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I Made This Family All On My Own

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Cirilla starts to learn that emotions are a complicated thing. Surprisingly, it’s the witchers in her life that have the best grip on them, considering she once tried to become one to get away from hers.

Vesemir tells Geralt he should’ve trusted him; that’s how they show each other that they care. Geralt is the first to tell Ciri he loves her, once he got over himself, and Vesemir follows shortly after. She’s come to think of him as her grandfather even, and she thinks that Vesemir has come to grips with having a granddaughter in her too.

Yennefer is a little more difficult. She says things like, “I’d sacrifice everything for you”, so Cirilla thinks she might love her, but Yennefer refuses to say it. Cirilla isn’t sure she’s able to. She doesn’t know how Yen would react if Ciri were the one to say it first, either.

Jaskier is a wholly different egg to crack. Mostly, because she doesn’t really know how to act around him at all. He says, “You’re the child surprise, I heard so much about you,” but she’s got so much else on her mind that she doesn’t really care. It doesn’t even bother her when he says “like father, like daughter,” seeing as she doesn’t mind being compared to Geralt, even if Jaskier obviously means it in a bad way.

But she thinks they both fucked up their first impressions that way, and now, in the halls of Kaer Morhen, they don’t really know how to act around each other. She’s known Geralt for a while now, and he teaches her to fight. She’s known Yennefer for a shorter time, but still longer than Jaskier, and Yen teaches her about magic. But Jaskier and her barely knew each other before, and they don’t have much time to get each other to know each other now, either.

It isn’t aided by Jaskier’s relationships to both Geralt and Yennefer being significantly complicated, either.

Geralt and Yennefer snap at each other all the time too, but she’s seen them kiss at Nenneke’s, so she’s reasonably sure they love each other. Cirilla can understand that magic, politics, and betrayals make things difficult between them, and that they might take some time before they can fully trust each other again and actually love each other openly. She assumes it might take even more time before they do it in front of her.

Watching the two of them, Cirilla has learnt that sometimes “I hate you” means “I hate you”, but sometimes it can also mean “I love you, but I hate that I do”.

It’s with this in mind, that Jaskier’s place in this family, and yes, Cirilla has taken to calling them that, at least in her head, for her own private enjoyment, gets complicated.

Geralt and Jaskier are friends now. Geralt was loath to admit it at first, saying he refused to acknowledge that for a long time, but “he grows on you, like a fungus”.

“You’ll like him too, soon enough, once you get to know him,” Geralt says, fondly, and it seems oddly important to him. Cirilla doesn’t think too much of it at first. She managed with all of Geralt’s brothers too. She’ll manage with a new strange figure in her life, if Geralt wants her to.

But then she’ll hear Jaskier call Yennefer a “bitch” and Yennefer call Jaskier a “bastard”, and Cirilla thinks one of them will leave or make Geralt choose between his love and his friend. She fears Geralt will be miserable, even if he’ll try to hide it, because he is just as happy as her to have them all together here, as a family. And while Ciri might not know Jaskier enough to miss him, should he be the one to go, Geralt does.

Then, the next second, Yen’ll call him a “heart-broken fool”, and he’ll tell her “you’ve gone soft-hearted” in the same tone of voice, with the same amount of venom in their voices, and Cirilla will think “now it’s really all over, they’ll either kill each other or leave”, but they’ll just huff and turn around, a shine to their eyes that might look like respect or understanding if she didn’t know better.

For a while, she thinks it’s just the two of them tolerating each other, because they have seen what Ciri did: that Geralt would miss either of them - and they both love him enough to ignore the other for his sake, until Ciri notices that in their fights Geralt and Yennefer both look at Jaskier the same way they look at each other during their own fights.

Cirilla thinks it must be complicated loving someone you’re so desperate to hate. 

 

Still, hearing Geralt’s “You’ll like him too, once you get to know him”, and seeing Yennefer failing to hate Jaskier as much as she seemingly wishes to, doesn’t make it easier for Cirilla to actually get to know him, or make sense of what Jaskier sees his own role in this family to be.

Asking Geralt doesn’t yield much more than that, though. He plainly acts like Jaskier and Yennefer don’t act like they hate each other, and he seems to believe that Ciri and Jaskier will just get closer without any of their further input. Considering Jaskier’s personality, this might be true, if the two of them would naturally spend enough time in each other’s company. But when they do, it’s usually shared with Geralt and Yennefer, and as loving each other seems to be the worst thing that could’ve happened to the three adults in Cirilla’s life, it doesn’t really lend itself to that. Their dinner tables are slowly calming now, forgiveness settling over the three of them for things they won’t tell Ciri about, but it doesn’t happen fast enough.

She fought for the respect of Geralt’s brothers, she’ll take it in her own hands to get along with Jaskier too.

“Why do you call him a broken-hearted fool?” she asks Yennefer one day while mixing a potion. Potion-making always lends itself to talking, and Cirilla has asked Yen a lot of things over time. She’s been told about Yennefer’s childhood, about how she met Geralt, what else she’ll teach her, but Yennefer seldom talks about Jaskier. Mostly she just calls him “the bard”, which Cirilla thinks is neither a positive nor even neutral term coming out of her mouth, but even that went from “resigned derision” to “resigned fondness” over the weeks they spent in the workshop.

Yennefer snorts, but has the decency to look a little guilty. “Have you ever listened to his songs?”

Cirilla shakes her head. “I’ve never been around when he played.”

“If you did, you’d know.”

And while that is just as mysterious as anything else she knew about Jaskier before, with the exception of the theoretical facts about how he got to meet Geralt and Yen, it gives her an idea on how to make Geralt happy. Maybe even all three of them.

 

“When will you teach me how to play the lute?” she drops on Jaskier one day, when she catches him alone.

He jumps, as if startled, and despite him hiding it, she can still make out the “just like her parents. Just expects me to drop everything on her whim.” But then again, with Jaskier, you can never be sure he didn’t want you to hear it.

“I didn’t know you wanted me to teach you. Didn’t figure you wanted my presence at all.” He sizes her up. “You’re a princess. Weren’t you taught music too?”

“I can play the cembalo,” she admits, “a little.”

“Then why ask me to teach you the lute?”

She shrugs. “Geralt and Yennefer are already teaching me things. I thought you might feel the need to share some wisdom too.”

Jaskier snorts. “I don’t think your parents think I have any wisdom to impart on you.”

The way he says “parents”, it’s scathing, a little like Yennefer says “bard”, but there’s another note to it. Ciri thinks it’s jealousy, and she’s pretty sure it’s not about the role Geralt and Yennefer have to her.

“I’d still like to learn,” she says, because she is nothing if not stubborn, and she’s sure he knows of that, will take his “like parents, like daughter,” and take it to mean that there’s no fighting her on this.

He sighs, resigned, but starts teaching her.

The first few weeks, she doesn’t hear any of his songs. She actually has to learn to play the lute, and it’s surprisingly hard. She gets new calluses on her hands, in places that even her witcher training and the physical parts of potion making have not yet left their mark on.

And it’s fun, which surprises her most of all. She had begged Geralt for lessons to fight because her life had been taken away, and she’s relieved to have Yennefer to teach her how to control the magic, but Jaskier and her lute make her feel like she actually has a life again. It reminds her of the more frivolous parts of life, the ones that aren’t about survival, and she thinks she understands him a little better. It also makes her understand better why Geralt and Yennefer used to dislike him.

 

“You’ve given him a purpose around here,” Vesemir says to her one day, “I don’t really know why he stayed before.”

“He stayed for Geralt,” she replies, like it’s obvious, because it is. Vesemir nods. “And for Yennefer.” Vesemir doesn’t nod anymore.

“I don’t think he likes Yennefer very much.”

“No, he does.”

Vesemir scrunches up his forehead in a way that implies he doesn’t agree, but doesn’t know Jaskier well enough to dispute it.

But Vesemir is right: Jaskier didn’t really have a purpose before this, here in Kaer Morhen. Geralt asked for his help, but once that part was over, there was nothing for him to do. If Yennefer’s insults have any truth to them, he probably spent his days writing sad songs. And Cirilla thinks they probably do, since Yennefer has definitely gone soft-hearted, and she’s never seen Jaskier and Yen fight on anything but equal ground.

It’s when she’s good enough to migrate from the easy beginners notes to play some of his songs when things get interesting.

She learns “Toss a coin to your witcher” first, and it makes Geralt laugh when she plays it after dinner, which happens seldom enough. But it’s a happy song, and Cirilla suspects it was written before the mysterious heartbreak.

It’s the next song she learns that makes something click in her. “It’s about Yennefer, isn’t it?”

Jaskier graces her with a look that seems to imply that what she says is outlandish. “I would never write a song about that…”

Cirilla can imagine how that sentence was supposed to end, but Jaskier stops, looks at her and doesn’t continue. She’s heard him use all kinds of different words to describe Yennefer, so the problem isn’t to find the right words. It’s to find words she’s allowed to hear.

“I’m not too young to hear you swear.”

Jaskier laughs. “No. And no, it’s not about Yennefer.”

“It is,” Cirilla insists. She’s seen all three of them interact, she’s so sure it’s true, “I mean it’s supposedly about Geralt, but it’s about her. Because you were jealous of the attention he was giving her.” She pauses. “You still are.”

She starts to lightly strum one of the easy melodies he taught her first, then looks up when he doesn’t say anything. If there’s one thing she’s learned about Jaskier from Geralt and Yennefer, it’s that Jaskier never shuts up.

She lifts an eyebrow.

“What do I have to do, so you don’t tell them about it?”

Ciri grins. “Teach me more songs.” She thinks for a second. “Start with the ones Geralt would disapprove of.”

 

“Has Geralt heard Jaskier’s songs?” Cirilla asks Yennefer a few weeks and a few songs later. She has by now realised that most of Jaskier’s songs are about Geralt (at least the interesting ones), with only few mentions of Yennefer. As Yennefer seems to have heard enough of Jaskier’s songs to have opinions on them, she has to be aware of how Jaskier feels about Geralt (the heartbreak comments are so very telling to Ciri now). Whatever is between Jaskier and Yennefer has to be a newer development though, seeing as the few mentions of her there are, are mostly along the lines of a vicious demon who’ll corrupt Geralt.

“The older ones, yes,” Yennefer says, “I’m sure. He wrote and played them when they were on the road together. I don’t think Geralt has heard Burn, Butcher, Burn yet, and I don’t think Jaskier is keen to make him listen to it.” She shrugs. “Kind of a shame. It’s a good song, unfortunately.”

“Would you mind?” Ciri asks, because she has to know how fragile the current arrangement is. She hasn’t been all that afraid of anyone leaving for a while, but she’s not exactly interested in reopening that possibility either. She likes their little family. “If he showed him?”

Yennefer narrows her eyes at her. “What are you planning?”

“Nothing, I’m just asking.” A short pause. “Do you know any songs he wrote about you?”

Yennefer snorts. “I don’t think he’s written any songs about me. And if he did, I can’t imagine them to be very flattering.”

“They’re not,” Ciri admits, thinking of the jealousy oozing out of every word that she wasn’t supposed to talk about, “but you could argue neither are the ones about Geralt.”

“What are you getting at?” Yennefer fidgets with the herb in her hand.

“Just thinking about what kind of songs he’s written since arriving at Kaer Morhen,” she shrugs, “when he’s not actively hating both of you.”

Yennefer snorts again. “He hasn’t stopped actively hating me.”

“Hmm,” Ciri grunts, and she thinks Geralt would be very proud. She suppresses a satisfied grin.

 

“Are you planning on keeping Yennefer and Jaskier here with us forever?”

Geralt looks like Cirilla startled him. She probably did.

She supposes he planned on doing just that, but without ever thinking about it. Acting like he doesn’t need or want any of that, he just wants Ciri to have the best possible magical education, and he’s resigned himself that he can’t control Jaskier anyway.

But that’s not enough for her anymore. Not talking about it leads to misunderstandings, leads to fights, leads to leaving, leads to an unhappy Cirilla and an unhappy Geralt. Most importantly, an unhappy Geralt, even if he won’t admit it.

Sure enough: “Do you not like them? I thought your classes with Yen went well, and Jaskier’s been teaching you the lute? Do you want to go somewhere without them?”

She sighs inwardly. “No, I want to keep them with us forever. Do you?”

“You want me to ask them?” he says and makes it about her again.

“They would, if you asked them to,” she replies instead.

“As much as I enjoy both their companies,” Geralt says, and Cirilla is so happy that he at least admits to that much now, “I can’t make them do that. They hate each other.”

“They don’t,” she disagrees, “not anymore.” She attacks the straw.

 

“Do you know what’s going on with them?” Vesemir sits down next to Cirilla. He motions vaguely in a way she knows means he’s talking about Geralt, Jaskier and Yennefer. “They don’t seem to be looking at each other much lately. There’s no fighting, and I haven’t even heard a single I hate you in the last week.”

“Good,” she replies, “I was getting sick of them acting like they don’t like each other.”

Vesemir watches her with furrowed brows. “Girl, you have a strange optimism. I, for one, am getting suspicious. Every day I expect one of them to kill another.”

“Once upon a time, maybe.”

Vesemir pinches his nose. “Why do I get the feeling you’re to blame for this change?”

“I’m not,” she grins, “but I may have helped them see.” She waves her hand about. “They just need to talk about it, and they’ll be fine.”

“We’re talking about Geralt here. Yennefer isn’t much better. And Jaskier talks a lot, but not the way you expect him to.”

“They will, and they’ll be fine,” Cirilla insists again, “Better even. We’ll be a family, without the death threats. Happy. I just know it.”

Vesemir stays silent, and Ciri isn’t sure if he disagrees or ponders what she just said.

 

“You were right,” he says to her, a few nights later in the dining hall. “They are looking at each other again, and no one is dead.”

“You must be relieved about that.”

“I am.” He smiles at her. “You must be happy.”

“We will see.” She thinks: One would hope so . But as long as they both stay and make Geralt happy, she doesn’t really care about the details.

“I wrote a song,” Jaskier exclaims after dinner, taking out his lute.

“What a surprise,” Yennefer mumbles, but it’s more fond than scathing, so Cirilla tentatively starts to hope.

“And it’s made for dancing,” Jaskier waves them away, “so shoo.”

Cirilla hasn’t danced since Cintra, so she’s excited at the prospect, especially if it’s Jaskier playing. Geralt seems to be aware of that, because he offers her his hand. For a second, it hits her that she never once got to dance with her father, before she waves that thought away. She doesn’t want the sadness over the past to ruin her happiness of the present. She can dance with Geralt now, that’s what matters. And that Jaskier is shooing Yennefer toward Vesemir to dance with him. The four of them align, and Jaskier starts to play.

The song is a little different from his other songs. It’s all Jaskier, sure, but where his other songs have been all heart-break, this is a mended heart, a full one. There’s a verse about a princess that she’s sure is about her, especially when Jaskier winks. There’s one about a witcher that she once would have deemed unrealistic, and one about a sorceress that makes Yennefer laugh, a sound not often heard, and even less often genuine and towards Jaskier. Geralt smiles too, and Cirilla is taken over by a deep sense of satisfaction.

They change partners in the middle of the song, Ciri goes to Vesemir, while Yennefer takes over Geralt. She’s pleased when she finds them smiling softly at each other through the rest of the song, and her glances at Jaskier don’t yield a single ounce of jealousy. Just happy smiles.

“Is this the family you’ve been picturing?” Vesemir asks her.

“Yes,” she says, “this is it.”