It was when they were alone at the hotel lobby, waiting for Pearl to finish their guest registrations, that Diamond noticed the fresh red lines on her leg.
“Ojou-sama!” he pointed, with almost none of the panic of when she first fell off her bike, but with obvious concern. “Your knee’s scraped!”
Platinum knew that. She couldn’t point out when exactly it happened – probably during one of the more intense training sessions of the day – but she’d felt the aftermath, her skin smarting with each turn of the pedals until the whole of her knee was aching.
“I’m fine,” she said, trying to look neutral under her bodyguard’s scrutiny.
She probably didn’t succeed, because he directed her at one of the small sofas, and asked her to extend her leg while he looked for the first-aid kit. Wig, Lax and Prinplup followed him, looking worried as well, and she bit her lip in frustration.
“I’m fine,” she repeated, crossing her arms as Diamond went through the kit. “I do not need to be coddled like a child.”
That made her bodyguard look up at her, with something in his expression she could not decipher. Quietly, he resumed shifting through the kit; his hands emerged with a box of Band-Aids and their small bottle of iodine, and she sighed in defeat.
She remained in a sullen silence as Diamond started dabbing the cotton full of iodine on her knee, but could not help but be distracted by the gentleness of his hands; she thought her bodyguard wouldn’t be out of place in one of her etiquette classes. She barely felt the hurt.
Her aggravation had all but eased away when Diamond reached for the box of Band-Aids, and it was this moment the boy chose to ask in a nonchalant tone: “Ojou-sama is thinking about what Pearl said the other day, right?”
She opened her mouth in surprise, then closed it, a blush rushing to her cheeks. She kept forgetting that her bodyguards were the most talented in the field.
Averting her eyes was not enough; Diamond was looking at her as if he expected her to say something – and so were Wig, and Lax, and Prinplup. She hadn’t wanted to talk about it, had internalized the painful lesson the same way she’d been taught to carry the burdens of her life.
…But his expression was very open and understanding.
“…Pearl was right. This journey – is meant to be a coming of age. I cannot act like a spoiled princess and cry every time I’m hurt.”
Diamond’s smile grew a little wider, as if he was proud of himself for being right. But it also looked warmer and kinder; as he applied the Band-Aid to Platinum’s knee, that warmth seemed to spread throughout him, from the tips of his fingers to her skin.
“…You know,” he said, slowly like he was choosing the words, “Pearl and I want to see you getting stronger. And Pearl has his own way of trying to help you, and it can seem rough at times, but he really means well.”
“I know that.”
“Yeah. But he doesn’t want to – and I don’t want to either – we don’t want to see you forgetting about yourself just to be strong. Taking care of yourself is not – it’s not a selfish thing.”
He turned his back to her, putting everything back in the first-aid kit – but not before she could catch a glimpse of his serious eyes and the determined set of his mouth.
“Getting hurt is a part of growing strong, ojou-sama – but knowing when to take care of yourself also is, you know? You gotta learn to rest to be able to move forward.”
He turned to face her when he said that – and his smile then was like the smile of a routine well-practiced, the same smile that was always there when someone laughed at their manzai. She realized, with a start, that it was Diamond’s proud smile – that he was proud of her then, even when she made mistakes, and her heart seemed to do a leap inside her chest.
“Guys, I got the keys~!”, Pearl’s voice echoed through the lobby.
He came running and skidded to a stop in front of them, frowning with worry. “Is there something wrong?”, he asked them, eyes going from Diamond to Platinum and back to Diamond.
Who rose from his place with closed eyes and a serene expression. “I think everything’s all right, now.”
He glanced at Platinum as if to confirm it, and she nodded back to him. She rose to her feet too, taking the room key Pearl was wordlessly offering her. He answered her smile – because a smile had made its way onto her face without her noticing – with one of his own. The three of them looked at each other, and Platinum couldn’t be more glad that her father had chosen these two to be the companions in her journey.
The warmth of his fingers lingered on her skin; full of scabs and the acrid smell of iodine, she felt a little more like an adult.