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nerd. n.

1. A foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious.

2. A single-minded expert in a particular technical field.

Peridot squinted at the dictionary, trying to reconcile the word with her image of herself. Clumsily, she uncapped the pen Steven had given her. She tried to draw a box around the definition, but accidentally struck black ink through the last line. A single minded.

She could hear the television on Steven's loft. Amethyst and Steven were watching wrestling.

The word felt strange--it turned over in her mouth. Wrestling.

Amethyst shouted with joy. The sound carried easily into the bathroom. And, after it, Steven's voice:

"Oh, no! Amethyst, do you think he's okay?"

Peridot felt herself smile. Steven's genuine ignorance had surprised her, at first. The longer Peridot spent with Steven and these Crystal Gems, the heavier his optimism became.

Something about the knowledge that such innocence could never last through what was coming.

Amethyst hadn't responded to Steven. It suddenly seemed imperative to her that he should receive an answer.

She pushed herself to her feet and set the dictionary down next to the sink. When she'd first arrived here, leaving the bathroom had always felt like crossing some significant threshold, but now it felt like nothing.

She tripped on the first step. Something in her own clumsiness reminded her of how small she was. Her feet felt strange, her arms felt strange. She felt strange. The sound of Steven's primitive image cube had always made her ears ring. Suddenly she wasn't sure what she was doing here. She stopped, frowned.

"Hey, Peridot!" Steven was peeking over the top of the stairs.

"Steven," she responded evenly.

Now that she was looking at him, she felt foolish. She'd forgotten what she wanted to tell him so badly. Earth's setting sun glared into her eyes through Steven's open window. She wasn't sure if she should turn around, back to her dictionary.

Steven reached out his hand to her.

Amethyst spoke. "Wanna watch wrestling with us?"

Something about their earnest expressions made it feel like it wasn't much of a decision at all. She supposed that even on Homeworld, she hadn't known how to say no to her superiors.

She sat on the other side of Steven and watched the humans on the screen. They seemed to be engaged in some primitive kind of combat. She wrinkled her nose.

"What is... wrestling, anyway?" She paused on "wrestling". She'd been sure of the word before, but something about saying it to Steven and Amethyst's faces made her doubt she'd heard it correctly. She glanced at Amethyst. If she'd pronounced it incorrectly, it didn't show on her face.

"It's where people get together and, like, beat each other up," Amethyst said. She mimed punching the palm of her hand, as if to demonstrate.

"Why?"

"I dunno. Because it's fun."

"Because they want to know which is stronger."

Peridot jumped and turned toward the new voice. The Pearl had come up the stairs and was now sitting on Steven's bed. She had come so silently, Peridot hadn't sensed her approach.

"Competition is the reason behind most things humans do," the Pearl continued. "Their systems of power are largely based on skill, rather than the inherent caste system gems have."

"Hmm." Peridot had to acknowledge that it made a kind of sense. "That's so... primitive. I'll never understand what you Crystal Gems see in this place."

"Well--" the Pearl started, but was cut off when Steven gasped.

"Idea!" He scrambled to his feet to face them. "We should show Peridot everything there is to love about Earth!" He stretched his arms out to the sides, as if his tiny body couldn't contain the brilliance of his epiphany.

"I think that's a great idea, Steven, but we have to keep working on the drill," the Pearl responded reasonably.

"Steven and I will take her," Amethyst interjected. "That way you can keep working on the drill." She glanced at Peridot wryly. "We all know who's the better engineer anyway."

The Pearl blushed, Peridot scowled. It seemed her fate was sealed.

~*~

"Is this really necessary?"

Peridot squinted at the building. The light was even more obtrusive outside. Amethyst and Steven had brought her to a "Big Donut". She wasn't sure what she would encounter inside, but based on Steven and Amethyst's comments, she suspected it would involve "eating".

"Of course it is!" Steven said. "The Big Donut is one of my favorite places in town!"

Peridot held her tape recorder up to her face. "Log date, 7118. At the annoying bequest of the Steven, I am about to enter what the humans call a 'Big Donut'. They seem to be under the impression that 'eating' will help me to understand the strange culture of the humans." Frustration began to creep into her voice. "What they don't seem to understand is that Earth is annoying and everything is annoying, but perhaps nothing is grosser or more annoying than eating!" By the end, she was shouting. She took a deep breath to calm herself. "Peridot, facet five. End log," she finished.

Steven and Amethyst stared at her. After a moment's silence, Steven spoke. "You don't have to eat if you don't want to, Peridot."

"But you do have to come in with us!" Amethyst slung her arm over Peridot's shoulders and pushed her towards the building. Steven held the door open for them.

"Afternoon, Lars, Sadie," Steven said.

"Hi, Steven. Who is this?" It was the smaller human that spoke. The taller one stood in the corner, prodding the floor with some kind of tool.

"Sadie, this is Peridot. She's a gem. She's helping the Crystal Gems save the world."

"Sounds important. What'll you be having, Peridot?"

Peridot furrowed her eyebrows. She didn't really want anything.

Amethyst answered for her. "She'll have one of the powdered sugar ones. Make that two, actually."

Peridot shot her a glance.

Amethyst shrugged. "What? More for me."

And so Peridot found herself sitting on the beach--itchy from the gross Earth sand--staring at her strange "powdered sugar one". Steven's lion had appeared, and Steven was down the beach trying to feed him bits of his chocolate one. She had to admit, she liked the smell of these "ones". She liked the smell of the ocean, too. So far, she hadn't found much else to like here.

Her powdered sugar one was covered in an unfamiliar white substance. Powdered sugar, perhaps? Tentatively, she sniffed it. The sugar went up her nose and made her sneeze.

Amethyst laughed loudly. "You're not supposed to smell it, you're supposed to eat it."

"I'm still not sure if I want to eat it," Peridot responded.

Amethyst snorted. "Come on, it's good. Here. I'll do it with you." She held up her powdered sugar one and looked at Peridot expectantly.

"If I must," Peridot muttered. She gathered the thing up into her hands--the sugar almost felt worse than the sand, because it was also sticky.

"Ready? One, two..."

It was good. The powdered sugar one, that is.

Chapter Text

"Log date, 7119. Progress on the drill continues smoothly, or so the Pearl has informed me. I was unable to contribute to the effort yesterday, as I was... otherwise occupied." She wrinkled her nose at the thought of her powdered sugar one the previous evening. It had tasted good, but she'd hated the feeling of it sitting inside of her afterwards. Her wrinkled nose looked strange. She climbed up onto the counter to get a better look, nearly dropping the recorder in the process. She held it back up to her mouth and continued her log. "I am hopeful that I will be able to make further progress with the drill today. Though Amethyst has expressed a desire to teach me about the Earth, I am far more interested in preventing the Cluster from emerging than I am in the humans. Hopefully she'll have forgotten. Although," she tilted her head to get a better look at her face, "Their reflective devices are quite interesting, unlike anything on Homeworld. It's strange to--"

"Rise and shine!"

Peridot turned abruptly, lost her balance, and fell off the counter onto the floor. Amethyst looked down at her, holding two plates in her hands.

"I brought you breakfast. No one else around here likes to eat, except for Steven." She sat on the floor next to Peridot and pushed one of the plates towards her. "It's nice to finally have someone to share food with."

Peridot raised her eyebrows. Amethyst hadn't struck her as the "sharing" type. She handed her a utensil, with which Peridot prodded the contents of the plate experimentally.

"Eggs, bacon, pizza," Amethyst said, pointing to each item in turn. Peridot sniffed the food. It smelled far less appetizing than what she'd tried the previous evening.

"Eat up," Amethyst said through a mouthful of the eggs.

Peridot fumbled with the utensil, which felt tiny and strange in her hands. She chased the eggs around the plate for a moment she was able to get any to stay on. Hesitantly, she lifted the bite to her mouth.

It didn't taste horrible. She chewed. She disliked the texture, the strange mushy heaviness of it. She didn't want to eat any more, but the way Amethyst was looking at her left her with no choice. Slowly, she gathered up another bite of eggs.

"I think Pearl wants both of us to help her with the drill today, to make up for going to the Big Donut yesterday," Amethyst said around a mouthful of pizza. "She told me to walk you down after I ate, and I figured I might as well offer you some food too, since you liked the donut."

Peridot supposed that explained Amethyst's uncharacteristic willingness to share–it had been convenient. She added "donut" to the list of words to look up in her dictionary later.

After a few moments' silence, Amethyst spoke. "All done." She glanced at Peridot's plate. "Are you not going to eat that, Peridot?"

"What? Oh. Yes. Of course I am."

"Alright. Well, I'm going to go move garbage into my room. There was a lot at the barn Pearl let me take. Let me know when you're done."

"Okay." Peridot watched Amethyst stand and leave, and immediately turned back towards the plate of food. She felt like it was staring at her. She stared back.

She couldn't eat it. She couldn't. Amethyst wanted her to, but it didn't matter, she couldn't do it.

She stood, plate in her hands, and quietly opened the door. She peeked outside. Amethyst was nowhere in sight. She paused for a moment to consider her course of action. She remembered the trash can in the kitchen. Perhaps that was the most appropriate place to put something she wanted to make disappear.

She held her breath, feeling again for any signs of movement. The only sound was caused by an intermittent gentle breeze that pushed the front door open and then let it fall closed. She stepped out of the bathroom slowly, easing her weight onto the floorboards to keep them from creaking, clutching the plate tightly in her hands--as if it would disappear if she squeezed it hard enough.

Silently, she worked her way across the living room into the kitchen.

When she stood in front of the trash can, she began to move quickly--there would be no way of explaining her behavior away if she was caught now. She scooped the food off the plate and into the garbage. She set the empty plate in the sink.

Done. Evidence eliminated.

Now she had only to find Amethyst as instructed.

She glanced warily at the temple door. Though she'd been working with the Crystal Gems for some time now, she'd never been inside the temple apart from when she'd escaped from it that first night. The gems generally kept her from seeing inside, subtly blocking the entrance with their bodies whenever they entered or exited, silently communicating to Peridot that she was not welcome.

She walked up to the door. Amethyst said she would be inside. Peridot wasn't sure if she was expected to open it and go in after her, or…?

She raised her hand to touch its smooth surface. It was cool. There was something alien and foreboding about it--as if it wanted her--as if it was ready to swallow her up.

There wasn't time for her to process this before the surface of the door melted away and Amethyst stood before her. Peridot's outstretched hand made her feel like she was reaching for her. Amethyst glanced at her hand. Peridot dropped it. She felt heat rising in her cheeks.

"I was just coming to inform you that I'm ready to work on the drill." Apart from the tiniest trembling at the beginning, neither her embarrassment nor her fear of being caught came through in her voice.

"Okay. Come on, then."

~*~

They didn't tie her to the fence.

She would have almost been excited, were it not for how the Pearl no longer trusted her to work on the drill directly. Instead, she spent her morning organizing screws and preparing parts for the Pearl. Amethyst lazed about on the grass, occasionally making trips between Peridot and the drill, bringing the Pearl's demands. Seeing Amethyst take orders from the permafusion and that horrid Pearl still made Peridot's insides twist strangely.

To distract herself, Peridot practiced her definitions in her mind.

Shirt. n. a garment for the upper body made of cotton or a similar fabric, with a collar, sleeves, and buttons down the front. Granola. n. a kind of breakfast cereal consisting typically of rolled oats, brown sugar or honey, dried fruit, and nuts.

"Hey, Peridot, I brought you something."

Peridot looked up. Amethyst was approaching.

Peridot groaned. She'd begun to dread Amethyst's approach, because it signaled more work. "It's not more requests from the Pearl, is it?"

Amethyst laughed.

"Not this time." Amethyst dropped something in Peridot's lap. Peridot picked it up. It was small, rectangular, covered in some kind of soft, pliable metal. She looked back up at Amethyst, confused.

"It's more food. It's called chocolate. Humans love it." Amethyst turned to leave, but paused. "You know, it probably sounds silly to you, but it's nice to have someone else around here besides Steven who likes eating. Garnet and Pearl think it's gross."

Peridot squeezed the candy in her hands, hard. She felt small again.

"Thank you." Her voice was soft. She had to force the words out--the bad feeling was choking her.

Amethyst nodded. Peridot watched her walk away. As soon as she disappeared inside the barn, she turned and threw the candy as hard as she could into the fields, where Amethyst wouldn't find it.

"Why did you do that?"

Peridot's stomach dropped. She'd forgotten Steven was there.

"I… um…" She wasn't sure how to finish. Earth's cumbersome language had deserted her.

Steven furrowed his eyebrows. After a thoughtful silence, he spoke.  "Amethyst doesn't normally share her candy with people. That's pretty special for her to share it with you. She wouldn't do it if she didn't think you'd like it."

Peridot said nothing. She didn't want to admit her failure to Steven. She frowned and turned away from him.

Steven was undeterred. "What's wrong, Peridot?"

Peridot hugged her knees to her chest and fought to keep the words from spilling out, but she'd never been able to refuse to do anything for long--Steven was so earnest in a way that demanded irresistible honesty.

"I don't like eating."

Steven frowned, tilted his head. "Amethyst thinks you do. Why don't you just tell her the truth?"

"Because," Peridot began, closed her mouth, tried again, "because Amethyst--"

The Pearl interrupted her. "Hey, Peridot, could you come here for a minute and take a look at this?"

"Yeah," Peridot said, more to herself than to the Pearl. She stood shakily and walked away without looking back.

She didn't even have the presence of mind to be smug that the Pearl needed her help. Her hands trembled. The Pearl handed her a leverage optimizer, which she fumbled and dropped. She said something about what was wrong with the drill, but Peridot didn't hear her, her ears were ringing. She climbed the drill clumsily, leaned over the panel, and tried to find the problem on her own.

What if Steven told Amethyst? What if Amethyst found out she had been lying, that she had failed?

~*~

She didn't see Steven or Amethyst again until she and the Pearl returned to the house after sunset. She had hoped to hide from Amethyst in the bathroom, to avoid any chance of being confronted. But when had she ever been so lucky?

Amethyst and Steven sat at the kitchen counter with plates in front of them. A third sat untouched. Peridot had a sinking suspicion it was intended for her.

"Hey, Peridot," Steven said. His mouth was full. The sight of the half-chewed food made Peridot's stomach turn.

"Hello, Steven." She kept her voice carefully flat.

Amethyst pushed the plate towards her.

"What is it?" She asked.

"It's called macaroni. Try it." Amethyst said.

Obediently, Peridot gathered some up onto the utensil. She didn't look at Steven, she couldn't. She ate it. It tasted like all the food she'd tried since the powdered sugar one--terribly bland. Not at all worth the discomfort of digestion.

"Garnet!" Amethyst exclaimed. Peridot turned. Garnet had just got out of the temple. Amethyst ran to speak with her.

When Peridot saw her opening, she didn't hesitate. Still without acknowledging Steven, she stood with the plate in her hands. She couldn't leave the food in the trash here--Amethyst was still right in front of her. She walked measuredly across the kitchen to the front door. It opened smoothly. Peridot stepped outside onto the porch. Once she was out of Amethyst's line of sight, she broke into a run. She wasn't sure where she would put the food, but she needed it gone, and she needed it gone now.

She began walking down the beach. This planet's ocean seemed as good a place as any to dump her food. She only needed to get far enough away from the house to avoid being seen.

Walking on the sand made her miss her limb enhancers for the thousandth time. She hated--hated--hated the feel of it on her gravity connectors. She pulled out her tape recorder as she walked.

"Log date, 7119. The Amethyst has taken to offering me food at all possible opportunities. After the incident with the powdered sugar ones an earth rotation ago, she seems to have convinced herself that I have some kind of interest in the humans' nutritional habits. I have tried to fulfill her orders to the best of my ability, but--" she stopped. She could feel her throat closing. She struggled to regain her indifferent tone, but failed. She took a deep breath. Her voice came out small and defeated. "--but I have failed. I can now only hope that Amethyst does not discover my incompetence. Peridot, facet five. End log."

She turned to check behind her. The house was no longer visible. The beach was rocky here. Despite that she constantly felt like she was about to fall, she preferred it to the itchy sand.

There weren't many things she liked about this planet. The smell of its ocean and the way the moon streaked across the water were among them.

And, she supposed, the smell of the powdered sugar one. Eating it with Amethyst hadn't been so bad--in fact, it had been almost pleasant, in comparison to the aftermath. Lazily, she began to scoop the macaroni off her plate and into the ocean. She'd almost forgotten there was anything to fear, until--

"Peridot?"

She dropped the plate. It shattered on the rocks in front of her.

Amethyst stood down the beach, close enough that she could see what Peridot had been doing, but far enough away that Peridot couldn't read her face.

No. No. No.

She wasn't sure if she should run or if she should try to explain herself, so she did neither. Instead, she sat down on the rocks next to the broken plate, defeated.

"What are you doing, Peridot?"

Peridot wasn't sure what to say, so she said nothing. The wind picked up behind Amethyst. She was close enough now that Peridot could have reached out a hand and touched it.

"Why are you out here throwing your food away?"

Peridot knew that Amethyst wouldn't leave until she had received an explanation, but she didn't know where to start.

"I, uh…" She trailed off. Amethyst motioned for her to continue.

"I hate the way food sits inside you after you eat it. I guess food is okay, but I don't…" she hesitated, then pushed the words out. "I don't like eating. And you seemed, I don't know, you seemed like you wanted me to, or like you were happy that I did, and I didn't want to disappoint you." The composure in her voice surprised her, but nothing could keep her confession from making her feel vulnerable. She wrung her hands nervously.

Amethyst sat down.

She sighed heavily. "I'm not used to this."

Peridot didn't respond. She'd said all she needed to. There was a moment of tense silence before Amethyst spoke again.

"On Homeworld, do quartz gems outrank peridots?"

"Yes."

Amethyst nodded. "I think I get it. Peridot, look at me."

Peridot did. The wind stirred Amethyst's hair. She shivered. There was something terrifying about looking at Amethyst like this. She wasn't sure what it was.

"You don't have to like eating because I do," Amethyst began. "You don't have to do anything just because I seem to want you to." She paused. "Things are different on Earth. We don't operate that way here, do you understand? I don't want you to think of me that way. I want you to try to move past it."

Peridot nodded. "I'll try."

After all, she'd never been good at refusing an order.

Chapter Text

The nights were quickly becoming her favorite thing about being here. Perhaps it was the stillness and the quiet. The Pearl spent nights away working on the drill, Amethyst and Steven slept, Garnet went who-knows-where. Sometimes Peridot worked on the drill with the Pearl, who was more tolerable and subdued after the sun had set. Some nights, like tonight, she stayed in the bathroom, studied her dictionary, and updated her logs.

"Log date, 7121. I've added nighttime to my list of Tolerable Things about this planet, along with Steven and--"

The door opened. Peridot's head shot up, and she felt herself flush. She trailed off feebly, "...Amethyst."

"Informing posterity of how much I annoy you, Peri?"

"No, as a matter of fact, I was-- well--"

Amethyst sensed her discomfort and smiled at her. She extended a hand towards her. "Come on. I want to show you something."

Peridot hesitated. "Where are we going?"

"You'll see when we get there. Come on."

Peridot took Amethyst's hand and allowed her to pull her upright. Amethyst didn't let go when she was standing, just led her out into the living room and to the warp. Their hands clasped between them felt like--she didn't know what. There was something different, some unfamiliar weight about it, not like holding Steven's hand had been. Perhaps it was that Amethyst was a real gem. Perhaps it was that she'd never touched another gem like this.

It took her eyes a moment to adjust after the warp's light cleared.

Roses.

The first thing she saw was roses.

It was a fountain. A pool of clear water surrounded a statue of a gem twice Peridot's height. She was crying. Water poured from her eyes and filled the fountain. The stars overhead served as a stark, clear reminder that she was not on Homeworld anymore.

"What is this place?" The reverence of it hushed her voice to a whisper.

"Rose's healing fountain."

"That's Rose Quartz?"

Amethyst nodded and pulled her closer to sit on the edge of the water. Peridot searched for a word to describe this moment, sitting here, but came up empty--she could feel the gap in her vocabulary and resolved to ask Steven later.

She knew that Rose Quartz was a traitor to her kind, the reason Earth was no longer a gem-controlled planet. Her actions had somehow halted gem production here. Beyond that, she knew nothing--it had never been relevant to her objectives to know.

It was now, she supposed.

"Amethyst," she began hesitantly. "My previous training never included information on the history of gem conflicts. The majority of my work solely involved contribution to mechanical and geological developments, like the Cluster. Even in the time I spent working in Kindergartens before my promotion, such information was not included in..." She trailed off when she noticed the blank look Amethyst was giving her.

"What I mean to say, Amethyst, is that... I'd like to learn more about what she did and why."

Amethyst stared at her for a few more moments, then gazed up at the statue.

"I wasn't there, during the war, but I did know Rose. You already know that I emerged late, that I was alone. It was Rose who found me and took care of me. The war was over by then, and it was just us, me and Rose and Pearl and Garnet. It's not like I've ever known any other gems besides them, and now you, I guess, but she was the kindest thing that's ever happened to me. She took care of us. She had this soft voice, this way of knowing just what to say. She loved Earth. She was always caring for all the animals, the plants, and the humans here. And I know it really tore her up, what happened to all the gems who fought with her, except Pearl and Garnet.

"She used to be Pink Diamond, you know, before she came to Earth. And I guess when she saw what the kindergarten was doing to the life on the planet, she turned against the other Diamonds and changed her name. Pearl was around then, but Garnet didn't come along until later. Rose gave up everything to protect the life that existed here. I guess the Kindergarten was killing the planet. And then, after the war was over, and after she found me, and after she met Greg, she had--became--Steven. And that's where her gem is now."

Peridot didn't realize Amethyst was crying until she took her hand back to wipe her face. She tried to process what she'd heard. She looked at the statue again. She guessed she could see it--she could see a gem this large and beautiful as part of the Diamond Authority, and she could see her being as caring as Amethyst described her. She seemed as though she was reaching out for her, even now.

"What about Pearl and Garnet? Why are they here?"

"Pearl loved Rose. Loves her, I guess. More than she loved Homeworld. And Ruby and Sapphire love each other. I guess that sort of thing is frowned on there?"

It took Peridot a moment to realize she was supposed to answer.

"Yeah. It is."

"Here they can stay fused all the time. And I guess I've just never known anywhere else. I've never even seen Homeworld. The most of it I've seen is the inside of the ship you took here."

"You wouldn't like it, anyway." The words were out before Peridot processed what she was saying. Even though she knew they were alone, that Yellow Diamond had all but forgotten her, she still felt like she should check behind her to make sure she hadn't been overheard.

There was no one there. She turned back to Amethyst and continued.

"You're too… disorganized to thrive there. You don't respond to orders as well as you should."

Amethyst furrowed her eyebrows. Peridot remembered the last time she'd hurt Amethyst's feelings.

"I'm just saying you'd be happier here. You're better here. It's good that you're here."

"Thanks." Amethyst turned her head to look at her. She felt that same terrifying feeling she'd felt when Amethyst had found her with the plate. She didn't know what it meant, just that something about it made her want to reach out and--and touch her.

She turned her head away, shook it off. Now was not the time to be having such irrational thoughts.

"Why did you bring me here, Amethyst?"

Amethyst shrugged. "You said you wanted to understand."

Another thought occurred to her, better than the last. She stood and offered her hand to Amethyst.

"Come on. I want to show you something."

~*~

On top of the temple, a gentle breeze ruffled the grass. The lights of Beach City were speckled below them like a messy galaxy of stars.

Peridot laid in the grass and patted the spot next to her. Amethyst hesitated, then laid down next to her, close enough that they were touching. Peridot shivered. She still wasn't used to such casual contact.

Peridot pointed to a spot in the sky. "See that star?"

Amethyst looked from Peridot to her hand back to Peridot. She shifted so their heads were touching, squinted her eyes a little.

"You mean that one? The one that's sort of flickering?"

"Yeah, that one. You can't see it from here, but Homeworld is just under that star. If you went long enough in that direction, you'd see a star there, and if you kept going, you'd be…" Peridot trailed off, realizing that it wouldn't be home for Amethyst.

She'd left out one inconvenient reality, when she was telling Amethyst she wouldn't like Homeworld. She hadn't mentioned that on Homeworld, Amethyst would have been harvested long ago. If she went there now, she wouldn't last long--she would only have as long as it took her superiors to go through the bureaucratic process of approving her destruction.

She'd known gems who were harvested. It had never bothered her until now. She didn't know what it was about Amethyst, but the thought of the energy from her gem being recycled disgusted her deeply.

"And do you see, over there, that big star?"

Peridot pointed to it. Amethyst leaned in again to trace Peridot's line of sight to her hand.

"Yeah, I see it."

"That's the planet where I emerged. It's quite close to here, relatively speaking."

Amethyst was silent for a moment.

"Did you like it there?" She finally asked.

"Did I… Well, I didn't spend much time there. After I emerged, it was straight to training, and then to building other Kindergartens."

"Was there life on it?"

"On the planet? No, no, of course not. It's highly unusual for a planet like this one to become a colony. It was just a barren hunk of rock in the middle of nowhere, really."

"That's all you've ever seen? Kindergartens and barren hunks of rock?"

"There are good things about Homeworld. Like…"

She trailed off. She realized, horrifyingly, that she didn't have anything to say to complete the sentence.

There had never been anything good about Homeworld, it was just that it was all she'd ever known.

Not that Earth was much better. A short list of pleasant qualities did little to redeem it of its various transgressions, like the fact that nothing at all made sense here.

"Hey, Peridot?"

Peridot turned to Amethyst, but she wasn't looking at her. She was still staring at Peridot's planet.

"Yeah?"

"I'm glad we're friends."

"What's friends?"

Amethyst laughed and pushed herself to her feet. She extended a hand to help Peridot up.

"Look it up. I'm going to sleep. Pearl's probably going to keep us working all day tomorrow, again."

~*~

Friend. n. a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection.

Peridot closed the dictionary and hugged it to her chest.

Friend. Friend. Friend.

She repeated the word to herself, as if that would make it seem more real. A warmth spread gradually from her chest to her fingers and toes. She felt… lighter. She felt bigger.

Friend.

Chapter Text

"--and then she said she's glad we're friends," Peridot finished.

"Amethyst really said that?" Steven was so earnest, so excited, hands clasped together, Peridot almost thought she could see stars reflected in his eyes.

"It seems she really has forgiven me."

"See, I told you--oh, hey, Garnet!" Steven was looking past her now, towards the warp. Peridot turned to follow her line of sight.

"Hello, Steven, Peridot," Garnet acknowledged. She walked a few steps past them, then stopped in her tracks. She turned around to face Peridot. Garnet looking at her like this was unsettling.

"Peridot."

"Uhh… yes?"

Garnet looked at her for a moment, head tilted slightly, as if she was confused about something. After a moment, the faintest smile crossed her face, and she spoke. "Never mind."

"Um. Okay."

Garnet turned and left as if nothing had happened.

"What was that about?" Peridot asked Steven.

"I was going to ask you."

She wrinkled her nose. "Weird."

"Morning, Peri." Amethyst sat next to her at the counter. "What's up with your face?"

"Huh? My... face?"

"Peridot is confused because Garnet was just being weird," Steven said.

"When is she ever not weird?" Amethyst paused for a moment, turning to Peridot. "Hey, uh, Peridot, can you come into the temple with me? There's something I, uh, want to show you."

"Sure, I guess, but doesn't Pearl want us working on the drill?"

"She'll be fine without us for a bit. Come on."

A strange foreboding grew in Peridot's chest as she approached the temple door. She wanted to ask if Amethyst was sure this was okay, but the words lodged themselves somewhere in her throat and she said nothing.

It felt strangely satisfying to give in to the pull of the door--there was something terrifyingly comfortable about following Amethyst through it. The temple seemed to want her here, somehow.

"Where is--"

"Shh." Amethyst placed a hand on her shoulder to quiet her. The door had closed behind them. Peridot could now see some kind of urgency on Amethyst's face.

She frowned, but couldn't speak, no matter how much she wanted to ask what was going on. After a moment, she heard some kind of clattering in the distance.

Amethyst swallowed.

"I was, um, I was in the kindergarten early this morning getting some parts for the drill, and I was attacked by some gem mutants, so I bubbled then and brought them back here, but one of the bubbles, um, broke, and now the largest one is loose in the temple somewhere and I need you to help me find it."

"What? There's a--I can't--"

"Please, Peridot. Garnet and Pearl will be so mad if they find out. No one else can help with this but you."

Peridot groaned. There was no choice. "Fine. Fine. Let's just get this over with. Where is it?"

"It sounded like it was--come on--it sounded like it was this way." Amethyst took Peridot's hand and pulled her along behind her. Peridot reluctantly allowed herself to be led towards the danger.

"You handled it yourself the first time," Peridot whispered. "Why can't you just find it and take care of it a second time without help?"

"Because, I--" Amethyst paused, flushed. "Because the last time I tried to take care of something loose in the temple, it didn't go very well. There are a lot of places here where things can hide."

As if to prove her point, Peridot heard the clattering again, closer this time.

"Amethyst, I think--"

"Shh, it'll hear us. Come on." Amethyst pulled Peridot toward the sound. Peridot tried to speak again, but couldn't bring herself to open her mouth.

I think you should know that I'm weak, that I don't know how to summon my weapon, and that I've never fought anything before in my entire life. I think you should know that Peridots aren't made for fighting and I don't know if I can help you, I don't know if I'm the gem you should be going to for protection, I think I'm far more likely to get one or both of us hurt with my incompetence, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.

She said none of it. Weakly, shamefully, she realized she just didn't want to be a disappointment. She would rather let this gem mutant thing kill her. She would rather die.

Not that she hadn't disappointed her superiors before--she could still hear Jasper's criticism on the trip over, endless loops of why do you always need me to come and lift things for you, to come and open things for you, why are you so useless, and would you shut up about your damn cluster already, or--or Yellow Diamond.

Thinking about how she'd disappointed Yellow Diamond almost made her want to throw up.

"Peridot!" Amethyst elbowed her in the side, hard. "Pay attention. I think it's just around ahead of us."

They were standing in a purple room, hiding behind a pile of garbage. Amethyst was looking at her with a mixture of concern and exasperation. Something about seeing her standing in front of the garbage made her realize that this must be where Amethyst had brought all that garbage--had it been five Earth days now? Four? Earth's rotation cycle was so short, Peridot had trouble keeping track of them. She realized suddenly that she was becoming distracted again and drug herself forcefully back into the present.

She swallowed. She was about to disappoint Amethyst. She didn't know why the thought of it was somehow so much worse than the memory of the others she'd disappointed. Suddenly she realized she was very afraid.

Amethyst drew her whip. She wasn't looking at Peridot anymore, she was peeking around the corner. The sound of breaking glass just ahead made Peridot jump.

"One… two…"

A hand burst through the pile of garbage, reaching for Amethyst. It found the back of her shirt, grabbed her, and pulled, shattering the pile around her. A crumpled soda can cracked Peridot's visor. She raised an arm to shield her face from the debris.

"Amethyst!" She cried.

"Over here!"

Peridot ran towards the sound of Amethyst's voice, heedless of the danger. She skidded around a pile of garbage and got her first glimpse of the thing.

It was huge, all arms. She couldn't even see its gem. One of its arms was holding Amethyst, struggling, kicking.

"Oh, no, oh, no, no, no, no, no." Panic paralyzed her. This was the moment when she would normally ask a stronger gem--Jasper or even the Steven--to do something because Amethyst was about to be crushed--but there was no one here to save her.

Except Peridot.

"Think. Think. Think," she muttered under her breath, paced frantically.

"Peridot, a little help, maybe?" Amethyst shouted.

"I'm trying!"

No weapon--she couldn't summon one and she didn't see one in the piles of garbage surrounding her. Her gem contained nothing useful--some mild, useless detonators, adhesive, not even a gem destabilizer--

The gem mutant tightened its grip on Amethyst, who tilted her head back and gasped, the air forced out of her, and Peridot grabbed the only object within reach and threw it.

It was her visor. Peridot watched its trajectory through the air in slow motion, hoping desperately that it would connect with its target.

It did--more or less. One of the gem mutant's many arms grabbed it out of the air and crushed it. Peridot stared at the broken pieces in shock for several moments before she realized that--as she'd hoped--it had dropped Amethyst and was now coming for her.

"Run!" Amethyst said.

Peridot didn't need to be told twice. She almost tripped over herself turning around, narrowly maintained her balance, and ran as quickly as her short, unenhanced legs would take her.

She could feel it gaining on her, and some part of her knew she couldn't outrun it forever. She rounded a corner into a different and unfamiliar part of the temple, glanced over her shoulder, and saw the mass of arms closing the too-short distance between them. She was slowly running out of stamina.

"Amethyst?" She called behind her, but received no response.

Great. Just great. I help another gem for once in my life and this is what I get--abandoned in my hour of need--I'm going to be--she felt fingers graze against her back--I'm going to be crushed!

It picked her up--gripped her so tightly she thought perhaps she had been crushed already--but from up there, finally, she could see Amethyst behind her, whip in hand.

She shot a fleeting smile to Peridot, twisted back, and struck the thing with the whip, which wrapped around a thousand armpits. Amethyst pulled, and the thing poofed into a puff of smoke. It stirred Amethyst's hair, and she was smiling, and as Peridot fell towards the ground, the word she'd been searching for the previous night came to her all at once, filled her.

Beautiful.

"Peridot, are you okay?" Amethyst's hand was extended to help her up.

She stood shakily. "Yeah."

She scanned Amethyst's face, again, as if she had never seen it before. Amethyst was so much stronger than her--was so much better--but she consistently rejected the rank she deserved, insisted upon seeing herself and Peridot as equal, even insisted upon placing herself below the other gems on this planet--as if she didn't realize how--how--

"Peridot?"

"W-what?"

They were in the kitchen now. Peridot didn't know how long they'd been in the temple, she was no good at reading the position of the Earth's sun, but the sky was bluer and clearer than it had been before. Steven sat in his loft in front of his television. The open air on her gem felt all at once terrifying and liberating.

"You're spacey today, aren't you? I asked you if Pearl had told you she wants you to hang out with her in the barn today."

"Oh, yes, yes, I'll head right down there, I just--"

She paused to lean up against a wall. Suddenly she felt very tired.

"--I just might need to rest for a minute. I don't normally--hah--I don't normally do things like that."

"You should go take a nap. I'll go help Pearl until you wake up."

"What's a nap?"

"Steven!" Amethyst called. "Peridot needs you to teach her how to take a nap. I gotta go help Pearl."

"Yes, sir!" Steven scrambled down the stairs. Amethyst saluted and walked out the door.

The blanket was warm and constricting, but there was something soothing about it. The pillow was perhaps the most foreign of the human objects she'd encountered thus far--it existed solely to be soft. Strange.

She sat with her blanket and pillow in the bathtub and carefully boxed the definitions for blanket, pillow, nap, and beautiful.

beautiful. adj. pleasing the senses or the mind aesthetically; of a very high standard; excellent.

As she drifted off to sleep, she repeated the definition in her mind, and compared it to how Amethyst had looked when she had rescued her from the gem mutant. At first grudgingly, then with a sense of awe and respect, Peridot admitted to herself that perhaps, she supposed, Amethyst could be considered quite excellent.

Chapter Text

It was all yellow--Amethyst's smile, the way the sunlight stuck in her hair, the scratchy earth sand, the glare off the ocean that made her squint. It kept her from looking anywhere but at Amethyst. Her hair tickled Peridot's arm, stirred by a gentle breeze.

"You'll stay with on Earth with me, won't you, Peridot?"

There was a strange, distant echo in Amethyst's voice. It made Peridot dizzy, somehow, as if she was on the edge of a knowledge she didn't want.

She heard her own response, though she hadn't made the conscious decision to speak. "Of course I will."

Amethyst beamed. It warmed Peridot to her center, more than even the planet's sun. She smiled back. She couldn't help it.

Amethyst stood and offered her hand. "Come on, come here."

Somehow, Peridot knew that she was offering to dance. There was something wrong about this, something terrifying, but she couldn't remember what, instead she fluttered strangely with how badly she wanted to accept--perhaps Amethyst would smile at her again.

Taking her hand felt like leaving the bathroom, like feeling the rain.

Peridot was rewarded--Amethyst laughed, pulled her close, spun her clumsily. When her feet left the ground, she caught herself with her hands on Amethyst's shoulders. Some part of her knew she shouldn't want to be closer, but she didn't care. She laced her hands behind Amethyst's neck. She could feel strands of Amethyst's hair on her face. She flushed, suddenly embarrassed--she should pull away--this wasn't appropriate--

"It's a good thing you're staying. If you're here, it can be like this all the time."

Like--like this? This? Right here, this, right--

"Fuse with me?"

~*~

Peridot gasped awake. Her hands flew to her gem. Normal. All normal.

On the outside, at least. On the inside, something was very clearly wrong.

She had never heard of a gem having such a vision. She wondered if it was a natural result of unconsciousness, or if it was the culmination of her growing illness. Even now, even in full (?) possession of her faculties, she couldn't shake the feeling of Amethyst's proximity, her hands on her. Shameful as it was, she couldn't deny that she--she wanted it to be real.

An ominous sign.

The blanket was suffocating her. She threw it off, kicked her pillow down to the end of the tub. The cool fiberglass grounded her. She took deep breaths--she'd picked up the rhythmic, human action of drawing in oxygen from Steven. She found it calming. She needed only to find the most rational course of action, though she had no idea what that might be. The Pearl was likely expecting her at the barn, where she was overwhelmingly likely to encounter Amethyst.

Surely Amethyst would be able to read the vision on her face--surely, the moment she laid eyes on her, she would see her for what she was.

(A disgrace. Disgusting.)

She hugged her knees to her chest as if it would help her hold in her growing despair. The moment Amethyst realized she felt like… this, she would--she would--

Peridot could see Amethyst's face clearly in her mind, twisted in disgust. She would look down at Peridot like she was a clump of dirt. Perhaps she would even convince the rest of the Crystal Gems to harvest her, eliminate her once and for all, after all--it was unnatural--gems of different types never fused--

(But she had to admit, despite the consequences, she wanted to. The more she thought about it, the more inevitable this felt--on some level, she supposed she'd wanted this since Amethyst had said they were friends, since she'd held her hand--of course she would crave such absolute closeness--and of course if Amethyst were to walk in, right now, and ask, of course Peridot would say yes--)

They could harvest her. They could crush her into dust. Now that she had seen it, she was weak with how much she wanted. She couldn't unfeel it. She knew it was wrong, but that didn't matter. Perhaps she deserved to be crushed.

She sat on her shaking hands to quiet them. This was irrational. She couldn't hide in the bathroom forever. She took another deep breath. In. Out.

Her knees shook when she stood, but she ignored them. She climbed out of the tub. Her haunted reflection in the mirror did little to calm her. A breath. In. Out.

It's not like I won't die either way, Peridot thought. When the Cluster emerges, it won't matter what the Crystal Gems think of me.

Somehow the thought comforted her.

She looked at her reflection again. She could see directly through to the pathetic, reaching want inside of her. Surely Amethyst would also see it--to say nothing of the Pearl or Garnet (something about her gaze, shielded by her visor or not, was eerily penetrating).

Either way, you die, she reminded herself.

She was steady enough, now, that her legs didn't shake when she walked across the bathroom and opened the door.

The house was deserted. Thick yellow light shone through the windows that reminded her of her dream. She swallowed the feeling, tuned out the part of her that wanted to cling to the reminder of what closeness to Amethyst had felt like. After all, it hadn't been real. For all she knew, visions as inappropriate as that one were common on Earth. A common result of the "nap".

That didn't change the fact that she'd liked it.

She shook off the thought. She could address it later. It was time to face Amethyst, now.

~*~

Steven saw her first. "Peridot! There you are!"

"Hello, Steven." Her voice was carefully impersonal.

"I was wondering where--hey, are you okay? Did you sleep well?"

"I'm fine. Is Amethyst here?" She couldn't keep the question from slipping out, couldn't help the nervousness that slipped into it.

Steven tilted his head a bit. Peridot could almost see him cataloguing her slip, trying to find what it meant.

"She was here a minute ago, but she just went to the Kindergarten to get more supplies for the drill," Steven said.

"Mm. Yes. Good. I mean--yes. Thank you, Steven. Where is the--where is Pearl?" Peridot could feel her composure slipping. She took a deep breath to regain it.

Steven frowned. "Are you sure you're okay, Peridot?"

"I'm fine." Good. Her tone was even, again, revealing nothing. "Where is Pearl?"

"She's in the barn. She'll be glad you're awake, she's been waiting for you all day," Steven said.

Peridot found the Pearl crouched over the drill panel with a leverage optimizer in her hand. Sure enough, when she heard the sound of Peridot's approaching footsteps, the Pearl looked up and called out to her.

"Peridot! You're awake. Where's your visor?"

She didn't bother to respond. "The Steven said you needed me for something?"

"Oh, yes." The Pearl straightened and brushed her hands off on her clothes. She climbed down from the drill. "Garnet wanted me to discuss something with you. Come here. Let's sit down."

Peridot frowned in confusion, but did as the Pearl asked--as much as it peeved her to obey her.

"This might seem, um… strange to you," Pearl began, "but Garnet asked me to tell you about Rose. Rose Quartz, that is. I've no idea why, but I'm sure she knows something I don't about why it's what you need to hear right now."

She paused, looked down, and closed her eyes. "It wasn't until we got to Earth that I realized I loved her."

The mention of the word love sent chills down Peridot's spine. She supposed she'd known it was coming, from the beginning of Pearl's story, but something about hearing it spoken with that dream still hanging over her brought a fresh wave of fear.

Pearl didn't notice her reaction (why would she?), and continued speaking. "Have you seen the moths on this planet, Peridot?"

"What's 'moth'?"

Pearl projected an image of them into the air by way of explanation.

"Little winged things. They're active at night, and they use this planet's moon to guide them. When they're confronted with electric light," Pearl added a lightbulb to her projection, "they throw themselves at it, again and again, because they believe it's the light of the moon. There's something about this planet, Peridot--or maybe it was something about her--that changes the way you see things, that makes it feel perfectly reasonable to die for something--someone. Somewhere around the third time I carried Rose's gem from battle in my hands, I realized I wasn't much different from the moth, and that I would do anything I had to, even at a detriment to myself, to get as close as I could to that light.

"Did she ever find out?" The question was out before Peridot could stop it.

Pearl laughed. "Yes, yes, she did. I was never any good at keeping a secret. She--"

Steven burst into the room, cutting Pearl off.

"Amethyst's back!"

"Oh, good." Pearl stood. "That means we can finally get back to work." She stood and left the barn without looking back.

Peridot realized after she left that she probably wouldn't get an answer to her question.

She wondered if Garnet had seen through her. She wondered how much these gems knew. She wondered what they had been trying to tell her--because, surely, it was a message from both of them.

Pearl loved Rose Quartz, and where had it gotten her? Banished from Homeworld. Stuck on Earth forever, without Rose Quartz. Not to mention the sacrifices she must have made during the war.

If they were trying to tell her that such feelings were acceptable, they had clearly failed. If anything, Peridot was now more convinced that Homeworld's assessment of the drawbacks of excessive attachment to other gems were completely valid. No wonder gems didn't normally fuse--attachment was too dangerous.

"Hey, Peridot."

Peridot let out an undignified squeak and fell out of her seat. She scrambled to her feet.

"Amethyst! I mean, Amethyst. Hey. Hi."

Amethyst raised her eyebrows. "Hi. Are you okay?"

At least seeing Amethyst had confirmed a hypothesis--that, looking at her, now, with the breeze stirring her hair, with that concern in her eyes, the thick light illuminating her from behind--she was so terribly beautiful, Peridot wanted it to swallow her up, she wanted to become part of it, to draw it in as close as she could.

She wanted to step forward so badly, it terrified her. Instead she stepped back, stumbled, nearly fell again, turned, and ran.

She didn't know where she was going until she got to the beach--not to the sandy beach from her dream, but to the rocky beach where she'd dropped the plate. She sat and looked out at the water.

This was her reality now. This planet was the last thing she would ever see. She would spend the remainder of her relatively meaningless existence here, wanting something that horrified her, that she could never have. The sunlight that had warmed her seemed suddenly glaring. She drew her knees to her chest and struggled to breathe evenly, but she couldn't help the ragged gasps that made her whole body shake. Drops of moisture fell on the rocks in front of her. She realized she was crying. Something about the weakness that implied made her hate herself a little bit more.

She felt someone sit down next to her before she saw them. For one terrible moment, she was afraid it was Amethyst. She turned to look.

It was Garnet. That was almost worse. She made a dissatisfied sound and buried her face in her arms.

"Go away." She meant her voice to sound frustrated, but it came out small and weak.

"Things are different on Earth, Peridot." Garnet's voice was composed as ever. Peridot hated her for it. She didn't bother to respond.

"If you want to talk about this, you know where to find me."

Peridot felt her get up and walk away. She didn't look up.

Amethyst hadn't seen directly through her as Peridot feared she would, but something in Garnet's tone made Peridot sure that Garnet had known what she was feeling without needing to be told.

She remembered suddenly that Garnet was a permanent fusion--she had everything Peridot (curse it, curse it, curse it) wanted, all the time.

She didn't know if the knowledge that it was possible disgusted or uplifted her. The confusion made her want to cry some more.

She did.

Chapter Text

dream. n.
1. a succession of images, thoughts, or emotions passing through the mind during sleep.
2. an aspiration; goal; aim
3. a vision or wild fancy

The sound of Amethyst talking to Pearl made Peridot dig her fingers even more deeply into her palms. She took a deep breath to regain her focus, leaned forward into the cockpit of the drill to try to reach the pesky screws that secured the panel to the dashboard proper. She'd been attempting to fix the wiring all morning--since Steven had ripped the panel from the drill, it had been all tangled, an absolute nightmare to reassemble. It was one of the last things that needed fixing. Despite her determination to get it up and running on her own, without Pearl's help, she'd had no luck all morning.

The screw she'd been fiddling with slipped out all at once, and the entire panel fell out of the dashboard. It dangled by the wires she'd spent the past several hours arranging.

She drew in a breath to let out a very loud and very dissatisfied sound of frustration--let Pearl think she was incompetent, she didn't care--

"Whatcha doin?"

Amethyst. She swallowed her lamentation, straightened abruptly, and hit her head on the edge of the cockpit.

"Ow!" She rubbed the spot with her hand and turned to Amethyst. She fought to keep the frustration out of her voice--not that it was hard, not that looking at Amethyst didn't replace her every conscious thought with that now-familiar yearning. "Just working on the panel."

"Yeah? How's that going?"

"Fine, I just have to--it's going fine. Did you need something?" Ever since the dream, talking to Amethyst was a fresh kind of hell. She was so unaccustomed to… wanting.

"Is everything alright with you? I've barely spoken to you in the past week, and you've seemed so on edge." Amethyst turned away and crossed one arm. "It's almost seemed like you're avoiding me."

Peridot could hear the hurt in Amethyst's voice. She hopped down off the ladder and moved towards her without thinking, stopping herself just short of mimicking the embrace from the dream. She didn't know what to say. Part of her wanted to be honest, but the rest of her would rather throw up than speak the truth.

Peridot avoided Amethyst's eyes. She tried, feebly, to come up with something to say that would appease both halves. "I… I'm not… I'm not ignoring you, I'm just…"

"Hey." Amethyst rested a hand on her shoulder, quieted her frantic thoughts. "We're still friends, right?"

Peridot looked up at her, half-smiled. "Affirmative."

Amethyst laughed. "You're a weird one, Peri."

Peridot gave Amethyst a quick smile, clasped her hands behind her back and erased her expression. "That's interesting," she replied in her most businesslike tone. "From my perspective, you're the strange one!" Her composure fell apart and she burst into laughter.

Amethyst chuckled. "Y'know, when I met you, I never would've thought a gem from Homeworld could be so cool."

"Cool?"

Amethyst smiled. "Yeah, it means--"

I know what it means, Peridot thought. She thinks I'm cool.

"And I never thought that I would--" want to fuse. Peridot cut Amethyst and herself off simultaneously. She had almost let the words slip out. She backtracked. "--would be stuck here for the rest of my existence!"

Amethyst's face fell a little. "Yeah. Sorry about that." Amethyst opened her mouth to continue speaking, then closed it.

"Hey, it's not all bad," Peridot said. "At least…" She paused, unsure of what she could say that would reassure Amethyst without giving too much away. "At least now I know what happened here."

Amethyst perked up. "Pearl's got most of the history of the planet memorized, y'know, with dates and everything. If you asked, I'm sure she'd tell you what she knows!"

"You know, Amethyst, I just might do that."

Peridot was rewarded with a dazzling smile. "Hey, you better get back to work on that panel. Sorry for distracting you."

"Oh, that's okay, I don't mind at all."

But Amethyst was already walking away. "Smell ya later, nerd."

"Smell ya later," Peridot said to herself. She felt a smile creep onto her face. Try as she might, she couldn't shake it.

She turned back to the panel, lifted it in her hands and peered at the wiring on the back.

"Huh," she said to herself. A couple of the center wires were swapped around. She fixed them, and the panel lit up immediately. It was working.

The solution had been right in front of her the entire time.

~*~

She found Garnet sitting on the couch in the house. Garnet looked up when she entered, inclined her head in acknowledgement.

Peridot had planned to head straight for the bathroom, but something in the emptiness of the gesture made her stop. She took a deep breath. I'll have to confront this eventually, she thought. Why not now?

"Several cycles ago, you implied a desire to speak with me about… this," Peridot began. She hoped she'd succeeded in pouring every drop of her disdain for the ways of this gem-forsaken planet in the last word. "What exactly did you mean?"

Garnet stared at her for a moment. If they did survive the Cluster, and if Peridot did end up stuck on Earth forever, she wasn't sure she would ever grow used to the intensity of Garnet's stares.

She finally spoke. "You know what I meant."

Peridot flushed, sputtered, "well n-no, of course I don't! That's ridiculous!"

Garnet laughed softly. "We can talk about this when you're ready." Her tone, though soft, left no room for argument.

Peridot groaned in frustration and stormed into the bathroom. She slammed the door behind her.

Unsure of how else to occupy her time, she picked up her dictionary.

ready. adj. prepared to do something; almost about to do something.

cool. adj. moderately cold, lacking in warmth; slang: very good, excellent, all right.

Excellent. The word, to her, was so closely associated with beautiful that she shivered to think that Amethyst had almost--somewhat--used it to describe her.

Something in the way it made her feel reminded her again of the panel. Inevitably, she opened her book to what was now the most well-worn page of all of them. In a fit of rage, she'd scratched out one of the definitions on it with such force that her pen had torn through the page. Still, she knew it by memory.

love. n. strong affection for another; warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion; unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.

She set the dictionary down and sighed. Her breath stirred its thin pages. Sure, she hadn't expected it, but the more she thought about it, the more inevitable this love felt, from the moment she'd stepped off that damned ship, from the moment she'd laid eyes on a certain puny, overcooked runt (Jasper's words had stuck in her head, grated on her, even then--she'd seen and heard such harshness a thousand times, of course she had, but this had been so very different, so--)

The more she thought about how she'd felt, the more inescapable it seemed--in fact, she was certain now that if she still had access to her old logs, she'd find them filled with evidence of her then-growing respect and admiration for the Amethyst.

She'd been a lost cause the moment she stepped off the ship. No matter what happened next--even if Yellow Diamond came back for her--a part of her would be trapped on Earth forever. 

The thought had once filled her with terror, but now she felt only resignation. She thought of Pearl. Thousands of years on Earth had changed her irrevocably from the serving Pearl she had undoubtedly once been. She pushed herself to her feet and examined her reflection in the mirror. What would she become if she never left?

Of course Garnet knew what she was feeling; it was probably obvious. She was accomplishing nothing through her evasiveness, short of demonstrating just how ashamed and stubborn she was.

She realized suddenly that if Garnet had wanted her shattered for what she felt, she would have done it already.

She opened the bathroom door and peeked around the corner, into the living room. Garnet was gone. She took a deep breath, steeled herself, and resolved to go and find her.

She found her as soon as she stepped outside of the house.

"Peridot, get back inside!" Garnet shouted. Peridot turned to follow the sound of her voice.

Three gem mutants stood on the beach, some distance away. Amethyst was running towards them. Garnet stayed back towards the house with Pearl and Steven.

A chill ran down Peridot's spine before she could stop it. Of course Amethyst didn't need help, of course she could handle this, but then--why was Peridot running towards her?

Amethyst got her whip around the first gem mutant, which disappeared into a puff of smoke. She pulled it back in towards her. Peridot hated running on the sand. She stopped next to Garnet and Pearl, who had both drawn their weapons. Steven clung to Garnet's hip. Blood was dripping down his cheek where he'd been cut. Pearl kneeled before him with a cloth, trying to convince Steven to stand still so she could mop it up. The smoke obscured Peridot's view of Amethyst for a few breathless moments. She wasn't sure what she would do if--

The smoke cleared, giving Peridot an unobstructed view of Amethyst hanging upside down by her foot in the hands of a gem mutant.

Peridot might as well have been back in the temple, in Amethyst's room. No one was there to protect Amethyst, no one but her. She looked around frantically, grabbed the first weapon she saw--Pearl's spear, straight out of her hand--and ran.

"Hey!" Pearl shouted after her. Peridot only half-heard her.

It was Steven's voice that cut through her focus. "Peridot!"

It was too late. Really, it had always been too late.

Peridot drove the spear through the center of the mutant that held Amethyst. It, too, retreated into its gem.

"Amethyst," she said. Amethyst scrambled to her feet, pointed behind her.

"Peridot, look out!"

She turned, raised the spear, but she had only enough time to see the teeth of the last gem mutant bury themselves in her stomach. Another mouth reached for her gem, but before she could think to be afraid, her vision shattered into whiteness.

Chapter Text

Dazzling green. Peridot blinked several times, raised her hand to cover her eyes. After a moment, the familiar green landscape of her gem fell away--slowly, it was replaced with an inky night sky and a sea of thousands of flickering stars.

She heard the ocean before she felt the grass beneath her. She was on top of the temple, where she'd taken Amethyst to look at the stars. Amethyst was gone now, of course she was, but Peridot could almost feel her lingering presence here. She was aware of exactly where she'd been, just there--though she knew it was silly, she could have sworn she saw an imprint in the grass where Amethyst had lain. Almost unconsciously, she sat down there.

Amethyst's absence made her ache in a way that was alien to her. She wasn't sure what could satisfy it--she wanted to wrap the memory of Amethyst sitting here around her like a blanket, but even that was not enough, only made the unsettling yearning even worse.

Her physical form had been destroyed before, twice. Once was soon after she'd emerged, when she'd gotten caught beneath a running gem drill in her first kindergarten. The incident remained on her record even to this day (she was lucky she hadn't been shattered--in the accident or as punishment for her mistake). The second time was when the crystal gems had captured her. Both times she'd awoken inside her gem and emerged quickly. This was different.

She twisted her fingers through the grass beneath her absentmindedly. This place felt unsettlingly real--nothing like the swirling blur of colors she'd seen in the brief moments between her previous regenerations.

Some part of her was unsurprised to have woken up here. Earth had already changed her so irrevocably, it made sense that it was inside her like this, too. It was no wonder the Crystal Gems had stayed here, had rebelled against Homeworld to protect this place. It had a way of affecting parts of her she didn't know existed. Even now, even inside of an illusion, the sound of the wind on the grass and the smell of the ocean stirred inside of her strangely. She laid down and looked up at the sky.

Peridot couldn't imagine remaining on one planet for as long as the other gems had. She imagined this pattern of stars (which, to her, seemed only as significant as the ephemeral clouds on this planet, as the rain) would become so familiar, she'd forget the way they shifted and blurred when she accelerated the ship up to full speed, she'd forget how she once used them as measurements of distance, she'd forget the names of the ones just barely out of sight.

She thought of Amethyst, again, and of Steven, and the loss didn't seem to matter.

It was quite by accident that she noticed the one change her subconscious had made to the memory--studying the night sky, she'd noticed that something looked different, felt different. When the difference came to her, the weight of its implications settled on her irrevocably.

The star that was her home planet--where she'd emerged--was gone.

Her first response was to laugh. It came out hysterical, a bit too high. It grated on her just enough to keep her firmly rooted in reality.

Earth was inside of her. It had changed her so irrevocably, there was nothing left of who she had once been, even less of the places she had come from. It seemed her decision had been made for her.

Now all that was left was to copy the Crystal Gems' strange symbol. Strangely enough, it felt natural, like it was always meant to be there.

~*~

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Before she took stock of her surroundings, before she fully blinked the swirling lights out of her vision, she squinted for even the faintest blur of purple. Perhaps Amethyst had waited with her for her regeneration. The tiniest hope stirred within her.

But, alas, as if Yellow Diamond herself were personally punishing her for her sins, her only company was the Pearl, who set the book she'd been reading on the counter without so much as looking at Peridot.

"Now, I'm not sure why you did what you did," Pearl began, "but I hope all that time in your gem gave you the opportunity to think about--" She looked up and stopped short. "Oh."

Peridot laughed nervously. She felt heat rising to her face. "Did--did I get the symbol right?"

"Yes." Pearl stood and walked over to her. "It's a star." She touched the one on her own chest absently, tilted her head a little. "It seems to suit you."

Peridot didn't know what to say, so she said nothing. She wanted to leave, she needed to find Amethyst immediately, but there was something heavy and significant about this interaction.

Pearl crouched down to look her in the eyes and extended a hand for her to shake. "Welcome to the Crystal Gems."

The name sent a guilty shiver of pleasure through her. She thought back to the moments after she'd arrived on this planet with Jasper and Lapis Lazuli, how she hadn't thought twice about blasting Amethyst, Steven, Pearl, and Garnet with the ship, about nearly destroying them. She'd fallen so far, there was no longer anything steady beneath her. She felt it, again, the rush of jumping off of something high, the fearful knowledge that she'd given up everything for this planet that was so alien to her.

She accepted the handshake. She thought to herself that perhaps Pearl wasn't so bad, despite her defectiveness.

An excited gasp drew Peridot's attention to the front door.

"You're back!" Steven ran to her and wrapped his arms around her waist. "You were gone for so long!"

"How long was I in my gem for?" she asked. It had only felt like an hour or two.

"Just a few days," Pearl responded.

day. n. a period of twenty-four hours as a unit of time, reckoned from one midnight to the next, corresponding to the rotation of the earth on its axis, Peridot recited to herself. If she was to remain on Earth for the remainder of her existence, she resolved to make a more concerted effort to learn its strange dialect.

Strange, how time slipped by inside her gem.

"You've got stars now!" Steven said. His expression pulled a smile from her. There were stars in his eyes, too.

"It seemed like the obvious next course of action," Peridot said. "Besides, they look good on me. Right, Pearl?"

Pearl's eyes widened in surprise. "Yes, as I said, they suit you."

Steven beamed. "I have to go tell Garnet and Amethyst, they'll be so excited!"

"Amethyst?" Peridot blurted before she could stop herself.

Neither of them seemed to notice. "I'm sorry, Steven, but you just missed them. They both left on a mission. I don't know when they'll be back."

"Oh." Steven's face fell a little. "Well, that's okay. We can still have lots of fun together while we wait, right, Peridot?"

"If by fun you mean work on the gem drill, then yes," Pearl interjected. She flushed. "I've been, ah, stuck on something for the past several days, Peridot. I could really use your help."

Peridot brightened. It was nice to be needed. "I'll see what I can do," she responded nonchalantly.

~*~

"Ah, here's your mistake. This wire was just frayed, needs replacing. Simple fix."

Peridot fixed the wire and straightened, brushing her hands off on her front. The problem with working on five thousand year old circuit boards was that they were usually covered in dust.

"Oh. Yes. I knew that," Pearl said nonchalantly. Her nose was turned just slightly into the air.

Something in the new comfort between them made Pearl's expression slip into perfect clarity. And, Peridot supposed, just because Pearls weren't made to be engineers didn't mean one couldn't learn how.

But Peridot didn't say that. Instead, she handed Pearl the pliers. "It happens to the best of us."

~*~

Despite the recent ease in Peridot's interactions with Pearl, dinner that evening was an uncomfortably quiet affair. Pearl had cooked, and Steven had scooped piles of mushy food onto three plates, despite that neither she nor Pearl had shown any interest in "spaghetti". Steven had sauce all over his face, and, inexplicably, his hands, while Pearl and Peridot's food remained politely untouched.

"When will Garnet and Amethyst be back?" Steven asked. Peridot's stomach turned at the sight of the half-chewed food in Steven's mouth, and she averted her eyes.

"Please don't talk with your mouth full, Steven."

Steven frowned, but swallowed his food.

"I'm not sure," Pearl continued. "It shouldn't have even taken them this long. I hope they're okay." Worry crept into Pearl's voice. She glanced behind Peridot at the setting sun.

Anxiety twisted in Peridot's stomach. She wanted to jump out of her seat--it seemed wrong to remain sitting when Amethyst could be in danger--but she knew there was nothing she could do. She didn't know how to summon her weapon. She was powerless to protect Amethyst. Peridots weren't built for fighting.

"I can't summon my weapon." Peridot spoke so quickly she surprised even herself.

Pearl, who had been poking at the spaghetti on her plate experimentally with her fork, looked up in surprise.

"I want to learn how," Peridot finished. "I want you to teach me."

Pearl looked at her for a moment, wide-eyed, before she responded. "Of course," she said. "I had to teach myself how to summon my weapon. No one taught me on Homeworld, either. Of course I'll help you." She gave Peridot a small smile. Peridot returned it.

"But not tonight," Pearl said firmly. "Steven is still learning how to summon his weapon, too, so I want him to be there when I teach you, and it's about time for him to go to bed."

"Aww, Pearl, come on," Steven whined.

"I'll hear none of it," Pearl said. "You can play video games for twenty minutes, and then you have to get your pajamas on. You want me to tell you a story tonight, right?"

Steven scrambled down from his chair by way of response. Pearl smiled warmly. Peridot felt one tug at the corners of her mouth, too. She'd never seen anything quite like Steven, but there was something so pure and earnest about him, it was impossible to avoid--she paused on the word again--love.

~*~

Peridot stole Steven's screen from the side of his bed after he went to sleep and sat with it in her bathroom. She left the door cracked open. She looked up with every sound of the settling house, hoping it was the warp signaling Amethyst's return.

While she waited, she searched the device for more information about Earth's culture. The humans seemed to have organized the majority of their knowledge in a single, searchable database called "the Google". Spelling, for some unfathomable reason was almost impossible for her to grasp--the orders of the letters seemed almost arbitrary to her. On Homeworld, written language was expressed through symbols, which Peridot found far more efficient, thank-you-very-much.

I'm not sure why humans have to make their screens so… obnoxious, Peridot thought to herself while she squinted at the tiny onscreen keyboard, trying to find each individual letter of what she wanted to type. At length, she was able to write:

earth quarting rithals

She touched "Search". "The Google" returned nothing but videos and photos of strange earth animals. She cursed the primitive nature of the humans' data organization systems and tried again.

courting eithals

She touched the first link: "Courtship - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia".

She skimmed the article. She grew increasingly disgusted with humanity the further in she got. She found the "Modern people" section particularly frightening. Courtship ordinarily begins when a single man approaches a single woman by going through the woman's father, it read. Peridot wrinkled her nose and formed a mental list of her problems with earth courtship:

  1. She wasn't sure whether she was supposed to be the man or the woman.

  2. She had to look up what "father" meant. When she did, she wondered who Amethyst's father might be. Greg? Garnet? Whatever kindergarten worker had planted Amethyst in the ground before she emerged?

  3. She didn't know how to begin to approach the phrase "by going through". Did they mean… literally? Was she meant to fight Amethyst's "father"? Pass through their physical form? Or figuratively, to engage in a competition of wills?

    1. "Approach"? Peridot had approached Amethyst countless times since she'd been captured.

      1. Was there an unspoken line across which one did not approach outside of courtship on earth?

        1. Had Peridot accidentally crossed it?

The whole matter was confusing enough to make Peridot dizzy. Surely Amethyst did not prescribe to such silly customs?

But, then again, Amethyst had never lived anywhere but on Earth. And it wasn't as though Peridot could just ask her how she preferred to be--

Peridot stopped herself short before she could finish her thought. Thinking the words would make it real, and she was so afraid of what might happen when it was real.

She read through several other pages on "Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia": "Flirting", "Dating", "Touching", and "Kiss" (this article embarrassed Peridot so much that she could get through very little of it before flushing forest green and closing the page). They each did little to ease her growing confusion. She hadn't the slightest idea how to navigate such a disgraceful desire as the one she felt. No one had ever taught her how.

The sound of the warp. She'd been listening so hard for it, she was certain she'd imagined it, until she heard Garnet's voice.

"Quiet, Amethyst. Steven's asleep."

Peridot dropped Steven's screen clumsily. It clattered loudly on the floor. She squeaked quietly--so much for being subtle--and pushed herself quickly to her feet. She threw the bathroom door open--quietly--and bumped straight into Amethyst.

Their faces were so close, everything seemed to slow down for a moment.  

Peridot pulled back hastily, but couldn't quite shake the warmth of Amethyst's proximity, the feel of her breath on her mouth (kiss. v. touch with the lips as a sign of love). Peridot took several deep breaths to gather herself.

"Are you okay?" Amethyst asked. "I heard a noise in here and I wanted to check on you." She closed the door softly behind her. "You've--you've got stars!" Peridot looked up to see Amethyst staring at her with wide eyes. She didn't know what to say, so she blushed again while she tried to figure it out.

"Yeah, I-- I was in my gem, and I wanted to--" She didn't know how to explain her decision without telling Amethyst that it was all for her, so she just trailed off.

Amethyst didn't seem to need more words. She smiled, big and warm, in a way that filled Peridot up totally.

"What was that noise?" Amethyst asked.

"What? Nothing. I just slipped." The lie came to Peridot easily. She pointedly avoided looking at Steven's screen in the bathtub. No one was supposed to know she'd taken it. They definitely weren't supposed to know what she'd been reading.

She remembered, suddenly, why she'd wanted to talk to Amethyst in the first place, why she'd dropped the screen in the mad scramble to reach her before she disappeared inside the temple.

"I was worried about you." Once the words spilled out, Peridot wished she could put them back in. She avoided Amethyst's eyes and looked down at the floor instead. She had no desire to gauge her reaction (probably disgust--surely, if she knew everything, she would be, and the vivid image of it on Amethyst's face sufficed enough that she didn't need to look, anyway). She pushed forward. "Pearl said you went on a mission with Garnet, and she said you should have come back sooner, and she was worried, so I was…" She caught herself this time. "I was concerned."

Amethyst laughed, soft and small. Peridot couldn't resist, she looked up--she loved to see Amethyst laugh even if it was at her.

"It was nothing," Amethyst said. "The warp got broken in the fight and we had to walk to the nearest one, so it took a little longer. That's all. See?" She extended her arms out to her sides and turned around for Peridot. "Totally unharmed."

Peridot had seen other Amethysts before, the huge ones, the scary ones, the ones that were highly ranked enough they could get away with crushing a Peridot for fun without repercussions. She supposed she should have been surprised that of all the thousands of Amethysts, Peridot had chosen to throw her respectability away over this one, yet with Amethyst standing before her now it seemed like the most natural and understandable course of events. She remembered what she'd read.

"I wanted to ask you if you wanted to--ah, I'm sorry, I'm not--the whole process is still very confusing to me, see, and I tried to research, but--but I couldn't figure out who I was supposed to ask." Peridot wrung her hands together. They were shaking. She knew she wasn't making sense, but she was so damn nervous she didn't remember how to string together a sentence in this clumsy language.

Amethyst pretended not to notice. "Well, whatever your question is, I'm sure Pearl knows the answer, or maybe Garnet. If you're looking for help with research, you've got the wrong gem."

Peridot opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. She wasn't entirely sure what had just happened.

"I've got to get to sleep. All that walking really tired me out, and I bet Pearl's going to expect me to help with the drill again tomorrow. Gotta get my fourteen hours of rest in. Goodnight, Peri."

"Goodnight," she responded weakly.

Amethyst closed the door behind her.

Peridot wasn't sure whether she wanted to smile or cry. Amethyst had liked the stars, at least.

When she was sure she was alone, she climbed back into the bathtub, picked up Steven's screen, and continued reading where she'd left off. If a Pearl could learn to be an engineer, a Peridot could learn to… court.

Chapter Text

Peridot took a deep breath to steady herself and rehearsed her plan in her mind for the thousandth time. She knew (of course she knew) that there was nothing to be afraid of, but that did little to quiet the trembling fear inside of her at the thought of what she was about to do--the knowledge that she was making the first step towards--towards what?

Certain humiliation, she thought gloomily. Despite the dismal odds of success, she knew already that she had to try. Even the most remote possibility of such a relationship with Amethyst was too tempting to pass up.

Amethyst was watching wrestling in Steven's loft, alone. Peridot had researched pick up lines until the sun had risen that morning, and had finally found one that she hoped would convey everything that she was feeling. She practiced the line again in her mind as she climbed the stairs. She tried to keep her knees from shaking, but wasn't sure she completely succeeded. Amethyst's hair seemed messier than usual--small flyaway strands of it caught the light. Her right hand was in a half-eaten bowl of popcorn. When she watched wrestling with Steven, they could be heard anywhere in the house. When she was alone, she was silent.

"Amethyst?" Peridot began when she reached the top of the stairs.

Amethyst turned. "Hey, Peri." She smiled.

Peridot didn't respond, just launched right into it. "Shoot for the moon! Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars?" Her voice tilted up at the end as if she were asking a question.

Amethyst frowned in confusion. "Uh… what?"

Peridot waited expectantly for a moment, but Amethyst said nothing. Finally, she asked, "well?"

"Uh, that's nice. Where'd you find a motivational quote like that, Peridot?"

What? Oh, oh-- oh!, Peridot thought. Retreat!

"I just--I thought you might--" Peridot backed away, stumbled, caught her balance. She pointed at the star on Amethyst's knee, and then at the star on her chest. "Stars, you know! I really like-- stars!"

She was at the top of the stairs now. She turned and ran down them and out the front door.

Okay, so maybe that wasn't a pick up line, she thought as she walked across the sand.

She made it almost to the water before she started crying. The stars she'd added when she regenerated now only served to remind her of her failure. She tried to will them away, but they wouldn't budge. She wiped the tears from her face and sat down. The pieces were slipping into place in her mind, forming a picture of just how thorough of a turn for the worse her life had taken. She couldn't go back to Homeworld now, never again. She was stuck on this planet forever. She would never have Amethyst (she was clearly incapable of initiating such a relationship), but she would have to look at her and want until the end of her life, which would likely be soon--the Cluster was due to emerge at any moment.

And it wouldn't just take her. It would take Amethyst, too. She might even have to watch Amethyst die.

It was this eventuality that drew tears from her again. She buried her head in her hands and tried to keep her shoulders from shaking--after all, she couldn't have Amethyst walking outside and seeing she was upset.

It was in this state that Steven found her. Peridot heard his light feet approaching on the sand. She knew if she lifted her head, Steven would see that she was crying, so she didn't move and hoped he would go away on his own.

"Is something wrong, Peridot?"

Peridot said nothing. Steven sat with her silently for a moment before speaking again.

"It's okay to be upset about it."

At the permission to grieve, a sob escaped her that shook her whole body, along with a pathetic whimpering sound.

"Oh, no," Steven said. He placed a hand on Peridot's back and rubbed circles with it. The motion was oddly soothing. He spoke again after a moment. "You have to tell me what's wrong."

There was no point in pretending she wasn't upset now. Besides, though it was weakness, she desperately wanted to be comforted.

"You can't tell Amethyst." Her voice came out as a whisper. She couldn't bring herself to speak any louder.

"I won't! I'm great at keeping secrets," Steven promised.

Peridot nodded. "She doesn't…" she forced the rest of the sentence out. "She'll never like me."

Steven laughed. "That's ridiculous! Amethyst is your friend, she already--oh." Steven sobered. Peridot looked up at him.

"Do you have a crush on Amethyst, Peridot?"

Hearing the words out loud made Peridot blush. She hid her head in her hands again and nodded.

"Oh my gosh!" Steven jumped to his feet. "I have to go tell Garnet!"

"What? Why?"

But Steven was already running away. He turned back and called over his shoulder. "She's, like, basically a love expert!"

Peridot groaned and buried her face in her hands, this time from shame rather than despair. She considered making a break for it down the beach, but she'd learned by now that she couldn't evade the Crystal Gems forever. If she ran now, she wasn't sure she wouldn't come back on her own, when the space from Amethyst and Steven became too much to bear.

It was inevitable, then. The entire situation was going to blow up in her face.

She wondered if Garnet would laugh at her, if she would make jokes at her expense. Peridot had treated Garnet no better before--well, before all of this.

She deserved mockery, she supposed. She deserved condemnation.

She heard Steven and Garnet approaching in the distance. She was so nervous, if she hadn't sworn off eating, she thought she might have thrown up.

Peridot looked up when she felt Garnet sit down next to her. "I think we're going to need some privacy, Steven," she said.

"Aw, man." Steven walked off down the beach, kicking sand as he went.

"Are you ready to talk, Peridot?" Garnet asked.

"I don't know what to say," she responded honestly.

"Steven said you were upset. Why don't you start with that?"

Peridot shivered. Steven had at least figured it out on his own. Garnet was going to make her say it.

She opened her mouth to speak three times before she was able to force anything out. "Amethyst," she finally said. "I… for several weeks now, I've been having strange… feelings. I believe the human word for it is…" She paused. The embarrassment paralyzed her here. Love. She thought the word but couldn't say it.

Garnet did not respond how she'd been expecting her to. There was no mention of Peridot's unsuitability, of her previous affiliation with Homeworld, of her obvious inadequacies in the realms of courtship, of her complete inability to protect Amethyst in battle. Instead, when Peridot looked up, Garnet was smiling.

"Is that why you were upset?" Garnet asked.

"Well, sort of." Peridot still wasn't sure why she wasn't being made fun of, but the knowledge that she wasn't made the words come a bit easier.

"I want…" She took a deep breath. She was afraid that saying it out loud would make it real. Then again, she supposed it already was--that she could look down at her form and see stars said as much. Still, she didn't know if she could force the words out. She supposed Garnet could probably read between the lines anyway. "I've never fused with another gem before. I don't know what it's like."

Garnet laughed softly. "That's what you want? With Amethyst?"

Peridot had to close her eyes and look away before she could admit it aloud. "Yes."

"Fusion is wonderful," Garnet answered. "Especially with a gem you care about."

Peridot flushed, but didn't look up, didn't respond.

"Have you talked to Amethyst about any of this, Peridot?"

Peridot laughed bitterly. "I can't."

"Why not?"

Now that Garnet knew the most shameful part of it--what she wanted--the words came easier. "I tried to research traditional customs on Earth, but it seems I'm incapable of performing them. I can't flirt--at least, not in a way that's understandable to her. I don't know how I'll ever communicate to her what I want, I can't even--" she stopped speaking, sighed. When she spoke again, her voice came out at half volume. "I can't even say it to you."

"Mmm." Garnet acknowledged. "Peridot."

"What?" Her eyes were watering again, and her voice came out small and plaintive.

Garnet put a hand on her shoulder and turned to face her better. "You're right. You can't mimic Earth customs. You'll never be able to go about this like a human."

Peridot frowned. "Then what am I supposed to do?"

"You must communicate with Amethyst in your own way. Above all, you must be open and honest. Do not leave room for misunderstanding."

Though she knew Garnet was, as Steven had said, a "love expert", she would much rather ask Amethyst through subtlety. Still, she supposed the advice deserved some consideration. The mere concept of openness terrified her absolutely--so much so that she again found it difficult to speak.

"We have nothing in common," she choked out.

Garnet held up her hands. "They didn't when they met. They were quite like you and Amethyst are now."

Peridot took in this new information with wide eyes. She remembered again the electric pleasure she'd felt in her dream when Amethyst touched her. She had to do everything in her power to try. She had to.

"I think I'm going to ask her on a date." The words spilled out easily, before Peridot considered what she was saying. Still, upon reflection, she decided it seemed the natural next step.

"I want to help plan it!" Steven came running from behind a rock, almost tripped over himself, and slid to a stop in front of Garnet and Peridot.

Garnet looked at Peridot questioningly.

"Sure," Peridot responded. It wasn't as if she knew the first thing about planning a date anyway.

Steven's eyes had taken on that wide-eyed look of wonder they got when he was excited. "I've got to go get Pearl!"

"Pearl?" Peridot wasn't sure why adding another witness to her embarrassment was necessary, but Steven had already taken off down the beach.

"Should we follow him?" Garnet asked. She stood and offered Peridot a hand up.

"Okay."

~*~

"You expect me to eat this?" Pearl's wrinkled nose demonstrated how appealing she found the prospect. Peridot was no more thrilled. She and Pearl were seated at a table at Fish Stew Pizza. In the years she was likely to spend on Earth, Peridot wondered how many more times someone would present a disgusting human concoction to her and expect her to eat it. There were small, dead creatures on the pizza, with staring eyes.

"Amethyst would eat it!" Steven responded. He and Garnet were leaning against the wall, coaching the practice date from afar.

Pearl picked up a slice of pizza with two fingers and slid it over to her plate. She picked up her utensils and began to cut the pizza into neat, uniformly sized pieces.

"Amethyst would have finished the whole thing by now!" Exasperation seeped into Steven's voice.

Pearl groaned in frustration. "I can't do this!" She dumped the pizza off her plate and on top of the other slices. It folded over itself and smeared bloody red sauce on the Topping that Watched. Peridot shivered unconsciously.

Pearl stood, walked around the table, and crouched down next to Peridot.

"Listen, Peridot, the date is going to go fine. Amethyst is obviously--"

Garnet coughed loudly, cutting Pearl off. Pearl glared at her.

"What I meant to say is, I'm sure Amethyst would just want you to be yourself on a date with her. You don't need to pretend to like pizza. Please," Pearl shivered in disgust, "don't pretend to like pizza." She stood and turned to Garnet and Steven. "I'm going to go back to work on the drill and try to get the smell of that disgusting earth food out of my head."

With that, she was gone.

"I understand that this is a minor setback," Steven said, "but it's okay. I'll just step in for Pearl so we still have an Amethyst."

"No, Steven," Garnet cut in, "I think Pearl is right." She sat down across from Peridot. "Have you given much thought to how you're going to ask her?"

"Uh, no. I'm afraid whatever I plan, the words won't come out once I'm standing in front of her."

"You must be direct," Garnet said. "You and Amethyst don't have enough shared background for subtlety."

Peridot sighed. "I know."

~*~

It was dark when Peridot returned to the house. The blue light from the TV spilled across the kitchen and living room. Peridot could hear Steven and Amethyst on the loft watching wrestling. Garnet and Pearl were at the barn. They'd said they wanted Peridot to have privacy. She supposed it was a bit reassuring, knowing they were gone. It meant if she humiliated herself, there would be fewer there to see it.

The sounds of human voices all sounded the same to Peridot, and coming from the TV's speakers, they were especially easy to tune out into a low, meaningless buzz in the background. Steven was wearing his pajamas. Amethyst's hair looked as it always did--that is, incredibly messy. Even so, Peridot was struck again by how beautiful Amethyst was, sitting cross-legged with one hand in a mostly empty bowl of popcorn.

Amethyst and Steven sat in an uncharacteristic silence, and neither turned when Peridot approached. Perhaps they were too fixated on the TV, perhaps they didn't hear. Peridot cleared her throat and forced out the first of the words she'd rehearsed with Garnet in the restaurant, and a thousand times to herself on the way over.

"I wanted to ask you something," Peridot said. There was a strange, unfamiliar pounding in her ears. Her hands were shaking, just a little. She balled them into fists and willed herself to maintain her focus.

Steven jumped in surprise and turned. His eyes widened when he took in Peridot with her hands clasped in front of her nervously. He glanced from Peridot to Amethyst back to Peridot. "I, uhh, I'm gonna go check on lion." He pushed himself to his feet and began backing out of the room. "Bye!"

After a confused silence, Amethyst turned away from Steven to look at Peridot. The sight of her eyes made all but a thread of Peridot's courage leave her.

"Uhh, what is it?" Amethyst asked.

She took a deep breath. "I was wondering if you wanted to go on a date with me?"

A moment's silence. Amethyst burst out laughing.

"Ha! Good one, Peri. I bet you don't even know what a date is." She turned back to the TV.

"I do." Peridot spoke softly, but it was loud enough for Amethyst to hear, to whip her head back around and look at her. Her eyes were wide.

"You're serious?" Her voice came out softer and more vulnerable than Peridot had ever heard it.

Peridot wasn't sure why she spoke so quietly. "Yes."

"I…" Amethyst shifted her whole body around to face Peridot, reached behind her to turn off the TV. The ringing in Peridot's ears filled the silence. She didn't know what to say, so she waited. Amethyst was staring at her, and Peridot realized after a moment through the dim moonlight that she was blushing. She thought with fascination that it was a lovely purple.

Amethyst took only a deep breath to recover her casual air. She shook her hair out, as if she could shake off the weight of the moment. "I mean, yeah, sure," she said. "Sounds like fun."

"O-okay." Peridot panicked. In her mind, Amethyst had never said yes. Her mental preparation had never considered the possibility of actually going on a date with Amethyst. She didn't know what to say next.

"Tomorrow, then?" Peridot tried. Her voice came out a bit too high.

Amethyst smiled easily. "Sure. Tomorrow."

Peridot was shaking so much, she didn't know how she managed to walk down the stairs. Surely Amethyst had noticed.

Normally, she would have gone to her bathroom. Instead, she walked outside the front door and across the sand to the place she'd cried with Steven earlier that day.

She said yes, Peridot thought to herself. She repeated the words in her mind again and again in time with the gentle waves, but that still didn't make them feel real.

She said yes.

Chapter Text

Peridot wished she'd asked Steven what other kinds of pizza she might find more appealing. But she hadn't, so when she'd been asked what she wanted, she spit out the only type of pizza she knew, the one Steven had ordered. And now she had quadrupled the witnesses of her failure--she had four new pairs of eyes on the pizza to scrutinize her lack of understanding of Earth customs. Though she supposed they were dead.

Peridot shuddered to consider what Amethyst might be thinking.

"So, uhh," she began awkwardly. "How have you been?"

Amethyst smiled indulgently. "We both live in the same house."

"Oh," Peridot said. "Right."

Peridot pulled a slice of pizza onto her plate. She remembered how Pearl had cut it and thought that seemed a reasonable strategy, so she picked up her utensils. She had already resigned herself to eating at least a few bites. She pushed the Topping that Watched off the pizza, off her plate, onto the table. She hated it. She began cutting her pizza into neat pieces.

She looked up when Amethyst laughed.

"What's funny?" She asked.

"You."

Peridot groaned in exasperation. "You're always laughing at me." She popped a bit of pizza into her mouth and swallowed it quickly. It didn't taste as awful as she'd expected, but she still dreaded the next bite. "I don't know what I keep doing wrong," she continued.

Amethyst just looked at her. "I laugh at you because you're cute," she said.

There the word was again. Cute. She could count on one hand the number of times she'd heard it spoken before she'd come to Earth, but here it seemed they used it liberally. Still, it warmed her strangely to hear Amethyst use it to describe her. She ate another bite of pizza. Her face twisted with disgust before she could help it.

"What are we doing here? You don't even like food." Amethyst sounded distant.

This wasn't going well. This was where Peridot was supposed to take Amethyst. Peridot wanted a relationship with Amethyst. Dates preceded a relationship. This was where dates took place. This is where humans went on dates.

Oh, she realized. This is where humans go on dates.

"I took you here because this is where Steven took me when we practiced," she admitted. "I didn't know anywhere else to go."

Amethyst looked from Peridot to her half-eaten slice of pizza. Her eyes widened with some kind of realization, and she smiled.

"Sounds like you got some bad advice," she said. "Dates are supposed to be fun. A date is something you go on to get to know the other person better, if you like them and want to, you know, go out with them."

Peridot felt that strange electric feeling. Amethyst had said yes. Peridot had wondered if Amethyst understood her intentions in asking, she wondered what the acceptance had meant. It seemed now that Amethyst had confirmed it, in a backwards sort of way. Did Amethyst really want to…?

"Peridot," Amethyst continued. "You obviously have no idea how to plan a date."

Peridot's heart sunk. She braced herself for rejection.

"Really, I don't know why we let you to the date, since you don't have any background with Earth customs. So I've decided to take over for you."

Peridot glanced up. She'd expected the date to be over. She didn't understand what was happening now.

"Will you go on a date with me?"

It was back. The strange, crackling flutter. "Yes." She was sitting in a restaurant with pizza she hated, which turned over uncomfortably in her stomach. Of course she would. She was already here.

Amethyst beamed. "Good." Without missing a beat, she rolled up the remaining pizza and consumed all of it in three bites. Peridot had to look away. Gross.

She dropped some Earth currency on the table and stood. She extended a hand to Peridot. "Let's go, then."

Peridot took Amethyst's hand. Everything slipped into focus for a moment--the sound of her own breathing, the handful of humans staring at them. She let Amethyst pull her to her feet, and the world around her started moving again.

"I know exactly where to take you," Amethyst said. "I think you'll love it."

Peridot was less than convinced. She hadn't loved many places on Earth, especially many human places. "What is it?" She asked.

"It's called an arcade. I don't know how to explain it--basically, it's where humans play games. Lots of the games are on screens, though. I think it'll be right up your alley. And it's just a couple of buildings down."

Peridot wondered what alleys had to do with it, but nodded her head in acknowledgement. It at least sounded better than the pizza.

She heard the arcade before she saw it--a cacophony of strange beeps and buzzes, and the sounds of humans. When they stopped outside it, she saw them. Big ones, small ones. Some were hunched over unfamiliar machines, and others ran from one end of the room to the other. She wrinkled her nose unconsciously.

"I can get rid of the people if you want," Amethyst said.

"Please."

Amethyst smirked and gave Peridot a little wave before shapeshifting into an unfamiliar monster.

"I love being a crocodile," Amethyst said. It was strange to hear the words from such a grotesquely shaped mouth. "I'd recommend you stand over there, at the corner of the building," she continued.

Even as she spoke, the people were taking notice of her, backing slowly away towards the back of the arcade. Peridot wasted no time getting out of the way, but it wasn't long before she heard screams and saw humans pouring out of the arcade. Peridot chuckled at how idiotic these humans were--the "crocodile" was clearly a gem.

Amethyst returned a few minutes later. "We should have the place all to ourselves now."

"Thanks," Peridot said. She followed Amethyst into the arcade. The premise was far more palatable now that she knew it was vacant.

"I know exactly which game you should play first! I think you'll like it."

Though she doubted she was capable of liking anything created by humans, she felt excitement stir within her, if only because Amethyst was so excited. Amethyst pulled her to the back of the arcade and stopped in front of one of the most primitive-looking machines of all.

"You'll love it," Amethyst said. "It's called 'Galaga'. You're this white spaceship down at the bottom, and you have to shoot all the enemies at the top. I figured it's aligned with your interests. Y'know, since you tried to blast us with your spaceship when you got here, and all."

"Hah, yeah." Peridot laughed weakly, even as regret twisted within her. "Why don't you show me how to play? You can pretend the enemy ships are me. Then we'll be even."

Amethyst laughed easily. The sound diffused some of the tension. "Yeah, sure."

It doesn't look complicated at all, Peridot thought once Amethyst had began. The screen was terribly pixelated, and the controls were far simpler than those on even the ship she'd taken to this planet (which was minuscule in comparison to Yellow Diamond's main battleship, and several hundred years old). Firing that ship had required a series of split-second decisions regarding intensity and radius. This game seemed to only have a single control to steer the ship (whose design was outrageously unaerodynamic and likely could not escape the gravitational pull of even the smallest planet), and a single button to fire. Is this what humans think space travel is like? How simplistic. How primitive. This should be simple, Peridot thought. Perhaps she would finally be able to impress Amethyst, who clearly had no experience with interstellar vehicles of any kind. Though the enemies moved in very predictable patterns, evasion was clearly not Amethyst's strong suit. She supposed it was to be expected. She had never seen a Quartz gem who was any good with spaceships.

Though she supposed she now knew a Pearl who was. Anything was possible.

"Can I try?" She asked Amethyst as soon as her game was over. Anticipation spilled into her voice. Amethyst smiled at her.

"Yeah. Here." She gestured to the control and added more money to the machine.

It was so easy she thought she could probably do it with her eyes closed. She tried. She could. Now that she'd watched Amethyst play it once, the patterns were predictable enough that she didn't need to look.

"You're good at that," Amethyst said.

"It's far simpler than the mechanics of any of the ships I've piloted," she responded. "In fact--"

Amethyst laid a hand on her waist. She squeaked, her ship jolted into an enemy beam, and her game was over. For a moment's uneasy silence, Peridot stared at their reflections on the screen. They both burst into laughter.

"Hey," Amethyst interjected.

Peridot jolted her attention from the game back to Amethyst.

"I just remembered another game I wanted to show you!"

Peridot let herself be led across the arcade by the hand. Amethyst stopped in front of an intimidating game with loud, strange sounds and flashing lights.

"What is this?"

"It's called 'Dance Dance Revolution'," Amethyst said. "It's one of my favorite games. Come on, I'll show you how to play."

Amethyst took Peridot by her hand and pulled her towards the game. Peridot hesitated a moment before stepping up onto the platform of flashing lights, testing it with one foot first to ensure its stability. She stood carefully with both feet together on one of the metal, unlit panels.

"What do I do?"

Amethyst laughed at her. Peridot tried to concentrate through the now-familiar flutter she felt in her stomach whenever Amethyst laughed at her since the cute incident. Amethyst put money in the machine.

"Okay," she began. "See those arrows on the screen?"

Peridot squinted at the screen and nodded. Arrows. She resolved to look the word up later.

"They correspond with the buttons on the ground here. The object is to hit them with proper timing."

Peridot doubted this would go well. Still, it was too early to give up hope completely. "Demonstrate," she said coolly.

Amethyst smiled. "I thought you'd never ask."

The first thing Peridot thought was how much she hated the game's music. All the music she'd encountered on earth was distasteful, but this was particularly unpleasant. She glanced at the screen. She didn't know what combo meant, but she assumed the steadily rising number in the center of Amethyst's screen was a good thing. When Amethyst finished the song, she gestured for Peridot to join her on the adjacent machine.

"I think I'll just watch you," Peridot said. She didn't want to humiliate herself.

"Come on, it'll be fun." Amethyst inserted the money. She gave Peridot no more time to object.

Peridot opened her mouth to complain when Amethyst selected the "beginner" difficulty level, but closed it again. She wasn't sure she wouldn't need it.

It was easier than she expected, once she got a feel for the beat and repeating patterns of the song (which grated on her ears terribly). Before the song was halfway over, she found she had her own ascending combo number. Peridot thought she was doing very well, until she glanced at Amethyst's screen and saw that she was completing every move perfectly.

"How are you doing that?" Peridot asked.

Amethyst smirked. "Memorized it."

Peridot smiled, warmed with how terribly endearing Amethyst was. Peridot memorized the locations of stars, the functions of the hundreds of unmarked buttons that lined the cockpits of ships. Amethyst memorized… this.

Amethyst took both Peridot's hands and spun her around to take over Peridot's game.

"Hey!" Peridot protested.

"What? You weren't doing anything," Amethyst said. Peridot watched an idea bloom on her face. "Hey, do you think if I shapeshifted two extra legs, I could do both at the same time?"

Peridot tried to suppress her laugh, but it came out a snort. "Gross!"

"Is that a yes?"

A light giggle escaped her. "Why do I like you?"

Heat rose to her face when she realized what she'd said, but Amethyst didn't miss a beat. "I don't know, maybe it's because I'm such a good dancer?"

As if to demonstrate, she took Peridot by the hand and twirled her. Peridot's face hurt from smiling. Amethyst pulled her in close, and then they were dancing. In the back of her mind, Peridot lamented how awful Earth music was, that she'd never danced before, that she didn't have practice, but these things hardly seemed to matter. Everything was aglow in a familiar shade of green.

"This okay, wondernerd?"

Peridot laughed, again. She thought distantly that she ought to be ashamed for how weak she was acting, but she couldn't bring herself to. Touching Amethyst overwhelmed every other conscious thought. She glanced down at Amethyst's chest.

It took her all of ten seconds to realize, through the haze of joy she felt, what Amethyst's glowing gem meant. She gasped sharply, pushed back--away--she couldn't, she couldn't. Reality crashed around her with absolute finality, shattering the illusions of the previous weeks.

Of course she couldn't get away so easily.

She was running, now. She didn't know where she was going, just knew that the beeping of the strange earth machines and brilliant lights were too much, it was all too much. Some part of her consciousness registered Amethyst calling after her, but Peridot ignored her. She needed to find someplace quiet. Besides, perhaps if she ran fast enough, she could escape the memory that was overcoming her.

The images were already closing in. Seeing another peridot shattered, after all, was quite like watching her own execution.

She was outside the arcade now. Her eyes scanned her surroundings for anywhere quiet, anywhere at all. Unsure of where else to go, she headed for the grass behind the temple and began to climb the hill.

She wasn't even halfway up before she collapsed on her knees and heaved what little pizza she'd eaten onto the grass. It looked even less appetizing on the way out, but she paid it little notice. She crawled a few feet away from it before she could go no further. The things she'd seen were playing in her mind, now, in vivid technicolor.

It hadn't been an amethyst (that would have been unheard of, so vast was the social divide between them). It had been a pearl with whom the peridot had fused.

Now that she had met Amethyst, the motivations that had led this other peridot to risk her life for that pearl were abundantly clear and understandable to her. It might as well have been her--it would be her, when Yellow Diamond found her.

They'd brought every gem in the Kindergarten to witness the execution of the peridot. She was brought out before the highest ranking gem on the planet--some quartz she could barely remember now. It was no longer important. What remained with her was the peridot's quiet, pleading voice, how she'd cried, how she'd dropped to her knees and begged, how that quartz had looked at her like she was worthless as the dust that covered that planet's bleak, gray surface.

There was one clean crack.

Peridot had witnessed countless other executions. She'd seen gems killed for less. But it was this peridot that stuck with her now, it was the terror in the eyes of this peridot that she had seen reflected in Amethyst's glowing gem.

A deep revulsion twisted within her. How close she'd come to making the same mistake. How badly she still wanted to.

After all, what did it matter now, if she gave in to this temptation? She'd already ruined any prospects for her own redemption. Fusion or not, she was dead as soon as Yellow Diamond remembered this planet. She'd seen gems killed for less.

"Peridot?" Amethyst's voice was soft, but it still made Peridot jump.

When she saw Amethyst, she said the first thing that came to mind. "I'm sorry about trying to kill you with the ship."

"Hey, hey, it's okay," Amethyst said. She leaned down and held out her hands, as if to show that she meant no harm.

Peridot realized how pathetic she must seem--happy one moment, splitting apart the next. She wiped the tears from her face, but couldn't seem to stop them from coming.

"We don't have to fuse if you don't want to," Amethyst said.

"I know." Her voice sounded so small and weak. She couldn't bring herself to finish the sentence: But I want to.

Instead, she reached out a hand towards Amethyst, as if to touch her. Halfway through the gesture, she lost her nerve and let it drop.

"Come here." Amethyst opened her arms for Peridot. Peridot was drawn inexplicably into them. It wasn't like the other times she'd touched Amethyst; rather than taking her breath away, it made her feel safe. It made her feel like she could breathe again. She did, three deep ones. One. Two. Three.

This was okay. This was right. In fact, Peridot was suddenly sure it was the most correct thing she'd ever felt.

She remembered Garnet's advice. You must be open and honest. You must be direct.

"I wanted to. I still… want to." Peridot paused, breathed, breathed. It's okay, it's okay. After all, she's still here, Peridot reasoned. And she can't leave now, I'm literally sitting on her. "On Homeworld," she began, "fusion between different types of gems is strictly prohibited. I've seen gems… I've seen them…"

She couldn't say it. Not yet. She couldn't.

"I understand," Amethyst said.

You can't possibly.

But Peridot didn't need her to. Amethyst was trying, and that was enough.

Peridot realized, slowly, that sitting with Amethyst like this was making her feel something she hadn't felt since they'd met, or perhaps ever: she felt content. After all, it wasn't as if Homeworld had ever forbidden this.

She took a bit of Amethyst's hair in her hands and played with it curiously. It was soft. Amethyst laughed and pressed her mouth to Peridot's forehead. Peridot warmed at the contact with her gem. She nestled against Amethyst's in response and was rewarded with a soft sigh. Amethyst took one of her hands and whispered something that sounded like you're safe now.

There was a strange kind of newness to it that was all at once exhilarating and terrifying. Peridot had once thought she was made for Yellow Diamond. She realized now that she had been wrong. She was made for this.

It was enough.

Chapter Text

Whenever Peridot had imagined her first time fusing with Amethyst, she had pictured a scenario similar to the dream that had started this whole mess: standing on the beach, giving in to compelling temptation and curiosity.

When it finally happened, it was far more like letting go of something heavy.

"Here's the tungsten you wanted." Amethyst dropped it in front of her and scratched her head. "I think I got that right."

Peridot smiled. "You did. You're getting better at this."

Amethyst laughed. "It's only because I spend so much time with you."

"Yes. Well," Peridot set down her wrench and sat down on the misshapen hunk of metal Amethyst had brought. She pulled Amethyst closer by the front of her shirt. "As it turns out, you're not half as useless as I thought you were."

Amethyst chuckled in response. "Hey, I brought you something," she said. She picked up Peridot's tape recorder off of a box.

"Hey, that's my--" Peridot stopped herself short when she realized her own tape recorder was still on the ground next to the wrench. She looked up at Amethyst in confusion. "What's this?"

"I, uh, filled it up for you. For your birthday."

"I don't have a birthday." Stevens had birthdays. Gems did not.

"Yeah, well, everyone's got to try to have a birthday. It's, like, a rite of passage around here. You're lucky I beat Steven to it. He's organized too many birthdays."

"Then this is a… gift ?" She tried the word. She'd never spoken it before. Amethyst smiled warmly. Peridot knew by now that the smile meant she'd pronounced it correctly.

"Yes. It's a gift. Here. Listen to it."

Peridot took the recorder from Amethyst. The tape could hold an hour and a half of audio, assuming Amethyst had used both sides. Peridot couldn't imagine what Amethyst could possibly want to say to her for an hour and a half. She pressed play.

Log date, June 8. Amethyst here. Uh, hi, I guess. I found this in the garbage in my room and I thought you might like it, so I'm recording something for you.

A pause.

Now that I've started, though, I'm not really sure what to say, so I'm gonna--

--date, June 10. Amethyst had recorded over herself at the beginning. Peridot smiled. Peridot let me take her to the amusement park today. It was so fun. I don't even mind that she didn't try any of the food I offered her. I love-- Amethyst cut herself off and coughed. She's really great.

Log date--

Amethyst hit the pause button. "It's really long, so you don't have to listen to it right now. But I've been working on it for, y'know, the past few months."

Peridot batted her away. "One more." She hit play.

-- June 20. I lost this under a couple of pizzas I snagged from the trash in town a few days back, and didn't find it again until now. I don't really know what else to say. I'm not sure how Peridot manages to fill so many of these things up, but she's got a whole pile of full tapes under the sink in the bathroom now, it's kind of adorable. She just keeps talking and talking. Log date, J--

Peridot didn't want to stop it, but she did. She held the tape recorder in both hands delicately. She thought it was perhaps the most important thing she had ever been given, even though it had evidently spent a significant portion of its existence in the trash. She hoped Amethyst had cleaned it before giving it to her. She turned it over in her hands. It didn't show any visible signs of dirt. Amethyst had been getting increasingly thoughtful about Peridot's dislike of human garbage of late.

"Do you like it?" Amethyst asked. Her voice sounded so small. Peridot had been realizing recently that although Amethyst was a Quartz gem, neither she nor Peridot was particularly strong alone. They were better together.

They were better together.

Peridot set the recorder down on the ground, next to hers. She stood to look Amethyst in the eyes.

"Dance with me," she said. She held out her hand.

Amethyst's eyes widened in surprise. She blinked. "Are you sure?"

"Yes." Amethyst wasn't moving on her own, so Peridot took her hand and put it on her waist. There was only one dance she knew--the one from the arcade. She began to repeat the steps, slower.

Amethyst seemed to recognize the dance immediately. She gave Peridot a small, nervous smile and brought her other hand gently and hesitantly down to Peridot's waist. Though Amethyst was the one who had memorized this dance perfectly, she kept tripping over her own feet. Peridot could feel her breathing. There was no music.

Peridot realized suddenly that no part of her was afraid of what would happen next. The knowledge was infinitely liberating. She trusted Amethyst completely. She trusted Amethyst to keep her safe.

"Amethyst?" Their gems were already starting to glow.

"Yeah?"

The words she was about to say-- I loved the gift --died in her mouth when she saw Amethyst's expression. There was a softness in it that warmed her totally. She was overwhelmed suddenly with the urge to tell Amethyst she loved her, but there was no need to say it aloud. She knew that Amethyst already knew, could feel that her face was a mirror image of Amethyst's.

She kissed Amethyst on the mouth. It was a human gesture, something she'd only done a few times, more for Amethyst than for her. She was rewarded when Amethyst's breath hitched predictably. She laughed, spun them around, pulled Amethyst in for another.

For the first time, Peridot's body turned into light.