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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4. 4

Steven entered quietly, save for the soft shudder of chimes above the front door. It was a makeshift thing of piping and thread, an art project that Connie had taught him to make. He didn’t hear it. Instead his eyes went to the three pillows. Each still bore its respective gem, unmoved and untouched since Steven had run for the door. That didn’t surprise him. He’d paced around on the beach for five minutes tops before deciding to head back in.

He eased the door the rest of the way. A sprinkling of soft notes fell from overhead, but nothing else stirred. Nothing else made a noise. Steven gave quick, scared glances to the locked dog crate. He was sure to shut the door all the way once he was inside.

Steven stood still for a single, indecisive moment. He clenched his fists, set his face, and marched into the kitchen. Dragging the stepstool along for extra height, Steven reached for the pretzel bag on the top shelf of the pantry. It crinkled in his fist, firm and puffy. He hadn’t opened it yet. Steven pried the top open and felt the rush of vacuum-sealed air puff in his face. He breathed it in, clenched the bag to his chest, and made for the living room.

“Hey…”

Steven rounded the cage and positioned himself in the middle of the circle. He looked dead-on at his prisoner, calm now at the sight of her missing limbs and spiderwebbed skin. She glanced back (maybe by reflex alone) then looked away.

“I brought snacks. Are you hungry? Amethyst gets hungry, but Garnet and Pearl don’t like to eat. I don’t know about you, so I brought pretzels.”

Peridot didn’t respond. She didn’t move or even breathe. Steven put his faith in her still-corporeal body as proof that she was alive.

“Pretzels are great. I bet you’ve never had them. You take bread dough, then you make it all thin and snake-like, and you knot it up, and you bake it until it’s crispy. And then you add salt.” Steven rustled the bag in his lap. “These are from the store, but I bet they make them the same way.”

Steven reached in and snagged a small pretzel. He bent at the waist and reached his arm forward. He slid the pretzel through the vertical slats in the cage door. It fell to the bottom with an unceremonious thud.

“Eating makes me feel better when I’m hurt or scared. Maybe you’ll feel better too…” Steven took a second pretzel and popped it into his mouth. His mind was too preoccupied with Peridot’s unmoving form to taste it. He swallowed, and sank into the silence. “…You can talk still, right? You can talk to me. I want to help.”

“…Go. Away.” The noise was tinny. It slipped out with an overlapping hiss, like air escaping from a leak.

“I want to help!”

“Then leave!” Peridot thrust her only half-remaining arm out. She spun with the motion, finally meeting Steven’s eyes. “It’s bad enough I’m assigned to this dumb, dead pet project. It’s bad enough I’m sent to this miserable dead planet. It’s bad enough I can’t actually complete my mission—failure after failure—because of you four! It’s bad enough I’m stranded here with no one and nothing and no way to get home. It’s bad enough that I’m cracked beyond repair. So the least. You can do. If you want to help. Is to leave me alone.”

Peridot’s breathing came in staggered huffs. Her eyes bulged with manic desperation, and she slammed her stump of an arm against the dog cage door.

“Or—better idea—if you want to help, then let me out. Let me out of this cage. Let me go! Before they regenerate,” she thrust her arm forward again into the door, toward the three pillows, “and send a spear through my gem while I can’t escape!”

Steven turned toward the gems. He made no effort to hide the discomfort and hurt on his face. “They wouldn’t, though. We’ve got you here now. They wouldn’t have to kill you.”

Peridot responded with a few more ragged breaths. She pushed her face against the slatted door. “Oh, my bad. Guess I misunderstood. I was getting some mixed messages when the fusion did this to my gem!” She raised her stump to the unrecognizably splintered gem on her forehead.

“Garnet?” Steven asked. His voice cracked with the upward inflection. He shook his head. “No, no, we needed to capture you. The fight must have–” Steven glanced to the gemstones behind him before swiveling back around. “Garnet got reckless because you were hurting them…”

“Nope,” Peridot let her head roll back, eyes to the ceiling of her cage. “It wasn’t reckless at all when she picked me up and pressed her thumb into my gem.” Her voice was airy, bitter. She refocused her hard gaze on Steven. “I don’t know what exactly you are, so I’ll spell it out for you. You don’t press your weapon against another gem unless you have every intention of killing the thing in it.”

Steven pooled his hands in his lap. He stared down at them. “Okay. Okay, I believe you. …The Gems were trying to kill you.” He pressed his palms into the floor and looked up. “But I’m not. So please just talk to me about what’s going on, so I can help you!”

Peridot left out a derisive laugh. “You rank below them. You’re following their orders. And they are not going to listen to you. You’re wasting what’s left of my life.”

Steven thought about this. He gave a small nod. Hand to the floor, he stood, and one by one he slid the Gem pillows back across the room. They moved with a whispering, skittering noise. Pearl pressed up against the couch leg. Amethyst and Garnet flanked her on either side. Steven gave each of them a small pat before walking back toward Peridot. He seated himself on the floor again.

“I think I know why you’re acting like this.” Steven stretched his feet out. His left foot pushed the pretzel bag away. “You’re scared, and you don’t want me to know that. So you’re acting like you’re angry at me. You’re not thinking clearly, because you’re afraid right now that you’re going to die. And that’s definitely scary.”

Steven angled his head over his shoulder. “Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl back there? They were really scared too you know, when they found out you were coming. They didn’t know what kind of technology you’d have. Or what kind of weapons. Or armies. Or even what you wanted. They thought they were going to die when you guys came to Earth.” Steven pressed a palm firmly against his chest. “And me too. I was afraid of dying too. I saw the lasers your ship had. I saw Jasper break Garnet apart. And I was scared too. Scared I was gonna die. And I was scared the Gems were going to die.”

Steven released the pressure on his chest. His mouth hardened, and he pointed the hand out to Peridot, index finger extended. “And you know, it was you who was going to do it. And I remember how weird it was…seeing that you didn’t care.” His arm went slack, the vigor draining. “You fired off the lasers and you didn’t care. We were going to die—Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl, and me—because of what you did. …You didn’t care.” He looked up, and found Peridot’s whole uncertain attention on him. “And now it’s you who might die because of us! But you know what’s different now?” Steven swung his arm around, thumb jabbed into his chest. “I care. I care that you’re scared. I care that you’re hurt. I care that you might die. So the least you could do…is care a little bit back!”

Steven breathed in ragged huffs; his blood pulsed in his ears. He watched Peridot, watched her expression slip from uncertainty, to discomfort, to defeat. She lowered her eyes and curled her legs up to her torso.

“You’re wasting your time. Just go.” She rested her head back against the crate’s side. “The mission’s a failure. Our communication is down. Homeworld isn’t sending anyone. Just go somewhere and let them crack my gem the rest of the way once they come back.”

Steven followed her gaze to the three pillows. He gritted his teeth. He turned back to Peridot with his eyes narrowed. “Don’t call them ‘them.’ They are the Crystal Gems: Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl. And I’m Steven! And don’t tell me you just want to be left alone to die, because you don’t!”

Peridot responded with the same vigor. “Well what do you plan to do once they regenerate!? When they see me they’ll kil—“

Peridot was cut off by a sudden, blinding flash of light. Then another. Then two more. Steven spun, and his face cracked with pure joy at the sight of the four gems floating. They threw off cascades of light that steadily took form.

“They’re back!” he shouted, and jumped to his feet.

Steven!”

“Oh.” He turned back to the cage. Peridot had braced herself against the back wall, wide eyes watching the regenerating gems in terror. “Oh, oh oh oh.”

He hopped forward and snagged the lock between his fingers. “Please don’t get out of the cage stay there and trust me please.”

“What?!” Peridot answered. She sat motionless though as Steven dove his free hand in and snagged the blanket off of the floor, no longer housing Peridot’s gem. He slid the latch shut again in the same quick motion.

Steven unfolded the blanket with a fast whip of his hands. It fluttered out, fuzzy and powder blue. He gave it another whip as he jerked it sideways. It fell flat on top of Peridot’s cage and spilled over the edges like a tarp.

“What is this?!” Peridot hissed.

Shhh,” Steven set a finger to his mouth, and yanked the edge of the blanket forward until it covered the cage entirely.

He spun on his heels just in time to see Amethyst and Pearl drop. The red and blue gem shot straight to another cloud of light and reformed a half second later into Garnet.

“Guys! Guys you’re back!” Steven raced forward, arms extended. He slammed into all three and chuckled at the noise of surprise from Pearl. He felt a hand come down and fluff his hair. Steven raised his own and took the hand that was patting him: Garnet.

“Hello Steven,” Garnet said with a slight smile. Her light expression dropped instantly as she looked up, glancing around.

“Uh…woah. How’d we end up back at the Temple?” Amethyst asked, as if voicing Garnet’s thoughts.

Pearl stuck a hand to her chin. “Oh you’re right. Garnet must have grabbed us after she took out Pe—“ Pearl’s attention shifted to Garnet. She cut herself off when she saw Garnet shaking her head.

“Peridot got me too.” Garnet looked down at her hands and clenched them. “The last thing I remember is breaking apart in the Kindergarten.”

A silent, simultaneous realization rippled through the Gems. They took a step back, and angled their attention to Steven. He smiled up at them in response.

“Steven…did you bring us back?” Pearl asked with a hint of anxiety to her voice.

Steven laughed and rubbed at the back of his neck. His eyes migrated around the three. “I noticed you guys were gone way longer than usual…and I knew you went to the Kindergarten. Connie and me found you there.” Steven twisted his hands together. “I wasn’t expecting you guys to come back so soon. I thought…I thought I was gonna be stuck alone for a really long time.”

Garnet set a hand on Steven’s head. “It was just a Destabilizer, Steven. It doesn’t injure our forms badly. It just makes them lose their structure. I was back just as fast on Peridot’s ship, remember?”

Steven gave a laugh and leaned into Garnet. “No you weren’t. You were Ruby and Sapphire when I found you on the ship. It took way longer until you were back.”

She gave him a final pat and retracted her hand. “And I have you to thank for that—twice now, it seems.”

Still,” Pearl stuck a hand up, “I don’t like that you went to the Kindergarten alone, Steven.”

“I had Connie!”

“…I don’t like that you went to the Kindergarten without another Gem,” Pearl rephrased begrudgingly. “You could have run into Peridot and—“

Garnet stuck a hand out, effectively cutting Pearl off. She shifted her attention to Steven and crouched. “Steven, while you were in the Kindergarten, did you see Peridot’s gem?”

Steven looked first to Garnet, then to Pearl and Amethyst. He clenched his jaw before looking to his hands. “You uh…what do you mean?”

“In the dirt, Steven. With the rest of us.” She clamped a hand to Steven’s shoulder. The tension made him shudder.

“It—Peridot?—She…No. No I looked all around and I only found you guys. Connie didn’t find anything else either. It was dark though…”

Garnet clenched her other fist and let out a sharp hiss of air. Steven jumped back.

“I thought I got her!” A quick gauntlet formed around her clenched hand, and Garnet stood back up. “Thank you, Steven. But the Gems and I need to go back and find Peridot. She’s injured, and missing an arm, so she can’t have gotten far.”

Steven backed away. He let one stray glance slip to the blue blanketed crate behind him. He intertwined his fingers. “And what are you going to do once you find her?”

Pearl crouched down and planted a kiss on Steven’s forehead. “Get some sleep, Steven. You look tired. I’ll be back later tonight to make sure you’re alright.”

“Yeah man, hold down the fort.” Amethyst knocked him with her elbow as she passed him, heading to the pad. “Nice saving us. Go Ste-man!”

Steven spun to follow, stumbling forward with the Gems toward the warp pad.

“But what are you gonna…do…”

The Gems all stood on the pad, facing him. Steven held his ground opposite. He looked first to Garnet, then Pearl, then Amethyst. He froze at the wide-eyed stare Amethyst gave him, the small, warning shake of her head. It sent chills down his spine.

“Take good care of the Temple, Steven. We can handle Peridot. Don’t worry.” Garnet thrust her hands out, and the three Gems disappeared in a flash of light.

A gust of wind caught in Steven’s hair, a slight ringing in his ears. He stood motionless and watched the now-dead warp pad.

He turned back to the covered dog crate. His feet made no sound as he approached it, and he lifted away the blanket. His face was impassive when he looked in at his wide-eyed, silent, steadily deteriorating prisoner.

   
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