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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7. 7

Garnet angled her head down to Steven. Her arms were stiff at her side, and Steven’s eyes shot between them and her stone face. The gauntlets sent thrills of fear through his body. He balled up his fists, leaned his body forward, and took a deep breath.

“Well?! Do you know why not?!”

“Because that kind of caring gets you killed, Steven.” She set one foot forward. Steven pressed himself flat against the dog crate. “Because caring about anything from Homeworld is asking for your own death. I would destroy all of Homeworld—everyone, and everything in it—without hesitation. For the sake of protecting us.” Another step forward. “They have thousands more soldiers. Thousands who would shatter us, and enjoy it. If we show any mercy, we stand no chance. And they haven’t earned our mercy. Not in any way. Get away from Peridot.”

Steven looked between Pearl and Amethyst for support. Pearl hung back. Her eyes were wide and fretful, but she made no move to come forward. Amethyst tightened her grip on Steven’s shoulder in a show of support, but she had nothing to say in response.

He slipped his hand to the lock. His fingers squirmed under the latch. “You say that like Peridot is Homeworld. But she’s just here because they told her to be. I-isn’t that…then isn’t that like saying you are Homeworld too?! You and Pearl and Amethyst and…my mom.” He didn’t dare blink, afraid of missing a single change in Garnet’s expression. “You’re all here because Homeworld told you to be. And then my mom changed her mind, because she’s not Homeworld. What if she never had that chance? What if humans started killing all the Gems they could, because Gems were Homeworld, and they killed my mom right with them, because they thought she didn’t deserve at least a chance?!”

“Preposterous. Rose Quartz could never be defeated by humans. You didn’t even have any explosive weaponry back during the war.”

“Pearl,” Garnet clipped out. Pearl put her hands up in a show of defense.

“Sorry…just felt the need to clarify.”

Garnet’s head tilted back to Steven. He looked in vain for any show of softness in her features.

“In answer to your question: they would have been right to do so. Rose Quartz was a very rare instance of something from Homeworld showing compassion to the things she invaded. If they had trusted her, or anyone, on the distant hope of finding compassion, they’d have invited their own death. Peridot is one of the bad ones. Peridot is not like your mother, and you shouldn’t speak as if they were anything alike.” Garnet stretched a glove forward and pressed it against Steven’s free shoulder. “This conversation is over. Move out of the way before I have to move you myself.”

“Ah, c’mon Garnet! You can’t shut him down like th—“

Amethyst.”

All four Crystal Gems startled as the front door flung open. It clanked against the far wall with a warbling bang, frame bouncing with the impact. Greg stood at the entrance, red-faced and huffing. He had his palms pressed to his knees.

“I’m back, I’m back! I heard shouting! What—“ He straightened up. A smile broke over his face. “Oh you guys are back! Steven why didn’t you call me?”

He looked to his son. The joy on Greg’s face instantly waned to confusion. He noted the terror on Steven’s face, his small body pressed protectively to the dog cage.

“…My phone broke,” Steven answered quietly.

Greg didn’t acknowledge the answer. He stepped forward and angled his thumb over his shoulder. “My…van broke down. Got it fixed. But I was—I—okay anyone wanna fill me in on what’s happening here?”

Garnet looked over her shoulder. She adjusted her whole stance until she faced Greg. He bristled at the sight of her summoned gauntlets.

“Greg, we would like you to talk some sense into Steven.”

Greg looked first to her, then to his son who seemed to be jiggling the crate lock loose. For a moment he watched, fascinated, as Steven popped the lock clear off, swung the door wide open, and reached inside…

“Sense about…what? That?” Greg asked, pointing. He stiffened entirely at the sight of Steven yanking the cracked, half-formed Gem out of the cage by the stump of her only remaining arm.

All three Gems turned as Steven ducked around the back of the cage. Peridot was dragged in tandem, stumbling over feet that seemed incapable of finding proper purchase on the ground. She managed to stay completely silent for the first few steps before the Gems noticed the jailbreak.

Steven!” It was Pearl now. She summoned her spear on reflex and joined Garnet in a sprint to the warp pad. Steven stumbled on ahead of them. He let out small scared squeaks when he glanced behind him. With only a few inches between Peridot and Garnet, Steven spun. He used his momentum to swing Peridot around and position himself between her and Garnet. Garnet’s gauntlet froze mid-thrust. It paused an inch from Steven’s face, and no one seemed to breathe for that instant.

Garnet only watched the stalemate unfold as Steven inched backwards, pushing Peridot along. She yielded easily to Steven’s pressing, but her shocked eyes stayed on Garnet.

“If you take the warp pad, Steven, we will follow you. There is nowhere that pad can go that we cannot find. Stop, now. I’m tired of asking.”

“And…and I’m tired of trying to make you listen!” Steven choked out. He kept up his slow paces backwards. “I still don’t get it, Garnet! I still don’t get why Peridot has to die. You’re not telling me. You just keep saying she has to! How’m I supposed to let you do that?”

“Steven, I get you buddy.” Amethyst hopped forward behind the other two Gems. “I’m the last Gem who’s gonna argue against giving a ‘bad Gem’ a second chance…but you’ve got nothing, Steven. Sometimes things happen that you don’t want to. That’s life. You can talk it out with me after, okay?”

“Amethyst is right, Steven.” Pearl had her spear braced across her chest. “You don’t have any more tricks that can stand up to us.” She watched with apprehension as Steven pushed Peridot back on to the warp pad. His small sandaled feet followed. “You can’t warp anywhere that we can’t follow!”

“I know that!” Steven answered. He looked to his dad, looking away at the growing fear on Greg’s face.  

Garnet angled her head over her shoulder. “Amethyst, use your whip to reach Peridot. Don’t hit Steven.”

Amethyst took a moment to survey the scene. Steven had his whole body pressed in front of Peridot as the two moved backwards. She nodded once. “Yeah, I can loop around him.” Amethyst yanked her whip out of her gem. “Come on, Steven. Don’t try to warp or anything. You’re gonna break her a lot worse if you try and warp her away while I’ve got my whip wrapped around some part of her.”

“I’m…I’m not gonna. I’m not warping anywhere.” Steven clamped his hand firmly on Peridot’s upper arm, spun, and sprinted past the warp pad. He lifted his shirt with his free hand as Peridot yelped at the sudden acceleration. “I’m going somewhere else—and you can’t follow!”

Steven!” He couldn’t tell which of the Gems had spoken—maybe all of them. But it was too late. The Temple door glimmered, stretched wide, and Steven threw his body past the barrier as he heard feet beat a frantic sprint behind him.

He pressed his palms into the ground and wheezed. They closed around soft cloud. It felt cool and yielding under his hot, wet cheek. Steven let his face sink into them for all of a second.

“What…where are we?! What is this?! Where’d you bring me?!”

Steven looked up, finding Peridot attempting to push herself to her feet. Her head whipped around in all directions. Specks of gem dust cascaded down her visor.

“My mom’s room…” Steven answered breathlessly. He took a few deep inhales. He heard the blood pulsing through his ears. Anxiety squirmed in his gut like a worm. He put his shaking hands under him and stood. He swayed, but stayed standing. Which was more than Peridot could manage.

“I don’t know what that means!” she insisted. Steven only stuck a finger out to her.

He turned back to the empty space they’d tumbled through. It led only to an endless expanse of clouds. Steven put a hand up and skimmed it over the nothing where the house had once been.

“Room! I want a window to see them, and hear them, so we can talk about this.”

A pillar of clouds burst from the ground beneath Steven. They coalesced, flattened themselves, and faded to utter translucency. The three Gems appeared instantly, faces right up against the door, and Greg behind them.

Peridot shrieked and scrambled backwards. She locked eyes with them—and the Gems with her—as she tried to move herself further back in the room. Steven spun to her.

“It’s okay! It’s just a window.” He turned back to the Gems. His face was set with authority. “So we can talk.

It was Greg who moved forward first. He pressed a wide palm against the translucent film and looked in to Steven. “Hey bud.”

“Hey Dad,” Steven answered. He watched the way Greg’s anxious eyes stayed fixed on Peridot behind him.

“I…think I get the gist of what’s going on. And I think it’s great that you’re being so caring about…frankly something you shouldn’t care about at all. It’s how your mother would have felt.” He stuck his other hand against the barrier. “But your mother was also very old, and very wise, and very experienced. She knew how to pick her battles like no one’s business. But you’ve uh…you’ve still got a lot of learning and growing up to do. Not the Gems though. They’ve been handling this stuff for thousands of years. And if I had to trust anyone with this stuff, it’s them.”

Steven looked frantically between his dad and the Gems. He pressed a hand back, matching it to his dad’s right palm. “I trust them a lot too… But I gotta know why this needs to happen. I don’t like just being told that it’s gotta happen this way!”

“Homeworld’s left us alone because they didn’t know we were here. To them, the Earth is a long-dead project from an older time. But if they know we’re here, there’s no saying what they’ll do, or who they’ll send. Especially if they learn you have your mother’s gem, Steven. That’s why.” Garnet’s words were clipped, fast, and definitely angry. They made Steven’s heart thrum against his rib cage.

“But Peridot doesn’t have contact with Homeworld! We were talking, like I told you. She’s stranded here just like we are. Why don’t you let her talk to you?! You’re only talking to me and not her, but she could tell you herself!”

“We are not talking to Peridot, Steven,” Garnet answered, and her voice was ice.

Greg gave a nervous glance to her before speaking up. “Yeah uh, and you really shouldn’t be taking people into that room just…anyway. It only listens to you. And if you leave anyone in there alone, the room will reset and kind of…eat them. Your mother never let me inside for just that reason. It’s not a safe place to be.”

Pearl pushed her small body to the front. Her eyes were imploring. “Greg’s exactly right. You’ve trapped yourself, Steven. You certainly can’t stay in there forever. And if you leave that room without Peridot, it will dissolve her. There’s no getting out of this. Just send her out, Steven! We promise you won’t be in trouble if you do it now.”

“That is not a promise,” Garnet responded. Pearl glanced to her, then back to Steven with a nervous laugh.

“I don’t care about getting in trouble!” Steven insisted. He banged his hand against the barrier. “I care about… I don’t know. I care about knowing what the right thing to do is…”

Steven slumped to his knees. His hand dragged down the veil. He glanced over his shoulder to Peridot. She was exactly where he left her, sitting and staring back without a sound. He noticed charred, decayed patches on her legs that he hadn’t seen before. With a jolt of guilt, he wondered if he’d caused that by running her out of her cage.

“Peridot! Say something!”

She startled at the address. A certain hazy confusion had entered her face. The sharp fear he’d seen before was gone. What remained of her eyes looked around, as if for the first time, and she pulled her legs up to her body.

“…What? About what?”

“Any of this!” Steven swung his arm out to the barrier. “You can save yourself! Maybe they’ll listen.”

“No we won’t,” Garnet said. Steven swiveled back to the veil; his fear shot to desperation.

“Where are we?” Peridot turned her head with slow, forced motions. She winced, froze, and lowered her head to her knees. “Ow.”

Gems forgotten, Steven scrambled to his feet. He moved to Peridot, sunk to his knees, and lifted her head. Up so close, Steven could see at least a third of her gem had been gouged out.

“No…” Steven whispered. He shook her. “No this isn’t enough time! I haven’t figured anything out!” He pulled one hand back to his mouth, licked it sloppily, and plastered it to her gem. Peridot’s eyes went wide and she rocked backwards with a strangled noise of surprise. Steven grabbed her head again and stared her gem down.

…Nothing.

“What’s wrong with me?” Steven slapped his cheeks twice. Panic pulsed through his veins like the very blood inside them. His every nerve tingled. He heard the distant shouts of the Gems behind him, his dad’s voice, and in front of them he watched Peridot fade out. “I still don’t know…anything about this! I still don’t know what the right thing is! I didn’t have enough time.”

He sunk. Low. Until his face was all but pressed to the clouds, and tears flowed unheeded from his eyes. He dug his hands into the ground.

“I wish I knew what I could do for you…” he muttered. Steven’s eyes went wide then with a thought. He lifted his body from the clouds, and swiveled about on his knees. “I want to know what I can do!”

There was a pause, a vacuum of sound, until a small batch of clouds rose from the bed beneath him. It stretched itself thin, then beveled out at one end. It adopted color, texture, solid shape.

Steven stared at it, baffled. “A ukulele?” He swept a hand out for it, but it hung out of reach. “That doesn’t answer anything! What can I do—“

Then, of its own accord, the ukulele started playing. It plucked out a light, steady rhythm. The first verse of something, pause, the same verse, pause, the same verse.

“You’re useless!” he shouted at it. But he clamped his mouth shut when the tune worked its way into his head. It played through again, and his eyes went wide.

“I-if you’re evil and you’re on the rise, you can count on the four of us taking you down…” The ukulele grew excited. It played louder, faster, and echoed off non-existent walls.

Steven swayed his body, moving, feeling as the beginning verse played again. “If you’re evil and you’re on the rise…”

Excitement and terror grabbed him all at once as he looked to Peridot. She watched the ukulele with fading attention. Her eyes were dull, but passive, still (for the time) conscious.

And Steven grabbed the stump of her arm.

“Peridot, stand up.”

She looked to him. The ukulele had stopped. Without questioning why, she pushed herself to wobbling feet. It took Steven’s grip on her to keep her standing. He set his feet opposite to hers and looked up into her broken eyes. “Just, do what I do, okay?”

Steven!” It was Garnet. She slammed her fists against the barrier. He heard frantic shouts from Amethyst and Pearl too, but he didn’t let himself look. He took a deep breath and watched only Peridot.

The ukulele struck the first chord again.

“If you’re evil and you’re on the rise, you can count on the four of us taking you down.” He stepped with the rhythm, loose and free. Peridot’s shaky limbs followed his lead, and made the same formless steps back. “Cuz we’re good, and evil never beats us! We’ll win the fight and then go out for pizzas!”

Buddy, stop! Don’t—I know what you’re trying to do!” Greg’s panicked voice was drowned, as if the room purposely muted the sounds from the outside. The ukulele played on without concern for him. Steven fought to not lose his rhythm.

“We, are the Crystal Gems! We’ll always save the day. And if you think we can’t, we’ll always find a way.” Steven swung his leading arm wide, and Peridot’s matched its arc. She met his movements without sound or acknowledgment.

That’s dangerous, Steven! Please don’t!” Pearl now, as if from a million miles away. A distant, tinny echo.

“That’s why the people of this world believe in Garnet,” they swung right, “Amethyst,” left, “and Pearl,” Steven ended with a final spin of Peridot’s broken body. His voice was low—hardly a whisper—and cracked with an edge of fear, “and Steven.”

Steven stop!”

Light. Blinding light was all that followed. The room lost itself in a wash of formless, glowing fog. It hung there, projected by the two suspended gems—pink and green, before slowly, hesitantly congealing. The vapor found itself, shakily, in a single form, which then dimmed, formed colors and textures, solidified…

The Gems looked on in horror as the thing, slowly, got to their feet. They stared back with a two wide, pupiled eyes. Their dark green hair puffed up and out, thick and knotted. Their visor was thickly cracked along the middle, and similar cracks bled out from the damaged, murky gemstone in their forehead. It invaded their eyes with branching slits.

They reached out with only a single arm, gloved from fingers to elbow. The other was missing entirely. Their skin was tinged green, their outfit a mix of grays and pinks. A single star was plastered on their chest, centered about a foot above the murky gem on their stomach that glowed a bit too brightly.

Their cheeks were child-like, and their eyes were wide—huge and shining with fear.

They stepped closer to the window. All three Gems were tense, frozen entirely in place. None of them could move; none of them could talk. The three of them only flinched when the thing stepping toward them stopped, raised its lone hand to its forehead, and muttered “Ow…”

“Oh man,” Amethyst whispered. She shook her head, slowly at first, then franticly. “No no no no no…”

Pearl’s arms trembled. She clenched her fists, and spoke with the authority drained from her terrified voice. “Unfuse right now! You can’t do that. You can’t…you can’t.”

It was Garnet alone who stayed mute. Her gauntlets vanished in that moment, and a noticeable quiver ran through her whole body. The thing stepped closer; they teetered as they walked, thrown into a sudden painful existence, before resting their single hand against the veil.

“You…would protect Steven with your life, the four of you. And you want Peridot dead.” The thing clenched their fist, and the barrier dissolved instantly. A soft breeze flowed past them into the house. “So…what are you going to do with me?”

Greg backed away with numb feet. Panicked tears ran down his face. “What…what are you…”

They stuck their single hand out, wide pained eyes glancing about. A forced smile crept over their face. “I’m Tourmaline.”

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