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Challenge #01182-C087: Goodbye Rose, Hello Steven

"Tiny Hands! My only weakness" -- Anon Guest

Greg.

He couldn't stop crying. Both for his lost love and for joy at the tiny life held carefully in his arms. Small. Fragile. Helpless. Hungry and needing and there. Solidly. In his arms.

He had no idea how long he'd been holding Steven. Only that his very small body was starting to take its toll on his elbows and shoulders and back.

Why was someone who was so small... so heavy?

"Time for bed, little man," he whispered. "We've... all had a very tough day..."

The baby squirmed and mewled. Not liking a soft bed replacing the arms of his father. Greg soothed him. My hand's bigger than his body...

A tiny, new hand. Hours old. Chanced to hold his pinkie finger. Good instincts.

Greg wound up blubbering all over again.

Amethyst.

She liked the star man. Until today. He was cool and fun and always had neat things to share. And for her to eat. And Rose was always with him, these days. She wasn't allowed to have much more fun than to hang around with him all day.

But today, the star man was alone. And he looked really sad.

She knew before she asked, "Where's Rose?"

And the answer was in his tear-streaked face before he said, in a hushed and broken voice, "She's gone."

And the answer was in the basket by his knee, where a small hand investigated the edge. Where the hand was attached to a wildly waving arm. Where the arm was attached to a small... not quite human.

Amethyst couldn't hate the baby. He never chose this. She couldn't hate Rose. She was gone. So she wound up hating Greg by a process of elimination.

Pearl.

She wanted to hate him. She wanted to despise this tiny interloper. She wanted to blame him for the loss of the one she wanted her forever with.

She wanted to rage and shout and destroy the world.

But he was tiny. Not a monster at all.

Dark hair, like his. Curly, like hers. Deep, dark eyes, like the echoing gulfs of deep space.

"...buh?" he said.

"It's okay," said Greg. "You can touch him. Say hello."

Her fingers met his hand. So... small..

She didn't resist as he brought her finger to his mouth. At least, not until she made contact with the ample supply of saliva there. Yet she could not - would not - break the infant's grip on her finger.

This was Rose. Part of Rose. And he loved her so simply. So thoroughly.

Only then, did she weep.

Garnet.

Fresh from war, and into a dual announcement of birth and death. She'd known this day was coming and thought she had shed all of her tears.

Life had changed in unexpected ways. Again.

She was dimply aware of human life. They had babies and worked to keep them alive until they could have babies of their own. But this one...

She could see this one warping the fabric of causality like a bowling ball on a trampoline. That something so small could have such a large effect on time and space.

"You can hold him, if you like," said Greg. This was a human ritual. Hand the child around to all who would be in its life. Greet and bless and coo.

Human babies were fragile. There were thousands - millions - of potential futures in which Rose's great experiment ended right there. Garnet chose the one in which Steven continued to exist.

His tiny hand grasped one of her fingers.

And, as it turned out, there were still tears in her after all. And she fell in love all over again.

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