Rose is dead.
Garnet shuddered. The sentence seemed so… impossible.
Rose is dead.
Another shudder ran through her, but this time she managed to suppress it. Ruby and Sapphire reacted to shock and grief very differently, but she couldn’t afford to let herself split apart – everyone needed Garnet, not Ruby and Sapphire, right now. She’d noticed it already, the shift, in how Pearl had looked askance at her, in how Amethyst had actually listened to her. All of Rose’s responsibility had passed to her now, like a lead shawl wrapped around her shoulders, pressing down.
Rose Quartz is dead.
The birth had been a traumatic experience, carried out in the empty shell of a house they’d built outside the temple, which was to be the baby’s home. They’d all been checking the house,though calling it a house was perhaps premature as it wasn’t finished yet, completely unfurnished but for a small crib and a sofa in the middle of the room. Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl awkwardly stood on the bottom floor of the house trying not to think about a time when this room would be occupied by a baby rather than the pink gem, while said gem and her husband were cooing over the crib on the small upstairs space. Greg was fastening a brightly coloured hanging thing on the rafters to hang over the cot when Rose started screaming. They all watched in horror as Rose’s gem slowly sank into her body, and Greg grabbed her arm to stop her collapsing to the floor. Garnet didn’t have to use future sight to know Pearl would be unable to help – the gem was visibly frozen in horror, pale blue eyes wide and hands twitching slightly as she wrapped them around her middle - as if trying to physically hold herself together. Which was ironic considering the only one in the room in any danger of physically coming apart was Garnet.
At the time she’d been stable though, overcoming her split second shock to move again, vaulting up to the couple and gently lifting Rose down onto the sofa then picking Amethyst up and moving back to allow Greg and Rose some space. Pearl still hadn’t moved, and Garnet returned to her side to rest a hand - from the arm not wrapped around the squirming Amethyst’s middle - on Pearl’s shoulder. Pearl looked at her with watery eyes, as if asking for permission, before suddenly turning and fleeing back to the temple.
Rose called after her in distress as the temple door closed and Greg hastily stopped her from trying to get to her feet.
“I could go get her,” Garnet suggested.
“No,” Rose’s face fell “it wouldn’t be fair to put her through this.”
Garnet agreed, Rose’s death was going to break Pearl’s heart enough anyway without her being forced to actually witness it. Rose’s gaze dropped meaningfully to Garnet’s arms. Garnet glanced down at the wriggling Amethyst, still trying to escape from the fusion’s grasp. She grabbed a note from Greg’s wallet and carried the tiny gem out with her.
The sun was shining, it was a beautiful day. It struck Garnet as odd. Judging from the television shows they’d watched together to prepare, births happened at nighttime, usually in thunderstorms, snowstorms or heavy rain. Maybe that was just human births though.
“Go play in the arcades for a while,” she said, setting Amethyst down and handing the note to the purple gem, who snatched it from the fusion’s hands and tore off across the beach. Garnet wished she could join them, and for a second she was tempted to just leave, go somewhere far away where she could pretend this wasn’t happening. But no, she was in charge now, and she had to be there for Rose and Greg, and for the baby.
Steven. The couple had agreed on the name even before Rose became pregnant. Her Steven, she called him affectionately, and her eyes always lit up when she spoke of or to him. Pearl had many names for the upcoming arrival which were a lot less affectionate, ranging from the most neutral – It – to several far less savoury ones. She couldn’t really blame Pearl, in her eyes this baby was just killing the woman she loved, but she also knew that soon Pearl would grow to love this baby. Though her future vision didn’t often extend much beyond a few hours (at which point there were too many variables and it all beams muddled, hazy and confusing) it was easier when the future was so certain. In all possible permutations of the future, Pearl would love Steven, just as Garnet and Amethyst would.
She entered the house again uncharacteristically tentatively. Rose was still there, and her face lit up as she saw Garnet.
“We thought you’d left,” Greg said, still on the floor by Rose, pressing his lips back to the back of Rose’s hand as he finished speaking. The hand that wasn’t holding Rose’s to his mouth was on her forehead in a display of comfort. Garnet approached to kneel down at Rose’s other side. She felt Rose grip her shoulder shockingly weakly and her eyes and throat began to burn as Garnet tried to keep her composure. That was when the instability started, and Rose cupped Garnet’s face to calm the visible ripples.
“Don’t you fall apart over me,” she joked, voice thick with tears “Ruby will scream and cry more than the baby.”
Garnet’s mouth turned up a little at the joke, but when Rose gently took off her sunglasses all three of the gem’s eyes were misted up. Greg was holding it together for Rose’s sake, but only barely, and Garnet knew he wasn’t speaking because if he opened his mouth the pain would come out.
“I don’t know if I can do this.” Garnet managed to force out, voice shaking.
“You can,” Rose looked over at her husband and squeezed his hand ”I need you all to take care of each other when I’m gone, and to keep Steven safe.”
“I’ll give him the greatest childhood he could ask for, and I’ll tell him every day how amazing you were,” Greg promised, his forehead now pressed into Rose’s shoulder, so it took him a couple of seconds to notice Rose’s stomach was starting to glow.
“I know you will. See you later, Mr Universe,” Rose managed another smile before her eyes turned dull and her body slumped on the couch. Garnet couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe and couldn’t think, she didn’t even realise she was gripping the sofa leg until it loudly splintered into pieces in her hand.
“No,” Greg choked, and pressed his lips to Rose’s as if he could save her. When she failed to respond he tried several more times, each kiss more desperate than the last, until the glow spread to all of her body and he rocked backwards, weeping, as her form disintegrated. Usually the light from a gem’s projected body would explode outwards and disappear, but in this case the glowing intensified and concentrated inwards, until it was too bright for even Garnet’s gem eyes to look at. She turned away, and when the searing pink light had faded enough to look back, there wasn’t a trace of Rose left in existence - but for the unnaturally clean and quiet baby lying on the couch.
Rose is dead.
Amethyst returned not long after, and the three stood around the crib, gazing at the sleeping baby. Steven was so… small. Human babies were so fragile, she was scared to touch him in case she hurt him, and Greg shared her concern judging from the way he’d instantly scooped up Steven when Garnet looked at him, cradling him and softly singing to the small chubby baby even as the tears dripped down his face and raw emotion made his voice croak. Garnet was still lost, she’d just stood there as Greg took the baby to the crib, and now she silently watched as Greg pulled a blanket over the baby. There was a violent surge of emotion in her gut and for a second she let go of the tight grasp she’d been keeping on herself. The fusion panicked, but it was too late to stop themselves from splitting apart.
She opened her eyes to a fully decorated room, in pastel shades of pink and blue, filled with white furniture. She was standing in a kitchen, with a counter separating her from the rest of the room. The couch Steven had been born on was gone, and there was a new white one opposite, pressed against the far wall. She was Garnet again, she realised, though her mind was clouded and sluggish, as if she’d been asleep a thousand years. A stab of panic ran through her for a second before she reminded herself that she couldn’t have been gone for centuries, because the crib was still there - though worryingly empty.
“Finally!” Amethyst crowed, and Garnet turned to her left to see the purple gem perched on a sofa bed by the window, looking bigger than the last time she’d seen her, but Amethyst regenerating frequently was a given, she’d probably just fallen on something sharp in the junk piles in her room again.
“Steven?” Garnet asked urgently.
“Just outside he’s fine.,” The fusion was opening the door before Amethyst finished her sentence.
Sure enough, Greg was on the balcony, baby held against his chest.
“Garnet! You’re back!” The human sighed in relief “I’m so relieved! Sapphire helped out a lot but the other one was…er…difficult. Garnet?”
The fusion hadn’t been listening, too busy visually assessing Steven for any signs of damage or ageing, but she looked up again to meet Greg’s eyes at the sound of her name.
“He’s ok, just didn’t like being changed so I took him out here to calm him down. Do you want to hold him?” Garnet froze at the question, and began instantly checking the future. The vast majority of possibilities agreed she wouldn’t hurt him but not all. She shook her head. Even one possibility was too many. What if she accidentally hurt Rose’s child, or worse, killed him?
“Come on, I trust you!” Greg thrust the baby out and she took him automatically, surprised at how soft he felt. Holding him was terrifying, but baby Steven shared none of her fear, and stretched his hands out to grab at her face, reaching for the glasses no doubt. Maybe she should take them off, she considered…but then what if the baby saw her eyes and died of fright? Humans could do that, she’d seen it on the television shows. They called it a heart attack and sometimes they shocked people with electricity to save them. Weirdly, zapping a dying human sometimes brought them back to life, but a healthy human could die if shocked with electricity, and they’d been given white plastic blocks to plug into all of the house’s empty sockets in case the baby touched them.
Humans were very confusing. Garnet could control lightning, but she didn’t want to have to electrocute the baby, and she was fairly certain there must be some skill involved in the process of shocking someone back to life that she didn’t know.
The glasses remained on, just in case.
Steven cooed in her arms and she looked down at him uncertainly, but he only laughed. The sound made Garnet ache for Rose, but it also made her feel better. Everything was going to be ok.
“How long was I gone for?” She asked.
“Around three weeks,” Garnet felt as though she’d been punched in the stomach. The baby began to cry and she realised with horror she had been squeezing him, instantly handing him back to his father, who hummed under his breath to try and calm Steven down again. For a life form equipped with such a tiny set of lungs, Steven was capable of making an incredible racket. Garnet winced as his cries increased in pitch and volume.
“Garnet there’s something else!” Greg yelled over Steven as Garnet made a break for the door back inside, and the fusion guiltily stopped in the doorway and turned to look at Greg. “It’s about Pearl,” the baby quieted and Greg lowered his voice as he continued “she hasn’t left the temple since…you know. It happened. And Amethyst can’t get up there to see her.”