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Came for Herbs, Left with a Bard

Chapter Text

The portal shimmered closed as Yennefer stepped through onto the packed dirt road. The town was much like any other. Squat houses crammed together, lining the narrow streets as she passed by the peasants that lived here. It was a place she would never usually visit. What was the point when she could have whatever she wanted from the richest cities on the Continent.

The only reason for her coming here was that she was looking for a rare herb that only grew in this region. Instead of foraging in the forest herself, she was hoping a local herbalist already had some. She found the house soon enough, a well-kept building near the centre of town, a small garden at the front with several common herbs growing in various beds.

She walked up to the door and knocked. “One moment!” a voice called from inside. Yennefer stood waiting, putting on a mask of indifference. After a minute the door swung open, revealing a short man with messy, greying hair. “Oh, forgive me,” he said upon seeing Yennefer’s fine clothes. “I had not realised my guest was someone of importance.” He bowed his head slightly as he stepped aside, letting the mage inside. “To what do I owe the pleasure, my lady?”

“I’m looking for a rare herb that grows in this area. I was hoping you might have some.” She said, sitting at the rickety table as though she owned the place.

The man shut the door and took the seat opposite. “Ponolla, I assume?” Yennefer nodded. “Yes, I think I have some. It doesn’t come cheap though, due to its rarity.”

“Money won’t be an issue.”

With a nod, the man stood, going to the shelves that stood at the side of the room, searching for the herb. He was interrupted however by a dull thud from the next room as something heavy fell to the floor. It was followed by a low groan. “Gods damnit,” the herbalist hissed through his teeth. "Excuse me one moment."

He grabbed a vial of something cloudy before storming into the next room. “Can’t you stay on the gods damned bed,” he said angrily to whoever was in there. If there was a reply, Yennefer didn’t hear it.

After a few minutes the herbalist returned. “Forgive the interruption. I’ll get the ponolla for you now.”

“What was that?” Yennefer asked, her curiosity getting the better of her.

“Some bard a few lads found wandering the forest not far from here. Looks like he was attacked by bandits, all his possessions stolen. He was delusional with fever at the time and has only worsened.”

“And how are you treating the fever?”

“I’m not. No point, the infection has spread too far to be able to do anything. I’m just keeping him sedated until he passes.”

“If was delusional and his possessions were stolen how do you know he’s a bard?”

“That lute,” he said, pointing to the corner of the room, “was the only thing he had. Guess the bandits thought it was worthless.”

Yennefer glanced over at it. A few of the strings were broken. It looked as though it had been used as an improvised weapon, one side of it being badly cracked. There was something familiar about it too. Yennefer had seen many bards perform in her time at court but she wouldn’t recognise any of them. There was only one bard that she could say she actually knew.

“This bard, do you know his name?”

“No, he’s not said anything coherent since he was found. Just keeps rambling about monsters and a witcher.”

Yennefer rose from her seat and walked to the other room. Lying on a small cot was Jaskier. His entire torso was bandaged, blood seeping through the cloth. His face was flushed red, his brown hair matted with sweat to his forehead. His breathing seemed strained and he was clearly seriously unwell.

“Do you know him?” the herbalist asked, following her.

“He’s an acquaintance.” In reality they were somewhere between friends and rivals, but she didn’t need to tell this herbalist that. “Why aren’t you at least trying to lower his fever?” she asked, suddenly angry on his behalf.

“There’s no point,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “It would just be a waste of time and herbs. I can’t save his life.”

“He’s coming with me.” The words were out of her mouth before she could think about it. They may not have the best relationship, but she couldn’t leave him to suffer at the hands of this man, so full of apathy he wouldn’t even try to make him more comfortable beyond drugging him out of his mind.

She opened a portal right there leading back to her house. “Pick him up, would you,” she ordered. When the man didn’t move she snapped at him. “Now.”

Jumping into action, he scooped Jaskier off the cot before following Yennefer through the portal to one of her spare rooms. “Put him there. Carefully,” she said pointing to the large bed occupying most of the space. She went back through the portal to retrieve the lute. The herbalist followed her back through, hovering annoyingly. “The ponolla?”

“Forget it. I’ll be going elsewhere.” With that she stepped back through, closing the portal behind her.

Setting the lute in the corner of the room, she went to her study where she kept her herbs and potions, already going through the list in her head for ingredients to help reduce fever. She didn’t know what the herbalist had been giving Jaskier to keep him sedated so only picked things that weren’t likely to cause adverse reactions when mixed with common sedatives.

She returned to the bard a few minutes later with a strong tea which would hopefully start to bring his temperature down. Even from where she stood at his side she could feel the heat rolling off him. She sat next to his head, propping him up enough to be able to pour the tea into his mouth without him choking. It took several minutes but she managed to get him to drink it all.

The next priority would be to change the grimy bandages on his chest and stomach. They looked as though they hadn’t been changed in days, stained with old and fresh blood. She fetched a roll of bandages and a bowl of lukewarm water. Removing the bandages off was an unpleasant task. The blood had stuck the cloth to his skin, peeling away old scabs and causing blood to run down his sides. For the first time, she was glad he was so heavily sedated. She didn’t think she could bare to do this if he suddenly awoke.

As she worked, the wounds were slowly revealed. There were several across his front, none of which were too deep but it was clear Jaskier hadn’t been able to look after his injuries properly. Foul yellow pus leaked out of the wounds as scabs came loose. It made Yennefer want to gag with the smell alone. The worst one was fairly short but had cut deep into his stomach. None of the wounds were stitched, another small thing to be thankful for as she could flush the wounds without having to remove them first.

She threw the bandages into a corner of the room. She would burn them later, once Jaskier had been seen to. She could see why the herbalist had labelled the bard as a lost cause. He was beyond saving by conventional means at this point. Yennefer may not be an expert in healing magic, but she could give his body a little extra boost, just enough to help him get over the worst of it. She dared not do more for fear of making things worse. Healing magic was a delicate balance and without proper training could easily go horrifically wrong.

She began cleaning the cuts on Jaskier’s skin, lancing the pus-filled areas and washing it all away until only watery blood remained. With each one, she let a little bit of her chaos seep into his flesh, just enough to ensure the infection wouldn’t return. When she had finally done that, she found a needle and thread and began stitching the wounds closed. She didn’t know if she had done enough to ensure the infection wouldn’t return but stitching him up now would give him the best chance of healing and minimise scarring.

Once that was done she let her eyes scan over his prone form, checking to make sure she hadn’t missed anything. It was then that she noticed how thin he looked. The outlines of his ribs were visible where normally he would have a healthy layer of fat and muscle and his cheeks were sunken in. This kind of starvation didn’t happen in a matter of days. How long had he been wandering around in the forest before being found. Had the herbalist even fed him or would that have just been another waste of resources? She tamped down her rising anger. It would do her no good now.

The entire time she was doing this, she couldn’t help but wonder, where was Geralt? She knew the two of them didn’t travel together constantly but it was only the very beginnings of autumn. They usually didn’t separate until midwinter when Geralt would return to Kaer Morhen. So why was Jaskier alone?

Chapter Text

It was dark by the time Yennefer finally finished tending to Jaskier’s wounds. The bard hadn’t stirred once, much to Yennefer’s relief. Her muscles ached from sitting in the same position for so long but it was worth it. The tea she had forced down his throat earlier seemed to have helped his fever somewhat. He was still far too warm for her liking, but he no longer seemed in danger of cooking his own brain.

With a sigh, she gathered up the bowl and the various cloths she had used and took them out of the room. She tossed the soiled bandages into the fire in her study before putting things back where they belonged.

Washing her hands of Jaskier’s blood, she headed down to the small kitchen at the back of her house. Preparing food wasn’t something she was particularly good at, but much like healing, she was passably okay. It was never something she had needed to worry about before but since breaking off from the brotherhood, she couldn’t rely on being provided with a meal by whoever she had enchanted that week.

Jaskier likely wouldn’t be able to manage much so a soup would probably be best, if he woke at all this evening. All in all, she was gone for an hour after cooking and eating her fill. She poured some into a bowl for Jaskier before heading back upstairs.

Once she was back in his room, her heart stopped. Jaskier was gone. Had he woken up and started wandering about? She remembered he had fallen out of the cot at the herbalist’s house so she knew he was capable of moving around but he really shouldn’t be. Setting the soup on the bedside table, she went back out into the hallway.

He was still upstairs, of that much she was sure. She would have heard him stumbling down the creaky staircase. So where would he have gone? She called his name loud enough to be heard, but with a gentleness she didn't know she possessed. She had no idea what state his mind was in, so she made sure to keep her voice calm, even if inside she was panicking.

Only Jaskier’s room and her study were lit, the other rooms upstairs remaining dark since no one was using them. The first one she checked was empty looking for anywhere he might be hiding. She remembered what the herbalist had said about Jaskier mumbling about monsters. There was a possibility he believed, in his fevered state, that he was in danger, and she wanted to avoid scaring him.

She stepped into the next room, moving slowly in case he could hear her. “Jaskier? Are you in here?”

She strained her ears for any sign of him. There was a faint whimper from the far corner. Approaching slowly, she could just see him in the dark. He was huddled in the corner and half hidden by the bed in the middle of the room. He was shivering, though from fear or fever she couldn’t tell. He was curled up, head resting on his knees and arms wrapped around his legs. It looked uncomfortable and she hoped he hadn’t pulled any of his stiches.

“Jaskier?”

He curled into himself impossibly tighter. She knelt down beside him and gently lay her hand on his bare shoulder. He flinched hard but made no move to get away. He felt like he was burning but she didn’t remove her hand. “Jaskier, look at me. You’re safe here.”

Ever so slowly he lifted his head to look at her. His eyes were distant, as though he wasn't entirely present, not something she would ever have associated with the normally vibrant bard. After a moment, he finally spoke. “Y- Yennefer?” he asked, his voice weak and raspy.

“It’s me. Why are you hiding here?”

“I- it was coming f- for me.” He sounded terrified. Yennefer had no idea what he could possibly mean, what horror his mind had conjured in his fever-stricken state, but she wanted to help.

“Listen to me, Jaskier. Whatever it is, it’s not real. You’re sick. You have a fever and it’s making you see things.”

“N- no it was there.”

“It’s gone now.” That seemed to calm him somewhat as he relaxed slightly, letting his arms fall to his lap. “Why don’t we get you back to your room? There’s soup waiting for you.” She felt like she was talking to a child but that currently seemed to be working so she stuck with it.

Jaskier gave the smallest of nods but let Yennefer help him back to his feet. She slung one of his arms over her shoulders while wrapping her own arm around his waist. It was difficult going since he was weak and quite a bit taller than herself, but she could tell he was trying to help. She had no idea how he managed to get into the other room without falling since it was clear he couldn’t walk under his own power.

They made it back to Jaskier’s room eventually, and when had she started calling it that? She shook her head to banish the thought. Jaskier was only staying here until he was well enough to leave after all, no reason to suddenly get attached to Geralt’s annoying friend.

She positioned him so that he was sitting up against the headboard with the support of several pillows. Now they were back in the light, she could see there were a few spots of blood on his bandages. It didn’t seem too bad so she decided she could wait until he had some much needed food to check on it.

Jaskier was already drifting asleep again but she managed to rouse him enough to remind him of the soup. It was awkward, spoon-feeding Geralt’s bard, but there was no way could feed himself. She was pleased that he managed to finish the bowl, despite him nodding off every now and then. Seeing how tired he was she decided against checking his stitches immediately, especially since the bleeding seemed to have stopped. She repositioned him so that he was lying down but decided against pulling the blanket over him. His fever was still too high for that. She would make him more tea in the morning, for now it would be best to leave him rest.

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Yennefer checked in on Jaskier first thing. Thankfully he hadn’t woken up and gone wandering about again during the night and was still lying where she had left him. In the kitchen she prepared some porridge for the both of them and made some more tea. She added a few more herbs than last time, confident the last of the sedative from the herbalist had left his system by now.

She was reluctant to wake Jaskier but she needed to change his bandages and make sure he ate. Placing her hand on his shoulder, she gently shook him awake. He opened his eyes blearily before trying to sit up with a start. Yennefer jumped back in surprise but was quick to gently push him back down.

“Is it here?” he rasped, that same fear as last night returning.

“There’s nothing here, Jaskier. It’s just me.” He relaxed then, the tension leaving his body as he slumped back down. “You shouldn’t be moving around this much. You’ll tear your stitches.”

“Bandits,” he mumbled, only half-aware of what Yennefer was saying. She wasn’t sure if it was a question or an explanation of how he was injured.

“So I heard. Got yourself attacked in the woods and they took all your stuff. Except for your lute of course.”

Jaskier perked up at the mention of his instrument. “Where is it?”

“It’s in the other room. Looks to me like you used it to bludgeon someone with it. It’s badly damaged.”

“Only thing I had,” Jaskier murmured as Yennefer helped him sit up against the headboard again.

“Why weren’t you with Geralt?” she asked, unable to keep her curiosity in check.

Jaskier’s face hardened, looking away as though ashamed. “He blamed me for all the shit in his life. Told me "If life could give me one blessing, it would be to take you off my hands". So I gave him his wish.”

Yennefer suddenly regretted asking. She thought they might have had a small argument or simply parted ways for something trivial. Not… that. He sounded broken, although some of that may have been due to his fever. He had known Geralt for far longer than Yennefer had so the fact that Geralt had sent him away was a shock.

“Oh,” was all she could think to say. She was glad Jaskier wasn’t likely to remember any of this. She cleared her throat before speaking again. “I need to check your bandages,” she said, changing the subject and hoping to clear the suddenly oppressive atmosphere in the room.

Jaskier seemed to space out a little as she began unwinding the cloth around his middle, their previous exchange seemingly forgotten. He must have been in a lot of pain but perhaps the fever had muddled his mind enough so that he wasn’t really aware of it since he barely flinched as she worked. It didn’t seem as though he had bled much overnight which was a good sign. The stitches held and there was no sign of any pus. She decided to spread a bit of salve over each cut to speed up the healing process. Jaskier sucked in a breath as she made contact, trying to move away from the pain that finally seemed to break through his haze.

“Jaskier, stop moving. This will help numb the pain, but you’ve got to let me put it on first.” He stilled at that but still flinched at the contact. Finally, she managed to wrap clean bandages around his chest and stomach. “I made you some tea. It should also help with the pain and help bring your fever down. Then you can have something to eat.”

She held the cup as he drank, too weak to hold it by himself without spilling it. She wondered again how he had managed to get into the other room when he could barely do this unassisted. Once he had managed roughly half, she took it away, only to be replaced by a spoonful of porridge. He slipped back into half-awareness as Yennefer fed him,  for which she was once again somewhat grateful for simply to ease the awkwarness, even if it was rather disconcerting.

Once the food was gone, she let him finish off the tea before helping him lie back down. He was asleep in a matter of seconds. In the light of day the mage could see just how much he had deteriorated since she last saw him several months ago.

The man lying before her barely resembled the bard she was used to, so full of life and constantly moving. The Jaskier before her was thin and pale, a sheen of sweat still clinging to his skin. Although he was now asleep, he didn’t seem to be getting much rest, his eyes moving rapidly under his eyelids, caught in whatever dream or nightmare his fever-riddled brain had trapped him in.

She wondered, not for the first time, if the herbalist had even done anything for him at all. This kind of damage didn’t happen overnight. Was Jaskier dumped at his door before being left on that cot only to suffer before being drugged. Did he get any food, or even water, since she could clearly tell he had been dehydrated? Were his bandages changed at all? Other than the sedative, had he been given anything for the pain?

The thought of Jaskier left abandoned and sick in that man’s house for days on end set her blood boiling. She had half a mind to go back and give him a piece of her mind before burning the whole building to the ground. At least it would teach him a lesson. But she resisted the urge. Jaskier was under her care now and he needed her here, especially since he could very well start wandering around again. No, she needed to be here to keep him safe, at least until he was well again and in his right mind.

She lay a hand on his forehead. His fever was still too high for her liking. She took the empty bowl and cup back to the kitchen before returning with a cloth and some cold water. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she dipped the cloth in the water before gently wiping it across his brow. He let out a small sigh at the contact, still caught in his dreams. He seemed to relax somewhat as she continued to wipe his face, moving down his neck and arms before going back to his face. She avoided getting the bandages on his chest wet, even if they were already damp with sweat.

Before she left she folded the cloth into a rectangle and soaked it again, wringing it out before laying it across his forehead. He seemed to have settled down somewhat, his face more relaxed now. Satisfied he would be fine for the next few hours, Yennefer left the room and headed to her study.

She spent the next couple of hours brewing various potions and remedies to reduce fever and speed up healing. She had a few books on healing which she scanned through, wanting to know all she could to be better equipped to help the bard. She found it relatively peaceful. Or at least it was until the quiet was broken by a yelp followed by a dull thud from down the hallway.

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Cursing under her breath, Yennefer resisted the urge to full on sprint to Jaskier’s room. She found the bard on the floor looking rather dazed, his legs tangled up in the blankets. He was trying to push himself upright but was lacking both the strength and coordination. Yennefer was by his side in an instant. He flinched hard at the brush of her fingers on his arm, causing him to lose his already precarious balance and narrowly avoided smacking his head on the floor. Yennefer managed to catch him before that could happen and eased him upright.

He looked at her but there was no recognition, only blind panic. He tried to wriggle out of her grasp but she only held on tighter. “Jaskier, it’s me. It’s Yennefer. You’re safe.”

“Y- Yen?” he whimpered between too-fast breaths. She could see tears forming in his eyes and hated to think of the horrors his mind was showing him. “I- I don’t know w-where I am.” His voice was barely above a whisper and cracked on the last word.

“It’s okay. You’re safe here,” she repeated. Waves of heat were rolling off him and it was almost painful to keep holding his arm, but she dared not let go. He was hyperventilating now and she needed to get him to calm down. "Jaskier, listen to me. I need you to breathe in time with me. Alright? I promise it'll make you feel much better."

She waited until he was focused on her before taking in an exagerated breath before letting it back out again. Jaskier tried to copy her but couldn't quite manage. Ever so slowly he managed a short breath, not as much as Yen, but it was something. A few more minutes passed and eventually Jaskier could match the mage. He was still shaking, though from fear or fever she couldn't tell, and several tears had run down his face but he had maintained eye contact with Yennefer the entire time, as though he was afraid to look away for fear of what might be lurking in the room.

“Why don’t we get you back on the bed?” she said once she was satisfied he was calm enough.

“No.” He gripped the arm that was still holding him, surprising the mage with the strength of it.

“No? Why not?”

“’s not safe.”

“Why isn’t it safe?”

“It- it can see me.” The returning terror in his voice almost had her convinced there was some monster in the room but a quick look around revealed nothing.

“Jaskier, I promise you, there is nothing in here except us.”

He tore his eyes away from Yennefer to glance around the room, checking for monsters himself before giving Yennefer the smallest of nods. It was a struggle getting Jaskier back on the bed. His limbs were weak and uncooperative, and he was still shaking like a leaf in a storm. It seemed as though his fever had returned with renewed force, obliterating any progress he had made the night before.

The fact that he had spent the majority of his life following a monster hunter across the continent didn’t help, giving his fevered mind plenty of inspiration to conjure monsters to torment him with. Once he was back on the bed, Yennefer found the cloth she had used earlier and wetted it again, running it over Jaskier’s face. It wasn’t as cold as before, but it was what she had on hand. Leaving Jaskier for more than a minute or so right now wasn’t an option. He was just as likely to try and get back up as stay in bed if she were to leave.

He flinched at the contact of the wet cloth on his overheated skin before leaning into it, closing his eyes in relief. “’S nice,” he mumbled. She tried to cool him down with just the cloth for a few minutes until she felt he was reasonably calm.

“You need to stay here while I get something to help with your fever.” His eyes snapped back open and she could tell he was about to protest. “I won’t be gone for more than a minute.”

“Promise?”

It honestly felt like talking to a child. But the fear in his eyes sent a wave of sympathy through her. “I promise.”

She returned to her study, grabbing the potions and remedies she had prepared earlier before retuning. Jaskier was thankfully exactly where she had left him, staring at the door. “See, told you I wouldn’t be long.”

She began setting up the various bottles and vials when Jaskier asked in a small voice, “Where are we?”

“We’re in my house, or one of them at least.”

“Where’s Geralt?” When Yennefer didn’t immediately answer, he asked, “Is he hurt?”

“No. No Geralt’s fine,” she said, unsure how to go about this. Jaskier genuinely didn’t seem to recall that he and Geralt had gone their separate ways. She didn’t know whether to tell him that or not, so she settled for a half-truth. “He had business elsewhere. You’ve been by yourself for a while now.”

“Oh. When will he be back?”

“I don’t know.” She couldn’t keep the bitterness out of her voice. He may have betrayed her trust but she had genuinely thought she had finally found what she had been looking for in their relationship. There was a part of her that still wanted him back but she couldn’t tell if that was the djinn’s magic at work or her own feelings.

Jaskier seemed to pick up on her change in mood. “Did I do something wrong? Is that why he left?”

“No. You only tried to be his friend, but he pushed you away.” Jaskier may have annoyed her in the past but even she could see how loyal the bard was to the witcher. The only time she had ever seen him show any kind of affection for Jaskier was the first night they had met but even then he hadn’t even managed to call him his friend. All the while, Jaskier had followed Geralt across the continent on a one-man mission to change the Continent’s opinion of witchers and to simply be there for him. She doubted Jaskier had done anything to deserve the words Geralt had hurled at him on that mountain. “You did all you could for him.”

She finished setting down the glass bottles before selecting one. She had specifically brewed it earlier to help reduce fever. “Jaskier,” she said, getting his attention again since it had wandered off, “you need to drink this. I won’t lie, it tastes pretty bad but it should help make the monsters go away.”

He nodded slightly before allowing Yennefer to tip the potion into his mouth. He gagged at the taste but managed not to spit it out, swallowing it down. She would have to look into making it taste better if she wanted to be able to get him to drink more later. “Try to get some sleep. You’ll feel better.”

“You won’t leave, will you?” he asked, sudden desperation “S-sorry," he stammered then, looking a bit like a kicked puppy when he realised what he'd just asked, "but, the monsters go away when you’re around.”

Something about that admission broke her heart a little. He was so vulnerable, and they barely knew each other, and yet he was practically begging for her to simply keep him company. “I’ll be right here.”

It didn’t take long for him to fall asleep again. Now that the bard wasn’t an immediate risk of falling out of bed again, she took the opportunity to check his bandages. There were only a few spots of blood visible, none of which seemed to be anything to worry about right now. He was lucky that the stitches seemed to have held after falling.

She sat with him for several minutes, wanting to keep her promise but also needing to get some fresh water to help bring his fever down. Only when she was certain he wouldn’t wake any time soon did she leave.

The entire time she was gone, she found herself rushing somewhat, aware that Jaskier could wake at any moment. For the first time in a long time, she found herself actually wanting to keep a promise. And for a sick and delusional bard no less.

She returned after what was at most ten minutes. Jaskier was where she had left him, lying on his back and fast asleep. She soaked a fresh cloth in the cool water before wiping over his face and arms again. She didn’t know if it would do much but it seemed to bring him some amount of relief.

While she was gone she had also brought in one of the medical books she had been reading earlier for something to do. It wasn’t particularly helpful for Jaskier’s current situation, only having two pages on fevers, but it contained a lot of useful and somewhat interesting medical knowledge.

She sat for hours simply reading as Jaskier slept, occasionally rewetting the cloth to run over his overheated skin or to change the water when it got too warm. He stirred occasionally but didn’t wake, sometimes mumbling incoherently. Each time he began to wake, Yennefer spelled him asleep again with a flick of her wrist. He needed the sleep and she wanted to avoid a repeat of earlier. It would do him no good to try and scramble out of bed half awake and terrified again.

Chapter Text

Yennefer had to let Jaskier wake eventually. She had gone to prepare more soup, checking he was still asleep and in bed every ten minutes or so. The last thing either of them needed was Jaskier having another hallucination. When she was done, she brought a bowl of soup up to his room and let it cool to room temperature, reluctant to give him anything that might raise his already high temperature.

She gently shook him awake, softly saying his name hoping it would prevent him from panicking. He began to stir, muttering nonsense before opening his eyes. For a brief moment he didn’t move. Suddenly he was desperately trying to sit up, or just trying to get away from yet another monster his mind had created. Yennefer had anticipated this and was already stood, gently but firmly placing her hands on his shoulders to keep him in place until he calmed down.

“Jaskier. It’s only me, Yennefer. It’s okay.”

“Yen,” he breathed, instantly relaxing back on the bed, going boneless beneath her hands. “Are they gone?”

‘They’ was new, the monsters before having been a singular 'it', but she took it in her stride. “It’s just us.”

He gave a small nod and Yennefer released him, trusting he wouldn’t try and escape. She helped him sit up, shifting around the pillows so he was leaning against the headboard. “I brought you more soup.”

“’m not hungry,” he mumbled, breathless from the effort of simply getting upright.

“You need to eat.”

“No.”

“Don’t make me force feed you like a child,” she said, allowing a dangerous edge to slip into her voice.

After a moment of staring him down, he finally conceded, allowing her to feel him a spoonful of lukewarm soup.

“It’s cold.”

“I know. I don’t want to raise your temperature,” she explained.

“I’m cold.”

“Trust me, you’re not. You have a fever, remember?”

“Why?”

Yennefer had to admit, she didn’t really have a simple answer for that. Did he want to know what caused the fever? Or about his infected wounds? Or even how he was injured? Either way, Yennefer wasn’t about to explain that to him. He wouldn’t remember anyway. “You’ve very ill, alright? Now, I’m trying to take care of you so just let me do my job and you can be on your way in a few days.”

Thankfully he seemed to accept this answer along with another spoonful of soup. Feeding him was becoming less awkward, maybe because of repetition, maybe because he was so thoroughly out of it, he had no awareness to be embarrassed by his situation. Either way, the soup was gradually eaten in a fairly comfortable silence. Jaskier didn’t seem to see any more monsters, although she didn’t know how long that would last for.

While she had been making the soup, she had also altered some of the potions she had prepared, adding a generous amount of honey to each one to lessen the overwhelming bitter taste. She hoped he would have less trouble with it now than he had before after almost throwing it up. She held it to his lips and he took a gulp, recoiling at the taste but swallowing it down. “Eugh! Are you trying to poison me?”

“I’m sorry about the taste but I promise it’ll make you feel better,” she said, unable to hold back a small smile at his antics. “Drink the rest, would you?”

“No, that’s nasty.”

“Please?” she said. It wasn’t a word she used often, but something about Jaskier seemed to bring it out.

“Hmm, fine. Only because you asked nicely.” It was probably the first thing he said that resembled his usual self. He was still a far cry from normal, but there was definitely something in his playful tone. He drank the rest of the potion without complaint, washing it down with a cup of water Yennefer provided him with.

He had only been awake for maybe half an hour but already his eyes were beginning to slip closed again. “Alright, let’s get you lying down so you can sleep.”

“No. Please. That’s where the monsters are.” There was a pleading edge to his voice, sounding almost desperate.

“I can keep the monsters away for a while.”

“But not for long?” he asked, able to pick up on what she was avoiding saying.

“No. Using magic on you all night wouldn’t be a good idea and I need to sleep at some point too.”

He nodded and allowed her to help him lie down again. “You can keep them away for now though?” he asked once he was settled.

“For now, yes. Close your eyes.”

With a wave of her hand she cast a spell to ease him into sleep. “Thank you, Yen,” he murmured as he drifted into unconsciousness.

Chapter Text

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.

“Yes?”

“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?”

“My house.”

“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.”

“I’ll pay.”

“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?”

“…Yes.”

“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.”

“And?”

“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?”

“What?”

“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.