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It starts with a paper-cut. Right on the edge of his index finger, stinging and sharp.

Steven hisses through his teeth, expression scrunching up. He’d been through hell and back, along with a variety of pain– but paper cuts are a different sort of evil. He goes to stick his finger into his mouth, an easy fix, since it stops the blood flow and heals the wound at the same time, but a gasp from his left causes him to pause.

Spinel is staring at him. Well, she normally does that anyway–to be more precise, she’s staring at his injured hand, at the blood.

“Hm?”

“What is that!” She asks, though it’s more of an exclamation. “That red stuff!”

“You don’t…” he says, confused, before it hits him. Of course she doesn’t know. How would she? “Oh. It’s blood! Humans have it, uh, inside our bodies.”

“What’s it doin’ out in the open, then?” She steps closer, peering down at his hand with an expression of unbridled fascination.

“I got a cut.” Steven explains. “Blood only comes up when you get hurt.”

He could go into all the scientific know-how of it, but the simplified version would probably be easier to digest. Explaining the anatomy, and how everything works for a body that’s completely and totally different from her own, already has to be a lot to take in.

It takes him a second to realize that Spinel’s gone quiet.

“Spinel?” He asks, hesitant. No response.

Steven reaches out to touch her shoulder. She flinches, opens her mouth.

“Your blood was out back then, too. When I…”

Spinel doesn’t elaborate further, but she doesn’t need to. Steven gets the message, and his heart sinks.

He was bleeding in earnest now, well– if you could call a meager drop trailing down his finger earnest. Spinel looks at it, and his hand clenches reflexively, smearing the blood around some.

She keeps looking.

Slowly, Spinel starts to tremble. It’s subtle, but he’s used to this, so it becomes apparent very quickly.

“It hurt, huh. When...when we–” She mumbles, and then puffs out a sad excuse for a laugh. No genuine joy, nothing, save for self-loathing. “Who am I kidding, of course it hurt you. There was blood. All over your face. I did that, I…”

She brings a shaking hand up to run through the hair of her pigtail, but he’s too accustomed to this to be oblivious.

Any second now, she’d yank, yank, yank some more– and keep at it until he had to literally pry her hand away while she sobbed, belted out reasons why she should just shatter, why he could do much better, why she didn’t deserve him.

It’s depressing how used to it Steven is. He doesn’t want to bear witness to it any more than he already has, and he doesn’t want her to go through it again, either.

“Hey, Spinel.” Steven says, and she looks at him with guilty eyes. He keeps his expression light. “Watch.”

Without further ado, he shoves his bloody finger in his mouth. She blinks, dumbfounded.

Steven’s finger exits his mouth with a pop, and he proudly presents the blood-free and wound-free digit.

“Would you look at that! The cut is gone, so it doesn’t matter anymore.”

Spinel’s brow furrows, “Wha?”

“It’s in the past already. So why let it bother me?” This analogy probably isn’t good for a gem who doesn’t understand most things, but he’s trying. “Just like...just like all the stuff that happened when we first met, y’know? It’s over, and done with, and we’ve both grown since then. So...who cares! I sure don’t!”

She looks absolutely dumbfounded, but it’s better than looking sad. He presses forward.

“You know what I do care about? You.”

Being so direct makes him blush, but the surprised gasp it garners makes everything worth it.

“You...you do?”

“Of course I do. You think I’d let just any old gem steal my jacket so often?”

Spinel looks sheepish, because she happens to be wearing his jacket right now. She’s smiling, though, and that’s what matters.

“Golly! Well, I care about you, too…” she trails off into a mumble, twisting a hand into her hair while she stares down at her lap. She’s pinker than she normally is. Her eyes flicker up, looking at him shyly. Maybe hesitantly. “That stuff I did... really doesn’t matter anymore?”

“Not at all! Not even a little bit. So, please, please don’t feel bad!” He grins lopsidedly. “That’s all in the past, and doesn’t define you. And anyway, I can heal myself within seconds.”

“It’s really okay? Really, really?”

“You betcha.” He gently ruffles her hair, and she giggles, leaning her weight against him. Rests her head against his shoulder. She’s feeling okay again, everything’s okay now, and the warm relief that floods in is nearly dizzying.

They sit, just like that, for a good few moments.

“Y’know…” She says after some time passes. Her voice goes quiet, “I’m really happy you said all that.”

“Aw, really?”

“Yeah.”

Spinel’s hand seeks his, and he takes it without hesitation. Her thumb caresses his index finger, right where the cut would be. “Hey, Steven? I need ta tell you something.”

“Yeah?”

“Promise not to get mad?”

“Spinel, when have I ever gotten mad at you?”

Promise.”

“Okay, okay. I promise not to get mad.” He chuckles, a quiet, breathy sound. “Now, what is it?”

“Your blood…” She inhales, and he hears her swallow. “It was kinda pretty. I noticed it back when we fought, too. It looks real nice on you.”

She means nothing by it. It isn’t like she’s aware of how creepy that sounds, or at least, that’s what Steven tells himself.

“Haha, really?” He laughs, trying not to look as uneasy as he feels. “My blood looks like any other person’s. It’s not special.”

“I think it is.” She leans against him further, puffing out a breath. Her last words are lower, in that tone of voice she likes to use when she told a joke– the tone that sounded playful, almost flirtatious, if she had even an inkling of what that was. “If it didn’t come out ‘cause you were hurt, I’d love to see it more often! Heh.”

Steven’s smile becomes strained.