“Light you damp piece of shit!” Lambert cursed and his hand’s shook as he attempted to grasp the flint well enough to light the bit of semi-dry moss he found near the mouth of the cave. Half his attempts were fucking failures, because he couldn’t grip the flint well enough. The other half failed because everything around him was damp and unusable. He was frozen. The ground around him was frozen, and damned if he went back out into that blizzard to freeze more looking for anything usable!
He shuddered and blew warm breath into his hands which misted out before him in a cloud of white. Think! Think think think! God damn it why didn’t he test the ice first?! Sure, he was in a hurry because you know, blizzard! He thought it was thick enough, this time of year the Liksela River should have been! But no that fat mare he’d packed too full of useful life saving shit fell through the ice! He’d lost everything…His gear, his potions and bombs. His food and bedroll—everything was gone! Course the fucking horse survived. Bitch bolted off soon as they got back to shore…
Damn he really had to get his stiff and frozen clothing off before his core temperature fell too low. His hands and feet—well he lost feeling in them over an hour ago. They were dead weight, and if he couldn’t manage this damn flint and find some dry enough tinder, he was well and truly fucked!
Course he’s had absolutely no effing luck since he left Keira in Oxenfurt. After their several month stint post Kaer Morhen she decided she wanted to get back with the lodge of sorceresses. Something about her being needed in Toussaint. Politics blah blah vineyard blah he wanted nothing to do with it. So he headed back to the only place he could rightfully call home….Kaer Morhen.
Smack in the middle of winter and wilds of Kaedwen, while the bitch was down south probably sipping wine.
He shuddered and glowered at the flint on the ground before him. He’d dropped it again and hadn’t even noticed.
“Fuck!” He cursed loudly and he clumsily picked it back up. His voice echoed through the cave behind him and he winced. Guess he better get his ass up before it was too late. No witcher ever died in their bed, but he didn’t want to die in a damn cave freezing to death either! If he was lucky he might be able to find dry tinder further in. Would be slow going without a cat’s eye potion, but what other choice did he have?
Reluctantly he stood and winced. His stiff clothing crunched and ice slid off him in flakes and wisps of powder, and his feet were really starting to hurt now that the frostbite was setting in. He had to move…do something! At least movement might help keep his core warm…
He licked his cracked lips and looked along the wall behind him. He was looking for anything—roots, cobwebs, bits of grass or weeds. Anything really that felt dry. But it was getting harder to see. It was late afternoon and what little light there was getting through that blizzard was beginning to fade. He needed to work fast, carefully, but fast!
Lambert’s eyes narrowed and he peered deeper into the cave. He needed to filter out the remaining light behind him and force his eyes to adjust. The point was to make his cat eye pupils dilate to the point where they took in as much light as possible. Then he could key up his mutations which made his vision even sharper, though he had more trouble seeing color. Color didn’t fucking matter right now though. He needed to see properly!
It didn’t work nearly as well as a cat eye potion, but it helped. He was at least able to avoid stumbling over rocks and screwing his feet up worse than they already were. After wandering about thirty feet or so inside he found what he needed.
“Yessssss thank the God’s!!” He cried out, honestly feeling happier than he’d been in ages.
It was an old crate, rotted and falling apart. Even if he couldn’t grip his damn swords right now he could easily stomp it apart into kindling! He gathered up most of the pieces and found a nice spot in the middle of the cavern to stack them, then went back for the rest. He grinned when he realized there was a bit of hay and cobwebs that were hidden behind the crate, and grabbed those too. Once everything was gathered, he busted up a few pieces of rotted wood with the heel of his boot and made a nice little tinder bushel using It, the hay and the cobwebs.
Now was the moment of truth! He blew into his hands to warm them up, or try to anyway, so that he could hold the flint again. No luck unfortunately but he had to try! His fingers were probably toast…
He tried not to think about that as he fumbled with the flint and struck.
“C’mon you piece of—yes!”
A spark caught the web and started smoking. He cupped the bushel in his clumsy hands and blew oh so gently. He had to be patient or he was one dead witcher!
He blew again. Feather light air flow coaxed the sparked web into a glowing ember. The ember caught the hay.
He blew again, this time a bit harder. The hay caught the remainder of the bushel.
Lambert bit his cracked lip hard as he placed it beneath the rotted wood pile and prayed it would catch.
“Please, please please….” He bent down and blew a bit harder at the bushel.
“Please….” He closed his eyes and waited. He blew again…waited.
He felt a slight warmth lapping at his cheeks
“God’s thank you thank you…” He almost wept as he opened his eyes to see the pile of rotted wood catching. He blew hard this time and it was almost euphoric, the heat he felt on his face.
“Okay. I—I need to get this off.” Talking to himself kept him sane okay? Don’t judge.
This was going to suck! But he had to. He started stripping his gear off. First his swords which came easy, lain just within arm’s reach. Then what gear he had on him. He struggled with his frozen fingers getting his armor off, but he managed. Then he stripped out of his frozen clothes which would soon be damp due to the warmth in the cave. They had to be dried out. Finally he was down to his braies. He tossed those too and sat his ass on the frozen ground and scooted as close to the fire as he dared. He didn’t care! Warmth bathed him and breathed life back into his frozen bones.
Unfortunately that meant the numb blocks of ice that were his hands and feet began to sting and burn horribly with frostbite.
“Fuck…” He looked at them in the firelight. His hands were red and glossy, so were most of his feet. Most of his appendages were starting to swell in spots. Though a couple of his toes looked pretty bad, the smallest was most concerning. It was already turning purple!
“God fucking damn it…” He cursed his luck for the millionth time. He’d heal from the milder frostbite in several days’ time. It would be incredibly painful. There would be blisters, lots, by the glossy look of his skin. But those toes did not look good. Not at all.
He was not looking forward to what that meant, but he put it out of his mind for now. One thing at a time, witcher. Just focus on the warmth.
And he did, mostly. For now he got comfortable. He sat in front of the fire, his arms on his legs and head hanging as he enjoyed the warmth that seeped back into his body. It felt good. Good to be alive. He’d have to get back up again soon, hunt down more wood. But he just wanted to rest his eyes for a bit, warm up a bit more…
He should have known better though as he was close to drifting off. Damn it all if the fire went out or burned him, he didn’t care. He swayed slightly on the spot, he was so tired and the cave here reminded him of home, Kaer Morhen. The scent was similar and that’s the only place he wanted to go, even if it was in his dreams…
“Yaah!” Lambert startled at the deep voice and snapped his head up.
“Do not be alarmed.” The voice was low, rolling. It had an accent to it he couldn’t quite place…
“I didn’t know this cave was occupied.” He looked over at his steel and silver, flexed his hands and cursed. They were still too numb, and burned horribly. He fumbled at his amulet and hissed as his too cold hands hit his chest. His amulet was still. His eyes darted frantically back and forth, searching the shadows.
The voice coughed softly and cleared its throat. Human then?...”I was not expecting company,” the rolling voice said.
“Me neither.” Lambert said slowly. He still couldn’t see who was in there with him, and realized he was fire blind. Cursing inwardly he scrambled back from the fire and shielded his eyes.
“Why are you here?” The voice came from the shadows, but closer and a form began to take shape. Lambert froze and fumed at himself for having moved away from his swords.
“I dunno, guess I decided it would be fun to take a fucking swim during a blizzard---why’d ya think I’m in h-here?!” Lambert shivered and scowled up at his unwelcome guest as the light started to illuminate him.
A man with dark curly hair and ice blue eyes. He was covered in fur and Lambert eyed the warm skin with envy. The man looked at him and tilted his head. “You’re a Witcher.”
“Congratulations. Your eyes fucking work.” He hissed. “Wanna make any more obvious statements? Might as well get’m out’a the way n-now!”
“You’re hypothermic and you have frostbite.” The form moved closer and Lambert scooted away.
“Wait—That wasn’t an invitation!“ He gasped as fur, warmed by the body it had been wrapped around, covered his shoulders. His eyes closed on their own in relief, and he took in the scent. Bear skin, not properly tanned but still warm. Lambert shuddered beneath it, grateful for his luck, and whoever this stranger was.
Lambert opened his eyes again at the sound of fabric falling to the ground. “Wh—what the fuck are you doing?!” he hissed, pulling the fur around him and soaking in the warmth that permeated it.
“Humans are fragile creatures,” the man with ice blue eyes said with a tilt of his head. “I will warm you.”
Lambert narrowed his eyes at being referred to as human. It was something only a non-human would say. He opened his mouth to protest but then Vesemir’s voice filtered through to him. “A second body is the fastest way to recover from a fall through ice or hypothermia. Skin to skin, and a blanket should do the trick.”
He watched suspiciously as the strange man stripped down, and even took off his braies. “You should move back to the fire.”
Lambert reluctantly agreed and moved closer, though not nearly as close as he had been. If only to get closer to his swords again. He tensed as the man shifted the fur aside and sat down next to him with a huff. When the man wrapped his arm around Lambert’s shoulders, he winced at the scalding warmth of his body, but after a moment his eyes widened.
The smell of the mountains earlier, it was coming from him!
Lambert shook as the warmth seeped into him, struck odd by the realization. “W--why…why are you being so nice?” He asked, truly perplexed and curious. His voice wavered and his body trembled as it tried to get warm.
The stranger beside him stiffened, and Lambert took a chance and stole a glance.
The man was handsome and had a classic look about him. His ice blue eyes caught the firelight but they were far away, and his face was drawn with a frown. Lambert recognized that look. He wore it often himself. Pain, hurt, bitterness and regret.
Hm. Lambert leaned into the warmth, grateful to have it, despite his paranoia and concerns. “Nevermind, none of my business.”
“It is a question worthy of an answer,” the man said looking to Lambert who had yet to look away. Lambert trembled again, though he wasn’t sure if it was because of the hypothermia, or because the voice was deeper than it seemed now that they were up close.
He narrowed his eyes as he noticed how the man’s strange blue eyes caught the firelight, but didn’t reflect it. He wasn’t human. He knew it!
Yet, he was so damn tired from the events and his efforts of today, he had no strength to draw on to care. He could only manage a sigh as he looked back to the fire. “Don’t expect an answer, and that doesn’t mean you’d have given it anyway.”
The stranger began to chuckle and Lambert’s eyes darted back. The man’s smile was warm, warmer than the fire. Then when he began to laugh, Lambert felt his heart catch. He had fangs!
“You’re a vampire!” Lambert blurted out, though he hadn’t exactly meant to as it might have put the vampire on the defense.
The man laughed even harder. “Any more obvious statements, witcher?”
Okay so he wouldn’t die in his bed, he was going to be dinner instead. But hey, at least he would die warm…?
“Touché. So are ya gonna eat me? Needed to warm me up proper to enjoy your meal?” Lambert prodded tentatively, even though he couldn’t do shit about it if he didn’t like the answer.
The vampire laughed in earnest, long and loud. The merry sound echoed deep within the cave. “Perhaps.” The vampire looked down at him, his ice blue eyes twinkling, though his mirth quickly faded. “Or perhaps…perhaps I am just lonely.”
Silence filled the cavern then, which only deepened in contrast to the whistling and desolate wind outside. His throat began to ache as he related to the vampire. He could remember being lonely his whole damn life. Even before becoming a witcher. Feeling his heart clench at the memory he slammed his eyes shut as they began to sting. Loneliness followed him everywhere! Even here, at least, as fate would have it, up until this very moment
He opened his eyes again, and the expression of pain on the vampires face, his eyes tightly closed—Lambert could mirror it. It made his heart clench and his very soul began to ache for him. He hurt for the vampire. Lambert left Oxenfurt, alone, trudged through the wilds of Kaedwen, also alone. And, yet again as fate would have it, struck him down through the ice. His miserable excuse for a horse abandoned him to—you guessed it—be alone, and sent him through frozen holy hell to this cave. Where he was stuck feeling every ounce of pain from the creature beside him!
Fuck, why did he have to have such a softy heart?! He tried so hard to bury it, to hide it and forget about it. He had so much empathy and he hated it. It made him harder than he was. He was prickly, angry and pushed everyone away because the one time he let someone in they were ripped away from him. But every so often his dumb heart opened again, and made a stupid, abrupt appearance reminding him he was a human. That he had compassion and that he was just so tired of being alone too.
He shuddered and tore his burning eyes away from the vampire.
“I’m Lambert.” He didn’t know what made him say his name—though in actuality he did, he just didn’t want to admit it to himself.
The vampire stirred and looked at him. “I am Dettlaff. Dettlaff van Der Eretin.”
Lambert snorted and turned his gaze back to the vampire. “That’s quite the mouthful.” He yawned and snuggled into the vampire with the really long name, enjoying his warmth. He saw him grin out of the corner of his eyes. “You aren’t going to eat me are ya Detty?”
The vampire spun on him, eyes searching and looking kind of…hurt? “No!...No…I would…I would never…”
Lambert yawned again and finally let himself relax. “Good, then I am going to sleep.” He snuggled into the vampires grip further and felt the creatures hold on him tighten minutely. He let out a small sigh at the warmth and pulled the bear skinned cloak up slightly over his face. He willed his mutations to slow his heart, to help will himself to sleep and closed his eyes. His breathing slowed, and for the first time in a long time he felt…oddly safe.
Just as he felt himself beginning to drift off, he felt a clawed hand gently run through his damp hair.
“I will protect you wolf…” The rolling voice echoed through his mind as he lost consciousness, the warmth enveloped him and the smell of home permeated his dreams.
Warm. Lambert was so warm, warmer than he’d been in ages. His legs and body were wrapped in something and he felt cocooned…in the bear skin? Something held him close that smelt like the mountains of his home. He inhaled deeply and nuzzled into it wanting to go back to sleep, or maybe—
Hair tickled his nose and his lips brushed against bare skin. Tiredly, he opened his eyes and blinked at the pale chest dusted with fine black hair in front of him. The creature that held him—the vampire—shifted slightly around him, their legs were entwined and bare.
Lambert blinked sluggishly as his skin began to heat up. Warmth permeated them, yet he could feel the heat of Dettlaff’s breath caressing his ear stirring something in him even further. Shivering, he chanced a glance up at the vampire he’d been sleeping with.
Icy eyes watched him intently, framed by raven locks. It was that handsomely classic face again, now caressed by the light of the fire. At the moment it was awfully hard to believe the person beside him was actually a vampire. Dettlaff didn’t seem like the monster’s he’d learned about growing up at Kaer Morhen. Especially as a pale hand came up and brushed the hair away from his face. The thumb grazed his skin and lingered by his ear making his witcher wiring go haywire.
Lambert closed the distance between them with barely a thought. It felt like the right thing to do. It tasted like the right thing to do. The hand wound through his hair and pulled him close. The vampire tasted like home. Like pine and crisp mountain air.
He breathed deep and flicked his tongue out, tasting and savoring. Dettlaff let out a low groan and he responded in kind, deepening the kiss. A hand skimmed down Lambert’s side, burning a trail into his skin and he trembled then broke the kiss with a start as he realized he couldn’t get his hand’s to work properly in turn.
Lambert struggled as he brought his burning hands into the light to get a good look at them. The length of his fingers were shiny and blistering. One glance at them and he tore his gaze away. He shook, fearing the worst.
“Oh God’s…” Lambert flushed crimson and licked his lips which still tasted like pine. Fucking witcher libido…it always got the best of him...great timing for his body to be acting out…
He couldn’t bare to look at his hands anymore or the vampire, so instead he cradled his hands to his chest and recalled his memories from earlier as he stared at the pale swath of skin in front of him. “How long was I out?” He asked in order to distract himself from their kiss and the pain he was in. He dreaded the moment he went to look at his feet.
“About five hours.” Dettlaff’s voice was deep and the accent thicker than it originally had been.
He flicked his eyes up to the vampires face and could see the confusion there, the longing. The vampire had mentioned being lonely…
Lambert tore his eyes away. He felt horrible, but the vampire’s voice sent an unwanted pang through him, so Lambert willed his mutations into play. He needed to calm his nerves. Distract himself. He needed to forget that kiss ever happened. Preferably.
Lambert felt the vampire pull away slightly to give him space, and he was grateful. He grimaced as their legs detangled and hissed as his left foot brushed against the rock floor.
“…Is badly damaged. The frostbite has set in.” Dettlaff finished for him.
“Fuck…” Biting his lip, he forced his stiff body up, the warm bear skin falling around him. Try as he might he couldn’t get his clumsy blistered hand’s to work well enough to move the bear skin back over his legs. Frustrated tears burned into his eyes as his body refused to obey him. He hated feeling weak, and especially not having control of his own body…
“Let me.” Dettlaff shifted to assist him and he closed his eyes to prevent stupid tears from happening. Please please Gods don’t let it be that bad…
When he felt his feet come free from the bear skin, he braced himself and forced his eyes open to take in the damage.
His right foot was still very red, slightly glossy, but healing. The left, the worse off of the two, had blisters along the big and next smallest toes, while the next two were swollen and reddish purple. The littlest was the worst off, a dark red purple. Gangrene quite possibly had already set in.
“Fuck!” Lambert roared into the cave making the vampire startle beside him.
Fuck his luck and fuck the blizzard, fuck Keira—“Fuck! Fuck everything…” He gasped out as his eyes began to burn in earnest, but he couldn’t—he wouldn’t cry. They were just fucking toes, unimportant ones at that! But still…he wasn’t looking forward to this. He knew what had to be done….
“Fuck…Fucking blizzard—fucking horse and river…I need...” Lambert rest his elbows on his thighs and rubbed his burning eyeballs with the heels of his fucked up hands. Yes he was whining. He felt fucking entitled at this point.
“Swallow?” Dettlaff settled next to him and carefully rewrapped the skin around him that had fallen.
Lambert’s head shot up. “How do you know about Swallow?!”
“I…have a friend. Just one. He’s very very far away.” The vampire’s rolling voice deepened with pain and he looked away into the darkness.
Lambert’s empathy swelled. He could relate with that all too well. But he was getting closer to them…so close he could feel them. “I need…I need several doses. But I have no ingredients…my pack was lost in the river.”
“I could possibly find you some.”
Lambert looked back to the vampire and shook his head. Dettlaff looked serious as can be, but there was no point. “Yeah no. Everything is covered in about five or more feet of snow out there, and it’s dark. I just gotta suck it up, let my mutations do their thing…”
Suck was the key word and he was in for a lot of it. Especially without his potion, his supplies, clothing…Fucking river…
“You also need food, water.”
Dettlaff stood and went to his pile of clothing near the fire.
“You can’t be serious?!” Is he kidding?! Lambert’s eyes followed him, skeptical of his actions, but appreciative of the view. His eyes followed the vampire’s movements, admiring his pale skin and form. The vampire was lean, muscular and covered in fine black hair in all the right places---at least the ones he could see from the back.
As if feeling eyes on him, Dettlaff looked over his shoulder and drew his gaze. “Do you like what you see, Witcher?”
Lambert flushed at being caught, but didn’t look away. He wasn’t a coward, so what he was looking? And? “I dunno maybe? What of it?”
“You either like, or you don’t. There is no in between,” Dettlaff threw back at him as he bent over to pick up his braise.
He snorted and reluctantly averted his gaze, playing it off. “I like to know who I’m sleeping with, that’s all.”
Still, Lambert watched as Dettlaff pulled on his trousers, then a linen shirt which he tucked into his undergarments, followed by a dark blue tunic. Next came a plain black surcoat with silver fastenings over which he pulled on a burlap bag which looked to be used for gathering herbs and supplies. He was well dressed and looked…sharp. Like he definitely shouldn’t have been sleeping in a cave.
“I can smell your arousal, witcher. Pity your hands don’t work.” The vampire chuckled at his own joke and Lambert rolled his eyes.
“Whatever, fuck you vampire.” His voice had no heat to it. The embarrassment was worth the vampire’s amusement—Lambert found he kind of enjoyed the sound of Dettlaff’s rich laughter in this lonely and cold place. He preferred it to the brooding mask of pain from earlier.
“Hey before you get the wrong idea---it’s a Witcher thing.” He watched as Dettlaff pulled on his boots and gloves in smooth, graceful movements. Icy blue eyes caught his own, still filled with mirth.
“Seriously. It is. We were trained in a castle, all young guys with nothing but each other.” Lambert let that hang until the vampire understood the implications. Icy eyes widened and Lambert’s never left him. Again, he wasn’t a coward. He felt no shame.
“The trials and mutation’s we were put through…One effect is it increases our chemical production. Namely oxytocin. Everything triggers it almost. The point is to key us up into caring about people, about our charges, contracts, who we’re protecting... It sucks—I don’t know what to feel half the time, about anything, or anyone. Honestly…I find it easier to just be alone most of the time.” Even though he detested being alone. It was better than people judging him or having to wrestle with himself or constantly question what he’s feeling or who he is.
The vampire tossed more wood into the fire, sending up a stream of sparks and turned to him, his face was in shadow as he bent down to shift the bear skin fur more tightly around him. “I do apologize then.”
He couldn’t make much of Dettlaff’s expression through the shadows, but he sounded humble enough. Not that it mattered. “So’kay Detty. Is what it is. I just make the best of it.” Shit happens to the best of us right? He looked at his hands morosely. Sometimes too much to some people.
Dettlaff nodded. It seemed they understood each other then. “I will be back later. Do try to rest.” The vampire stood and quickly disappeared in a puff of deep red smoke.
Lambert stared at where the vampire had been and into the fire. Rest wouldn’t come easily, even for the weary. Not with his hands and feet so frost burnt. Honestly he didn’t really feel capable of moving at all. The vampire had wrapped him up pretty well. Even if he wanted to it would be more trouble than it was worth.
Instead, he tried to meditate. Sitting on his rear with his legs out was not at all traditional witcher meditation stance. But when you’re tired enough…
He braced his elbows on top his thighs, took a really deep breath and held it in. He willed his mutations to slow his heart rate, and after several minutes he let it out. All thought escaped him and his mind went blissfully blank. All except for his self-preservation instincts which were kept alive at the front of his mind with his mutations.