Steven didn’t know how it was possible to feel so many different feelings at once. On one hand, he was insanely excited. He and Amethyst were finally about to introduce Smoky Quartz to Pearl and Garnet. On the other hand, he felt guilty. He still hadn’t told Coral or Sea Glass about the bracers he’d gotten from Bismuth. They were fused as Pearl now, so did he wait for her to unfuse to speak to them? Or just speak to her as she was? On the third hand (which he didn’t have, since he was not fused with Amethyst at the moment), he just felt a sort of sadness… he remembered the Ruby he’d pushed out into space. It wasn’t his fault, they’d told him… but he couldn’t help feeling like it was. And he couldn’t help imagining Pearl… the old single-gem Pearl, floating out there, too. Because no matter how much her refused self tried, things weren’t the same as they used to be. She acted more stressed. She whispered and argued with herself. And when she got angry, she quite literally fell apart.
Maybe the old Pearl really was gone. Maybe it had been stupid to think that Sea Glass and Coral could make her come back. Maybe he was being disrespectful of the two Gem halves by expecting them to do that. Or maybe–
“…really think we should save the Dog Walker for next time,” Amethyst was saying. Shoot, she’d been saying stuff before that, too, and he hadn’t been paying attention.
“Well, this is our first impression,” he said, not willing to let on that he’d only been half-listening. “We gotta go big. And we should go soon, too, before they get suspicious. Oh, and before my dad comes over.”
“You invited your dad?” Amethyst looked suddenly nervous.
“Well, yeah,” Steven said, rubbing his arm a bit. “I mean, he knows about Stevonnie, and I’d like him to know about this, too. I feel like I leave him out of Gem stuff… a lot.”
Amethyst kicked at the floor a bit, but nodded in agreement. “That’s fair. I mean, if it’s important to you, I’m cool with it.”
Steven smiled, determined not to let himself get too down. Even if a lot of not-so-nice stuff was going on right now, there was a lot of real good stuff, too. He had to focus on the positive. And that meant, for right now, focusing on which awesome yo-yo trick Smoky Quartz would show Garnet and Pearl first.
“Okay, Pearl,” Garnet said gently, holding out her hand. “Let’s try this one more time.”
Pearl’s hand shook as she reached forward and placed it in Garnet’s palm. Once again (for the third time that morning), they did everything right. Their steps were in sync. And there were few things Pearl could think of that she wanted more now than for this to finally work. But when it actually came time and Garnet tossed Pearl into the air, instead of forming Sardonyx, they formed… Garnet and Pearl on the floor.
“Arg, why can’t I get this right?” Pearl wailed, standing up. Garnet made a shushing sound and put a finger to her lips. Amethyst and Steven still didn’t know that Pearl had failed at every fusion attempt since reforming, and the two were only sitting in the next room. Thankfully, they seemed to be very involved in some sort of discussion (probably about their recent defeat of Jasper) and neither of them responded to Pearl’s lament. She gave a sigh of relief.
“Look, it’s not all you,” Garnet said, readjusting her visor. “This is a four-Gem fusion now. It’s complicated. In some ways, we’ve all got to get reacquainted with each other all over again.”
Pearl stood up and dusted herself off. “Sea Glass and Sapphire got along fine when they were fused,” she said thoughtfully, “do you think maybe Ruby and Coral are in conflict?”
“Could be,” Garnet said, though more in a tone that indicated Pearl really didn’t understand fusion at all. It got frustrating sometimes, and Pearl would be lying if she said she had no jealousy towards Garnet. But for once, she was able to push those thoughts away as her mind wandered elsewhere.
“What would we get if those two fused?” she asked, then looked to Garnet for her usual future-seeing reply. Garnet, however, shook her head.
“Future vision can’t detect unknown Gems,” she said. “It’s the reason I got so scared thinking we’d lost you, Pearl. I couldn’t see your current self.” Pearl tried not to, but she could tell she must have looked horrifically disappointed, because Garnet immediately tried to cheer her up. “But I bet whatever fusion Ruby and Coral made would be pretty amazing.”
Pearl attempted to stop frowning and go along. “Well, she’d pack a punch, of course.”
“A very precise punch,” Garnet said with a grin.
“And she’d be passionate, too,” Pearl went on. “If you messed with anyone she cared about, you’d be sorry.”
“Big time,” Garnet agreed.
Pearl managed a genuine smile this time. “Well, it’s no wonder Sardonyx is so amazing. I mean, being a combination of that fusion and Corundum, how could she not be?”
“Right. Exactly.” Garnet held out her hand again. Pearl stared at it for a long time. She did feel confident, like they could actually pull it off this time, but if they failed again, how was she going to deal with that? What more could they try that they hadn’t tried already.
She slowly reached her hand forward, but as she did so, Steven and Amethyst came into the room. Amethyst cleared her throat loudly, a huge grin on her face, and Pearl threw her hands behind her back before anyone figured out what she and Garnet had been trying and failing to do.
“There’s someone we’d like you to meet!” Amethyst announced with a dramatic wave of her hand.
Pearl had to admit, she wasn’t sure quite what to expect from that. Maybe Amethyst had gotten into G.U.Y.S, too, and they had found a really rare one. Maybe she’d taken on a new wrestling persona she wanted to show off. Maybe she and Steven had started a band and roped someone from Beach City into the mess. Whatever was going through Pearl’s mind, it wasn’t what happened next.
Steven took Amethyst’s hand. The two of them started glowing. Then, in a flash a light, a slate-gray Gem (with three arms, of all things), stood in the kitchen winking at them.
“Heya,” she said. “Smoky Quartz. Nice to meet ya!”
Garnet was flipping out. Not yelling and running around the room like Pearl wanted to do, but bubbling over with a deep, passionate laughter. It was just like Garnet to express herself that way. It was the reason Pearl enjoyed forming Sardonyx as much as she did. Garnet kept many of her emotions hidden. So when they came out, they were pure and genuine. It was impossible not to be happy when she was happy. As Smoky Quartz summoned her weapon and began to show it off (with some serious damage to the house in the meantime), Pearl didn’t even think twice. She grabbed Garnet’s hand and felt a warm light fill her. Her frustrations faded and her focus went to her happiness, her excitement for Amethyst and Steven’s accomplishment.
Sardonyx straightened herself up (as much as it was possible in the small room) and caught the rogue yo-yo in mid-air. I did it, she thought to herself. I finally did it!
It was going to be amazing. She, the lovely and frankly perfect Sardonyx would show Smoky Quartz everything there was to know about being a fusion. She would test and find the new Gem’s super strengths, that special connection that Steven and Amethyst shared. She could take them to her room! It would exist now, and she could finally show it off. Oh, what would her audience think of this little development?
But her thoughts were thrown off as another person walked in the door.
“Hey, everybody!” Greg called out. He turned and looked at Smoky, who looked back at him with an expression of surprise, but a hint of mild disappointment. Perhaps the Gem had intended some big dramatic introduction that had been thrown off by Greg’s entrance? Ah, this fusion was a Gem after Sardonyx’s own heart! Nothing to worry about. With a bit of flare and dazzle, Sardonyx could whip up a show that would knock Greg’s socks right off him.
“Oh, um… hi, Sardonyx?” Greg said nervously, looking up at her. He pointed to Smoky. “I guess you… picked up a new Gem on your last mission? Where’s Amethyst and Steven?”
Sardonyx blinked. He didn’t recognize his own son in a fusion? Simple-minded human. Ah, but this was perfect. Sardonyx could still help Smoky Quartz surprise him. She circled her hand around the smaller Gem dramatically.
“This, my good man, just happens to be–”
“Hey, everybody!” called out yet another voice. Sardonyx’s eye (the upper left one) twitched slightly. This kitchen was starting to get a bit too crowded, if one asked her. But, completely against her wishes, yet another individual entered the room. Specifically, Peridot.
“I finally have it!” the green Gem announced. “Pearl, I finally have–” She searched around, then stared up at Sardonyx. “Ah, Pearl. There you are. You’re going to love this! I have all the data on the memories you lost of Rose Quart. You can read all of these and it’ll be like you didn’t lose your memories of Rose Quartz at all! So, we’re friends again, right?” She grinned and held the tablet up proudly for everyone to see. The group in the kitchen stared blankly at her for a moment, and the confidence on Peridot’s face that she had entered with began to fade.
“I… um… is this a bad time?” she asked.
No one answered her. Instead, Greg looked at Sardonyx again. “Um, you lost what now?”
No! a voice inside Sardonyx screamed. No, I didn’t want him to know. He wasn’t supposed to know!
Calm down, Pearl, another voice said. Softer, more relaxed. He was going to find out sometime. Let’s just sit down and explain–
Explain what? That I need him to tell me what Rose looked like? How she acted? The sound of her voice? No!
Sardonyx leaned over, holding her head and groaning. She heard the shattering of glass and the snapping of shelves as her huge arms bumped and broke the furniture in her way.
Then, in an instant, she was gone. Garnet and Pearl tumbled away from each other in a flash of light. Garnet managed to land on her feet, but Pearl landed on her side, her body still glowing. With a yell of anger, Sea Glass and Coral unfused. Coral was up on her feet in an instant and she pointed an accusing finger at her counterpart.
“Don’t you dare take Garnet’s side on this one!” she snapped. “Don’t you dare!”
Sea Glass stood more slowly, rubbing her head. “And what’s your suggestion? Keep it to ourselves forever? Greg could tell us a lot of what we’re missing, but you’re too stubborn to be honest with him.”
“I hate him!” Coral yelled.
Coral opened her mouth to reply, but no words came. The unintended audience to their argument collectively edged back to give the two of them some more space.
Sea Glass gritted her teeth. “You don’t even remember, do you? How can you keep holding onto anger with no reason for it? We’ve got to move on.”
“You move on!” Coral yelled. “That’s what you’re good at, isn’t it? Just being a perfect little Homeworld Pearl — never getting upset, never standing up for yourself.”
“I’m standing up for myself right now!” Sea Glass said. More like yelled, actually. She didn’t do it much, and it sounded so strange to her. She breathed heavily and tried to calm down, looking around her as she did so. Amethyst and Steven had unfused. She hadn’t even noticed when it happened or even seen Greg’s reaction to it. A wonderful moment ruined, because Coral had to throw one of her little emotional fits. Well, Sea Glass wasn’t having it. Not anymore.
“You know, maybe Bismuth was right,” she said. “Maybe the two of us do need some time apart.”
“Um, about that…” Steven said nervously. “I’ve been… meaning to tell the two of you. I have more of those bracer-thingies that we got from Bismuth. I mean, if you two… really do want to spend some time apart.”
Sea Glass straightened and stared at him a good long while. Steven struggled to meet her eyes, instead tracing the lines on the tiled floor with the edge of his shoe. He hadn’t brought this up earlier for a reason; it was written in his face. More than likely, he didn’t want the two of them to be separate. Sea Glass struggled against an unease in her gut, a voice that said that Steven was her owner and if he wanted her to fuse with Coral, she should do so. She was the one who had argued for the two of them to refuse to begin with. But things were different now. Before, their survival hinged on fusion. And surely if Steven was offering the bracers, that meant it was okay for her to use them if she wanted. Wasn’t it?
“Well, that’s… that’s just perfect, then,” she said, trying to keep her voice steady. “You should give a bracer to Coral first, though. I think she’s going to poof herself with all the energy she’s taking to seethe over there. Come on, Greg. I’ll explain everything.” She took a still-stuttering-in-confusion Mr. Universe by the hand, walked past the stuttering-in-dismay Peridot, and pushed open the door to the living room. She expected to find a nice quiet place to talk alone, she instead found yet another uninvited guest. A winged Pearl sat on the couch. Her head jerked up at the creak of the door hinges. She had a yellow tone to her body, and despite the changes since the last time Pearl had seen her, it took no effort to remember who she was.
“Might want to come out here, Coral,” Sea Glass called. “We have a situation that requires some emotional explosions.”