“Whoa, you look really weird!” Amethyst announced when Sea Glass descended the stairs and walked into the kitchen. Garnet’s version of dinner appeared to be a not-too-healthy, but incredibly delicious spread of hot dogs, rolls, and a wide variety of hot dog condiments. Amethyst jumped off her chair and walked up to the odd trio, circling Sea Glass with an appraising look. “I like the sleeves, though. They’re pretty cool. You gonna keep those when you re-fuse?”
“If Steven wants it,” Sea Glass replied.
“Huh?” Amethyst straightened. “What’s Steven got to do with it?”
“Because he’s my owner, of course.” Sea Glass smiled like she was thoroughly pleased with herself for having the correct answer so quickly. Steven slapped himself in the forehead. Amethyst made no immediate response except to stare at Sea Glass with wide, bewildered eyes.
“Steven,” she ordered, still not looking in his direction, “talking place. Now.”
Steven held up one finger. “Wait,” he said. He then reached for one of the hot dogs that were sitting on the table, devoured it in five bites, and took a long drink of water before resuming his conversation. “Stevie is better now,” he declared. “Talking place.”
Amethyst rolled her eyes and grabbed him by the hand, pulling him away from the group and out of the kitchen. Her “talking place” referred to the space underneath the stairs. Since Garnet could barely fit inside and Pearl had simply found it too undignified a place to have a conversation, Amethyst and Steven had frequently used it as a place to have their own discussions. Amethyst pulled Steven into the space, not even bothering with the “curtain” Steven had made out of a towel rack and a blanket.
“Hey, what gives?” she said, finally letting go of his hand. “That’s… not anything like Pearl!”
“I know that,” Steven said, rubbing his wrist where Amethyst had been pulling on it. “Garnet says that this half of Pearl might be…” he tried to remember Garnet’s exact words on their way down the stairs, “…reflecting of a period in Pearl’s past that she herself had kept suppressed for a long time.”
“And what does that mean?” Amethyst asked, crossing her arms.
Steven frowned. “I don’t totally know,” he admitted. “I think it means that might have been how Pearl used to act before any of us met her.”
Amethyst blew a piece of hair out of her face. “Yeah, well, if even Garnet doesn’t remember her acting like this, then you’re talking back to the time her and Rose’s rebellion. Maybe even before that.”
“So… you don’t know anything about her life back then?” Steven asked.
“Why would I? I wasn’t even born, dude!”
Steven hung his head in disappointment. Even though he knew that Amethyst had been the last one to join the team, he’d been hoping that somehow Amethyst had some information about Pearl that Garnet didn’t. Maybe some heart-to-heart they’d had when Garnet wasn’t around. Only now he realized that Amethyst and Pearl having any kind of heart-to-heart unless Steven or Garnet made them had been pretty much a nonexistent event.
“Oh, come on, don’t cry or anything,” Amethyst begged.
Steven rubbed his eyes. He hadn’t even realized his eyes had been wet, but Amethyst was right. He got a hold of himself quickly. “I’m not crying,” he declared.
“Of course you’re not,” Amethyst said with a smile. “Because we’re going to fix this. All you have to do is get Pearl’s second Gem to fuse with this one, and–”
“Um, Pearl’s second gem hasn’t regenerated yet,” Steven said. “I can’t really control the dream-talking thing too well. It was only Sea Glass there when I fell asleep and started dreaming.”
Amethyst stared blankly at him for a few moments. “You named that girl in there Sea Glass?”
“That’s not even a Gem name, dude.”
Steven shrugged and rubbed his chin. If he was going to try to contact Pearl’s other half, he would need a name for her, too. There wasn’t a window to the beautiful ocean from here (or a window to anything, really, being the underside of the stairs and all), so Steven closed his eyes for a minute and imagined all the beautiful, name-worthy things he might find on the ocean floor.
“Coral,” he finally concluded.
“I’m going to name Pearl’s other half Coral.”
“That’s not a Gem name, either.”
Steven hung his head in disappointment, unsure how much more failure he could take. Then he heard Amethyst’s voice reassuring him, “But… it’s nice anyways.”
When Steven went back to the kitchen, he found that his first hot dog hadn’t filled him up nearly as much as he’d hoped and helped himself to a second. Garnet had apparently made a dozen of them, unsure of how much Amethyst planned to consume. Amethyst then picked up the entire tray and announced she was taking it to her room unless someone else had objections. No one did. Sea Glass commented that the idea of her taking food didn’t seem very practical, but neither did it disgust her, and if Steven wished it, she would most certainly give these “hot dogs” a try. It left dinner on a very uncomfortable note.
“Look, let’s just um… why don’t we show you to your room,” Steven said.
“All right, then,” Sea Glass replied.
Steven led her to the Gems’ door, which opened up to Pearl’s room on their approach. Steven stepped through, clutching Sea Glass’s small hand. It occurred to him that he’d hadn’t ever actually been up here without asking her first and he harbored a small fear that perhaps Pearl had some sort of secret barrier in here that would zap them if they entered without her giving permission. If such a barrier did exist, though, it didn’t seem to go off in their presence. They rose into the huge space, filled with its vast pools and floating waterfalls. If Steven didn’t turn around and just kept walking, he could almost imagine that Pearl was back here.
“So, this is where you… um, Pearl liked to hang out a lot,” he said. His first thought was to take her on a tour until he realized that he didn’t have much of an idea how this place was organized.
Sea Glass suppressed a giggle. “Steven, I know my way around the room,” she said. “I remember it quite well.”
“Wait, you do?” Steven asked. He’d been working under the assumption that Sea Glass was simply Pearl before she met Rose Quartz. It didn’t occur to him that she’d been a mix of both. And, he realized to his embarrassment, he hadn’t even bothered to question her about it. He sat down on a stump of a marble pillar beside a crystal clear lake and Sea Glass sat beside him in silence.
“You know,” Steven said. “I’ve been asking everyone else what they remember about you, but… I never asked you directly,” he said. “How much do you know about your past?”
“Oh, I remember practically everything,” Sea Glass said proudly. “When you were born, the time I met Amethyst, all… well, at least some of my sword practice–”
“Wow, really?” Steven asked with excitement.
“Well, yes,” she replied. Then she gently touched the side of her head. “There are… some memories missing, though,” she said. “I don’t remember your mother.”
“Um, what?” Steven asked. It was true he didn’t know a whole lot about his mother, either, but he knew one thing. She and Pearl had been really, really close.
“I mean, I am aware of who she was and her significance in the history of Homeworld,” Sea Glass clarified. “But I don’t remember her on a personal level. I know I had many conversations with her, but they’re all in a fog. To be honest, I’m only partially clear on what she looked like.”
Steven felt crushed all over again. He felt it for Pearl first, but then, a new despair welled inside him for kind of selfish reasons. Of all the Crystal Gems, Pearl knew most about his mother. Her stories of Rose Quartz made him feel like he could see her, even if he was only imagining it. If those memories were gone…
Sea Glass seemed to sense his distress and stroked her chin. “It seems most of my more… emotional personality is tied up with the other Gem that split off from Pearl,” she said. “I’m guessing these memories about Rose had a very strong emotional connection. So, they must be with the other Gem half. When the two of us are reunited, my memories will be whole again. And I’ll know how to feel about them.” She said it hopefully, almost like she was asking him if it were true.
“S-sure you will,” he told her and felt instantly guilty. It wasn’t like him to tell people stuff he wasn’t sure about just to make them feel better. The Gems did that to him a lot, but he tended to limit his uplifting talks to good feelings and metaphors about pork chops.
Steven stood up. Well, he’d gone and reassured her and now he had to follow through. The only way to know for sure what the reunited Gems would act like was to actually reunite them. He had to get back to sleep and contact Coral as quickly as possible.
“All right, I’m on a mission,” he announced, pointing triumphantly towards the exit. “I am going… to bed!”
He grinned, hoping Sea Glass would share in his determination. Instead, she gave him a polite bow and said, “Very well, Steven. Good night.”
It turned out that taking a pre-dinner nap didn’t do much to help Steven rest. He spent quite a while turning this way and that, rotating around in his bed, and counting the cracks in the ceiling to see if the number had changed since the last time he’d counted them. Eventually, however, he did manage to nod off. And unlike the other times he’d talking to one of the Gems in his dreams, he didn’t float around in a bunch of nonsense worlds before finding Coral. It felt as if the instant his eyes slipped closed, he had simply appeared right in front of Coral.
Or, rather, in back of her. They weren’t standing in the middle of a lake this time, but on what appeared to be a floor of glass. Coral was kneeling down, her face buried in her sole hand, but Steven could tell it was her, just the same. She looked like Sea Glass’s mirror image, only with an orangey-reddish tone to her body. And once again, the soft cries that came from her mouth had a voice exactly like Pearl’s.
But why is she crying? Steven took a step forward, raising his hand in greeting. Before he could get a word out, however, she jumped to her feet. “Who’s there?” As she whirled around, her one eye (on the right side of her face) stared at him with a blazing fury.
“I… um…” Steven stuttered. On one hand, he felt like he shouldn’t have been surprised. This was Pearl’s emotional half, after all. But Pearl almost never yelled at him.
Coral’s eye narrowed, then widened with surprise. Her pursed lips morphed into a huge grin and she ran over to Steven, throwing her arm around his waist and squeezing tightly.
“Steven! I so happy to see you!” She bounced up and down like an overexcited little sister. “So excited!” She leaned forward, cupping her hand to her mouth like she was whispering home huge secret. “It is Steven, right? I got that correct?”
“Um, yes?” Steven asked, feeling more than a little weird about confirming his own name to Pearl. Even if it was half of Pearl.
“Yes!” She thrust her hand into the air in a self-congratulatory cheer. “I knew it. I just knew it. I love you, Steven, you know that? I love you so much!”
“Hold on,” Steven said, putting up one hand to help clam her down. “You love me, but you weren’t sure if my name was Steven or not?”
“It’s crazy, isn’t it?” she asked, still grinning and doing a little ballet spin. “I’ve got all these crazy feelings about a whole bunch of different things, but I barely remember the details at all!”
Yeah, that’s…. crazy all right, Steven thought, unsure if voicing the thought aloud was a good idea or not. Pearl could be a little unstable at times, but this half of her seemed to take that concept to a new extreme.
“So… how do you feel about regenerating?” Steven asked hopefully.
Coral froze. As quickly as she’d cheered up when Steven arrived, her face filled with fear just as fast. “N-no,” she stuttered, stepping back. “I don’t want to regenerate. Every time I think about regenerating, I–” She took another step backwards, and a small crack formed in the glass floor.
“Okay, okay,” Steven said, desperately trying to sound reassuring, “we don’t have to talk about regeneration right now. Let’s sit down and talk about…” he searched his mind for some common ground with her. What kinds of things did Pearl usually like to discuss? “…um, Gem stuff?” he finished.
“Oh,” Coral gasped, her expression the closest to calm she’d shown so far. “I do remember some things. I remember all about your mother, Steven. You want me to talk about her?”
“You remember Mom?” Steven had to admit it, a wave of relief rushed over him at that. But as much as he wanted to hear Coral’s stories, he felt a bit uneasy as she launched into a lecture about some epic Gem battle. Talking about Rose Quartz could either make Pearl her happiest or saddest self, and he had no clue how to gauge how this half of Pearl would react. Still, she seemed to start off okay, marching around and demonstrating various sword techniques while she narrated the fight as skillfully as movie announcer.
“…and then she told me, ‘I’m going to stay and fight for this planet…'”
As Coral went deeper into her story, she started to pace around, motioning as if the images of the battle were right there in front of them. She seemed to get so absorbed in her own words, she had almost forgotten Steven was there. He began to feel nervous again. He had no clue how much time he had left to talk like this, and he had to think of some way to steer the conversation back to regeneration. Only, said conversation seemed to be going on without him.
“Hey, um, other half of Pearl?” Steven called out to her.
“…when I took up my sword, dedicating myself to battle…”
“Coral?” Steven asked. “I mean, is it okay if I call you Coral?”
“…knew we would accept nothing less than victory…”
“Hey!” Steven finally yelled.
She leapt up in surprise and whirled around. “Oh, sorry!” she said with a nervous laugh. “Guess I got a little carried away.”
Probably more than a little, Steven thought, but again kept it to himself. He looked down at the glass floor and hoped what he was about to say didn’t end with it cracking again. “Listen, I know it’s hard for you, but… we need to talk about going home.”
“Oh, to Homeworld?” Coral asked, a mix of nervousness and excitement in her voice.
“Um, no. To Earth. Earth is your home now. That’s where your gem is.”
“I’m… still on Earth?” Coral’s voice dropped to a whisper, and her gaze drifted off into nothingness. “No… Rose… Rose is gone, isn’t she?”
And there it was. Steven’s stomach felt like he had swallowed that decade-old burrito that Amethyst had once uncovered in her room. He had a hard enough time dealing with the fact that his mom was gone. And not even twenty-four hours ago, he’d had to deal with the idea that Pearl might be lost forever, too. He wasn’t prepared to explain this right now. So he did the best he could in situations like this. He kept things simple.
“Yeah,” he said quietly. “Rose is gone.” He reached out and took Coral’s hand, squeezing it gently. “But, it’s okay… we’ll get through this together. Let’s go back.”
At this suggestion, Coral yanked her hand away from Steven’s as if it had been bitten by a snake. “I’m not going to Earth!” she shouted. She then grasped the side of her head, winced, and collapsed onto her knees again. “I want to go back to space!” she cried. “I want Rose!”
Steven’s fists shook. He had never felt so helpless before, and he had no clue how to comfort her. Then, as he tried to sort out what to do, he felt a bit of anger rising in him that he should have to comfort her at all. Pearl cried over the loss of Rose, but at least she had known her. Didn’t she realize how much Steven would give to have memories of her? To be able to close his eyes and relive moments with her, no matter how brief they were, no matter how they stung?
“Quit being…” the word was on his tongue. It was a terrible thing to say, but he couldn’t hold it back anymore. “…so selfish!” he finished.
She gasped and looked up at him in shock. Or that might have been Steven who gasped. He already had his hand over his mouth. How had he managed to say something that heartless? Even if he was feeling it, this wasn’t the time for actually saying it. He should apologize to her, explain that he’d been overreacting, or–
Her eyes narrowed at him. “Get out,” she said, just as a huge crack formed in the glass floor by her feet. “Don’t try to contact me again.”
Steven tried to object, but the moment Coral made her demand, she vanished from Steven’s sight. He started to run forward, to see if maybe she’d just teleported to somewhere nearby, but cracks were spidering all over the floor now, pieces of it sinking away into an inky black darkness. He screamed as the glass directly beneath him gave way and his body began to fall.
Then, with a gasp, Steven found himself awake in his bed, drenched in a cold sweat.