a smart idea.”
A smile grazes his lips seeing Jaskier stutter and blush, throwing a plum at him which Geralt catches with ease to eat.
It’s been a long day hunting nekkers for a bogged village. Awful, annoying little ogroids. Geralt can hardly complain. Handing in their heads earns him good coin for the coming journey. He’s just angry one of them got a good bite on his arm.
Nothing witcher healing won’t fix, and with a roof over his head and a bath in the next hour, he doesn’t give it much consideration. Jaskier begs him to do otherwise, because the cut is still dirty and there’s a slight risk of infection, and it wouldn’t be the worst thing to down a Swallow potion and speed up the process with a boosted immune system.
They’re in the comfort of their rented room, dressed and dry, so Geralt obliges. He moves to stand from the bedside to grab his bags but Jaskier moves faster, sifting through his things to get the right glass vile. If it was anyone else, it would have sent him into blind rage. He hates having his things messed around with, riffled through with no order and no care.
But it’s Jaskier, and Jaskier is careful and quite mindful with his things.
After a couple of minutes, the bard comes back with the right Swallow. “Here,” he removes the stopper and leads it to the prone witcher’s lips. The familiar bitter taste hits the back of his throat and Geralt scowls, pulling an airy laugh out of Jaskier.
As the moon rises, the bite mark heals and scars over. Jaskier stays close to watch as the skin knits together with fascination in his eyes. The hour is late. They could both call it a day, pack their things in the morning.
“How did you know what you gave me was Swallow?”
But Geralt’s mind is far too occupied tracing the orange firelight warming Jaskier’s side. Going over how Jaskier, gray-worlded, has learned to map and distinguish his potions. When had he learned to distinguish his potions?
The bard, blinking back to full wakefulness, tilts his head to better see Geralt in the dark light. “Well, it’s red, right? Red and trusty-looking.” Geralt pauses at the thought that Swallow looks ‘trusty’ in some way, but it seems even Jaskier isn’t sure what to call it. He’s scratching his neck, his mouth uttering small, hesitant noises as Geralt remains silent, listening. “The blue ones are itchy and grainy, and the greenish ones look too murky to be mistaken for anything else. I remember them. You pulled them all out once to reorganize and I had asked which was which and—well, I made sure to remember them.”
He ends it in a shrug, as if to disregard everything for rambling nonsense, and slips into the rickety bed’s vacant side. They’d gotten a single room to save for the bath. The tight fit of two over what is meant to be a single bed is bearable for the comfort of heated water and soap.
Geralt doesn’t say his thanks. He trusted Jaskier not to kill him, letting him dip a potion down his throat without having checked that it had been the right one. Healers who are actually trusted to do their job well have had a harder time getting Geralt to just sit still.
He doesn’t say his thanks, but he squeezes the bard’s forearm before letting go to finally sleep.
Geralt hums, back turned to where Jaskier is standing as he fixes his swords on leather straps.
“How do I look?”
This time, they’re in a nicer town in northern Temeria, close to Jaskier’s battle grounds of Oxenfurt and Novigrad but not quite at the big cities. It still means the bard’s been recognized and called for to sing at the summer night fete. The promise of food, coin and a willing bedmate would be enough for any band of musicians to agree straight on. It’s also an opportunity to debut a few songs conjured up on the witcher’s good hunts.
For once, there’s no monster contract. It’s just them and a night of fun which, in Jaskier’s company, happens on occasion. This far west, a witcher would be hard-pressed to find work anyway. Often the woods and the mountains—and the people who live near them—yield a good fistful of orens or crowns, Geralt’s purse a collection of northern currencies confusing to a farmhand that hasn’t seen the world outside his birth town. It’s not bad, exactly, to be free to play for a time. But the witcher is nevertheless anxious to return to those dangerous grounds again.
Swords strapped securely, Geralt turns to face the bard and blinks at the unexpectedly intricate doublet Jaskier sports with matching high-waisted trousers. “You’re wearing...a pale green set. I guess.”
“Yes, yes I know the color I requested from my very well-trusted color-seeing tailor, I mean how does it look?”
Jaskier always wears such bright and deep-set colors, for someone who cannot rightly appreciate them. Perhaps it’s like a splay of light gray to his eyes, and it is fair of him to seek the judgeful gaze of the only person he knows with any level of confidence who can see a rainbow.
The pale green of Jaskier’s doublet is sewn in with white thread and darker strings of green and blue. They form a shadow over the dips of hips and where the joints wrinkle in bunches.
Geralt sees the nuance with such clarity, and he knows the dyes must have been meticulously selected to create the illusion of a gradient pattern down the sleeves, to the cuffs where the darker cuts of fabric create a sharp boundary with his wrists. That tailor does good work indeed.
Still, he’s not quite sure what Jaskier wants of him. “I’m not the minstrel of the two of us,” Geralt says because it’s true. That he can know the intricacies of color doesn’t magically make him into a poet.
Jaskies is having none of that, exasperated in his flouncing about. “And how could you know if you haven’t given it a try? I’ll give you good, supportive critique after. I promise.”
Well since he’s not going to stop prodding, Geralt’s stuck having to describe the existence of a color to a colorblind man.
“It’s...pale.” Jaskier makes a sweeping gesture in encouragement because he’s familiar with the concept of ‘pale’ already. Geralt rubs a thumb over his brow, thinking about how Jaskier chooses to characterize his things.
Like his witcher potions. Red is trusty-looking. Blue is itchy and grainy.
He starts slow, figuring out the thought as it takes shape. “It’s like...sunlight. When it reflects off leaves. Sunlight burns the deeper colors to white. But it’s not harsh. It’s just a pale burn.”
As he talks, Jaskier settles into a more sedated state, his hands which were propped against his hips falling to his sides.
He starts pulling at the end of his doublet, looking down where the pale green is lightest. If Geralt weren’t so embarrassed, he might have noticed the wistful stare Jaskier gives him under the cover of his lashes. “That’s...I can see how that is.”
When the night is done and they move on come morning to track the road south, Geralt catches Jaskier running open fingers through low-hanging tree branches. Sunlight bounces off their leaves like tiny mirrors.
There’s a smile caught in the bard’s lips.
Never once had Jaskier brought up the matter of his blue eyes.
Not everyone is curious, Geralt understands. There are many who, upon seeing their fated and have the vast range of color filter to life, look in a mirror almost unconsciously and breathe a little bit of shock at seeing their eyes for the first time. ‘Oh, they’re a reddish brown’, they say, accepting it for what it is and moving on with more captivating discoveries. Few focus on themselves when the singlecolor of their birth is the color of their fated’s eyes. That color, more than anything, is their truest fascination. A childlike joy to unearth all the things that share that very same color.
But in the time they’ve known each other, after many inquisitive words about the proper shade of his outfits and the many colors found on the road, Jaskier hadn’t felt the compulsion to ask about himself that way.
Not until he’s moping, face up, legs kicking over the edge of their current rented bed, and prattling on about his ageless fancy for the Countess de Stael.
More specifically how their last meeting went.
“My dear countess says my eyes are like ‘cornflowers’. She’s met her fated, you know, so she has had ample time to assess the many different shades of the world and give them names. I felt rather embarrassed at not knowing what she meant that I simply nodded in silence.”
Never once had he brought his eyes up and now Jaskier doesn’t seem to shut up about it. “She means they’re blue.”
At that, Jaskier stops kicking the air and flops gracelessly over onto his stomach. “Right.”
It’s a quiet evening, the only noise coming from the inn’s tavern side downstairs where a few rowdy patrons are having a blast recreating from memory the last ballad Jaskier had sung before he ran upstairs when Geralt realized it was a raunchy tune about his manhood. Not explicitly told as such but he’s not about to let the impish minstrel get away with it.
For a moment, Jaskier keeps quiet, caught in a rare somber mood. Geralt doesn’t like it when the silence stretches on for far too long so he slaps a large hand on the back of Jaskier's neck, startling him to a shout.
“Alright, sit up.” Geralt fetches his bag where it lies at the foot of the bed—shared again. There’s a mirror he keeps, useful for a great many things. It’s round, palm-sized, and a crack runs down the left side from when it fell once. But it works just fine. He sets it in Jaskier’s hands.
“Um, if I’ve given you the impression I don’t know what I look like—”
“Shut up,” Geralt leans to meet the bard’s reflected eyes. Carefully, he raises the mirror cradled in the bard’s hand and points. “‘Cornflower’ is too exact. You can’t even tell a daisy from a pot marigold.” He points again, at Jaskier’s perplexed—and briefly insulted— face. “They look wet.”
“Wet. I’m sorry, do I seem teary eye—”
“Not like that,” Geralt cuts him short.
It takes some time before Jaskier schools his wild line of expressions into something attentive and patient. “How do you mean then?”
This Geralt thinks over with prudent consideration. He knows what he means when he says ‘wet’, but it’s a bit harder to justify the logic behind it. “When you...put your hand underwater.” His hand flexes instinctively, miming the words. “And the visage of the hand wobbles.”
They’re sitting shoulder to shoulder, so that Geralt can look into the mirror and share the same sight Jaskier now sees. He imagines that, if he had forgone the polished silver and chosen to face Jaskier instead, that wetness he speaks of would have swallowed him. It feels like that sometimes. Like staring back at Jaskier’s doting eyes for too long overwhelms him. So he has to look away, to breach the surface and breath again.
They are cornflower blue, but a flower does him and his effect no justice.
Jaskier stares for a moment longer, his eyes creasing up to a pleased expression.
Time and time again, at every following inn, they’ve gone and rented a single room. It is cheaper, of course. It is also that they’re so used to it now, so far accustomed to the elbows jabbed in ribs, the snores right in restless ears—the enveloping warmth at their backs or their fronts—that neither of them cares to explain it to the eyebrow-raised innkeeper.
It’s in one of those rare quiet evenings after an exhausting griffin chase, lying down face tucked into Jaskier’s armpit, that Jaskier rocks him back to attention.
“What do your eyes look like?”
Automatically as if practiced, Geralt answers, “They’re yellow, like a broken bottle of wine. Sharp.”
“I disagree!” His loud rebuttal jerks the witcher from his pleasant doze. Jaskier lowers his voice, properly abashed. “They’re not at all sharp. I’d say...I think the right word is ‘resilient’. I’ve been told there’s a difference between gold and yellow. Yellow is hard to look at, while gold is resilient and soft. It bends at light and still holds the color well, if a bit deeper in shade. So no, they’re not yellow-sharp. They’re more golden. Is—um, is that weird?”
“No.” It isn’t, though it is weird to think of himself as a resilient piece of gold and not the jagged-edged weapon slaying monsters and scaring off humans. At the same time, Jaskier is unlike any man he’s ever met, for many reasons that easily dwarf the one thing that sets him apart most, as completely colorsightless.
Which is how they reach the point where Geralt finally asks him, “What’s weird is why you wear so much...of that.” ‘That’ being the blood-red ensemble currently covering every inch of the bard’s willowy body. He means the whole entourage of colored fabric and not just the red, specifically, but the red is what he’s been currently given to blink at.
“What?” Jaskier looks down on himself and stretches his legs out as if trying to spot something amiss. There isn’t, of course, he’s got impeccable taste. “Oh. Why do I bother, you mean?”
Geralt nods, the movement stiff as they’re still crushed together, scarred face to red-dressed ribs.
The way Jaskier starts to explain, so tentative and slow, it sounds like he’s offering up a secret. “I used to do it because. Because there’s always someone out in my public who just might have met their match and they can really see it.”
Jaskier grants him a wide smile. “Now I like to think I spruce up your view a little. Even if I don’t quite know when the dye has washed out, or when the colors are as fitting for the evening. Everyone keeps to the tradition of wearing their fated-color. Which is fine, sure. Very balanced and all that. It gets quite boring after the third or tenth time and it’s not like many people can even comment on it and, oh, it’s fun that I might imagine just how bright the colors are—”
He halts mid-sentence, seemingly interrupted even when Geralt’s said nothing, for once listening attentively. More than he usually does in one sitting.
Then out of the blue, Jaskier says, “I like your darkness.”
And it takes a second before Geralt really hears the words, before he sits up, confusion written in his face.
Jaskier tries to hastily explain, the words tumbling out one after another. “Your clothes. And your armor too. I know it’s black because it feels stronger than the mimicry of blackened colors, somehow. I can always tell when someone’s wearing black from a very very deep blue, or purple. It’s—different. With the middling colors it’s harder, things like red or green or just flat gray—but I can with black.” He finally takes a long breath and lets it all sink down to the floor in silence.
Geralt isn't quite sure how to best respond.
“You like my style?”
At that, an unknown tension slips out of the bard’s frame and he settles back against the witcher’s warm embrace. There’s a bright red blush just at the tip of his ears. “It’s charming. I don’t have to guess at all. You’re all the right colors. White and black.”
Later, as Jaskier sleeps peacefully unaware of Geralt still awake and pensive, he wonders if somewhere in both their lives they’ve met their soulmate. Neither of them would ever know, of course. But to think that they might have come and gone, they none the wiser, unchanged by it. For their world remained the same.
Then Geralt thinks about how absurdly different they are. Him, witcher, white and black and color-seeing against Jaskier’s vivid colorlessness. How, in spite of these oppositions, they’ve come together all the same, as some strange fate would have it.
How quaint a pair they make.