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"Ladies and gentlemen, you have been the most beautiful audience. Remember to toss a coin to my daughter Fiona, if you can. If anyone needs me, I'll be at the bar—what for d'you yearn?"

 

The first time Ciri remembered hearing Jaskier sang, she was only six years old, and she knew him by Dandelion. He always interacted with her during his performances, throwing her a mischievous wink or a grin that would make her giggle. Unlike her grandmother, Ciri always enjoyed the feasts better when Dandelion performed. No songs were as good as his, and no one sang the way he did. Even Eist agreed with her, would even go as far as singing along under his breath if Calanthe wasn’t within hearing distance. Ciri never understood why her grandmother seemed to barely tolerate Dandelion, not when the man seemed to always be incredibly respectful of her, bordering on fearful in fact. Unfortunately, Ciri wouldn't find out why until much later. Until Nilfgaardian army breached Cintra's walls, until her grandmother returned from the battle grievously injured and without Eist by her side like always. Until the great Lioness of Cintra told her to go find Geralt of Rivia, or at least his annoying bard Dandelion, before sending her away with Moussesack.

 

It took a couple weeks—a trip to Brokilon forest, a fight with a Doppler, and the betrayal of her childhood friends—but in the end, Destiny brought her literally into Dandelion's– no, Jaskier's arms.

 

"Burn, burn, burn, burn, burn, burn, burn, bu—"

 

The sound of a loud, miserable round of coughing snapped Ciri out of her thoughts, and she hastily went to Jaskier's side before he could trip over his own coat and smash his face on the table in front of him from the force of his coughing. She squeezed herself under his arm, stealthily shoved a handkerchief to his face before anyone could see the forget-me-nots that tumbled down from his mouth.

 

"You're all right, Father?" Ciri asked, the lie now rolling out her tongue easily after months of travelling together. Even though she doubted anyone could hear them, she and Jaskier agreed that they could never let anything slip. It was just too dangerous, with Nilfgaardians stomping around everywhere they went like they owned the whole world.

 

Jaskier hacked out one last round of coughing that expelled another flower before his coughing subsided. He took a deep breath then, and swallowed heavily as he dabbed his mouth with the handkerchief. Ciri pretended not to see the splatter of crimson that tainted the fabric when Jaskier swiftly pocketed it. "I'm fine, sweet child," he said with a weak smile that no longer reached his blue eyes like she remembered they used to.

 

"Are you sure?" Ciri asked again. She'd read all about the Flower Sickness in her youth, thinking that it was the most romantic thing in the world to die from love. But now, seeing every day for the past few months how Jaskier suffered from the garden in his lungs caused by unrequited love, Ciri knew better. She’d done the maths, and tried to recall everything she'd ever read about Flower Sickness, and she feared that Jaskier wouldn't have much time.

 

And she wasn’t ready to lose him. Not yet, not ever, not when she’d just found him.

 

Unfortunately, the man who'd become the father she never had, and had taken care of her and looked after her and loved her when the whole Continent would rather see her dead, had no self-preservation. Giving her a wink, he turned to his audience, who had been watching his interaction with Ciri, and he gave them all what Ciri now knew as his most charming smile. "Sorry, everyone. Hit that note a bit wrong. Let's finish this, shall we?"

 

The crowd gave a hesitant murmur, but they quickly let it slide when Jaskier started strumming the last few notes of the song.

 

"Watch me burn all the memories of you..."

 

Everyone cheered, and Jaskier's hat that he passed to Ciri's hands was filled to the brim with coins.

 

But those cornflower blue eyes of her pretend-father stayed empty, as it had been since the day they found each other two weeks after the fall of Cintra.


"Whoa! Hey, easy there, lo– princess?"

 

"Master Dandelion? Oh, thank Melitele, I finally found you!"

 

"Sshh... Lower your voice, all right? And follow me, if you will. We're going to find some place safe."

 

"Grandmother said we should find Geralt of Rivi– Master Dandelion? Are you...are you okay?"


Ciri had never taken care of anyone before. Hell, before Cintra was attacked and her world literally went up in flames, she could barely take care of herself. Even though Calanthe always gave her a series of rules on what princesses should or shouldn’t do, unfortunately it didn’t mean Ciri was taught how to not rely on her many servants. Thus, it was quite a surprise for her that she readily took care of Jaskier when he had his coughing fits, bringing him food and that foul-smelling medicine they'd bought from a frankly suspicious witch who said that the medicine could at least soothe Jaskier's sore throat from all the coughing he did. Luckily for both of them, Jaskier's coughing hadn’t worsened much. In fact, compared to other cases of Flower Sickness that Ciri ever read about, it was miraculous how he managed to hold on for almost a year. The only explanation Jaskier could offer was that he'd been too focused in looking after Ciri, it was enough to take his mind off anything that would remind him of his unrequited love, and therefore keeping the growth of the flowers in his lungs at bay. Ciri didn't know anything that could counter Jaskier's theory, so she just hoped that that was true.

 

"Morning, daughter mine," Jaskier greeted her when she came down to the inn's tavern to have some breakfast. Ciri frowned when she noticed the bags under Jaskier's eyes, and the bottle of wine he was holding daintily in his right hand.

 

"Did you even sleep?" Ciri said instead of returning his greeting. She already knew the answer though. They'd been travelling together for almost a year, so she knew well enough whenever Jaskier had spent the whole night drinking. But if she were to be honest, since they found each other, she rarely saw him without a bottle of wine within his reach.

 

"I fell asleep, I think? For a couple hours. I just woke up, actually," Jaskier answered a little sheepishly.

 

"Father," Ciri sighed in exasperation. She tried to take the bottle from Jaskier's hand, but somehow, albeit drunk, he could always dodge her a little too fast for her liking. "I thought we talked about this. You're no longer allowed to drink alone. Remember what happened the last time you did."

 

"Pfft..." Jaskier huffed as he took a swig from the bottle, as if challenging her. "It was nothing. I only tripped a little."

 

"Tripped a little?" Ciri said, her voice rising. "You fell down the stairs and landed face first on the ground. Melitele's sake, you nearly broke your neck! Come on, give me that bottle."

 

"Nu-uh!" Jaskier said in a sing-song tone, once again moving too fast for Ciri when he lifted the bottle way over his head, only swaying a little from all the drinking. It frustrated Ciri. For a mere bard, Jaskier was taller and even sturdier than he looked, especially if they took the fact that he was growing a garden in his lungs into consideration.

 

"Don't think I won't climb you to get that bottle, Father," Ciri threatened, scowling.

 

Jaskier narrowed his eyes at her in return. "You wouldn't dare."

 

Ciri nodded, smirking. "Oh, trust me, I will do it. Consider that your one and only warning."

 

"Keep your paws off me, you stubborn brat– Fiona!"

 

"Well, well. So, you do have a bastard running around, after all."

 

It was quite telling how often Ciri had literally climbed Jaskier to grab a bottle of wine from his hold from the way she jumped off the man at the arrival of the intruder, as if he suddenly had burst into flames, and managed to land safely back on the ground. But it did catch Ciri a little bit off guard when Jaskier took a step forward and push her behind him, pulling himself into his full height against the...stunning woman with violet-eyes who had announced her sudden presence in the room with them. The woman didn’t look to be much older than Ciri, but there was something in the way she carried herself when she came closer toward them, that told Ciri this woman could be older than even Jaskier—whom she always thought to look deceptively youthful for a man in his early forties. Ciri had never met this woman before, but she knew enough from Jaskier's stories of his past travels with the White Wolf to be able to identify who the woman was.

 

Yennefer of Vengerberg.

 

"Bard," the woman said curtly, her tone devoid of emotion.

 

"Witch," Jaskier said in return, his whole posture tense. "What are you doing here? And what fresh hell did you just crawl out of?"

 

"Sewer," Yennefer replied. "What's your excuse?" The woman was closer now, and Ciri had to admit, she did smell rather awful.

 

"Sewer!" Jaskier said, this time his tone was taunting, even as he carefully took a step backward from Yennefer. "I always knew you're a blood-sucking, joyless—"

 

And then she hugged him.

 

"Hugger," Jaskier ended lamely. "Hugging. We are hugging?" He turned toward Ciri in confusion, but she was just as confused as he was so she only shrugged at him.

 

"Oh, Gods," Yennefer said, sounding almost choked with emotions when she finally let go of Jaskier. "I miss the days when my biggest problem was an ever-present, sing-songy twit."

 

The tension didn’t entirely leave Jaskier’s body, he did seem to relax slightly when he shrugged Yennefer’s hands off him. "Uh, drink? I'm gonna drink—"

 

"NO!" Ciri instantly yelled, attracting both adults' attention to her. "Gods, you've had enough already."

 

"Fiona!" Jaskier whined immaturely. "You can't tell me what to do. I'm your father."

 

"Doesn't mean I can't stop you from drinking yourself to death," Ciri snapped.

 

Jaskier glared at her then, but if he thought that would scare Ciri, he was sorely mistaken. Ciri had years of practise facing down Queen Calanthe's legendary glare that could make all of Cintra’s mightiest knights cower. Plus, there was also the fact that despite the year they travelled together, Ciri and Jaskier had this argument countless times before.

 

"I think you should listen to your daughter, Jaskier," Yennefer said in a measured tone before Jaskier and Ciri could start yelling again. "No offense, but you don't look so good. You look like you're going to keel over at any moment now."

 

"Oh, fuck off," Jaskier spat at her. But he did not grab another bottle, save for the one he shoved quite roughly toward Yennefer before he threw himself to the stool nearest to him.

 

It didn't take Ciri long to notice the way he tried to hide his trembling hands into the pocket of his coat, and it immediately made Ciri guilty for yelling at him. Timidly, she approached him, and poke him twice on his arm. Jaskier let out heavy sigh, but patted the stool next to him. Ciri let out the breath she didn't realise she was holding as she sat down beside him. She and Jaskier never fought, unless when it came to his drinking. Not even during the first week of travelling together. Ciri couldn't bear it when Jaskier, the only person she had left in the world, was mad at her. So, every time they fought, she always made sure to apologise to Jaskier. Be it verbally or through small gestures like the one she just did. She breathed even more easily when Jaskier pulled her stool closer so he could wrap an arm around her. It made her feel safe; being in Jaskier's arms made her feel safe.

 

“Yennefer, meet my daughter, Fiona,” Jaskier said. “Darling, meet my worst enemy, greatest sorceress in the whole Continent, Yennefer of Vengerberg.”

 

“Hello,” Ciri greeted, waving her hand shyly. Despite Jaskier’s claims, he always told Ciri good things about Yennefer. So, meeting the woman was like meeting some kind of legend for Ciri.

 

Ciri never said anything but she realised that Jaskier almost said nothing about his Witcher ‘friend’.

 

“You have a lovely daughter, bard,” Yennefer said softly, taking the seat across Jaskier. “You’re lucky she didn't take after you.” She gave Ciri a small smile, and there was a longing look in those violet eyes of hers.

 

“She is,” Jaskier said as he squeezed Ciri’s arm gently, looking at her with so much pride, it made her flush red a little. “She is the single greatest, brightest thing I have in my life. Without her, I don’t think I’ll be here right now.”

 

Father,” Ciri whispered reverantly, burrowing her face into his chest when he pulled her into a hug. Gods, she really didn’t want to imagine a life without this man by her side.

 

When they pulled apart, Ciri found Yennefer had been watching them with an unreadable look in her eyes. It was a while before she finally spoke. “I heard the song,” Yennefer said carefully to Jaskier. “And I uh, I saw what happened at the end of your song.”

 

Jaskier tensed once again, his jaw clenched. “Hm… And what did you think you see?”

 

Yennefer didn’t immediately answer, watching Jaskier closely. They had quite the staring match before Yennefer backed down, sighing heavily. “Geralt must have left quite a sour— fucking hell!”

 

Jaskier had doubled over again, the coughing fit that hit him now much worse than it ever did before. Ciri automatically thumped on his back, knowing that the flowers were probably clogging his windpipe. It went on for what felt like hours, even though Ciri realised it was probably more like a couple minutes. By the time Jaskier had gotten out the flowers from his throat, blood had covered his chin and the hand that he used to cup his mouth and catch the flowers. Cursing under her breath, Ciri pulled out the handkerchief from last night from his pocket, and used it to wipe the blood from his face and hand, before digging into Jaskier's other pocket for his medicine. She was so focused in helping the man that she barely realised it when Yennefer came to kneel in front of them.

 

Oh, Jaskier,” Yennefer breathed, a sad look in her eyes as she brushed Jaskier’s hair back almost lovingly. “Geralt really did—”

 

Don’t,” Ciri immediately said, cutting her off. “Don’t say his name. Please. He worsens so much faster whenever he is mentioned.”

 

Yennefer frowned, pulling back a little as if by doing so she could look at Jaskier a little better. The man himself still kept his head lowered, for some reasons avoiding to look at Yennefer. “Jaskier, how long have you had this?” the sorceress asked gently, despite her stern tone.

 

Jaskier leaned back a little on his seat, peering at Yennefer through his hair as he shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t think it’s been that lo—”

 

“He’s lying,” Ciri said quickly. “He’s been coughing flowers for almost a year, at least.”

 

Almost a year?” Yennefer exclaimed. At the same time, Jaskier threw Ciri a scowl and said, “Traitor.”

 

Ciri ignored him and focused on Yennefer. “Why? Isn’t that…good? I mean, I know that no one ever survived past five months, but maybe…maybe my father’s different?”

 

“But that would mean he’s been suffering for so long, Fiona,” Yennefer explained quietly. “And that he probably would suffer for a lot longer before he would finally just…give up.”

 

Ciri felt something inside her stirred at Yennefer’s words, the same way it did on the night Cintra fell and that Nilfgaardian knight tried to kidnap her. It was like she had a small storm inside her, a storm that tried to get out of her and wreck havoc—bring chaos—to her surrounding. Before anything could happen though, Jaskier had pulled her into a hug, lifting her into his lap as if she was only three years old instead of thirteen.

 

“Sshh, I’m here,” Jaskier said, pressing a kiss to her hair. “I'm here, and I’m not going anywhere, darling girl. I’m not. I promise I won’t leave you.”

 

“We have to find him then,” Ciri whispered, grateful that while Jaskier had gone tense again, she hadn’t set him off into another coughing fit. “We have to find him, and get him to tell you he loves you.”

 

Jaskier swallowed heavily as he gave Ciri a sad smile. “Oh, dear heart. I’m afraid it doesn’t work like that. I can’t force him to love me.”

 

“Then Yennefer will help us,” Ciri said, turning to the sorceress. “Please? I’m sure you know something to help my father.”

 

Yennefer flinched, as if what Ciri said had caused her pain. She looked to Jaskier, who had an unreadable look on his face, before turning back to Ciri. But before she could say anything to answer Ciri’s plea, a tall, thin, familiar man had come into the bar. It was that Nilfgaardian knight. Jaskier jumped up and shoved Ciri behind him again, using his body to shield her from the Nilfgaardian’s view. At the same time, Ciri hastily pulled the hood of her robe over her head and low enough to cover her face, the whole time praying to Melitele that the Nilfgaardian hadn’t caught her face. She might have dyed her hair the same colour as Jaskier’s and cut it into nape-length, and all the travelling she did with Jaskier for the past few months had tanned her skin slightly. But she thought she still looked like herself if anyone looked close enough. And that Nilfgaardian had looked at her very closely before.

 

“Stand back! Stand back!” Jaskier said, waving Yennefer’s bottle of wine in a threatening manner.

 

“He’s with me!” Yennefer said quickly, placing herself between Jaskier and the Nilfgaardian.

 

“Yennefer, you do know who that is, right,” Jaskier drawled. “He’s a stinking, malicious, no-good Nilfga—”

 

“I know. But it’s okay. I saved his life. So he owes me,” Yennefer said. “And I promise you, he won’t harm you or your princess, if you help us get to Cintra, Sandpiper.”

 

Jaskier inhaled sharply, and Ciri knew that he was just as terrified as she was that with Yennefer knowing who Ciri really was, she could use it as leverage to get Jaskier to do whatever she wanted. It made Ciri feel betrayed, because she thought she could trust her; trust Yennefer. But it turned out that her grandmother was right. There were only two people left in the world she could trust, now that she’d lost her her Cintran family. One of them she'd spent the past few months travelling together, the other she wasn't sure she'd like to meet after what she knew he'd done to the only person she had left in the world.

 

“How do you know that name?” Jaskier asked Yennefer coolly.

 

Ciri saw the sorceress shrugged nonchalantly, but she caught the guilt that flashed in her eyes, and it made Ciri breathe a little easier. Perhaps, Yennefer really wasn’t that bad.

 

“You pick up a thing or two when you’re in hiding,” the sorceress said. “I suppose you’d know better than anyone. We both know that you’ve been hiding from him after all, Jaskier.”

 

Jaskier scoffed, and without looking, Ciri could tell he had a scowl on his face.

 

“As you can see, I have a daughter now, witch. I don’t do that anymore,” Jaskier said. “While I do think it’s disgusting what they’ve done to the Elves, I need to put my daughter first. Always.”

 

“Surely you can leave your thirteen years old daughter for a couple hours,” Yennefer said. “After all, I can tell that she held pretty well alone before she found you.”

 

“Ugh, fine,” Jaskier spat. “I’ll do what I can. We leave Oxenfurt at nightfall, and don’t be late. Or the deal’s off. Now, get the fuck out of my sight.”

 

“Father—”

 

Jaskier squeezed Ciri’s hand warningly, and she promptly snapped her mouth shut. From under her hood, she saw that even Yennefer had shaken her head swiftly to the side.

 

“I guess we’ll see you tonight, then,” Yennefer said. Giving a curt nod at the Nilfgaardian, she marched out of the bar with the Nilfgaardian following behind her.

 

Jaskier waited until the both of them had left before he collapsed onto the ground without warning, nearly dragging Ciri down with him. He was shaking so hard as he struggled to breathe, and he had gone so much paler he looked almost translucent.

 

“Father, are you sure about this?” Ciri asked, her tone barely audible. “Yennefer may be trustworthy, but the same can’t be said about the Nilfgaardian. He tried to kidnap me, remember?”

 

“It’s the only way to get him as far away from you though,” Jaskier said. “We have no choice.”

 

Ciri knew he was going to say that. Which was why she made her decision. “I’m coming with you then.”

 

“Oh, no, no, no. That’s not going to happen, darling,” Jaskier said in a stern voice that Ciri had never heard before. It reminded her of the very few times Eist was upset with her. “You’re staying here, alright? I’ll just be gone for a few hours.”

 

“But—”

 

Fiona. Please.”

 

Ciri clenched her jaw, every fibre of her being wanted to say no. But one look at Jaskier’s big blue eyes, so stupidly heartbreaking as they looked at her imploringly, she finally relented.

 

“Alright,” Ciri huffed out, earning a grateful smile from the man. “But you better come back here before I wake up in the morning. Or I’ll go after you to Cintra myself. Promise?”

 

“Of course,” Jaskier said, ruffling her hair affectionately. Ciri tried to pout at him, but she really couldn’t stay mad at him for too long.

 

Besides, if Jaskier could survive travelling for two decades with a Witcher, Ciri was sure he could survive anything.


I know you have the Flower Sickness. And it’s because of him. The White Wolf.”

 

“Hm. You’re a smart one, aren’t you. I guess there’s no point of denying it.”

 

“You did have a coughing fit the first time we met, just because I mentioned his name.”

 

“Then, you’ll understand if I don’t want to talk about him.”

 

“But you’ll take me to him?”

 

“If we can find him, yes.”

 

“Why? I have no doubt that seeing him would make the Sickness so much worse. Why would you do that for me?”

 

“Because unlike me, you’re important to him. You’re his destiny as much as he’s yours. I can’t get in the way of that.”

 

“Alright, then. I guess we’ll just wait until he finds us. I don’t think we should be travelling, not with your Sickness.”

 

“Princess—”

 

You found me, even though we’re not bound by Destiny. And you stayed with me, even if it’s not your responsible to do so. I owe you my life, Jaskier. So, I’m not going to risk losing you for anyone, not even for Destiny.”

 

From that day on, Ciri became known as Fiona, daughter of the renowned bard Jaskier.


It was nearing lunch time, and Jaskier still hadn't come back from sneaking Yennefer and the Nilfgaardian out of Oxenfurt. And when Ciri decided that she'd look for him, after spending the whole morning worrying about him, she found Yennefer standing awkwardly back at the inn.

 

"What are you doing here?" Ciri said tensely, throwing a quick look around for the Nilfgaardian. "I thought you'd be miles away from here already."

 

Instead of answering, Yennefer asked, "Did your father come home, Fiona?"

 

Alarm bells rang in Ciri's mind, but she tried her best to keep calm. "Why do you care whether he got home or not?"

 

"Fiona," Yennefer said, sounding desperate now. "Did he come home or not? I need to know, because if he didn't, then I'm afraid someone has captured him."

 

Ciri thought her heart had stopped right then and there. If Yennefer was telling the truth, then that would mean Jaskier was in danger. Ciri had known that because of his reputation as 'the White Wolf's bard', the number of people who were after him was almost as many as those who wanted to find Ciri and the famous Witcher. It was part of the reason why Jaskier had hesitated at first about taking Ciri along with him when they first met, before he changed his mind for some reason he refused to tell her. Ciri herself had told Jaskier many times that she would understand if he changed his mind. But that just seemed to further cement his decision that he would be with her until they found Geralt, or until Geralt found them. Now, the selfless bastard had gotten himself captured. And considering that it had probably been hours since he was captured, he could be anywhere—and he could have gone through so much pain already. Ciri feared for the worst. Even if he hadn't been sick, Ciri didn't think he could take the torture easily.

 

Ciri had to find him. She had to save him.

 

And she would kill the fucking arsehole who had taken Jaskier from her.

 

"He's the only person I have left," Ciri finally said to Yennefer, and she was grateful that her soft tone didn't betray the anger she felt. "Will you help me find him, Yen?"

 

The sorceress' breath hitched at the nickname, but she nodded in the affirmative. "Of course. I owe you two that much. But we'll have to go now, before—"

 

A loud bang was heard, coming all the way from the docks. Whatever it was that had caused that sound, it was strong enough to cause the ground to shudder, as if there was an explosion. It made everyone panic, and from inside the bar, Ciri saw how everyone was screaming and running around. Sharing a quick look with Yennefer, they wordlessly agreed that they would have to go now before everyone had become too hysterical in their panic that soldiers would be sent out to sort them out. They held hands as they ran together through the mass of people, maneuvering swiftly every time they saw the telltale uniform of Oxenfurt soldiers. Ciri didn't think they'd gone far enough when she heard it. Jaskier's voice. In her head.

 

Cirilla? Jaskier said. Cirilla, where are you?

 

"Where are you?" Ciri asked in return, out loud.

 

"Excuse me?" Yennefer said, but Ciri ignored her and focused back on trying to hear Jaskier's voice in her head. But he sounded faint, and weak, and in pain.

 

"Jaskier, where are you?" Ciri asked again, stopping abruptly that Yennefer almost ran into her. "I'm with Yennefer right now. We're not far from the bar."

 

"Are you talking to Jaskier in your head?" Yennefer asked. Again, Ciri ignored her, because now she could hear Jaskier.

 

I'll come find you. Just stay wherever you are.

 

"Find us? What do you—"

 

A thunderous clap was heard as Ciri became blinded by a bright light. For a moment, she thought she'd stepped on a bomb that triggered another explosion. But when the light subsided, she found Jaskier's crumpled form by her feet, smelling strongly of smoke despite the fact that he was soaked to the bones. Immediately, Ciri dropped to her knees and gently pulled him into her arms, barely flinching when she felt how hot his skin was.

 

"Jaskier?" Ciri said tentatively, gently patting his face to wake him up. "Jaskier, can you hear me?"

 

It felt like hours before those bright, cornflower blue of his eyes opened up and found her emerald ones, even though in reality Ciri knew it was just seconds. The relief that crashed down on her upon seeing Jaskier's eyes caused her to let out a sob as she flung herself to hug him. She was grateful when she felt his arms, although weak and unsteady, wrapped her around firmly, grounding her.

 

"I'm here, darling girl," Jaskier whispered, pressing a quick kiss to her hair. "I'm sorry I was late. I'm sorry I made you worry."

 

"Where were you?" Ciri asked, pulling back slightly to look up at him. She didn’t like how pale he looked. "And what the hell happened to you?"

 

"I'll explain everything but we have to get away from here first, alright?" Jaskier said. He didn't wait for her answer, already pulling her along with him onto their feet, despite the fact that he was still swaying and trembling. Turning to Yennefer, he was about to say something, probably thanked her for looking after Ciri, when a ball of fire missed his head only by a few inches.

 

"Bard!" a man, a mage, yelled furiously. "I'm not done with you yet, you fucking half-breed!"

 

The man was thin and had long greasy, hair, and there a vicious snarl on his face as he approached them, setting everything around him on fire with every step he took. The closer he was, Ciri noticed that like Jaskier, he was soaked to the bones.

 

"Shit," Yennefer cursed under her breath as she pulled both Jaskier and Ciri closer to her in a protective manner. Ciri saw her taking a quick look at Jaskier. "Is that him? Is he the one who took you?" Yennefer asked urgently.

 

Jaskier didn't answer her though. More like he couldn't, not when the mage threw another fireball at him. Only this time, the fireball was bigger, and because they were standing so close to each other, Ciri had no doubt that it would hit her and Yennefer too. The sorceress let out another curse as she immediately curled around Ciri, and Ciri briefly wondered why Yennefer hadn't used magic to swat away the fireball. But before she could even say it, before she could even close her eyes in reflex to the impending doom literally coming her way, Jaskier jumped in front of them both, thrusting his fist forward, and sent an even bigger block of ice toward the fireball, effectively putting it out.

 

"What the..." Yennefer breathed out, and Ciri knew that she had the same look of utmost bewilderment as they stared at Jaskier.

 

Jaskier, the most famous bard in the whole Continent, renowned alumni and professor of Oxenfurt, had just created ice out of thin air to fight off a mage.

 

Jaskier, who was known as the White Wolf's barker, who often had to ask for said Witcher's protection from angry fathers and brothers and husbands, including the night when he was asked to play in Cintra for the first time all those years ago, was using magic to fend off a mage's relentless attacks.

 

Jaskier, the man who had taken care of Ciri for the past year, and loved her as if he really was her father, was now opening a portal behind them.

 

"Go!" Jaskier yelled, keeping one palm opened to hold the portal while the other was busy holding up a magical shield against the mage's fireballs. He had gotten even paler than before, and Ciri could see blood was rolling down from one nostril.

 

"I'm not leaving you!" Ciri said, determined. "I'm not going anywhere without you!"

 

"I'll come after you, I promise," he said, grunting a little when a particularly nasty fireball hit his shield of ice. "I just have fight this bastard off a little longer so you and Yennefer can leave."

 

"Me?" Yennefer asked incredulously. "You want me to come—"

 

"Yen, take her now! Please!" Jaskier yelled again. This time his voice sounded louder, and it echoed in an almost inhuman way. It was enough to shut Yennefer up.

 

"See you on the other side, bard," she simply said then, as she dragged Ciri across the portal.

 

Ciri tried to fight the sorceress off, but Yennefer was a lot stronger than she looked. In no time, Ciri’s feet landed on a soft landing that she later identified as sand when she realised she’d crossed the portal, and it took everything in her power to not puke her guts out from the famous, nauseating sensation she often heard about portaling. She didn't have the time for that, not when she still heard Yennefer calling for Jaskier to cross the portal quickly. Spinning around, Ciri saw Jaskier sending one last block of ice toward the fire mage before he ran toward the portal. Ciri was just about to breathe in relief when Jaskier had stepped through the closing portal, leaving Oxenfurt and the mage behind him, when the man suddenly coughed blood and flowers before dropping on the ground.

 

"Jaskier!" Ciri screamed, rushing to his side. Like before, she pulled him onto her lap, patting his face gently to wake him up. But this time, there was no response.

 

Jaskier just laid there, unresponsive to her pleas for him to please wake up.


"Jaskier? There's something I want to tell you."

 

"Okay? I'm all ears. What's wrong, princess?"

 

"I think... I think I have magic. It wasn't... I didn't know I had it, at first. But then Grandmother got hurt, and she tried sending me away, and I screamed a-and I broke a glass. And there was the Nilfgaardian knight who tried to t-take me, and... Jaskier, I think that's the real reason Nilfgaard wants m-me. I’m the r-reason they attacked Cintra."

 

"Firstly, thank you for telling me about it, Ciri. I promise I will keep this a secret, if that’s what you want. And I know what you really mean. I don't care that you have magic. It doesn't change who you are, because it's always been a part of you. And you, my dear, is Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon, the Lion Cub of Cintra—my number one fan, the one and only lady I hold dear in my life, my darling girl. Secondly, I want you to listen to me very closely and never forget this; you are not to blame for the fall of Cintra. It’s not your fault, and it's never been, and it never will be. A lot of people will tell you otherwise, but don’t listen to them. Do you understand me, Ciri?"

 

There was a beat, then, "Yes, Jaskier. I understand.”

 

“Good. And I want you to believe that, always, especially when I’m not there to tell you this.”

 

“You know, I thank the Gods every day for bringing me to you. For...for being the father I've never had."

 

"Oh, Cirilla, thank you. Thank you for giving me the honour of becoming your father. I promise, I will always be there for you until the day you no longer need me."

 

"Then you're stuck with me forever, because I will always need my father."


Jaskier's portal had sent them to a beach where she could see a small and old, but rather charming-looking cottage not far from where they landed. It didn't take her long to realise this must have been Jaskier's home. The place he visited whenever he wasn't travelling the Continent. Turning to the sorceress beside her, she said, "Yennefer, I think that's Jaskier's home. Do you think he has anything that can help him?"

 

"I'll go look inside," Yennefer said with a nod before she ran into the cottage.

 

Left with only her unconscious pretend-father, Ciri cupped his face gently as she curled protectively over him, leaning her forehead against his. "Please, don't leave me, Jaskier. Please stay. Stay with me, Father. I still need you with me. I will always need you," she whispered, powerless to stop her tears from falling no matter how hard she tried.

 

It seemed that Jaskier had heard her, because those cornflower eyes of his opened, zeroing on Ciri's emerald ones in an instant. "Ciri," Jaskier panted. "You’re…okay? S-safe...?"

 

"Yes, yes," Ciri said quickly. "I’m okay, Father. I’m safe. We're... I think we're at your home? And Yennefer's trying to find something to help us. To help you."

 

Jaskier hummed, and when his eyes closed, Ciri's heart quickened in panic, thinking that was it. That she'd finally lost him. But then Jaskier opened his eyes again and said, "Xenovox... Call for h-help..."

 

As if Yennefer had heard what Jaskier was saying, she ran out of the cottage holding an object Ciri recognised as a xenovox from her studies with Moussesack. She fell to her knees beside Ciri, nearly toppling on top Jaskier in her hurry.

 

"I found a xenovox!" Yennefer announced, panting a little. "And I've reached out to Triss, told her what happened. She's at Kaer Mohren, Eskel brought her there. She's agreed she'll come to help us. She just has to prepare some things to bring with her, but she should be here soon."

 

"That's great!" Ciri exclaimed, a rush of relief ran through. She pulled Yennefer into her arms excitedly, surprising the sorceress with her hug, from the way she tensed up. Ciri decided to ignore that and squeezed her arm. "Oh, thank you, Yen. Thank you for saving my father. I owe you."

 

"Don't mention it, child," Yennefer said in a gentle voice, even as she awkwardly returned Ciri’s hug. "Besides, I owe it to you two. This is the least I—"

 

A faint, crackling sound was heard, and a portal was opened just a few feet away from them. A woman with curly red hair stepped out of the portal, hurrying toward where Ciri and Yennefer were knelt by Jaskier's side without hesitation. She remembered from Jaskier's stories that this was Triss Merigold. As the sorceress started to bombard Yennefer with questions while she ran a gentle hand over Jaskier's chest, Ciri noticed that the portal was still opened, even though Triss had stepped through. But she didn't mind it much, focusing instead on what the two sorceresses were discussing about Jaskier.

 

"...think he was tortured? I don't know. He also has the Flower Sickness, for almost a year, from what I gathered. And he, uh… I don't think he's human?" Yennefer said, eyeing Jaskier closely, before she added, "At least, not entirely."

 

Triss nodded and looked down at Jaskier, who seemed to struggle to stay awake. "I'm sorry for being blunt, Jaskier, but I need to ask; are you half-elf?"

 

Jaskier hadn't had the chance to answer because another person had stepped through the portal before it finally closed.

 

And even without looking, Ciri knew instantly who this person was.

 

"Jaskier?" Geralt of Rivia said, his low voice timid and almost inaudible in a way Ciri somehow knew it never did. But Jaskier, despite the fact that he was barely conscious, heard it anyway.

 

Geralt,” the bard breathed reverently. There was such a look in his eyes, a look so full of love and adoration, that it made Ciri go Oh.

 

Geralt dropped onto his knees on Ciri’s other side, reaching a tentative hand toward Jaskier’s face, and Ciri watched how Jaskier leaned on the Witcher’s hand. He hummed gently when that big, scarred hand touched his face, a serene look on his face. It hadn’t been for long, barely a second, Ciri was convinced. But the effect was instaneous. One moment Jaskier looked as if he was lulled to sleep just by Geralt’s touch alone, the next thing everyone knew he had lurched into a sitting position, coughing forget-me-nots and blood all over his lap.

 

“What’s wrong with him?” Geralt asked, his yellow eyes wide and alarmed as he looked at Jaskier. “Triss? Yennefer?”

 

The two sorceresses shared a look with each other, a wordless conversation between them while Jaskier kept on coughing and hacking. And that snapped something in Ciri. Geralt, the fucking fool, dared to ask what was wrong with Jaskier, as if he hadn’t seen the flowers? As if he didn’t know anything about the Flower Sickness, like almost everyone in the Continent did? He asked about Jaskier, looking so worried and distraught, when it was obvious that those forget-me-nots were for him?

 

Is this the man you love, Father?

 

Is he worth it?

 

This man, for whom you grow a garden of forget-me-nots in your lungs?

 

This man, who pushed you away so callously, and caused you so much pain?

 

Yes, he is, daughter mine.

 

He is worth it, for he is the one I have waited for two millennia.

 

He is worth it, just as you are.

 

I hate him. I hate him for what he’s done to you.

 

I want him GONE!

  

Don’t say that. For you are more his daughter than you are mine.

 

You are his Child Surprise, after all. You two are bound by Destiny.

 

Then I don’t want it. Destiny can go fuck Herself for all I care.

 

“…do to help? If you won’t tell me what’s wrong with him, tell me what to do to help him,” Geralt said, his voice breaking through the mental conversation Ciri was having with Jaskier.

 

“You can help us carry him—”

 

Leave,” Ciri said coolly, cutting Triss off. Geralt turned to her in surprise, as if he just realised she was there. Ciri just stared right back at him. “Leave him– leave us, and never come back. We don’t need you, Geralt of Rivia.”

 

“Ciri—”

 

GO!” Ciri screamed, and just like that night all those months ago when Cintra fell, a wave of power followed after her scream, sending the Witcher and the sorceresses flying back.

 

Geralt was only going to hurt Jaskier again, so he should go. And if Yennefer and Triss couldn’t see that, well. They just have to go as well. Because Ciri wouldn’t ever let anyone hurt Jaskier again. She wouldn’t another person she cared about be taken from her again. She would protect Jaskier, like she should have protected her Grandmother, Eist, Moussesack—

 

My, my… So much sorrow in you, dear child. So much pain, and agony for someone so young... What if I tell you I can take it all away?

 

Ciri’s rage faltered, too taken aback by the voice in her head that was not Jaskier’s. But before she could even think of answering that voice, Jaskier had risen to his feet, as if he wasn’t on the brink of death just a minute ago. He stood tall, taller than Ciri knew him to be, with power rolling off him in waves, as if he had lightning bottled up inside him. No, not lightning. A blizzard. And not only Jaskier seemed to be taller, but his skin was also lighter, so much that he was glowing. He took a step forward, and that was when Ciri realised that he had his whole attention on Yennefer, who was already standing facing him, her violet eyes flashing maliciously.

 

“You will not touch her, Voleth Meir,” Jaskier said calmly, but his voice echoed in that same way it did back in Oxenfurt, infused with what Ciri now knew was his power. “You will not touch anyone under my protection.”

 

“The Winter Queen’s bastard,” Yennefer—Voleth Meir—hissed with a tilt of her head, looking pleasantly surprised. “Where have you been hiding for the past two thousand years, Unseelie? Such long lives you’ve endured, so much hardships you’ve suffered from, and yet you’ve never woken me up. Fascinating.”

 

“I have been around for far longer than you do,” Jaskier replied flippantly. “What you consider as pain is nothing to me. You know us Winter faes thrive under pressure. How else would my mother manage to keep reigning all these millennia? And, unlike you and every other Chaos-inclined beings, our powers are limitless.”

 

“Aren’t you cocky,” Voleth Meir said, but if she was angered by Jaskier’s remarks, she hid it really well. “If you think you’re so powerful, then you won’t mind sharing that bit of power with me.”

 

“As a matter of fact, I do,” Jaskier said. “So, instead of agreeing to whatever dastardly plans you have, I’m going to send you home. Which is what you want, isn’t it?”

 

“It used to be,” the demon in Yennefer’s body smirked, and it was so unsettling to see it on Yennefer’s beautiful face, making her look inhuman. “It used to be all I wanted after spending centuries in my prison. But then I realised that there’s more to your princess than I originally thought. I want her now. Besides, haven’t you heard? The Wild Hunt is about to begin, and dearest Cirilla is the prize.”

 

“And like I said before, you cannot have her. You’d have to go over my dead body.”

 

“Very well, that can be arranged.”

 

“Jaskier—”

 

Geralt barely had enough time to jump in front of Ciri and shield her with his body from harm when Jaskier parried the dark clouds of Voleth Meir’s power headed for him with a bright, white lightning of his own power. The loud bang created from their powers clashing was almost defeaning to hear, the force of it nearly sending Ciri and Geralt flying if it weren’t for the shield Triss erected in front of them. A pained, frustrated scream left Voleth Meir when Jaskier’s spell hit her, and it made her even more ferocious in her next attack. It was at that moment Ciri noticed, even though Jaskier didn’t show it, the Flower Sickness had drained his power and energy so much, she knew that he couldn’t keep fighting Voleth Meir for too long. Not after the fight he’d just had with the fire mage. And Ciri didn’t want to find out what would happen if Jaskier lost—to him, to Yennefer, to herself.

 

What can I do to help, Jask? Ciri asked through their mental link. How can I help, Father?

 

You’ll know it soon enough, darling girl. I can hold her off a litte longer.

 

“Triss, take Ciri with you!” Geralt yelled, pushing her toward Triss, who was opening a portal. “Take her back to Kaer Mohren, and then send everyone here. I will stay here with Jaskier and Yennefer.”

 

“No, I’m not going!” Ciri insisted. “I can help Jaskier. I’m the only one who can help him.”

 

“Ciri, come on,” the Witcher said, almost pleadingly. “It’s too dangerous. I can’t—”

 

It’s your time to shine, Cirilla. And don’t hold back.

 

Like before, Jaskier shot a blast of his power at Voleth Meir. But this time, he was much too fast for the the demon, and when the snow-like Chaos hit Voleth Meir, the demon was forced out of Yennefer’s body—and that was Ciri’s moment. Raising both of her hands and citing the spell that Jaskier told her through their link, she opened a portal that would send Voleth Meir back to whatever Hell she’d come from. Ciri briefly realised she was yelling at Yennefer to get the fuck away! And when she saw the sorceress had run to Jaskier’s side, and that the demon had passed through her portal, she immediately closed it. It was her first time using magic, and she just sent a demon back to where it came from.

 

I did it…” Ciri whispered, staring at where the portal just closed. A sense of childish giddiness filled her, and it made her let out a giggle as she gleefully turned to Jaskier. “Father, I did it! I sent her away! Did you see—”

 

She barely had enough time to stop Jaskier from falling face first onto the ground, wrapping her arms hastily around him so she could take his weight. Jaskier was still a full-grown man though, despite the weight-loss he suffered from the Flower Sickness, and his weight was still a little too much for Ciri to carry. When Geralt easily lifted Jaskier into his arms, carrying him in a bridal-carry, Ciri was both grateful and upset. Grateful, because she didn’t think she could hold Jaskier up for too long. Upset, because she really didn’t want Geralt touching Jaskier. But she knew, if she wanted Jaskier to be okay, she would have to let Geralt help her.

 

“Take us back to Kaer Mohren, Triss,” Geralt said in a gravelly voice, his eyes never leaving Jaskier.

 

Triss obliged wordlessly and opened a portal. She stepped through first, already yelling at whoever on the other side to prepare potions and spell-books. Behind her, Yennefer followed, but not before she threw a look at Geralt. It was only after the Witcher nodded that the violet-eyed sorceress went into the portal, so Ciri guessed that that look was one of asking permission. Ciri knew it would be her turn next, judging from the way Geralt gently nudge her shoulder. She hesitated though, unwilling to be separated from Jaskier again. The first and only time they’d been separated since they found each other, Jaskier had been taken from her by some insane sorcerer. What could guarantee her that the moment she stepped through the portal, Geralt wouldn’t take Jaskier away from her again? True, he did seem to care about Jaskier, and perhaps, if what Ciri saw was right from the way Geralt had been looking at Jaskier since he came, Jaskier’s love wasn’t so one-sided after all. That perhaps, there could be a way to save Jaskier before the Flower Sickness took his life. It didn’t change the fact that Ciri didn’t know Geralt, and therefore, couldn’t really trust him.

 

Even if she was his Child Surprise.

 

As if he could read her mind, Geralt’s face softened understandingly, and when he spoke, his voice was gentle. “He matters the world to me, Cirilla. I won't allow anything to hurt him."

 

While that was definitely one of the sweetest, most romantic thing Ciri had ever heard anyone said about their beloved—which was saying a lot, since she'd heard a drunk Eist reciting a poem he wrote for Calanthe—it didn't change the fact that Jaskier's forget-me-nots were for Geralt.

 

So, even though she finally let herself to trust Geralt with Jaskier’s life, she couldn't help herself when she smiled sadly at him and said, "But you did, Geralt. You did hurt him."

 

She didn't give the Witcher a chance to reply, promptly turning around to cross the portal.


The Winter Court of the Faes did not always hate humans. In fact, they used to be the ones who loved humans the most. They used to be known to be the protectors of the human race. Their Queen, the fairest of all the faes, had even fallen in love with a human. And how she had loved that human. He was everything to her, and she gave him everything—including her heart. Especially her heart. Even when all the other faes from the Four Courts questioned her decision, calling her insane and naïve, the Queen stayed true to her Love. After all, unlike those of the Summer Court, Winter Faes only fell in love once. When they loved, they loved forever. And from that love, she was gifted the most beautiful baby boy with hair as dark as the night sky, and eyes as blue as the cornflowers that the Queen’s Beloved had first given to her.

 

For the second time in her long life, the Winter Queen fell in love again. When she held her newborn in her arms, she knew that there was nothing on Earth she would not do for him. That if she had to choose between the boy and her Love, she would choose the baby—always. As she blessed her son with her powers, whispering to his little ears that even though as a half-fae he could never be the Winter King, she promised he would always be her Prince. Because from that moment on, he was her everything.

 

The Queen’s happiness did not last, for human nature was a terrible, greedy thing. Once the Queen had taught her Love how to get into her realm so he could meet their newborn son, he had brought with him an army instead. No humans had the power to go against a fae, not even those who had brought weapons made of cold-iron and forged by dragon-fire. Unless when it was all of the human race that had come together to defeat the Winter Faes. And that was exactly what the Queen’s Love had done. He had convinced all of the leaders of the human kingdoms, promising them equal riches if they had joined him to take over the Winter Realm—and all of the humans agreed. That day, thousands of Winter Faes were killed, and a lot more would have died if it were not for the Queen’s sacrifice.

 

Take the boy! the Queen had said as she passed her little Prince to the Traitor. Take the boy, and make him your weapon. For even though he has my powers, he has your blood, which means cold-iron cannot hurt him. He will be the most powerful being in all of the realms.

 

Take the boy, the Queen sobbed, this time with tears falling freely down her beautiful face. Take the boy, and you will have even more than I’ve ever given you. All I ask is that you spare my people.

 

There was greed in the Traitor’s eyes as he tightened his hold around the boy, and the Queen mentally cursed herself for being so blind that she never noticed it. There was no trace of the man she had fallen in love with. Stood before her was a monster, a monster who was capable of killing thousands to fulfil his lust for power, and the Queen was giving away her precious son to that monster to save her people. She did not think it was possible before, but as she watched the Traitor nodded his head and took a step back, taking her son with him, the already-unbearable pain in her heart worsened. If it were not for the fact that she had what was left of her kingdom depending on her, the Queen would probably decide to join the stars. But as it were, she did not have the luxury to just give up. She had to take care of people, and her son, and she had to make those puny humans pay for what they had done.

 

She was the Queen of the Winter Court. She would show them what she was capable of.

 

Thus, while the Traitor did become the king of the most formidable kingdom of the human race, with help of the half-fae whose magic he had forced to be used for his nefarious purposes, he was cursed. All of his children after the half-fae was cursed to die a horrible death, and all of the women the traitor had fallen in love with met the same fate. It did not take long before the Traitor was driven to madness from his grief, which led to many of his questionable decisions that sealed the fate of his own kingdom. And if one day, the half-fae did not stop his father when he reached for poison instead of his usual dreamless sleeping draught, no would ever know.

 

And with the death of the Traitor, the half-fae was finally free.

 

“And that, my dearest Cirilla, is the end of tonight’s story.”

 

“Hold on! That can’t be the end of the story? What happened after the half-fae was free? Where did he go? Did he finally unite with his mother.”

 

“Sadly, he didn’t. After the Traitor brought his army and the half-fae back to the human realm, the Winter Queen and all of the leaders of the Courts agreed to seal all of the entrances into their realm, to prevent anyone from coming ever again. But at least his mother still visited him in his dreams.”

 

“So, he’s left alone in the human realm? That’s so unfair!”

 

“I guess... But unlike his mother, the half-fae's terrible experience with the Traitor didn’t close his heart forever to humans. In the very long years he lived, he grew to love them. He travelled the world to help anyone who needed him, even made a civilisation or two when he thought it was needed. If I’m not mistaken, one of his civilisations still exist until now.”

 

“Is there really no way for him to be able to come home?”

 

“Not really, no. Well, unless you count the rumour that the Queen would change her mind if the half-fae could convince her of True Love. But as we all know, that is unlikely, so the idiot half-fae would just have to roam the world alone until the end of time.”

 

“True Love is real though. I see it every day every time I look at my grandmother and Eist. And I heard what my mother and father had was just as true.”

 

“I suppose you’re right, princes… But anyway, like I said before, this is the end of our story. You should be in bed three hours ago, and I need to be back at the feast or else I won’t get coins.”

 

“Ugh, fine… But promise me, you’ll say goodbye before you leave in the morning.”

 

“Of course, Cirilla. I’ll see you in the morning.”

 

“See you in the morning, Master Dandelion!”


Jaskier’s condition became so much worse after he defeated Voleth Meir. He spent almost all of his time lying unconscious in the room given to him at Kaer Mohren. But being unconscious didn’t mean he was rested. He couldn’t, not when he kept getting woken up from his coughing fits every fifteen minutes. It seemed that all of his energy and magic that had initially helped in keeping the growth of the flowers at bay were depleted greatly because of his fight with Voleth Meir. It had only been two weeks, but Jaskier had gotten worse faster than he had been in the past year. On the rare times he was really awake to accept the soup and drink Ciri offered him, she saw that corners of his eyes had flecks of blood in them, from all the coughing he did.  And nothing seemed to be able to help him, no matter how hard Triss and Yennefer, who had finally gotten her magic back, tried to help him. Ciri didn’t think Jaskier had much time left, which was why she had taken to sleeping in his room. She was scared out of her mind that if she left him for to sleep at night, she’d find him gone in the morning. Alone, before they could say goodbye to each other.

 

Ciri wasn’t the only one in Jaskier’s room though. Geralt was there too. He had been by Jaskier’s side since they arrived at Kaeh Mohren, even before Ciri moved into Jaskier’s room—and Ciri had been sleeping in Jaskier’s room since the first day. The Witcher hardly ever moved from his position on the chair by Jaskier’s bedside, hardly acknowledging anyone and anything unless it would mean something for Jaskier. He almost never ate except when Yennefer forced him, and Ciri wasn’t sure she’d seen him sleep in the two weeks they had watched over Jaskier. Geralt never spoke too, not even when his brothers, the Witchers who introduced themselves to Ciri as Eskel and Lambert, came to talk and take his mind off his worries over Jaskier. In fact, the only person Geralt talked to was Ciri. After he told her that he did come for her the night Cintra fell, he asked her to tell him about how she found Jaskier. From then on, Jaskier seemed to be the only thing they ever talked about. Geralt spoke about the day he first met Jaskier in Posada, and then Ciri told him about the first song Jaskier ever sang to her on her name day celebration back in Cintra. They never talked about themselves, never even mentioned the fact that they were bound by Destiny. Because, Ciri knew that the real reason they were bound wasn’t because of the Law of Surprise. No, it was because of the man they loved whom they both feared they were going to lose.

 

Ciri feared that if she didn’t do anything about it, Jaskier really was going to leave them.

 

And she couldn’t– wouldn’t allow that.

 

“You should tell him, you know?” Ciri asked Geralt one day when Jaskier was asleep. After she saw how gentle Geralt’s hold was on Jaskier’s hand, saw how he had been running his thumb back and forth lovingly over Jaskier’s knuckles, Ciri decided she couldn’t keep quiet any longer.

 

"Tell who what?" Geralt said flatly, sounding almost nonchalant. Ciri would have believed it if it weren't for the way his shoulders tensed. She almost missed it, but Calanthe raised her well.

 

"You know what I'm talking about, Geralt," Ciri grumbled, annoyed. "And don't lie to me. You're the only other person in this place who hasn't left his side since we got here."

 

"Hm," Geralt replied with a hum, and offered nothing else. It made Ciri so angry to hear that, and she would have yelled at the big dumb Witcher if Jaskier hadn't woken up from a coughing fit.

 

Geralt immediately helped Jaskier into a sitting position so the bard wouldn't choke himself to death over the flowers. All traces of her anger disappeared in an instant when she saw the way Geralt rubbed Jaskier's back, his low voice speaking too softly for Ciri to catch whatever it was he was saying to Jaskier. It was a little over five minutes later before the forget-me-nots subsided, and Jaskier allowed Geralt to wipe the blood from the corners of his mouth before helping him to lie down. The tension between the two of them was so thick, with Jaskier's blue eyes never leaving Geralt's amber ones, even when the Witcher tipped his head down slightly in avoidance, setting his eyes on his hand that had automatically found Jaskier’s again. Ciri could tell Jaskier hadn't realised she was there, and that Geralt perhaps had forgotten about her presence. So, being the mature and intelligent thirteen year old she was, Ciri kept her breathing as slow and as silent as possible, and prayed to Melitele that both male would finally sort things out between them.

 

"You look terrible, Geralt," she heard Jaskier in a teasing a manner, even when his voice was barely above a whisper. "When was the last time you took care of yourself?"

 

"Didn't have the time," Geralt replied. "Not when you've been lying here half-dead."

 

Guilt flashed in Jaskier's eyes, and Ciri felt like slapping both of these thick-headed idiots. They were so emotionally inept, and yet she was the one everyone called a child.

 

"I'm sorry," Jaskier said. "I'm sorry for being such a burden to you, again."

 

"You're not a burden, Jask," Geralt said seriously, moving his free hand so he could clasp it over the one he had joined with Jaskier’s. "It wasn’t true, you know. Everything I said on that mountain. It’s never true. And I... I'm really sorry for everything I said, everything I did. I shouldn't have done that."

 

"People do and say things they shouldn't have all the time, darling," Jaskier said sadly. "Especially when they're upset. I would know. I've lived for two millenia."

 

Geralt fell silent for a while, and it looked like he was thinking carefully on what to say next. "Why did you never tell me?" he said when spoke again. "Why did you never tell me about who you really were? What you really were?"

 

Jaskier didn't answer the question immediately. In fact, he was quiet for a whole minute, Ciri thought he'd fallen asleep. After all, this was the first time since he defeated Voleth Meir that he seemed strong enough to be awake for more than a couple minutes. When Jaskier finally spoke to answer Geralt, Ciri tried to attract as little attention to herself as possible so she wouldn't disturb them, at the same time she tried to lean forward to be able to hear them better. They were only about three feet away from her, but they were talking in hushed tones, and despite her Witcher training under Lambert and Eskel, Ciri didn't have a Witcher's hearing.

 

"I wanted to," Jaskier began. "But you've never liked me since the beginning. Plus, if there was something else the world hated more than Witchers and elves, it would be us faes. And I'd rather not know what you'd choose."

 

"You think I'd kill you," Geralt said after a beat, sounding a little hurt. For his part, Jaskier actually deigned himself to look guilty and embarrassed.

 

"I’m sorry. I should've known better, I know. But in my defense, you never hid the fact that you could hardly tolerate me. So, I thought I'd just follow you around until I found something great to write about. And then we'd be on our separate ways." Jaskier paused here, letting out a mirthless chuckle that became a soft cough halfway. "But then you had to be so fucking heroic when the Elves caught us, ready to sacrifice yourself for me—a weak, puny human bard you barely knew. How could I walk away from you after that?”

 

“Jaskier,” Geralt said, but the bard ignored him and ploughed on.

 

“And then there was the whole thing with the djinn. Yennefer told me, you know. In between the barbs we traded, all the insults we threw at each other. During the rare times we could be civil to one another for more than five minutes, she told me what you said to her when I was recovering. And my heart both broke and soared at the same time. Because while I finally knew that you didn't outright dislike me, and even had considered me a friend, it still broke my heart to see you pine over Yennefer. I spent twenty years by your side, Geralt, but you never even said anything nice to me. It took me nearly dying for you to admit that we were friends—and not to my face. But Yennefer, all she needed was to flash her tits, and you were ready to die for her.”

 

“Jaskier,” Geralt tried again, but like before, Jaskier kept talking.

 

“It's not your fault though. If it weren't for you, I'd have fallen for Yennefer too. She really is perfection personified in this cursed world we live in."

 

As if Jaskier had punched him, Geralt jerked backward a little from his words. "What do you mean 'if it weren't for you'?"

 

Once again, Jaskier just smiled sadly at the Witcher, and not for the very first time since she knew both of them, Ciri wanted to scream at how fucking thick these idiots were.

 

"Come now, dear heart," Jaskier said tiredly. "Don't do this to me. I haven’t exactly been subtle in these past twenty years. I know you know exactly what I mean."

 

"But, I don't," Geralt countered. He sounded hysterical now as he scooted forward, reaching out with one hand toward Jaskier before he faltered midway. But he took a deep breath, and bravely continued. "Jask, are you... Who are those flowers for?"

 

Jaskier blinked. "Why, they're for you, of course."

 

Geralt's reaction to that was immediate.

 

"You fucking idiot," the Witcher blurted out, surprising both Jaskier and Ciri.

 

"I beg you pardon?" Jaskier shot back, a little indignant. Geralt, if he realised his mistake, seemed to choose to ignore it in favour of gently cupping at Jaskier's face in his hands.

 

And kissed him passionately.

 

"I fucking love you, Jaskier," Geralt said between kisses. "I might not realise it until it was far too late, but I think I've always known deep down that I love you. I love you, you insufferable arse."

 

"You do?" Jaskier gasped, pulling back slightly, eyes wide. "But Yennefer– oh!" he trailed off in a moan that made Ciri blush, and she hastily lowered her eyes when she saw Geralt had turned his attention to marking Jaskier's throat.

 

"I was trying to save her life," Geralt growled impatiently. "Not the brightest decision I'd ever made, I agree, binding her to me. But cut me some slack. I nearly lost my best friend, the first and only person other than my Witcher family, who gave a shit about me. All because I'd stupidly made a wish to a djinn without really thinking about it. That was the only solution I could come up with at the time.”

 

"I'm your best friend?" Jaskier asked in wonder. This time, when Ciri braved herself to look up because this was the happiest he sounded in all the years she knew him, there was hope in Jaskier’s eyes and the beginning of a smile tugging on his lips.

 

"You are," Geralt confirmed, and even though she couldn't see his face, Ciri knew he was smiling too. "You're my best friend, and the love of my life. And you're my everythi–hmph!"

 

Jaskier had jumped onto Geralt's lap, straddled him and dove into an even more passionate kiss. The effect was instantaneous; Jaskier no longer looked as pale as a ghost, and there was even a faint blush on his cheeks. When he pulled back again from Geralt, his cornflower blue eyes were alight with happiness, Ciri knew. She knew right then that the Flower Sickness was no more. And it seemed that she wasn’t the only one who realised that. Pulling back slightly, Geralt ran his eyes all over Jaskier searchingly, and smiled even bigger when he no doubt saw what Ciri had seen.

 

“It’s gone,” Geralt breathed out. He cupped Jaskier’s face with both hands and leaned his forehead over Jaskier’s. “You’re not sick again, thank Gods.

 

“Of course,” Jaskier laughed, lifting his own hands up to cup Geralt’s face. “You saved me, Geralt. Your love saved me. And I love you too, darling.”

 

“Gods, I love you, lark,” the Witcher said, chuckling softly. “I’m never letting you go ever again.”

 

“I sure hope you won’t,” Jaskier said, diving in for another kiss. “You’re my true love after all.”

 

As soon as those words left Jaskier, the room exploded with a bright, white light. It was blinding, and Ciri thought she really would have lost her sight if she hadn’t closed her eyes in reflex. She didn’t dare to open them, keeping them shut tightly just to be safe. But then she heard the most heartbreaking sound she could possibly imagine, full of pain and sorrow. Snapping her eyes open, she found that it was Geralt who had made that sound. Geralt, who was desperately grabbing the empty air in front of him, where Jaskier had been just seconds ago. Ciri’s heart felt like stopping when she realised what just happened.

 

(“Is there really no way for him to be able to come home?”)

 

What’s the matter?” Yennefer asked, who had suddenly barged into the room with Triss and Geralt’s brothers behind her. She rushed immediately to Geralt’s side, who was now curling into himself, shaking silently. “Geralt, what’s wrong? We heard you screamed. Are you hurt? Where’s Jaskier?

 

“I can’t– I can’t feel him,” Geralt gasped, and Ciri noticed how he was cradling his chest, where his heart was. “He’s not– Gods, I can’t feel him.” And at that moment, Ciri couldn’t help herself when her own hand flew to her chest, feeling as if there was a horrible gaping wound in her chest where Jaskier’s presence and love had just been ripped out from existence.

 

“What are you talking about?” Yennefer asked again. “Feel who? Are you talking about Jaskier? Where is that idiot anyway?”

 

“I… I don’t know,” Geralt stuttered out. “H-he was here. In my arms. And then he just…disappeared.

 

“What the fuck?” Yennefer exclaimed. “What do you mean he just disappeared? That’s impossible!”

 

“WELL, THEN WHERE IS HE, YENNEFER?” Geralt roared, lifting his head up as he looked at Yennefer, his amber eyes flashing dangerously. “BECAUSE HE SURE AS HELL ISN’T HERE, IS HE?”

 

Don’t fucking yell at me, Geralt,” Yennefer spat out. “He was here with you. You were supposed to look after him, remember? It’s not my fault if you once again lose him—”

 

(“Not really, no. Well, unless you count the rumour that she would change her mind if he could convince his mother of True Love.)

 

“He’s come home,” Ciri blurted out, cutting off Yennefer and attracted everyone’s attention on her.

 

“What do you mean, princess?” Eskel asked. “Home? Where did he go then?”

 

“And how did he do it?” Lambert added. “’Cause we haven’t seen him leave this room since you all first came here.”

 

“It’s his Mother,” Ciri said, tears falling profusely down her face as she turned to face Geralt, and it took her a while to rember that she was still holding a hand against where her heart was. And Gods, it hurt. It hurt so much, when she looked down, she almost expected to see blood pouring out between her fingers. It made her feel faint, and she wanted nothing more at that moment than to curl into herself and cry herself to sleep—and never wake up from this nightmare. But all the adults were looking at her expectantly, waiting for her to explain. So, letting out a shaky, pained exhale, Ciri finally spoke.

 

“He’s finally found True Love,” she whispered, the last word ended in a broken sob. “And as promised by the Winter Queen two millennia ago, the Prince can finally come home.”

 

“Home? Winter Queen?” Triss asked, wide eyed. “Ciri, darling, are you saying that—”

 

“He’s the Winter Court’s lost prince,” Yennefer gasped. “Oh, Gods, so this means that the legends are true— GERALT!”

 

Ciri didn’t think she could ever forget the way Geralt brokenly called out Jaskier’s name.


"Two thousand years. It took us two thousand years to finally meet. And you want to leave me again, darling boy?"

 

"I'm sorry, Mother. I really wish I wouldn't have to, but I love him. And it's not just him. I love our princess too. They're everything to me."

 

"Are you sure about this? Because if you leave, I don't think I can convince the other rulers of our realm to allow you in for a second time. At least, not for another millenium."

 

"My Queen, for the first time in two thousand years, I finally have a family. I have someone whom I love deeply, and who loves me in return. And together, we have our brave little Lion Cub, whom I've come to love as if she really were my own. They're the true loves of my life, Mother. I cannot imagine my life without them."

 

"But one day, you will. Your Witcher may live a longer life than most mortals, but at the end of the day, he still is one. And your Cub, despite her Elder Blood, she is not meant for the long lives we live. They will die, perhaps not in a hundred years or so, but they will, eventually. And for us, my dear, that is just a blink of an eye. One day, they both will leave you, and you'll be alone in the human world, until you’re finally allowed to come home again."

 

"Then so be it. I will take however long I am allowed to be with them, rather than not at all. That is my decision, Mother."

 

"Very well. If that is what you want, I will grant this wish of yours."

 

"Thank you very much, Mother. Thank you very much. I'm sorry that I'll be leaving you again, but I promise you'll always be in my heart. Until the day I die."

 

"Oh, my little prince. You've been through so much since the day you were born. In the past two millenia, not a day goes by that I don't think of you, dearest. Perhaps... Yes, perhaps I can give you give you something after all."

 

"Mother, what do you mean?"

 

"Once you leave this realm, you will not be able to come back. But in exchange for that, your immortality will be linked to the lives of the people who matter the most to you."

 

"Are you saying...?"

 

"When the last drop of blood of the Lion Cub falls, when the Witcher finally gasps his last breath, your days on the mortal realm will end. And when that day comes, you will join them here, in our Kingdom."

 

"Gods, that is... Thank you, my Queen."

 

"You're my son. My beloved baby boy. I will always try to do my best for you. And if the other rulers don’t like it… Well, I will deal with that later.”

 

“Mother—”

 

“Now, go, Jaskier. Go and be with your family. Kiss your beloved Witcher, and hug your darling daughter—and please, live a happy life. I promise you, we'll meet again in a few centuries."

 

"I love you, Mother. Till we meet again."

 

"I love you too, my little pri—"

 

And Jaskier found himself back in his little cottage by the sea.


Living with Geralt was obviously vastly different compared to her life with Jaskier. When her grandmother had first sent her to find Geralt, and after Ciri had first figured out that Geralt was a Witcher, she had thought that her days with him would be spent training to become like him—a warrior. While she did spend a great deal of her time at Kaer Mohren training, it wasn’t Geralt who taught her how to fend for herself. No, it was Eskel and Lambert. When she wasn’t training, she would find herself with Yennefer and Triss, learning how to control her Chaos. Sometimes, she would find herself cooking with Vesemir whenever he asked for her help, saying that his old bones could use the help. Ciri knew better though. They were all just trying to get her away from Geralt, who had been brooding in the the Keep’s library like an especially dark thunder storm. But Ciri was Calanthe’s granddaughter true and through. There was no stopping her when she was determined about something. And this time, she was determined to get Geralt into talking to her.

 

Geralt kept the library locked at all times, and for the first week since Jaskier…disappeared, Ciri never saw him left the room. It took two days of bothering Triss until she would tell her the spell to unlock doors, and then another whole week to practise it with an unamused Yennefer. But the moment she could finally open and lock doors using her magic, Ciri made a dash to the library to try out her new skill. Geralt hardly reacted when Ciri slammed the door open, merely giving her a quick glance of his amber eyes before they turned back to the book he was reading. Ciri didn’t quite know what she had to say to the Witcher, so focused she was on just being in the same place as he was. In the end, it was Geralt who wordlessly offered the chair beside him, and briefly nodded at the pile of scrolls and books in front of him. Knowing that that was the best she could get for the time being, Ciri sat on the chair beside Geralt, took one of the books in front of her, and started reading. It was about faes.

 

“You’re trying to find him,” Ciri had said not even a minute later.

 

“Hm,” Geralt hummed in return without looking at her. “No one left alive knew about the faes.”

 

“And the only who does is the one we’re looking for,” Ciri replied as she thumbed the yellowing pages of the book she was holding. “I guess that leaves us with no choice but to consult these ancient books and scrolls.”

 

Geralt didn’t say anything to that, but Ciri caught the slight tug of his lips. It cheered her up a great deal to see it, so she dove into the books with the same dedication and determination Calanthe always showed when she was making battle plans. From that day on, a routine was set. Ciri would wake up early in the morning for breakfast, and sometimes she would be helping Vesemir to cook something. Then, she would leave a plate of (bland) roasted meet or a bowl of vomit-looking stew on an empty desk at the library for Geralt, before heading to the hall to have breakfast with everyone else. Once she was done eating, on odd days she would go training with Eskel and Lambert, and on even days she would train with Yennefer and Triss. She would have lunch after her training, the only meal she didn’t help Vesemir with because he said she would be too exhausted to be able to maneuver safely around knives and fire. She would bring Geralt’s lunch after she was done with hers, and then she would spend the rest of her day with him, reading anything they could find on faes. When it was time for dinner, she would drag Geralt to the hall with her, and they would eat in silence together. Before it was time for bed, she’d take a bath in the hot-spring, and when she was done, she would bid everyone good night. It got a little mundane after a few months, but at least it kept her mind off Jaskier.

 

It didn’t mean that her heart didn’t ache with pain and sorrow as she spent every passing day missing the first father figure she had in her life. True, being with Geralt did soothe some of the pain she felt. After all, he was the one Destiny set on her path to fill the empty paternal role in her life. And then there was also Yennefer, and even Triss, who effortlessly took over the maternal role her that she now had two mothers instead of one. But Ciri knew, just as she knew that Geralt was Destined for her, and Yennefer and Triss too, her life wouldn’t be complete without Jaskier. On top of that, she could see that while Jaskier’s disappearance was incredibly hard for Ciri, it was was even worse for Geralt. As cliché as it sounded, the Witcher was alive, but he wasn’t living. He rarely ate, rarely rest, spending all of his time trying to find answers in the Keep’s library, even though at this point, Ciri didn’t have a choice but to consider the possibility that perhaps, there really was no answer. That Jaskier wasn’t coming back to them—that they had lost him for good.

 

Ciri didn’t say anything though. And when she realised that the rest of the adults had come to the same conclusion as she was, they had also decided to keep quiet. To let Geralt believe that he still had a chance, to not squash the last hope he had of having Jaskier returned to him. Because, while Ciri knew Geralt wasn’t the type to just…take himself out of existence in his desperation, she worried that it would mean losing Geralt in another way. That if someone was to point out to Geralt the truth, that it would break him to the point that he would lose the last part of him that made him their Geralt. So, every day after her training, Ciri would sit with him in the library and read books after books, and scrolls after scrolls, on anything that mentioned Faes and specifically Winter Faes. Fortunately for them, there were quite a few of books and scrolls written about the fairfolk. However, the more Ciri read, the more she saw a pattern in those writings. The more she noticed that all of those written records described the Winter Faes as ‘malevolent, evil, and prone to cruelty’; that they were ‘Unholy, manipulative and inclined to assault innocents, both physically and mentally’. It made Ciri sick to her stomach to read all those terrible words used to describe Jaskier and his people.

 

And one day, she just couldn’t take it more.

 

“Why did they do that?” Ciri said aloud, six months after Jaskier disappeared. It seemed to catch Geralt off guard, because he instantly lowered his book down and turned his attention on her.

 

“What are you talking about?” Geralt said in a low voice.

 

“Why did they describe them like that?” she spat out, feeling her anger started to burn inside her. “Why did they describe the Winter Faes as if…as if they were…” Ciri couldn’t continue, because she knew if she did, she would end up destroying something in her anger.

 

But Geralt, judging from the grim look in his eyes, understood anyway.

 

Because, of course, he did.

 

Those words the humans used to describe the Winter Faes? They were the exact same words humans threw at Geralt for being a Witcher.

 

“Geralt?” Ciri whispered.

 

“Hm?” came the familiar sound from Geralt’s throat. He hadn’t picked up his book again, as if he had known that she wasn’t done talking yet.

 

Ciri swallowed heavily before she continued. “What if…what if Jaskier didn’t want to come back? I- I mean, two thousand years is a long time. A-and…” She trailed off again, hyperventilating a little. “I guess those years hadn’t been easy for him. So, w-what if he feels like he’s had enough? He was ready to die when he had the Flower Sickness.”

 

It took Geralt a while before he answered her, speaking slowly in that low tone of his, heartbreak shadowing his every word.

 

“If that is what he wants, then I will let him go,” he said. “But, until he can tell me that himself, I won’t stop looking for him. I made him a promise, after all.”

 

(“I’m never letting you go ever again.”)

 

There was a loud explosion heard coming from where Ciri suspected was the entrance to the Keep. For a split second, Ciri thought the Nilfgaardians had come to attack them, because she could feel the ground shook beneath her feet, and the walls let out a chilling groan as they trembled. Beside her, Geralt seemed to have the same worry as she did, since he automatically pulled her into his arms, ready to shield her from any upcoming attack. They could hear voices from the other Witchers, heard Vesemir barking orders at his Wolves, heard Yennefer and Triss calling out for Geralt and Ciri. Right next to where Ciri’s ear was pressed against Geralt’s chest, she could hear the low hum his medallion gave. She saw Geralt was pulling his steel sword with one hand while he kept the other around her, and she immediately pulled her dagger that Jaskier gifted to her once upon a time; the same dagger that Geralt had given the bard. They were just about to move toward the library’s door when she realised the way Geralt had tensed beside her. Before she could ask him what was wrong, she felt it. She felt the Jaskier-shaped void in her heart was suddenly filled with the familiar warmth she thought she would never feel again.

 

Sharing a wordless look with each other, Ciri saw the first genuine smile she’d ever seen started to tug on Geralt’s lips, and boy did it make quite the effect. It made him look softer, younger, and finally at peace. But Ciri knew the same smile was mirrored on her face, and after six months since she thought her world was destroyed once again, Ciri felt happy. It didn’t take long before that happiness manifested into a laughter that bubbled out of her lips, and before she knew it, she wasn’t the only one laughing. Geralt  was laughing with her too, and it was probably the second most wonderful sound she’d ever heard after a certain songbird’s melodious laughter. Unable to hold herself any longer, Ciri took Geralt’s hand, feeling her smile widened at the way his much bigger hand held her smaller one firmly, and then she ran. She ran like a child toward the entrance of Kaer Mohren, pulling along a chuckling Geralt with her. They passed the rest of their family on their way down, and they shared another laugh at the way their family stared at them in surprise, probably wondering what was wrong with them. But Ciri and Geralt couldn’t afford to stop and explain to them. Even though they probably had all the time in the world now, they didn’t feel like wasting another second.

 

They had been waiting for six months after all.

 

And so, when they reached the big doors of Kaeh Mohren’s entrance, they hastily pushed it open. Where he had been waiting for them, with a big smile on his boyish face that made his blue eyes lit up like diamonds. He had both of his arms wide opened, and there was a mischievous look in his eyes as he wiggled his eyebrows.

 

“Hello, my hearts,” Jaskier said, and his voice truly sounded like music to Ciri’s ears. “Did you miss me? Don’t I get a hu—umph.”

 

“Fucking idiot,” Geralt grumbled, but there was mirth in his voice when he and Ciri pulled Jaskier into their arms.

 

“I love you too, darling,” Jaskier laughed, pressing a quick kiss against Geralt’s lips before he lowered his head to kiss Ciri’s cheek.

 

“Don’t ever do that again, Jask,” Ciri said, burrowing herself deeper into the arms of her fathers.

 

“I won’t, sweetheart. I promise,” Jaskier said. “I’m never leaving you two again. Ever.”

 

“Good,” Geralt said. “Because we’re not letting you go ever again.”

 

“Yeah, you’re stuck with us until the end of time,” Ciri added.

 

“Wouldn’t have it any other way,” Jaskier agreed.

 

And although Ciri knew that the future wouldn’t always be as happy and as easy as the day Jaskier was returned to her and Geralt, she didn’t care. As long as she had her family with her—her fathers, her mothers, and the other Witchers—she was ready to face anything Destiny threw in her way.