2018-05-18 - Snacks for Steven

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Title: Snacks for Steven

Mikoto brings Steven snacks from the konbini to thank him for saving her life, and checks in on how the younger warrior is holding up. Unfortunately, when Steven mentions Endo, Mikoto rapidly becomes much less able to keep her composure... but Steven has an interesting new perspective on what makes a good person.


Mikoto Minagi, Steven Universe


Shitamachi Low City - Tokyo Bay

OOC - IC Date:

2018-05-18 - 2018-04-19

.**************************** Shitamachi Low City *****************************.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Tokyo Bay +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+
 Once known as the "Inner Sea," the shelter Tokyo Bay once provided for
 merchants and fishermen helped Tokyo develop into the powerhouse that it is
 today, nor is it less useful today. Japan's largest shipping ports operate
 out of the Bay, as does its own navy and that of the US Forces. Herculean
 efforts dredge up its silt to create artificial islands, and factories drink
 its water to soothe their smoky throats.

 To most residents, however, the Bay is simply blue water glittering,
 salt-seasoned breezes, and gently drifting sails. The aptly named Rainbow
 Bridge crossing the bay enhances rather than damages its beauty, its white
 towers lit many nights by an artificial rainbow. A provincial visitor might
 consider Tokyo Bay to be trimmed like a garden hedge; it has a number of
 oddly geometric islands with arranged greenery, and any land touching the
 water often makes the best of it with a park, intake valve, or other
 imposition on nature. To a city-dweller, though, it is a miracle of open
 space and calm.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Tokyo Bay is not a place with many recent happy memories. They're all sort of enveloped, completely, with the tragedy which occurred there. The negative darkness of the ship's laser, the yellow fire of Destabilisation, the crushing force of gravity...

But the art installation really does seem like the most logical place to find Steven Universe. So Mikoto Minagi has come to the bay, carrying a konbini bag in one hand. Her case is slung over her shoulder - and Steven's been introduced to the trick of that sheathe before, back during the class trip to Okinawa. He knows it contains the black blade she sought on Jasper's ship - the blade she uses to cut her enemies down.

Right now, of course, it's safely encased in its bag, because there are no enemies to fight, and it seems perfectly plausible to excuse it as a bag of golf clubs. Wrong, but plausible all the same.

Her free hand - for she's carrying those groceries on her uninjured side exclusively, all the weight of what she's carrying shifted to one side - goes to her shorts pocket, briefly, checking to make sure her purse is still there. Oh, good, she still hasn't dropped it.

Even with a side she deliberately avoids aggravating, Mikoto still has a sizable pair of lungs on her. And she's calling, calling, calling: "Steven! Steveeen! Steeeveeen!!"

Her head darts this way and that as she approaches the installation, trying to divine where he might possibly be. Her voice, at least, for all its volume, doesn't sound particularly alarmed. She's calling for his presence, not his help.

There are stairs, there - a building, it seems, built into the installation. She heads for those, because they seem like a logical choice for where Steven might be.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

The first response to Mikoto isn't from Steven, but Lion. Slumbering upon his deck throne, he yawns a LOUD yawn and looks up over the railings, seeing another human approaching. Sure are a lot of those coming around lately. The pinkest cat trundles his way down the stairs to meet Mikoto, just sitting down by the stairway. Not imposing travel or guarding the place. Just a cat that came to see what the haps was.

On Mikoto's closer approach still calling, the screen door to the beach house flies open, and a stout little child walks his way out, "Hiiii!" Steven Universe calls out. He wears his usual garb of choice; a deep pink shirt with a sunflower yellow star upon it. blue jeans, and pink flip-flops. He looks like he must have juuuust gotten out of either the shower or the nearby ocean, as his hair is soaked.

A towel is wrapped upon his head, keeping the water from running down his neck. "Heeey Mikoto!" the boy calls out. "What'cha doin here? Came to visit little ol' me?" the boy feigns flattery. Or at the very least overdoes it. In truth he is a little flattered people are visiting him after everything that happened.

He expected the opposite happening.

The boy notices that bag being toted, though it is the other bags that get his attention. "Ooooh, what did you pick up? Go somewhere? Come inside! Let's chill!" Steven wasn't expecting gifts, but he always has something ready, just in case! And he knows it might be the best time to pull them out of the freezer!

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

There is a cat! Mikoto glances to the cat with interest, leaaans forward, sniffs, and then glances away, saying hello in cat language. She has long since surmised that Lion, though a large and perhaps threatening cat, is not really a threat. (After all, she's never acted against Steven...)

And, as she approaches the - yes, the house, there's a house built in here - there's Steven, too. "Steven!" Mikoto chirps, happily, at a more measured volume as she trots up. (There's a puff of exertion which is perhaps not entirely from jogging a bit.) If damp hair is unusual, she certainly doesn't comment.

"Yup," Mikoto nods, to his question, entirely genuine despite Steven's overwrought flattery. She is, in fact, entirely here to see Steven. This is the truth!

And as she heads inside, Mikoto hands the bag over. (The shopping bag, that is; the black case stays on her back.) "Konbini," she explains, simply. "For Steven!"


"Miss, you're 340 yen short." The store clerk points out, not unkindly.

"... counted wrong?" Mikoto frowns, bothered by the fact that she's failed at the mathematics despite trying so hard, and upends the rest of her purse. "Here."

The clerk looks down at the small notes on the table. Fives, tens, fifties. He lets out an ever-suffering sigh and counts up the yen she's missing. "Yes, but now you've given me too much..."

In the end, Mikoto leaves with her purse lighter and with an additional bag, and she feels a little foolish for having failed her maths, but it's for Steven, so it's fine.


The bag from the konbini is full of snacks. Pretz, umaibo, kinoko no yama... rice crackers, gummies... she's brought a wide variety, and the only real connecting line between them is that they're all savoury or sweet. There's nothing spicy there. Mikoto would never do that to an innocent boy. She's even brought him kit-kats, since those always seemed vaguely foreign, so maybe they're familiar to him! (Though, perhaps, not in these particular flavours. Apple chocolate..?)

There's an awful lot of them, too. Perhaps the truth behind Mikoto never buying things for herself is that she simply does not know when to stop.

Then again, Steven did save her life an awful lot back there.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

Lion is content with the greeting. He seems appreciative that someone around here understands cat etiquette. Though his attention is quickly drawn to the bag of food after that lean-in, and he starts eyeballing it. He also starts trailing Mikoto, most likely waiting for a chance at the contents of the treasure hoard. Or access to just the bag itself, not caring about the edibles inside. Cats are hard to understand sometimes.

"Wh-- for me?!" Steven exclaims suddenly. A gift! Wow, she is so nice! "Wow, thank you!" Steven offers a great big ol' hug in change for the gift, if Mikoto is accepting. "Come on in!" he says, ushering her inside.

Within the home, is a beach bungalow style home with an elevated roof and somewhat modern kitchen. It sports an elevated loft where a bed and some video games hooked up to an old CRT monitor can be seen. A rather nicely decorated home, with a few pictures of the Crystal Gems here and there, Steven posing with Garnet, Amethyst, andor Pearl in each of them. One also has a picture of a portly fellow reminiscent of Steven in it with the boy as well.

Two things stick out in this home though:

Above the door is a massive portrait of a woman with endlessly curling pink hair, in an ivory laced dress, sitting in a silent and smiling manner. A gem rests where her navel would be, surrounded by a section of her dress cut out in the shape of a star-- or perhaps it was just made like that? She looks familiar, somehow.

The back half of the home is bananas. It reeks of magic if magic was a scent. Though earthly tones still hang on the air, like the cool, earthen nature of a cave. A gemstone platform rests surrounded by iridescent crystals in a small moat surrounding it, and the door in the back looks even more fantastical. Five gemstones rest at different points of an embedded star. The walls of the cave structure sport endless crystal shards, glittering in the light cast from the house area.

"I got something to add to the snacks for us!" Steven says, hustling to the fridge and popping it open. Inside, upon a chilled try, he pulls out...

"Mochi baaaalls!"

Small puff-like pastries filled with red bean paste or preserves that are delectable. He brings the try over to Mikoto to share, naturally! "I got drinks too! --hey what flavor is that?" Steven asks, noticing the Kit-kats. "Huh, weird! I remember this so much in Beach City! But not this flavor! Its usually chocolate and wafer stuff! Bu apple? Let's try it!"

Just before he breaks into a Kit-kat, he looks to the girl. "How uh... how have you been doing since that, anyway? Been doing okay? Got to see any of your friends?"

Meanwhile, unpacking the konbini has led to this debacle behind everyone's back:


<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto, naturally, returns the offered hug - though she winces, a little, puffs air through teeth as she leans down. Whatever's bothering her, she doesn't complain. Hugs are nice!

As she steps inside, those wide yellow eyes glance over everything. It all seems confusing, at first. It smells of magic, over there, and perhaps magic does have a smell, to Mikoto Minagi - but over here it smells of peanut butter and toast. Pictures on the wall, people she's seen, people she hasn't seen...

... there's something familiar about the one she only spies when she turns around in her examination of the bungalow. Something familiar, and yet she can't quite place it, so her eyes move on.

A television which seems a little old. (Mikoto doesn't know the word 'retro', truly the greatest crime in Tokyo.) A kitchen which seems a little new. And there's Steven, bustling into it, and Mikoto follows. Her eyes light up. "Mochi!"

She will, absolutely, take a mochi ball. She will even take two mochi ball. She nods to Steven's assessment of the kit-kats, and, at least, remembers to swallow before answering. "Apple chocolate!" Mikoto answers, cheerfully. "It's good!"

But there's a question which makes her pause, there. Mikoto glances back at the sounds behind her, focusing on Lion's antics for a long moment which might say so much more than her words ever could. "Not... today," she says, after a moment. "Maybe later..."

It could only be an answer to his question of having seen his friends. The other question goes suspiciously unanswered. Mikoto shakes her head, and turns back to Steven. "Wanted to find Steven, first. To thank. Steven... saved me, again and again and again and again." Exactly that many times, in fact, though it may not be immediately obvious. Mikoto smiles, though it's a little more muted now. "Steven's really... a good person."

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

The Mochi balls are various flavors. Red Bean in some, Kiwi in others, Raspberry and apricot in more. The tint of the ball helps figure out which is which. A tag on part of the wrapping says 'Midori-ya' on the side.

Steven decides to try his luck with the oddly-flavored Kit-kat, and winces as he bites in to it, unsure of just how this will turn out. He brightens up after about two seconds. "Hey! Yeah, this reminds me sorta of a caramel apple in a way! I dig it!" The boy begins to eat the rest of the pulled stick made of sweets.

"Ah, well that's okay. Hope you find them!" He says to the first thing. The second makes him flush a shade of pink himself. "Oh, um, well that's just what I do! We do, too," he mentions, glancing at a few of those photos. Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl, and me. From Beach City to here, we save people. Fight against those bad Gems from space. We don't want people getting hurt."

Lion eventually gets his head out of the bag, but after about fifteen seconds or so, its back on there. Again.

"If you or anyone is in danger, we will be there! I promise." A look up to that painting. "The Crystal Gems turned against their own kind to save Earth, after all! Saving people is what they do best." Hopefully reassurance might help in some way, though sometimes trying to save others has consequences.

Steven looks back at the door in the cave section of the beach house.

Pearl hasn't come back out yet.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto is very pleased to see Steven enjoying the snacks. Similarly, mochi is delicious. That never stopped being a thing, or anything.

She nods, listening patiently and attentively as Steven explains the Crystal Gems' mission. She doesn't offer any argument, because it's clearly very important to him. To someone like Steven, after all, it must be all about defeating 'bad guys.'

For a moment, it's almost like she's not going to say anything at all. It wouldn't be unusual; Mikoto is a girl of few words. She watches as Lion retrieves his head, and promptly traps himself again. Smiles to herself, because cat antics are the best antics.

And then, the illusion shatters. "Hey, is Steven... okay?" Mikoto glances back over, concern in those bright eyes. "... not gonna say Steven can't do it, 'cause obviously Steven can, but..."

She shakes her head, humming uncertainly through lips tightly pressed in a line. "Most..." A pause. "... most magic people... they get... normal life, first. Then - then fighting. Most wouldn't, Steven's age." She looks down, at her hands, rubbing thumb against forefinger. "... Steven, I get it. I get it, so... Steven, you okay?"

Her tone is a little awkward, a little unsure. It's the sort of question no one ever asked her, when she was Steven's age. But Steven isn't like her, in many ways. It makes her worry.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

Eventually Lion backs himself into a corner and lays down, the sound of a cat tongue licking the inside of a paper bag can be heard. Apparently hes gonna lick his way out, or something? It is very difficult to explain his motives.

Steven hops up on a stool at the counter, and rubs his head. It takes a moment to parse what she is getting across. "I get what you are saying. For the most part... yeah. I won't lie to you. It sucks sometimes. I get pulled from class sometimes to deal with Gem threats or missions. My stuff is constantly active unlike others who sorta change or something, so I always have to be careful."

He leans back in his seat. His eyes go to the painting, then back to Mikoto. "But... If I had a choice to be normal, or what I am, I wouldn't change. What kid gets to say he went with his parents to an ancient spaceship to find an artifact on the weekend? No one, that's who!" He bites a mochi himself. Kiwi. "I still get to have lots of fun with others, like you!"

"I really appreciate you asking!" the boy adds. "I hope you are doing okay. You didn't like those zapping things. No one did." The boy jolts up. "Did you find you--!" He slinks back down in his seat. "Right, never mind, you were using it." For a moment, he remembered her sword going into the ocean. But then, what was she swinging against Rubeus? Does it have teleport powers? Did it fly to her? "It's a really cool sword, by the way!"

"It reminds me of Endo's."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

It sucks sometimes, but he'd rather be special. Mikoto nods, again listening rather than speaking. Those golden eyes are on him, and she's clearly absorbing what he's saying - but she just lets him talk. His powers are always active..? Even she's relatively normal, when she's not wielding Miroku.

Then again, even normal, Mikoto is a threat. So in a way, she still understands.

She's got her back turned to that painting, so she keeps her attention on Steven, rather than whatever he's glanced to.

"Yeah," Mikoto agrees, after a moment. "It's fun. But sucks sometimes, too." Both of those things can be true, and she validates the both of them. "I wouldn't change, either." She couldn't. She is meant to fight. If Mikoto were normal - well, she wouldn't be Mikoto any more.

She doesn't seem inclined to push him on it, now he's confirmed that he's not struggling too much. After all, it matches her internal picture of Steven Universe perfectly - he's a tough kid.

Mikoto makes an unsettled noise, at the back of her throat, when Steven mentions the destabilisers. Before she can answer, Steven's rushing into another realisation. Mikoto nods, a hand going to Miroku's strap. "Yeah. Miroku's okay."

She smiles, an entirely honest expression, when Steven compliments it.

And it's just as honest when her expression darkens, her whole expression sharpening at the mention of Endo Naoki. Mikoto looks away, frowning, with a grunt of acknowledgement. Just like that, she almost seems unfriendly, muscles tense and lips set in a thin line. Her chin ducks down, covering her vulnerable neck. Around the strap of her sword-case, her fingers tighten.

She almost seems unfriendly, but that can't be right. Mikoto's been so warm and cheerful and concerned, around Steven. How can she seem so hard, with only a few simple mora?

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

"I feel like... the chances to save people in a cool magical way are just better, but we gotta take the good with the bad. If we weren't there, who would be, you know?" the boy laughs it off. "That's good to hear! Oh right, the sword has a name! That's super cool."

And then Mikoto completely changes in demeanor.

"Ah...?" the boy lets out, slack-jawed for a few moments, trying to figure out what just happened. "Was it something I said?" The boy reaches for Mikoto. "H-Hey, sorry if I said anything mean! I wasn't trying to upset you." The boy tries to recollect what could have caused her to suddenly change. He talked about the sword, being magic,-- oh.

It comes back to him. The prison. A bad person. Endo.

"Sorry about mentioning him," he says after thinking it over. "Didn't mean to bring that up."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

The sword does, in fact, have a name. It's unusual, for HiME, but it's hardly the most unusual thing about Mikoto Minagi.

That distinction probably goes to the way she can change to battle-readiness in an instant. Because it's obvious, in the way she's tensed, the way her nostrils flare - the way her gaze snaps to Steven as he reaches out, as if she's half-expecting an attack.

Her gaze is unkind and feral and so, so dangerous.

And then it's replaced by shock, as she realises she's here, with Steven, and everything's fine and - he just mentioned him and - Mikoto's breath catches in her throat and she looks away again, but it's shame on her face, this time. She hums contrition through closed lips.

"... it's okay, Steven," she gathers her words up a moment later. "Not Steven's fault. That's just... an enemy."

And perhaps it all comes together, now.

'Hey, I have a sword too! I-- Oh wait. I don't right now. Never mind. Still, really cool! What do you use it for?'

'Fighting enemies.'

'Oh! You fight badguys too! That is what I do too! There's so many in Japan! Beach City was quiet compared to here.'

'No matter how many come, I'll defeat them.'

Mikoto's enemies and Steven's bad guys... they don't line up at all, do they?

Because Endo is an enemy, but Endo is a person...

Mikoto breathes out, releases the strap of her case in a deliberate motion, folds her hands in her lap. She's not smiling, any more. She's too busy trying not to be so harsh.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

Just before contact, Steven watches Mikoto whirl around and give him a stare. A stare that carries anger, hate, and survival with it. The boy quickly recoils his hand. A ripping sound can be heard across the room, as Lion has obliterated the bag he was playing with, and is standing, looking at the two. He seems at the ready for something.

She speaks, and the boy lowers his hand. "Right, I forgot... you two don't get along. Sorry."

Lion settles down likewise, and decides to curl up next to the couch. Steven takes a breath. "If you... wanna talk about it, we can," the boy offers kindly. It confuses him as to why they would be enemies. Endo's come to his aid a couple times now. Even taught him how to ski. There was a Gem Monster involved, but still, how to ski. "If not, I totally understand. We can talk about something else! Like uh."

"Like Lion! Yeah, that could work!"

The cat looks up at Steven with the look of 'yeah don't get me involved in this, kid'.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Of course. Of course Lion knows, Mikoto thinks, as her gaze darts to the ripping sound and she sees him standing at the ready.

All the magical cats Mikoto comes across figure her out eventually.

She hangs her head, sorrow writ on her features. She doesn't answer Steven's offer; she doesn't want to get him involved. She doesn't want Steven to become her enemy. She doesn't want Steven to realise how bad she really is.

Her hands tighten together in her lap as her shoulders hunch. One hand covers the other, which clenches into a fist, releases, clenches, releases.

... Endo and Mikoto clearly don't get along, but Mikoto seems far more upset than a simple argument or disagreement.

She opens her mouth; closes it. She doesn't know what to say.

Lion. Those terrible golden eyes look up, glance over to the pink beast which she's sure was so ready to tear her apart a moment earlier.

"... Lion knows I'm not..." Mikoto's voice is hoarse, suddenly. "... like Steven. I -" - her breath catches in her throat, and she takes a shaky breath. Those bright eyes dart to the door. "I should -"

She should go. She knows she should. There's nothing she can say in her defence, having been judged and found wanting by a cat. But there's something which makes her heart sink, when she thinks of Steven realising the truth.

Mikoto doesn't want him to hate her. Not Steven, who is such a good, kind person. Not Steven, who saved her so many times.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

The boy looks over toward Lion. "Lion always gets defensive if he senses something's up. He does it when the mailman comes by to drop off mail and is carrying something big." He also does it if he senses Steven could be in potential danger, despite how little it could be. But he doesn't say that.

She looks so... heavy-hearted. Sad. Broken. Why over one person? The boy notices she is looking toward the door, and is having a hard time. He hops down and walks in front of her vision. "Hey."

"Look," he starts with, almost cooing words out, trying to cheer her up. "If you want to leave, I won't stop you. But I'll be here. Every day. And I'll be here to listen if you need someone to talk to." The boy looks around the room for some kind of inspiration. His eyes fall on his mother's picture once again. She sure is coming in handy this day.

"I understand some people have differences. Just because I am friends with him, and friends with you, isn't gonna make me angry at either of you."

Mikoto's uneasiness and sorrow gains the attention of another-- Lion.

At this point, Lion is just there. On her other side, trying to worm his head in between the crook of her arm. Animals are known to be empathic, and Lion is no exception. He just looks up at her with those big, round eyes. "See? Even Lion thinks you should stay!" Steven says happily.

"You know what the best part about you not being like me is?" he asks, having heard her. "Is you get to be like you. If you believe what you do is the best for yourself and those around you, then... you shouldn't be like me! You should be like you."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto raises her eyes to Steven again, and they are so hurt, so lost. She looks, for all the world, like she's about to start crying. She shakes her head. It's not fair. It's not fair to make this little boy feel like he has to - to fix her -

- when she's not even broken.

Mikoto Minagi works exactly as intended.

She takes a shaky breath as she feels Lion nosing in, and after a moment's tenseness she is pliable. She curves her arm to allow the cat in, and buries her face against his mane. Her breath shudders.

She is trying not to cry, around Steven Universe.

Of all the futile fights Mikoto's taken on, this is by far the most pointless of them all.

His last line earns a sharp intake of breath, though Mikoto's face is too hidden to make out what might be there. "Steven," she says, her voice muffled by pink fur, "it's not... that simple. Nothing's... simple."

Mikoto takes a breath. "... wish it was, Steven. But - but it's not. What's best for us, what's good and kind... aren't always same thing."

She doesn't want him to hate her. But she can't lie to him, either.

Her hands fist in Lion's mane, her shoulders tightening. She doesn't mean to pull. "Who I am's... not good. Not like Steven. I'm... wild, and dangerous. I know bad things. Steven, I'm... a bad guy." She uses his words, from back then, during the Okinawan trip. They shake as they leave her lips. "Because I gotta be... what's required of me. Even if it's bad... I can do that, Steven. I can be a monster, if I have to." Why, then, does she sound so sad?

Mikoto cannot bear to look at him, in this moment. She keeps her face hidden in pink fur. "My enemies... people who attack me, get in my way... I won't hesitate to destroy. Even if... they're good." Normally, it would be a warning - and perhaps, in a way, it still is. But it isn't offered in threat, now. It's an admission.

She takes another shuddering breath, and her shoulders shake. "But Steven saved me. Over and over. I don't want Steven to be my enemy. I wanna protect Steven. That's why... I can't tell Steven any of this. If Steven knew..." Mikoto's voice lowers, cracks. "... if Steven knew... I'd never be forgiven."

"But I said I wouldn't change. Wasn't lying. Because it's best... solution we have. Not good. Not nice." And there is an edge of steel to her voice, as she insists: "Necessary."

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

Steven listens to Mikoto's words carefully. It tore at him to hear her say some of these things, but... he has no place to try and sway her from it, if it is what she knows. Lion's demeanor does not change. He understands her better than most she has told this story too, for certain. To survive in the wild, one must be built a certain way, and use what they are given to hunt. To sustain. To survive.

And while Lion may be an adorable mascot now, there are things that remain ingrained in primal instinct that never change from his past.

Steven finally speaks. Only two words, But they have depth to them.

"I know."

The boy clutches at his throat, as though something kept him from swallowing. "People always tell me there's no such thing as a good ending often these days. People get hurt in the crossfire." He looks her over, seeing the emotions take hold. "It doesn't matter who you destroy, who you defeat. In the end, all that matters is, did you do what is right for those you care about?"

"That and that alone determines if you are a 'good guy' or 'bad guy'."

"You don't have to answer." The boy smiles. He remembers the reaction she had toward those who rescued her. The caring and love there.

"I already know the answer."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

... he can't be older than twelve, and he already knows there are no happy endings.

Mikoto takes another shuddering breath, and loathes herself for the weight she's placed on him, because even if it's right... even if it's right, he's just a child.

Steven shouldn't have to understand any of this. And yet - miraculously - he does.

"What's right..." Mikoto echoes, her voice trembling. If she didn't support Eri - Eri would have to do it alone. Eri would have to struggle through the weight of her sins alone. Eri would become something terrible, alone. Mikoto knows, because Mikoto has been something terrible, too.

Mikoto has been something terrible, a force unto herself, solitary and vicious and ready to strangle anyone who came across her. Would have killed Mai, if not for her hunger.

Mikoto loves Eri. She can't let such a thing happen to her.

She takes another shuddering breath, quickly, in and out. "I -" Her voice cracks. "- I -"

And raises her head, so hesitantly, looks to him with a face messed with tears, her lips drawn down and brow knit in grief. "It's all - only ever - been for precious people. I'd do, anything, Steven. I'd do anything..."

Mikoto shuts her eyes against a sob. "I'm, sorry, Steven... I'm, I'll be okay, I just... I never... Steven gets it, too..."

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

"I-I'm sorry if I bright up something that upset you, Mikoto," Steven says, visibly losing it seeing her face marred by tearing. "But bad people... they hurt and kill for no one else but themselves. Or pleasing someone so they grow in status or power. There's all sorts out there that do that. And I have seen you fight them."

"Don't let anyone tell you you are a bad person."

"Heh..." Steven chokes out a laugh, from throat being tightened from emotion. "It helps hearing stories about my mom that did just that. Her society labeled her a traitor and a bad person. But she fought for all of Earth because she loved it, and everything on it!" A pause. "That doesn't sound like a bad person to me."

The boy tries to fetch her some napkins or... something! Anything to help her with her tears. He finds clean kitchen towel and offers it to her. "Hey now, hangouts are for fun! Not tears. Let's turn this around, huh?" Steven quickly looks around the room for ideas. That note left on his door gets his attention, reminding him more of that space escape.

"You really let that red-haired guy have it, you know! That was pretty cool. Who's that nice girl you were fighting with? I know the cool knight Lancelot guy I saw, too." He's grasping at straws now. Something to get her away from something that's obviously so difficult for her.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto shakes her head. "It's - it's okay, Steven. It's okay..." She tries, tries to be reassuring. But her voice just wavers too much for it to be any sort of convincing. She sniffles, rubbing at her face with the heel of a hand. "So Steven... doesn't think... I'm bad..." A small, fragile smile crosses her face, and her words are so relieved.

That laugh, those words reveal why. Mikoto takes a steadying breath. "... I'm fighting... for people I love, Steven. No matter what... that's true, okay?" The horrible things she could do in the name of those people - she doesn't get into those. "... love makes us strong. If Steven's mother loved all Earth... must've been able to fight really hard."

She must have been capable of anything, just like Mikoto.

But Mikoto doesn't say that. She's so painfully aware of how much she's already put on Steven. She's not going to burden him with the knowledge of what a person can do in the name of love.

... he's a warrior, after all. He'll find himself in that situation eventually. He'll learn.

So when Steven fetches her a kitchen towel, she buries her face in it, scrubbing at it until the tears are gone. She swallows at the lump in her throat. She tries to put herself back together again. "Yeah..."

Mikoto lifts her face, taking a deep breath. "... yeah."

And it seems Steven's subject has some promise, because Mikoto smiles again. "... Mai asked me to destroy him. So I did. But, couldn't have alone. Mai's..." Mikoto's smile grows fond and warm. "... really nice. Mai's good, just like Steven. Mai... Mai believes in me. So I try, to be what Mai sees. 'Cause Mai's smile... is the best thing. I love Mai so much." What a forward declaration.

Mikoto scritches Lion behind an ear, if he's still present. "... Lancelot's good person, too. I love Lancelot too!" - oh. Maybe Mikoto isn't talking about l o v e love. "Mostly Lancelot likes to hang out with Mai, but... Lancelot's nice. Helps whenever I need help." Mikoto shakes her head, smiling. "Never expected help for messing up, getting captured. But Mai came... and Lancelot came, too. It was -" - she pauses, with a thoughtful noise, but eventually decides that she should be honest around Steven. "... scary, what happened. But, they cared... and that meant lots."

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

Okay, she's starting to come around. Good! He can't have the beach house with the reputation of 'places girls go and are made to cry'. That'd be awful!

Steven doesn't like that Mikoto has fought and defeated good people, but if there is one thing the boy has learned from his stay in Tokyo thusfar, it is that actions have consequences. If you go against someone, you should expect retaliation.

"That is great to hear," the boy comments toward Mikoto, taking another mochi now that his throat has loosened up. "Yeah, I like to think she was strong. I never knew her, but I hear so many stories of her valor and bravery."

"Mai was that fire using lady, right?" he asks. He remembers her calling out Mikoto's name while melting a score of robots. That was nuts. He felt the heat and the pressure of the flame from so far away. The intensity was astronomical. This also further solidifies his thoughts on Mikoto being good. She loves this Mai. apparently Lancelot too. Maybe they are related? Or super close.

"Of course they would come for you! You are important to them, just like they are important to you. It's like you got extra family! Best way to look at it. I mean, Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl aren't actually my moms, but they are just like them to me!"

He finishes the rest of his mochi ball. "No matter what you do, I'll believe in you, Mikoto. You and your ability to protect your friends."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Valor and bravery... Mikoto nods, with an affirmative noise.

"Yup," she confirms his next question. "Mai's fire-wielder. Mai's... most important girl in the world. My first friend," Mikoto explains, and perhaps now it makes sense. "Mai was... kind to me, when I was vicious and alone. Mai let me stay..." Mikoto's voice quiets. "... Mai saved me."

Steven explains his relationship to the Gems, and Mikoto nods. "Glad Steven's got family. Family's important. I got family too," she insists. "I'll find my Lord Brother soon." And perhaps that's a strange term, to him, the way she refers to her brother - it's formal and archaic. "But... I found Mai and Eri too. Both precious to me."

And so, it seems, someone else believes in her.

It's a little scary, having so many people to live up to, but Mikoto smiles anyway, because she's touched by Steven's kindness. "I'll protect," she agrees. "Steven... thanks."