jaskier falls ill while on the road and geralt tends to him? yes please :)
Thank you so much for this prime angsty prompt! I love some good sick!Jaskier, so I hope you enjoy this!
The silence should have warned him. Jaskier wasn’t one to be quiet, even when they were trudging up the side of a mountain in the cold drizzle of rain leaving a misty haze behind. On any other occasion, he’d have found a way to work on his songs, either humming a few lyrics ad nauseum or plucking a few mismatched notes on his lute in between steps. But at the threat of water damage to his precious instrument, he’d foregone the musical accompaniment in favor of quiet contemplation; or so Geralt had assumed.
He’d slipped near the bottom, splattered his entire back in mud before he’d clambered to his feet again on Roach’s other side. With not a word as to the state of his clothes or the amount of time it would take him to get the stains out, Geralt had thought the sheen of sweat across his brow was more a symptom of his exhaustion from the day’s climbing than anything more; he’d even been impressed by the lack of any complaint when the grade of the slope turned steeper.
By the time they caught sight of the cave up ahead, Jaskier’s breath had turned to a ragged wheeze hours ago. Once they reached the entrance, Geralt tethered Roach to a lone survivor of a tree and returned to find Jaskier’s huddled form slumped against the wall, shivering. The half-lidded eyes with their glazed stare finally triggered a realization.
Having grown up surrounded by witchers and never encountering much openness or tenderness amongst other people in general, Geralt hadn’t had a lot of opportunities to become familiar with what sickness can look like in humans. Or what care is needed to survive it. And so when the impossible first occurred and he was in the extended company of a certain bard, he’d missed the signs.
Crouching beside him, Geralt saw the flush high on his cheeks even as his body shook with a chill that surpassed the mild, if rainy, night. He got to work on the ties of Jaskier’s doublet, soaked and knotted tight by the wet conditions, finally resorting to slicing through the last few in the name of freeing him from its sodden constraints.
None of Jaskier’s clothes were really meant for retaining warmth, most if not all of them had the sole purpose of being vivid and elegant, meant for the balls and feasts of queens instead of caves high in the hills.
“He couldn’t have even one pair of thicker pants, could he, Roach?” Geralt growled, hauling the saddlebags from her back in a haphazard rush to find something that would work. He needed to hurry, to be faster than his worry and the concern rearing its head inside him that Jaskier’s rasping gasps were feeding.
Grabbing his cloak, old and worn but still dry and big enough to wrap Jaskier thrice around with, Geralt bundled him into it until his trembling subsided just slightly. The mop of brown hair plastered to his forehead and the way he’d curled up as soon as he lay down made Jaskier look young, and defenseless in a way that Geralt didn’t often see in him. Sure, the bard wasn’t the fighter of the pair but he wasn’t one to be cowed by a bared blade or two, more often than not he’d be the reason for it, with insults more colorful than his clothes.
“What now?” he asked, glancing back at Roach as if she’d have an answer for him. Jaskier would usually be the one to fill the silence, but without him it felt wrong to leave the quiet unbroken, as if that heavy stillness would stifle him while he battled the tremors that wracked his body.
After starting a fire and setting their dinner to cook, Geralt couldn’t stop trying to pull the folds of his cloak tighter with Jaskier’s every move, a need to do something, anything, gnawing at his bones. He dragged Jaskier’s pack closer and dug inside in search of an answer to his question. Charcoal, sheaves of notes and bundles of strings littered the bag, along with old dried flowers and a few pebbles he must have had some reason for carrying even if Geralt couldn’t understand why. There was even a scrap of frayed leather near the bottom that he would’ve sworn was a piece of the strip he used to tie his hair back.
“There’s buttercups and beetle casings in here, but no fucking medicine.” Geralt swore under his breath with every empty passing second, the wheezing at his back serving as a tortuorous measure of how much time he was letting slip by with no solution.
“Pocket… Side,” the bare whisper was accompanied by a weak tug on his shirt as Jaskier shifted an inch closer to the fire.
“At least you’re talking, that means you can’t be dying.”
“Who says… I can’t do both at once?” Jaskier nodded his head, ruffling the tuft of hair at his ear that had poked out over the edge of Geralt’s cloak and tempting him to tuck it back underneath. The bottle in Geralt’s hand was fogged up with a label that had peeled off partly to leave only ‘erwort’ written in scraggly handwriting.
“Witness the marvelous… talking dead.”
“You’re not there yet, bard,” shoving a pinch or so into the pot of water he’d collected from the rain outside, Geralt took the small victory of the sight of a fragile grin stretching Jaskier’s lips, “Don’t compose a dirge before they even find the body.”
“Those aren’t… my style.” Lapsing into silence again, Jaskier stared at the curling flames for the slow minutes it took for the water to grow hot. In between stoking the fire, Geralt kept his eye on the slow rise and fall of his chest, counting the seconds and cursing his oversights. He could tell a drowned dead from a common drowner just by the squelch of its footsteps and yet he failed to catch the signs of what was happening right next to him.
After pouring a cup full of the concoction, he propped Jaskier up with a careful arm under him, nigh cradling his head across his lap from the need to keep him steady.
“Heard you talking to Roach… Miss me?” Watery blue eyes met his, the glee glimmering there even amidst the glassiness from the fever.
“Haven’t had a chance to catch up with her in a while.” Geralt pushed the rim of the cup to Jaskier’s mouth. “Drink.”
I see… how it is,” Jaskier muttered between sips when Geralt refilled the cup. “Playing… favorites.”
“Jaskier, are you jealous of a horse?” The relief that flooded through him at the scrape of a laugh from Jaskier’s throat had Geralt’s heart lighter than a bird.
“No… That’s not fair… to Roach. Ugh, I forgot how… distasteful that stuff is.”
His eyes slipped closed, body relaxing into Geralt’s hold though he was still hot to the touch. Finding himself loathe to disturb Jaskier’s fitful sleep, he stayed still, stiffly so at first and finally bracing his back against the cave’s wall with a last look at Roach as his hands stayed resting on the folds of his cloak and the warm body inside.
“Had you worried, right, Roach?” He frowned at the mist outside, mind set on the next time and what he’d do when the silence came.