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Starting Anew

Chapter Text

It was strangely peaceful.

No loud noises. No bright lights. No... human interference.

No more flashy colors or drab grays. The plants added a new splash of green and nature into the world's colors.

It was strangely peaceful, if you could ignore the blasted out windows. If you could ignore the broken technology and the rubble littering the ground.

If you could ignore the ominous scrawls, the remnants of a distant past.

Strangely peaceful, no one else in the city, like the humans had been plucked from the buildings and taken to some far off land

No one else... Save for one.

A blonde girl, with hair almost triangular in shape.

This strange blonde haired girl who walked down the dirty, dusty roads of the city.

The blonde haired girl thought as she wandered the deserted city. She clutched her arms tightly as she looked around the cityscape for any sign of life. Any sign of... somebody. Anybody.

"H-Hello? Is anybody there?" She called out in a nasally voice.

The blonde haired girl couldn't remember where she was. She couldn't really remember anything, not even her own name.

All she could remember was waking up in that collapsed factory, laying on a pile of rubble wearing nothing but cracked glasses, a dirty green t-shirt, dark blue jeans, and dusty tennis shoes.

Well, that and one single word that felt as if it were burned into her brain.

Peridot.

She didn't know what it meant. Was it a place? A name? She couldn't tell. All she knew was that it was important.

She had stumbled out of the rubble and collapsed industrial building only to find a city in much the same state.

The blonde haired girl kept wandering the abandoned city, sunlight hitting her pale skin.

"What happened here? Where is everyone?" She asked, talking to herself. "Why is everything so... ruined?"

Oddly enough, she didn't feel in any sort of discomfort. She felt energetic, free of pain. The only thing keeping her from breaking into a smile was the absolute terror that plagued her mind. Terror of the unknown.

She had reached what she had deemed the middle of the city. More desolate skyscrapers, towering high above the ground with vines and plants growing out near the bottom. She could hear birds chirping as she looked for any sign of another human being.

"Is there anyone here? Anybody? Please, I... I don't know where I am." She yelled out again.

The blonde had reached a crossroads. The road she had been following split off in two directions. To her left was more road followed by a turn to the right. To her right was also more road, but this road was obstructed by piles and piles of rusted, broken down cars that lined the streets.

The blonde decided to go left.

She kept walking, looking at the buildings that stood on the side of the road. The were a mix of different sizes, with washed out paint, rusted metal, and broken signs decorating them.

"How long has this place been like this?" She whispered.

She stopped in place and tried to rack her brain yet again for answers in the form of memories. She shut her eyes tightly as she shook her head back and forth.

All that came was that mysterious word again.

Peridot.

"What does that mean?!?" She growled in frustration. She kept trying to remember before she gave up with a defeated sigh.

"Okay, maybe we should think about this rationally. I'm not... dumb. I can remember basic things like what a city is and what a car is. I just... can't remember anything about my past or where I am. Okay, that's good. I think." She said to herself.

The girl was so ingrained in her thoughts she almost let out a screech when she heard a new noise. It sounded like something small and metal hitting against rubble.

She quickly whipped around in desperation to find the source of the noise. What she saw baffled her.

A tin can was now slowly spinning in the middle of the road, in the direction where she was heading. The can stopped spinning eventually and once again, the city returned to silence.

Peridot frantically looked around to see what had caused the noise. Could it be another human? An animal? Something dangerous? She did not know.

Then, she heard scurrying.

She looked towards the building she heard it from. A large, multi story building filled with the tops of rusted cars. She looked at the sign that hung above the entrance of the building.

P   RKIN       GAR   GE.

"Hello? Is anyone there?" She yelled into the building.

No response.

Peridot stood completely still, not knowing what to do. She looked back over at the tin can before deciding to approach it.

She slowly walked towards the object, still holding herself in a shy and cautious stance.

A piece of discarded rope sat right in front of the can, a loop seemingly tied into it. Peridot didn't notice this however, and innocuously placed her foot in the loop while she bent down to pick up the can.

She brought it up to her face to see it better. It was rusted, with the top ripped off slightly and the contents emptied out.

There seemed to be something written on it with white chalk. The girl turned the can to read what it said.

You better start talking.

"What?" Peridot asked herself, not knowing the mysterious figure moving into position. The figure grabbed the rope that laid on the ground, and pulled.

With a loud scream, the blonde was lifted into the air by the rope tightened around her leg. Her glasses fell off her face, as did the can in her hand. Both objects fell to the ground with a clatter.

The blonde flailed and screamed in the air, pleading to be let down or for her safety to be assured. The rope swung back and forth, hung over a broken lamppost.

The mysterious figure simply observed the blonde haired girl from behind a pile of rubble, trying to decide if it was safe to reveal herself.

The blonde kept screaming. "No, please! Somebody help me! Please don't hurt me, please!"

She kept spinning in place above the ground before her eyes saw a glimpse of the mysterious figure.

She stopped flailing. The rope stopped spinning.

"Finally, somebody else!" She said with relief. "Can you please come let me down?"

The figure got closer and closer. She could quite make out what they looked like, her vision blurry from the lack of glasses. All she could see was... blue?

The figure stood in front of the hanging blonde. The blonde still couldn't make out her face. She must really need glasses.

"Can you please help me down? Or at least hand me my glasses?" The blonde asked.

The figure tilted their head to the side before looking down at the road beneath the blonde. She bent down and slowly picked up the glasses.

The blonde half smiled as she held her hands out to grab them. "Yeah, those ones! Can you hand them to me?" She asked.

The figure didn't acknowledge the blonde. They stuffed the glasses into their picket before reaching over their back behind them.

"Hang on, wa-"

Suddenly, a very sharp looking blade was thrust into the blonde's face. She definitely could make that out.

The blonde's half smile disappeared as she felt her blood go cold. She started shaking in fear.

"I'm only gonna ask this once. Who are you, and what are you doing here?" The figure spoke. Her voice was harsh and distant, yet something about it was oddly... serene to the blonde.

Or it would have been, if she was not currently focused on whether or not this stranger would kill her.

"Uh, I... Um." The blonde stuttered, trying to figure out what to say. " I... don't know?"

The blade got even closer, pressing up against her cheek. The girl whimpered as she shut her eyes.

"That is definitely not the answer you should have said." The mysterious figure said.

"Wait, wait, wait! I really don't know! I can't remember anything!" The blonde sputtered.

The blade pulled back a little.

"Hang on, what? You can't... remember anything?" The figure asked, confusion in her voice.

"Yes! I woke up in the middle of a ruined factory and I wandered into the city, that's all I remember! I don't even know my own name!" The blonde yelled, flailing her arms.

The figure took a step back. "You don't... remember your name?"

"No, I don't! I promise I'm not lying. I just... I want to know what's going on." The blonde said, feeling slightly defeated near the end.

The figure looked down at the ground, before looking back up and moving towards the blonde with the blade outstretched.. The blonde briefly opened her eyes only to see the blade come straight at her.

"Nononono, please don't kill me!" She screamed.

The figure swung the blade.

The blonde fell to the ground with a thump.

A little dazed, and very much afraid, it took the girl a moment to look up from the ground at the figure, but when she did, she was met with her glasses being held out right in front of her.

The blonde hesitantly took the glasses and placed them back on her eyes, allowing her eyesight to refocus. Once it did, she looked up to finally take a good look at the figure in front of her.

The person in front of her was a tall, tan skinned girl with vibrant, messy blue hair. She was dressed in a hoodie with the sleeves rolled up, a white and blue striped t-shirt, and ripped jeans. She held a stern expression, with hints of suspicion behind her eyes. The blade she was holding was obviously some sort of machete, and her grip on it was with purpose. The blonde could tell this person knew how to use that blade.

Yet, despite all these threatening factors, the blonde haired girl was in confusing awe at the beauty of this girl. The scary expression helped to highlight the figure's ocean blue eyes that had the blonde mesmerized.

The figure stuck her hand out to help the blonde up. The girl took the hand and got up to her feet, where she was immediately met with the machete again. She squeaked while she raised her hands up above her head.

"No funny business. I still don't quite trust you. So, I'm gonna ask you some more questions. And you're gonna answer me, right?" The figure asked, raising an eyebrow.

The blonde nodded frantically.

"Okay, so you don't remember anything? Where you are, what's going on, not even your own name?" The figure continued.

"W-Well, I do remember one thing, a word: Peridot. I don't know what it means, but every time I try to remember anything, that's the only thing that's really clear." The blonde explained, desperate to cooperate if meant she lived.

The figure's expression changed slightly, some of the suspicion disappearing. "Huh. And, you said you came from the ruined factory outside of the city?"

"Y-Yup!"

"The same factory where all the Wolvites like to swarm?"

The blonde changed expressions from scared to confused. Her hands lowered slightly. "Wolvites?" She asked.

"Yeah, Wolvites." The blue haired figure restated with slight condescension.

"Um, may I ask a quick question?"

"... One."

"What are Wolvites?"

The question seemed to have caught the figure completely off-guard. She took a step back as her expression completely changed to surprised. The blade lowered slightly, giving the blonde some breathing room.

"You... You don't know what Wolvites are?" The figure asked, baffled.

"Um, should I?" The blonde responded.

"Do... Do you even know what's happened to the world?" The figure asked.

"No! I'm completely in the dark at what even happened to this city, much less the world!" The blonde explained, frustrated at her own ignorance.

"You... You really can't remember anything." The figure said, lowering the machete completely.

"N-No. I don't." The blonde said, lowering her hands to her side.

The figure looked at the ground for a few moments, trying to decide what to do next. The blonde stood awkwardly in place, not knowing if she was free to go.

The blue haired figure raised the machete over her shoulder and stuffed it into the green backpack the blonde just noticed.

"Well, you can go. But, if I find out you lead someone or something back to me, I will hunt you down personally. Do I make myself clear?" The figure stated with a cold, threatening voice.

The blonde gulped. "Y-Yep! Completely!"

"Go, get out of here." The figure said before folding her hands over her chest.

"O-Okay..." The blonde said, a bit quieter, before turning around and facing the rest of the ruined city.

The desolate buildings and skyscrapers that loomed in the sky did nothing to help calm the blonde's nerves. She stood in place, unable to will herself to move forward.

"Well?" The figure said from behind her.

The blonde slowly turned back around to face the figure. "Um... Can you tell me where to go?" She asked meekly.

One of the figure's eyebrows raised up. "What?" She asked, a little amused at the questions.

"I-I don't know where to go. I have no idea where I am, or where it would be safe." The blonde explained, her face blushing slightly in embarrassment.

The amusement quickly disappeared as the figure's expression once again went from questioning to surprised, and then, to slightly pitiful.

"I... I don't know. Nowhere's really safe left in the world. You could try finding a dead zone, but there's no guarantee that the people there would be... friendly." The figure said, trying to avoid eye contact with the blonde.

"A... dead zone?" The blonde asked again.

The figure finally made eye contact with the blonde again, even more pity in her eyes. She looked up at the sky and raised her hand out in front of her. She closed one eye and gazed at her fingers for a moment before lowering her hand again.

The blonde started to feel like being confused was going to be a natural occurrence for her.

"It's getting too late, you won't be able to find shelter in time." The figure said. "Maybe... Maybe it's best if you come with me. At least for the night."

The blonde's face lit up slightly at the offering of companionship. "Oh, okay! If that's what you think is best."

The figure nodded slightly before turning around and walking back towards the 'prkin garge'. She gestured the blonde to follow her with her hand.

The blonde quickly ran up to the figure's side. "Hey, um... do you have a name I could call you? I don't want to be rude and call you 'stranger.'" She asked.

The figure looked at Peridot for a moment before speaking.. "Lapis Lazuli, but Lapis works just as well."

"That's... That's a really pretty name, Lapis." The blonde said, not really thinking about the compliment.

Lapis raised her eyebrow again before settling back into a stern expression. "Anything I could call you?"

"Hmm. I wouldn't want to give you a fake name just in case I remember my actual one." The blonde responded.

"Well, I need to call you something."

Peridot thought about it for a moment, stopping in place so she could think. Lapis stopped in place too, not wanting to let the blonde leave her sight.

"Um... Peridot." She finally said.

"Huh?" Lapis responded, a bit confused.

"You can call me Peridot. It's the one word I can vividly remember, so I won't forget it anytime soon." The blonde, no... Peridot explained.

"Hm. Okay then, Peridot." Lapis said, before continuing towards the building.

Peridot smiled a bit before catching back up with Lapis.

She quite liked how her new name sounded when Lapis said it.

Chapter Text

As Peridot walked into the building with Lapis, she saw that it was in much the same state as everything else. Rusted, broken cars were pressed up against each other, rubble littered the floors and corners, and a large collapsed ramp in the far corner of the building restricted access to the upper floors.

“Follow me. We have to take the harder way up.” Lapis muttered as she walked over to a metal door near the back of the first floor. Peridot walked over to her as Lapis pushed open the door with a little resistance.

The room the door led to was actually a narrow passageway leading up, with only a rusty, unstable ladder allowing for passage.

Lapis grabbed the handles of the ladder and started to climb up. Peridot followed her example and climbed up to the very top floor.

The building was quite tall, and Peridot expected to be out of breath by the time she got up to the top floor.

But, she wasn't. It seemed that the energy she had felt upon waking up still hasn't worn off.

Lapis reached the top floor, where a little platform sat in front of the ladder. Lapis climbed on top of it and turned around to help Peridot up.

Once the two were both on the platform, Lapis walked over to another metal door at the end of the platform. She gently knocked on it in a certain pattern: Three quick knocks and two long ones.

“Pumpkin, sweetie. It's me, Lapis. Can you open up?” She said softly, a completely different tone of voice than the one she had used on Peridot.

A bit of shuffling could be heard before a small little voice spoke up from behind the door.

“Code?” It asked.

Lapis cracked a small half smile before responding. “Pumpkin Patch.” She responded.

Some jingling could be heard before the sound of a lock unlocking took its place.

Lapis turned to Peridot, the gentleness in her voice completely gone.

“If you do anything to hurt her, I will push you off this building.” She threatened.

Peridot gulped, but nodded.

Lapis turned back around and gently pushed opened the door. Peridot followed in behind her.

She was actually quite curious as to who this ‘Pumpkin’ character was and why Lapis cared so much about her.

Who she saw completely surprised her.

The person who had been standing behind the door was a small child, at most 7, with ginger hair tied into a ponytail. She was wearing an orange shirt with blue overalls and a yellow backpack on her back. Her eyes were a soft blue, much lighter than Lapis’ dark ocean blue ones.

“Hey, Pumpkin. You didn’t get into any trouble while I was gone, did you?” Lapis asked, the gentle tone back in her voice as she walked over to the child.

Pumpkin shook her head with a proud expression, and was about to open her mouth to say something, when she noticed Peridot in the doorway.

The little girl’s expression changed from proud to scared as she pointed right behind Lapis with a shaky hand.

“Someone… Followed…” She said with a small voice.

Lapis looked behind her only to see Peridot with an confused expression. She turned back around to face the child.

“Oh, it's okay Pumpkin. I brought her here. She's just staying the night.” She assured.

Pumpkin made an understanding expression while the rest of her relaxed. She gave a shy, little wave towards Peridot's direction.

Peridot noticed this and gave a small wave back. She walked forward a little.

“Hello, my name is Peridot. I assume your name is Pumpkin?” She asked.

Pumpkin gave a small nod. She looked back up at Lapis.

“Why her?” She asked.

“Peridot here can't remember anything, so we're gonna let her stay here. Just for tonight.” Lapis explained.

Peridot felt in uneasy feeling about being alone again tomorrow.

“Oh.” Pumpkin said.

Lapis turned back to face Peridot. “Welcome to home base. Touch nothing.” She said, back to the stern voice.

Peridot nodded and looked around the camp.

Lapis and Pumpkin had situated themselves on one of the higher floors of the building, where not many car husks were present. A small campfire, which was smoldering and had been put out, sat near the edge of the open air building, and two sleeping bags of different sizes were placed near the bags. Besides the smaller sleeping bag was a little stuffed dog, a canteen, and a small notebook with a pencil. Besides the larger sleeping bag was a map, a folded up piece of paper, and a red book.

Peridot nodded and fiddled with her hands awkwardly. “Thank you for letting me stay the night. I’ll try not to be a bother.” She said with a half smile.

Lapis nodded and walked over to the larger sleeping bag. She sat down on it and pulled the backpack off her shoulders. She opened it up and took out a box of matches and and a bit of straw and sticks. She placed the straw-stick pile on the campfire and lit a match. She placed it on the campfire and, after about a few minutes of cupping it and blowing air on it, let the fire grow to an acceptable height.

She then took out two cans of something and her canteen. Her face grew into a small smile as she handed one of the cans to Pumpkin, who had taken a seat on her own sleeping bag.

“Guess what I found today?” Lapis asked, gentleness once again back in her voice.

Pumpkin flipped over the can and looked at the label. She gasped as her face lit up.

“SpaghettiOs!” She whisper-shouted as she got up to hug Lapis. Lapis returned the hug before Pumpkin sat back down.

“Here, let’s place it on the fire and let it heat up a bit.” Lapis said, taking the can out of the child’s hands and placing it on the campfire. She then noticed that Peridot was still standing awkwardly to the side.

“You can sit down, you know?” She said, gesturing to the remaining space in front of the campfire.

“Oh.” Peridot said, embarrassment rising in her mind. She sat down crisscrossed in the spot, facing the fire.

She should’ve felt some sort of strong heat come from it, but instead all she felt was a comfortable warmth. Maybe it was because she had been out in the open for so long, but then she realized she never really felt cold. Just cool.

Peridot pondered this as she looked into the fire, before breaking the train of thought by blinking and looking back up at Lapis and Pumpkin. The two had semi-peaceful expressions at the introduction of warmth from the fire.

“So…” Peridot started asking a new question. “Lapis, is Pumpkin your… your… uh…”

She tried desperately to find the word she was looking for, but it completely eluded her.

‘Guess I have more holes in my memory than I thought.’ She thought to herself.

Thankfully, Lapis helped finish her sentence. “Daughter? No, but I’m taking care of her now. That’s all you really need to know.” She said.

Pumpkin looked at Peridot with a funny expression before speaking.

“Forgot the word?” She asked.

Peridot was confused as to what she was referring to until she realized she was talking about the stutter in her previous question. The blonde nodded in agreement.

“I forget them too, sometimes.” Pumpkin said with a soft smile before reaching over to grab the little notebook and pencil.

Peridot made a noise of understanding before turning her head to face Lapis again.

“So, Peridot. Do you even know what country you’re in? What year?” The bluenette asked.

“Um, no. I don’t really understand the reach of my memories or knowledge. Like, I know what a city or a car is, but some things and words like ‘daughter’ just escape me. I think my memory is shot full of holes.” Peridot explained, looking down as she fiddled with her hands again.

“Hmm. Kinda wish I could forget about all this. I bet a lot of people wish they could…” Lapis mumbled as she grabbed her machete from the backpack and poked one of the cans.

“Speaking of that, could you mind explaining to me what exactly is going on around here?” Peridot asked.

Lapis gave a small nod. “Yeah, but later. I’d rather not let Pumpkin hear about it. It’ll give her nightmares.”

Pumpkin looked up from her notebook with a saddened expression. “Are you talking about it?”

“No, sweetie, don’t worry. I won’t while you’re awake.” Lapis said, giving another poke to the cans. “Actually, I think the SpaghettiOs are done!”

Pumpkin’s face lit up again as she reached into her backpack and pulled out two small metal bowls and two spoons. Lapis used the blade to gently push the cans out of the fire and letting them cool off and the embers to disperse. When they did, she took off her hoodie and used it to grab one of the cans and pop it open with her blade. She did the same with the other can.

While her hoodie was off, Peridot noticed something very peculiar about Lapis’ arms. Or rather, her left arm.

A very prominent scar in the shape of a claw mark. Whatever had hurt her, it was big.

The blonde decided to hold her question on that scar.

Pumpkin passed forward the bowls and spoons and let Lapis empty the contents of each can into the dishes. However, she only half-emptied one of the cans, passing the bowl that had been fully filled to Pumpkin.

“I figured you might be pretty hungry. Be careful, it’s hot. Also, try not to spill anything on my hoodie.” Lapis said, passing Peridot the half-full can wrapped in her hoodie.

Peridot took the can from Lapis’ hands. She looked down at the weird slosh of contents in the container, trying to figure out what was wrong. Because something felt wrong at that moment, she could feel it.

Or rather… It was what she couldn’t feel.

“I… I’m not hungry.” Peridot said, handing the can back to Lapis.

Both Lapis and Peridot looked at Peridot with estranged looks, like she had just spoke in tongues.

“You’re… You’re not hungry?” The bluenette asked, making sure that her ears hadn’t misheard the blonde.

“No. I guess I got knocked out on a full stomach, hehe!” Peridot responded, trying to joke to defuse some tension.

This did not work, however, as the questioning glances still remained on the other two’s faces.

“Don’t like SpaghettiOs?” Pumpkin asked.

“Nono, I like them! I think. Actually, I haven’t actually tried any yet.” The blonde pondered.

“Okay, I… I had extreme doubts about your amnesia, but now I’m starting to kinda believe you.” Lapis said with disbelief in her voice.

“Why’s that?” Peridot asked, still holding out the food can.

“Because no one ever rejects the offering of food. Not in this world.” The bluenette responded, pushing the can back towards the blonde.

“Oh. It’s just… I don’t really feel hungry, and I don’t want to waste your food.” Peridot said, pushing the can right back towards Lapis.

“You should eat anyways. Maybe you’re just in shock and don’t feel hungry.” Lapis said while pushing the can back towards Peridot, getting slightly agitated.

The blonde could see this agitation start brewing and finally gave it, looking down at the can. She raised it to her mouth tipped it so the contents could flow into her mouth.

“Careful. Hot.” Pumpkin piped up as she raised her spoon of SpaghettiOs to her mouth and blew on it.

Peridot could feel the warmth of the contents on her tongue, but no real heat. Her eyebrows raised slightly as the taste finally reached her brain.

“Hey, they’re really good!” She said to Pumpkin, watching as the child sprouted into a wider grin.

Lapis relaxed a little at seeing the child's smile and began eating her food.

The three sat in peaceful silence as Lapis and Pumpkin ate their food. Peridot finished her can first and passed the hoodie back to Lapis, which she slipped back over herself and rolled up the sleeves.

When the bluenette finished, she set down her bowl and reached into her backpack again, pulling out a half-filled bottle of water.

“How full is your canteen, Pumpkin?” She asked the small child.

“Pretty full. Wasn’t thirsty.” Pumpkin replied, holding up the canister and shaking it to show how much water was left.

Lapis nodded and poured the half bottle into her own canteen. She screwed on the cap and threw away the bottle. She then offered the canteen to Peridot.

“Drink a few sips.” She said.

Peridot wanted to tell her she didn’t feel thirsty either, but she knew Lapis was probably right about the whole shock thing. She took the canister and drank a bit of the liquid, then handed it back to the bluenette.

Lapis also only drank a bit. Seems she was keen on saving resources for when they were needed.

Pumpkin finished up the last of her food and set down her bowl. She did a little stretch before letting out a quiet yawn. She rubbed her eyes, which now showed signs of tiredness.

“Gettin’ tired, Pumpkin?” Lapis asked with a gentle voice.

Pumpkin nodded silently and put away her notebook, pencil, and canteen into her backpack. She climbed into her sleeping bag and snuggled into it.

“Goodnight, Lapis. Goodnight, Miss Per-dot.” The child said, shutting her eyes and steadying her breathing.

Peridot thought about how absolutely adorable Pumpkin had pronounced her name.

The other two sat in silence, letting the little girl drift off to sleep as peacefully as possible. Peridot twiddled her thumbs while Lapis grabbed the two bowls and wiped them down with a piece of cloth she had pulled out of her backpack.

Eventually, soft snores could be heard emanating from the small sleeping bag.

Lapis let a more relaxed look take over her face as she walked over to the ledge of the building floor. She peered over it briefly, glancing down and searching for something Peridot did not know.

By now, night had completely taken over the sky, and the only light remaining was that of the campfire. No sounds could be heard coming from the city: No birds, no cracking of buildings. Just the wind and the crackle of fire.

“Soooo… Are you gonna tell me what’s going on in the world now?” Peridot asked, reprehensive to actually receive an answer.

“Yeah, I guess now would be the time for that.” Lapis said, walking back over to her sleeping bag and sitting down. A far more dreadful and somber look overtook Lapis as she inhaled deeply.

“Humanity’s ending. That’s the best way I can put it. We’re an endangered species now, Peridot.” The bluenette said in a softer voice.

“Why?” The blonde was so confused, so afraid. “What caused all this? Who did this to us?”

“We did this to us, Peridot.”

Lapis took a moment to settle her nerves before continuing her explanation.

“A long time ago, a group of scientists thought they could make a sort of special robot to take care of humans. They put this robot in control of a big futuristic city in the middle of the desert. It went well at first, but then one day it went insane. It started…”

Lapis sucked in breath rapidly as she shut her eyes. Peridot figured this was a very touchy subject for the girl in front of her.

“It started doing things to people. Turning them into… it took them, okay? That’s all you need to know.” The bluenette finished.

“Where did it take them?” The blonde asked, hesitant with moving forward.

“Homeworld. Remember that city I told you about? Well, that robot found a way to make it fly. That’s Homeworld. Moved it someplace east. Now it spends its time taking people.”

Peridot knew Lapis wasn’t sharing something with her, but she didn’t want to press the girl. After all, with all the hospitality she was showing the blonde, the least she could do was respect her boundaries and privacy.

“Well, that would explain the state the world is in.” Peridot muttered, before remembering another point of confusion. “Wait, you mentioned something about Dead Zones earlier. What’s that?”

“Places in the world where Homeworld can’t track people. Isolated, can’t be tracked by Homeworld satellites. They’re usually run by a bunch of dicks, though.” Lapis explained.

Peridot nodded, the explanations painting a clear view of the world. “So, those are the only communities? Are there any people left outside of them?” She asked, still confused.

“Yeah, some people like me and Pumpkin got other reasons for roaming. But, a lot of them don’t last.” Lapis said.

“Why’s that?”

And then, they heard it.

A howl.

It was disturbing, to say the least. Peridot heard the noise break the deafening silence, a low rumble that accompanied a series of soft footsteps

Many soft footsteps.

Lapis immediately shot up from her seated position and quickly, yet silently, moved to the edge of the building floor again. She hid behind the barrier of the floor and turned to Peridot.

“Cover Pumpkin’s ears. Please don’t let her wake up.” The bluenette ordered, although a slight bit of a plea was hidden in the command.

Peridot crawled over to the smaller sleeping bag. The ginger haired girl shifted in her sleep as her brow furrowed. Peridot carefully placed her hands over the child’s ears, blocking out most of the howls and footsteps coming from… wherever.

Lapis poked her head over the barrier and peered down to the lower floors.

“What’s down there?” Peridot whispered, not wanting to make too much noise in fear of giving away their position.

Lapis quickly held up her finger and made a shushing noise, shooting a glare to the blonde. Peridot quickly shut her mouth.

After a few minutes of waiting, the howling soon turned into loud growls as sounds of crashing noise and footsteps on car roofs became more frequent. Lapis tensed up as her breath hitched.

Peridot tried to keep Pumpkin asleep, but the child still tossed and turned more and more. Small whimpers escaped her mouth.

After more waiting, the noises started to die down, and the footsteps got more and more distant. Soon, the howls and the noises ceased.

Lapsi visibly relaxed as she let out a sigh. Peridot also relaxed as Pumpkin stopped whimpering and settled back into peaceful sleep. The blonde removed her hands from the child’s ears as Lapis walked back over to her sleeping bag.

“What was all that noise?” Peridot asked, crawling back over to where she was sitting before.

“Those things… those are what stops people from wandering. Some people got different names for them, but most call them Wolvites.” The other girl explained.

“Oh, so those are Wolvites.” Peridot said, recalling her previous encounter with the girl.

“Yep. Pack hunters who roam cities at night looking for dumb survivors out in the wild. They hunt like giant wolves, but with six eyes and a toxic bite.” Lapis continued.

“Where’d they come from?”

“Nobody knows. Some say Homeworld made them. Others say they’re literal demons, straight from hell. I say it doesn’t matter where they came from. Knowing where they come from is not gonna save me from being mauled by one.”

“Oh. S-Sorry for asking so many questions.” Peridot said, feeling a bit embarrassed at her lack of knowledge.

“Eh, don’t be. You’re practically clueless, so I’d feel kinda guilty if I left you like that.” Lapis reassured.

“By the way, what are demons?” The blonde asked, noticing another gap in her memory.

Lapis chuckled slightly. “Don’t worry about it. That’s not an important detail.”

“Oh, okay. Well, thank you for educating me. I do believe I have a much better understanding of this world.” Peridot said.

“Well… You really don’t. You just know what happened to the world. You have no clue how it works nowadays.” Lapis corrected.

“O-Oh…” The blonde felt despair start to fill up her gut. She really did feel clueless in that regard.

Lapis let out a sigh. “But… It’s not like I’m just gonna leave you like.”

Peridot’s eyes widened with hope. “You mean…”

“Yeah. Tomorrow, first thing in the morning, I’ll teach you some basic survival skills and maybe get you a few supplies. Make sure you’re not completely defenseless.” The bluenette said.

Peridot quickly shot up from her spot and pulled Lapis into a hug, muttering praises and rapid ‘thank yous’. Lapis stiffened up as her eyes went wide and, yet Peridot would never see it, the slightest blush appeared on the bluenette’s face.

Lapis let out an ‘ahem’, and Peridot realized what she had just done: Hugged a basically complete stranger. She pulled away with a nervous chuckle while rubbing the back of her neck.

“S-Sorry, I didn’t mean to make this awkward. I’m just really grateful that you would help me.” Peridot explained with a blush of her own.

Lapis cleared her throat and quickly made her blush disappear. “Y-Yeah, I’m gonna have to ask you not to do that again. Although, it is good to know you appreciate this, cause I don’t make these offers often. I’m only doing this because I doubt anyone else is gonna do it for you.”

“Got it. Crystal clear.” Peridot said.

“You should probably get some rest. I’m gonna stay awake a bit longer, make sure that Wolvite pack doesn’t come back for us.” Lapis said, grabbing her machete and placing it on her lap.

Peridot nodded and laid down on the hard concrete floor, trying to make herself as comfortable as possible, which didn’t take long.

“Sorry about the uncomfortable sleeping conditions. We’ll find something better for you to sleep on.” The bluenette apologized.

Peridot shrugged. “Eh, it’s okay. Oddly enough, I’m quite comfortable. Guess I’m still slightly in shock.”

Lapis chuckled. “Guess so.”

Peridot closed her eyes and tried to relax.

And then, it was like her body shut off, and she was asleep.

《¤》

Peridot…

Peridot, come here!

What are you up to?

Come out here, Peridot.

Where ARE you, Peridot?

Chapter Text

Peridot awoke from her sleep by a series of small giggles.

The blonde slowly rose up from where she had laid down and gave a little stretch, trying to shake the sleep from her mind. She let out a little yawn as her eyes refocused.

Lapis and Pumpkin must've woken up before Peridot, as they had folded up their sleeping bags and were now enjoying a half loaf of... of...

'Goddammit, that's yet another thing I can't remember.' The blonde thought to herself.

"What's that?" She asked, gesturing to the food the two were eating.

"Bread. Don't know?" Pumpkin asked.

"Keep forgetting some of the words." Peridot responded. Pumpkin nodded in response.

Lapis broke off a small piece and offered it to the blonde. "Here, have a bite."

Peridot took the piece of bread and ate it, despite the lack of hunger still being apparent.

Pumpkin let out a small snicker before speaking up again. "Hey Per-dot. What did the triangle say to the circle?" She asked, barely containing giggles.

Peridot looked at Pumpkin in surprise. Not only because that was the longest sentence she had heard the ginger haired girl speak, but because the question was so sudden and confusing.

"W-Well, uh... I don't know."

"It said: You're pointless!"

With that response, Pumpkin broke out into a fit of giggles as she started rolling on the floor. Lapis snickered as she shook her head in joke-disappointment.

The blonde had a confused look on her face due to the answer. It took her a minute to ponder its meaning but, when she finally got it, her face lit up.

And then, she collapsed into a fit of giggles equal to Pumpkin's.

"Oh stars, that's amazing. That's- ahahahaha!" Peridot simply couldn't keep talking before sprouting more giggles.

Lapis chuckled slightly at the blonde's vocabulary. "'Stars?' That's a new way of censoring yourself."

"Sorry. Just came out naturally, I guess." Peridot explained, giggles stopping as she wiped tears of joy from her eyes.

"Don't be. Besides, it's good to know somebody who actually appreciates Pumpkin's jokes."

Pumpkin leaned over to Peridot and said something to her. "Helps me practice words."

"Oh! Well, it is a very entertaining way of practicing. Did you think of that one?" Peridot asked.

Pumpkin simply nodded, before pulling out her little notebook from her backpack. "Write my jokes in here." She said, waving it around.

Peridot made a noise of understanding. "Well, keep it up! They're really good."

Lapis cleared her throat, getting the blonde's attention. "Hey, I'm sorry to interrupt all this, but we should get moving. I don't wanna get caught out in the open at night." She said, getting up from her spot and slipping her backpack on.

"Oh, right." Peridot said, standing up from where she was sitting. Pumpkin put her notebook back into her backpack and stood up as well.

Lapis led the two over to the metal door, opening it up and letting the other two enter first. Pumpkin carefully grabbed onto the ladder and slowly climbed down. Peridot felt nervousness build in her as she watched the child climb down.

"Be careful." The blonde instinctively said.

Pumpkin turned her head and nodded while smiling. She kept on going down.

"You're next, Peri. I still wanna keep my eye on you." Lapis said, gesturing to the ladder.

"Peri?" The blonde asked.

"Faster way of saying 'Peridot.' Trust me, easy communication is key out there."

Peridot nodded and climbed down the ladder. The bluenette wasn't far behind.

When the blonde reached the bottom of the ladder, she opened the metal door which Pumpkin was standing patiently beside, letting the two out into the bottom floor of the 'Prkin Garge.' Lapis reached the bottom of the ladder soon after and walked up beside Peridot.

"Okay, here's your first lesson: If you're planning on being somewhere, always travel in daylight. Wolvites are basically blind in broad daylight, so you'll be relatively safe from the world's greatest predators when the sun's out." Lapis explained.

"Understood. Where are we going?" The blonde asked.

"An old department store. It's a little ways out of the city, but there should be a bunch of stuff to get you set up." The other responded.

'Well, at least I can remember what a department store is.' Peridot thought to herself as the three walked out into the deserted street.

The bluenette was right, the department store was pretty far away. The blonde had been walking in the morning sun as Pumpkin kept close to Lapis. The child seemed pretty nervous herself, practically clinging to the bluenette.

Peridot simply chose to remain silent and try to enjoy the quiet peacefulness of the city. It was odd, how it all came together. The ruined buildings sort've acted like landscape, like an actually part of the vista, rather than human constructs.

And then, she saw the first scrawl.

It was made in black paint, or perhaps it was just scratched into the wall, but Peridot immediately noticed it as she was walking. It had been made on the side of a building, the message sending a chill down her spine.

We'Re NoT yOuR pUpPeTs AnYmOrE, mEtAl MeN.

Peridot stopped in her tracks as she stared at the message. 'Someone had to have written this.' She thought, trying to decipher the meaning. 'What does it mean, though. Who are the 'Metal men?'

"H-Hey, Lapis? Have you seen this?" Peridot called, not looking away from the message.

Lapis turned around from where she was walking and saw the message Peridot was reading. With a sigh, she made her way over to the blonde.

"Yeah, don't worry about them. You'll find messages like these all around, in other cities too." She responded, crossing her arms over her chest.

"Who wrote them? Are... Are they still around?" The blonde asked, still unsure how to feel about the message.

"No. These messages were written a long time ago."

"And... who are the 'Metal Men?'"

Lapis visibly tensed up as her eyes went wide. She took a few deep breaths before turning to Peridot.

"If you're lucky, you'll never have to find that out."

And with that, the bluenette walked away from the message, back to accompany Pumpkin.

Peridot watched briefly as the two started walking away again, then gave a quick glance back at the message. She let her eyes linger for a moment before turning away to catch back up with the other two people.

《¤》

After a few more minutes of walking, the trio finally reached the department store.

It was a looming structure, with the front cylindrical while the body and back was rectangular and bulky. All the windows had been blasted out or broken, and the exterior was broken with peeling paint. To not only add to that, foliage and a few single trees grew out of the abandoned husk. A large, desolate sign hung above the entrance.

Tim's Depart en Sto r

"Here's a second tip: When you're scavenging a place, always consider it occupied by something. You let your guard down for one second in this world, and you're done for." Lapis advised as she pulled her machete from her backpack.

"What would this place be occupied by, exactly?" Peridot asked as she eyed up the building.

"Wild animals, some stray Wolvites that took refuge in there to escape the sun... Other things. Just assume, okay?"

Peridot nodded as she slowly walked towards the entrance. Lapis turned and crouched down so she was eye level with Pumpkin.

"Pumpkin, you gotta stick close to me, okay? You remember, like always." The bluenette said, eyes showing nervousness.

Pumpkin nodded in response, and Lapis rose back up to look at the building. Peridot was walking over towards the entrance, inspecting it closely. Lapis walked up beside her.

"Same goes to you. Stick close and don't sta-"

"Why are Wolvites bad in the sun?" Peridot asked, interrupting Lapis' instructions.

"Huh? Oh, some weird thing with their eyes makes it hard for them to see. But, they're experts in the dark. That's why I had a fire out last night. Keeps them at bay." The bluenette explained.

"Is there a chance they'll be in here?" The blonde asked nervously.

"There's always a chance. However, there are holes in the ceiling I saw from scouting yesterday, so they should avoid this place."

Peridot nodded and slowly reached for the entrance, pushing the broken door open and walking inside.

The inside of the department store was just as desolate as the outside. Broken ceiling panels and glass littered the floor, trash was piled into corners, and more nature seeping through the walls. Lapis was right in the fact that there were many holes in the ceiling, as well as a large window letting natural light into the building.

Pumpkin walked inside after Peridot, with Lapis tailing close behind.

"Okay, we're looking for a sports section, something that has backpacks and camping supplies." Lapis ordered, quickly scoping out the area.

Peridot nodded and began to look around the abandoned department store, looking for the supplies. However, before she could drift off too far, Lapis called out to her again.

"Don't drift off, Peri. Remember?" She said.

"O-Oh, right. Sorry." Peridot said with a nervous smile.

The blonde walked over and regrouped with the other two people, still looking around the building.

Peridot saw many different things while looking around. Notably, a lot of the food supplies were still inside the building, untouched. She found this odd. If something was affecting the entire world, why wouldn't people try to prepare?

'It's almost like they were taken before they could prepare...'

"Hey, there's some more food over there if you need any." The blonde pointed out.

"Oh, should probably mention that. Be sure to check food before you grab it. A lot of it's gone bad. All of that food, for example, is most likely bad." Lapis said, although she did quickly walk over and looked over it. "Yep, all bad." She said with dissatisfied tone.

The three kept looking around until Pumpkin started pointing at something.

"Camping stuff. Over there." She said in a quiet voice.

Peridot and Lapis looked over to where she was pointing and, sure enough, a multitude of camping supplies were found.

"Nice. Good job, Pumpkin." Lapis congratulated as she ruffled the child's hair. The ginger haired girl smiled back up at her.

The trio walked over to the camping section, looking over the supplies that remained.

"Okay, we're looking for a backpack, a sleeping bag, a canteen, and a survivalist knife or map if we're lucky. After that, we'll get out of here and go see if we can find some food." The bluenette ordered.

"Gotcha." Peridot responded, beginning her search of the items.

It was surprisingly easy to find most of the things Lapis had requested. There were a couple backpacks that fit Peridot, a sleeping bag that wasn't too large, and Lapis had even found a knife and a folded up map that she tossed to the blonde. The only thing left was a canteen.

But, for the life of them, they could not find a single canister. No matter how hard they looked, the last item on their 'list' simply would not appear.

Peridot was just about to give up and let Lapis know that perhaps they should look somewhere else, when Pumpkin came up besides her and tugged on her pant leg.

"Per-dot. The back room." She said, pointing to a door next to a couple of shelves.

Peridot walked over to the door and read what was written on it.

EMPLOYEES ONLY

SUPPLY/RESTOCKING ROOM

"Good eye, Pumpkin!" The blonde congratulated, tugging on the handle.

However, the door was looked. Peridot furrowed her brow as she tried to figure out a way to get inside.

She then noticed gold key on the floor.

Peridot leaned down and picked it up, fiddling with it in her hands. She looked back at the handle, then down at the key again.

"Maybe..." She muttered as she pressed the key into the keyhole of the handle. Sure enough, it fit, and she twisted it left to unlock the door.

She slowly opened the door, letting sunlight leak into the other room.

It was very dark inside the room, and it seemed to be much larger than the single door let on.

The blonde very carefully stepped inside. She looked around for any signs of danger, but it seemed that the room looked empty.

"Go back with Lapis, Pumpkin. I'm gonna look around in here." She said as she completely stepped inside the room.

The ginger haired child nodded and went back over to Lapis, who was currently looking through a couple of cardboard boxes.

Peridot looked around the room for any source of light, something to help her see with. But, she had no such luck.

From what she could see, there were lots of shelving and more cardboard boxes in this part of the room. The walls were made of concrete cinder blocks with pillars in the middle of the room.

Peridot looked around for anything that could denote the possibility of a canteen. But, she was still restricted by darkness.

"Wish I had some sort of light..." The blonde grumbled.

And then, things were clearer.

It was like her eyes had rapidly adjusted to the darkness. Suddenly, things were so much easier to see and read.

'What the hell just happened?' She wondered as she looked around the room in confusion.

Then, she was them.

In the back of the room, she could see it. A few canteens stocked on the shelf. Her goal.

"Score!" She whisper-yelled as she walked over to the shelving. However, before when could reach it, she heard more whispers.

"Peridot! What happened to sticking together?" Lapis exclaimed from the doorway, Pumpkin by her side.

Peridot turned around to face the other girl. "Don't worry about it! I found some canteens!" She responded, pointing to the objects.

"Ugh, fine. Grab them and get over here." The other said back.

The blonde nodded and turned to grab a canister. She held it in one of her hands as she slipped off her backpack. She opened up the top and slipped the canteen inside, then zipped it back closed.

She slipped the backpack back on as she walked back over to the doorway, when she heard something to her side.

A noise she had heard before.

A growl.

Peridot stopped dead in her tracks as she slowly looked over to her left, where she had heard the noise.

It had come from a hole in the wall she had not seen when she first entered the room. The blonde stared at the hole with fear in her eyes.

Lapis and Pumpkin also stared with a frightened gaze. The bluenette clutched her machete tighter in her hand.

"Peridot, get the hell out of there. Now." Lapis said with a shaky tone.

Peridot nodded as she slowly backpedaled away from hole. However, before she could go any further, another growl made her stop in place, this one louder than before .

Then, six yellow, glowing eyes stared back at her.

A large, white, furry beast emerged from the hole, snarling and growling at the three humans. Bright yellow goo dripped from its maw as it stared down Peridot.

The blonde felt completely frozen in place, unable to think rationally due to the beast in front of her. Her mind screamed for her to move, but her body simply locked up.

Then, a whimper escaped Pumpkin's mouth.

The child slammed her hands over her mouth as her eyes went wide. The beast's head whipped over to the doorway.

It seemed it hadn't noticed Lapis or Pumpkin due to the light, but now that it had heard a child, it knew it had a target in sight.

Lapis pushed Pumpkin behind her as she held out her blade defensively. However, her hands shook as she struggled not to run away and abandon the child behind her.

The beast almost seemed to grin as it leaned down slightly, prepared to pounce on its prey.

"Pumpkin, run. Run as fast as you can." Lapis whispered.

The child wanted to listen, but she didn't want to leave Lapis alone. She stayed put.

"Pumpkin, run now!" Lapis yelled as the muscles in the monstrous creature pushed it forward.

Peridot was all the events transpiring in front of her, watched as the beast leapt through the air, and watched as Lapis prepared to swing at it.

And then, something snapped within her.

All the fear and terror seemed to leave the blonde. Her body flowed with newfound energy and strength as all her thoughts left her head. All except one.

A single thought that drove all her actions that followed.

Peridot leapt forward and slammed herself as hard as she could against the creature, throwing it off course with a yelp. The blonde pushed away from it as she frantically looked around for a weapon.

Her eyes fell on a discarded lead pipe.

She dove forward toward it, grabbing it and turning back around to face the beast. It had shaken itself off from the preliminary attack and was now growling at Peridot, a new target in its mind.

Peridot felt unnatural amounts of bravery flow through her as she watched the beast leapt forward to attack. She rolled under it, turned her body around, and swung the lead pipe against the creature as hard as she could, causing it to squeal.

She watched as monster begin to run forward again, this time managing to pounce on her. However, before it could close its jaws around her head, the blonde stuck the lead pipe in between its maw, pushing it away from her.

The beast snarled and pushed as Peridot used all her strength to keep it away from her, shutting her eyes in exertion.. However, the beast pulled away and howled in pain almost immediately.

The blonde opened her eyes to see what had happened.

Lapis had sliced the creature right across the snout, causing more yellow goo to ooze from the wound. It whimpered and pawed at the wound before staring back at its two attackers.

Peridot quickly got back to her feet as she positioned herself defensively in front of Lapis.

It snarled and growled at the two before whimpering again. Peridot held a determined expression as she held steadfast against the beast.

It gazed at the two once again before it turned back to the hole it had came from. It turned and gave one last terrifying growl before running away back towards the hole. It had decided the two prey were not worth the trouble.

Peridot still stared at the hole defensively, her eyes darting around to look for anymore signs of danger. Lapis had turned around and ran back over to Pumpkin, who was still frozen in the doorway.

"Are you alright, did you get hurt?!?" She asked frantically, kneeling down to her height. The child shook her head before grabbing onto Lapis in a tight, fearful hug. The bluenette quickly returned the gesture as the picked up the child in her arms.

"It's okay, it's okay. I won't let it get you." She cooed as she held the child.

Peridot was still looking for any possible signs of danger, the lead pipe still clutched in her hands. The single thought still flowed through her head, like an objective she had to complete.

Lapis turned back around to face Peridot, Pumpkin still in her arms, when she saw that she still stood in the middle of the dark room, no fear apparent in her.

"Peridot! Are you okay?" Lapis yelled out.

And then, as suddenly as the energy came, it went, and Peridot collapsed to her knees as the pipe feel to her side.

Her thoughts regained and the fear flowing through her veins, she started to pant as her wide eyes focused on only the floor. It felt like every part of her brain was on fire, screaming to leave the room.

Lapis carefully walked over to the blonde and placed a hand in her shoulder. Peridot screamed as she flipped over on her back, putting her hands on front of her as a shield.

"No, don't hurt me!" She screamed, her eyes closed again in fear.

Lapis watched as the person who had just protected her and Pumpkin almost selflessly cowered in fear under her.

"Peridot, you're okay. It's me, Lapis. " She said hastily as she stared back into the dark room for any sign of a possible Wolvite pack.

Peridot slowly opened her eyes to see the two familiar faces of her compatriots. She lowered her hands slowly before fear took over her actions. She grabbed the pipe for protection and fled out of the room, past Lapis and Pumpkin.

She bent over and placed her hands on her knees as she panted, making sure to stay in the sunlight.

Lapis came up beside her, completely silent in shock from the past events.

"W... Was that a W-Wolvite?" Peridot asked through a stuttery voice.

"Y... Yeah. I must've dug its way into the back room through a collapsed wall." Lapis reasoned as Pumpkin still clutched onto her.

"I'm so s-sorry, I didn't mean to p-put you guys in danger. It was a-all my fault." The blonde apologized as she panted.

Lapis stared silently at the dark room again, not saying a word.

When Peridot managed to calm her nerves slightly, she stood up with fearful eyes and faced Lapis, who was still silent.

"I... I didn't mean to, Lapis. I p-promise, I didn't know it was in there. I-"

"You didn't run." Lapis finally said, still looking at the room

"W-What?" The Blonde asked, confused.

"Any other person would've run. If I had picked up any other person in this world, and they found a Wolvite, they would've run. But... you didn't. You... You protected us. You protected her." The other girl muttered as she still stared at the room.

"Well... Well, of course I would protect you! I wouldn't leave you to die!" Peridot exclaimed.

"Anyone else would've."

Lapis finally turned to face Peridot. There were slight tears prickling up in her eyes.

"I... Thank you."

Peridot stared at the bluenette, awestruck from the response she got.

"Of... Of course. Don't worry about it." She muttered.

"No, you don't understand, I... Pumpkin could've gotten hurt if it wasn't for you. I hadn't seen it pounce toward me, I thought it had ran. You... You saw it jump. You pushed it into the wall." Lapis said as she clutched the ginger haired child in her arms tighter.

"W-Well, I would be missing my head it you hadn't attacked. I have you to thank for my life." Peridot responded.

"Yeah... I guess you're right."

The three all stood in silence, trying to calm down their nerves, even if they knew that wouldn't happen for a while.

"We... We should go. Head back to home base." Lapis finally said.

"Yeah..." Peridot said, taking a deep breath and nodding.

The three made their way out of the department store on shaky legs. Lapis could feel her heart pounding in her chest.

Chapter Text

It was quiet.

Eerily quiet.

Neither Peridot nor Lapis could hear footsteps. Or howls. No noises came from the darkened city.

Something had changed.

The three had arrived back to their home base a few hours back. Lapis pulled Pumpkin and her's sleeping bag from a rusted car husk, laying them out in front of the campfire.

With shaky hands, she had relit the light source with another match. Pumpkin laid down on her sleeping bag with wide eyes, staring blankly into the distance. The whole experience had left the three girls in shock.

Peridot sat down on the bit of concrete she had slept on, staring at the fire before her. Lapis knelt down beside the ginger haired child and began gently petting her hair.

"You're okay, Pumpkin. I'm right here. Do you need anything? Do you want a bit of bread?" She asked, trying to keep calm.

Pumpkin simply shook her head.

"Tired." She whimpered.

"Okay, go to sleep then. I'll be right here, okay?" The bluenette reassured.

Pumpkin shook her head again.

"Can't. Scared."

Peridot felt her heart drop at seeing the usually happy girl so... blank. So scared.

'It's all your fault, you idiot. If you just hadn't opened that stupid door...'

Peridot remembered the sleeping bag attached to her backpack and grabbed it, spreading it out in front of the fire to make the surface at least a bit softer.

There was silence between the three for an hour. Lapis simply kept petting Pumpkin's hair, trying to get the little one to calm down. Peridot kept staring blankly at the fire.

Slowly, the sun began setting as the sky darkened. Peridot noticed this and began panicking again.

'What if they come back? What if they're targeting us now?' She thought as she looked out of the building towards the outside.

Then, bravery briefly flowed through her as she clenched her fist.

'It doesn't matter. I'll push them back. I won't let them get hurt.'

Suddenly, Lapis let out a small sigh. "Oh, thank god." She said in a shaky voice.

Peridot turned her head to face the other as she saw Pumpkin finally slip into sleep, Lapis still petting her hair. Peridot felt her own sigh of relief leave her body at seeing the small girl in some sort of peace.

"Lapis, I..."

Peridot wanted to say something, but she couldn't. She didn't know what to say to show how sorry she was and show she truly meant it. She shut her mouth instead.

Lapis, without looking up from Pumpkin, spoke. "Can you get m-my canteen from my backpack?" She asked.

Peridot nodded as she reached over to Lapis' side. She grabbed the backpack and took out the quarter empty canteen, passing it to the bluenette.

"Thank you." She muttered before unscrewing the cap and drinking a bit.

Peridot nodded and sat back down on her own sleeping bag. Once Lapis was finished drinking, she set her canteen down and finally looked at Peridot.

"We forgot to go get food." She said. "We'll have to get it tomorrow while we're leaving."

"Leaving?" Peridot asked.

"Can't stay here, knowing we've pissed off one of those things. Gotta keep moving. Besides, we were planning on leaving soon, anyways." Lapis explained.

"Where... Where are you gonna go?" The blonde asked.

Lapis stared at Peridot for a second, before turning away. She held her tongue as she decided what she wanted to tell the other girl. On one hand, she still felt a need to keep her REAL destination a secret from everyone. On the other hand, she was still so confused as.to why she couldn't trust Peridot.

The blonde had selflessly thrown herself into danger, showed that she was telling the truth about her amnesia, and yet Lapis still had such a hard time trusting.

"Old habits die hard, I guess..." She whispered under her breath before turning back to Peridot.

"Washington. I'm heading to Washington."

The blonde stared at Lapis, trying to wrack her memory again. When that failed her, she let out a sigh of disappointment.

'Stupid memory...'

"What's Washington?" She asked.

"It's a place, on the other side of the country. Well, it's a state. My... My parents used to live there. Said it was a nice place to 'settle down. To start anew.' So, I figured I'd take Pumpkin and myself there. Try to make a life for ourselves." Lapis explained yet again, watching with slight panic as darkness almost completely overtook the sky.

"Oh. That's a nice goal." Peridot said, before focusing on the sky herself.

Silence overcame the two yet again.

"You should pull out the remaining bread. Put something in your system. Just be sure to save some for Pumpkin. She'll want some in the morning." The bluenette suggested.

Peridot nodded and looked through Lapis' bag yet again, pulling out the food. She took off a small chunk before handing it to Lapis.

'Oh god. I still don't feel hungry. Is there something wrong with me?' The blonde thought as she ate the bread.

Lapis took a chunk off as well before handing the rest back to Peridot to put away.

"Lapis, if you don't mind me asking... where are your parents?" Peridot asked.

"Do not ask that question ever again." Lapis said with extreme coldness in her voice.

The blonde quickly shut her mouth, then opened it to apologize. "I-I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to-"

"No, it-" The bluenette sighed. "I don't want to talk about it. Ever. It's a touchy subject."

Awkward. It was painfully awkward. There was no conversation between the two for a while. They both sat in silence.

It was quiet.

Eerily quiet.

Neither Peridot nor Lapis could hear footsteps. Or howls. No noises came from the darkened city.

Something had changed

"Where are they?" Lapis said to herself as she got up and walked over to the edge.

Peridot copied her actions and walked over to her side, peering out into the darkened cityscape.

Maybe they're scared? Changing tactics?" She suggested, trying to reason why the predators weren't on a hunt.

"This is why we need to leave tomorrow. I don't like that they changed their hunting patterns. The farther we are away from this pack, the better." The bluenette huffed as she walked back over to her sleeping bag.

"I can stay up tonight instead of you. If you're making such a long journey, you should get plenty of rest." The blonde suggested as she sat down as well.

Lapis let out a little yawn but shook her head. "Nah, I can go without a bit of sleep. You'll need it more, too, with your trip."

Peridot held a confused look. "My trip?"

"Well, yeah. Wherever you're gonna go." Lapis responded.

A pause. A short one, but enough for things to sink in.

"I... don't have anywhere to go. I thought I could travel with you guys."

Lapis stared at Peridot with slight shock.

"Peri, I... I couldn't take you with us." She said with slight pity.

"W-What? Why not?"

"The kind of journey me and Pumpkin are making is a very dangerous one. I need to be able to keep moving and keep out of trouble. And, no offence, you're vastly unprepared."

"B-But, you could teach me, like you've been doing recently! Besides, I can help you guys. You saw me fight off the Wolvite earlier. I can help!"

Lapis let out a frustrated sigh. "Peridot, I can't keep teaching you all the time! I've only been doing it recently because I felt sorry for you. I can't do it forever."

"Bu-"

"This is for the best. If you move alone, you'll be faster than if you were with us. And I can move faster with just Pumpkin because she already knows what to do."

Peridot stared at Lapis with pleading eyes, but eventually looked away. The bluenette had made up her mind. There was no changing that.

Yet, it made her chest feel tight and sent her nerves running.

"Okay. I understand." The blonde said with a slightly defeated tone. She laid down on her sleeping bag and turned her back to Lapis, instead facing the cityscape.

It went silent once again as Peridot slipped off into sleep.

《¤》

Peridot.

Where ARE you, Peridot?

...

Ah, there you are!

What are you doing in there, Peridot?

《¤》

The camp had been cleared out. The sleeping bags had been clipped onto the backpacks.

It was time to leave.

Peridot sluggishly walked out into the street, with Pumpkin and Lapis following close behind.

The three stood in awkward silence for a while.

"Here, take out your map. I'll try to mark where you should go." Lapis finally said, reaching into her pocket and pulling out a small black... compass.

'Oh, good. Guess I have that in my memory.' The blonde thought as she pulled out the folded piece of paper.

Lapis took the map and unfolded it slightly. Using her compass, she turned in place for a few seconds while following the map, looking for the right direction.

"Okay, the closest Dead Zone is a few miles that way." The bluenette said, pointing northeast. "Try to keep walking as much as possible. If it gets too dark, find shelter, preferably high up. I'll give you some matches so you can light a fire. Travel during the daytime, shelter during the nighttime."

Peridot nodded slightly.

Lapis' expression turned somber. "Peridot, I... I already told you why you can't come with us. Trust me, this is for the best."

"I know, I know. I'm just... scared." The blonde responded.

"We all are. The important thing is to keep on moving, keep in surviving."

Peridot walked closer to Lapis and held put her hand. Lapis took it and shook it.

"Thank you for everything you've done for me. I am eternally grateful." Peridot thanked.

"Stay safe out there, Peridot. It's a tough world. When you get to the Dead Zone, keep your eyes open. Don't let yourself trust so easily." Lapis responded.

The bluenette pulled out three matches from her pocket and handed it to the blonde. She stuffed them back into her own pocket.

Then, Peridot felt a little tap on her leg. She turned around to see Pumpkin looking up at her with her own saddened expression.

"Gonna miss you." She said before hugging the blonde's leg tightly. "You like my jokes."

Peridot chuckled slightly. "I'm gonna miss you too, Pumpkin. I'd tell you one of my own jokes if I could remember any."

Pumpkin nodded but still kept hugging her leg.

"C'mon, Pumpkin. We gotta get moving." Lapis said, calling the small child.

The ginger haired child reluctantly let go of Peridot's leg before walking over to Lapis and grabbing her hand.

Lapis wanted to say one last thing.

"Goodbye, Peridot. It was ni-"

And then, she stopped.

Her eyes went wide in complete terror, more fear than when they had encountered the Wolvite yesterday. Pumpkin adopted a similar, if not slightly less fearful expression.

A loud, metallic humming noise could be heard on the other side of the city.

Peridot looked at the other two in confusion before turning to face where the sound was coming from.

"What on earth is that?" She said to herself as she heard the noise grow louder and closer, then softer and more distant.

She turned back around to face Lapis only to see she was now holding Pumpkin tightly in her arms.

"Run." Was all she said.

"What, Lapis I don't unde-"

"Just run, Peridot!"

And with that, she raced down the street as fast as she could away from the sound. Peridot briefly turned back towards the sound before following Lapis' advice and chasing after her.

But, while she was running, Peridot heard something peculiar.

It sounded like... Footsteps?

Not Wolvite footsteps, but...

Human footsteps.

The blonde quickly caught up with Lapis, adrenaline pushing her to keep running. She felt like she could go forever.

"Where are we running to?" She asked.

Lapis panted and huffed as she held Pumpkin in her arms, the added weight doing no favors for exertion.

"Anywhere... Away... Look for... Underground." She said between breaths.

Peridot nodded and desperately looked around for some sort of entrance to under the streets.

The footsteps kept getting closer, now followed by small mutterings.

The blonde kept frantically looking around when suddenly Lapis stopped in the middle of the street. She let Pumpkin out of her arms as she bent over out of exhaustion.

"Keep... Looking."

The footsteps kept getting closer. Peridot thought she was hearing other voices, but... that wouldn't be possible.

Right?

The blonde finally spotted a staircase leading underground. She quickly tapped Lapis' shoulder and pointed to them.

"There! A way underground! Let's go!" She shouted.

Lapis nodded before quickly scooping Pumpkin back up and raced underground, with Peridot close behind.

The three descended into the darkened passage, broken tiles and light bulb shards littering the ground.

Peridot immediately began to panic. "What about the Wolvites?" She said nervously.

"What's following us now is much worse. The beasts will run scared, but we need to hide." Lapis panted as she went deeper and deeper underground.

The footsteps were dangerously close now.

The trio finally reached the very bottom floor. It was a darkened platform, raised above and aside a series of train tracks.

Lapis and Peridot desperately looked around for any sign of a place to hide.

"Over there!" Peridot whisper-yelled as she pointed to another door labeled 'Employees only.'

The three rushed over to the door (which was thankfully unlocked), and made their way inside.

Inside was a series of computer consoles, a single overturned desk, and a series of lockers.

"Hide in those!" Lapis said, pointing the lockers.

Peridot hid in the locker at the far end, while Lapis and Pumpkin both hid in the locker next to her's.

Peridot tried to limit all the noises that could come out of her body as the footsteps kept getting closer, and closer... and closer.

The footsteps stopped right outside the door. It slowly opened, creating a small squeak.

"Hello? Is anyone there?"

Peridot felt her blood run cold as soon as she heard that voice. It sounded... wrong. Like a gross attempt at sounding human. Its inflections were hollow and lifeless, as if it wasn't really talking, but being talked through.

The body accompanying the voice walked into the room. Peridot was able to get a good look at the figure through the locker.

It, or rather he, was dressed in very rich and dapper looking clothing. He was tall with combed back hair and pale skin.

Everything about him seemed normal, like just another human, but his face is what kept Peridot from leaving the locker.

Plastered on his face, as if it was welded into it, was a wide close-mouthed smile with eyes that gazed everywhere and nowhere at the same time. His irises were pitch black as he gazed around the room.

"You can come out now. My Diamond is here to save you! I know you're here, I saw you run down here."  It croaked through its lifeless voice, still searching around.

Yes, it was definitely an 'it.' Humans don't sound like that.

Peridot kept her mouth tightly shut as she stayed inside the locker, her hands starting to shake.

'Please, whatever you are, go away.' She pleaded within her head.

For a moment, the thing gazed at Peridot's locker for a brief moment, seemingly aware something was in there, however, it changed its gaze to the locker over.

"We're simply here to make things easier, that's all! We're here to take you to a better place! Come out now, please?"

Peridot saw it get closer to Lapis' locker. The blonde was on the verge of tears.

'Nonono, look somewhere else!'

"I. Can. See. You."

'Nononono!'

"Come on out, or I'll have to pull you out." It continued, no inflections changing in its voice.

Peridot watched as its hand slowly reached for the locker handle. She had to do something, it was going to find Lapis! It was going to find Pumpkin.

And then, she felt it again. The sense of energy, of bravery, and her mind shifting to just one thought.

Her shaking stopped. Her tears leaked down her face briefly before stopping. She knew what she had to do.

With a burst of energy, she shot out of her locker and, using the metal pipe she pulled from her backpack, hit the thing away from the locker.

Its head whipped away as it stumbled backwards. Then, it slowly turned towards the blonde.

It never stopped smiling. It didn't even flinch from the attack.

"Ah. I thought I saw someone else with the girl and the child! Come here, dear. I'm here to take you to a better place!"

The thing almost glided across the floor as it moved towards Peridot. Even with all her bravery, the blonde felt pangs of fear flow through her slightly.

"Come and get me, then."

She zoomed out of the room, racing towards the train tracks that led to darker tunnels.

And then, she saw more.

At least a dozen of those things, different genders in different clothing types, all searching around the tunnel. They turned their heads towards Peridot as she raced away in the tunnel.

"Come back here, dearest!" They said in unison.

Peridot didn't care. She didn't care about the fear slowly rebuilding and over passing her bravery. She didn't care.

All she cared about was getting those things away from Lapis and Pumpkin.

She continued running down the train tunnel as the other things chased after her. She could hear them getting closer.

"Please stop now, dear. Don't make us have to deter you." The things croaked.

Suddenly, Peridot got the extreme premonition to duck. And so she did.

Right as a taser bolt flew past her head.

She turned her head back as she ran to see that all the things had procured gun barrels from their arms, their hands folded back to reveal complex wires and electronics.

'Oh god, they're machines.' She thought as she faced forward to keep running.

Soon, more taser bolts flew past her as she narrowly dodged them, looking for someway out of this nightmare. The tunnel seemed to go on forever, no end in sight.

She turned a corner and saw something even worse.

A dead end.

A derailed train completely blocked the way forward, effectively trapping the blonde for the other machine-humans to capture her.

All the bravery left her as Peridot began frantically spinning, looking around for a place to hide. The footsteps and lifeless voices kept getting closer. She was running out of time!

And then, she thought of an idea.

She ran towards the train wreck and tried to wedge herself deep inside a small hole in it. As deep as she could go, as much protection as she could get.

When she reached as far as she could go, she stopped and held her breath.

The footsteps finally turned the corner. The things simply watched the wreck.

"We know you're here, sweetie. There's nowhere else for you to go!" The weird robot horde said in unison.

Peridot almost whimpered. Almost.

She was deathly afraid.

The robots looked around in an attempt to find the blonde, peering into holes in the infrastructure. They kept searching, paying no attention to the wreck.

"She's not here." One said.

"Where could she have gone?" Another asked.

"Perhaps she slipped over the wreckage. She seemed quite agile." Yet another explained.

Suddenly, a dozen footsteps could be heard on metal as the machine-humans climbed over the wreckage, leaving the tunnel silent again.

Peridot waited a few moments to be sure before carefully slipping back out of the wreckage and into the tunnel again. She glanced at the train wreck for a second before turning around and making her way back to the first platform.

She burst into the employees room and made her way to the locker the other two were hiding in.

She quickly opened the locker door. "Lapis it- eep!"

Suddenly, she was slammed to the floor as Lapis tackled her. The bluenette raised her fists above her head, but Peridot shot her arms out protectively.

"Lapis, Lapis it's me! Peridot!" She whisper-shouted, waving her hands in front of her face.

Lapis went wide eyed and stopped, lowering her hands to her side. She rolled off of the blonde and stepped back to her feet.

"How the hell did you get away from... them?" She asked, surprised Peridot was even alive.

"I hid in a bunch of wreckage. The machine-people passed me by, but they could come back." Peridot responded, getting back up as well.

"But they... Doesn't matter. We need to go. Pumpkin, come here." She beckoned the small girl, picking her back up in her arms.

With that, the three quickly but quietly made their way towards the staircase back outside. Poking her head out, Lapis checked to see if any other 'things' were standing guard.

"We're clear. When I say go, we run like hell to the outskirts of the city, as fast as we can go." She ordered, Pumpkin still in her arms.

Peridot nodded, getting ready to run like hell.

"...Go!"

And the three took off, as far away from the desolate city as possible.

《¤》

After about fifteen minutes of running, the trio stopped in the middle of an overgrown highway, more car husks littering the path.

Lapis was practically out of breath, hunched over and gulping air. Peridot herself was even panting.

"I... think we're... good." Lapis belted out between breaths.

"I sure hope so. Though, I doubt those things knew we even left." Peridot responded, looking back at the direction they had run from.

"You'd... be... surprised."

Peridot waited patiently for the bluenette to catch her breath. Pumpkin stayed by her side, placing a supportive hand on her shoulder.

After one final deep breath, Lapis stood up completely.

"I guess I owe you again. Dear god, how did you manage to muster enough bravery to run at one of those?" She wondered.

"I... It was going to find you. I wasn't going to just let it do whatever it wanted to you." Peridot explained.

"You... I can't even begin to tell you how thankful I am. God, I owe you twice now."

Silence took over again as the blonde prepared her next question. She could already tell it wasn't going to be fun to ask.

"What... were those things?"

Lapis stared at Peridot for a brief moment before turning her gaze away. Pumpkin clung to her leg, trying to give her a hug.

"Androids. They're Androids." The bluenette finally said.

Taking a deep breath and forcing her panic down, Lapis continued.

"That's what Homeworld's been doing and is still doing. It's been kidnapping people, and turning them into those things."

A shuddery sigh escaped the girl's throat. Her hands trembled slightly.

"They have no conscious, no emotion... no control. Their puppets to Homeworld's whims. If they get their hands on you, it's..."

Peridot took a step forward, her hand outstretched to give the other comfort. But, Lapis held up a finger to stop her.

"I'm fine. Just give me a moment."

The blonde nodded and took a step back.

"You fought them." Pumpkin said. "You prote- You pretec-" She struggled to say.

"Don't worry about it. It's fine now." Peridot reassured, stopping the child's struggle.

The three entered silence once again as they decided what to do next.

The bluenette finally took a deep breath as she calmed her nerves "God, I don't know what direction we even ran to." Lapis said as she pulled out her compass. A look of slight relief appeared as she looked at the small device.

"Good. We're on the right track. Oh, wait..."

She looked back up Peridot with guilt.

"WE'RE on the right track." She said, gesturing to herself and Pumpkin. "You're off course now. Hand me the map again, I'll set you back on course."

Peridot nodded and took off her backpack, setting it on the ground. She unzipped and reached into the pouch, ready to pull out the map, when she stopped.

'Oh god, what if those things find me again? Or another Wolvite pack? I don't wanna face that alone.'

She looked back up at Lapis with a pleading expression.

"Let me come with you. Please." She begged.

The bluenette let out a sigh of frustration with a look of disappointment. "Peridot..."

"No wait, hear me out." The blonde said, getting back up to her feet. "I can take care of myself, I promise! I'll... I'll learn as I go, so I won't be a burden. Plus, I won't weigh you down, I'll do my part!"

"If you can do all that with us, you can do it alone." The bluenette argued.

"But I don't want to be alone!"

Lapis' annoyance left her briefly.

"Lapis, I could only do those things when you guys were around! I... I don't want to be a alone out there, facing all these new things, even if it is just till the next 'Dead Zone.' Please let me tag along, at least until we get to someplace you can drop me off!" Peridot begged.

Lapis let out a sigh. "Our path doesn't take us past any Dead Zones, not at least until the border of Washington."

"Then I'll tag along until then! I promise I'll help out, and I won't get in your guys' way. Just... please don't leave me alone out there."

Lapis still stared at Peridot, her motive and decisions only wavering slightly. She was just about ready to repeat her answer when she heard a sniffle beside her.

The bluenette turned her head and saw Pumpkin with a pitiful expression and wide, saddened eyes. The child turned to face Lapis.

"Please, let her come with!" She said with a pause. "She looks scared."

"Pumpkin, sweetie, we can't. I... I already told you why."

Lapis could here a small whimper come from Peridot's direction.

"But she's brave! She can help! She ca- She ce-" Pumpkin struggled to get more words put before letting out a small, yet adorable, little grumble.

"Please, we can't leave Per-dot alone." She finally said after another pause.

Lapis stayed silent as she looked back and forth between the child before her and the blonde next to her.

On one hand, she knew that the best thing for survival was to keep on moving, to set Peridot on her way and let it be.

But, on the other hand...

She knew what it was like to be alone. To be afraid in this hell of a world without someone to watch your back.

She knew that feeling all to well.

"Fine."

Peridot looked at Lapis with a hopeful expression.

"Do you mea-"

"Yes. You can tag along. But only will we get to someplace we can drop you off! And, you will have to carry your own. I don't look after freeloa- umf!"

Lapis never got to finish her sentence, because Peridot pulled the girl into a tight hug.

"Thankyouthankyouthankyou! Oh man, trust me I will pull my weight! You won't regret this!" The blonde quickly said.

Lapis blushed a light pink at the gesture before clearing her throat.

"T-Thought I told you not to do that again."

Peridot realized what she was talking about and took a step away, pink dusting her own cheeks.

"S-Sorry. Just really thankful." She said sheepishly.

The bluenette nodded before turning to the horizon, away from the city.

"We need to get moving. If we're gonna find shelter before darkness hits, we need to be on our away ten minutes ago." She said as she put three fingers in front of her face, under the sun.

"Then let's get moving." The blonde said, walking up to Lapis' side.

"Yay! Per-dot's coming with us!" Pumpkin cheered, grabbing Lapis' hand.

The bluenette sighed with a smile.

And they were off, unsure of the future, but ready to face it together.

《¤》

Oh, playing hide and seek? How cute!

Did you have fun today, Peridot?

...

I love you, Peridot. Mommy loves you.

You're already so smart, so energetic.

When you grow up, you're gonna do great things.

I promise.

Chapter Text

For the end of the world, everything is quite green.’

Peridot thought about this as she walked down the desolate road alongside Lapis and Pumpkin.

She watched the husks of cars filled with plants and grass, the road where fauna filled the cracks and broken pieces.

The world was quite green and filled with life. One would expect a desolate and hostile landscape in the end of the world, but this place seemed far more lively for expectations.

“Everything's really green…” The blonde muttered, her hands gripped to her backpack straps.

“Yeah, that tends to happen when there aren't many humans left. Nobody here to destroy the environment.” Lapis responded, slight annoyance in her voice.

“Oh. Right.”

The three kept on walking, following the path of the road away from the first city. Every once in a while, Lapis would stop the group to gaze at her compass and Peridot's map, determining that they were still on track.

But, there was rarely a word spoken between them. They mainly traveled in silence.

Peridot gazed at the open plains around them, grass and plant-life flowing proudly in the wind. She listened to the few animals that croaked and sang, enjoying the tune they produced.

‘It really is quite peaceful out here. A far cry from the imposing structures of the city ruins.’ She thought.

Eventually, it was nearing the afternoon. The three stopped and leaned against the side of a car husks.

Lapis took out her canteen and drank a few sips before offering it to Peridot. The blonde forced a few sips of water down her throat. Pumpkin pulled out her own canister and rehydrated herself.

“A bit hungry.” The small child muttered as she clutched her stomach.

Lapis took off her backpack and dug through it a bit before grimacing.

“Sorry, sweetie. Nothing in here. We'll probably find some a little more down the road.” She said.

Pumpkin pouted but nodded anyways. There was no changing the situation.

Peridot frowned a little. It hurt her interiorly to see these people suffer after they've done so much for her.

“So… Where are we heading? I mean, I know we're going to Washington, but for tonight I mean.” Peridot asked.

“A small town close by, place called Bentonville. We'll stay the night for a couple of days and keep moving. That'll be the exception, though. Usually we'll stay the night and leave in the morning, trying to travel as much as possible.” The bluenette explained.

“Ah, I see.”

After a few more moments of rest, the three were off again, making their way towards the next town.

“So, Lapis. Where were you before all this? I mean, I assume you lived somewhere else before deciding to travel to Washington.”  Peridot asked.

Lapis side-glanced the blonde while she walked. “I used to live up in this little Dead Zone called York, up in the northeast. But… I guess you could say I moved around. Met up with some other folks and…then I found Pumpkin. We traveled down here and now we're going to Washington.”

“Oh. What was York like?”

At that, the bluenette chuckled. “I'd like to describe it, but there are children present.”

Peridot went wide eyed before giggling a little at the statement.

“No, but seriously it was not a friendly place. But, it was my home, and I cared for it as much as I could.”

“And why’d you leave?”

Lapis went silent.

“O-Or, maybe we should talk about something else?” Peridot quickly tried to re-correct.

“Yeah, that would be for the best.” Lapis responded, a little coldly.

“Well, um, what… What is your favorite color?”

Lapis stared at Peridot for a moment for a second, stopping in place. The blonde was just about ready to retract that question before the bluenette bursted out laughing.

“Seriously? That’s what's been bugging you? The question that's been eating away at you?” She said through the giggles.

“S-sorry, just trying to make conversation.” Peridot said with a nervous chuckle.

“Hey, it's fine! I think it's kinda… cute how innocent it is.”

Cute. Lapis had just called her slip up 'cute.'

For some reason, Peridot felt her stomach twist and her heart flutter in her chest at that statement. She didn't know why. Perhaps it was another side effect of shock?

Either way, a small grin appeared on the girl’s face.

“Well, if it wasn't obvious, my favorite color is definitely blue.” Lapis responded, the two continuing to walk again.

“T-That's good to know. Any particular reason why?”

“It… It reminds me of the ocean. It's one of my favorite things in the world. I'd give anything to swim in the ocean again.”

Peridot did remember the ocean. A nice, serene place, with cool water and warm air.

“That's a nice thought.”

The two walked a bit more before the bluenette spoke again.

“What about you?”

“Huh?”

“What's your favorite color?”

Oh. Peridot hadn't expected that. She thought that the other girl would be focused solely on survival, and that her pointless question had distracted her. She didn't expect her to show actual interest in the blonde.

“Well, I haven't seen many colors, and I may not remember some of them correctly, but if I had to go off of what I've seen, I'd say green.” She responded.

“Green, huh? Real coincidental seeing as your wearing green.” Lapis remarked with a smirk.

“Yes, but that's not the reason why. I…I like how the nature looks. All the grass, and the plants, they're beautiful.” The other girl explained.

Lapis smirk slowly disappeared in place of a genuine smile.

“Yeah, you're right. The nature is pretty beautiful.” She said, a little quieter.

“Orange.”

Both Peridot and Lapis turned to look at the small child next to them. Pumpkin looked back at them.

“I like orange. It's pretty.” She said.

Peridot flashed a smile towards the ginger-haired child. “Orange is nice. Any reason why?”

“Nope. Just like orange.”

《¤》

After a bit more walking, Peridot saw a sign come into view on her right side. As they got closer, she was able to read it in the setting sunlight.

BEN ONVIL E

NEX    E XT

3  M LES

“‘Benonvile?’ Oh, wait! Bentonville!” The blonde exclaimed. She turned to the other two in the group. “Guys, I think we're close!”

Lapis took a look at the sign. “Yep, next exit. Be on the lookout for a bit of road that leads away from the main one.”

Peridot nodded and kept on walking down the road.

Eventually, the pair did find this exit. After a bit more walking, they came to the entrance of the town.

This place, Bentonville, was much different from the other city the group had been in. Where the other city had large buildings and towering structures, this place had much small buildings, with the tallest visible building being a three story building with the signage ‘HOTEL’ on the side. There weren't as many visible car husks, but there was a whole lot more plants.

“See that building? That's gonna be our hideout tonight. Keep on the lookout for any food stores.” Lapis said, stepping foot into the town.

Peridot and Pumpkin were right behind her, searching the town for supplies.

Peridot was the first to spot something: a small building with a slanted red roof, weird looking stations with nozzles, two car husks, and a rusted sign raised slightly above.

MIKE'S ST   P AND S   OP

“Hey Lapis, I think I found a place.” She pointed out.

Lapis turned to the building. “Hmm, seems promising. I'm gonna check it out for anything undesirable. Stay here with Pumpkin.”

The blonde nodded and placed a hand on the small child's shoulder while the bluenette slowly stepped inside. After a few minutes, she poked her body out of the doorway.

“It’s clear. Come inside and help me find some stuff.” She called.

The other two stepped inside, looking around in the dusty area. Holes could be seen in the ceiling and packets of spoiled junk food littered the floor. On the back of the wall was a scribbled message.

ToUcH mY sTuFf AnD yOu'Ll GeT sHoT

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Peridot asked.

“Nothing now. Anybody who lived here is long gone now.” Lapis responded, poking around in some of the food stuffs.

The other girl nodded and began looking as well. “How will I know if the food has gone bad?” She asked.

“Look for things like bread and pasta, that stuff doesn't go bad as often. Also canned goods. When you find something like that, look for unopened cans or lack of mold. That's how you’ll if things are any good.” Lapis explained

Peridot nodded and kept looking, alongside Pumpkin. After a while of searching, they managed to find a few cans of green beans, corn and yams and some water.

While Peridot was looking, however, she came across a cracked open door labeled ‘employees only’ with a ton of afternoon sunlight leaking through it.

Trusting the safety of the light, she slowly opened the door and peered inside.

The room the door led to had a collapsed wall letting the outside in. A wooden, broken desk with a bunch of papers held down by a knocked over lamp sat near one of the walls, with a swivel chair tucked into the corner.

Peridot stepped inside and gazed around the room.

‘Hmm. Doesn't seem to be anything interesting. Better get back to Lapis.’ She thought as she peaked into the room.

She was about to leave when her eyes fell upon a peculiar item.

A small, red book, lying deserted on the floor.

The blonde walked over to them item, bent down, and picked it up.

It wasn't very thick, more akin to a pamphlet than an actual book. Peridot looked at the cover to see what it said.

“‘Diamond Tech 2000 Media Player operating and repair booklet.’ Wow, that's a mouthful.” She muttered as she looked at the cover.

She flipped through a few of the pages to find tons of diagrams, words, and numbers. The information seemed interesting enough, so Peridot decided to place the booklet into her backpack.

“Peri? Are you back there? What'd ya find?” The blonde heard Lapis yell to her.

“Uh, nothing much! Just a little booklet...” She responded, turning around and exiting the room to meet up with the other two.

《¤》

After searching the other building, the three left towards the three story hotel.

Peridot observed the exterior. It seemed decrepit, with its wooden doors rotting of the hinges and broken windows. A washed-out sign hung above the doorway.

‘GR ENWO D INN’

With only a little bit of pressure, the blonde was able to push one of the doors off its hinges, causing it to slam to the floor.

Lapis came up besides her and peered inside. The afternoon light leaking through the windows proved that nothing unwelcoming would be dwelling here, but that wouldn't last long.

“Get to the roof, stairs should be somewhat intact. I'll be right in, I'm just gonna gather some firewood and rocks.” Lapis said, turning around.

Peridot led Pumpkin inside the building. The entrance room held a sort of reception area, with a broken lamp and bigger, intact version of the sign outside: The Greenwood Inn.

There were two doors at the end of the entrance room. One was labeled ‘Staircase’ while the other was labeled. ‘Dining Room/Rec Room.’

Peridot and Pumpkin both entered the staircase room and made their way up to the top floor. Exiting the staircase, they found a hallway with two doors on the left side and three on the right, four of which were numbered from 9 to 12. The last one was labeled ‘Roof Access.’

The two girls made their way to the last door and opened it up. The inside was simply a crooked ladder that led to a metal hatch in the roof. Peridot went first, climbing up the ladder and opening the hatch with a good amount of effort. She climbed up onto the roof and turned around, kneeling over the hole to help Pumpkin up. The small child clamored up the ladder, taking the hand the blonde had offered her to help her up onto the roof.

“Woah…” Both girls muttered as they turned around.

The view from the top of the roof was absolutely stunning. The setting sun created a beautiful glow over the small town, warm colors flowing over the buildings. The reds, oranges, and yellows were complemented almost perfectly by the different shades of green created by the plant life growing through the town.

One could even consider it a work of art, if not for the heavy feelings and thoughts that seeing this small town in such a state.

The two girls didn’t even acknowledge when Lapis made her way up the ladder, twigs and firewood under one of her arms. The bluenette simply stared as the other two girls stared off at the horizon.

She decided to leave them be for the moment, silently building the campfire and lighting it with a match. After watching it grow for a few minutes, she walked over to the other two, standing beside Pumpkin.

She stared off at the beautiful scene before her, one that she hadn’t truly appreciated in a long time. She glanced over at Peridot and Pumpkin, watching the pure awe and wonder in their eyes.

It was… different.

To see such wonder and innocence behind the eyes of some else like her, another survivor was definitely an experience. Lapis had thought that all the willingness to be happy and the ability to enjoy scenes like this had completely disappeared from the world.

And yet, here was this blonde haired stranger enjoying nature like it was one of the best things in the world.

To Lapis… it was a welcome change of pace.

“This is… oddly peaceful.” Peridot finally said, turning her head slightly to face Lapis.

“It… It really is. It’s been a long time since I’ve actually enjoyed a view like this.” Lapis responded, turning slightly to face Peridot.

The two stared at each other for a while, not knowing what to say next.

“Laps, I’m hungry.” Pumpkin said, breaking the silence.

Lapis quickly realized how much she was looking at Peridot and quickly turned her head, focusing on the child beside her. “W-Well, let’s get some food in ya, then.”

The bluenette took Pumpkin’s hand and led her to the campfire, laying out the sleeping bags and pulling out the canned food.

Peridot stared at the landscape for a few more minutes before turning around and walking over to the campfire.

The meal was consumed in silence, but not in awkward silence like the ones in the other city. No, this one was a peaceful sort of silence, one where the meal was truly enjoyed, especially after the hardships of the day. Peridot's canister was even filled up by the bottle of water they had found.

No Wolvites came at night. Peridot and Lapis stayed awake for a little while longer, making sure that none of the beasts snuck up on the city. When they decided it was relatively safe, they retreated to their sleeping bags.

And, for the first time in a long while, Lapis got a good night’s sleep.

And Peridot fell into peaceful sleep, the noises of the night like a soothing lullaby.

《¤》

What the heck are you doin’ here?

What’s that in you got, some kinda nerd book?

Geez, you really are a loser.

A big, nerd faced, glasses toting loser named Peridot.

What are you really gonna amount to, huh? What are you gonna do with ya life, loser?

Chapter Text

Peridot awoke from her sleep with a gasp.

She had never experienced something like that before. That sort of dream. She hadn’t remembered anything she had dreamed about beforehand, but this dream was so vivid she couldn’t help but remember it.

She sat up, panting and trying to figure out what had happened to warrant such a vivid dream.

‘What sort of question was that? ‘What are you going to do with your life?’ Those aren’t the kind of things I would’ve expected to hear in a dream. What did it mean?’ She thought to herself.

Peridot contemplated this dream until she was taken out of her thoughts by a tap on her shoulder. She turned her head to see Lapis kneeling down, trying to get the blonde’s attention.

“Hey, you okay?” The bluenette asked. “You kinda have this panicked look on your face and you’re breathing really heavily.”

“O-Oh, I’m fine! I just had this really weird dream. Couldn’t figure out what it meant.” Peridot responded.

“Huh. What was it about?” Lapis asked again.

“It was somebody taunting me, calling me a ‘loser.’ And then they started… questioning me? I don’t have any clue what it meant.”

“Hmm. That is a weird dream.”

Peridot looked to the sky to see that the sun was only now rising. It seemed it was pretty early in the morning.

“Well, you might want to get up now. We’re going scouting today.” Lapis said as she got up from her knees.

“Oh, okay. What’re we looking for?” Peridot asked, getting out of her sleeping bag and standing up.

“Food, water, other things we could use for our journey.” Lapis explained as she pulled her backpack onto her shoulders.

“Okay”

Peridot did a quick stretch before putting on her own backpack. She looked out at the small town landscape. The bluenette behind her put out the fire before shaking Pumpkin awake. Her eyes opened as an adorable grumble escaped her throat.

“Hey sweetie, you gotta wake up. We’re going scouting today.” Lapis explained in a soft voice.

Pumpkin let out a little yawn before shaking her head, snuggling back into her sleeping bag.

“Pumpkin…”

The child let out another grumble in protest of waking up.

“If you wake up, I’ll… I’ll give you a piggy-back ride!” The bluenette offered, trying to coax the ginger out of her sleeping bag.

Pumpkin poked the top of her eyes out, still half lidded and begging to go back to sleep.

“Promise?” She asked.

“Promise. But, it’ll have to be on our way back.” Lapis said.

Pumpkin let out a few more noises of protest before sluggishly getting out of the sleeping bag and to her feet, stretching and letting out a few more adorable yawns. She grabbed her backpack and placed it on her shoulders before rubbing some of the sleep out of her eyes.

The three girls descended the ladder, exited the hotel building, and hit the streets.

“Okay, my guess is there’s gotta be a small little grocery store or something around here that has at least some food. I did a little overlooking from the roof, but the foliage made it hard to make out anything.” Lapis said, Pumpkin holding her hand and walking by her side.

“Mhm. I’ll keep a close eye out.” Peridot said with a smile.

The early morning brought a very different picture for the blonde. Instead of warm colors mixing in with the greens of the plants, the early morning seemed to compliment the green with a nice bluish color. It was like a completely different place.

The small town was like another world to Peridot. It felt so much more homier. Like she belonged there.

Like a home…

Home…

Home.

The girl snapped out of her thoughts after that weird moment. She decided to instead refocus her effort on finding that grocery store or whatever.

After a few more minutes of silent walking, Lapis spoke up.

“There’s a place, up ahead. Should be fairly simple. Get as many non expired supplies as you can.” She told Peridot as the trio walked over to the building she had gestured to.

It was, suprise suprise, in fact a grocery store. The place had broken windows, plantlife growing in and around it, and was in much the same state as the rest of the small town. What was really lucky about the place was the fact it had been almost untouched as well. The food, while most was spoiled, had been completely untouched and had allowed the group to grab a solid amount of supplies in little over an hour.

“Think we have enough?” Peridot asked as they exited, her backpack now heavier with food items.

“Mmm. Maybe, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Let’s keep looking around for more places. We do still have most of the day, after all.” Lapis responded.

And so, the three continued walking around the town, looking for more supplies.

They walked in relative silence for a while, before Peridot spoke up again.

“So, if you don't mind, I was hoping I could ask a few more questions about you? Get to know you better?” She asked Lapis.

Lapis side-glanced Peridot before chuckling. “Sure. Ask away.” She said in a calm voice.

“Okay, great! So, um… What do you like to do for fun?”

Lapis donned a pensive expression as she place two fingers to her chin.

“Hmmm… I don't really like to do anything FOR fun. I don't really have time for that. I'm mainly focused on taking care of myself and Pumpkin.” She said after a few moments.

Peridot's small smile soon disappeared as her mouth opened slightly. That was not the answer she had wanted to hear.

“Oh, that's no good! I'm sorry you don't have time to relax.” She apologized, despite it not being her fault.

Lapis chuckled again. “Eh, I never really think about it. Just keeping my mind on getting to the next morning. When I make it to Washington, then I'll start thinking about my free time.”

“I see… Well, that's just it then. I'm going to most certainly help you.” The blonde said, determined.

The bluenette was confused. “Help me with what?”

“Help you have fun and relax of course!” Peridot stopped walking.”I believe being able to relax is a very important part of survival, so I have made it my mission to help you sufficiently relax.”

“Peri, you don't have to do that. Besides, you have other things to worry about.”

“Nonsense, I can juggle both tasks! Think of this… Think of this as my first step in repaying you for all the kindness you've shown me over these past few days.”

Lapis rolled her eyes but kept a small smile. “Fine. But don't let it get in the way of your responsibilities, okay?”

“Of course!”

With the agreement in mind, the three continued down the path, the two older girls talking with each other while Pumpkin was more focused on the nature around her than her caretaker’s conversation.

But, after a few more steps, Lapis spoke up again.

“Music.” She said.

“Huh?” Peridot asked in confusion .

“I do have one thing I like. Music. That's what… What my mom would do. She'd sing me music whenever we traveled.

“Oh… that's good to know.”

‘Music.’ Peridot thought. ‘Lapis likes music. I’ll have to find some of that. Most definitely.’

~0~

The building was… strange.

Lapis, Peridot, and Pumpkin both stood in front of the strange structure, completely awestruck.

The architecture was definitely more different than the other more box-like buildings. This one had far more thought put into it. It had purpose in every pillar, brick, and paint stroke.

A sign hung above the roofed entrance, more ornate than any other Peridot had seen.

Bentonville Library

Completely intact.

“I thought I'd never see one of these…” Lapis muttered, her eyes wide.

Pumpkin looked at the building with curiosity and wonder. She had never seen one of these.

Peridot was lost.

“What is this place? And why did we stop in front of it.” She asked with a confused expression.

Lapis briefly snapped out of her thoughts and turned to face Peridot with a more happy expression.

“T-This is a library! There's all sorts of useful things inside there: books, pencils, all sorts of things! Oh god, I hope no one's ransacked this place…” She explained.

“A book? W-Wait, I have a book!” The blonde exclaimed, digging through her backpack and pulling out her little red booklet.

Lapis took the book from Peridot and looked over it before handing it back.

“Yeah, this place is full of those, but they're not always about stuff like radios. These books are about all sorts of things!” The bluenette exclaimed.

Then, something dawned on her, and that excitement quickly faded.

“We… We can’t go in there. I-It’s probably not safe. We should just move on…” She said in a softer voice.

“W-Wait, we can go in! I’m sure it’s fine!” Peridot said, trying to persuade the other girl.

“I can’t see any natural sunlight from here, Peri. It’s not safe, and I’m not going to put Pumpkin in danger like that. Let’s just move on…” Lapis said somberly, turning to leave.

“Nonono, I’ll prove it’s safe! C’mon!”

And with that, a blur of blonde hair raced toward the library doors.

“Peridot, stop!” The bluenette called out.

Peridot ignored the plea and reached the doors, which had been sealed shut and covered with wooden boards, effectively concealing the view to the inside. The blonde grabbed hold of the doors and tried to force them open with as much force as she could. When that didn’t work, she grabbed hold of the pipe strapped to her backpack and began hitting the door with it.

“Peridot! You're making too much noise, stop! The wood and glass is too hard, you’ll neve-”

Peridot swung down and proceeded to smash open the doors, breaking the chunks of weakened wood and shattering glass to make an entryway.

“-Never break it…?” Lapis finished her sentence, looking in awe at the display of strength.

Light flooded in from the new opening, blinding Peridot for a second before her eyes readjusted. She gasped when she saw what was inside.

“Lapis, Pumpkin, come here.” She whispered.

The two girls came up to her side, and gasped as they saw the interior.

The library interior was not as impressive. There was a small front desk with several large bookshelves in the middle of the room, all half filled with books while the rest sat scattered on the floor. Five desks were pressed to the side, all with strange looking boxes placed on top of them.

‘I think those are computers? Oh great, so I can remember the name, but not the actual purpose. Stupendous.’

The entire place was covered in plant life. Vines hung from the ceiling as grass and flora invaded the floor. The bookshelves were covered with slight overgrowth, but not so much to cover or damage the books.

But that wasn’t the truly impressive part.

A giant hole, almost as large if not larger than the wall, sat in the very back of the building, letting the natural scenery of the outside world into the room as well as sunlight. It was like a new painting of nature the trio was now able to admire.

“Holy shi- I mean smokes!” Lapis said, catching herself before she could curse in front of the child.

“You could say that again.” Peridot muttered.

“It’s so pretty!” Pumpkin yelled with a wide smile, before running into the building.

“Pumpkin! Wait!” Lapis yelled, rushing in after the child.

Peridot, with a giggle, followed the other two into the library.

The blonde took a minute to admire all the beauty that could be found in just one space. It was truly amazing, like her own private landscape contained inside one little building. The flowers that had started to pop up also gave the place a nice smell, an earthy sort. Peridot enjoyed it.

But soon, her curiosity soon outweighed her appreciation, and she took a moment to poke around.

Making sure Lapis and Pumpkin were in sight (The bluenette was currently scolding the younger one for running off into a building like she had), Peridot walked over to the ‘computers’ and examined them.

They seemed to be electronic in nature, as some of them were rusted open with torn wire falling out. A glass screen was placed on the front of the box, and a weird curved thing (‘mouse’ she recognized) connected to a board of buttons with letters on it (‘keyboard’).

She looked back over the other two and called out.

“Hey, Lapis! Can you come take a look at this?” She yelled to other girl.

The bluenette nodded and turned back to Pumpkin, who was currently looking at the over of a book with wide eyes. Lapis took the smaller girl’s hand and lead her over to Peridot.

“What's up?” She said, coming up to the blonde's side.

“What the heck is this thing?” Peridot asked, gesturing to the ‘computer.’

Lapis looked at the device, opening her mouth to quickly answer the question. But… then she shut her mouth, and a confused look came over her face.

“I… actually don't know. I've seen these around but I've never know what they've done. Nobody's ever told me what they're even called.” She said, brushing her hand over the top of the box.

“Hmm. Well, I only remember its name. A computer. Whatever that means.” Peridot responded.

“Huh, computer…”

The two older girls stared at the weird device for a while.

“How sad is that? There's so many things left in this world that'll be forgotten. How much info are we gonna lose before we fix all this?” Lapis reflected somberly.

“Hey, there's no need to give up hope. If we forget something, that's just a new opportunity to learn and discover it again. Hey, maybe this library has a book about computers!” Peridot said, trying to cheer up the other.

Lapis smiled a little before nodding. “Okay, let's check it out. But we can't stay here long. Still got stuff to do.”

Lapis, Peridot, and Pumpkin (Who was very slowly reading the book she held in her hand), walked over to a nearby bookshelf.

“Let's see… Ah, here's one! ‘History of Computers.’ This should be good!” The blonde said, pulling the book off the shelf.

She turned around and handed the book to Lapis. The bluenette carefully grabbed the book and ran her hand over the cover, before letting out a breathy laugh.

“It's been a long time since I had time to read a book.” She said, memories in her eyes. She opened up the book cover and began reading the first few pages.

Peridot smiled to herself as she saw Lapis become more and more relaxed as she read the book, leaning against on of the bookshelves as she turned the pages.

She liked making Lapis happier. It lit a funny feeling inside her that felt warm and fuzzy.

The blonde turned around to grab her own book about computers, when she felt a small tap on her thigh. She looked down to see Pumpkin holding her book, looking up at the older girl.

“Per-dot? Can you help?” She said, pointing to the books higher up on the shelf.

“Didn't like the other one?” The blonde asked.

Pumpkin shook her head. “Too, um… small Those ones are larger.”

Peridot nodded and bent done, picking up the girl and placing her on her shoulders. Pumpkin let out a small gasp before giggling.

“Yay! Piggy-back ride!” She cheered as Peridot walked closer to the bookshelf while giggling herself.

“Pick out your book, Pumpkin. I got you.” She said kindly.

Pumpkin nodded as she leaned forward, reading the names of the books on their spines. Eventually, she found one that sounded interesting, and reached forward to grab it.

At this point, Lapis heard the giggles and shouts coming from the other two and looked up from her book to see what was happening.

What she saw was an adorable scene of a giggling Peridot, hair ruffled and held by a very happy Pumpkin who held a new book in her arms.

Her face split into a wide grin at seeing both of them so happy. It really had been a long time since she had seen Pumpkin so care-free, not worrying about survival or what she was going to eat.

‘And technically…’ The bluenette thought. ‘We have Peridot to thank for that.’

Lapis decided to go back to reading her book. Peridot was taking care of Pumpkin. She didn't have to worry.

~0~

Once they had grabbed the book, Peridot walked over to a little section of library with softer grass and floor, Pumpkin still on her shoulders.

She set the small girl down onto the grass with the book in her hands.

“There you go. All comfortable, Pumpkin?” She asked.

Pumpkin nodded with a small smile. Peridot ruffled her hair.

“Okay, I'm gonna be right over here if you need anything.” The blonde said, pointing to a bookcase right next to where Pumpkin was sitting.

“Okay.”

With the small child happy, Peridot relaxed a little more and went to pick out a book of her own. Which proved to be a challenge of her own.

“There's so many options…” She muttered, her previous interest in computers gone.

She looked at all the books ten times over before settling on one about something called ‘Marine Biology.’ It had so many diagrams of strange creatures she couldn't help but be drawn to it.

She walked back over to the spot where Pumpkin and sat down next to her. The small child looked up from her book at the blonde with a smile, which Peridot returned. The two then began reading once again.

After a few minutes (And pages of so many creatures that lived in the sea), Lapis came over a plopped down in front of the two girls, book still in hand.

“Seems like you guys are trying to hide away in this corner, huh?” The bluenette remarked with a smirk.

“Lapis, this book is really interesting! It's all about sea creatures and how they interact in their ecosystems!” Peridot exclaimed, shaking the book in her hand.

“Really? Let's trade, I wanna read that one. This book's not my kind.” She said, gesturing to her own book.

The two girls swapped and began reading their new books. The dilapidated and overgrown library providing a peaceful setting for them while the shining sun provided light.

~0~

“I did it.”

Lapis looked up from her book at Peridot, who had spoken up with a smile.

“Did what?” She asked.

“I got you to relax. I told you I would, and I followed through.” The blonde explained, slightly smug with her success.

She was right. Throughout this entire experience, Lapis had let her mind wander from survival and toward relaxation, simply reading a book and enjoying peace and quiet.

“Yeah… I guess you're right. T-Thank you. For that.” She said with a genuine smile.

“Of course! It's… always good to see you in such a happy mood.” Peridot said, a little sheepish.

At that moment, Pumpkin let out a little yawn, and leaned her head against Peridot’s shoulder, her eyes drooping a little.

“Tired. Very sleepy.” The child muttered, her book sliding out of her hand.

Both Peridot and Lapis looked out toward the setting sun, seeing the warm colors once again wash over the bookshelves.

“Dang… We were here the entire day.” Lapis muttered.

“Yeah, we really lost ourselves in here…” Peridot replied.

Lapis placed her book back down on the floor and picked Pumpkin up carefully. The ginger haired child grumbled a little before patting Lapis’ back.

“You promised.” She mumbled.

Lapis chuckled a little. “Okay, Okay. Get on.”

The bluenette flipped the tired girl around so she could sit on her shoulder. The child tester hands on Lapis' head while she smiled and giggled tiredly.

“Yay! Piggy-back ride twice!” She cheered as loud as her energy would let her.

“We should probably get back to base. It's already close to nighttime.” Lapis said as she stepped toward the exit to the building.

Peridot nodded and stood up, setting her book down as she got up. She was about to follow the other two out when her foot tripped on something.

She looked down to see another, different discarded book. One nobody in the trio had touched while they had been in the library.

100 Puns to tell your friends!

Peridot smiled to herself as she picked up the book in quickly stuffed it into her backpack. She knew exactly who would appreciate that book.

“Peri? You comin’?” Lapis called out.

“Yeah yeah!” She said, running to catch up.

The three walked back to home base, the setting sun providing a warm vista as they left the library more relaxed.