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Growing to Love

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She’s genuinely surprised, when the obvious finally hits her in the face. Pearl prides herself in being able to pick up on the little things, so that makes it all the more surprising that she didn’t seem to pick up on this much earlier than she had. Sure, she knew that Connie and Steven cared for each other quite a bit. But, she had, until now, failed to see exactly what was growing between the two.

It had been another simple training session, both seeming properly enthusiastic about it. They always seemed so eager to learn what Pearl had to teach. That was a fact that only made the lithe gem prouder. Students so eager for knowledge were always the most fulfilling to teach. She smiles as she spins on her heel, facing the two young teens. “Alright, Steven, Connie. We’re going to start with some simple sparring to warm up. Then, we’ll be getting into the lesson. I do hope you’re both ready, as today’s lesson will be a good amount more difficult than previous lessons.”

Connie looks particularly excited, giving a determined nod. “Ready, Ma’am!”

Steven is equally excited, giving a mock salute and taking a serious expression. “Yeah!”

They both glance toward each other, only able to keep up the serious expressions for a few moments before snorting. A few giggles pass through them and Pearl shakes her head just a little bit. Honestly, these two sometimes didn’t take things as seriously as they should. Especially when one is in presence of the other. “We’re very serious, yes?”

“Super serious.” Steven replies, his voice dropping to a fake gravely tone. Pearl ends up with a small smile on her face despite herself, especially when his genuine smile comes in immediately after. Connie comes in soon after, drawing her sword swiftly and efficiently. She has a curious expression on her face as she does so.

Turning her head toward Pearl, she raises her eyebrow. “So… who are we sparring with? Holo-Pearls?”

“I was thinking something a bit more real.” Pearl replies with a hum, gesturing between the two.

“You want us to fight each other?” Steven says, looking a little less excited about that prospect. “But… But, that’s...”

“Extremely beneficial.” Pearl interrupts, giving Steven a calm expression as she walks closer. She places a hand on each of their shoulders, clearing her throat. “Especially if fusion is going to be deeply ingrained into your potential battle tactics. Nobody will know your own weaknesses like your fusion partner. And, be able to exploit them. The holes in your offense that you don’t seem to see.”

“C… Couldn’t you just tell us?”

“Steven, that would be counter-productive. To simply tell you is not helping. In order to change it, you must feel it yourself. I could ramble on all day about how you keep your legs too close together when holding your shield up… But, until you realize a little for yourself how you must change it, in order for it to be more successful, words will do little to help really explain it.”

He still looks unsure, looking over to Connie with a small frown. She rubs her arm a little bit, then flashes him a smile. “I’ll go easy on you.”

The boy blinks slowly, his cheeks getting the smallest amount of pink to them before he laughs. “That’s okay. I think I can handle it. Can you?” He says with a small smile that only makes Connie’s more prominent.

“Definitely. Bring it on, Mr. Universe.”

They giggle again, though it’s softer this time, and each draw their weapon of choice. This time, they look to be alright with this prospect. Laughing it off to show they’re both alright seemed to have taken care of the worries of hurting. Trust in each other. They share another warm smile before looking to their teacher expectantly.

It’s only in that moment that Pearl sees the obvious. The surprise that shouldn’t be a surprise to her. They had just… flirted. With each other. While true that it could potentially be written off as playful banter between sparring partners, the inherent warmth behind the words couldn’t be ignored. And, it really made Pearl open her eyes.

These two were growing up. And, their burgeoning relationship with them.

Sure, now it was just sweet and more than a little cute. But, she can almost see it as it progresses. The devotion and care they’d come to have for each other. She can see the timeline in front of her, this little moment opening up so many tiny doors to other moments that seemed to pass over her head. Stevonnie in particular. Rose had fused with good friends more than once. But, Stevonnie was a different breed of fusion altogether.

They were made from love of a different kind.

It explained a lot.

Even if the young teens were only just on the cusp of such an affection as love in that sense, it was still there. In their words, in their actions, in their fusion… There.

Pearl didn’t know what to think or say at the moment, though is taken from her thoughts when Steven inquires with a soft ‘Pearl?’.

She jumps a little, looking quickly between the two. They both have traces of concern on their faces, likely from the rather stern expression she takes when thinking particularly hard about something. “Oh! Hm? Did you say something?”

Connie lets her sword drop a little. “We asked if you wanted us to start… You, um… seemed kind of…”

Oh, no, they were worrying about her. That wouldn’t do.

Pearl shakes her head, hands brushing off the light worrying by her two charges. “Oh, no, silly me! I was simply wondering if I remembered to put the laundry in the drier. But, since I now believe that I did, you two are more than free to start. I will be watching, but try and pretend I am not there. Do your best. After this, we will start the lesson.” She says, clapping her hands lightly together.

The two watch her for a moment more before nodding and facing each other. Connie gives a bow to Steven, back bent straight in a proper posture for showing respect to one’s opponent. Steven’s is less correct in it’s posture, but his smile gives the intentions off more than the movement. Pearl watches carefully as they start, Connie beginning strong by charging at Steven with a loud cry.

Steven immediately throws up his shield, the sword cracking the middle loudly. They both look at each other from this position, another smile and nod coming from each of them before Steven pushes forward and knocks her off.

Pearl watches silently, though not only looking out for errors in battle this time. Though Steven had had initially been hesitant to spar with his best friend, Connie seemed to have gotten him around to it. Now, the two were seeming to have fun with it. Not really the point of the exercise, but it was nice seeing them flinging banter (and puns, in Steven’s case) back and forth at each other.

Enjoying each other’s presence.

It reminds her of all the ways love can be a good, healthy thing. Innocent and sweet. Genuine. Pure.

She slips over to the stadium stands and takes a seat, continuing to eye them quietly. The sounds of their sparring ring out in the airy arena, bouncing of the few walls left standing. She finds a smile curling her lips as she rests her chin on her interlocked hands. She was… happy Steven had someone looking out for him. That made him happy. This was a realization, definitely, but not a bad one. Nor a shocking one.

In fact, it made her understand them a little better. Who could find fault with that?

She rises to her feet again slowly when she sees Connie catch Steven off-guard, sliding under his legs instead of leaping like the first time, holding her sword toward his back. He makes a very dramatic dying sound, falling to his knees and clasping his heart before plopping onto the ground. “Et tu, Connie…?”

She snorts in laughter, dropping her sword on the ground and offering her hand to help him up.

Pearl watches the way both of them blush a little as he reaches out for it, the taller girl helping him to his feet easily. The gem sighs with a smile, getting their attention be clapping loudly. “Excellent work, Connie! Quite innovative! Steven, we need to work on your shield positioning a bit, but other than that, a spectacular performance from you both!”

Steven and Connie both beam, Pearl continuing with a elaborate gesture of her hands. “Now, let’s move onto the lesson...”