"It wasn't garbage," Steven said.
Lapis lifted her head off hugged knees. "Oh?"
The two of them sat atop the grain silo near Steven's grandparent's barn, watching the afternoon sky.
"Peridot really loved that tape recorder. I guess you could say it was the first friend she made on earth." Steven scrunched his mouth to his side, briefly. "She offered it to you because she wanted to give you something special. And maybe she wanted you to hear her thoughts, so you knew she really had changed."
Lapis didn't say anything for a moment.
"It meant that much to her?" Lapis said.
"Yeah," Steven said.
Lapis rested her chin on her knees.
"Heh," she mumbled, "Good."
"Lapis!" Steven said, "Lapis, why are you being like this? Peri's just trying to make you happy, and you're just throwing everything back in her face."
Lapis didn't answer for a moment.
"Maybe I don't want to be happy."
Steven leaned back against the silo's roof, a little stunned.
"I- I guess that's not bad. Necessarily." Steven said, "I guess I know people who do things that make them unhappy because its a means to an end, but they'd all prefer it if they could be happy. I guess I've just never questioned that." He turned to the gem. "But I thought happiness felt good? Is that not the same way for you? Do you want something else besides being happy?"
Lapis was silent for a while.
"Maybe," Lapis said, "I've given up on being happy, and I just want other people to hurt like I hurt."
Steven frowned. "Lapis-"
"I was alone for so long, you know? Trapped with only my thoughts. Trapped by Homeworld, and then the Crystal Gems, and then Peridot and then Jasper." Lapis hugged her knees tighter. "And I'd forgotten what happiness felt like- there was no joy, no hope, just me, forever, with nothing but my hate and my pain."
"In a carousel of agony?" Steven asked.
Lapis blinked. "What?"
Steven blinked askew. "Hmm? Nothing."
Lapis's face resumed her forlorn expression. "Every time someone chanced upon the mirror- I thought, maybe, this gem might be willing to help me- might see that I was trapped and try to help me in the way I could not- but they never did! The Crystal Gems - them especially- did they even think about who I was? When they saw that the mirror was powered by a fellow gem did they even consider who I used to be? They didn't even try to understand me."
Lapis stood up and balled her fists.
"Nobody cared about me. Nobody ever considered who I was or how I felt. I was the only one I could rely on, the only one who would take my feelings into account. I know that's made me selfish. I don't actually care about most other people. I don't think I have enough room to, in my mind, since I'm devoting so much energy to caring about myself." Lapis looked over. "You're an exception, though, Steven. I'm glad we're friends." She smiled, genuinely. "Maybe there's hope for me yet."
Steven stood up and walked next to her. "But - if you hurt for so long, why do you want to make other people hurt? If you know how bad it feels?"
"Revenge, maybe," Lapis said, "Maybe I can only be happy when my enemies suffer."
"But- you said you wished other people might take your feelings into account? Shouldn't you do the same to them?"
"Yeah, there's some hypocrisy there, I know," Lapis said. She looked down and sighed. "Maybe I'm just a bad person."
Steven hugged Lapis from the side, warmly, unflinchingly.
Lapis looked up and saw Steven's expression. She forced a smile. It wasn't as reassuring as she had hoped.
"But I know I'm not supposed to think like that," Lapis said. "I'm freeeee now," that last part she said airily, a little facetiously, "And that means that now-"
Lapis looked out into the distance. "Now I can start again. On this earth, like you said. Leave everything in my past behind me."
Lapis stood up and stretched her arms and back and turned to Steven. She smiled a better smile this time.
"Hey, you wanna go for a fly?"
They flight was nice. They did a circle of the countryside, dipping through the clouds. They talked about other things- less meaningful things, and Steven felt the small talk was a little more forced and less fulfilling that it should have been.
At some point, they took a break to watch the sunset in an unkempt grassy knoll, in the ruins of an old semaphore tower, plaster walls crumbling, revealing a questionably intact brick foundation.
There was silence.
Lapis sighed. "Go ahead. I know what you want to talk about."
"I know you don't want to get hurt again if you try to be friends and it doesn't work out," Steven said, "But I'm friends with her, and she's really trying and she's really sad that you're not giving her a chance. I'd be hurt too if it doesn't work out, but I believe in her enough to risk it."
Lapis chuckled forlornly. "It's not that i'm afraid of consequences (I'm much more powerful than her.) It's about principle; what reason do I have to forgive Peridot? To forgive someone who interrogated me and dragged me back here as a prisoner so Jasper could force me to drag us under the ocean."
Steven rubbed the back of his head. "Look, I don't know exactly what happened, but I don't need to; I can tell she's hurt you- that a lot of people have. And I'm not saying that it was okay, or that there's something she can do that automatically balances it out, or that your feelings don't matter. It's okay to feel hurt, Lapis. And you don't have to forgive Peridot," Steven said, "But I think you should consider if holding a grudge longer than necessary might impact your ability to be happy, going forward."
Lapis shot Steven a look, and Steven held up his hands, "And, yeah, maybe there's some people you shouldn't forgive," he said, "Because they haven't changed or because you still don't think they're good to have in your life. And if Peridot weren't repentant or trying to be better, then I'd say, you keep doing what you're doing; move on and don't look back."
Steven looked into the distance and chuckled, in the non-humorous kind of way. "Actually, there was a moment when I was ready to give up on Peridot. But she's shown that deep down she really cares. " Steven took a breath. "So I guess what I'm saying is, Peridot's my friend, and I'd love it if you could also be her friend as well."
Lapis paused before speaking. "You're really her friend? You know how she was, before, right?"
"I know how she was like when we first fought her, and before she, uh, 'acclimated', might be a word. She really has changed," Steven said.
"And you believe that? How do you know this isn't just a big ruse?"
"I know where you're coming from," Steven said, "You don't want to get hurt again and you don't want to let yourself be put in a situation where Peridot can hurt you. But I really think she's changed, Lapis. I don't think she'll hurt you."
"You really think people change that drastically that fast?" Lapis turned to Steven. "Look, I know you trust her, and that, to you, me refusing to give her a chance shows a lack of faith in your judgement of her character. But Peridot was a Homeworld Gem for centuries. Maybe even millennium. And she's been on earth for, what, a few months?"
Steven sat up and thought for a moment. "From what I hear about Homeworld, I think everyone's like that. The strongest gems control everything by force and their cruelty causes their underlings to lash out against their underlings until the primary motivation to do well in society is the opportunity to have underlings of your own to shovel your hurt onto. Society there is all displays of power and useless posturing."
Lapis didn't confirm or deny that.
"But once Peridot got away from that culture, she learned that it feels good to be a good person and she likes having friends, so she's working on becoming a better person." Steven tried to make eye contact. "And she wants to be your friend, now."
Lapis inhaled sharply. "So I'm supposed to oblige? Just because she wants to? I should accept the bribes and buy into the guilt trips?"
Steven leaned back. "You don't have to be her friend. Friendship should be given because you want to, not because they do nice things for you."
"Ok. So tell her I don't want to be her friend."
Steven pouted. "But- you're not even giving her a chance. I- I think that you should treat Peridot now as a new gem. I know you don't need to give strangers the benefit of the doubt, but I think you should, because they could turn out to be someone who makes you happy. And if they're not, then you can move on, no harm done."
Lapis smiled. "It's cute that you think that." Lapis patted Steven's shoulder. "I'll be sad when existance disabuses you of that notion."
Steven frowned in mild exasperation. "Lapis, you're friends with me, right?"
Lapis turned to Steven. "Riiight," she said, tentatively. "Where are you going with this?"
"So you do like being friends with people?"
"With good people." Lapis said, "Is it too much to just want to never have to see Peridot again?"
"Okay, putting the matter of your pasts aside for the moment," Steven said, "There are only six gems on this planet. Seven. Maybe eight, if you count Garnet as- don't worry about it. And there's the cluster and the gem mutants- actually, never mind. Maybe there's lots of gems around, but what I mean is that you'll probably end up needing to talk to Peridot at some point, and if not, you might have something that you don't need her for but she could help with. If she's trying not to hurt you, then there's nothing to be lost from just having a relationship functional enough to be able to talk to her if you need to, even if you don't end up being friends, right?"
"Oh? What reason would I ever need to talk to Peridot?"
"Well," Steven said, looking to the sky, "You did break her tape recorder. You should at least apologize for that, because, regardless of your history, it's the right thing to do."
Lapis sighed in defeat. Then she asked Steven for advice.
"It has been several days since the Rubis came down to play baseball," Peridot narrated aloud, "The other Crystal Gems and Lapis defended me, even though it turned out they didn't need to. I am still grateful; as Steven says, it is the thought that counts. I shall have to research the an appropriate thank you ritual."
"My ongoing pursuit of Friendship with fellow gem outcast Lapis Lazuli is proceeding... slowly. No significant setbacks since the... egregious one, but no major leap forward. Steven makes it look so easy. I remain cautiously optimistic. Note to self; consult Steven."
"And in related news, I have decided that 'paper' is an inferior memory storage system in comparison to a tape recorder. While there is greater opportunity for visual flourishes, the slow speed of information transcription leave much to be desired. 'Paper' is also not waterproof, not fireproof, and exceedingly fragile. Note to self; find a way to get a replacement."
"I think I can help with that," Lapis said from the entrance.
Peridot stood up immediately, almost ripping the notepad she was writing in. "Lapis!" She cleared her throat. "It is good to see you again. May I ask what brings you to my humble dwelling, and if there is anything I can do that may be conducive to your objectives here?"
Lapis puffed out her cheek and tilted her head sideways.
"Here," said Lapis. She held out a small wrapped box: a gift.
Peridot's grin was insufferable. "For me? Wow, thanks!"
Peridot ripped open the wrapping and pulled out the recorder and made some gracious noises.
"Sorry if I hurt your feelings. And broke your recorder." Lapis said. She rubbed her elbow. "I'm a little out of practice with - well, interacting with people, it seems."
"That's alright." Peridot stood up straight and closed her eyes. "I'm practically an expert on friendship now, so I can give you a few pointers, one former-Homeworld gem to another." Peridot said.
Lapis smirked a forlorn smirk. "Yeah, I guess it might not be so bad."