Immediately following the events of SUF episode, "Snow Day". Hope y'all like it!
A 'puffer', as Pearl would call it. That's what he neglected in the haste of Steven Tag as he dashed out into the snow-laden, wintery cold beach. It also didn't help that he'd been without his jacket for the majority of the hijinx. And now, here was seventeen-year-old Steven Universe, shivering at the kitchen table as he assessed the third-quarter scheduling calendar, trying to keep his nose from dripping onto the massive piece of stationary… and failing miserably.
Pearl turned her head at the sneeze, "Bless you, Steven!"
"...Bless you," Garnet stated flatly.
"Huh? But I di- hih...h'uhh-Tschooo!"
"Called it," Garnet smirked from the couch.
Gruffly, Steven sniffled and sighed shakily. He wanted nothing more than a hot shower and his comfy bed, but that was going to be quite impossible. He had to get this stuff done! Little Homeschool was his baby, and he needed to be on top of things to ensure its success. Planning had to be spot-on, execution had to be flawless, and Steven had to be the one to make it happen.
Usually, Steven breezed through scheduling arrangements: facing this task with bright eyes and a clear head. However, his tired eyes and a clogged head - and nose, and throat, and… everything - could attest to his current state. His moist sleeve was no longer getting the job done, and so the human-gem hybrid scavenged the nearest tissue box. Pearl's brow furrowed as the boy emitted a trumpeted noseblow.
"Steven," the slender gem spoke cautiously, "I know you have a lot of work to do, but… maybe you could -"
"I'mb fide, Pearl," Steven said shortly, coughing lightly, "Almbost done, adyway."
"Well, that's good," Pearl replied, catching Steven's lie, "So, it might be a good idea to take a little break? Make some tea? ...Take your temperature?"
"Pearl," Steven whined.
"She's got a point, man," Amethyst added, grabbing some food from the fridge, "You're not lookin' too hot."
Steven could feel his cheeks growing warmer, "Guys, I swear, I'mb-"
"Wha? Huhhh...Huh'tschooo! Ugh, *snfff*, cut it out, Garndet!"
Rising from the couch, the fusion sauntered over to the table. She stood directly next to the boy, who, with a flushed nose and complection, glared at her tiredly.
"Steven," Garnet insisted, placing a firm hand on his shoulder, "We know you've got a lot on your plate. And we're so proud of the person you've become. But balance is important… You're burning the candle at both ends."
"Garnet's right. Your body needs rest," Pearl added, sitting across from the sniffly boy, "Maybe this snow day was a gift in disguise…"
"-And we had fun, I get it," Steven interrupted with a cough, "But ndow, I have to do this."
Garnet was getting frustrated, and her tone showed it.
"Steven, you need to listen-"
"-Garnet, you need to listen! Okay?"
"No, not okay. Steven-"
"Whend are you gonna stop talkig to mbe like I'm a child?!"
"When you stop acting like a child."
"Well you can save it, alright? Y-you're not my mom!"
Following Steven's raspy outburst, the room was dead quiet. Teeth gritted and eyes wide, Steven could feel sweat droplets stain his brow. Pearl covered her mouth with both hands. Amethyst dropped her sandwich. Garnet only stared.
Steven rubbed his eyes and moaned lightly, "Gah, I… I thought we just talked about this. Guys, I'mb ndot a kid anymbore! I kndow what I cand and cand't handle. There are thigs I ndeed t'do, and I-"
Steven stopped short as a short coughing fit ensued. Through bleary eyes, he could see the concerned look on the Crystal Gems' faces - and with this, he could feel his own brow soften a bit. He cleared his throat, his voice growing slightly more hoarse.
"Look… I'll be okay. Really. I'mb ndearly finished…"
Amethyst looked at Pearl. Pearl looked at Garnet. And Garnet looked at Steven as she sighed.
"Fine," the fusion stated firmly, removing her hand from the boy's shoulder, "Your choice."
Without another word, she walked away. Steven was shocked. No lecture? No reprimand? The boy's eyes shift down to the floor.
"Thagk you," he muttered gruffly.
Garnet's back was still turned to the human-gem hybrid, hiding a single tear that was trailing down her cheek. She said nothing, continuing to walk outside into the bitter cold. The remaining Crystal Gems jumped slightly at the abrupt slam of the front door. Pearl stood up from the table, her head lowered, as she made her way toward the Temple's entrance. Amethyst clutched the sandwich up from the floor, following suit. The boy's tired eyes followed the two as they made their exit.
"We'll… let you work," Pearl stated calmly, still looking down.
As the door jolted open, Pearl swiftly walked through. Amethyst, however, met Steven's stare with teary eyes before taking her last step inside. The metal doors shut tight, and the boy was all alone. He could feel a light prickle in his nose…
His massive sneeze echoed through the empty house. Nobody to say 'bless you'. Nobody to ask him if he was alright. Just a lonely, runny-nosed young adult. How dignified…
Melancholily, Steven rubbed the underside of his nose and pressed his attention back to his duties. With each hour, the human-gem hybrid could feel his extremities growing colder and colder as he worked. Amidst coughs and sniffles, the boy sluggishly grabbed at post-its and highlighters - his vision becoming cloudier and less focused with each passing minute. Sneeze after sneeze jolted his aching, pulsating head, and every sniffle irritated his sandy throat - forcing him to emit a congested cough.
'Okay,' Steven thought to himself, glancing at his watch, 'Quickly…'
At one point, Steven went to use the bathroom. He allowed himself a strict five minutes for this. And, as he ran his icy hands under steaming hot sink water, he barely recognized the reflection that was staring back at him. His eyes were puffy, bag-ridden and bloodshot: with dark circles encompassing the rims. His nose, ears and cheeks were tinted crimson amidst a clammy, pale complection. Sweat permeated his brow and hairline as he tried to support his shaky body against the sink. His teeth chattered as chills encapsulated his body, with his knees knocking so hard, he thought he'd answer them.
With all the energy he could muster, Steven stumbled from the bathroom to the living room, quickly slinging a nearby quilt from the sofa as he shuffled stiffly back to the kitchen table. Another sneeze racked his body as he slumped into the chair.
"hh'Arsshooo!" his sneezes were becoming a bit more forceful now.
"Geez," the boy huffed to himself, wiping sweat from his brow, " 's alright... Y-you can do this…"
Steven stared at the daunting planner, his vision doubling. He rubbed his eyes quickly, squinting to get them to refocus as much as he could.
"J-jus'... jus' one m-more," the human-gem hybrid slurred, "Y-yyyou can d-do it…"
The pink highlighter shook unsteadily in his grip. And that's when his head hit the table.
"Alri-ri-right? … Should… wake him-him-him?"
Was this a dream? If it was, Steven couldn't figure it out for the life of him. Everything was black. Black… and echoey.
"...Could you-you-you... washcloth? His… the fever-fever-fever…"
Just then, Steven could feel his body shudder reflexively - as something ice cold was being draped across his forehead.
'Yikes! What's the big idea?!' he thought.
"mmMhmmpf…" was all that came out.
"Ste-ste-steven? ...Up. … We… here…"
This was confusing him. He could recognize the voices, of course. Now, it was just a matter of communicating with them.
'Hello? Hey… I can hear you, guys!' was what Steven wanted to say.
But out came another, "Mmerf...hhmpf…" Steven could feel himself becoming more alert.
'C'mon,' he thought to himself, 'Open your eyes. You gotta…'
Steven's eyelids felt like they were a hundred pounds. Through slitted lids, his blurred vision could just barely make out an oblong form. As his sight cleared, the first thing the human-gem hybrid could make out were bright, red cherries.
"Hey-hey-hey there, Shtu-ball…"
A very familiar voice brought the echoing to an end. While his eyes were still heavy, Steven's sight was greeted by a worried smile etched on his father's face. The young adult exhaustedly smiled back at him.
"H-hi, D-dad," Steven mustered out, clutching his throat. He was shocked at the sound of what little a voice he had left, and how his throat burned when he spoke. With that, Steven quietly grunted as he wriggled to sit upright.
His thoughts were whirring. 'How did I end up in my room? Where are-'
"Woah, take it easy there, kiddo," Greg insisted, gently pressing his hand on Steven's chest to lower him back down. Noticing his son's nose starting to dribble, Greg handed the young man a tissue as he spoke.
"Gave everyone quite the scare there, son. The gems said they found you knocked out at the kitchen table. That's when they called me to-"
"While that's slightly true, there were a few extra steps…"
Still lying down, Steven's eyes shifted to the stairs - where Pearl stood, clutching a tray with steaming tea.
"You see," the logical gem explained, "We found you, Steven, at the table: completely knocked out, mind you. And, luckily, I happened to store a thermometer in my gem when-"
"Blah, blah, blah! Yaddah, yaddah, yaddah!" Amethyst intruded, storming through to throw an extra blanket across the boy's bed, "Long story short, dude, here you are."
Pearl's teal cheeks flashed, "'Blah, blah, blah?!' Amethyst, it was a very serious situation!"
"And now, it's over," Amethyst shrugged, "So, get over it!"
"Oh, I'll give you something to get over-"
A low, heavily accented voice silenced the room. Everybody turned to find Garnet at the top of the stairs. Steven gazed at her weakly. Garnet didn't move as she spoke.
"I'd like a moment, please… alone."
There was a slight pause. Then, in a beat or two, movement resumed. Greg led the charge.
"I'll be right downstairs if y'need me, Shtu-ball," the rockstar exclaimed, patting his son's head lightly.
Pearl and Amethyst passed by next, meeting Steven's gaze.
"...Us too," they remarked with a grin. Steven could feel his cheeks burning as he smiled, sitting up slightly in his bed.
Garnet's head turned slowly, following the procession until the last individual had reached the bottom of the steps. Carefully, Garnet sat at the edge of Steven's bed. It was quiet for a long time. Only the sound of Steven's congested, forced breathing could be heard at first.
"Garnet," the boy began, "Y-you can say, 'I told you so'. I… I deserve it."
The fusion chuckled as she reached at the nightstand for the nearby mug of tea, her sapphire gem clinging against the ceramic surface.
"You know," she began, handing the mug to Steven, "We've got quite the memories together... Do you remember when you were five? We'd just finished the house, and you'd only been living with us for about a week or so… And one night, I told you to clean up your toys. Of course, you weren't ready… Oh, and we fought, and yelled, and…"
Garnet paused, removing her glasses with a swish of her hand. Three bright eyes were looking down at the floor as she pressed on.
"...I scolded you. 'Steven,' I ordered, 'do as you're told'... And you said -"
"'You're not my mom.'," Steven finished hoarsely, his cheeks blushing even more deeply, "Yeah, I r'member…"
The two paused, looking at each other.
"Yes," Garnet sighed, "And… I needed to hear that."
Steven quirked his eyebrow as the fusion continued.
"Steven… there never has been, and never will be, anything like you. And I will always be proud of who you are, and I trust the confident choices you make… But you are your own amazing, wonderful, responsible person. You always have been…"
She looked down at her hands, both ruby and sapphire gems sparkling in the light.
"We just care about you so much… We're sorry that we forget this sometimes…"
The fusion gasped, as two clammy hands grasped hers.
"Garnet," the young human-gem hybrid rasped, his swollen eyes streaming with tears, "I may not always need a lesson… but I… I'll always need you."
With her own eyes tearing, Garnet embraced the young man - his sobs wracking against her as he sniveled and hiccuped.
"I'I'm s-sorry, G-garnet, I-I-"
"Shhh, shhh. There, there…"
She could feel his abnormally high body heat as she rubbed his back. Just then, Garnet's form dissipated with a flash into two separate entities.
"Here," Sapphire hushed, stroking her icy hands gently against the boy's flaming forehead and cheeks, "Better?"
"Mmhmm," Steven hummed in reply, laying back down in bed as his watery eyes clasped themselves shut.
"You just rest," Sapphire replied, her voice gentle. She turned to Ruby.
"Soup-warming duty?" the blue gem hinted.
"On it!" Ruby nodded, jogging towards the steps.
Giggling lightly, Sapphire followed promptly. She turned back to the human-gem hybrid.
"We'll be back to check on you soon," she called.
Eyes still shut, Steven nodded his head. Then, all of a sudden…
In an uproar, a chorus of 'bless you's' sang back at the young man as he sneezed.
"Th-thags!" he called back weakly with a sniffle.
Wrapping himself tightly in his pillowy comforter, Steven smiled weakly as he drifted off to sleep.