The next few days went by fairly smoothly. Yennefer spent almost all her time watching over Jaskier. During the day she was in and out as he slept, preparing potions or changing the water she used to keep him cool. Her nights were spent in the chair at his bedside, afraid he would wake in a panic and end up on the floor again.
It only happened once more. Yennefer was fast asleep when she was woken up by a strangled cry from the bard. She was awake in an instant, finding Jaskier trying to get up. She caught him with her arms around him. She had to sit beside him to prevent him from getting up, holding him close as he slowly calmed down, speaking gentle reassurances to him. He didn’t fully wake up, instead falling asleep again, resting his head against her. She eased him back on the bed before returning to her chair, staying up to watch over him for the rest of the night. She was tired the next day, but it was worth it to make sure there wouldn’t be a repeat.
She changed his bandages every morning and evening initially before determining it only needed to be done once a day. His wounds were healing nicely, and Yennefer couldn’t help but be pleased with herself at her handiwork. The stitches would only need to stay in for another week or so.
His fever finally seemed to break on the fourth morning after she had brought him there. He woke, groggy as usual but lacking the panicked energy from before. “Yennefer?” he had said upon seeing her reading in the chair next to him.
“What... Erm… Where are we?” he asked, glancing around the room.
Instead of answering him, she leant over and lay her palm on his forehead. He jerked away but allowed her to do as she wished. It wasn’t like he could do anything to stop her anyway. “It seems your fever finally broke.”
“Fever? Yen, what happened? Ugh, I feel terrible.”
“What do you remember?” she asked as she helped him sit up. His fever may have finally broken but he was still weak and injured.
Jaskier wracked his brain for something useful but his memories were all muddled, as though he was looking back through a thick fog. Eventually he said, “I was travelling through a forest. And… I think I was attacked? There were monsters… maybe.”
Yennefer shook her head. “The people who found you claimed you said it was bandits and they had stolen your possessions. They took you to the local healer, but he decided you would be a waste of his time so drugged you to unconsciousness instead of helping you.”
There was silence as Jaskier took that information in. He had been through a lot so Yennefer couldn’t really blame him for needing a moment to process what she had said. After a long stretch of silence, he finally said, “Bandits. I remember them now. They wanted my money, but I didn’t have any. So they took my pack. I tried to fight them off with… oh,” he broke off.
“Your lute?” she said, finishing his sentence. He only nodded. “I have it here, you know. It’s badly damaged but not totally destroyed.”
He turned to her, a glimmer of hope in his eyes before being replaced by confusion again. “Where is here anyway?”
“And how did I end up here instead of, you know, dying?”
“I just so happened to be seeing the healer who had taken you in about some rare herbs. He complained about some bard that had been dragged in a few days earlier and pointed out your lute.”
“So, what, you recognised my lute?”
“Pretty much. We may not have gotten along too well in the past, but I couldn’t leave you to die there when I could do something about it.”
“Thank you.” Yennefer tried to shrug it off as no big deal, but the bard seemed determined. “I’m serious Yen. I would be dead if it weren’t for you.”
She cleared her throat, suddenly feeling awkward. “Yes, well, you can thank me by getting better and going on your way.”
“Why not just toss me out now?” he said with a playful smile.
“And undo all my hard work? I don’t think so.”
Over the next few days Jaskier gradually regained his strength. He could move around by himself and Yennefer was saved from having to feed him while he was aware. He had no recollection of the past few days other than the terrible nightmares about monsters. Yennefer saved him the embarrassment of being told about the times he had fallen out of bed or wandered off. She did however let him know that he had told her about what had happened between him and Geralt. It didn’t feel right to keep that from him.
“I don’t blame him, you know,” he said.
“He called you a shit-shoveler, Jaskier.”
“I’m aware of that, Yen. What I mean is that I should’ve been more careful around him. We both know he’s not the best with emotions.”
“If by that you mean he refuses to acknowledge that he has any to begin with, then yes.” That earnt her a huffed laugh.
“I should’ve just given him some space. Those words didn’t come out of nowhere. I know I’ve led us into trouble in the past, but I’ve never done it on purpose. And I’ve tried to be there for him when he needed someone. He just doesn’t like to believe he deserves a friend.”
“I’d like to believe he actually cared about me,” Yen said after a moment. “For a while I thought I had found what I’d been searching for. But with the damned wish, I can’t be certain any of it was real. And even now, I still find myself missing him and not knowing if it’s me or the djinn that’s making me feel this way.”
“I guess he fucked us both over then.”
“I guess he did.”
From that point on they formed a tenuous friendship. When Jaskier was awake, they shared gossip and bantered back and forth. Eventually Yennefer allowed him to get out of bed and stretch his legs, but only ever for a few minutes at a time. She was careful to not let him overexert himself. He of course often insisted he was fine, doing his best to hide how exhausted he felt after but failing miserably.
He was a bit unsteady the first time, but within only a few days he could get about by himself, even if he was rather slow. Yennefer found him some clothes he could wear so that he wasn’t just wandering around in his smallclothes and a blanket. They weren’t his usual style, but they were comfortable and honestly that’s all he wanted right now.
Yennefer was reluctant to let him leave his room but it wasn’t like she could lock him in like a child. At first she made him promise to stay upstairs. She couldn’t have him tripping on his way down after all. Jaskier only listened to that for a day before she found him walking around downstairs.
“Jaskier,” she said.
“Good morning, my dear Yennefer.”
She ignored his greeting, crossing her arms and raising an eyebrow instead. “Have you perhaps forgotten out agreement?”
“Hardly an agreement when you were the only one who agreed to it. And besides, I’m fine. See!”
“If you’re fine then I’m sure you can stand up straight,” she said. Due to his wounds and the stitches still holding his skin together, the bard hadn’t been able to stand straight without causing himself unnecessary pain.
At the mage’s request, Jaskier visibly stuttered, losing his cool confidence and began stumbling over his words. As much as Yennefer enjoyed watching him squirm, she shook her head and gave him a lecture about not pushing himself too hard before making them both breakfast.
Jaskier steadily regained his strength to the point where he no longer needed to nap during the day and could even manage a walk around outside. Although Yennefer insisted on going with him the first time. “Just to make sure you don’t do anything stupid,” was the excuse she gave but they both knew she cared about him at this point.
The stitches came out a day later. Yennefer told him the injuries would scar but she had minimised it as much as possible and had a cream that could help reduce it further until they were nothing but thin, pale lines.
She found herself dreading the day that Jaskier would want to leave. It was a strange sensation and certainly not one she would have thought herself feeling over the bard. But the truth was that she had grown used to his company and actually found herself enjoying having him around.
After a few more days, it became clear that Jaskier was also reluctant to leave, though she couldn’t fathom why. She had never known him to stay in one place for long. She would have thought he would be chomping at the bit to go and perform, or at least find somewhere to get his lute fixed.
The poor thing had been moved to Jaskier’s room shortly after he had woken up but there was little Yennefer could do to fix it. Healing humans was one thing, mending a broken instrument was another thing entirely, something she had absolutely no experience with. It was clear he missed being able to play it. She caught him staring at it forlornly every now and then.
“I can portal you somewhere you can get it fixed you know,” she said one evening. They were sitting in the living room, Yennefer reading and Jaskier sitting across from her with the lute case in his lap, trying his best to clean away the dirt that had become engrained in its surface while the instrument itself sat next to him. He was humming quietly to himself as he worked, a habit he seemed to have while he was doing anything that didn't otherwise involve making noise.
He looked up at her then. A small glimmer of hope in his eyes appeared briefly before it died. “I have no money to pay for repairs.”
“You would do that for me?”
“A bard without an instrument is fairly useless. I doubt you voice alone could make up for it. You’d no doubt starve within a week.”
“Yennefer how dare you!” he cried in mock outrage. “I think you’ll find my voice is perfectly fine thank you very much, and I am more than capable of singing with or without my lute.”
“Do you want it fixed or not?”
“So stop complaining,” she said with a small smile and a shrug, returning her attention to her book.
It was only after a few minutes of silence that she noticed something seemed was off about Jaskier. He hadn’t gone back to humming as he cleaned the last of the dirt from the lute case, sitting in silence instead. It was strange and made her feel uneasy after listening to him almost constantly making noise.
She was tempted to leave him to whatever was going on in his head, but something urged her to ask. “Is something wrong?”
“Hmm? Oh, no I’m fine,” he said, flashing her a weak smile, obviously having been lost in his thoughts.
“Jaskier. You’re quiet.”
“You’re never quiet.”
“Sorry,” he said, curling into himself a little as though to protect himself.
Yennefer set aside her book, leaning forward in her seat so she was closer to him. “Did I say something to upset you?” He shook his head. “You know I could just read your mind, right?”
He looked at her then, slight fear in his eyes. He sighed before turning back to his task. “I… hmm…” he broke off, clearly trying to find the words.
“Was it about your voice?”
He shook his head again. “No. It was… the other bit.”
“About you starving?” He nodded.
There was something here he wasn’t saying and she wanted to know, wanted to help if she could. “Since… the incident, on the mountain,” he started, “it’s been harder for me to sing about Geralt. My heart’s just not in it and the audience can tell. I’ve tried but it’s not the same. And they’re never interested in any of my other songs. Coin has been a bit short for a while now.”
Things were starting to make sense now. He must have been struggling even before the bandits attacked. That would explain why he was already so thin when she had found him, beyond the neglect of the herbalist.
Unlike with most things, she really didn’t know how to make this better. She couldn’t exactly magic him into being happy about Geralt again. Giving him some extra coin would only solve the problem for a few days. They sat in solemn silence, Jaskier still fixated on the lute case and Yennefer trying to come up with anything that could help.
“What if…” she started, “What if you travelled with me?”
“Surely you could make at least a few decent songs from that?”
“I… erm… alright?” he said.
“Unless you don’t want to, of course?”
“No, I do, I just didn’t expect it. I’d be honoured. Truly,” he said, flashing a much brighter smile.
“Very well. We’ll get your lute fixed tomorrow,” she said leaning back in her chair.
“Tomorrow? That soon?”
“You want it fixed, don’t you? We don’t have to leave just yet, not until you feel ready. You’ve been through a lot.”
Only a week after that conversation, Yennefer and Jaskier were finally ready to head out. Jaskier’s lute was as good as new, and if Yennefer had added a little of her chaos to it to make it stronger, that was just for her to know. Jaskier finally felt enough like his former self to get out on the road. He’d been like a puppy for the past few days, rushing about with seemingly boundless energy as they gathered their necessary supplies, despite the fact that his wounds still hadn't fully healed.
It was their first night camping out in the open. Yennefer had set up her tent, the same one she had taken with her on the mountain. She tried not to think too much about what had happened, wanting to avoid those painful memories.
Jaskier was sat by the fire, playing one of his slower songs that decidedly did not involve a certain white haired witcher. It was peaceful, she thought. It wasn’t something she often sought for herself, chasing after power and status instead, searching for something that might finally fill the part of her that far too often felt empty.
As she sat by the fire, looking up at the stars above them, she allowed herself a small smile. She could get used to this calm. Companionship without expectation. It felt nice to be wanted.