This, Pearl thought with a small smile, looking up at the stars, was how Homeworld was meant to be seen – from afar, where it couldn’t hurt anyone. Admired and never touched.
“Man.” The door creaked behind her, and she looked over to see Bismuth walking out, rubbing the back of her head. “I swear, I don’t know what to do with myself right now.”
“Amethyst get tired of fighting?” Pearl asked. Bismuth laughed.
“She said something about being hungry, emptied out the fridge, and went into her room. And Ruby and Sapphire are gone and that little green one disappeared.”
“Peridot. She sleeps in the bath tub. Long story.”
“Seems like everything is these days.” Bismuth sat beside Pearl, sticking her legs through the bars on the porch so her feet were dangling next to the other gem’s. Pearl sipped her tea to prolong the question she knew she had to ask.
“So… Steven said you took everything pretty well?”
“All things considered.” Bismuth chuckled weakly. “I stuck my head in lava and screamed.”
“Still took it better than Garnet.” That joke would be funnier when Garnet was back. “And Steven told you… everything?”
“If you mean did he tell me you were Pink Diamond’s Pearl and she ordered you not to talk about any of it, then yeah,” Bismuth said dryly. “He may have mentioned that. I always knew you belonged to someone powerful, I just… never guessed that powerful.”
“What made you think that?”
“Well you never talked about it, for one. Some of us wondered if Rose just kind of stole you from somebody or rescued you from an abusive owner or something like that.” Bismuth shrugged. “And even if no one owned you, you still had that self-sacrificing… pearl-ness drilled into you.”
“Pearl-ness?” Pearl raised an eyebrow. “Is that what everyone calls it?”
“Yeah, you know that… thing where you never question anything or think about yourself for even a minute; you just do what you’re told. I mean, if Rose had told you to walk off a cliff you probably would have.”
“It’s not like there would be any danger to it, at worst my physical form would be destroyed--”
“Pearl.” She stopped, meeting Bismuth’s suddenly serious gaze. “You always put Rose’s life above your own. It scared us.”
Pearl sighed, her shoulders falling. “I had to. Could you imagine if she’d been poofed in the middle of a battle? Everyone would have realized she wasn’t a real rose quartz, and it all would’ve fallen apart. Not to mention the backlash she would have gotten from Blue and Yellow. At least with Earth in her hands, she could stall things and purposely slow progress from her position as a Diamond while leading the rebellion on Earth. If Blue or Yellow took the colony away from her, we would have been wiped out, and you know it.” She paused, then added, “We were wiped out after we faked Pink Diamond’s shattering. I knew that was a stupid idea, I should have pushed her on it.”
“You know what Rose was like when she got an idea in her head,” Bismuth said. “How many times did we tell her ambushing the drop ships was a bad idea? Not that it matters, you ended up taking out, what four Nephrites single-handed? Didn’t even need us.”
“I think it was six, actually,” Pearl corrected with a smirk.
“Hey, Garnet and I were there too, give us credit for something.” Bismuth shoved Pearl’s shoulder, and she laughed.
“Fine, fine. You can have two of them.” She leaned over, resting her head on Bismuth’s shoulder and closing her eyes. “I’ve missed you.”
Bismuth wrapped an arm around her slender shoulders, pulling her close. “I could’ve been here the entire time if I wasn’t such a hot head. I’m sorry you had to deal with all of it alone.”
“Wouldn’t have made a difference once she ordered my silence,” Pearl said. “I thought so many times before that about telling you, about telling Garnet, but...”
“But even when she didn’t order it, she still held your tongue.”
“In… a manner of speaking.” Pearl sighed. “I understand why she was hesitant to tell anyone – I don’t think anyone would have really accepted her ‘royalty wants to rebel against royalty’ story, even if it was the truth. Rose Quartz gave everyone hope.”
“Rose Quartz gave everyone lies.” Bismuth may have still been a little bitter. She understood, but that didn’t mean she was ready to forgive Rose. “You gave everyone hope, Pearl.”
“Me?” Pearl sat up, laughing until she realized Bismuth was serious. “Please, half the rebellion didn’t even respect me–“
“And Garnet and I took care of them, didn’t we?” Bismuth retorted, grinning. “Besides, even if they didn’t respect you, it was impossible not to admire you. Here you were, this free pearl, defying her programming, defying her owner, defying Homeworld. Pearls are the one gem that are meant to never think freely and there you were, strutting around camp as you pleased with a sword on your hip, telling other gems off for giving you crap.”
“Pink Diamond still owned me.” It was a reality Pearl had avoided facing for a millennia, because it was easier to believe she had really been free. But it was the truth. “Whether she was herself or Rose Quartz, her orders to me carried the same weight.”
“But she never ordered you around,” Bismuth pointed out. “I always thought it was because she was worried about accidentally driving you back into your conditioning. She yelled at anyone else who tried to order you around, but I figured that was a respect thing. It was more than that though, wasn’t it? She knew the power she had over you and she didn’t want to use it.”
“I… I never noticed,” Pearl admitted. She had always been so willing to follow Rose anywhere, it didn’t matter if there had been an order or not. “When we… made the decision to shatter Pink Diamond, she told me I didn’t have to stay, and made sure I knew what the risks were.”
“And? Why did you stay? Was it because she was your Diamond and you felt obligated?”
Pearl frowned faintly. “No,” she said. “It… It was because I wanted to fight. And I wanted to be with her, but I didn’t feel like I had to stay.”
“Exactly. She let you have your choice.” Bismuth chuckled, looking a bit startled at herself. “Look at me, defending Rose to you. The tables have turned.”
“I have had a very long time to think about things. But none of this means I gave the rebellion hope.”
“Yes, it does,” Bismuth insisted. “Because you were a gem who was practically designed to be a robot, but there you were, going against everything Homeworld said you should be. Rose leading the rebellion and fighting back was impressive, but she was a quartz. She was designed for fighting. You were made to be a decoration, and threw all of that in Homeworld’s face.”
Pearl blushed, ducking her head. “I suppose it doesn’t really matter now–”
“It matters,” Bismuth said bluntly. “You never realized how much you were actually worth to anyone. I was hoping that would have changed.”
“You’re too soft.” Pearl put her head back on Bismuth’s shoulder.
“Only around you.” Bismuth patted her back. “Hey, do you–” She laughed before trying again, “do you remember that time Biggs tried to pull a joke on you–”
“It was her fault for sneaking up on me!” Pearl protested immediately, biting down a laugh. Biggs had never been intentionally cruel, of course, but her jokes could be a little… stupid sometimes. Like creeping up on a paranoid, armed Pearl and grabbing her from behind. Bismuth laughed.
“Rose was so mad when Biggs reformed, I thought she was going to go hide back in her gem. No one ever messed with you again, though. At least, not within swinging distance.”
“And then you just made me a longer blade.” Pearl laughed, feeling more relaxed than she had since the day she had shown Steven those memories. Everything was finally settling back down. Garnet would be back soon. She felt like she could breathe again.
“Not that I would ever encourage violence,” Bismuth said with a faint note of mock innocence.
“No, not you, the gem who ran the betting pool whenever someone challenged my authority,” Pearl mocked back. Bismuth blushed slightly, still smiling.
“You knew about that?”
“You weren’t exactly subtle. Besides, Rose was betting as well. You think she didn’t tell me about that?”
“Fair. It got boring after a while, though, you always won.”
“So you started betting on times instead.”
“It was always fun to see how long you would draw out torturing a new recruit.” Bismuth squeezed Pearl into a tight hug, and she giggled.
They sat in silence for a long while, staring up at the stars. Pearl’s eyes sought out Homeworld’s galaxy again. She wondered what it was like there, now. Steven hadn’t painted a pretty picture, but part of her still desperately wanted to see it with her own eyes. Maybe even see Blue Pearl again and… Yellow Pearl she supposed, if she must. The Diamonds’ Pearls had always associated naturally due to their owners. It had been either be friendly or hate each other. She and Yellow had always managed to accomplish both, but Blue was too quiet and sweet to hate.
“Hey.” Bismuth nudged Pearl, and she looked up. “Who do you belong to?”
A smile pulled at Pearl’s lips before she could stop it, and she proudly proclaimed, “Nobody.”
“Darn right,” Bismuth agreed, grinning back.