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thirteen years

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The date is August 15th.

 

Thirteen. Steven is thirteen today. You’re...you’re happy for him, really. You mean it. He’s happy, and his smile lights up the world, makes it impossible not to feel that joy, at least a little.

 

“I can’t believe I’m gonna be thirteen !” he’d told you the day prior, all smiles and excitement. “I’m gonna be a teenager !”

 

Thirteen years isn’t a long time, even if Steven seems convinced that it is. It’s barely more than a blink of an eye. It’s been just thirteen years since you lost Rose, and none of Steven’s excitement for his birthday--of your own happiness for him--can fix that.

 

You plaster on a smile as you help wrap his presents, as you help prepare. What else can you do?

 

---

 

You had watched her die.

 

You had watched Greg encourage her, comfort her. You tried to as well, but...you both knew she was about to die, and that wasn’t something you could handle.

 

The last words she said to you, as you clutched her hand and sobbed, as her form began to glitch and flicker and she began to gasp out from the agonizing pain of childbirth, of death , came in the form of a request.

 

“Don’t cry, Pearl.”

 

But the tears didn’t stop coming, and the moment her form finally fell apart entirely, so did you.

 

---

 

He does look adorable in that silly cape and crown, you think, as he sits there in the back of Greg’s van opening presents.

 

Keep playing along. Keep smiling. It’s the least you can do for him.

 

“Pearl, you got me the Spirit Morph Saga omnibus?” he gasps, holding up the absurdly thick book you’d picked out for him. “Thank you so much, I’ve been wanting this so bad!”

 

You want to cry. You can’t cry. Not now, not in front of him.

 

It’s not his fault.

 

---

 

Your memories of Steven’s first few years of life are, unlike the vast majority of memories you’ve formed over millennia, incredibly hazy, but there are some that stick out like a sore thumb.

 

Garnet and Amethyst kept a close watch on you for quite some time. You don’t blame them now, but you did at the time.

 

“Please, let me be with her--”

 

“We’ve already lost Rose, Pearl,” Garnet had murmured. “We can’t lose you too.”

 

“But--”

 

“No buts.”

 

“I hid your swords, by the way,” Amethyst chimed in.

 

“When will you give them back?”

 

“When you stop talking about how you want to die.”

 

“I just want to be with Rose again.”

 

“Well, that ain’t happening, so--”

 

“Amethyst, you’re not helping. Pearl is already upset.”

 

Garnet had turned to you in that moment and phased away her shades. With her face bared, you could tell she was on the verge of tears.

 

“She’s not coming back,” she’d said, “but losing you would just make things even harder on us.”

 

“I love her.”

 

“I know. But don’t ever forget that we love you, too.”

 

(It wasn’t enough. It could never be enough.)

 

---

 

There’s been a tension building up in you since Steven first got up, and it’s only mounting.

 

Steven’s not looking. You could run off right now. You could run off, and not have to think about that awful evening thirteen years ago--

 

“Are you doing alright, Pearl?”

 

You turn to Garnet, and shake your head. You’re about to cry, truth be told. “I need to get away.”

 

“I understand.”

 

And so you run. You run until you find a large piece of driftwood to sit down on, and you bury your face in your hands, sobbing.

 

Thirteen years. It’s barely been any time at all.

 

(“Garnet,” you hear Steven ask in the distance, “where’s Pearl?”

 

“She’s just taking a little break. Don’t worry about her, Steven.”)