How's it going, and welcome to the very first chapter of Don't Even Bother.
I've been reading a ton of Steven Universe fanfics recently, in addition to watching the show of course. I've been dying to write a story for a little while now, but I've been a little hesitant to try to juggle both this and a few other stories. I think I can manage it now, however, so here we go.
WARNING: This chapter contains heavy amounts of angst/depression. It gets better later, I promise, but please keep this in mind as you begin reading.
Okay, enough from me. On with the story.
Disclaimer: I don't own Steven Universe. Steven Universe is owned by Rebecca Sugar.
Steven couldn't quite put his finger on it.
He wasn't exactly sure where it began. Actually, that's a lie; he knew exactly where it began. He just didn't want to believe it began at all. So just what was this mysterious event?
Well, it wasn't exactly just one. But it was the start of what was beginning to feel like an endless chain reaction. To keep it brief: it was the start of what was starting to feel like the end of the Crystal Gems.
Steven almost refused to believe it. What was Pearl doing fixing the communications hub? The very same one that Peridot was attempting to use to contact Homeworld! What was she trying to accomplish by essentially aiding the enemy?
"Hey, for some reason, Peridot kinda looks like... Pearl?
Steven's observation through the telescope was suddenly interrupted by a shove from Amethyst. "What? Let me see!" She sincerely hoped Steven was kidding; she knew what the consequences would be if he wasn't.
Unfortunately, the boy proved to be correct. It was indeed Pearl who had used Peridot's escape pod to fix the communications hub yet again. She probably fixed it the second time, too.
Garnet and Pearl were about to begin their fusion dance, to form Sardonyx yet again. To disable the communications hub yet again.
Garnet was truly confused as to how Peridot could continually fix the hub. She didn't have access to her escape pod, meaning she could only use the technology she had on her, making the task extremely time consuming; doing so as quickly as she had the past few days should've been impossible. In addition to that, she was somehow continually avoiding her future vision. It was as if she was some kind of ghost.
Nevertheless, it didn't matter. The only thing that did matter was demolishing the hub again.
Garnet and Pearl stopped cold. Both of them looked at Amethyst, who had been the one who yelled.
"...Is something the matter, Amethyst?" asked Pearl.
"You... you shouldn't..." replied Amethyst. Steven picked up where she left off.
"Pearl... we saw you."
Pearl's eyes grew wide. "What?"
"You need to tell Garnet it was you!"
Garnet's confusion only grew. "I don't understand."
Pearl could barely even look at the leader of the Crystal Gems. "...I'm sorry. It's just so much fun being Sardonyx with you."
Garnet threw Pearl to the ground.
"That's why I couldn't see us finding Peridot..."
Pearl tried to defend herself. "Wait, let me explain!"
"You've been fixing the hub!"
"It really was Peridot! The first time..."
Garnet didn't care. "You tricked me!"
"No, no no no no, no! We just needed a reason to fuse! I just wanted to share a few more victories with you!"
"Those weren't victories!" If Garnet was about to do something, she was interrupted by Amethyst.
"Wait, Garnet! We're so much weaker than you. Fusing with you is our one chance to feel stronger!"
"DON'T DEFEND HER! Peridot is out there somewhere, and Pearl's been distracting us with NOTHING!" Steven looked on at the whole fight. He had never seen Garnet so angry before.
"Garnet..." said Pearl.
"THAT'S ENOUGH! Amethyst! Fuse with me!"
Garnet clenched her fist. "Let's just get this over with..."
Although neither gem really wanted to, Garnet and Amethyst combined to form Sugilite. When she was formed, the behemoth turned her attention to the tower. With one great swing of her fist, the entire tower was completely destroyed.
Pearl looked on.
Ever since discovering Pearl was responsible for the repair of the tower, Garnet refused to speak with said gem. It wasn't the repairing the tower part that bothered her, it was Pearl's selfish desires. She used Garnet to become more powerful, to form Sardonyx. To the leader of the Crystal Gems, fusion was everything. It was the reason Garnet existed. It was everything the relationship between Ruby and Sapphire stood for. It wasn't just a way to become stronger. It was a relationship. It was trust. And Pearl violated that trust.
Amethyst and Steven could only look on from a distance. Attempting to negotiate a peace between the two would be completely hopeless; the two gems would have to do it on their own.
Unbeknownst to the others, however, Steven was feeling the effects of this feud particularly hard. Because he was the one who essentially told Garnet that Pearl was the one who fixed the communications hub, he felt responsible for this whole mess. The specific details of what happened that day, how Amethyst was the one who stopped the two from fusing rather than allowing the cycle to continue, became lost and jumbled in the young boy's mind. Instead, he viewed the whole thing in a distorted light; he was the one who discovered Pearl fixing the hub, he was the one who told Garnet, he was the one who started the fight.
He was the one who started the fight.
Each subsequent day only furthered the crushing sense of guilt. Naturally, his personality changed greatly; it seemed to him like everyone was changing. Garnet became icy, completely shutting out Pearl and only sparingly conversing with Steven and Amethyst (whenever Steven was willing to talk at all). Pearl was also hit hard by Garnet's actions, as she too became an introvert, keeping to herself. Both gems still loved Steven, of course, but it was becoming harder to openly show it with all the negativity around them. Even Amethyst, despite her normal fun loving personality, became quieter and less active, mostly staying in her room.
Unfortunately, this also served as a way to cloud everyone's judgement, as both gems, even Garnet with her future vision, failed to notice the depression that continued to consume the boy each and every day. The team was being torn apart. In the mind of Steven, he was the reason.
With his increasing despair also came sharp declines in his social life. He almost never stopped by the Big Donut, Beach Citywalk Fries, Funland Arcade or any of his other usual hangouts. He occasionally wondered if people like Lars and Sadie were missing him, but it didn't really matter. They couldn't possibly understand all of this gem stuff.
His relationship with Connie became strained. He never took the initiative to call her anymore, and despite her frequent attempts to reach out to him, he almost never reciprocated. Slowly, these attempts began to trickle away, until she almost never even attempted to seek him out anymore. One incident in particular stuck out in the boy's memory:
Steven and Connie found themselves sitting in the young gem's room, watching TV. The film playing was Dogcopter, one of their favorites, but neither was really paying attention, Connie in particular.
Nearly two weeks had passed since the last mission Steven had went on, and he had been a completely different person since then. The happy, caring, boy she once knew was gone, replaced with this sulking depressed shell of himself. The transition was truly breaking her heart; she hated seeing her friend struggle so much, especially considering he refused to say what was bothering him.
Now that she thought about it, it wasn't just Steven. From what she could gather the few times she had been over to his house since that mission, Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl seemed just as down as Steven, if not more. It was as if the entire family was just in one big collective funk.
After a few more minutes of complete silence, she couldn't take it anymore.
Steven's head snapped up, while simultaneously giving a grunt of surprise; he was clearly zoned out. It seemed like he was always zoned out nowadays.
Connie decided to not waste any time. "What's up? What's up is that you've been a completely different person since that last mission you went on! It's like someone else came and replaced the Steven I... I USED to know!"
Connie stopped and took a deep breath, giving herself a moment to collect her thoughts. She was hoping she might be able to get a reaction out of him, but he remained stoic. Sighing, she continued, although in a more calm tone.
"Look. It just seems like things have been different with you recently. You never want to hang out anymore, unless I show up on your front porch and almost force you to. Besides that, I never see you around town anymore, or with any of your other friends. Even my parents are starting to get a little concerned. Please... can you tell me what's wrong?"
Connie hoped that this would be enough to break through what was beginning to feel like an indestructible wall. Her heart dropped, however, when Steven simply shook his head.
"I'm sorry. I just can't."
Connie didn't believe him. "Steven, I just..."
"I SAID I CAN'T, ALRIGHT!" yelled Steven suddenly. Connie was completely shocked; in all her time knowing him, Steven had never yelled at her before like that. She could also tell that he was crying.
After a moment of awkward silence, Steven spoke up again.
"I'm sorry for yelling at you. But you should go."
Connie frowned and sighed to herself, standing up. She didn't want to risk another outburst from Steven like that.
As she headed down the stairs and to the front door, the sound of a door opening broke the quiet that had enveloped the house. Looking behind her, she saw that it was Pearl, who had just exited the temple. "Hi, Pearl."
Pearl looked down at the human with a sad expression. Her eyes appeared red. Nevertheless, she forced a smile. "Hello, Connie. Have you been practicing?" Connie nodded her head. She wasn't exactly telling the truth; she hadn't practiced her sword fighting in the last two weeks.
After the quick greeting, Pearl quickly walked outside the front door and away from the temple, to do whatever. After standing in the same spot for almost a minute, Connie followed suit and exited the house. She just couldn't understand what was going on.
Connie hadn't visited Steven since that day. Nothing really changed around the temple; everyone still sulked around. Aside from Garnet going on a few solo missions every now and then, nobody really did anything relating to finding corrupted gems and such. Even the search for Peridot had taken a nosedive, as nobody could find in in them to really give it their all.
Although Connie almost never dropped by, Greg was another story. He too was in the dark when it came to the specifics of what was going on with the gems, but he still tried to do everything in his power to cheer up his son. Steven appreciated his father's efforts; after all, he still loved him to death, even now. Despite that, however, he still didn't say anything about what he was feeling to him, now matter how much information he pried for. Steven simply refused to say anything about what was going on in his head to anyone.
It truly pained Steven to see things decline the way they were, but it felt like he couldn't do anything to reverse the trend. Garnet still absolutely refused to speak to Pearl; she wouldn't even be in the same room with her anymore. There would be no truce in the near future. It would take something significant to happen before anyone would be willing to acknowledge the tension.
Something significant indeed.
One day, about a month into the team's whole mess, Steven decided to see how Pearl was doing. Standing in front of the temple door, the entrance opened, revealing the gem's room. As he stepped inside, however, he stopped dead in his tracks.
Pearl was sitting on one of the water tubes, holding a portrait. It was a portrait of Steven's mom. Rose Quartz.
Steven's curiosity was piqued. He strained to listen.
"...Oh Rose... if only you were to help guide us. To lead us... why did you leave? We need you..."
Steven turned around and walked back outside the room as quietly as he could. As soon as the temple door closed, he punched the wall as hard as he could. His hand throbbed with pain, but he didn't care.
He was having a hard time forming a rational thought through his emotions, but he was able to gather that it sounded like Pearl would rather have Rose than himself. It only made sense; Pearl was apparently Rose's 'sole confidant'. If she was as really close to her as she said she was, it was obvious that she would rather have her leader back.
Steven knew that he may be overreacting, as Pearl constantly expressed remorse over the loss of Rose, but this felt different. In the worst of times, a person's true character comes out. And, at least to Steven, it felt like she was basically saying that she wanted Rose over himself. She had no idea he was in the room, so the only reason she would even say what she did out loud would be if she truly meant it. Is that how she always saw him? As Rose, only in someone else's body?
He knew he was being selfish by thinking this way. After all, he had his mother in his gem. Rose had sacrificed herself so he could be born. He wasn't part gem, part human for nothing. When he truly thought about it, however, he began to question just what his purpose on the team was. He had always loved going on missions and doing cool things with the gems, but now he, at least in his mind, had driven them apart. Besides that, it wasn't like he was particularly strong at anything, even when everyone was on speaking terms with each other. He could only summon his shield a couple times a day, and his healing powers were inconsistent at best. Compared to the other gems, he was a liability.
A cold realization seeped into Steven's mind. If Pearl thought of him this way, what's to say the rest of the gems didn't? Sure, they would say in his face that they loved him, supported him, all that stuff, but what did they truly think of him? Did they only feel obligated to act this way for Rose? What did they really see in him?
Steven shook his head. It didn't matter.
Nothing here did anymore.
Steven stormed up to his room. After packing his cheeseburger backpack with a few supplies he would need for the road, he scribbled a quick note, left it on the counter, and tiptoed out of the house, being careful not to wake Lion. When he reached the ground, he began to walk down the beach. Away from the Crystal Gems. Away from Beach City.
And he didn't look back.
Well, you can put the first chapter in the books. This is the first time I've ever really tried writing angst before, so let me know how I did. I know Steven's definitely OOC in this chapter, but don't worry, happy Steven will be back soon. Besides, he's had big emotional swings very quickly in the show before, so this isn't completely out of the blue.
Anyways, what's coming up next? You'll have to tune in next time, same bat time, same bat channel. Well, maybe not the time, since I don't have a set schedule, but I'll try to update quickly. Yee.
Have a nice day.