Tourmaline

A fight with the Crystal Gems has left Peridot cracked within an inch of her life. Trapped on Earth, with no one and no way to get home, Peridot's all but given up hope. But she doesn't know the lengths Steven is willing to go to in order to keep her alive.

http://archiveofourown.org/works/4409723/chapters/10015133

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12. 12

Tourmaline was slumped over the counter. Their one hand stacked the carefully-collected fragments of Peridot’s gem together. The pieces found purchase in each other, like bits of a jigsaw puzzle. But it crumbled steadily as Tourmaline pulled their hand away, unable to support itself.

Pearl leaned against the fridge. She was cautious to avoid the flour-stained hand prints on the handle, left over from Steven and Connie’s frenzied breakfast-making. All the Gems had positioned themselves around the mess: gooey seats ignored, pans left stacked haphazardly in the sink, plates abandoned under the soggy remains of syrup-soaked pancakes, room-temperature milk left to bask in the waning sunlight. The air was dense with a hot, sickly sweetness.

Pearl clenched her fingers. They wrapped around a small milk bottle of sorts she’d summoned back by the fountain. It was filled to the top with tears from the fountain, in case…

…she wasn’t sure.

“You can say it out loud,” Tourmaline said. Their chin rested on the counter, hand gently stroking the gem bits. “It wouldn’t offend me or anything.”

Pearl startled, then nodded. All sets of eyes had shifted to her, save for Tourmaline’s. Amethyst, seated beside Tourmaline, looked away from the puzzle-piecing. Garnet had pressed herself against the stove. Greg sat sideways in a chair at the head of the counter, set with a plate of soggy pancakes.

“I… I’m on board with the idea,” Pearl finally said. She moved her back off the fridge. “But I don’t like how we’re going about it. I’d rather have Steven fuse with me. Rainbow Quartz will not be how I remember her, but her appearance will still be convincingly non-human.”

Tourmaline gave a small nod. “Okay, well…maybe I’m a little biased…” They let out a weak chuckle, looking up from the shard tower they’d created. “But I don’t think I’m all that dangerous to Steven anymore. Peridot’s kinda…nothing but fumes at this point.” Tourmaline spun their hand in the air. “She doesn’t have the strength to grab back control—I know for certain, because she tried really hard when she realized Homeworld was contacting her arm.”

“At the Fountain?” Pearl interrupted.

“Yeah, Steven kept me in control though…” Tourmaline flexed their hand in their lap, curling in. “It makes sense she’d try though… Imagine you guys were prisoners on Homeworld, all cracked and maybe almost dead, and you found out someone from Earth was on their way to get you. You’d do anything to get out and get back here.” Tourmaline sat up straight. They brought their hand down, gentle, on the construction of gem shards. It collapsed steadily in on itself. “That’s how she feels. Desperate and wild—maybe her only chance to get home--and even then she couldn’t come close. Not a bit. Not even a little fraction. She cut herself off from Steven’s gem, and now she can’t do anything.”

Pearl crossed her arms, looking down. Something like shame tainted her voice. “Then you’re weak as well.”

“Y-yeah.” Tourmaline gave another small, conscious laugh. “But maybe that’s a good thing!” Their eyes scanned over the Gems, mental gears working to find a way to put their thoughts into words. “Peridot’s gem I mean—it’s burnt out. Almost dead, basically. Maybe would be dead if it weren’t in me, I don’t really know…” They ran their hand through their hair and suppressed the sudden shudder of anxiety. “I-I’m a fusion, but I don’t have the strength of one. I don’t have the power. I don’t have…anything a fusion should, really. I don’t seem like a fusion! I’m powered by only one gem.”

“Yeah, see, and that has me worried.” Greg pushed himself away from counter’s edge. He stared at the soggy pancakes in dismay, the broken spoiling mess of what his son had made. “Should Steven’s gem be supporting a fusion for this long? It could last until tomorrow. Or the day after. Or however long Cinnabar stays.”

“We do have the fountain tears here!” Tourmaline gestured to Pearl’s hand. “I mean, yeah, we don’t want Homeworld to know we’ve got magical gem-healing stuff on Earth. But we’d stay subtle with it!” The vigor drained from Tourmaline. They hunched in on themselves. “What, uh…What would you do with Peridot if you did defuse me, and fuse Steven with someone else?”

Tourmaline flinched before the answer was spoken out loud.

“We would crack her through,” Garnet said.

“Well don’t sugar-coat it…” Tourmaline muttered. They rested their chin back on the counter, eyes dull and unfocused. “Nothing Steven or I said meant…I dunno, anything?”

Pearl pushed off from the fridge. She took to pacing, snagging a loose bowl and ladle along the way. She stopped by the sink and got the water running. “We know why Steven did what he did. We were willing to discuss that with him, have a real conversation about what the right thing to do is. We could have let you unfuse and heal Peridot. She would have been our prisoner, and we could have come to a conclusion with Steven about the best way forward.” The bottle clunked down on the counter, tears inside sloshing. Pearl started scrubbing the bowl. Her fingers raked at the dried-on batter and yolk. “We’ve lost that luxury. Healing Peridot now would be unthinkable. We can’t give Homeworld any more of an advantage over us than they already have.”

“Yeah, and anyway—“ Amethyst leaned forward. She tilted her head and stared into Tourmaline’s eyes, who glanced back with muted defeat. “—weren’t you the one just saying how Peridot threw a huge fit tryin’ to grab back control from you? If we heal her, then you and Steven are toast.”

“She’ll try to return to Cinnabar. Then even if we have Steven fuse with me, she’ll be able to inform Cinnabar of our trick.” Pearl stacked the dripping bowl and ladle to the side of the sink. Her hands dropped to the two grit- and grease-encrusted pans in the sink, aborted attempts at cooking bacon. “It would be a ridiculous risk to take in our current situation.”

“Maybe she wouldn’t?” Tourmaline asked with breathless hope in their voice. Peridot’s cries had faded to a whisper in their mind, unintelligible.

“She already tried that once today!” Pearl answered. Her arms tensed, voice sharp. “She was willing to threaten Steven’s life in order to preserve her own. I have every reason to believe she’d do the same again.”

“We are not trying to be cruel. We’re trying to be logical,” Garnet said.

“I-I know…” Tourmaline whispered, face to the countertop. Logical or not, it did nothing to bury the hostile energy that leaked from Garnet. Tourmaline could sense it like a smell in the air, sharp like cinnamon and whisky, that Garnet would have Peridot dead in any situation. Tourmaline was glad for the moment that Amethyst was sitting closest.

“We’re not denying that it sucks to be you.” Amethyst thumped Tourmaline on the back. “It totally does. You don’t want Peridot or Steven dead, cuz you’re not suicidal. But you know Steven is waaaaaaay more important here, yeah?”

Tourmaline breathed in deep. They blurred their vision until the gem shard mound was nothing but a hazy formless pale green. “Steven had hoped…maybe Peridot could stay and learn to love Earth. She could meet all the kind people, and see the skies and oceans and mountains and funny movies and maybe…maybe then she wouldn’t hate it here. And she wouldn’t hurt anyone.” Tourmaline shrugged. “It’s a nice thought but…I don’t think I believe it’s gonna end like that.”

“That-a-fusion,” Amethyst answered, though Tourmaline felt the sharp twang of guilt seep off her words.

“No one wants you dead, Tourmaline.” Greg squared his feet on the bottom bar of his stool. “It’s just how things are. We’re thankful you’re helping, really. You could have just as easily been fighting us for Peridot’s safety.” He swallowed. “…So thank you for that, and sorry.”

Tourmaline made a grunting noise. They shut their eyes entirely. “I get it… Kinda missed my chance to have this end in any way that I get to—that Peridot gets to…” They trailed off and slumped harder against the counter’s edge. “I just…get it, is all.”

Greg opened his mouth to answer, but the words choked in his throat. He ended up nodding, though Tourmaline didn’t have their eyes open to see. “So, what do you guys plan tell Cinnabar when she comes knocking? So that she doesn’t—you know—blast you on site?”

Amethyst’s head jerked up. “Oh, I’ve got this one.” She hopped off the stool and covered the distance between the kitchen and the warp pad. She returned with Peridot’s dented arms clasped against her chest. Amethyst dropped them in the graceless heap. “We tell her that we’ve got her tech monkey hostage, and if she blasts us then Peridot’s toast too.”

Pearl gave a wry smile, a small nod. “It would be true.”

Tourmaline watched the limb pile anxiously. “Cinnabar doesn’t really…care about Peridot, all that much. Peridot’s a loan from Yellow Diamond, and Yellow Diamond’s got more than enough floating around to—“ Tourmaline shook their head. “Think ‘complementary pen from the doctor’s office…’”

Amethyst snorted, though she looked away in discomfort. Greg’s eyes widened immediately. “Then we don’t have a plan to keep her from melting us?”

Pearl’s shoulder blades pointed toward the ceiling. She hunched herself over the sink, high-pressure water steaming, as she raked the crusted, greasy remains of bacon off the pans. “No, no we just need to think creatively. We can’t be out of options. Not now. Not so soon.”

Tourmaline glanced to Garnet. She hadn’t shifted positions once since the conversation started. Tourmaline felt a different sort of shift, a split in energy. Something cold and gentle, like the buoyant support of the ocean cresting with rhythmic waves. It was passive, understanding. Along with it drifted another sensation, sharp and hot like a hand grabbing at sunburned skin—suffocating, encompassing, menacing. Tourmaline felt it choking inside their rib cage, and looked away entirely from Garnet.

“W-we’ve got maybe one advantage,” they finally said. Their fingers drummed anxiously over the countertop. “Cinnabar doesn’t know much, but she does know—whatever we are—we were able to bring down an entire space craft. She doesn’t care about Jasper, or Lapis, or Peridot, or the ship, but that is something she’s got to report. She’s got to take the fall for that loss.” Tourmaline pressed their hand over the gem fragments, sweeping them out like a deck of cards. “If she can find and capture Steven, then the loss of a single ship and a few soldiers is nothing. Last time they tried to capture Rose Quartz, thousands and thousands of their soldiers died. Cinnabar would be a hero if she could take Rose after losing only one ship.”

Pearl shut off the faucet. “But if the Rose Quartz gem isn’t here, we’ll be nothing but rogue worthless Gems…” She turned around and braced her hands against the sink behind her. “Ones that have already proven their ability to capsize one of her ships.”

“And she might decide that fighting us would be an unnecessary risk.” Tourmaline chewed their tongue. “She could be the next Gem stranded here, and for nothing.”

Greg’s back was stiff. He glanced among the Gems, even the silent ones, before coughing to clear his throat. “That’s really--” his voice cracked “--really trusting a lot to the hope that this Gem Commander’s gonna not be violent and unpredictable.”

There was silence, a beat, until Amethyst’s body stiffened in excitement. “But she will be predictable,” she said with an impish smile. Amethyst elbowed Tourmaline, who rocked with the gentle impact. “Tell me, what am I gonna do next?”

Tourmaline’s eyes shot between Amethyst’s eager pupils. They pressed their teeth together, and recoiled a little. “You’re gonna elbow me again.”

“Heck yeah I am,” Amethyst answered, driving her elbow again into Tourmaline’s side. “Tourmaline’s psychic. They’ll know if Cinnabar plans on vaporizing us.

“I-I don’t think we should be relying on that!” Tourmaline answered. They raised their hand in a show of defense. “I didn’t even realize I could do this until now! It’s just like—I can tell how you feel about things if I concentrate, about me mostly.” They looked among the Gems for support, finding none. “You’re asking me to be bombsquad here!”

“Eh, this plan’s already a minefield…” Amethyst glanced around, suddenly disinterested, and shrugged. “What’s wrong with throwing in one more crazy hail-mary?”

“Amethyst, that’s pessimistic. We’re…at least more prepared now than last time,” Pearl said. She crossed her arms over her chest, throwing an anxious glance to Garnet. “When Jasper came to Earth, we knew nothing. Purpose, intentions, weaponry, technology—these are things we know now, things we can plan for accordingly. We can be prepared.”

Tourmaline straightened their back. They kept their eyes low, scanning the countertops littered with pancake slop and sticky fingerprints of maple syrup. “So…let’s say this works out. Cinnabar doesn’t call our bluff, and she leaves, and Steven’s not in danger anymore.” They glanced up, “…What happens then? To Peridot?” before dropping their eyes to the floor, voice lowered. “…To me?”

Pearl shrunk in against the sink. Her eyes wandered back to the half-dozen unclean bowls that peppered the kitchen counter. “Let’s focus on the most pressing matters first. We don’t have a solid plan yet.”

Garnet shifted. Tourmaline’s attention shot to her, finding the split energy had faded into background noise. They still shrunk in on themselves as she approached. Garnet put a hand out, rested it on their shoulder. In that moment, Tourmaline could feel the gesture wasn’t for them.

“We want to speak to him,” she said. “We’ve excluded him from too many vital decisions. We can’t make that mistake anymore.”

Tourmaline nodded once, then more vigorously. “Oh…oh yeah, yeah I understand. I shouldn’t…be the one here right now.” Tourmaline felt out the anxious excitement in the room, hot and pricking like stagnant summer air. “I’m…sorry.”

There came a sudden distance to Tourmaline’s eyes—hazy, unfocused things staring into the nothingness. Their body sagged right, before snapping up. A new tense excitement drew back their shoulders, eyes bright, aware, and wrought with concern.

“Steven?” Pearl asked.

“I…Hi, Pearl…” He glanced down to his body, instantly real, instantly heavy. He was sitting on a stool now, not Peridot. He wondered if she even noticed his absence now. Steven shifted his focus from himself. He looked around the room, at the mess that coated the kitchen, before letting out a laugh. “Oh man! I forgot all about the mess from breakfast.”

Steven didn’t have the chance to say anything else. Garnet wrapped him in a tight hug, followed by Amethyst, Pearl, Greg. The weight pressed him down, and he leaned back into it, losing himself in a relieved shudder. One arm hugging back, he felt the tension in his chest melt under the pulsing flood of relief and love that wafted off the others—Tourmaline’s ability, Steven remembered.

He cracked his eyes open. Through the gap over Garnet and Amethyst’s shoulders, his eyes fell on the counter. It was a gray mottled thing, half buried in spilled flour and milk. His attention focused to the center, and lingered on the spread of gem shards that twinkled, lifeless, in the waning afternoon sunlight.

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