“I told you before, I’m sick. You didn’t believe me,” Tissaia croaked out, feeling a catch in her throat. Her heart hurt, breathing hurt. Everything hurt, really, but she had known it would.
The woman leaning over her studied her intently. “I thought.. you just said that to-“
“To get you to come back? I’m not that cold and calculating, Yennefer, despite what you may want to believe,” she brought out before a cough shook her entire body painfully.
She winced and turned her face away from the penetrating gaze of violet eyes. She hadn’t expected Yennefer to show up anymore, had expected she’d be dying alone, in peace. In as much peace as one could die from a broken heart, that is.
“You.. you can’t be dying, Tissaia. Please tell me there’s something.. anything…”
“There’s nothing,” Tissaia whispered, still not looking at Yennefer.
In truth, there was something and only one person would be able to fulfill it, but she knew the mage sitting at her bedside wouldn’t agree, knew Yennefer didn’t feel that way about her. So thinking about it, hoping for it, was futile. A lone tear escaped her eyes and she buried her face further into her pillow, making her body move and turn on her side, turning her back to Yennefer. Every small movement hurt at his point.
“Somehow I don’t believe you, Rectoress,” Yennefer said hotly.
Tissaia didn’t understand why the mage was so angry suddenly, why Yennefer always fell back on anger. It had been weeks since she’d approached her the first, and only, time. Weeks ago, the illness had already progressed far enough for her to feel winded when she had stepped through her own portals. Now she couldn’t use any Chaos anymore and was barely strong enough to sit up.
But back then, when she had made one foolish, desperate attempt at reaching out, the rejection had hurt more than just a little. It had made the illness spread and progress even quicker.
She had berated herself for it, in the end. She might have had longer if it hadn’t been for Yennefer’s cutting words piercing her heart and soul, making her bleed out her magic.
And a mage without magic? A mage without their Chaos was not just useless. Without their Chaos, mages were dying, a slow and painful death. Dimeritium was less painful than this. It didn’t take the Chaos away, not directly, it only laid itself over it, hiding it, keeping the mage from accessing it.
But this particular sickness? It made the Chaos vanish, bleeding out was a rather apt description. Only she wasn’t bleeding blood, but her magic instead. And she was bleeding it out right from her heart, where the unrequited love had cracked it wide open.
And even though a name for this particular ailment existed in books and stories, she couldn’t bring herself to call it anything other than her “illness”. She knew it was hopeless.
Yennefer moved. She felt the weight of her vanish from the bed beside her. Panic gripped her heart for a second, as she feared Yennefer was leaving her for good now. Why would their last encounter be any different from their interactions all these years, decades?
More tears fell from her eyes, unbidden. She had never wanted their relationship to turn into one like this. One filled with barbs, hateful comments and glares of contempt. But Yennefer always managed to rile her up somehow, and that in turn made Yennefer explode with hurtful comments aimed at Tissaia.
They had always been like this, and it had hurt the Rectoress. She had tried, in her own way, after Yennefer’s ascension, to reach out and mend things but she had never truly succeeded.
Case in point, their meeting a few weeks ago. The last time Tissaia had stepped outside of her chambers. Returning from that trip, from that ordeal, had left her too weak and she’d been advised to stay in Aretuza, where Triss Merigold could keep an eye on her.
Triss was the only person that knew what truly was going on with the Rectoress. Well. She was no longer that, only in title, as Coral had taken over most duties. She hadn’t had the strength to teach in a long while and had taken over the sole duty of paperwork.
She had even taken a step back from Chapter meetings, much to her own despair and Stregobor’s quiet triumph.
He had visited her once, to gloat she presumed, but had left quietly and thoughtfully after a few minutes. He hadn’t bothered her again since that day.
And now she hadn’t even the strength for paperwork anymore. Confined to bed, due to a mysterious sickness, had been the official statement. Tissaia had been too preoccupied with herself to truly care what people said or thought of her. Aretuza no longer felt like a home or sanctuary, she felt constricted, confined instead, in these walls.
Tissaia was silently weeping into her pillow now, clutching it tightly to her face. She couldn’t tell where Yennefer was anymore, couldn’t even tell if she had left. The pounding in her head and ears was louder than any noise a portal would’ve made. Her heart was breaking open even further, and she could feel the last reserves of her Chaos flowing out.
Suddenly a cool touch laid itself on one of her shoulders. It was soothing in a way she didn’t understand at first. Then the bed dipped beside her and a hand landed on her own, gently soothing the grip on the pillow until her fingers relaxed their hold, against her will.
Tissaia knew what it meant, knew why her hold softened despite her not wanting it to.
There was more movement beside her, she felt the mattress shift further and her body was jostled from the movement. She couldn’t suppress the whimper of pain despite her best efforts.
She felt a hesitating and somewhat uncertain touch to her head, fingers that haltingly and carefully combed through her tangled hair. She hadn’t worn it up in weeks, and only let Triss brush it every once in a while. She was too proud still, to show any weaknesses in front of even her healer.
Tissaia couldn’t make herself look up, even though her heart desperately wanted the confirmation that it was her doing the touching. Her true love.
A few decades ago she would’ve scoffed at that. True love. She hadn’t believed it existed, had never believed the tales of bards who sang about it.
There had been times in recent weeks where she even resented its existence.
Over time she had gone through all kinds of stages, starting at denial, anger, outright rage, and then moving on to pain and finally landed on a feeling of acceptance, albeit a dejected kind. She felt utterly hopeless now and knew without a doubt she was dying.
The touch to her head turned steadier, reassuring but gentle. It was soothing in a way she hadn’t thought she’d ever feel.
“Tissaia.. please,” was whispered in a voice filled with anguish. Tissaia couldn’t comprehend why.
She shook her head slightly and pressed her face further into her pillow. Her sobs were threatening to spill over her lips loudly and she was straining to keep them quiet.
“Please let me help you.. there must be something I can do..”
If Tissaia hadn’t been so occupied with her own sorrow, she would’ve heard the tears lacing the other mage’s voice now. But as it was, she only heard the words, and tried to ignore them. The next sob that tore through her body and soul she couldn’t keep silent. It was muffled by the pillow, but still audible enough.
More movement on the mattress jostled Tissaia, and she cried out in pain for a short few seconds before a soothing coolness enveloped her whole body.
Arms circled around her waist, a hand came to rest on her lower back that was cooling and burning her skin at the same time.
A leg was gently thrown over her own, and her body carefully pulled against the other woman’s.
A relieved sigh traveled unhindered past her lips. Even if she had tried to, Tissaia would’ve been unable to stop it. She was still crying, but she could no longer tell if it was from hopelessness and despair or relief. Maybe a mixture of all of those emotions.
They both stayed quiet for a few long minutes, Tissaia’s breathing and crying slowing down from the erraticness it had turned to when she thought Yennefer was about to leave.
Her hand crept up Yennefer’s arm and took hold of the sleeve of her dress, clinging to the dark haired woman with a sort of wildness and definite fear of her vanishing into thin air.
She buried her face in Yennefer’s neck now, breathing her in.
As surprised as she was that the raven haired mage had even considered lying down beside her and was now even holding her, engulfing her wholly, and letting her hold on; she didn’t dare question it or her own desperation as she held onto the younger woman.
After a while, Yennefer seemed to grow restless. She pulled Tissaia even closer, murmuring words into her hair that the brunette couldn’t quite discern.
Instead she just pushed her face firmer against Yennefer’s skin.
“The only cure.. is you..” she dared to mouth against the skin under her lips, brushing it ever so lightly in the process.
At that she felt a shiver going through the mage holding her, but knew she couldn’t have heard the words. She hadn’t even whispered them, afraid of Yennefer’s reaction.
A soft hand fell to her cheek, caressing at first, but then gently guiding her face upwards. Violet eyes found her own, but Tissaia looked away immediately. She was certain her eyes were red and puffy from crying and she felt vulnerable, exposed.
“Look at me, please,” Yennefer whispered, her thumb brushing her cheekbone almost tenderly.
“I.. I can’t, Yennefer. I..” she trailed off, pointedly not looking at her.
A soft sigh escaped the other woman’s lips and Tissaia felt the puff of air on her face. It reminded the brunette how close they were, how intimately Yennefer was holding her. She’d have pulled back if she hadn’t been craving her presence so much, if she hadn’t been so physically - and emotionally - weak.
“All right. But listen, at least. I know you’re stubborn, as stubborn as I am myself. We’re both so stubborn…” she brought out quietly, letting the words fill the small space between them.
Tissaia closed her eyes, letting Yennefer’s voice caress her ears, calming her heart and soul. It didn’t matter what words she’d say, at this point, it was the sound of her voice that calmed her. That was all she needed.
Yennefer kept caressing Tissaia’s cheekbone, seemingly unable to stop herself.
“I was.. I don’t know why I didn’t believe you when you told me. And I..” she swallowed before continuing, “I apologise. I should’ve listened and helped you find a cure. From your reaction I can tell.. that there is something that can be done. Why hasn’t it been done yet?”
Her voice was rough with tears, Tissaia could tell. She couldn’t quite comprehend why Yennefer would cry over her now. But then again, she couldn’t quite comprehend the fact that she was being held like this by her either.
“There’s one cure only. And I have given up hope of ever obtaining it. It needs to be given truly and freely and it never will, I know that. I don’t have long anymore, Yenna, so you best say your goodbyes. I’m sure you’ll be glad to be rid of m-“
“Don’t you dare finish that thought,” Yennefer spat out, breathing heavily all of a sudden, her heart staggering at the use of the nickname that was unfamiliar for them, or maybe at the thought of Tissaia thinking she’d be glad to be rid of her, she couldn’t be entirely certain. “I’m not.. I would never.. I don’t want to lose you, Tissaia,” was finally whispered hotly, answering the silent question that had crept up in Tissaia’s mind.
And then a pair of lips pressed themselves against Tissaia’s forehead and tears were dripping onto the skin of her face. Tears that weren’t her own.
“Why are you crying?” Tissaia asked, confused in the haze of being held by the one person that could save her and knowing she’d never be saved, all the while feeling the last of her Chaos slowly but steadily leaving her.
Something that sounded like a mix between a hiccup and a sob came from the other mage, her lips still pressed against Tissaia’s forehead.
“Because I’m such an idiot! I..”
“You are not an idiot, Yennefer,” Tissaia said quietly, still more than confused.
A dark chuckle escaped the raven haired woman.
“I am, and we both know it. And you have absolutely no reason to defend me to anyone, least of all myself. I should’ve listened to you. I should’ve.. gods, Tissaia. I can’t lose you. I can’t,” she brought out and then started crying in earnest.
Tissaia was at a loss of words. She didn’t know what to say to console the younger woman in front of her. Didn’t know what to do.
What she wanted to do, however, was pull Yennefer’s face down towards her, kiss her and then hold her close. She wanted to reassure her, wanted to tell her that everything would be alright. But she knew it wouldn’t be.
Whatever Yennefer was feeling wouldn’t be enough. She was dying of a broken heart. Of unrequited true love. And she figured all Yennefer felt was desperation to not lose a mentor.
So she just held onto Yennefer, trying to let her know she was there through touch alone.
Finally she found the words to ask the impossible of Yennefer.
“Will you stay with me? Until.. until it’s over? I know it’s a lot to ask, and I won’t resent you if you say no…”
Yennefer squeezed her arm around her tighter and Tissaia swallowed the gasp of pain, not wanting to alarm Yennefer or make her feel bad.
“I can’t imagine being anywhere else, Tissaia. Even though it’ll hurt like a bitch to see you wasting away when I know there’s something that could save you,” Yennefer rasped, tears still evident in her voice. “I’d do anything to save you.”
Tissaia hummed and hid her face in Yennefer’s neck again. She couldn’t dare to tell her the only remedy, could she?
“How long.. how long do we have?” Yennefer whispered, her hands once again combing through Tissaia’s hair.
“Not long,” Tissaia whispered back, her breath ghosting over Yennefer’s skin, “a few days, at most. I can feel… I’m growing weaker by the second,” she settled on saying, instead of the words that had been going through her head. She could feel herself fading away.
A shuddering breath left Yennefer’s body at her words. She could feel the form of her trembling where their bodies touched.
“I won’t leave your side. I..” Yennefer shook her head. “I can’t imagine a world without you. I can’t imagine living in a world that has no Tissaia de Vries in it anymore..” she whispered.
Tissaia didn’t reply. Her heart was beating too fast and she wasn’t sure why.
“I wish you’d tell me what the cure is. I wish there was something I could do. I have so much to say to you, so much to apologise for. Isn’t it funny how once we are confronted with mortality, even the most powerful of mages comes to realise how.. precious someone is to them and how wishing for more time is so.. peasant-ly and yet, here we are..”
Tissaia couldn’t help the little snort at the words “peasant-ly”. Her hand that had been clinging to Yennefer’s sleeve crept up blindly and when she found her target, gently caressed the soft cheek, fingertips trailing over skin wet from tears.
They could’ve had eternity, Tissaia realised, if only Yennefer had felt the same for her as she felt for the raven haired woman.
She had already been mourning the future they’d never have, but the thought startled her nonetheless.
“Yennefer…” she whispered, the name like a prayer on her lips. She hadn’t ever prayed once in her life.
“There’s so much I need to tell you,” Yennefer repeated, tears clearly audible in her voice again. “Too much to apologise for. A few days isn’t enough time, Tissaia. It will never be enough.”
“No,” Tissaia whispered. What else could she say to that? It wasn’t enough, it never would be enough. Just like Yennefer’s emotions wouldn’t be enough to save her. So instead of risking it, she’d spare them both the humiliation and die without telling Yennefer anything at all. Or maybe she’d let her know one thing…
“Whatever happens in your future, Yennefer, know that, despite our.. volatile history, I have always loved you,” she dared to put her thoughts into words.
A gasp sounded above her head, and she could feel Yennefer’s pulse speed up where her face was pushed against her neck.
“That.. is that..” Yennefer trailed off, trying to sort through the whirling thoughts in her mind, Tissaia could tell.
Not giving her the time to sort through them, Tissaia boldly forged on, “You are loved, Yenna, whether my body is still here or not. My heart and soul are yours and even in.. even in death,” she choked on her own words now, “I will be yours and love you until my soul is no more.”
Yennefer stiffened and her hands clutched onto Tissaia almost bruisingly now. Her breath came in quick bursts.
“You.. you love me?”
“Yes,” Tissaia confirmed, nodding into Yennefer’s neck.
Suddenly - Tissaia wasn’t sure how it happened - but all of a sudden Yennefer moved and she found them face to face. Violet eyes were once again swimming with tears and there was anguish on the younger mages face, Tissaia felt her heart break for her.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, unable to look away. She hadn’t meant to cause Yennefer pain, hadn’t meant to burden her with the knowledge of loving her. All she had wanted was to reassure her, to let her know she wasn’t alone, even if she couldn’t stay with her.
The tears started falling now, and Tissaia could feel her own eyes burning.
“I didn’t want to cause you any pain. I’m sorry, Yenna,” she muttered sadly, hurting for the other woman.
Yennefer brought one hand up to cover her own mouth, stifling another sob.
“Please don’t leave me,” she pleaded, hand still covering her mouth. “Please don’t leave me. Not now that I know… I haven’t even.. Tissaia.. you need to know.. something..” Her hand fell in the abysmal space between their faces
Tissaia grabbed hold of the hand, intertwining their fingers and weakly squeezed them. She had no strength left at all now, and felt like her estimation of the days she had left was no longer true. She felt tired and was fighting to keep her eyes open. She knew if she let them close, she wouldn’t be falling asleep. Death was close.
“I had a shit way of showing it, but you mean more to me than I could ever put into words. I can’t explain why I treated you the way I did. I’m sorry, Tissaia. You were my mentor..”
Tissaia’s heart broke even more at those words. She had known it, had known her feelings were unrequited.
But her thoughts were interrupted by Yennefer’s next words.
“.. but what I feel for you is so much more than what I probably should feel for you. And when you told me you love me.. Tissaia, I love you, too. That’s why I can’t lose you. I need you..”
Before the brunette realised what was happening, Yennefer had closed the little space between their faces and captured her lips in a desperate, searing kiss.
She was too stunned to reciprocate at first, but Yennefer didn’t seem to be easily deterred from her lack of response because she kept their lips connected. Her eyes were closed, but tears were still trailing down her cheeks, making their kiss taste salty.
Tissaia’s eyes finally closed, too, and she sighed into the contact before she kissed her back, at last.
A burst of energy and light engulfed them, tickling their skin, searing them where they were touching, but it wasn’t painful.
If Tissaia would’ve paid attention, she could’ve felt her heart mending, could’ve felt her strength returning, but she was more than distracted by a certain raven haired mage, the softness of her skin underneath her fingertips, the luscious lips moving against her own and the gentle fingers in her hair.
The cure she had needed, the one person she had always loved, her true love - whether one believed in such things or not - had found her and actually loved her back. Tissaia could feel her heart and soul rejoice at the simple truth.
They had eternity after all, she thought, as she smiled into their kiss. Eternity to spend together, to make up for all the hurt and pain they had caused each other, eternity to create new memories together.
She couldn’t wait.