(A/N: A small idea that just nagged and nagged at me until I wrote it, takes place shortly after "Back To The Barn" and looks more at the 'age difference' between the gems. I know Peridot isn't really a child because age isn't a factor in their creations but she is the youngest and likely only a few years old. Besides...I love kid!Dot being mommed by the gems and a sister to Steven.
Small warning: contains slight violence and disciplinary corporal punishment.)
"Do you have any sixes?" Steven asked Peridot as he flipped through his cards.
"That's when you say 'go fish.'"
Peridot threw down the deck in annoyance. "Why do I say 'go fish?' Where is the logic there? What are we fishing for? Are these cards in your earth ocean? I don't understand!"
Steven laughed. "No Peridot, see the cards?" Steven held up one and flipped it around. It had an illustration of a goldfish on the back. "They have fish on them, that's why it's called 'Go Fish.'"
"But WHY?" Peridot shrieked, snatching the card and shaking it. "WHAT RELEVANCE DOES THIS GAME HAVE TO FISH?!"
Steven paused. "You know...I don't really know, but you gotta hurry up and take your turn. I gotta meet Connie in a few minutes and the gems are going to be back from their mission any moment now." He stopped and looked at the clock. "Whoa, actually I need to get going now! Uh..." He looked awkwardly at the green gem. "You should...probably get back to the bathroom before the gems get back."
Peridot's face fell. "I don't like it in there," she growled. "It's dark and stinks and I'm all alone. Not that I prefer the gems' company, but...you aren't so bad."
"Yeah." Steven frowned sympathetically. "But I don't want them getting mad or beating you up because of it so you better go." He opened the front door and waved to her. "I'll see you in a few hours, okay? We can finish our game later!"
Peridot scowled at the door and she scowled even more when she heard the sound of the warp pad go off behind her, eyes narrowed hatefully.
"Yo, whatcha doing out of your cage, nerd?" Amethyst asked snidely behind her. "It's not 'Build-A-Bot' Day, we don't need you for any geeky things today."
Peridot whirled furiously around. "Oh yeah, I forgot I only exist when you need me."
"Yeah, excuse me for not being buddy-buddy to the runty bean that tried to kill us."
"I was just doing my job!" Peridot snarled. She was getting tired of the gems' treatment of her, and she was sick of living in that stupid stink hole. "Why do I have to stay in the bathroom when I'm without any weapons? I'm harmless to you all."
The gems stepped off the warp pad. "Peridot, just cooperate," Garnet said tiredly. Pearl attempted to give the green gem a polite smile.
"Let's just try to avoid anymore confrontations and just listen, okay? I think we've had enough problems lately." Peridot glared up at her, the frustration boiling in her starting to spill out, and with Steven not here to quell the rage, it grew.
"What's wrong, gems? Are you all so weak and pathetic that you can't take an unarmed KINDERGARDENER and have to resort to locking her in a bathroom because you can't handle her?"
Amethyst growled and pulled out her whip. "I can handle you just fine you little wimp! Didn't you learn your lesson last time Pearl beat you up?!"
"That was with the robot! I doubt she could deal that sort of damage without the aid of technology!"
Pearl huffed. "I didn't need technology to punch you in the face, you little-!"
"Pearl enough," Garnet said. Her tone became harder. "Peridot, enough."
"No!" Peridot snarled. "I'm tired of being pushed around by you—you stupid ROCKS! You're traitorous clods that have done nothing but SHOW HOW PATHETIC YOU ARE and if it wasn't for your Rose Quartz you would have just faded into the-" Suddenly she was grabbed swiftly by Garnet, who held the struggling thing by the collar and started dragging her towards the temple door.
"Yeah, that's right!" Amethyst whooped. "Kick her green butt, Garnet!"
Garnet slammed the door and practically tossed the brat to her feet, fists clenched. "You need to stop," she growled and started to stalk towards her.
"You don't scare me," the tiny gem said in a shaky voice, even as she tried to back up. Garnet stormed towards her and slammed her foot in the ground, splintering the tiles. Peridot tried to hold back a whimper.
"Not so confident now without Steven here to protect you, are you?" Garnet asked with a sneer. "And less chatty when you realize you're in trouble."
"N-no, wait..." Peridot was running out of options. Garnet was blocking the door, and with every step that Peridot attempted to make, the larger gem would block her means of escape. Peridot contemplated darting through her legs, but didn't trust the large gem not to crush her.
Garnet closed in, and the young gem's terror mounted. There was nowhere to hide, she had no weaponry and even her feeble little slaps that were enough to hurt Steven couldn't do a thing on a large gem like Garnet. "Steven!" Peridot shrieked out at the top of her lungs, even though she knew it would do no good. "STEVEN HELP ME!"
Garnet's, eyes, dark and wrathful underneath her visor, darkened. "Steven isn't here Peridot, he's out with his friend. Looks like you're caught."
"Nuh-no..." The tiny gem tried to put some distance between them, quite honestly beginning to fear for her life at this point. "No, please don't shatter me! I-I..." She whimpered. "Wa-wait, you promised remember? You promised Steven you wouldn't hurt me! You know I still have information that is of value to you!" Backed up against the wall, she gave one last threatening snarl. "BACK UP YOU WORTHLESS WAR MACHINE!"
Garnet suddenly reached out and snatched the small gem up by her wrist, temper boiling. "I'VE HAD ENOUGH OF YOUR SNIDE COMMENTS YOU LITTLE GEMBRAT!" She jerked the Kindergardener up by her arm. "And I'm going to PUT YOU IN YOUR PLACE!"
"Go ahead, I DARE YOU!" Peridot yelled.
It was tempting to use her gauntlets, it really was. She could deal massive damage that way and send the little parasite right back to her gem, but... their little boy crossed her mind and she knew that she couldn't. So Garnet decided on a different tactic. Equally as painful but more concealed, and wouldn't poof the brat away. She raised one leg and threw down the tiny green thing. Then her hand came down hard on the small gem's backside.
"Augh!" Peridot yelped in surprise and thrashed her small legs. "What in Homeworld's name DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING!?" She screamed and kicked and beat her tiny fists against Garnet's leg and her rage could probably be heard through out the temple. The screams were deafening and incredibly melodramatic. Garnet had to roll her eyes. A few pops to her butt and the brat acted like she was being murdered.
"I'm reminding you of where you are!" Garnet hissed over Peridot's commotion, and she swatted her fiercely once more. The young gem over her knee let out a gasp. "You're on my turf now, Peridot! You have nothing over us, and you're completely at our mercy! You are in OUR custody and I will not tolerate the way you treat me and my friends any longer!'
The screaming fit calmed down and instead Peridot's face twisted in discomfort as she hastened her attempts to kick away from the larger gem. Her fists clenched in distress and she let out a whimper. "A-ah! All you're succeeding in doing is just proving what awful monsters you are!" she yelled, the pain and frustration making tears threaten to leak.
Garnet's face screwed up in hate and she raised her hand higher so the swats were devastatingly harder. This produced louder shrieks, and quickly, crying from the captive gem, whose struggling became desperate. "I'M THE MONSTER?" she yelled at her, delivering harsh bruising spanks. "I AM? I'M NOT THE ONE INVADING AN INNOCENT PLANET AND THREATENING THE LIVES OF AN ENTIRE SPECIES! I'M NOT THE ONE PLANNING ON COMMITTING MASS GENOCIDE!"
"I WAS JUST DOING WHAT I WAS TOLD!" Peridot yelled through her sobs, in a loud enraged scream. "I was just following ORDERS! I didn't know ANYTHING about this planet! I didn't know it had lives worth anything! I didn't even know what the Cluster was at first! I didn't know what you went through or what they went through! I didn't know Steven! I didn't know Pearls were anything more then droids! I didn't know that fusion was more then a war tactic! I WAS NEVER TAUGHT IT!"
Garnet's bared teeth slowly unclenched and her hand began to lower as the small green gem thrashed and screamed through the tears streaming down her face, expression screwed up in hatred.
"I didn't ask to be a part of this thing in the first place!" Peridot screamed. "I didn't ask to come to earth! I didn't ask to be your prisoner, stuck in a smelly cubicle! I never asked to serve Yellow Diamond—I NEVER EVEN ASKED TO BE MADE!"
The fusion became still, her eyes wide with shock. She stopped hitting her, but Peridot punched the air and her leg and tried to inflict as much hurt as she possibly could for all the hurt that was ever given to her.
By now the small gem was barely understandable through her sobs, which began to come out in increasingly louder fits, her voice hoarse with rage. "I just wanted to do my job! That was all! I was just supposed to check on the stupid cluster! All I wanted to do was get home, but you destroyed everything I have! I wasn't even AFTER YOU ANYMORE!" she yelled. "I was just trying to get HOME! I was just trying to get off this stupid hunk of rock! But what did you do?! You break my communication pod, you destroy the hub—you take my LIMBS! You just kept trying to hurt me and keep me here! You got rid of anything I have to defend myself!"
She had to stop to take a breath that gems didn't even need, crying harder and thrashing harder. "And it's still not enough for you! You have to demean me and hurt me! You take advantage of the fact that I'm weak and tiny to beat me up! You trap me in the bathroom like some kind of animal! You tie me to a pole! You call yourself a hero, but you're nothing but a BULLY!" she screamed. She threw back her head and finally wailed. "I JUST...WANNA...GO...HOOOOOME!"
The fight and the hate left and all that remained was a crippling sadness. Large tears poured down the small gem's face as she wailed endlessly, sobbing and hiccuping and dispelling all of the pain and homesickness into one large crying fit. She wasn't even trying to get off the woman's knee by this point. She just hung limply and bawled. The gems had done what they intended: they had completely broken her.
Garnet just sat there in stunned silence, watching as the poor gem cried harder then she had even seen Steven cry as a baby. Every sob could probably be heard through out the temple. It was harsh and hysterical and filled with so much pain that it tugged at her deep within.
The gravity of everything the small gem had just said began to sink in, and the harder Peridot cried the more Garnet felt like the bully she was accused of being. Here she was hurting a defenceless gem that was even younger then Amethyst, and perhaps, the closest thing to a child that existed in their species. And deep down she knew that Peridot didn't know better. She was never given a chance to, it was instilled into her from her harvest. In fact, the small gem wasn't even given a choice. She was a slave from the moment she was harvested. She never even had the ability to turn to the Crystal Gems during the war. She wasn't even made yet. Every action, every thought...was what she was told. And unlike them, she didn't have anyone to rescue her like they had Rose. Homeworld was so awful when they were there. Who knew how much worse it was now?
Ruby and Sapphire were battling it out in her head, but they both had the same thought. What would Rose say about this? What would Rose think of her now, hurting and terrifying a vulnerable gemling because she could. What did this say to Steven? "Tread carefully or I'll beat you too"? They didn't threaten him or hurt him every time he did something problematic. They were supposed to be the "good guys" but right now all they were doing was teaching a young and impressionable gem that bad behavior couldn't be unlearned without terror, and pain.
This isn't what Rose would have wanted...and she would be disappointed if she could see this now.
Slowly, Garnet reached down and uprighted the bawling gem. Time became nothing but a watery blur to Peridot, and she didn't even realize that she was sitting up in Garnet's lap now. Tears poured down her face and her nose ran. Her entire face was a mess of mucus and tears but Garnet didn't care about that as she let the wailing gem lean against her.
Peridot was so broken that she buried her face in Garnet's chest and just let out tiny, broken little warbles. "I just...wanna...go home..." she whimpered in a tiny pained little mew. "I just...wan'...g-go...h-ho...home..."
"I know." But they couldn't give her that even if they wanted to. The warp pad was destroyed and it would take ages to build a functioning vessel to take them to Homeworld. And even though the gemling didn't see it, she was better off here. There she was just a number and something that could be mass produced. There she was a prisoner. Garnet lowered her head. Here...she was just their prisoner. How was it any different? She was someone's captive no matter where she was.
Peridot's sobs slowly started to quiet in exhaustion. She gave a tiny little gasp and a whimper when Garnet slowly draped an arm around her. "W-what are you doing?" she whimpered, trying to get away. "P-please...don't hurt me again!"
"No...no..." Garnet said quietly. Another arm fell down to the tiny one's level, and she put a gentle hand on her head. "No more hurting." She reached up and pulled off her visor, looking down at the gemling with three very somber eyes.
Peridot didn't know what to make of the gesture, but when she felt fingers thread through her hair it became more comforting and less threatening. She felt warm instead of cold with fear.
Peridot gazed up with shock and Garnet summoned a cloth from her gem, wiping the small thing's messy face. "You're right, we've been bullies. Certainly you are not faultless but we aren't either. We've been taking advantage of the fact that you're defenseless and small and we've been pushing you around and hurting you. In the process of trying to keep this planet safe I forgot what Rose Quartz taught me and all of us. ...Forgiveness."
Peridot wiped her eyes and looked curiously up at the larger gem.
"If it wasn't for Rose's ability to believe that everyone was capable of change the Crystal Gems wouldn't be here right now." She smiled sadly. "I guess I forgot my mentor's teachings. I've never even given you a chance to change, and I'm sorry. Steven believes in you...I know I should try too. We need to do better...not just for the Cluster and saving this planet, but for each ourselves, and the team."
Peridot sniffled and she looked away, not sure what to say or what to make of this.
"You have a lot to apologize for too," Garnet told the gemling. "And you know it...but I'm not going to push you. This is about my apology, and you can say something when you're ready. For now... let's just try our best. ...Okay?"
A tear squeezed out from under the gem's visor and her face scrunched up in pain as she covered her face. "I'm so sore." Garnet wiped the solitary tear.
"I should have waited until I was calmer to confront you," Garnet said quietly. She never thought she'd actually be concerned if she really hurt Peridot. It wasn't like she could be injured that badly with the strength of their bodies and the menial childish punishment, but still...Garnet knew it was unnecessarily violent and harder then it ever should have been. "Let's make something clear though."
Peridot blinked as Garnet lifted her up by the underarms and hoisted the youngster up so she was face to face and eye to eye. Garnet's three eyes glared sternly into the tiny gem's wide green ones. "I will not tolerate you mistreating my team-mates the way you have been. No negative comments, no awful insults—especially to Pearl..." Her expression darkened more and Peridot bit her lip.
"I-I understand," Peridot said quietly. She held her breath when Garnet grabbed her chin and made her look her dead in the eyes. All three, very serious eyes.
"I mean it," Garnet said, her tone holding a very real warning that made the smaller gem want to sink through the floor. "Or there will be a repeat of what transpired." Peridot's green eyes filled with fear at the very thought and she gave a rapid nod of agreement. Then Garnet softly set her down on her feet.
"Let's head back." Garnet started for the door, but Peridot bolted behind her and backed away from the door as if it was on fire. She didn't say anything, but Garnet read the fear in her eyes. The fusion let herself give the slightest, coaxing smile. "It will be okay," she promised. The young gem eyed her sceptically for a moment, but after some hesitation she cautiously crept forward and stood so she was slightly hidden by the woman's large leg when the door opened.
Garnet looked at the two very curious gems but didn't feel like it was fair to Peridot to divulge everything that had just happened. "I handled it," was all she said and moved away from the green gem.
"Good," Amethyst muttered as she made a move to grab a broom and started pushing Peridot towards the bathroom, nudging her with the bristles like she was trying to scare away a raccoon. "Beat it Greenie, back to your poop-room." Normally the small gem would screech indignantly, but still upset about what happened she looked ready to burst into tears.
"Amethyst, that's enough," Garnet ordered. Pearl and Amethyst weren't sure what to be more shocked about: the fact that Garnet defended the gem, or that Peridot ran and hid behind Garnet for protection the moment Amethyst stepped away.
"What?" Pearl blinked. The green gem hid her face in Garnet's leg.
"We're not keeping her in the bathroom anymore," Garnet said and felt Peridot stare up at her in surprise. "Steven will be home soon and he'll want to see her anyway." She looked at the small gem. "Why don't you go upstairs to wait for him?" It would at least keep Peridot from fighting with the others and protect her from their prodding.
Pearl and Amethyst looked at each other but were given no explanation from either gem and the conversation was dropped. Peridot wandered up the stairs and Garnet sat on the couch. So many questions were on the two gems' minds. Whatever had happened in Garnet's room, it had definitely changed things. Not another word was spoken but the air felt...lighter, and the silence was a far more comfortable one.