Chapter 1: Zinnia Elegans
Beta'd by celestielle
Steven Universe Age 25
The problem with cleaning up his mother's messes is that after a while he starts believing he's somehow partially responsible for them in some way.
Which makes no actual, logical sense.
He knows that now, but he didn't while growing up.
It hadn't been until he'd hit 16 that the realization punched him square in the jaw to the point that he couldn't ignore it anymore.
Meeting Spinel had been a pretty eye opening experience.
Sure, there were plenty of awful things he knew about his mother before and after all of that, but Spinel was most certainly a special case.
He had no choice but to face all of the things he already knew but kept avoiding to acknowledge.
He will always have to clean up his mother's messes.
In that moment when he could have outwardly said something about it, he'd told Spinel there's no such thing as happily ever after.
In his head he'd been thinking of his mother, her shortcomings, her failings and in turn his own.
Happily ever after doesn't exist, not really.
Spinel had been a close call and he'd survived the whole ordeal by the skin of his teeth.
Honestly, she'd probably been his closest call.
Sure, White Diamond took out his gem that one time and there were a couple of other hairy situations, but everyone else had been naive and the intent to kill hadn't actually been there.
Granted, Jasper is probably one of the few exceptions now that he reconsiders it.
Even then it'd been his mother Jasper wanted to kill, had fully believed that's who he was.
She's also kind of a totally different story in general though, so, he feels like it doesn't really count.
In White's case, and most everyone else's, they just wanted his mom back or assumed he was his mother anyway.
Spinel on the other hand had wanted to kill him.
She's the only gem to have acknowledged him as separate from his mother, his own person.
For some reason it was...refreshing, in a twisted sort of way that he doesn't dare voice out loud.
Everyone would look at him like he's completely lost his marbles.
It doesn't take a genius to realize he's what took Pink Diamond away, the reason she's gone, the reason Spinel felt so powerless because it's one thing to get left on a rock for 6,000 years. It's another thing entirely to be left on a rock for 6,000 years, but the person you could have exacted revenge upon is dead, so, there's no way to get any form of justice or retribution.
Spinel had understood that his mother was gone.
She'd even said she'd come to Earth all those years ago to take her anger out on a bunch of strangers.
Her original intention clearly hadn't been to find any form of peace.
He worries about that fact sometimes and wonders about what her endgame was going to be.
He's too afraid to ask, mostly because he's pretty sure he knows the answer.
The gem hasn't just been healing from betrayal, she's been mourning.
There's a whole slew of emotions she's got pent up inside of her and it has always made him feel...helpless.
Steven knows what some of that feels like, knows what it's like to see the life of Rose Quartz plastered inside of a book or on video tape but to not be there for any of it.
He would never get to meet her.
Spinel will never get to confront her for what she did.
If anything, a guilty part of him is glad she didn't set Spinel free because she'd have just used her instead, in far worse ways.
His mother had never realized Spinel's intelligence.
Steven gets a feeling that the war would have been over much sooner if she had.
Perhaps he's being too cynical, but knowing what he knows now makes it hard not to be.
It was getting harder to excuse some of his mother's actions the older he got, he'd stopped seeing her as this grand figure he'd placed upon a pedestal a long time ago.
It's natural to feel that sort of thing for a parent, yet it was a quick and easy adjustment to realize his parents are flawed too.
They're walking right along on that tight rope with you, trying not to fall off while holding your hand, attempting to get you to that point where they don't need to hold it anymore and eventually you're standing tall, all by yourself, you don't need them anymore.
He'd eventually stopped needing his mother as a shining figure in his life.
Now his admiration was zeroed in on his family, the ones who were there for him all along, always by his side and helping him grow.
Yearning for motherly love had been a constant in his life for so long, but he realized he'd had it all along in Garnet, Pearl, and Amethyst when he'd finally started to see things outside of just himself.
Pink Diamond had been a tyrant adored by many yet she'd never once considered the opposing side, she only cared about the outcome she wanted; her vision.
Her original intentions had been less than ideal until she'd been influenced by Garnet and Pearl, and he wonders what may have happened if things had been different.
Even those that loved her were sometimes treated badly.
Spinel and so many others had been proof of that.
His mother had been selfish, ignorant and riddled with bad habits instilled in her by the treatment placed upon her by the other Diamonds.
She'd always been treated like a child and that child eventually rebelled against her oppressors.
The only issue is she started a war over it.
Steven had always found comfort in the guiding authority placed upon him by the gems that raised him.
It wasn't the same kind of authority his mother had gotten to know, so it's unfair of him to judge.
He doesn't blame her necessarily, understands why she did the things that she did, has seen the memories so often that sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between himself and his mother.
Which, by the way, is more of a mental thing and he will probably always have a fear of that in the back of his mind even though he knows the truth.
He's just Steven.
It doesn't change the fact that he's still the one suffering her consequences.
The realization of being able to change, show compassion in situations where his mother would have never done the same.
It's what makes him different, helps him sleep at night.
He's had a theory that his compassionate nature comes from his father as well as his human side, not her.
Many would argue that his mother was compassionate while he'd argue she was simply strategic.
The other parts of him, the ones that are less than favorable are all her.
Well, okay that's a bit rude.
He has plenty of her good traits too, but it's easy to lose sight of them sometimes.
Especially in moments like these.
Needless to say he's as far from shocked as he can be when he gets a frantic transmission from Peridot.
The light that fills their room wakes him immediately and Connie stirs in his arms.
"Steven." The piercing sound of the gem's voice reverberates around everywhere as Connie jolts awake.
He gently pulls her back down to lay against his chest and she goes with it, letting out a yawn.
"It's 4am." He says, lifting the back of his arm over his eyes while attempting to do the same for Connie by pulling the blanket up with his other hand.
The low glow coming from the screen bounces light around everywhere in the dark and all he wants to do right now is have a full night of sleep for once.
Something he can only seem to manage if Connie is with him.
That was clearly not about to happen.
"We have a problem."
"I told you, if the diamonds want to discuss expansion into sector-"
He's out of bed in an instant, feet padding across the floor.
"What's wrong, is she alright?" He asks, heart pounding in his chest, thoughts running wild.
His brain screeches to a halt.
That's not an outcome he'd considered and now he feels like an idiot for feeling so thrown off guard.
If there was a way to describe Spinel, it would be unpredictable.
This probably shouldn't be surprising.
"Wait, what?" He asks, scratching his head as he lightly itches his fingertips over the gem under his shirt, an old habit he can never seem to break.
Sometimes he still has nightmares of the day that part of himself had been plucked away by White, even if only for a moment.
Even as a kid he's had this tick, it's like a form of comfort and security, knowing it's there, feeling it under his touch.
"She's miss-" Peridot starts to repeat as Steven raises his hand up, interrupting her, "no I heard you, I just- where did she go?"
"Nobody knows, she just vanished and the diamonds lost it."
That's not like Spinel, she wouldn't just take off, something else was clearly going on here.
"What did they do to her, what did they say?" He prompts, moving closer to the screen only to halt his steps as Connie wraps around him from behind, still half asleep as the comfort of her steady heartbeat makes him go lax.
She always knows how to calm him down, even when he doesn't.
"Whoa, hold on now Steven." Peridot says, pinching the bridge of her nose.
"She wouldn't leave unless they did something." He says with a pout as he places a hand on Connie's where her fingers are interlocked around his waist.
"I asked the same questions and Yellow is convinced it's because of some sort of visit that recently happened." The gem says with a shrug.
"Visit, by who?" Connie finally asks, pulling away and he immediately shivers at the loss of contact.
"Another Spinel." She says, completely deadpan.
"Oh, jesus christ-" Steven can't help but say in exasperation.
"Steven." Connie chastises and he gives her a sheepish look.
"Sorry, you said she went missing?" He asks, getting the conversation back on track.
"Yep, without a trace."
"Do you think she's even on homeworld anymore?" Connie asks, moving back to his side, interlocking their fingers together.
It's hard not being Stevonnie sometimes, they get so used to it if they're fused for long periods of time and go through withdrawals for a day or two afterwards.
It's the only time he can really get her to be tactile with him.
It's cute considering her nature is to be aloof.
Fusion tends to blur the lines sometimes.
"She wouldn't come to Earth." Steven says with conviction.
"You seem pretty certain." Peridot says, raising a brow.
"She feels too much guilt, I've tried getting her to return here for years, the amount of invites she has for events over the years is probably piled up somewhere in some dusty corner." He tells her with a shrug.
Getting her to step foot on Earth has been impossible, much like getting her to finally let him destroy the-
"Awww our wedding invitation was so cute too, I really wish she'd have come." Connie says with a sigh.
"Steven, you need to be careful...you need to consider the possibility that she might...revert back to old habits." Peridot says warily and his eyes narrow as he stares her down.
"She wouldn't and even if she does I'm the only one that can handle her."
"She's also the only one that can handle you." Connie says as she pokes him on his arm, giggling and he can't help but smile at her fondly.
Steven shrugs, it's not like he cares about that.
"How are there even other Spinels?" He asks.
"Just the one other than her, it was Blue's."
"Blue had a Spinel?" Connie asks, blinking a few times in surprise.
"Before Pink it was Blue that got…" Peridot tapers off like she can't find the right words.
"Babied?" Steven supplies for her, knowing all too well what that's like.
"Of course, I should have known." He says, rolling his eyes with a sigh.
"Yeah, Blue finally set her free after you liberated the galaxy, but popped back up on homeworld a couple of days ago and...needless to say things didn't go well once Spinel saw her."
Steven physically cringes and a pit in his stomach forms.
"I'm pretty sure I know where she went."
"You do?" Both Peridot and Connie ask at the same time.
Before he can answer, however, Pearl bursts in frantically.
"Steven, Earth is on high alert sending out search parties, it's-"
She stops, taking in her surroundings and blushing as she claps her hands together apologetically.
"Oh, you already know."
"You were really going to burst into our room?" Steven says with a snort, pretending to act serious.
"I'm sorry, when I heard it was Spinel I-"
"Ok, enough. I'll be back in a jiffy." He says, interrupting her as he makes his way out of the room to their upper level warp pad.
If he lets them all continue, they'll yap his ear off.
When he gets inside of the room Peridot appears yet again on screen, slamming her hands down as Pearl and Connie almost ram right into him.
"Wait Steven, you should take someone with you." The gem says in a panic.
"Absolutely not, she'll take it the wrong way." He says.
"No offence, but she has a tendency to take most things the wrong way." Pearl says in that factual tone she usually has.
"For good reason, anyway, can you please tell the diamonds to retract their state of high alert so that the entire galaxy can go back home to their families?" He asks as he looks at both of them, using the tone he gets when it's most definitely not meant to be taken as a suggestion.
"You're sure you know where she is?" Connie asks as she grabs his hand again and he steps forward into her space.
Connie looks into his eyes as if she's searching for something and she must find it because she gets a soft smile on her face before kissing him on the cheek.
"Alright, bring her home. I'm going back to bed." Connie says before turning around to start walking away.
"How can you not be worried?!" Peridot says in exasperation.
"If Steven says he can handle it, that means he can handle it. Otherwise he'll call me if he needs me." She says with a shrug and he can't help but blush.
He's not really sure what he'd do without Connie.
Most likely perish.
They all watch her walk away, short black hair swaying softly behind her and he can't help the dopey, lovesick smile he gets on his face before returning to the task at hand.
"Spinel left on a warp pad from homeworld, right?" He asks Peridot.
"Give me a second, uhm...yes, she did."
"She did enter a warp pad, but it was to an undisclosed location, it's...it doesn't exist?" The gem says in confusion.
"Good, that means she's exactly where I think she is."
"What?" Pearl says, looking back and forth between them.
"Don't worry, just make sure we call off the search, alright?" He tells her.
"If you're sure." Pearl says, sounding entirely like she's two seconds away from following him anyway.
He's pretty sure if he was in any real danger Garnet would have shown up by now.
In his experience, if he's about to make a terrible decision she usually shows up to steer things in the right direction, if she's actively paying attention of course.
He can't always rely only on her insight though.
"Steven, be careful. If you need anything-" Pearl says, grabbing his arm before he can make his way to the warp pad.
"I know." He interrupts, shooting them both a cheery grin before pulling away and disappearing into the warp stream.
The garden is exactly like they last left it.
He was partially expecting things to be even more destroyed but it's all the same.
It's eerily quiet and when he steps off the warp pad and doesn't immediately see Spinel he starts to wonder if he had it all wrong.
Where else would she go?
It's not until he walks past the fountain, catches sight of her sitting by one of the ponds that he feels relief flutter through him and that pit in his stomach unfurls.
He approaches her with loud steps so she'll know he's there because the last thing he wants is a fight.
With Spinel, he may not have a choice.
He probably also shouldn't have come here in just pajamas, he's starting to realize.
This is most likely what she'd wanted all along, a confrontation with him of some sort but he's just not sure what kind yet.
They're the only two creatures that can actually come to this place.
He's gotten good at being able to decipher a silent cry for help, gemkind can be pretty emotionally stunted considering their repressed history.
This wouldn't be the first time he's attempted to help guide a gem and it most certainly won't be the last.
This is what he's good at, it's what started him on his journey, what helped get him his status as savior of the galaxy among many other names.
He understands the heavy, weighted responsibility that comes with the titles he holds.
When he sits down next to the gem she turns her head looking him up and down, surprise evident on her face.
They haven't actually seen each other in years, merely gotten updates on one another in passing, usually from others.
She's rejected all of their invitations to visit them on Earth, not that he blames her.
These things take time and he's nothing if not patient.
He forgave her a long time ago, but he knows it's not about that.
She needs to forgive herself.
Also, he tends to not go out of his way to visit the diamonds if he doesn't need to. The last thing he needs is them breathing down his neck more than they already do.
The last time he actually saw Spinel he'd been 17 and tried to convince her to let him destroy the garden.
She'd refused, said it's a reminder of who she was.
They'd argued back and forth forever but ultimately she'd gotten her way.
It's not like he can say no, it isn't really his place to decide.
"Yep, all grown up." He says to her with a smile as she grabs him by the arm and pulls at the skin on his elbow playfully as if she's inspecting him.
"Yous heard about what happened I take it?" She asks him with a defeated sigh, looking forward again after she's done.
"The other Spinel, yeah."
"Things were going so well and I felt...whole again with the other diamonds but the moment I saw that... thing , I-"
She tapers off, looking away while exuding shame.
"It's okay, you can tell me." He says in the most comforting tone he can muster.
"I wanted to hurt again, shatter her gem, make her suffer." Spinel says, tone going dark with that tinge of loopy that she seems to try so hard to hide.
"Everything I'd been tryin' ta' leave behind didn't matter, but that's when I thought about…" she pauses, casting a look of fear and more shame his way, "it doesn't matter what I thought about, the point is I ran away like a coward."
His heart breaks a little bit more and all he wants is to pull her into a hug but he's pretty sure she wouldn't appreciate it very much.
"She's not defective like I am." Spinel says, placing a hand over her gem and Steven wants to shake her, tell her how wrong she is, that she's perfect the way she is but he knows she doesn't see herself that way.
"You're not defective, you know the diamonds adore you and there's no way they'd ever replace you." He reassures her.
"Tell that to my feelin's." She says, completely deadpan as she lays her hand back down on the dead grass.
He snorts and she shoots him a look of annoyance as he says, "pesky feelings, they don't like to listen, do they?"
For a split second she gets a vulnerable look on her face before schooling her features and for a gem that was created to love, she sure likes to fight it as much as she can.
Not that he blames her.
"Nope, they just wanna destroy everythin' in sight, take it all out on someone else." She says and it's nice that she's being honest with herself.
"You can take it out on me, it'll be like old times." He offers, bumping his shoulder into her in a friendly gesture.
She stares for a moment, eyes wide before bursting into laughter he remembers all too well.
"Hah, you grew a sense of humor too." She says with a smile.
"It's good by the way, to remove yourself from the situation when you start to feel that way." He says, attempting to give credit where credit is due.
He imagines it can't be easy and the diamonds are pretty...oblivious, even on their best days.
It doesn't shock him that they didn't consider that she'd have fled here, but in their defence, he'd erased the coordinates so that nobody can get to it other than him or Spinel.
"Gee, thanks." She says, except it sounds strained and he hates the fact that she's so hard on herself.
"How can I help?" He asks, attempting to come at it from another angle.
"I don't know. I just keep thinkin' bout the fact that her Spinel got set free."
"Well, that was after I liberated homeworld if it makes you feel any better. Everything before that means her Spinel was still under her control I guess." He says but he's not really sure if that's actually the best thing to say or not.
"Is it bad that...is it bad that it does make me feel a little bit better?" She says quietly.
"Probably, but that can be our little secret." He says with a chuckle.
"Well, well, well, Steven Universe, keeping secrets." She says with a grin, hand coming up to push him playfully.
"At least they're nothing like the secrets my mother kept."
Spinel blinks at him before bursting into roarous laughter, slapping him so hard on the back he almost falls over into the pond.
With anyone else he'd have held his tongue, but with Spinel he feels like he can just be honest. He can uncensor himself because she has a dark and twisted sense of humor just like him.
He tends to hide it though, doesn't want anyone taking it the wrong way.
There's this unspoken comradery he feels with her and even after years of not seeing each other, it's easy to fall back into their routine, the one that suits them best.
"Fair nuff', I'm surprised you showed up so quick, by the way." She says, pulling him out of his thoughts.
"Earth and Homeworld were put into a state of high alert, search parties were sent out by the diamonds but I told them all to stand down." He says with a shrug.
Spinel looks at him for a long time, a look of sorrow filling her eyes and he wonders if maybe he said the wrong thing.
"I...I caused a huge mess, didn't I?"
"It's not that bad, definitely quite a few steps up from poisoning Earth, I'd call that progress." He says, shooting her a smile.
She returns a thankful smile and he blinks when she reaches up, poking him on his forehead.
"You've changed, Steven Universe."
"I would hope so, a lot has happened." He replies.
"I'm sorry I haven't accepted anyone's invitations to visit Earth, I just…"
"Don't, nobody is offended and everyone understands. None of us want to force you into doing anything you don't want to do, but we all wanted you to know the invites are always there if you ever change your mind."
"I...I keep every single one...it has always meant a lot and my diamonds are always trying to encourage me to accept them but they don't push it, so that's preeeeeeeetty nice." She tells him and he's glad to hear that.
Sometimes it's hard to know if leaving her with the diamonds was the best choice but she'd seemed so happy at the prospect.
It's nice to know it seems to have paid off.
Well, until now but he has hope they'll all figure it out.
"You used to handle me with kid gloves, you know? You were afraid of me, most people are afraid of me." Spinel says with a sigh and her hands inflate for a moment for emphasis and he can't help the sadness that washes over him at her words.
"I just...the last thing I want you to think is that I pity you, because I don't." He tells her, wants her to understand that he genuinely cares.
"I- I know but...I don't wanna be...bad." She says, fear lacing her voice as she wraps her long gangly arms around herself.
"I don't think you're bad, I've never thought you were. You're just hurting, rightfully so, and sometimes when we're in pain we do bad things." He says, placing a tentative hand on her shoulder as he feels her uncoil and go lax before getting a thoughtful look on her face as she stares at him.
"It bothers you a lot, doesn' it?"
"What do you mean?"
She says her name with a reverence and Steven averts his gaze, pulling his hand away.
What's he supposed to say to that?
He can't just lie, she'll know.
So, he tells the truth.
"Yeesh, that's rough. You said I ain't the first gem she messed up with."
"Most likely not the last."
She looks at him in confusion, tilting her head to the side.
"Whaddaya mean by that?"
"Nothing, look...Spinel, maybe you need time to yourself." He says, changing the subject.
"M' not good at being alone, you know that." She says, full blown fear in her eyes now and he wants nothing more than to erase that expression from her face as it cuts through him like a knife.
"I- I just mean away from the diamonds, it sounds like you need some time to get your thoughts together." He clarifies, putting his hands up in an attempt to reiterate what he meant.
He definitely could have chosen his words better.
"Wh- where else would I go?"
"Earth, you can stay with Connie and I at the beach house for as long as you'd like." He says with a blinding smile.
Wouldn't be the first time they've taken in wayward gems, certainly won't be the last.
"Ah jeez, I'd never impose on you and yer lady like that." She says sheepishly.
"What about new homeworld?"
"We can both go to the diamonds, tell them you need a vacation or something but only if that's what you want, of course." He says, waving his hand in the air absently.
"It's ok to be scared, it's something new but if you don't like it you can just go back to homeworld." He tells her encouragingly, mostly because this is probably the only chance he's going to have to get her to go to Earth.
"It's just...Earth is…"
There's uncertainty in her eyes and he doesn't miss the way they shift toward the direction of the warp pad like she wants to bolt.
"You've spent way too long carrying guilt over what happened when we first met, it happened and it passed."
"I know but…"
"Spinel I trust you, do you trust yourself?"
"I…I think so, it's not like I'd do anything like that again. I'd never try to ruin things for you, ever."
"That's the spirit!" He says happily as he gets up, brushing himself off before holding his hand out to her and a tinge of hope registers in her eyes as she stares at it.
"What about the diamonds?" She says, bringing her hands up to her chest in that way he's used to seeing when she looks overwhelmed by how she feels.
He just wants…
He wants to make things right.
"I'll go with you, we'll talk to them together and you won't be alone in this, I promise." He reassures her.
She deserves better than what his mother did to her and he fully intends to make up for it himself, even if it takes him his whole life to help heal the damage left on her.
It's the least he can do.
Pearl is probably going to chew him out though.
Wouldn't be the first time.
"O-okay." The gem finally says as she reaches out and takes his hand.
He considers it a victory.
They make their way to the warp pad when she pulls her hand away and he doesn't hear the tell-tale sound of her steps behind him anymore and for a moment he worries she's gotten cold feet.
"Hmm?" He asks, turning around to face her.
"Ready for what?"
"You can- you can destroy it...this...the garden." She says and he can see tears forming in her eyes and for some reason he feels his skin go clammy, heart pounding in his ribcage because he knows how huge of a step this is for her and he can feel the emotions like they're his own.
On more than one occasion Connie has voiced her concern about his empathy.
"It's great, it's lovely, it's one of the many things I love about you, but sometimes...you let it consume you."
She's not wrong, it has gotten him into trouble on more than one occasion but he can't not help when someone is hurting, it's not in his nature, goes against everything he stands for.
"I just want you to find a healthy middle ground, that's all."
In regards to Spinel he honestly assumed she'd wait another 6,000 years before being ready for this, getting rid of the garden.
A proud feeling swells in his chest at her bravery.
"Are you sure you don't wanna think it over first?" He asks just in case, especially considering she's started visibly shaking like she's going to fly apart.
"I'll lose my nerve if we don't, besides...it just brings me bad feelin's and I miss the way it used to look, back when things were still...good." She mumbles out, fiddling with her fingers as she looks down at the ground.
Honestly shocks him a little bit.
"You miss it?"
She blinks up at him in confusion and tilts her head.
"Well yeah, of course, I was happy once upon a time, ya know? I remember how amazin' the garden looked when it was flourishin', bloomin', the works." She says with a shrug.
He doesn't miss the fact that she just admitted to not being happy right now and the guilt swarms back in, eating away at him slowly like a parasite.
Maybe he isn't done blaming himself for the things his mother caused or at least not when it comes to Spinel.
He's not sure why it affects him so much, doesn't know why, even after all these years she's in the back of his mind constantly and time and again he finds himself wondering if she's okay, if there's anything he can do.
Part of it is probably the guilt he feels for not handling the initial situation better upon first meeting her.
If he hadn't been naive and ignorant like his mother, if he hadn't taken so long to pick up on what was really going on, things probably wouldn't have gone as far as they did and that's his fault and his alone.
At the time it didn't compute in his brain how a gem could have hated his mother that much even though he knew.
He'd simply been in denial, hoping against hope.
He feels like he's responsible for Spinel, it's his job to make sure she's okay.
"I see." He says because if he says anything else he'll just be projecting and that's not what he wants.
"It reminded me of her, the good parts."
Steven makes a face and it's an involuntary one, one he wishes he didn't make, one that can be easily equated to distaste.
"You seem surprised or sumthin'."
"I didn't think you were fond of any of those memories." He says with a frown and it's like he's suddenly incapable of hiding his true emotions for some reason but he doesn't know why.
"I wasn't for a long time but it was good. There was a time when things between Pink and I were perfect, harmonious, she treated me well and we were genuinely happy, but she changed and I didn't, I didn't pick up on it fast enough, on what she wanted me to be, what she needed me to be."
Steven feels the wind get knocked out of his lungs at her words and in the next moment when he breathes back in it's all anger, resentment and disappointment rolled into one on his next exhale of words.
"That's not on you, that is not your fault, you don't need to be what she wanted or what anyone wants you to be for that matter, you can just be you."
"Jeez, such conviction." She says with a snort but she sounds unsure and he sees concern start to dawn in her eyes when she looks at him.
This isn't what he wanted.
"You don't have to forgive her Spinel, no one expects you to, don't let her get into your head like that." He says, unable to fully get things back on track now that his emotions are spilling out all over the place.
The gem takes a step forward and a new expression takes form on her face he doesn't recognize.
"Sounds to me like I'm not the one strugglin' with forgiveness."
"There's nothing to forgive, I never knew her." He says as he looks away.
She takes another step forward.
"What?" He says but it comes out sounding much angrier than he wants it to as he inwardly cringes at himself.
"Do you hear her in your head?"
"She's dead." He replies quickly and he hears her take yet another step forward.
"You know that's not what I mean."
The walls in his mind rattle and shake as the things he's kept hidden and compartmentalized for the sake of others starts to crack.
He thinks about the video tapes he watched as a child, the stories he's heard, seeing some of her memories for himself, the times in which he's conjured her in that room, the image of her he's created in his head.
His head shoots up as he looks at Spinel, eyes involuntarily watering.
These are things that not even Connie gets to see anymore because he's burdened her enough with his baggage when they were kids, when they'd first started fusing into Stevonnie and even well before that.
She shouldn't need to worry about these parts of him...yet, he's pretty sure she knows and is waiting for the right time to bring it up.
Garnet would kill him if she knew he was hiding the way he feels from all of them, putting up a facade, but he can't put any of this on them like that.
Amethyst is in a really good place and if he's not okay she isn't either, he can't do that to her..
She's finally getting over his mom, living her own life.
None of his friends should have to worry, he's meant to lead them not make them concerned.
He's very good at hiding it too, even when he fuses.
Fusion is a fascinating thing and when he'd finally realized how it functions it became easier to manipulate it, to focus only on intent, drown out the noise, live as an experience and quiet the chatter inside of his own mind.
He's not a kid anymore, he's meant to take his mother's place, be better than she was, uphold the ideals she fought so hard for, the good things.
No, no, no.
This is not what he wanted.
"Steven...it's okay, you can talk to me." Spinel says and for some reason that's what gets him, what makes him crack as that reservoir he's been filling for the past few years and maybe even his whole life breaks open and he feels the tears streaming down his face as he falls to his knees.
No one ever sees it, sees this part of him, not anymore.
Why is it Spinel?
Why does she bring these things out in him?
Everything was fine.
He's supposed to be better than this, savior of the universe, the galaxy, liberator of planets, the new Pink Diamond.
"Hey, oh what...hey- whoa...okay, yer alright." He hears Spinel start to say and she's down on the ground with him in seconds, putting a hand on his shoulder as he covers his face with his hands and cries into them, unable to stop himself.
Now it's out, it's there, he can't hide it anymore.
"I- I'm b- better than this...I- I'm so- sorry." He manages to get out as he just cries harder, clinging to her gangly appendage with his hand like a lifeline.
There's too much, too many things.
Maybe the pressure has finally made him crack, maybe he's weaker than he thought he was, maybe-
"Steven, Steven stop, lookit me." She says, tone serious.
One second he's sobbing like a pathetic child and in the next he's holding his cheek with his hand as he registers what just happened a few moments later, reeling from the impact.
She slapped him.
Not a hard one by any means but jarring all the same.
"Sorry, sorry, force o' habit." The gem says apologetically as she waves her hands around.
He blinks at her, hand still on his cheek as he uses the back of his sleeve to wipe at his eyes and nose, sniffling a bit.
"Listen to me Steven Universe, it's okay to not be okay." She says as if she's more annoyed that he was trying to hide it than anything else.
"I know, it's just-"
"You taught me that and I don't think you do know."
He furrows his brows, shooting her a look of disbelief.
"I'm serious, it's dumb that yer tryin' to sit here and hold yourself to some unrealistically high standard." She says with a roll of her eyes and a frustrated sigh.
"First of all, you gotta stop comparin' yourself to her, you're not her," she says as she holds up one finger in his face and then another one lifts a few moments later, "secondly, it isn't your job to take on everything she messed up and try to fix it. It doesn't just suddenly become your problem and yers alone."
He physically jerks back in shock at her words.
How does she know?
She lifts a third finger up at him and pokes him in the chest with them.
"Lastly, Pink had her moments of greatness or whateva but you're more than she ever was so stop with the waterworks, it's a huge downer."
He's not sure if that last part is entirely true, there are things his mother succeeded at that he's utterly terrible at but...
"I- I don't really know what to say…" He says, feeling a little out of his depth for the first time in a long time.
"Destroy the garden with me, we'll do it togetha'." She says as she holds her hand out to him after finally letting him go and he looks at it dumbly.
He's not sure when the roles had reversed.
"What? No, this isn't about me-"
"It's sickenin' and grossly sweet that yer gettin' all selfless on me but shut up already, we both need it." She says, leaving no room for argument.
How had it gotten to this point?
"Sometimes, you gotta let things that were outta yer control go."
"That's code for stop blamin' yerself, it had nothin' ta do with you and I'm sorry I dragged you, your family and your planet into this, you didn't deserve it." She says, interrupting him and he shakes his head at her.
This...isn't anything like what he was expecting to encounter when he came here.
"I forgave you a long time ago." He tells her as he takes her hand and she pulls them both up.
"I know…" She says, voice sad.
They stand there in silence for a moment, staring at each other and Spinel eventually gets a smile on her face, looking far more cheerful than usual.
"Wowie, I'd been tryin' to find those words for a long time, felt pretty good to finally get that offa my chest."
Steven laughs, can't help himself as he gives her a fond smile as he wipes at his face again.
"I'm glad." He tells her.
"I wasn't here for it. I dunno all of whatchu been through, but I think maybe yer bein' a little too hard on yourself and your mother." Spinel says and Steven makes a face.
"That, right there. You gotta start makin' peace with yourself and the things she did cause Pink wasn't perfect, nobody is." The gem says with far more wisdom than he'd been expecting.
"I ain't gonna sit here and tell you how, I got no clue and I still struggle with it sometimes too but I feel like I'm starting to make my peace with it." She says before he can say anything more on the subject and he sighs.
"I think a lot of us struggle with it."
"Yep and Pink was larger than life, she touched alotta lives and not all of it was bad, you exist dontcha?"
Steven looks up at her like he's seeing her for the first time, can't keep the awe from his face as she continues.
"I think, if she were still here today ... she'd look back and regret alotta things, but she wouldn't regret you. She'd be pretty darn proud of what you've accomplished."
Tears well up in his eyes again as he clutches at his pajama pants, grip tight as his knuckles go white.
"I think you know that too, deep down when you're not bein' so hard on yerself."
Steven can't help it yet again as the tears fall and for the first time in a long time he fully realizes he's been too hard on his mother.
Sure, she made mistakes and some of them were worse than others but she clearly became a very different gem near the end of her life and started to try and make up for it.
"Aw come on, I wasn't tryin' ta make you cry again." Spinel says, pulling him from his thoughts once more as she reaches up and wipes the tears from his eyes for him this time and he can't help the chuckle that comes out.
"No that's...thank you Spinel, I think I needed to hear that." He says honestly.
"No problemo, it's what I'm here fors." She says bashfully.
He huffs out a sigh and takes in a deep and shaky breath right after as he holds his hand out to her.
"Alright, you ready?"
She looks at him for a moment in a way he isn't familiar with and takes his hand.
"Together?" He asks.
"You're sure we can get rid of this place once and for all?" He asks once more, just for good measure.
"Uuugggghhhhhhhhh, yes, I'm sure." She says in annoyance and he laughs, pulling her closer toward the warp pad with him before letting go as they both stand there on the last step.
"Okay." He says with determination.
They stare at each other for a long time as realization dawns on both of their faces at the same time.
"I destroyed the datapad all those years-"
"You destroyed the datapad-"
They both laugh together, hard and loud and it feels nice, it's good and gives him a sense of old wounds healing.
"Let's go to homeworld, we can do it from there." He says when they've both finally calmed down.
"By all means, heroes first." She says with a playful bow.
When he's about to take that final step onto the warp pad he turns around to stare at her because she hasn't moved and starts to worry if this is where she'll change her mind but all he sees is a grateful look on her face as she twiddles her fingers, averting her gaze.
"Th- thanks for comin', it...it meant a lot." She says and he feels himself relax at her words.
"Of course, always...and thank you, for knowing what to say." He says in return.
"O- of course, always." She says, turning to look away and even though he can't see her face he's pretty sure she's blushing.
She'll get better at taking compliments.
He thinks to himself as he steps onto the warp pad and turns around, holding his hand out to her again with a cheeky grin.
"Ready?" He asks.
She darts forward and grabs his hand, stepping on just in time.
"Yeah." He hears her say softly as the stream of light carries them away.
Chapter 2: Narcissus
Beta'd by celestielle
Hi, it's me again.
So, this came about in a very interesting way.
A reader mentioned wanting interactions between Spinel & the other characters so I was like "hmm, wonder how I'd do that."
Soon after that my friend sent me a drawing Rebecca Sugar did of Spinel in a hoodie & that's how this came about.
After that I somehow came up with an entire plotline for this story from start to finish so we'll see if I actually write it. 🤣
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoy. 💜
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
6 Months Later
Connie had seen this coming, she's probably the only one that had seen this coming considering how surprised the other gems were when Steven came home all those months ago with a very shy Spinel in tow.
The gem had ultimately decided to stay on Homeworld after they figured everything out but she also started occasionally coming to Earth too.
Steven's eyes had started to shine lately, a happiness emitting from them due to succeeding in an endeavour he had never been fully certain would pay off.
His conversation with Spinel, destroying the garden, it had all done wonders for her husband and his mental state.
Connie couldn't be happier, she'll forever be thankful to the gem.
She just wishes Spinel knew how much it had meant to not just Steven, but all of them, to see him finally start to battle this particular set of demons head on.
"Please send the invite." Steven pleads with her for the seventeenth time.
"I don't know Steven, you know she won't come." She reminds him, not wanting him to act impulsively before considering what will ultimately happen.
"It doesn't matter, I don't ever want her to think we don't want her around." He says with a heavy sigh.
"We've been sending things like this for years, a wedding is different." Connie tries to explain.
"Gems don't care about weddings, they don't understand their importance to humans but the invite itself is what's important and besides, we have to send the diamonds their invitations too and if Spinel doesn't get one-"
"Steven, it's okay, I get it, we could always send one, write all of their names on it instead." She tries to tell him so they might find a compromise.
She's starting to realize that's not going to happen.
"No, no, no, no. I'll never hear the end of it from White if she doesn't get her own." Steven groans out as he sits down and lays his face down on the table dramatically.
"No...I know, I'm sorry, I just don't want you to get heartbroken over this." She says apologetically.
"What do you mean?"
"When she doesn't show up you're going to be disappointed."
"N- no of course not, I'd never-" He tries to say, head shooting up.
She moves to his side and kneels down, grabbing his face with both hands.
"Steven, my love, you have the biggest heart out of anyone I've ever met but you need to be ready for the prospect that she may never step foot on Earth ever again."
Steven gets a sad look on his face and she gently runs the pad of her thumb over his cheek as he finds his words.
"That's...fine, she can do whatever she wants but I don't ever want to make her feel uninvolved." He says softly.
"You aren't obligated to keep doing this." She tries reasoning even though she knows it won't do any good.
"She's punishing herself, she thinks she doesn't deserve-"
"I'm not telling you to stop, I'm telling you not to get your hopes up." Connie clarifies, not wanting him to think that's what she's getting at here.
"I won't, it's fine, there will be no disappointment from me, zilch, zippo, none." Steven says with fake enthusiasm.
Connie chuckles and pulls away, standing back up with an, "oh really, now?"
"Come on, give me a little more credit than that." Steven says, looking chastened.
"You're a full blown empath, Steven." She reminds him because sometimes it feels like he forgets this.
"You say that like it's a bad thing."
"It's great, it's lovely, it's one of the many things I love about you, but sometimes...you let it consume you."
Connie had learned long ago that you can't stifle Steven once his mind is set on something.
Fixing things with Spinel had been a huge moment of contention with him for years now.
He's had it stuck in his head that if he keeps trying, eventually Spinel will cave and they'll finally have a flourishing friendship.
It's just the way her husband is and always has been.
She accepted this about him a very long time ago along with his constantly misplaced guilt.
"I messed up the way I handled things with Spinel."
"You didn't exactly have time on your side." Connie tries to make him understand, but it feels like she's talking to a wall when he gets this way and starts to berate himself.
This is what he does, talk himself in circles.
She wishes he could just talk things out with Spinel because it's the only thing that's going to bring him peace.
"I never should have let her leave with the diamonds, what if she thinks I was trying to get rid of her?"
"Steven, I'm pretty sure if she really felt that way we'd know by now."
"I should send letters, invite her to certain events she might enjoy here on Earth."
"You really think she'll come?"
"Absolutely not, but at least she'll know we care and I'll send her invites for 6,000 years if I have to."
This endless cycle had gone on for quite some time and as much as Steven likes to think he's good at hiding things, Connie has learned he's actually not good at it at all.
At least, in her opinion.
Through the years Spinel had always been this insurmountable mental roadblock for Steven that Connie could never get him to fully talk about in a productive way.
They'd dream of it however, together, as Stevonnie, but he'd just brush it off.
She'd see his fears, his desire to make Spinel understand she's cared for, that he isn't like Rose and that he doesn't want her to see him as such.
It's like every awful feeling Steven has ever had about his mother had gotten projected onto Spinel, as if making things work with her was going to make everything better.
Connie knows that's not fair to Spinel and attempting to get Steven to see what he was doing had left her surfacing from their conversations over the years empty-handed.
It didn't help that Spinel seemed just a desperate in her own way, enabling his behaviour at every turn.
Neither one could seem to see what they were doing to each other.
She can only hope it might mellow out at some point.
Her gut tells her that won't be the case.
There are just some battles Connie can't help her husband fight, he has to fight them on his own and realize these things for himself because of how stubborn he is.
Steven's past was proof of that.
In regards to dreams, the hardest to handle for him were the ones in which they'd see his mother's memories and Spinel.
Those were the times in which Steven would get quiet, pull away from everyone for a while.
It hurt to know that nothing Connie could say was going to make a difference and that helplessness made her feel irritated more often than not.
Ultimately it's between Steven and Spinel, they're the only ones that can resolve this.
Connie is glad that everyone is finally moving forward, is glad that Spinel is finally opening up and while she wishes it had all happened sooner she's ultimately happy that it happened at all.
Sometimes the planets align, everything happens for a reason.
They're both still healing no matter how much of a front Steven tries to put up with himself and everyone around him.
Spinel and Steven seem to have a tendency to make rather...explosive decisions in regards to each other which has proven to be super fantastic or an absolute disaster, there's no in between, not with them.
Connie has very quickly accepted that this was probably going to be their new normal especially after the entire galaxy got put on high alert all those months ago and Steven came back home after destroying the garden with her at five in the morning.
Just a normal Tuesday.
It's not surprising by any means, Steven has always been impulsive by nature and Spinel amplifies that ten-fold.
Connie finds it cute if anything, they want to be friends so badly yet neither one wants to fully admit how much it would mean, not even to themselves.
She supposes it's because these things take time.
The visits had been going rather well, there hadn't been any problems yet but she expects there to be at some point.
There was one time a couple months back in particular where Connie was a little bit concerned.
They'd all gone to a Sadie & The Killers concert.
Connie had mentioned to Steven it might not be the greatest idea but Spinel had insisted on wanting to go.
She hadn't been able to tell him that her concern stemmed from how close to home it might hit the gem.
It's the place where her memories first started to return after Steven hit her with that rejuvenator and she'd had to relive the garden all over again.
Connie had almost been proven right when halfway through the show Spinel had looked on the verge of a full blown panic attack and Steven had simply turned his head, smiling down at her and holding her hand for the rest of the concert.
In that moment Connie had fallen even deeper in love with her husband and his emotional foresight, knowing how to build trust with Spinel without even thinking about it.
Or maybe he does, she isn't sure if he does it knowingly or not.
That simple gesture of reassurance had clearly gone a long way if how happy the gem had looked for the rest of the night was any indicator.
"What do you think, Connie?" Amethyst asks, holding up two hats, breaking her out of her thoughts as Connie gently puts a hand over her stomach in contemplation.
She catches Spinel looking right at her and takes her hand off a moment later, smiling at the gem.
"Hmm, what do you think Spinel?" She asks, not wanting to make decisions for her.
"I don't really know what looks good to humans." Spinel says with a shrug, tone shy as she puts her hands into the pockets of the hoodie Amethyst had lent her that was a few sizes too big yet managed to make her look adorable all the same.
Amethyst had called her edgy, demanding to get her a hat to complete the style and 'make her even cooler' and they'd all known the purple gem long enough to know that once she gets started that train just keeps going.
"It isn't about what looks good to other people Nel, it's about what makes you feel good about yourself." Amethyst says in exasperation as she puts the hats down on the chair.
"Amethyst is right, fashion is an outward expression of who you are and sometimes, who you want to be." Garnet says in true form, a plethora of wisdom as always.
"That's alotta responsibility for a hat." Spinel says with a look of distaste.
"Yes, but you did seem rather interested in trying one out." Pearl says as she holds up her finger, proper as always.
"Is that why you got them?" Spinel asks with a tilt of her head like she genuinely doesn't understand why they're doing this and Connie's heart breaks at how the gem questions even the simplest of gestures.
It's as if she can't comprehend why anyone would possibly be kind to her.
"She's punishing herself."
Connie is starting to understand why Steven and the diamonds feel so taken with her.
You can't help but want to protect the gem.
"Yeah, we wanted you to have options." Amethyst says as she plops down onto the couch to lounge.
"It's...a bit much innit'?" Spinel says as she looks down at her feet.
The warp pad signals a moment later, interrupting them as Steven emerges from the stream of light and Connie smiles fondly as they lock eyes.
"You ladies look like you're having fun." He says with a cheerful smile as he comes over to slip an arm around her waist, kissing her temple lightly.
Those same butterflies she's always felt for him stir in her stomach, she'd thought that one day they would stop.
Not yet, not ever.
"You're back early." She says, leaning her head on his shoulder.
"The diamonds didn't need me anymore." He says with a shrug.
"More like you got out of dodge as fast as you could." Amethyst supplies as they all snicker.
"That's besides the point. All they did was pester me about making sure Spinel is well taken care of during her visit, as if I'd ever let anything happen to her." He says with an eye roll and Connie can't help the chuckle that comes out of her as she watches Spinel blush and look away.
"She's quite capable of taking care of herself." Garnet says.
"Can definitely give Steven a run for his money." Amethyst adds on playfully.
"Aw jeez, it ain't like that." Spinel says, looking bashful as she scratches the back of her head and Steven finally notices what's different about the gem.
Her husband can be a bit dense at times.
"Oh, you're wearing human clothes!" He says in surprise as Spinel jolts, looking around like she wants to hide.
"It looks good!"
Spinel looks like she's about to combust and Connie can't help but laugh lightly as Amethyst whispers out a 'told ya,' to her.
"What's this?" Steven asks as he walks over to the chair with the two discarded hats from earlier and looks at the table to the side piled up with even more of them.
"Spinel seemed interested in trying out a hat so we're giving her some options." Connie tells him.
"A little overboard, don't you think?" Steven says with a snort as he looks at the hats in his hands and then at Spinel.
"That's what I said." The gem says back to him.
"This one's pretty cute." Steven finally says as he holds the one in his left hand out to her.
"Ughhhhhhhhhh nice job Mr Universe, we were trying to get her to choose her own, you dummy." Amethyst says as she slaps a hand over her own face.
"Oh uh- well...you should choose which one you like best." Steven says trying to back track as he pulls the hat back, placing them back into the pile and Connie watches as Spinel keeps looking at the one he'd shown interest in.
"Steven, no offence but this girls time was your idea." Pearl says with a raised brow.
"Oh, right! Of course, I'll be on my way, enjoy yourselves and please don't traumatize her with Earth culture, ease her into it and-" He says as he starts trailing on only to be interrupted as Connie puts a gentle hand on his arm.
"Steven, it's alright, we've got this." She reassures him.
"Right sorry, I think the diamonds are rubbing off on me." He says with a nervous laugh, rubbing at the back of his neck.
"Gross, don't become a total stick in the mud like them, no offence Spinel." Amethyst says as Spinel shrugs with a, "none taken."
"Have fun with your dad." Connie says as Steven chuckles at them and makes his way to the front door.
"Okay, don't get too crazy-"
"Shoo, shoo, go." Connie says, putting a finger up to his lips as she backs him out the door but not before removing it and placing a quick kiss on his cheek and slamming the door in his face right after.
"Nice, good job Connie." Amethyst tells her as they give each other a thumbs up.
"Oh goodness, he'll be texting me all night." Pearl says in exasperation.
"Ignore him, it'll be fine." Connie says with a wave of her hand.
"I wouldn't want to be rude." Pearl says with uncertainty.
"That's why he texts you, because you always respond." Amethyst informs her.
"Focus everyone, we've got a lot of ground to cover for Spinel's crash course in what being human is like." Garnet says as she adjusts her shades.
Spinel looks at all of them with an expression of fear and they all soften, moving closer.
"Hey, if this is too much we can just stay here and pop in a movie, do something else." Amethyst says as she slaps her on the back, jostling her forward a bit.
"We don't want you to feel like you're being forced into this, we're just very excited that you're here." Pearl says, resting a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"We're very glad you keep coming back to visit us Spinel, it's always a joy to have you." Garnet reassures her.
Even Connie knows they're laying it on way too strong and can see the moment when the attention becomes too much as Spinel springs away from all of them to the other side of the room.
"Wh- what? No, I...I want to do this I'm just...not used to all of this." She says nervously as she waves her hands around frantically.
"Well, do you still want to go?" Connie asks before the others can be even more insistent and scare the poor gem away completely.
"Y- yeah, of course."
"Wonderful, come on Garnet, let's make sure we don't forget anything." Pearl says before anyone else can respond, picking up on Connie's cue for once.
When they leave the room Spinel huffs out a sigh and says, "I don't think I'll wear a hat," and Connie feels a little sad because it was pretty clear she wants to not only wear the hat but the one Steven chose but seems to be worried that she might get teased about it.
Or at least that's what Connie has interpreted from the situation, although, she realizes for the first time she doesn't really know the gem that well.
Maybe the trip will help.
She thinks to herself absently as she watches them.
"Awww okay but I'm tellin' you, it'd look dooooooope." Amethyst says, grabbing Spinel's hand as they both go to leave.
Connie can't help herself as she grabs the hat, following after them with a more clear intention in mind. It's when they make their way to the car that she puts it on Spinel's head, walking past her with a smile and thumbs up that gets returned back, tentatively.
It's a small gesture but Connie hopes it helps, even if a little bit and thankfully nobody makes a comment when everyone finally piles into the van.
"Amusement park rides are one of the best things about being human." Amethyst tries to explain to Spinel when they get to the Beach City carnival.
The gem seems a bit overwhelmed at all of the sounds and people but it doesn't seem to be in a bad sort of way, which is reassuring.
She'd been getting much better around large crowds.
"Why?" Spinel asks, eyes sparkling as she looks around everywhere with childlike excitement.
"Humans seem to like them, it gives them an adrenaline rush." Garnet replies with a shrug.
"Not this human, I'll sit them out today." Connie tells them as she goes to sit on the bench near an informational signpost.
"Wh- Connie, are you sure?" Pearl asks, raising a confused brow.
"You feelin' okay?" Amethyst asks and Connie can't help but chuckle at their concern.
"I'm fine, my stomach was a little upset this morning, that's all, I don't want to make it worse." She tells them honestly.
When she looks over she sees Spinel staring intently at her and when the gem realizes she's been caught she turns away.
"You love rides." Pearl says with a shake of her head, disappointment clear on her face.
"Not if I might throw up." Connie says with a snort.
"I'm sure, I'll keep an eye on everyone's things, go!"
After a little bit more convincing they finally leave without her and she lets out a deep sigh, scrolling through her phone absently while keeping an eye on them as they walk around to the rides nearby.
It isn't until Connie sees Spinel on the ferris wheel, reaching the very top that the gem finally starts to visibly loosen up, a beautiful smile adorning her face like it should always be there.
Connie's heart soars at the sight and she quickly takes a picture when they're halfway down, sending it to Steven.
Five seconds later her phone rings and she chuckles, picking up immediately.
"Thank god, I think Amethyst took Pearl's phone, she stopped texting back." He says quickly, sounding panicked and she thinks she can hear Greg yelling in the background but it gets quieter as if Steven is walking away.
"You're ridiculous." She says with a shake of her head and a snort.
"I know, I'm sorry it's just...I don't wanna mess this up, we tried so hard to get to this point and I don't want-"
"Steven, my love, the more you stress about this, the more likely it will be for something to happen that you don't want." She tries to remind him as if she hasn't told him this many times before.
"Ugh, I know, I just can't help myself." He says with a groan and she can imagine the way he probably runs a hand over his face in exasperation very clearly in her head.
"If you act overbearing with her she's going to pull away."
"You think it'll be okay?" Her silly husband asks.
"I think you'll both figure it out." She says, avoiding an answer that's too honest because it'll just discourage him.
She's known Steven for nearly her entire life and if what she's seen of Spinel so far is any indication there's going to be hiccups along the way.
"That's not very reassuring." He says, sounding discouraged already and Connie can't help but pinch the bridge of her nose.
"Steven, she's still healing and it takes time for someone to start letting go of bad habits, Lapis still struggles to this day." She reminds him because while his desire to never give up until he's achieved the outcome he wants is admirable it has also been a crutch in the past.
"No, I know, you're right as usual I'm just worrying like I always do." He says with a sigh.
"You've gotta find-"
"Balance, I knoooooooow." He drawls out and she sees Garnet look over at her from the bottom of the ferris wheel as they all pile out.
"Okay, they're about to get off the ride, I'll see you when we get home." She says quickly.
"Alrighty, I love you so much." He says in that lovesick tone he gets and she can't help but smile as she hears Greg start yelling again in the background.
"Love you too, now stop keeping your father waiting." She says, hanging up before he can answer back.
"Let me guess, that was Steven." Amethyst says when they make their way to her.
"It was my mother." She says as Amethyst rolls her eyes.
"You mean it was Steven."
"I called him."
Actually that's a lie, she'd sent a picture and then gotten the call from him.
"Anyway, I'm thinkin' of gettin' some elephant ears." The purple gem says as she bumps her shoulder into Spinel who isn't expecting it, almost falling over before catching herself and springing back into place and looking shy again.
"I suppose since we're making a spectacle of it, I may as well too." Pearl says as if she's annoyed when it's clear that she's actually enjoying herself.
"You comin' Spinel?" Amethyst asks, slapping a hand on her back.
"I'll stay here."
"If you say so, we'll bring you back some."
"I'm not- oh..."
They're gone before Spinel can finish and Connie laughs, making room for her on the bench.
"You might want to humor her this one time, she won't stop until you've tried human food at least once." Connie informs her as the gem plops down beside her, swinging her feet back and forth absently.
"Seems gross." The gem says as she wiggles her nose in clear disgust.
"They describe it as weird." Connie says with a shrug.
"Yuck." She says, sticking her tongue out and shaking her head in that overexaggerated way she usually does things.
"Maybe try real food instead of carnival food, might be a better experience." Connie says as she reaches over to adjust her hat that had started getting slightly disheveled.
"I'll keep that in mind." Spinel says with a blush as her large hands come up to readjust it again.
They fall into a comfortable silence, watching the people going by and a father on the boardwalk catches his small daughter before she falls flat on her face, turning her in his arms as she starts hugging him tightly.
"I almost destroyed this." Spinel says a beat later.
"Huh?" Connie asks stupidly, brain halting as she looks over at her.
"None of this would be happenin' right now if Steven hadn't stopped me from wipin' out everythin'."
Connie continues to stare at the gem, feeling heartbroken but not knowing how to console her. She doesn't really know her, hadn't been there for any of it, not really, and even though Steven had told her everything it wasn't the same as actually being there.
"Pink knew it'd be Earth, knew way before she'd even started formulatin' a plan to get her own colony that it would be this planet, the one they'd give to her."
"Wait, really?" Connie asks, blinking rapidly at information she'd never really known, feeling a bit surprised.
At this point they'd figured out quite a bit about Rose Quartz and her past. As Stevonnie they would almost always dream her memories or at least a combination of them.
She'd gotten used to it a long time ago, knowing far more about Rose than she'd ever really wanted to.
She respects her legacy, agrees with some of her methods that got employed but to see Steven try to put on a brave face when it was clear he was starting to truly question the things his mother did was painful to experience and watch.
Connie has felt helpless for years in the face of it.
"Yep, before she started to seriously consider pushin' to get her own colony she would come to the garden to do research, away from the prying eyes of the other diamonds." Spinel goes on to say with a sigh.
"I thought...she'd just go there to play with you." Connie says, feeling a little bit dumb.
"Well yeah, but we'd also talk for hours because it was the perfect cover and sometimes she'd tell me all about the thoughts she'd start havin'." The gem says with a shrug and the sound of someone skateboarding nearby makes her turn her head as she furrows her brow.
"Like what?" Connie asks, feeling a bit confused as she watches the gem turn back to look at her again.
"Earth and humans mostly, she was convinced that if she ever got her own planet it would be this one, she'd talk about losing her Pearl and gettin' a new one, how it all made her feel, what she'd been hearin' about humans and how strange they were. I'd cheer her up along the way."
This was...news to Connie and she imagines Steven as well but it was getting hard to tell at this point with how much he'd started avoiding talking about her unless prompted to.
"I thought she knew nothing about Earth until they gave it to her?"
"She probably pretended not to know anythin', she'd do that sometimes...act stupid when she wasn't, make the other diamonds believe she wasn't as smart as she made herself out to be."
"But...why?" She can't help but ask, not really understanding why Rose would feel the need to hide anything like that.
"The other diamonds found her amusing, she'd use that to her advantage to get what she wanted but it clearly became too much." Spinel says, looking sad as she looks down at her feet and Connie feels that familiar anger at Rose that Steven feels when they're Stevonnie like it's her own, fist clenching at her side involuntarily.
It was becoming difficult to differentiate her own emotions from Steven's over the years when they're outside of fusion, the residual effects from doing it for too long getting more and more obvious, prominent, intense.
She assumes it's because she's human.
"It stopped working." Connie says as if it's Steven's words coming out of her mouth and not her own, shaking her head and unclenching the fist at her side.
"Yeah, that's probably when she stopped wantin' to have anythin' to do with me, I was just another reason for them to treat her like a child."
"I'm sure that's not true." Connie tries to reassure her, even though it comes out sounding very unconvincing.
"She was lonely and I made her happy as she gained status back. I was Pink's escape away from obligation but more importanly' I made her feel like a diamond."
"Feel like a diamond?" Connie asks, not really knowing what she means by that.
"They made Pink feel lesser even though she was a diamond just like them but I was always interested in what she had to say, I didn't push her aside like they would."
Connie thinks of the strange shared dream she had as Stevonnie when she'd been a child.
The strange feverish experience of her mother and Yellow diamond morphing into one, getting cast aside, seeing Rose's memory and how upset it made her.
The reflection looking back at them that was filled with pure rage before breaking the mirror.
"I'd ask her about what comes with having her own colony, the ins n' outs, she'd get so excited to tell me and it's why I wanted her to have her own so badly, so many dreams and the way her eyes would shine…" Spinel goes on to say, trailing off when they lock eyes.
Connie knows she must look out of it and waves a hand in apology, mouthing at the gem to go on and Spinel nods her head as if she understands.
"That's how I knew where to get the injector, I already knew everythin' there is to know about gem technology and how to get a hold of what I needed to without gettin' caught, altering the injector to my specifications was the easiest part." Spinel says but she sounds disappointed with herself about it.
"You certainly put a lot of thought into it." Connie says, trying to lighten the mood.
A far more concerned part of her is realizing Spinel is not who she seems or maybe Connie just hadn't been paying attention.
She's not sure if this revelation is a good thing or a bad thing yet.
Spinel gives her a look of disgust.
"Too much thought." The gem says with a hateful scoff as she looks off like she's thinking of something else and Connie tilts her head.
For some reason she gets the feeling there's a lot being left unsaid in the moment.
"Sometimes I think Pink was being kind in her own sorta way, ya know?" Spinel suddenly says, changing the subject and looking up as her hands grip the bench and her feet stop swaying.
"What...do you mean?" Connie asks, not knowing if she wants the answer.
"That day she left, the thought had probably already crossed her mind to rebel." Spinel says with a shrug as she looks down at her feet.
"You think so?"
"I could see it in her eyes, she'd changed, something was different but I didn't...I was too naive." Spinel says and Connie suddenly has the intense desire to shake her but she stops herself from acting irrationally.
Steven's emotions could be a little overwhelming at times.
"I would have never survived a gem war, I had nothing to offer." The gem goes on to say and Connie sighs.
"I don't think you give yourself enough credit." She says honestly, with her own thoughts and her own words instead of allowing her husband to overpower her own rational thought.
She's also pretty sure wanting to have been a part of the gem war was probably a bit delusional but with how devoted Spinel had been to Pink Diamond and their politics it certainly made sense for her to come to that conclusion.
"Maybe." The gem says.
"I think you tell yourself these things to make it hurt less but what Rose did was wrong and that's just the truth." Connie says as clear and straightforward as she can, hoping Spinel will stop making excuses for her.
"It's weird when I hear people call her that." Spinel says with a slight frown.
Connie can't help the sad look she gives her in return.
"There's an entire life she lived and I wasn't there for any of it, she didn't want me there, I probably never even crossed her mind." Spinel says.
It's a dangerous road to go down and Connie feels herself get a bit concerned about where this conversation is leading.
"Not once did the thought occur to come back for me, she was going to leave me there forever because I was only ever going to be a reminder that she was a diamond."
Rose had wanted to leave her old life behind and never look back.
Pink Diamond had wanted to become Rose Quartz and Spinel was her first step in doing that.
Connie can't even begin to try and refute it and she feels Steven's emotions wash over her in waves.
"She was wrong, what she did was wrong, she-" Connie stops herself, realizing she's raised her voice and people were starting to look at them strangely.
"It's fine, don't worry, I can't even get mad about it anymore. I think you humans call it the five stages of grief or whateva." Spinel says as if the outburst doesn't bother her, waving her hand in reassurance.
Connie isn't sure what to say to that.
"I'm pretty sure I got most of the anger stage out when I tried to destroy an entire planet and kill her son out of spite." Spinel says with a loud laugh and Connie looks at her with a horrified expression on her face.
"Sorry, tough crowd." Spinel says, physically flinching.
"N- no, it's fine...Steven probably would have laughed but I don't really have his sense of humor." Connie tells her honestly with an apologetic shrug.
Spinel laughs loud and in what seems like disbelief, shaking her head and looking at her in a way that Connie can't fully decipher.
"It's kinda weird how right you are." The gem says.
"I would hope so I've known him since I was a kid." Connie says with a snort.
"True...it's pretty beautiful, the kind of love you two share with each otha'." Spinel says with a smile and her heart warms at the sight.
She's glad Spinel is getting better at not letting herself wallow in her own despair for too long anymore.
Or maybe she's just getting better at hiding it.
"Thank you." Connie says, not really knowing how to properly ask without potentially offending her.
"Does Steven know?" Spinel asks, turning her head as they lock eyes, expression changing all of a sudden.
"That yer pregnant."
Connie physically startles and bolts up from where she's sitting, breathing hard like she's just run a marathon.
"Ho- how could you possibly-"
"You ain't exactly slick Mrs. Universe, I know a lot about humans and alotta my free time was spent learnin' even more than what Pink would tell me, before and after." Spinel says with a grin as she leans back on the bench, looking entirely amused.
"Th- the other gems haven't been able to…" Connie says in a panic.
"You'd think they would since they were the ones around Pink back when she had a bun in the oven but maybe it looks different when it's a gem, or even a diamond for that mattah'." Spinel says, looking off and rubbing at her chin like she's actually thinking about it.
"I can't believe- nobody knows yet, I just took the test yesterday."
"Oh, well...congratulations?" Spinel says in surprise, looking sheepish.
"I'm not even showing yet." Connie says as she looks down at her stomach, feeling self conscious all of a sudden.
Maybe she was starting to show?
"You said you were sick in tha mornin', the others seemed confused when you didn't want to go on any of the rides which, more than half of em' all had signs sayin' pregnant women shouldn't get on them and you keep touchin' yer stomach, I ain't stupid." Spinel says with a scoff and roll of her eyes.
"No I...I'm starting to see that it's just...I'm so used to the other gems being a bit oblivious about human things." Connie says as she sits down, staring off into space.
"Spinel is smart, much smarter than she looks."
Stevens words ring in her ears as she looks back on the conversations she's had with him about the gem in the past.
A part of her didn't really believe him or at least not in the way he'd clearly meant.
She's not just smart she's aware, far more aware than other gems who usually carry a sense of bewilderment with them about anything foreign, anything not pertaining to Homeworld.
"Even though they raised half of one?" Spinel asks, breaking her out of her thoughts.
"Well, when you put it like that…"
Connie contemplates her entire life that led her to this moment as she runs a hand over her face. "I remember Steven describing you as unpredictable once, I understand why he said it now." She says with a sigh as she sits back down, shaking her head.
"Sounds like somethin' he'd say."
A very awkward silence follows soon after as Connie taps her fingers against her leg nervously before clearing her throat.
"I- uhm...I'm waiting to tell him when things are less hectic." Connie says, finally addressing her earlier question now that the shock had started wearing off.
"Oh, okay well...your secret is safe with me." Spinel says with a nod and a small smile and she wonders if that's really true, if the gem will actually say nothing, pretend she hadn't noticed.
"I appreciate that." Connie says, returning one of her own in hopes that they've both extended olive branches to one another today.
This day certainly hadn't gone the way she'd been expecting.
"Yep, cross my heart and hope to die." Spinel says, gesturing over her gem with emphasis.
They both stare at each other and burst into giggles a moment later.
"That was more of that humor of yours, I'm assuming." Connie says when she's recovered.
"Heh, now yer gettin' it." Spinel says, turning her head as they watch the other gems walk back over to them.
Connie mentally notes the lack of food in their possession.
"Heeeeeeeey, you guys just sat here the whole time?" Amethyst asks when they reach them.
"We had a bit of a girls talk." Connie says as they look at each other with a knowing look.
"Boring, so uh- hey Nel, so uhm...I was going to have you try an elephant ear but, uh, I ate it." Amethyst says with that deep, raspy, nervous laugh of hers as she scratches the back of her head.
"She didn't try very hard to resist." Garnet informs them.
"Hey, I totally gave it a whole five seconds." Amethyst says, trying to defend herself.
"It's fine." Spinel says, waving her hand.
"Sweet! Oh...are we ready to go?" Amethyst asks as she looks around at everyone.
"Is there anything else you wanted to do Spinel?" Connie asks, wanting to make sure they cover everything she'd had in mind for the day.
"Uhm, I mean...I'd like ta at least try human food, see what all the hubbub is about." Spinel says as she pushes her index fingers together nervously.
"There's a food truck near the arcade, we can go there." Pearl says with a smile and Connie gets up as Garnet grabs their bags.
"Okay." Spinel says with a big smile on her face.
As they all start to walk away Connie finds herself wondering what she's gotten herself into, becoming friends with Spinel.
All she can do is hope for the best.
I feel like this is the story of my life. "It's just a one-shot" I say to myself.
Yet, here I am. 😐
Wanna give a huge shoutout to my beta & bestie.
She's the only thing keeping me afloat with this story as I go back and forth between "this story actually kinda slaps" & "no, it's shit...why am i doing this"
She's the reason any of this is getting posted so thank her. 😂
Love you sis. 💜