Several playlists and channels later, well into the night, Connie was asleep in a half curled ball, using Pearl’s leg to make up for how terribly small the couch cushions were. Steven had followed her example, still half sprawled across Garnet’s lap, huddled between the two Crystal Gems, with his fingertips barely brushing Connie’s.

That left Garnet and Pearl with no room to escape without disturbing either of them, and Pearl sat rigidly, one hand buried in Steven’s thick hair, the other wedged into the couch to give Connie space. Not that the human girl seemed to want it. She had been dozing off and on for the better part of the night, more often than not with her face pressed against Pearl’s shoulder.

“They can’t possibly be comfortable like this,” Pearl murmured, casting an uneasy look up at Garnet.

Steven answered with a rumbling snore, and Garnet gave the leg loosely draped over hers a soft pat. The boy didn’t stir. “He’s down for the count,” the fusion said, “Looks like you’re sleeping on the couch tonight.”

She wasn’t surprised that the joke went cleanly over Pearl’s head, and she chuckled to herself all the same. But when Pearl spoke, panic bubbling up in her chest, it cut Garnet’s mirth short.

“What do I do? Do I just sit here?” Pearl asked frantically, keeping her voice hushed, she reached instinctively for her friend, but stopped herself short, a hand hovering between them. Long fingers twitched, longing to settle safely on Garnet’s arm, but with the past week weighing heavily between them, she didn’t dare. “Garnet, don’t go, please—“

“I’m not going anywhere,” Garnet tipped her head to the side, watching as relief and uncertainty flitted across the smaller Gem’s face. She indicated Steven’s location, still sprawled across her lap. Pearl nodded, pale cheeks dusted a soft teal. The fusion sighed, pulling her visor away from her eyes and allowing it to vanish in hand. The glow it generated drew Pearl’s gaze, and she slowly lowered her hand to stroke Steven’s back absently. Her fingers shook, just barely, but even in the dark Garnet could see the tremor plainly.

“You’re a wreck. You don’t need to worry about something going wrong while they’re asleep. It’s nothing you can’t handle, Pearl.”

An obedient nod wasn’t the answer she had hoped for. “Pearl, look at me.”

Sure enough, glossy blue eyes turned toward her at her request, wide and hesitant. “Garnet?”

“You can handle two sleeping children until morning. What you cannot do is change the past. And there’s no point wallowing in it. Just move forward.”

Pearl’s brows creased, thin lips turned downward in a frown. “I don’t…” she sighed, extracting her left hand from the couch’s maw to push back her hair. “Garnet, I hurt you so badly. Sapphire and Ruby, too. I almost got us all killed. By Peridot, of all things! I was so… so thoughtless.” Her vision swam, clouded with tears, and she scrubbed the back of her palm across her eyes to slow them down. “I was selfish and risked everyone. Everything. I can’t trust myself, how can I expect you to trust me again?”

“We’re talking about two different things.” Garnet’s voice was almost gentle—but Pearl could hear the beginnings of ire creeping in.

“I can’t stop thinking about it,” Pearl admitted in a whisper, “I couldn’t even consider your feelings. You mentioned finding Peridot at the hub, and it just… that was it. I couldn’t do anything else. Everything hinged on that.”

“You took it as a mission objective.”

Pearl laughed, but the sound was empty and hollow. “Still a Pearl,” she muttered sardonically, and Garnet felt her stomach churn at the pain in her companion’s voice. “I suppose being defective doesn’t mean I can think for myself after all. I can’t get by for a second without–”

“Pearl!” Garnet cut her off with a low hiss, “That’s caste talk. You’re your own Gem.”

Connie stirred against Pearl’s side, and she turned her attention to the girl, a good distraction. She held her breath, watched the wrinkle of the girl’s brow, and smoothed back a tendril of her hair from her forehead. When the girl visibly relaxed, sighed so contently that Pearl’s heart swelled in her chest, the Gem forgot to breathe. It was one thing for Steven to be affectionate and welcoming, when he had known her even before he could walk, but his friend, her student…

“How can any of you trust me with the mistakes I keep making? With the errors? My plans, my lessons, everything—How can I move forward on my own when I keep failing like this?” her voice was barely above a whisper. “If I make one wrong step, how many more casualties…”

Pearl jolted when Garnet’s fingers brushed her cheek, and she turned to find herself face to face with the fusion. “Stop. You haven’t been like this since the war,” Garnet whispered, voice a low rumble that the petite Gem could feel down to her core. She couldn’t help tightening her grip in Steven’s hair. “Trust me when I say that things are fine now. Here. With us. Focus on this, and do not lose yourself in what was or might be.” Pearl’s mouth opened, prepared to protest, and Garnet intercepted her with her fingers over her mouth to silence her.

“For tonight, you need to rest. Clear your mind of worries and guilt,” she said firmly, “You aren’t your mistakes. You’re bigger, stronger, and you’ll overcome them with time and work. Just close your eyes. Don’t think. Just listen to my voice.”

She obeyed, going without protest as Garnet pushed her into a reclining position. For the briefest of moments, the fusion looked uncertain—but barely—eyes darting in turn between the sleeping children, then back to Pearl’s pale face, barely illuminated by the moonlight that crept in through the loft window. Garnet’s fingers left her lips, settling over the hand on Steven’s head.

And Garnet began to sing.

To go on changing and without

Are both hard, but I like the two of us as we are

I go on spreading the wings of dreams on a back of showering stars

A space flight that makes the heart dance, to the far distance…

Let’s look for what smiles we lost by rushing too much

When I’ve forgotten freedom

You give me courage to look at the true face

Let’s dance in the stardust

Now in these joined hands

A small miracle is being born…

Despite herself, despite her best efforts, Pearl felt warm tears spilling down her cheeks. It had been thousands of years—it was a song Chrysoprase would sing after battle, one of the few old Homeworld songs that had lifted spirits rather than destroyed them. She knew every lyric, every note like the back of her hand, but her own voice had never held a candle to their comrade’s. Garnet’s voice, however, was warm and soothing and all-encompassing, and with only the two of them, the two sole survivors out of the thousands that fought for Earth, to fully understand its meaning, it held an entirely different meaning. This time, when she reached for Garnet’s arm, there was no hesitation, and she pressed her face into the darker Gem’s shoulder while she cried. Garnet’s fingers threaded through hers, resting her cheek against the cool surface of Pearl’s Gem, and she sang on.

Both long ago and now, we look at the starlit sky

I want to be reborn over and over next to you

When I’ve forgotten nature

You give me land to run on with bare feet

These overlapping shadows

A new history goes on overflowing

Let’s dance in the stardust

I go on spreading the wings of dreams on a back of showering stars

A night flight that makes the heart dance, to the far distance…

From where she lay, still nestled against Pearl’s side, Connie peeked up at the strange display before her. Garnet’s song was haunting and soothing, bittersweet and hopeful, and nothing like anything she had ever heard. She forced herself to look away, to give the Crystal Gems some kind of privacy, and found Steven staring at her, no doubt awake for the same reason she was. The boy reached, extending his hand just barely in invitation, and Connie nodded, slipping her hand into his palm.

In these joined hands

A miracle is being born…

I imagine when Steven gets older Connie really really gets him into books and sometimes he naps in the middle of a good one.

(He has yet to find his dad’s alien x human erotica romances but he doesn’t know that Connie sneaked them into her room)