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A Broken Songbird Still Can Sing

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It had been an accident. Jaskier knew that. He also knew that he had gone too far. He hadn’t meant to, but sometimes his mouth got ahead of his mind and words spilled out without the proper consideration of their consequences. Still, shoving Jaskier into a tree was not the proper response. In fact, it was a fairly childish response, but then the Witcher was a bit of a child with his emotions. Geralt had stormed ahead after that, not bothering to make sure Jaskier was okay. That was fine, actually, because Jaskier was not okay. Not at all. But a guilty Witcher would not make things better. Jaskier knew that his friend would likely stop somewhere no to far ahead. Somewhere easy for Jaskier to find. So Jaskier let himself fall to the ground, once he could no longer hear stomping and grumbling. Jaskier closed his eyes, head tilted back, swallowing the pain shooting through his arm and side as much as he could. After what felt like hours, but what could only have been a few minutes, Jaskier forced his eyes open. With his left, uninjured hand, he pressed against his side, feeling carefully for broken ribs, thankfully finding none. Only bruised. So, it was only his arm that was broken. Well, there are worst things. He wouldn’t be playing for a few months though, and that would be bad. Geralt would notice that.

“Fuck,” he muttered. He’d have to splint it when they stopped for the night. He couldn’t do that while they were moving. He wasn’t bleeding, so until the splint was on, Geralt would be none the wiser. Well, hopefully. He forced himself up off the forest floor, being careful of his injured arm. Then he stumbled forward, following the path to the waiting Witcher. Geralt’s yellow eyes scanned him in irritation as he approached. He forced himself to flash a smiled. “Have you calmed down, dear Witcher?” Jaskier joked. “I did not mean to offend. Truly, you understand that my mouth works faster than my mind sometimes.” Another smiled.

“I’d be surprised if you had a mind,” Geralt huffed, rolling his eyes. He turned around, tugging on Roach’s reigns. They were going slower than they had been.

“Now that’s just rude,” Jaskier snapped, though there was no real emotion behind it. He was in far too much pain to put much effort into his usual dramatics. As they walked, he tried to chatter as he normally did, but the pain in his arm and his side was distracting, and before long he fell silent. All his energy going into keeping up with Geralt and Roach. The sun was still high in the sky when Geralt left the path, guiding them into a clearing. Jaskier didn’t question it. He just let himself slide down against the nearest tree, breathing deeply to control the nausea that had been gathering as they walked. Geralt seemed to ignore him, choosing instead to start setting up camp. It was too early in the day for that. Jaskier knew it. But words were hard to form at that moment. He pressed his eyes closed, grinding his teeth. He wasn’t sure how much later it was when he felt firm hands on his shoulders.

“Jaskier,” Geralt growled. Jaskier forced his eyes open, looking back at yellow eyes full of something that could almost have been concern. This clearly wasn’t the first time Geralt had said his name in the last few minutes. “Jaskier, talk to me.”

“I’m fine,” Jaskier breathed. Pain flared up his side. Bruised ribs. Right. That means that talking hurts too. He closed his eyes again.

“Look at me.” The order was gruff and low and angry, but Jaskier obeyed. Focusing on the scar above Geralt’s eye. “What happened?” Jaskier couldn’t keep himself from snorting, too dazed with pain to consider hiding it anymore. Geralt’s rough hands moved from his shoulders, pressing into his sides, clearly looking for a wound. He found the large bruise that was Jaskier’s ribcage and the bard hissed, trying to pull away, but was pinned in place by the tree. Geralt’s eyes got wide. He stepped back, removing his hands as though he had been burned.

Jaskier tried to roll his eyes but just ended up with them closed again. “Stop that,” he managed.

“How bad?”

“Geralt,” the bard started.

“How bad?” the Witcher hissed. His hands were back on Jaskier, pulling his doublet off. It caught on his injured arm and Jaskier yelped, but the Witcher didn’t stop there. He discarded the blue finery and yanked the white chemise over the bard’s head, jostling the broken limb further.

“Stop, Stop!” Jaskier snarled, trying to force his arm back to where it had been resting carefully against his stomach. He forced himself to meet Geralt’s eyes. “My arm’s hurt too.” If Jaskier though the Witcher was concerned before, now he looked downright ashamed. He was still moving though. He tugged the chemise up, gently guiding it over his bard’s head and down the mangled limb. Then he sat back and just stared. Jaskier hadn’t seen the wound on his torso yet, but with the amount of pain he felt, he was sure it looked impressive. His arm, which he had seen when he had first injured it, was mostly purple and blue where it had been slammed roughly into tree bark.

The Witcher silently rose and grabbed one of his saddlebags, the one where they kept the medical supplies. Then he ripped a branch from another tree and snapped it in two. When he returned to Jaskier’s side, he started with the arm, bracing the two halves of the tree branch on either side of the break and tying them in place with strips of cloth that Jaskier normally used to clean the Witcher’s wounds. Then Geralt reached into the bag and pulled out a salve that Jaskier recognized as something for bruising. Rough hands were back on his side, rubbing the salve carefully over the bard’s ribs. As soon as that was done, the Witcher retreated to the other side of the clearing, near a fire, that had certainly not been there when Jaskier had sat down. Jaskier watched him carefully. As the sun set, Geralt brought him some dried rabbit jerky and some cheese from their supplies, but as soon as the bard had it in his hands, he retreated back across the clearing.

There was only so much a man could take. “Will you stop that?” Jaskier sighed. Golden eyes snapped up meet bright blue. “I know what you’re doing. You are giving yourself some kind of guilt trip on my account and I won’t have it.” It was very hard to keep his arm still while scolding his Witcher, but the scolding had to be done. “If I thought I couldn’t handle some bruising and broken bones, I would not be traveling with a Witcher. Granted, I had always thought they would come from monsters or bandits, not you, but the point stands. I signed up for this.”

“I hurt you,” Geralt ground out, looking away.

“Oh please. Even you have to understand that accidents happen. And don’t get glib. It was an accident. And I provoked you besides. It is no one’s fault. Perhaps, instead of sulking about over there, you could do whatever it is you normally do. Sharpen your swords. Check your potions. I won’t be going anywhere.”

“Jaskier.”

“Growling will get you nowhere,” the bard huffed. “Now come off it. You didn’t mean to. I will recover, though I may have to hold off on travel once we make it to the next town. But we’re close to Oxenfurt and fall is nearly here, so we’d be separating soon anyways. I can always teach until my arm is better. See? No permanent damage. Now, please, my dear Witcher, stop punishing yourself for it.” Geralt looked back up at Jaskier, who just smiled gently across the clearing. After an eternity, the White Wolf nodded.

“Tell me next time, Jaskier.”

“As you wish.”