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You Can't Go Home Again

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Ever onward into the dark skies punctuated by brilliant heavenly bodies, careening through space, Lapis Lazuli beat her majestic wings of water, each burst of momentum propelling her further away from Earth and closer to Homeworld.

            It was taking far too long. She hadn’t been home in what seemed like an eternity. Memories of horrors played out in her head: falling on the warp pad, waking up to find herself confined to the mirror, spending each and every day since then in torment, unable to move or even speak without assistance. Well, perhaps not every day was torment. Sometimes, she was just so numb that she could just spend a day or even a year relaxing in a comatose state. But eventually she would wake up, and once more, she would be the mirror.

            And then Steven had come. Steven was a strange being, to say the least. He’d brought the mirror on an adventure in what appeared to be his home colony: a primitive affair compared to Gem society, with many frivolities that Lapis didn’t understand the purpose of. He’d made her feel truly awake and alive. Then he’d set her free at long last, and finally, he had healed her broken gem, allowing her to regrow her wings and make her way back home.

            And that was the last of it. Now she was on her journey, wondering how much Homeworld had changed since she’d seen it last, wondering if there was even still a Homeworld left to go to.

            At last, the celestial body she’d been seeking glittered into view, and an overwhelming wave of relief washed through Lapis’ being. It was still there. They were all still there. She winged her way over the shining cities, the tall monuments, the expansive palaces as she dipped closer to the planet’s surface. Everything was still there! Even if it was a lot larger and more complicated than she remembered it.

            Gently, she touched down in the midst of one of the larger civilizations built of blue and white spheres and spires, her feet making contact on the shining surface of a circus in the road marked by a statue of a Gem warrior in full regalia. Her watery wings dissolved themselves and rained down onto the ground. “Home,” she whispered to herself, tears welling up in her eyes. “I’m home.”

            But her joy did not last long, for she realized she was unable to pick up where she had left off. The city was too large, and festooned with various technological implements she couldn’t make heads or tails of. Even trying to ask for information involved interacting with unfamiliar computer systems. She wandered the city aimlessly, looking for a way to break back into the life she’d left behind, until she was halted in her tracks by a set of five Rubies; “HALT!”

            Startled, Lapis flinched before freezing in her tracks. All five Rubies had hands extended toward her in the “stop” sign, warning her not to tread further. Looking them over, she noted that each had her gem in a different place on her body. Even though they looked largely the same, this denoted that they were all as different as could be deep in their being.

            One of the Rubies, bearing only one eye and sporting a gem in place of the other, stepped forward. “We have received reports of a suspicious undocumented Gem walking the streets of this city with an unknown purpose!” she announced. “State your name and what you’re doing here!”

            “I…I’m Lapis Lazuli,” Lapis said nervously. “I only just got back to Homeworld, and I’m trying to figure out where I can go. Where I can belong.”

            “A LAPIS LAZULI?” Ruby gaped. “You’re a LAPIS LAZULI?”

            “Is that…strange now?” Lapis asked.

            “My Diamond will want to know about this,” Ruby announced.

            “A Diamond…” Lapis repeated. She broke into a great smile. A Diamond! A Diamond could give her guidance; tell her where to go! “Yes! Please, take me to your Diamond!”

            “Right this way,” Ruby said, and the other four Rubies fell into a circle around Lapis to make sure she couldn’t get away. The Rubies then marched forward in synchrony, and Lapis had no choice but to march along, like it or not. “Waaaaaiiiiiit a minute,” Ruby muttered after thinking it over a moment. “What do you mean you only just got BACK to Homeworld?”

            “I was trapped on another planet,” Lapis answered.

            “WHAT other planet?”

            “Earth…?”

            This drew a gasp out of all five Rubies. They stopped in their tracks, and Lapis nearly ran into the one in front of her.

            “My Diamond will REALLY want to know about this,” the Ruby with the single eye muttered. In a louder voice, she asked, “Were there Gems there?”

            “On Earth?” Lapis wasn’t sure why she was being asked. “Yes. Didn’t you know about them? They call themselves the ‘Crystal Gems,’ and – “

            “That Peridot WASN’T making things up!” Ruby gasped.

            “What Peridot?” Lapis was baffled.

 


 

            Yellow Diamond’s domicile was a vast affair with brightly colored hallways and sparkling floors. Lapis found herself growing nervous the closer the Rubies brought her to the Gem who she had thought would have all of her answers. Scurrying throughout the halls was a host of Pearls, all dedicated to serving Yellow Diamond and dressed accordingly in bright lemon shades, and as they passed Lapis, they gaped and stared. If two passed her at once, they would immediately fall to whispering.

            Finally, a curtain was parted to reveal Yellow Diamond herself in all of her majesty, sitting on a throne that allowed her to tower over all who entered her chamber. Lapis’ heart stopped. Yellow Diamond was impossibly elegant, and Lapis couldn’t even muster up the confidence to speak in front of her.

            “My Diamond! This is the Lapis we signaled you about!” the one-eyed Ruby told Yellow Diamond, forming the traditional gesture of respect with her hands. “She said the same thing that crazy Peridot said about there being GEMS on Earth!”

            “Hmm,” Yellow Diamond muttered, looking Lapis over. “Come closer, Lapis Lazuli.”

            The Rubies parted to allow Lapis a route to Yellow Diamond’s vicinity. “Yellow Diamond,” Lapis managed to force out of her throat. She placed her hands into the traditional gesture. “MY Diamond,” she corrected herself. “I’ve come a long way from Earth, and I’m just trying to go home.”

            “What were you doing on Earth?” Yellow Diamond asked, almost casual in her tone, never breaking her air of cold tranquility.

            “I was trapped,” Lapis explained. “Trapped in a mirror. I was lost during the war, and…the Crystal Gems kept me against my will until a strange creature set me free.”

            “Tell me more about these ‘Crystal Gems,’” Yellow Diamond bade Lapis. “And of this…‘strange creature.’”

            It was then that Lapis didn’t fully realize the consequences of what she was about to say in advance. She was too full of emotion. She felt betrayed at being kept so long, melancholy at not knowing where in Homeworld she belonged, eagerness to find her place. It didn’t occur to her to think that Yellow Diamond wanted an account of her experiences on Earth for any reason but her well-being. “There are three Crystal Gems,” Lapis explained. “An Amethyst quartz warrior, though she seemed…shorter than most Amethysts. There was a Pearl, too. And then there was one like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I know she was a Gem, but I’m not sure what kind. I think she might have been a fusion. They lived with the strange creature. He was…a human, but not like other humans. He was the one who set me free and healed my broken gem so I could go home.”

            “Interesting,” Yellow Diamond replied. “This is truly the first you have been back to Homeworld since the war for Earth? You have not heard the news?”

            “Yes it is, and no, I haven’t…”

            “One of our Peridots has been monitoring a certain project of mine,” Yellow Diamond explained. “A remnant of the war for Earth meant to secure the planet for the Gems once and for all. There are times I have regretted assigning that particular Peridot to this project. She can be…easily excited. She gave me a strange report one day that there were Gems living on Earth. All of our reports stated that such a thing was not possible. The Rebellion was supposedly destroyed. You do remember the Rebellion, do you not?”

            “I remember something about them,” Lapis admitted. “Only hearing rumors. They were led by Rose Quartz, and they were responsible for the shattering of Pink Diamond.” A horrible thought occurred to her. “Is that…is THAT who was keeping me trapped in that mirror?”

            “More than likely, yes,” Yellow Diamond stated. “We have reason to believe that the gems you and the Peridot in question both described were members of the Rebellion who somehow survived our attempts to purify Earth of their existence. Her fellows dismissed these reports as lies she spun to garner attention. But now, we have reason to believe otherwise.”

            Lapis felt a new surge of emotion: anger. It was bad enough that the Crystal Gems had kept her locked up for so long. But to know they were the same Gems that had murdered Pink Diamond! Her hands shook and her teeth gritted. She could never forgive them, she thought, never. None of them but kindhearted Steven.

            “Tell me more,” Yellow Diamond urged. “Tell me everything you know about these gems and their human.”

            “Yes, my Diamond,” Lapis agreed, her voice cold as ice.

 


 

            In a close-quartered, green-tinted laboratory divided by cubicles, Peridots of all shapes were huddled over monitor screens, typing out their observations of what they saw on the multitude of planets under Homeworld supervision. As one set a particularly long string of characters to the record, the screen she was working at fizzled into blackness.

            “My screen!” she growled.

            “Get 2F5L-5XG to fix it,” another Peridot said casually.

            “EXCUSE me!” the named Peridot cried from across the room. “I have very important work to do! In case the rest of you clods forgot, I am WATCHING EARTH! I’m supervising the CLUSTER!”

            “And apparently, you’re so bored with your work,” the first Peridot droned, “that you feel you have to make up lies about Gems and Stevens in order to retain any focus on your work at all.”

            “They WEREN’T LIES!” Peridot insisted. “I actually talked to a Steven! Stevens are REAL! And they KEEP BREAKING MY MACHINES! Why won’t any of you believe me?”

            Peridot was shoved in front of the broken screen unceremoniously. Grumbling curses under her breath, Peridot looked it over to figure out the source of the problem. It wasn’t hard for her to deduce what had gone wrong.

            The door to the laboratory slid open, and a Pearl stepped inside. “Where is Peridot Facet 2F5L, Cut 5XG? Yellow Diamond requested her presence and stated it was of the utmost importance.”

            There was a moment of silence before Peridot shrieked, “ME! That’s ME!”

            “Are you sure you didn’t mean Cut 5XH?” another Peridot asked. “If anyone would be called to Yellow Diamond for important matters, it would be me.”

            “Or Facet 2F6L?” another suggested.

            “You meant Cut 7XG!” another cried out.

            “Yellow Diamond was very clear in her instruction,” the Pearl insisted. “She wanted Facet 2F5L, Cut 5XG.”

            “YES!” Peridot leapt out of her seat, bounding toward the Pearl. “YESYESYESYESYES!” She then realized how much of a fool she was making herself look in front of her colleagues, and slowed to a reasonable pace. “I mean…yes. I will see what matter Yellow Diamond wants of me.”

            As she exited the door, she turned back one last time to look at the other Peridots. “CLODS!” she laughed before the door closed.

            “You think Yellow Diamond is going to just shatter her and get her out of our hair once and for all?” a Peridot whispered.

            “I hope so,” another Peridot whispered back.

 


 

            Peridot encountered somewhat of a feeling of dread as the Pearl led her closer and closer to Yellow Diamond. She’d thought of the same thing; what if this “important business” was punishment for her report? It was a completely factual report, and yet Gems seemed to have a hard time believing it. Peridot’s small frame began to quake against the interior of the limb enhancers she’d put on in order to cut a more impressive figure to her leader.

            Seeing the tall, broad Yellow Diamond only served to remind Peridot of how small she truly was without her technological prosthetics. “M…m…my Diamond,” she sputtered, putting up her hands, wrists crossed. “You…wanted to see me?”

            “It seems your reports of Earth were dismissed too quickly,” Yellow Diamond stated tranquilly. “A witness has appeared who was able to corroborate your story. She spoke of several Gems who occupied the planet, as well as of the ‘Steven’ you mentioned.”

            Lapis flinched at the mention of the name “Steven.” She hadn’t said it by accident, had she? How had they known?

            “She did?” Peridot repeated, trepidation giving way to ecstasy. “She DID! YOU DO BELIEVE ME! I TOLD YOU! I TOLD YOU ALL!”

            “That you did,” Yellow Diamond said dismissively.

            It was only then that Peridot caught sight of the blue Gem standing passively to the side. “Is this the witness?” she asked, pointing.

            “Yes,” Yellow Diamond confirmed.

            “What are you supposed to be?” Peridot asked, circling Lapis curiously. “Some kind of…deformed Sapphire?”

            “I’m a Lapis Lazuli,” Lapis said indignantly.

            “Ah,” Peridot replied. “That would make more sense.”

            “What’s more,” Yellow Diamond went on, “these Gems may be those who were associated with Rose Quartz.”

            Peridot gasped dramatically. Lapis flinched at the mention of the name.

            “They must be dealt with,” Yellow Diamond decided. “As quickly and as cleanly as possible. I believe this can be achieved during a routine mission to survey the Cluster up close, which is another mission in your domain, 2F5L-5XG.”

            “I would gladly go do that!” Peridot chirped. “Well, uh…check on the Cluster, that is. Not so much dealing with the Gems.”

            “We will assign you an escort who can be of use to you in that area,” Yellow Diamond promised.

            “I won’t let you down!” Peridot said with an eager nod. “I promise!”

            “There is one other possibility to consider, of course,” Yellow Diamond stated, “loath as I am to admit it.”

            “What?” Peridot asked.

            “We believed all of Rose Quartz’s Rebellion to be shattered. If they are whole, it stands to reason that Rose Quartz may be as well.”

            “She wasn’t,” Lapis stated hurriedly. “I never saw her. Not once.” But if I had, she thought to herself…

            “Report to the Euhedral launch bay at moonrise,” Yellow Diamond ordered. “There, you will meet your escort and may begin your mission. I am certain this will not give you too much trouble and expect your report soon.”

            “Yes, my Diamond!” Peridot said enthusiastically. She looked to Lapis, whose stare was blank. This blue gem confused Peridot. Was she not enthusiastic about the Cluster project? Was she not thrilled by the mere thought of getting to serve Yellow Diamond in such an important way? Was she not even a little intimidated because of the thought of the hostile Gems that awaited?

            The truth was that Lapis was still overflowing with emotion, even though it hardly matched up to what Peridot was thinking. But it had stopped showing on the surface. Yellow Diamond’s coolness had been infectious, giving Lapis an air of apathy. After all, the shock was wearing off, and the terrible truth settling into Lapis’ core: she had lost too many years she could never recover, all thanks to the same Gems who had brutally murdered Pink Diamond.

            “Go,” Yellow Diamond bade with a flick of her hand. “Do not waste my time.”

            “N-no, my Diamond!” Peridot said in horror, turning to flee. “I’m going right to the Euhedral launch bay, like you said! RIGHT NOW!”

            Lapis also took her leave, walking briskly. Soon, she and Peridot were outside Yellow Diamond’s chamber, and the Pearls had closed the door behind them.

            “So, uh…” Peridot looked toward her new companion. “I’m Peridot, Facet 2F5L, Cut 5XG. You might have heard of me as the overseer for the Cluster project. You’re a Lapis Lazuli, right?”

            “Right,” Lapis answered. She was in no mood to make friends.

            “I’ve never been to Earth,” Peridot admitted. “It’s kind of exciting, actually. I mean, I know that Earth is just a big dump, but at least I’m going to get to see that big dump in person one more time before it blows. What do you think?”

            “I don’t want to go back to Earth,” Lapis muttered, folding her arms, giving herself a small embrace. “There’s even less for me there than there is here.”

            “Oh,” Peridot replied. “Did something happen, or - ?”

            “I don’t wanna talk about it.”

            “Okay.” The pair walked in silence for a few paces before Peridot asked, “Do you wanna talk about the Cluster project?”

            “No.”

            “Do you wanna talk about Rose Qua – “

            “NO.”

            “Do you wanna talk about ANYTHING?”

            “Not really.”

            Can’t say I didn’t try, Peridot thought to herself, feeling somewhat unfulfilled.

 


 

            Yellow Diamond’s most trusted Pearl was the one to seek out the third member of the select mission. The enormous Kindergarten-bred Gem was found in a dark, underground, and orange-tinted training arena, surrounded by stone targets in the shape of other Gems. One by one, she bashed at the targets with the massive helmet that adorned her head, splitting them into fragments.

            “Jasper,” Pearl greeted.

            The hulking gem froze. “What do you want?” she asked, her back to Pearl; she didn’t even turn her head to acknowledge the greeting.

            “You’ve been selected for a special mission by Yellow Diamond,” Pearl explained. “To accompany a Peridot and a Lapis Lazuli to check progress on the Cluster, and – “

            “Does it look like I care about any mission Yellow Diamond gives me?” Jasper’s meaty fist clenched.

            “The purpose of you accompanying this mission is to see to a potential threat,” Pearl went on, knowing exactly how to push Jasper’s buttons. “Namely, a faction of surviving Gems of the Rebellion. In fact, there is a small chance that Rose Quartz herself may be among them.”

            “WHAT?”

            Pearl grinned to herself.

            When Jasper finally turned to face Pearl, an even wider, wickeder grin was plastered across her striated face. “NOW you have my attention.”

 


 

            The Euhedral launch bay was one of the larger space ports of Homeworld. Ships were constantly coming in and flying out, interplanetary marvels of design, every one. It amazed Lapis to see the various shapes they took, geometric or otherwise, in all colors of the rainbow.

            “You’re with the Cluster project?” a Pearl asked Lapis and Peridot.

            “You’re speaking to Peridot, Facet 2F5L, Cut 5XG,” Peridot boasted. “Does that answer your question?”

            “Uhhhhhh…”

            “Yes,” Peridot sighed. “We’re the Cluster project.”

            It occurred to Lapis fully that she had no idea what the Cluster even was. She supposed she should have cared to know. But she didn’t. They were sending her back to Earth, like they didn’t even want her to come home. Yes, she was supposed to come back, but she was supposed to come back the last time, too. And how had that worked out?

            “YOU!”

            A shadow fell over Peridot and Lapis. Both turned to see Jasper storming toward them. Peridot gulped audibly; Lapis was somewhat shaken.

            “So you two are the ones who are going to fight Rose Quartz,” Jasper laughed.

            “Not…exactly,” Peridot clarified. “We don’t know if Rose Quartz is alive or not. Lapis can give you the reports on the EXACT Gems we know of.”

            “I’ve been briefed on the Gems we KNOW of,” Jasper informed the pair. “They’re making me go with you to fight them. But I want Rose Quartz.”

            “Rose Quartz isn’t there,” Lapis muttered.

            “Oh, really? Was her Pearl supposed to be there?” Jasper taunted.

            “…No,” Lapis admitted.

            “Her freaky fusion?” Jasper went on. “That Bismuth with the fragile swords? Were any of them still supposed to be there?”

            “There wasn’t a Bismuth,” Lapis said, even more quietly. Jasper must have been getting information from other sources within Yellow Diamond’s circle. Or perhaps “information” wasn’t as accurate of a term as “propaganda.”

            “You two worry about your Cluster,” Jasper told Peridot and Lapis. “I’ll take care of the rest. The Pearl, the fusion, the Bismuth, and whatever the Steven is are going to just be too easy. If Rose Quartz isn’t a coward, she’ll show her face after I shatter all of them.”

            “Wait.” For the first time since meeting Peridot, Lapis’ voice was loud and clear. “You’re…going to hurt Steven?”

            “Why do you care if I hurt something that belongs to Rose Quartz?” Jasper asked accusingly.

            “Steven…isn’t like the Gems,” Lapis said weakly. “He’s…he’s different.”

            “I’ve heard,” Jasper told Lapis. “They said he’s a HUMAN. I can’t wait to see how THAT turns out.”

            “I…”

            “You still have a problem?”
            Peridot’s eyes flicked back and forth between the two as she didn’t say a word.

            “I…” Lapis swallowed hard, mustering the courage for the words she wanted to say. “I don’t want you to hurt Steven.”

            “You…don’t want me…” Jasper was taken aback. “What ARE you? Are you one of THEM? Are you in league with HER?”

            “No…”

            “ARE YOU IN LEAGUE WITH ROSE QUARTZ? ANSWER ME NOW! IS THAT THE WHOLE REASON WE’RE GOING BACK TO EARTH?” Jasper roared.

            “I DIDN’T EVER WANT TO GO BACK TO EARTH AGAIN!” Lapis shouted back.

            Jasper balled up a fist, drawing it back, and Lapis wished she hadn’t spoken, stepping backward hastily, hands clasped over her mouth.

            Peridot shoved herself between the pair. “Let’s not be hasty!” she begged, holding a hand outward to each. “Lapis has had a very long and very weird experience on Earth. She’s obviously not thinking clearly!”

            “Obviously,” Jasper growled, lowering her fist.

            Peridot mentally congratulated herself on her superior mediation skills. “Then I say we get moving. Cluster isn’t going to take readings on itself!” She began to stride proudly toward a massive, gleaming ship shaped like a hand.

            “That ship,” Lapis said quietly. “It’s different from all the others.”

            “That’s a class-alpha warship,” Peridot explained. “Manufactured by Peridots, for warriors. And I get to help drive it! This is so COOL!”

            “What…does it do?” Lapis asked.

            “What CAN’T it do?” Peridot bubbled. “I’ve heard stories of class-alphas blowing holes through planets! Like, the planet gets shot in one side, and it goes clear out the other!”

            Those words echoed in Lapis’ head, making her dizzy. “I…need a minute first,” she said softly.

            “A minute?” Peridot asked. “What do you need to do?”
            Jasper merely glared at Lapis with suspicion.

            “I want…I want one more look at Homeworld before we go,” Lapis answered. “In case I don’t make it back again.”

            Jasper gave a “Hmph” before saying, “I didn’t expect you to get all sentimental.”

            “Hey, she’s loyal to Homeworld,” Peridot said with a shrug. “Aren’t we all?”

            “I’ll catch up to you as soon as I can,” Lapis promised, turning to make her way across the hangar. When she’d put some distance between herself, Jasper, and Peridot, she took a look back. A throng of Gems separated her from the pair, obscuring them from view…and, more importantly, obscuring her from their view. Lapis then broke into a run.

 


 

            “How can I serve you?” the Pearl at the desk asked.

            “I need to place a call,” Lapis panted. “A private call.”

            Pearl, perhaps the fiftieth Pearl Lapis had seen that day alone, stood. “Right this way.”

            She led Lapis down a long, narrow corridor that sparkled like glass beneath sunlight. Narrow doors split apart the partitions, the four diamonds carved as a foreboding insignia on each to remind all that the Diamonds listened to every word said. Hopefully, that was only an empty threat.

            Lapis was shown the first empty room: a cramped, bare affair. The door slid shut behind her, and she was alone with a screen and a keypad. Immediately, she activated the pad, and it showed her a vista of outer space, with a plethora of Gem-controlled planets she could contact. As she skimmed her hand across the pad, it panned across the panorama. She made way off the common sector of communication and sought Earth. It took her what seemed an eternity. This new technology was strange, and like nothing she’d ever seen before. Just like the spaceships. Just like the cities. Her breath caught once she’d found it, and she zoomed in, looking for Beach City.

            There was one signal. Faint, primitive. A wailing stone, perhaps, or something similar. Lapis selected it deliberately, thinking on what words to use. The screen bubbled over in blue, pulsating slightly, unable to pick up a video feed from whatever was giving off the communication-receptive signal.

            “Steven,” she said breathlessly, “I hope you’re able to hear this. There’s a Gem that’s looking for you. She even knew your name! I don’t know how. I didn’t tell her, I swear! She’s on her way to Earth, and she’s NOT ALONE! Steven, Homeworld…it’s not the way it used to be. Everything here is so advanced, I can’t even understand it.” She then realized…if communication systems and spaceships were so confusing, what was weaponry like? “There’s no way ANYTHING on Earth can stand up to it! Please, don’t put up a fight. It will only lead to devastation!”

            A thick arm wrapped around her waist, pulling her back. As a vast hand shoved over her mouth, a rough voice exclaimed, “I KNEW it! I KNEW you were one of Rose Quartz’s little spies!”

            Lapis tried to say “No.” She tried to say anything at all, but it just came out as wordless screams past Jasper’s hand. She kicked and bit, but it had no effect on Jasper’s flesh. The larger Gem dragged Lapis all the way back to the hangar and onboard the class-alpha. At least, Lapis figured that was where she was being taken. Her vision was distorted as she fought against Jasper’s grip. She was suddenly released, thrown hard onto a cold floor. As Lapis struggled to sit up, she saw a wall of light go up, entrapping her in a small cell of metal. On the other side of the wall, Jasper and Peridot stared at her.

            “I’m not a spy,” Lapis said breathlessly. “I’m trying to help you. I know what the Rebellion did to Pink Diamond! I’m angry about that too!”

            “Likely story,” Jasper huffed. “You get to stay in there until you’ve made up your mind what side you’re on.”

            With that, Jasper turned and stormed away. Peridot, however, lingered. Lapis couldn’t stand to see the green Gem witnessing her desolation, and she turned, hugging her knees, her back to the glowing translucent wall.

            She didn’t notice that the look Peridot was giving her was one of pity.

            After some time, Lapis felt the warship shudder, then lift off the ground. It was moving toward Earth at a fast pace. And Lapis thought to herself that she would never truly belong anywhere again.