It was all Amethyst’s fault.
No, that wasn’t fair and Pearl knew it, Garnet had been the one who’d chosen to put herself between the purple gem and the long curved blade on the tail of the giant turquoise snake they were fighting.
“But if Amethyst had just been a bit more careful,” she couldn’t help but think to herself as she activated the warp pad back to the temple “if she’d just followed my strategy.”
She sighed out loud despite herself.
If the younger gem heard her they didn’t acknowledge it, remaining uncharacteristically silent with their head down and a downcast expression on their face, as they had the whole time since the incident.
In the millennia the crystal gems had known each other, Pearl had seen Garnet retreat into their gem a grand total of once. Amethyst had never seen it happen, so when the snake’s bladed tail sliced through the fusion’s stomach and she vanished, there was a brief moment where Pearl and the kindergarten gem had locked eyes with matching expressions of shock and horror. Time had seemed to slow as they watched two gems hang in the air before starting to fall to the ground.
The snake hissed and swung it’s tail around as it turned to face the two remaining gems, accidentally clipping the falling red gem and knocking it halfway across the room, where it hit the wall with a large crack.
A purple whip coiled around the snake’s head tying it’s mouth closed, while Pearl threw a spear impaling the snake through one of its eyes. With a reassuring ‘poof’ the corrupted gem’s body vanished, leaving only a large blue/green gem, which Pearl hastily bubbled, before scooping up and cradling Garnet’s gems.
They didn’t talk to each other during the warp home.
Connie and Steven were sitting on the counter holding handheld video game devices and laughing when the gems returned.
“You’re back! Did you get me anything? Where’s…” His eyes locked on the two gems in Pearl’s arms and filled with tears instantly “Garnet?” He choked out the last word.
“Just an accident, a silly mistake. These things happen, Garnet’s going to be just fine Steven!” Pearl adopted an over the top cheerful tone and waved her free hand around. Noticing Amethyst looking suspiciously at her from the corner of her eye, she waved off Steven’s questions with assurances of Garnet’s good health and imminent return as she dragged Amethyst by the back of her shirt into Pearl’s room in the temple.
“Hey wait!” Steven chased after them but was too late as the door began to disappear.
“We’re just putting Garnet in her room, we’ll be back soon Steven!” Pearl said as the door closed completely.
The shorter gem wrenched away from Pearl and turned to face her with a huff, crossing her arms.
“Ok, what are you trying to hide from Steven?” She said, crossing her arms.
Wordlessly, Pearl held the small red gem in her shaking hand.
“So what? Steven’s seen you poof before once, and me like a gazillion times!”
Pearl turned the red gem over, revealing the large crack down the middle.
“Oh. Man, this is so not good.”
Silence. Pearl was shuddering violently with suppressed tears and anxieties by this point. She felt like she was going to explode any moment, desperately trying to swallow back the painful lump in her throat.
“Our bodies are just an illusion,” she’d heard Garnet say to Steven once last year as he held Pearl’s gem, weeping, and her awareness of the outside world had slowly faded away. Why couldn’t she stay calm, like Garnet? Why wasn’t she strong like Garnet?
“It’s gonna be ok P, we just gotta take her to the fountain and then kaboom, magic healing!” Amethyst gently punched Pearl on the arm.
“It’s just, your gem had only a superficial crack at first, Ruby’s damaged so much more deeply, what if we can’t get her to help in time? What if it gets worse? What if we don’t get to the fountain in time?” Pearl sobbed wringing her hands, “I-we, we can’t lose her Amethyst! We can’t! And how would we tell Steven?”
“Jeez, relax, you’re acting like she’s already dead. Ruby’s tough, she’ll hang on.” Amethyst rolled her eyes.
“None of this would have happened if YOU had just followed the plan. All of this could have been avoided!” Pearl bit back, grief turning quickly into rage washing over her, filling her mind just as completely as the sadness had before. She was so focused in her rage as she and Amethyst began screaming and shouting at each other venomously that she had almost forgotten she was sad.
Then Amethyst started crying too.
Pearl looked at her for a second, stunned, then placed the gems on the floor and pulled her in for a hug. They stayed that way for a while. Once the two had finished crying they sat cross legged on the floor and planned their next move.
“We’ve wasted too much time already, if Sapphire regenerates and sees Ruby like this she’s going to freak.” Amethyst pointed out.
“But we need to get past Steven without him getting suspicious, you know he looks up to Garnet so much, he’d be crushed if he finds out. He’s been through so much already in the last few months.”
Too much. Pearl had broken her promise to stop watching him sleep after the first nightmare of his she’d walked in on. Steven knew what she was doing, how could he not? Yet he never commented on it or asked her to stop.
Some nights he called for her when he woke up crying. Some nights he pretended he was fine. Some nights he asked her to leave the light on while he slept, and it broke her heart. What had they all done to the eager little boy so desperate to become a gem and go on missions? And of the the three crystal gems she was most at fault, she’d wanted him to be a crystal gem. She cursed herself for not listening to Garnet and Amethyst, she cursed herself for giving Steven that mirror, she cursed Lapis and Peridot and Jasper, and herself most of all.
He’d already seen Garnet split in half once, he didn’t need any more fuel for his nightmares.
“How about I distract Steven and you take Ruby and Sapphire to the fountain?”
“You’re ok with this Amethyst?”
The younger gem flushed, “yeah, I’ll take the brats for some donuts!”
They both smiled at each other and jumped to their feet, Amethyst kissed Pearl on the forehead and patted her arm, before shifting into some kind of large shaggy dog and bouncing through the temple door to tackle the two children.
Pearl waited until she heard the front door close and Steven’s giggling receding in volume before tentatively entering the kitchen with the two gems, placing one of Steven’s shirts on the counter she wrapped the gems up in it and then tied the shirt-bag across her back with Steven’s skipping rope, before climbing onto the warp pad and heading to Rose’s inner sanctum.
It was as she remembered from when Rose was alive, free from the dark vines that had taken over the place when she was here last, she made her way quickly to the main chamber and unwrapped the shirt to drop the red gem in the healing tears.
There was a glow and a flash of light. Pearl jumped in shock as she turned to see Sapphire reformed behind her.
“Ruby!” Sapphire cried, running to the side of the pool to look in.
Pearl didn’t bother explaining anything to her, the little blue gem possessed Garnet’s future vision and no doubt knew not only what had happened already, but also what was most likely to happen next.
Sapphire didn’t speak or move again, she and Pearl were as motionless as the statues by the fountain, as the sun went down and rose again hours later, Ruby finally emerged back into their body and swam to the surface and Sapphire let out a shriek of joy.
Pearl couldn’t help but feel a little jealous as the two ignored Pearl’s existence completely, so caught up in each other as they were. Laughing with glee, hugging each other so tightly Pearl wondered why they didn’t just fuse, and kissing every inch of each other’s faces. Pearl couldn’t help but feel a little jealous of the two, they were so open with their love, so completely wrapped up in each other. She’d never really had much to do with Ruby and Sapphire - they’d already been Garnet for a couple of centuries when she met them.
Then as Sapphire tripped, Ruby caught her and they pressed their faces together and grinned, glowing as they fused into a smirking Garnet.
“Howdy,” Garnet said, donning her shades.
Pearl remembered Ruby and Sapphire’s affectionate reunion and flushed, looking away. After how joyous they’d been she felt like she should be showing Garnet how happy she was to have them back, but felt a little awkward all of a sudden.
While she’d been monologuing internally the fusion walked over to her, and they placed a hand on her shoulder, startling Pearl out of her thoughts.
“You did a good job, Sapphire wants me to thank you for saving Ruby.”
Garnet adjusted her shades and began to walk away
“Oh, er, it was nothing.” Pearl waved a hand in what she hoped was a carefree manner as she followed along animatedly. “Tell Ruby and Sapphire that it was no problem.”
The tall gem made a non committal grunt and if Pearl didn’t know that Garnet wasn’t the type to get embarrassed, she could’ve sworn the larger gem was blushing slightly.
“Did they say anything else?” Pearl pressed.
“We should go and check on Steven, I’m detecting a lot of futures where Amethyst and he have made a mess of his room.” Garnet said.
They stepped onto the warp pad and Garnet grabbed her hand.
“It’s ok to cry Pearl,” Pearl realised Garnet must’ve heard some of her conversation with Amethyst, “I missed you too when you were gone.”
Utterly mortified, and sure her face was some shade of navy by now, Pearl merely nodded and leaned into the other gem as the world lit up blue and the floor melted away.