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.


9. 9

Steven flexed his hand. It was weird. He could feel it, sense it, see it, but all with the distinct understanding that it wasn’t there. The rest of his body was visible to him, but he didn’t feel entirely inside it. It felt as if he had willed it into existence. It was like a dream, wherever he existed.

And she was there too, shackled to him with threads he could feel but not see. He could sense the flow of energy leeching off him—off his gem, specifically. It hurt. It made his heart beat sluggishly and his blood pulse dense inside his ears. Dizzy, foggy, draining.

Steven watched her in silence. He pressed a hand against his head in hopes of lessening the throbbing ache inside him. It did nothing; his hand didn’t really exist, and he knew that.

Peridot’s body fizzled in and out like old tv static. Steven was reminded instantly of old block buster movies with his dad, curled up on the storage shed couch in front of the tiny, grainy, gray television. It spread the ache to his chest. He wondered if he’d ever have nights like that with his dad again. His dad, who’d warned him over and over to be careful…

“You’re trying too hard,” Steven said. His words stayed contained, as if in a bubble. There was no echo from the vast, hazy nothing that bled out into the distance.

Peridot stiffened. She swung her head around and wobbled as she did so. The fear in her eyes confused him. Wide, cracked, wild things. Like an injured animal…

“What?!” she demanded before facing forward again. Her brow narrowed, sweat dripping down her almost-existent forehead. “No. Never mind. Shut up. I’m concentrating. Shut up or I’ll kill you.”

“You’re using up all your strength trying to take control,” Steven elaborated. He stood. The static spread to his gem, but this time he felt it instead of seeing it. “You’re already so weak. You’re gonna hurt yourself.”

“Nice try, but I’m not giving up control!” Peridot dropped to her knees. Her lone arm dug into the strange, fuzzy, colorless floor. “You heard all that! You heard what I said to them! Try anything and I’ll break you.”

Steven looked past her. He screwed his eyes, as if focusing on a 3D movie or an optical illusion. He could feel the strain building in his head, but things took focus. They were moving toward the warp pad. Their field of vision spun in frantic arcs: Amethyst there, Pearl there, Dad, Garnet—cupping the gem shards in her palm. Steven felt a jab in his stomach at the fresh pain and panic in their faces.

“You should let Tourmaline come back…” Steven muttered. He stepped forward. His feet beat irregular ripples into the ground. Peridot startled at his advance and scrambled away from him. “They were trying so hard to help. They can help us. They can help the Gems.” Steven stared out again. The world vanished in a flash of bright light. “You don’t need to do this.”

Peridot whipped her head around. A trail of gem granules shot out and stayed suspended in the air like tire tracks. She huffed, opening her mouth a few times before speaking.

“You…you are not allowed to talk! You are my prisoner now! You are mine. I’m in charge! I’m in control! You’ll do what I say or else! So shut up! Shut up.

Steven dropped into a sitting position. The vigor left his body. He’d never felt anything like it: being drained right from his core, turned into a power source. Like a battery. Like a lamp, burning out, slowly…

“Please stop trying so hard. I won’t take back control by surprise, I promise.”

Peridot let out a barking laugh. “As if you could!”

“I could.”

“You can’t.

Steven shut his mouth. He watched Peridot with searching eyes. She stared back, defensive, hunching in on herself. Steven scooted himself forward. He stopped when he was side-by-side with her, and offered her one sidelong glance before reaching his hand out. He clenched his fist.

In the real world, Tourmaline stiffened. Their eyes relaxed, duller and dimmer. The tension eased out of their shoulder, and they carried on with a silent calm. The change was small, and none of the Gems surrounding them noticed the silent transition of the reigns.

“Stop! Stop stop stop stop.” Peridot shooed at him with wild gestures of her stumpy arm. She sat back on her haunches now. She flipped her attention between Steven and the vast expanse beyond. Her breathing turned to violent, closed-mouth inhales and exhales. Steven eased away.

“…I told you I could.”

“Well don’t because I’m gonna smash your gem!” Peridot tensed, then slammed her stump into the ground with a strangled cry. “Just stop just stop just...let me…” She let out another small whine. “I didn’t ask to fuse with you! This is your fault. This is only your fault!”

Steven crossed his legs. He pooled his hands in his lap. They tingled too, and blotchiness entered the edges of his vision. He lifted his shirt. Tiny cracks crawled up and down his gem.

“We haven’t said anything in a while.”

Huh?” Peridot shook her head, eyes forward. “Shut up. You’re distr—“

“Tourmaline hasn’t said anything. You’re just talking to me. Everyone else has been totally silent.”


“It’s gotta be really awful for them. …What I’ve done.” Steven pressed his hands into his spiderwebbing gem. “They’re stuck inside their own heads too, all silent, and they’re worried I’m gonna die. I’ve never seen Garnet like that… I just—I thought I was doing a good thing.”

“Shut up, and we’ll both live, okay? I won’t crack you if you shut up.

“I’m really dumb, you know?” Steven clenched his hand to his gem. “That’s what I have Connie for, and the Gems. They’re so smart, a-and I don’t know anything. Everyone wants me to be great, but when I try I just mess everything up. This time I tried to figure things out by myself… Look what I did. I didn’t mean to.”

“That’s not shutting up.”

Tears eked from the corners of Steven’s eyes. He wiped at them messily. “Tourmaline thought they could…could work it out. Maybe Tourmaline was just wrong. Maybe I’m just wrong.” Steven glanced up to Peridot. His brow narrowed. “Why’d you have to be like this?! Why?! Why are you like this? Why don’t you feel anything?”

Peridot let out an exasperated growl. She swung her arm out at Steven, as if swatting at a fly. Her cheeks were flushed, but the rest of her skin had gone pale and clammy. Her eyes bulged, and tears leaked unnoticed from their edges. “I’m dying! Stop crying over yourself! It’s annoying. Annoying! I will crack you I will I will crack you I will that’s what I’ll do I can do it I can I can I can shut up shut up shut up.

Something dull and disappointed edged into Steven’s eyes. Confusion, hurt, disappointment. Self-hatred finally, as he backed away from Peridot, eyes to his lap. Frustrated tears spilled over his eyelids. He clenched his fists in his lap. “I was just really stupid all along, huh? I should have listened. I don’t know anything. And now I might not be able to fix this. Any of this. I hurt them—it is my fault. You’re right. This is my fault.”


The entire formless dimension rocked. Steven felt the words explode out of Tourmaline’s mouth. They’d frozen in place, the Gems and Greg, tense with weapons drawn. Steven looked for a moment through Tourmaline’s eyes before pulling himself back in and staring, dead-on, into Peridot’s shattered, terrified face. Her tears flowed freely, and not a hint of malice remained in them. Fear alone pulled at them.

“…What?” Steven asked with a whisper. It unsettled something deep in his stomach. The word, laced with desperation, echoed in his mind.

Peridot shook her head violently. Her jaw clenched. Her body shook. She didn’t answer though, she only burnt through her strength. 

She shut her eyes, bowed her head, and let the tension disappear from her body. “Please stop feeling what you’re feeling. I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all. Get it away. Get it off me. Get it out of me! I don’t want it. I don’t want it.” Her arm wrapped as best as it could around her body. Steven could feel the real Tourmaline wink back into hazy control.

“Stop…feeling?” Steven asked. He pushed himself to wobbling feet and took a deep breath. He felt inside himself, explored the mangle of emotions twisting in his chest. He heard Peridot whine in response. “That’s—you can feel what I feel,” he whispered. Steven clenched both his fists. He angled his body forward. “And I feel guilty!”


He took a step forward, hand plastered to his chest. “That means you know howawful I feel about this! I feel like I’ve messed up. I feel like I’ve hurt everyone. Like I’ve hurt people that I care about.” Steven dropped his hand. “And…then you know how much I care about them.”

Peridot hunched down. Her head shook in rhythmic bobs. “I didn’t…I didn’t doanything wrong! This was my mission. I’m completing my mission! You stranded me here! This is your fault. I’m trying to survive! Your problems aren’t my problem! Stop it! Stop making me…”

Steven took a deep breath. He focused on her, and a new sensation wormed its way into his gut. Tight, throat-clenching outrage. Heart-fluttering confusion. Terror like a heavy stone in his stomach.

“You did though,” Steven answered. He swallowed the borrowed feelings down. That blameless, righteous outrage that threatened to encase his heart, that Peridot had felt this whole time. “Remember when you came here with Jasper? How you looked at us like…like we were nothing? And Jasper told you to blast us. And you did it, because you didn’t care about us?” Steven spread his feet, straightened his back. He jammed his thumb into his chest. The edges of his vision bled to static. “Well that was my family! That was the people I love! And I thought…” His shoulders went slack. Steven looked away. “I thought I was gonna watch them get killed! And it was because of you.”

Steven let the memories flood through his mind. They’d lived on fresh in his nightmares, stamped like a bleach stain on his mind. They came flooding in: horror that turned his diaphragm to a pulsating mess and scrambled the thoughts in his brain. (Garnet, frozen in place, cracks blooming along her body. Her eyes—so open and lost—staring unknowingly at him before she broke apart entirely). Disbelief. His thoughts a soupy mess of adrenaline and panic. The strength leaving his limbs, (I was there you know. At the first war for this garbage planet.) The surreal, destructive, dissociating realization that he could—would, was going to—die. And the most important people to him would die too, without him ever saving them.

Don’t,” Peridot breathed. But from the frantic flutter of her chest, her too wide eyes, Steven knew she’d already felt it.

She was supported only on her stump, stuck backwards into the ethereal floor. Her feet were forward, looking for the life of her like someone had shoved her over into the mud. Like a child, bullied on the playground.

Steven breathed in the self-righteous outrage that had leeched off Peridot. His head swam, vision dying at the edges. Some scared part of him realized these could be his last moments, spent riding the pain and exhilaration of feeling wronged.

I’m sorry!”

A wave of shock pulsed over both of them. Steven loosened his shoulders, startled at the sudden draining of emotion from his body. The righteousness vanished, and remorse sat firmly in its spot. Peridot too was frozen, unsettled and confused by her own words. She sat up and pressed her stump against her cheek. The wetness there seemed to shock her.

“Peridot…” Steven breathed.

 “I…I didn’t…” Peridot mumbled. She wavered where she sat, and Steven could sense her fading out again. “I was doing…what they told me. I don’t have any reason to care.” Her eyes dropped to her prone, shaking body. Her head tilted to the side as she took it in, her brain swimming in the wash of forcibly shared emotions. “But I’m…sorry,” she all but mouthed.

Steven sank to his knees. He stared down at the non-existent ground. He rested his palms on his thighs. Distantly, he hoped the feeling would return if he pressed hard enough. “I’m…sorry, too. I made--I made bad choices. And I can’t even really blame you. I feel it too…” He scrunched his jeans in his hands. “You’re so scared, and so overwhelmed by Earth. You’re falling apart. It’s breaking you down, being so alone, so far from home, so trapped and helpless. You did bad things…” Steven tensed his fingers. “But bad things were done to you too. I know what it’s like to think I’m gonna die. But you—that’s been every second of this past day. It feels terrible.” Steven sunk lower on himself. He shut his eyes. “I couldn’t fix that for you, though. I couldn’t talk it out before things got bad. …You know, and I think I know too, that the Gems still wanna kill you after we get to the fountain. I couldn’t convince them at all to change their minds. They want us to split, and then you’re helpless all over again, and then they can kill you. You know that, and I know that, and Tourmaline knows that.”

Peridot put all her energy into pushing herself upright. She pulled her knees in and rested her face on them, angled down, staring at her feet. She didn’t answer. She remained silent, until giving a slight shrug.

“I know I’m dead. Duh. Why do you think I said it a freaking million times, huh? Whatever. Who cares?”

Steven sat in silence. He stared at his hands, before whispering into the emptiness. “I do…”

Peridot gave a small snort before shutting her eyes.

“I’m sorry, really. About all of this,” Steven continued. He set his palms to the ground and tried to push himself into a standing position. He watched small, splintering shards clink out from under his shirt. “I couldn’t control anything.”

Another pause. “You can control this.”

Steven looked to Peridot. She stayed motionless, save for a shallow breath every few seconds.


“This. Tourmaline. Just take it back. I don’t care.” She stuck her arm out, using it as best she could to lie down on her side. She stayed there. “Just take it.”

Steven felt a shift about his gem. It was as strange a sensation as before: a battery being unplugged. A leech gone. He breathed in deep, and felt his own weak soupy energy swishing around in him. It stayed put, cut off from Peridot.

He nodded. “Yeah, okay.” Steven stared forward, finding the split between endless horizon and reality. The fountain grew out of the skyline ahead of them. Almost there. Almost. “I’ll get us to the fountain, and then we’ll be okay.”

Peridot didn’t answer. She didn’t budge. Steven gave a worried glance in her direction, eyes roving for any signs of life. He knew she had to be alive, or else the fusion would have crumbled. But it did nothing to ease the anxious butterflies in his stomach.

“Just hang tight. I-I’ll figure this out.” Steven took a deep breath. He felt himself slide back into existence. He felt legs, an arm, like slipping on socks and a glove. Fresh air hit his face, smells and sights and sounds. His family flanked him on all sides, all part of the same solemn procession.

His next words he kept to only a thought.

I can still fix this.”

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