It was possible she was three days too late, or possible that it was too soon, or possible that it didn’t matter at all. But Pearl felt like she was standing on the edge of the knife, and she needed to say something…
She needed to find a way to earn Garnet’s forgiveness.
None of her excuses mattered. She was weak – it didn’t matter. She just wanted to feel like she was part of something – it didn’t matter. She had just… needed Sardonyx – it didn’t matter.
None of it mattered.
Pearl wasn’t sure what she expected, although Garnet ignoring her was the most likely outcome. She certainly didn’t expect a flash of light, and two small gems falling out of the air.
“Sorry?!” Ruby repeated, jumping up, the floor under her feet already smoking. “You’re sorry?! You tricked us into fusing and you think sorry is going to fix all of it?!”
“Ruby!” Sapphire grabbed Ruby, holding her back as she started toward Pearl. Steven, who stood between them, made a noise like he was about to say something, but Ruby barreled right over him.
“You always do stuff like this! You mess up, you cause problems, you act like your feelings are the only ones that matter, and we’re all just supposed to deal with it!”
“Ruby, stop it–”
“Rose always told us to just be nice to you, no matter how horrible you were, and why? Because you’re still messed up from the war? We all are! Or no, wait, is it because you’re a Pearl and you just don’t know any better? How long is that excuse going to last? You’ve been free for five thousand years - get over it! Rose let you get away with everything, like, like… like some spoiled kid! There’s nothing wrong with you, you’re just selfish!”
“What?!” Ruby finally tore herself from Sapphire’s grip and whirled to look at her. “Am I wrong? How long have we been putting up with her tantrums and her mood swings and ‘I’m special Rose is the only one who will ever get me’? I know you never understood why Rose put up with her either!”
“That doesn’t mean you can–”
“What, tell her the truth?”
“This isn’t about Rose, it’s about Sardonyx and–”
“It’s about everything, Sapphire! She always does this! She gets mad at Amethyst for no reason, she yells at Steven for not knowing his own mother, she abuses fusion, and we all just deal with it. I’m sick of it! It’s not our fault she’s broken!”
Dead silence fell over the group. Steven stared at Ruby and Sapphire, then looked at Pearl. Her eyes were on the floor, arms press to her sides, hair falling so he couldn’t see her expression.
“Ruby,” Sapphire finally says. “The floor.”
Ruby looked down to see the floor smoking once again, and let out a frustrated yell, whirling and storming out of the house, passed a very bewildered Greg.
“Uh…” He looked in at everyone. “Bad time?”
“No, Greg.” Sapphire sighed. “It’s fine.”
“Hey Dad,” Steven added quietly. Pearl still said nothing; she kept her head down, walking passed the burned floor and passed Sapphire, heading for either the warp pad or her room.
“She’s just upset,” Sapphire said, though there’s no attempt at comfort in her voice, nor did she turn to try and stop Pearl. “This will be resolved.”
Pearl paused on the warp pad, her back to all of them. “Yeah, well… she’s not wrong.”
She warped away without another word. “Um...” Greg rubbed the back of his head, looking at Steven. “So. Road trip? I’ve got some car wash brushes I need to pick up and the guy wants me to meet him in Keystone.”
“Um...” Steven looked at the warp pad, hesitating. What if Pearl came back? What if she was upset?
“I think that’s a great idea,” Sapphire said quickly. “Do you mind if Ruby and I join?”
“Sure, the more the merrier. She’s uh…” Greg looked at the window. Ruby was pacing up and down the beach, creating and breaking glass footprints with each step. “She’s not going to light my backseat on fire, is she?”
“No.” Sapphire paused. “We’ll put down a blanket. And bring water.”
“I’ll get the fire extinguisher from the car wash.”
Pearl wasn’t there when they returned from what might have been classified as a disaster trip (although Garnet was back, at least). She finally popped up again a week later, dragging Peridot’s ship out of the basement and saying something about using it to track Peridot. She was talking a mile a minute and nearly impossible to understand.
It wasn’t until much, much later that Steven realized Pearl had never tried to defend herself against Ruby’s tirade.
Pearl looked up from her tea, surprised. She was sitting out by the ocean, admiring the glow of the moon and letting her mind wander here and there a bit, thinking about memories she had buried so long ago. It had been a long couple of days – another lifetime, really, since Pearl had finally found a way to tell Steven the truth about Rose. The fallout had been so much worse than Pearl had been expecting. She was just happy Sapphire hadn’t yelled at her.
She had left the others inside to their small, impromptu party, needing the quiet for a bit to think things over. And now here was Ruby; the sand under her feet wasn’t turning to glass, and she didn’t look particularly hostile, so Pearl took that as a good sign.
“Hey.” She forced a small smile. “What’s up? I figured you and Sapphire would spend all night celebrating.”
“Yeah, well...” Ruby shrugged. “She told me I should talk to you. And she was right. Mind if I sit?"
“Of course not, but really, there’s nothing to talk about–”
“Yeah, there is.” Ruby sat beside Pearl, curling her legs under herself. “I said some really awful things to you, and I never apologized.”
Pearl looked back to the water, sighing and sipping her tea. “There’s nothing to apologize for. You weren’t wrong.”
“But I get it now. I mean, I didn’t have the whole story before. We all knew you probably served someone pretty awful on Homeworld, but we never would have guessed it was a Diamond. And even if it was Rose, that still must have been pretty bad, especially when she asked you to help fake her shattering. You’ve felt responsible for everything this entire time, haven’t you?”
Pearl shrugged, sipping her tea again. “It doesn’t matter.”
Ruby huffed. “Can you quit being a pearl for a minute?” That earned her a surprised look. “I mean… I get it, you’re hardwired to just absorb all kinds of abuse and never make a tweet about it-”
“I think it’s peep.”
“Whatever. And I know we have it a little easier – Sapphire and I can just ignore everything because we’re Garnet all the time, and she defies everything Homeworld stands for. Amethyst never had to deal with Homeworld’s expectations. But you fight all that every day, and sometimes you fall down, and I think… sometimes we forget what life was really like for you before the Crystal Gems, even without all the Pink Diamond baggage. So, yeah, what you did was really messed up, but what I said also wasn’t okay. You’re not selfish, or broken. And it’s okay for you to accept an apology.”
Pearl looked down at her tea for a long moment, then back at Ruby, giving her a small smile. “Okay. I accept your apology. And I’ll continue working on not being… such a pearl sometimes.”
“You can keep being the Pearl who punched Peridot.” Ruby grinned. “I liked that Pearl.”
They both laughed. “I liked that Pearl too,” Pearl admitted.
“And for what it’s worth, Garnet really does love being Sardonyx and fusing with you. I think that’s part of why it hurt so much. Sardonyx is… really different and really special and really fun. Sugilite is strong and kicks butt, but Amethyst and Garnet are bad influences on each other. That’s what Sapphire says, anyways. And I guess after that time we kicked you around, I can kind of understand it. But you and Garnet are good for each other. A liiiiiiiiiiiiittle overbearing sometimes, but good.”
“Sardonyx likes a good show,” Pearl mused.
“And she always puts a good one on.” Ruby jumped up. “Come on, you should come back inside. You can tell us stories now! You should tell us all about how terrible Rose was at being a Diamond. I mean, I don’t know for sure that she was a terrible Diamond, but I do know she used to run off for days and just hang out in the desert, and I’m pretty sure the Diamonds wouldn’t appreciate something like that from one of their own.”
“I don’t think anyone is ready for stories, yet,” Pearl said, but she pushed herself up anyways to follow Ruby back to the house. “You’re right, though. She was an awful Diamond.”
“I knew it.”