Peridot watched the scene before her in a sort of stunned amazement.
The Pearl fusion caught sight of Coral charging her and, to her credit, did an excellent job of almost escaping. She attempted to fly into the air, but could not get sufficient lift fast enough. Coral leapt up and grabbed her legs, yanking her back to earth and throwing her hard into the ground. In a flash, she summoned her dagger and straddled the Pearl fusion’s neck (her smaller size made straddling the chest rather impossible). She aimed her blade at the Pearl fusion’s face, a strike that would most likely cause immediate poofing if she delivered it successfully.
Unfortunately, the fusion was at too big an advantage and summoned what looked to be Sea Glass’s staff. With a grunt, she shoved Coral off her and again began to spread her wings.
“Wait!” Steven yelled loudly. Peridot winced at the sheer volume of his voice, surprised that his puny human soundbox could produce that level of decibels. Even the Pearl fusion stopped and looked at him strangely.
“Steven…” Her voice quivered. It was as if Steven’s demand had frozen her in place. But why? Yellow Pearl held, as far as Peridot could tell, the same feelings towards Steven that Peridot had once held. He was a kind, but a strange, unnatural creature, a Gem taking an unprecedented form. No Pearl had no reason to listen to anything he said. Except…
“Of course!” Peridot exclaimed aloud. “The Pearl might be loyal to Yellow Diamond, but Sea Glass thinks of Steven as her owner. She can’t disobey him so easily.”
The fusion growled in frustration, holding her head in her hands. “No… you’re not my owner anymore! I belong to Yellow Diamond!” She leaned over, her wings still spread wide, but not flapping. “I belong to… Yellow Diamond…” she repeated through painful-sounding gasps. “You can’t keep me here. I’m going to contact her. She’s going to ask for me back.”
Steven held up his hands in defense. He didn’t step forward, which was annoying. Then again, Peridot caused more than a few messes lately from rushing into things. Perhaps holding up one’s hands and not charging forward was the better course of action on occasion.
“Okay,” Steven said. Gently, calmly. “Let’s say you do contact Yellow Diamond. She can be a little… finicky, from what I saw of her. What if she doesn’t want you ba–”
“She will!” the Pearl fusion shouted. “She has to! I have part of the Crystal Gem Pearl inside me now. I’m too valuable to give up!”
Steven nodded and kept his hands held high. It was unclear if speaking again would keep her here or jolt her mind enough that Yellow Pearl would take full control and fly away. But whether it was risky or not, someone had to do something.
“Can we… talk to Sea Glass?” Peridot asked nervously.
The fusion glared at her. “We’re one and the same now. You can’t separate us.”
Peridot straightened. “Then… I have something to say to you,” she announced.
Everyone looked at her in confusion. Peridot couldn’t blame them. She never had been the speechifying type. But… Earth changed a lot of things. “There was… a certain point when I thought Pearls couldn’t do anything. I thought you couldn’t be an engineer. Or a fighter. Or… anything, really. But I’ve learned how wrong I was.” She placed her hand on her chest. “It’s more than that. I’ve fought against other Gems now. I never thought I could be a fighter, either. And yet, that’s what I am now.” She held out her hand.
“You’re the one who taught me that. Not Steven. Not Amethyst. You.” She took a couple more slow, cautious steps closer to the shaking fusion. “If you belong to someone else, everything always depends on what they want and how they see you. But, if you stop caring about other Gems’ approval, you’ll be a lot happier. Trust me. I know.”
“You don’t know anything!”
“Even if Yellow Diamond takes you back, you said it yourself: eventually Pearls fall out of fashion. I don’t want to see you shattered. Or shatter yourself. That would be…” Peridot’s throat tightened. “It would be… very undesirable for me. For all of us.”
Yellow Pearl looked at Peridot, then out to the rest of the group in bewilderment. Everyone seemed to be nodding, with their heads or their eyes, in silent agreement with Peridot’s words. “You… why wouldn’t you want me shattered?” the fusion asked. “We are enemies.”
Steven shook his head. “We care about all Gems,” he said.
“That’s right!” Peridot chimed in. “Everyone deserves the right to live. No matter what type of Gem they are. And even if they’re corrupted.” It was the wrong thing to say. The fusion’s eyes went wide and she hugged herself, her body shaking violently. The elegance that was so becoming of a Pearl seemed to be draining from her.
“I’m not… corrupted,” she said. “This fusion can hide that!”
Much to Peridot’s surprise, it was Coral who spoke next.
“No, it can’t,” she said firmly. “You can’t pretend your faults don’t exist. Well, I mean… you can, but it’s not healthy. And the truth usually comes out in the end.” She rubbed the gem on the side of her forehead. “Take us for example. We’re two parts of a greater Gem, Sea Glass. And… and I think that Gem needs to learn that she can’t pick and choose the parts of her personality. She has to accept who she is, her strengths and her faults. It’s all wound together.”
Yellow Pearl continued to stare at the group offering her this proverbial olive branch and gave no response for a good long while. “It is… very strange to hear all of you speak. Your words sound so much like those of Rose Quartz.” She stared off into space, as if she could see an image there, even though, logically speaking, the most she could see were squeaking seabirds. “I can see it now… everything Homeword knows about Rose… it’s all in my mind. I can see she wasn’t angelic. Far from it. She hurt so many Gems.”
If Peridot didn’t know any better, she would have sworn she saw a tear escaping the fusion’s eye. But when Peridot blinked, the tear seemed to be gone.
“But then, she also had so many ideas for how Gems could grow and change… I don’t understand how her thinking… how your thinking got so twisted. There is no place for useless Gems. They produce disorder.”
Peridot smiled. “Well, here on Earth, we like disorder,” she said proudly. “Seriously, you should see Steven’s room. Or Amethyst’s. That’s some impressive disorder right there.”
Amethyst grinned with pride, while Garnet managed a “mmm” of agreement. Yellow Pearl continued to stare at Peridot like she had never seen anything so strange in all her life. “Maybe that is how it is on Earth for you…” she began to say, then gritted her teeth.
“Enough of this!” she growled. “I’m leaving!”
“No, stop!” Steven cried, but this time, his words had no effect. The Pearl fusion got a running start and leapt into the air. Her serene figure began to fly away, out of everyone’s reach. Amethyst grabbed her whip and attempted to capture the fusion by the ankle, but the nimble Gem dogged it easily. A few more moments and she’d be out of their speaking range, too. This couldn’t happen. Peridot wouldn’t let it.
“Come back!” the green gem yelled. “We can’t… we need you here!
The fusion paused, but did not falter in her flight. Peridot swallowed hard and continued, “I know you haven’t exactly felt wanted lately. But everyone feels that way sometimes! But I know… that doesn’t mean you run away. It means you stay and work things out.” Peridot had to admit, it was an impressive speech. The bigger question was, would it have any effect?
“Do you… really want me back?” the fusion asked in a soft voice.
“Yes!” Coral answered.
“Yes!” Peridot answered in perfect sync.
Instead of providing reassurance their words only seemed to make the fusion more angry. She gave a few powerful flaps of her wings, bringing herself to hover even higher above them.
“I know you want the Pearl half back,” she growled. “I mean… do you want me? Both parts of this fusion? You said you accept all Gems. If I… if I stopped trying to return to Yellow Diamond… would you accept me?”
Peridot couldn’t reply right away. She certainly had no intention of lying (she had found lies had the nasty habit of causing more problems). But at the same time, they had to get Sea Glass back. Using her doubtlessly superior logic, Peridot determined that there was only one safe course of action here: to tell the fusion that they would welcome both Yellow Pearl and Sea Glass on Earth and actually mean it.
“If you… don’t mean us any harm,” Peridot said carefully. “Then of course, we want both of you here.”
The fusion made no immediate reaction and continued to hover in the air a long time. Whatever internal struggle was going on, she was determined not to show it. Or maybe, the two halves weren’t so much arguing with each other as they were debating with each other. Both had a certain longing for Homeworld that every Gem around them rejected. Coming back could mean more rejection. Each of them had to decide if they were ready to face that.
Then, at last, the fusion lowered herself to the ground. Tears fell from her eyes, then in a flash of white light, the two halves separated from each other. Yellow Pearl and Sea Glass stood side by side, both looking guilty and insecure, both crying.
Coral ran forward and hugged Sea Glass so tight, Peridot was surprised it didn’t poof her. She then whirled her around and in the next moment, Sea Glass’s body lit up with light again. The Crystal Gem Pearl stood once again in front of the group. She kept her eyes closed for a moment, her head down as she whispered,
“I thought you hated me…”
“I don’t hate you. It just… got frustrating. We’re so different. And… I thought you hated me.”
“No, of course not! I never meant for you to think that! I’m so sorry…”
“It’s okay. Everything’s okay now. We’re back together.”
At this, Pearl stopped whispering and looked out over the group once again.
Steven took a cautious step forward. “So, you’re staying together?” he asked hopefully.
Pearl smiled. “Seems that way.”
Steven’s eyes welled up with tears; his lower lip quivered uncontrollably. Throwing up his hands, he declared with unnecessary decibels, “Group hug!” The phrase clearly had meaning to Garnet and Amethyst, but Peridot and Yellow Pearl were left a bit lost. Garnet threw an arm over Pearl’s shoulder, while Amethyst rushed up to Peridot and yanked her forward her by the arm, pulling her into some strange embrace-sharing formation with the other two. Everyone squeezed everyone else. It was very uncomfortable. And yet, in a strange way, it felt reassuring.
“Hey, you come in here, too!” Steven called to Yellow Pearl. “Group hug means the group hugs!”
The Yellow Pearl startled, like the concept sounded ridiculous, but gave it a try nonetheless. Garnet pulled her in first, and Peridot could feel the sharp scales on the Yellow Pearl’s arm pressing into her, increasing the discomfort level. It seemed these Crystal Gems really did welcome anybody. At some earlier point, she would have called it foolishness. Now, she was happy for it.
As the group slowly game apart, and everyone started making small talk with Pearl, Peridot turned and noticed a streak of light across the sky. Her stomach sank. She knew what the light meant, but hated to break up the reunion this quickly. Yellow Pearl, however, felt no such sentimentality and redirected everyone’s attention to the sky.
“That’s Nephrite’s ship,” she said. “She must have sensed the Gem activity here. She’ll arrive soon.”
The group went silent as everyone exchanged awkward glances with each other. As a general rule, Peridot could only take so many crisis situations in a day. She could only imagine everyone else had the same limits. But, it seemed, this day was determined to push those limits as much as possible.
“Yellow Pearl,” Garnet said firmly. The Gem snapped to attention. “Go back to the barn and get Lapis. We’ll need her help for this.”
“R-right. Of course.” She turned to leave, but Steven reached out and grabbed her hand first.
“It’s all right,” he assured her. “We’ll protect you. I promise.”
Peridot stepped forward and laid a hand on the Pearl’s scaled shoulder. “We all promise. Let’s do this.”