The Fifth Triumvirate

Love, Fear, Adversity and Authority

“Yes, likewise…” Peridot said in reply, not knowing what else to add to their little introduction.

She was glad that Shell and not Apex had been sent with Étoile to get Bixbite: Shell was obviously the most pleasant of the three, and Bixbite looked a lot less distressed than she had imagined she would be (no doubt because of the orange-haired pearl).

“Normally detainees — as Apex mentioned — aren’t allowed to interact with each other in any way before they appear before the Authority, but this is a very special case: normally we aren’t tasked with obtaining the persons of interest. And yet here we all are… So, as we’re in charge for the moment and I see no reason why not, an exception will be made for the two of you. Peridot, you sound like a sensible Gem, and I trust that you won’t do anything that will make the situation worse.” said Shell in a friendly yet stern way. “Please don’t let me down.”

“We— I won’t.”

“Great. Then we’ll give you two some space, but clearly we’ll need to keep an ear open, so don’t whisper. Apex, Étoile, shall we?”

Étoile hopped lazily off the table and walked straight to the exit wall, seemingly glad of any reason to leave the room. Apex stood up and smirked at Peridot, before turning around and strolling out with Shell.

The moment the vertical slit in the wall had disappeared, Peridot rose from her chair and moved towards Bixbite, who was hurrying around the edge of the table. When the two were close enough Peridot opened her arms, and Bixbite crashed into her; accepting the invitation with such intensity that they almost fell over.

“Peri…” Bixbite said softly to Peridot, revelling in the feeling of being in her arms once again. She placed one hand on the green Gem’s back, and the other on her head, gently pressing her closer.

“I’ve— I was so worried about— I MEAN, I WAS SO WORRIED ABOUT YOU!” she continued.

“Bixbite, when she said ‘don’t whisper’ I don’t think she meant that that you had to shout either…” Peridot volunteered.

“Oh… SORRY! Sorry, sorry.” Bixbite eventually whispered.

From her position nestled against Bixbite’s chest, Peridot sighed; from anyone else it’d be really annoying, but somehow she could tolerate it when it came from her… She couldn’t understand the thoughts and feelings that seemed to be reserved for Bixbite alone; a part of her hoped that the changes weren’t permanent (she quite favoured her rational, objective way of thinking), but a different, less frequently seen part of her loved what was happening, and doubted that she’d really be happy if she went back to the way she was before.

Bixbite released her and raised a hand to Peridot’s face, lightly running her fingers over the luminous green gem that gave her beloved her name.

“Your gem feels good… fine, I mean! As in, it’s undamaged!” she said, with a subtle blush that Peridot had gotten to recognise coming to her cheeks. “But… are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m okay. Don’t worry about me.” Peridot said with a smile. “Are you okay?”

Bixbite was better at this kind of thing than Peridot, and she could tell that her friend wasn’t feeling as calm as she looked.

“Really, Peri? …I umm— I know you don’t generally like to show people how you feel… well, except when someone makes you really mad, and then… but… anyway— I meant what I said on the phone: I do love you, with my entire gem. I have to worry about you...” she sighed, putting her hands on Peridot’s shoulders. “Peridot, I just want you to know that if you’re scared… however you feel; you don’t have to hide it from me.”

Peridot looked into Bixbite’s face: she was smiling, but there was genuine concern in her expression; a sadness that Peridot knew was because of her, because Bixbite desperately wanted to make her to feel alright, even with what could happen to them later.

‘Those eyes…’ Peridot said to herself.

Being so close, she was drawn to them, noticing for the first time how the scarlet of Bixbite’s irises blended into a thin, vivid pink ring around her pupils: all part of her striking appearance, an appearance which perfectly matched her striking personality.

‘…and that smile.’

It was hardly time to be thinking about Bixbite’s lips; she should’ve been thinking about ways to make her story sound as favourable as possible, or strategies to plead or bargain with the Diamonds. But all she could think of was Bixbite, and the times they’d had together recently, and how effortlessly pleasant she’d always been; but most of all how lucky she was to be loved by someone like her.

In that second there was only one thing to do, and everything else became a secondary concern.

Her head darted forward and she kissed her hard, forcing Bixbite’s mouth open with her own. Her tongue moved like it was possessed, and gave itself a thorough and energetic tour of Bixbite’s mouth; the red Gem’s own tongue was swept up in the frenzied movement of its partner.

Peridot kissed her with the desperate, almost violent intensity of a person who was doing it for the first and possibly the last time, all in one moment. After a while she stopped holding on so tightly; Bixbite also loosened her grip on Peridot’s shoulders, but still held onto them like she needed support.

“Oh my gem… Wow.” Bixbite looked down at Peridot in wide-eyed astonishment, more than surprised at what had just happened. For a horrible second Peridot wondered if she’d gone too far and upset Bixbite, but then her dark-red blush ascended to new heights: clearly visible to anyone with eyes.

“Peri… That! Was! AMAZING!” she exclaimed excitedly, “Is it… always like that?” she added shyly, a hand darting up to play with the ends of her hair.

For all the times she’d been propositioned, Peridot had never kissed anyone either; no time ever seemed like the right time, and most potential romances didn’t go very far because they interfered with her work.

“I don’t know. I’ll have to conduct some more experiments before I can give you an accurate answer.” Peridot explained in her most seductive voice.

“Oh… okay, yeah. That’s… sensible.” Bixbite said dejectedly.

The way her face fell was one of the saddest sights that Peridot had ever seen, and yet, she still burst out laughing: the scale of her friend’s disappointment was matched only by the scale of her misunderstanding…

“You know I meant with you, right? ‘Experiments’… with you?” she said when she’d got her laughter under control.

“Ohhhhhhhhh!” Bixbite said, also laughing when she finally got the message. She had looked like she was about to cry, and after Peridot’s clarification that’s exactly what she did.

“I’m sorry, I just… it’s all— there’s just so much on my mind. *sniff* I don’t know what’s going to happen to us, Peridot… Shell sounded pretty sure that we’d be fine, and I really want to believe her… but now… now I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m terrified, Peri— I mean, I’d do it all again, but I don’t want this to be the end of us.”

Peridot led her to the edge of the table, where they both sat down. After she’d taken the time to wipe Bixbite’s tears away, she placed an arm around her and drew her close:

“Bixbite,” she said, “I’m terrified as well…”


A few hours later…

As of maybe forty five minutes ago (though it could quite easily have been a couple of hours; the stress had wrought havoc on her internal clock), the condition of Peridot’s day had deteriorated further. The pearls had come back into the secure room and, after allowing her and Bixbite to share a brief goodbye, led her off to finally see the Authority. Just like that, Peridot had been left alone.

She had wanted more time, just another minute —or ten — to be near Bixbite, despite having spent the last few hours with her. Love was doing the strangest things to her way of thinking, if she was in love.

It was highly probable that she was in love…

Then, a few minutes ago, the tell-tale line had appeared in the wall again signalling that somebody was about to enter. First a wave of excitement had washed over her, and then one of panic: she had desperately hoped that they’d bring Bixbite back to the room before taking her to the Authority, but only Étoile entered the room. When she asked the pearl if they’d shattered Bixbite, all she said was:

’Your little friend is still alive. For now… But they’re finished with her for the moment, and they want to speak to you. So follow me, and don’t even think about trying anything; you won’t get far.” in what Peridot thought was a needlessly threatening way.

She followed Étoile through a triangular corridor. Apart from the click of the pearl’s high heeled shoes, and the quiet, regular thumping of her own boots on the ground there was silence. Even though Étoile wasn’t saying a word Peridot was really glad of her company: like the inverted pyramid that contained it, and the thought of the Gems that had had her brought there, the corridor was incredibly unsettling. Animated by the flickering flames of the torches that lined the way, their shadows dance eerily across the floor and the walls, and both in front and behind them there was only darkness in the distance.

She made sure to keep up with Étoile; it was totally irrational, but the thought that she might disappear was one that Peridot couldn’t get rid of, and without her… it was easy to imagine the tunnel being lined with traps, or that the floor could disappear beneath her feet. She didn’t fancy the thought of walking through it alone.

The notion of actually arriving at their destination didn’t thrill her either: the dread of meeting the Authority was killing her, and without Bixbite, in the shadowy passageway, with the repetitiveness of the pattern on the purple-brown stone, she was beginning to feel trapped.

‘Great, now I get to add claustrophobia to my list of positive experiences for today, can this get any better?’ she thought sourly.

As though someone was listening to her thoughts she received a reply, in kind.

It was kind of expected that the Authority’s palace — being the magical construct that it was — would be a lot larger on the inside than it was on the outside, but even with that knowledge the length of the corridor had begun to feel ridiculous to Peridot. Just as she started to question the practicality of such a thing in a place of work, she noticed a change in the scenery ahead.

In the distance was a green triangle that stopped her seeing any further down the corridor; it was extremely unlikely that Étoile would have taken her to a dead end, so she assumed that it was a door, and therefore that they’d reached the place where the meeting… interrogation… sentencing… was to be held.

As they got closer she could see something twinkling on the door, the shine becoming more and more pronounced until they were in front of it.

Diamonds.

At least, she assumed that they were diamonds: hundreds of the tiny glittering jewels decorating a mural of what was obviously a fusion Gem.

It sat cross-legged, surrounded by a crowd of bowing figures many times smaller than itself; the six arms it possessed were outstretched, and in three of its hands it held a mace, a long sword, and what looked like a spear or staff. To complement its six arms it had six eyes, two clusters of three gems (yellow white and blue, she observed) positioned where one would usually find a pair of eyes. On its chest was a large, inverted triangle where all but six of the diamonds had been set: green in colour, like a lot of things associated with the Authority.

Initially it seemed odd that such an obvious representation of a fusion was depicted in the Adamantine Palace of all places, but when she considered it a little more it made sense: the army and the tiered diamonds both had different rules to everyone else regarding fusion, and so the Triumvirate and the council almost certainly did as well.

Though the artwork demanded her attention, it was not what they were there for. With a short, sharp ’slam’, the door shot upwards, revealing a flight of stairs that Étoile proceeded to climb. Peridot jumped as the door slammed back down behind them, and she tried to recompose herself as they came to the room at the top of the stairs.

Immediately she spotted the three Diamonds, who were seated at one end of a grand circular table in the middle of the room. At the opposite end of the table was a single chair. Her chair…

All three of them watched her without speaking as she and Étoile crossed the space. She was unsettled before, but that was nothing compared to how she felt now: she could feel their power, it was like a physical force; a force which compelled her to keep looking at them, as desperately as she wanted to turn away.

The outer part of the floor was a stony light grey, but the inner circle glowed a very faint pale-blue, illuminating the space from below. The light had the effect of changing their colours slightly, but she still knew who was who from what she had seen and heard about them:

Most noticable was Yellow Diamond; it was her eyes… In every conversation Peridot had heard about her, her eyes had featured at least once. Unlike everyone else, she had the chance to witness their glowing intensity first hand: she didn’t expect that the others would find them so appealing if they were being studied by them as she was. Though Yellow Diamond didn’t look pleased to see her she didn’t look hostile either; a positive occurrence however small.

‘She’s got a great haircut though…’ Peridot had to admit. Credit had to be given where it was due, after all.

Then there was Blue Diamond, the really vicious one. Of the three, she was the one that Peridot liked the sound of the least (by far): from the way people who had been at the Ceremony of the Sword had described her, she sounded every bit the clarity operative that she used to be; ruthless, efficient and very skilled. Peridot wondered if Blue Diamond had ever used any equipment designed by her, and then wondered if it would even be possible to convince her not to shatter her, if that was what she had in mind…

Finally there was White Diamond, the tallest and most imposing one. She watched Peridot with an expression halfway between curiosity and amusement. Out of all their looks, Peridot hated hers the most because it was the one she understood the least… She loathed uncertainty, and White Diamond was filling her with it.

Condescension… that was written on her face too. She could tell that White Diamond had very little respect for her. That could be a problem: she would have to appease her white Shard sensibilities if were to stand any chance of staying alive.

They got a certain distance from the table when Étoile stopped. Peridot stood to her left and slightly behind, not knowing where the best place to put herself was.

“Empresses, I have brought you the technician, as requested.” the pearl said in an explanatory way.

“Thank you, Étoile. You may take a seat with the council; if we need you again we shall call you.”

Peridot hadn’t had time to consider where the council were, but deduced that they must be watching from behind the reflective wall somehow. That made things a little less disconcerting.

Just a little.

Étoile nodded and walked briskly towards the end of the room behind the Triumvirate. An opening appeared in the wall, and then she was gone.

Yellow Diamond spoke:

“Peridot, please sit down.”

It was a calm voice; an order from someone who expected nothing less than immediate and absolute compliance.

A similar calmness came to Peridot’s mind, and suddenly all thoughts of shattering left her. For her sake and Bixbite’s, she had to prove that her mind was as sharp as any of their swords.

It was time to engage the Fifth Triumvirate.

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