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Points of Pain

Chapter Text

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An errand for Carnelian sends Pearl through a whirlwind of emotions.

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            Fingers typed out the password without needing to look, successfully unlocking Pearl’s scheduler.  A spoonful of steaming oatmeal was blown on before being carefully eaten.  It had become a habit as of late.  Checking to see if her schedule had changed.  Light blue eyes wandered over the maroon box floating a couple of weeks away as she scrolled down.  It was still there, thankfully.  Pearl paused.  The shift had been so subtle it almost slipped by unnoticed.  From wishing the maroon box would disappear to thanking the stars that it was still there.  Internally she rationalized that the change was due to Pearl 00739’s words, her current status as the pearl that had regulated Garnet the longest, and that she enjoyed the car rides alone with the fighter.

            Don’t deny the real reason.  You’re used to it, you like it.

            Pearl shook her head trying to dispel her own voice.

            It’s safe, Garnet won’t hurt me and I remain unavailable to those that would.

            Keep telling yourself that.  You’re becoming what they want, someone who enjoys it.

            Enjoys what?

            Fucking a monster.

            The next bite of oatmeal took more effort to swallow.

            Yellow Diamond is the monster, not Garnet.

            Really?  After everything you’ve seen?

            Garnet’s not like that, that isn’t her.  She’s required to do it.

            Even after she hurt you?

            She was just reacting, she would never intentionally hurt me.

            Right…whatever makes it easier for you to swallow.

            Pearl breathed out harshly, forcing her mind to scan through her schedule for today.  It was the same as it always was.  Eyes stared at the date for several seconds, the number repeating itself in her mind.

            June 12th

            June 12th

            June 12th

            June 12th

            Eyebrows were pulled together.  What was with today’s date?  Was there something important about it?  Did she forget this important thing?  The thin gem locked her scheduler and stuck it to the side of her pants.  She only had five minutes left to eat her breakfast before she needed to leave.  It bothered her though, not knowing why that date should have some significance.

 

            The day passed and Pearl completely forgot about the puzzle of June 12th as she was buried under her usual workload.

 

            Carnelian grumbled as she dug through the file cabinet searching for some vital paper that would help with the continued design of the military-like gear.  Manila file folders were pulled out and set on the floor as she moved deeper into the drawer.  Pearl watched from the side waiting for the potential request for her to come over and help the stout woman.

            “There is just too much in here!” Carnelian stated in an exasperated tone.  “It’s time I sent some to get archived,” she sighed.  “Ah finally!”

            The sought for paper was discovered and lifted high in celebration.  Carnelian shuffled over to her desk and began pouring over it and writing things down on the design she was working on.

            “I’m going to need you to make a trip to White Dark Orange 55046 with a number of those papers.  I just can’t keep all of them, but I hate putting them away,” the curly haired woman sighed, not looking up.

            Pearl silently nodded.

            “But I will need to sort through them first.  After I send you off for a few more errands I’ll make sure to have a good pile for you to take.”

            A frown slipped onto Pearl’s face, it was a white hallway, she wasn’t supposed to go down those unless another higher ranking gem was with her.  She had been able to go down some white hallways to get to rooms or areas she was required to be at.  Her scheduler had been great backup whenever someone had stopped her.  However, this was just an errand, she wouldn’t have any evidence on her side.  An even breath was let out, she would figure out a way by scoping out the area and moving quickly.

            True to Carnelian’s words she was sent on a number of errands, delivering designs to the seamstresses, picking up the first sets, putting in another materials request, etc.  When she stepped back into the office, the older stout woman was carefully removing manila folders from the metal file cabinet and stacking them in a specific order.

            “Good you’re back, I have a couple of bankers boxes, load them up and head off to White Dark Orange 55046.  You may have to make more than one trip.  And it will take some time to get everything properly sorted away.  Make sure they stay in that order and if possible have them all put into the same drawer until I have the chance to go up and organize it myself.”  Carnelian walked over to her desk and grabbed a stray piece of paper.  After checking both sides she wrote out a short note.  “Normally I make all necessary trips to the archives, but I can’t spare the time today.  That woman moves far too slowly for me.  Here is a note explaining why you can go in the hallway, if anyone gives you trouble, this should help you out.”

            The pale gem took the paper and gratefully nodded.  Manila folders were neatly placed into the heavy-duty cardboard boxes.  Once both were fairly full, Pearl stacked the two and picked them up with a huff.  Carnelian raised an eyebrow at her.

            “Paper can really add up, are you certain about taking that much at once?” the curly haired woman inquired.

            Pearl’s pride didn’t let her put down the boxes.  She nodded, putting on her best face to convince Carnelian that she would be able to handle the load.  The woman just shrugged.

            “Alright.”

            Long legs strode out of the office.  It didn’t weigh nearly as much as Garnet, and if she could help carry Garnet a few hallways then a couple of boxes to White Dark Orange 55046 should be nothing.

            It wasn’t her legs that gave out or her back collapsing under the weight, it was her arms.  From her shoulders to her fingers they burned from stubbornly holding onto the boxes for as long as she humanly could.  Heavy breaths were forced out as she stood and shook out her arms; the boxes sitting on the floor for the moment.  Pearl glanced around.  She had just barely made it to building 5.  With a huff the thin woman gritted her teeth and picked up the boxes again.  Now all she needed to do was find a staircase.  Stairs provided to be a whole different challenge as her legs now started to burn from having to carry the extra weight up and up.  It didn’t help that every time she needed to rest she would have to squat down and up all over again.  By the time she made it to the entrance of the correct hallway, Pearl was sweating profusely.  Light blue eyes noted the yellow diamond symbol off to her right before looking down the long white hallway with doors of varying shades of orange.  This was new territory for her.  As she took one last quick rest, she pulled out her scheduler and opened up the note that was her map for Yellow Diamond’s buildings.

            [Orange- Records]

            The device was locked and stuck back to her pants.  Fingers curled around the handles made by the oval cutouts in the thick cardboard.  Pearl moved quickly down the hallway counting down the doors on her left until she reached the fourth one.  A light grumble escaped as she had to set down the boxes once again to open the door.  After awkwardly shoving the door open, grabbing the items, pushing the closing door back with her butt, she got into the room.  The beginning part of the room was very similar to the Individual Gem Supply Station in that it had a small open area that went up to a desk.  However, past the desk was not an open row of shelves, but a wall with a single door in it.  Manning the desk was a plump older woman with shoulder length, curly, white hair, light brown skin, tired, grey-blue eyes, yet a simple smile adorned her lips.  The gentle clicks of metal knitting needles occasionally making contact were the only sounds in the room aside from Pearl’s labored breathing.  A slam shattered the quiet as the door closed behind Pearl.  The thin gem grimaced, cautiously turning to the older woman.  Hands gradually stopped their movements as the woman raised her head to look up at who had come into her area.  Pearl’s arms were about to give out.  With a huff the boxes were set on the ground and the sweaty gem took a couple of steps closer to the desk.  Grey-blue eyes wandered over her necklace.  Pearl examined the woman’s as well.  It looked like it was made of aluminum, just like hers.

“Fluorite 00106

YD 0001”

            “A pearl?” came the drawn-out remark.  Fluorite breathed in and out.  “Not many of you come here.”

            Pearl shifted her weight from one leg to the other.

            Fluorite carefully set down her knitting and looked behind Pearl.  “Items to be archived?”

            “Yes, they are from Carnelian 00023, I am her pearl.  She sent me here with them.”

            “Ah Carnelian 00023,” lips gradually turned up into a knowing smile, “more designs of hers no doubt.”

            The woman slowly rose to her feet and turned towards the door.  Pearl noticed that the woman’s waist was adorned with a belt that had a dozen key rings attached to it with carabiners.  Each key ring had another couple dozen or so keys.  Light blue eyes suddenly widened as she realized that the woman’s belt was knitted, each loop a carabiner hung from was a different color of yarn.  It wasn’t just the belt, but the woman’s whole attire was not the usual issued clothing, but a colorful knit sweater, skirt, and socks.  Only the shoes, and probably undergarments Pearl reasoned, were the usual type seen around.  Colors were knitted into large stripes that changed every twelve inches or so.  A pale green was at the top of the sweater, followed by blue.  Violet started the skirt and then switched to lavender, then pink at the bottom.  The socks contained the same pattern, but with much shorter segments.

            “Grab the boxes,” came the measured voice.  “Bring them in with you,” Fluorite finished as she unlocked the door and stepped through.

            Pearl quickly grabbed the items and ran into the long, dimly lit room.  It was twenty feet wide and seemed to go on for at least fifty feet.  Each side was filled with metal filing cabinets containing five drawers, lined up one right next to the other.  Fluorite paused after walking past a couple of them.  A remote was pulled from her belt and she clicked a button.  Light burst from a bright bulb several feet away.

            “Oh…wrong one…” came the sigh as the older woman examined the remote before pressing another button followed by the one she just hit.

            A light appeared over them at the same time the other turned off.  Pearl was suddenly bathed in the realization of what she was standing in.  Each drawer was labeled with gem titles and numbers listed in alphanumerical order.  Some drawers listed a range like the “Amber 00001-00050” drawer, while some had just one or two gems listed, and even others like Carnelian 00023 had a whole filing cabinet with her name on each drawer.  Light blue eyes widened.  The archives within the records area.  This room most likely contained information on every single gem that Yellow Diamond owned.  Files for several gems popped into her mind she desperately wanted to see.  Fluorite unlocked a drawer, opened it up, then looked expectantly at Pearl.  The pale gem felt her face heat up.  Quickly she set down the boxes, opened the top one, and began to hand the manila folders to the older woman.

            “Carnelian would like these all to be in the same drawer if possible and kept in the same order,” Pearl quickly informed.

            Fluorite smiled, her eyes crinkling in the corners.  “I know well how Carnelian 00023 likes her designs organized.”

            The heat on the thin gem’s cheeks grew.  For a few moments the manila folders traded hands silently.  Pearl noted that she needed to slow down as Fluorite didn’t move nearly as fast as her.

            “Each gem has a beginning, and an end,” the low mellow voice spoke up.  “Each beginning and end, is stored here, in the archives.”  Fluorite gazed down the long hall before passively turning to look back at Pearl.  “I keep them all.  That is the assignment given to me by Yellow Diamond.”

            The first box was steadily emptied.  Pearl quickly set that one to the side and opened the second.

            “Tragic beginnings, willing beginnings, tragic ends, peaceful ends, some more so than others,” Fluorite stated slowly.  Grey-blue eyes settled on her.  “Your beginning is here.”

            Pearl’s breath hitched.  Of course she would be here too.  The need to see her own file burned inside of her.  There had to be a way to get a glimpse at it before she left.  Eyes wandered to the belt of keys.  What if she grabbed the belt and knocked down the older woman?  She was much faster and would be able to find her drawer easily.  She could even make the woman tell her which key would unlock the drawer her file was in.  Pearl’s mouth fell open, horrified at her own thoughts.

            How could I even think of doing that?!?!

            Bile rose up from her stomach.  Thin lips closed and the pale gem forced herself to swallow.  She bowed her head, refusing to look at the woman, feeling like she owed Fluorite an apology.  After the last manila folder was handed over, the drawer was shut and locked.  However, instead of walking back, Fluorite motioned for her to follow.  Pearl trailed behind the plump woman, keeping her eyes on the concrete floor, the shame from her violent thoughts still reverberating inside.  Another drawer was opened and a manila folder was pulled out.

            “Pearl 01079,” came Fluorite’s measured voice.

            Pearl looked up.  It was her folder!

            “You have some interesting notes and assignments.”  Grey-blue eyes wandered back and forth as a few papers were turned.  “I’m surprised they didn’t recruit you to be a peridot or sunstone.”

            “What?” Pearl couldn’t help speaking out.

            Fluorite looked up at her.  Thankfully her eyes were void of any anger towards her, only a soft crinkle in the corners as she smiled.

            “It’s noted here along with your high school transcript and records of ballet performances.  You could have easily been a peridot or sunstone, but I can see why they chose a pearl.  Peridots usually have some significant computer programming experience on top of the math and science aptitude.   As for sunstones, they don’t need to be replaced as often.  They needed a pearl, so that’s where you were assigned.”

            Pearl’s mind exploded as it went several directions at once with this dump of information.  They had her high school records, they knew of her dancing, she could have been a peridot, she could have been one of Rainbow Quartz’ dancers.  They knew…  She could have… They needed a pearl…  She became a pearl…   She…  They…  Pearl gripped the sides of her head as she breathed in and out heavily.  Her life here could have been completely different.  Would she have wanted that?  Would things have been easier for her?  Or would have it just been harder in a different way?  It was too much to process at the moment, she needed to let it digest.

            “Your anniversary is just around the corner too,” Fluorite continued, seemingly unaware of Pearl’s distress.  “Your first one.  That’s always an important one.”

            The thin woman stared at the archivist.  “What day is my anniversary?” the question spilled out without her being able to stop it.

            “June 27th.”

            Oh…yeah…I remember it, barely.

            “A sad beginning, recruited individuals usually have those,” Fluorite nodded.

            A date quickly popped up in her mind.

            “Is there anything about June 12th in there?” she asked, not caring if she got reprimanded for talking out of turn.

            Fluorite didn’t seem surprised by the outburst at all.  Grey-blue eyes were lowered back to the papers in front of her.

            “That’s your birthday,” she stated simply.

            It felt like she had just been socked in the stomach by Imperial Topaz.  All air left her body as she collapsed onto her butt, her back slumping against the file cabinet behind her.  She had forgotten her own birthday.  Light blue eyes stared out at nothing as her mind tried to recover from the shock.

            “You’re nineteen now.”

            “I forgot my own birthday,” Pearl all but sobbed.

            Fluorite’s face fell.  “Birthdays are not celebrated here, only anniversaries.  Each gem usually has one, some have a second that coincides with some major achievement.”  The woman breathed in and out.  “It’s common for gems to forget that day. Do not dwell on your sadness of doing the same.  I remember mine, but that’s only because I’ve had so many.  Here my anniversaries make me feel younger since it’s such a small number,” the older woman chuckled.

            “How…” Pearl cleared her throat and wiped at the edges of her eyes where tears had gathered, “how many anniversaries do you have?”

            “I hit my ten year anniversary a couple of months ago, such a strange feeling that was.”

            The strawberry blonde looked up.  “I’m sorry, that’s a long time.”

            “Don’t be, I chose to be here.”

            “You did?”  That surprised Pearl more than anything.  So far Fluorite seemed very sweet and genuine, not the type of person who would choose to live in this hellhole.

            “My granddaughter didn’t make the best of decisions…”  Fluorite stared off into the distance.  “She got into a lot of debt as a result of her consumption of the Underground’s products.  Debt she couldn’t repay.  And then Yellow Diamond’s representatives came to collect.”

            Pearl winced.  That couldn’t have gone well.

            “Two bulky topazes.  I remember them well.  They were to take my granddaughter away so she could work off her debt in the Underground.  I consider it a stroke of fortune that she had been visiting me when they came knocking.  She tried to make any other arrangement, but none would be accepted until I offered to go in her stead.  The two topazes exchanged a glance, stepped away for a moment, then came back and motioned for me to come.  She had her whole life ahead of her, I didn’t want my only grandchild to disappear forever.”  A tear ran down Fluorite’s cheek.  “I had no idea what I was getting into or what would happen to me, I only took solace in the fact that my granddaughter had a second chance.  The two topazes took me right to Yellow Diamond who already knew of the entire exchange and my offer.  Yellow Diamond was as cold as ever, but there was a moment she seemed touched by me taking my granddaughter’s place.  I am to work until the debt has been repaid by either of us.  But as I’m sure you know, what I can contribute to the debt is only a fraction since the rest goes to my living expenses.  I only hope that my granddaughter has made the most of her second chance.”

            Tears threatened to spill from Pearl’s eyes as she listened to the heartbreaking tale.  Coming here to save her granddaughter from a fate worse than death.  Pearl was astounded at the courageous sacrifice Fluorite had made.  Internally she made the note to never forget and to always be kind to this wonderful grandma.

            “I have a simple job,” Fluorite breathed out, “and Yellow Diamond provides me with new balls of yarn each month so I can keep myself occupied in my downtime by knitting.  So it’s not too bad, just lonely.  Gems who come here are always in such a rush,” she slowly finished.

            Pearl looked away.  “What do you do when the loneliness gets to you?”

            A smile formed on the older woman’s lips.  “I read these stories,” she motioned to the nearly endless rows of file cabinets.  “Sometimes I find one that makes me happy, but mostly ones that make me sad…” Fluorite trailed off.

            Her eyes wandered back to Pearl’s file, silently turning through the papers stored in it.

            “You regulate Garnet,” came the slightly surprised statement.

            “I-I do,” Pearl could feel her cheeks heat up.

            A mischievous smile appeared on Fluorite’s lips.  “I want to show you something.  But you have to promise not to tell anyone.”

            “I promise.”

            The drawer was shut and locked, however the older woman kept Pearl’s file in her hand.  Once again Fluorite motioned for Pearl to follow her.  They stopped at another cabinet and the drawer marked “Garnet 0001” was unlocked.  Pearl couldn’t believe her eyes.  One of the files she wanted to read was being opened.

            “I was going through this drawer, organizing it after quite a momentous occasion, when I found this!”

            A standard 4 inch by 6 inch photo was pulled out and presented to Pearl.  Two women stood side by side, one with her arm around the other, happy smiles on both of their faces.  The woman on the left side had tight black curls that poofed out into an afro that framed her square face.  Deep brown eyes and a toothy grin matched the slightly relaxed posture the woman had.  Even then Pearl could see the obvious definition in the muscles beneath the woman’s cool reddish-brown skin.  A red, dry-fit, muscle tank top with black, skintight fighting shorts adorned her lower body.  The athletic woman’s arm was around someone who could be considered the opposite.  Wavy, waist long, blonde hair with bangs covered the thinner woman’s eyes and stood out against her deep umber skin tone.  Full lips were parted only slightly in her serene smile.  She wore a beautiful, royal blue dress that flowed past the extent of the picture and had puffy, short sleeves.  Pearl’s eyes were finally drawn to the bundle in the thin woman’s arms.  A maroon blanket was wrapped around the large baby.  Black curls sprang in every direction, also covering a good portion of the baby’s face.  However, a scrunched up, kind of serious expression could be seen.  The baby must have been asleep.  Light blue eyes looked back and forth between the two women, neither of them were Garnet, so then why was it in Garnet’s file?  It dawned on her as she looked at the baby once again.

            “Ruby, Sapphire, and their baby, Garnet,” Fluorite supplied from the side.

            She was staring at baby Garnet.  It was such a hard to thing wrap her mind around at first.  This tiny child became the fully grown fighter less than twenty-one years later.  Light blue eyes continued to stare at the picture, committing it to memory.  Pearl had to admit, Garnet looked adorable cuddling into her mother.

            “One of the few pictures of them like this,” the older woman continued.  “I like to look at this picture every now and then.  It’s one of my favorites.”

            The other two names were not lost on Pearl.  Ruby, Yellow Diamond’s previous champion, and Sapphire, Garnet’s mother.  Sharp eyes noticed several details.  One, the picture was taken in the Underground, she could recognize those bleak colored hallways anywhere.  Two, Ruby had several bruises including a cut in her lips.  Three, Sapphire had a wedding ring on.  A simple gold band, but a wedding ring nonetheless.  Pearl searched for Ruby’s left hand to see if she also wore a ring, but could not see the appendage.  She had to ask, she needed to know.

            “What was Ruby’s and Sapphire’s relationship?”

            “They were married before they came here.  I don’t remember how long, I’d need to look in their file again.”  Fluorite looked down the hall then back at the picture.  “Those days are long gone,” she carefully took the memento from Pearl.  “A tragic beginning met with only a more tragic end.”

            The drawer was closed and locked.  Silently Fluorite made her way back towards the door.  She glanced expectantly at Pearl.  The pale gem quickly gathered the two empty boxes and exited the archives.  Knitting needles traded places with Pearl’s file.  Metallic clicking filled the still room as Fluorite sat down.

            “I have more to bring.  Thank you for showing me that picture and for giving me that information about myself,” Pearl bowed.

            “Of course,” the woman’s wrinkled face brightened as she smiled.  “I will be right here when you come back.”

            Feet moved swiftly down the halls as Pearl weaved her way to Carnelian’s office.  As she walked her mind tried to sort through all of the discoveries that had been made in the archives.  Thin lips let a huff escape as she arrived at the designer’s office before she really had been able to think about it at all.  Carnelian made no comment about how long Pearl had been gone, she only motioned to the remaining files that were to be taken to the archives.  This time only one and a half banker’s boxes were filled.  Pearl was grateful for the lighter load.  However, the decrease in weight didn’t prevent her from having to take a number of breaks as she made her way back.  Fluorite leisurely chatted with Pearl as the remaining folders were put away, mostly telling her about the various things she had knitted over the years and the new things she was going to attempt to do.  As they walked back into the reception area, Pearl was about to leave when the older woman pushed a manila folder to her.  Light blue eyes stared at the name written on the tab.

“Pearl 01079

YD 0001”

            “You have five minutes to look at what you want of it,” Fluorite explained, “If you dare to.”

            Did she?  Yes.  There was no hesitation in her internal response.  Hands pulled the file towards her.  A breath was slowly exhaled.  The top of the file was opened.  Pearl was greeted with a small image of herself in gem attire and a sheet of paper that listed all of her physical stats, assignments, past offenses, and other notes.  All of the information was succinct and well organized.  For a moment she tried to recall when her picture had ever been taken, but couldn’t think of any time it had.  The only possible answer lied in her meetings early on with Peridot 00231.  It wasn’t unthinkable that a picture could have been quickly snapped with the tablet the short gem always carried around.  The first page was turned away, revealing her medical records.  Shots, reasons she had ever gone to the doctor, everything from when she was born up until the day she was kidnapped.  Pearl closed her eyes and turned that page, there was no point in reading it.  Bright light blue eyes looked back at her from a gorgeous picture of a young woman with carefully styled, short, strawberry blonde hair, light make-up, smiling lips painted pink, and a black top that had an off the shoulder v-neckline.  Eyebrows were furrowed, who…?  It was her.  It was her high school senior photo.  Pearl placed a hand over her mouth and shook her head.  This was painful.  Through a steadying breath she pushed on, she was running out of time.  Eyes quickly scanned over her transcript which was nothing but an entire column of A’s, A+’s, and one A-.  Next was a brief summary of her extracurricular activities.  Dance, community service, being a tutor, etc.  It felt like she was reading someone else’s file, none of this felt familiar and only a few fleeting memories surfaced.  The next item in the file made her come to a full stop.  It was a police report.  Eyes tore through the information as hands gripped the desk tightly.

            “Emily Arvokas, reported missing on the 27th of June 2016 has been declared dead after six months of searching and finding no clues or evidence to locate or contact her.  In the event that clues are found the case will be reopened and the search renewed.”

            Six months.

            For six months they searched for her only to declare her dead when they couldn’t find anything.

            “NOOOO!” the sound tore from her throat as her hands latched onto the stapled bundle of papers, crumpling them slightly in her vice-like grip.  “No!  No….” her voice dropped as her grief began to consume her.

            They had looked for her.  They really did.  But they never found anything.  No hints, no clues, no evidence, nothing.  She was dead.  Emily Arvokas was dead to the world.  Dead to her family.  Dead to whatever friends she might have had.  Dead.

            Sobs shook Pearl’s frame, tears falling from her eyes onto the police report.  The file and the police report were gently pried from her hands.  Eyes stared down at the droplets collecting on the desk as she continued to cry.

            “No….” the pale woman whimpered.  “It can’t be-hic-it can’t be true…”  Pearl collapsed onto her knees and then onto her heels, burying her face in her hands.  “I’m still alive-hic-I’m still here…I’m not dead…”

            She barely noticed Fluorite disappearing into the archives with her folder and returning moments later.  The older woman crouched down next to her and pulled her into a hug.  Pearl cried into the knit sweater curled in on herself as a warm hand stroked her hair.  No words of comfort were offered, there was nothing that could be said after all.  The pale woman composed herself after a couple of minutes, pulling away and slowly getting to her feet.  Pearl extended her hand down to help Fluorite stand.

            “I’m sorry for creating such a disturbance in your office.  It won’t happen again,” she robotically stated.  “Thank you for letting me see my file and for your kindness.”

            “It’s the least I can do.  I’m sorry it caused you such grief.”

            “No, I should have prepared myself for that.”

            Fluorite frowned.  With one final bow, Pearl grabbed the empty boxes and left the archives.

            On her way back to Carnelian, the thin woman stopped in a bathroom and checked her appearance.  Her eyes were a little puffy and red, but there was nothing she could do about it.  Hazel eyes lingered on her appearance, but no remarks came from Carnelian for the rest of the time Pearl was assisting her for the day.

            The narrow body fell onto the worn mattress covered with thin sheets and a decent comforter, dull light blue eyes stared up at the bed above her.  Pearl was exhausted and her mind was a mess from everything she had learned in the archives.  Emotional whiplash would be the best way to describe the experience.  Fingers grabbed the aluminum bar hung around her neck and tilted it so she could read the engraved words.

“Pearl 01079

YD 0001”

            She could have been a peridot, responsible for integrating new gems, working with technology, buried in computers, codes, and reports.  Any technical mistake or inaccuracy could swiftly spell her doom.  She could have been a sunstone or other type of dancer.  Dressed in clothing designed to attract everyone’s lecherous gazes, dancing to please the customers, dancing to show off and entertain.  She could have her time bought or be required to put on a special show.  But she was a pearl.  Ordered around, designed to serve, be silent, and still.  Assigned to gems for work and regulation and put on a list to be picked from.  Disposable.  The necklace was dropped, causing it to lightly thump against her collarbones.  Eyelids slowly closed and reopened.  There was nothing left for her outside of the Underground.  No one was looking for her anymore, in all reality it would have been a miracle if they had been.  This was all she had left.  A life of helping Carnelian until either her or the woman died or she was reassigned, and regulating whomever she was matched up with.  Tears burned in her eyes as it became harder to breathe.  The next inhale was broken as lines of salt water began to run down her cheeks.  A shaky sob jumped past her lips.  Pearl rolled onto her side and curled into the fetal position, she wasn’t going to try and stifle her grief.  For a couple of moments none of the other pearls made any comments as they walked around getting ready for the evening.

            “Oh shut the fuck up!” one pearl finally exclaimed.

            Normally Pearl would shrink and obey, but this time something snapped in her head.

            “Oh YOU shut the fuck up!” she retaliated, sitting up and scouring the pearls with her blurry vision trying to see who said it.

            The room paused.

            “I’m going to cry my fucking eyes out for once instead of holding it in and you all can just shut it!” Pearl continued.

            “Then at least muffle it with your pillow dumbass,” Pearl 00824 grumbled.  “We all need our sleep and I don’t want to have to listen to you at full volume.”

            The pale woman breathed out through her nose and glared at Pearl 00824.  She flopped onto her bed, pulled her pillow from under her head and placed it on top.  From there the hot tears continued to stream down her face as she let herself be as loud as she needed to be.  Pearl didn’t look at her astronomy book, get ready for bed, or even get in her bed.  She just cried herself to sleep.

           

            Waking up felt like coming back from the dead.  Her eyes didn’t want to open and the bright lights stung them.  Pearl staggered to the bathroom area and soaked her washcloth in a sink before rubbing it all over her face.  The water felt good on her eyes and tear stained face.

            “Got it all out of your system crybaby?” Pearl 00824 snidely remarked as she passed by.

            “Fuck you.  As if you’ve never cried before,” came Pearl’s unfiltered response.

            Pearl 00824 snarled and made an aggressive step towards Pearl.  “I have, but at least I don’t try and keep up a whole dorm full of people when I do.”

            “Whatever.”

            “Hey,” the pearl reached out and grabbed the back of Pearl’s hair pulling the head back towards her.  “You better keep it down next time otherwise a number of us are more than willing to give you a real reason to cry.”

            With that Pearl 00824 shoved Pearl’s face towards the mirror as she released the hold on her hair.  Pearl glared at her as she walked away.

            “Crying never helps you here.”

            Garnet’s words echoed in her mind as she looked at her sunken face with puffy eyes in the reflective surface.  It really didn’t.

            At breakfast she checked her schedule for the day and looked ahead to make sure that the maroon box hadn’t disappeared.  It was still there.  Her thoughts drifted to Garnet and the sweet picture Fluorite had shown her.  More pieces of the puzzle were falling together.  Ruby, Yellow Diamond’s previous champion was married to Sapphire, Garnet’s mother.  Now Ruby and Sapphire were both dead and Garnet had become the new champion.  The circumstances around Ruby’s and Sapphire’s deaths were obscure, but she didn’t like the sinking feeling that opened up in the pit of her stomach as she recalled the words of Pearl 00745 before Garnet killed her.  Pearl didn’t want to think about it and chose instead to focus on the image of the two smiling women and their cute baby.  A smile in turn formed on thin lips.  Part of her wanted to tell Garnet of the picture so bad, but she knew the fighter wouldn’t react well to her having seen it.  With a sigh she put away her scheduler and focused on eating her food.

            June 12th

            The scheduler was pulled right back out and Pearl created a new note.  On it she typed down her personal information including June 12th her birthday.  She wasn’t going to forget that again.