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Dancing on Tiptoes

Chapter Text

Sheena found the Crystal gems... interesting, to say the least. Fascinating and wonderful, to say at best.

When Pearl told Sheena that she was something else—that being alien from another world, no, galaxy—Sheena's skepticism kept up walls of suspicion and doubt. Years of broken hearts and crushed dreams left supernatural and sci-fi novels abandoned in trash bins. Nevermind any idea that they existed. Despite her girlfriend's sincerity, Sheena wanted to remain a realist.

Then she met with Pearl on their third date, the One That Changed Everything. Walking in the forest outside of Ocean City, as per Sheena's need to escape people for the day, the two had stopped upon hearing a disturbing sound. A monster with gnarly teeth and no visible eyes, nothing that Sheena had ever seen before, had began scouring through the forest not too far away.

Against the roars of the mysterious, feral creature, Pearl had pulled a weapon from within the depths of the gem atop her forehead and lunged into action, taking care of the threat with ease. Agile, graceful, elegant ease. And she did not hesitate, not even for a second.

It. Was. Beautiful.

The doubt vanished as quickly as the monster did after being defeated by her alien girlfriend. It was gone as she watched Pearl swing her weapon, twirl it in the air, and stab it like it was nothing.

And as if a light switch was flipped, Sheena found herself returning to her teen and college years, when her love of fantasy novels and those cute women warriors and monsters were at its peak. Questions were asked, thrown out in flurries she could not hold back, and only some were answered, which drove her mad but never drove her away.

Sheena had stayed. For Pearl. Had grabbed her hands after Pearl put the monster's gem away. Asked if Pearl wanted to stay over her house for the night. Pearl had smiled, cheeks a soft blue, and accepted the offer.

At first, Sheena worried if her infatuation was just that, if she only fell for Pearl because of who—or rather what—she was, if Sheena only loved the fact that she was otherworldly, weird, interesting.

Then she learned more and more.

It was the small things, in the beginning. Two weeks after she and Pearl started dated, just five days after Pearl revealed her origins (not that Sheena was counting), Sheena met Steven's pet Lion. And not just a cat with a funny and cutesie name, either, but rather an actual bright pink lion that sauntered into the house like he owned the place. He drifted in and out of the house very similar to a stray cat she met in her college years.

When their eyes met, the lion had startled at her presence, but regained his composure. Turning his nose up at her, he had swiftly walked outside and lay across the porch.

"Basically a giant, pink cat," Sheena had teased, mostly to herself, but she had grinned down at Steven.

Steven had chuckled. "You should see him try to fit in cardboard boxes."

Now that Sheena needed to see.

It didn't take long until Sheena learned about... poofing , as they called it. If there was a sort of "scientific" name, Sheena didn't care either way.

Sheena had arrived at the temple unannounced, simply to surprise her Pearl. Instead, she received a surprise upon hearing that Pearl was hurt while fighting a corrupted gem somewhere in the mountains far from Delmarva. And saw Pearl's gem in Garnet's hands.

She had held back the panic biting away at her, and it thankfully lessened when the others properly explained it to her. After learning about their regenerative powers, she had ended up sitting by Pearl's lonesome gem, which was kept secure on a pillow as given by Steven.

Steven had told her that Pearl took a while to return, but Sheena still sat there for hours, listening to the television from Steven's room faded in the background.

Sometimes, Sheena would hold Pearl's gem if only for a few moments. The round gem was cool in her grasp, strangely small and delicate. When her hands started shaking, Sheena had to put it down.

When Pearl had regenerated, Sheena had looked her over, checking for wounds that were not there, but Pearl was already on a spiel about how regeneration worked, how it kept them alive, and...

But Sheena had stopped listening. Not just because she already learned all of this, but because she had pulled Pearl into a tight hug, surprising herself by how much relief she felt. How good she felt being able to hold her girlfriend in her arms again.

Then there was fusion, or How She Met Ruby and Sapphire.

They were just names at first, brought up in the middle of a conversation by Steven as he lay back against the sand. Whatever he said made Garnet chuckle and mess with his hair. Sheena looked over at them, eyebrows quirked.

As the family sat at the beach, Sheena glanced down at Pearl, who leaned against her. "So who are Ruby and Sapphire?"

Pearl's gaze met Garnet's, and the latter nodded curtly. Pearl looked back at Sheena, a sort of twinkle in her eye. "They're part of the Crystal Gems, and well... that's another thing we've never really explained to you."

"Oh, man, what is it this time?" Sheena asked half-teasingly, but also half-honestly. It had only been a week since Pearl poofed (again, not counting or anything!), and Sheena still felt on edge at the idea of watching that happen again.

"You see, it's called fusion. It's a little complica—" Pearl began, bringing her hands together, a sure sign Sheena understood as Pearl falling into "teacher-mode," as she called it.

Sheena, however, cut her off. "Like in HydraSphereX?"

None of the gems reacted, at most looking at her with quizzical expressions. She sighed. "Nevermind. So you guys... fuse together and become another being?"

"That's the basics of it, yes!" Pearl perked up, ecstatic that Sheena could follow.

Sheena smiled, lightly blushing.

"It's actually a little more than just 'becoming another being... but I think Garnet wants to demonstrate that for you." Pearl, more formal again, gestured her hand to her right. "To give you a proper understanding."

"Garnet?"

Sheena looked at Garnet, who stood before the pair now. Garnet knelt down in front of Sheena, holding out her hands, and she waited. Sheena caught on quick and took Garnet's thin wrists into her large hands. At the center of both of Garnet's palms were gemstones. Two of them, glistening in the sunlight.

A wide grin met Garnet's face, and light shrouded over her body. She slipped from Sheena's hold. Only her two gems stood out among the glow. Then the light split into two, and where Garnet once stood, two other, smaller beings were in front of Sheena, who was now holding one of their hands each.

"Hello there, Sheena," said the blue one with her bangs covering her eyes.

"Nice to meet ya... officially," the red one said, sporting the wide grin that heavily reflected Garnet's.

Sheena pulled her hands away from the two gems, jumping back at inch. "Whoa!" she exclaimed, hurriedly looking back at Pearl, who still sat by her side, unfazed. "Where did Garnet go?"

Pearl clasped her hands around Sheena's arm, squeezing it. "Garnet is a fusion, Sheena."

"Oh... ahh..." Sheena muttered slowly, her shock minimizing enough for her to bring the pieces together. Her body relaxed, and her eyes grazed over the two new gems. They each had one gem on their palms. One right, one left. "So... you're... you two are Garnet?"

"Yes," said the blue one, who Sheena guessed was Sapphire.

"All the time?"

"Yup. With only a few exceptions." Ruby threw her arm around Sapphire's shoulder. Sapphire giggled in her grasp.

"Why?" Sheena asked, baffled. If they could separate, why wouldn't they?

Ruby and Sapphire turned to one another, just staring, before they pulled each other in for a kiss. They smiled into their kiss, which was just flowing with pure joy and love . Their hand gems lit up, glinting in the sun's glare. The light spread throughout their bodies, and Sheena heard them giggling. They blended together in the mass of brilliant, shining energy.

The light vanished, and in their place, Garnet gazed down at Sheena, hands at her hips. Her smile was wide and warm, and she adjusted her shades.

"Because they love each other."

Sheena blinked, mouth falling open slightly. Garnet posed in front of her, with Pearl bringing her hands atop Sheena's shoulder.

Catching herself, Sheena looked over at Pearl.

"Sheena?" Pearl asked, eyebrows raised.

Sheena blinked, returning to reality. She gave Pearl a smile. "Crazy," she finally said, breathless. "It's just... crazy, you know?"

"That's not a bad thing, is it?"

Sheena couldn't turn away from Pearl's smile. "Not at all."

 

Chapter Text

Sheena didn't talk much for the rest of the afternoon. And if anyone was concerned about her near complete silence, they never bothered to ask. Something poked in her mind, like an intrusive stick. She briefly glanced at Garnet whenever they crossed paths. However, Sheena never said anything.

Once the sun began to set, Sheena knew she had to return home eventually. Pearl and Sheena stood up to leave. Garnet was already heading back toward the Temple, slipping away from the scene without a word. Sheena, holding Pearl's hand, hesitated.

I don't have to go back home... yet.

Her hesitation broke apart, and she turned to Pearl. "Hey, I kind of want to talk to Garnet about something," she said. "Do you mind if I talk to her... alone for a bit?"

"Of course, not at all," Pearl said, void of any hesitation Sheena was previously feeling. "If we don't see each other tonight, perhaps I'll hear you tonight on our phones?"

Sheena was tempted to tease Pearl by saying she didn't need to mention their phones at all, but let it slide just this once. "Sounds great," she whispered in Pearl's face, pressing a gentle kiss on Pearl's nose before pulling back.

Pearl walked toward the house alone with just one quick glance over her shoulder. Garnet stood at the doorway, as if waiting for Sheena, and Pearl spoke to her briefly before leaving the two of them alone, standing before the ocean with the setting sun.

"Pearl said you wanted to see me," Garnet said, taking her time to walk down the steps.

Sheena waited at the bottom of the stairs, shoving her hands into her pockets. "I wanted to talk to you, really." She paused, but added to clarify, "About... fusion, that is."

"Ah." The noise Garnet made was brief, but Sheena got the idea that she was saying 'I'm not surprised.'

Sheena just nodded.

"You looked like you wanted to ask me something."

"Am I that transparent?" Sheena teased with a smirk, though she doubted that alone would hide her blush.

"Only a little." Garnet adjusted her glasses, then made the hand waving gesture that said 'follow me.'

Sheena did as such. They walked along the beach, letting the crashing waves break the silence as Sheena contemplated over her questions—more specifically, how to ask them. But with a brief glance, Sheena saw that Garnet just followed alongside her, eyeing the view above them, the sky painted with streaks of pink. She was nothing if not patient, apparently.

Sheena kicked the sand before she said, "So... fusion. That's a thing you guys do." She cringed to herself. You're supposed to be the cool one here!

"Yes, it is," Garnet said, not one hint of sarcasm or tease dripping in her tone. Nothing that Sheena noticed. "And it's caught your attention, I'd say."

"A little," Sheena understated. She cleared her throat, pulling away a messy strand of hair from her face. "So it's... it's like a love thing? Well, it's why you're fused, anyway."

"It can be many things. All depending on who is fusing." Garnet stopped, and Sheena mirrored her. They exchanged glances (though Sheena wished Garnet would take off those darn shades), and Garnet slowly reached out her hands to gingerly take hold of one of Sheena's, cupping them like something delicate. "Fusion is the culmination of the feelings of two or more gems together. The fusion is a symbol of their relationship—whether it's family-love, romantic-love... or something else." Garnet shied away at the last bit, turning her head to the side.

"Amazing," Sheena breathed. "It makes you something else entirely, because you're ... well, you're you. I never saw you as just two gem aliens together." She clapped her hands together.

"It always makes for a fun surprise." Garnet grinned, and Sheena wondered if she was winking underneath her shades.

"Okay, so then where are Ruby and Sapphire? In here?" She gestured to her temple.

Garnet let out a short laugh. "Sort of. It's a little complicated."

"I like complicated."

"I see. Let's sit down, then."

Sheena blinked at the sudden request, but otherwise did not protest. They sat down in front of the ocean, watching the water curl up over the sand. Sheena took a pause to chuck off her sandals to dig her toes into the sand.

"Essentially, they're somewhere with me, a part of me. It's not like a machine, with Ruby and Sapphire working different parts. It's much more than that. It's all them, and also all me." Garnet brought her hand to her chest, wearing a gentle smile.

Sheena nodded but didn't reply thereafter. They paused and let the silence hang between them.

"Something tells me you still have something on your mind."

Sheena exhaled. "Well, I don't know how to ask, but... Ruby and Sapphire... they love each other." Squinting, she again held back cringing, feeling sheepish for saying something so obvious. Just the way their gazes hung over one another, by god, Sheena didn't realize how much she wanted something like that.

"After five thousand years, I'd like to think so," said Garnet. Her mouth perked up.

"Five thousand years. Wow," Sheena muttered under her breath, her cheeks warming up. "Do they... ever fight?" She tugged at a bundle of hair. "As part of you, that is. All those years, I'm sure some fights are bound to happen."

Garnet crossed her arms, looking towards the starry night sky. "Their fights are far and few in between. When they are struggling too much with their clashing emotions and thoughts, and can't come to a compromise that we can all handle, they can split apart without thinking." She shrugged. "It gives them time to think on their own and eventually meet with a much calmer discussion at hand. And then they can come together again as me."

Sheena smiled, but it fell when she realized she had yet to ask her question. "And they stay fused because they love each other," she said hesitantly, running her fingers through her hair. "Do all gems do that? When they love each other?"

"Not always," Garnet answered. "In fact, Ruby and Sapphire didn't intend to fuse the first time. They didn't know each other at all, back then. It was more of an accident."

"Accident?"

"That's a very different story." Garnet, ever the cryptic, just adjusted the shades and nodded at Sheena. "One that we best keep secret."

Though tempted to say I'm thirty-one years old, I'm sure I can handle it , Sheena hid the thought away. Because based on Garnet's vague description and solemn tone, perhaps she wasn't.

Sheena just rolled her eyes and asked, "How do you fuse by accident , though? If you... they weren't even in a relationship?"

"An act of love. They may not have known one another, but Ruby was willing to put her life at risk for Sapphire's safety, and that alone brought to life something wonderful."

Sheena snickered. "You?"

Garnet chuckled under her breath. "You're not wrong, but also a love with enough strength to last centuries."

"So in the end, you stayed together. All these years."

"Yes. The more time we spent together, we found out that we didn't want to leave one another. Not if we had a choice. It gave not just them a powerful bond, but also gave them a bond with me that cannot be broken easily."

"So you share a bond with them, too? Even though you can't really... meet them or talk to them?" Sheena stared at her, confused.

"No physical appearances required. It all comes from here." Garnet brought her hands together, palms against her chest.

"So cheesy," Sheena said, acting a touch dismissive, if only because she was continuing to wrap her head around what she was being told. No wonder the Crystal Gems didn't tell her much about their own world; humans would just get lost in all the oddities.

Garnet brought a hand onto Sheena's shoulder, bringing her attention back into reality. "But you asked if all gems fuse when they love one another. And they don't always. Each relationship is different, like I said," she said, and did something that caught Sheena off guard. With a flash, her glasses vanished into thin air, revealing three eyes. Not two,three .

Sheena yipped, unable to fight back the noise of shock, but Garnet continued, unfazed. "Even the ones where they're in love. Even if they love each other, they don't have to stay fused forever to express it. It's simply how Sapphire and Ruby wished to show their love for one another. However, I am a fusion of love, and I always will be." She brought her hands together, her feature so soft and gentle, as if lost in thought.

Sheena looked at her. Garnet was smiling, but not at anything except herself. Absolutely in love with herself, but not in the ways of narcissism. Perhaps some of that was in there, but Sheena didn't see that. She saw a fusion, a relationship sitting before her and simply admiring her love, their love.

Fusion. Oh, fusion.

"How... does it happen? You two did it just by kissing," said Sheena, not wanting to break the moment but finally forcing herself to.

"Gems can do it only intentionally, when their bond is strong enough. The two gems must work together to fuse into one being." Garnet paused, then cracked open a wide smile. "We prefer to do it by dancing, although that's not always the case."

"Dancing?" Sheena repeated, in disbelief. Thinking it and her binges of HydraSphereX over, however, she turned away. "Yup, figures. Dance moves are the way to go, I guess." When she looked back, she added, "Is there a particular dance or—"

Garnet said nothing, but Sheena still cut herself off. Garnet regarded her, and humming under her breath, she brought her hand over Sheena's knee. "You seem to be very curious about fusion. I wonder why that is."

The wonder was not a question in any regard. One of Garnet's eyebrows quirked. Sheena bit her lip. 

In an attempt to throw Garnet off, Sheena laughed in a low voice. "I'm just fascinated by the whole thing. Come on. I have never heard of anything like this. I can't help but be a bit curious just because I want to know. That isn't weird, is it?"

Garnet brought her hands up in defense. "Not at all."

Sheena thought to herself, wondering if she should stop with all of these questions surrounding fusion and ask the biggest question burning in her head. Even if it meant revealing her own stupid ideas and wonders, even if it meant exposing something like insecurity or worry, which was not how Sheena rolled—

Then her phone rang, vibrating in her back pocket.

"Oh, shoot." She retrieved it and saw it was her roommate. It was a mere text, although with the caps text messages, Sheena could only imagine them shouting. "I think I should... ahh..."

"You probably have someplace to go. Unless you have something else to ask."

Does she know somehow?

Sheena shook her head. "Uh, no. Well, I should head home now, but... I don't have anything else I want to ask." She gave Garnet a weak smile. "Thank you, by the way. I really do appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions."

"I'm always here." Garnet stood up, hands at her hips.

Sheena followed suit and took one step forward.

"I'm sure you have plenty of dance moves you'll want to learn by tomorrow."

Sheena recoiled and spun around. "Seriously, are you psychic or something?" she sputtered, losing control for a split second.

Garnet just smirked.

Blushing furiously, Sheena spun back around and headed toward her motorbike. Although as she thought about it, Sheena looked back at the sand, noticing the little speck that was Garnet. She smiled.

I AM going to learn some dance moves, and it's going to be amazing!

Chapter Text

Even on her best days, where she really tried , Sheena would find herself losing track of time and getting lost in the moment. Whether she was daydreaming or dealing with dreaded customers, time had no meaning or purpose some days. One minute on this day, she clocked in at work, right in the early morning for her crummy opening shift, which was combined with one of her longer shifts for the week.

Before she knew it, however, the clock on the wall struck two o'clock. The busy rush of customers for the afternoon craze drifted away until a few customers lingered. The final person who endured the long line for an iced coffee walked away with a content smile. With a long overdue sigh, her gaze fixed onto the clock. Only one hour until her hell was over.

"Thank god," she muttered under her breath. With the hush of the building, she instinctively reached for her phone, but something came to her. "Shoot."

The whole plan for the night was running through her brain now. Every detail that she had down pat, or at least she wanted them to. Looking around for any spying eyes, she turned around and hid herself in the corner, in a part behind the counter where customers couldn't see her and the cameras couldn't prove of her being irresponsible.

I'll be at our favorite spot on the cliff tonight at 6. You should be there, too.

Sent. Sheena grinned to herself, knowing she was feeling too proud but felt no regrets.

"Dominick, you're still on shift!"

She slipped her phone into her front pocket. Spinning around, she met the gaze of her sharp eyed manager, who bore a stern expressin. She smiled. "Don't worry, Ger. I've got my eye on this place."

Geralin stared at her for a moment before walking into the back room with a sigh.

By three oh-five, Sheena was out the back door, jogging towards her motorcycle. In the blink of an eye, she sped down McGann road. As she came to a stop a block from her house, her phone vibrated. She peeked at her phone for a moment to see Pearl's response.

Okay! I'll be there!

Smiling wide, her gaze averted back to the road and she finished her long ride home with energy bubbling in her chest.

Upon entering her apartment, she chucked off her shoes with a kick of her feet, one-by-one. She untied her apron, letting it drift to the floor. By the time she opened and shut her bedroom door, she had taken off her tan work pants.

Now alone and pantsless, Sheena scoured through her closet, inspecting every hanging piece of clothing for something she found suiting for her night. Any nice looking top or—well, she almost thought dress, but suddenly remember she didn't have any of the sort. The last dress she wore was for a wedding, and her thighs were burning by the end of the night.

So no dress, nothing fancy. In fact, the only "fancy" attire hidden in the depths of her closet were a few tops, mostly black, and more of them were just a little too revealing than not. She only wore them while on a free weekend night, where she and her roommate would find the nosiest and busiest bar, on lonely nights when a one night stand didn't sound like a terrible idea.

Grimacing to herself, she pushed those tops further into the closet, letting them sit in darkness.

Someone knocked on her door, but before she could reply, her bedroom door opened. A mess of short red hair appeared from the crack in the doorway. "Your place is a mess."

"Addie!" Face flushed, Sheena grabbed one of her sandals on the floor and chucked it in Addie's direction. Addie stayed in place, yet Sheena watched her sandal hit the wall beside Addie. "How'd you get inside in the first place?"

"Your door was unlocked. And I just need to borrow your vacuum. Mine's busted, and my paycheck isn't coming around until Friday." Addie looked back into the living room, then returned their gaze to Sheena with eyebrows quirked, a judging look that Sheena only took a little seriously. "You don't seem to be using it for now."

Sheena rolled her eyes, turning around and grabbing a pair of ripped jeans. "Alright, go ahead," she mumbled somewhat dismissively. She heard Addie begin to step out, but something came to her. "Wait!"

Addie was already walking into the living room, but they stopped. Sheena walked and pulled an orange top on, struggling not to run into the doorway. All dressed, she glanced around and tried to hide her shame that yes, she was pretty terrible at keeping her apartment clean. Although her roommate, she defended, was no better.

Instead of bringing that up, she returned her focus to Addie. "Didn't you take dance lessons?"

"In college, for god's sake," Addie snorted. "It's been years since I got actual lessons, so why're you asking now?"

"I could use some practice."

"The hell you do." Addie chuckled under their breath. "You go all out at parties, and you know it. Remember Chantelle's last month, at the hotel?"

"I'm talking about real dancing, though."

"So not the kind where you almost break your hip while breakdancing?" Addie smirked.

"I didn't." Sheena pointed a finger, her face a soft pink. "And, well, not that I need to learn. I'm thinking more like, ballroom dancing. Or something similar. Just something slow and gentle."

"Slow and gentle?" Addie repeated, adding in a hint of disbelief. They paused, looking Sheena up and down. "Are you doing something with your girlfriend?"

Sheena brushed a hand behind her head. "It's kind of complicated, but... essentially, yes."

Addie grinned with genuine amusement. "You're such a sad little gay thing. Come here." They gestured for Sheena to move forward.

Sheena flashed a smile and walked over to Addie, letting her arms wave helplessly in the air until Addie guided them to their shoulders.

They gave her the simplest instructions, the sorts of things that Sheena probably should have known, but also would probably have completely missed if she didn't ask for Addie's assistance. "If we're talking slow dancing, you should put your hands over her shoulders—like here. Or at her hips. Whatever works." "Don't go too fast, but not too slow. There's a rhythm to it. You want to match your dance partner." "Don't think about it, or else your hands are going to start sweating.

"And don't be afraid to spice it up a bit." They pulled one hand away and spun Sheena in place.

"Hah! Trust me, I won't be." Sheena stopped spinning and locked eyes with Addie again. "Great. Despite not having gone to classes in, what, eight years, you're a natural," she added as they danced around the room at a slow and delicate pace. Her eyes grazed over the floor.

Addie shrugged. "I adapt." They made a noise in the back of their throat. "Hey, quit looking at your feet. Don't you want to give your girlfriend flirty looks while dancing? You know, like you do every time she comes here?" They laughed under their breath.

"I'll step on something," said Sheena, keeping her focus on the ground. She walked over a towel she abandoned on the floor.

"Only with that attitude, you will. Just look up and have some confidence in yourself."

"I am incredibly confident. I'm absolutely brimming in it. Just look at me."

"I can tell." Addie's dry tone spoke volumes.

Sheena said nothing, not changing her focus.

"Sheena."

Rolling her eyes, Sheena glanced up.

"Look, I don't know why you suddenly wish to learn how to dance for your girlfriend, but don't stress too much over it, okay?"

Sheena hesitated, but then... "I just want this to go well."

"I hope she wouldn't dump you over, uh, not-perfect dancing." Even Sheena noticed how awkwardly Addie struggled to follow their own logic.

"Nah." Sheena shook her head. "It's just... er, complicated."

Addie let out a breath. "Whatever happens, if you two really mean something to each other, then it'll probably go fine. In one way or another. Just don't freak out about it."

Sheena smiled. "I guess so."

Minutes passed, and the two of them slowed their already snail pace movements until they came to a complete stop in the center of the room. Addie moved away from Sheena, their hands pulling away from Sheena and to their sides. "That good? I'm not exactly an instructor, so..."

"No, you did great. I think I've got it down." Sheena brought a hand to her hip and thought over Addie's instructions and the way they moved around the room. For a moment, she imagined Pearl taking Addie's place, and a dreamy expression washed over her.

"Yes, you should be able to move around a room in a circle." Addie grinned.

Sheena scoffed. "You think I should wear something... I don't know, nice?"

"All of your things are ripped, from what you've shown me." Addie directed their attention to Sheena's current wardrobe, including the ripped jeans. "Isn't that out of style yet or something?"

Sheena smirked. "Then maybe, before I go, you can take me shopping—"

Addie walked away without another word, shutting the door behind them. Sheena stood speechless in the middle of the room, then let out another scoff, though she also wore a smirk. "Jerk."

-

The cliff lingered closer to Beach City rather than Sheena's town, but with extra time to spare, she arrived to her destination before Pearl. Checking her phone, she saw she had ten minutes until six.

Pulling her bag off of her shoulder, Sheena glanced over the view, the sky the softest blue. The moon began rising into the air, casting white across the ocean. As she took out her phone, she briefly contemplated taking a picture to capture the moment.

Instead, she pulled out a plastic bag, which rattled with every movement. Laughing to herself, she took out, one-by-one, small fake, flameless candles. Thinking to herself, she eventually sorted them by the edges of the cliff, surrounding herself with fake lights on both sides.

Could always use some ambiance. She stepped back and regarded the scene.

Nodding to herself, she then scrolled through her music. She found her newest playlist, one she downloaded before she left. They consisted of a few instrumentals she found that best fit the scene, stuff she didn't really find interesting, but it was worth it.

The sudden worry about Pearl's arrival caught in her stomach, and she pulled up the camera on her phone and inspected her appearance.

No makeup. Perhaps a touch of lipstick and some blush, but no mascara or eye shadow. Something that wasn't part of the plan, but rather something that sprung with a surge of inspiration.

She played with her hair, pulling and tugging at it until she finally embraced how messy it was. Pearl never seemed to mind, after all, despite her attitude towards cleanliness.

She managed to find jeans that had neither holes nor tears. With the stiff wind bringing a chill into the air, she donned a black jacket over her orange top. Despite the slight cold, however, she tossed off her sneakers, feeling the grass between her toes. A long breath of air fell from her lips.

"Sheena!"

Sheena spun around, her heart skipping upon seeing the petite, pale woman walking—now sprinting—up the cliff. “Pearl!” she cried out.

Pearl opened her mouth but stopped and observed the little details around them. Though initially looking confused, a smile greeted her face. "Now what's all of this for?"  

"I wanted to do something a little different." Sheena shrugged. "And they're fake, just so you know."

"Well, that's good! I'd hate for there to be some sort of fire hazard. But what's the occasion?"  

"Can't a woman just randomly set up a nice date for her girlfriend for no reason?"

Pearl thought it over, and Sheena wondered if she actually had to think over an answer. "I suppose, although I'm sure you have something in mind." Curiosity flickered in her eyes.

Sheena's mouth broke into a wide smile. "Pearl, the alien and the mind reader." She pulled out her phone and found her newest made playlist. Soft, slow music blessed the air, piano music chiming in with delicacy. A moment of peace passed between them, then a violin pitched in.

Pearl stared at her with a knowing look. "This really is quite a surprise."

Sheena felt energy vibrate through her body, unable to contain her anticipation further. She swayed her hips as she walked even closer to Pearl, their bodies almost touched. "You a dancer Pearl?" She offered Pearl a hand.

"I'm familiar with many styles," said Pearl, although her face and her tone did not boast modesty. Pearl accepted Sheena's hand and pulled herself against Sheena.

"I don't doubt that. Why don't you show me one?" Sheena's voice was low, her head leaning in close to Pearl, just a breath away from her lips.

They fell into a similar rhythm, taking slow steps side to side, rotating with every step. They spun their way around the cliffside, saying nothing.

Sheena spun Pearl in place, eliciting a burst of shocked, bubbly laughter from the alien. Sheena joined in the laughter as they came back together and began to not just move away, but sway to the music. This is perfect, thought Sheena as they pulled away from one another, only one hand each bringing them together. They exchanged large, carefree smiles. I'm so close... Pearl spun toward Sheena. Once Sheena held in her arms, she dipped Pearl, who shrieked with laughter. Pearl lifted her head up, and Sheena stared at her girlfriend and her dreamy gaze. Pulling her back up, Sheena wrapped her arms around Pearl, bringing her into an embrace. Sheena felt a tightness in her chest. Her chest was heaving. Why was she so nervous all of a sudden? That wasn’t how she did things. Sheena, the cool, confident. Not the mess afraid of messing up a dance.

Without another thought, she leaned in and brought her lips onto Pearl’s.

She shut her eyes, anything to stop herself from shaking, especially when Pearl leaned in just a little bit, as well. The moment was absolutely wonderful.

Yet seconds passed, and no feeling beyond the joy of the kiss spread through her. Garnet failed to describe the feeling of fusing (or should she have asked Ruby and Sapphire about that?), but Sheena imagined there was… something. Some sort of sparkling feeling, or a moment where she would have felt like she was weightless, flying through clouds and dreams.

But nothing.

Opening her eyes, she gazed at Pearl, who gave her a dreamy smile, like her mind was wandering.

Pearl. Pearl still stood there in Sheena’s arms. She was still there, holding Pearl close to her chest. And suddenly, Sheena wished she could sink into the depths of the earth. They had long since pulled away from the kiss, but Pearl had said nothing regarding Sheena’s silence nor anything about the shift in her expression.

“Wh-what…” Sheena muttered, but between them, it was still so loud.

Pearl blinked.

“Nothing happened,” she continued. That magical feeling faded. Sheena looked around at the reality around them.

Pearl’s eyebrows knitted downward into a mixed expression of concern and confusion. “I’m sorry?”

Sheena stepped back, releasing Pearl from her grasp. “It’s nothing,” she said lamely. “I… I don’t know why I said that.”

What went wrong?

The song changed into with a somewhat faster beat, with drums settling in. Sheena shot a cruel look at her phone, despite knowing it would change nothing.

Pearl stared at her, unfazed. “Something’s clearly upsetting you.” Pearl attempted to take a cautious step forward, her heel already on the grass.

However, Sheena moved away, though not to escape Pearl’s advances. She paced around the cliff, murmuring to herself rather to grant Pearl an answer. “Did I do something wrong? How? Did I mess something up or—”

She stopped with a rush of another thought invading her mind. She ran through Garnet’s talk once more, thinking back to every piece of advice, the instructions Garnet gave her. And the one thing she wanted to ask, so desperately wanted to bring up in a casual way, but could not bring herself to, and she told herself to just try. Hanging her head and lifting it up by the palms of her hands, she walked over to Pearl and said, “I’m sorry, Pearl.”

“You have nothing to apologize for,” said Pearl with enough sincerity to calm the sickness in Sheena’s stomach. “I—we were having a wonderful time!”

Through her fingers, Sheena saw Pearl’s feet brush over the grass under them. Tilting her head up a touch, Sheena’s gaze fixed onto Pearl. Pearl, smiling with so much warmth it made the night more bearable, brought her hand to Sheena’s cheek. “Perhaps you can fill me in on something. What, exactly, didn’t happen?”

Eyes shut, Sheena leaned her head into Pearl’s touch. Opening her eyes again, she got lost in Pearl’s large eyes and said, “Pearl.”

“Yes?”

“Can humans fuse with gems?”

Pearl flinched, her hand twitching away from Sheena’s cheek, which Sheena brushed her fingers over. Then, just as Sheena contemplated repeating the question, Pearl responded. She did something but she did not answer the question.

She laughed.

And not the bell-like giggle that sounded playful and cute. Or rather, it started out like that, but escalated into a guffaw where Pearl had to wipe an amused tear from her eye.

“P-Pearl!” Sheena exclaimed, cheeks ablaze.

Pearl calmed down. “Oh, no, Sheena! I’m not laughing at you! It’s just… fusion requires bodies of light to combine as one.” And like with the flick of a switch, Pearl spun back into instructor mode, her amusement slipping away. “Humans are flesh and bone, and just don’t have any sort of way to possibly fuse with gems, or even other humans. I just found the whole idea amusing, that’s all.”

Sheena stared at her, only to bury her hands back into her face. Her face must have been red as a tulip. “Yeah… yeah, that’s what I thought.” A long, somewhat exaggerated groan escaped her lips. “Oh, man, what was I thinking?”

Pearl observed Sheena’s reaction. “Why are you asking?”

Sheena wasn’t quite sure if Pearl really had no idea, or if she just wanted to force Sheena into confessing. For the sake of her own sanity, Sheena stayed silent. Her hands fell to her sides, and she averted her gaze from Pearl, suddenly finding the grass fascinating.

An audible exhale caught Sheena’s attention, a small noise akin to a gasp of realization. “Is that why you brought me here? And why we were dancing?”

Sheena just nodded.

Another quiet exhale. “Well, why in the world—”

“I wanted to know what it felt like, Pearl?” She pushed her head up to fix her gaze onto Pearl, who flinched at the sudden change in her tone. Noting this, Sheena continued in a softer voice, “Garnet explained it to me, and the more I learned… I don’t know, I really wanted to have that with you. That-that…” Any burst of confidence shattered and crumbled, and she glanced down again, tugging at her jacket. “It just sounds like something beautiful and amazing, something I’ve never heard humans experience, and I wanted to share that experience with you.”  

Pearl’s hands gradually reached her chest, clasped over one another. “Oh, Sheena…”

“I didn’t ask her, though. About humans and gems, even though I should have.” Sheena laughed, but it was bitter. “It’s so embarrassing.”

“I think it’s admirable. I don’t blame you for trying, either.” After a pause, Pearl let out a quick laugh. “Why, I remember Greg doing the same… thing.” Her voice quieted into a murmur. Her features hardened, and one hand brushed under her chin, her thumb touching her lips. Her focus turned to something else.

“Uh… Pearl?” Sheena stood frozen, at a loss.

It didn’t help that Pearl began laughing again. Mouth shut, shoulders shaking just a bit, she turned away for a moment to laugh to herself.

Sheena blew out a breath of air. “You have the weirdest laughing tendencies.”

“It’s okay, Sheena!” Pearl said upon glancing back at Sheena.

“Huh?”

“It’s very much okay that we can’t do some things together, like fusion or… eating. Especially that last one.” A brief grimace fell on her lips before her smile grew. “You don’t have to understand everything about me and the gems, or anything about our culture. And that’s because I don’t entirely understand you humans, either. I probably never will! Five thousand years on this planet, and I’m still baffled. Why, just the other day, you called me crying at two in the morning about some human television show—”

“Waiting for four seasons for the main character to find some form of happiness just gets to people,” Sheena muttered, pulling and then twirling the sides of her bright pink hair.

“We don’t need to completely understand each other’s cultures, though. It’d be foolish try to think we could.” Pearl pushed her hands to cup both of Sheena’s. “But that doesn’t change anything about our relationship.”

Sheena sighed. “But I want to. I like learning about you guys and what you do, what you’re like.” She smiled softly down at Pearl. “It shows me so many sides of you that are just amazing.”

Pearl blushed the lightest blue. “Oh, it’s-it’s nothing.” Her blush faded. “Still, I’ll be more than happy to show and teach you about our culture—that we can discuss, of course.”

Sheena nodded.

“But fusion… a fusion encapsulates a relationship between gems.” After a pause, Pearl’s eyes glossed over, but tears didn’t fall. “Relationships between humans and gems are… different. And they always will be. I think it’s better to... embrace that, don’t you think?”

Sheena brushed some strands of hair behind her ear. “Yeah, I suppose you’re right. A-are you okay, Pearl?”

Pearl gave her a tooth-filled smile. “I’m feeling wonderful. Actually—” Pearl spun and skipped with dramatic grace, standing a few feet away from Sheena. She kept her back to her girlfriend.

“What are you doing now?” Sheena asked through some chuckles.

Pearl spun around, stretching out her arm within Sheena’s reach. She gave Sheena a look, eyes bright and no longer glistening with threatening tears. “Care to dance?”

Sheena beamed, her face warm. “Yeah—yes. Absolutely.”

Her hands wrapped around Pearl’s, and they danced around on top of the cliff. The music in the background continued, violins caressing the air.

They never fused, never could, but Sheena felt something. As she held her gaze on Pearl’s face as they danced in the grass, Sheena’s shoes off, as she dipped Pearl again and took in the joy radiating off of Pearl’s features.

Sheena worried, at first, if her infatuation was just that, if she only crushed on Pearl because of what Pearl revealed about herself and her friends, if Sheena only loved the fact that she was otherworldly, weird, interesting.

But then she fell in love.