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MIGHT AS WELL

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Somewhere along the line, Lapis stopped knowing or caring where she was going. She couldn’t see, anyway, she was moving too fast (that’s the only reason her eyes kept watering, it was just because she was flying so fast)--she could be headed miles off her original course by now. It didn’t matter. As long as she was getting further away from Earth, closer to safety, it didn’t matter at all what she was heading towards--

Until what she was heading towards was a moon.

She didn’t see the planetoid until her face was inches from its surface. She slammed hard and skidded.

When she finally slid to a stop, she’d left a long trail of scuffing along the rocky ground. Groaning, Lapis shakily pushed herself up onto one elbow and forced open one bruising eye.

“Stupid moon,” she murmured to herself. She spat out a spackle of dirt and wiped her mouth with the back of her wrist. “Who even put this here? They should’ve also put a sign or something.”

Nothing answered.

“Talking to myself,” Lapis sighed. “Stars, I sound like Peridot.”

She stood, wincing as she brushed dirt from her dress and arms, and glanced around at where she'd landed. It was mostly dark, with a few yellow-glowing fruits growing from the faraway branches of tall, narrow stalks. There didn't seem to be any other vegetation--or really much of anything, besides more rocks and dirt.

How far was she from Earth? Could she be safe here, at least for a while? No, she couldn’t stop yet, she needed to get as far away as possible. She spread her wings and launched up to the sky.

Before she could break through the atmosphere, her wings wobbled. Lapis yelped and flailed as she dropped and fell forward. Her arms flung over a branch, her legs swinging, and her wings splashed uselessly over her head.

Gritting her teeth, Lapis slung one leg up over the branch, and managed to straddle herself atop it. She held tight for a second with her hands and knees, then scooted back toward the trunk, where the branch was wider and she could balance better. Finally she tentatively opened her hands and sat up.

She’d crashed harder than she thought. She’d have to rest a little bit before she could fly again.

Oh, stars, was she cracked? Is that why she couldn’t fly? Did she get herself cracked again? She slapped at her back, one hand stretching over her shoulder and the other reaching under. Her fingers scrabbled for a moment before finding her gem, carefully running over it, inspecting for any dent or irregularity.

A long exhale of relief. It was smooth. She was fine.

She leaned back against the stalk and pushed her wet hair out of her face.

She just had to rest. Just for a few minutes, maybe an hour. She’d be safe here for just that long, and then she’d keep going, until…

Until.

Until she knew she was safe. Until there was no way the Diamonds could reach her, and until there was no way Steven could reach her, either. If that meant flying to the end of the universe, so be it. She’d find a way to survive, no matter what.

That’s what she was. She was a survivor. She wasn’t going to suffer any more.

Sounds more like being a coward.

Her hands slid down to cover her face.

“Shut up,” she grumbled.

Just running away, like always, like a coward--

“I’m not a coward.”

“Coward.”

Lapis looked up, hands dropping. A little creature dangled before her face, hanging by a long tail from a branch above her. It didn’t seem to have a face besides a wide, mock-smiling mouth; its dark blue skin was speckled with white spots that shimmered in the light of the glowing bulbs around them. Its six limbs were short and stubby, probably not good for anything besides walking around.

“Fine! And so what if I am?” she snapped. “I’d rather be a coward than a mirror again.”

“Again.”

“What are you even supposed to be?” Lapis asked brusquely.

“To be?” the alien burped.

Ugh. So it wasn’t insulting her before--it was just a mimicker. Lapis wrinkled her nose and pulled her knees up to her chest, crossing her arms. “Go away.”

“Away.”

“Leave me alone!” She smacked it with the back of her hand. “I just wanna be alone!”

“Alone!” The creature spun and swung away, but then came right back, a pendulum on that long tail. “Alone!”

“YES, I’D RATHER BE ALONE!”

“Al--”

With a growl, Lapis seized its little body in one hand to keep it still. It squeaked a little, but its creepy smile stayed solid.

“Stop repeating everything I say or I’ll squish you,” she declared.

“Squish you,” the alien replied happily.

Lapis grimaced and squeezed. The alien squirmed and squeaked. Bone and muscle started to twist and shift under her grip. The squeaks became squeals.

The squeals became a scream.

Lapis let go. Suddenly, like she’d been shocked.

The creature fell silent, and immediately was right back to peacefully smiling at her.

“Oh, what’s it matter?” Lapis relented, leaning back again.

“Matter?”

Lapis closed her eyes.

“Steven just doesn’t understand. How could he? He hasn’t been through what I have!” She clutched at her skirt, clenching fistfuls of fabric. “He wasn’t there in the war, or the mirror, or Malachite--none of them were!”

“Them were!” the alien argued.

Lapis huffed. “Okay, the other Crystal Gems were there for the war, but--but they’re the ones that started it. I was just a civilian! They deserved what happened to them. I didn’t.”

“Didn’t.”

There was a slight slithering sound, and Lapis opened her eyes. The creature was unwinding its tail from the higher branch, and it dropped down to stand in front of her. Now its mouth looked like a frown.

“I didn’t deserve any of it,” Lapis said. “I’ve always been a perfectly good Gem--I always did what I was told. But I still got treated like just another dirty rebel. Even after I got out, even after I tried to go back home.”

The alien cocked its head to the side. “Back home.”

“And then when I finally tried to fight for myself, I just--made everything worse for everyone. Especially myself. Malachite’s the one thing I did deserve. But...maybe that just makes it even more painful.”

“Painful.”

“I do what I’m told, I get hurt. I try to go home, I get hurt. I try to fight back, I get hurt. I try to just run away, I get hurt. Even when I’m just doing nothing. And I hurt everyone else around me, too.”

“Me, too.”

Lapis sighed and laid her forehead on her knees. “You don’t have anything useful to say, do you?”

“Do you?”

“No. I guess I don’t, either.”

“Either.”

“You’re lucky you’re cute.”

“You’re cute.”

“Okay, not that cute.”

“That cute.”

Tch. Might as well not say anything, then. Lapis let her eyes fall shut again. Maybe she could just take a little nap. It’d at least get this thing to quit bothering her. She’d just turn off her voice, turn off her thoughts, turn off the pain. Get right back to flying away the moment she woke up.

“Doing?”

She cracked open one eye. “What?”

“What?” The alien bounced from side to side. “Moment.” It whipped its tail up to wrap around the branch again, and returned to its upside-down grin. “Down now!”

“Who are you--”

BOOM.

Lapis gasped and clung to the tree trunk behind her as the entire moon shook.

A titanic blue hand had slammed into the ground, just a few yards away from her.

A yellow one landed right beside.

Instinctively Lapis grabbed the little alien and pulled it along to hide on the other side of the stalk.

They were here. They were here for her. They found her and they were going to capture her and put her right back in prison--

“Longer,” the alien chirped.

“Shh!”

“It do?”

There was a clank and a hiss--the ships were opening. Lapis moved her hand to cover the creature’s mouth. She was going to be caught she was going to be caught she was going to be caught--

She heard a long, frustrated sigh, in a voice she’d never heard in person but couldn’t possibly mistake.

“At this rate, the Cluster will have already destroyed a dozen planets by the time we reach it.”

The Cluster?

Another voice was sobbing. Another, much more familiar voice, a voice that struck her all the way to her core without even a word. Lapis bit her tongue and trembled.

“What does it matter?” Blue Diamond wept. “After it rips apart her planet, our last memory of her--”

“Then we’ll be able to move on!”

“I don’t want to move on!”

Lapis’s vision went cerulean. Then it blurred, and her knees shook. She dropped the alien and held fast to the stalk for support, tears streaming down her face.

“Just because you’ve stopped caring about her--”

“Don’t put this on me!”

The scene turned yellow again. Lapis sucked in a silent breath, not daring to move even to dry her face.

“On me!” the little mimicker cried.

Lapis’s gaze darted down. The alien had hopped back up to stand in front of her and it was going to keep making noise and they were going to find her--

“Once we get the Cluster, it’ll be better for everyone. The whole empire!”

“Empire!”

“Shut up!” Lapis fiercely whispered.

“Shut up!”

They were going to find her they were going to catch her they were going to capture her--

“And I’m certain that it’ll be better for you , too.”

“You too!”

“What in the cosmos is causing that echo?!”

“Echo?!”

Lapis ripped the creature from its branch and flung it away over her shoulder.

It flew through the air.

She slammed her back against the stalk.

And then she heard a distant smack.

Oh, stars. She’d thrown it right toward the Diamonds.

She was going to die. She was going to die. She was going to die.

“Eugh--filthy organic-- this is the sort of stuff we’ll be getting rid of. Not our memories, just the garbage. We’re already on our way to Earth anyway. We might as well finish the job.”

Lapis covered her mouth with her hand. They weren’t here for her. They were headed to Earth.

“Come on. Please.”

She heard Blue Diamond slowly stand. She heard both their footsteps retreating to their ships. The ships hummed into motion.

WHSHH!

The ships warped through the atmosphere, sending a shockwave across the moon. It shoved Lapis backward, and she fell from the tree with a yell.

She landed hard on her front. Her gem was still safe. But--

“Steven--” she whispered. “What are they going to do to the earth?”

Nothing answered.

Oh, no. Lapis gasped and ran toward where she’d thrown the mimicker.

“No, no, no, no--”

She stopped where the Diamonds had been standing--and saw it. Her little alien was dead on the ground, broken and motionless.

Lapis clenched her teeth. She buried her hands in her hair, screwed her eyes shut against the burning tears.

“IT DIDN’T DESERVE THAT!” she screamed at the sky.

And there was no echo, no annoying little “serve that”, not even from the empty air.

It didn’t deserve that. But they did it anyway. They didn’t care about it, so they just hurt it, killed it.

That’s what the Diamonds did to everything. That’s what they did to her--that’s what they were going to do to Steven. That’s what they were going to do to the whole earth.

“He doesn’t deserve that.”

She fell to her knees.

“But it’s going to happen anyway,” she said. “And when they come, Steven’s gonna try to fight back--and so is Peridot--and so are the other Crystal Gems--they can’t fight against two Diamonds! They could barely fight against me!”

Her hands hit the dirt. Two tears followed them.

Lapis blinked.

The Crystal Gems couldn’t fight against her when all she had was some water clones and a cracked gem. They couldn’t fight against her when she was fused with Jasper, even when that fusion was fighting against herself. And Jasper spent months trying to overpower her, and she never even came close until Lapis chose to give in.

But it wasn’t because they were weak. It was because Lapis was strong.

Every enemy she’d fought, Lapis had won, because she was stronger than it. Every single pain she had ever felt, Lapis had survived it, because she was stronger than it.

She was stronger than all of it.

Lapis bent one knee up. It quivered a little as she pushed down on it, but she managed to stand on both feet. Her hands fell firm and even at her sides. Her face turned up to the stars.

“Alright,” she said. “The Diamonds are jerks.”

Her mouth tilted in a smirk, remembering Steven’s voice from what felt a million years ago.

“They hurt my friends. They hurt my--” Well, they never hurt her face specifically, but they’d hurt plenty else of her. “That’s why we have to fight them!”

She spread her wings and grinned.

“I’m done being afraid of them for nothing!” she proclaimed. “If they’re gonna hunt me down and put me back in prison, they’re gonna do it for a reason! If they’re gonna treat me like a Crystal Gem--”

Her words stuck like tar in her mouth.

Ha. She spent almost six thousand years insisting she wasn’t a Crystal Gem, staking everything she had, staking her life on not being a Crystal Gem. And now here she was...maybe it’d take a little more effort to kick the habit.

Or maybe…

Maybe she just wanted to say it in front of Steven.

When she saw him again. When she came back home.

Lapis kicked off the ground and shot toward Earth, her wings not faltering once.