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One of us is lonely, one of us is only (waiting for a call)

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Geralt,

 

I do not really know why I’m writing this letter. You certainly made it clear what you thought of me, but I can’t help thinking about you.

It is quite stupid, actually. I went to Lettenhove – it was expected of me – and I stayed there, taking care of the estate and of the people who live in it. They are quite nice, if I’m being honest – the harvests are always taken care of, and the staff in the Pankratz household has always been nicer to me than my own parents anyway.

But I digress, Geralt; I did not take some paper and a quill to write to you about the state of Lettenhove. I know you never really cared and that you didn’t start caring after we parted ways.

I wrote it because today I passed by a house that has always belonged to the same family. They’ve always been in a feud with the family that lived right next to them, you see, so much that my father sometimes had to go there to calm them down. We did not know when the feud started, just that it had been something that had been going on for years. My father, one time he saw the wasting of his time worth it, told me that he had memories of his father, my grandfather, going to solve problems between the two families when he himself was still a young boy.

I passed by today, and I saw that the two houses now belonged to the same family – the daughter of the first one had married the neighbors’ son. It made me think, you know; ridiculously, it made me think of us.

Because if they were able to get close, to overcome their prejudices and an old feud – then they must have talked. And, well – we didn’t. We never talked.

I talked plenty; you almost never did. Quite ironically, I think you said more important things than I ever did, Geralt – because for all I talked, it was never about important things.

I’m doing it again, see? Talking about nothing, when I actually had a clear goal in mind when I decided to write to you. Because I wouldn’t bother you unless I had, Geralt. Please know that. If you do not deem it important, then I apologize. I just thought what I’m going to say needed to be said.

I have thought deeply about our time together since it ended. I was trying to see where I had failed you, and now I think I know.

I’ve thought about it and my theory is that you never understood  you never quite I never made it clear why I was with you. I said multiple times that you were my friend, but I don’t know if I ever clarified that I was yours without hiding it behind a hyperbola. I was so afraid you’d reject me, you see.

All of that make me think that you thought I was with you only for my songs – I wasn’t. At first, maybe, but before the end of our first day together I knew I wanted to be  with you  your friend I wanted to stay with you as long as I could. For you, Geralt. Not for my songs. They were an added bonus that meant I could justify my staying with you when they brought us money. I wanted to be useful to you.

My letter is a way for me to tell you that I wish I had been more honest with you – I wish that we had talked. Truly talked. I wish I had made it clearer that I considered you my friend and that I was your friend too.

I wish I had done a lot of things differently. I wish- I wish I could apologize to you in person for how I behaved before and right before we parted ways for the last time. I am sorry, Geralt, for pushing after Yennefer left. I should have left you alone. I will not lie and say I liked her, but you did and that alone should have been enough for me not to act the way I did.

I’m quite afraid I will never get the chance to say this to you in person; this is why this letter is getting longer and longer. Please do not pay attention to the dried tears on the paper – I cut my finger on it, nothing more.

I did not entirely leave because of what you said to me. My father passed away and it was expected of me to come home and take care of Lettenhove like he did. That is why I asked you to come to the coast with me – it would have been our last adventure together. This only proves what I was saying earlier: I was never honest enough with you. Though I do not regret not saying it to you – I would have hated for you to feel like you had to come with me. Would you have done it, though, if I had told you? You never cared much about how I felt. I don’t know why that time would have been different.

What you said to me only convinced me of what I had thought since you got up to see Yennefer after I bared my soul to you; my presence by your side wasn’t wanted at all. What I fail to understand is why you never said it before; though maybe you said it and I simply didn’t listen – there are multiple times I should have listened but didn’t. I apologize for that, too.

This letter is mostly driven by – I don’t know. Regret. Remorse. Guilt. You don’t have to reply, of course. I don’t even know if it will reach you.

Farewell, old friend. Should you ever need help or anything, you will be welcome here in Lettenhove. I have made sure that the only faces you will ever see here are friendly ones.

 

Julian Alfred Pankratz, Viscount of Lettenhove

 

 

Jaskier folded the letter, using a handkerchief to wipe out the few tears that hadn’t dropped on the paper he was using. He was lucky they didn’t hit any words – the water would have blurred the ink and the last thing Jaskier wanted was for the letter to be difficult to read. It had been difficult enough to write, he didn’t fancy doing it again because his own tears had ruined the first try.

He took a deep breath and carefully dropped the wax on the letter; he then sealed it and stared at it for a few minutes.

He could vaguely hear the domestics moving around downstairs, shooting orders and calling each other for some or some reason. Everything was muffled, though, everyone so close and yet so far away from him.

He closed his eyes. He had responsibilities now, important things he had to take care of; he couldn’t allow himself to think about Geralt and what ifs anymore.

He stood up and walked to the window – it was quite a large window, one that usually illuminated the room with the light of the sun. He looked through it and was half-tempted to open it just to hear the eerie silence that had fell on the world outside as snow gently covered the ground, the trees, the houses.

The light outside was almost blue – it was the end of the day, and the sun was about to hide away, making the atmosphere go from eerie to downright disturbing – almost otherworldly. There were lights in the distance from nearby houses, and Jaskier found himself thinking about the winters he used to spend in Oxenfurt – how the buildings were so close to each other that he could have crossed the whole city and never put a foot on the ground, simply walking from roof to roof. How the narrow streets made sure that the laughter of people throwing snow at each other were carried away – how it would smell like sugar and hot wine and like life would never snatch it all away.

Oxenfurt surely hadn’t changed, he mused as he looked down on the gardens – all bare of leaves and flowers. It was a pity that he’d never be able to go back to taste the joy in the air one at least one last time.

Jaskier suddenly viciously regretted the wanderlust that had pushed him to go study there and to leave Lettenhove to travel and see the world. He wouldn’t miss it, if he had never left – if he had never known how beautiful the world was, outside of Lettenhove.

He was half-tempted to open the window to feel the caress of the winter’s wind on his face, to feel something that would ground his thoughts here instead of allowing them to fly away where Jaskier could only hope to follow.

The memory of a lung sickness he caught as a child when he did just that prevented him from doing so; he instead took a step back away from the window, away from that world he could no longer be a part of.

Jaskier still had the letter in his hand, the paper rough under his fingers and the wax almost soft. He would go in town the next day, he decided; there was a post-office that had charms to send letters on a long distance – he just hoped that Kaer Morhen wasn’t too far away, that the magic could reach the old keep.

And if it couldn’t, well. He would have at least tried.

 


 

The landscapes went from white to brown to green as spring slowly fought winter, carefully leaving touches of life here and there, from the crocuses struggling to grow to the first buds on the trees. The wind was no longer carrying death and snowflakes; it instead sang of promises and of sweeter times, of quiet evenings and of dandelions softly blown, secret wishes to be granted.

The countryside had awoken – farmers were starting to talk about the future harvests, animals could once again be found in the diverse fields that were around, children had started to play outside again. Jaskier had started his afternoon walks through the town again, sometimes carrying his lute, waiting for the children to be quiet to play songs for them. It was a way for him to make sure they were all alright – he had servants dropping clothes by if he saw that they were needed. It was not because Jaskier didn’t want to be here, didn’t want to have the role he was currently playing, that the people had to suffer.

He didn’t know whether it was enough – he could only hope.

Another thing that was occupying his time was the arrangements for his sister’s wedding. His dear little sister Beatrice was finally marrying her childhood sweetheart – a man Jaskier had known for almost forever and that he trusted with his life. He would trust him with Lettenhove, actually, and knowing that everyone would be taken care of would anything ever happen to Jaskier was something that helped him sleep at night.

Beatrice had wanted a spring wedding and her fiancé Henry had agreed – he had later admitted to Jaskier that he would have agreed to any wedding, for her. Jaskier was delighted to see that he was as smitten with Beatrice as she was with him. They were a good match, and Jaskier was happy for them both.

He was in the middle of studying the list of people they wanted to invite – crossing names and adding some – when someone knocked on the door.

“Yes!” he called, not bothering to look up from his paper, quill still in hand. They couldn’t not invite the Baroness de Bovary; it would cause quite the scandal – though it would give her a lesson. Jaskier stared at the name, hesitating.

“Still thinking about that list?” a playful voice interrupted him.

“I’m afraid I am,” he sighed, looking behind him at Beatrice who was smiling. Her long brown hair was down, and he distractedly wondered how it was bearable, with the heat.

“I did not come here to bother you,” she said, walking closer. “You received a letter, and I thought I’d bring it to you.”

He squinted his eyes at her.

“You wanted to spy on me, didn’t you.”

“Me!” she cried, fake-outraged, “Me! Your dear sister, who would defend you against- Alright, alright,” she smiled when Jaskier crossed his arms. “Maybe.”

“Some things never change, do they,” Jaskier rolled his eyes. “There’s nothing worth spying on, I’m afraid – I don’t write songs anymore,” he said, wondering why her eyes turned sad. He didn’t like it, so he hastily added: “I’ll write songs again one day, Bea. Just… Not now.”

Beatrice sighed and moved the papers on his desk to sit on it. Jaskier looked at her, horrified.

“That is not proper behavior for a lady of your standing,” he said.

His sister looked at him.

“You know you sound like mother when you say that, right?” she sternly asked, and Jaskier thought that maybe he would be able to avoid the conversation that his sister wanted them to have. “Jaskier,” she added, and oh no, that was it, “I’m here if you ever want to talk about your witcher, you know.”

What?

“Henry and I- we’re worried about you. I thought that maybe you would have told me about what happened,” she sighed, wriggling her hands.

Jaskier looked at her. He – maybe he had not been as discreet as he had thought. He hadn’t wanted to burden them with his feelings, he hadn’t – she was about to get married, the last thing he wanted was for her to be worried about him. It wasn’t her job, anyway – he was the one who was worried about her, he was the elder one.

“But- But you didn’t. And I respect that, of course, I just – whatever happened with him, Jas, I’m sorry.”

“I-”

She gracefully jumped from the desk, landing on her feet. She put a hand on his shoulder and smiled at him.

“I’m sorry for bringing it up, too – I just thought I had to, you know. Say it. I’ll go back to being your annoying little sister soon enough, don’t worry. Here, have your letter,” she said, giving it to him.

He took it and let it fall on the desk. Standing up, he took her in his arms. She was nearly as tall as him.

“Thank you, Bea,” he whispered. “I’ll- talk about it at some point. Don’t worry about me.”

He let her go.

“Now shoo,” he said, clearing his throat, “go back to choosing flowers and stop bothering your old and ancient brother in his study.”

“I have no problem with doing that,” she replied as she made his way towards the door.

“You traitor!” he called after her, “You were supposed to say that I’m young!”

Her laugh from behind the door answered him, and he smiled before making his way back to the desk.

There the letter was lying, unopened, unbothered, on top of the guests list that he had been working on. He took it in his hands.

The paper was rough, and there was no seal on it. Jaskier had received plenty of letters in his life, plenty of letters that looked exactly like this one, but a cold feeling had taken place in his guts. He realized with some horror that he was actually scared of opening it, despite not anything about the letter indicating that it was dangerous.

Maybe it was cursed. It wouldn’t do well to get cursed right before his sister’s wedding, but on the other hand it might be an important letter. He should open it. Right, yes, he would open it.

He sat on his chair, took a deep breath, and opened it.

“Dear Jaskier,” it read. His eyes fell on the end of the page, where it was written –

“Geralt,” Jaskier said, and he suddenly felt weak.

 

Dear Jaskier,

Jaskier mouthed the words. Geralt had never used endearments with him – had likely never felt the need. These words seemed awkward, and yet had been written with a confident quill. Geralt’s handwriting was bigger, too, as if he had really wanted Jaskier to be able to read it.

Your letter has reached me. I had to wait until spring to write a reply. We don’t have post services in Kaer Morhen.

This is the coward’s way of replying to you. I could – I should say it in person. I am sure someone as talented as you with words will understand, though, that writing them is easier than saying them. Especially when I have so much to lose.

So much… to lose? Jaskier squinted at the letter. Were it not for the awkward phrasing, he would have doubted that Geralt had written it.

I agree with you.

“That’s a first,” Jaskier said out loud, biting back a nervous giggle.

We should have talked more, or at least about things that mattered. It is easier, though, to simply let things happen and hope for the best while still knowing that everything is going to fall apart someday.

You have to know, Jaskier, that while we should have talked more, I grew to enjoy the moments we spent together.

Geralt- Geralt did what?

Even if I thought you were here for my stories. It became confusing, over the years, because you had acquired fame and played for royalty but still travelled with me from time to time. I didn’t want to bring it to your attention. You might have stopped doing it. I can see now that I should have known better all along. That at some point, I really was your best friend like you claimed I was many years ago.

Jaskier remembered that moment – just before the banquet in Cintra, just before Geralt claimed the law of surprise, just before he left for the Countess de Stael. It had been better, to just leave, when Geralt wanted to be alone.

Maybe Geralt would have yelled at him at that moment, if he had pushed, instead of years later on a mountaintop.

Maybe they would have cleared the misunderstandings between them sooner, when Jaskier would have still been able to travel with Geralt.

Maybe that way he wouldn’t have lost multiple precious years of traveling with the man he considered his best friend.

I would come to Lettenhove, but I can’t go this far because of the war.

Jaskier could read between the lines, for that one. He wasn’t worth it – wasn’t worth the trip. He couldn’t help but agree. What was there for Geralt to find here? A land that had thousands of twins along the coast, a lonely, lovesick viscount looking back on the choices he made and regretting them. No, Lettenhove and what it held wasn’t worth the trip.

Geralt.

And that was it. No mention of the mountain, no – no real reaching out to him. Geralt had acknowledged that they should have talked more, that the problems in their… friendship? had come from a lack of communication.  But nothing more. He tried not to feel too disappointed, but something was crushing his chest, making it harder to breathe. It was like something had settled there, a cat sleeping on his chest and unwilling to get up.

No apologies. He was fine with that. He was.

His hand blindly reached for his handkerchief as the words on the letters started to blur. Everything started to blur, actually, and Jaskier blinked to make the tears fall from his eyes. He was careful not to let them fall on the letter – it was the last thing he’d ever have from Geralt, after all. It had to be protected. It had to be enough.

He stared at the words Dear Jaskier until they lost all their meaning and were nothing more than a bunch of letters written together.  

He then opened a drawer on his desk and carefully placed the letter in it. He took his quill and the guest list again and started reading it. Maybe if he kept his mind occupied he wouldn’t feel like crying anymore. Maybe the cat on his chest would go away.

Maybe he should go in the garden and find a dandelion to blow.

 


 

The wedding was a lovely moment. Jaskier walked his sister to the altar, fighting back his tears. She was all grown-up now; she was getting married. Her white dress was a stark contrast to the green of the leaves around them; the whole scene looked like a painting, with her and her husband lovingly looking at each other and the bright blue sky behind them. She had insisted for the ceremony to take place outside, in the gardens, and Jaskier had spent the whole week praying that it wouldn’t rain.

The gods, it appeared, had decided to be clement; the sun was shining in the sky, as if giving its benediction to the spouses, and the wind was softly blowing, as if murmuring its praises.

It was a day that Jaskier would look back to with fondness.

Spring passed and let its place to summer without Jaskier really realizing it; he would still do the same things every day, would still go out right before the evening to play for children. They were a marvelous audience, and the only one he’d ever be allowed to have.

Gone were his days of wandering; he would have gladly left Lettenhove to Henry and Beatrice if it meant that he would be able to go back on the roads, to play for townspeople, to enter bardic competitions and brilliantly destroy Valdo Marx. He wondered what the man was up to, these days – maybe he was still in Cidaris. Trapped somewhere, like Jaskier – except that Valdo could play.

Alas, such was the way of life – such was the life Jaskier had to live. Even if he could go back on the roads, it wouldn’t be the same. Not without the perspective of meeting Geralt, not with Nilfgaard in the horizon.

He had received news of what Nilfgaard was up to – of how Cintra had fallen, how everyone in the castle had perished. Rumors had it that Calanthe had fought until the last moment, never surrendering, dying with her sword in her hand.

It sounded like her. Jaskier wouldn’t be surprised if it were true.

Lettenhove was far enough from all of that for his people not to have to worry; Jaskier did, though. He kept it for himself – Beatrice didn’t have to know that in the very castle that had been attacked by Nilfgaard lived Geralt’s daughter. He hoped she was okay. He knew that hope was a poison, but what else could he do?

Maybe Geralt had found her; Jaskier didn’t know what she looked like, had multiple times thought about going back to Cintra to see how she was doing but eventually hadn’t, afraid of what Calanthe would do to him, since Pavetta wouldn’t be there to defend Jaskier.

At least the little princess still had Geralt. Oh, how Jaskier wished that she managed to escape, that she somehow was still alive. But he was trapped in Lettenhove and would probably never know whether the lost princess had survived.

Lettenhove was all he would ever have, now. His father would be delighted, his death managing to tie Jaskier here like he never managed to do when he was still alive despite numerous discussions with him.

“Which song do you want me to sing?”

Jaskier was once again outside in the town. One of his ancestors had planted a tree in the middle of the central square, and Jaskier liked to sit on the low wall that surrounded the now tall and large tree, the children sitting around him.

Said children him looked at each other, hesitating.

“I believe it was Eliott’s time to choose the first song, wasn’t it?” he smiled, looking for the little boy.

A small child made his way to Jaskier: Eliott. He glanced behind him, and his big sister nodded with a smile.

The sky was still bright behind them, the sun not yet set – the days were long, and Jaskier couldn’t help but breathe in the atmosphere of summer evenings, when the smell of fires lit to cook meals and the voices around him could almost have him convinced that he was miles away from Lettenhove, in an unnamed village, about to be joined by Geralt who had gone to the blacksmith for his swords.

Jaskier blinked, trying to disperse his thoughts. Geralt wouldn’t join him, because he was in Lettenhove.

“Have you chosen the song?” he asked the boy, trying not to appear too intimidating. Eliott was shy. The fact that he was looking at Jaskier in the eyes was incredible in itself.

“The one with the knight,” Eliott mumbled. Jaskier beamed at him.

“The one with the knight it is!”

He sang and played, taking suggestions from the children as the evening went on. It was easy then, to forget how his heart ached, how unhappy he felt – how he felt it difficult to breathe, late at night, when his mind wandered before he could keep it from doing so.

The song Eliott had requested wasn’t really about a knight. Jaskier had tried to keep it as anonymous as possible, had tried not to make it obvious that it was about witchers, about men fighting to defend townspeople and unnamed maiden from the cruelty of monsters. The monsters stayed unnamed, too. That Eliott had associated it with knights made Jaskier’s heart clench. Knights and witchers were the same, really. Jaskier wished the Continent would see it too.

Maybe he would write a song about witchers, for the children. Something about a witcher’s horse, maybe, who was happy to travel with the witcher and who always got the best grass to eat when the witcher was away to fight monsters. That could work. It would amuse the children, and maybe would make the weight on Jaskier’s chest go away.

The sun was almost set, casting its last orange beams in the sky, playing with the few clouds that could be seen here and there. Jaskier was about to say to the children that they could choose one last song when one of his servants interrupted him, timidly tapping on his shoulder.

“Yes, Emily?” he asked after looking up him to see who was there. He hadn’t seen her coming. She was holding something in her hands, and her eyes were worried. Not about interrupting him, he hoped.

“This just came in for you. It seems urgent.”

She gave him a piece of paper, sealed. Jaskier frowned at it, and with a reassuring smile for the children, opened it.

 

“Jaskier

You said several months ago that you would help me if I needed you to, but I can’t arrive in Lettenhove before warning you beforehand. It would put your people in danger.

I am travelling with someone. I can’t tell you more in case this message gets intercepted.

I’ll be in Pfaffenhoffen in three days. Meet me at the Golden Lion after the sun has set. If you are late, me and my travelling companion will not wait for you. The situation is too dire.

Geralt.

 

Jaskier folded the letter and made it disappear in his doublet.

“You have been a lovely audience, but I’m afraid I have to go – fear not, I’ll be back in a few days to play for you again! It was Mathilde’s turn to choose a song, right?”

A girl with blonde hair nodded.

“Great! I’ll remember that for next time. Now, go back to your parents – I don’t want to hear about you staying outside after your curfew.”

The children all scattered in different directions, no doubt going back home; except for Eliott, who was looking at him from behind his sister’s legs. Jaskier smiled at him. He squatted down to look at him.

“Is everything okay?” he asked, reassured when the sister smiled at him to say that everything indeed was okay. Eliott, his courage from earlier seemingly coming back to him, looked at Jaskier.

“Thank you for the song, mister Jaskier.”

Mother would hate that I said to them they could call me that, Jaskier thought, delighted by the idea. He beamed at the boy, feeling like he could breathe more easily, suddenly.

“You’re welcome, Eliott. I really have to go, but I will see you in a few days, alright? Say hello to your mom for me.”

Eliott nodded and so did his sister – Maria. She thanked him again and they left, leaving Jaskier alone with the servant that had brought the missive.

“Emily,” he said, getting up, “We should go back to the manor as soon as possible.”

He started walking, Emily running to catch up with him.

“Sir?”

“I have to leave – Henry will take care of everything. I’ll write him my instructions; I trust you will deliver them to him.”

The letter was dated from two days before; Pfaffenhoffen wasn’t that far, but Jaskier would have to leave as soon as possible if he wanted to be there on time. He had less than a day to arrive – it was doable.

Back to the manor, he asked for his horse to be ready when he would get back; all but running to his room, he hesitated a moment then decided to keep his lute with him. He had let his hair grow, maybe Geralt wouldn’t recognize him. Filavandrel’s lute was unique, though; that would do.

He didn’t know what Geralt needed, nor who the mysterious travelling companion was. Maybe it was his Child Surprise – Jaskier hoped that it was, if only because it would mean that Geralt hadn’t replaced him. It was a selfish thing to think, but Jaskier had never tried to pretend that he wasn’t.

He packed money, too. Whatever it was that Geralt needed, money would help solve the problem. Hell, maybe what Geralt needed was money. Jaskier would just have to be careful with what he would buy the next months – but it was worth it. The weight on his chest had reappeared. It was something to know that Geralt was out there on the Path, and another thing to have him explicitly ask for Jaskier’s help.

Geralt wouldn’t do that unless the situation was as dire as he claimed. Or maybe it was a trap. Jaskier had been part of the Redanian Intelligence Service in his time, after all. Maybe it was time for that part of his past to come bite him in the ass unexpectedly.

As he rode towards the town, Jaskier thought about Geralt and all the things left unsaid between them. He hoped it was a trap.

 


 

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a trap. No one tried to fight Jaskier as he made his way into the town, no suspicious men were lurking around. No soldiers, no army men, no one that looked like Dijkstra’s spies. Jaskier even found Roach in the stables where he brought his own horse, Merveille. He took the time to pet her – he had time, he wouldn’t be late – before walking to the inn.

It wasn’t a good-looking inn. The façade looked old and wrong, for lack of a better word; Jaskier was pretty sure that there were missing windows – just a void in the middle of a room. It would be bearable in summer, but during winter? He hoped no one would have to stay there and possibly risk dying of hypothermia.

There were cracks in the walls – whoever was responsible for this place should be concerned about it collapsing one day. But that wasn’t Jaskier’s problem; what he actually needed was to look like he belonged here. Maybe he shouldn’t have brought his lute.

He was glad he had borrowed clothes that didn’t make him stand out; for once, it was the opposite of what he wanted to do. He prayed that no one would recognize him; if Geralt was afraid of the message getting intercepted, then someone had to be after him.

He opened the door of the tavern – at least that was one thing that was in good shape. It would have caused quite a stir if the thing had fallen on the ground when he entered. It didn’t make any noise, which didn’t fit with what Jaskier had expected – surely such an old thing would creak.  

He looked around him as discreetly as possible, searching for a dark corner in which he would wait for Geralt. He was right on time – and besides, he had seen Roach in the stables. The witcher couldn’t have left.

Unless, Jaskier thought as the weight on his chest reappeared, unless Geralt thought better of it when he saw me, and left.

He wouldn’t though, right? He needed Jaskier’s help.

His eyes fell on the dark corner of the room – Geralt was already there. Sitting away from the townspeople.

Not that there were a lot of them.

It vividly reminded Jaskier of their first meeting. Maybe he had already fucked it up then, he mused as he made his way towards Geralt, towards the person he couldn’t help but see as his best friend. Maybe it was doomed from the start.

“Hello,” he said to Geralt, nonchalantly sitting in front of him.

Next to Geralt was another silhouette, hiding under a worn-out cloak, blonde hair escaping the hood. The silhouette glanced up at him, and Jaskier was stricken by the green eyes that seemed to pin him in place.

“You found her,” he breathed, somehow knowing without a doubt that this was the lost princess, the Child Surprise. Geralt hummed.

“I did. This is Fiona,” he then said, and ‘Fiona’ waved at Jaskier.

“Hello Fiona,” Jaskier said, half-tempted to steal Geralt’s pint but thinking that it would not be welcomed. “I’m Jaskier, Geralt’s…”

He trailed off, not knowing how to end his sentence.

“She knows who you are,” Geralt grumbled. His eyes suddenly looked behind Jaskier, over his shoulder, where he knew the door was. It reminded Jaskier that he was there for a reason.

“Geralt,” he started, “how exactly do you need my help?”

Geralt avoided his eyes.

“I- Fiona and I need to go to Kaer Morhen, but Nilfgaard’s looking for her. For us. I can’t take any contracts and-”

Jaskier raised a hand to interrupt him.

“I have what you need, don’t worry,” he said, hoping his smile was convincing. He was happy to help Geralt like that, he was - he just wished he could do more. Be more.

He took off his purse, dumping it in Geralt’s hand, trying not to touch him when doing so.

“There should be enough for you here – you should buy her a new cloak. The nights are going to become colder, and I know reaching your keep won’t be easy either.”

Geralt took a breath as if to say something but seemed to decide against it. Fiona was watching them, her hands tightly holding a piece of bread. Jaskier let the silence stretch for a few seconds, then sighed.

“I should go,” he said, getting up. “I truly hope you’ll reach safety. Be careful. Geralt-” he hesitated. “I got your letter.”

He smiled one last time at them, the weight on his chest even heavier than before – heavier than it ever had been. He doubted that playing for the children would soothe his aching this time; only time would be able to help. He hoped time would be able to help.

He turned around, ready to go without looking back lest Geralt saw the tears that were threatening to fall, when a hand grabbed his wrist.

He looked back; Geralt glanced at Jaskier’s wrist and immediately freed him, looking horrified at himself. Even now, in a dimly lit tavern, when Geralt was about to leave once again, Jaskier couldn’t help but absentmindedly think Oh, I love him.

“Jaskier-” Geralt said almost urgently, and it took everything Jaskier had for him not to cry. “For what it’s worth, I’m- sorry. I wish- I wish we had done things differently. Between... us.”

“Me too, Geralt,” Jaskier managed to say, looking one last time at Geralt, trying to memorize every little detail of his face, trying to commit to memory the way his hair curled slightly on the end. “Me too.”

He then all but ran outside, nearly stumbling into a chair when doing so. The night had fallen, only a few lanterns bringing light to the street; it was overall a peaceful night, one that Jaskier would have enjoyed, a long time ago. When he had been just a young bard, travelling with the person that would become the greatest muse of his life.

A soft wind took care of Jaskier’s tears for him, drying them before he reached the stables. His horse was still ready – he had asked for it when he had dropped her off earlier.

He ignored Roach when she whinnied, passing by without even looking at her.

Of all the things that had happened, that somehow was what hurt him the most.

 


 

Ciri hadn’t heard a lot of things about that friend of Geralt’s before they met him in an inn that seemed like it was on the verge of collapsing any second. She didn’t know why they were so far south either – from what she had understood, they were going to Geralt’s home, a keep in the Blue Mountains. Somewhere safe, for her and for him.

“We’ll meet my friend,” Geralt had said to her, adding that he would be able to help them. That was all the information she was ever given about him. Since all the problems that a person would be able to help them with were related to money, or a lack thereof, she assumed that whoever Geralt’s friend was was rich. A noble, maybe.

But the man who entered the inn and made a beeline for their table didn’t look like a noble; something in his stance reminded of the way a man who was used to his orders being obeyed walked, but that was all. His clothes were dull, nothing that differentiated him from the other few men that were in the inn.

He obviously knew how to play with appearances, because the bag he gave Geralt was full of more money than Ciri had seen since – well, since – since a long time.

Were they really friends? They didn’t seem at ease around each other – Jaskier going out of his way to avoid touching Geralt, and Geralt so stiff next to her that she was afraid for a second that they had been betrayed and sold to Nilfgaard.

But it was none of that, she learned as they made their way North.

“Jaskier taught me how to make flower crowns,” Geralt said one day out of nowhere as Ciri was collecting the last flowers of the season to – she didn’t know why. She just wanted to. Maybe she would braid them into Roach’s mane; she didn’t know how to do it, but she figured that it wouldn’t be that complicated, that different from braiding her own hair.

Geralt giving her information about the mysterious Jaskier that they had met was surprising; Ciri looked at him, frowning. Her surprise must have been obvious, because Geralt sighed and sat down next to her, seemingly forgetting that he had to set up the camp.

“He used to braid flowers in Roach’s mane,” he sighed, and Ciri was surprised to find that Geralt was smiling – not at her, at something that only he could see. “I found it useless, you know. A waste of time. But Jaskier was… He was happy when he did that. And one day he was gathering flowers like you did and before I knew what I was doing, I asked him how to make a flower crown.”

Geralt had closed his eyes, and Ciri had the vague feeling that she was intruding on a fragile moment that would shatter if she interrupted it. Geralt was looking the most peaceful she had ever seen him, and she wondered how a memory of the man she had briefly met was enough to soothe Geralt like it did.

“And he did,” Geralt said, opening his eyes, “without even making fun of me.” He gently took the flowers from Ciri’s hands and looked at her. “Want me to teach you how?”

She nodded, still unsure of what was happening – of why Geralt was suddenly talking about the man. About Jaskier. She wasn’t about to question it, though – not when it meant that Geralt was trying to be nice to her, to show her some kindness – to show her that their path wasn’t only made of running away and sleeping in the woods.

 


 

“Jaskier was a bard, before he had to go back to Lettenhove,” Geralt said one night as they were eating in the room they had rented at an inn. Ciri was by now used to Geralt casually dropping information about Jaskier – how he would always buy sugar cubes for Roach even if it coasted a lot of coin, how his shoes had been unfitted for long walks in the beginning, how he and Geralt would meet in the year and spend some time together before their respective paths separated them again.

Geralt had, however, somehow failed to mention that Jaskier had been a bard.

“He’s – is he the one who wrote the songs about you?” she asked, remembering how they had heard multiple bards singing them in different towns. Geralt would always frown but never commented on them. Maybe because they reminded him of Jaskier – Ciri failed to see how the gentle friendship Geralt had been talking about had turned into the awkwardness she had witnessed.

Geralt nodded, taking another sip of the soup before truly replying.

“He did. They’re not his best works, though. But he sings and plays well. He’s famous,” he added, and Ciri could have sworn it was said with pride. “I assume he can’t play that much anymore, since he’s gone back to being a noble,” Geralt sighed, and she could hear regret in his voice.

She didn’t press, though. She never did.

There was a bard playing downstairs; if she could hear him, then there was no doubt that Geralt could too. They stayed silent, and Ciri looked through the window. The trees had gone from a bright yellow to a deep red and were now starting to lose their leaves. It was still raining, and Ciri suddenly felt small, so small next to everything.

She looked away, taking a deep breath; she didn’t want Geralt to think she wasn’t strong. She was strong, she was the lion cub of Cintra. Calanthe would have never allowed her to let her emotions take over, and surely Geralt wouldn’t, too. She would train to become a witcher – she didn’t have the right to be sad anymore.

Geralt sighed, making her look at him. He closed his eyes, briefly, then said, oh so quietly.

“Jaskier was my friend – and then I ruined it.”

Ciri didn’t know what to reply.

“That’s why he didn’t stay when you saw him, that’s why – that’s why it was so awkward. I fucked up again,” he grumbled, and Ciri wasn’t really sure why he was telling her that. He sounded… He sounded almost sad. Her own worries disappeared as she contemplated what he had just told her.

“He mentioned a letter,” she asked carefully. She hadn’t forgotten that part of the meeting – was still wondering, months later, what it could have meant.

The rain started tapping viciously on the window, and Ciri shivered.

Geralt stood up and retrieved a blanket from their bags; he put it around her shoulders, his eyes worried.

“Alright?” he asked, and Ciri smiled at him. Maybe she was small, but Geralt was there.

The room fell silent once again – as silent as it could be, with the wind and rain raging outside and the bard playfully singing downstairs. She couldn’t make out what exactly he was saying but she could vaguely hear the melody. Someone laughed in a room next to theirs, and Ciri closed her eyes.

Geralt seemed to have forgotten about the question – or he didn’t want to answer it. She heard him gathering their plates; the sounds were soon replaced by the ones of swords being unsheathed. Geralt did that every night, making sure they didn’t need to be taken care of.

Ciri stayed on her chair, eyes closed, almost starting to fall asleep.

“He sent me a letter,” Geralt said suddenly, and she nearly startled. “Last winter, he sent me a letter, and I replied. I didn’t- it wasn’t enough, and I didn’t know whether he’d get it, but he did. That’s why he said something about a letter.”

Ciri nodded, not knowing what to do.

“I –”

Geralt paused.

“I told you I fucked up, right?”

Ciri nodded again.

“I yelled at him, said things that I didn’t think. I don’t think – I don’t think I ever apologized for saying that.”

Geralt sounded sad again – looked sad again. Ciri frowned. Maybe- maybe it was something witchers were allowed to do, then. If Geralt was that sad about his Jaskier. Maybe she could feel small, and afraid – maybe she wouldn’t have to hide. Geralt wasn’t hiding his pain.

“But you’ll see him again,” she said hesitantly. “After the war – or even before. You could- you can have another chance at talking to him.”

Geralt stood up and ruffled her hair. She squeaked, trying to escape him, the blanket falling in the process. Geralt laughed, and she herself felt like smiling.

“You’re right, little menace,” he said. “I have time – we have time. Make sure to ask him to play when you’ll meet him again. You don’t want to miss it.”

She nodded, then yawned.

“It’s time to sleep, now,” Geralt said to her, putting his swords away. “We’ll leave early tomorrow.”

“We could sleep in, once in a while,” Ciri whined, sitting on her bed and removing her boots.

Geralt smiled at her, though his eyes were once again elsewhere, far from the room they were in – far, far away. It made Ciri think that maybe Jaskier used to say that, too.  

She would find out one day, she decided. She would ask Jaskier, who according to Geralt talked a lot, about all the things that Geralt left unsaid. How they had met. How long exactly they’d known each other.

How her parents were, during the banquet where Geralt called the Law of Surprise.

She would have all the time in the world to do that when they’d see Jaskier again.

 


 

A week later, Geralt came back from a contract – the only one he’d allowed himself to take – not looking like himself. His jaw was clenched, his fists too, and there was something weird in the way he took out his swords to make sure they were in a good shape. He was… distant. Here, but not really here.

Ciri dutifully didn’t ask any questions, and it was only once they’d reached Kaer Morhen, after braving the Killer and the cold and the monsters, that Geralt looked her in the eyes and told her that Jaskier had died of a sickness at the end of summer.

 


 

Jaskier was gone.

Every day Geralt would wake up with that thought, every night he would fall asleep with his mind reaching out for a now silent bard.

Jaskier’s death was inescapable.

Geralt hadn’t wanted to believe it when he first heard the news. Surely the alderman had been lying, had been trying to… to what? Now that Geralt thought back about it, such a thought had been stupid. There was nothing for the man to win by making Geralt believe that the Viscount of Lettenhove had died.

No, Jaskier was gone, and Geralt couldn’t even go to Lettenhove to visit because there was a war on the horizon and the last thing he wanted was to bring Nilfgaard on Lettenhove’s figurative door.

After hearing the news – after enough people in enough villages had talked about it, about the death of the man who had once been Jaskier the bard, the crowd charmer, about how a man adored and loved by all died alone with no one by his side – Geralt had decided that he would allow himself to react once he and Ciri would have reached Kaer Morhen. Not before.

Because Jaskier might be gone but Ciri was not, bright and determined and alive, and she needed him.

He hadn’t told her, either. She had managed not to be confronted with the news when they passed through towns, and Geralt hadn’t wanted to add to the list of deaths she had heard about, hadn’t wanted to burden her with a reminder of how cruel the world was to the people who deserved it the least.

But he had too, didn’t he? So, once they had arrived – once she had barked at Lambert and Eskel for saying something that had displeased her, once they had found her a room and clothes suited for winter in Kaer Morhen, once she had eaten the thing that Lambert called pastas – he grabbed her shoulders and looked in her bright green eyes and revealed to her what he had learned about the bard he had told her so much about.

What had happened after that was a bit blur. Two weeks passed, during which Geralt would get up and take care of his first chores until it was time to take a break. Then he would train Ciri, try not to criticize her too much, and leave to his room.

The two weeks ended with Ciri knocking at his door one evening. He assumed they were about to eat and was about to tell her that he wasn’t hungry and would eat later – alone – when she started speaking.

“Geralt, we’re about to eat. Eskel cooked, and I helped. He said- He said what I did was not so bad.”

She sounded so unsure; it made him want to punch something. He instead stayed silent, wondering whether she was going to leave.

“Will you- will you come and eat with us?”

Geralt took a deep breath and walked to the door. There Ciri was, and the way her face lit up when she saw him made his heart clench. She threw herself at him and he took her in his arms, clumsily petting her hair.

“I’ll come eat with you,” he said, and promised to himself that he would do it every night from then on because his hurting didn’t mean that he had to neglect Ciri.

 


 

“I loved him,” he said to Lambert one night, because if there was someone who could understand the pain of losing one’s best friend, it was him. “And I didn’t even tell him he was my friend the last time we saw each other. Did you know,” he went on, clutching his cup of White Gull maybe a bit too hard, “did you know that in the last years, every time we went on our ways Jaskier would hug me? It had become a tradition of sorts, and now I- I wasted my last chance to hug him, Lambert. I didn’t even tell him goodbye.”

Lambert didn’t answer and served him another cup of White Gull.

 


 

Geralt had realized with horror that the last time he had seen Jaskier – when he had almost said a lot of things, almost done a lot of things – would be the last memory he would have of his friend. His friend, he didn’t even tell Jaskier that he was his friend, that he had been all along, and he hadn’t done that because he had thought, back then, that he’d have all the time in the world after the war.

He could have smiled when he saw Jaskier. He could have met his eyes when asking him for one favor. He could have thanked him, he should have thanked him, because he knew that while Jaskier had money the loss of such a large sum would be deeply felt. Jaskier had once again put his own comfort aside for Geralt, and Geralt had once again stayed silent about it.

He should have treated the bard better, he thought one night, alone in the kitchen, hiding away from his room where his thoughts seemed to be louder. Jaskier could be annoying, yes, but it didn’t mean that Geralt didn’t love him when he was. He realized he would never hear Jaskier compose little ditties when he walked next to him and stood up to get himself a drink.

Vesemir wouldn’t agree with him drinking alone, but Vesemir hadn’t just lost someone he loved dearly.

The keep was silent around him. Of the fire used to cook the evening’s meal, only embers remained. Geralt hadn’t bothered to light up a candle. The darkness suited him just fine.

I like the way you just sit in a corner and brood.

Dammit. What had he replied? That he was there to drink alone?

“Look at me, Julek,” he whispered. “Drinking alone and brooding.”

At least he wanted to be alone. Jaskier, though – rumors had it that Jaskier had to die alone because his sickness was extremely contagious. Not even his sister could be with him in his last moments. And Jaskier, Jaskier who had confessed to Geralt years ago that he was afraid of dying alone, passed away with no one to hold his hand, no one to sing him soft lullabies like he did when Geralt was hurt and Jaskier thought he couldn't hear.

There were a thousands things Jaskier had done silently for him, and now Geralt would never be able to thank him.

He finished his drink in one go and stood up. He couldn’t stay here alone in the dark – soon spring would come and he would have to bring Ciri to Nenneke. He would have to face the path, alone, knowing that he would never have the opportunity to see Jaskier again.

There were so many things he hadn’t written in his letter, the previous winter. So many things he wanted to say to Jaskier. If only he could go back, if only he could write him a letter, something that would reach him, something to tell him – everything.

He wouldn’t send it, of course. He’d keep it in his room, away from prying eyes. A letter he’d never send, but not because he was afraid of how it would be received.

Geralt frowned and slowly went back to his room after putting the cup away.

Maybe- maybe he should write that letter. To put everything on paper, to say it even if it wasn’t to Jaskier. Not really. And after having written that letter – after properly saying goodbye – he would try not to be overcome by grief and regret every time he would think about Jaskier.

It was not only Jaskier he was grieving; all the things that could have been now that they had started to mend their relationship – now that they had started to try to be more honest with each other – had died along with him.

 


 

That spring, Geralt passed by the village where he and Jaskier used to meet.

“Not worth visiting,” he replied to Ciri when she asked why they weren’t going in.

 


 

In late spring, when he was traveling alone again, he decided to take a break for Roach. The road he was on was dusty, and he was thankful Ciri was not with him anymore because she would have coughed and coughed and coughed.

Something bright and yellow caught his attention. There, on the side of the road, grew a buttercup.

Geralt carefully picked it, wiped his hand, and gently put the flower between the pages of the only book he had in his bags.

There. He had – something now. To remember.

 


 

The village Geralt was in wasn’t particularly memorable. Truth to be told, he didn’t even plan on staying there, he just needed to pass through it in order to find the road that would lead him to a city that was nearby. He had heard that the services of a witcher were needed there, and so there he went. He wasn’t doing much else, these days.

Roach was walking by his side. The night had almost fallen, and she was tired after a whole day of walking and carrying his bags. She deserved a break. Geralt planned to make camp once he would have exited the village. It wouldn’t take long; it was a particularly small one.

“Unhand me, you brute!”

Geralt stopped to listen. The voice had come from a back alley, and it sounded so outraged that it stupidly reminded him of Jaskier’s. It had the same way of rising multiple octaves when offended.

“I said- now there’s no need to punch me, I wasn’t-“

Geralt gritted his teeth and decided against intervening. It was not his business, after all – maybe that lad had deserved being taken in a back alley by three other men.

“I’m telling you,” Geralt heard against his will, “that I had absolutely no intentions of sleeping with your wife – I don’t know where you got that from.”

The night was dark but quiet around him. Geralt could pretend that he didn’t hear, that he didn’t see. He could. And it was not like someone would come and ask him why he hadn’t saved that man. Roach would not say anything to anyone. It would be easy to just walk and not look back.

He sighed.

“Stay here,” he said to Roach, and walked in the alley.

Trying to convince himself that he was doing it because someone was in danger and not because that someone vividly and cruelly reminded him of Jaskier, he cleared his throat.

Three men looked at him. The one that was being – attacked? – did not raise his eyes to see who was coming to his rescue. He was holding a lute case, and Geralt thought that describing his heart as being stabbed would not even begin to cover how painful seeing that was.

 “I think he got his lesson,” Geralt said to the three men, who looked at each other and quickly ran out of the alley.

Which left Geralt alone with the guy that he had saved. It was a surprise – usually the people he went to rescue ran away as well. Maybe bards were special. Foolish enough not to be afraid of him.

Geralt’s eyes fell on a hat that had fallen on the ground. It surely was the bard’s. He picked it up and gave it to the man, who had stayed silent until then.

“Thank you,” he said, and even his voice sounded like-

“Jaskier?” Geralt blurted out. He immediately took a step back, mortified.

He knew he missed Jaskier, but this was going too far – it was not the first time he thought he was seeing the bard. It had happened before, in towns, in crowds, but in the end it was never Jaskier. Their eyes would be wrong, or their heartbeat too slow, or their scent just wouldn’t be the same – they never were Jaskier and none of them would ever be.

“People call me Dandelion these days, Geralt,” the man smiled, taking his hat off Geralt’s hand and placing it on his own head. “So what do you think about the hat? Bea found it was too much but I- Geralt? Are you okay?”

Geralt was staring at him, at the man who talked like Jaskier, had Jaskier’s voice, had Jaskier’s eyes and Jaskier’s heartbeat. But it was not possible, because Jaskier was-

“Jaskier’s dead,” he growled, unsheathing his silver sword and pointing it at the imposter’s throat. “I will not let you use his appearance to- to-”

He was losing his footing. He couldn’t- it was-

“Whoa, Geralt, it’s me, I swear,” the imposter almost pleaded. “Here,” he said, cutting himself on the silver sword, “see? I’m not a doppler. Now tell me, what is making you think that I-”

Geralt dropped his sword on the ground and took Jaskier by his shoulders, engulfing him in a hug. The hat fell on the ground again.

He breathed in Jaskier’s scent – it was him, it was him, he was alive and Geralt had a new chance to talk to him, to tell him that he mattered, to-

“Geralt?”

“You’re really here,” Geralt said, not letting Jaskier go. “You’re not- you’re really here. Why didn’t tell me that you were still there?”

Realizing he didn’t make a lick of sense, he released Jaskier.

“Come with me,” he pleaded, picking up his sword and sheathing it. He gave the hat back to Jaskier. “Julek- I can’t lose you again.”

Jaskier frowned at him but followed him out of the alley.

“I don’t understand why you’re making such a fuss, really. Last time we saw each other you could barely look at me in the eye.”

Geralt winced at the reminder, a familiar pain taking place on his chest. He took Roach’s bridle and started to walk again, Jaskier following him.

“You were dead,” he replied, and Jaskier looked at him.

“I… was not?” At Geralt’s lack of answer, he went on. “I- I sent you a letter, Geralt. To tell you that I was-”

He gasped and stopped walking.

“Geralt, did you not- the letter- you didn’t- you thought I was dead for an entire year?”

Jaskier looked horrified and agitated. He smelled distressed, too, so Geralt let go of Roach and turned to look at him.

He was – his hair was longer, like the last time he had seen him. His clothes were – well, he had an almost red coat. It looked nice, but not like the kind of things Jaskier would have worn before.

“I did,” he replied, wincing when Jaskier took a deep breath. “Look, can we- can we talk about it once we’ll have made camp? If you-” he stumbled over the words, “if you accept to come, that is.”

The silence between his question and Jaskier’s answer lasted maybe one, maybe two seconds, but it was enough for Geralt to hear all the things that he had left unsaid hanging in the air between them like a silent promise.

“You thought I was- of course I’ll come with, Geralt.”

They started walking again.

“Besides,” Jaskier whispered, almost too softly for Geralt to hear, “I missed you.”

 


 

They quickly made camp. They had found a clearing, a nice place to stay, since the night sky wasn’t cloudy and they wouldn’t have to fear a rainfall at all. Geralt took care of the fire while Jaskier took out their bedrolls, and it reminded Geralt of how they used to do it every night, before.

He stayed near the fire, sitting on a log, staring at the sky. He could see the stars – there were so many of them.

Closing his eyes, he tried to breathe in the peace of the moment. Everything was so quiet – the noise of the forest around him almost drowned out by the crackling of the fire in front of him. Jaskier was humming something, and Geralt suddenly felt like he had just returned home after a punishing hunt that had lasted for more than two years – that would have begun with Jaskier’s departure and ended with Geralt finding him again.  

He heard footsteps, and soon he felt Jaskier sitting on the log next to him.

“Geralt-” Jaskier started, voice a bit strangled, “I’m sorry for letting you believe I was dead. I thought- I thought my letter had reached you but you just didn’t care to reply.”

Geralt opened his eyes to look at him. He had tied his hair in a ponytail. It suited him.

“It’s okay,” Geralt finally replied. “You’re here now.”

The silence of the night enveloped them.

“Besides-” He coughed. “You’re not the one who has to apologize.”

“But you- Geralt,” Jaskier insisted, tears in his eyes and his voice, “I didn’t want you to think that I- not when we had started to talk again, even if- even if the last time I saw you it wasn’t- You must hate me,” he finished, looking dejected.

“I don’t hate you,” Geralt said quietly. “I’ve spent too much time loving you to start hating you when my life’s blessing has just been granted to me.”

“Your…”

Geralt took a deep breath, and thought of a letter carefully folded, hidden away in his room in Kaer Morhen. His eyes found Jaskier’s, and he gulped. It suddenly felt difficult to breathe, but he soldiered on.

“I told you, Julek. I love you. And I’ve spent the past year desperately wishing that I could get another chance with you while knowing it was hopeless anyway. I can’t even believe this isn’t a dream,” he chuckled sadly, “because even in my dreams I remember that you’re not here anymore.”

How many times had he woken up with a lump in his throat, wishing that he would cry once and for all and for his pain to be over? How many times had he woken up, feeling like Jaskier had just died when it had happened months ago? He cursed his dreams for showing him the bard, cursed himself for being able to remember even there that he would never be able to hear Jaskier’s voice again.

Jaskier didn’t reply but was still looking at Geralt, his blue eyes opened wide. Geralt glanced at the edge of the forest, then went on.

“I- I did not. Apologize. For what I said to you on the mountain. For how I acted before. Jaskier-” he let his forehead fall on Jaskier’s shoulder, hating himself for the way he was hiding from Jaskier’s gaze but taking comfort from the point of contact. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it, of course I didn’t- I’m sorry for yelling at you just because you were there, just because-”

He looked up.

“I’m sorry.”

Jaskier laughed softly, wetly, wiping away tears that had accumulated in his eyes. Geralt hated himself for putting them there.

“You’re all forgiven,” he promised, and Geralt felt like his pardon came too easily, that it was not deserved. He didn’t say anything about it.

Geralt leant to add another branch to the fire, and when he sat back Jaskier leaned against him, putting his head on Geralt’s shoulder.

“Jaskier,” Geralt started, “I- do you still travel as a bard, then?”

What Geralt wanted to know, mainly, was why Jaskier had faked his death.

“Ah,” Jaskier said, “yes. Uhm, well. Apparently, singing songs about you for two decades made people think that I always knew where to find you. And, well. Lettenhove might be away from the – troubles” he gestured vaguely with his left hand, “but we quickly heard that people were looking for me. Nilfgaard,” he clarified when Geralt frowned. “They knew you were last seen near Lettenhove-well, if that can be called being near Lettenhove. They would have been after me anyway. But whoever knew of me knew of Bea – my sister – and of all the people that live there. I couldn’t – they would have used them against me.”

Jaskier sighed.

“Bea and I talked about it for a while. About what we should do. Then she suggested that I could, you know.”

“Fake your death?”

“Yeah, that. Always been clever, Bea. So we talked about it more, because me being dead would mean that her husband would have to take care of Lettenhove, you know, and I didn’t want to impose that on him.”

Geralt heard what Jaskier wasn’t saying, that he didn’t want Henry to be trapped there as he had been.

“Henry didn’t have any problems with that. I didn’t half do it, Geralt,” Jaskier said seriously, almost desperately, “I had already left Lettenhove in his care multiple times and he often helped me – he knew what he was accepting. I didn’t- tricked him into taking my role just because I-”

“Jaskier,” Geralt kindly interrupted him. “You’re not your father.”

Jaskier raised his head at that, looking at Geralt with something like wonder on his face.

“You listened,” he said, and Geralt nodded, not really knowing what he was agreeing to. “And you remembered. Geralt, I- never mind,” he said rapidly, having seemingly changed his mind about whatever he wanted to say. Jaskier sighed again, his shoulders dropping. “So we came up with a plan. I’d die of a sickness, so that no one could come and see me. And Henry said that the people would want to come to pay their respects, which – honestly I didn’t think they would, but he insisted.”

He put his head on Geralt’s shoulder again.

“And that’s how we did it. Henry sent an official letter to Oxenfurt to inform them of my death, and Bea sent one to Valdo in Cidaris.”

“Why would she-”

Geralt felt Jaskier laugh more than he heard it.

“Because she knew Valdo would not hesitate to inform everyone that he managed to outlive me. As if he ever could. The man has a tiny disadvantage, not that he knows it.”

Geralt frowned but decided to unpack that last sentence later.

“You shouldn’t have sent me a letter anyway,” he said to Jaskier after a while. He felt that Jaskier was about to reply, so he went on. “It wasn’t worth the risk of someone finding out,” he explained. “People could have opened it, and all of your efforts would have been for naught.”

Jaskier stayed silent for a moment and Geralt thought they would not discuss it again.

“You’ve always been worth the risk, Geralt,” Jaskier whispered, and Geralt felt underserving of such loyalty.

He didn’t reply, and they stayed sitting next to each other, Jaskier’s head still on Geralt’s shoulder, for a while. Geralt was looking at the stars again, thinking that he had somehow fucked up again. Well, not fucked up, but there were still so many things he hadn’t said.

“I’ve missed you a lot, you know,” Jaskier suddenly said. Geralt glanced at him. He had closed his eyes and seemed almost at peace. “Not only the past year, but ever since – ever since before I sent you my first letter. And- can I be honest, Geralt?”

Geralt nodded, then thought that maybe Jaskier hadn’t felt it.

“Yeah,” he said, ignoring the way his eyes were burning. Maybe he would finally be able to cry. “Of course, always.”

“Ah, alright. Well, I- I sent a letter. You know, the one you didn’t get.”

Geralt hummed. Jaskier had always been braver than him and he was once again, talking about what he wanted to talk instead of walking around it like Geralt.

“But I didn’t think- well, that is- I didn’t think it would have mattered much. I didn’t think you’d– mourn me. I didn’t want to lie to you, that’s partly why I wrote to you, but I- yeah.”

Geralt found Jaskier’s hand and squeezed it, trying to gather his words. This was the moment, he knew. This was when he would tell Jaskier everything he had wanted to tell him – this was his new chance, the one Ciri had talked about before.

The stakes were too high for Geralt to fuck up again.

“In regard to being more honest,” he said quietly, somehow feeling more nervous than if he was fighting a monster without his armor and with a wooden sword, “I- I wrote you a letter, when I learned. I mean, I learned about your so-called death last summer. I was – I was talking to an alderman after a contract, and he was – unexpectedly nice to me.”

Geralt could remember how distrustful he had been. How he had thought that such kindness never happened, only happened when Jaskier was next to him, glaring at whoever owed Geralt money.

“He gave me all the coin that had been promised. And then he said- I can’t forget it, Julek, it has been haunting me – he offered me his condolences, and when I asked why, he said Your bard- the news just reached us. I’m sorry.

His eyes burned again and there was a lump in his throat. He took a deep breath, trying to control his breathing, to fight back the wave of sadness that threatened to overtake him.

“I didn’t believe it at first, you know. And I don’t- I don’t quite remember how I ended up learning everything, but I- I went to Kaer Morhen sooner that I would have, and Ciri was so concerned about me and I couldn’t- I couldn’t just tell her that you had died and I wasn’t there, not after I had spent the past months talking about you, so I- I hid away. At first.”

Shame fought sadness, and Geralt gritted his teeth.

 “And then I- I realized I was hurting her, I was doing the same thing to her as I did to you, not talking about things, so I- I told her. And then I wrote to you.”

He wouldn’t tell Jaskier how he had skipped meals, how dull his winter was. He would spare him the pain, the guilt – he was already carrying enough of it as it was.

Jaskier leant harder against him, and Geralt felt thankful for the silent support the bard was showing him.

“I said- I said I was sorry. Because I thought we’d have more time,” he added, and it sounded like Jaskier swallowed down a sob. “So I didn’t tell you half the things I wanted to tell you, because I thought I’d see you again. I told you- in the letter I told you I loved you. You have to understand,” he pressed on, turning to look at Jaskier, “that I wanted to come and get you when you first sent your letter, that I would have been ready to walk down the Killer just to come and see you in Lettenhove, but there was Ciri and the war and I couldn’t abandon her and- and you were safe in Lettenhove.”

“Geralt-” Jaskier tried, and Geralt could see tears on his face.

“I thought you were safe there, I never thought- I never thought you’d die like this. In the letter, I told you that if I had known- if I had known I would have been selfish, Julek, the last time I’d seen you.”

“Geralt?”

“I would have- I would have asked you to come with me, with Ciri and me, to Kaer Morhen, to- I don’t know. So you’d be there. But I didn’t because – it was selfish of me to ask. I couldn’t do that to you, not when you had all your people to take care of – because it wouldn’t have been a fair choice, to you. I didn’t want- I didn’t want you to feel like you had to accept in the name of our slowly mending friendship. But I- in the letter. I told you I should have.”

“I- Geralt.”

“And- Julek, I don’t- you said something that makes me think you don’t know- you actually don’t know how much you matter – and that’s on me. I was so afraid that I wasn’t truly your friend, back before the mountain, that I didn’t allow myself to show you that you were mine. My friend, I mean. But in the letter- I-”

Geralt paused briefly.

“The truth is, Julek, that I missed you – I missed you horribly. After the mountain I couldn’t help but miss you, and after your letter it got worse because I knew we could’ve been – better. And after- after, I- I missed everything that we didn’t get to have because you were- you were- gone. Dead,” he added, fighting to get the word out. “You were dead and I was hopeless.”

He fell silent once again.

“That’s what I said,” he finally whispered, “in my letter.”

“Geralt, I-”

“I don’t expect you to reply, Julek,” he said, and then-

Jaskier punched him on the shoulder. Not hard, mind him. Just enough to make him shut up.

“Geralt,” Jaskier said, and there were still tears on his face and sobs in his voice, “I cannot believe I’m about to tell you this, but please stop talking and let me speak. You can’t-” he stopped, frowning, obviously searching for his words, and it was so much Jaskier that Geralt for once didn’t fight back the love he felt at the sight of him. “You can’t say something like that to me and expect me not to reply, you- you- you lovely man.”

Geralt frowned.

“Yes! I said what I said. And- Geralt- I- do you think- do you think we could travel together again? Like before, just- just the two of us, just for a while, because I just got you back and I’m – well, I’m not ready to say goodbye yet, that is.”

Geralt knew the feeling.

He waited a few moments, listening to the sounds of the forest around him. Somewhere, an owl hooted; the leaves were quiet, for there was now wind. With Jaskier being silent, the only sound in their camp was the murmur of the fire and Jaskier’s slow and almost imperceptible breathing.

When it became apparent that Jaskier had said everything he could say, Geralt hesitantly searched his eyes.

“I- actually I’ve got a question of my own,” he said quietly, and Jaskier hummed. “Or two- I mean, it depends on your answer.”

Jaskier peered at him from under his eyelashes; it made Geralt want to kiss him – his forehead, his cheeks, his nose, his lips. He cleared his throat instead and looked at the edge of the forest around them.

“Ask your questions, witcher,” Jaskier prompted, and Geralt glanced at him. There was a smile dancing on Jaskier’s lips.

“Would you- mmh. I want to- I’d like to follow you, instead. You’d go from town to town, and I’d pick whatever contract they have for me. I don’t want to travel like we did before,” he admitted, looking at the hand that still held Jaskier’s. “I wasn’t- it wasn’t fair to you. I want to be better. I want us to be better.”

Jaskier gasped.

“Geralt-” he sounded breathless. “Geralt- look at me.”

He did.

“Did I- I didn’t say it back.”

Jaskier’s eyes were wide open, searching for something on Geralt’s face. The only thing he would find was confusion, because Geralt didn’t know what Jaskier was talking about. The only thing he knew was that Jaskier hadn’t replied, which would mean that-

“Geralt, Geralt,” Jaskier repeated again, “I love you too.”

Geralt blinked at him. Jaskier-

“You said it- twice! Or more,” Jaskier babbled, and then he stood up and started walking around the fire. Around Geralt. “And I didn’t answer! I mean, there are a lot of things you said and quite honestly I’m feeling a little bit overwhelmed right now because I admit I didn’t expect you to- to apologize after two years, I thought we’d put it behind us if we’d ever talked again but- you said you loved me.”

Geralt felt cold, without Jaskier by his side. He was tempted to ask him to sit next to him again, to put his head on Geralt’s shoulder again, to take his hand again.

“I did,” was all he replied. He loved that ridiculous, extravagant man, and after the past year, admitting it felt as easy as breathing.

Jaskier let himself fall on one of the bedrolls he had taken out earlier.

“Did you mean it- ah- romantically?”

Geralt turned his head to look at him. His hair was still tied together in a ponytail, and his face was half-hidden by shadows. Geralt knew him well enough to know that he was biting his lower lip, a sign of nervosity.

He thought about the best way to reply.

“Hmm,” he ended up saying, and Jaskier laughed incredulously. Geralt smiled, then added, gently. “Yeah.”

“Well, that’s a relief,” Jaskier said, and Geralt gestured at him to come back next to him.

Jaskier glared at him.

You come here, Geralt. I’m tired. Besides, you’ll be able to see the stars better if you’re lying down. Don’t look at me like that, I saw you looking at them earlier – just come here. You know I don’t bite.”

Actually, lying down next to Jaskier didn’t sound so bad. Not when it was what he had thought of every night for a year – and even before that. He would lie on the ground next to him, close enough for their shoulders to touch, for their hands to find each other, for Jaskier’s hair to softly caress his forehead.

There was little that Geralt would refuse Jaskier now that he had him back by his side. Or, well. That he almost had him back – Jaskier still hadn’t answered.

Geralt stood up; a glance behind told him that Jaskier was still sitting on his bedroll, still looking at him.

Geralt turned around and stood there, unmoving, watching Jaskier, barely believing that he was there. It would take a while until he would truly believe it, until he would be able to wake up knowing that Jaskier was there, somewhere in the continent, singing and dancing and laughing and alive.

“So?” Jaskier huffed, and Geralt shook his head.

He was next to Jaskier in a few steps. He carefully sat down on the bedroll and was about to say something when Jaskier nearly tackled him, resulting in the both of them falling backwards. Jaskier’s chin was on Geralt’s chest, and the bard looked at him and winked before rolling off of Geralt with a small laugh.

They were both lying on their bedrolls, Jaskier looking at the stars above.

“I still can’t believe it,” Jaskier whispered.

“That I love you?”

“That too, yeah,” Jaskier said to the stars. “But mainly – that you’re here. It’s like life has given me another chance, you know.”

Geralt knew that feeling all too well.

“You didn’t answer,” he said, then laced their fingers together. Jaskier turned his head to beam at him, and Geralt felt warm in a way that had nothing to do with the fire.

“Geralt – of course. Of course you can come, of course you can – I’d be stupid,” he chuckled, “to send you away when all I’ve wanted for the past years was to be by your side.”

“I-” Geralt almost choked on his words. “I wanted that, too.”

Jaskier would never realize, Geralt thought as Jaskier snuggled against him, never letting go of his hand, he would never realize how much the thought of losing him had hurt Geralt.

What Jaskier had said earlier was making Geralt think that maybe, just maybe, he wouldn’t lose Jaskier to old age. He would have to ask him. But not tonight. Not now. The moment was too peaceful to be broken – too new, too fragile.  

Jaskier sighed, and Geralt felt the breath on his own cheek.

He closed his eyes, focusing on the feeling of Jaskier next to him, on the sound of Jaskier’s breathing, on the rhythm of his heartbeat, that was slowly lulling him to sleep.

“We forgot to eat,” Jaskier said suddenly.

Geralt laughed – he couldn’t help it.

“You distracted me, you menace.”

He sat up, earning a displeasing hum from Jaskier.

“It makes me think – you’ll have to meet Ciri.”

Jaskier sat up as well and immediately started leaning against Geralt again.

“What do you mean?”

“I told her about you, you know. Before you-” he cleared his throat. “Before I thought I had lost you.”

“Oh?”

“Hmm. And you- I mean, I assume that you can’t go back to Lettenhove.” Jaskier nodded sadly against his shoulder and Geralt put his hand on his knee to try to comfort him. “So you- you don’t have anywhere to winter. Would you- hmm. Would you go to Kaer Morhen with me?”

“Geralt, really,” Jaskier smiled, and Geralt had to turn his head to fully look at that smile – he didn’t want to waste any of them anymore. Jaskier gave them so freely, and yet Geralt felt like he could spend the rest of his life collecting them and still never have enough. “I’d follow you to the end of the world.”

“Hmm.”

“You’re out of words, I see. Well!” Jaskier said, standing up, “It’s okay. You gave me quite a lot of them tonight – more than I expected. Now tell me, Geralt, do you have anything we could eat or should we just accept our fate and eat grass like Roach?”

Geralt tugged at Jaskier’s hand. Jaskier let himself fall, landing half on the bedroll and half on Geralt with a huff.

Geralt didn’t mind. That was what he had wanted, after all. For Jaskier to be near him again.

He brought Jaskier to his chest, smiling when the bard let him do just that, resting his head between Geralt’s shoulder and Geralt’s neck, bringing his hand up to play with Geralt’s hair.

“Five more minutes,” Geralt mumbled, and Jaskier chuckled.

“All right, darling. Five more minutes. We have all the time in the world after all, don’t we?”

Geralt hummed and closed his eyes. They did.

 


 

“Jaskier, how's your family?”

Jaskier hands, which were slowly dividing Ciri’s hair into three even parts, stilled. She heard him take a breath, and then his hands resumed their movements.

Ciri had wanted to know about Jaskier’s family for a while but had never dared to ask - she could understand half-whispered conversations and their hidden meanings and knew that it was a subject that had to be approached carefully – if approached at all.

She didn't know whether now was the good time to ask, with Jaskier expertly braiding her hair for the last time before a few months, but she was curious. There were still a lot of things she didn't know about him, and she feared she might not ever get the opportunity to ask if she let that time slip through her fingers.

“Why the sudden question, my dear?”

Ciri looked outside through the window. The sun had not risen up yet and the stars were hiding behind a thin layer of clouds, covering the sky like a shawl. There was an orange light on the horizon, though, quietly glowing brighter and brighter, ready to reach the birds asleep in their nests and to illuminate the mountains.

Jaskier and Geralt were supposed to leave as soon as possible, returning to their path. It had been planned the week before that Ciri would stay for another seven days after their departure and that she would then leave with Yennefer. The keep would feel strange, without Jaskier working in the library and coming to lunch and dinner covered in ink and dust, without Geralt watching as she trained with Lambert – without them being reassuring presences by her side every day.

Jaskier had promised, the night before, that he would come and hug Ciri before he and Geralt would leave; she had clung to him when saying goodnight and had whispered her request. Jaskier had agreed, of course, and had promised that he and Geralt wouldn’t leave without seeing her one last time.

“Because... I don't know,” she shrugged, replying to Jaskier’s question. He tapped her shoulder to tell her to stay still. “I’m just curious.”

She had woken up with a gasp, immediately looking at the window to make sure that the day wasn’t there yet – that she hadn’t missed them. She had been sitting in her bed, too scared that she would miss her goodbyes if she fell back asleep, when Jaskier had carefully opened the door, the light from the candle he was holding slipping inside the room.

“Well, I have a sister. She's... She's younger than me - keep your head still, please - and she's wonderful.”

Ciri hummed, and Jaskier huffed a laugh.

“You've spent too much time with your father,” he smiled, and Ciri closed her eyes at the reminder that she had a father now. “But you didn't want to hear about my sister, didn't you? It's my parents you were asking about.”

Ciri wondered, not for the first time, how Jaskier could be so good at understanding what she wasn't saying. But he had known Geralt for so many years, and Geralt often said half of what he was thinking, or sometimes didn’t say what he was thinking at all – Jaskier had had to learn how to translate everything. Though she had to take Jaskier's word on that; the Geralt and Jaskier she knew were different than the ones in Jaskier's stories. More open. More tender – especially to each other.

“Well, see how Yennefer and Geralt aren't lovers but still care for each other, and for you?”

“Yes,” Ciri nodded, then hissed when Jaskier tugged too hard on her hair.

“Sorry,” Jaskier said, and she could know without looking at him that his eyes were apologetic. “Well, my parents weren't like that at all. No love, no friendship - they just happened to live in the same house and to have two children together.”

Ciri blinked a few times. Outside, the sun was not quite yet set, but the sky was becoming brighter and brighter.

“I won't make you the affront of masking the truth - stay still, please. They weren't good parents to us at all.”

She wouldn't ask for more - she didn't know if he would tell her more, if she did. And she might be young, but she wasn’t unaware of how marriages between nobles were, how loveless and cruel they could be to children.

“There, sweetheart,” Jaskier smiled, a smile that she could hear in his voice and knew from experience was warming his eyes, “you're all done.”

She touched her hair, now all braided. It was much nicer than what she could do - only Jaskier knew how to braid it like that. She already knew it would stay like that for the day, that it wouldn't bother her during training or during her lessons with Yennefer. It was both practical and pretty.

She turned around and launched herself at Jaskier, who caught her easily in his arms as he did every time.

“Please take care of Geralt,” she whispered, suddenly terrified of what was to come.

Jaskier hummed, low, and the sound somehow soothed her worry a little.

“Take care of Yennefer,” he replied, and Ciri hiccupped a laugh. “You know I will take care of him,” he added softly. “He'll be safe, and you'll meet him again in a few months.”

“You too,” she said, the words timid on her tongue. It had slowly become unbearable, over the winter, the thought of living in a world without Jaskier.

“Oh, sweetheart,” Jaskier murmured, tightening his grip around her. “I'll be there too.”

They stayed hugging a few more minutes, Ciri letting herself take comfort in Jaskier's presence. He was already wearing his traveling clothes and his traveling boots, and she knew that Geralt had prepared him a thick scarf and gloves that he’d put on before going outside.

She let him go first, and he kissed her forehead before standing up.

“They're still eating breakfast,” he offered, a way to say to her that if she didn't want to be alone, someone would be there for her.

“'ll come,” Ciri said, then added desperately “Wait for me!”

“Alright, dear,” Jaskier promised.

They made their way towards the kitchen, where Geralt and his brothers were still eating. Jaskier made a beeline to Geralt and kissed him on the cheek, seemingly distracting him well enough to steal his buttered bread. Ciri knew better, though. There was no way Geralt would have allowed that to happen if he hadn't actually wanted to let Jaskier steal it.

Lambert coughed, pretending to be disgusted by the display of affection. Once again, Ciri knew better. She had seen the relief in his eyes when Geralt had showed up at the beginning of winter with Jaskier by his side, had caught a snippet of conversation between Lambert and Eskel when they thought she was too busy trying to avoid the torture machine that the witchers called a pendulum. They were relieved.

“Awake so early, little menace?”

Ciri smiled at Geralt; Jaskier was standing right behind him, the hand that wasn’t holding the stolen bread resting on Geralt’s shoulder.

“Yennefer told me to make sure you're not forgetting anything because you can't be trusted with that.”

Geralt half glared at Yennefer, who was busy stirring her tea and was pointedly not looking at him. Ciri bit back a snort, then remembered that they were about to leave. Her amusement disappeared, replaced by the gloomy sadness that hadn’t left her since the previous night.

At least last year Geralt had brought her to Nenneke himself, and she had been able to spend a few more days with him.

“It's time,” Geralt suddenly said, looking at the window, and Ciri nodded, gritting her teeth. She would be brave – she wouldn’t make them worry.

Geralt stood up, followed by Lambert who was grumbling about how Geralt could have at least waited for him to have finished his breakfast. Jaskier lingered behind, matching his pace with Ciri’s.

They all made their way outside, where Roach was already waiting for them, all of Jaskier and Geralt's bags saddled on her.

Ciri stayed behind while Geralt walked to Roach to make sure that everything was secured enough. The sun had at last appeared, though it was still hidden by the clouds; it wouldn’t snow, though, Vesemir had assured.

“Hey,” Jaskier gently said to her, diverting her from her thoughts. “It's going to be okay.”

She couldn't find the strength to answer, too busy fighting the sadness in her chest, in her throat, in her eyes. She blinked furiously a few times, watching as Geralt walked to them.

“Not gossiping, are you?” he asked, squinting his eyes at them.

“About what? We've ran out of things to gossip about months ago. Really, the keep is nice but it lacks drama.”

“Everything lacks drama for you.”

Jaskier gasped, faking outrage, a hand on his chest.

“How dare you! For that I'll go and say my goodbyes to your brothers - no, no kiss for you.”

Despite his threat, he pecked Geralt on the cheek, making the witcher smile at him.

Before leaving, Jaskier turned to Ciri one last time, looking at her in the eyes.

“Goodbye, sweetheart. I'll see you next winter. Make sure to annoy Yen like I would.”

Ciri nodded, feeling hot tears pressing behind her eyes. He kissed her forehead, and Geralt watched as Jaskier walked away to say goodbye to Eskel and Lambert.

“He did your hair,” Geralt said, and Ciri nodded. “Suits you.”

She would miss them so much - though she knew they had to leave. Such was a witcher's life. Alone, away from their family - though Geralt had Jaskier.

Jaskier, too, was away from his family - but he had Geralt.

Jaskier had turned out to be everything Geralt had made him sound like – dramatic, funny, a talented musician, and most importantly, caring. It had been clear from the moment he had arrived with Geralt that they loved each other – something that explained why Geralt had talked about him randomly, why Geralt hadn't been the same after the news of his death.

“Be careful out there,” Geralt added. “Still got that dagger that Jaskier got you?”

It had been a gift – Jaskier, Jaskier that had met her once, had asked Geralt which dagger would be the best for her, and had gifted it to her soon after his arrival. She hadn't understood why, at the time, but now knew that it was an attempt to make her feel more at ease around him. As if Jaskier would ever cause her harm.

“Still do,” she replied, pressing her lips together to avoid bursting into tears, willing her voice to be as even as Geralt’s.

“Hmm,” Geralt said, and she knew it meant he was glad. “I have to go before it's too late, but. I'll miss you. And I'm-”

He hesitated and Ciri looked in front of her, away, far away, trying to see the trees that were on the horizon. Her breath transformed into a tamed fog whenever she breathed out.

“I'm proud of you.”

She turned to Geralt and hugged him. She would miss him, but he would be back. And so would Jaskier.

“Thank you. Goodbye.” was all she managed to answer.

She watched with great melancholy as Geralt made his way to Jaskier. His swords were in place, and Jaskier's lute was secured against Roach.

Geralt seemed to ask Jaskier something and Jaskier briefly looked at Ciri, smiling at her when he saw she was looking. Geralt took his hand and brought Jaskier to him, and they hugged briefly before turning to Ciri and waving at her.

Then they turned around and started walking, still hand in hand.

Ciri stayed outside until she couldn't see them anymore, until all she could distinguish in the distance was rocks and grass and trees. The sun was warming up the mountains, announcing a kind spring. Flowers would grow again, coloring the sides of the mountains with patches, dancing with the wind, whispering of times to come, and Ciri knew without a doubt that she would find herself in the same spot every year, watching as Jaskier and Geralt went back to their paths together.