DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
SERIES: The first story in the 'there is strength in your softness' series.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To scotangelina[at]yahoo.com
The one who said that she'd rather roam (The one who said she'd rather be alone)
She's in Caingorn, attempting to look interested as the King drones on about his daughter's emerging magical talents and how she's sure to grow up to be a great sorceress, when she hears Triss' voice in her mind.
Tuning out of the repetitive and sycophantic discussion taking place around her, Yennefer frowns.
Triss? Why are you whispering?
I- I'm not. A pause. Am I?
Yes, you are. Yennefer stifles a smile.
Well, it must be subconscious. I don't want Tissaia to know I'm contacting you.
Oh? And why's that? Yennefer bites her lip. Is she pining away for me? Unable to eat or sleep from missing me so much?
She's unwell, Yennefer.
Her smile drops. What?
It's nothing- it's not- I mean, it's the same as before.
While they had all suffered, post-Sodden, Tissaia's battle had left the most damage. Her lungs have yet to recover from inhaling dimeritium and now, every time she over exerts herself or catches the slightest sniffle, she's wracked with fits of coughing and terrible pain. The situation is only exacerbated by the fact that Tissaia hates to look weak and often covers up her suffering.
I'm coming back.
She told me not to tell you. She said it's far more important to keep King Niedamir pacified.
Fuck that. I'm coming back.
Standing up from the table, Yennefer draws all eyes to her. "I do apologise, Your Grace, but I am needed urgently in Aretuza."
He frowns. "But what of my-"
"I will return and assess your daughter's magical abilities when I have seen to this urgent business, you have my word." She already knows the girl has no magic to speak of, but Tissaia would want her to play the diplomat and go through the motions, so she does.
This seems to appease him and he nods his acquiescence, as if she needed his say so to leave. She steps away from the table and conjures a portal, stepping through it and frightening the life out of Triss in a single motion. Triss puts a hand to her chest, covered and padded by a high necked dress and bandaging still.
"I didn't realise you meant you'd be back this instant," Triss says, keeping her voice low. She wrings her hands. "She's going to kill me. She expressly instructed me not to contact you."
Yennefer stifles a smile and shakes her head. "Oh Triss. One day you'll learn that Tissaia's bark is far worse than her bite." She lays a hand on her friend's shoulder and squeezes gently. "And if she does try to kill you, I'll stop her."
"That's not a great comfort," Triss says, her lips forming a disapproving line. "She might kill you too."
Before they can further their discussion, a voice sounds in both their heads, startling them.
I told you not to bring her back!
Triss' eyes go wide as she stares at Yennefer, her mouth opening uselessly. Yennefer sighs.
Leave her alone, Rectoress. She's finally out from under your skirts and making her own decisions. Good ones. You should be proud.
Triss looks like she's unsure whether to be insulted or flattered, but shakes her head.
"Come, then. Let's face our fate together."
They make the short walk to Tissaia's apartments where they find the woman in question bent over, an arm on the bed to steady her, coughing violently. Sabrina stands by, seemingly unmoved, but the whiteness of her knuckles where she grips her dress would suggest otherwise. Yennefer crosses the room in three strides, arriving at Tissaia's side, only to be held at arm's length, Tissaia's hand planted firmly on her chest.
"I'm fine, Yennefer. There's no need for you to abandon the meeting with Caingorn. You can ret-"
The next bout of coughing is so severe it causes Tissaia to stumble. Yennefer is there to catch her; one strong arm around her waist, pulling her against Yennefer's body, the other smoothing her hair back from her brow.
"Stop fighting me, you stubborn old witch," she mutters, lips pressed to a damp forehead.
Tissaia manages to pull back enough to send her a withering glare while still coughing. Yennefer ignores it and continues to stroke her hair, glad when Tissaia's body softens, her muscles loosening as the coughing subsides, leaving her resting against Yennefer, her breathing still laboured. Yennefer lays a hand on Tissaia's back, splaying her fingers as much as she can, allowing a gentle heat to emanate from her palm outwards. She knows the warmth soothes the pain and eases the cough. Tissaia makes a noise of approval, becoming heavier in her arms.
"See?" she murmurs. "Aren't you glad I'm here?"
It's a mistake. Tissaia forces herself to stand up straight, not quite moving out of Yennefer's hold, but not leaning on her any longer. "I'm not a child, Yennefer. I have a slight cold. I don't require to be coddled by my-"
Yennefer tilts her head at the interesting pronoun and the hesitation. "By your what?"
Rolling her eyes, Tissaia sways against her. "By you."
She wants to push. She wants Tissaia to put a name to whatever this is they've been dancing around since they woke up in that makeshift infirmary, fates and fingers entwined. But she knows now isn't the time. Not when Tissaia is this crotchety. And certainly not with Triss and Sabrina watching.
Yennefer sighs. "I'm not one to coddle anyone, Tissaia. But we all need to be helped at some point." Before Tissaia can disagree, Yennefer covers her lips with a finger and shakes her head. "Yes, even you. And if you won't let Triss, who is as gentle and caring a soul as I ever met to do it, then you'll have to put up with me, because I will give you no choice. And will be neither gentle nor caring."
A snort distracts them both and they look over to see Sabrina covering her mouth, apparently as surprised by her laugh as either of them. Triss is nudging her friend, shaking her head.
"Something to say about that, Sabrina?" Yennefer challenges.
"Me?" Sabrina shrugs and coughs pathetically into her fist. "I think perhaps I've picked up Tissaia's cold, that's all." She smirks.
Normally she'd pursue this, forcing Sabrina's hand and calling her out on her blatant lie. But Tissaia's sagging against her now and that is her most pressing concern. Sabrina can wait.
"It's getting late," she tells her friends. "I'm sure Tissaia would appreciate some privacy as she readies herself for bed."
Again, Sabrina looks like she wants to say something, but Triss tugs on her sleeve and shakes her head and Yennefer is grateful for it. She hasn't the energy nor the focus to get into an argument at the moment.
"Of course," Triss answers for both of them. "We'll leave you to it." She nods towards the table by Tissaia's bed. "I have prepared an ointment which should ease her breathing. Just rub it on her back and her chest to-"
This time, there's no disguising Sabrina's laugh and Triss all but drags her out of the room. Sabrina hesitates just before closing the door behind them.
The two of you need to sort this out.
Yennefer frowns, her hand slipping to the back of Tissaia's neck, her thumb stroking just below her ear.
What do you mean?
Sabrina's too far away, and the room too dim, but Yennefer can feel the roll of her eyes.
Whatever this thing is between the two of you, stop fucking around and just talk about it. The tension is driving everyone mad. And I've got money on a spring wedding, so get a move on!
She slams the door closed before Yennefer can react. She has to make do with a telepathic retort.
"You really didn't need to come," Tissaia says, her voice quiet, the fight gone from her body.
"I wanted to come," Yennefer tells her, pressing a kiss to her temple. She bites her lip, unsure how her next words will be received. "And you wanted me to come. Even if you were too stubborn to ask for it." She feels Tissaia exhale a sigh against her chest and then a nod. She smiles. "Well then. Nothing on the Continent could have kept me away."
Tissaia's arms lift and encircle her waist, squeezing. It makes Yennefer's throat ache to feel how weakened she is. She swallows and presses her lips together, willing herself not to give in to the emotion. That would likely cause another row.
"Come, then." She strokes Tissaia's back, fingers toying with the tiny hooks keeping her dress closed. "Triss has afforded me the opportunity to see your chest this evening without me having to expend any energy on charming you out of your clothes."
A laugh warms her shoulder through the fabric of her dress, but her smile drops when it is followed by another bout of coughing, with Tissaia pulling away so as not to cough all over her. "I'm sorry. Gods, I'm so sorry I-"
Tissaia shakes her head, holding up a hand as the coughing subsides. "Please, Yennefer, don't apologise for making me laugh. Few people have the ability to do so."
"Fine." She traces the edge of Tissaia's mouth with her thumb, pulling her lips up gently. "You know, when I was a student here, getting a smile from you was-" She closes her eyes and shakes her head. "It was like feeling the sun on my face after a long winter. It made everything better, brighter."
A kiss is placed on her palm and she opens her eyes to find Tissaia looking up at her. "I should have smiled at you more. I should have told you that I-"
"Hey," Yennefer interrupts, softly. "We are where we are because of our past. I am who I am because of you, and I think we can both agree that I am fabulous."
That earns her another chortle, thankfully not followed by more coughing. Yennefer's hand slides to Tissaia's back, urging her to move around the bed to sit on its edge. She sits behind her, a leg bent between them so she can angle herself to undo the dozens of fastenings on Tissaia's dress.
"You could do that with magic, you know," Tissaia murmurs.
"I know." But there's something very intimate about removing Tissaia's clothes that Yennefer has never tired of, not since the first time they listened to their bodies and gave in to their desires. Tissaia's outfits are so carefully constructed to keep people out, all stiff fabrics and high collars, that Yennefer feels like she's being allowed into a secret, sacred place every time she unhooks a fastening or loosens a lace.
When the bodice is finally undone, she helps Tissaia to ease her arms from the sleeves. She places her hands on Tissaia's waist, helping her to stand and allowing the dress to fall to her feet, leaving her only in her corset and undergarments. She makes quick work of unlacing the corset.
"Having this so tight can't be good for your lungs at the moment," she murmurs, pushing the edges of the corset apart and watching Tissaia inhale, able to fill her lungs more easily without the constriction. She pushes it off fully, letting her hands slip over the smooth skin of Tissaia's back and down to settle on her hips. She leans forward and presses a kiss to the juncture of Tissaia's neck and shoulder. A hand slides into her hair, a cheek presses against her own, so she wraps her arms around Tissaia's waist and holds her, swaying slightly.
"As much as I'm enjoying this," Yennefer says, after long moments pass. "We should apply Triss' ointment and get you into bed."
Tissaia hums her agreement, turning to brush a kiss over Yennefer's cheek. "Let's get it over with," she says, stepping out of Yennefer's arms to retrieve the small pot left on the bedside table. She turns, gloriously uninhibited in her nakedness, and holds it out for Yennefer to take. Yennefer, for her part, tries valiantly to remain unaffected by the display. This is purely medical, after all. Tissaia tilts her head and smirks. "You're blushing."
"I am not," Yennefer can feel her cheeks grow warmer even as she disputes it. She lifts her chin, making it slightly easier just to focus on Tissaia's face. "I've seen it all before, you know." Thinking back to the nights they've spent together is not what she needs to be doing right at this moment.
"Many times." Tissaia nods. "And yet still you blush. It's quite sweet, darling."
"Hush, you," Yennefer huffs, uncovering the ointment and sniffing it. Immediately she feels the burning, clearing effect in her own nose and lungs. She coughs and blinks as her eyes start to water. "It's, uh, certainly potent."
"Good stuff, though," Tissaia says. "She's becoming quite the healer."
She sticks two fingers into the unguent, wrinkling her nose as the greasy slide of it against her skin. She scoops a good dollop out and steps forward, raising an eyebrow in question. Tissaia nods and she spreads it across the top of her chest and then rubs it in with her fingertips. Tissaia inhales deeply, her ribcage expanding and shoving her breasts further out. Yennefer shakes her head.
Tissaia narrows her eyes. "I'm merely enjoying my first easy breath all evening, Yennefer. If you are somehow titillated by that, it's hardly my fault."
"Hmmm," Yennefer says, moving around to Tissaia's back. "And I'm sure you didn't say titillating on purpose either."
This time, Tissaia's laugh comes easier than it has since Yennefer arrived. "You really are ridiculous."
Having applied the ointment, Yennefer waves a hand and a simple sleep shift appears, hanging loosely on Tissaia's shoulders to give the ointment vapour room to move and do its work. A few more magical words and her hands are cleaned of the greasy substance.
"There. All done." She smiles and moves around Tissaia to pull the covers back on the bed. "Get in."
Eyes flicking to the bed, Tissaia clears her throat. "Will you- that is-" Her eyes drop to the floor. "I know you will need to return to Caingorn soon but-"
Yennefer cuts her off, replacing her dress with a sleeping shift. "But not tonight."
The relief that fleets across Tissaia's face twists at Yennefer's heart. Before she can say anything to address it, Tissaia steps closer to her, taking her hand with both of her own. "I am...glad that you're here," she murmurs. "It may not have seemed that way. Earlier."
"Why would you think I had that impression?" She wrinkles her brow in exaggerated thought. "Oh, you mean because of all the screeching about how Triss shouldn't have contacted me or the insisting I leave immediately?"
Tissaia looks down again. "I- It was-"
"I know, Tissaia." Yennefer tips her face up with a finger under her chin. "I know."
What she hopes Tissaia hears in her words is that she knows her. They know each other. Possibly better than they know themselves. Years - decades - of pull and push, of seeking and granting, of hatred and love, have left them in a place where they understand each other implicitly. Yennefer has never felt more alive, more exhilarated, than when she's with Tissaia. And she knows the feeling is reciprocated.
The edges of Tissaia's mouth quirk in a relieved smile. She presses Yennefer's hand to her chest, looking into her eyes.
"I've had occasion, these past few months, to contemplate the very real possibility that I might die," Tissaia says, her eyes bright. She brings her fingertips to brush over Yennefer's cheek, then her lips. "And, in that same space of time, I've come to the realisation that I've never wanted so badly to live. To keep living. To stay in this world." She smiles; a beautiful, fragile thing. "To stay with you."
The confession steals the air from Yennefer's lungs and the words from her tongue. Tears blur her vision and so she does the only thing left at her disposal and leans in to press her lips to Tissaia's.
It's not a kiss so much as a seal, of sorts. She needs those words to be kept between them and preserved for all time. Her hands, that would normally grasp and tug, simply cradle Tissaia's body, holding her in place, as Tissaia's hands frame her face. When the kiss ends, they remain close, foreheads pressed tightly together, their breath mingling in the warm space between them.
"I'll stay with you for as long as you'll have me," Yennefer whispers. "I will stop time and space so that we might stay together for eternity, if that's what you desire."
Tissaia kisses her again, short and firm. "Perhaps we should start with something smaller than you bringing the entire universe to a halt, hmmm?" Her voice is warm, carrying no reproach. "For instance, you might think about spending more of your nights here." She shrugs. "Or all of them."
Trying to contain her smile, Yennefer bites her lip. "It seems that you've finally found a way to bring me back to Aretuza, then."
Drawing back, Tissaia purses her lips, though her eyes are warm with mirth. It fades, slowly. "I- I should have been braver, back then. I should have let you know that I-" She shakes her head and closes her eyes. "I shouldn't have hidden behind excuses."
"Oh, Tissaia," Yennefer whispers. "We can have a thousand regrets about what we could have or should have done. Or we can be thankful for what we have now." She smiles when Tissaia opens her eyes to look at her. "Personally, I'm in favour of the latter."
"You were always able to live more in the moment than I was," Tissaia agrees. A yawn takes her by surprise and she covers her mouth.
"Come on," Yennefer says, shuffling both of them closer to the bed. "I've been trying to get you into bed for at least a candlemark. You'll have me thinking I'm losing my touch."
Tissaia huffs as they climb in and arrange themselves comfortably, Yennefer pressed against Tissaia's back, her arm resting around her waist. Tissaia's hand finds hers under the covers, fingers slipping into the spaces between her own.
For the first time in her life, Yennefer thinks, she may just have found somewhere that feels like a home. A place she wants to come back to at the end of the day, because there's someone there she wants to be with. A bed where she'll go to sleep with that same person, and wake up with her every morning. So, not a place, really. A person.
Tissaia starts to snore lightly beside her. Yennefer smiles as she examines her profile in the low light from the dying embers in the fireplace.
Yes, this could be home.
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