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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8. 8

No one took Tourmaline’s offered hand. It hung there, repelling the other Gems as if infected.

Instead Tourmaline glanced about, losing their nerve, before letting the hand drop entirely. Tourmaline stepped out of Rose’s room. Their movements came in slow unbalanced steps, but they kept themselves upright. The barrier to Rose’s room passed seamlessly under them. The door shut itself without any knowledge of what it’d caused. Or maybe, with no concern for what it’d done.

The Gems had all scattered back from the door. Garnet stood center, Amethyst to her right and Pearl to her left. Greg had been shunted behind them. Pearl’s spear was pressed tightly to her chest, Amethyst’s whip clenched against her right thigh. Only Garnet no longer had her weapon drawn.

Pearl was the first to move forward. She did so with a few frantic, side-long glances to Garnet. She kept on without finding any reassurance. “I am not…fooling around!” Her spear twitched, but she didn’t dare turn it forward. “Unfuse! Unfuse right now.”

Tourmaline watched her with a guilty pain in their eyes. Their hand twitched at their side. “I’m sorry, Pearl,” they answered with another wobbling step forward. “…I’m…I’m scaring you, aren’t I?”

Pearl dropped her spear parallel to the ground, still clenched tightly in just her right hand. She clung to it as a mental crutch, its use as a weapon far-lost on her. All her focus centered on the Rose Quartz gem, which glowed much too brightly.

Tourmaline put their one hand up in a show of good faith. Their eyes darted around, peppered with anxiety as they drank in the defensive positions that surrounded them.

“They are, uh—they’re scared, you know? Scared about all of this. You guys and me. Steven is…scared most of all.” Tourmaline looked down at their body and swallowed once. It crawled with distorted pieces. “Peridot too--whatever part of her even knows I’m here…which isn’t much.” Tourmaline’s balance waned. They stepped to the side and braced their hand against the back wall. They shut their eyes tightly. “…I don’t want this.”

“Then split apart!” Amethyst answered in a hurry. She cracked her whip into the floor. “Stop being stupid and just…get out of that! We’ll talk, okay? We’ll talk!”

Tourmaline opened their eyes. A small, scared smile pulled at their lips. “But we’re talking now! Finally. You’re all listening to me. …That’s not gonna last if I’m gone.” They winced again, eyes squeezing shut. A new seam split down their left cheek as they cracked their eyes back open.

“That’s not important though! You’re in danger!” Pearl insisted. She clutched her spear against her chest. Her head shot from side to side. “Garnet? Amethyst? Steven can’t be fused to Peridot’s gem! He can’t be fused! It’s cracked.”

Amethyst spun with a fierce amount of torque. “Thanks for filling us in, P. I hadn’t realized.”

Pearl bristled. “Your sarcasm isn’t helping, Amethyst!”

“Well you’re not helping either.”

“Garnet!” Pearl shouted in search of help. She shut her mouth immediately as she faced Garnet. Amethyst turned too, her whip falling slack at her side.

Garnet took a step back. Her lips parted mutely, and a tremor worked its way through her whole body. The other Gems watched her with growing panic in their eyes. They’d seen it before on only a handful of occasions, but they knew what it meant: Garnet was hardly there.

Slowly, almost gracefully, she fell to her knees.

Tourmaline pushed themselves off the back wall in a sudden fit of worry. Two quick, precarious steps brought them forward. “Garnet?” they whispered.

Tourmaline wasn’t the first to reach Garnet. Gently, Greg placed a hand on her shoulder and walked past her. He spared a glance at the other two gems before facing the fusion.

He cleared his throat. “Tourmaline, was it?” He stuck a hand out for them. “I don’t…know very much about fusions, or being a fusion, or, or even most Gem stuff in general… But I know Steven. Let’s talk, okay? I’m…Greg.”

“I know who you are,” they answered and grasped Greg’s offered hand. “I’m half Steven.”

“And you’ll go back to being Steven when this is all sorted out, yeah?”

Tourmaline gave a small nod. “That’s the plan.” They paused as they released Greg’s hand. “And…sooner rather than later. I don’t like being here. I don’t like…this. None of this feels right.” They flexed their hand and glanced about with wider eyes. “Please just listen, so I can stop.”

“Out—out of the question!” Pearl voiced. She’d found her composure and shoved herself past Greg. “All the power for this fusion is coming from Steven’s gem. He can’t handle that!”

Tourmaline watched her cautiously. “Don’t worry. I would split apart before anything happened. I’m half Steven--…no, no I’m even more than that. Right now, I’m mostly Steven. I wouldn’t let him get hurt.”

“Then unfuse now. Before anything can happen.” Pearl swung her spear forward and angled it to Tourmaline. Her wide, worried eyes betrayed her bluff.

Greg moved between the two. He put a hand to Pearl’s shoulder. It was a firm grasp, one that made Pearl glance to her shoulder in surprise.

“Pearl, yelling orders, and then not listening—that’s what got us here to start… Steven doesn’t like being told to do something he thinks is—you know—wrong. And if Tourmaline is mostly Steven, I don’t think they’re going to like it any better.” He shifted his attention to the fusion, and he dropped his hand from Pearl. His eyes lingered on the severed arm, stumped just below the shoulder. Their form was hazy with misremembered pieces. Black streaks ran from shoulder to collar on their rosy shirt, which bore a single gold star in the center. Black pants cut off at the knee. Their lone hand was gloved with something thick, robotic, and menacing.

Greg let out a small, strangled laugh “I don’t really handle the dangerous stuff, you know? All these…Gem monsters and intergalactic warp pads a-and world ending spaceships… When it comes to Steven, I’m in charge of tv and french fries.” Greg turned back to the Gems. “So maybe it’s not my place to be giving advice…but Tourmaline’s already told us when they’ll unfuse, and that’s after we let them talk to us.” He angled himself back to Pearl and eased her spear away by the hilt. She let it go with no resistance.

“…Okay,” Pearl answered softly. Amethyst offered a mute nod. Garnet gave no indication she had even heard Greg.

Tourmaline glanced down again at their hand. They nodded once, and flexed the gloved appendage. “You three haven’t seen Homeworld in a long time—Amethyst never has, I guess. It’s different now. The casts there, the roles we play, there is no room for free thought.” Tourmaline looked to Pearl. “Loving someone, caring about someone, you were allowed to do that, right? I can feel it in Steven. I know what it’s like.”

“If anyone knows love, it’s Steven…” Greg answered in a whisper.

Tourmaline gave a nod, reassured. “I can feel it all from Peridot too though. Love doesn’t…exist anymore. Not really. I…I don’t know if I can explain it. It’s bad. Love isn’t—you’re not assigned that. You shouldn’t. No one should… It’s just--no passion, no selflessness, or hope, or desire.” Tourmaline ran their hand through their hair, suddenly distraught. “So…dead. There are tasks, and you do them. There’s a role, and you fill it. That’s the only joy you get. There’s no room to care about anyone but yourself.”

Steven’s gem flared brightly. Small, spider cracks rooted outward from it. They crawled along Tourmaline’s skin, save for the hairline fractures that started to leech inward. Tourmaline cringed and quieted. They looked up, eyes wide and resting on Garnet.

Garnet had put her hand down to the floor, pressing herself upward. She rose with only a slight wobble before finding her bearings. She stared at Tourmaline dead-on.

“Yeah, no kidding Homeworld hates love. That’s why we left! Everything born there gets turned into cold heartless monsters! And they should die!” Garnet’s back stiffened. She eased backwards. Her voice came out softer. “Don’t be so emotional. This is more important than our reasons for leaving. This is about Steven right now.”

For the first time since Tourmaline appeared, no one was looking at them. Attention had shifted to Garnet, who managed a slight step forward.

“I know this is about Steven!” Garnet placed her right hand against her head. “I know pretty damn well what this is about. We damaged him! He’s cracking and we did that. We cracked his gem.” A sharp jerk to her spine. “Ruby!”

Tourmaline’s yellowed eyes shot wide. As best as their shaky legs would allow, Tourmaline ran forward, until only a few feet separated them from Garnet. They closed half the remaining distance by reaching their hand out.

“Garnet?” they whispered. They buckled at the waist as another crack arced over the Quartz gem, thinner than a thread. “No, you didn’t—I chose! I—Steven—this wasn’t you! We needed you to listen! This was me—us—him! I’ll stop! I will, just once you…” Their frantic eyes darted in zigzags. Tourmaline’s hand retracted. “I didn’t want to hurt you.”

“Tourmaline, just stop!” Amethyst shouted. She gave a cursory glance to Garnet before looking forward again. “Forget her, she’ll be fine! Steven’s getting hurt though! We’re listening, see? So unfuse. And then we’ll still talk! You’re not too late! We’re all ears now!”

Tourmaline shook their head in frantic bursts. “No…No! No Steven can’t explain it the way I can! I just—this was too sudden. I’m not good with words. I can do it! I just need time. I need…” Their head lowered, weak, into their palm. They clenched their teeth as a small, pitiful whine eked out. “I’m failing…”

Greg caught up to them. He took them by their stumped shoulder and turned them away from Garnet. “Just focus on what you need to say then! I believe you can do it, and then you can break apart without anyone getting hurt.”

Tourmaline’s face shined with sweat, and a flutter entered their breathing. They gave a worried nod. “Peridot doesn’t know what it’s like to have empathy. She doesn’t see this planet—anyone on it—as…as anything. Just dirt and dust…a-and some of it’s ‘alive’ but that doesn’t matter to Homeworld, so it can’t matter to her. But Steven feels so much, a-and bound to him, Peridot’s gotta feel…She’s got to feel what I can feel right now. She didn’t know any better! But…but maybe now…”

“We get it,” Pearl answered. Her words were fast; they ran together, strangled in an attempt to keep her voice low. She turned Tourmaline to her, Amethyst, and Garnet. Her eyes dropped instantly to Steven’s gem. “There’s no love in Homeworld, and Peridot couldn’t have known any better about hurting us—why it’s bad to hurt us. We get it! Split now. Split apart.” Her grip was harsh on Tourmaline’s shoulder.

Tourmaline met her stare with uncertainty. They tugged their shoulder back. “No… No you’re only saying that. You’re not really listening. I can’t leave until…” Tourmaline dropped their hand. It hovered over their stomach before pressing gently into the gem. They winced, and braced their hand against the whole gem.

“Tourmaline please!” It was Greg again. “I get it too! A-and you said you wouldn’t let Steven get hurt.”

“N-no, I didn’t explain it right!” Tourmaline sunk their head low, squaring their feet. “I’m how Peridot’s gonna learn to care! She’s part of me! She can feel…she can feel what I feel! And care! I care… I care…” Tourmaline’s eyes shot wide, pupils thinning to nothing. Their breath grew ragged, face a mask of paranoid horror. Their hand stayed braced against Steven’s gem, but it stiffened suddenly. The fingers twitched, until a small, thin laser generated from the palm. The hand didn’t move from its hold.

It stayed, aimed point-blank, at the Rose Quartz gem.

“I care…” Tourmaline’s head bobbed upwards, and their eyes focused on the Crystal Gems with manic glee. “about myself!”

A ripple of shock ran through the room, settling as Pearl drew her spear again with fresh tears resting in the corners of her eyes. “…Peridot.”

Greg spun to Pearl, and the color drained from his already-ashen face. “That’s--?”

“It’s nice to see you again, except it’s not.” Tourmaline shouted. They pressed the gun harder against the gem on their stomach. “It never is. You break my tech and you break my ship and you break my gem.” They thrust their head out, gem front and center above their too-wide eyes. “Maybe…maybe it’s time I start breaking stuff of yours. I’m dead anyway, right?! I’m dead anyway. I’m tired—I’m tired! I’ve had enough! I’ve had enough of this!” Their breathing turned to frantic heaves. “I’m done! I’m done I’m done I’m done and I’ll make you suffer before I’m gone before I’m dead yeah go kill me kill me and the Steven comes with me!” The fusion quieted, chest heaving in and out, before taking to a burst of manic, crazed laughter. Something like fear crossed their face for a split second.

“You can’t! Please, you can’t!” Greg stared at the fusion in a fresh light. His apprehension had bled through to terror. “Not…not again. I can’t…” Helplessness sapped the strength from his knees. They threatened to give out beneath him as fear robbed him of his voice.

“He’s…he’s helping you!” Amethyst cried out. Her whip had gone slack at her side. Horror and confusion widened her eyes, parted her lips. Her voice disappeared to hardly a whisper. “Steven’s done so much for you. Why would you hurt him?”

“I’m out of options,” Tourmaline answered with an icy certainty. “You think I should—what?—die grateful that one of you clods decided to pat me on the head while the rest of you smashed my gem into a hundred pieces!? I’m hunted and stranded and left for dead, but oh I’m the unreasonable one for grabbing at the low-hanging fruit here?!”

“You’re not thinking clearly!” Pearl said. Her spear quaked in her hands. “Steven! Steven I know you can hear me! You have to take back control. You can split, I know you can!”

“I’ll smash his gem the second he tries!” Tourmaline shouted.

“He saved your life!” Amethyst’s voice cracked with outrage.

“As if any of you really planned to spare me!”

Stop!”

It was Garnet. She thrust herself forward, and the hard edge to her voice had vanished. It was soft, pleading. She held a palm out. “You’re not dead yet, Peridot. We have a healing spring, and it can repair your gem.”

Tourmaline’s mouth shut, puckered in distrust. “I suppose it will magically regenerate the third of my gem that’s missing? That YOU shattered?!”

A bubble materialized instantly in Garnet’s outstretched palm. Pink in color, it concealed a field of small splinters. Tourmaline’s eyebrows arched in surprise.

They looked then to Garnet, unsettled by the steady stream of tears than ran down both sides of her cheeks, eking from beneath her glasses.

“I am not trying to fool you. We can heal you. We can save you.” The bubble burst open, skin peeling backwards, until the dusty splinters clinked down onto Garnet’s open palm. “Just please…” She stepped forward, and in the glare of her glasses, Tourmaline caught their own damaged reflection. Cracked visor, cracked gem, splintered skin, matted hair, wide frantic tear-stained eyes.

They looked down into the offered palm. The shards glinted back in silence.

“Whatever you do…” A tear dripped from Garnet’s cheek, striking the front-most shard and rolling down its jagged surface. Tourmaline looked up from the fragments, drawn to the fear that played clear across Garnet’s face. Her voice came out a pleading whisper. “…don’t hurt Steven.”

   
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