The house was unnaturally silent and still, the wood creaking with uncertainty at the breath of wind outside. Giggles and teases floated through the fly-screen door, an all too familiar sound. Puzzle pieces were strewn across the coffee table top, many of them connected in blotches, with some stray ones. A hand tentatively plucked a piece off the table and attached it to one of the smaller patches.
Pearl hummed into her hand happily. The day was going smoothly as expected; no corrupted gem monsters popping out of anywhere, or unnecessary bickering with Amethyst (though that was rare these days), or town-spread crises. She briefly gazed at the front door as the giggles increased in volume, smiling absentmindedly knowing Steven, Connie and Amethyst were having fun.
When the door opened, she didn't really register it at first, her mind hazed in a daydream. When the green blob drew closer, Pearl finally snapped out of her thoughts, the blob becoming defined.
"Oh, hello Peridot," Pearl greeted, turning her attention back to the broken-up puzzle in front of her.
"Pearl," she replied, and gestured to the couch. "May I sit down?"
"Of course." Pearl inched over a bit, though it was completely unnecessary considering both of the gems were slim and the couch was big enough. "Do you need something?"
Peridot perched on the couch beside Pearl, eyeing the puzzle on the table. She seemingly ignored the question. "Is that the primitive, mind-stimulating game called a 'jigsaw puzzle'?"
"It is," Pearl affirmed, placing another piece of the jigsaw in place. "Would you like to help me complete it?"
"No thank you," Peridot dismissed, but still watched the 'game' with poorly hidden interest. "I actually have something to ask of you."
"Oh? What is it?"
Peridot fidgeted a little in her seat, bringing her hands to her lap as she began explaining her presence. "There is a question that has been intriguing me for a while, ever since we worked on the drill to defend ourselves from the Cluster. The more time I spend on this planet, the more I hear of this word. My initial idea was to ask Garnet, as she is supposedly 'made of love', according to Steven, but she seems to be preoccupied elsewhere."
Pearl looked up from her puzzle, raising an eyebrow at the smaller gem. Where was this going?
Peridot continued. "I asked Steven, but his answer wasn't very… informative. That's when Amethyst suggested I ask you. I also asked the Internet, as the humans call it, but all I received was more questions than answers from the Wee-kee-ped-ia. And a music video."
"So, Pearl, what is love?"
Pearl's curiosity piqued once Peridot had finished monologuing. She wasn't expecting the green gem to ask about that, out of all things. A small chuckle escaped her lips at the abnormality of it.
"What is love?" Pearl echoed, making sure she had heard correctly.
"Yes. Can you answer that?" Peridot replied, slight annoyance tinging her tone.
"I can. I'll give you the short answer." Pearl scrambled for coherent thoughts and words to explain such a strange and diverse feeling. "Love is a feeling that many, if not all sentient beings experience at some point in their life. It's the desire to fight for the people you care about, whether friends, family, or lovers, and for them to be happy. However, beings can love objects, people, or other life, and it ranges on different levels. For example, you may love your technology, or I love Steven, or Steven loves Lion. But the way you love technology is different to how I love Steven, or to how he loves Lion."
Peridot gradually frowned throughout Pearl's speech. "How so?"
Pearl had to fight the urge to stand up or flail her hands around with her explanation. "Well, if you just met someone but they already make you feel warm inside, then that's infatuation." Pearl blushed a little, thinking back to a few nights ago. "If you've been around someone for a while and want to be around them more, whether to have fun or for companionship, that's friendship love. Humans also have a love for animals which works in a similar way, as Steven has for Lion."
"Then there's family love, such as myself, Garnet, Amethyst and Steven—" Pearl glanced down at Peridot, "—and you, where we feel the need to protect each other from harm and desire each other's companionship, even if we sometimes don't get along. There's two more, but as a gem, we don't experience one of them, so I'll move onto romantic love."
"Romantic love is like this constant feeling of extreme happiness whenever you gaze upon them, or they brush against you, or when they talk to you. And when you share this love, it's like a fire has lit up inside you, but it doesn't hurt. It's more like a pleasant, intense, glowing feeling resonating within you. Usually you want to do things with them that you wouldn't want to do with other people of different types of love."
By the end of Pearl's speech, Peridot's eyes had grown with wonder. In a whispered voice, she asked, "And what would you do with them?"
Pearl caught herself gazing at the portrait of Rose Quartz hanging over the front door, and shook her head as her cheeks tinted blue. Flustered, she replied, "W-well, you do things like embrace them for hours, or kiss them, or fuse for long periods of time, like for Garnet."
"Ah, yes, I've heard of kissing." Peridot sighed a little. "It's all over Camp Pining Hearts, and I can't understand why it's such a phenomenal human ritual. Anyway, if that was the short answer, then what's the long answer?"
Pearl briefly thought about questioning the other gem as to why she was so intrigued on the subject of love, but ignored the curiosity for now. She smiled down at Peridot, her mind filling with memories. "Well…"
Pearl was always rather neutral about humans. They were definitely interesting, with all their strange rituals and taboos, but they seemed rather petty at other times. Watching the humans wolf down any food placed in front of them, or drowning their mind with stimulants and depressants were some of these 'other times'. Even now, as she fled into the woods and clambered up the trees in an attempt to blend into nature, some pessimistic flair in the back of her mind laughed bitterly at humanity.
Their reasons for war seemed foolish in the eyes of the lithe gem. Spending a thousand years fighting for an entire planet, rather than a country, really made the human wars seem trivial. Perhaps it was also the fact she fought for a notion, rather than a nation.
But as worthless as their reasons for war were, the fight itself was electrifying. Time and time again over the millennia, Pearl watched the humans fight for only mere years. Nation upon nation fought each other and fell apart at its core, and she did nothing but overlook it like it was an annoying insect. And rightfully so, too. Why should gem-kind interfere with the affairs of humans?
There was no reason to interfere other than to feel the thrill of fighting again. Which was why she was bolting to the nearest warp pad, though she made the journey more fun (and tiresome) by travelling through the trees. It was unnecessary, really. If anyone was still chasing after her, an outfit change was all she needed to do to blend in again. But then again…
Another negative about humans, Pearl thought. After a week spent battling, she never noticed one of the female specimens of humans in uniform. Even though all gems were genderless, she appeared to be a woman to the eyes of the humans, and that made it a lot harder to blend in.
But nonetheless, Pearl finally leapt down from the trees, enjoying the way her body rumbled as her legs collided with the ground. With a quick glance behind her, she noted that nobody was following her. They were probably ambushed by French soldiers.
"Ahem." Peridot tapped Pearl on the elbow, too short to reach her shoulder, and the latter turned around on the spot. She had already lurched to her feet, and only at the beginning of the story.
"When do you get to the part about defining 'love'?" Peridot asked, frowning a little.
"Oh! Sorry, I got carried away," Pearl meekly apologised, blushing slightly as she continued her anecdote.
Cradling her swords in her hands, Pearl wandered to the nearest warp pad, which was roughly an hour away. As she made her way to it, she changed her outfit, ridding her appearance of the sickly red liquid that humans spilt everywhere. She replaced her mocha brown coat with a navy replica, removed her tricorne, and adorned a sky-blue dress shirt and beige pants.
She despised that the humans hadn't 'invented' shorts yet, otherwise she would've worn them. As much as she distanced herself from humankind, appearing female and showing off her legs would only land her with some unwanted business with their authority.
When she finally reached the warp pad, she set off for the Temple, eagerly awaiting seeing her family's faces again.
When she arrived, she was instantly greeted by Amethyst tackling her to the ground. She suppressed a giggle as the purple gem wrapped her arms around her midsection tightly, running a hand affectionately through her hair.
"Pearl, where the heck have you been!?" Amethyst cried into her, only pulling away to look her in the eyes.
"I… took a vacation?" Pearl half-lied, sending Amethyst a sheepish smile.
Amethyst made a funny face, scrunching up her nose at Pearl's fibbing. "You don't take vacations! Not without telling anyone, at least."
"She told me." Amethyst peeked over Pearl's shoulder as the latter's metaphorical heart thudded loudly in her chest. She didn't need to turn around to pinpoint the source of those words.
Hey, do you remember me?
I'm the girl whose heart you stole.
I don't want it back please, you can keep it.
My mind's made up on who I want holding it.
Instead, Rose Quartz circled around Pearl and Amethyst tangled together on the warp pad, stopping in front of them and sending Pearl a devious glance.
"You look comfortable."
Pearl's face heated a little before Amethyst launched off her. The purple gem seemed abashed.
"Sorry P, for like, tackling you and stuff," she apologised, rubbing one hand on the back of her neck and extending her other. Pearl gratefully took it, letting herself be pulled up.
"That's okay Amethyst."
Pearl gazed over at Rose, whom had began walking down to the beach. She watched the way her white skirt waved around her body with every step, the oversized beige coat muting some of the movements. Her eyes locked onto Rose's wild pink hair, watching in awe as it curled in the breeze so perfectly, as if her hair defied gravity for a mere few seconds.
"I was wondering when you were coming back," a deep British voice called behind Pearl. After spending a short amount of time in the battles against both the British and French, Pearl had grown used to the accent surrounding her. Yet, the soldier's accents were nothing compared to Garnet's.
She whipped around on the spot, sending Garnet a nervous smile as she gazed over her counterpart's attire. Much like herself, Rose, and Amethyst, she donned an oversized coat, this one a shade of red-brown. Matching her coat, a tricorn was balanced on her dark afro, even though all of the gems knew that wearing hats around each other wasn't necessary. Garnet only claimed it made her feel bigger, whatever that meant.
"Hello Garnet. I'm back from my vacation," Pearl answered, her voice slightly shaky.
"I never imagined you would fight with the humans," Garnet stated, stepping closer to Pearl. "We had corrupted gems to take care of whilst you were gone."
"Wait, you did what!?" Amethyst bellowed, staring at Pearl with wide eyes.
Nervous laughter escaped from Pearl. "Yeah, I fought with the humans. Their battles are puny, but entertaining to an extent."
"That's new," Amethyst breathed, her eyes going wide with fascination. "What was it like?"
"What, fighting?" Pearl bit her lip slightly, quickly glancing at Garnet. "Well, fighting isn't exactly good, Amethyst… But my 'vacation' was enjoyable. The humans certainly are interesting, especially how fast they advance."
"Next time I wanna come," the purple gem whined, plonking on the ground next to Pearl and pouting. "Fighting gem monsters gets boring after a few thousand years."
Pearl ran a hand through Amethyst's wild mane, messing it up further. "Maybe." She strode over to Garnet, sending her an abashed smile. "So how many corrupted gems did I miss?"
"Two," Garnet replied, then adjusted her shades. "Rose is waiting for you."
"Oh!" Pearl glanced over her shoulder, where she could see Rose sitting down in the sand and watching the ocean. "She isn't mad at me, right?"
"Quite the opposite." Garnet wandered over to Amethyst lying on the ground, lifting her up to her shoulders. "Have fun."
Pearl looked up at Amethyst now plonked on Garnet's shoulders. The smaller gem had stars in her eyes. Before she could steal another glance, Garnet wandered through Amethyst's door, disappearing into the temple. Pearl frowned.
"Weird," she mumbled to herself before she exited her home and wandered into the sand. Rose was still seated by the shore, and Pearl caught herself staring. She's beautiful.
Oh, you're a constellation
And I'm just a star
Blinking in the universe
But you'll never notice me at all
Pearl hesitantly sat down beside Rose, giving her an odd look. "Good evening Rose. Why are you sitting out here?"
"It's peaceful," Rose replied, a grin overtaking her expression. "So? How was your little adventure?"
Pearl thought about the week spent away without her family. "It was fun, but I missed you… all."
"We missed you too, but I want to hear the full story! Where did you go? What did you do?"
Pearl shook her head, trying to wipe away her smile at her counterpart's excitement. "I travelled between Boston and Albany on horseback for a few days. That was a new experience. Passed many towns on the way with lively people. Sometimes I disguised myself as soldiers from opposing battalions for the few fights I had found. But overall, it was mostly exploring."
"That sounds like so much fun!" Rose exclaimed, beaming. "The humans are so different. I would've loved to come along with you."
Pearl bit her lip. Rose didn't need to know she went travelling to clear her mind about her. "Yes, it was. Garnet told me there was corrupted gems whilst I was gone, but did you do anything else than fight them?"
Rose kicked her feet in the sand for a small while, wriggling her toes in the grains. "Amethyst and I visited the settlement. They've built a communal place that they call a 'tavern' or 'bar', and we checked that out."
Pearl frowned, sighing into her folded arms over her pulled up knees. "Did you find any humans to elope with?"
"Pearl…" Rose trailed off, a sadness seeping into her dark eyes. "Pearl, look at me."
The slim gem reluctantly raised her head off her folded arms, gazing into Rose's eyes.
"I was worried for you the whole week. I know that you are an exceptional sword-fighter, but I was anxious that you might've been hurt and had to retreat into your gem. Or worse. Not all humans are as friendly as the ones at the settlement."
"Really? You were worried?" Pearl asked, her voice barely a whisper.
Rose's smile wavered sorrowfully. "Of course, Pearl. You know you mean so much to me." Silence passed over the pair as they locked eyes, but Rose rose after a few seconds. Offering her hand to Pearl, she suggested, "Let's dance."
Pearl took the hand without hesitation, but frowned slightly. "You want to fuse?"
Rose giggled, and Pearl felt like melting at the sound. "No, we'll just dance."
"You ask too many questions." Rose's smile was playful as she pulled Pearl up and placed her hands at her waist. "Just have fun."
The proximity made Pearl's chest squeeze; she supposed if she had a heart, it would've been thundering. But closeness wasn't foreign to Pearl; she'd undergone the most intimate thing to gem-kind with all of her counterparts. But fusion didn't frighten her. Right now, Rose holding her close did.
You're a little too close, but too far away.
It's much too early, but it's far too late.
Maybe I'm too old now,
Or just afraid, that you'll walk away.
Pearl tentatively loosely wrapped her arms around Rose's neck, humming happily as she laid her head against her chest. She might've been startled but she wasn't complaining.
If Pearl strained her ears, she could hear the distance sound of music from the nearby settlement. It was upbeat and happy, contradicting her slow swaying with Rose, but she liked that sort of dancing; slow, rhythmic, gentle, flexible.
"Have you noticed that humans do this frequently?" Rose asked, awakening Pearl from her drifting thoughts.
"Dance? I have," Pearl answered, keeping her head underneath Rose's chin. Gems didn't need warmth, but it felt… nice.
"They have interesting rituals, don't they?"
Pearl played with Rose's pink curls as she talked, enjoying the hum in her chest as she did so. "They do, but some of them are ridiculous."
"Oh? Is that so?" Pearl could hear the teasing tone in Rose's voice, making her shudder.
Pearl pulled away from Rose slightly, but kept her arms wound around her. "Yes. For hundreds, if not thousands of years, I've seen humans do all sorts of strange things with their bodies."
Rose raised an eyebrow at Pearl's wording, her coy smile growing. "Enlighten me."
"W-well…" Pearl's composure broke as a blush crept up her cheeks. "First, their body modifications. Many have stretched or pierced their skin, and even permanently embedded ink into it! Who would want to do that? And then there's the way they touch each other…"
Rose's eyebrow arched higher. "Are you talking about kissing?"
Pearl's cheeks flushed a brighter blue. "Yes, that too."
"And what is it that you think is strange about kissing?"
Pearl spluttered, throwing her hands up, away from Rose's shoulders. "Everything! Why would you touch your lips against someone else's skin and lips? It doesn't make sense! What possible positive outcome could come from it? Nothing."
"Oh, I'm sure the humans have positive outcomes for it," Rose replied, her devious smile waning. "Kissing isn't about the physical feeling, it's about the emotional feeling. Well, I suppose it does feel physically nice too…"
"What!? You've tried it!?" Pearl almost screeched, flinching further away from Rose, close to slipping from her grasp. "Oh, of course you have, with your human companions…"
I'm fine with them. I'm fine. I still mean the most to her. None of them will experience what we have.
Rose's smile fell, but there was no sadness in her expression. "Do you know why the humans kiss?"
"No." Pearl frowned, mood soured by her own words and thoughts.
"It's a show of affection. Many different types of kisses have different connotations of affection. For example, a kiss on the forehead would show love for someone you cared about, but not strictly romantically. A kiss on the hand or cheek is usually more formal. Whilst a kiss on the lips is generally strictly romantic."
Pearl's frown lifted at the mention of love and romance. That was something she could understand. "But why?"
"Why question anything with the humans?" Rose quipped, her smile returning lightly as she giggled a little at Pearl's frustrated expression.
Pearl huffed, and eventually stepped closer to Rose again, encouraging their swaying to the distant music again. Comfortable silence fell as Pearl eyed the ocean lapping near them, the sun falling over the horizon cascading hues of pinks and oranges against the waves. It was almost as beautiful as Rose.
She hummed, signalling she was listening.
"Have you ever thought of trying 'kissing'?" Rose asked.
"No? Why would I? It's just a weird human ritual," she scoffed, turning her gaze onto Rose. Well, now that she realised it was an act of affection, maybe she would think about it later.
Rose's smile grew. "Maybe if you tried it, you'd think better of it."
The lithe gem scowled in confusion. "I'm not going to touch a human like that, especially not after you mentioned it was a sign of affection."
"What about with a gem?"
Pearl averted her gaze back to the quiet ocean. Watching the calming waves was soothing the swell of emotions rising in her chest. "W-well, we have fusion, we don't need to try that."
Rose hummed. "True, but kissing and human affections are different from fusion. Perhaps the same feelings are evoked to a degree, but they're totally different experiences."
Pearl remained quiet. She couldn't argue about something she knew nothing about.
Rose sighed, but offered a lopsided smile. "Pearl, you are worth so much to me. Garnet, Amethyst, Ruby, and Sapphire too, but… You remain oblivious to how I feel about you, despite what I insist. If I can't make you believe that through words…" She raised one of her hands from Pearl's waist, gently grazing her cheek and tucking a few strands of peach hair behind her ear. "Maybe actions will speak louder than words."
Once she pieced together the suggestion, Pearl's face instantly glowed teal, her eyes widening like plates. "I-I, uh, w-what!? Are you a-asking me to… do that!?"
"We don't have to if it makes you uncomfortable," Rose assured, keeping her lifted hand cupped lightly under Pearl's jaw. "I want you to open your eyes to the beauty of what humans can offer, and I have a feeling you wouldn't try their shows of affections with anyone else. Not now, at least."
Pearl hesitated, now glaring at the waves, as if it was their fault her emotions were flying all over the place. "I-I-I never realised you, uh… feel the same way I do."
"Of course I do, Pearl. I know it seems unfair that sometimes I have fun with humans, but I assure you, you still mean so much to me. I love everyone and everything on this planet, and that includes you too. Only, I love you differently, and I want to show you that."
Pearl bit her lip, then nodded meekly. She didn't know why she was so tentative on this human affection thing; if anything, she wanted as many ways to express her love for Rose as possible. Maybe she was afraid, despite Rose's constant words, that maybe she didn't actually love her the same way.
With her hand cupped around Pearl's jaw, Rose gently tilted her counterpart's chin up, gazing into those sky blue eyes and almost loosing herself in them. "I do love you Pearl, please don't ever doubt that."
Pearl held back from saying, "And I think I'm in love with you." Instead, she let Rose's lips brush against hers, electrifying her body with a positive, beautiful feeling. And when she pushed the slightest distance forward to connect their lips, that feeling only radiated furthermore. Pearl couldn't understand how or why this human ritual elicited such a feeling, but she knew what she was feeling.
Simply, love at its fullest.
And spending the next hour on the beach, as the sun disappeared behind the ocean and the moon lit up the sky spectacularly, the pair shared their love healthily. No fighting for each other, no sorrowful tears, no sacrifices.
Just heart-warming, giddy, beautiful love.
A/N: i've been working on this for over three weeks, so i'm glad i finally finished it!
whilst i do believe that Rose was never in love with Pearl, i refuse to believe that they didn't share their love for a time before Greg
anyway, part two will be Lapidot! i'm not sure when i'll write that, just when i'll have Lapidot feels tbh
inspired by poke-a-spark's fanfic Kissing, a little bit of Assassin's Creed, and of course, WRLD - Little Too Close (ft. Veronika Redd)
(ps. i've wanted to explore historical gems in the 1700s for a while now, so whoo to that!)