Peridot took pride in keeping herself informed. Never go forward without knowing everything there was to know about a situation and then some — that was her philosophy. First thing the next morning, the Steven announced that despite his ability to prompt Pearl Half #1 into regenerating, he had been unsuccessful in getting Pearl Half #2 to do the same. (He had, of course, shared his idea for their names, which were silly and ridiculous and no way would Peridot use them.) She did pay close attention, though, when Steven described how his encounter with Pearl Half #2 had gone so horribly wrong. It was obvious, really, once he got started. Pearl Half #1 had almost all her old memories but had no clue how to feel about any of them. Pearl Half #2 had all her emotional attachments, but very few memories to explain how she had formed those attachments to begin with. No wonder she was… unstable.
Peridot rubbed her chin. The rest of the Crystal Gems were acting very irrationally, she had to say. It was as if in all their obsession over their friend, they’d completely forgotten the Cluster existed. Was it up to Peridot, then, to signal-handedly save this world from destruction? Or would it be a more effective use of her time to aid them in their quest, thus regaining their assistance for the battle against the Cluster later on? It was a completely tactical decision to make. Certainly nothing related to “caring” about Pearl in any way.
“Arg, what’s wrong with her now?” a voice groaned from the living room. Amethyst’s voice, Peridot recognized at once. She put away the charts she’d been examining and walked out to see what all the fuss was. She peered into the living room to see Amethyst yanking her hair in frustration while Pearl Half #1 seemed to be… well, flickering. She stood unsteadily on her feet with the rest of the Crystal Gems standing around her looking on with anxious faces. Peridot kept herself hidden just behind the doorframe and watched as the table behind Pearl Half #1 became visible right through her stomach for a few microseconds. That couldn’t be good.
“Seriously,” Amethyst groaned, “when Pearl is whole again, I’m gonna smack her into pieces for worrying us like this!”
“Stop raising your voice; you’re making it worse,” Garnet said calmly. She took Pearl Half #1 by the hand and helped her into a chair. “Are you feeling all right?”
“I… don’t think so,” Pearl Half #1, holding her head and looking like she might pass out. “I… feel week. Like I can’t sustain this form much longer.”
“Oh, no,” said Steven, gripping the edge of the table. “Are you gonna un-generate?”
Pearl Half #1 gave him a confused look. “I’m… sorry?” she asked.
“You know. Are you going to go back to being all inside your gem?” He pointed to the spot on his forehead that roughly corresponded to where the stone on Half Pearl #1’s forehead was located.
“That can’t happen,” Garnet said as if the group of them had any control over whether it would happen or not. “If she’s this weak now, there’s no way she’ll be able to regenerate again. We need a way to sustain her.” She pushed her visor further up the bridge of her nose with her index finger and gritted her teeth as she continued speaking. “I should have anticipated this. Half of a Gem can’t exist for that long on her own. She needs to fuse to survive. And she needs to do it soon.”
“Well, can’t she do it with one of us?” Amethyst asked. “I mean, yeah, she should do it with Coral or whatever, but maybe we can help hold her together until then.”
Garnet smiled. “Amethyst, you’re brilliant.”
“I am?” Amethyst straightened herself on the stool and actually blushed a bit. “Gee, thanks.”
Peridot rolled her eyes. These Crystal Gems were far too generous with their use of the word “brilliant.” Peridot would have to concoct a new word to describe her own level of intelligence to distinguish it from… whatever Garnet thought Amethyst was.
“Come on, Half-P,” said Garnet, holding her hand out. “It’s Opal time.”
Peridot ducked back behind the doorframe, pressing herself again the wall. It was an impulse, her still-sane body’s natural reaction to the concept of fusion. She’d seen Opal once already, of course. It seemed to be a fusion that Pearl and Amethyst, given their contrasting personalities, only formed when there was a practical need to do so.
Well, there’s certainly a practical need now, Peridot thought, and the idea made her feel a little more comfortable with the whole process. She peered into the room once again.
The two Gems had contrasting dance styles — Amethyst’s movements were lively and passionate, her sense of beat less obvious. Half Pearl #1’s movements were elegant and deliberate. But then, Peridot noted as the two circled each other, she seemed to adjust her steps. Her pace picked up, her movements became a bit more edgy. Yet they never stopped looking… well, calculated. The two dancers spun around and joined hands, their bodies filling with a warm glow of white light. Almost instantly, their forms merged and Opal straightened up, bumping her head on their ceiling. She leaned down and her body seemed to adjust its size for the room. She was still taller than the rest of them were, the top of her hair pressing into the ceiling, but at least she didn’t have to bend over.
“Wow,” Opal said, looking down at her own four hands as if she were surprised to see them there. “We almost never fuse that smoothly. It’s like she… adjusted to me in a way that Pearl never does.”
“She?” As if that half of the fusion is independent? Peridot felt uneasy all over again. When a Gem fused, as far as she could tell, she never spoke about her individual Gems as separate entities like that. It was as if the fusion in front of them had only Amethyst’s thoughts and personality. Then, just as the idea passed through Peridot’s mind, the fusion in front of her began to change. She shrunk down even smaller, her nose became less pointed, her irises darkened, and her skin took on a more purple tone. In other words, she seemed to be transforming into Amethyst.
Garnet must have recognized it at the same time Peridot did. “Unfuse!” she demanded. “Now!”
What was left of Opal glowed white and the two Gems fell away from each other. Amethyst took a roll to somewhere under the table while Half Pearl #1 simply collapsed where she stood.
Peridot couldn’t stand it any longer. Didn’t they all see how stupid they were being? She marched out from behind the doorframe, taking a position in the center of the room where she could point an accusing finger at each of them with equal ease.
“You clods!” she snapped. “What are you thinking? You’re trying not to overwhelm her, and yet you try a fusion with the most aggressive Gem here? What did you expect to happen?”
Amethyst climbed out from under the table, rubbing her head. “Hey, I did my best!” she snapped.
Garnet rubbed her chin. “It’s not anything you did, Amethyst,” Garnet said. “It’s your natural personality. I had a feeling it wouldn’t work out, but I don’t know what else…” She paused mid-sentence, her voice going silent but her lips still moving. Talking to herself? Or, perhaps more accurately, talking with herself?
“A fusion with me would be disastrous,” she stated.
Like that wasn’t obvious, Peridot thought. If a two-Gem fusion was overwhelming, then a three-Gem fusion would devour what little was left of that Pearl-half in a second.
The Steven ran over to the Pearl-half’s side, trying to get her stand. The two of them failed miserably; the Pearl-half stumbled and knocked Steven over when she started to put weight on her legs. Then the flickering sped up, becoming more and more frequent.
“Well, what do we do then?” the Steven demanded. Much to Peridot’s dismay, his eyes fell to her as he spoke. “Can’t you try to fuse with her?”
“I-I…” Peridot stumbled backwards. No, she did not fuse. Never had and never would. There was no useful combination of Gems that involved a Peridot back on Homeworld, therefore Peridots didn’t fuse. That was the natural order of things.
“If Peridot’s not comfortable with the idea, she’s going to do more harm than good,” Garnet said. She folded her arms and looked hesitantly between the floor at her feet and Pearl Half #1. “Sea Glass needs someone to fuse with who isn’t too aggressive and who’s used to being part of a whole.” She placed her hand on her chest. “She needs Sapphire.”
A collective gasp rose up in the room, as if Steven and Amethyst had planned it ahead of time.
“What?” Amethyst exclaimed. “You’re gonna unfuse? You never do that! Ever!”
“What’s Ruby gonna say? Isn’t she gonna be upset?” The Steven was kneeling by the Pearl-half’s side now, lifting her head. Her body was becoming transparent more often than it was staying opaque. Pearl Half #1 seemed barely able to keep herself conscious.
Garnet chuckled at the boy’s question. “Steven, Ruby and Sapphire are me. This is an agreement between both of them. Pearl’s our friend, and we’ll do what we can to help her. Even if…” she hesitated, only for a second; the others probably didn’t even notice it. “…even if it means we have to be apart for a bit.”
Then, before anyone had the chance to argue with her any more about it, Garnet placed her hand on her chest once again, and her body let of a soft, white glow. In an instant, her height decreased, and her two halves (which Peridot had only been able to theorize about up until now) stepped away from each other. When the light faded, Peridot raised her eyebrows at what she saw. She suspected a Ruby had been part of the fusion — they were common enough, at any rate. But a Sapphire? She’d never even met one in person before. She felt a compulsion to bow politely or ask the Sapphire if there was any technology she needed assistance with. Peridot shook the sensation off quickly, of course. Still, it was scary to think that there were some ways that she didn’t behave all that differently from a Pearl.
Well, at the very least, seeing the Ruby and the Sapphire separate made Peridot feel a little more comfortable around them. Not that she would say that aloud. The Ruby looked like she could (and would, if insulted enough), twist Peridot up like one of those “prez-stalls” she’d seen the Steven consuming once. Even now, as everyone else stood looking at them in shock, she punched her hand into her open fist. “Okay, let’s do this!” she said.
Pearl Half #1 managed to sit up a bit more. “Are you… sure you want this? I don’t want to bother…”
“Hey, no talking like that!” Ruby snapped. “I said I wanna, so I wanna, okay? Save your energy for fusing.”
The Pearl-half still looked hesitant. While Ruby tried to talk to her, Peridot saw an opportunity. She took the Sapphire by the hand and pulled her back a few steps, keeping her voice low so the others wouldn’t hear.
“Hey, I seem to recall someone giving me a full-on lecture about lies of omission and some other such nonsense,” she muttered. “And I know what a Sapphire is capable of. Be straight with me… how long is your fusion going to function? A week? Two weeks?”
Sapphire only smiled. “It’ll last long enough,” she said then walked over the Pearl-half’s side. Without waiting for any more excuses, she smiled and took the Pearl-half’s hand. “Come on, Sea Glass,” she said. “Fuse with me.”
It was a command. A gentle command, but a command nonetheless. And if Peridot could barely resist the Sapphire’s authority, then the Pearl-half had no chance. Their two bodies began to glow and the shape of their forms merged into one. Steven and Amethyst watched the whole thing tensely, while Ruby shuffled her feet and looked off to the side.