“Garnet! Pearl! Amethyst! I’m back… Anyone home?” Stevonnie said, entering the cliffside home that the Crystal Gems shared, bag of fry bits in hand. Even though it wasn’t strange for the main area to be quiet, the silence of the house seemed more pronounced than normal.
“You guys? Where are you?” They shouted, putting the food down and heading for the door. It had taken them a bit of time and effort, but they finally figured out how to open Rose Quartz’s room on command a couple months ago, and had even figured out how to open a passage to Pearl’s room. After making their way into the fountain filled chamber, Stevonnie tried yet again to get their friend’s attention on the off chance that Pearl was working on something and just hadn’t heard them the first time.
“Pearl… I’m in your room, and I’m gonna touch your stuff if you don’t come out… Pearl?” They called, jumping up the step like arrangement of water spray until they had reached the tallest one, and still no sign of their friend. “Huh… Weird… Not out there, and not in here… Maybe she’s in the lower levels? I could have sworn that I heard her and Garnet talking about ‘something important’ needing to be worked on earlier… Yeah, that sounds like a reasonable conclusion. Well, down the water slide we go!”
Stevonnie jumped from the top of the fountain, whooping it up as they landed squarely in one of the flowing streams, relaxing as the tide took them directly to Amethyst’s room.
Once again, they were greeted by a deafening silence. Well, except for the waterfalls, those were pretty loud, but compared to the noise that Amethyst normally made in her room, it was quiet enough to hear a pin drop.
“Amethyst? Are you in here? Hello? Huh... Curiouser and curiouser…” Stevonnie commented, making a mental note to go buy a copy of Alice in Wonderland for the temple as they made their way to the ‘heart’ of the temple and sliding down the pipe to Garnet’s area.
“Garnet? Guys? Am I the only one in this place or something?” Stevonnie shouted, wandering the halls splayed out around the lava pool, starting to get annoyed by the sudden disappearance of the Crystal Gems. It was one thing to go on a mission and leave them behind before, but they’d been a fusion for a whole year now, and had even learned to bring their shield out on command… most of the time… Finally deciding that it was just going to be a lost cause, trying to track the Gems down, Stevonnie trudged their way back through the door and decided to finish up their fry bits before they got cold.
“Well, I guess it’s just me for dinner then.” They said to no one in particular, the sun setting outside as they tried to think of what to do with their free time.
They were about a third of the way through Unfamiliar Familiar when the front door swung open, startling Stevonnie and causing them to drop the book.
“Aw man! Now I’ve gotta figure out what page I was on…” They lamented, looking up to see all three of the Crystal Gems standing there, looking at them curiously. “Uh… Hey guys. What’s up? Where were you?”
“We were out.” Garnet said simply, eliciting an eye roll from Amethyst, who ran over, flopping over the couch and beamed up at Stevonnie.
“You should have totally been there!” The purplish Gem exclaimed, making exaggerated arm gestures to illustrate their story. “There were these like, giant rhinobeetle things, and Pearl’s spear was all ‘SHING’! Then when that didn’t do anything, my whips were all ‘WHIPSH-CRACK’! And I flipped one of the bigger ones on its back, then Garnet came down out of nowhere and was like ‘SHK-BOOM!’ and totally punched right through it and we got this!”
At the word ‘this’, Amethyst help up a large obsidian fragment in a bubble, along with several smaller fragments.
“Whoa… That is pretty cool…” Stevonnie said, taking the bubble from Amethyst and getting a closer look at the fragments. “But, how come no one came and got me? I totally would have wanted to see that!”
“Well, you were out getting snacks at the time, and Garnet wanted you to sit this one out. Probably because of the-“ Pearl began to explain, before being cut off by Garnet holding her hand up for quiet.
“I’ll explain my reasons myself.” The tallest gem said calmly. “Stevonnie, come with me. We need to talk.”
After looking at Pearl and Amethyst in confusion, and only getting a reassuring look and a… dopey, wide grin, from their teammates (in that order), Stevonnie got up and followed Garnet outside.
As the two Gems walked down the beach, Garnet was the first to break the silence. “Tell me… How long have you two been together now?” they asked nonchalantly, looking out at the ocean, glowing orange in the setting sun.
“Um… I forget the exact date, but I suppose it’s been about a year now?” Stevonnie responded, “But I mean, that’s probably nothing, right? You’re always, well, you, so fusions must last a long time, right?”
“… Not exactly.” Garnet replied stoically. “Even among gems that are stable fusions, I’ve been around far longer than most would say I have a right to.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? I know Gems live forever or something like that, but do fusions last less than forever or something?” Stevonnie asked curiously, a confused look clouding their face.
“It means that not all fusions are stable.” Garnet answered, doing nothing to assuage Stevonnie’s confusion, nor their curiosity.
“So, are you a stable fusion then?” They asked, walking in circles around the older Gem.
“Exceptionally stable, some would say.”
“… Are you answering in riddles because you’re using future vision?”
“… No. I’m stalling for time.”
“Wait, what?” Stevonnie asked, their question answered by a bright glow emanating from Garnet, as their form condensed, shifted, and finally split into the individual forms of Sapphire and Ruby.
“Ow! Geez, I keep forgetting how weird that feels compared to normal.” Ruby griped, picking themselves up off the ground and dusting the sand off of their backside. “Sapphire, what’s the big deal? Can’t we just leave them alone like they were? Nothing bad was going to happen… Probably…”
“No Ruby. Stevonnie deserves to know everything, and out of all of us, we know more about being a successful fusion than anyone.” Sapphire retorted, having already gotten to their feet and walked over to stand in front of the surprised Fusion still standing gob smacked on the beach.
“Wha- But, you two… Why’d you split apart?” Stevonnie asked, still a bit stunned at the sudden appearance of the smaller Gems.
“We’re here like this, because we need to have a talk.” Sapphire said, smiling up at the now taller fusion towering over them and their partner.
“I still say this is a bad idea. We’re just going to freak them out. Part of them is a human, for heck’s sake!” Ruby griped, sitting on a nearby rock.
“And that’s all the more reason to explain things fully.” Sapphire shot back.
“I’m so confused now… What do we need to talk about Fusions for? Why are you two arguing over something? You two never argue over anything… Well, maybe you do, I don’t know, I’ve never seen you two apart except that one time on the ship, and then at my birthday last year…”
“We split apart because we’re arguing Stevonnie. That’s one of the things we need to talk to you about. The reason that Fusions rarely last as long as Ruby and myself do as Garnet, and the reasons gems fuse in the first place.”
“… Okay.” They said simply, sitting in the sand and getting eye to eye with Sapphire. "So what were you two arguing about?"
“We were arguing over whether or not to have this little talk with you. someone thinks we should just leave well enough alone, and some of us think that you deserve to know more about yourself... But that's beside the point. We're here, and we're going to talk." Sapphire said, glancing at Ruby, who was pouting on some rocks, then turning back to their patiently waiting pupil. "Stevonnie, do you know why Gems dance in order to fuse?”
“Not really, no.”
“Part of the reason is so that they can see how well they can match up. The more the dancers are in tune with one another, the stronger the Fusion that results. But it’s the other part of the reason that’s more important, especially where you’re concerned…”
“So, is that why Pearl and Amethyst had trouble forming Opal that time at the Heaven Temple?” Stevonnie guessed. “I thought that was just because Pearl whacked Amethyst in the face.”
“Stevonnie, focus.” Sapphire said, trying to regain their friend’s attention, Ruby groaning in the background and muttering something about ‘just letting them figure it out on their own’.
“Synchronizing your movements is an important aspect of being a Fusion, because once two gems fuse together, their every individual thought affects the actions of the Fusion. Remember, you’re not one person, but you’re also no longer two individual people. That’s the reason the dance is done. It allows both partners to match their actions to one another, but even more so, it allows them to synchronize their emotions.”
“Emotions? What do emotions have to do with anything?” Stevonnie asked, now looking genuinely lost. “All you have to do is make sure you don’t step on each other’s toes, right?”
Sapphire sighed, pinching the bridge of their nose as Ruby snickered in the background.
“No… The more in sync two Gems are with one another, the more ‘complete’ their Fusion will be. Normally, some traits won’t mesh up, and it’s normal for a Gem to come out with extra limbs, or eyes, or even both if the match is rushed and the individual Gems aren’t in sync at all aside from in a superficial sense. Gem powers are ruled by emotion, Stevonnie. When you activate your gem’s power to summon your shield, it’s because you want to protect those you care about. When I- When Garnet summons the Gauntlets, it’s because they want to keep dangerous things from hurting the people me and Ruby love. Dancing… It lets the gems trying to fuse see not just how well their movement will sync up with each other. It lets us see what kind of personality the other Gem has, and see what they’re likely to care about.”
“Question.” Stevonnie said, interrupting and raising their hand expectantly.
“Does that mean that you guys don’t dance unless you’re trying to fuse?”
“What? No, Stevonnie, that’s not the case at all. Why would that even be a question?”
“Well, it’s just that it seemed like where the conversation was headed…” They replied, blushing with embarrassment.
“Sapphire, why don’t you take five, I’ll take it from here.” Ruby said, putting their hand on Sapphire’s shoulder.
“Fine. But I’m coming back over if you try to make it into a joke.”
“Aw, come on Saph, you know I’d never do that to them.” The red Gem said, smiling after their partner and turning back to the still seated fusion, who was doodling something in the sand. “Alright, so first of all, everything Sapphire said is true. Gems are almost always ruled by emotion. But fusion is a special thing among Gems. I don’t know if you noticed when Pearl and Amethyst had to make Opal, but from what I heard, it didn’t work the first time, because they were still butting heads over the petty things. It took you getting eaten by a Roc for them to have enough common ground for the Fusion to work, and even then, they split up as soon as you all made it back, and the individual parts of them were about to start arguing over who had ‘lost’ the Heaven Beetle. Now, how often do you think two individuals can agree on things?”
“Um… I guess everyone has disagreements, even really close friends…” Stevonnie mused out loud, looking up at the sky for a second or two before a thought occurred to them. “But wait, if all it takes for a Fusion to fail is for the Gems that make it up to disagree about something, then how come you and Sapphire can be Garnet for so long?”
“Heh, well, that’s what we were trying to get to… Gems aren’t like humans, Stevonnie. We can feel all the same emotions, and even a few extra ones, but unlike Humans, we can’t really have ‘children’ the same way that they can. Rose was the first Gem ever to have a child. And it took literally everything from her to do it... So when two gems really love each other, well… You can guess that the Fusion they make is going to have some trouble being split apart on accident.” Ruby explained further, looking pretty smug about something or other, and glancing back at Sapphire.
“Whoa… So, fusion is like, the gem version of getting married?” Stevonnie asked, their eyes twinkling with excitement. “Does that mean you and Sapphire are married?! Oh! Oh! When did you two have the wedding?! Was Mom there?”
“Easy there… I never said that it was like getting married.” Ruby said, trying to calm the excited Stevonnie down and failing miserably, looking flustered the entire time, this time as Sapphire had a bit of a laugh behind them.
“Want me to take over again?” Sapphire offered, when things failed to calm down.
“Heheh, alright then… Stevonnie. I’ll answer more of your questions if you calm down…” They said simply, touching the tall Fusion’s hand and smiling up at their friend.
“Okay.” They responded, sitting still as a statue, all their attention focused on the deep blue Gem in front of them.
“Now, Ruby’s right. Gems fusing is NOT the same thing as humans being ‘married’, even though it shares many of the same characteristics. It’s difficult to explain across cultures… But if you were to break it down into all the benefits and drawbacks, it’s a very special union, and one that cannot be forced, between two or more Gems. The Gems have to trust each other, have to share a goal, and have to be so in tune that they don’t split apart immediately afterwards, especially if the Fusion is going to last any amount of time. It’s not just a show of trust though, it’s also extremely intimate, and even though it’s become something to use for battle, or to gain the upper hand in a tight spot, it was originally a way for two gems to protect each other completely, and there’s still remnants of the intimacy of the act. Did you notice how Pearl acted when we had to fuse with Amethyst? Or what she said when you came home for the first time after having fused?”
“She said it was… inappropriate?” Stevonnie replied, trying to remember.
“And she was half right. No one expected Steven to be able to fuse right away, and for him to do so that same night, with Connie no less… Whether they knew it or not when they made you, they had the complete trust in one another to be able to fuse, and their hearts and minds were focused on helping and protecting each other… It wasn’t inappropriate because of the Fusion itself, so much as it was a bit unnerving for Pearl to see that the child she was helping to raise had already found someone that they wanted to protect so much, that they literally joined forms and became you, Stevonnie. And the fact that you’ve lasted this long is not only impressive, it’s something to be proud of.” Sapphire said, beaming with pride of their own, joined at their side by Ruby, who was sporting a grin of their own.
“Yeah. Sapphire and me used to think that we were the exception to the rule, but we were both so proud when you came back that night… And even more impressive, you two didn’t have any extra anything. And that’s so rare that it’s downright unheard of.” Ruby said, wrapping an arm around Sapphire and pulling them close. “When Garnet told you that you were an experience, we meant it. And now that you’ve been around for a year, well, how has it been?”
Stevonnie looked at her friends, both so proud of them, and thought about how much fun everything had been for the last year. How it just felt… right, to be them… And how now, even when the Gems weren’t around, Stevonnie didn’t feel lonely. They were still shyer than Steven around strangers, but they were also more outgoing than Connie had ever been. New things were less confusing then they had been before, but even more amazing, because regardless of something being familiar, it all still felt like they were seeing it for the first time. They felt more confident, as if there was always at least one voice cheering them on in whatever they were doing, and sometimes, there were two voices cheering… But most of all, everything felt… It all felt good, even when things weren’t going the way they wanted them to.
“… I loved it… Every moment, and every day…” Stevonnie finally said, smiling and tearing up as Ruby and Sapphire hugged them for a moment, then backing up and spinning around each other, forming Garnet.
“It’s a wonderful feeling, isn’t it?” Garnet asked, standing over Stevonnie and holding out their hand for the crying Fusion, smiling kindly as they helped their friend to their feet.
“You are good for each other. Never forget that. And never forget what I said, you’re no longer two people, you’re not one person either… You are an experience. And Stevonnie, you are already a great one. For everyone close to you, and for yourself. And I’ll tell you a little secret.” Garnet said, leaning in and whispering conspiratorially into Stevonnie’s ear, giving them a hug in the process, “I think you can outlast even me…”
Stevonnie couldn’t help it. When they heard Garnet say that last part, they couldn’t help but laugh through the tears, hugging their friend and mentor, the moon overhead glowing down on them as the sun disappeared in the distance and the stars twinkled overhead like so many jewels.