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Jaskier has done a lot of questionable things in the name of getting laid. There was the time he had to climb down the trellis from Victoria de Stael’s third-story bedroom when her parents got home unexpectedly. There was the time he took up improv in order to get close to Valdo Marx. There was even the time he tried to grow a beard when he heard the pretty redhead in his Medieval Lit class mention how sexy she found facial hair. But this is a new low.

“So, when you said you wanted to take me camping, you really meant camping,” he says with his most brilliant smile. “No cabin, no cell reception, no wi-fi. Just us and the great outdoors.”

Anders, the unfairly gorgeous grad student Jaskier matched with on one of the half dozen dating apps he uses, looks up from setting up the tent. “Of course. There’s no other way to camp.”

“Yes, good, great.” Jaskier nods.

Anders cocks an eyebrow. “Thought you said you loved to camp.”

“And I do,” Jaskier says quickly.

Jaskier does not love to camp. He likes things like wi-fi and indoor plumbing and mattresses. This weekend will most likely end up with him either eaten alive by mosquitos or plunging to his death off a cliff, but hopefully he’ll have the best sex of his life first. This is his last weekend before the semester is over and he has to head back to Lettenhove for the summer. If he and Anders are going to make the beast with two backs, it needs to be soon.

He’s apparently convincing enough for Anders, because the other man turns back to the tent. “Weather should improve by tomorrow, at least.”

“Let’s hope.” It’s a gray, misty day, with a fog hanging low over the mountains. Their campsite offers a beautiful view of the lake and tree-covered mountains. There’s something poetic about the way the fog blankets the water, with the pine trees dotting the lake’s edge rendered outlines, but Jaskier isn’t here for poetry this weekend. He’s here to finally get into Anders’ pants.

“Ever built a fire?” Anders asks.

“Of course I have,” Jaskier lies cheerfully. Then realizing he’s most likely about to be asked to build one, he hastens to add, “But it’s been a while. I could use a refresher.”

Anders chuckles. “Then come on over. It’s getting dark. We’re going to need a fire. We’ve got a busy night ahead of us.”

And oh, Jaskier likes the sound of that. Grinning, he saunters over to Anders to get the night started.

***

“You didn’t have to come with me, Yenn.”

Yennefer looks up from wiping off… whatever unpleasant substance has gotten on the soles of her boots to glare at the back of her partner’s head. She would dearly love to not be here right now, to be back in her and Geralt’s Novigrad rowhouse with a bottle of wine and a good book. Really, she would rather be doing anything but trudging through the Kestrel Mountain Nature Preserve in the dead of night, getting shit on her shoes and bug bites on her ass.

“I wasn’t going to leave you to fend for yourself,” she reminds him, because Geralt shouldn’t be here either. Just two days ago, the idiot’s leg was nearly ripped off by a wyvern during a trap and release gone wrong, and yet, here he still is, trying badly to cover up his limp as he trudges through the woods to hunt a killer.

“There’s been a dead kid every full moon for the last two years,” he told her that morning when she tried to insist that he sit this one out. “There’s going to be another one tonight if someone doesn’t stop whoever’s killing them.”

Yennefer and Geralt have been lovers for eight hundred years now and she knows when she isn’t going to win an argument, so she really had no choice but to come along. The murderer they’re pursuing is almost certainly a mage; the young men who have been turning up dead every full moon for the past two years have all been turned into withered husks overnight. It’s a youth ritual, Yennefer suspects, though she’s not sure what kind of mage needs human sacrifices to keep themselves young. But magic has changed over the centuries, become something that people do in secret behind closed doors. Aretuza and Ban Ard are long forgotten memories. Perhaps this is a younger, self-taught mage.

“I still think we should have called Ciri,” she says.

“It’s Cerys’ birthday weekend. Wouldn’t want to bother them.”

“Cerys has had enough birthdays.” No one is entirely sure how Cerys, who is entirely human, ended up as immortal as the rest of them, but Yennefer suspects that their daughter just simply didn’t want her lover to die, so she hasn’t. Even after all these years, they still don’t know the extent of Ciri’s powers. “Anyway, Cerys would jump at the chance for a good battle, you know that.”

Geralt just grunts in response.

Yennefer sighs. “How is your leg?”

“Fine.”

“Oh, so you’re just limping for the fun of it?”

He glares at her over his shoulder. “I’ve been hunting this bastard for two years. Not about to give up now, just because of a little cut on my leg.”

“Geralt,” Yennefer says, in what she hopes is a perfectly calm voice. “Your leg was hanging on by a thread.

“I’ve had worse.”

“Very few mages would have been talented enough to keep it attached.”

Geralt turns to face her. “Good thing I have you then.”

Yennefer does not melt. Well, she doesn’t visibly melt. She lets him pull her into a lingering kiss, only wrinkling her nose slightly at the familiar taste of bitter potions on his lips. “If you reinjure yourself,” she murmurs. “I will be incredibly annoyed.”

She feels the curve of his smile against her jaw. “I promise, after I put a sword through this murderous fucker’s heart, I’ll take it easy.”

“You will, because I’ll tie you down if you don’t.”

He draws back to arch an eyebrow at her. “Is that supposed to be a threat?”

Yennefer rolls her eyes. “Keep your mind out of the gutter.”

“Shouldn’t say things like that to me if you want my mind to stay out of the gutter,” he says.

“I expect someone your age to be able to control himself.”

“You make me sound like an old man, Yenn.”

“If the shoe fits.”

A humming noise fills the air and they both look down at Geralt’s medallion, which is vibrating against his armored chest.

“That you?” Geralt asks in a low voice, all traces of humor gone. He’s pure witcher now, completely focused on his goals.

Yennefer shakes her head, readying a spell at her fingertips. “We’re close.”

***

Jaskier barely remembers trying and failing to build a fire. He barely remembers their dinner of trail mix, jerky, and beer. He doesn’t remember falling asleep at all. But he must have, because when he jerks awake, his head is pounding, his mouth is dry, and he’s lying spread eagle on his back, unable to move his wrists or ankles. Everything is dark and Jaskier looks around wildly, trying to figure out what happened and where Anders is and why he’s tied up.

The campfire bursts to life in a blazing inferno. Jaskier startles, flinching away from the sudden heat and light.

Anders stands on the other side of the fire, his face rendered eerie in the glow. He’s watching Jaskier with an unreadable expression. Jaskier has never been able to tell exactly how old Anders is. His best guess is early-to-mid twenties, based on the fact that he’s a grad student. But right now, something about his pretty brown eyes seems very, very old.

“What’s going on?” Jaskier’s voice comes out hoarse. He looks around frantically and sees that his wrists and ankles are tied to wooden stakes driven into the ground. There’s writing in Elder carved into the dirt in a circle around him. He curses himself for not paying more attention in his high school Elder classes; he has no idea what it says. “Anders, what are you doing?”

“You slept for longer than I expected,” Anders says, ignoring the question. “We’re going to have to hurry.”

“Hurry to do what?” Jaskier swallows, not sure if he wants the answer. “Look, I don’t object to being tied up if it’s something we talk about first, but this is a bit much. Can we just—”

“Shut up.”

Jaskier flinches at the venom in the other man’s voice. And then he sees the knife in Anders’ hand, the curved blade glinting in the firelight, and he goes cold. He looks up to meet Anders’ eyes. “Why?” he asks, voice small.

Anders’ lips twist into a smile. “Because look at you. You’re eighteen years old, go to the best university on the Continent, have the whole world at your fingertips. And you spend your days drinking shitty beer and fucking around on dating apps. So much potential, and it’s all wasted.

It’s the kind of venom Jaskier’s father would spit at him after one too many glasses of bourbon and he feels something inside himself shrivel up. It’s absurd to have his feelings hurt by a man who just tied him up and is threatening him with a knife, but he liked Anders. And he thought Anders liked him.

“You don’t deserve the life you’ve been given,” Anders spits. “Just like the others. You may as well serve a purpose in your final moments.”

Jaskier’s heart begins to pound in his chest as confusion and hurt give way to terror. Final moments. “Look, if this is about money, my parents will pay a ransom. Just don’t hurt me and I’m sure we can work something out.”

“I don’t want your money.” Anders looks offended by the implication.

“Then what do you want?”

Anders starts towards him slowly, ambling in an unhurried way, but doesn’t answer. It was a stupid question, Jaskier realizes. The knife in Anders’ hand makes it abundantly clear what he wants.

Jaskier struggles harder against the ropes. This can’t be real, he thinks. Things like this only happen in movies. He can’t be tied up on the ground, about to be murdered for some kind of creepy ritual. He can’t be about to die. “My friends knew where I was going. And they knew I was coming here with you. If you kill me, the police will find out it was you.”

“Your friends won’t be able to remember my name or what I looked like,” Anders says, sounding unconcerned.

“Yeah, no, Priscilla is really good with faces. One time—”

Anders scoffs. “You never shut up, do you?”

“You really should have figured that out by the end of our first—” Jaskier breaks off with a gasp when there’s suddenly a knife at his throat. The cold press of metal is a horrible jolt of reality. This is really happening. Anders is really going to kill him.

“Please,” he hears himself say, but it doesn’t sound like his voice. “Please, Anders, don’t do this.”

Anders’ lips twist into an expression of utter disdain. For a horrible moment, Jaskier can only stare into that pitiless face, waiting for the blade to pierce his flesh, for the pain, for the blood. But nothing happens and Anders face screws up in confusion.

“Why the fuck isn’t it working?” he demands.

“What?” Jaskier whispers, grimacing as the knife presses harder. “Anders, please.”

Anders withdraws the knife and shakes it like it’s a malfunctioning video game controller. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

Jaskier doesn’t know if Anders is talking to him or the knife. “I don’t…”

“Shut up.” Anders brings the blade to his throat again, the tip pricking the underside of his chin. “This should be working. I’ve never had this problem before. Tell me what you’re doing to stop it.”

“I’m not doing anything.” Jaskier is too scared and confused to even think, let alone strategize.

“Come on, work!” Anders shouts in his face and Jaskier closes his eyes, bracing for the end.

***

Geralt ignores the pain in his leg, rushing forward as the vibrating of his medallion gets more insistent. Through the trees, he can see the flicker of a fire and hear voices.

“Please,” a young male voice is saying, voice cracking with terror. “Please, Anders, don’t do this.”

Geralt runs faster. Behind him, Yennefer hisses something about his leg, but he ignores her. There’s already been too many dead young men; he can’t stand the thought of being too late to save another one. He can hear a man’s voice shouting and hopes that means he still has time.

He bursts through the trees and finds about what he was expecting: a bonfire, a ritual circle, a terrified, dark-haired young man bound on the ground, and a redheaded man standing over his victim with a knife to his throat. The sacrifice has his eyes closed and his face screwed up like he’s bracing for an impact. From fifteen feet away, Geralt can hear his heart hammering and smell his fear sweat, but he stops in his tracks. With a blade to the kid’s throat, there’s little Geralt can do without endangering him further.

The mage— Anders, Geralt presumes— cries out and jerks back, dropping the knife. He shakes his hand, which is covered in angry red blisters.

“Geralt, you get the boy.” Yennefer’s voice is cool and steady, as if she weren’t just sprinting through the woods. “I’ll take care of the mage.”

Geralt was about to tell her to deal with the captive while he goes after Anders, but they don’t have time to argue about it. As Yennefer advances on Anders, Geralt goes to kneel beside the kid on the ground, who stares up at him with frightened blue eyes.

“It’s okay,” Geralt tells him, because he knows what he probably looks like to a scared teenager with his animalistic eyes and too-sharp teeth. He’s probably scarier than the mage who tried to kill him. “You’re safe.”

The boy’s pupils are pinpricks of shock. He can’t be older than eighteen or nineteen. “I really hate camping,” he says, voice thin and a bit dazed. “Pris told me this was a bad idea. She said I’d embarrass myself setting up a tent or something. I don’t think she foresaw the attempted murder though.”

“Hm.” Geralt checks him over for injuries. There’s a thin burn on his throat, probably from when Yennefer forced Anders to drop his knife. “You alright?”

“I think so.” The kid’s Adam’s apple bobs. “I’m Jaskier, by the way.”

“Geralt.” There’s no harm telling the boy his real name; he won’t remember it soon. Jaskier’s wrists and ankles are tied to wooden stakes driven into the dirt. Geralt yanks the ones binding his wrists out of the ground. The boy gives a startled squeak and Geralt moves onto his ankles before wrapping one arm around Jaskier’s narrow waist and hauling him to his feet.

“I can stand— oh.” Jaskier’s arms pinwheel when he tries to pull away from Geralt. “I think I’ve been drugged. Everything’s a bit wobbly.”

“You have.” Geralt can smell the bitter scent of the drugs.

“Whatever it is, I’m not a fan.”

“It will pass.” Geralt starts to haul Jaskier towards the edge of the campsite. He’ll leave the boy somewhere out of sight and then come back to help Yennefer finish off Anders.

“Geralt, watch out!” Yennefer shouts behind him, just as the vibrations of his medallion intensifies.

Geralt turns around, just as Anders throws an arm out in his and Jaskier’s direction. Geralt can feel the malevolent magic flying through the air. A killing spell. He should be immune; Yennefer has put enough charms on his medallion and armor to repel all but the strongest of curses. But Jaskier…

Geralt raises an arm to cast Quen, but it’s too late. He feels the spell hit them. He staggers under its weight, falling to his knees. Even though it can’t kill him, it’s uncomfortable, momentarily stealing the breath from his lungs and making his skin prickle all over. He kneels there for a moment, eyes closed. He doesn’t try to listen for a heartbeat behind him; he doesn’t want to hear its absence and confirm that he was too late to save another kid.

Behind him, Jaskier sneezes violently. “Motherfucker. What was that?”

In disbelief, Geralt turns around to see Jaskier blinking at him, looking disgruntled, but unharmed. The boy sneezes again. The grass around them is dead, the tree behind Jaskier already blackened and withering, brown leaves raining down around it. There’s no way Jaskier should have survived.

But there’s no time to dwell. Geralt scoops Jaskier up and drags him behind the dead tree, depositing him on the ground. “Stay here,” he tells the young man, then hurries to help Yennefer.

Yennefer and Anders are circling each other, the air bristling with chaos. As Geralt advances on them, steel sword drawn, Anders glances over at him with a sneer curling his lip. “A witcher. I thought your kind was extinct.”

“Your information is out of date,” Geralt says. “Along with your magic practice. Human sacrifices haven’t been popular in about a thousand years.”

“They were squandering their youth. I was just giving them a purpose.”

“You killed twenty-four boys.”

“And it will be twenty-five, as soon as I’m done with you and your hedgewitch.”

Geralt grimaces. He doesn’t have to look at Yennefer to know she’s swelling with fury. “That was a mistake.”

“Why?” Anders asks. “Going to skewer me on that toothpick?”

“Unfortunately for you, no.”

“Then what—” The mage’s words cut off in a scream as the ground seems to surge upwards, engulfing him. Geralt’s last sight of him is his arms, grasping desperately at the air. And then he’s gone and the dirt and grass is still and flat, as if nothing happened.

“How’s that for a hedgewitch?” Yennefer snarls.

Geralt sheathes his unused sword. “You could have let me get a swing in.”

“I didn’t want you to overexert yourself.” She kicks at the ground. “Anyway, I had it well in hand.”

“Should bring you on contracts more often.”

“Don’t push your luck.” Yennefer looks him over, a tiny furrow in her brow the only thing to convey her concern. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine.” Geralt taps his medallion. “The protection spell did its trick.”

“And the boy?”

“He’s—”

“Melitele’s fucking tits, that was amazing.

They both turn around to find Jaskier standing at the edge of the campsite, not out of sight where Geralt left him. He’s looking between Geralt, Yennefer, and the ground in wide-eyed amazement.

“You just… the ground just ate him. Is he dead?”

“No,” Yennefer deadpans. “He’s going to live a full, happy life down there with the earthworms.”

Really?”

“No,” Yennefer says. “He’s dead.”

Well, he’s not quite dead yet. Geralt can hear the mage’s fading heartbeat under the ground, but that doesn’t seem like something Jaskier needs to know. “You’re safe now,” he tells the young man.

“Yeah, I figured that.” Jaskier’s grin is wide and completely unafraid. “So, who are you guys?” He points at Geralt. “You’re a witcher, right?”

“I…” Geralt trails off. Few remember that witchers ever existed. Their stories have faded even from legend.

“The medallion, the twin swords, the dramatic feats of strength. And you—” Jaskier turns to Yennefer. “A sorceress?”

Yennefer lets out a gust of breath. “Geralt.”

“I’m on it.” Geralt starts towards Jaskier, who is still happily babbling.

“Thank you for saving me,” Jaskier says. “I owe you my life. Or at the very least, some fast food. I have twelve dollars in my wallet. That will buy each of us a burger, so long as you don’t mind sharing an order of fries and—”

Geralt casts Axii. “You’re going to forget everything that happened here.”

“Seems unlikely.” Jaskier looks puzzled, but doesn’t have the empty-eyed gaze of Axii. “I never forget a face, especially not one as handsome as yours.”

What the fuck. Helplessly, Geralt glances over his shoulder at Yennefer. She strides forward and puts her hand on Jaskier’s forehead. His cheeks turn very pink, scent spiking with lust. “Well, hello,” he says, voice a little thin.

“Forget everything that happened here,” Yennefer tells him. “Forget me, forget Geralt, forget that asshole—”

“His name was Anders and he was very nice until he tried to kill me.”

“—Just forget everything about the last few hours.”

Jaskier sneezes.

Yennefer withdraws her hand quickly. “It’s like my chaos just slides off of him, Geralt.” To Jaskier, she adds, “What are you?”

“A Gemini,” he says, then sneezes again.

“For the love of fuck.” Yennefer takes a step back. “You’re immune to magic.”

“Oh, really?” Jaskier looks down at himself, like he expects to find evidence of his immunity printed across the front of his t-shirt. “Huh, that’s handy.”

Yennefer and Geralt exchange looks. They don’t need to speak to know what each other is thinking. A human who knows what they look like, knows their names, and knows what they are is an unexpected and unwanted problem. Geralt finds life as a witcher much more bearable now that humanity’s forgotten his kind exists. There are no more stones thrown when he walks into a town, no more spit in his beer, no more threats of pitchfork-wielding mobs. Hotels and bars are only too happy to take his money. He often has people complimenting him on his cool yellow contacts.

He very much does not want things to change. Especially since he imagines that change would probably come with scientists wanting to dissect him to make more witchers.

But Geralt’s not going to kill the kid. He’s not even going to threaten to kill him, because Jaskier seems to be taking his near-death experience fairly well, but that doesn’t mean Geralt wants to frighten him more. So all he says is, “Come on, let’s get you home.”

***

Yennefer can feel the young man in the backseat of Geralt’s truck practically vibrating with nervous energy. Every time she tries to look into his mind, her magic slides right off of him like raindrops on a pane of glass, but she doesn’t need to read his thoughts to know that he’s bursting with questions. He sits cross legged in the backseat, his small mountain of belongings piled on the seat next to him, gaze pinballing wildly back and forth between Geralt and Yennefer.

“How old are you?” he finally asks.

Yennefer can’t help but poke at him a little. “How old do you think we are?”

His cheeks color at that. “Normally, I’d say no more than thirty, thirty-five, but something tells me you’re much, much older than that.”

She smirks. “You’d be right. How old are you?”

“Nineteen,” he says, then quickly adds, “Well, I’ll be nineteen next month.”

“We’re about nine hundred,” she tells him.

He lets out a long, low whistle. “You should sell your skincare routine. You’d make a fortune.”

“My skincare routine is immortality,” she says. “You can’t bottle that, trust me. Plenty of people have tried.”

“Like Anders?” His voice only wavers slightly when he says the name of the man who almost killed him. He’s doing an admirable job of not falling apart, but Yennefer is sure there’s a crying jag in his near future. She doesn’t bother offering comfort; she’s never been good at that sort of thing.

Yennefer nods. “He was trying to be a mage, but without the training I underwent. He thought he could take shortcuts to immortality. It was never going to get him anywhere.”

Jaskier stares out the window for several minutes, seemingly deep in thought, and Yennefer goes back to focusing on the road. In the driver’s seat, Geralt is rigid, his grip on the wheel white-knuckled. Yennefer brushes his mind with her magic and he dips his head in a nearly imperceptible nod, giving her permission.

“I don’t like this,” he tells her silently. “But there are no good solutions here.”

She nods. “He doesn’t seem like the type to bring the Redanian government down on our heads.”

“Also doesn’t seem like the type to keep his mouth shut.”

Yennefer chances another glance over her shoulder at Jaskier, who is still staring out the window, humming to himself. “We can’t wipe his memory. We can’t kill him. I don’t know if we have room in the house for a prisoner, but we could make it work.”

“Don’t joke about that. We’re not taking a kid prisoner.”

“You’re right, we already lived with a teenager once. I’d rather not have to do that again.” Yennefer’s lips curl into a smile at the look on Geralt’s face. “Relax, Geralt, I really have no intention of kidnapping him. We just need to figure out how we stop him from telling the world about us.”

“I’d also like to know how he’s immune to magic. Last person I met like that was Renfri.” The thought is laced with pain. Even centuries after Blaviken, it still haunts him.

“I don’t know. He seems completely human. Even if he had some elf or fae in him, he would still be susceptible to magic. But he doesn’t seem dangerous.”

“Just because he doesn’t seem dangerous doesn’t mean he isn’t dangerous.”

“What happens now?” Jaskier asks, as if he senses the silent conversation.

“We drop you off back at Oxenfurt and you never tell anyone what happened here,” Geralt says.

“That’s it?” Jaskier’s voice goes a bit pitchy.

“What were you expecting?” Yennefer asks.

“Magic exists! Witchers and sorceresses exist!”

She turns to arch an eyebrow at him. “So?”

“So?” He throws up his arms in exasperation. “You expect me to go back to my normal life now? Pretend none of that ever happened?”

“Yes.”

How?”

“Nothing about your day to day life is going to change now that you know that magic exists,” Yennefer tells him. “Most people go their entire lives without encountering anything out of the ordinary. You’ve had your brush with magic. You won’t get another one.”

“But what if I want another one?” Jaskier leans forward so that his head is between Geralt and Yennefer’s. “Okay, hear me out.”

Geralt gives Yennefer a deeply pained look.

“You two have been alive for nine hundred years, right? How many hapless humans have you saved from being sacrifices?”

“One too many,” Yennefer says, which earns her a sigh from Geralt.

Jaskier ignores her. “And the world doesn’t even know you exist! They’ll never thank you for all you’ve done. What if I could change that?”

“What makes you think we want that to change?” Yennefer demands.

Jaskier looks at her, wide-eyed and far too earnest with that baby face of his. “Because shouldn’t people know that so many of them owe you their lives?”

Geralt snorts. “People were never interested in thanking witchers. They preferred driving us out of town with pitchforks.”

“It would be different now.”

“It wouldn’t be.” Geralt shakes his head. “People haven’t changed that much over the centuries. The clothes have changed, the technology has changed, the governments have changed. Human nature stays the same.”

“Oh.” Jaskier seems to deflate. “I just… I’m a creative writing major. I love stories. I feel like you probably have so many of them.”

“We do,” Yennefer says. “And none of them are all that interesting.”

“I don’t believe that.”

“But you’ll never find out.” Yennefer flashes a razor-sharp smile. “Forget you ever met us, Jaskier. Trust me, it’s for the best.”

***

To his credit, Jaskier does try to forget all about Geralt, Yennefer, and Anders, but forgetting about the man who tried to murder him and the two beautiful, fascinating immortals who saved him is nearly impossible. When he gets back to Oxenfurt, he tells Priscilla and Shani that camping with Anders was a disaster, making up some story about trying to build a fire that has both of his friends in stitches. He laughs along with them and tries not to remember the feeling of a blade at his throat.

He hands his last two finals in, getting top marks on both of them, though things like good grades seem so much more minor than they did the week before.

Less than a week after meeting Geralt and Yennefer, he heads back to Lettenhove for the summer. They haven’t even made it out of Oxenfurt before his father is already giving him a lecture.

“Your grades are adequate, but no one is going to care about good grades in a creative writing major with a music minor,” Julian Pankratz Sr. tells his son. “You need to figure out what you want to do with your life.”

“I do know what I want to do with my life.”

His father waves a hand as if trying to shoo away Jaskier’s authorial ambitions. “Your mother and I are paying a lot of money for you to go to this school. The least you can do is take it seriously.”

“I am taking it seriously.”

“Your credit card bills tell another story. We can see how much money you’re spending out at bars and clubs.”

Jaskier has a 3.9 GPA and the all-too recent memory of being tied up and helpless on the ground. He tunes out the rest of his father’s words. They don’t matter and with three months in Lettenhove ahead of him, he knows there will be plenty more where that came from.

He falls into his usual routine back in Lettenhove. It takes all of three days for him to be sneaking through Victoria de Stael’s bedroom window. A week after that, they break up in the same pizza shop where they broke up the last two times. Victoria has a boyfriend back at Tretogor U, a business major. He takes things more seriously than Jaskier; they’re a better match. Jaskier shouldn’t take it personally.

Shani and Priscilla surprise him for his nineteenth birthday at the beginning of June. They go out to Lettenhove’s only bar with his childhood best friend, Essi. Shani and Essi hit it off and go off to get their own motel room after the bar closes, leaving Jaskier and Priscilla to eat fast food burgers and watch old reruns of sitcoms into the wee hours of the morning.

“You don’t seem like yourself lately,” Priscilla tells Jaskier as a laugh track plays in the background . “Ever since what happened with Anders.”

Jaskier flinches. There’s a weird brown stain on the carpet. He wonders if it’s blood.

“I know you really liked him,” she says. “I’m sorry it didn’t work out.”

“Eh, he wasn’t that great.” Jaskier shrugs.

“No.” She shakes her head. “He sounded like a bit of a prick. Not very good-looking either.”

Jaskier grins at her. If he were suffering from a romantic disappointment, it would be just what he needed to hear.

“You know there’s someone out there for you,” she tells him. “You don’t have to settle for skeezy grad students you match with on dating apps.”

He swipes a cold fry from the bag. “I wouldn’t have any good stories if I didn’t match with skeezy grad students on dating apps.”

They never talk about it again. The summer continues and his friends probably forget entirely about Anders. Jaskier doesn’t, but as the weeks wear on, it feels more and more like a dream. If it weren’t for the faint scar left by the burn on his throat, he would have no proof that it ever happened, that he ever met Yennefer and Geralt.

School starts back up for the fall semester and Jaskier moves into an apartment near campus with Priscilla and Shani. Their first weekend back at Oxenfurt, he, Priscilla, and Shani meet up with Essi in Novigrad. They go to a new club that opened up at the end of last year and Jaskier lets himself lose himself in the music and the company of his three best friends. It’s all a completely normal evening, filled with vodka and laughter and dancing, right until he turns around and finds Geralt standing behind him.

***

One of the worst things about this new century— besides the fact that cars have replaced horses— is the popularity of nightclubs. In the old days, taverns only had the occasional bard warbling in a corner, who could normally be silenced with a dark enough look. The music thumping over the loudspeakers does not care how many times Geralt glares at it. It drones on, making his head pound. He wishes Yennefer were here; her presence would ground him.

Geralt weaves his way through the crowd, teeth gritted. He’d like nothing more than to get out of here, but he tracked a bruxa that has already taken three lives here and he has no intention of leaving before he drives a blade into her heart. He lets his gaze travel over the gyrating mass of young people, mostly students from Oxenfurt and U Novigrad celebrating their return to school. There are far too many potential victims here.

He catches a glimpse of dark hair and turns. But instead of the bruxa, it’s Jaskier. The young man is dancing with a group of young women, wearing a sheer blue top, tiny shorts, and a pair of sparkly sneakers. There’s glitter dusted across his cheeks and he’s singing along to the music, a beaming smile on his face. Geralt steps back, hoping that the darkness and the crowd will hide him from sight.

Jaskier looks around, his eyes going wide when they fall on Geralt.

Fuck.

Geralt turns and heads towards the restrooms, an easy place for the bruxa to pick an intoxicated, isolated victim and drain them dry.

“Geralt!”

He walks faster.

“Geralt, wait!” A hand grabs Geralt’s arm and he turns to look down at the boy.

Jaskier’s smile is wide and eager. “So, you do exist! I was starting to wonder.”

“Hm.” Geralt really doesn’t know what to say here. He doesn’t make it a habit of running into the people he saves after the fact. Besides Ciri, Yennefer, Triss, and his fellow witchers, he doesn’t talk to much of anyone at all.

“You should leave,” he finds himself saying.

“Oh?” Jaskier cocks an eyebrow. “Why, is there some beastie on the loose?” When Geralt doesn’t immediately answer, his eyes go wide. “Oh my gods, there is.”

“You and your friends should go find a different club.”

“But what is it?”

Geralt doesn’t think he’s going to be able to easily shake the kids loose. “Bruxa.”

“And what’s that?”

“Type of vampire.”

“Oh, fuck.” He rubs at his throat, which Geralt notices has a long, thin scar. “Well, luckily, you’re here to keep everyone safe.”

“Lot easier to do that if I’m actually searching for the thing.”

“Oh, yeah. Well, by all means, carry on.”

Geralt nods, then turns away. A moment later, he realizes that Jaskier is trailing behind him. He stops dead and turns to glare at the younger man. “The fuck are you doing?”

Jaskier’s smile is wide and guileless. “I just thought I could get a glimpse of the action.”

“You cannot.”

“Oh, come on! I’ll just be silent backup. You won’t even know I’m here.”

“I will.”

“Well, I won’t get in your way.”

“You will.”

Jaskier harrumphs. “Where’s Yennefer?”

“Home.”

“And where’s that?”

“I’m not going to tell you that.”

“So, she doesn’t normally accompany you on your witchering?”

“No.”

“Huh, that’s a shame.”

“She would also tell you to get lost.”

“Oh, I’m sure she would. And I’d ignore her too.” Jaskier hurries to walk beside Geralt. “So, having a nice summer?”

Geralt sighs. “Do you want to get eaten by a bruxa?”

“Not particularly, but I don’t think you’ll let that happen.”

“I might.”

Jaskier laughs, like Geralt just told a hilarious joke. “So, does this happen often? Monsters crawling through nightclubs, looking for fresh blood? I feel like they’d be common knowledge, if there were.”

Geralt debates whether or not to answer for a moment. “There aren’t as many as there used to be, but enough to keep me busy.”

“Good to know. Where are your swords? You had swords last time.”

“They’re in my truck. It’s no longer socially acceptable to carry weapons everywhere you go.”

“Bet that makes your life more difficult.”

“It does.” Geralt pushes his way into the bathroom. One glance around tells him that no one in here is in distress, unless you count the young man emptying the contents of his stomach into one of the toilets. He leaves quickly.

“So, what are we looking for?” Jaskier asks.

Geralt sighs, more heartily this time. “Young woman with long, dark hair. She was wearing a red dress when I last saw her.”

“And she’ll probably be gnawing on some poor dude’s neck?”

“Possibly. She’s already killed three that I know of.” Geralt does another sweep of the room with his eyes, then heads upstairs towards the VIP section.

A bouncer blocks his path. “You can’t—”

Geralt casts Axii. “We’re supposed to be here.”

“Of course.” The bouncer nods and steps aside. “Have a nice night, sir.”

“Huh.” Jaskier stares at the glazed-eyed bouncer as they proceed up the steps. “So that’s what you tried to do to me?”

“Might try again if you’re not careful.”

“You know, your threats aren’t nearly as scary as they should be, given all your muscles.”

“Thanks, I’ll work on that.”

“You know, if you didn’t want me to follow you, you just had to tell the bouncer that you were supposed to be here and I was an interloper.”

Geralt grits his teeth and doesn’t answer. Fuck.

They reach the top of the stairs and he looks around. The VIP section is filled with alcoves that are blocked from view by beaded curtains. It reeks of booze, sex, and sweat and he wrinkles his nose against the onslaught of scents. Trying to listen over the pounding of the music from downstairs, Geralt makes his way past the rows of beaded curtains, listening to the occupants sing and laugh and fuck.

He just has time to register the scent of blood before a hand shoots out from behind one of the beaded curtains, seizes him by a shirt, and drags him into the alcove. Geralt nearly trips over the corpse of a man in a suit lying on the ground, throat torn open and eyes staring. He steadies himself just as the bruxa attacks. There’s gore streaking her chin and a feral glint in her eye. She lunges, bloodied teeth going straight for Geralt’s throat, and he casts Aard to blast her backwards. She lets out a shriek as she hits the wall and Geralt is thrown against the opposite wall, landing hard enough to knock the wind out of him.

The bruxa shifts into her monstrous bat form, spreading out her wings to their full span and baring her teeth into a hiss. As she opens her mouth to scream, Jaskier lunges between Geralt and the creature. The full force of her scream hits him and a moment later, Geralt finds himself with a lapful of flailing college student.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Geralt growls.

“I didn’t think it would affect me! It’s magic, right?”

Fucking hells, save Geralt from overenthusiastic idiots. Cursing, he shoves Jaskier off him as the bruxa flies at them. Geralt lets the creature slam into him with all her might. Her teeth are inches from his throat when he drives the silver knife into her chest. She lets out a pitiful cry as he yanks the blade out, then stabs her again. The bruxa twitches once, then goes still.

Geralt looks over at Jaskier, who is crumpled on the ground next to him, mouth agape in shock. Thankfully, he looks unharmed. Geralt demands, “Was that everything you were dreaming of?”

***

Getting the bruxa’s body out of the club without detection proves to be more challenging than actually killing the bruxa. They leave the dead man on the ground— Jaskier tries not to look too closely at him— and wrap the bruxa’s massive corpse up in the champagne-drenched tablecloth.

“Broken glass,” Geralt tells the bouncer who tries to stop them on their way down the stairs. “Lots of it.”

Geralt doesn’t tell Jaskier to go away, which Jaskier takes as permission to keep following him. He earns a bartender’s sympathy with a story of a possessive ex and is ushered out the staff only entrance in the back, with Geralt following close behind. Geralt only acknowledges his contribution to their escape effort with a grunt and a nod, but Jaskier doesn’t take it personally. Geralt seems like a tough nut to crack, but Jaskier is looking forward to the challenge.

“Where are we going?” he asks Geralt as the witcher loads the corpse into the back of his truck, which was parked behind the nightclub.

Geralt looks resigned. “Outside the city to bury the body.”

“Sounds fun.” Jaskier slides into the passenger seat.

“You’re going to get dirt on that outfit?”

“Of course not. I’m going to watch you get dirt on your outfit.”

He thinks he might hear Geralt laugh, but the witcher covers it up with a cough.

They’re ten minutes outside of Novigrad when Jaskier gets a call from Priscilla. “Are you murdered?” she demands.

“Pris, I texted you to tell you I was leaving with someone,” she says.

“That’s not good enough when they found a body in the VIP section. They just evacuated the club!”

“Huh.” Jaskier glances sidelong at Geralt. “Well, I promise you, I’m not murdered.”

“Who are you with?”

“His name’s Gary.” Jaskier grins at Geralt’s exasperated expression.

“Does he look like a serial killer?”

“No, but he’s invited me home to show me his collection of chainsaws.”

“Put him on the phone.”

“He’s driving.”

“Hold the phone to his ear.”

Jaskier complies.

Geralt’s eyebrow slowly creeps up into his hairline as he listens to whatever Priscilla has to say. “Uh-huh. Hm. Noted. Nice talking to you too.”

Jaskier hangs up the phone. “What did she say?”

“Your friend, Shani, is pre-med and knows how to dissolve me in acid if I murder you,” Geralt says, barely covering up his amusement. “There are much easier ways to dispose of a body.”

“I’ll be sure to pass that on to Shani.” Grinning, Jaskier pockets his phone.

They find an empty field about twenty miles outside of Novigrad and Geralt gets to work burying the bruxa. Much to Jaskier’s consternation, he gets roped into assisting.

“These shoes aren’t meant for burying bodies,” he tells Geralt. “Nor are these shorts.”

The witcher doesn’t even glance at the shorts in question, which Jaskier finds a little offensive. He knows he looks damn good in this outfit. “Should have thought of that before you followed me out of Novigrad.”

“I thought we discussed the fact that I would not be doing any manual labor.”

“You discussed. I ignored.”

Jaskier harrumphs and continues to dig. These shoes will be a loss, he thinks mournfully, between the blood and the dirt. Silence hangs between them for a long moment before Jaskier can’t stand it anymore. “Why did the bruxa’s scream affect me when Yennefer and Anders’ magic didn’t?” he asks.

“Different kind of magic,” Geralt says. “Bruxae are post-Conjunction creatures. Their magic doesn’t rely on chaos, like a mage’s does.”

“The Conjunction of the Spheres?” Jaskier blinks. “That’s a myth.”

“So are witchers.”

“Fair enough. Any idea why I’d be immune to magic?”

“No. Weren’t born during a solar eclipse, were you?”

“Don’t think so.”

“Hm.”

Jaskier stares at the witcher for a long moment, waiting for him to elaborate. When he doesn’t, Jaskier asks, “Why do you ask?”

“Only knew one person who was immune to magic. She was a cursed princess born during an eclipse.”

“And what happened to her?”

“I killed her.”

“Oh.” For the first time, Jaskier feels a thrill of nerves about being alone in the middle of nowhere with this man he barely knows, with nothing to protect him except this shovel and the corkscrew on his keychain.

Geralt’s nostrils flare and he takes a step back. “I’m not going to hurt you. I didn’t kill her because of the curse. I killed her because she was about to massacre an entire village on a revenge mission. It was her or dozens of innocent lives.”

Jaskier lets out a long, slow breath of relief. “Well, I don’t think I’m cursed.”

“Good. This is deep enough.”

Jaskier helps Geralt roll the bruxa’s body into the grave. “Could I be a mage?” he asks, a little hopefully.

“No, you’d’ve had your conduit moment years ago,” Geralt says.

Jaskier tries not to be disappointed by that fact. “What about an elf? A phoenix? A unicorn?”

“Take it you read a lot of fantasy novels.”

“You’d be correct.”

Geralt snorts. “You’re perfectly human, so far as I can tell.”

Jaskier tries not to be too disappointed by that fact.

They finish burying the body and Geralt says, “Come on, let’s get you back to Oxenfurt.”

Jaskier nods, brushing grave dirt off on his shorts, which are as beyond repair as his shoes. “Yennefer’s probably waiting for you, huh?”

“She’s probably long asleep by now.”

A glance at his phone tells Jaskier that it’s nearly 2 AM. Burying a corpse is time-intensive work. “So, you and Yennefer? You’re a couple?”

“Yes.”

Jaskier trails Geralt back to the truck. “Excellent. How long have you two crazy kids been together?”

“About eight hundred years.”

“Damn.” Jaskier whistles. “And I thought dating Victoria de Stael for the entirety of my senior year of high school was a big commitment.”

“Sure you and Victoria were very happy together.”

“Oh no, we made each other miserable,” Jaskier says cheerfully. “So, what’s your secret?”

“Buckle your seatbelt.”

“That’s beautiful. I’ll be sure to embroider that on a pillow when I find the one.” At Geralt’s dark look, Jaskier grins and buckles his seatbelt. “Are there any other witchers left?”

“You ask a lot of questions.”

“I’m a naturally curious person.”

“It’s annoying.”

“You have no idea how many times I’ve been told that.”

“Think I do, actually.”

“The easiest way to shut me up is to answer my questions.”

Geralt snorts skeptically. “There are a handful of us left. It was a dangerous job. Not many made it past a century.”

“How long do witchers live?”

“Dunno,” Geralt says. “Most never got a chance to find out our natural lifespan. At first, I thought I was only living so long because of the djinn bond, but then my brothers never got any older either.”

“The djinn bond?” Jaskier asks.

Geralt grimaces, like he didn’t intend to say that. “Yenn and I met when I was hunting a djinn. I made a stupid wish, it nearly killed me, I went to her for help, it tried to kill both of us. I had to bind us together with a wish to get us out alive.”

“That’s romantic.”

“She didn’t think so at first.”

Jaskier studies the man next to him, the beautiful white hair, the chiseled jawline, the strong hands gripping the steering wheel. Yennefer is a lucky, lucky woman. He might still have a chance with Geralt, he tells himself. Some couples can be adventurous. Anyway, the thought of ending up in a gorgeous immortal sandwich is incredibly erotic. He can picture Geralt’s white hair and her dark, his rough, scarred hands and her slender, long-fingered ones, his broad shoulders and her narrow waist—

“No,” Geralt says.

Jaskier blinks, jolting himself out of the fantasy.

Geralt is looking straight ahead, jaw clenched. “I can smell your arousal.”

Well, that’s the most mortifying thing that Jaskier has ever heard. He opens and closes his mouth several times. “I was just…”

“It’s not going to happen.”

Jaskier splutters. “And whyever not?”

“Because you’re eighteen.”

“I turned nineteen in June.”

“Still a teenager. Anyway, you’re only interested because you think we’re dangerous and exciting.”

“You are dangerous and exciting.” Jaskier is still smarting over the ‘still a teenager’ line. Which, well, Geralt is technically accurate, but Jaskier doesn’t think something like that should be held against him. “I have no problem with older men. Or older women, for that matter.”

“We have a problem with fucking teenagers.”

There’s a long moment of silence. “Well, can I at least see you again?” Jaskier asks.

“No.”

Jaskier lets out a gusty sigh. “And here I thought we were bonding.”

Geralt shakes his head. “I know that this all seems glamorous to you. It’s normal to go looking for an adventure when you’re nineteen. You just won’t find it here.”

“I could if you’d give me a chance.”

Geralt doesn’t say anything and Jaskier’s next couple of attempts at starting conversations meet with silence. Jaskier eventually gives up and stares out the window, humming absently to himself until they reach Oxenfurt. When Geralt pulls up outside his apartment building, Jaskier turns to him.

“Thanks for the ride,” he says. “And for the grave digging experience. It was thrilling.”

Geralt’s eyes reflect the streetlights outside as he looks at Jaskier. “Forget about tonight.”

“That’s what you told me to do last time.”

“And you didn’t listen. You know how easily you could have died when you threw yourself in front of that bruxa?”

The scar on Jaskier’s throat seems to tingle.

“You should be living a normal life in college,” Geralt says sternly. “You don’t need to worry about witchers, magic, and monsters.”

“Witchers, magic, and monsters are a thousand times more interesting than college.”

Geralt leans close and for a wild, thrilling moment, Jaskier thinks he’s about to be kissed. But the witcher only pushes open the passenger side door. “Goodbye, Jaskier.”

Jaskier knows when he’s being dismissed. He climbs out of the truck. “Well, thanks again for the—”

Geralt is already driving away.

“Nice seeing you again too!” Jaskier calls after the vanishing tail lights. As soon as they vanish into the distance, he heads upstairs to his apartment. There’s giggling and thumping from Shani’s room and silence from Priscilla’s. He lets himself into his bedroom and sinks down into his desk chair.

He sits there for a long moment, staring at the wall, his thoughts bouncing between Geralt and Yennefer, the bruxa and Anders. This world of magic and monsters that he’s had two close encounters with. He wants more. He needs more.

He turns on his laptop, opens a word document, and begins to write.

***

Yennefer barely wakes when Geralt comes home; she’s used to him slipping into bed at all hours of the night. She’s aware of his arm wrapping around her waist, the dry brush of his lips behind her ear, his quiet contented hum as he settles down behind her. She covers his hand resting on her stomach with her own and snuggles back against him before drifting back to sleep.

When she wakes up again, it’s morning and she can hear Geralt puttering around the room. “Morning, Roach,” she hears him mutter to the stuffed unicorn in the corner.

Yennefer doesn’t open her eyes. “Don’t call that thing Roach. You know it drives me crazy.”

He chuckles. “Always need to have a horse named Roach. You know that.”

It’s been over a century since Geralt had a real, live horse. Not for the first time, Yennefer considers relocating to the country so Geralt can have horses again, but they’ve lived in this Novigrad rowhouse for fifty years. It’s their home. She opens her eyes and sits up to find Geralt standing at the foot of the bed, watching her with a soft expression. He hands her a mug of tea, which she accepts gratefully.

“Good morning,” he murmurs, brushing his lips against hers.

“Good morning.” She reaches up to push his hair out of his eyes. “You got home late.”

“Hunt got complicated.”

“Oh?” Her eyes flick over him. He’s unharmed.

“Remember that kid we saved from being a human sacrifice last spring? The one who was immune to magic?”

“Oh, yes.” Yennefer remembers the talkative, too-curious college student. “What was his name? Jaspar?”

“Jaskier,” he says. “He was at the club where I found the bruxa last night. He recognized me. Insisted on following me around.”

“And you couldn’t dissuade him?”

“Would you have me rough him up for the crime of being an idiot kid?”

Yennefer shrugs. She’s much more willing to rough people up than Geralt. “Is he going to be a problem?”

“Hope not. He asked a lot of questions. Kept smelling horny.”

Yennefer’s lips twitch. “Well, you are devastatingly attractive when you’re swinging your sword around.”

Geralt makes a pained noise.

“Look at it from his perspective.” Yennefer pats him on the arm. “You’re an immortal warrior who saved his life. His other romantic prospects are greasy college students. Cut the poor boy some slack.”

“I’m not a romantic prospect.”

“Don’t worry, Geralt, I’ll protect you.”

“You’re mocking me.”

“Whatever gave you that idea?”

“Too bad. I was going to make you breakfast.”

Yennefer sits up a little straighter. “What were you making?”

“Guess you’ll never know.” He turns towards the door. “Roach is going to get your serving now.”

“Geralt!” Yennefer slides out of bed and pads after him.

By the time she’s cornered him in the kitchen and they’ve had a breakfast of pancakes and bacon— followed by some enthusiastic fucking against the kitchen counter— they’ve forgotten all about Jaskier.

***

Two years later

“Go to your nearest bookstore.”

Yennefer blinks at the urgency in her best friend’s voice, cradling her phone between her ear and shoulder. She’s just stepped out of her Tuesday afternoon yoga class. “Well, hello, Triss.”

“Seriously, Yenna, you need to see this. Go to your nearest bookstore and check out the bestseller section.”

There’s a bookstore two doors down from the yoga studio. Yennefer heads in that direction. “Has Eskel taken up writing again?” Eskel’s brief stint as an erotic romance novelist in the 80s will go down in infamy in their family. The books were quite good, even if the prose was a bit purple and there were a startling amount of women with horns.

“Not recently,” Triss says. “He and Coën are back to raising goats.”

Yennefer sometimes marvels at her friend’s patience to have not one, but two witchers as lovers. “At least it’s not llamas this time.”

“Thank fuck for that,” Triss says. “Are you on your way to a bookstore?”

“Yes, Triss. If you’re worried that I’m not cultured enough, you could always portal up here and we could go to an art museum.”

“I’m not worried about culture.” Triss’s voice takes on a grim tone.

“You’re as dramatic as Tissaia sometimes.”

“I am going to tell her you said that.”

“Go ahead.” Yennefer slips inside the bookstore and heads to the bestseller section, scanning the usual thrillers, romances, and serious-looking literary novels with the word ‘girl’ in the title. She pauses when she gets to a book with an image of a scowling white-haired man with an artistically blood-splattered face and two comically overlarge swords in his hands.

Will of the Witcher, the title reads.

“What the fuck?” She pulls it off the shelf and flips it open.

“Do you see it?” Triss demands.

“I see it.” Yennefer scans the dust jacket. Gerald is a witcher, an immortal monster-hunter who has wandered the Continent for centuries, searching for his lost love, the enchantress, Gwendolyn. “What the hell is this?”

“I don’t know! I was hoping you would tell me. I picked it up yesterday and got to reading it this morning. It’s about you and Geralt.”

Yennefer glances at the cover again. “Not necessarily. There are still some legends about witchers out there, if you know where to look.”

Gerald is a white-haired witcher with a wolf’s head medallion who says ‘hm’ a lot and wears lots of leather. Gwendolyn is his violet-eyed, glamorous lover. They meet when she saves him from a djinn that wants to kill him to earn its freedom and he binds their lives together with a wish.”

Yennefer feels a chill up her spine. “That’s not how it happened.”

“I know, but it’s close enough. Do you know a J.A. Pankratz?”

“Doesn’t ring a bell.” Yennefer glances at the name on the cover.

“He’s only twenty-one, apparently. He wrote the whole thing in a couple of months his sophomore year of college and it immediately got snapped up by a publisher. There’s going to be a movie. He says he was inspired by a medieval ballad about witchers that he dug up, and then he did as much research as he could about them.”

Yennefer flips over the book to look at the back cover. The author's photo shows a young man with a smooth, round baby face, big blue eyes, and a mischievous smile posed in front of a bookshelf. She recognizes that face, though it’s been nearly two years since she thought about him. “Oh, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

“You know him?”

“We’ve met.”

Yennefer says goodbye to Triss and buys a copy of the book. She heads home to make herself a pot of tea and curl up on the patio to do some reading. The book itself isn’t bad. The writing is engaging and the plot moves along at a snappy pace, alternating between Gerald and Gwendolyn falling in love in the thirteenth century and Gerald searching for the long-missing Gwendolyn with the aid of a scrappy grad student sidekick (and possible secondary love interest.) Anyone who didn’t know the book was about Geralt and Yennefer probably wouldn’t know that Gerald and Gwendolyn are supposed to be them. But by the time Yennefer gets to the part where Gwendolyn buries two enemy witchers threatening Gerald alive, she’s certain.

It’s nearly nightfall, her tea has long grown cold, and she’s nearly finished the book by the time Geralt comes home. She can hear his shoes squishing against the linoleum floor; he was investigating a potential rusalka in the Pontar River.

“Picked up noodles and some wine for dinner.” Geralt comes to lean in the doorway. There’s mud on his forehead. “You hungry?”

In response, Yennefer holds up the book so he can see the cover.

Geralt frowns. “Is that…”

Will of the Witcher by J.A. Pankratz, also known as Jaskier,” she says. “We have a problem, Geralt.”

***

The bookstore in downtown Oxenfurt is packed, with a line out the door. There are a startling amount of men in white wigs with plastic swords strapped to their backs and women wearing purple contacts and long black dresses.

“Great costume,” a girl who can’t be older than sixteen says cheerfully to Yennefer. “Those contacts look so real!”

Yennefer smiles thinly in response. “I hardly notice they’re there.”

At the front of the line of people, Geralt catches sight of Jaskier signing books and chatting with fans, wearing an easy smile. He doesn’t look that much different than he did two years before. A little broader through the shoulders, but the baby face and blue eyes are the same. He’s flirting ridiculously with a young woman dressed up as Gwendolyn.

“What are we doing here, Yenn?” Geralt mutters as they’re jostled by a group of college students walking by.

“I just want to talk to him. See what the fuck he thought he was doing writing a book about us.”

“Not sure it’s going to help.”

“Maybe not.” Yennefer’s lips curl into a vicious little smile. “But I look forward to the expression on his face when he sees us.”

By the time they reach the front of the line, Geralt has been hit in the face with the scabbards three plastic swords and two people have tried to touch Yennefer’s “amazing wig.” Neither are happy. The woman in front of them is dressed as Gwendolyn too and Jaskier is flirting with her, just as he’s flirted with half the women in line. He watches her walk away before turning to Geralt and Yennefer.

“Well, hello, thank you for—” Geralt sees the moment that Jaskier realizes that the people standing in front of him aren’t cosplayers, but the real thing. His eyes move slowly from Geralt to Yennefer and then back to Geralt, mouth opening in a little oh of shock. Yennefer was right; it’s very satisfying.

“Hello, Jaskier,” Yennefer says. “Loved the book, but we have some notes.”

Jaskier flashes a weak smile. “I can explain?”

***