Wellity wellity well. You know how previously two chapters magically became three? Well, through occult means that remain obscured from human insight, three have now become four. I’m so sorry, why am I like this? Why won’t I just stop? I WILL NEVER STOP writing terrible fanfiction very slowly.
Not linking to other parts because that apparently fucks up tags via similar occult means to those which keep unnaturally extending my stories (”stories” being a generous term indeed for what I write, haha), but it’s tagged as 19years (extra sorries for the crappy title I came up with only because AO3 requires them, the scumbag).
The room Gloriana directed him to bring Jaskier to is another small, mostly bare chamber, but this one has an empty bed against each wall, and a small window with a badly made clay vase of dried flowers on the sill. The beds look much more comfortable and welcoming than the one Jaskier had been treated on, with fat pillows and faded patchwork quilts, if equally as narrow. Geralt himself has recovered from injuries in far, far less pleasant places.
Jaskier lies still and silent on one of the beds, where Geralt has just put him as gently as he could. He looks incredibly pale, and though the wounds across his chest and down his arm are stitched up neatly and healed enough already that magic was probably involved too, they’re going to become pretty extreme scars. Still, he’s breathing regularly and his heartbeat is normal - at least for now, he’s free of pain or distress.
Geralt watches him do nothing for a few moments then takes the quilt from the other bed and lays it over him, just in case he gets cold.
He might as well use the other bed himself, he decides, and sits on it with his legs drawn up beneath him, but he finds he just can’t quite enter the meditative state he was intending on, opening his eyes against his will every few seconds to watch Jaskier some more. His brutal wounds may be hidden beneath the worn material he’s now covered with, but in his mind’s eye Geralt can still see them. His true, strange form may be hidden by the magic of the amulet at his wrist, but Geralt can still see that too, see the way he looked on the forest floor and in his arms - strange and otherworldly, familiar and unfamiliar… Unconscious and bleeding. Magical and quite lovely. Torn open-
Each thought, each image, inevitably flows into the other. He can’t stop them, can’t clear his mind like he normally so easily can.
And it’s so hard to match those versions of Jaskier he can’t stop picturing - injured, inhuman - to the still, silent man he’s actually looking at. It’s quite surreal, and he could almost believe none of the events of today happened at all. He certainly feels tired enough that it could all have been a painfully vivid dream he’s just woken up from.
He doesn’t fight his unsettled mind for too long, and soon after he gives up and resigns himself to just having to have patience, Jaskier starts stirring. After shifting about a bit he says something slurred and quiet that sounds like it was meant to be “what the hell is going on”, and Geralt can see his eyes blinking repeatedly, trying to stay open.
“Hey,” he says, aiming for a calm, unhurried tone of voice, not sure that he doesn’t sound nervous and breathlessly relieved instead. Jaskier turns his head slowly toward him and keeps blinking those blue eyes, this time straight in his direction.
“Geralt,” he murmurs quietly, a tired smile appearing then quickly disappearing. “Feel… terrible. ’m I… sick?”
“You’re going to be fine,” Geralt reassures him, hurriedly getting to his feet. He takes a step toward Jaskier’s bed but stops as Gloriana comes marching into the room with perfect timing. It would almost seem possible that she’s been waiting outside, listening for the sound of her patient waking up, except that Geralt would have heard her there, despite his preoccupation, and anyway, he highly doubts an eminently practical person like her would waste her time like that.
“You don’t remember what happened?” she asks, and Jaskier turns his head again, with obvious effort, to gaze blearily up at her. “Big old monster got you,” she tells him bluntly - possibly a little too bluntly, Geralt thinks for a second, but Jaskier doesn’t look particularly distressed by the news. In fact, after a long moment of blankness and silence, he lets out a tired laugh.
“S'pose it w’s bound t’ happ'n ‘ventually,” he murmurs, each word melting into the next. Geralt’s heart sinks slightly at his familiar, casual lack of concern for his own safety – a lack of concern that leads him to do things like following Geralt into a strange forest after a fucking leshen. It didn’t occur to him at the time, and he’s had too many other things demanding his attention since, to wonder what Jaskier was doing there, but of course the hunt had taken him longer than he’d expected, the leshen more huge and more ancient by far than he had thought, and he has no doubt that Jaskier started making plans to come and check on him the very moment he failed to return when predicted. As if he could have done anything to help him win such a dangerous fight, or somehow saved him if the monster had got the better of him.
He’s an idiot, and Geralt could almost be angry at him about it – is angry, he thinks, as he always is when Jaskier isn’t careful - but that anger is in the distant recesses of his mind somewhere, behind the hurt and confusion and all the many other things today has thrown up to fill it. It’s a discussion they’ll need to have soon, but it’s always a discussion they always need to have soon, and Jaskier’s never taken heed of it yet. He’ll let it go for now.
Geralt suspects he’s frowning as he considers all this, because Jaskier looks at him and frowns back, eyes heavy, watching him with distant confusion as Gloriana checks over his wounds. Geralt tries to listen to what she’s saying about spells and stitches and scarring, because Jaskier certainly isn’t taking it in.
She seems to approve of his condition, and soon leaves them with instructions for him to rest, sleep if possible, and under no circumstances try and get up, and a promise to return with food and drink and something to help with pain as soon as it’s safe for him to have them. As soon as she closes the door, Geralt pulls his bed easily across the room so he can sit closer, but he finds he has no idea what to say.
“I’m… sorry,” Jaskier says in a rasp, saving him from having to find comforting words that don’t come naturally to him. “I know you’re… angry with me for… getting myself hurt,” he says in exhausting sounding bursts of speech between sleepy, sighing breaths. “I remember… now… a bit. Had to come, though… Had to… Was… scared, really scared, you… were taking so long. Too long…”
“I’m not angry,” Geralt tells him. It’s a lie, well, at least a half-lie, and there’s no way Jaskier doesn’t know that. “Doesn’t matter now anyway, just matters that you’re alright.” Jaskier smiles at him, the tired, slightly vague smile of someone who’s been treated with magic and sedative herbs, and Geralt wishes quite desperately that he could pretend nothing (beyond life-threatening injury) happened today and not mention the other thing. He has no choice though – once Jaskier is a bit less drowsy, once he can sit up and take stock of his own injuries, he’s soon going to notice his bracelet is on the wrong arm and Geralt can’t possibly feign ignorance of what happened in between it coming off one wrist and being tied back onto the other.
No, of course he can’t.
At least he doesn’t have to mention it quite yet. It wouldn’t be fair not to wait until Jaskier’s at least had a chance to get some sleep and has something like a clear head – and if it feels like a temporary reprieve to Geralt, well, that’s by the by.
“Close your eyes,” he says instead. “Sleep will help you recover.”
“‘Kay,” Jaskier whispers, and is indeed asleep within
The next few hours go on in much the same manner as the last few: Jaskier lies sleeping, and Geralt, incapable of meditation, let alone real rest, waits and watches over him and thinks and wishes he could stop thinking. Gloriana’s assistant, the one Geralt saw briefly in passing earlier on, bustles in and out just to check Jaskier’s breathing, feel his pulse and take notes, nodding but saying nothing. Every now and then, Jaskier wakes up dozily.
“Is there enough money t’pay the healer?” he asks worriedly one of those times, and is asleep again before Geralt’s finished assuring him that there is; although he doesn’t know how much Gloriana will ask for, they have some, and he’s owed more, and if he needs to he can find another job and come back with even more.
“What happened?” he asks another time, then grins dopily as Geralt frowns at him in concern. “Just kidding. I remember. Kind of.”
“You’re not funny,” Geralt growls at him.
“Geralt, don’t… leave me,” he mutters yet another time, frowning and shifting a little but not even opening his eyes. If Geralt couldn’t hear his slightly increased heartbeat, he’d think he hadn’t actually woken up at all.
“Not going anywhere,” he says in response, feeling strange, like he’s too large for this tiny room, his voice too loud to be comforting. Despite this sensation of odd discomfort, he leans forward and hesitantly puts out his hand to stroke Jaskier’s messy hair. This is stupid, he thinks. Why is he doing this? But Jaskier visibly relaxes, and makes a dozy, contented humming noise, so Geralt keeps running his hand through his hair as he goes back to sleep, apparently comforted after all.
He can’t help but think about the strange horns he now knows Jaskier has, feeling a particularly painful twist of anger, confusion, loss of all things - everything he’s been feeling all day. He can remember seeing them with such clarity, but he can’t see them now, of course, and he can’t feel them at all. It just confirms that the enchantment on that stone is an extremely good one.
“Why wouldn’t you just fucking tell me?” he mutters. It’s a stupid question, with a lot of answers, but he can’t stop silently asking him – asking himself. Why the fuck didn’t he tell me? He sighs and continues stroking Jaskier’s soft hair, hoping it’s helping soothe his sleep even as he irrationally resents that Jaskier has forced him into a position where he’s going to have to confront him with his own secret, and while he’s injured at that.
Eventually, Jaskier wakes and stays awake, looking tired and pale but somewhat more alert.
“By all the gods, this fucking hurts,” he says with surprising cheer, given just how much it must hurt, pushing the quilt off himself with his uninjured arm. Geralt sees the stone of his bracelet glinting even in the relatively dim room, and feels a jolt of anxiety, a feeling that’s become extremely familiar to him over the course of the day. “Geralt, can you help me sit up?” Jaskier says, cursing as he tries to push himself up and fails. Geralt stands to do just that, and Jaskier smiles up at him, apparently not noticing that he’s frowning so much that he’s making his own face ache, but then looks down at his own bare chest, his expression turning to shock as he takes in the stark gouges across his chest and arm, and then to something even more horrified as he notices, inevitably, that his wrist is bare except for its new scars. He reaches compulsively for his head, wincing in pain as the use of his damaged arm no doubt pulls horribly at the wounds, patting urgently at his hair and his ears, then freezes as he notices the bracelet, hastily tied back onto the wrong arm as he lay unconscious in the forest.
“Jaskier…” Geralt starts, and Jaskier flinches and slowly, slowly turns to look at him… and then the door opens and Gloriana breezes in.
“Good, you’re up! I need to have another look at you,” she says, apparently heedless of the tense atmosphere in the room. “Then I’ve got some medicine you need to take, and then you can have something to eat and drink. Bisa!” Her sudden shout makes Jaskier flinch again. Another assistant, a halfling, enters the room carrying a tray, and sets it down, and starts attempting to shove Geralt’s bed back into its proper place, and Gloriana herself starts lining up small glass bottles on the windowsill, and Geralt and Jaskier just stare at each other, frozen in awful stillness, over the sudden sea of activity.