The Story Continues

True Warmth

Jhon wasn’t all that fond of the cold. Ok, he hated it. Loathed the winter season. There wasn’t much he outright hated as he always tried to see the good in whatever situation or subject he came upon. But the cold…that bitter type of cold in particular. The kind that seemingly cut through to one’s very soul and left one’s body wracked with uncontrollable shivers. The type of cold, bitterness that unfortunately happened each year during the winter season around Lagaard.

As a local, he should have some immunity to it. He should have long grown accustomed to it. But unfortunately for him, he hadn’t.

They were well into the winter season and the weather that day had been just as dismal as previous seasons. It was snowing and the wind was howling. And even on the occasion, a streak of lightning followed by a crack of thunder, something that was considered rare during a blizzard elsewhere around the world, but not around the city of Lagaard. People would be startled, but not shocked.

The pelting snow was bad enough, but it was the wind that was causing the most trouble. While it was hazardous and difficult to travel anywhere in the snow, the wind was downright dangerous.

All in all, it was just one of those days where the locals and explorers alike locked themselves in their homes and hunkered down until the blizzard passed. The usual thing to do around this time of year. Everyone had their own coping ritual to follow.

But for Jhon, nothing he could do would help ward off the cold. He just couldn’t get warm. His usual coping mechanisms of dressing warmly, drinking warm beverages and sticking close to sources of external warmth wasn’t stopping him from shivering. The constant but somewhat sporadic twitches of shivering were making him feel worse. And uncharacteristically agitated.

It was hard to do or concentrate on anything when his body was twitching and shivering, sometimes the shivers rather violent. They were making feel achy and tired. He wanted to curl up and go to sleep, but he couldn’t even begin to settle.

Keeping his thick winter coat firmly around himself, Jhon stepped out of his room and into the foyer of the inn. He thought about going to look for Tobyn, hoping that any physical exertion would help boost blood flow and increase body warmth, but he knew his survivalist could be anywhere in the inn. He hated the howling winds. They made him edgy and antsy. And Jhon didn’t want to worry him anymore than he already was.

So instead he headed in the direction of the tearoom. It was always occupied with someone and the fire was always raging during these cold winter months.

He was slightly surprised to find the room mostly empty, saved for a certain white-tiger napping peacefully in front of the thankfully blazing fire. Usually Macerio would be occupying one of the couches as he hated the cold as much as Jhon did. Maybe more so as he was certainly very vocal about it.

But as Jhon glanced around, he noticed signs of someone else having recently been in the room. A book along with a blanket sat draped over one side of the plush couch that was closest to the fire place. Obviously Lynus had been the one occupying it but had gotten up to go elsewhere. He was sure to return since his belongs were still there. He must have gone out to check up on someone, Lirit more likely than not as these howling winds brings some distress to troubadour.

Jhon kept his arms wrapped around himself as he moved to stand in front of the fire, as close as he could but also ensuring that he didn’t disturb Chi-hung who appeared to be sleeping soundly next to Lynus’ chair.

The roaring fire was granting him some comfort and warmth, but small shivers were still plaguing him, and in all honesty the shivering was what was troubling him the most. He couldn’t settle and relax when he was constantly trembling.

As he rubbed his hands up and down his arms in an attempt to get warm and stared into the dancing flames within the fireplace, he idly wondered if the howling wind outside and the sound of ice pellets hitting the windows were playing some kind of psychological effect on him, making him feel colder than he really was. Maybe if he tried to ignore the sounds he would feel better?

“Jhon?”

Upon hearing his name, Jhon lifted his gaze from the fire to look over his shoulder to find Lynus standing a few feet behind him. His hair was free from his usual binding and he wore a thick woolly cardigan around his slender frame. He was also wearing a beige coloured scarf, of which, Jhon mildly noted, belonged to Axel.

He also noted that Lynus was wearing a look of mild concern on his face, his lips slowly turned downwards and his brow ever so softly furrowed.

“Not handling the cold today?” Lynus surprising asked as he moved to stand next to him.

Jhon smiled at him, knowing full well that he couldn’t lie to the dedicated medic, and nodded his head. “Ah, one of those days where I just can’t get warm for some reason,” he said simply.

Lynus’ violent eyes seemed to flicker over him, silently inspecting him before a look of understanding appeared on his face. He still looked mildly concerned, though, and Jhon wondered if he had a low body temperature that the skilled medic was able to pick up.

“Let’s get you sitting down then,” Lynus said as he placed a hand on Jhon’s arm in an attempt to guide him toward the chair that was nearest to the fireplace, the same chair that Lynus himself had been occupying before Jhon entered the room.

Jhon resisted slightly. “Ah, but that’s your seat.”

“Don’t be silly,” Lynus chided lightly as he lightly pushed against Jhon’s arm, virtually ushering him toward the seat. “You need it more than me right now. Besides, there’s plenty of room on that couch for the two of us. You’ll get warmer in no time.”

Jhon knew better than to argue back with the dedicated medic, so he simply allowed the medic to usher him toward the seat, pausing to gather up his book and blanket before virtually pushing Jhon to sit down. He had to smile to himself when Lynus lifted the blanket and wrapped it around his shoulders.

“Where’s Tobyn?” Lynus ask as he idly fussed with the blanket, ensuring that it stayed draped comfortably and warmly over Jhon’s shoulders.

“Pacing around in circles around the inn,” Jhon replied as he found himself settling back against the couch, the warmth of the blanket around his shoulders already quite comforting. “This wind is making him more edgy than usual.”

“I thought I heard mumbling and someone stomping about when I was checking up on Lirit,” Lynus commented with a slight hum in his voice and pulled back after satisfied that the blanket was snug and warm around Jhon. He then reached up and placed his palm flat against Jhon’s forehead, his hand slipping under his hair.

He then made a soft humming noise. Not entirely of displeasure (Jhon had heard Lynus subconsciously utter that noise a few times before), but definitely not pleased about something. He seemed to utter a refresh spell before removing his hand from his forehead.

“Would you like something warm to drink?” Lynus asked him, well and truly in maternal mother-hen mode now.

So much so that Jhon briefly wondered if he was actually coming down with a cold, hence explaining why he was so cold. “It sounds like you think I should,” he quipped back with a polite smile.

Lynus looked at him for a moment before he smiled softly. “The chill is getting to you in more ways than one,” he unexpectedly said as he tapped Jhon’s forehead with his finger.

So he was coming down with a cold.

“And you would like to depose of it before it fully takes hold?” Jhon questioned.

Lynus’ smile grew. “I like you, you’re a good patient,” he said with a teasing tone.

Despite the way he was still shivering, Jhon laughed and felt a genuine warmth flow through him. He had experienced Lynus’ miraculous healing several times before, and he always managed to ease all his pains, physical, mentally and emotionally. Lynus had never made him feel as if he was a burden or obligation. He was always sincere in everything he did.

“Would you like some honey tea or ginger tea?” Lynus asked him.

Jhon thought for a moment. “Honey, please. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

Lynus gave him this look, a gentle and compassionate expression that spoke volumes. No need to apologise, it said. You’re not an inconvenience. Not now. Not ever.

“I’ll be right back,” Lynus said warmly before he turned on his heel and made his way out of the room.

Jhon watched him until he was out of sight before idly turning his gaze back toward the fire. As he did so, he emitted a low chuckle when he realised that Chi-hung had rolled onto his back, exposing his stomach with his front paws curled toward his chest. He was also snoring ever so softly. He was well and truly asleep. A deep, warm, comfortable sleep.

He was somewhat envious.

The sound of someone stomping their way outside the room caused Jhon to lift his head and look toward the doorway. He watched as Axel walked in, covered in a light layer of snow but with a large bundle of firewood in his arms.

“Oh, hey Jhon,” Axel greeted, somewhat surprised, probably by the fact that Jhon was sitting the seat Lynus had previously occupied and had his blanket wrapped around his shoulders. “You all right?”

Before Jhon could answer, Lynus returned to the room with a cup of tea in his hands. “He’s coming down with a cold,” he suddenly answered for him the moment he stepped foot past the threshold.

Upon hearing that, Axel frowned and an expression of concern appeared on his face. However, he remained silent, arching an amused eyebrow when Lynus hurried over to Jhon with a cup of tea in his hands.

“Careful, it’s hot,” Lynus warned gently as he offered the tea toward Jhon, ensuring that it sat securely in his two hands before letting go. “Sip it slowly, ok?”

“Thank you,” Jhon said simply, swallowing back the urge to apologise for the trouble once again.

And Lynus seemed to notice his lack of apology and smiled warmly at him.

He then turned to regard Axel, a small frown immediately adorning his lips as he looked him up and down as Axel dropped the wood he had gathered onto the floor next to the fireplace. Despite the noise, Chi-hung barely even stirred. He was in such a deep and comfortable sleep, wasn’t he?

“Have you been outside?” Lynus asked Axel as he hurried over to him and began to dust the flakes of snow off of Axel’s coat. He then suddenly reached up to touch the side of Axel’s face, his frown deepening ever so slightly

“Needed to ensure we keep the fire going,” Axel answered as he smiled with mild amusement as Lynus fussed over him, his smile growing when Lynus tugged on his jacket.

“Take off your jacket and boots before you get a cold, too,” Lynus instructed in his maternal, no nonsense manner before he abruptly turned to leave the room, calling out further instructions. “I’m going to find some more blankets. Get yourself comfortable in front of the fire!”

With Lynus out of the room and out of sight, Axel shook his head to dislodge some ice crystals before fondly rolling his eyes. “Want me to take off the pants, too?” he called out.

“Axel!” Lynus was heard scolding. It wouldn’t he hard to imagine the tangerine head blushing.

Jhon chuckled as he gently rolled his cup of honey tea between his hands, relishing in the warmth. He brought the cup to his lips and took a timid sip as Axel shrugged off his ice laden jacket before nonchalantly kicking off his boots. With those pieces of cold clothing out of the way, Axel moved to sit down onto the couch next to Jhon, casually draping his arms over the back of it.

“He managed to catch you, did he?” Axel suddenly asked, but Jhon knew immediately what he was talking about.

“Hm, he knew I was coming down with a cold long before I did, I think,” Jhon replied as he rested his tea on his knee. “Can’t say I’m surprised, though.”

“With this blizzard, there’s no way you can get away from his ‘mother-henning’,” Axel teased as he lightly tapped the back of Jhon’s head with his hand.

Jhon laughed and idly turned his head away. “He likes me. I’m a good patient,” he said.

This time Axel laughed as he dropped his head back to rest on the couch behind him. And Jhon felt his chills easing, his body and mind relaxing. While he obviously wasn’t as relaxed as Chi-hung appeared to be, the white tiger now snoring a little louder than before, he was definitely more comfortable than he was when he entered the room.

A few moments of silent later, Lynus returned with a couple of blankets draped over his arms. He also had a handtowel, no doubt meant for Axel to dry his hair. His gaze immediately fell onto Axel and he nodded slightly to himself, pleased that Axel had followed his instructions.

Wordlessly, he walked over to them and dropped the blankets onto the couch near Axel before he moved to walk behind him with the towel in his hands. And just as Jhon had thought, he used the towel to gently dry the icy water from Axel’s hair.

“How bad is it out there?” he asked idly.

Axel closed his eyes and leaned his head back slightly, greatly enjoying the way Lynus was carefully patting his hair dry, raking his fingers through the short red strands. “Still blowing a gale. Sounds worse outside. Was lucky that we had stacked the firewood as close to the inn as possible, otherwise we’d need an expedition unit with a guide rope or something.”

Jhon idly glanced out the window of the tearoom before wincing and turning away quickly. He was so glad that he wasn’t stuck out there in the cold. “Do we have plenty of firewood, though?”

“Yeah, at least a month’s worth, don’t worry,” Axel answered, pouting lightly and opening his eyes when Lynus stopped drying his hair.

Lynus smiled as he walked out from behind the couch, idly straightening the handtowel and placing it upon the coffee table near the fireplace. “All we can do is wait out the blizzard,” he said as he reached out to grab one of the blankets.

But Axel suddenly snared his wrist and abruptly tugged him forward, prompting Lynus to stumble slightly before falling onto the couch, landing in-between him and Jhon. Lynus was stunned for a moment, looking at Axel in surprise. However, he smiled warmly once more as Axel wordlessly handed him the blanket and he draped it over their laps, Jhon’s included.

“Let me know if feel the slightest bit unwell,” Lynus instructed to Jhon as he settled himself between him and Axel, looking so small between the two of them but incredibly content and comfortable as well.

“You’ll probably notice it before I will,” Jhon returned as he, too, settled himself back comfortably into his seat, idly noting that he could feel Axel’s arm against the back of his neck.

“Feeling warmer?” Axel asked him.

Jhon smiled and closed his eyes. Yeah, he was feeling warmer already.

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