Steven knew what he would use to store the two pearls even before he got up to his room. A few years ago on his birthday, Garnet had gifted him with the G.U.Y.S & G.A.L.S Super Deluxe, super-soft, carrying case/pillow. It had seemed to him to be a weird addition to the G.U.Y.S. lineup at the time (after all, once you filled all the pillow’s little pockets with G.U.Y.S figures, the thing made a pretty uncomfortable pillow). But now, it seemed to him, it was the best invention ever.
Still holding the pearls gently in his hands, he reached under his bed and felt around for the pillow. Once he had it, a quick shake got the figures out of it. (He felt like he should apologize to Dave Guy for sending him tumbling to the ground, but a spot for Pearl’s gems did seem more important now.)
Steven blew off the dust that the pillow had accumulated and laid it gently on his bedside table. Then he tucked the pearls into the two most comfortable-looking pockets, climbed up onto his bed, and waited.
And waited. And waited some more.
He seemed to recall something about Pearl taking the longest to regenerate out of any of the Gems and wondered if maybe his brilliant plan had a few small flaws in it. As he pondered over this, there was a soft knock at the door.
“Dinner’s ready,” Garnet called out to him.
“Mm-kay,” Steven replied, not moving. His arms were starting to feel a bit sore from lying in the same position so long, but he didn’t take his eyes off the two pearls for a second. What if one of them regenerated when he wasn’t here? She’d feel all lost and confused and alone. Nope, better to plant himself on this bed and not move an inch until Pearl was back. That made complete and total sense.
“Steven?” Garnet asked again. “Aren’t you hungry?”
He was hungry, actually. The fact that he was lying on his stomach only made its growls feel more pronounced. He supposed he could eat all his meals in his room while he was waiting. Old Pearl hated food, though. Would new Pearl feel the same way? Steven wondered if he just might be able to sleep off his hunger for a bit. Then, at that thought, a more brilliant and awesome thought occurred to him.
“Hey, maybe I can talk to Pearl while I’m sleeping!” he said, finally taking his eyes off the pillow long enough to look at Garnet.
“While you’re sleeping?” Garnet asked. There was a slight chuckle to her voice. She was humoring him. But she did that a lot. Steven couldn’t bring himself to be insulted by it; it was actually kind of sweet.
“Yeah, why not?” Steven asked. “I was able to talk to Lapis when I started dreaming… maybe I can talk to Pearl the same way.”
“Well, talking to one Gem who’s in a fusion is not the same thing as talking to a Gem that’s regenerating.”
Steven frowned. Now Garnet was getting into serious Steven-discouraging territory. “Just let me try,” he said. “I’ll take a short nap, and if nothing happens, I promise I’ll eat when I wake up, okay?”
A warm smile crept over Garnet’s face. “All right, Steven. I’ll be up to get you in an hour. Have a good rest.” And with that, she quietly stepped out of the room and pulled the door shut behind her.
Falling asleep wasn’t easy for Steven. Three hours before bedtime not to mention his excitement about his brilliant idea both kept him awake for a bit. In the end, he managed to trick himself to sleep by listing the names of all the G.U.Y.S. in his head by order of release date. He’d gotten to Invisible Guy when he finally nodded off.
It felt like Steven had fallen into a dream the second his eyes shut. As the dream opened, Steven found himself standing on what looked like a pink cloud. The cloud, however, quickly dissipated, and he found himself ankle-deep in what looked like a crystal-clear lake.
“Okay…” he said hesitantly. “I guess it… looks more like Pearl’s room. So maybe I’m getting close?”
The lake itself did not answer (and Steven guessed he would have been serious unnerved if it had), so he began to walk, hoping something would appear. There didn’t appear to be any path to take or corners to turn, but after he’d been walking for a good five or ten minutes talking to himself along the way, Steven heard what sounded like a splash behind him.
He whirled around and saw some kind of figure behind him, her back facing him. Steven stepped forward. The figure did look like Pearl, though not exactly. Her outfit looked similar enough, but with added sheer sleeves that draped over her shoulders. Half her head was completely bald while the other half had shoulder length hair that fell into her face. And did she…? Steven narrowed his eyes. Yup, she definitely only had one arm. Not that there was anything wrong with having one arm. Sapphire only had one eye, and she got along okay.
He couldn’t stop himself from smiling. This had to be Pearl, there was no doubt about it. All he had to do what talk to her, get her to come back, and everything could go back to normal.
“Um… hi?” Steven called out to her. Half-Pearl turned around, startled. Her hair fluttered for a moment, revealing that she also only had one eye. Unlike Sapphire, however, her single eye was positioned on the left side of her face, conveniently out of the way of the hair cascading over the right side of her face. Her gem wasn’t centered, either, but instead rested just above her left eyebrow.
“Oh. Steven,” she said. Her voice sounded nervous. Or maybe timid was a better word for it. But the tone didn’t matter. It most definitely Pearl’s voice. “I… didn’t expect to see you here,” she added on.
Steven blushed. It suddenly occurred to him that maybe regenerating was a very private thing. Maybe he’d just done the Gem equivalent of walking in on someone while they using the bathroom. If Pearl were here, he’d explain these things to him. Only she wasn’t here. That was the whole problem.
“I-I’m sorry,” he said, fighting back tears. “I can leave, if you want.”
Half-Pearl got a sympathetic look and knelt down as the old Pearl did so often. Only, since she was barely taller than Steven, kneeling meant she had to look up at him.
“You shouldn’t leave if you don’t want to.”
Steven smiled and rubbed his eyes. “Thanks, Pearl. It’s just that… I miss you so much. I really want you to come back.”
She looked puzzled. “You… want me back?” she asked. “You want me to regenerate, you mean?”
“Well, yes, of course,” Steven said. “I’ve been waiting and waiting for you to regenerate.”
She stood and bowed to him. “Then I’ll do that right away. I’m so sorry for keeping you waiting.”
“Really?” Steven practically jumped up and down with excitement. He had no idea it would be this easy. If he had known he could do this, he would have done it the first time Pearl had to regenerate, rather than trying to make friends with that weird Holo-Pearl she’d created. “Okay, great!” he said, wrapping his arms around her. “I’m going to wake back up now, but… I’ll see you soon, okay?”
He gave her a full-Steven-strength squeeze before releasing her. Her cheeks went a bit blue and she bowed again. This half of Pearl seemed to do a lot of bowing, for some reason. “Very well. As you wish.”
With that, everything around Steven vanished, and a loud crash rang in his ears. He jolted his head up to find himself back in his own room, wrapped up in his sheets like a cloth burrito, and looking straight at Garnet’s massive feet. Apparently he’d been rolling around his sleep. Just a little bit.
“You awake?” Garnet asked, peering over him.
“Oh, yeah!” Steven said, jumping to his feet. He immediately fell back down again and hold to roll around the floor a bit to untangle himself. Once he was free, he eagerly went over to the pillow carrying case to look at the two pearls once again. His eyes widened with excitement. The orange-ish one was still in its place and unmoving, but the purplish one had started to glow and wiggle around. It then floated up from its spot and hovered over the ground for a moment before the glow around it started to stretch and grow into a familiar, Pearl-like shape. Garnet stepped back in surprise, and when the light faded, there was the Gem Steven had seen in his dream, standing right here in the middle of his room.
“Hi!” Steven said, unable to hide his grin. “Welcome back!”
“Um… thank you,” Half-Pearl said nervously. She looked around the room as if it was strange to her, but she seemed to find Garnet familiar enough. “Hello,” she said with a polite dip of her head.
“Hi,” Garnet said back.
Steven looked back and forth between the two of them in confusion. Somehow, he expected their reunion to have a little more… emotion in it?
“Okay,” he said, clearing his throat. “Garnet, re-meet Pearl. Erm, Half-Pearl. Half-Pearl, re-meet Garnet.” Neither one answered him. The two just continued to stare at each other as if looking at a total stranger. He could understand the weirdness to a point (most especially the part where Half-Pearl only came up to Garnet’s waist), but the awkwardness should have had its limits.
“Okay, I guess you’re not Pearl exactly,” Steven said, turning to her first. “But calling you ‘Half-Pearl’ just sounds rude. We need a name for you.” He rubbed his chin. He wasn’t always the best with naming things, and he couldn’t really think of any other ocean-related gems. Hoping for inspiration, he stared at the crashing waves battering the beach just outside his window. Then, much to his surprise, inspiration hit. “Oo, I’ll call you Sea Glass!” he said excitedly.
“Sea Glass?” she questioned.
“Yup,” Steven said, crossing his arms and feeling rather proud of himself. Then he noticed Sea Glass still cocking her head in confusion. “Do you not like that name? You don’t have to use it if you don’t like it.”
At this, she broke into a smile and stifled a laugh. “That’s sweet of you to say, but you’re my owner. You should call me whatever you want.”
“Owner?” Steven stiffened. This sounded hauntingly familiar. He remembered all the stuff that Peridot had said about what Pearls were usually like on Homeworld. But the Pearl he knew had never acted like that — she had always been her own person. “I’m not your owner,” he said firmly.
“You’re… not?” Sea Glass asked, looking concerned now. She stroked her chin. “Oh, dear. Are you sure? I know my memory’s been a little disrupted. Who is it then, if it’s not you?”
“It’s not anybody!” Steven said. “You don’t have an owner.” This sounded to him like it should have been very good news to hear, but Sea Glass looked like he had crushed her soul.
“Then… what am I for?”
Steven’s jaw slackened. He didn’t even know where to begin to answering that question. “You’re for… being you!” he said, throwing his arms up in the air. “And… doing…. you things!”
“Steven,” Garnet said, her hand on his head. “Calm down.”
He tried to calm down. Really, he did. But this was so unlike the Pearl that he knew, he couldn’t process it. What “half” of Pearl ever acted anything like this? It was like someone stuck her with a personality he’d never seen before.
“This is what I was afraid of,” Garnet said, adjusting her visor and kneeling down to meet him at eye level. “Pearl is thousands of years old, Steven. What you know as her personality now may be completely different than what she was like before. There’s millennia of her life that I don’t know about, either. So if we’re going to make this work, we can’t keep expecting her to act like the full Pearl. She’s a different Gem. Just like Ruby on her own isn’t me and neither is Sapphire. Do you understand that?”
Steven pushed Garnet’s hand away. Not harshly, but not gently, either. “Quit talking about her like she’s not here!” he yelled. Then he turned to Sea Glass. “Don’t you have anything to say? Doesn’t any of this bother you?”
She shook her head, her face impassive. Steven groaned and ran his hand through his hair. Focus, focus. He had to be patient and understanding. Yelling wasn’t going to help anyone.
“Okay, look, if you feel weird not having an owner, then you can call me your owner. But–” He pointed forward, touching her right on the end of the nose. “As your ‘owner’, I’m telling you to do whatever it is you feel like doing, okay? No asking me about it first. No waiting for me to give you permission. Okay?”
“Um, okay,” Sea Glass said, blinking. “That, um… seems a bit contradictory, but… I’ll try my best.”
Steven grinned. This wasn’t so bad. And once Sea Glass merged with the other Gem that would regenerate, Pearl would be herself again. “Now, let’s go downstairs. Steven’s starving.”