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.


2. 2

The couch had been stripped bare.

Its three cushions lay scattered on the floor, built into a semi-circle. The one nearest the kitchen housed a purple gem. It had been doused in water and rubbed clean, but still bore slight nicks and scratches. In the cushion center of the three was a pale oval gem. Steven had given it extra attention to get it clean. Connie too, who’d rubbed it down with her eyeglass rag. It felt right, for her gem.

On the last cushion sat two gems: blue and red. Steven had touched their edges together; he imagined it was a scary and lonely process regenerating without each other. He hoped they could sense how close the other was.

The semicircle connected in on itself, forming a complete loop, by a medium sized wire dog crate. It was bolted shut. Inside sat the bundled couch blanket, sacrificed by Connie for the night. It was wound around the green gem, making for a snuggly nest. It would have looked comfortable, if not for the wire grating surrounding it.

“You sure I should just leave you here like this, kiddo?” Greg paced around the display. He prodded an uneasy sandal against the dog crate. It was mesh wiring: hard, cold, and gray. Its edges were bound by twirled strands of thicker, darker metal. “…Should I be asking you who she is?”

Steven sat cross-legged in the center of the display. His sandal edges scuffed against the flooring, tracking streaks of mud that had crusted on his feet. He pulled Amethyst’s cushion to flood it with a patch of sunlight. “That’s Peridot, Dad.”

Greg’s face slipped to a paler white. He lowered himself onto his haunches beside Steven. “The…the Gem with the huge space ship who tried to take you away?That Peridot?” Greg manually turned Steven, both hands set to his son’s shoulders. “Steven, I love and trust you, but this is…I don’t–I don’t think I can have you looking after something that tried to kill you.”

Steven shrugged his dad’s hands off his shoulder, slipping them into his own. “Dad, Peridot doesn’t have the ship anymore. We crashed that. And it was Jasper who wanted to take us away. She’s not here. It’s just Peridot. And she’s got no weapons. And she’s hurt.” Steven motioned outward. “And now she’s in the crate!”

“When you asked for a crate…I-I thought maybe you’d found a possum or a raccoon or—“ Greg cut himself off, anxious eyes back to the strange display of blanket and gem and dog cage. “How can you be sure that’s gonna hold her?”

“Well…Amethyst was messed up pretty bad when her gem cracked. And it looks like Peridot’s is worse. I don’t think she’ll be trying to fight anything when she reforms.” Steven twisted his fingers together, glancing back at the cracked gem. “…if she reforms.”

“Mr. Universe?”

Steven and Greg looked up. Connie stood by the door, bag hoisted over her shoulder, a sunhat and her nightgown on. She watched them with apologetic eyes.

“I know this is really important, what you and Steven are talking about. But my parents are starting to get annoyed, a-and if my mom gets annoyed she might say I can’t ever come back over. She already thinks I do dangerous stuff here. If I get home late she might—“

“Oh, that’s right! I’m supposed to be taking you home, aren’t I?” Greg answered. He stood, hand to his neck. He glanced at Connie, then back down at Steven. His jaw worked itself in worried circles. “Can’t you just…maybe take the ride back with us?”

Steven shook his head. “I’m a Crystal Gem. I need to stay here and look after everybody.”

“…Including Peridot?”

Steven crossed his arms and huffed. “Including Peridot.”

Greg tried for a smile. He reached a hand down for Steven to take. “Just so you’d know, I’d trust my life to Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl in a heartbeat. But this…whatever this is—it took them out, Steven. Peridot did this to them. And Peridot almost took you away from me. You gotta understand why I don’t like the idea of…any of this.”

Steven stared at his father’s hand, contemplating, and took it in his grasp. Instead of standing though, he pulled Greg lower. Greg gave a quick tug of resistance before bending at the waist. He silently focused on Steven’s other hand, which pointed into Peridot’s cage.

“You see that really big crack down her gem? That’s what Gems look like when they’re really really hurt. And I think it was the Destabilizer that Peridot used to poof Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl. They’re not cracked like she is. And the Destabilizer doesn’t work on me, Dad. That’s how we escaped the ship the first time. I broke it when Connie and me found it in the Kindergarten.” Steven looked up at his dad, a small smile on his face “…I don’t know if she’ll even come out of her gem ever again, but she can’t hurt me.”

Greg gave himself a few seconds. He stood up straight again, and knotted his other hand around Steven’s, sandwiching his son’s hand between his. Fingers tense, he pulled Steven up with him. Steven went without a struggle.

“…Sorry, your old dad gets worried when he’s tired.” His eyes crinkled with a smile. “I was up until 5 this morning trying to fix the van’s engine. Poor thing gave out in the middle of the night… Probably should stop running the heater full-blast once it gets chilly. I ought to invest in sweaters.”

“The engine’s broken?” Connie asked with an edge to her voice. She hopped back and forth on her feet, eyes darting between Greg and Steven.

“No it’s fixed! That’s what I was up until 5 doing.” Greg released Steven’s hand. He plunged his own into his pocket, fishing for the car keys. “…Well I think so at least. It got me over here!”

Steven laughed. “Yeah, that’s when me and Connie went to bed too. The rest of the time we were sitting here watching the Gems. Even Lion came to keep watch… Except he stepped on Amethyst’s cushion and now it’s got a big lion paw print on it.”

The three of them jumped at the shrill ring from Connie’s bag. Connie tensed, blushed, and fumbled for her phone. She hastily clicked it open, cupping her mouth over the receiver as she spoke in clipped tones. She nodded twice and snapped it shut.

“I’m really sorry, Steven, but I have to go right now. My mom’s—“ She looked between Steven and Greg, eyes falling steadily to the circle of gems. “…I know this is really important. And I really wish I could stay and help and–!” She fumbled for words, hands twisting. “It’s just my parents might not let me come back if they think I’m breaking rules here… But I’m gonna ask them if I can come over again tonight and help! I’m gonna convince them! I’ll be here I promise!”

Steven nodded and dismissed her with a wave. “Don’t you worry. I’ll probably be stuck like this for a while anyway. Pearl takes a long time to regenerate, and so does Amethyst when she tries hard.” He lowered a hand to the floor, easing himself down. Steven crossed his legs beneath him. “It’ll just be like they’re sleeping for a while. First I got a sleepover with you, and now I’ve got a sleepover with the Gems!”

Connie nodded eagerly, apprehension still burning in her eyes. “Alright. But call me if anything happens!”

“And call me!” Greg interjected. “I will turn the van right around and be here. …Sorry Connie.”

“No, same!” she insisted. Her hands worried at the faint specks of mud they’d been unable to remove from her nightgown. “Seriously, Steven! Let us know.”

He raised a hand to her, brandishing a thumbs up. “Will do!”

“And if it gets too dangerous, just grab the Gems and run out of the house. Trust your gut. Garnet used to tell me how your mom won because she knew when to retreat from a battle.” The advice would have sounded wiser if not for the crack in Greg’s voice.

Steven crossed his arms over his chest and huffed. “Amethyst, do you think Dad and Connie should stop worrying about me and get going?” He leaned over to Amethyst’s pillow, taking her gem in hand and wiggling it up and down. He lowered his voice and spoke into the gem. “Yeah man, Steven’s totally got this.”He swung around to Pearl’s pillow. “Indeed. Now get going before Connie is late. Lateness and messiness are the worst possible thing.

Greg gave a light chuckle. His tight mouth eased. “Alright alright, Gems. We’re going. Don’t go summoning your weapons on us.”

Steven rolled onto his stomach and lifted Ruby and Sapphire. “Good, we thought so.”

Steven waved them off without turning around as they bid goodbye. He didn’t turn when he heard the screen door close, or the van start. He only shifted to his side once the van’s huffs and bumbles receded into the distance, too far away to hear.

The smile on his face fell away.

He laid on the grimy floor, the edges of his sandals scuffing the ground. He held his breath and didn’t move. It was his hope he’d see some slight wiggle, some tiny glimmer from the lifeless gems. Seconds ticked away, and they didn’t budge.

“Hey Amethyst, if you regenerate now, I’ll make us both lunch!” Steven hopped up, arms thrown wide to the gem. “It’ll be great! A huge sandwich for both of us! And I’ll make it with everything in the fridge. Hotdogs, mac and cheese, nachos, ice cream…I’ll get some donuts from the Big Donut and put those on too.” His hands dropped, teeth pressed anxiously together. “I’ll…I’ll even put motor oil on it. Pearl says I shouldn’t eat that but it’ll be my treat!”

He froze, waited, and stepped closer to Amethyst’s gem.

“O-okay. Take your time.” He spun. “Pearl! Pearl, look at this mess Connie and me made making breakfast.” He twisted to the kitchen, arms wide in presentation.

Most surfaces were coated in a fine white powder. Spatulas were stacked like linkin’ logs. Drips of batter peppered the floor, and four enormous floury paw prints circled the table. Three mixing bowls towered high on the counter, each half-filled with a yellowed slurry. Half a carton of eggs had been ditched in the sink, all cracked or leaking goo. It had been a joint effort between Steven accidentally spilling a quart of water and Connie slipping on it while carrying the egg carton.

A plate of a dozen waffles sat almost untouched on the table. After the distracted frenzy of prepping enough breakfast for four, neither Connie nor Steven found themselves very hungry after all. They’d laid out the maple syrup and butter (now gently melting) on the table set for no one.

“I’ll help you clean it up, Pearl. You can tell me where all the bowls go, a-and tell me why it’s bad to make messes in the first place.” He raised a hand to his neck. “Honestly I don’t remember where we got the spatulas from. You like cleaning up spatulas!”

The silent stone caught only a glimmer of sunlight in return.

“Garnet?” Steven twisted back and forth between the filthy kitchen and the gem circle. “I…uh… You should just come back anyway. You don’t like being split up, right? So just…come back already.”

He collapsed on the floor and scratched away a dirt stain from his pants. Only the sound of his breathing filled his ears. “…I don’t like waiting.”

Still slumped, he spared a small glance to the crate. “Peridot…?”

It didn’t answer him.

“If you were here, I’d talk to you. And I’d tell you all about all the cool and awesome things on earth. I bet no one ever told you about them.” He wrung his hands. “My dad and Connie just left. I think you’d like them. I like them. They’re really great.”

With a huff, Steven propelled himself to his feet. He stalked over to Amethyst’s cushion and hoisted her gem in the air. “Yo, Steven, you don’t need to be talking to losers when you have us. Let’s go make a huge mess because trash is awesoommme.”

He lowered her gently and snagged Pearl. “You most certainly will not. Amethyst and Steven, go clean up all the messes everywhere.”

Steven shined her quickly on his shirt before placing her back down. He lifted up Garnet’s cushion entirely. “Focus, Gems. We can’t be arguing about pointless things right now. We need to focus on the mission. And that’s…” He faltered. His arms gave way, lowering the cushion back onto the dusty floor. Steven turned on his heels, dog crate in view. “…hurting Peridot, I guess…”

He touched a gentle hand to the crate’s corner, floating in the silence. He rubbed his hand down the side. “…I wonder why they did this to you.”

Steven jolted awake by the shrill ring of his phone. His heavy hand pawed about on the floor, until it slapped down on the cell. It vibrated in weak protest.

“H-hello?” Steven asked, suppressing a yawn. He glanced to the clock: 10:30. He’d lost 45 minutes to his unplanned slumber.

Steven?!” Greg’s voice pierced from the other end. “Steven, are you there?”

“…Yeah. What’s up?” He looked up, eyes focusing on the gem circle with a spark of anxiety. …Nothing had changed.

The engine’s smoking again. I-I’m in some town about 12 miles from Beach City. I will walk back if I need to.” Greg’s voice shorted, then came back farther away, more distorted. “Ah ah geez no. I just replaced—no no I don’t need you to look at the brakes! I need you to look at the engine. The part that is making all that black smoke- yes the smoke!” The voice readjusted, more clearly now. “Steven, has anything happened there?!”

Steven covered another yawn. “Nah. Everything’s the same. It could be a really long time.”

…O-okay. I’m doing everything I can right now! Just…just if something happens, remember what I said about getting out of there. It’s not cowardly, it’s smart.”

“I remember, Dad. Don’t worry.” Steven switched hands. He walked into the kitchen and ran his fingers along the countertop. They dragged gritty flour with them. “I’m probably just gonna clean up breakfast here. You can have waffles when you get back!”

Yeah…yeah that sounds good. Be safe, Steven. If Peridot does anything funny.”

“She’s still just a rock right now…” Steven angled his head back to the living room. “I don’t even know if she’ll wake up, Dad.”

Oh…y-yeah. Yeah I hope not. I mean…uh,” He shouted something in the distance, something about a muffler as far as Steven could tell. “Stay safe.”

“I will. Fix your van, Dad.”

On it, kiddo. See you in a bit. Love you.”

“Love you too.” Steven dragged the call to end and placed the phone upside down on the floury counter. His wide eyes turned back to the Gems. “I wish one of you would come back so Dad can stop worrying.”

As if in response, a sharp shing broke the air. A clatter. A bang. A spark of light. Steven slipped on the soggy floor as he scrambled for the living room, just catching himself on the counter.

“Garnet?!” he called. Steven ran out of his sandals, leaving them forgotten as he rounded the counter. “Amethyst?! Pearl?!”

He hopped over the dog crate, falling to his knees in the center of the circle. One by one, he twisted between the gems. None had budged. Not Amethyst, not Pearl, not Ruby or Sapphire.

Steven felt the beginnings of tears prick behind his eyes. “I…I thought I heard—“

SSSsschhink. A noise like grating metal split the air. And Steven spun instantly as he pegged the source of the noise.

The crate glowed with a hazy green light. Thick shapes of light had burst from Peridot’s stone, smothered against the low ceiling of the crate. Steven only watched in awe as the thing sputtered dark in a few seconds. He felt his blood run cold. The lifeless stone dropped back to its blanket.

And immediately exploded with a burst of light.

“Peridot?” Steven whispered. He shut his eyes to the onslaught of brightness. A harsh ringing broke in his ears, growing louder and higher in pitch. Steven rolled over and cupped his hands to his ears.

Until it stopped. Steven eased the seal over his ears, met with only a strangled and shocked gasp for air. His eyes sprung open, and he found himself face-to-face with Peridot’s wide eyes.

Or at least…

most of them.

Steven let out a startled shout and pinwheeled his arms backwards. His scuttling collided with Pearl’s cushion, and he swung it around between him and his prisoner. He grasped it close for protection.

His captive stared back, blinked (mostly), but did not speak. Steven’s eyes roved over her, taking in what looked back at him.

An enormous crack split Peridot’s visor horizontally. The scared eyes behind it had deep gouges taken out of them. Steven watched her blink in agitation, as if trying to fix the missing patches of her vision. Half of her helm had disappeared entirely, leaving her head unbalanced and vulnerable.

Thick cracks spider-webbed out from her forehead, dousing her whole face in rivets and slits. They crawled down her neck and bloomed across her torso, down to her stomach. Her uniform had appeared half-remembered, darker fabric blending seamlessly with light patches of her skin.

Steven was reminded of the museum his dad had taken him to visit last year. Tall, Greek statues chipped down only to their core. He remembered pieces with missing limbs and carved out bodies, cracked crowns and chipped shoulders. He saw all of that now, but plastered onto the living, and definitely terrified, thing in his cage just then.

His eyes dropped from shoulder to left arm, forced to stop at the elbow. Steven raised his hands to his mouth as he watched Peridot wave the stump—bare from elbow to hand. Curiosity clicked his gaze over to her right arm. Steven found only a shoulder, which Peridot braced against the cage wall for support. She scrambled to right herself with only half an arm left to support her.

A ripple of electricity broke over her gem, and another few gravelly bits of shattered stone fell with it.

The silent stand-off lasted all of five seconds. Peridot’s harried breaths made the only sound. Steven hardly felt himself breathe, swamped in the shattered body of his enemy.

“…You’re hurt,” Steven whispered. He didn’t notice the tears eking from the corners of his eyes. He leaned forward, dropping to all fours, and crawling closer to her cage. He reached a soft hand out.

“Don’t!” Peridot shouted. She heaved another few panicked breathes, round eyes focused on Steven’s hand as she pushed herself to the back of the cage.

“Oh…sorry,” Steven answered, dropping both his hand and his eyes to the ground. “You’re scared. I’ll leave you alone if you want.”

Another few seconds of only panicked breaths. Peridot’s eyes shot over him, as if only just registering what sat in front of her. Her panicked huffs receded, and her wide eyes slowly dimmed, then hardened. She slumped against her cage, grit her teeth.

“You…” She stared down at the cage floor, before slamming her only remaining arm stump against the cage wall. “Of course it’s you. When isn’t it?!” She let out a small, strangled noise.

“I don’t want to hurt you, Peridot!” Steven insisted. He raised his shaking hands in a show of good faith.

She only let out a bitter laugh, slumped, and turned until she faced the back of the cage. “…Uh huh. Well forgive me if I’m not inclined to believe you.”

Steven didn’t have an answer. He only nodded numbly, staggered to his feet, and took off for the front porch, slamming the screen door behind him.

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