Clear’s sharp hiss broke the calm quiet in the kitchen, followed by the clatter of the knife falling onto the cutting board. Although no blood was dribbling out from the cut on his finger, it still hurt.
"Clear? Are you alright?" Aoba raised his head from the screens he had opened up. The junk shop was closed for the day, Haga-san instead thinking they should catch up on their accounting before they started up on a rather large shipment next week. While Tae was in her room, Aoba decided to keep Clear company in the kitchen as he prepared lunch.
With a wave of his uninjured hand, Clear said, “I’m fine, thank you, Aoba-san. I just cut myself on accident when I was cutting the apples.”
Although it was better to be truthful, there was always the chance that Aoba would be worried either way. And of course, Aoba was putting on that wide-eyed look as he got up from the table and rushed over. “You cut yourself? Where? Hold on, I’ll get the first-aid kit.”
"A-ah, Aoba-san, that’s not necessary… Ah." Aoba had already went off to retrieve the kit from the cabinet. When Aoba started getting out the bandages, Clear held out his cut finger. "Really, Aoba-san, I’m fine, see? I’m not bleeding."
The skin over his finger was sliced open a bit, and would’ve easily drawn blood from a human. As it was though, Clear’s restoration system rushed to the spot, and in seconds, the cut started visibly repairing itself.
Aoba watched with wide eyes, still in the middle of tearing open a band-aid. “That…doesn’t hurt?”
Clear shook his head. “No. Repairing is quite painless. Although being cut still hurts.” He chuckled a bit, growing slightly uncomfortable from Aoba’s intent stare. It was the first time he was witnessing Clear heal himself, so it might be strange.
"I see." Aoba looked relieved. "That’s pretty neat."
Clear offered out his finger, chewing on his bottom lip self-consciously. Taking the hint, Aoba smiled and wrapped the band-aid over the healed cut. Warmth spread from his hand, all the way up Clear’s arm from the tender action. He grinned. “You made it good as new~”
"Here, I’ll help with that." Aoba pushed aside the first-aid kit and grabbed an apple along with the fallen knife. "You can get started on the tea."
Any protests Clear would usually have were quelled from still admiring the band-aid on his finger, and he nodded, getting out the kettle. When he hurt himself around his grandfather, he’d never received first aid. The two of them had known of Clear’s regenerative ability, and so unless it was something big, Clear would never do anything once he was hurt. He could always heal himself. Humans were the same, weren’t they?
He gave a glance to Aoba, who was concentrating more than necessary over cutting through the apple core. “Aoba-san.”
"When you asked me if it hurt that I was restoring myself, was it because it’s painful for humans to heal?"
The knife finally sliced through the core and Aoba beamed in victory before getting to Clear’s question. “Hmm, well, sometimes it does. For cuts like that, it hurts for a few moments, but with the help of medicine and such, it hurts less. Even humans can heal themselves with little things. After that, it’s just scars.”
"You mean like the ones I have?" Clear brushed his fingers over the right side of his face. Aoba had told them the patches of his new skin weren’t too noticable, but every time Clear looked in the mirror, they were undoubtedly there. If scars made him more human though, then Clear didn’t terribly hate them.
Aoba nodded, continuing to cut up slices. “Yeah, like that. Even that took a long time to heal, since the damage was so much.” For a brief moment, Aoba’s hand stopped moving, but then once more the crisp sound of the apple being cut sounded in the kitchen.
"Does Aoba-san have scars like this too?" Clear’s voice was quiet, attentively looking over his boyfriend.
"Eh? What do you mean?" Aoba considered. "I mean, I guess I have some bumps here and there from the rough housing I used to do, but…"
Clear shook his head. “No, not like that. That is, sometimes I notice Aoba-san…that you’re still in pain.” At Aoba’s questioning look, Clear looked down, wringing his apron a bit. “Aoba-san, when you think about that time we were apart, it still hurts you, doesn’t it? When I think back to it too, seeing how happy you were when we were together again, and I think about what I did to you, I feel like it hurts, too.”
Offering a small smile, Aoba bumped him with his hip. “That’s normal. That kind of thing needs healing too. But that doesn’t mean I’m not happy right now.” As if to prove his point, he kissed Clear at the corner of his lips.
Clear reciprocated the affection with a smile of his own. “But, Aoba-san. Where does it hurt you? Maybe it’s because I can heal myself now, but I’m not sure where it hurts. I feel it here,” he patted over his chest, “but by the time I look, there isn’t a cut anymore. So, Aoba-san, please tell me where it hurts you.”
Aoba’s expression softened, his eyes looking just the least bit sad. “Clear…” He put a hand on his own chest, right over his heart. “That’s a different kind of pain. Since we,” Clear was happy to not be excluded as an android, “feel things both physically and emotionally, then we can also feel pain on those levels. When our emotions hurt us, we feel it in our heart. And sometimes, those take longer to heal than physical cuts. We can’t see them, and so can’t treat them regularly.”
"But…Aoba-san is healing?"
Aoba nodded. “Everything gets better with time, if you let it.” His cheeks tinted pink as he looked away, busying his hands with the apple again. “What makes it easier for me is you being here. If someone helps you, then the healing can go faster. So, right now, you’re healing me, Clear.”
"Aoba-san…" Clear did indeed feel something inside himself, right in his chest. It wasn’t painful like when he saw Aoba sad. No, at Aoba’s words, the feeling in his heart was big and warm. He reached out for the first aid kit and fished around inside it.
"Huh? Clear, what are you doing?"
Clear tore open a band-aid and reached under the hem of Aoba’s shirt.
"Wh-whoa, hey, what’re you—?" Aoba stopped struggling when Clear placed the band aid right over Aoba’s heart. Clear could feel its hard pounding right under the surface of Aoba’s delicate skin. Surely if a knife came down on it, it would easily tear open, and reach that precious treasure inside that was still trying to heal itself. From now on though, Clear was going to do his best to keep healing Aoba, like Aoba had always done for him.
Hand still over Aoba’s chest, Clear looked into Aoba’s face inquisitively. “Is that where it hurt?”
The pink in Aoba’s cheeks filled into a darker shade, but his gaze remained solely onto Clear’s. Aoba let out a breath, smiling softly as he reached up to ruffle Clear’s hair.
"Yeah. Thank you, Clear."