Technically speaking, Peridot is still being carefully monitored.
Just how carefully, however, varies depending on who is doing the monitoring. The Crystal Gems are meant to watch her in shifts but some of them (Pearl,) find the duty exceptionally trying. And quite frankly being guarded by a fusion, no matter how peaceful and in control Garnet seems to be, hits a little too close to Homeworld for anyone’s comfort.
It’s usually Steven who’s left in charge, or, in the event that he is otherwise engaged, Amethyst. These are both acceptable options. Peridot tries to view her time with them less as being supervised and more like being observed, as if behaving in accordance to earth standards is a test she must pass, a level to achieve. She has already made an addition in her notes to ask Steven how to become certified in earth cultural understanding, officially.
She has been practicing! Very hard, in fact! She has nearly mastered conventional earth conversation, and while unintentional (okay, sometimes completely intentional) offenses still crop up, she usually manages not to say anything too out of line. In fact, she’s taken a liking to offering compliments instead, as they produce much more desirable results.
One gem in particular is the recipient of most of these compliments, and with Steven out of the house to initiate some sort of bonding ritual with his “dad” over “pizza,” Peridot is provided with a golden opportunity to employ her skills.
“Amethyst,” She says, capturing the attention of her current guard/evaluator as she’s meandering around Steven’s various food storage areas, “Your cranial ornamentation looks especially voluminous today.” Big smile— not too big. The really toothy ones border on frightening and must be reined in.
Amethyst has no such reservations. She flashes a wide grin from across the room and reaches up to ruffle her fluffy mass of follicles, sending it in three different directions, “Pfff, my hair?” She asks, and Peridot nods quickly.
Yes, that; hair. A lot of hair. A lot of impressive hair.
“I just kinda roll out of the trash pit like this,” Amethyst says, “It does what it do, you know.”
“Naturally,” Peridot agrees, though Amethyst’s hair strikes her as being much more luxurious than that of the average quartz. She imagines that if it were spiked up further it could appear extremely threatening on the battlefield.
More often, though, Amethyst’s hair is windblown, falling forward to shield one side of her face or the other and bouncing distractingly with her movements. Even the simple act of walking to the refrigeration unit causes the whole of it to bob and sway, creating a mesmerizing motion.
“Are these pickles or cucumbers?” Amethyst wonders aloud, taking a container of sliced green things out to inspect. She pops the lid off the container and sniffs at its contents, then tosses the lid away with a shrug. Whatever they are, she eats them several slices at a time while Peridot looks on, fascinated.
And keeps looking. And forgets to look anywhere else. Staring. She’s staring! And Amethyst has already noticed, has pivoted on one foot, surprisingly graceful, to catch her in the act and grin a different sort of smile all together.
“Somethin’ catch your vision orb there, Peri?” She teases, and tosses the last slice of green vegetable down her throat, not even bothering to chew.
“Vision sphere,” Peridot corrects, and rolls her aforementioned spheres when Amethyst only shrugs, “And…yes,” No point in lying about it. Being honest is a big part of the upstanding behavior expected of her now, “I was observing your, eh, hair.”
Amethyst quirks one eyebrow up, looking puzzled for a moment, as if she’s missing a joke. Then she shakes the expression off with a carefree flip of her hair over her shoulder, “Can’t blame you,” She says with a practiced smugness, “It’s sort of the main attraction. Bein’ all out there and obvious,” She gives her head a shake to emphasize just how ‘out there’ it can be.
Peridot watches it fly, fluff, settle, still a sight to behold; an attraction indeed. She nods her agreement, says, “It is very…inviting.”
She flinches in surprise as Amethyst laughs. The sound of it shoots a strange feeling straight through her center, some mix of embarrassment and excitement that makes little to no logical sense. She thinks her touch stumps might be tingling.
“That is,” She corrects hurriedly, “It looks soft.”
Touchable. Comfortable. Like the cushions of the couch she’s been told to sit on until Steven returns, like the thick moss growing at the base of the temple, like the bubbles that form in the sink when she overturns whole bottles of soap into running water. Like nothing from Homeworld ever was.
“It is,” Amethyst says, and reaches up to twirl one pale lock of hair around her finger, “Like a cloud.” From what Peridot understands of clouds, they probably don’t feel soft at all, just wet, but that hardly seems important right now. Amethyst is looking at her like she’s searching for something, smiles like she’s found it, like she’s won. She holds her hair-wound finger out as if in offering, says, “Wanna touch it?”
Peridot jerks back, scandalized. Touch? With her own grasping pads? Unheard of. She’d likely lose a limb trying to touch any other quartz like that, wouldn’t risk it even after such a brazen invitation.
Amethyst’s smile slips. She retracts the offered hair like she’s been burned, says, “Jeez,” Drawing the word out in exasperation, “You don’t gotta.”
Peridot sits stiffly. She says, “But I—”
Want to. Very much. The words get lost somewhere between processing and production, but she’s said enough to make Amethyst hesitate.
Attempt number 2, clear and concise, “I would. Like to.”
“Oh,” Amethyst’s smile sneaks back into place, slightly chagrined, “Sheesh Peri, I was kinda joking but I mean…go for it.”
Still, Peridot hesitates. So Amethyst steps closer, shakes her head so that her hair hangs loose, within reach.
“Dude,” She says. So Peridot stops hesitating. She reaches out to pass the very tips of her touch stumps along Amethyst’s hair, stroking it gently. Somewhere, in a deep and instinctual part of her, there is a desire to grab hold of it and pull. She does not follow through on it.
“So?” Amethyst says, and Peridot can’t see her smile with a curtain of hair between them but she can hear the way it lifts and lilts her tone, “Soft enough for ya?”
Yes. Soft and smooth and her touch stumps are definitely tingling now. Peridot strokes the same spot again, asks, “Isn’t it impractical to maintain so much of it?” She does not vocalize the thought ’at your size.’
“Nah,” Amethyst says, “And if it gets in the way I just change it up,” A quick flash, a rearrange, and Amethyst’s hair shapeshifts to one side, held up and out of reach by a purple band. She shakes it free with another flicker of light and it all comes loose again, sliding freely over Peridot’s outstretched grasping pad, “I don’t do those practical ‘dos like you guys do,” She adds, gesturing toward Peridot’s own hair.
Short, symmetrical, styled up just enough to add a little height; it’s what’s expected of her and she likes it that way. She thinks if she were to wear it like Amethyst she would be tripping over it every other step, would get it caught in gears and pulled through industrial lubricants.
“It suits you,” Peridot admits, “Even considering its impracticality.”
Carefully, very carefully, she introduces a second appendage to Amethyst’s hair, letting the strands slip through one set of digits before promptly catching them with another, a simple process to repeat over and again. It’s soothing, distracting in the nicest possible way.
“Yo, scoot over,” Amethyst says after a moment, and Peridot jumps in surprise at the sound of her voice, and at the expectant tone. She sounds almost, almost, like a proper quartz, commanding, self-assured.
Peridot corrects her posture immediately, sitting upright and moving to occupy the smallest possible space on the couch, keeping her arms at her sides. She feels immediately silly for it, even more so when Amethyst looks up at her from behind misplaced hair and snorts a laugh.
“Chill,” She says, and she sounds nothing like a proper quartz. She is…something else, certainly. She shakes her hair back fully behind her shoulders and climbs up onto the couch beside Peridot, ignoring the ample space that has been left open and sitting very nearby instead. She pulls her feet up to rest on the cushions exactly the way that no one is supposed to and turns her back to Peridot, “I just wanted to get comfy. You can keep goin’.”
Peridot doesn’t dare to move. She glances around the room, certain that one of the others must be watching, waiting for her to make a mistake. Amethyst must know she’s at risk in such a position, has to realize that even a weaponless peridot could potentially land a blow to an enemy quartz while their back is turned. Still, she seems unconcerned.
They aren’t really enemies, Peridot supposes. And, perhaps more importantly, she has no desire to attack. All she really wants to do is continue stroking Amethyst’s hair, which she has permission to do. So she gets her touch stumps around a bunch of hair, then two bunches, and once she’s quite sure that no one is going to jump out from behind something and shatter her, she gathers all of it up into one mass to be stroked and smoothed down.
“This is nice,” Amethyst says, her voice strangely soft. She doesn’t sound like she’s joking.
Peridot makes a noncommittal noise, despite agreeing with the statement in full. The house is quiet around them, and the faint roll and crash of ocean waves over the rocks below seems closer than it should be, hyper-real. Amethyst herself seems too real, too close. She turns just slightly, to look at Peridot from over her shoulder, and her expression is especially difficult to read at that angle.
She’s waiting for a better response, Peridot thinks, or maybe that’s just her projecting, wishing she had a conversation prepared. She struggles to think of something relevant to say, to convey that this is so much more than just “nice,” but her thoughts are frustratingly jumbled.
Amethyst’s hair becomes smoother with every gentle, combing stroke, all the odd little twists and knots being parted and pulled free. It seems to lay against her back in sections, separating naturally, and suddenly Peridot connects potential with procedure, inspiration in the form of a tangible goal, a mission.
“I’m knowledgeable in several interweaving techniques,” She offers, unsure of the words even as they squirm free of her sound emitter. Knowledgeable in terms of wiring, of thick cords and razor thin strips of metal, nothing so soft as hair, but still, it’s something.
Amethyst turns around further, displacing even sections of hair that Peridot will just as quickly set in order once she’s able, “You mean like, braiding?” She asks, uncertain.
Peridot translates, considers. She says, flatly, “Yes.”
Amethyst grins, “Aw heck ya,” She nearly shouts, “Fishtail that biz!” And with that she turns around fully again, defenseless and alarmingly relaxed.
As Peridot gingerly parts the mass of her hair, Amethyst adds, “When you’re done I get to do yours,” which is quite possibly the most horrifying, exhilarating statement she has ever heard.