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I Want to Understand

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“Peridot’s log,” said Peridot into her tape recorder. “The Steven appears to have brought me some manner of peace offering.” She sat in the bathroom floor and prodded the cardboard box with her finger. “It seems to be coated with some form of protective coating created from plant extract, held together by a series of primitive adhesive strips.”

“It’s called wrapping paper,” said Steven, sitting next to the sink and smiling.

Peridot’s eye twitched. She stopped her tape recorder.

“Um, do you mind? You’re compromising the scientific integrity of my assessment.”

“Oh ... sorry,” he whispered.

Peridot pressed record again.

“The ...” Peridot sighed and made finger-quotes with her remaining hand. “‘Wrapping paper’ appears etched with images of ... tortured Earth creatures? I’m not certain. They appear similar to the sign the Steven placed on the Galaxy Warp ...”

“Oh, yeah, sorry, the only wrapping paper I had left was the Crying Breakfast Friends kind.”

“Crying what Friends?”

Steven’s eyes lit up.

“Oh, it’s this really neat cartoon where these...” Steven thought for a minute, then shook his head. “Uh, actually it’s kinda hard to explain their appeal.” He perked up. “We could watch it later though.”

“Hm, I doubt these ... things would be worthy of further--”

Peridot glanced over and saw Steven give what she had recently been informed is called the “puppy dog stare,” a pathetic technique of using cuteness as psychological warfare.

Peridot, of course, assured herself she was too intelligent to fall for such a cheap tactic.

Steven’s eyes seemed to get wider and his lip pouted. Peridot looked away and finally sighed.

“Ugh, fine,” Peridot said. “We’ll watch your mentally scarring program later, just discontinue the pouting!”

Steven raised his hands in the air, grinning a huge grin.

“Yay, victory!” he said.

Peridot sighed. She drew her attention back to the box.

“Might I ask what the occasion for ... whatever this is?” she asked.

“It’s just as a thank you,” Steven said. “For helping us stop the Cluster and staying here and, you know, being a good guy now.”

Peridot chuckled and shook her head.

“You do realize I only did those things out of a desire to not die, right?” she said.

Steven wagged her finger.

“Nuh uh, you can’t fool me, Peridot,” he said in a sing-song voice. “You may act all tough, but I know inside you have a big heart.”

“... I have no idea what a heart is,” she said. But even as she said this, Steven’s smile beamed so intensely she felt herself return it without even meaning to; it was contagious. “But I’ll accept the compliment regardless.”

Peridot sat the box in her lap. She examined the “wrapping paper” around it to look for an opening, but seemingly each one sealed with the adhesive strip. She scratched at one of the strips on the corners, if she was careful she believed she could lift it and open one of the flaps just enough to--

“Uh, Peridot,” said Steven slowly, “it’s okay to tear up the wrapping paper.”

Peridot glanced up at Steven. She could feel a bead of sweat drip near the Gem on her forehead.

I knew that!” she said. “I just- I like doing it this way!”

“Oh, well, that’s okay!”

Peridot paused, then with a single motion dug her fingers into the paper and ripped it all off, adhesive strips and all.

“Uh, Peridot,” said Steven. “I thought you said--”

I changed my mind.

She opened the box and immediately recognized what it was.

“More tapes!” Peridot shouted. It was more enthusiasm than she liked to show, but she couldn’t contain it. The box was stuffed with the primitive magnetic audio transcoders Steven had called “cassette tapes.”

“Yep!” said Steven. “My dad had a ton of these! I figured the one I gave you might be close to full by now, so I wanted to make sure you never ran out!”

Peridot pawed through the tapes, ecstatic. This gift was actually something practical, something that would allow her to continue her logs. She was so glad to have the recorder. She would have gone crazy without it.

She looked back up to see Steven giving a small smile. Such a peculiar creature, Peridot thought. He seemed to get more joy from watching her enjoy a gift than he ever would getting one himself.

Peridot gave him a serious look. She coughed uneasily. Offering praise to someone other than herself was a skill she was still learning.

“Steven ...” she said slowly. “I’m ... grateful for this.” She added. “And I suppose I should thank you for giving me this device in the first place.” She held up the tape recorder. “It’s ... meant a lot to have this. Thank you.”

Steven laughed as if it was no big deal. Peridot doubted he understood the significance, but that was fine. It was ... amusing just to see him content like that, she supposed.

“It’s no big deal!” said Steven, excited. “Besides, I kinda wanted to make sure you had enough tapes to talk about all the fun things we’re gonna do around Beach City. It'll be cool to hear what you think.”

Peridot felt a chill run from her Gem to every nerve of her physical construct. She tightened her grip on the tape recorder.

“Beach City,” she said. “You want to hear what I think about ... the city?”

“Yeah, of course! There’s so much awesome stuff to show you! There’s Funland, the Big Donut, lots of stuff and--” Steven stopped and raised an eyebrow. “Hey, are you alright?”

“Of course!” Peridot snapped back. “Don’t be ridiculous! Why WOULDN’T I be alright?!”

“Okay ...” said Steven carefully. “I was just gonna say if you were afraid to go in the city or something--”

Peridot felt her face flush.

“I’m not afraid to go into the city,” she shouted. She forced a smile. “What make you think that with the Cluster gone that there would be anything on this underdeveloped pile of space junk that could possibly intimidate me?!”

Steven just stared at Peridot wordlessly. She looked in his eyes and she knew she wasn’t fooling anyone. Peridot sighed.

“Alright, perhaps I am ... apprehensive,” she said. “As much as I’ve come to understand about this planet’s irregularities, I can’t much say the same for its ... inhabitants.”

“Whaaaaaat?!” said Steven raising his arms. “That’s crazy! You get along great with me and the Crystal Gems-”

“Ha! ‘Great’ might be something of a stretch, but I’m at least capable of understanding you all. You are Gems. But these other lifeforms, these ... humans ... I have no clue what to make of them.”

“But I’m human!” said Steven. “Well ... half anyway.”

“Yes, and I’m still unclear how that’s even scientifically possible.”

“Oh well, that started when back when my dad was playing this concert, he gave my mom a t-shirt, I think Onion’s mom was around for like a minute, and then--”

“See, that’s what I mean, I didn’t understand any part of that sentence! I have no clue how humans even function. I doubt I could feign assimilation into their society even if I wanted to.”

Peridot glanced back down at her tape recorder. As much as she appreciated having it, she couldn’t help longing for her screen. She gritted her teeth. She hated this, being cut off from any source of information, as isolated and stupid as a gem still underground.

“If I just had access to my old reports, I could at least find SOME frame of reference,” she said.

“You don’t... remember anything from them?”

“My mission was to check progress on the Cluster, interacting with under-evolved life was never integral to my mission since, you know, none of it was gonna be there for much longer!” She waved her hand dismissively. “And I didn’t have the foresight to plan for skills that would help me commit treason at the time.” She sighed. “I’d just rather know what I’m getting into. If I just had a sample, a report, just some sort of reference material just to get some SENSE of how these creature are supposed to--”

Peridot stopped. Steven was smiling wide, his eyes glinting like distant stars.

“What?” asked Peridot.

“Steven has an idea,” he whispered.

Steven stood up so suddenly Peridot flinched.

“WAITRIGHTTHEREI’LLBERIGHTBACK!” he yelled as he ran out the door.

“Wait Steven, what are you-” But Steven was already gone.


“You want me to what?!” asked Connie as Steven pulled her by the hand toward the temple. Rose’s sword and scabbard bumped against her back as they walked along the sand, barely held on by the strap fastened along the front of her shirt.

“It’s nothing!” said Steven cheerfully. “I just want you to let Peridot talk to you for a bit so she can not be so nervous about humans and Earth and stuff!”

“B-but Steven,” said Connie. “Are you sure that’s safe? I mean, wasn’t she evil like two weeks ago?”

“It’s ... been a little longer than that,” he said. “I-I think.”

“And didn’t she try to kill you like three times?”

Steven slowed his pace.

“It... was only once,” he said meekly. “Like one and a half tops.”

Once is too many, Steven!”

Steven let go of her hand as they approached the front steps of his house.

“Look,” said Steven seriously. “I know this is a weird thing to ask ... but Peridot helped us out a lot with the Cluster and she seems like she’s genuinely trying to be a good Gem now. And I promise, she isn’t gonna hurt you. She’s really approachable now that she doesn’t have all her scary robot parts.”

Connie bit her lip.

“I ... I don’t know,” said Connie.

Steven reached out and gently touched Connie’s shoulder.

“Please, Connie,” said Steven. “It will help her out a lot. She’s never talked to a human before. I want you to be the first one she meets.”

“Why me?” whispered Connie.

Steven looked away, his cheeks blushing.

“Well ... I-I just know that if I had never met a human before, I’d feel less scared if the first one I met was someone like you.”

Connie felt a lump in her throat. She smiled back. It was schmaltzy, sure, but it was good schmaltz. Connie wouldn’t have had it any other way.

She took a deep breath and sighed.

“Alright ... I’m ... still kinda nervous about this, but I’ll try,” said Connie. “Maybe it won’t be so awkward.”

“Sure it won’t.” Steven walked up the steps towards the front door. “Now come on, she’s staying in my bathroom now.”

“Okay su-- wait, why is she living in your bathroom?”

“I dunno,” said Steven as he opened the front door. “She just kinda ended up there and got attached to it. She says she finds the sound of water fixtures soothing.”

They approached the door to Steven’s bathroom. Steven put his hand up to signal Connie to stay back. Connie nodded silently as Steven knocked on the door.

“Peridot~” he said, “I have another surprise!”

The door cracked open just a bit. All Connie could make out of Peridot was the yellowish glint off her visor.

“Another surprise?” said Peridot in a crackling voice. “What--”

Peridot’s eyes locked onto Connie. Even underneath the visor, Connie could see Peridot’s eyes get wide as she slammed the door shut.

“WHAT IS THAT?!” screeched Peridot from behind the door.

“Peridot!” said Steven. “It’s okay, it’s just my friend Connie. I wanted you to meet her and see what humans are like!” After there was no response from behind the door, Steven added. “It’ll be fine. Connie’s the nicest person I know, you don’t have anything to worry about.”

Connie caught eyes with Steven and smiled. It was nice of him to say all those things, she thought ... even though part of her felt it was ridiculous for someone as extraordinary as Steven to praise someone as actually-ordinary as Connie.

After a few uneasy seconds, the door creaked back open. Peridot stood in the doorway. Steven had told Connie about her actual size, but it was still surprising to see a Gem who was once a threat seem so ... small. She clutched a tape recorder in her hand, holding it tight as if she was afraid it would leave her at any moment.

Peridot’s eyes stayed fixed on Connie.

“Um, hi,” said Connie, touching her shoulder nervously. “My name is Connie, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

She extended her hand to Peridot. Peridot stared at it.

“Yes, I see you have an ... arm,” said Peridot awkwardly. “Very nice.”

“Um ... yeah,” said Connie, chuckling nervously as she put her hand back down.

Okay, apparently shaking hands isn’t a thing on Homeworld, Connie thought.

Steven swallowed, a nervous smile plastered on his face. Connie knew he could probably tell how awkward she was feeling. He always seemed to know.

“Ooo-kay, well!” Steven clapped his hands together. “You know what would help break the ice? Lemonade. Lemonade always breaks the ice.”

“I wasn’t aware crystallized liquid factored into this exchange,” said Peridot.

“No Peridot, I meant ...” Steven shook his head. “I’m just gonna go get lemonade. I’ll be right back.” He walked slowly backwards down the hall towards the kitchen, as if he was afraid if he turned his back for too long he’d miss something.

Connie stood awkwardly in the hallway as Peridot’s gaze lingered on her. Connie shifted back and forth uneasily.

“Um ... I’m sorry but ... do you have to stare?” asked Connie politely.

Peridot cringed, then looked away.

“Oh. Of course. Sorry.” Peridot pressed the record button on her tape recorder. “Peridot’s log, apparently the human doesn’t approve of uninterrupted visual observation. This has been noted.”

She stopped the tape recorder, then coughed. “I apologize for any discomfort. As you can probably tell, I don’t have much experience interacting with your species.”

Connie chuckled. “I-it’s okay really,” she said. “I’m not much of a social butterfly either.”

“A what-erfly?”

“It’s um ... it’s this colorful insect that flies around and ...” Peridot tilted her head in confusion. Connie took a deep breath. Speaking to an alien completely unfamiliar with Earth was even more difficult than she thought. “I-it’s a metaphor.”

“And you’re ... not one, correct?”

“Yes, I’m not a butterfly.”

“I see.”

Connie had to stifle a nervous chuckle when she realized somehow her life had led down a path where she had to reassure an alien who was actually a rock that she was not, in fact, a butterfly.

Peridot turned her recorder on.

“Eccentricities aside, the human appears well capable of speech and remarkably displays at least sub-Gem level intelligence.”

Connie raised her eyebrows.

“I-I’m sorry, sub-Gem level intelligence?”

“Well, sure,” Peridot said, shrugging. “Of course nothing on this planet can approach Homeworld Gem intellect, but an underdeveloped life form being able to display even a miniscule fraction of that ...” Peridot smiled. “It’s a compliment really. You should feel honored.”

“Uh ... huh,” said Connie slowly. She was biting her tongue as hard as possible. She kept in mind what Steven had said, that she had never spoken to a human before. She didn’t seem intentionally malicious. Even so, it doesn’t feel good to be talked down to.

Peridot walked around Connie slowly. “Well, I’m glad Steven was able to bring a somewhat interesting specimen,” said Peridot.

“I uh ... what are you doing?”

“I promise I’ll be brief,” said Peridot. She held up her recorder. “The human appears to be covered in rudimentary light garments which appears to provide no real protection.” Without asking, Peridot reached up and touched Connie’s hair. “Also appears to have long keratin strands growing from her head.”

“Um, Peridot,” said Connie, still trying to be nice despite feeling her patience run down. “On Earth we have this thing called ‘personal space’ that-- hey!”

Peridot prodded Connie’s cheek with her finger once. If Peridot noticed the horrendous glare Connie gave her after, she didn’t show it.

“The human’s physical structure feels ... gooshy,” said Peridot into the recorder. “Composed made of organic matter, a dramatic contrast to the photonic constructs of Gems, clearly incapable of any kind of energy manipulation or fusion.”

“Well, actually--”

“Please don’t interrupt. It’s quite rude.”

I’m rude?! You--” Connie tightened her fist and shut her mouth. Doing this for Steven, she told herself. Remember you’re doing this for Steven.

“In all honesty, I’m starting to wonder why I was anxious at all,” continued Peridot as she walked behind Connie. “These humans seem mostly harmless, rather straightforward in--”

Peridot stopped, her eyes suddenly transfixed on the pink scabbard strapped to Connie’s back. When she spoke, it was no longer in the irritatingly condescending tone she had been using. It was in awe.

“What,” whispered Peridot, “is that?”

Connie managed a small smile. Finally, something that stopped her from being a jerk for a few seconds.

“Oh, it’s a sword.” Peridot just kept staring at the scabbard. Connie hastily added, “It’s like a sharp piece of metal-”

Peridot’s eyes flashed with anger.

I know what a sword is! I mean why do YOU have it?! That’s a Gem sword! An antique! An ancient weapon beyond anything YOUR species could craft!” She gently touched the scabbard. “Looks like one anyway. How’d you get this?!”

Connie glared. “You want to ask a little nicer?” said Connie.

Peridot’s eye twitched for a moment, but then she took a breath.

“I command you to answer ... please,” she said.

Connie folded her arms. “Not that it’s any of your business, but Steven let me use it to practice sword-fighting.”

Peridot seemed to digest her words for just a moment, then suddenly covered her mouth and started snickering.

“And what exactly is so funny?” said Connie, not even bothering to hide her disdain.

Peridot had tears in her eyes as she tried to stifle her laughter.

“Oh wow, I didn’t know you humans were funny too!” said Peridot. “You’d have to be a Quartz or stronger to wield a weapon of that size! I mean, really, the idea of someone of your structure lifting that, let alone SWING it...” She tried to go on, but just burst out laughing again.

Connie grinded her teeth as Peridot laughed. She’d had just about enough of this.

“I can lift it,” Connie muttered.

But Peridot just laughed harder.

“Pfft, yeah right!” chuckled Peridot. “Oh wow, Steven should have brought you to me sooner! You’re great! You are just too--”

Before Connie could stop herself, she tugged on the strap along the front of her shirt. Her right hand went up to her shoulder just as the hilt shot in her hand. In one careful motion, slowly guided it out of the scabbard as far from Peridot as possible. She held it in front of her for just a moment, steady, careful not to swing or wave it; she didn’t want to hurt anyone.  Her eyes locked on to Peridot, never faltering for a moment.

Peridot stared back at Connie, absolutely stunned. Her tape recorder fell from her fingers. Her eyes kept darting back to the sword and back to Connie, as if she expected it to be some illusion that would eventually evaporate.

Connie, not wanting to put anyone’s safety at risk no matter how frustrated she was, held the sword back at her side. She had to be careful. She shouldn’t have even unsheathed it inside ... but still, the look on Peridot’s face was so priceless she couldn’t help feel some satisfaction.

“I’m sorry, did I interrupt again?” said Connie. “Was that rude?

Peridot seemed to shake ever so slightly.

“That’s ... that’s impossible,” she muttered.

Connie’s smile fell.

“Hey, are you alright?” Connie slowly reached out with her free hand. “Hey, I didn’t mean to scare you or--"

Peridot flinched away from her.

Connie felt a dark pit form in her chest. She finally realized she was doing ... what, exactly? Showing off? For what? Because someone who had no idea what this planet was like made her feel bad for a second? And she was holding a WEAPON in her hand, what was she doing?!”

“Hey, it’s okay,” said Connie. “I’m not gonna hurt you. I’m sorry. I was just ... I don’t like being talked down to.”

She felt her voice raise ever so slightly, but at this point she felt she had no choice but to be honest.

“I came here because Steven asked me to help you understand humans and I want to help, but you’ve just been treating me like an inferior this whole time! I mean, would you like that?!”

Peridot said nothing.

“Just ... can’t we just talk like equals. Can you stop just treating me like a science project?! Can’t we try to just ... be friends? For Steven if nothing else?!”

Peridot blinked.

“You ...” Peridot clenched her fists and leaned forward. “How dare you?” She raised her finger in the air. “You dare imply that I’ve been intimidated by the likes of you?! I was simply ... startled! And then you think you can lecture me! What gives you the right?! And as for that weapon--” She glanced down at the sword, and gave a fiendish smile. “Aha! I understand everything now! This was all deception! If you could swing that--”

Before Connie could react, Peridot placed both hands on the guard of the sword. It caught Connie off-balance before she could tighten her grip.

“Hey, what are you--” was all Connie got out before Peridot used all her weight to wrestle it away.

“If you can swing this, it can’t possibly be real!”

Peridot pulled it away, only to immediately stagger backwards from the massive weight of it.

“Uh oh, whoa, whoa, WHOA!” screamed Peridot as she tried to raise it upwards, only for her small body to topple backwards.

Peridot!” yelled Connie. She reached out, but it was too late. Peridot twirled backwards through the bathroom doorway. As the door swung after she fell through, Connie could hear glass breaking, tearing, and, finally, a loud, wet thump.

Connie ran in.

“Peridot, are you okay?!”

Peridot lay in the middle of the now-completely decimated bathroom. The shower curtain was in several pieces, the mirror was shattered, and the toilet had a sizable chunk cleaved out of it lying the floor next Peridot’s head.

But Connie barely noticed all of that when she saw Peridot lying in the floor with Rose’s sword sticking through her chest. Connie felt the color drain from her face.

“Oh my gosh, PERIDOT!” she shouted. Connie kneeled next to Peridot, her face turned away. “I am so sorry, are you alright? Say something!”

“... cool ...”

“What?!”

Peridot’s head spun around. Her eyes seemed to light up as brightly as the gem on her forehead.

YOU’RE. SO. COOL!” said Peridot. Connie just stared in abject disbelief.

“W-what?!”

Peridot clenched her fists, seemingly unaware she was impaled. This didn’t seem like to the kind of thing anyone could just overlook, whether you were a Gem or not, but Peridot was proving otherwise.

“I can’t believe it, that’s a real sword,” said Peridot. “It’s really real. This is incredible! I never considered humans could comprehend even the most rudimentary of Gem technology, let alone wield it! You waved it around like a toy and it’s as big as you! It practically defies physics! This is amazing! There’s finally the slimmest possibility there’s something WORTHY of study on this backwards planet!”

Peridot kicked with her feet like a kid playing in footie pajamas.

“I FINALLY HAVE SOMETHING TO DO!”

She glanced back at Connie. Connie kept trying to say something, anything, but no words came out. Peridot saw this and frowned.

“You were ... correct in what you were saying,” said Peridot. “I was the one behaving like an inferior, not you. I want us to--”

“P-Peridot,” Connie managed to say.

Peridot scrunched her face up.

“What’s wrong?! Why are you not accepting my praise properly?!”

Connie managed to point to the sword in Peridot’s chest.

“What?” said Peridot. “What are you pointing at--” She finally looked down at her chest.

“Oh.”

She looked up at the ceiling.

Ohhh...”

There was a loud poof as Peridot erupted into white smoke. Peridot’s triangular green gem clattered on the tile floor. The sword crashed down next to it.

Connie stared, mouth agape, at the gem on the floor. Connie’s mind was a complete blank. There was silence for almost an entire minute ... until Steven called out from down the hall.

“Okay, who’s ready for some lemonade~?”