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Musical Misstep

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    Miriam was enjoying herself, despite everything going on at the moment. Sure, it wasn’t anything near as stressful as when Kiwi and her had saved the world that handful of months ago, but still…

    She didn’t like the snowstorm blowing outside, very much audible over the slow and sweet song being played. The thin walls didn’t do this new club any favors, and the cold was sneaking in despite the packed crowd. Who builds such a cold building in Chismest of all places? Not that it seemed to bother the locals, many of them wearing light jackets at the most. She had chosen a heavier jacket and she was still cold, she had no idea how any of them put up with this.

    The cold was hard on her muscles, she was exhausted from helping set up the stage. This was only her fifth gig with the band as a stagehand and she was still getting used to having to follow the lead of someone other than Kiwi. It didn’t pay too great but she was thankful for this job regardless, as long as she got to work alongside her best friend it was all worth it. Getting to watch the acts for free during her breaks was a nice plus.

    She tried to relax a bit as she focused more on the band playing. More on Kiwi as they sang their quiet melodies, harmonizing with Ash as they supported Viola’s leading part. Manny had gone off stage for whatever reason, probably checking with one of the other stage hands. This piece was almost over, and after the next one Miriam would be back at it again. By this point though her responsibilities was more along the lines of relaying information backstage, her powers of flight making her far faster than anyone else in the building.

    As the song ended in its familarialy sweet way (this piece was always a hit despite the break from the usual bright and bouncy form) Manny made his way back to his position, handing Kiwi a glass of water as he did so. Manny was always looking out for the band despite his more eccentric planning habits...

     As the next song began Miriam wished she wasn’t so tired from moving things around. Those drums were heavy and hauling them around was always a pain, she wanted to dance damn it! This one always reminded her of that first time she really opened up to Kiwi, a moment that had cemented itself in her heart as one of her favorite memories despite how scary letting out feelings had been. As Miriam reminisced about those times, she noticed Kiwi start to get antsy from their position on stage.

    They probably had as strong of memories about this song as well, urging them to partake in one of their dances. But they had been warned specifically not to dance on this stage, it was high up off the floor to make a fall potentially dangerous. The avenue’s cheap construction made itself apparent once again, this way by having far too small of a stage. It was supposedly to make any performers seem larger, but having a full set of drums alongside them made the stage rather cramped. So cramped that the bard only had a one or so feet to move around in before bumping into a bandmate. Or falling off the stage entirely…

    Anxiety began to fill Miriam’s head as Kiwi shuffled their feet more and more, she was starting to realize that her friend couldn’t ever really control themself with this song going. They were so focused on the music they were singing that they had closed their eyes, as they often did, which meant they couldn’t see the cues Miriam was starting to try to throw their way. Feet began lifting off the floor as hands giving practiced signals went unseen. She started to use a few flashes of magic to try to get the attention of any of the band members, but they were all as focused as Kiwi was. Miriam was starting to consider her options on how to get her friend to stop dancing, maybe flickering one of the stage lights would do the trick?

    While she tried to figure out a solution, Kiwi started to really pick up on their moves. As good as a dancer they might be, it was dangerous! They were getting way too close to the edges of the stage, and with each little jig coming ever closer. Just as Miriam turned to put her improvised plan into motion, she heard the one series of noises she was hoping she wouldn’t today. 

    A sudden stop to the singing, cut off by a quick yelp. Followed then by a *thunk*

    The song was over, a few gasps and a handful of murmurs coming from the crowd.

    Miriam was kneeling by Kiwi’s side before she could think about it. She hadn’t seen the fall, but she could tell that her friend was in pain. Quite a bit, considering the weren’t even faking their normal smile and had both hands on the left side the their hip. Must be what they landed on…

    “Kiwi! Hey, Kiwi! You okay?” She was trying to get Kiwi to focus on her and not on the crowd, knowing that they wouldn’t be honest about their injury if they thought about all the eyes on them. Kiwi was so bad at showing any negativity in front of strangers…

    Or anyone who wasn’t Miriam herself, honestly. She used her body to try to block Kiwi’s sight of the crowd, not that it seemed to be doing much good. That fake smile of theirs was already back along with a bit of false brightness in their answer,

    “Oh! Haha, I’m fine Miriam! Guess I lost control of my feet for a moment there. I always do with that one!” Miriam knew Kiwi was saying this more to the crowd than her, so she didn’t call their bluff this time like she normally would. “It's not that bad, though! I should be good to go again in a minute”

    Doing their normal bounce, Kiwi was back on their feet.

    And they were slumping back to the floor again leaning, a quiet whimper going alongside their descent this time. Miriam catches her friend and lets them lean their full weight on her, not letting them have a second landing on their hip. More murmurs from the crowd. She had to get them away from all these people before Kiwi would be honest with how hurt they really were. Their smile hadn’t broken despite the failed attempt to stand, even with the pained brows and the continued moaning.

    “You are not good to go. Come on, let's get you backstage at least.” Miriam signaled to the gathering stage hands at the employee door that she was watching from earlier, signing give me hand  and clear a path to them. Three coworkers come out, one helping Miriam lift the injured singer, each of them under Kiwi’s arms to get their weight off that hip. The other two stage hands quickly got the a path opened among the gawkers, making sure they had room to get to the door as fast as possible. Not a word was passed between the four coworkers, they were all professionals trained for this sort of scenario. It didn’t even take a moment to whisk Kiwi to the couch in the backroom.

    After helping Kiwi lie down across the cushions, she turned to the give the others a request. “Mind giving us a little space?” Miriam may have not had this job long, but she had already earned quite a bit of respect for herself when it came down to it. She got what she asked for as the other hands cleared away.

    “Alright, it's just us now. You can drop the act.” She was saying that to herself as much as to Kiwi, letting her scowl fade away in place of genuine concern. She was just as bad when it came to letting others see her true emotions. “How bad does it hurt? And don’t you dare say ‘not that bad’, you hit the ground pretty hard.”

    “I, um,” Kiwi quickly glanced around, making sure no one was in earshot. Why do you care so much about not letting others know you’re in pain? This always frustrated Miriam to no end, but she was careful not to show it this time. “It hurts pretty bad actually. I might need a minute before I go back to the stage.”

    “What? No. You’re not going back on stage.” She wasn’t surprised by this answer, Kiwi always hated disappointing people. “What you need is to see a doctor or something. You’re not going back up on stage any time soon. And don’t you even try to argue with me! You can’t even stand right now, how do you possibly think you okay to keep performing??” Miriam put a hand to her forehead and sighed. She loved her friend dearly, but Eya almighty they could be frustrating sometimes. Keeling down and reaching into one of her coat’s pockets, she pulls out a half-empty greyish-red potion and hands it to Kiwi.

    “Here. Made this myself, it should help the pain a bit. It’s more for aches than injuries though, so don’t think you’ll be back up on just this alone.” Truth be told, she felt like she could use some relief of her own. Her muscles were still complaining about her new job. “It tastes awful, just so you know. All the brewing ingredients around here are frozen and it does weird things to the taste, so just chug it quickly I guess.”

    Doing just that, Kiwi closes their eyes and drinks the potion as fast as they could. No words were needed for them to communicate how they felt about the taste, their face trying to implode in on itself told Miriam everything. She felt awful for her little mute chuckle…

    “Guh! Th-that’s so bitter! How do you put up with those, Miriam? Do they really taste any better with-” A small wave of relief washes over their face. Miriam had really gotten the fast-acting part of the potion down. “Ohh, that’s quite a bit better. Thank you so much. Do you really think I should see a doctor though? I was really hoping to show off that new song we were working on this week!”

    “Yes, I think you should see a doctor! I don’t care how important your fancy new song is, you’re obviously quite badly hurt!” Now she was actually starting to get mad. She truly admired Kiwi’s dedication to everything they did, but they just did not know when to stop. “I’m not letting you go back on that stage! You-”

    She stopped herself. She was shouting again, and it was not what Kiwi needed right now. They needed convincing, not someone yelling in their face.

    “Hey, uh. Ace? How’s the, uh, hip?” Miriam let out another sigh, this time it was one of relief. Ash might be able to convince Kiwi to give this up. “That’s what you hurt, right? It looked pretty bad from up on the stage…”

    “Oh! Hi Ash!” Kiwi’s fake smile had instantly snapped back onto their face. Ash is one of the people in the world you trust most, and even they can’t see that you’re hurt? “It’s not that bad. Honest!” They try sitting up to prove their point, but a they immediately shift back again with a grimace. Just sitting on their hip was clearly too much, even with the potion Miriam had given them. “It just, it just hurts a little bit.” The smile was gone again, and their voice wavering a bit now. Holy crap, I’ve never seen you like this before. That must hurt REALLY badly. Miriam didn’t say this out loud though, she wanted Ash to talk the bard out of this.

    “That looks worse than just a little bit…” Ash seemed fairly concerned, even if they kept a bit of distance. “You should probably get that looked at. I, uh, I think we’ll be fine tonight if you leave.” Kiwi seemed to deflate at these words. Hearing it from it from a bandmate seemed to be a bit more convincing, even if it seemed to sting a little bit. “Sorry that we can’t do that new song you wrote, I know how much you wanted to…” Ash seemed to trail the thought off, not that it mattered much to Miriam at the moment. She was too focused on Kiwi to really pay attention to any hidden meanings passed between the bard and accordionist. “I’ll let Manny know. Try to take it easy.”

    “I-” Kiwi seemed to want to try to argue, but seemed to finally relent. “Alright, I will. Sorry for messing this up for everyone.” Ash seemed taken aback by getting apologized to, but before they respond Miriam gave them I’ve got this and You can go hand signals. She was glad she had taken the time to memorize all the signals in her off hours…

    Ash just gave the two of them a nod before heading back towards the stage. Kiwi just slumped backwards against the arm of the couch, just shifting a little bit before stiffening up again. A hand shot back to their hip once again as they angled their body to the right,trying to get weight off their injury. They weren’t trying to hide the pain anymore now that it was just Miriam again.

    “Look, Kiwi, I know it sucks.” Miriam tried to comfort them in her own way, it somehow worked most of time? She figured just having someone care was enough for them, she honestly felt the same. Letting other people care was the hard part, for both of them. “But they should be okay missing a few songs and maybe ending a little early. What we need to focus on now is getting you to a damn doctor, okay?”

    Kiwi let out a long sigh as a response. Whether is it was from stress or pain Miriam wasn’t sure, but it certainly wasn’t like them either way. Their normal self, anyway. You had better not start moping too bad before I can get you to the clinic.

    “We should probably go now. I can’t hear the snowstorm outside, so it must have died down a little.” She could, actually, but it did sound a little less bad out there. And it probably wasn’t smart to wait until the storm died down to get that hip checked. They needed to get out of the theater, at least. It would probably get busy back here in a while and that would probably stress Kiwi out. “The clinic is close enough that I don’t want to risk flying, so we’re walking there.”

    She knelt down beside Kiwi and put her should under their arm. “Time to get up. Let's get going.”

    She lifted, they followed along.

    They yelped, she grabbed more weight.

    The two of them stabilized. Time to go. They made their way towards the back door.

    A passing stage hand opened it for them. Thank you Miriam signed with her free hand.

    The coworker nodded, and out into the cold the bard and the witch went.


 

    Hobbling along in the cold, Kiwi didn’t take long to start to break the silence.

    “Ash is upset with me. They probably all are.” This comment took Miriam by surprise, You think Ash of all people is upset with you? “Ash only calls me by my stage name when they’re upset. I think I really messed it up for all of them…”

    “What are you talking about? Ash was probably just upset that you hurt yourself so bad! No one blames you for what happened.” Change the subject, get their mind off of what they did “If anyones to blame it's the cheap bastard who built the theater! That stage is ridiculously small, and way too high. I’m gonna find out whoever the jerk that approved that deathtrap is and-”

    “No, Ash was upset with me for sure. The whole band was counting on me and I blew it. I’ve just been messing up these performances lately.” Miriam was shocked to hear this. They had done great literally every single they were on a stage before.

    “What the hell are you talking about? Every time you’re there the gigs sell out! Even when you’re only there for a few songs! Everyone loves to watch you up on a stage, even I do.” She meant that. She had trouble enjoying music that didn’t include her friend anymore, it was just so comforting for her. Not that she would ever admit that. “You weren’t even scheduled to keep going for much longer! You had, what, two or three pieces left? I’m sure they’ll be fine without you tonight”

    “That’s not the point! Everyone- “ they stumble a moment on a uneven pavestone, pressing their palm to their hip and flashing a brief wince. Kiwi keeps talking before Miriam can express any further concern, “Everyone is gonna be worried about me! They’re supposed to be having fun, and I did the one thing I wasn’t supposed to! So yes it’s my fault!” Miriam just kept walking beside them during their rant, just letting them go on and on. By this point she knew it was best to just Kiwi vent then to try to comfort them any other way. She would talk to them when they were finished…

    And based on the fact Kiwi was retorting comments not even given, they probably had a ways to go still. All the witch could do was let them have her ear, and support their weight as hobbled toward their destination in the snow. She really regretted leaving her broom backstage now…

    Still, she didn’t really mind walking her best friend in the cold. They had done so much more for her, more times than she could care to count at this point. She had certainly talked Kiwi’s ear off before, usually at a much higher volume than this.

    “Manny told me not to, Ash told me not to, you told me not to, I knew not to, and.., and...” Tears were beginning to form at the corners of their eyes, Miriam knew this rant was nearly over now. In a minute Kiwi would turn into an emotionally wrecked lump. Miriam knew she needed to hurry them along, being out in the snow and cold with that hip would really bad. She really wanted to let them keep going, but…

    “Kiwi, I’m sorry but we need pick up the pace a little. I think if we hurry we might be able to get you back for a song or two?” Miriam hated lying to them, but she couldn’t let Kiwi stop walking now. She wasn’t sure just how bad that injury was and she couldn’t stand the thought of letting them get any worse. “That would make it so they wouldn’t worry at least. Does that sound good to you?”

    Eyes lighting up slightly and blinking a few tears out of their eyes, they tried to give an answer but ended up just giving a weak nod. The two continue on in silence after that, only interrupted by an occasional stumble or groan on Kiwi’s part. After a few minutes the clinic comes into view, thankfully everything in Chismest is very close together…

    Always the polite one, Kiwi reaches for the door first, but the witch cuts them off abruptly. “ I got this Kiwi. You’re allowed to let yourself be taken care of every now and again, you know.” A small groan was all she got in response, almost inaudible. Miriam wasn’t the only person there now…

    They had given up faking their smile at least, or was that a bad thing? At least you’re not wasting energy trying to keep up appearances anymore. Miriam kept her concerned expression instead of scowling like normal, she was also feeling exhausted at this point. Mostly from worry, but also from the physical exhaustion from both working all day and carrying Kiwi halfway across town. Today had been extremely draining for her and all she wanted to do was find somewhere quiet to curl up, but Kiwi still needed her and that wasn’t about to change. She could have a break while they saw the doctor at least.

    Her eyes were drooping now. All of today was hitting her all at once now. Being concerned was exhausting.

    She snapped back to attention at the sound of a ding ding. She hadn’t noticed that they were already at the receptionist desk or that there wasn’t anyone behind it. So much for letting me take care of you, I can’t even pay attention. She tried to shake some of the haze out of her head, getting her a concerned “Are you doing okay Miriam?”

    “I’m fine! I’m fine. Don’t worry about me. I could just use a break is all.” She rattled off quickly, perhaps a bit more prickly than she had intended. “We need to focus on you right now. Look, someone’s coming” It was some woman she didn’t recognize, not that it mattered really. As long as Kiwi got the care they needed.

    “Sorry! We weren’t really expecting anyone to come into today, that singer is back in town and-” The receptionist, Katya according to her nametag, catches herself after seeing who she’s talking to. “Oh. Uh, sorry. Didn’t know it was you. What happened?”

    “Kiwi here fell off the stage and messed up their hip” Miriam didn’t want Kiwi sugar coating their own injuries, so she took over here. “They can’t even sit on it now. You had better not tell me there’s a wait.”

    “No, there’s no wait!” Katya responded quickly, anyone could recognise a witch and no one wanted to piss one off. Quickly going around the desk to open the door, “Uh, this way please.” The two of them followed her through the door, through a hallway, and finally into a sterile-looking room. “Go ahead and lie down on the bed, the doctor will be right with you.” Miriam helped Kiwi into the bed as Katya left the room.

    “Huh. I guess her moving plans didn’t work out.” Miriam gave them a puzzled look as she sat down in a chair across from the bed. “Oh, after we shut down the factory she told me how she wanted to move away. She changed her mind I guess?” Miriam gave a shrug as she slumped into her seat. The chair was made of freezing cold metal but it didn’t matter, she desperately needed to sit down. Kiwi continued about that receptionist girl but Miriam just couldn’t bring herself to care enough to listen.

    Her mind drifted as her friend started to reminisce about their time in Chimest while they were saving the world. Drifted to how dangerous the stage was, then to setting up the drum set on the stage, then to lifting the drums on stage with her broom (she was still pissed Manny made her do that), then to flying around with Kiwi on her broom. She slipped further down in chair as she thought about the long talks the two of them often had while they flew around.

    Her heart warmed and fluttered thinking about how nice Kiwi had always been to her, she really sit them down sometime and tell Kiwi how she really felt. Her mind lullied along about how frustrating her job was sometimes, how unfair how Kiwi and her basically never got to spend time together anymore. She dreamed about that time the two of them had gone to the beach, spending time in the sun. She smiled in her sleep about good times.

    *clack* She startled awake at the sound of a door being closed and sat up, “Doctor’s here.” She muttered as she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. As she looked up she noticed a distinct lack of doctor. “Oh.”

    “The doctor already checked on me.” That wasn’t a tone Miriam liked. She looked up and, yup, Kiwi was curled up in a ball. They sat perpendicular to the bed now, balanced on their right hip “I fractured my hip. I can’t perform for at least a few weeks.” that explains the moping. “I’ll need crutches the whole time, and they want me to stay over night”

    “I- That sucks. I’m really sorry.” Miriam felt awful for them, music really was everything to Kiwi and they loved their work. More than that, though, “And I’m sorry I slept through your check-up. I-” She stopped herself. She didn’t know how to continue that thought so she just let silence hang in the air. A moment went by before Kiwi raised their voice.

    “Its okay Miriam. I didn’t want to wake you up, I know how hard you work.” Of course they were still taking Miriam’s feelings into account. “You deserved a chance to rest, you carried me all the way across the city.”

    “...Thanks.” Silence hung in the air again. A few minutes this time. Then Miriam decided to try something she had never done so before.

    She sat herself down on Kiwi’s right, and pulled her arms around their shoulders. She pulled them close and held them tightly but gently.

    At first, Kiwi just sat there. Miriam wasn’t sure this was the right thing to do. She considered letting Kiwi go. But then she heard Kiwi whimper. A quiet little sound, not from pain this time. And then another one. Now a sob. Miriam couldn’t see their face but she felt warm tears start to roll against her. That’s right, she thought to herself, let it all out. No more bottling it up anymore, I’m here for you.

    Sobbing turned into open wail, muffled as Kiwi buried their face into Miriam. She suspected that more emotions than from just today alone were spilling out now. Tears began to well in her own eyes, then suddenly Kiwi returned the hug and leaned their weight against her. She held them close as they continued wordlessly unbottling all their anxieties, worries and pain.

    Gently, she took Kiwi’s hat off their head with one hand, placed it on bed, then put that hand onto her friend’s head. She softly pet them with just her thumb as the wailing slowed down and quieted. Back to sobbing, now gently rocking. Miriam didn’t know who started the movement but she helped maintain it. Whatever Kiwi needed, she wanted to give it to them.

    She moved her hand off Kiwi’s head and laid her own head on top of theirs, closing her eyes. She suppressed a sniffle as her friend quieted further. Time melted away as they simply sat together, wrapped up in each others arms. Miriam was grateful she had the chance to give back to Kiwi what they had been to her.

    The sobbing stopped after a time. Miriam didn’t want to let go or say anything. She wanted Kiwi to break the moment, whenever they felt ready. More time passed. Their breathing relaxed, as their grip around Miriam loosened. Seemed they were just about done. As done as you can be right now anyway. Kiwi and Miriam sat in silence for a moment.

    “I really don’t want to stay the night here.” Kiwi broke the silence. “I’d rather go back to my mom’s house.” They began to release the hug, so Miriam followed suit. She looked out the window as they unwrapped themselves from each other.

    “Looks like it stopped snowing. I could go get my broom and fly you there. Way easier than walking at least.” She stood up and stretched, subtly wiping the stray few tears from eyes. Even though she had wanted them to, seeing her best friend cry had still been heavy on her heart. She didn’t want to them to know, or least didn’t want to make it seem like it was too much for her. “I left my broom at the theater, so it’ll take a little while. You going to be okay on your own for a minute?”

    “I- I think so.” Kiwi stretched and laid onto their side, still careful to keep pressure off their hip. “You don’t have to do this, I think I’ll be okay staying here.”

    “You’re right, I guess I don’t.” She wasn’t surprised to hear this from Kiwi. “I’m going to, though. Because I want to.” You deserve a better friend from me anyway, she added in her head. You deserve the best from me, from everyone. “I’ll let the band know what’s happening while I’m there. That needs to happen at least.”

    Kiwi sat thoughtfully for a minute, then took off their capelet. “Please put this on, it's still cold out there.” They would never stop caring about Miriam’s well being, something that would never stop having meaning to her. She didn’t argue as she put it on. “Thank you for everything tonight Miriam.”

    “Any time, Kiwi. Honest.” She talked as she headed for the door. “I’ll be back to get you as soon as I can. Love you.”

    She froze a moment as the two words left her. She didn’t mean to say that but it just felt natural. She continued towards the door.

    “Love you too, Miriam.” Not words unfamiliar to her, but they made her heart leap a little nonetheless. Miriam gave a genuine smile as she left the room, unseen by Kiwi. She would tell them soon, she promised herself.

    She ran into that receptionist in the hall, sitting back in a chair and looking at nothing in particular. “Hey.” Katya sat up suddenly, then went back to reclining. You were worried that I was someone who could fire you. “I’m going out to take care of a few things, and then I’m coming back to take Kiwi home. Just so you know.”

    Katya opened her mouth, about to protest, but a cold glare stopped the words from leaving her mouth. She just nodded as Miriam continued to the lobby. The witch checked the clock as she passed towards the outside, 11:30PM. Roughly two hours had passed. The performance was scheduled to end in five minutes, but Kiwi leaving early probably meant they had finished the set by now. Should mean the crowd’s cleared by now at least. She didn’t dislike crowds per se, but she really wanted to get back to the bard as quick as she could.

    She felt a chill, she hadn’t noticed she was already outside. Her feet were moving on their own as she mulled over how she was going tell the band Kiwi’s condition, and how they might react. She walked by people moving in twos and threes, chatting about the night’s events. She overheard some concerned “I hope Ace is okay” and less concerned “That Ace kid is probably fine” type comments.

    She hated the fact the band made Kiwi go by Ace onstage. The name did not describe them in the slightest. It felt pretentious and smug in a way she couldn’t quite put her finger on. It felt non-committal most of all, for a reason she could easily put her finger on. Manny only called you that because he didn’t bother to learn your damn name until you had to sign a contract. That always pissed her off.

    Suddenly, she was at the theater again. It was much faster walk without having to support half a bard’s weight, and her busy mind made the time go by a little faster. Avoiding the crowd coming out the main doors, she went around the back to use the employee’s entrance. She slipped by some stagehands, her co-workers not stopping to bother her. They had their own things to do right now. Still, they seemed relieved to see her back, it probably meant to them that Ace was probably fine. No matter how much she tried to correct them it would always be Ace with them. Oh well .

    She found her broom easily enough, luckily it hadn’t decided to sprout legs and wander off. Why did that thought happen, holy crap I’m tired. She had been up since 3AM today, first flying Kiwi to Chismest, then flying loose things back and forth because something always got left behind somehow. Before she grabbed her broom she signaled to passing hand where’s the boss , she still needed to inform someone before she left. “Greenroom, whole band’s back there. They’re all pretty worried about Ace.” Miriam gave the stagehand a nod, grabbed her broom, and headed in that direction.

    She gave the door a knock. “Come in” responded a voice she knew was Manny’s. She took a deep breath and she went in to face the band.

    “Ah, Miriam! Good to see ya.” Manny responded cheerfully but he sure didn’t look cheerful. “How’s, ah, how’s Aceee… How’s Kiwi doin’?” Miriam was surprised to hear that. Are you really that worried about them? Ash and Viola had concerned looks on their respective faces, clearly they all were anxious to hear about their beloved singer. Miriam didn’t keep them waiting.

    “Kiwi fractured their hip. They’re gonna be on crutches for a while.” The three musician all seemed to deflate at the news. “They’re gonna need a few weeks off.” Silence hung in the air. Again. Miriam was getting tired of awkward pauses. “...Anything you want me to tell them? I’m going back to fly them home as soon as I’m done here.”

    “Well,” Viola spoke first, without her normal elegance now. “Please tell Kiwi to take as much time they need. And that we’ll miss them while they’re recovering!” Manny and Ash nodded in agreement to this. “You should stay with them Miriam. I bet they’re heartbroken that you didn’t get to hear that song-” She stopped herself short, apparently not wanting to let something slip. “You know Kiwi better than anyone.”

    “Yeah, stay with ‘em, Miriam. We’ll be fine without’cha for a while. Take good care of Ace for us!” Manny had his flaws, everyone did, but he sure cared about his people. “Don’t worry ‘bout pay neither, I’m considering this work for you!” This one took the witch by surprise.

    “Uh, thanks.” She was very grateful for this, but that wasn’t something she was any good at articulating. “I’ll take good care of Kiwi. Uh.., anything else?” Shaken heads gave her the answer she needed. Time to go. “Thanks again. Take care.”

    Miriam left quickly, not wanting to waste any time. Making her way past busy stagehands (teardown after the performance was usually pretty busy), being careful to not get in anyone’s way. A delicate and well practiced dance, even if she was relatively inexperienced she already fluent in the wordless language shared backstage and knew exactly how to move. It barely took a moment for her to be out in the cold again.

    She mounted her broom as a thought came to her, Wait, I’m wearing Kiwi’s cape thing. Why did no one say anything? She heart almost skipped a beat as she checked yo make sure it was still there, which it was. Guess everyone is just as tired as I am, or maybe it isn’t surprising? I guess we are pretty close. She started her flight, low and slow. No need to go fast and wear herself out now. She was lost in thought for the few minutes it took to fly to the clinic, what was that about Kiwi being heartbroken? Why would they want me to hear a song so badly? Even with a lazy speed she was going, her destination came into view before she knew it.

    Kiwi was already outside, standing on crutches and looking fairly disheveled. “Hey, Miriam. They kicked me out!” They seemed somewhat excited, probably not wanting to stay in there any longer. “I guess we don’t need to worry about them not wanting me to leave! Heh.” Miriam probably scared whats-her-face worse than she meant to, not that she really felt bad about it. She was feeling pretty feelings-out now, as she put it once.

    She lowered her broom as low to the ground as she could, the bristles practically touching the cold stones below her. Anything to help Kiwi out right now.

    Rather slowly, the bard sat down next to the witch. The pain would be with Kiwi for quite some time, probably. Miriam took the crutches and stowed them under one arm, letting them focus on keeping their balance off of their hip. “Ready?”

    A quick nod, and Miriam took off and began to fly. Slowly, more so than when she went to pick Kiwi up. She was being very careful with her injured friend now. Not a word passed between them in the handful of minutes it took to go to Kiwi’s mother’s house. Miriam was grateful for the weather staying calm, hopeful that her troubles were over for the day.

    Dismounting was a little tricky for Kiwi, but they managed with Miriam's help. Inside they went, their mother was expecting them so the door was unlocked.

    Quietly they moved through the house, the mother already asleep. Up to the stairs, a bit of a problem.

    “You go first, I’ll be right behind you.” Miriam whispered, wanting to be respectful to the sleeping. “I’ll catch you if you fall.” Anything to help Kiwi out right now.

    “...Yeah, okay.” They whispered back. Up the stairs they went, without incident. Somewhat noisily. Miriam was struggling to keep her thoughts together now. She had woken up prepared for a long day but it had turned far longer than she had expected.

    Into Kiwi’s room the two of them went. The bard flopped face-first into their bed crutches still in hand, a little bottle of pills tumbling out of their pocket onto the floor. A muffled whimper as they rolled onto their side, laying directly on top of that side’s crutch. Looks like you’re as done with today as I am. Miriam didn’t have the energy to be snarky out loud at the moment, but she did go to pick up the bottle. Anything to help Kiwi out right now.

    “Hey. You should get changed at least.” Putting the pills on the nightstand, she went over to Kiwi’s travel case. She selected a set of pajamas out of the identical pieces of neatly folded clothing and tossed it at them. It simply draped over their shoulder where it landed. “I’m going to go get something for you to eat. You had better have those on by the time I come back.” She got no response. Whatever.

    She quietly moved downstairs and into the kitchen, where she knew a cold meal was waiting. Kiwi’s mom wasn’t always the best mother, but she at least cared. Sometimes. She grabbed the food and slowly made her way back. Kiwi probably needed a bit of time before they were finished changing, and she didn’t feel like trying to sneak a peak at them today. She thought about their dad, he had apparently gone back to work at the factory again. Not in charge this time, just designing production lines or whatever.

    She lingered in at the foot of the stairs. A little more time. She glanced at the food she was holding. Mashed potatoes and cabbage. Pretty boring, she knew what Kiwi’s mom was capable of. Okay, that was enough time. Up the stairs she went.

    Miriam cracked open the door, “You ready? I’m coming in.” No response, so she guessed it was fine. Kiwi was sat up now, changed into their pajamas and their crutches leaning against the wall. She handed them the plate, and absentmindedly picked up the bottle of pills while her friend ate.

    She recognized some of the contents, it was basically the same as the potion she had given Kiwi earlier. It also included what she knew were stabilizers, and a touch of dried lemon balm. To take the bitter edge off, she guessed. It didn’t have any medical uses she knew of, but that didn’t stop her from racking her brain to try to remember one. She looked up to the ceiling as she tried to find one. Oh yeah, it helps stress a little bit. Its for the bitterness. She closed her eyes in self-satisfaction.

    *clink*

    The sound of Kiwi’s empty plate being placed on the nightstand caused Miriam eyes to shoot open. She’d dozed off thinking about the dumb plant. Either that or Kiwi ate an entire plate of food while she blinked. She placed the bottle back on the nightstand and looked for somewhere to sit, other than on the bed. Kiwi needed that. Finding none, she decides to lie down directly next to their bed, right on the floor.

    “If you need anything else tonight, I’ll be right down here.” She gathered up Kiwi’s capelet like it was a blanket, trying to find some comfort and the hard floor. The carpet wasn’t exactly bed-like. “And if you try to sneak by me, I’ll know. And I’ll be mad.” She put one of her arms under her head as she laid on her side, her mind already getting hazy. She had a hotel room to return to, but Kiwi was too important to leave alone right now. She was going to wake up even more sore in the morning than she was now, but that didn’t matter. Anything to help Kiwi out right now.

    “Oh! Okay, Miriam.” Kiwi sounded somewhat surprised by this, but also partially excited. “This is like that sleepover we’ve been wanting to have for a while now!” They laid back as well, their mood seemingly boosted.

    “It’s kinda funny when I think about it. I’ve been struck by lightning, punched and kicked, attacked by giant monsters, falling more times than I can count, but it was that stage that finally hurt me super badly. Guess my luck ran out! Heh.” They always found something to laugh about, even when those laughs were forced. Miriam had grown to appreciate their constant efforts to stay happy, having seen them at their lowest before. She knew they did it for others.

    Her thoughts were drifting again, and somewhere in the back of her mind she knew she was about to pass out. She welcomed it as she began to think about all the kindness Kiwi had done for others as well as herself. She felt warm and smiled as memories floated through her tired mind. They really were the best friend anyone could ask for.


 

    “Guess my luck ran out! Heh.” It was strange for Kiwi to think about, they had fallen on that exact hip countless times before. Or maybe that was why it failed them now, this was just it finally giving out from all the abuse it had taken? “What do you think, Miriam? ...Miriam?”

    They peered over at the witch. Her breathing was slow and calm, her eyes closed. She had been awake since forever today, after all. It never ceased to amaze Kiwi how hard she worked, how much she had grown as a person since they first met. She hadn’t called herself useless in a long time now. She clung to their capelet for warmth, so Kiwi made an easy choice.

    They took the blanket out from under them in hand, despite how painful moving was at the moment for them, and draped it over Miriam. She smiled in her sleep, which caused Kiwi’s heart to swell immensely. Miriam rarely smiled, so each time was like a treasure to them. Especially when it was such a simple, honest smile. The little smirks here and there were good too, of course. They rolled onto their back and looked up at the ceiling, trying to ignore the pain still coming from their hip.

    They thought about that song they composed, the one they were looking forward to seeing Miriam’s reactions to. It wasn’t easy to get her break to line up with that song’s premier, especially since they had to make sure she didn’t catch wind of it. Kiwi had to call in a fair few favors to make it happen, and now it was ruined. Well, maybe not. There was always future performances to sing love songs at. Maybe they could call in a few more favors, make it a more private confession. Maybe it was better this way.

    “Goodnight, Miriam.” They stretched their neck to look over at the crutches on the wall, the things that were going to be Kiwi’s companions for at least a few weeks. Could be worse, they supposed, could have broken something instead. They closed their eyes and enjoyed the feeling of their body relaxing, their muscles losing the tension they had built up during the day. They listened to the sounds of Miriam’s breathing as their own mind let go of consciousness, a sound they were hoping to fall asleep to again in the future.

    Their last thoughts that night were of how nice Miriam was, and then sleep took them into dreams.