Green Eyed Monster

The sun was slowly lowering into the sky, the relaxing end to what had been a beautiful spring day. Beach City was starting to get back to its warmer days after a fairly short winter that had brought a small snow blizzard for a near week straight. But now, as the days got warmer, the small town was enjoying the influx of tourists that had come in during Spring Break, an occasion that could last for a full month thanks to the differences between cities and states giving their students a week off.

In a familiar beach house set within a strange multi-armed statue, Connie Maheswaran was enjoying the start to her Spring Break by spending time with her best friend and his family. It had been a half day at her school that Friday, which allowed her to start her weekend early. Her plans for the upcoming week break were pretty simple – spend her days with Steven Universe and talk her way into doing a mission.

A sleepover had been a third option, but the very suggestion had been nixed by her mother before she had even given it a true plan and voice.

Connie normally hated this time of year. In the past, this usually signaled the time her family would move from one city to another. This was coming up to be her third year in Beach City and truthfully, this was probably the longest time her family had spent in one city at one time. Her father’s security position seemed to be a lot more stable than his previous ones and the commute to the hospital where her mother worked was less than a fifteen-minute drive.

For the first time she could remember, Connie would actually be able to spend her upcoming birthday here with Steven, the Crystal Gems, and her parents.

Her week had been heading in a great direction – Jeff, the boy she had accidently flipped in the hallway a few months ago, had the opportunity to share the same lunch hour, which meant neither one of them had to sit alone anymore. Added to that, she had been paired with Micah Thomas during her advanced life science course and he was actually proving to be an interesting young man, something she had been mentioning to Steven all week.

Connie’s immediate stop that day had been to head over to the beach house, after dropping off her school things. Due to her early arrival, the pre-teen had been able to catch Pearl for an extended sword training session before Amethyst and Garnet returned from a mission. And a few hours ago, Greg had stopped by with two pizzas for an early dinner.

The group now sat around the table playing 8 Marvels, a card building game where players were tasked to build the 8 marvels around Earth. The game, of course, incorporated many stories from Pearl in regard to some of these marvels – where some were actually gem structures that had been converted by humans into their own greater architectures.

Normally, the game was a friendly competition between the group. It was rare when Steven got to hang out with the Gems, his dad, and Connie that didn’t correspond with his birthday or some type of mission. It should’ve been an incredibly exciting and fun day.

Instead, there seemed to be a lingering tension between the two preteens that no one could pinpoint or even understand.

Connie was in the midst of telling a story about her science class that featured her new science partner, Micah. While Amethyst, Garnet, and Greg had tuned out amidst the scientific theories of the conversation, Pearl had been mildly interested in what their current project hypothesis was.

“So I guess we’re still between deciding Kepler’s 3rd law,” the youngest occupant was saying. “Or creating a renewable energy hydropower. Micah said he could deliver on the first, but I’m thinking the second could really put us over if we decide to go the science fair route this year.”

“Well,” Pearl replied, simultaneously glancing at her card hand. “Johannes did have a good theory and it certainly broke you humans out of that silly notion that the Earth was flat.”

“Yeah, Micah said he knows some of his parents’ friends still believe that,” Connie added. “I mean how exactly do you still believe, in this day and age, that the Earth is flat?”

“Heh,” Greg chuckled, rubbing the back of his neck. “That’s pretty wild stuff. What do you say, buddy?”

“The same thing I said last week when I heard this the first time,” Steven grumbled, staring intently at his cards before passing them to his left to Amethyst.

“If this is boring you, Steven…” Connie replied, though her tone was clear that she didn’t appreciate the fact if the conversation bored him or not.

“Boring wouldn’t be the word I would currently use,” came the retort.

It was rare, nay unheard of really, for the two youngest members to be picking at one another in such a way. They would joke and they would discuss, but the adults around them had never heard such caustic remarks from either teen before.

The tension continued to build, especially once Connie received her cards from Greg and discovered the one thing she needed was not in this current hand. Her irritated sigh and comment to the elder Universe that his cards didn’t hold the technological marvel she was looking for resulted in Steven’s annoyed, “Well, maybe Micah will build you one.”

That was the last straw for her apparently. Slamming her cards down on the table, she turned to the boy to her left and hissed, “Could I see you outside for a second?”

“Why?” Steven muttered. “Has Micah managed to part the sea?”

Standing, Connie repeated her request, though it was clear to everyone that it was anything but. “I really need to see you outside.”

If this was a normal day, Steven would’ve immediately apologized for his remark and done his best to calm Connie’s anger towards him. To wit, if this had been a normal day, Connie wouldn’t have been quite so angry at him in the first place.

As the Gems were discovering, this…was not a normal day.

Steven readily met the girl’s irritated stare by standing as well. “Ladies first,” he said.

“After you.”

“I insist.”

Connie turned in a huff, making her way towards the door with Steven following in her wake. Once outside, the two made sure to move away from the door, least the occupants inside heard their argument. However, it didn’t stop the group from seeing the gestures of their discussion, as the two managed to move themselves in front of the large bay window.

The adults were silent, at least until Amethyst asked, “What just happened?”

“This isn’t like them,” Garnet pointed out, adjusting her visor quickly.

Greg let out a tired sigh before running a hand over his face. “Yeah,” he said, the word being stretched as he tried to think of the best way to explain. “They’ve been like this for the last couple of days. I’m surprised this is the first time you’ve noticed.”

“This is the first time we’ve seen Connie all week,” Amethyst stated.

“Well no,” Pearl interrupted. “She had a quick training session on a few days ago. Actually, I did notice she seemed out of sorts, but she told me it was stress for an upcoming exam she was worried about.”

“Is that it?” the purple gem asked. “It’s not like Connie to get stressed over a test. Wait, actually…okay, that is actually like Connie, but she’s never so snarky about it!”

“And Steven’s usually a lot more supportive,” Pearl added.

“Well…” Greg rubbed the back of his neck before saying, “Steven hasn’t said anything to me, but I have a pretty good idea that he might be…”

The former musician’s comment was caught off with the sudden return of the two teens, their argument still ongoing. “Well, maybe I should just go home,” Connie was saying, turning on Steven and causing him to stop suddenly before her.

“That would be great!”

“Fine!”

“Excellent!”

“You don’t have to shout.”

“I’m not shouting!” Steven exclaimed, before realizing that he was indeed shouting. “Okay, I’m shouting!” he continued. “But it’s my house, so I’ll shout if I want to! But I’ll stop because there is no reason for me to be shouting.”

The two stared at each other for a few seconds before Connie quietly asked, “Mr. Universe, could I get a ride home?”

“Uh, yeah,” Greg sputtered, surprised at the request. “Yeah, sure thing, Connie. We, uh, we can go now if you want.”

The young girl’s eyes never left the face of what was sure to be her former friend. “Yeah, I’m sure.”

Greg nodded, standing and pulling his keys from his pocket.

“See ya later, Connie,” Amethyst replied, waving slightly to the girl.

For his part, Steven waited until Connie passed him to head outside before he stomped his way to the bathroom and shut the door. “Uh…” Amethyst began, thumbing a finger towards the bathroom area. “Should one of us like…”

“I got it,” Garnet replied, leaning back against the couch. “You two should probably head to the barn.”

“The barn?” Pearl asked. “Why?”

“Because she’s about to burn it down.”

“What!?”

Pearl was immediately on her feet and rushing towards the warp pad, while Amethyst lazily made an effort to follow her, not because she was worried about the barn. She wanted to see what the gems were doing – most likely Peridot – that was being labeled a fire hazard.

“I can’t wait to see this,” she chuckled, ignoring Pearl’s calls for her to hurry up.

 


 

Steven sat on the floor in the bathroom, his back propped up against the door. Now that he was a lot calmer and less angry, he was incredibly embarrassed. He had never fought with Connie like that before. What was wrong with him!?

Sighing deeply, he knew what was wrong. He didn’t like this Micah guy and for the life of him, he couldn’t understand why he didn’t like him. By all accounts, he seemed nice and smart, someone who would easily get along with Connie and apparently did so. Just…why did she have to mention his name every. Other. Word? It was…irritating!

Soon as he had the thought, Steven immediately banished it. What kind of friend, best friend at that, was he if he denied Connie friends outside of their own friendship? He knew how hard it had been for her to make friends, especially when her family kept moving all the time. The fact that Beach City was becoming an actual permanent home to her should have elated him.

A good friend would be supportive of her being able to make more friends outside of himself and the gems; a best friend would’ve been over the moon and insisting she spend more time with the new friends, while helping her make even more.

Steven Universe was neither of these.

He was a horrible person and a terrible friend.

Sitting in the bathroom was doing nothing for his guilt or esteem, so with a heavy heart, the teen managed to pull himself up and leave the bathroom. He needed to clear his head and lift his spirits; donuts always lifted his spirits, so a needed walk could easily clear his head. Mind made up, Steven turned the corner and was immediately surprised to see Garnet still in her place on the couch, as if she had been waiting for him.

“Garnet!”

“Hello to you, Steven,” came the smooth reply.

Looking around, he asked, “Where’d Pearl and Amethyst go?”

“They’re saving your family barn from destruction.”

“Lapis?” he asked, before raising an eyebrow. “Or Peridot?”

“Peridot,” she said. “But the others should be able to stop her from burning the place down.”

“Well, you know,” Steven smirked. “Only gems can prevent barn fires.”

“That’s the best one yet,” she said, smiling at him. Sometimes the highlight of their day could be one of Steven’s horrible puns. “I see you’re heading out.”

It was almost on the tip of his tongue to lie, but Steven knew better than that. Lying seemed pointless, especially to someone who would know the next time he’d lie before he did. “I’m thinking of getting a donut,” he said, shrugging slightly. “Kinda feels like a donut day for some reason.”

“I think I’ll join you?” Garnet asked. “It’s a nice day and too good to miss.”

“Of course. Gimme a sec to grab some money.”

Once cash was in hand, or rather in pocket, Steven and Garnet headed out towards the Big Donut. The sun was starting to get lower in the sky, signaling an even nicer night for the city; already people were gathering near the beach’s edge, setting up barbeque pits and blankets. “This isn’t just a friendly stroll, is it?” Steven asked, breaking the comfortable silence the two held. “I mean, you going with me to the Big Donut.”

Garnet chuckled. “And here I thought I was the one with future vision,” she said.

“You have shared it with me on occasion,” came his cheeky retort.

The gem nodded. “I was worried,” she admitted. “I am worried. About you and Connie.”

“Yeah.”

Garnet gave him a moment, she knew from experience Steven would open up when he was ready to – or when pushed enough to do so – but it was clear he had reviewed his own actions and he was feeling just as bad and worried as they were.

“Garnet, have you ever…?” he began, kicking a stone onto the sidewalk as the sand turned to concrete and the beach became the city proper. “Did you ever do something you didn’t mean to? For a reason you didn’t understand?” Garnet sent him to look, one imploring him to continue his thought. “I…I’m a horrible friend.”

“I’m sure there’s a reason you currently think that.”

“Because I am!” the boy exclaimed. “Connie’s so happy about this Micah guy and all I’ve done is made her feel bad about having a friend who isn’t me. Friends don’t make friends feel bad about having friends.”

Garnet murmured in agreement, suddenly understanding what Steven’s issue was. Turning, she made to make a comment until a roar was heard overhead. They weren’t far from the location of the Big Donut and thus, could see the small group of beach goers that were set up a few feet away. The sound had come the area and within a few moments, the creature that made it emerged from the sea and on to the beach.

It was fairly large, about the width of the corrupted jaspers Steven and Connie had faced here several months ago, but a quarter of their height. Its body was partially covered by black shell that looked to be spiked along the top, split between three ridges on its carapace. The body itself was a dark green in color, with a thick hide acting as its skin; there was a green gem that seemed to act as its eye, while its mouth was curved into a beak. Behind it, was a long-spiked tail that swished back and forth, splashing waves of water onto the beach.

“You go move those people off the beach,” Garnet instructed. “I’ll take the corrupted gem.”

“Right,” Steven nodded.

The two took off in the same direction, but split the closer they got to the beach goers and the corrupted gem.

“Hey!” Steven shouted, trying to get the group of people to look his way. He could see they were terrified – they didn’t look to be locals or natives of Beach City, so seeing a twelve-foot monster emerge from the sea was probably something they hadn’t intended to sign up for when deciding vacation spots. Thankfully, fear is a powerful motivation to listen to a strange kid standing a ways from them and gesturing.

The group, less than about ten people, were quick to shuffle off towards him and away from the fight that was now taking place.

Garnet wasted no time in distracting the gem, pulling it further down the beach and out of harm’s way to the beach goers. Up close, she could see the strange beak hid a row of jagged, sharp teeth that could easily poof her if she wasn’t careful. She didn’t recognize the gem where its eye should be – a jade or emerald, she thought – but she’d have to inspect it later.

The snapping monster lunged, its maw snapping and hoping to catch a piece of her between its teeth. The fusion was quick to jump back, before speeding towards it, fist raised and striking it right in the beak. The monster howled, again trying to catch Garnet in its mouth and missing, as she soared overhead. She had hoped to land on its back, but was immediately rebuked when it reared up and sent her to the sand below.

Whipping its tail, it managed to catch Garnet in the stomach, sending her towards the sidewalk. Deciding it was too dangerous to be out, the monster turned tail and slunk back into the waters below. Steven immediately rushed over to her, kneeling as she sat up and winced. “Garnet! Are you alright?”

“Yeah,” she groaned. “But that was sloppy. Really sloppy.”

“I have seen better from you,” Steven agreed, sending her a cheeky smile. “That was a six at best.”

“That is bad,” she sputtered, though there was more chuckle than actual irritation. “Don’t tell Amethyst; she’ll never let me live it down.” Looking past him to the group they saved, she asked, “Everyone on the beach made it to safety.”

“Oh, everyone’s fine,” he replied. “I convinced everyone that nothing calms the nerves after a corrupted gem monster attack than a chocolate donut. Or two.”

“Of course you did.” He wouldn’t be Steven Universe if he wasn’t helping people in some fashion, whether it be saving them from a gem monster or bringing in more business. “But none for you.”

“Oh right,” he said. “Almost forgot that was the whole point of coming down here. You want one?”

“I’m good,” she said, waving him off.

She watched him hurry back inside to get his own donut this time before turning her gaze out to the sea. She really did hate those corrupted gems who lurked on the ocean floor; not that she couldn’t handle it, she was a good swimmer after all, it was that the sea was an expansive space on the planet, they could literally hide anywhere.

It wasn’t just that either.

There had been an uptick in corrupted gem activity lately, more so than she could remember, and it was becoming a disturbing pattern. It wasn’t anything they couldn’t handle, but it was time consuming. The Burning Room inside the Temple seemed to be full of bubbled gems they had truly yet to save and she was starting to wonder just how many more they need to add.

A vision of the room being filled to the brim with bubbled gems was quickly vanished; it did no good to think about the wrong outcomes when there were so many paths that lead to positive outcomes and futures. Those were the ones they were going to focus on, even if these events were starting to ring every alarm bell she knew.

 


 

The weekend came slowly before heading out as quickly as possible. Other than the gem monster showing up on the beach unexpectedly on Friday, nothing monumental happened all weekend. It was an ordinary Saturday, which lead into an ordinary Sunday; Amethyst had been the first and last to mention that it was boring as all get out and tried talking Garnet into finding something they could do, be it mission or even just a random trip to the barn.

That’s what the purple ultimately did, heading out to the barn Saturday morning and staying until about Sunday evening. Pearl was mysteriously absent Saturday night, though Garnet and Steven tried they’re very best not to smile knowingly when she stated she was just going out because why not and there was nothing suspicious about it. That left just the two to play through various two person games, until Steven relented into letting the gem teach him how to play chess.

Monday seemed a repeat of the weekend, but with one exception.

Steven had expected Connie to still be sore at him over the weekend and truth be known, he wasn’t really sure what he wanted to say to her then anyways, so when the start of the weekday came by, he decided he didn’t want to let this continue. This was Connie’s spring break and he had already wasted two days not helping her have as much fun as possible and he wasn’t about to just let her sit at home all week doing nothing.

Especially when she could be doing nothing with him.

Besides, he owed her an apology and he was hoping they could get past this. So Monday morning, knowing she had probably be up longer than he, Steven sent a simple text message to her. It wasn’t anything, just something to start a conversation.

Hey.

Usually, Connie texted back within a few minutes, but no more than ten would go by. Steven waited for fifteen minutes, but Connie never responded. He tried not to worry – it was her spring break after all, maybe her parents had planned something. Sometimes if Connie had family events, she could only text him at appropriate times, so…yeah.

Though…usually he and Connie talked about stuff that went on in their lives and Steven was always interested in hearing about Connie’s extended families and what they did and why they did it. While her parents were more modern about things, they still have family members who observed traditional Hindi rituals, so they always tried to incorporate that within their little unit.

Steven always found that fascinating, sometimes wishing he had something like that and trying to figure out what they could do to make things a bit traditional for them.

After about twenty-five minutes, Steven started to get a little worried. Maybe she really was mad at him. He didn’t blame her, of course, but he didn’t want her to think he was mad at her, so he sent another text.

I’m sorry.

He didn’t want to leave things like that and he hoped it was the olive branch needed for her to respond. But after another thirty minutes, Steven was growing a tad bit desperate. Maybe she was hanging out with Micah and that’s why she wasn’t answering; she probably didn’t him to know that she had an extra crazy and possibly dangerous friend texting her. They were probably having a very nice time, with threat of corrupted gem monsters or ex-gem soldiers who constantly referred to one of them by their mother’s name.

Maybe they were at a movie. Sure, they were probably seeing a movie and Connie always turned her phone when in the theater. They were just sitting there, watching a movie, sharing popcorn, holding hands, kis…

Okay, let’s just stop right there.

Now his mind was in a tizzy and he felt worse than he had on Friday. It was clear why Connie wasn’t responding – she didn’t want to be friends anymore. What other reason could there be? Despondent, Steven made his way downstairs. Maybe he could talk to his dad; Greg always knew how to make things better, even if he just penned a song or gave some great advice. And Steven needed some really great advice right now.

“Oh, Steven.”

Halting in his departure, Steven turned to see Pearl heading towards him, laundry basket in her arms. It was Monday and Pearl always did laundry at the start of the week. “I was about to take this up to your room,” the lithe gem responded, though looking at the boy caused her to frown slightly. “Are you alright? You aren’t getting sick, are you?”

Already knowing the direction Pearl was heading, which was towards him to check his forehead, Steven took a step back and shook his head. “No, I’m good,” he replied. “I’m gonna head over to the car wash to see Dad.”

Pearl nodded, though it was clear she was still worried. The boy hadn’t been acting himself and after the events of Friday, she had been reviewing the prior weeks to see if there was something she had possibly missed. She had noticed Steven was a bit sullen, but it was just a passing emotion, she hadn’t paid any attention, but now…

“Alright, then,” she said. “I’m sure Greg can have you back before bed, if you decide to stay that is?”

Steven shrugged. He wasn’t sure how long he was planning on staying, but he also did try to enjoy as much time as he could with his father, especially when he had an issue he needed working out. “I’ll be home at a reasonable hour,” Steven agreed, sending a small smile her way. “I’ll be alright.” With that, he headed out towards It’s A Wash.

It only took around fifteen minutes for Steven to reach his father’s place of business, heading up Thayer Street. Usually the car wash was fairly quiet during the weekday, but with the influx of tourists, the place had actually seen a lot activity recently. Currently, Greg was working on one mid-sized truck, while two other cars waited behind it.

“Dad!”

“Hey Shtoo-ball!” the elder Universe shouted. “Mind giving your old man a hand here?”

“Sure thing!”

The teen hurried into the office to grab extra supplies, before getting to work on the second car. By the time father and son were nearly done with the second car, three more had shown up, keeping both Universes busy for the next hour and a half. It was still early in the day by the time they finished, though it was still a little ways before lunch and Steven realized he had walked out without making himself breakfast.

“All hard work and no food make for hungry Universes, huh buddy?”

Greg, making the same mistake himself that morning, was more than happy to cook up some quick egg and waffle sandwiches for brunch. The two lounged in two reclining beach chairs Greg always kept at the wash, enjoying the beautiful day that presented itself. “Thanks for breakfast, Dad,” Steven replied, quickly swallowing and giving his father a smile. “I’m surprised Pearl let me leave without making me something.”

“Well,” Greg chuckled. “I’m sure she was a little confused on your behavior. You sure everything’s okay with you? I know things got a little rough with Connie on Friday.”

Steven’s guilt was the only thing that kept his embarrassment at bay. He continued to chew thoughtfully, trying to think of a way to answer his father’s question. How could he even begin to explain? “Dad?” he whispered. “Have you ever…felt bad about something?”

“Well, sure, kiddo,” Greg said, looking at the boy. “I think everyone does something they don’t mean to at one point. Why? What’s up? You can tell me.”

Letting out a sigh, Steven revealed the secret he’d been keeping for the last two weeks. “I hate Micah.”

“Who?” the musician asked, his face morphed in confusion.

“Connie’s new friend,” Steven said. “His name is Micah and I hate him.”

“Steven, we’ve talked about this. Hate’s a pretty strong word.”

“I know!” the teen whimpered. “And the worst part is I don’t know why I don’t like him. From the way Connie’s talked about him, he sounds awesome! And he’s totally smart like Connie and helpful and…and…I know I should like him, but I don’t! And now Connie’s super mad at me because of it and she doesn’t want anything to do with me anymore…”

“Whoa, whoa!” Greg exclaimed, leaning over to grab his son’s shoulder, and shaking him slightly. “Where’s this coming from? You and I both know that Connie adores you and if there was something causing trouble between you two, she would absolutely let you know.”

“Dad, you don’t understand,” Steven persisted. “I tried texting her this morning to apologize and she didn’t even reply back! That’s not like her! She always replies within about fifteen, twenty minutes and she hasn’t and…”

“Hang on,” Greg said. “I don’t think you’ve come to the point of reevaluating your friendship just because she hasn’t respond to a text.”

“Then explain why I don’t like her friend,” Steven replied, forlornly. “Real friends don’t hate their friends’ friends.”

Greg opened his mouth to state that, yes, it was pretty normal for friends to not like a friend’s friends – a little story about Garnet nearly throwing him over a fence came to mind, not to mention the decades long feud-that-didn’t-need-to-happen-and-lasted-far-too-long between him and Pearl – but instead, he gave his boy a fatherly pat before leaning back in his chair.

“Shtoo-ball, I’m about to blow your mind,” he said, causing Steven to turn and look at him. “Do you think that maybe your feelings about this Micah guy might be you feeling a bit jealous?”

“Jealous?”

Greg steadied himself for a conversation he didn’t think he’d have with Steven until he was much older. That of course was before he spotted a cute girl in the crowd during their annual parade and was insisted they find her so he could give back the bracelet she had dropped. And now, it was looking pretty obvious that he’d have to revisit that other conversation they had once Steven hit puberty.

“Well,” the elder musician began. “You just said you didn’t like the guy, without meeting him, and just assume Connie is gonna choose him over you. That…kinda sounds like jealousy to me, bud.”

“I’m not…” Steven began, before turning away. “Micah’s the perfect friend for Connie to be hanging out, not me.”

“How’s that?”

“They could probably go to the movies and not be attacked by a robot shooty thing,” the teen began. “Or sit on the beach without weird, alien balls coming out of the ocean or having to return a phone call after hearing the world might end and he could be dead.”

“That’s pretty dark.”

“That’s my life, Dad.”

“Hey now,” Greg said, again clapping a hand on Steven’s shoulder. “I know you go through a lot of gem stuff and you know I support you on it, but you can’t think like that. And I know Connie not only supports you, but she enjoys doing so. And she certainly hasn’t given any indication that she doesn’t enjoy hanging out with us or you.”

Turning the teen to look at him, he continued with, “If you’re really worried about things, you should probably talk to Connie. Believe me, I know all about the types of problems that come up when you don’t talk to someone. I’m actually surprised that wasn’t the first thing you did.”

Steven couldn’t help but blush. He usually was the first person to suggest people just talk to each other, to work out their problems, and here he was avoiding the problem at hand. And the problem was him.

“I just want Connie to be happy,” he whispered. “Even if that means we aren’t friends anymore.”

“What?” Greg asked, surprised. He thought they had been turning things around. “Steven…”

“You’re right, Dad,” Steven said, standing and brushing crumbs from his shirt. “I need to talk to Connie. I’ll see you later!”

“Steven, hang on a second!”

But the teen was already rushing down the street before Greg could pull him back and a new car had pulled up, preventing him from going after the boy. Whatever Steven was planning, Greg hoped he knew what he was doing.

 


 

Monday was already shaping up to long, if Connie’s morning was anything to go by.

Always wanting to make sure their daughter didn’t just sit around the house during school down times, Connie often found herself roped into activities at least once a week. Her parents would often switch it up – one day, she’d spend part of it with her mother at the hospital, while the next, she’d accompany her father on various patrols.

At one point in time, the pre-teen hated doing these little trips, especially during what should have been her vacation. It was the combination of moving, no companionship, and the onset of puberty that began the resentment of having to spend her time either alone or with her parents. Lately, however, Connie began to truly appreciate the downtime and the ability to spend it with her parents.

Between her normal school activities and now, sword training and gem monsters, Connie’s life had taken a more adventurous turn. It wasn’t nearly as adventurous as Steven’s life, of course, but it gave her enough of an adrenaline jolt, she wouldn’t dare complain. After her best friend’s trek in space, there was a pretty good chance that Homeworld might set their eyes back on Earth and everyone on the planet could be in trouble.

While Connie knew they could battle whatever might come, she still wanted to enjoy this time with her parents as much as she could. And maybe, it would make it easier for her to accompany Steven or the gems should they need to take the fight off planet. So with that thought in the back of her mind, she set off with her mother that morning, happy to see a few of the elderly patients in the facility.

After a few hours, her father came to pick her up, as her mother had gotten a call from trauma to assist in an incoming accident. Doug Maheswaran was already dressed in his security garb, being called in for a few hours that day, which gave Connie close to a whole day to hang out with Steven. Their argument from Friday had been fresh in her mind that morning, especially when she wasn’t entirely sure where it had come from.

She and Steven had been sniping at each other for nearly a week, something that rarely if ever happened between them. Connie could chalk it up to a math test she didn’t think she had been prepared for, despite passing it with no issues, but she didn’t know what was going on with Steven. She had mentioned it briefly to her mother, who had been patient and understanding about the whole thing, and just pointed out that best friends sometimes fight, but it would probably blow over after a few days.

Her father had said the same thing, stating that every relationship can have ups and downs. She was feeling a bit better about things, which is why she wanted to personally see her best friend on Monday; Steven was horrible at lying and he absolutely couldn’t do it to her face, so whatever was going on, she’d find out.

Waving goodbye to her father as he dropped her off, Connie made her way down the sandy path that would take her to Steven’s. Bounding up the front steps, she knocked quickly and waited. She heard a knock on the bay window to her right, seeing Amethyst waving and gesturing to her to come in. “Hey.”

“What’s up, Big C?” the purple gem greeted, lounging on the window seat underneath.

“Oh Connie, hello!” Pearl replied, turning to look at her. Both she and Garnet were leaning against the counter island, apparently waiting for something. “You just missed Steven.”

“I did?”

“He texted you earlier,” Garnet said, surprising the young girl. Connie immediately reached into her back pocket to remove her phone. And right there, were two missed texts from Steven and one missed call.

“Oh no,” she groaned. “I’ve been volunteering at the hospital with my mom. My phone’s been on silent since yesterday. Do you know where he went?”

“He was headed over to Greg’s,” Pearl said. “That was…maybe about two hours ago. You can try there first.”

“Thanks,” Connie said, heading towards the door. “I’ll see you guys later!”

The girl rushed down the steps, retracing her journey just a few moments ago to reach the start of the side walk that would lead to the boardwalk to the left or It’s a Wash to the right. Luckily Connie didn’t have to go far, as she could see Steven walking towards her with his head down. “Steven!”

Steven, who had just left the car wash, had been thinking about what he would say to Connie. He wasn’t expecting to see her exactly, though he thought it might be better for him to see her in person, so he was startled to hear her voice, followed by seeing her running towards him. “Connie…”

The girl waited for Steven to meet her, though she made the first few steps to move towards him. “I’ve been looking for you.”

“You have?” he asked, his expression growing in fear and dread. He was hoping he’d have a few hours at least before he had to confront her, but now that she was there, in front of him, he knew he couldn’t avoid the inevitable. “Of course you have,” he sighed. “I know why and it’s okay, Connie. I understand.”

“What’re you talking about?”

“I just want you to be happy, Connie,” he continued, heedless of the confusion appearing on Connie’s face.

Grabbing his hands in her hands, she smiled at him kindly, though confused and now very concerned. “Steven,” she said. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

He probably should’ve added some context to his statement, but he was starting to wonder why Connie had been looking for him if not to end their friendship. He was about to ask, when the unmistakable sound of a corrupted gem sounded in the distance – they turned and both could see the same armored green gem monster Steven and Garnet had fought last week.

“Oh no,” Steven groaned. “Not again. Come on, we have to stop it before it hurts someone.”

The corrupted gem once appeared on the beach, scattering people gathered there back up to the boardwalk or back to their cars. It seemed even more agitated than it had been last time, snarling and snapping at people as they fled. The two teens ran to the beach, Connie’s sword and Steven’s shield already in their hands as they tried to plan an attack.

“We need to lure it away from those people,” Connie stated.

Steven considered his options before looking at his fellow knight. “Let’s give it a bigger target.”

The green gem monster continued to roar, it’s head thrown back in anger and frustration. Thankfully, people had scattered from the beach and were safely on the boardwalk, watching the monster stomp around on the sand below. Just as it looked at those it would make its way towards the buildings, something round and pink went flying through the air, catching the monster right in the mouth. Howling in pain, it turned to its left, staring down the single individual who dared to attack it. They were about the same size as the square shaped figure that had attacked them before, but they were younger and lighter.

“Why don’t you try snapping at me?” they taunted.

Stevonnie was still relatively new to battle fighting, their first real battle only happening when Jasper had threatened to break Amethyst, so internally they looked forward to being able to prove themselves against someone that wasn’t Pearl or her holo-Pearls. In this case, while the gem monster was big – huge! – they were a lot more cohesive than they had been a few months ago.

They thought.

While Stevonnie was still trying to get her bearings as Stevonnie, it wasn’t uncommon for them to feel the emotions that came from either Connie or Steven. The teens’ personalities complimented each other so well, their fusion never had the difficulties that Opal or Sugilite had, but as Garnet had told them, they could easily fall apart if either teen wasn’t completely on the same page.

Stevonnie seemed to be holding her own, dodging and ducking out of harm’s way and delivering a few jabs before hit just the right spot that poofed the gem. They were able to catch and bubble it before it could hit the sand below. “I did it!” they giggled, looking at the gem suspended in the bubble. As soon as the laugh was out, an errant thought came to the forefront of their mind.

I don’t want to lose this. I don’t want to lose you.

The thought was so random, that Stevonnie literally stopped in her tracks as she headed towards the Big Donut. “Steven?” they asked, tapping the top of the bubble and sending it off to the Temple. Shaking their head, they answered their own question with, “It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.”

But Steven couldn’t stop the flow of feelings that were now bubbling up, as much as he tried to stem it. In a flash, the two split apart and stood looking at each other – one in confusion and one in guilt and embarrassment. “Why in the world would you be jealous of Micah?” asked Connie.

“I’m not!” Steven exclaimed, though his cheeks went red with the denial and he wasn’t exactly looking her in the eye when he said it. “I…you’ve been talking about him for a while and…I’m so happy you’re making all these great friends because…because you need that, Connie! You have to have…

“You need to have a danger free life!” he sputtered. “Micah could…you…you wouldn’t have any issues with him. Not like you do with…”

“Wait, stop,” she interrupted, taking a few steps to be closer to him. “What issues am I supposed to be having?” What exactly was going on in Steven Universe’s mind and did it have anything to do with his strange behavior?

“It’s…it’s just…” Steven sighed, kicking up some dirt and frowning at his thoughts. “You’re gonna turn thirteen soon.”

Connie nodded, a small smile on her face as he remembered.

“I’m fourteen,” he muttered. “And I still look like I’m eight.”

Taking a hold of his hands, much like she did earlier, she tugged on them until he was looking at her. “I told you,” she said. “How you age isn’t important to me.”

“But it should be!” Steven cried, blinking back the onset of tears. Great and now he was crying. Micah probably wasn’t a crier. “What’s gonna happen when you grow up into an adult and I’m still…this?”

“You did grow a facial hair,” Connie pointed out. “And didn’t you tell me you found another one last week?”

Steven blew out a harsh breath in annoyance. “Oh well,” he huffed. “Two facial hairs. I should break out that shaving kit Garnet got me.”

“Steven,” she insisted, pulling him even closer. “None of that matters! You’re more important to me to anything. I mean, come on, I offered to be your babysitter when you turned into a baby.”

He couldn’t help it, he laughed. Connie always could make him feel better about things, even when things looked bleak. He had tried this before, tried to cut ties with her to try and save her from the dangerous life he would be involved in, but just as before, Connie Maheswaran wasn’t one to just take a decision without her involvement.

“I’m being silly, aren’t I?”

“Yes,” she giggled, giving his hands a squeeze. “But you wouldn’t be you if you weren’t. And I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry?”

“For missing your texts,” she corrected. “I had my phone on silent and I didn’t realize it until the Gems said you had tried texting me.”

Steven’s face scrunched in confusion. “How did they…? Oh, Garnet. Right.”

“She did tell me about you texting me,” she confirmed. “Actually, that’s why I was looking for you. I wanted to ask you something and…well, I was wondering if I had done something.”

That was the last thing Steven had wanted her to feel, especially when he had been the one to make her uncomfortable. Falling to his knees, Steven professed, “Oh Connie! There has never been a star that shines as bright as you. For thou has a smile that could light up a dark night, it has lit up the darkness that lowered upon my soul.

“As your noble knight, I declare upon this day that I shall not discount the power of the Maheswaran glare! And…stop laughing. I’m trying to be serious here.”

“Get up,” she laughed, hauling him to his feet before hugging him. “Sir Steven, how can you doubt my loyalty? Don’t you know I have sworn myself to stand by your side, even in times of corrupted gems and math exams?”

Pulling back to look at her, he said, “I should know never to doubt you, Lady Connie. Why were you looking for me?”

“Hmmm?” Connie questioned, her mind wondering. “Oh! Micah’s gonna be in Beach City tomorrow and I wanted to know if he could hang out with us.”

After all the shocking revelations, Steven certainly didn’t see that one coming. Connie hadn’t come down to ask if Steven wanted to hang out with her and Micah, she had wanted to know if Micah could hang out with them, as though someone needed permission to join the Maheswaran Universe club.

“Wow, really?” he asked. Here was his chance to meet the mysterious and awesome Micah and he wasn’t gonna waste it, even if the event could turn against. “Absolutely! Oh! We should take him to the Big Donut.”

“I was thinking that,” she nodded, pulling back and heading towards the beach house. “Then maybe we could go to Funland.”

“And the arcade!” Steven added. “Actually, let’s do the arcade first, cause it’s right there, then we can head to the amusement park. Oh! We could get Fish Stew Pizza for lunch!”

The two made their way down the beach, discussing their plans for the next day, as well as planning for the upcoming week while Connie was still out of school.

Steven met the next morning with anticipation and anxiety. He was excited to meet Connie’s new friend, however he was anxious as to what the ultimate outcome would be at the end of the day. Despite Connie’s reassurance, the teenager was still worried about this new avenue life seemed to be taking, especially between him and Connie. She was his best friend and he wouldn’t give that up for anything, but he would do whatever it was that would make Connie happy, even if those two things contradicted each other.

Their plans were to meet at the Big Donut around 10 am, but Steven was already sitting at one of the patio tables by 9:30, knowing that Connie tended to arrive any place early. Just as predicted, Steven could see the familiar sedan of the Mahesawaran’s coming down the street and turning into the parking lot of the Big Donut. Mother and daughter were easily recognized, but he didn’t know the third figure.

He was a red haired teen, with shades covering his eyes, and both he and Connie were nodding with whatever Dr. Maheswaran was saying. Both got out of the car, with Connie reaffirming whatever agreement was being made. Catching sight of Steven, Dr. Maheswaran called out a greeting before telling Connie and the stranger she would see them around 7pm.

“Steven!”

Waving, Steven was ready for the enthusiastic hug from Connie, giving her a squeeze as her arms wrapped around his neck. Most of the time, he hated being so short, but it meant Connie had to smother him in her arms, well…he couldn’t complain too much, right? “Hey, I want you to meet Micah,” she said, keeping one arm wrapped around his neck while she waved the other boy over.

Now that Steven could clearly see him, Micah was…still totally awesome. He had a narrow frame, which was covered in a black and white striped shirt and jean shorts. His hair was a bit longer in person than Steven could see from his vantage point, with shaggy bangs that tended to drift over his eyes. When he removed his shades, there was a friendliness to the blue eyes that shone back at the two of them.

“Micah, this is Steven.”

“Hey dude,” Micah said, nodding at the shorter boy. “This is gonna be great. Connie’s told me a lot about you.”

“Hopefully not too much,” Steven joked. “We promised we wouldn’t bring up that incident at the arcade. Which was totally her fault.”

“Was not,” Connie laughed. Dropping her arm from Steven, she backed away stating, “I’m gonna get some donuts. The usual, Steven?”

“Of course.”

“Micah?”

“Whatever’s the best tasting,” the red head replied.

Connie nodded, turning to head inside. It looked as though she’d be a while, as a small line had started to form while they spoke outside. Steven led the other boy to the patio table he had snagged – now that he had met the boy, and with Connie inside, the teen could have a chance to talk and maybe come to a definitive conclusion on what to do.

“Hey, thanks for letting me hang out with you guys,” Micah replied, giving Steven a smile. “I’m still kinda new in town and I didn’t know this place existed until Connie said something.”

“No problem!” Steven said, returning the smile happily. “Connie and I figured out the best places to show you. And maybe, if we run out of time, you could come back.”

“Totally,” the ginger said. “I kinda like it. I’m originally from California, so I’ve been missing the beach something fierce.”

“Well, as you can see, we’ve got a lot beach.” He gestured out towards the sands and waves as the ocean water did a calm sway under the sun.

“It’s totally chill,” Micah said. “And you’re totally cool for letting me come by today, especially when I’ve monopolizing Connie’s time lately.”

“Oh,” Steven wasn’t prepared for Micah to bring things up, but he could flow with this. He was a funk master after all. “It’s…it’s nothing. I mean, it’s for school and stuff. And school’s important to Connie.”

“Dude, you don’t need to be modest,” the teen countered. “I mean, I’d be totally annoyed if another guy was spending all his time with my girl.”

Wait. What?

The half-gem didn’t even realize had spoken until Micah was continuing his statement. “- she talks about you all the time,” Micah was saying. “I admit, I was getting a sick of it, but…girl’s allowed to talk about her boyfriend, right? And you guys seem cute and solid and stuff, I’m not gonna diss on that.”

“Connie talks about me?”

“Yeah, like every other sentence,” Micah chuckled. “I’d be surprised if the whole school didn’t know who you were. You should totally come to the dance. I think we have a dance; my old school always had one at the end of the year, especially for the eighth graders. I should probably check on that, but you’d go with Connie, right?”

Steven wasn’t sure what to say. All morning – all week – he’d been convinced this new presence in Connie’s life would signal a shift he wasn’t ready for, only to discover Micah was under the impression that he and Connie were…

He really needed to correct the red head, he did. And he should. But for some reason, he just couldn’t bring himself to do that. This was the second time in as many months that someone had just assumed Connie was his girlfriend. He hadn’t thought anything of Ronaldo saying it – he had said it to be a brat – but now, Micah was under the same thinking. He was really going to set things straight – he and Connie were friends, best friends, who…just happen to be attracted to each other…

“So I got six donuts.”

Connie’s return put a hold on Steven’s thoughts, as she explained how she had chosen two donut treats for each person. Connie had picked Steven’s as easily as she picked hers – they both tended to like the same things after all and even if he was more prone to the chocolate donut and she the fruit filled pastry, they always tended to share. From there, conversation seemed to flow between the three and Steven forgot about correcting Micah.