Beach City Trouble Buddies
An angry wind stirred short orange locks. A sky so black and fat, and full, that wood creaks from the wetness. The scent of rain and salt clung so strongly to the air that it worked its way deep into a person's nose till it left a salty coating on the brain. Water crashes on the shore. It pops in the ears of those nearby like a crying baby. How the whole ocean seemed to be doing it.
The seagulls had retreated to a safe haven. So too were the humans preparing for the worst; affixing shutters, securing doors, parking cars farther away from the beach front. The owner of the local car wash, waited in his chair in case anyone needed a quick wax. Maybe the mayor would come by. His home was parked around back. Keys in the ignition for the moment's notice he needed to get to higher ground. He had been offered a spare room of sorts at his sons place, but the man had declined. Having weathered every storm in Beach City so far, and would be fine as long as he knew his son was safe within that huge goddess.
Everyone was prepared for the worst but, what had they done? What had the crystal gems done to prepare for such a storm? The windows were boarded; that was it. They would ride out the worst of it inside the temple; so to would Steven. Obviously, Pearls room would be the safest...as long as he kept away from the swords. His bed had been moved in. Garnet crunched it through the narrow opening easily enough. Now the bed gently pinballed atop a tall pillar that was solid yet flows at the same time, water continuously cascading without end. Blankets and pillows unmade await somebody to fall into their waiting grip.
As waves folded over one another to bash the shoreline, the squeal of laughter could be heard. Eyes fixed on the small boy who was caught in a storm of giggles, while kicking water about. Wet splotches across the bottom of her dress the girl grabbed her skirt and raised it high so she could get her legs out. The two ran with the waves.
As the sounds of them reached back to the deck, which overlooked a turbulent ocean, a thin whisper quiet sound shattered all else. It was a sigh. The long fingers of a pale hand dangle over the edge of the railing. Wood creaking, it gave a deep dead thump when tapped. As the other hand curled under a sharp chin it teased the edge of a drooping lip; digging into the dimple drawing it down to the pits of the tall figures empty stomach, so full of ache.
She rubbed her stomach hoping to soothe the pain. Not shocked to find that it had jumped higher, into her chest just under the small star imprinted on her beautiful light blue tunic. Wind fluttered the bow tied about her slim waist, sending the ends of cloth trailing behind. As the clouds grew darker her heart grew heavier. The closer the storm got, the more she found her head sinking. Deeper, deeper, till the point of her nose touched the railing and her legs quivered. Shifting the weight often onto either side, her flats scrapped against the deck. Rough, the planks could use a good sanding, but no one who lived in the house knew that.
A sparse shot of light made it through the clouds it caused a glitter in the gem embedded within her forehead. Before the cloud closed up and she was plunged into a dim world as far as the horizon stretched. Her gem was polished with care everyday to a perfect shine; even though it wasn't a perfectly round pearl. Today, her pearl, Pearl's gem which was the entire source of her existence was as reflective as beach sand. A match to her mood as the start of an ache began. Pearl grabbed her forehead.
Groves appeared in the wood when she let go. Small oval shaped indents.
That, that Amethyst! "Uuugh." Restraint held her back from slamming her fist into the railing with enough strength to probably shatter the wood to splinters. How could she do...how could she say...It's so, it's so...It was something Amethyst would have done anyway; eventually. But did she have to? In such a...vulgar manner.
The throbbing in her gem extended to her limbs. A constant pain, ran threw her. Not the pain of battle, but emotion. With trembling hands Pearls grip tightened. A creak, then a long shriek as the railing twisted in her hands. When the wood began to crack under her power, only when part of the railing had been twisted off did Peal stop. Stop and stare at what she had done.
This is all Amethysts fault.
As the waves grew more chaotic, harshly crashing against the shoreline, they found it harder to play. The constant feeling as the ocean tried to claw at their feet. Pull them in, and sweep them away with the current. They found the need to back away. Their laughter had frozen with the coming chill. A couple of bumpy and uncomfortable rocks made for great seats. They sat shoulder to shoulder.
Red rimmed glasses, without the lenses, from which dark brown strips of hair flowed through like tears as they were perched within her thin plump hair. Her long bridged nose wrinkles as she looks over her shoulder.
"Is everything alright with Pearl?" Watching as the tall figure loomed above them on the hill the house sat upon within the arms of the goddess embedded in the cliff.
The sigh was as long as the ocean took to flow and recede. Fingers slackened on a knee. The boy picked at his cheek. "Her and Amethyst had a fight."
"What was it about?" Connie asked, adjusting her dress's skirt, trying with little enthusiasm to ring out the moisture. Her mom would be mad, but the drier could fix this easy enough.
"That's just it. I don't know, they won't tell me anything. No one will tell me anything! I'm not some kid; I'm a crystal gem...like them. Why do they keep shutting me out of their problems?" His voice cracks as only a child's could.
Her lips fumbled. "I don't know Steven." Connie glanced again at the deck. Pearl walked it, head turned towards the cliff, trying to see something there that Connie couldn't. Back and forth the tip of her hair pointing out the back of her head whipped behind her, with the poise of a general before his battle plans. Pearl had that air as she looked to be mulling her thoughts over.
"Well, why don't you know? You're the smart one, almost as smart as Pearl." Connie holds an enflamed cheek. "I just want to know what's going on."
Delicate brown skin lay across the hand on Steven's lap. Connie gives his hand a squeeze. Steven is ashamed to look her in the eye. All he can do is look away, to the deck of his house. Connie follows his gaze.
"I just want to help." Meek and small the voice of a young boy who felt helpless.
When the kids had stopped playing with the sea relief was sudden, fleeting, and for a moment it replaced the other feeling. The dread, soon Connie would go home. Then the two of them would usher themselves inside the temple to take shelter from the storm. They would all be trapped inside the temple. No way to avoid it then. Unless Amethyst kept to herself...That, is very unlikely to happen. Especially if I'm mad at her.
Her finger rubbed against the wood. It's rough surface sanded by her delicate and deceptively tough skin. As the air thickened with the coming storm Pearl wore a frown on her lips to match. Splinters were flayed from the railing when she passed her touch over them to be carried away with the wind, lost, forever.
As she found herself gripped by another sigh slowly slipping past her lips, Pearl stole her eyes away from the shore. A stray seagull was squawking wildly. Its wings frantically driving its small body against the force of the wind, it flapped, and flipped, yet could not make headway. Why would it want to go towards the storm anyway? One of many, many, questions she had about the inhabitant's odd drives. Pearl watched the gulls' struggle, beak cursing the wind. What would it expect? It should know that it's futile to try to fight against the weather. With another piercing cry the bird turned away and disappeared somewhere above her head. Maybe finding refuge in the lighthouse on top of the cliff the goddess was submerged inside.
Feet moved in a quick pace. The gem walked briskly along the deck guided by the railing as her hand gently trailing across it, watching the cliff face for any sign of the seagull's return. For a moment the safety of the railing had left her and Pearl felt a pit in her stomach. The world did not falter and her legs did not let her fall. She eyed the empty spot in the railing with trepidation; she did not want to have to explain this.
As the door creaked Pearl hid her blunder with her body. Creating a bridge with her arms over the gap with hopes to hide the damage; she leaned over, body stiff. Head tucked between her bony shoulders. Nose drooping like the branch of a tree; perspiration wetting her brow.
There was a very heavy aromatic smell like a dozen plants had been pulverized in a blender. An unhealthy dose applied each morning, the fumes thick enough to cut; they crawled onto Pearls tongue through her nose. Garnet had been putting her gift to good use. One of those human holidays Steven loved. It wasn't chilly, nor did they set up a tree in Steven's room; so it hadn't been that one. That would have upset Pearl because she always made sure Steven had gifts on that holiday. Just so she could see him smile more. This holiday had different rules, the gems didn't have to give gifts but all three of them received one from Steven. Garnet: the perfume. Amethyst: a big box of chocolates that she ate immediately in front of them all; box included. Pearl had been last, and she was...pleased by hers, a most simple and elegant gift of flowers arranged disproportionally in a vase. Flowers drooped and petals had fallen off with the rough treatment. The vase sat on the kitchen counter.
Her footsteps were heavy. The wood sighed under her weight when she stood still, beside Pearl. The black gloves weren't practical covering only her middle fingers leaving the rest of her pinkish brown skin exposed. Garnet crossed her arms. Those shades reflected the coming storm with an ominous orange tinge. A slight frown to her full lips.
"This isn't good."
"H-how bad do you think it will be?" Pearl asked with a weary look. Fretting over anything else was a far better distraction.
There came a long pause as Garnet seemed to be thinking, or arguing, maybe, inside of her head. She swept her gaze along the beach. Across the broken rocks and pieces that had fallen off the goddess due to the elements, or age. When she found Steven and Connie sitting on the beach there came a hmm and her frown deepened further.
"That isn't what I'm worried about, Perl." Garnet never really removed her glasses. Except for those dire times when she needed to get her point across. All three eyes including the one in the middle of her forehead were looking at the slightly shorter gem with pity. "Yo'r fears are silly."
"Are they?" Voice louder then meant to have been, rude, for her strict standards of etiquette. She'd cocked her body towards the other. The angles of her face from nose to chin were pointed downward in shame for speaking disrespectfully. Never to Garnet. Look what you made me do Amethyst.
The sudden words made Pearl jump. Vertebra popping as she tried to bend her back further behind her than should have been possible. The pointed back of her hair whipped with her head. The muscles of Garnets back contracted through the thin layer of her body suit as she walked down the stairs. Pearl followed her gait as Garnet made her way over to Steven and his friend Connie. Even at the distance she was, Pearl could still make out the sagging of their shoulders dejectedly. Pearl laughs at that...at least, until she hears the rustic salt encrusted hinges on the screen door scream as it opened. Pearl almost let out a scream of her own.
"Oooooman-a, here comes Garnet." The boy groaned when he saw the tightly clad gem. His shoulders plummeted enough for his knuckles to tickle the sand. He looked over and saw that Connie was the same way.
When Garnet stopped before them, hands on her hips she gave a rueful chuckle. Each of her hands took one of theirs and with little strength she hoisted the two children back on their feet. Without letting go Garnet steered the three of them towards the boardwalk and to Connie's waiting father.
A last glance was spared to the house. Garnet could see the door opening and someone coming through it. A short, plump, and plum colored gem.
Pearl tried to ignore her. To just put the other gem out of her mind. Out of mind, out of sight. Maybe, she would go away then. Or cease to exist, not forever, but only for a little while. Until Pearl was done being mad at her. Till this whole thing blew over. Hundred...no, a hundred and fifty years at the most was all it might take. Enough time for everyone to forget. Pearl never forgot anything and that was a terrible burden to bear. No matter the centuries the gem could still recall events from so long ago crisper than a fresh apple having only been plucked a few minutes off the branch.
"Go away Amethyst." Stern, hard toned; both frank and cutting briskly to the point.
No sound of a departure came, but Pearl could hear the ends of the other gems long hair dragging along the planks of the deck. Closer they came till a shiver of panic went up Pearls spine.
Well worn clothes without proper care taken for them. The black straps fit snuggly between her shoulders. Her fingers ran underneath them, gave the straps a pull till they stretched slightly, and then let them snap back. Looking at the tall back Amethyst noticed the tenseness in Pearls shoulders. The way they shuttered at the sounds she made when walking closer; saunter and sway gone from her hips. Amethyst came up beside the other gem and looked up into her face. Trying in a way to be challenging, to put on the brave face, to be the tough one of the two of them; was it working? Amethyst did not know. Pearl seemed to be doing her best not to look down. To keep her watchful gaze trained on the ocean and the dark sky above.
For once Amethysts fat fingers were being gentle when they touched Pearl's elbow, looping over the joint and giving a slight tug to get some attention. Tugging harder when there was no response. Not even a roll of those large eyes. Or the tell tale sign of the twinge of a nostril in agitation, or anger. Pearl was calmer than the surf on a gentler day.
However, the skin where Amethyst touched was cold. No warmth, the kind she usually liked to feel when they were this close, when they touched each other. How bitter a pill to swallow as the short gem started to chew her lip, nipping till it was swollen.
Only one action thought to cross Amethysts mind. "What is your problem!" Pulling away to throw her hands about, slapping air. A snarl blown through a pug nose. It was easy to fly off the handle. It's what came naturally.
A tit for tat was the usual outcome from such an outburst.
There was no tit, and not even a tat. Pearl hadn't even looked Amethysts way when she talked with an even tone, so much more underneath, "You know why I'm upset. How could you not."
"Hey. I wasn't trying to be a jerk, Oka-ya. I was only trying to...you know." Amethyst sniffed the air; a big booger filled snuffle that made an unpleasant sound in the back of her throat. Before approaching again to lay her hand on Pearls elbow giving a harder tug this time. Hoping to pull the arm free and hold hands so that she could show the you know part that she was trying to get at but failed in words.
The hand was cast off with a solid jerk. Pearls long slender back turned itself towards the other, "I can't believe you-you-would do something like that in front of..."
"Woooh there, come on P. It's not like Steven picked up on any of it. You know how things tend to fly over his head." Amethyst waved a hand over the top of her own head in a gesture of mimicry.
A heel of a foot hit the deck with a sickening crack, the wood having buckled under duress. Clenched fists wiggled under the strain as Pearl squeezed them tight. Her forehead was wringing, leaving her emotions tender as a never-ending pain pumps through her noggin, turning it to mush.
The way her arms hovered above her chest crossed in front of her gem defensively. Fingers working the air uneasily like the unsteady practice of a young pianist. Timid, only a short handful of times in her life, all those times for Amethyst had been in front of only one person. Only one gem could bring out this kind of feeling.
As Pearl took a step forward, Amethyst found her legs frozen to the deck. "Your words have consequences Amethyst, you know that. You've always known that, and yet-you don't really care do you? What do you think, what would Steven think-if-if he ever found out about..."
"...us." So small, like the tiny shrewd squeak of a mouse. Amethyst was folding in on herself. The world seemed to be. Everything was going dark, even the sky. As the clouds were driven inward carrying with them the first few drops of rain landed lightly upon them, "Is that what you're so ashamed of!" A rumble of thunder sounded in the distance. Way off the mainland. No crack of lightning to be seen.
"Yeah, pretty big word for someone like me, I know. I'm sure you've heard of it! You're embarrassed by me. Right? Otherwise, why wouldn't you want Steven to know about us? Is it bad that the kid we've taken care of all these years knows something about us that shouldn't be kept a secret from him in the first place!" How the thunder began to rumble closer and the rain spit harder.
Eyes wide as the fading beat of her heart echoed in an empty chest, Pearl gapped, physically, at the gem before her. The way Amethysts posture lessened after her outburst, sagging like a balloon having the air violently pushed out. As humidity built and the rain continued Amethysts hair lost its frump and was laid flat. Soggy, it draped over her face, shoulder, and down to her legs. Creating a moving hair monster that inched closer till Amethyst was stepping on Pearls feet. She ground them hard on the others flats.
Pearl winced, then sighed and as the drizzle turned worse, leaned over, elbows finding support on the short gems shoulders as the weight in her chest brought Pearl down, nose prodding an unhappy brain surrounded by loads of wet hair. "Do you think he could ever accept me like this?" How foolish the words tasted, and even more so how they sounded aloud, but Pearl needed to hear an answer and hoped it would be one to her liking, juxtaposed to her worsening mood.
"Are you really that dense to think he would think any less of you?"
Amethyst reaches up, the hair over her face parts revealing a squinting and blood shot eye. "Geez, you arrrre an idiot!" Gripping that long nose Amethyst tugs it forcefully, enough for tears.
Pain was only a byproduct of having a physical form. For Pearl, at the moment, it was easy to ignore and focus on the others criticism. "Come again?" As if she hadn't heard the sentence.
"I'm sorry, is that toooooo much low brow for your dictionary? Here, I thought you were supposed to be the one with the brains between the ears?" The dare lit some humor, warming Pearls cheeks a bit. The taller gem even gave a short throaty giggle, her nose still held by the other's grip.
"What does that make you?"
"Uh, the cute one, Duuuuuuh."
Then the rain picked up its pace crashing like a waterfall in their ears, enough to drown the wind, the thunder, and their own laughter. Swept away as the ocean steadily crawled closer passed the pieces of rock that had fallen from the goddess. Close enough that on some tries if it just stretched its reach like a child's hand for the cookie jar high on the counter, the waves could touch the edge of the slope that wound its way to the steps to the house. When it retracted it took with it some sand, shells, and candy wrappers Steven had never picked up.
Expectantly, what happened next, as the feeling took over the two of them Amethyst slipped her hand into Pearls; squeezing tightly. They both lean against each other even as the rain pelts their skin, soaking their clothes. It weighs the black tunic down showing more of the purple gem in her chest as well as a salacious bit of skin. The bow on Pearls back drooped as did the ends of her hair sticking to her neck and cheeks. Even though there's a chill in the air they don't feel it. They lean upon one another, their gazes unfocused towards the storm, as the waters swelled and waves leapt over one another.
When Amethyst moved she felt her hair, soaked as it was, rub against the others clothes. A nice slick friction built as Amethyst rubbed against Pearls hip. The spot grew warmer. Amethyst's hold grew tighter, a constant squelching sound as the gem's wet fat fingers tried to hold on.
The sky lit with a harsh pale yellow light as a bolt of lightning cracked the horizon like a hammer to glass. It was there for only a fraction of a second and it took not a second more till the deep rumble filled their ears. Neither fazed by the sheer might of the planet in the least, they stared on unfazed. Amethyst even chuckled some when Pearl curled her side closer around Amethyst till Pearl was nearly wrapped around the shorter gem.
Blustery wind turned her square hair into a rhombus. The rain was nothing to her, but to the boy shivering in her arms it was like a needle. Wet and sharp and numerous on his skin, Steven buried his head close to Garnets chest which puffed under the strain. The gems thick legs stumbled in the wet sand. Garnet slid, her arms squeeze Steven, eliciting a sharp squeak of pain from the boy.
The gem grunts an apology.
They had lingered to long with goodbyes, and now the storm was bearing down in full force. Trash from the boardwalk wiped through the air like tiny malleable bricks. The shutters on the stores vibrate as the wind tickled through their cracks and tried to pry them loose to get at their insides. Sand swirled in mini twisters. Garnet kept her hand over Stevens face to keep the sand out of his eyes as she broke through one. Her own spared by her triangular sunglasses, Garnet frowned deeply with a tight jaw.
A few feet more. A few feet more and they would be within the safety of the crystal temple. Steven would be safe within the temple. The goddess of beach city would protect him. So would Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl. At least Garnet hoped to be able to count on the other two as her stomach tightened. She stayed glued to the rocky side of the cliff. Water would soak her heels every now and again as it pushed its way further onto the beach. It was beginning to swell up the hill and close to the beams supporting the house. Garnet had shored them up in case, but this was nature and she was unpredictable...and unstoppable if she so chose to be.
"Garnet..." Stevens's voice was barely a whisper above the pounding rain, but more wet sounding than it.
"It's alright Steven. Were almost the'r." Her hand was large on his tiny head as she rested it in his curly black hair to press the boy close.
Steven struggled in her hold, floundering unfortunately like a fish out of water even though Garnet was ankle deep in some at the moment, "No-look." The boy's tiny fingers rose in front of her nose. Sticking the air and pointing at the porch.
Through the downpour Garnet could make out the distinctive figures blissfully unaware of the horrible storm around them while glued to each.
Steven sighed, the rain unable to put a damper on his lifting mood. "They made up." Joyful, his teeth gritted as the rain tried to drown him.
With a huff of agreement Garnet started running again, "Seems like it."
In the hours that passed the storm carried out its plan. The waters came a few feet shy from touching the underbelly of the house. They did not however, make it any deeper into town. People hunkered in their homes, candles ready but never needed, the lights only flickered every once in a while with a harsh wind.
The gems and Steven stayed within the temple as planned. No sounds of the storm could penetrate the sacred sanctum.
They all found a way to busy their time.
Garnet checked the inside of the temple for any structural problems from the storm which amounted to a small leak in the lower levels, an easy fix.
Amethyst stayed quiet in her room for a bit after all of them evacuated inside. Organizing the piles of...mementos in her room into more of a mess, and even found a left over slice from fish stew pizza. It went down great with a soda she had also found. A favorite from a few decades back, the company was out of business now. But you could never go wrong with Dr. Fizz. Tasted kind of like rotten corn, and of course all the fizz was lost, probably, within the first five years after its initial storage. Beggars are whiners, thought the gem as she fiddles with the tab on the can till it fell off, which brought her to Pearls room to show off what had been found.
The gem scoffed at the can. "I can't believe you would drink that after all the years it's been sitting in your junk pile." Pearl held the empty can in her hand, a sword in the other, and then turned it over without a hint of fondness. "You used to drink cases of this stuff. It always left a horrible aftertaste in your mouth." Her cheeks tinted a light blue as she handed the can delicately back. Without taking a few steps back Pearl swung at the air. Her sword dances with grace. Swirling and thrusting. Striking down any opponent she could imagine, but there wasn't one in the gems head. So she grew frustrated and set her sword back with the others. They disappeared into the water at her feet, locked away safely from her temporary roommate.
Pearl leapt down to another floating water fall. Landing with grace on the wide and flat liquid surface she did not disturb it in the least. Yet, when Amethyst landed beside her it sends dozens of ripples, and even splashed her ankles some.
"Uh, hey guys." Steven waved from his bed. It gently bobbed with his movements. The boy was swaddled warmly in blankets. Book in hand, the sparkling water and the natural glow of the room lit its pages. At the sight of the two gems he slid a bookmark into the page and set the book on his bed. Covers were thrown to the side.
"Niiiice onesie Stev-man." Dark teal pajamas with the buttons tightly done up to the last. They fit so snuggly it was hard for Stevens's fingers to pull on the neckline. He coughed and blushed as his brow sweated slightly and Amethyst gave a whistle that turned into a husky giggle. Hands slapped knees, as the short gem doubled over. Pearl rolled her eyes and walked past to put a hand on the boys head leaning ever so slightly to reach. Steven looked up at her with a wobbling frown and laid his hand on the woman's long leg to steady himself.
"That's enough, Amethyst." There was no easy way to put a stop to the gems shenanigans, Pearl should of known that when Amethyst only laughed louder.
"Amethyst." Steven blushed and hid deeper.
"Chill, I was only joking," said Amethyst as she looked from the boy to Pearl, who had found placement for her hands on her hips and a sharp look to her face, "-what? I was, you look good Steven...for a baby." As the laughter grew an octave it jumped about the room.
Steven pulled on Pearls leg to bring her to his bed. Amethyst followed and rolled onto the sheets, still laughing. She huddled inside the blankets.
"I don't think I want to play cards with you, Amethyst." The boy said as he pulled his deck from his cheeseburger backpack; out they came from the cheese layer.
"Afraid you'll lose?" Words were followed by a heavy wink and a clucking tongue. Blankets wiggled as Amethysts arms moved underneath as she tried to flap them like wings, but soon tangled them.
"Nu-uh." With his honor on the line, Steven spreads the cards out, face down, then slide them around, under, and overtop one another till he thought they were properly mixed before arranging them back in a stack.
"Ok guys. The game-is go fish." Steven smirked as he began to deal out five cards a piece. From there the game unfolded at an uneven pace. Steven was quick to decide his choice, though not so much as Amethyst and Pearl took more time shuffling her cards in to put them in order after a few too many go fishes. So when it came down to it Amethyst and Steven were the only two putting much effort into the game. A barrage of insults helped to keep the kid off balance while Amethyst scrambled to empty her hand. The gems guesses had neither coherence nor strategy. When it was Amethysts turn she would quickly panic and shout out a random card as if an invisible timer had been flipped and the tiny particles of sand dripped. A more or less strategic approach, Steven tried to commit the cards to memory of what the others had asked for, but there were too many to keep track of.
"Do you have any eight's...eh, Amethyst?" The boy pointed his hand at the short gem revealing some of his face cards in the gesture. Only one of which Amethyst had.
"Dang it! Here," Amethyst tossed the card, which sailed through the air and hit Steven in the stomach. With two cards to his one after this pairing the ride could be coming to an end; this time, if either of them could avoid another string of fishes.
Face alight Steven started to wiggle his arms and body from his seat, a beaming smile of assured victory.
"Don't get cocky." Amethyst grumbled as she wrapped the blanket further around herself. "Pearl, got any two's?" A hopeful glance to the gem with her legs tied around her waist picking at the cards in her hand.
Pearl looks up and shakes her head.
Amethyst draws from the pile.
"I've assume you've drawn the queen?"
Amethyst holds her cards closer to her chest to hide them."Hey-how'd you know?"
"I know what cards you have, both of you. Hand over the queen." Long fingers stretched and curled under the slick bottom as the card was slid into Pearls hand. Maybe her touch had stayed a little too long, or maybe it was the way Amethysts stubby fingers scrapped against Pearls palm, but it made the gems cheeks flare as she took the card and laid down her pair.
Steven goes in the interim silence of their exchange and has to go fishing. When it is Amethysts turn she asks Pearl for any six's and comes up empty. Pearls guess is spot on and the gem secures another pair; this time three of a kind.
"That's cheating!" Amethyst exclaims in a rage as she cuts the air in front of Pearls face with an accusing finger.
"It's strategy." Simply put as Steven fails to guess another card and has to draw. Amethyst is put in the same boat after she concentrates on Pearl and asks for another card the gem doesn't have. Both she and Stevens's hands have grown while Pearl has but a single card left.
Smug satisfaction, Pearl gets the final card she needs from Steven and shows her bare hands to the two of them. "Oh, I guess I've won, haven't I?" Nose pointed high, she gives Amethyst a look of overconfident victory.
Cards fly; some land in the water around them. Steven struggles to pick them up. Some have started to sink into the falls. The boy dives his hand in up to the shoulder and comes out with the arm of his pajamas soaking and nothing to show for his efforts.
Pearl jumps to her feet, shouting, "Was that really necessary?"
The gem grumbles as she turned her head away. "You cheated." Covers tighten around her thick neck.
Pearls sigh echoes in the water around them, quiet, and fading. She sees Stevens soaked PJ's and wearily rubs her eyes, "Come on Steven, let's get you some clean pajamas."
When Steven changes it is time for bed.
The endless ceiling in Pearls room darkens. Figments of stars appear as slight specks of varying sizes. Numerous, they fill the scoop of the little boys vision as he lays his head on his pillow. He gapes at their beauty. Faux though they were yet true and accurate, every star was in its right place. There were even some planets to see. A big red one was the closest, and even though an orange one was only a couple of finger lengths away, at least from his perspective, Steven knew that the distances were greater in space. Then he remembers the view he had of earth from that giant spaceship that tried to invade their home. How the earth looked above. He could see the continents as they were and not from a map. They looked so much more...unique. A map couldn't capture all their grandeur resplendently.
Feet echo largely as they walk away, Amethyst is at the edge of the platform of water, Pearl on another side and looking up to where her swords are kept.
"You guys aren't going to stay?" Stevens's voice is small, helped by the echoes in the room it reaches the both of them.
Pearl turns and sees the covers are a mess as he struggled to turn around to them. "Steven," a glance to Amethyst sees that the other gem has stopped as well, body half cocked, "you know gems don't sleep. What would be the point if we stayed?" Pearl explains.
"Speak for yourself." Amethyst snorts, "I like it. But I'm not really up for it right this moment Steven." A shrug that rolls her shoulders, what usually would have made the strap of her old shirt fall off doesn't work this time.
"But! I-i thought this was a sleepover." A small hint of groveling underlines the sentence. Steven sits on his knees; the cover falls on his ankles as he fiddles with his thumbs. The gems look to one another, then the boy in the bed that slowly drifts sideways on the water.
"Heh, we're a little old for sleepovers don't you think?" Amethyst jested with Steven while she threw a sideways look. Pearl had folded her hands together over her herself and shook her head in agreement.
"Yes," as the waters seemed to grow in noise and fill Stevens small and sensitive young ears, "although, maybe next time we can have Connie over. Would you like that?" Asked Pearl with a small smile, a slight slip of her toe sent a few ripples in the water.
"Oh, ok. Sure, yeah that would be fun..." The words trailed off, Steven rolled around and pulled the covers back overtop himself, up and over his head.
Hesitantly, Pearl wished the boy a goodnight, so did Amethyst. A muffled response in return for their efforts. With that the Gems leapt off the platform, each going their own way. Amethyst disappeared down to the lower levels of the flying waterfalls, towards the entrance to her own room. While Pearl leapt upward and with not even a gesture only the simple light footsteps on the water's surface did her swords respond and rise. She considered them, selecting one with a blade thinner than a needle, while still coming to a sharp point. The sabre's bell guard shielded her hand as she began to whisk the blade with light yet deadly serious movements. The edge of the point follows the sway of her arm. They were no longer two but one. Dipping the slightest bit of the tip in the water Pearl gave a quick flip and sent a few droplets upward. Each swing finds an individual drop of water. They are defeated with grace and poise and in a single breath, which Pearl releases as she settles her leg, which had been tucked behind the other like a flamingo.
From there she became more rapid; the weapon a glimmering silver blur skewered the air, and her opponent. The long blade made a sharp sound as it moved. Locked in battle mode Pearl turned when she hears the splash, and thrusts. Amethyst gapes as the blade slides easily through her long slightly plum tinted white hair, just shy of grazing the side of her neck.
"Amethyst!" Pearl pulls the blade out of the tangled mess flicking off a few strands of hair that had held on, "you know better than to sneak up on me when I'm practicing." A huff, as Pearl allows the blade to settle at her side. The point inches from the water. It lazily bobbed there as Pearl caught her breath.
"Eeeehh, Sarrreeee." One of her thick, short fingers found its way up her nose and rooted around.
"Oh, goodness Amethyst. Will you stop that? It's completely disgusting."
"Wah?" The finger was pulled and with a relief, for Pearl, there was nothing on it. So Amethyst went digging a little deeper.
A frustrated growl as Pearl spun on her flats. Pacing a few feet away she took up her fighting pose again. Shoulders turned slimming her profile; her front leg barely held weight as all the spring of her body was put into her back leg.
Pearl lunges forward.
She stumbles, the blade violently swinging; it slices the water with a loud wet splash. Droplets fell over the edge of the falls and disappeared, down to the well to be recycled through again.
"Yes- Amethyst, what is it?" Pearl wiped the wet edge of her sword with the length of her sash. She would rather her clothes be wet than her weapons suffer from rust.
Tiny legs kicked the water at her feet, "You know, about before...um, yeah. Right?" Amethyst carried herself to where the gem stood, laid her hands on Pearls shin, unfortunately it was the one she had up her nose. Hard and boney, there was little muscle underneath the gems skin. Pearls own skin crawled as she imaging a gooey feel to Amethysts touch. It made her smile all frown in the middle except for the strained upturned edges of her dimples.
Pearl laid a hand on that unruly head of hair and combed it a little. Scratching the scalp until Amethyst purred exquisitely, yet sultrily. It made Pearl blush, but she continues.
The tip of Pearls nose glances skyward to the imaginary stars in her room. The clear untouched sky, "I wonder," the gem began as she felt the head she was petting twist in her hand, "do you think the storm is over yet?" She ponders.
"Garnet would come tell us when it's stopped." Amethyst had walked away to the edge of the waterfall. She was staring below. Head cocked with hair removed from an ear. It strained to listen through the noise of running water.
"Yes, I suppose. What do you think she's..." When Pearl turned Amethyst was gone, all put a few ripples branching out from where she had stood. Pearl walked to the spot where the gem had been. When she looked down she saw Amethyst was falling towards the platform Steven was sleeping on. Her fine eyebrow rose as Pearl took a single step and plummeted.
Ok, Steven. Nothing to be afraid of. The storms outside and your inside. In an impenetrable fortress. The sound of the rain beating heavily upon the goddesses face could not even penetrate the magic's of the temple. All Steven heard was the constant cascade of the water inside. Though the smell was different from the ocean. Fresher, cleaner, more transparent than glass even with the constant rippling motions.
Steven took a breath trying to time it with the movement of the water he could hear. All it did was quicken his heart sending him into a panic. His ears played tricks as he thought to of heard the crack of thunder. Instinctively drawing the covers over his head yet realizing how foolish this was he pulled them off again. With a long drawn out harrumph the boy turned on his side. Tucked his hands under his chin and clenched his eyes shut.
Go to sleep, Steven. He demanded of himself. Until the illusionary sound of thunder reached him again, and the boy found himself cringing in his sheets. A small whimper escaped.
"Yo, you ok Steven?" The voice was low, kind, and so very un-Amethyst like.
Pearl tisk'd from somewhere behind the shorter gem, and Steven found himself going still, trying to make it look like he were asleep. "Would you stop before you wake him?"
"But he's not asleep." Water splashed as Amethyst stepped closer. Steven curled in upon himself. He could feel her hovering over top of the bed. Leaning down to look at his face, scrutinizing Steven, so he tried to make his face as pleasant as possible, yet of course Amethyst always found a way.
Her heavy body fell onto the sheets bouncing the other occupant slightly. Steven shouts when his covers are ripped off. Revealing his cowering body, a small tremble goes through him.
"See, told you he was awake." Amethyst hawed.
"Only because you woke him, Steven I'm sorry she woke you." The gem grabbed an end of Amethysts long hair and gave a sharp tug pulling the gem out of the bed. Amethyst lost her breath and felt her nerves tingle painfully.
"That's ok. That's ok." Steven assuaged, pretending to rub the sand from his eyes, "I-say, you guys want to play another game of cards? Well, maybe not..." The boy grumbled at the thought of the unfinished deck. "We could, do something else. Oo-oo, how about we play truth or dare."
Amethyst grinned even though she was unable to get Pearl to relinquish her tight hold on her hair, "That sounds like fa-u-un!"
"Steven, you should really be going back to bed." Pearl figuratively set her foot down while giving another tug to get Amethysts to come with her, so they could leave Steven to rest.
"W-wait, we could just sit, and talk, come on guys. Ha-heh, the nights still young, and it's not like we'll have any important gem things to do tomorrow. Garnet said everything would be quiet for a while after the storm was over." His eyes shifted nervously as a small bead of sweat ran down the back of his neck, tickling his senses queerly. The boy fidgeted nervously; grabbing the edges of his sheets he tangled them around his waist and knit the edges together with his fingers, "...please?"
"You really need you're..."
"Sure, why not." Amethyst climbed onto the mattress the movement sent it drifting away from Pearl. The short plum colored gem crawled over the smaller boy, ruffling his hair as she did, and sat beside him. Amethyst hogged more of the pillow for her own head and left little room for Steven to lie upon. She also took a good deal of his covers for herself too. "I always liked your bed. It's way more comfortable than the one in my room. Give it to me when you're done with it alright?"
"Aren't there like seven other beds in your room already?" Steven asked.
"Uh, yeah, but I like to rotate between them." Amethyst wiggled her bottom into the mattress. The comfortable feeling on her backside was pleasant, and Stevens's mattress had a better smell than the ones in her room which seemed to of developed a weird fish odor. Maybe, there's something I forgot to eat in there, thought Amethyst as she nuzzled her face into the warm pillow. Thick with the berry scent of Stevens shampoo from the shower Pearl insisted the boy take before they took shelter. Clean body, clean dreams.
A pleasant grunt had Amethyst shutting her eyes as she drew in a breath and with it the pleasant smell of Stevens shampoo again. It was highly addictive. Maybe she should wash more often, and bor-row some. As a gem they never needed to bathe because they never smelled, but there were lots of things gems didn't need to do, but Amethyst loved to do them anyway. Why? Because it was fun of course.
The bed had nudged its way back towards the center of the waterfall: precisely, it was being nudged back to the center. Halted by her slim hands Pearl pressed her hand into the mattress springs feeling their give. They sprung back easy enough when the tension she created released.
When the two in the bed began to chatter Pearl resigned herself, they weren't going to take her accurate advice seriously. So...might as well make myself comfortable. With one foot on the ground to keep the bed in place Pearl sat over the other seating herself on the edge. Hands gently clasped in her lap and listening in.
"...yeah, no-don't worry about us. We're cool, now," and apparently Pearl was missing something important. Her grip tightened as she took in Amethysts words. The reassurance was something not too often heard. It was...nice. So she can be sweet. For a change that was.
Pearl shifted closer to hear, she had to let her foot go and the bed started to drift once more at a languid pace. With no proper current to follow it simply made its way to the edge, and magically didn't fall off, seeming to hit an invisible wall and start back in another direction.
As there slow pace continued a hand rose skyward. Short and well trimmed fingernails, only because Pearl did them for him. Steven was dotting the stars above their heads with his thumb. Unknowingly blocking out millions of galaxies. "I'm glad," to which Amethyst explained that the kid worried too much, like a baby would, "I just want you two to be happy."
Steven found his hair petted, "Steven, that's so sweet. Of course we're happy." His tiny fingers worked Pearls hand off of his head. Amethyst gave a start as she screamed when he wrestled hers out from under the covers.
"Hey! Let go." There was no effort in her struggles; if she wanted to be free she could have easily been so. But Amethyst was curious as to where this was going, and Pearls embarrassment was funny. The tint in her cheeks glowed with the low light provided by the room.
His hands were uncoordinated, clumsy, as their fingers jammed into one another's palms. Knuckles clashed, and Amethysts rough finger nails scrapped Pearls palm, painfully causing the gem to flinch. Until, finally, the boy manages to link their hands. Amethysts was on top and the gem was grinning rightfully so. Squeezing a bit to hold Pearl still.
The gesture spoke volumes; Steven only spoke a few pages, "I think," Steven paused to let out a yawn, his lips split wide and tongue wiggled out, "I'm ready to go to sleep." As he struggled to get comfortable while still holding onto the other the gems at the same time, Steven soon shut his eyes, and rubbed his hand on the others he held. Bringing them close to his chest where they could fell his heart thump-thump inside. Calm, peaceful. While the storm raged outside. Hush and tranquil within.
Cutting through that peace was a low grumble, Pearl shifted. A tug on her hand let her know that it wasn't going anywhere. A nervous tingle in her gem that extended to her physical form. Light, but not kind, pings in her head.
"Chill, P." Feeling the hard squeeze as thick fingers dug into the back of her hand. Amethyst felt a light squeeze in return, not from Pearl, but Steven. His hands were pleasantly warm and affectionate. She could feel the pulse on his wrist where it touched hers. Pearls hands were shaky, clammy, and unpleasant. So Amethyst tried to calm the gems worry. "Yo, stop being all nervous. He seems ok with this." Another squeeze, this time rougher than before.
Pearl looked anywhere but at the bed. The flow of the waterfall platforms was ceaseless. An endless cycle of crystal clear liquid with a hint of a shimmer. It's calming effect doubles when she felt the tiniest of squeezes. Pearl turned. Steven had curled closer, his forehead pressing into Pearls back. Amethyst propped herself on her hand to look over his shoulder and watch him sleep.
"You know, I think I get why you watch him sleep...even if it's still creepy." Amethyst joked to which Pearl rolled her eyes.
A light hum in the throat both high and lovely Pearl used her other hand to comb Stevens' curly black hair. Her smile was affectionate. Loving. Amethysts had stopped staring at the boy to concentrate on the other gem. When their gazes met Pearls lips deepened in love. So too did her hum.
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