Steven couldn't help but be excited, they had finally fixed the galaxy warp and he could easily go to any planet or colony he desired, it was a welcome thing, after trying to herd the diamonds into an at least somewhat compassionate state.
He needed a break, and this would definitely provide at least temporary release from his diplomatic diamond duties.
Steven stepped up onto of the warp pad, letting out a mild sigh of relief.
"Take me somewhere new." He whispered, hoping it would grant his request. The warp pad lit up, lifting him in the air and taking him to a location he had yet to go.
The light dissapated just as quickly as it appeared, providing a less than superb sight. It was definitely a place he hadn't been before, some decrepit looking garden with over grown and dead plants, and broken pillars. It belonged to gem kind and that was all Steven could really glean from the surroundings.
"Hello?" He called, stepping off the pad and down the steps toward the main courtyard. He glanced around once more, it was completely deserted it seemed.
It was a terribly quiet noise, but in the silence of a long dead garden it was deafening. Steven spun around to find the source, some small pink gem that seemed to be embedded to the ground, vines still.growing through her legs like they thrived off the energy from her.
"Oh my-" Steven cut himself off, immediately sprinting toward the pink stranger and dropping to his knees to tear at the grappling vines.
"Are you okay? Have you been here this whole time?!" He was far more concerned with the grass in her feet than her answer, and didn't even take the time to look at her face.
After picking out the last bit of grass from the gem, he finally looked up at her, noticing that very large pink, heart shaped gem on her chest.
His heart sunk. If she was pink, she must have been in Pink Diamonds court, which already made things more gut wrenchingly complicated than he'd preferred.
Steven got to his feet, finally and closely inspecting this new gem, or perhaps, this old gem.
She was small and pink and covered in dirt and grime, her pigtails were frizzled and falling out of whatever style they were meant to be in and she wore a look of complete and utter shock.
"What's you're name?" He asked finally after their moment of awkward silence.
The gem opened her mouth to speak but didn't, instead turning toward some sort of communication device in the distance, still planted in the same spot.
Steven moved past her toward the general location she seemed to be interested in, pointing at the device.
"You're waiting for someone?" He asked, knowing that however long she had been waiting that person likely wasn't coming back.
The gem nodded, and unclasped her hands, her palms visibly lighter than the dirt covered tops, and she did a meager salute.
A pink gem, in a garden of earth flora, waiting for their diamond. Steven couldn't help bit imagine the worst, know the worst.
They weren't coming back for her.
"I don't.." he hesitated, there was no easy way to tell her, and he wasn't even completely sure of the truth himself, all he could do was assume the worst. "I don't think they're coming back."
Steven went out on a limb saying it, hoping that speaking half truths would maybe help but the gem's vacant stare immediately broke its facade and she broke down in tears. Her arms coiled around herself at least three times before they tightly gripped fistfuls of hair as she silently sobbed.
"It's okay, you don't have to stay here alone anymore, you can come back with me!" He quickly interjected, edging closer to her and holding his hand out for her to take.
The pink gem glanced upwards, meeting his eyes and searching for some kind of honesty in them.
"You can make friends, on earth with me and the gems." He offered, placing his hand slightly closer. The gem's eyes flickered down at it, and she hesitated, tentatively placing her hand in his.
Steven smiled, moved beside and then past her, lightly tugging at her hand to goad her into moving. It was almost confounding, he felt, the loyalty gems had for their diamonds. There was no doubt that she too was apprehensive of leaving her place. Things were different now. He glanced back, waiting patiently for her to move.
The gem's eyes her planted on her feet, the place where she had stood so long that the grass had grown into her. She pulled, slowly lifting her foot and flinching as the grass ripped at her soles from the placed Steven couldn't reach. She took a small step forward, but standing in place for ages didn't do anything to help her balance and the legs that once stood straight turned to a wobbly noodle like mess. The gem stumbled forward and Steven reached out, catching her in his arms, grateful of his ease of strength as he propped her up on his shoulder and led her toward the pad. She whinced every now and then from the raw tenderness of her soles as they hit the pavement.
"I'll take you to the palace and we can see what we can do." Steven said softly, feeling her grip tighten just slightly on his jack as she balanced herself on his shoulder once they reached the warp pad.
Chapter 2: Diplomatic Diatribe
As much as a new face was welcome, Steven was much more relieved to have a gem around who didn't refer to him as Pink, or even as a diamond, or even speak for that matter.
"The diamonds have been making me stay here in the meantime, I've been helping them free the colonies but they still aren't very good at being nice- or good people. Honestly, I think they are doing it just because they want to appease me." Steven monologued as he brushed out the dirt and knots in the gem's hair, it was nice, to be able to talk to someone who couldn't exactly talk back.
She didn't seem to mind, while she sat in his lap playing with the tiny pebble gems while Steven messed around with her hair. He stopped for a moment, and bent down to grab her attention.
"What sort of style were these in before?" He asked, the gem shifted her head to meet eyes with him and held up her hands to form a heart. Steven nodded, and fiddled with her pigtails, attempting to rework them into their previous style.
He grabbed a mirror and handed it to her to see, she smiled, it was a poor attempt, but it was better than nothing. That is, until the two buns poofed out into frizzy tangled pigtails.
"Sorry, I've only worked with Amethyst's hair before, yours is a lot different." He chuckled. The gem smiled softly and held up her hands again to form another heart.
"You like it still?"
She nodded in return, turning around to sit on her knees and face him.
"Hssssppp." She tried, choking halfway through the attempt to say something.
Steven's smile wavered for a moment, as much as he liked the quiet company, her inability to form words made his heart ache just a little.
"You don't have to talk if it hurts, I don't mind." He replied, the gem looked down at the floor for a moment, silently chastising herself for her failure.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean-" Steven was cut off by her waving hands and a big grin. She scooted a little closer and grabbed the brush Steven had been using and pointed at him.
"You want to do my hair too?" He confirmed, she nodded excitedly and crawled up on the bed, directing him to slide down to where she sat before.
Steven followed her direction and sat down below her, letting her hands run through his curls before brushing it gently.
"I've been here for two years almost, its nice having someone else here with me. I know you didn't want to see the diamonds, but if you want I can take you to my home, we're almost done with the last colony." Steven felt his hair being pulled into two parts quite tightly, despite the curls almost resufing to stay in the gem's intended locations.
"I think you'd like it there, there are more plants, and everyone is free from the diamonds, you can be whoever you want and go wherever you want." He finished, just as he felt a tight band snap around his sectioned hair. The gem handed him the mirror with a grin. Steven grabbed the mirror to look, she had pulled his hair into matching pigtails, though it looked more like little bear ears than pig tails.
The gem slinked down from the bed and crawled around to face him as he set down the mirror.
"It's beautiful, now we match!" He chuckled, causing her smile to widen before she pointed at herself and then him. He didn't quite understand what it meant.
"You and me?" He guessed, she nodded, repeated her gesture, hoping doing it again would somehow better communicate. "You want to stay with me?"
She nodded enthusiastically, giving him another hand heart. Steven smiled, giving a return of the gesture.
"I'd love that."
It would be a lie to say he didn't have reservations. This gem was an excellent companion, but he was certain she had some ties to at least one of the diamonds, and his gut instinct said Pink. How would she react if she found out the truth? He had managed to keep her away from the diamonds, mich to her own chahrin. She didn't do well being alone, and her silence made it harder for him to understand what she needed.
That silence, the state she was in now what caused by someone and if it was Pink like Steven felt, then nothing good would come from her finding out he had her gem, that she was his mother.
Still, he couldn't very well leave her. She hadn't done anything to his knowledge to warrant that, and as much as he despised cleaning up his mother's messes, this one felt different.
She deserved someone who loved her, Steven could be that for the time being.
Chapter 3: To Earth
"As much as I like going from planet to planet freezing colonies, I miss my home, so I'm ready to go home and be with my friends." Steven finished, just as the Pearl's cut off the live feed. He turned and smiled at White Diamond, flagrantly ignoring her obvious annoyance at his spur of the moment announcement.
"Steven, you can't go!" She pleaded, stepping down from her throne to meet his level. Steven took a step backward, keeping well enough distance between the two of them.
"I'm sorry, I just miss my family, and-"
"We're your family!" Blue interjected.
"I know, I mean the crystal gems, and I want to introduce them to someone."
He finished, unamused by their attempt to manipulate him.
"You mean that mystery gem you refuse to introduce us to?" Yellow prodded rather indignantly. Steven narrowed his eyes at the comment.
"She's just uncomfortable here, so I'm taking her to earth to start over." Steven waved the dionds away as headed his last trip back to Pink's room.
He stopped in front of the door, pressing his ear to hear if the gem inside were up to anything before knocking and announcing his entry.
Steven pushed the door open, hearing her scurry around inside and eventually seeing her sitting on the bed with a undeniably forced smile.
"I'm sorry I left you here, did the pebbles keep you company?" He asked, his eyes flickering at the pillows that had been thrown about the room. The pink gem nodded, but her puffy eyes begged to differ the effectiveness of the pebbles company.
Steven shook his head slightly, holding out his hand, which she eagerly took.
"You don't have to lie, I know you don't like being alone." He replied, carefully watching her reaction as she shrank in on herself in shame. "It's okay, I'll help you, and on earth, you're never really alone."
Steven led the gem toward the warp pad, making sure the coast was clear of dotting diamonds before hopping on and sending the both of them flying toward his home.
The pink gem's grip tightened just a little on his hand as they neared their destination, so he turned and offered her a reassuring smile.
"They are gonna love you."
The light field lowered and the two of them were in his greenhouse, almost immediately the gem hid behind Steven as her eyes caught sight of another person.
"You're back!" The girl gasped, closing her book and getting up from the bean bag she sat in.
"Hey, Connie." Steven replied, stepping off the warp pad, despite his new companion's reservation.
Connie glanced behind him, catching sight of the gem that had coiled her arms tightly around him.
"Who's you're friend?" She asked, stepping closer to get a better look. The gem hid further behind Steven, though him holding his arm out prevented her from hiding any further.
"I don't know her name yet, she can't talk." He answered, smiling back at the gem and nudging her forward just enough to look at Connie. "I found her in a garden."
Connie nodded slowly, and held her hand out for the gem to shake.
"It's nice to meet you, I'm Connie." The pink gem unveiled one of her arms and tentatively rested her hand in Connie's, who in turn glanced at Steven, quickly realizing that this gem didn't know what shaking hands was.
"Hhhcccccpppsss." The gem coughed, smiling widely despite the tiny tears that had formed in her eyes. She glanced back at Steven, causing him to move toward the door along with Connie.
"I was gonna introduce her to the gems, and maybe find a home for her in Little Homeworld." He continued, leading the gem down the balcony toward the stairs and finally the living room.
"That's really good! She looks like she's been through alot." Connie's smile didn't deter the gem from glancing down at her muddy and grimy self, she slowed, trailing behind Steven a little further than before.
Steven stopped at the edge of the stairs, looking back at the gem to make sure she was alright, and still comfortable coming to earth.
"Yeah.." his somber reply was quickly saved by a smile as he turned back toward Connie. "You still going to space camp?"
"Yeah, my parents want to indulge my interests." She answered, shifting the bag she had in her should to a slightly more comfortable position.
"You told them you've been to space before, right?"
"Yeah, but I don't want them to feel like they aren't doing enough. Anyway, I gotta head out, see you in a week?"
Connie hopped down the steps, waiving Steven goodbye before heading out the door. Steven turned to his gem friend, patting the arm wrapped around him lightly.
"Let me go tell the gems real quick, just stay here for a bit okay?" Slowly, the pink gem relinquished her grip on his arm and released him to go speak to his other friends, feeling something like a black hole begin to open up at the thought of meeting his other friends. What if they didn't like her? What if Steven didn't really like her? She couldn't even tell him her name, he could just get bore of her like-
He could leave her, alone.
"Okay, you can come out now!" Steven's voice pulled her from her thoughts and she quickly attempted to flatten her frizzy hair and brush the dust that had embedded itself in her off before coming down to join them.
The pink gem hesitantly stepped down the stairs, keeping her eyes on her feet until she was in full view of the others.
Slowly, she looked up, her eyes darting around the room to look at its occupants. There was Steven, a very small Amethyst, a fusion, and...
Something shattered, it felt like it was her gem, but it wasn't.
Chapter 4: Spinel
Steven dropped to the floor, quickly picking up the glass pieces of the porcelain plate Pearl had been holding in her hand. He glanced back at the gem whose name she called, his pink little friend, Spinel.
The look on her face was more than shock or confusion, it was somewhere between realization and shame and guilt and shock combined in a most visceral way.
"You know eachother?"
Pearl snapped out of her own shock at his words and quickly helped him pick up the last of the pieces.
"She was Pink's little playmate.." Pearl kept her eyes transfixed on Spinel, who at the mention of Pink flinched ever so slightly.
"Hck.." Spinel's meager attempt failed partly from the eventual underuse of her vocal chords and partly due to the anxiety that spiked inside her the moment she saw Her Pearl.
"She didn't..." Pearl stepped closer to the gem, raising her hands to cup Spinel's tear stained face. "She left you there, oh my."
Spinel blinked, and quickly pushed the gem away, retreating further up the stairs to hide in the shadows. Steven threw away the broken plate and quickly followed her, bypassing Pearl's obvious concern.
"Spinel, I'm so sorry." He said, kneeling down to the crouched gem that let out breathy sobs.
She wanted to scream. She wanted so very badly to yell and cry and scream and tell him how much she hurt but all she could do was cry.
Steven reached for her shoulder in attempt to comfort her bit she swatted it away, retreating further up the stairs and staring down at him, tears rolling down her face.
"Hhhh..hhmmm" he didn't know what she was saying, but he could practically feel the betrayal emenating from her like a cursed stench.
"I'm so sorry mo- Pink did that to you, but it's okay now, you're safe, with friends." He chose not to mention Pink being his mother, one hurtful truth after another surely would break her.
Spinel's sobs turned into smaller sniffles and she slowly nodded, allowing him to move up the steps to sit beside her, wrapping one arm around her and using his hands to make a small heart.
"We're friends, you and me." He said softly, Spinel nodded, smiling just a little and mimicking the gesture.
Steven pulled his arm back and stood up, grabbing her hand and pulling her to stand with him. "You want to go back down?"
Spinel nodded once more, following him meekly down the stairs to return to the small group of friends.
"I'm gonna make you some tea, maybe it will help some?" Steven asked, pulling out a mug and glancing back to make sure she at least nodded.
"So you can't talk? Like, at all? Huh, that's weird." Pearl lightly smacked Amethyst's arm as the purple gem spoke her somewhat inconsiderate words. Spinel nodded, pressing her fingers to her throat lightly.
"Amethyst!" Pearl chided before turning to address their guest. "You've been in the garden this whole time?"
Spinel lowered her head, wrapping her arm around her shoulder a couple times to provide some semblance of comfort.
"So you don't know-"
"Tea is ready, here you go Spinel!" Steven interjected, setting a warm mug in front of the gem and gesturing for her to drink it. He shot a glance at Pearl, nodding for her and the others to head out of earshot. "I'll be right back, drink up."
Steven took his somewhat forced opportunity by the horns, and left Spinel alone for the time being, quickly trotting up the stairs to speak to the gems.
"We can't tell her yet." Steven exclaimed as quietly as possible, shutting the door behind him. They had gathered in his room, which was a definite upgrade from secretive conversations in the bathroom. "She doesn't know Pink is Rose, and Rose is mom, and she doesn't know that I have mom's gem."
"Steven," Pearl began, "I don't think this is the right thing to-"
"If we tell her she'll freak out! You saw her, she spent thousands of years alone, if we told her that Pink is gone, or worse that she left me in her place- how do you think she will handle it? Knowing she had a whole life without her while she stood alone on a rock in space?" Steven cut in, glancing at Garnet in search of some kind of confirmation.
Garnet pushed up her visor and folded her arms, mulling over the possibilities.
"Steven's right, telling her all the information right now will lead to a volatile reaction." Her words brought a small pride to Steven, having Garnet agree made the situation rest easier on his shoulders. "You will have to tell her eventually though."
And as quickly as he relaxed the tension returned. He almost wanted to punch himself in the gut just to give some small payback to his absent mother. Though, honestly he couldn't put it past her to do such a thing. Pink wasn't a good person, and it felt at times like his mother were two completely different people.
"I'll get around to it." He replied, opening the door to return to the gem waiting for him. Steven and the others quietly returned to Spinel, who in the meantime was furiously gulping down the tea he had made for her.
If she didn't look to be in such a sorry state, it would have been funny.
"Do you like it?" Steven asked with a smile, she nodded with a grin, opening her mouth to try again.
"Hhhiiih." Her smile quickly failed and she looked down into the empty cup, wanting nothing more to say something, anything. She thought for some time about what she would say too, at first she thought she would speak to Pink first but it seemed like she had no intentions of returning for her. And even though earth was her colony, she had yet to see any gem homes or technology.
She thought, maybe if she saw Pink again, she would tell her how happy she was that Steven found her. She would tell her how happy she was to not be alone.
But she was- in a way, alone. And it was Pink's fault, and sometimes Spinel thought about telling her how much it hurt.
Maybe tell her how the grass grew in her feet and held her there because she was too dumb to know that Pink probably hated her. She would scream and yell and cry and make sure Pink knew that it hurt. She didn't like thinking about that though, she liked thinking about Steven, and these new gems, well, mostly new.
Pink must have left Pearl here alone too, so, at least they had something to not talk about.
Chapter 5: Speechless
"Hey, it's okay." Steven's voice pulled her from her thoughts, she hadn't realised that she'd been crying, it was something new to her she didn't really understand. Everything she felt was so big, now it was really easy for her to cry. She never used to do that before.
Spinel looked up to see the boy had sat down next to her, Pearl sat on her other side, staring at her as though she were seeing a memory.
"Let me try something." Steven's eyes drifted down to the gem on her chest, it was a long shot, or at least he thought it was. Her gem wasn't cracked, maybe very poorly kept but that was the extent of any damage. So he would try it.
Steven stuck his finger in his mouth, coating it in his healing saliva and placed it on her gem. Spinel jumped out her her seat at the action, did he not know how important a gem was? Steven yanked his hand back, feeling a little awkward at her reaction.
"I'm sorry, my spit heals- I just thought.." he trailed off, but Spinel's eyes her trained on his finger, still coated in spit. Pink could do that.
Her tears healed gems, there were numerous occasions where Spinel played a tad too rough and got cracked and Pink would come to the rescue.
Before she left at least.
"Try to say something?" He requested, Spinel blinked in confusion until the realization that she could once again speak took over.
What should she say? How could she show her gratitude?
Steven felt his heart pick up pace just slightly while he waited for the gem to answer, she opened her mouth, then closed it, then opened once more.
It was a hoarse noise like all the others and Steven wouldn't have known it wasn't real at all. Spinel knew, though she decided to wait. She had nothing to say. For so many years she had no one to talk to and no reason to talk, but now she did and she wanted to make those first words count.
Steven slumped back into the couch letting out a heavy sigh.
"I'm sorry, I thought it might work." His reaction made Spinel second guess her decision, he looked so hopeless, but it was all for naught, when she was ready. Really, truly ready, she would talk.
"Hey, man, it's alright, you tried your best." Amethyst nudge him slightly, pushing him out of that mild depression.
"Yeah.." he sighed, "in the mean time, we can show you around town? And see Little Homeworld- it's still under construction." He perked up at the idea, surely Spinel would adore Little Homeworld, and maybe make new friends, he could show her to Peridot and Lapis, they could even go to the boardwalk.
He turned toward the gem in question, waiting for her approval. Spinel nodded with a smile, setting down her cup and bouncing somewhat giddily.
"Alright! We can take the warp!" Steven smiled, waving her over. Spinel quickly latched onto him and followed him back up the stairs to the warp pad, letting him lead her wherever he wanted.
Really, she only wanted his company, maybe because she only really knew him, and he was so sweet and kind, but also because he talked to her, and she liked listening.
"We built Little Homeworld for gems who don't want to live with other gems, it's a place where fusions and off colors are safe, I think you'll really like it." Steven explained as they appeared on the warp pad that was hoisted in the air via crane.
"Steven! You're back!" A voice bellowed from a distance, Spinel peeked over Steven's shoulder to see the speaker, a gruff and large Bismuth grinned from atop the crane controls. "And you brought a new friend!"
Steven grinned widely at the welcome sight, wrapping his arm around Spinel's waist and hopping off the pad, floating gently to the crane platform.
Spinel clutched him tightly, this boy wasn't normal. He said he was part gem, but this was eerily similar to something else. She decided it would be better to ignore.
"Hey guys!" He beamed, "this is Spinel, she can't talk but she's really cool. I found her in m- a garden." Steven caught himself, glancing to see if his companion had noticed at all, she was more preoccupied giving a deep curtsey to his friends.
"I'm showing her around, how's construction coming along?" Steven asked, glancing at Peridot who was stabbing in numbers on her pad.
"89 percent, at this rate we should finish before the week is out." She answered, glancing up for a moment. "I've never seen a Spinel before- aren't you supposed to be for entertainment?"
Spinel's smile faltered for a moment, but she quickly replaced it with a wider grin, bouncing over toward Peridot and cartwheeling around her.
"I think that's a yes." Steven chuckled, "we were going to take the long way back so Spinel can meet some of the townsfolk." He smiled back at the pink gem, watching her kick her feet together while handstanding.
It was good to see her move, in the palace she didn't stray from Pink's room, and mostly avoided the other gems. Here she was like a bouncy ball, hopping all over the place looking at anything and everything that offered interest. She was happy, she deserved this.
"What do you say Spinel?" He gestured widely at Little Homeworld, pulling her attention from the crane controls to the scenery beyond. Spinel bounced off the crane and trotted up to meet him, leaning over the edge to take in the view before turning back with an enthusiastic nod.
Chapter 6: Whisper
"So, what do you think?" Steven glanced back at Spinel who had one arm wrapped around his and the other coiled around a plethora of toys and prizes and popcorn from the boardwalk arcade. She nodded enthusiastically in reply, shifting slightly to allow her face to be seen. Steven laughed and changed direction, veering off toward the Big Donut, the last stop on his little tour.
"Okay, before we get back, I want to show you the Big Donut." He explained, holding the door open for her as she shuffled through. Spinel dropped her load and looked around the establishment, taking it the delectable scent of freshly made donuts.
"Two donuts please!" He called, smiling at Lars as he pulled out two strawberry donuts and stuffed them into a bag.
He turned back to Spinel, digging out a donut for her to try.
"You'll really like these." He affirmed, waiting for her to take it from him. Spinel grabbed the donut and inspected it quizzically before opening her mouth and chomping down on it. Steven couldn't hide his smug little grin as her face lit up at the taste.
"Told you you'd like them." He giggled as she ate the rest of the donut and gathered her souvenirs. "Let's head back to the beach house."
The two entered through the front door, Steven called to the others to see if they were there, no answer.
"Guess they went to help with Little Homeworld." He smiled, taking a few of Spinel's things and putting the in various locations. "What do you want to do?"
Spinel place her finger to her chin as she thought, she could tell Steven something, a joke.
No, that would be a terrible first thing to say.
They could play a game of hide and seek? What if she hid so well he never found her though? And he just forgot about her and she stayed there playing hide and seek for another six thousand years.
"How about we give you a room?" Steven offered, the only one available was Rose's room, but Spinel didn't know who it belonged to, and it would be better than the last room a guest had. Still, it was not exactly the best place for a gem with..issues to be.
"Nevermind about that," Steven backpedaled, "you can stay in the greenhouse with Lion, that way you're never alone."
It wasn't his best solution, but he tried, and Spinel didn't seem to notice his fumbling.
The silence between them began to stifle the air, making Steven a little uncomfortable, it wasn't her fault though. He grappled for something to say.
"So..uh, I'm gonna put on a movie." Steven nodded to himself, good, that will distract her enough to ease the silence. He shuffled through his DVDs, finding the first in a long line of Lonely Blades to introduce to her and settled down on the couch, prompting the gem to do the same.
"This is a really good saga, with swords and ninjas and samurai, I think you'll like it." He suggested, letting the gem sit next to him as he pulled open the bag of popcorn she had won.
The movie started, but as Spinel sat longer, she felt the inexplicable urge to move and do something, anything but be still. She didn't like it, or the way it kept her mind off the pictures on the screen. Every second she sat still it felt like grass had sprouted into her skin.
She shifted her legs, pulling them up, then sitting cross legged, then leaning, nothing worked.
Spinel squirmed, catching Steven's attention and he gently pat her shoulder.
"We can do something else?"
She shook her head and nestled herself into the couch, steeling herself in his company. She wasn't alone. She could stay here with him and it would be okay, she could trust him.
Dusk fell on the horizon until night finally took over by the end of the movie, Steven had gone from sitting to laying on the arm rest of the couch and Spinel was splayed over him like a light net. She tilted her head to see if he was awake still, in the palace the boy slept.
It was something she was somewhat familiar with, he told her about it the night he brought her back with him. Something about shutting down?
She knew something like that. In the garden she would stand for so long that she saw things, very very odd things and very scary things too. But she would open her eyes and be in the same place and nothing had actually changed. She assumed that was the sleep that Steven talked about.
Steven had dozed off just before the end credits, and was drooling a little on the couch but Spinel didn't particularly care.
Chapter 7: Listen Close
They were tiny, inconspicuous words and she knew it, to her they didn't count. He was asleep. He didn't even know she had said them.
Until he stirred, dazily rubbing his eyes as he repositioned himself, pushing Spinel off him just slightly.
"Sorry, didn't mean to fall asleep on you." Steven yawned, glancing back at his friend, her shock subsided quickly enough that he didn't notice. "Guess I ought to go to bed huh?"
The boy slid off the couch and meandered to his room, with Spinel following close behind. He turned at the door, almost forgetting that she was there.
"Oh, sorry, the green house is upstairs." His words didn't seem to do anything, the quiet gem just stared at him until he realized that she was more than comfortable staying with him for the night. Sharing the room at the palace didn't really help him either.
"Right, you want to stay in my room?" He yawned, waiving her in as he slid into bed. "You can lay on the floor if you want, here."
Steven threw one of his pillows down on the ground and tossed a blanket as well. "That way you're comfortable."
Spinel gathered the pillow and blanket and neatly piled them into a small makeshift bed, laying down just out of sight. Steven drew his lamp off and shifted to his side. Spinel was the only gem who didn't creep him out when he slept, in the palace she was welcome company, staking pebble after pebble on top of him while he slept so when he woke up he'd be greet by tiny jovial cheers, or just lying there with him listening to him drone on about nothing and everything all at once.
Steven turned over again, trying to find some kind of comfortable position before giving up. It was completely dark in the room aside from the light of the moon that trickled through the blinds.
"You know, I'm really glad I found you." He said softly into the dark, hearing the gem roll over toward him. "I don't know what would have happened if I didn't."
If she found out the truth.
"I keep imagining how awful it must have been standing in one place for so long, and you looked so happy today when I showed you around town. I think you belong here." He spoke into the silence, not expecting an answer.
Those tiny, inconspicuous words made the boy bolt upright, squinting in the dark at the tattered gem that lay on her back with her eyes closed and the smallest of content smiles on her face.
"Spinel- you can talk?"
Her eyes opened slightly and she stared up at him, hoping that through the dark he could see the love and gratitude in them.
"Thank you for taking me with you and being my friend." It was like the words were disconnected from her lips when he saw her speak and move her hands to form the small heart the two of them shared. Steven had half the mind to lie back in bed and convince himself he was dreaming. The other half desperately wanted to crawl down to the floor and give her a much needed hug.
One of them won.
Steven slid off his bed, grabbing Spinel's shoulder and pulling her into a tight embrace.
"I'm so glad you're better."
She wasn't better before. She was broken.
Steven let go of the hug and stared into Spinel's eyes, searching for more words, all this time she couldn't talk, and then she could and all she said was thank you?
Surely there was more. Surely she had more to say about Pink, about Pearl, about him. She needed to talk, he wanted her to talk so desperately.
The last couple months at the palace practically kept him sane because she was there to listen, surely she needed that same thing, someone to listen. He could do that. He could listen, help her through this.
Tell her the truth.
"Spinel..don't you have anything to say?"
Was it not enough? Her thank you, the first words, weren't good enough?
Spinel's eyes darted about the room as she struggled for an answer.
It wasn't what he wanted, she could tell by the way his eyes lowered. He drew in a breath.
"You can talk to me, about Pink..if you need." He needed it, he desperately needed to know what his mother did to this gem.
"I.." Spinel hesitated, "I don't want to."
But you NEED to Spinel, is what Steven wanted to say.
"I understand." He didn't though. He didn't understand why she couldn't just talk to him about it. Pearl only knew so much, and he practically swore her to secrecy in telling Spinel that Pink was gone.
"Will she...come back for me?" She didn't even know Pink was gone.
Her words pierced Steven like daggers, and he knew how truly innocent they were. No. She isn't coming back.
"Spinel, I-" Steven tried.
"Maybe I'll see her again. Just to say goodbye."
Chapter 8: Suffer Softly
What is it? She couldn't name it. Something like a panging ache in her gemstone that throbbed when she thought about things she didn't like to think about.
Sometimes it was the memory, the last time she saw her, the smile on her face, the way she walked away and didn't even look back.
She lost the game.
Did Pink know that?
Spinel would do anything to win a game and this one was supposed to be so so easy. She lost.
Other times she thought about Steven doing it too. Going away and not coming back, but she could see him laughing with Amethyst in front of her and he wasn't leaving.
Unless he did.
If he decided he didn't like her, maybe, was it her? She lost the game. She isn't supposed to lose games. She was the problem. Right? It made sense.
"Spinel?" Steven's voice caught her attention, along with the concern in his eyes. "There's something on your face."
Spinel deadly touched her cheek, rubbing it slightly to remove the dirt that had likely caught between her photons.
Steven shook his head, gesturing toward the bathroom for her to take a better look.
"Uh, check the mirror?"
Spinel nodded and left their little group for the bathroom, flipping on the light and gasping when she saw what he meant.
Spinel leaned over the sink, gazing at herself in the mirror. What a sorry sight she was, still dull from the dust and dirt that refused to leave, red, puffy eyes and tattered sleeves and her hair was still a mess no matter how much she tried to fix it.
But the thing that stood out most were the symmetrical black stripes that trailed down her cheeks like permanent tear tracks.
That might have well been what they were. One on each side that showcased the thing she didn't like to think about on her face like a pathetic attempt at clown paint.
Spinel ran her hand under the water and scrubbed vigorously at the Mark's, hoping they would disappear with the effort but to no avail.
That thing. The feeling that hurt more than any kind of wound blossomed within her, bubbling up alongside a desperate attempt to suppress it.
The door was closed.
She was good at being quiet.
And it hurt so much.
Spinel picked at her face, maybe trying to peel it off but the tainted skin was insufferable and in her frustration and aching she yanked at her pigtails instead.
"Stop it..stop now. Be better! You're supposed to be better." She chided in a rough whisper, smacking her palm to her head. She forced a smile, blinking away the tears and looked back at her reflection.
"It's not so bad." She reasoned. It was bad. She wasn't supposed to be like this. She was supposed to be happy and fun and playful, what was wrong with her?
Spinel sniffled, ignoring the thought and wiped her eyes, returning to the living area where Steven and Amethyst were messing around with video games.
"Couldn't get it off?" Amethyst asked, Spinel shook her head, winding that forced smile just a little more.
"It's okay, I kind of like it." She replied, hoping the tone of her voice conveyed the joy she really couldn't feel at the moment. She could like it. It could grow on her.
Steven smiled at her as he pulled his head from behind the tv.
"It looks good on you." He mentioned, she perked up visibly enough but he knew she wasn't pleased, something about the way she quieted immediately after made him feel that.
What she said last night, asking about Pink coming back for her, he didn't want to think that he said the wrong thing. Getting her hopes up for nothing.
She just needed to be happy, be here and happy and once he was sure of that he could tell her everything.
The tracks down her cheeks burned in a silent and painless way, she knew they were there and every now and then she rubbed her face thinking they would go, but every stray look in the mirror proved otherwise. She wanted to flay them off in all honesty.
Get rid of the imperfection.
It made her mad. It made her so angry in a way she couldn't place. All of her made her mad.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Steven asked, brushing her hair for the umpteenth time while she sat on the floor, fiddling with one of his toys.
"No." She answered softly, Steven let out a sigh. Couldn't she at least try? Every words out of her mouth was either a question or request to play, or flat out diversion of topic far away from herself.
Spinel lolled her head back, glancing at the gemstone that peeked out from under the hem of Steven's shirt.
"How did you get a gem?"
Steven paused for a moment, he could manage to beat around the bush enough to answer.
"My mom was a gem, she gave up her form to have me." He answered, watching closely as Spinel seemed to contemplate the idea.
"So is she gone forever now?" She questioned, not looking up this time.
"I'm sorry." She replied softly, looking back at him to make sure the subject didn't hurt. She stared at the gem for a moment before meeting eyes with him.
"Who was your mom?"
Chapter 9: Pink Liar
He blurted it out without thought, aside from making sure that Spinel didn't know his mother, Rose Quartz, was Pink Diamond. So it wasn't a lie, and it wasn't exactly the truth either.
Spinel nodded softly, looking down at the gem on her chest.
"She was from Pink's court?" She asked, just as Steven yanked a knot from her hair.
"Oh, sorry...yeah, she was." He softened his grip a little and brushed lighter.
"Did she ever meet her?" Spinel's questions grew ever more disconcerting but Steven knew well enough that she was merely intrigued by the notion of his mother being close to well, herself. She was Pink's friend after all.
"Yeah." Steven shifted his position, feeling his apprehension grow the more he thought about the hole he was digging.
Spinel on the other hand seemed none the wiser to his discomfort. She left out a soft sigh.
"Pink and I used to play in the garden." She replied softly, her hands clasped together at the vibrant memory.
"The Diamonds gave her Earth to start a colony..I was so excited."
Spinel's voice fell quiet for a moment.
"Then I lost her game."
Steven set down his brush and dropped Spinel's hair, causing the gem to turn around in mild confusion.
He was angry. So ridiculously furious that his mother let go of someone like that.
Was that it?
A stupid game that she concocted to convince Spinel to stand in one place for thousands of years?
"You're not mad?"
The questioned burned hot in her ears. Was she? Her eyes flickered down to her hands and the lighter shade of pink on her palms. It was a really long time.
But Pink had left her alone there before, so it was just like all the other times, except she wasn't supposed to leave. She wasn't mad.
She couldn't be mad at Pink, Pink was kind and sweet and funny and her best friend and even though she lost the game Pink would be happy to play with her again, surely.
It's there again. Pounding in her gem, hard enough that she swore it would crack her.
"No, I'm not mad. I lost the game anyways, when Pink comes to check on her colony she'll be too happy to care." Spinel smiled through it, it didn't hurt. She didn't hurt.
It was a lie.
Chapter 10: Suffer Quietly
Mad? Why would she be mad at Pink? Pink never- she never intended to hurt her. There was no reason to be angry.
Spinel caught the ball in the palm of her hand and screwed it up for another pitch, curvballing Steven who was batting.
Pink wasn't the one who lost the game. Spinel lost, Pink would just have to come back to earth to see her, or maybe she would go to the garden?
Spinel hadn't been there in a couple days, maybe she missed her. Maybe Pink already came back for her and because she was gone she didn't want to see her again?
How could she have let this happen?
She lost the game and left and if Pink came back, surely she did by now, and missed her she wouldn't want to be friends anymore.
"Spinel!" The gem's eyes refocused just as the ball came toward her, forcing Spinel to dodge with an oversized side step.
"Sorry!" She called, stretching out her arm to catch the stray ball before it hit the ground.
She wasn't mad.
But what had Pink been doing this whole time without her?
Spinel hit the ground hard and blinked from her astonishment, watching the baseball roll away on the grass. There was a shuffling of footsteps before Steven and Connie came into view.
"Are you alright? You got hit pretty hard." Steven held out his arm, letting her take it to hoist herself off the ground. Spinel rubbed the tender spot on her head before smiling.
"I've played worse." She replied as she got to her feet. She kicked the dirt off her shoes and readied herself for another round before Steven's words caught her off guard.
"You added more stipes?"
"On your cheeks," he pointed, "you have two more little stripes, one on both sides." Spinel blinked and laughed nervously, pressing her hand to her cheek.
"Oh, yeah, you noticed?" She lied, that's not supposed to happen. Did she mess up on something?
"I'm trying something new for when Pink comes back." She continued, forcing a smile through the twinge of slight denial.
Steven and Connie exchanged a nervous glance.
"Spinel, she's not coming back."
Spinel's smile turned into a frown.
"You don't know that!" She bit back. Glaring at the two of them. "I haven't even been back at the garden for months, she could have missed me! She could be warping there right now, you wouldn't know!"
Her outburst took the two of them aback, Steven clenched his fist, unable to hold back his desperation. She was so deep in denial that she really truly thought Pink Diamond cared about her at all! It was unfair, all this was unfair to the both of them.
"I DO know because I'm Pink Diamond!"
Spinel silenced herself, her eyes flickered down toward Steven's gem before they met his.
What tiny words. They were all she could believe. He was lying. He told her he was a quartz. He was a rose quartz. Pink was coming back for her. She was warping to the garden just now, Spinel knew it. It was certain. She had to be there.
Or she'd miss her.
Spinel took a step back, her eyes darting toward the green house before she vaulted into the air, landing on it's roof.
"Spinel, no!" Steven exchanged a quick glance with Connie and followed the gem just as the warp pad lit up the greenhouse from inside.
Spinel frantically searched the decayed garden for her Pink, she just needed to make sure, she just had to be sure that she didn't miss her.
The gem stepped off the pad, running down the steps and back to the place she stood for so long.
Part of her hated the idea of standing in the divet her feet had made in the ground. But Pink would be so upset if she weren't at least standing there.
"Pink?" No answer. Spinel rounded the pond, checking behind pillars just to be sure. "Pink Diamond?"
Spinel's attention was drawn from the bushes as she heard the warp pad activate.
"Pink!" They were breathless words as she scurried back to her spot and clasped her hands together.
The light of the warp faded and the only person to stand there was the one person she didn't want to see.
"What are you doing here?" She snapped from afar. Steven held out his hand in mild apology.
"Spinel, I know you think she's gonna come for you-"
"She is!" Spinel interjected with a hysterical smile. She has to come. She can't just leave her best friend. What kind of person would do that? "She's gonna come for me and you'll get to meer her like your mom did and-"
"Spinel, this isn't a GAME!" Steven's words cut through her and she dropped the smile she had created.
"It is though..." she argued softly, glancing around once more to see if Pink's Palanquin was nearby.
"Pink is gone."
Chapter 11: Suffer Alone
They were lies. He was lying.
"No." Spinel held her stance.
That's it. The hurt. The pain. All of it came bubbling to the surface hotter and more suffocating than anything else.
"No no no. I don't believe you." She repeated, shaking her head in rejection of his words. Steven stepped closer and pulled up his shirt exposing the gem on his stomach.
Steven grabbed Spinel's hand and placed it on his gem, forcing her to a halt when she recognised the familiar light. Spinel ripped her hand from his grasp and stumbled backward.
"That can't be...no.." Spinel choked on her words, as her eyes drifted upward to meet Steven's, his cold stare bore into her.
"She never..." She was never coming back. Pink never cared. What is that?
What is this awful, terrible thing?
It hurts so much. It hurts.
Steven stared onward as he watch this poor gem grapple with the truth. Spinel dropped to her knees, shaking and shuddering at her terrible realization. She left her. She left her here alone.
"What did I do wrong?" Her voice trembled but Steven still heard it and moved to comfort the gem.
"You didn't do anything wrong." Spinel pushed him away as she struggled to understand. How could he say that? How could he know? He wasn't her. She was gone and she left her here on this stupid rock to rot away like all her plants.
How stupid. How stupid could she be to just believe that Pink would come back? Really?
It's been decades.
This whole time no one even care to look for her.
"Spinel, I know it's hard, but things have changed-"
"Changed...you're telling me. That things changed?" Her words were cold, uncharacteristically so. It was like something cracked her and she didn't know what it was but God was she mad.
Spinel shot a glare at Steven, revealing terrifying spiraled eyes in her unabashed rage.
"You asked me if I was mad, huh?" She growled, causing Steven to take a step backward.
Spinel stood up loosening her arms as they bent in unnatural ways outward until she resembled something out of a horror movie.
"Well I'm really, really mad."
"Spinel, I know you're upset, we can talk this out, you deserve better!" Steven replied, hoping the calmness of his voice would bring her down a notch.
"Do I, Steven?!" She barked, cocking her head slightly, "do I really? Cause from the looks of it I deserve to be LEFT ON A ROCK!!" She grabbed a stone pillar, violently chucking it over the garden, hard enough that it lost orbit on the fragment of the planet.
"You do! You do deserve better! What Pink did was wrong. I should have told you sooner."
"Should have told me sooner?! You should have never even come here!" Spinel screamed, grabbing another pillar and smashing it into the ground just in front of him. "I would have been better off here, stupidly waiting for the rest of my life!"
Steven drew his sheild, protecting himself from the debris of Spinel's tantrum and stepped closer, hoping to calm her down.
"I should have..." She gasped, "I should have just been shattered." Spinel reached for another boulder and held it in the air just above her head.
"Maybe then..." Spinel smiled just slightly at the thought before she let go of the boulder.
Time can stop in moments like these.
Steven had no other ideas but to throw a shield over her head to prevent the wretched shattering.
Spinel's eyes opened upon the lack of impact, and she turned to see Steven crawling over the debris.
"Spinel," he gasped as he slid down the pillar to her side. "Pink didn't want you."
He caught his breath and pulled the gem into a soft embrace, bubbling the two of them as his sheild dropped the boulder.
"But I do."
Slowly, Spinel's arms wrapped around him in return and the gem dug her head into his neck, sobbing softly.
"It hurts. It hurts so much and I don't know what to do. I c-can't-" Spinel drew in a ragged gasp, before pulling out of the hug just slightly, she met eyes with Steven from the briefest of moments before her entire form exploded in a cloud of dust and the large heart shaped gemstone clacked to the bottom of the bubble.
Chapter 12: Shattered Little Things
It wasn't right. None of this was right or okay and he knew it, he dreaded it.
Steven cupped the heart shaped gemstone in his hands and pulled down his bubble to look on at the damage Spinel had dealt in her meltdown. Of course she was upset, he knew she was upset but to poof?
It was an otherworldly kind of grief to experience, if it caused a gem to completely dissapate. He hated the idea that he was the one to bring such a reaction.
Still, it had to be done.
Steven hopped over the rubble and debris to the warp pad, staring down at the pink heart as though the gem inside would reappear.
It didn't work like that, she could take days to reform, and after such horrible news, no matter what he'd have to be there to help. Partly out of obligation, but mostly because he would have wanted that for himself.
Garnet was most certainly the first to approach him, nodding somberly at his treasure when he passed, knowing that he absolutely desired to be away from the inevitable commotion Pearl and Amethyst would have.
It was just he and Connie and the small rock, sitting on his bed, quietly hoping that the happy little gem would return.
"She tried to-"
"Yeah..." Steven cut her off before she could finish, preferring not to hear the word. Spinel tried to shatter herself. He had the memory on a seemingly constant loop in his mind, rewinding and replaying those quiet musings before she decided to let go.
He wasn't sure what to do, or where to go after this, eventually she would reform but what would change? Would she even be the same at all?
And worse, would she try again?
'But I do.' Was that enough? Did it really even matter to her?
"I don't know what to do." He mumbled softly, digging his chin into his pillow while his eyes remained fixated on Spinel's gem. Connie shifted positions in order to face him, offering a smile in hopes it would loft his worry. It didn't.
"I'm sure she'll be okay, Steven." They were empty assurances and she knew that saying it aloud wouldn't change anything. She just wanted to try.
"Six thousand years." Steven answered, almost at a whisper. "Since mom first got Earth, Connie. That's how ling she waited there."
Age was just an illusion. That's what Pearl said, right? But how could you possibly quantify six thousand years of complete and utter isolation?
How much more harm could that do to someone who did nothing wrong? How much was that horribly rash decision made to cause suffering?
Some part of him wanted only to punish himself, despite knowing it served no good. He wasn't his mother and no perpetuated self loathing or blame would fix anything.
At least Spinel recognized he wasn't the same as Pink. She knew, or at least he hoped she did, that he was only ever himself. He had been.
She knew that right?
He had started from the ground up, ever since he stepped foot on that desolate floating rock. Spinel was broken but he could help pick up the peices and mend the last mistake his mother ever made.
For now though, he would wait.
The gem was surprisingly large as Steven delved into a closer inspection. One of the largest he had seen that didn't belong to a diamond. Something about it made him know that it held so much emotion and so much love, that was thrown away like a broken toy. Perhaps that's all Spinel really was to Pink. A childish toy meant to be forgotten.
Unlike some of those most cherished things that even he brought into his young adult life. Even MC BearBear couldn't simply be thrown away.
It was one of the many differences he shared with his mother.
"It's getting late." Connie's soft voice pulled him from his thoughts, she was sliding off his bed and preparing her things to head out. Steven tore his eyes away from the gemstone and back to his friend.
"I can get lion to take you home?" What a hollow offer. Connie understood it though and nodded.
"Alright, let me know if anything happens?" She waved goodbye and trotted down the stairs toward the sleeping big cat that was her ticket home. And then he was alone, or mostly so.
Left to his own fears and apprehensions regarding the return of his companion. One who so desperately needed that companionship, and a companionship he was eager to provide.
Chapter 13: Little Wreckage
It was dark, dark and cold and she wanted to stay there in the darkness and the cold and never come back and only hope that a loose rock or an accidental knock would break her into all the little peices she so longed to be.
All the seconds and minutes that passed in the dark made her mind wander in the most abysmal spaces, what did she do? Why did she leave her- she left her and created a whole new life without her.
It was a game. A filthy, stupid, terrible game and she lost in the worst way imaginable. You really thought you could win though.
Really, truly, undeniably believed that she would come back like the stupid little thing you are.
Was that it? Was this it? A game?
And she was mad, oh yes, she was so so angry but at entirely the wrong thing. Angry at Pink, no, Steven? Absolutely not. She was abhorrently angered by herself. How naive. How incompetent. How utterly a fool.
Spinel thought about reforming a time or two, maybe.
But what kind of reflection would she have then? Some ammalglamation of all the terrible ways she felt? Some terrifying little wreckage of a gem? What would Steven think?
And Pearl. Pink's Pearl.
She took her. And then she left her too. Did all she know was blind cruelty?
What about them? What about her? And Steven. Left to deal with all of this as if he were just a fleshy new facade for her. How rude.
And it was a game.
Spinel was tired of playing games.
The quiet of Steven's murmurs from beyond her faceted exterior slowly turned to silence, granting a single quiet moment to return to form.
Part of her dreaded the idea but so much of her wanted to be alone. Of all things, that's what she wanted more than anything in that moment and only legs would grant that wish.
The glow of her return didn't wake him, ot at least it didn't cause him to stir. Spinel took the opportunity as she stood by the bay sliding doors, silently stepping outside to escape the confines of her ceaseless torrent of thoughts.
Steven waited in the dark, even she couldn't hide from his sleepless night. Once the coast was clear, he made his move, stumbling out of bed to follow the gem and make sure she wouldn't try again.
He expected to see her lighting up the warp pad, running back to the place she never left, or worse, throwing herself over the side of the cliff and hoping to hit a rock.
She only stood on the top most fingertip of the temple though, her tufted and wild hair blowing slightly in the breeze before she sat down.
He could almost feel her eyes searing his skin with their gaze.
Steven took his leap of faith, hoping he could give her the condolences she deserved and as his toes touched the cold surface of the stone she turned away from him. Proving that it would be a more complicated feat.
"Did you mean it?" Her voice was hoarse and soft, like she had been crying for ages. She might as well have. It was an echo of the months she spent completely silent. A dark reminder of the toll she paid to merely exist. Everything about her was just that.
A dark reminder. From her black tear stained cheeks and muddied scheme to the undeniably broken heart that was upended enough to invert itself.
Steven sat next to her, avoiding eye contact for the time being.
"I do mean it." He answered, hearing her tiny gasp. Of course he meant it.
He couldn't articulate how much he meant it. Something about her presence was calming. She was his friend, on a more intimate level than he had realised until now.
"I'm sorry." He didn't know what the apology meant. If it was because of what he had to tell, or if it was pity, or concern. He was just sorry.
Spinel scooted away, turning to face the other side of the beach, not him.
"It's okay." It wasn't, but as much as she denied it, his concern was comforting.
Pink Diamonds son, of course he would be the first to even look for her. Even care about her. He had never been his mother.
"It's really not." Steven admitted, pulling himself closer. His words caused Spinel to clench her eyes shut, he could feel her tension while she forced her tears down.
"What Pink did wasn't right. It's okay to admit it." There were many times he felt he needed to admit it. And many times he feared he would do the same. "My mom...made a lot of rash decisions."
"And I was one of them." Spinel cut in through partially gritted teeth. She gripped her knees and pulled them to her chest. She ached, ever photon in her being ached but there was no real way to make it stop.
"No." Steven affirmed, his voice cut through her, stern and cold, almost like he was angry with her. He wasn't angry with her was he?
His hand reached for hers, and he tangled his fingers between hers, drawing her attention from her pain toward the warmth of his touch.
"You're the best thing that has ever come from her." Another lie? Was all anyone going to say to her be lies?
"That's not true." She muttered, "look at me, who would even want me now?"
A broken heart, and a messed up Spinel, an ugly forgotten toy. Who would want that?
Chapter 14: Hallow
It hung in the air like a foul stench and she was sure everyone knew of it. Still, Steven smiled and waived and laughed like he always did, like nothing had changed. Everything changed, did he not see it?
"Do you want to talk about it?"
His voice drifted in her head, sickeningly sweet with concern.
"No." What was she supposed to talk about? How terrible it all felt? How mo matter what she tried to do to make it stop that little hole grew inside her and continued to suck down everything with it?
"You'll feel better if you do."
And what would that do? It's not like it would magically dissolve into nothing if she tried. If anything she'd just cry, maybe poof. Maybe worse.
The gem's eyes drifted from their unfocused toiling toward Steven, who sat across from her on his bed, trying to get her to do something, say something. This type of silence was worse than her other, a voluntary refusal to speak when he knew that she desperately needed it. As much as he hated hearing about his mother's actions, he cared more about his friends wellbeing.
"What?" A vacant answer, it seemed to be the only thing she was capable of for the weeks following her grand epiphany. Aside from very poorly placed jokes.
Steven shifted himself to sit cross legged in front of her, hoping his full attention would garner some kind of imitating reaction.
"You listened to me all the time, every time I complained about the diamonds, I want to do the same for you." He stated, she turned her head, only half paying attention to him while she twisted her fingers into an ungodly knot.
"So please let me help you?" He watched her in her quiet refusal, as she slowly untangled her fingers.
"Why do you like me?" Not as expected, and he almost hesitated just long enough for her to question if he liked her at all.
"Because you're kind, and fun and a good friend." There were more, but he chose not to mention them.
"What if you get bored of me too?"
"I wouldn't." He was quick to answer but she didn't look particularly convinced.
"You don't know that. Pink- she got bored of me." Spinel pulled her knees to her chest and coiled her arms tightly around herself, glancing back at him almost expecting agreement.
"I don't think I'll get bored of you. I like you, and I like being around you." She was far harder to convince now than ever it seemed. Steven hated it, and hated seeing how she seemed to drift about like a little pink ghost.
"You say that." Soft lies, that's all they were and she knew it. Steven nor anyone else would convince her otherwise. Soft lies and promises that were bound to be broken. She couldn't do it again. She couldn't be left alone, forgotten, or ignored. Not again.
"I'm sorry." She breathed, causing Steven to edge a little closer. Sorry? For what?
"You don't have to be sorry, why are you sorry?" His hand grazed hers lightly, and she pulled away, despite relishing the touch.
"I'm sorry.." how was she supposed to articulate it? That burdensome feeling of not ever being enough, of being entirely different than what you're supposed to be? She couldn't. So instead she clenched her eyes shut and grit her teeth through the tears, hoping that she could pretend long enough to make it go away. It would go away eventually right?
Her collapse wasn't as surprising as the first couple of times. Steven's eyes softened at her forcefully repressed whimpers and he wrapped his arms around the gem, pulling her close until her shudders were absorbed by his embrace.
"Hey, shh. It's okay." He cooed to her, running his hand through her hair in long and gentle pets, it seemed to help. And for once she didn't push him away.
"It's gonna be okay."
It had to be. He desperately wanted it to be. He had to fix Pink's mistake one last time.
Chapter 15: Trying Something Different
"You ready?" Connie's smile somewhay diffused the tension that blanket Spinel's shoulders while she absently glanced around the boardwalk. Steven had put her up to this, in hopes of bringing some kind of smile to the gem's face after she spent a good week and a half just milling about the beach house and slogging onto the floor every time she saw something that reminded her of Pink. Which happened to be just about everything.
"I think getting her mind off it might help, plus I wanted to help Pearl with orientation at Little Homeschool." He had said. Then he just left her there with the gem and a list of potentially fun things she might enjoy. Connie didn't mind it, she had only really talked to Spinel during their baseball game, she would be lying if she weren't a little eager to spend the day with her.
That is, until she caught a glimpse of the gem as Steven walked up with her.
Not as disheveled as she used to look but the stark comparison was the near heartbreaking inversion of her gemstone.
"Yeah." Spinel answered, her eyes drifting as they followed a small yellow butterfly through the air. Connie nodded and put on a smile, offering her hand to the gem.
"I've got some really fun stuff planned for us today," she mused as she lead the gem toward Funland. "I was thinking we'd go on some rides, and then-"
There was a slight tug on her hand, forcing Connie to stop and turn back.
The gem hadn't moved a single step, only stretching her arm as Connie walked to give the illusion that she was keeping up. She just stood there at least twenty feet back, shuffling her feet with her head hung.
Connie grabbed a portion of her arm and roped it up as she returned to Spinel's side, providing a small smile that she hoped would comfort her.
"I'm sorry." Spinel's voice was soft and creaked with shame.
"Don't be, we don't have to do what I want, what do you want to do?" Connie hanged the gem the pile of arm with a nod, waiting as she glanced around trying to find something that could hold her attention, or take her mind off of things. Connie was trying, Spinel knew that, she knew she was trying really hard to make her happy and help Steven feel not as bad about her. The concept of it wore at her though, making the hole grow just a few centimeters wider.
She was a burden to them. She was just a painful reminder to everyone and god it hurt. It made her mad. Why was she like this now? Why did she have to be so bad all the time? It would be better if she were alone.
"Can we do that?" Spinel pointed at the entrance to a larger than average store, and glanced back at Connie for approval.
"Oh, shopping? Of course!" Connie dug her hand in her pocket and pulled out a small wad of cash she had saved over the past month of allowances. "I should have enough to get a few things."
Definitely not what she was expecting, but Spinel was full of surprises, perhaps she was tired of games now.
The two of them strolled into the mall, stopping every now and then at the kiosks to marvel over the weird things they sold.
"Can I interest you ladies in some jewelry?" The voice caught Spinel's attention and she turned to once over a man in tighter than average pants as he dangled a necklace from his hand.
"We're good, thank you-"
"What's a jewelry?" Spinel cut her off, pulling away to take a peek at what the man offered.
"Beautiful stones mined from all over the world, much like yours my dear." He mused, glancing down at the large heart gemstone on her chest.
Spinel leaned over the glass cabinet, staring at all the intricate little stones fused to metal before Connie began tugging on her arm to leave, it probably wasn't a good idea to have a gem learn about their non sentient counterparts.
"They're pretty." She whispered softly, pressing her face to the glass to see the tiny stones a little better. Who knew that gems could exist without being from homeworld. Quiet and silent and completely unthinking. Just a rock.
"Yours is lovely as well, and large, I'm sure you could sell a Spinel that size for a pretty penny." The man smiled, ignoring Connie's frantic gesturing.
Spinel almost contemplated it. Wondering what would happen, if anything would happen, until Connie began pushing her away from the kiosk and toward a different store.
"She's good, thanks though!" The girl said, nudging her friend away from the dark distraction. Steven was right. Connie didn't exactly want to believe it but the faint glimmer of true contemplation in Spinel's eyes begged to differ.
"How about this one?" Connie moved ahead of the gem, grabbing her hand to make sure she wouldn't run off somewhere as she pointed at the giant pink letters.
Chapter 16: Trying Something New
"So, what do you think?" Connie puffed her hair and dramatically sauntered out of the dressing room, twirling the bright pink boa as she approached Spinel. It took a few shops but Spinel had perked up enough to smile and laugh at her overly debutante display.
"That's great, but I think I can do better!" She giggled, reaching for a pair of star shaped sun glasses, a large floppy hat and a choice sequin gown.
Spinel trotted into the dressing room, tussling the feather boa on her way before almost immediately bursting out in the oversized dress looking as sparkly and fabulous as she could manage.
"It is I, the most regal, the most sparlkiest, and most rare of Spinel's that world has ever seen!" She announced, lowering her voice in a mild mockery of a diamond.
"Oh, wow, I don't think I've ever seen a gem more fancy!" Connie laughed, as Spinel posed for her. Spinel grinned widely at the compliment.
"Earth clothes are so fun because there are so many of them and they just hang off you!" She gestured at the oversized dress that trailed behind her gleefully.
"Oh, oh, we should get something for Steven!" Spinel's eyes glossed over the not dresses sections of the store until they pinpointed a garment suited for him.
"Like that!" She pointed it out, and pulled off her own costume before giddily bouncing toward it. "This is perfect! It has stars, he likes stars."
Connie followed shortly behind her to look at her choice shirt.
"He's got a ton of shirts with stars on them so I think he would like one like this." She affirmed, taking the garment off the rack and handing it to Connie to inspect. It was a fairly simple shirt, just black with a bright yellow star, apparently Greg Universe had a resurgence of popularity after Sadie Killer and the Suspects took him as their manager. This one was supposedly based off the originals.
"He has a bunch like this one already." Connie stated, words that almost immediately made Spinel lose confidence.
"Oh, than maybe something else?" She replied softer than before.
"No, I mean, he would love it just because it was a gift from you!" Wasn't the best backpedal Connie had ever done but it did the trick, Spinel brightened up at the idea as quickly as she mentioned it.
"A gift, yeah! So can we get it?" Spinel's smile was back and Connie couldn't very well crush it, even if it was somewhat of a knockoff t shirt. She knew Steven would still be happier than ever to know Spinel picked it out for him.
"Of course, but don't you want anything for yourself?" This whole time the two of them had only been playing dress up, and even though Connie kept a few peices to get later, Spinel hadn't decided on anything yet.
"For me?" She didn't need anything, or really want anything, she didn't really deserve anything. "I don't know."
Spinel stilled her excited bouncing as she thought about it, she was only here because Steven made her leave the house, Connie was only playing with her because Steven had asked her to. It wasn't real.
She was still a burden.
"What about this?" Connie drew her attention from her thoughts momentarily, as she handed her two small clips shaped like stars. Spinel stared at them, not entirely sure what they were for.
"What is it?"
"You put them in your hair, like this." Connie reached up and clipped the little accessories to the base of Spinel's pigtails and spun her around to face one of the mirrors dotted about the store. "See? They look really good on you."
Spinel's face grew slightly pinker at the subtle but very much welcome change. Like those two little stars almost counter balanced the horrendous tracks down her cheeks. They did look good.
"Yes." She replied in almost a whisper, still marveling at the tiny stars like they had completely changed her world. "I want these."
She was happy, it took a little while, but she managed it. Spinel mused quietly, carrying her gift for Steven through the mall and every once in a while stopping to touch the little stars in her hair. It was nice. It was so wonderfully lovely, all of it was.
Connie took her to this place and they ayed together and got gifts and Steven would be so happy to see what she got for him. It was great.
"I think I'll tell Steven how good I did today." She said with a content smile, waiting for Connie's reply.
"Connie?" Spinel looked up, then around, searching for the girl who she swore was just beside her.
Chapter 17: Didn't Work
She left her here alone. Surrounded by strangers and nowhere.
Spinel's breath caught in her throat at the sudden and painful realization.
Not again, not them too. She couldn't do it again, she couldn't wait, she couldn't stay.
Her feet wouldn't move though, despite every beam of light begging to escape, Spinel wouldn't, or couldn't move. It was like a wrongness in everything that tilted the world sideways and made her gem ache and burn and pound and she couldn't do it again.
"Connie?" She repeated, frantically darting her eyes about the crowd in search of the girl. She couldn't hate her too, she- she wouldn't leave too.
Pink left. Whose to say that Connie wouldn't just drop her here alone and never come back too? Did she, did she tell her to wait? She didn't say where she was going. She just dissapeared.
Spinel caught a glimpse of someone, familiar curly black hair.
"Steven?" He would come back, he would help her, he would make that wrongness go away. Spinel weaved through the crowd, her pace quickening as she followed Steven.
"Steven!" She called, resting a hand on the boy shoulder, he turned a look of shock on his face and Spinel ripped her hand back. It wasn't Steven.
Tears brimmed in her eyes as she took an embarrassed step backward, glancing back to look for someone, anyone she knew. How do you see?
She forgot. That aching wrongness, and she couldn't see or think or move.
"C-connie?" The words dropped out of her mouth like dead flowers. Something was wrong. Very very wrong. Where was she again?
Spinel glanced down at her feet, feeling that far too familiar pull and poke. Weeds? Grass?
She left. She left the garden though. How could she be back?
"No, no, no, no." Like muddled whispers, her mouth felt like cotton and the words didn't leave her breathless lungs. It wasn't real, it couldn't be real. She could see how clearly it wasn't real. Spinel knew it wasn't real but through all of that clarity, she was still standing there, waiting. No Steven, no Connie, no Crystal Gems, no Pink Diamond.
Just her, and the stars and the dead plants. An ache grew inside her, something so painful she swore she would shatter.
"I can't-" Spinel gripped her head tightly at the insurmountable suffering, it wasn't working, nothing was working. It wasn't like the other times. She couldn't breathe or think or move, only hurt. She shook and shuddered, lowering toward the ground in search of some kind of comfort, some way to make it stop.
She left her. She left her all alone and now this awful awful thing was happening and she didn't know what it was and it hurt.
"Spinel?" Familiar voice, Connie's voice. The gem's head shot up, surveying her surroundings, some kind of crowd had circled her, among them stood Connie who was pushing through, trying to reach her. Spinel stared at her, almost not registering that she was there. Connie dropped to her knees, wrapping her arms around the gem to provide a useless and late comfort.
"I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to leave you alone, I didn't know." Connie pulled the gem to her feet, keeping a tighter grip on her hand as she pushed through the slowly dissipating crowd.
Spinel trailed behind her like a mere apparition, dragging her feet in time with her shallow forced breaths.
It didn't work.
All of that happiness fluttered away. It was so fleeting already, it was so dumb. She was so dumb to think that going to get new things or spending time with someone would just make the hole disappear.
It only grew. She could feel it growing with every step, feeling like her light would pour out into a puddle on the ground and leave a trail to wherever her empty gem landed once she ran out.
How was she supposed to fix it? It wasn't like a crack, it was worse. So much worse than that.
Chapter 18: Little Star
Spinel sat on the couch, quietly still reeling from the terrible feeling of imminent doom from earlier. Steven wasn't back yet, but she knew he would be. The beach house was the one place she knew for a fact he would come back to, it didn't matter how ling he or the others took, this was their home and it was her home too.
The door opened, and she lifted her head, watching as Steven chit chatted about the day with Amethyst. Spinel jumped up, grinning widely at them as they entered.
"You're back!" Spinel hopped over the coffee table to greet them, quickly shoving her gift behind her back to avoid Steven's line of sight. "I had so much fun with Connie today!"
Only half a truth to the experience but Steven didn't need to know that.
Steven smiled, noticing the little stars in Spinel's hair.
"I like your stars." The compliment made the gem turn an even brighter shade of pink than she already was. Spinel touched them briefly and laughed, almost forgetting they were there.
"Thanks! Connie picked them out for me." Spinel bounced excitedly and it was evident to Steven she was more excited about something else. "We got you something too!"
Spinel pulled out her bag and pushed it into his hands, eagerly waiting for him to open it. He could see her vibrating with anticipation and maybe even mild impatience while he opened it, pulling out a black shirt with a star on it.
"Hehe, it's a shirt, with a star." He laughed, feigning his gratitude just a little. He had several like it, literally tons of boxes. Spinel wouldn't have known that though.
"I know it's like all your others but Connie said you would like it because it's a gift." Spinel added, still smiling at him, as if she were waiting for him to put it on.
"I do, I really like it, Spinel, thank you." Steven affirmed, his words made the gem's eyes shine, it was all he could do not to burst the bubble of joy with Connie's information.
He put her up to it. The entire endeavor was his doing, including leaving the gem alone for a short while, it was just a test though. He just wanted to see how she was doing, really.
It was mostly harmless and the only purpose it served was to see if Spinel would talk about it. She had to talk about it sometime.
"Hey, Spinel, can I talk to you for a minute?" Steven put his shirt back in the bag and gestured for her to follow him elsewhere.
Spinel lost her bounce for just a moment before nodding and trotting up the stairs. He had something to say? Something important he didn't want anyone else to hear, she was happy to listen and never tell a soul.
She sat on his bed, waiting for him to enter, thinking about all the other things he would tell her about. Sometimes the Diamonds, usually the diamonds, other times stuff about the gems, like how Pearl had become awfully close to someone named Volleyball? Or he would lament about Connie getting, in his opinion, a way to head of a start on college. He strayed from the subject of Pink though, she knew it was because if her.
Part of her wanted it to stay that way, but she also wanted to know what he felt about her. She was his mother, after all.
"Okay, ready?" Steven set down his gift at the door, instinctively grabbing the hair brush. The routine had become so normal between the two of them he knew that starting the conversation in such a way would drop the gem's guard. It didn't matter if it was a sore subject or not, once Spinel had her hair in his hands she would talk. So long as he talked first.
Spinel slid down the bed and pulled down her hair, ready to listen to whatever kind of day he had, she wanted to tell him about hers too, all but the bad stuff at least.
"So, orientation went really well, all the gems are really enjoying learning about earth, little Larimar kind of gives me the creeps though." Steven admitted as he ran his fingers through Spinel's tangled hair. It didn't really matter how many times he brushed it, it always poofed out and stood up, the brushing wasn't the important thing though.
"How so?" Spinel asked, picking up and admiring her little star clip.
"They talk about how much they enjoy screaming? I don't know, they aren't bad or anything- just catches you off guard every now and again." He answered. She was listening, but not exactly paying attention, or if she was, she was really good at hiding it.
"Also, Amethyst wants to start a guidance program to help gems find jobs doing things they like, I think its pretty cool, hopefully get some of them out of their comfort zone." Steven began combing through the gems hair, watching closely as she began to relax.
He would ask her about the break down when she was comfortable.
"How was your day?" He treaded lightly, feeling her tense just slightly at the question before she knocked her head back with a smile.
"It was really great, Connie and I went to a mall? And they sell gems there, but they aren't like us, and we dressed up as people. My diamond impression is spot on I think." Spinel gestured dramatically, pouting her lips through her smile. "And then I got these little stars, and we got you a present and-"
The gem caught herself halfway through her mental list. Don't tell him about that. He doesn't need to know.
"It was a really fun day, I had a lot of fun." She spoke a little quieter, she was purposefully avoiding the subject.
"Yeah? Wish I could have been there, it was probably really busy though." Steven replied, glancing down at the little clips that sat on the floor between Spinel's legs.
"Yeah, I got.. lost."
Chapter 19: Pavlov's Spinel
The words practically fell out of her mouth of their own volition. But Steven didn't seem to notice, or show any sign of stopping his rythmic brushing. She didn't even realize how easily she spoke.
She wasn't supposed to say, but he pulled it out of her like the knots in her hair.
"I..it doesn't matter." She stated softly, hoping he wouldn't press further.
Steven was entirely quiet, his previous method of simply asking wasn't working so it didn't hurt to try something different. He continued to brush, smiling contently and waiting for Spinel to fill the silence.
"I just," she hesitated, "got really scared is all." She admitted, lowering her head just slightly, was she really saying this? Out loud?
"It was like the whole world turned sideways and I couldn't do anything or go anywhere and I thought-" Spinel paused, contemplating her thoughts, hating that she was admitting them aloud, that Steven would know how terrible her mind could get. But this wasn't the worst, he could know this.
But only this.
"I thought you wouldn't come back." She tensed at the admission, enough for Steven to cease his brushing and set down the comb.
"You know that's not true." What a thing to say. Of course she knew it wasn't true, that didn't stop her from thinking it though. It lingered in the back of her mind, quietly edging forward, no matter how happy she was at the moment, or any moment for that matter.
"I know, I'm sorry." Spinel pulled her hair from Steven's grasp and began tying it back into her signature pigtails. She feigned a smile while she stood, "it's fine, it was just an accident."
Steven's mouth felt dry at her words. It wasn't an accident. But of course she would brush it off with a laugh.
"So, I'm gonna just.." Spinel slinked toward the door, briskly waving a quick goodnight before she escaped the confines of their awkward tension. "Goodnight!"
She silently chided herself for her incompetence. She wasn't supposed to say, she didn't want to say anything at all. Now Steven knew that she still couldn't really handle being alone. What if he found out about the other things? The things she did when no one else was around to stop her? That would only ever end badly. If he knew.
Guilt racked the both of them, though it hurt Steven differently. He got what he wanted out of her but she clearly wasn't ready, or even prepared to share- all he did was trick her.
Steven put his brush away and turned off the light, ruminating in his thoughts for a moment. He just wanted her to be happy again, help her progress. Do something that would change the way she acted and bring back that happy pink gem she used to be.
It wasn't as though she completely changed either- he recognised why, he knew with great burden why. But if he could have that back, that little smile or the happy bounce in her step, not tinged with the air of betrayal and heartbreak.
That's all he really wanted.
Spinel broke free from the stifling room, and the terrible sense of urgency she felt to leave. That tension was quickly replaced by something else, something darker and more painful than thinking about how she failed her friend.
"I'm supposed to be better now." She chided, closing herself off from the house in the greenhouse. The gem slid down the door to the floor and stared at the flowers that grew in pots along the corners. It was beautiful, and also a painful reminder of the past. Pink hibiscus and roses dotted the bushes and screamed at her with their blatant familiarity. Steven was like his mother in one way or another. One of which being his love of plant life. He could have easily maintained Pink's garden if he knew about it.
Sometimes she thought to ask him, but going back there would be a sore mistake if Spinel ever saw one.
Spinel picked one of the flowers from the bush, plucking out the petals methodically until it was entirely bare. Then she picked another, and another. Until the entire bush was empty of its decoration, then she moved to something else.
Her fingers intertwined in her hair, searching for something to take. When she found it, she pulled.
It wasn't ever enough to be noticed- after all it was made of light, and she found some sort of solice in the sting afterward. On occasion, she thought if she grabbed enough at once, it would make her poof, but Steven would probably notice if that happened, and her goal was to be quiet and inexplicable.
She had been so good at it in the past. Now it seemed like if prompted, she would spill out everything at once. What a burden.
What a terrible thing to be, someone who doesn't care if you're oversharing, if what you say hurts others.
Spinel knew her general existence hurt Steven, she was a walking reminder of his mother, she saw it in his eyes, even before she realized it.
How stupid could she have possibly been? Honestly?
Did she really think that he wouldn't have known- and all that time he refused to say anything because he didn't want to hurt her?
Spinel yanked at another strand, a little harder than usual, not realizing until the clump of hair fell to the floor and her little star clip clattered along with it.
There was a kind of deafness to the noise, it didn't startle her, but it made her give pause for a moment.
Chapter 20: Picking Straws
It never really stopped. She just got particularly good at hiding it.
"Can I see it?" His voice echoed in her head and it took a moment for her to recognise it. Spinel glanced up from her canvas, feeling Steven lean in beside her to see what she made.
Steven's smile faded as he looked at the painting. It was something like a starry black space with a somewhat poorly drawn spider lily in the center, the red paint dripping from her harsher than average strokes.
"It's really..interesting." he offered a smile, and lightly patted her head, bringing back that soft smile he always adored to see. "What does it mean?"
Spinel thought about it, maybe for just a moment and if it would be okay to say.
"They used to grow in the garden." That was true. "They were really pretty."
Steven nodded quizzically, mulling over the artwork as a small, insignificant idea came to his head. The boy nodded and nudged his friend lightly, hoping his cheeky smile would lift her spirits a little more.
"It's beautiful, I uh..speaking of flowers, I'm gonna check on Peridot." Steven waited for a response, mostly to see if Spinel would be upset.
The gem nodded briefly and turned back to her painting.
It really wasn't that great. In fact it was awful, it made her feel awful, it made her feel like weeds were growing in her feet and trapping her where she stood.
Spinel's brow furrowed, and she dipped her brush in a different color, a happier color and slashed through the flower with a bright yellow streak, substituting that deathly crimson for the star like yellow that reminded her of something far more pleasant.
What else is there? She stuck her tongue out, still not liking it. What would Steven think now that she ruined it? He would be upset, surely. He would say that all her hard work and creativity was wasted with a slash of yellow.
Really, it wasn't the flower. It was the whole thing.
"Peridot, I need your help with something." Steven pushed through the greenhouse door, drinking in the scent of all the wonderful plants she had begun growing. The little green gem was poking around in a bag of fertilizer and she popped her head out at his voice.
"Hey Steven! Look at this!" She quickly snatched a small potted flower and shoved it into his hands. "Iris xiphium, I collected some on the east side of Little Homeworld and they take to the soil so..so easily!"
"That's great-" he was cut off by another pot being set in his hands, forcing him to move the first to his other hand.
"And these daffodils, ohh, and look at this!" Peridot scrambled around a table to bring another potted plant to share with her friend. "This one is my favorite! A gladiolus!"
The gem set the pot down and immediately began preening, meticulously picking off dead buds and finally allowing Steven moment to speak.
"That's really awesome but I have a request." He glanced out the window at Spinel who seemed too engrossed in her painting to notice he had even left. "I want to do something for a friend and it involves a lot of flowers."
"Oh?" Peridot gave pause, "what kinds?"
"All kinds, but it's a surprise so we can't tell anyone about it." He smiled at the idea, how happy would Spinel be if he brought her garden back to life? Like a fresh start, full of new life. It was the perfect gift. "So, you in?"
The green gem stood up and twirled her hand shovel with a confident grin.
"I'm always in for horticulture! So, where are we planting these bad boys?" Steven set down the pots and directed the gem toward the warp pad.
"It's a little bit aways."
Finally. It was finished. Spinel held up her paintbrush, gauging the art as though she were a professional critic. Nearly the whole thing was bright Yellow, save for the bits where black and red blend through the yellow streaky stars that filled up majority of the canvas.
Of course she still hated it. But she liked it more that all the bad parts were covered up. Steven would like it, he liked her little stars, he would like this too.
Chapter 21: The Gift
"It's manageable," Peridot kicked the dirt, looking around the expansive and disheveled garden. "And you want all new plants?"
"Well, I don't think she would like it very much if it were exactly the same." Steven laughed, a little more nervously when he caught sight of the footprints that pressed down the grass for decades. "I think it will help her let go- or be a little happier if it stopped being mom's and started being just hers."
Peridot rummaged through a large bad of gardening supplies, pulling out various tools to get started on the project.
"If I plant the seeds, you can do that thing with your- erk, mouth..we should be done by the end of the week!" The little green gem immediately became picking at the ground and pulling out the dead plants, plodding new seeds in their place as she moved in strategic rows throughout the maze. Steven got to work as well, starting with the pillars Spinel had thrown about the garden the last time she had come. They were still fairly well kept, crumbling but he could easily fix that with a few choice carvings.
He sifted through Peridots bag in search of something similar to a chisel, taking the creative opportunity to make it even more of something for Spinel.
The broken pillars could easily be chipped into hearts, and the giant diamond insignia was crushed enough to change as well. It would be perfect for her.
It was obvious. So terribly, clearly obvious that Steven got bored of her too now. He spent most of his days playing with Peridot or outright avoiding her. She would have been mad, if it didn't make so much sense. She was so hollow and selfish and stupid.
Spinel sat, curled up in the bath tub, keeping the door locked and the water running so scalding it made her nearly turn red. Little strands of hair littered the water, floating around her like all the mistakes she ever made. Tiny little peices of her lack of self control. Spinel didn't care though, the water was hot enough and loud enough that no one could really hear her quiet sobs, and if they ever got loud enough she could just sink into that water and stare up at the boarded ceiling, watching the bubbles float up from her lips.
A knock on the door, though muffled by the water, made her pull her head up though.
"Spinel?" It was Steven. Probably there to tell her to leave, to say he hated her, that he was bored of her. "I know you're in there."
The gem stood up and shook the water off of herself, coiling up tightly to ring out the last of it. She sucked in a breath and feigned a smile, opening the door to greet him.
"Hi, Steven." That smile, it made it so hard for him not to break his secret. It took weeks, longer than intended but God, it would be so worth it to see Spinel smile like that all the time.
"I have a surprise for you, can you put this on?" Steven pulled a sleep mask shaped like a little rabbit out of his pocket and handed it to the gem, patiently waiting for her to comply.
"A surprise?" So maybe he wasn't mad at her? Maybe all this time he was working on this secret surprise, ohh, isn't that lovely? Spinel nodded and pulled the mask over her eyes, jutting out her hand so her friend could guide her to this surprise. It would be a lie if she weren't a little nervous, that she didn't think- just a little, that he was taking her somewhere just to leave her alone. Still, a surprise, for her. Just for her?
Steven grinned and took the gem's hand, leading the stumbling friend up the stairs toward the warp pad. The two stepped up onto the pad and Spinel blindly turned her head.
"Are we going somewhere?" She asked, facing the general direction of Steven. He could barely hide the smile on his face and it was Peridot's brilliant idea to keep her blindfolded to make the reveal all the more surprising.
"Yeah, I think you're really gonna like it." Steven nodded, warping the two of them to Spinel's new garden.
"Okay, are you ready?"
Chapter 22: The Dark
Steven gently lifted the blindfold, letting Spinel take in all his hard work.
It was beautiful. It really was. Golden chrysanthemums and lilies, daisies and cherry trees, pillars carved with immaculate hearts. Ponds that held coi once again.
It was awful.
The grass was green and growing, vines and flowers and trees and she couldn't breathe. It was wrong, like before but different. All wrong.
Spinel sucked in a ragged gasp, unable to tear her eyes away from the brilliance. It hurt. Was he?
"Peridot and I worked all week on it to make it perfect." Steven grinned, taking her utter speechlessness as a sign of approval.
Spinel however, couldn't hear him. There was a screaming, buzzing horrid noise that pervaded her thoughts and she could only think of one thing. Deftly, her fingers searched for that all consuming release, twisting into her hair as she pulled the strands taught enough to make her skin burn.
"You're gonna.." she choked on the words, her throat closing up at the idea entirely. But the creak in her voice was enough to make him turn. That grin fell, and Steven instinctively moved closer, only for Spinel to push him aside.
"Spinel, I'm sorry, I thought you would like-"
"Like it?" She did. Of course she did. But here, this place, with all these flowers like no time had passed at all? She couldn't even see it, the place she stood for so, so long. She pulled harder. Maybe that would make the screaming stop. Maybe it would make that terrible feeling of being shattered over and over and over again go away.
But it didn't. So she pulled harder.
"Spinel, what are you doing? Stop!" Something hit her. Knocking that temporary daze away for something else.
She stared at him, and the tears and confusion in his eyes, the concern?
He held her wrist, and a substantial tuft of hair sprinkled in the air around them like little strings of snow.
That was all. All of it. Every last bit of constraint and desire to hide away shattered on impact. Much like how her heart did. The tears came first, with or without consent, it didn't really matter. Then shudders, and gasps and wrenches and coughs like all of her wanted to be destroyed.
She was destroyed.
Spinel dropped to the ground, loosening ever last bit if tension within her into a sad and sorry and selfish puddle on the ground. All this and she was crying? He did it for her but why did it have to hurt so much? Why did he have to pick this place?
Steven was at a loss. It wasn't the reaction he expected or wanted, or even knew how to manage, how could he have been so completely blind?
"You don't like it- it's okay, I can get rid of it!" He dropped to his knees, yanking out the flowers to prove himself in some way. He didn't mean for this. He didn't mean to hurt her like this. "I'll get you something else-"
"No!" Spinel's hand swatted at his and she gingerly picked up the little yellow irises, picking off the stray strands of grass from them and trying her best to smile. "It's yours- I don't want you to think.."
"You don't like it though, it's obvious it brings up bad memories." He retorted softly. Spinel lifted her head and wiped a tear from her eye, pushing through another terrible urge to break down.
"Everything does." She answered, sitting up the flowers and piling dirt around them once more. "I don't think I can ever be like I used to."
Steven averted his eyes, shame creeping up around him at his selfish desire to make exactly that happen. He had been trying so hard, this whole time to just make her change, but she already had.
"Spinel, I'm so sorry."
"Don't be." She held her breath before speaking. "I keep thinking that I need to be better, that if I'm not, you and everyone else are going to leave me behind again.."
She touched her pigtail, trying desperately to ignore how she tore herself to peices. How she had been doing so since the beginning.
"I keep thinking that maybe I deserve it, that I'm bad. Because..because you're just so good, and I'm not you." She glanced at him, smiling before coiling up into a small ball. "You're always so bright, and full of light and I'm in this dark..terrible place and- and everytime I try to get out I fall deeper down."
Steven shifted, crawling closer to the gem as she began to cry.
"I-it's like I can't stop hurting- and I'm being so selfish, and I think that if I have a reason, that it's me!" She lifted her head from her hands and left out an exasperated and lonely, hollow laugh.
"I'm in the dark..and I don't know what to do."
Chapter 23: "Let Me Be Your Searchlight"
AUTHOR NOTES: look at me, breaking format! I'm so glad people like this fic and tbh I really wanna thank EmositeCC for majorly boosting the reads with their wonderful comic and artwork!! I hope you enjoyed this fic cause it was so much fun to write and initially it was just gonna be a oneshot, but I decided to make it into a legit fic. Just not a super heckin long one~~ let me know what you think in the comments and if you make art from it please PLEASE show me because I will shower you with love and affection and also retweet/ reblog and send links literally on ever single platform I have!