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The first time it happened two hundred years had passed since the battle for Earth, one of many she would later come to find. For now she sits upon hand spun silk, surrounded by the sweet perfume of smoldering herbs. Smoke rises, wafting across high pillars of limestone as firelight bathes the room in flickering orange, shadows bleeding into the intricate carvings of this culture's writing, etched into the walls that surround her and it's all so...primitive. Enough so that she may even think it childish.

But the woman who sits beside Rose, with her curved hips, full breasts, and dark, dark skin, is anything but a child by human standards.

Hatshepsut is her name and when she speaks her voice carries with it the strength and pride of her station, the first female to claim the title of Pharaoh in this land that so deeply fascinates Rose, the land that she looks upon with luminous eyes made brighter and more expressive by the black kohl that now surrounds them but Pearl has never cared for their fashions. The paint they wear on their skin feels too heavy on her eyelids, too thick upon her mouth.

But more than anything she does not care for the smile on Rose's lips or the lingering touches of dark skin against that beloved hand, touches encouraged by Rose herself and oh, her stomach jolts, unnervingly full of the heavy wine that she'd been compelled to sample and she tears her gaze away to search for the solid comfort of Garnet's eyes.

But when she finds them they are closed, blind to her turmoil with lids painted gold and the smallest of smirks lingering on darkened lips as Pharaoh's handmaidens twist her hair into tight braids that cascade down her shoulders, the ends of them dripping with rubies and sapphires. It suits her, the fashions of this place, the braids in her hair and the kohl that surrounds Roses's eyes. The thought has her turning back in time to hear that melodic voice hitched low in a way that has her ears prickling, a heated flush dusting across her cheeks but that tone is not for her, the luminous eyes and hidden smiles and gentle touches belong only to the onyx Pharaoh and her golden kingdom.

The taste of wine lingers bitter in her mouth and she should have known, should have understood that her joy was not to last. Wishes she could look away but Rose's hip brushes a veiled thigh and this is how it was always supposed to end.

And no vow given upon bended knee among ruin and fallen comrades, no embrace of fingers and whispers that lay claim to her could have ever endured. She stands, bared toes brushing against smoothed stone as she walks into the night, past humans who stare at her with widened eyes, whispering in their liquid tongue of how odd her appearance is to them. Walks until all that surrounds her is sand and shining stars, whose winking light feels to her like echoed laughter from her home world.

At least in the end, she tells herself as she wraps thin arms about her form, caging her body within itself and fighting the first onslaught of tears, at least she knew what it was to have one moment of perfect joy.

Her gem hums in the quiet, a figure of Rose appears and the coloring of her is all wrong but Pearl falls upon bended knee regardless, and begins to recite.

--

Sometimes when Steven smiles at her his eyes are luminous, full of life and love and so achingly familiar that her throat spasms, her fingers twitch, steps faltering and she almost reaches out to touch him, as if somehow she can capture that smile with her hands, can hold it within her palms hidden and safe.

But the moment bleeds away before she can fully process it, and more often than not Pearl is left standing frozen in place, lips parted and eyes wide with fingers twitching at her sides as Steven tells her jokingly that she looks like she's seen a ghost.

Those are the times when it's the hardest.

--

They wander across the world they saved and Rose's delight seems to increase with each settlement of humans they find, her form shifting constantly to mirror the clothes of those around her. Pearl follows behind like a shadow in the night, clinging and pathetic like the children who weave their way through the crowded bazaar, begging for scraps of food or coin and this city is filthy. But Rose cannot see that, she only has eyes for the people that surround them, the trinkets, the colorful fabric that lines wooden stalls and there's no order amongst the chaos here.

The humans mill around them, whispers pass between them and mistrust is so clearly reflected in their posture that Pearl wants nothing more than to take Rose's hand, twine their fingers together and draw her away from this horrid place but she could never do that, she could never presume her touch would be welcome.

She fell upon bended knee once and made a vow but that vow was not returned, and she tells herself she never needed it to be, but pain still persists in slithering its way into the very core of her so she comforts herself with the knowledge that she is only here now because Rose chose to save her.

Her and Garnet above all others and surely, surely that must count for something.

Pearl closes her eyes to the humans with their dust and filth, to the chaos and disorder and Rose's eyes so enchanted by it all, as if it were something wonderful to look at, precious and worth protecting and all she can think is how that look in her eyes is only ever given to the humans, never to her.

Never to her.

She takes Garnet's arm instead, presses her face into the bulk of her skin and refuses to allow the stench of this place to fill her. Around them the footsteps of the humans, their voices and laughter fall away and all she can hear is the clanging of swords, the battle cries of her comrades and a flag bearing Rose Quartz's symbol flapping strong and heavy in the wind.

Somehow war was easier to endure than this.

--

Steven's hair is coarse in a way that Rose's never was, and Pearl wonders when she'll stop drawing lines between the two of them, searching for similarities and differences, trying to categorize them into neat stacks that she can pour over endlessly, fruitlessly.

She pulls her fingers back, allows his hair to fall into his eyes again, curled and unruly as she leans against cool glass, moonlight shining into his bedroom and when Garnet finds her there she does not startle, but her posture stiffens.

"I thought Steven asked you to stop watching over him as he sleeps."

Pearl tilts her head back against the sliding glass door, unconsciously shifting closer to Garnet when she moves to stand beside her, gaze lingering on Steven's form and the stuffed toy he's affectionately dubbed 'master of ceremonies bear-bear' tucked tight under an arm. "He did."

"You should respect his wishes."

"Not this one." Pearl closes her eyes as the question of "Why?" comes, expecting it, the answer settling heavy in her gut like a bitter wine sampled in a kingdom long fallen.

"Sometimes Steven does things...says things that-" She exhales, trying to rid herself of the trembling emotion in her voice, as if it were as simple as releasing the air in her chest. Pearl keeps her eyes shut, searching for a sense of calm, fingertips dragging across cool glass behind her. "I theorized that Steven's waking mind is too dominate to allow for another consciousness to communicate. But for humans, sleep is when the unconscious mind is at its most influential, causing dreams for example. If...If Rose is trying to find a way to contact us through Steven, then during his sleep would be the most optimal time."

Garnet's body shifts beside hers, their arms brush and Pearl feels the breath she attempted to take catch as the next question comes, as anticipated as the first, but the pain it brings has her knees trembling beneath her.

"Has she made contact?"

She hesitates, then; "No." Her voice breaks, she opens her eyes and blinks hard in the darkness. "Not yet."

"...I see."

A slow silence begins to stretch between them and her thoughts grow frantic with each moment that passes, terrified that Garnet will attempt to forbid her from continuing this, or even worse, call her foolish, pathetic for clinging to a fruitless hope so when the body beside her moves away from the door she startles, biting her lip hard and waiting for reprimand, for judgement.

Instead her eyes widen when all she's given is a quiet, "Goodnight Pearl." And she's reaching out before she can think on her actions, grasping Garnet's thick arms and imploring for her to wait, please wait. Garnet turns, and their bodies stiffen as Steven shifts atop the bed, blessedly still asleep with blankets wrapped haphazard around his legs.

His nightshirt rode up with the movement, Rose's gem reflects white moonlight and the sight of it has emotion clawing heavy at her throat so she turns her head away and sees the desperation on her own face reflected back at her in the lenses of Garnet's glasses. And when the question she's been burning to ask for almost ten years leaves her, it's barely a whisper, barely real for all the power it holds over her. "Do you know what will happen?"

Garnet's eyebrow raises, questioning, as she's clinging to thick arms so tightly that the other gem flinches in pain.

"Rose told me years ago that it's possible... that after Steven's life runs its course-"

"Would you want her to come back if it meant losing Steven in the process?"

Pearl feels her throat seize, and Garnet's voice holds no inflection, no condemnation but somehow that hurts worse than any judgement that could be passed upon her. Pearls hands fall limp at her sides, and she wants to say yes, yes but her head is turning to look at Steven's sleeping form and emotion grips her suddenly, all pain and desperation and protectiveness and a type of love she's never known before and the answer is no. No no no no no-Not if it means losing him.

"No." She croaks, she can't look at him, there's too much she doesn't understand, too many variables and he may yet live forever, may only have a human's life span and either way it isn't enough time because she swore an oath to herself to protect him, made a vow upon bended knee over five thousand years ago that she refuses to break and she sees herself in Garnet's glasses, sees the fear of losing Steven to his mortality reflected back at her and it makes her want to wretch.

A strong hand rises, cups her cheek and she can feel the cool surface of a gem against her burning skin as a thumb wipes away the tears she hadn't even been aware of shedding. The touch is tender, like the hue of Garnet's voice when she speaks. "Do you still want to know the answer?"

Pearl inhales air sharply, lets it stutter out of her, repeats the process while her trembling hands reach out, sick of the reflection in dark lenses. Garnet leans forward, allows her to pull them off without resistance but when she meets all three eyes she finds she can still see herself within them, and when the sob rises in her throat the sound of it is swallowed by Garnet's lips, which meet hers again and again until Pearl grows all but frantic in her desperation. "No. Never tell me. Promise me Garnet." Their lips meet again, heat swirls in her belly while tears rush down her cheeks. "No matter what I say, no matter how much I beg. Don't ever tell me, I don't want to know. I don't want to know-"

--

"They're toys to play with, that's all." There is guilt in Rose's voice, contrition as she breaks the unspoken vow of silence between them. And Pearl knows the words are meant as an apology, a plea for understanding, but they instead feel to her like Vesuvius erupting, like fire and ash suffocating the world around her.

Just as it had one of Rose's many human lovers.

But that ruin is a lifetime away now, and as they sit alone together atop the Sea Spire she finds her gaze constantly fixed upon the endless waterfall that surrounds them, funneling down into a whirlpool that forever churns beneath her dangling feet. Her emotions churn with it, voice thick with memory. "You know I don't believe that." Four thousand years have passed since she fought in a battlefield of broken gems and yet a part of her is horrified to hear the familiarity with which she now speaks to Rose Quartz, but much has changed since then.

This place is proof of that.

At the edges of her vision, she sees Rose's posture straighten, eyes widening before the beginnings of a smile tickle at the corners of her lips. "Oh? Why not?" Pearl inhales a shaking breath, the air here tastes of salt and brine and she's unsure if she lingers on the precipice of tears or anger or despair. Her nails dig into stone, the Spire around them empty and silent in a way it should never be and she fights to push away the memories of its former splendor. "Because I won't allow myself to believe it. You must have cared about them Rose, all of them."

Their faces linger and meld together with the ghosts of the gems that once thrived here and she must remind herself that she is Rose's favored council, that she was saved above all others. "I...I need for you to have loved them." And oh, to finally speak that truth is pure torment so she closes her eyes to the slow decay of the Spire around them, to Rose's gaze upon her as the roar of the waterfall fills the too loud silence of this once magnificent place.

"Because if you didn't...If they're really just toys for you to play with then-" Her voice trembles, nails boring into stone, frustrated with herself for the tears that rise and threaten to fall so she squeezes her eyes shut tighter, exhales. "Then how can I be sure that I...That I'm-"

Her body is lurched back, hair protecting her form's skull from colliding with stone and she opens her eyes just long enough to see tears in glimmering in Rose's own, before beloved lips collide with hers in a kiss that is all desperation and love and she nearly sobs into it, arms rising and wrapping around thick shoulders. And when their lips part too soon for her liking Rose peppers her face with kisses, presses her lips against her gem and Pearl can feel the wetness of her healing tears brush across its smooth surface.

"Pearl. My Pearl." Their lips meet again, slower, her chest heaving as fingers twine with her own and she holds on as tight as she can, swallowing down emotion and tears and the taste of Roses lips. They part and all that fills Pearl's universe is the love in Rose's eyes, the pink curls surrounding her and brushing across her arms and neck and torso and Pearl would fall upon bended knee before her now, give her vow again if she could.

"My Pearl, my beloved, my sole confidant. Say the word and it will stop, I swear it. Say the word and there will never be another." The tears she'd battled so hard to contain spill forth, brush down her cheeks and Roses's free fingers wipe them away as they come, the touch of them trembling through the whole of her as she shakes her head, feels cracked stone beneath her skull. "No, please, I don't want that."

The lie aches more than anything, but she won't allow her selfishness to bleed through, won't risk the possibility that Rose Quartz, for all her strength and love and honor may break that oath, may prove that all of Pearl's deepest fears hold true and she cannot risk allowing that to happen.

So instead she grips their twined fingers tighter and pulls their lips together for a kiss as deep as the oceans of this world and Pearl tells herself that it is easier this way. That Rose loved them, that Rose will continue to love them but their lives are short and she always returns to her. That in the end humanity will rise, will fall, that this planet will one day erode and the forests the humans fell in their greed will return to overtake all and yet even then she will still have this, still have the warm weight upon her and the brushes of lips so filled with love she feels she might burst and no mere human could ever take that from her.

--

The sword lances through her.

The sword lances through her and the pain of her physical form has always felt abstract to her, the shattering of the illusion hurts in a way that registers and yet it is distant, reverberating. Like an echo of voices upon high walls and her gem reacts immediately, she can feel the beginnings of her form breaking apart and Pearl uses the last of her breath before the retreat to try and comfort Steven.

His eyes are wide and horrified, filled with fear and oh she wishes she could spare him this, wishes that she, for only a second, could stop herself from drawing lines between them but all she can think is that Rose looked at her like this once, with such fear and desperation when the blow she had taken in Rose's place rended her head from her shoulders.

The rage that came in the aftermath of that blow, Garnet would tell her later, was terrible to behold. Rose had cut through the hordes of their enemies with single minded purpose and sometimes, if Pearl concentrates as hard as she is able, sometimes she can recall the feel of her gem surrounded by warmth on all sides. Held safe within the bosom of Rose Quartz as she battled to avenge her.

Pain flashes, her body bursts and within the soothing pulse of her gem Pearl remembers sparring in this very place with Rose. Recalls their swords meeting and parrying and Rose's eyes filled with awe and admiration at each new move Pearl practiced meticulously to perfect. She thinks of Steven's distant eyes, his slumped shoulders and his shouting for a fictional technique that was as illogical as it was idiotic.

As illogical and idiotic as it was to bring him to this place with the halfhearted hope of sparking something, of teaching something, creating with him a new memory, a new opportunity to bond and become closer but- She thinks of his apathy, his distance, his smile so like Rose's and his eyes lit up in excitement but for all the wrong reasons and once Rose had looked at her for all the right ones and Pearl...needs time.

Time away from Amethyst, from Garnet, from Steven.

From Steven.

Just for a little while, just once.

And when she returns she'll have purged all the doubt from herself, she'll come back and stop drawing lines and will be ready to face them all again, stronger, with more patience. She tells herself she will, she will, she will-

--

The sword in her hands is magnificent. Her nose twitches to even think it, to even allow herself to brush her fingers along the curved scabbard, across the tightly woven tsuka that allows for an excellent grip and the balance of the blade is perfect in a way she would have never expected from a human smith.

Sunset bleeds through the mouth of the cave, streaking across the waters that slosh gently at her feet but her eyes are only for the sword in her hands, torn between admiration for the quality of the blade, and the urge to throw it off the highest peak in the valley. It is only the figure in flowing white moving before her that keeps the notion at bay.

After all, the sword was a parting gift.

The silent steps they take towards the platform feels to her like the mimic a funeral procession. Rose is a somber creature this evening, stunning with the reds of sunset streaking across her dress, through her hair, and to Pearl she looks as though she were living flame, passion and energy and danger all at once.

With arms full Rose barely manages to press her hand to the marker atop the dais, illuminating the platform beneath her feet and Pearl stands in still waters feeling like a thief in the night, as though she were not permitted to be here, to witness this moment.

Rose moves with a deft silence, bared feet gracefully sliding across stone, fingertips brushing the armored statues as she walks, touching the remnants of comrades, of lovers. Sunset reflects off of her hair, dying the curls a myriad of reds and oranges and it reminds Pearl too much of the place they'd left behind, of the sun rising over the sea. Rose's fingers twist and the armors part, allowing for a space between them as she slowly, reverently places each portion in their proper alignment.

The sharp scent of human blood has been cleaned from his chest plate, the edges where another's sword had pierced the armor are still tinted red and Roses fingertips brush across the wound in the armor. She'd arrived too late to save him and Pearl's hands tighten around the sword, his sword that he wielded with such skill that even she for all her jealousy of him had found worthy of admiration.

With his dying breath he had offered his armor, his sword to Rose, bid her goodbye with a final declaration of love, and a plea to not be forgotten.

The remnants of the fallen sink back into the platform, and her knees begin to quake before the steps of armory as Rose turns, moving closer and Pearl kneels slowly, bows her head and raises her hands, offering the sword of Rose's lover as if it were an apology, a gift, a cumulation of the wounds she keeps forever hidden within her chest.

Perfect silence reigns for a long moment, then the humming of insects begin to sound as the final wisps of sunlight fade into darkness and when the sword is lifted from her hands she feels gentle lips press against the curve of her gem. A flush rises to her cheeks, shocked at the show of affection so soon after a lovers death and when she tilts her head up and looks at Rose with questioning eyes, she's met with a small smile, sad at the edges but a smile nonetheless. A beloved hand reaches out, and Pearl hesitates for only a second before their fingers twine together. "Thank you, Pearl."

"I..." She bites her lip, stares at their twined fingers and wishes she could never let go. "For what?"

But Rose does not answer her, only gives another small smile, shaking her head gently with her hair fanning out around her. "Just, thank you."

--

Steven catches her staring at Rose's portrait again so when he smiles at her questioningly a flush rises to her cheeks and she sweeps at the floor even harder. He's changed, though not much time has passed he's begun reaching a level of maturity that had been absent from him before, a type of bravery that had him stomping with his small chest puffed up and shoulders wide as he demanded to speak to Lapis Lazuli, and in the end for all the harm she had caused he treated her with kindness, he healed her gem. Pearl draws another line in her mind as Steven sets down his mobile gaming device, crosses his legs atop the couch and devotes all his attention to her. "Pearl?"

And how can she possibly ignore that? "Yes, Steven?" She sweeps around the small stools that surround the counter, clicking her tongue at the crumbs that continuously fall from Amethyst's shirt and mouth, ignoring her rolling eyes and the scowl on her mayonnaise coated lips. "Who painted that picture of mom?"

She pauses in her sweeping, resists the urge to close her eyes and instead allows herself a moment to look back up at the painting, feeling the gaze of all of them upon her, even Garnet from her seated perch at the window. "Her name was Artemisia Gentileschi, and she painted that portrait of your mother almost four hundred years ago."

Steven blinks in surprise, eyes lighting up and a smile stretching across his lips that does not resemble Rose's at all so she cannot draw another line and instead takes the opportunity between Amethysts munching to sweep away the crumbs accumulated beneath the stools. "They were friends? That's so cool! Did you know her too?"

Amethyst snickers quietly under her breath and Pearl finds she doesn't quite have the energy to glare up at her for the lack of decorum. "I...Yes. They were..." She glances up at Garnet sitting beside the window, who looks away from the churning waves to meet her eyes. Something small and secret passes between them, the subtle twitch of her lips is given only to her, and despite herself Pearl feels the urge to smile back. She refrains, however. "Very good friends, and yes, I was acquainted with her." Maybe when he's older, much, much older, she'll explain the truth of Rose's friendships to Steven.

...Then again maybe not.

He leans forward now, hands on his knees as he rocks back and forth, watching her while she sweeps with excitement bright in his eyes and guilt rising hot and heavy in her throat. Oh, he must be so hungry for knowledge of Rose, and there is so little that Greg can tell him, that he's even aware of, and for all she tries to educate him on gem culture and their ways, she rarely broaches the subject of Rose with him. She cannot refuse to do that any longer, he must know of her, no matter how painful it may be to speak of, and she quietly promises herself that she will be strong, that she will begin to try.

"Really? What was she like?"

Telling him of Artemisia might be a good start, their affair, as the humans would call it, had only lasted a handful of years, and the paintings she'd left behind were so stunning that Pearl finds even now she cannot wholly dislike the woman, even with the remnants of jealousy.

Her sweeping is long finished but she continues to move the broom across the kitchen floors, telling herself that it's simply to gather any crumbs she may have missed, but the attempt to lie to herself is as useless as the air she breathes. "She was...strong. That's probably why your mother was so drawn to her. In her early years Artemisia suffered a great many injustice but she stood with dignity and pride. To make matters worse she was met with constant hatred and discrimination for daring to be a woman in her field, which is ludicrous." She scoffs to herself. "Humans have the most ridiculous, inane customs."

She makes her way around the counter, sweeping at the pristine floors until she's standing before the portrait again, hands gripping the broom tightly and staring up at the flowing pink of Rose's hair. "She loved painting Rose, and your mother..." She laughs quietly, feels her knees tremble, and if she were alone she might kneel before the painting now, summon the spectre and lose herself to memory. "Your mother adored posing for her paintings. I recall once I had been invited to watch a session..."

Artemisia had spoken to her as she painted with a voice low and hitched, as Rose lay bare among flowing white silks, the woman’s eyes moving across her form but the gaze had always lacked the human lasciviousness that constantly sparked Pearl's anger, instead there was admiration, adoration and that was something that Pearl could understand. Perhaps even respect.

"She told me that in the aftermath of her ordeals and the emotional damage they wrought, your mother felt to her like the first burst of color in an otherwise darkened world. Stunning pink overshadowing her blackened pallet. In the end she'd gifted me that very painting." She exhales a slow sigh, feels a flush dusting across her cheeks and nearly frantically resumes her sweeping when she feels Steven's eyes upon her.

"Is that the one we have hanging on the wall?" She shakes her head, lost in thought, sweeping underneath the small table before the couch. "Oh no no, that painting isn't appropriate for your room, this one is much more suited for its purpose, but you needn’t worry, I keep the other safely hidden away."

"Oh." He perks up. "Can I see it?"

Pearl grips the broom so tightly that it snaps in her hands, heat rushing to her face as she stumbles over her words, realizing what she's said. "I-Oh! Erm-" Amethyst is outright laughing now, Garnet snickering quietly under her breath and her ears burn with their torment. "I...P-Perhaps later, Steven."

He pouts at her, "Aww!"

--

"This is your fault."

The pure hatred in the man's voice is not even directed to her, but Pearl feels herself startle regardless, staring with wide eyes that unconsciously mimic the shock that comes to Rose's own. His hand in hers slips away weakly, the coughs that tremble through him streak his lips with blood. "I don't understand-"

"Lies. You did this to me. You stole my life-" His entire body shakes with another fit of coughs, sweat dripping across his brow and he is young, scarcely half the age of the average human life span but he is dying and Rose, for all her power and love can do nothing to save him. Rose's eyes brim with tears as she reaches for his hand again but he refuses her and Pearl feels her anger begin to boil beneath her skin.

"Please, please believe me, I would never harm you." But he ignores her desperation, the tears in her eyes and Pearl despises this man with all that she is.

"I could have lived, truly lived if not for you-" His breath wheezes, trembles and Rose's tears fall in earnest but their power is useless now. "You stole my life-I spent so long tangled in your spell and now-" When he coughs again blood mars Roses's skin. "Curse you-you cruel- thing curse you, damn you-" Her anger reaches its peak, and she would step forward and thrust her spear into his chest, put an end to his misery but Garnet's strong hands pull her back, his last breathes wheeze and when Rose falls to her knees tears burn in Pearl's eyes at the sight. Because Rose Quartz does not fall, not in battle, not in love, there is no gem or human worthy of that honor.

If the man still lived, if he still drew breath Pearl would snarl at him, with tears burning down her cheeks she would demand he have care of how he speaks, demand he fall upon his own weakened knees and beg forgiveness to the one whom ensured with all that she was that his selfish kind would continue to thrive on this planet.

But he is dead and Rose's shoulders quake, her voice trembling as she speaks. "He was right." Before she can reach out, offer comfort and condemn the man who dared cause this pain she finds Garnet's hand resting strong upon Rose's shoulder. Her voice gentle in a way that Pearls could not be. "No, Rose. He was dying, he needed someone to blame, this is not your responsibility."

Rose presses her hands to the bed, grips the sheets between her fists. "But it is, isn't it?" She looks back at Garnet, with desperation in her wet eyes and trembling lips and the human's blood smeared across her cheek. "How many others have I robbed of their lives? So often I ignore their mortality, the very thing that makes them so precious, and yet I consume their time so greedily. I keep forgetting, I keep-"

Rose squeezes her eyes shut, pulls herself onto her feet wipes the tears, the blood from her cheeks and when she opens her eyes again there is a determination in them that she's only ever known a handful of times in their centuries spent together. When she speaks it is with all the strength and authority of the one who led them to glorious battle, to victory. "Never again."

Pearl loathes herself for the joy that ignites in her chest.

--

If Rose Quartz could be said to have a type, then the man, Greg Universe, would be it. Pearl knows immediately, knows from the very moment she hears Rose's voice call out a frantic; "Wait!" that the oath given beside the body of her last human lover is all but ash. That Rose, for all her strength, is far too weak to resist a flare of passion once the spark ignites within her. She adores it too much, finds such joy in the humans, their ways, the bright flame of their short lives.

He is a performer, a singer and Pearl can easily recall a handful of others, skilled with the lyre or piano, with voices deep and reverberating, or raised high to the stars a thousand years past, chanting in unison with the holy women of her tribe as they prayed to their moon goddess.

"I can sing!" She says, indignant, a last plea in the quiet. I can sing, I can dance, I am an artist with any blade, and I love you more than this human ever could, with more passion and loyalty, more desperation and desire than any creature in this universe could mimic so why? Why am I not enough?

But gentle laughter surrounds her and Rose's eyes are alight with curiosity, with temptation, and Pearl waits for night to truly fall before closing her own. Allowing herself to inhale the scent of the sea that surrounds her she moves across wet sands and feels waves rushing over her feet, soaking her legs and in the temple far behind her she can hear a man singing. His voice is passable at best, his lyrics absurd but Rose will love them anyway.

She will love him anyway.

Pearl exhales the breath caught in her chest, listens for the roar of the waves and wills them to drown the voices that linger in the distance, telling herself that all will be fine in the end. Human lives are short, their emotions fickle. His life will rise, ebb, and fade, another passing wave in the sea of eternity so she can wait. She always does.

After all, what's sixty years compared to the length of eternity?

Still, a heaviness settles in her chest, fills her belly with dread as water rises to her hips, familiar pain lancing through her and Pearl swallows air while tears drip down her cheeks. Her gem hums beneath the roar of the eternal sea, sand scrapes her flesh as she falls upon bended knee before the spectre as waves surround her form, soak her lips with salt.

And she begins to recite.