The number of regrets Rose Quartz had could be counted in all the grains of sand in this world, but she never regretted saving it from Homeworld. There were so many species here that had the potential to become as advanced as her own kind. Plants had rudimentary chemical communication, great black birds could solve puzzles and create tools and share information with others of their kind, certain cetaceans had what was clearly a language of clicks and squeaks and songs that carried in the water for miles, and the humans… Everything about this world delighted her, but she loved the humans almost as much as she loved her own people. They were always coming up with something new and unique to them that she had to run back to her Crystal Gems to show. It had, perhaps, gotten a bit much for Pearl and Garnet, though Amethyst was just as happy to join her on her ventures among humans.
"I think I've figured it out," she told Pearl one day, with the stars in her eyes that made it difficult for Pearl to resent her obsession with humans as much as she usually did. Pearl tried to hide it, of course, but her core and all its hidden places had always been an open book to Rose. They had been together for longer than it had taken humans to develop civilization, and she fully expected that it would always be this way.
Pearl sheathed and set aside her practice sword with a flourish that was clearly intended to flaunt her skill. At times Rose wished her fusion partner would stop fixating over this knight business, but she was hardly one to talk. "What have you discovered?"
"How sleep and dreaming work!" The glee in her voice must have been infectious, for Pearl was responding to her grin with her own. "So many creatures on this planet do it that I'd surely be missing out if I don't try to experience it myself. I'll be trying it tonight, like humans do."
The grin that mirrored hers faltered as Pearl's hand alighted on her arm, cool and firm against her soft warmth. "But Rose, there's a series of biological processes involved. Are you sure you'll be able to reproduce the hormone mixture, or—"
"I have everything in place." Rose's grin faded to a reassuring smile as she placed a hand over Pearl's. Her dear Pearl was such a perfectionist; she thought of everything Rose would overlook in her enthusiasm and had probably saved the rebellion as a result. "Will you watch me and make sure I'm doing it right?"
"Of course!" The words stumbled out like they always did when Pearl was trying too hard to impress her. Rose wished she wouldn't try so hard, sometimes. "I'll have everything ready by sunset! You'll want to do this in your room, I trust?"
Rose's laugh was light and fond, nothing like the derision that Pearl must have endured from her owner before she broke her programming and joined her. The larger gem had always tried to ensure that Pearl would never want for love and support again. She drew her fusion partner close and planted a butterfly kiss on her gem. "Pearl, you don't have to do anything else, I promise! All I want is for you to be there with me."
The teal that dusted Pearl's cheeks in response was adorable. "I will be! I'll just need to fetch some things. I'll be back in a couple of hours!" And with that, Pearl darted to the warp pad.
By the time Pearl returned to the temple, the setting sun was just starting to paint the clouds in oranges and maroons. Amethyst had taken to swimming with porpoises of late, and Sapphire and Ruby were unfused and best left to their own devices in such a state. Rose took her hand the moment she stepped off the warp pad and tugged her towards her room. Though she was very tempted to follow Ruby and Sapphire's example, and it certainly wouldn't have been the first time, she wanted to proceed with her experiment. The door to her room opened, revealing a large bed amidst the pink clouds that shaped themselves to her whims. She sat on the bed and patted the sheets beside her in encouragement. Pearl blushed and stayed standing, if just for the moment.
"I had something made for you. Wait…" Pearl paused for the moment to summon forth a couple of things from her gem. The first was a pillow that smelled of dried lavender and other flowers Rose didn't recognize, the next was a wax-sealed drinking vessel of something that looked like tea and smelled of chamomile. Rose clasped her hands together in delight. Of course Pearl would be so thoughtful! She reached out for the pillow. Pink silk from the Middle Kingdom, unadorned but for the white stitching that was unique to Pearl, stuffed with dried flower buds. Holding it close, Rose found herself wishing it could last longer than a few years. Pearl sat by her side with the tea and cracked open the wax seal; she may not have liked ingesting anything, but she loved the smell of tea. The soothing aroma of hot chamomile filled the room. "I thought perhaps following some human rituals may help."
"You really do think of everything!" Rose's arm looped around her Pearl's back, her hand resting at the lean waist in a gesture so familiar that she couldn't possibly remember when it started. Just as familiar was the way that Pearl leaned against her. She kissed the oval pearl once again as she took the cup with her free hand, for perhaps a few seconds longer than before, and she could feel her partner's body warm up under her arm.
Pearl's only other response was a hum of contentment and the curl of a thin arm around Rose's waist. The partial digestive system shaped itself as Rose sipped her tea; she'd done this so often that she barely had to think about the process anymore. She would shape the rest afterwards, of course, but for now she could withstand holding a little liquid for a few hours. When the last of the tea was drained, she summoned a simple table to hold the cup; it wouldn't do to simply get rid of it after Pearl had gone all the way to Worms for it.
As if sensing that she was already going to go to bed, Pearl's weight shifted to get up. Rose reached out to brush her fingers against Pearl's; she'd seldom needed more than that to get her attention. "My Pearl, won't you lie with me? You shouldn't stand by all night."
With a smile that teetered between adoration and a natural bashfulness that she'd never quite shed, Pearl joined her on the bed. It didn't take long before Rose drifted off to sleep with her Pearl in her arms.
When Rose Quartz awoke, it was with a mugginess so alien to gem consciousness that she briefly wondered if she had somehow sustained damage to her gem. What dreams she had were rapidly fading from her memory, and with their departure came an increasing awareness of her surroundings. She was still in her room, and her pillow had conformed to her head. At some point, she had turned in her sleep. Pearl was gone, and Rose perplexed by her absence. She did not bother calling out, for she was sure that Pearl would make herself known if she was there at all. Reluctantly, Rose left the bed and had the room place Pearl's gifts with the others she'd been given over the centuries.
Upon leaving her room, she found Amethyst regaling Garnet with tales of her latest escapade. She paused to listen in appreciation, for Amethyst's antics were always a joy to experience, even second-hand.
"… So these dolphins were totally asking for it, right? Babies can't protect themselves and they were torturing the baby porpoises. So I turned into a hammerhead," and Amethyst demonstrated by turning her head into an approximation of a blacksmith's hammer, "and bam! Rammed 'em until they swam off."
"You shouldn't use your gem powers on the creatures here," Rose admonished, though never as sharply as Garnet or Pearl could. Compared to the rest of them, Amethyst was young and needed guidance, which Rose had always tried to offer with kindness. Her words were softened with a smile and compliments. "You're much too strong for them."
The youngest gem grinned up at her. "Aw, don't worry. I just hit them hard enough for them to remember next time. Nothing broke but some pride."
"You're not here for Amethyst's stories," Garnet began, her voice neutral and her face ever inscrutable.
Rather than deny it outright, Rose thought it best to follow Garnet's example and cut to the chase. "I'm trying to find Pearl. Have either of you seen her?"
Amethyst simply shrugged; Garnet was impossible to read and gave little more than a hum that sounded like denial. "Haven't seen P. since the swimming thing. Checked her room?"
"No, but thank you. I'll look." She turned, fully intending to have the door open to Pearl's room. Then, to her surprise, Amethyst began howling with laughter. A gem-embedded hand closed on her elbow, freezing her in her tracks. "Goodness, what—"
"She— she's trapped," Amethyst wheezed, chortled, and paused for breath before continuing. "In your hair! Oh wow! Lemme untangle her."
Humiliation flushed through Rose's constructed body, even as Amethyst began tugging her hair this way and that. How did she not notice? More to the point, why hadn't Pearl—
"Receptive trance," Garnet said, having probably anticipated the question. The embarrassment gave way to concern. A pearl's receptive trance wasn't easily triggered; she would have had to be on her back with her rump elevated above her gem, and had her gem pressed at the same time so that a technician may introduce new programming. Rose had probably tossed and hit it in her sleep. Before she could ask, there was a loud smack as Garnet slapped Pearl out of it.
Oh, if only she had realized earlier! She might have spared Pearl the indignity of waking up tangled in her hair. But Pearl's indistinct, quizzical sounds were drowned out by Amethyst guffawing again. Garnet pitched in to steady her as she was set to the ground. Then, with a brusque "Our work here is done," Garnet picked up a protesting Amethyst and stepped into the warp pad. They were gone before Rose could think to thank them.
Pearl was studying her feet with her cheeks flushed teal when Rose's attention returned to her. Rose closed the distance between them and lifted her partner's chin so that she could see the softness of her smile. Those bright blue eyes met hers briefly before looking away again. "I'm sorry, I should have been paying more attention."
"It's fine! I should have warned you that movement during sleep was a risk." Pearl looked up again and gave a shy, lopsided smile that mirrored her own. Oh, what a pair they were! Rose bent to kiss her gem, renewing the blush. "We'll know better next time."
"You… want to try that again?"
A light, fond laugh followed, and Rose interlaced her fingers with Pearl's. She was filled with love for her partner and her expressiveness, which brought other feelings to the fore. "It would be such a shame to use that lovely pillow only once! But first, we have the entire place to ourselves!"
Pearl's shy smile widened into a grin, and she followed Rose back into the cloud-filled room.