Chapter Two of this
Jaskier had lost all sense of time as he drifted in and out of wakefulness. He wasn't really sure what was going on, his thoughts were stretching like caramelized sugar, his head heavy, like it was on days Geralt tried to wake him before the sun even thought about rising.
It felt like every part of his body ached, muscles and joints puckering painfully. He wasn't a stranger to the soreness in his body that came from long weeks on the path or tiresome days in court. But his current state felt worse. He would have never thought that his shoulders and elbows, his knees and hips could ache like that. Jaskier could feel every single joint in his shaking hands as if they were repeatedly stabbed with the tiniest of needles.
When they were children, his brother once pushed him into a giant anthill. While he couldn't recall how it felt to have thousands of tiny ants bite into his skin, he remembered wailing so loudly that the guards thought he was being slaughtered. Jaskier wasn't wailing now, but the tears still ran down his face, the agonizing feeling somewhat similar.
At some point, the pain stopped and with it vanished the cold, that had clung to his very bones for months. Heat flared up, set him on fire. He could feel the sweat drip down his temples. Tossing and turning he tried to get away from the suffocating blankets that seemed to return every time he threw them off.
The ground on which he lay was always shaking, disorienting him and making him gag. More than once he found himself waking up with a horrible dry cough tearing at his throat or his own stomach acid wandering up, forcing tears into his eyes. In the haziness of it all, he couldn't pinpoint where he was or what was happening to him. Jaskier knew that he was in pain, he knew that something was happening to him he couldn't control, he knew that he was never left alone. Someone was always watching over him.
A hand cradling through his damp hair.
A cold cloth placed on his forehead, another one over his burning eyes.
Helping him out of the sweaty linens clinging to his skin.
Water and broth carefully tipped into his mouth, sip by sip.
“Can't remember the last time one of the kits was this bad.”
“No idea if he will make it.”
“Schrödinger says he's a bard.”
Schrödinger. A trembling body cast aside like a sour apple. Blood running down his lips as he desperately tried to stay alive. As soon as he had realized that the man down the hill was still alive, as soon as he had recognized it was a witcher, Jaskier was kneeling next to him, frantically yelling at him to hold on while he stitched the man back together.
It was good that he had practiced so much on Geralt. Though, the Cat had been a way better patient. He also knew how to hold a meaningful conversation.
Jaskier blinked awake with a shuddering breath.
The fogginess still clung to his thoughts, making everything a bit woozy, but it still felt like he was properly awake for the first time in a long while. He blinked again, trying to hold onto the world around him, preventing himself from falling back to sleep.
It must have been night, the familiar darkness casting shadows upon the wooden ceiling he was looking at. Somewhere near his feet a candle flickered in the wind, allowing grotesque figures to dance along the walls. He turned his head to the side and his eyes caught sight of a hammock spun across the room, someone sleeping inside it, a quiet snore adding to the background noise. Only then did Jaskier realize that he was not alone. The floor of the small room had been turned into a big makeshift bed, with multiple sleeping rolls, blankets and even a few pillows. Two witchers - he didn't need to see the medallions around their necks to know that they were witchers, he just knew it instinctively - were huddled up in the tiny space on his left and sharing a blanket. He turned his head again and was met with the predatory reflection of pale green eyes looking right at him. Schrödinger was halfway sprawled across Jaskier's body, their legs intertwined. He sucked in a surprised gasp, somehow not having noticed the other's presence until now.
“Hi,” Schrödinger whispered into the darkness and Jaskier didn't need all-seeing witcher eyes to know that the Cat was smiling at him. “You're alive,” he whispered back, his voice full of relief. “Thanks to you, sunshine, I am.“ Jaskier tried to move his hand up, to hold the witcher, to reassure himself he wasn't imagining things, but his arm was too heavy when he tried. He frowned, “What happened?”
Sensing his predicament, Schrödinger reached out instead, gently placing a cool hand on Jaskier's warm forehead. “You were sick, really fuckin' sick. Scared the shit outta me, Jaskier.”
Gulping down the guilt that rose to his chest like bile, the bard muttered a quiet apology. Schrödinger ruffled his hair. “Don't worry too much about it. An eye for 'n eye, a life for a life. You're practically a Cat now.” The witcher up in the hammock snorted, “Don't speak promises you can't keep, Eddie. Guxart's gonna strangle you.” Anxiety welled up, mixed with the guilt and left a sour taste in his mouth, but Schrödinger was quick to shush him, pulling Jaskier close to his chest. “I said, don't worry, sunshine. You're still pretty beat up, no one is gonna to throw you off the caravan.” He hummed with his nose buried in the witcher's neck, silently wondering about the last time someone had been so nice to him. It must have been years.
When he opened his eyes again, Schrödinger was still sprawled on top of him, maybe even more so than before. Jaskier blinked against the sunlight shining into - what he now recognized as - the confined room of a caravan. He had fallen asleep again.
With a newfound strength, he carefully shoved the sleeping Cat to the side and sat up. Dark spots danced across his vision and this time there was no candle he could blame for it. His throat felt terribly raw and he had to place a hand against it to make sure the curse wasn't back. It wasn't, the thin skin against his throat and neck was dry and itchy, but there were no bumps, no painful growths. He lowered his arm again, taking note on how that simple movement made his muscles tremble from exhaustion. It really had been bad, hadn't it?
When he looked around, the hammock was empty and aside from him and Schrödinger, only one other witcher was with them. A tiny one, really, with long hair as black as charcoal and huge blue eyes that looked right through his soul. Jaskier gave them a small wave and was rewarded with an unfamiliar chirping sound.
Cats, he scolded himself, not Wolves. He'd have to learn the witcher's body language and sounds all over again. As if on cue, Schrödinger started purring next to him, slowly waking up.
Jaskier watched with a newfound fascination how the witcher rolled onto his stomach and then went through a full body stretch, just like an actual cat. He yawned wholeheartedly and send the bard a loop-sided grin. “Mornin', sunshine.”
“Morning,” Jaskier greeted back, wincing at the rasp in his voice now that he wasn't whispering. He watched as the witcher sat up and promptly had a lap full of tiny chirping Cat. They rubbed their chins and cheeks together, the smaller witcher biting Schrödinger's jaw before they slipped out of the embrace and left the caravan. “How are you feelin', sunshine?” Schrödinger asked, his attention turning back to the bard. Jaskier let out a sigh, years on the Path with Geralt having him taught not to lie about his own health. And yet he couldn't help it, he already felt bad for imposing on the Cats lives, it'd be fucking ungrateful of him if he told Schrödinger how terrible he was feeling despite having them care for him. “Honestly, not that good.” It was a complete understatement, regardless, he tried to send the Cat a mollifying grin but Schrödinger's face fell. He reached out, once again placing his cool hand against Jaskier's too warm forehead. “What's wrong?”
The bard focused on his pale hands, silently calculating exactly what of the many aches consuming his body was worth mentioning and what would sound like pointless whining to the witcher. “Just... I'm still very exhausted,” he carefully started, “kind of feels like I had to fight a chort or a fiend.” He send Schrödinger another smile, “I'm afraid humans need a lot longer to recover from sickness.” To his utter surprise, the witcher took hold of his hands and gently placed them in his lap, thumbs caressing his pale skin and sending goosebumps up Jaskier's arms. His heart fluttered. “You can tell me, Jaskier. It's just like my allergies, there's no shame in needin' a bit of extra care while recoverin'.” Jaskier sucked in a breath, not able to understand how quickly Schrödinger had figured him out. “If you don't want to tell me, that's okay. But, sunshine, I can only help you, if you let me know what's hurtin'.”
This part was hard for Jaskier. Jaskier who had no problem with saving the life of a complete stranger, Jaskier who had long ago dedicated his whole being to make the world a better place, Jaskier who jumped head first in the role of a protector and Jaskier who'd do anything for a loved one. (Even if that meant avoiding said loved one at all costs.)
He knew, logically, that I'd be better to tell Schrödinger how he really felt. That his head was pounding like a warhammer, that his whole body still ached and trembled, that he was incredibly hungry and thirsty but already knew he wouldn't be able to stomach solid food, that he wanted nothing more than to sink down in a warm bathtub and scrub at his skin until he felt like himself again. He opened his mouth, closed it again without getting a single syllable out. His throat hurt.
Schrödinger hadn't let go of his hands, hadn't stopped the gentle movement of his thumbs. “It's alright,” he reassured Jaskier gently, “nothing bad is gonna happen. I promise.”
“My- My throat hurts,” he admited quietly. The witcher smiled. “Okay, we'll get you some tea and honey, if that doesn't help I'm sure Dragonfly can fix you a potion. Thank you for telling me, sunshine. Is there anything else I can help with?”
“Is there- Can I-” Jaskier stuttered, not sure if it was the fatigue or the witcher's softness that had him so overwhelmed. “Some water maybe? So I can clean up? That'd help a lot, I think.”
Schrödinger smiled, brought Jaskier's hands up to his face and pressed a soft kiss against the bard's knuckles. “Of course, sunshine. Thank you for letting me know.”
might have accidentally created a comfort character for myself oops?
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