Chapter 1: A Choice
He should have known this day would come.
After finally managing to explain to the Diamonds what had truly become of Pink (along with dealing with many questions on “what is pregnancy,” “is this a new kind of fusion,” and other more intimate questions), Steven had a sinking suspicion that the Diamonds would continue to struggle with Pink’s departure.
For gems, death wasn’t an easy concept to grasp. It wasn’t even much of a concept, given how even shattered gems seemed to possess some form of consciousness, however primitive and warped. And for a Diamond… well, it was like trying to fit Yellow Tail’s boat into Dad’s car wash.
Five thousand years they had grieved, and still they had not gotten over it. Grief wasn’t about “getting over” anything. Grief was permanent, ugly and haunting, with time only prolonging the pain. Eventually, you only hope it grows numb and hollow, where reminiscing doesn’t bring you to tears, where it doesn’t cause you to feel a powerful ache in your chest every time the subject is brought up.
Steven learned of the feeling in his own way, unfortunately. When his dad finally passed, he had difficulty processing it. How could you, when that person has been there your whole life? Each day was difficult, manageable but difficult. He thanked the stars that his family was there.
…and it gave him and his mother’s family a common subject to share.
The Diamonds had each changed, in their own unique ways. Blue could laugh again, Yellow managed to smile, and White felt more… genuine. But beneath all of that, he could still see the pain in their eyes. The loss of Pink, a sister, a friend, a dear family member.
He also knew the pain wasn’t just from her loss. Each Diamond had caused Pink so much pain while she was alive, making her feel unwanted, unloved, useless… devoid of all meaning. They knew this now, and it was this knowledge that now fueled this new wound. The knowledge that they could never tell how they each felt about her, the feeling of things left unsaid.
The desire to apologize, to tell Pink what should have been told to her eons ago.
That’s what ultimately separated Steven’s pain from theirs. Steven had no regrets towards his father, no words unspoken. He loved his dad and Greg knew it. Greg passed away peacefully, no loose ends left behind. Steven couldn’t quite comprehend how the Diamonds felt, but he could feel it. And it hurt so much.
He wasn’t surprised when the Diamond mech landed on Earth. He wasn’t surprised when Blue asked if they could talk about something. He knew what they wanted to talk about.
He was ready, yet he wasn’t. He couldn’t avoid the topic any longer, not after finding his mother’s notes.
Not after finding out exactly what Pink Diamond had to do in order to create him.
“We want to join Pink. Is… is that even possible?” The question was straightforward, typical of Yellow, even if there was an air of uncertainty. The others remained solemn in their expressions, eyes downcast, shoulders slumped.
They couldn’t bear the burden any longer. The guilt was too great, too consuming. After everything they had done…
“Technically, yes.” Steven chose his words carefully, watching the Diamonds’ expressions. “But it’s a bit complicated.” Shocked, surprised, like they hadn’t expected that kind of reply. Of course, they wouldn’t. It felt like a pipe dream to them probably. But Steven believed there was still a chance.
“How?” Blue’s gentle voice quivered, eyes widening with tears. Steven had to blink several times to stop his own tears from falling before continuing.
Gesturing to himself, he stated, “When Mom had me, she had to start from something. Gems don’t have a physical body, and my dad could only provide so much… material.” His face brightened a bit at the thought. Even at the age of 120, those sorts of discussions embarrassed him. It was always something Connie had teased him over. “So, Mom figured out what made the human body. Various minerals, carbon, water, marrow, stuff like that. But that wasn’t quite enough either. Sure, a human body is made up of a bunch of stuff, but humans are more than just chemicals and minerals. Just like a gem is more than just a rock, ya know?”
The Diamonds nodded, slowly, glancing at each other warily. They were still struggling with the concept, he could tell, but they were trying to understand. It was a start, he knew. Running a hand through his curly hair, he took in a deep breath. Here comes the hard part, he thought.
“What makes us… alive? Mom had to figure that out. Her gem made her, well, her, so why not use that to ‘complete’ me? Apparently, it was harder than just, poof, the gem is yours now. She had done a lot of things to make it work.”
“What sort of… ‘things’?” White asked, arching an eyebrow. Steven shrugged sheepishly.
Blue looked at each of them before inquiring, “Did Pink explain how?”
Steven nodded. “She left notes. Pearl’s been helping me decipher it… well, trying to, anyways. Apparently, Mom’s writing is pretty sloppy.”
Yellow scoffed, rolling her eyes. “Typical Pink.”
Steven let out a chuckle. “I can show you her notes. Maybe you’ll have better luck than me in figuring out what she said. Either way, that’s all I know. I’m sorry.”
Silence drifted between the four, before White spoke up. “If we were to decipher the notes, will this process let us see Pink again?”
There it was. Steven didn’t openly admit it, but he did understand one part of the notes. The concept of reincarnation. Connie had explained it to him thoroughly, and honestly, he had to credit her for giving him this idea. If their hunch was right, if their understanding of what Pink was attempting…
They waited for him to answer. Taking in a deep breath, he nodded. “Yes. But,” he held out a hand, preventing the three from getting too hopeful, “it’s not guaranteed. It’s just a theory Connie came up, and it matches with the notes—”
“What is this theory?” Yellow demanded, leaning forward. He had already given her hope in reuniting with Pink. There was no taking back words now. So, taking another deep breath, Steven began. He went into detail as best as he could, what the theory entailed, how it could possibly be accomplished. The more he explained, however, the more concerned and worried the Diamonds looked. He knew why, because the end result would be the same for him. What he had to sacrifice in return in order to reunite this broken, messy family.
A sacrifice he had been preparing himself to make for the past ten years.
“Even if Connie was right, even if we figured out how it worked,” Steven paused, closing his eyes, “there is still side effects. For one, the human body is way different from a gem’s body. You’ll have to nurture it, feed it, clean it. And you won’t be able to do that yourself for a few years anyways. You’ll be weak and small for a bit.”
His expression went stern, opening his eyes and looking at each Diamond pointedly. He had to make sure they understood this point. “And finally, you won’t have any of your old memories. You may regain them later, maybe. But you may also never regain them. Are you willing to take that risk, given everything I just said?”
“I don’t care.” Yellow’s voice was sharp, her gaze matching Steven’s. “I don’t care if I become organic and crawl on all fours for centuries. I don’t care if I never remember who I was, what I,” she halted, hand half raised before slowly clutching into a fist and lowering it back to her side, “I don’t need to remember. All I want is Pink. I have to… I need to there for her again. I need to do what I should have done eons ago!”
Her voice was quaking at this point, tears welling up, face crunched in unseen pain. Steven wasn’t quite prepared for this reaction, but before he could even respond, Blue spoke next, “But what about you? Given everything you said, are you—”
“Don’t worry about me, I was… kinda planning on doing this anyways.” He gave her an apologetic smile. He had debated on telling the Diamonds his plans, before he always found himself holding back, afraid of their response.
Having been quiet this entire time, White finally said, “Then we have no qualms with your plans, Steven. No matter the price we have to pay, we will do this. For Pink.”
With determined expressions, the other two diamonds nodded. Their decision was clear, and Steven knew he couldn’t convince them otherwise. But, he was also admittedly a little happy, because now he wouldn’t be alone anymore.
Chapter 2: New Beginnings
Things had changed so much since that final confrontation between the Crystal Gems and the Diamonds. Pearl honestly wasn’t expecting it to go as peacefully as it did, but somehow Steven had managed to pacify each Diamond into agreeing to help cure the corrupted gems. Of course, she demanded details along with Amethyst for just how he managed to do that (all the while being horrified that White Diamond had removed his gem).
Still, the Diamond Authority would no longer be any trouble for Earth. The Cluster was bubbled. The corrupted gems were cured. Everything was peaceful, for the most part.
Sure, there had been bumps along the way. The Diamonds began to change their way of doing things, resolving to fix a system that was broken, and that wouldn’t be easy to do. Many gems were set in their ways, while others were eager for change.
Of course, what the Diamonds said was considered law, even among those who did not agree. It quelled them, for a time.
Earth was a different matter. It took some getting used to, with many of the Crystal Gems being restored from being corrupted. So much had to be told, truths revealed… trust broken in a leader who was no longer there. Pearl couldn’t really blame them for their reactions. Some were hurt, some were angry, even at her. After all, she had known this entire time, right? Even if she was under order not to say it, she could have tried to explain. Or even convinced Rose to reveal the truth.
But hindsight is 20/20 and the damage was done. All they could do now was mend and heal. They started with the many gem structures that had previously been destroyed, all those things that once connected Earth to Homeworld. The galaxy warp, the towers, arenas, all restored, now with a new purpose.
The great change, however, had occurred when rumor spread about more gem hybrids appearing. Pearl had thought it insane. How was it even possible? Yet when all gems were accounted for, it raised further questions. Where were these hybrids coming from? How did they gain gemstones and powers?
What was happening on Earth?
That’s when they discovered the Cluster was literally falling apart.
It made sense, when one considered how gems need light energy to survive. Stuck within the Earth’s mantle, there was no obvious source of light. The Cluster was bound to run out of energy and go dormant. Steven had thought about extracting it somehow, but the size proved to be too difficult to do it safely.
It was pitiful really. Those shards didn’t deserve such a fate, but what else could they do? So, Pearl wasn’t surprised when Peridot came rushing in, frantic, proclaiming that something is happening to the Cluster.
Using a (much better designed) drill, the Crystal Gems discovered the state the Cluster was in. Or rather clusters, as the massive geo-weapon had split into smaller clusters of gems. Most of it was still in one piece, while others lay in fragments, shards twinkling due to the drill’s headlights.
Steven reacted first, placing his hands on the floor of the machine, reaching out to the Cluster. The others waited quietly, watching him closely before he finally moved. His eyes wet with tears, he could only croak out two words;
Returning to the surface with this new information, a thought occurred to Steven. He posed the question to the other gems, an odd question to be frank. What would happen to the shards once they separate from the Cluster?
No one had an immediate answer, instead turning to Peridot, who recoiled in shock. Of course, they expected her to know. She often bragged about her vast knowledge of Kindergartens, so surely she could answer that?
But no, she wasn’t certain. The Cluster was a new type of weapon, an experiment that Homeworld had made with the sole purpose of destroying Earth. If it would survive, well, then it would be used again for other troublesome colonies.
Same went for the shard experiments. They had been made to see just how two different gem shards would interact. What would happen to them once their purpose was served hadn’t even been an afterthought.
The Crystal Gems continued to monitor both situations. The Cluster wasn’t going to cause any more destruction, especially in the state it was in. And Steven was admittedly happy to find more people like him, and he wanted to help them in any way he could.
There were twenty cases so far, all near Beach City. He reached out to the families of these hybrids, only to learn these children had two human parents. No gem parents. The parents were obviously surprised when they discovered the small gem embedded in their children, as it apparently wasn’t visible during infancy. Which Pearl noted to be strange, as Steven’s gem was present the moment he was born.
That wasn’t the only oddity about these hybrids. Instead of an obvious gemstone, it appeared to look more like a shard of a gem, incomplete and missing a part of itself. Without an obvious source of where the gem had come from, not even the type of gem it belonged to, the Crystal Gems had no clue what to do with new development.
The children seemed fine, however. Perfectly normal and happy, with the added features that was most likely provided by the gem shard. A few children developed an interesting feature, such as oddly colored hair, or a strangely shaped patch of skin around the shard, but these kinds of features didn’t seem to negatively affect the children’s health.
Centi, also known as Nephrite, suddenly arrived from Homeworld, with direct summons by the Diamonds. They needed to speak with Steven immediately. Pearl was concerned obviously, and she wanted to go with him, but Centi firmly told her Steven was the one requested.
It felt hours before Steven returned with Centi, and the look on Steven’s face was one of shock and confusion. When the others asked him what the matriarchs had requested him, he replied that the Diamonds had informed him that they were dissolving their empire.
The Crystal Gems were equally confused by this, but upon hearing Steven explain it further, to Pearl at least, it made some sense. The Diamonds had stopped colonizing worlds, wanting to follow Pink’s legacy in protecting and preserving life instead of destroying it.
However, controlling an empire that colonized and destroyed those worlds could certainly leave a foul taste in one’s mouth. It had with Pink Diamond. It was why she had permanently assumed the form of Rose Quartz, never wanting to remember herself as a Diamond, someone who destroyed life instead of protecting it.
Pearl didn’t openly admit it, but she was also happy that the Diamonds were dissolving their empire. Now, all the gems were free to be whoever they wanted to be. They no longer had to follow orders. Their paths in life, their decisions, it was their own.
Off-colors, fusions, and gems who did not fit the mold were free to be themselves. It was wonderful news truly…
But the look on Centi’s face was telling. It was hard for gems who were loyal to the Diamonds. Centi had been of the easiest to convince in terms of seeing value on Earth. But not all gems were like her, and Pearl knew those gems would find it difficult to cope.
Gems now had to seek out their own purpose, which was such a foreign concept for many of them. Pearls were used to serving others. Quartz were built to fight. What would they do now?
That’s when Steven announced his plan; the new purpose of the Crystal Gems would be to guide these gems into a new life. One full of choice and freedom, where they had control over their own decisions.
So that’s exactly what they did. With the exception of Pearl, Garnet, and Amethyst, the Crystal Gems mobilized into units that spread out towards the various parts of the empire. Excitement was in the air, and new beginning was starting.
Life on Earth continued on. Steven and Connie got married, Beach City became a hob for wayward gems seeking out a purpose in life, and even more gem hybrids began appearing.
The question of how they were created still weighed on the Crystal Gems’ minds, and with the rising number, it was now more important than ever to not only help these children, but to find the source of where they were coming from.
Could these children be indirectly influenced by the Kindergarten? After all, there was never an incomplete colony, so perhaps that had something to do with it? Or maybe the children had accidentally ingested gem shards? Maybe Rose’s healing fountain did this? Or perhaps the Diamond blast centuries ago had some kind of influence?
No matter what theory they tossed, nothing stuck. Several calls to Peridot debunked any thought of the Kindergarten having anything to do with this, Pearl knew personally that healing properties from Rose’s fountain did not have the ability to change genetic makeup, not to mention how unlucky a corruption blast would take this long to take effect. And the parents firmly denied their children ingesting any strange object, even if it were true for a few, it surely wouldn’t have been possible for dozens of children to do the same thing. Especially with their numbers continuing to grow.
Once again, the gems were at square one. Years passed, and they were no closer to any answers. The Cluster was falling apart, gem-human hybrids were appearing all around the world, the Diamond Empire had dissolved…
And then a week after Steven’s 120th birthday, the Diamonds came with their request to see Pink again. Steven informed the Crystal Gems of his plans, and while Pearl was distraught over his decision, she also understood and respected it.
After all, Steven was human. All his human friends and family had passed, with his dear wife Connie passing almost thirty years. He had a good run, he stated. He wanted to give back to the gems, to the Diamonds… to his mother. Another chance at life.
Ten months later…
Pearl took in a deep breath, stepping off the warp pad. Rose’s spring stood before her, and on the water’s glimmering surface, four colored bubbles. Those weren’t any ordinary bubbles, however, as she saw slight movement inside.
Garnet placed a hand on Pearl’s shoulder and nodded. Ten months had passed, yet the sorrow she felt over Steven’s passing hadn’t eased yet. She missed him dearly, but she couldn’t think of that right now. Right now, she had to focus on the task at hand. Those four new lives needed her to keep a clear mind.
Amethyst moved first, slowly approaching the spring, kneeling over the edge. Tentatively, she poked the nearby bubble, a blue one.
Pearl didn’t bother reprimanding her, her eyes having caught sight of another bubble, a simple pink colored one. She covered her mouth and closed her eyes, taking in deep, shaky breaths. Garnet’s hand on her shoulder tightened, then released. Pearl opened her eyes to watch as Garnet walked toward the spring, stopping near where the pink bubble floated. Across from the bubble on either side were two more bubbles, a yellow one and clear one.
Slowly, Garnet reached out with both hands, one towards the surface of the water while the other was above. The bubble popped, and the heavy silence was broken by a shrill cry from an infant. Amethyst jerked up from her position and bound towards Garnet quickly, while Pearl remained rooted in her place.
“Pearl.” Pearl closed her eyes and steadied herself. No, now was not the time to break down. They needed her. They needed her now.
Looking up, Pearl approached Garnet and Amethyst. This was the beginning of something new, something bright. A future full of possibilities and second chances. That’s what Steven had called it. Pearl couldn’t help but smile slightly at that thought.
Yes, things will get better. She will learn to tolerate the pain, and she will teach these children to embrace both sides, gem and human. To be proud of what they are and make sure they never feel unloved.
Chapter 3: Change in Pace
"So, what are we gonna call her? Pink?"
"No… I don't think that name suits her anymore. Rose doesn't, either."
"Then what will her name be?"
"How about… Seren?"
Pearl had no idea that how difficult it was to raise a baby, let alone four gem-human hybrids. Although, the gem aspect was still up for debate, as all four children possessed no gemstone anywhere. By all accounts, they seemed completely human.
Still, Pearl was dedicated to insuring these children would grow up healthy and happy, so of course she purchased several books on raising children, from infancy to early adulthood. She didn't know if they would age like normal humans, but it was worth the effort, at least.
Being a gem, however, really had its perks. She didn't need to sleep or eat, so the children waking up at odd hours for feeding or changing wasn't a hassle to deal with. She found herself even enjoying these mundane duties. The way they looked at her, curious and bright eyed, it was as if they had no memory of what their former lives were like.
Perhaps that was for the best. She couldn't vouch for the other Diamonds, but her Diamond, Pink Diamond, had the worst struggles. The feeling of being unwanted, underappreciated, not acknowledged… Pearl had witnessed it firsthand how poorly the other Diamonds had treated her. Rose had no love towards her former identity, and even though she happily embraced her new identity, Pearl had the sinking suspicion that Rose couldn't even bring herself to love herself as a new person.
A babbling noise distracted Pearl from her thoughts, causing her to turn her head to see big brown eyes watching her closely.
Seren. She had chosen that name for the baby girl that was born from Pink Diamond's gem. It meant star, which Pearl thought of as fitting. The symbol of the star was the Crystal Gem's calling card.
Seren was like a star herself, seemingly lighting up the room with her babbling and giggles. She smiled brightly, as brightly as a baby could, mind you. Her curly red hair stuck in various places, a messy mop that seemed to defy gravity.
Pearl approached the play pen, where the small Seren clung to the bars with eager anticipation. She had been the smallest of the bunch, but she made up for it with her boundless energy and endless baby noises. Pearl briefly wondered if this would continue as she grew up, or if she would change. She almost laughed at the thought. Change. Change was so easy for humans, and it would easy for Seren now.
Seren babbled happily as Pearl leaned down and scooped up the child. She really did love being held, and Pearl didn't mind. The happy cooing was contagious, and Pearl couldn't stop the smile that spread on her face. Raising her wouldn't be easy, but it would be worth it.
The house turned out to be too small for four growing infants. Keeping them in the Temple was out of the question. Of course, Bismuth was happy to get a chance to redesign it, with her own personal touch. She promised Pearl to make it as child-safe was possible, but, well, they had to have a balcony.
Problem was that Bismuth didn't consider making bars around the edge, nor did she consider keeping the door closed one sunny morning.
A shriek broke through the normally calm air, along with frantic steps up the stairs. Bismuth barely had time to register the noise when she saw one of the babies waddle toward the open balcony. Dropping the axe she was polishing, Bismuth dove towards the child, hands barely grasping its target.
She took in a heavy sigh, relief washing over her as Pearl appeared in the doorway, panting and shaking before seeing the blacksmith holding the runaway toddler.
"Oh my stars, Bismuth, why was the door open?! Xanthe could have fallen!"
Bismuth clicked her tongue, rolling on her back and bringing said child to her chest. "Geez, relax, Pearl. Kid's safe and sound now. No harm, no fool, right?"
Pearl shook her head as she stepped onto the balcony. "It's 'no harm, no foul,' Bismuth, and that's hardly the point! These are organics, not diamonds! They're not invincible anymore! They could get hurt, or, or… o-or…"
Bismuth sat up, brow furrowed. "I know that. But, look, Yellow Diamon—"
"Xanthe is her name," Pearl corrected. "She's not Yellow Diamond anymore. Just like Seren isn't Rose—"
"I know, I know, same for the other two pebbles, doesn't change the fact that this meat bag," Bismuth held out Xanthe to Pearl, "is made up of Yellow Diamond's pieces. Frankly, I dunno what Steven was thinking when he came up with this insane idea."
The blonde baby squirmed and made gurgling noises, as if to show protest, but Bismuth paid her no mind. Pearl delicately took her out of Bismuth's hands, cradling the infant carefully while giving Bismuth a pointed look. "Steven wanted to give the Diamonds a second chance. You know that."
"Doesn't make it any less weird." Bismuth shrugged and stood up. "Either way, I'll keep the door closed from now on, if that makes you happy. I'll make it my bismuth to make sure we got no falling babies."
She heard Pearl sigh behind her, however she made no further comment. In all honesty, Bismuth was grateful for this. While she respected Pearl's willingness to go along with this plan, and she certainly respected Steven's decision, Bismuth couldn't wrap her head around the idea of taking care of the Diamonds.
They were the root cause of so much, and it felt like they were getting away from all their problems scot free. Sure, the Empire was no more, but that didn't amend the issues it left behind. The split happened, factions forming rapidly as alliances were made. Homeworld became a mess, with uppercuts grasping for the power vacuum the Diamonds left. The Crystal Gems grew in numbers, true, but they had more on their plate than they could admittedly handle.
Bismuth would be out there, fighting along with her fellow gems, but Steven had begged her to stay. Bismuth couldn't say no, so here she was. She owed so much to him, she knew. This was the least she could do for him.
She sat back down on her bench and picked up the discarded axe. Now wasn't the time to wallow in her own self-pity. Maybe she couldn't join her fellow gems, but she could provide them with the needed resources to stay alive.
Garnet had long ago figured out that humans are far more unpredictable than gems. As Steven grew, his possibilities changed, and she had to change the way she saw him to consider those new possibilities. These infants were no different, in a sense.
Sure, she knew when they needed a diaper change, or a bottle, or just to be held, but that would soon change, as time went by.
Or, at least, that's what she knew but was having difficulty accepting. No matter how much she looked, she saw the four infants growing up to be exactly like their Diamond counterparts. Arrogant, haughty, ill-considered, along other distasteful traits.
Her three eyes drifted over the nursery purposefully, watching. Among her three sleeping sisters was Nila, the only one awake and watching Garnet closely with wide blue eyes. Garnet hated to admit how unsettling it made her feel, but she brushed aside those feelings.
Nila didn't remember her life as Blue Diamond. She was a mere human infant created from Blue Diamond's gem. She didn't even have a gem on her being. She was just a baby, just a baby—
"How dare you fuse with one of my Sapphires."
Garnet hugged herself, pressing her back against the wall. She dissipated her sunglasses and closed her eyes. Calm. She had to remain calm.
Blue Diamond was a shatterer. She hated fusions.
Nila was just a baby. She couldn't even walk properly yet, let alone shatter a gem.
So why, why did she always have to look at her?
Garnet turned her head to look at Nila. "Why do you always look at me?" She didn't know why she asked such a question; obviously Nila couldn't answer.
Yet, somehow, Nila defied her prediction, giving Garnet a wide, almost cheeky smile. And giggled.
Garnet's eyes widened in shock as she watched Nila grasp the bars of her crib and pulled herself up. She couldn't even believe her eyes when the infant cooed, reached out, and opened and closed her hands, a sign Garnet was too familiar with.
Stiffly, she moved towards Nila's crib and picked up the baby. She made a happy squeak, and Garnet couldn't stop the chuckle from escaping her lips.
"Proven wrong again," she chuckled, cradling the baby in her arms. Nila made a gurgle noise, bursting into a fit of giggles when Garnet ruffled her dark hair. Smiling at the child, Garnet added, "I hope, for both our sakes, you keep proving me wrong."
Amethyst hated baby duty. Well, "hated" was a strong word. More like she found it boring and tedious, still, it was her rotation. It wasn't even that she minded the diapers, bottle feeding, or any of the sort. It was just… dealing with them in general.
Xanthe was temperamental. Even though she was barely one, she threw tantrums and cried a lot. Nila was easily startled and burst into screams of terror. Seren loved testing out her voice, as Pearl put it, and made shrieking noises as often as possible.
And Blanca… Well, Blanca honestly made the other three preferred company.
It wasn't like Blanca was bad or anything. She was the best behaved out of all of them. No, it was just that she didn't behave like the other babies. Amethyst knew screaming, shrieking and crying were common among babies. Blanca did that, rarely though. She also rarely smiled, giggled, or did any of the positive behaviors Amethyst saw the other three do.
It was almost unsettling, seeing a blank face like that. Then again, Amethyst found White Diamond unsettling in general. Maybe Blanca was just cursed to be unsettling, no matter what she was.
A whine from aside her broke her from her thoughts. Amethyst sighed, pushing herself off her chair and picked up Seren, who was making those fussy noises babies made when they were hungry. She poked Seren's nose with a grin. "Whatcha want, Ren? Yummy nommy milkie?"
Seren giggled, which Amethyst took as confirmation. Setting the toddler in her high chair, Amethyst moved towards the little make-shift kitchen. Construction on the house was still on-going, with only the nursey completed, so they had to continue using the older portions of the house.
Turning on the stove, she began heating a bottle. Although, maybe it would a good idea to get the other three fed. Pearl always preferred keeping things in synch, and at least the next person in rotation wouldn't have to worry about dealing with three other hungry babies.
Minutes later, and four fed babies later, Amethyst was again sitting on the floor, watching the four doing typical babies. Crawling, babbling, standing up before flopping back down. She always found it weird that these tiny humans could be entertained by doing nothing for hours on end.
Her eyes drifted towards Blanca, who was just sitting and staring at the window. It started raining an hour ago, and Blanca had oddly become transfixed by the rain outside. Amethyst frowned.
Babies don't normally behave like this, do they? She had to wonder, considering her only real exposure had been Sour Cream and Steven. Was Blanca even able to laugh?
Her frowned deepened. Not on her watch. She was gonna make this kid laugh.
Lapis couldn't wrap her mind around human beings, despite a Crystal Gem for over a hundred years. There were some things she understood, granted, but reincarnation? Absolutely ridiculous.
Steven had tried to explain how it worked, but even then, Lapis couldn't understand. The idea of "poofing" a Diamond and then giving them a new body was insane, not to mention placing them in the Crystal Gems' care. Who cares if the Diamonds on longer possess the memories of their former lives? Who cares if they're now harmless, vulnerable human infants now?
It made it easier to just shattering—killing them, you can't shatter a human—the Diamonds, end their reign of terror once and for all. Lapis knew Steven wouldn't want that, she knew he had worked hard to convince the Diamonds to change their ways.
But that was then. Lapis was fine with the Diamonds being on Homeworld, far away from Earth. She was even fine when they dissolved the Empire, happy, dare she say. But to be given a second chance, a do-over, as Steven put it, was out of the question.
And yet here she was, on baby watching duty as the four Diamonds napped. No matter how she looked at them, they were shatterers, murderers, tyrants. And one of them, the runt of the bunch, took Steven away from her.
Lapis narrowed her eyes, huffing. It wasn't fair, giving these monsters a second chance. No matter how Steven had put it, this was giving the Diamonds a chance to repeat their mistakes, harm more gems, humans even, and Lapis hated it. But—
Her fist unclenched, and she let out a shaky breath. She had meant it when she suggested killing the Diamonds right there and then. Pearl had been furious, but she didn't care. It was only when Steven's name was invoked, when Garnet asked Lapis bluntly if Steven would be okay with that, that Lapis backed down.
No matter how much she hated the Diamonds, no matter how much her pain still hurt… Steven had wanted this. Steven wanted to give the Diamonds a second chance, he had wanted them to see their sister again. Steven displayed true kindness and compassion, and Lapis wanted to believe that things would be different.
Her gaze softened as she saw the runt squirm in her sleep. Out of all the Diamonds, Pink had been the most sympathetic. She could relate to wanting to run away from all her problems. And if Pearl was right, that Steven and Pink had similar personalities, then… then maybe she could at least tolerate the four.
"Why do I have to do diaper duty?"
Amethyst shrugged nonchatantly. "Well, you drew the short straw. It's your turn."
Peridot shook her head, gawking. "I will not be forced to do something as demeaning as cleaning duty!"
"Too bad, so sad," Lapis replied, crossing her arms. "Diaper duty for you."
"It'll be five minutes before they need changing," Garnet added, patting Peridot's head. "So you should probably get the supplies ready."
Peridot continued to gawk as the others spread out, carrying on with their daily activities. Unbelievable. The loveable Peridot was left with the most heinous of duties—
Diaper duty. One of the most undignified duties a Crystal Gem ever has to deal with, and Peridot's most hated task. Pearl had assured her that it would not be a long time, as humans would go out of needing diapers. Still, it didn't change the fact that, in the meantime, they needed to do this, for the four great Diamonds.
Although, former great would be a better term now. After all, according to Steven, the Diamonds no longer have any memories of their past lives. Plus, they were human infants, with no gem anywhere on their person! They might as well be failed attempts at remaking the Diamonds.
Peridot looked up at the clock. Garnet had suggested getting supplies ready, so she might as well. Five minutes wasn't very long anyways. She glanced at the four Diamonds and smirked. "Can't believe you lowered yourselves like this. Oh well, it'll make dealing with you easier."
“You sure this is gonna work?”
Amethyst scoffed at the question, rolling her eyes. “C’mon, Peri. When haven’t these things not worked?”
Peridot narrowed her eyes slightly before arching an eyebrow. “Shall I give the list chronologically or alphabetically?” The quartz merely responded with a snort, shuffling her feet slightly to further hide in the corner. Peridot followed her lead, and they sat there, waiting, eyes focused on the stairs.
Peridot’s eyes shifted slightly towards the nursery. Blanca was building a tower of blocks, not even bothering to look in their direction. Peridot was tempted to point that out to Amethyst; after all, they were doing this little stunt for Blanca. Not bothering to look at them was defeating the entire purpose.
Then again, Amethyst was far too focused on the stairs to even glance at the nursery. Peridot suppressed a sigh, returning her attention to the plan at hand. The voices downstairs were growing louder, followed by footfalls on the stair case. Bismuth hadn’t yet installed the carpet, so the noise was notable and distinct.
Pearl appeared first, her head turned slightly, chatting happily with someone behind her, Garnet probably. Peridot prepared herself, shifting the ridiculous mask fully over her face. She didn’t have to wait long, however.
Amethyst leapt out, giving a mighty roar. Peridot moved behind her, ready to jump out when Amethyst was abruptly flung into the air.
Neither gem has bothered to look at the floor in front of them. It wasn’t a factor they had considered, or at least a factor that Peridot considered. So, neither gem noticed the small block car sitting innocently near the stairs. It didn’t matter how it had wound up there, as poor Amethyst had stepped on it, and of course, she had no time to prepare herself, sending her legs up in the air before landing squarely on her box with a loud and prominent thump.
There was silence, all the gems attempting to process what had just happened when a sudden laugh broke through the silence. A childish, infantile laugh, that most certainly had to belong to one of the toddlers.
Peridot turned her head, the others following suit, watching in mild awe as the infant formerly known as White Diamond, now known as Blanca Universe, was giggling up a storm. A squeal below Peridot caused her to turn back to Amethyst, who had jumped up to her feet, chucking her cheap plastic clown mask to the side with a hearty laugh.
“I did it! Peri, look! I made the snowball laugh!”
“Huh,” was all Peridot could respond with, slowly removing her own mask and sharing a confused look with Pearl. Garnet, however, had a knowing smile. Peridot wondered if the fusion had known this would happen. She probably did. It would explain why Garnet hadn’t stopped Pearl from coming upstairs or something similar.
Amethyst made a mad dash to the nursery, flinging Blanca up in her arms, still laughing. “I made you laugh, you little snowball!” she cackled, poking the child’s nose. That seemed to cause more laughter from Blanca, which, in turn, made Amethyst smile even wider.
Pearl walked over to Peridot’s side, hands clasped in front of her while watching the quartz celebrate. “So, the masks…?”
“We were trying to startle you,” Peridot replied with a shrug. “Amethyst seemed to think ‘slapstick’ would be comical enough to make Blanca laugh.”
“And you went along with it?”
Another shrug. “I had… nothing better to do.”
Pearl smiled slightly. “Well, at least Amethyst got what she wanted. It is nice to see Blanca laughing, too. I was starting to worry.”
“Hmm.” Peridot frowned slightly, still watching Amethyst dancing with Blanca in her arms. She didn’t want to admit either, but Peridot knew Amethyst had been particularly worried for Blanca. A small smile began to work her way onto Peridot’s lips, the laughter from the quartz and human infant becoming increasingly contagious. Well, at least now they had nothing to worry about.
Pearl forgot how quickly humans grew. Four years has passed, and in those years, the girls had learned how to walk and talk. Eventually, they were scampering around the beach, laughing and playing like children. No, Pearl corrected herself. They were children.
Said children were currently outside, bare feet crashing down on the sand as a game of tag proceeded. Amethyst, who was currently ‘it,’ made a move towards Seren, causing the redhead to squeal out and dive out of the way.
“Imma get you, Renny!” Amethyst hollered, waving her arms erratically. Seren climbed on top of one of the numerous rocks on the beach, hollering back, “Nuh uh! You gotta catch me first!”
“Here I coooooome!” Amethyst’s shape began to glow, growing larger and taller until she took the shape of Purple Puma. Seren yelped, “No fair!” right as Amethyst charged towards her. The child screamed and jumped high up… and up… and up…
“Amethyst, look!” Pearl shouted, while Amethyst could only gawk up as Seren floated slowly down. The child was also in shock, looking down at the ground before letting out a frightened, “Pearl!”
Pearl reacted before she could even think. Amethyst had already shifted back to her normal self, and the other children had gathered around the quartz. Pearl reached the group, waving her hands to calm them. “It’s alright, everyone, it’s alright! Seren’s just floating. It’s one of her powers! Seren, sweetie, you’re alright! You’re floating, you’re not falling!”
“She can fly?” Nila asked.
“No way, how come I can’t fly too?” Xanthe demanded.
Blanca reminded quiet, giving Pearl an inquisitive look.
Pearl sighed, shaking her head. “No, it’s just an ability that allows Seren to control gravity to decrease the… Uh,” she paused, noticing the confused looks the girls gave her. Of course, they were just children still. They didn’t have the ability to grasp certain concepts just yet…
“She’s floating,” Amethyst stated nonchalantly. “Gem power.” A collection of ‘ooooohs’ came the three, and they all looked back up at Seren, who gently flopped down on another rock. Pulling herself into a sitting position while grinning ear-to-ear. “That was so cool!” she squealed. “I wanna do it again!”
“Oh no, you don’t,” Pearl replied, walking towards and easing her off the boulder. “You’re not trying something like that again until you can control it better. Otherwise you’ll be up there for an entire night!”
“Oh.” Seren blinked, before pouting in disappointment.
Realizing that no one was in the mood for tag anymore, Amethyst hollered to the girls to race her to the house for pizza. Pearl didn’t protest it, instead nudging Seren along to join her sisters in the impromptu race.
She knew she had to talk with the other gems on this new development, immediately. A pizza party would at least keep the girls distracted while the Crystal Gems came up with a strategy.
“So, Seren already began showing gem abilities,” Garnet stated calmly, arms crossed. Pearl nodded. “Yes. I believe it’s only a matter of time before the others begin to show their own abilities.”
“Are you for real?” Bismuth asked. “I mean, they don’t have gems! How on Earth can Seren use Rose’s abilities?”
“Pink Diamond’s abilities,” Pearl corrected. Bismuth gave her a pointed look, causing Pearl to sigh. “Listen, I don’t quite understand it myself. But,” she reached down, picking up an old, battered notebook from the coffee table, “Pink Diamond began studying organic life, and how it could be compatible with gems.”
“Oh, so that’s how she figured out how to make Steven!” Amethyst chirped.
Peridot scoffed. “Even so, Steven still had a gemstone. All the other gem hybrids possess some kind of gem shard. Yet there’s no gem on the girls! Nothing!”
“It is rather odd,” Lapis added. “I mean, that’s where our powers come from. So how can Seren even use Pink Diamond’s abilities without a gem?”
Pearl tapped the notebook. “The answers are in here. Before Steven… passed, we went over Pink’s notes. Connie was the one who came up with the idea first—”
“Heh, that girl was full of potential,” Bismuth chuckled. Her expression fell slightly. “Gotta say, I miss her and Steven…”
“We all miss them,” Garnet stated. “But right now, we need to focus on how Seren, and possibly the others, was able to use gem powers.” Garnet nodded towards Pearl, who smiled in return.
Continuing, Pearl opened the book up, “Pink Diamond had no intention of coming back… at least not originally. But I believe later in the pregnancy she was starting to have second thoughts. She must have realized that it was impossible to remove herself from her gem. After all, even gems that are shattered, supposed to be dead, are still sentient.”
“You mean Rose coulda come back at any time!” Amethyst shouted. Pearl frowned. “If she did, it would have killed Steven. Obviously, she wasn’t going to do that.”
“So, she didn’t come back in White’s head cuz that woulda killed him for good?” Bismuth questioned. Pearl nodded grimly.
“Removing her gem would be cutting off so much vital energy from his core. Steven was truly half human… in the sense that his genetic structure, his mass, was only partially made. The gem kept him stable, it compensated for anything that was lacking.”
The room was eerily still. Pearl took in a shaky breath before continuing, “It’s why Steven couldn’t get sick like typical human children. Why he could survive for a limited time in space. And why he and Connie couldn’t procreate.” And why the disease couldn’t kill him immediately, she added, but didn’t dare speak out loud.
Steven’s human components had begun to fail him, as all human bodies do after years. Due to the missing components, his gem overcompensating in sustaining him. He was becoming more gemlike with each passing day, but it hadn’t been enough. The disease was eating him away, slowly breaking him apart. He wouldn’t have lasted another year in the state he was in. He slept most of the day away, he could barely walk, eating did nothing for him…
Pearl shook her head. It couldn’t be helped. Steven had been something entirely new, and he enjoyed every day of his life. He lived life to the fullest, and even though he and Connie couldn’t have biological children, that didn’t stop them from adopting as many as they could. Steven had said it himself; he had a good run, and now he was ready to rest.
“Steven realized that simply making a human body and placing a gem inside of it wouldn’t transfer the gem’s control to the body. After all, the human body had its own brain, not connected to the gem. So… we thought, what if we converted the gem itself into the components to make a human body.”
Amethyst gaped. “The bubbles…”
Nodded, Pearl added, “Where Pink’s theory lacked was additional human components. She thought the gem would be enough to keep the body functional, but remember, broken down to its basic levels, we are all made of similar materials. Carbon, iron, various minerals create the human body.”
“So, all you needed to do was take the necessary ingredients and leave them with the inactive gems,” Garnet stated thoughtfully.
Pearl shrugged. “Somewhat. It’s also why we choose Rose’s spring for the location of their birth. Pink’s tears, and the Diamonds’ fluids, act as a… life giver, if you will. The gems were meant to act as the genetic conductor, molding the bodies to be compatible with the gem, allowing the gem to be the dominant feature.”
“So, essentially what you’re saying is they are their gems?” Peridot asked. “That’s ridiculous. White Diamond’s gem alone would be too large to—”
“Not if they’re broken down.”
Peridot gasped. “You didn’t—”
“It worked, though.” Pearl covered her mouth. “Every day, I look at Seren, and all I see is Pink. Her laugh is the same. She’s just like her, and now she’s starting to manifest her powers…”
Bismuth placed a hand on Pearl’s shoulder, a look of concern crossing her face. Giving her shoulder a light squeeze, Bismuth turned to Peridot. “Regardless of how it’s done, we can’t ignore that these meat balls now got gem powers. Dangerous gem powers, I might add.”
“We need to teach them how to control it,” Garnet added. “White’s and Yellow’s powers alone would be devastating to allow unchecked.” The others nodded grimly. Removing her hand from her mouth, Pearl stated, “All we can do is guide them and protect them. They’re approaching school age, and we can’t just let them around other children without having them understand how to control their powers. They could hurt themselves—”
“Or others,” Lapis added, causing Pearl to glare back at her. Lapis shrugged.
Peridot stood up. “Well then, what are we waiting for? We should be training them immediately!”
“Tomorrow, Tiny,” Bismuth countered, raising a hand. “The kids are sleeping. And I don’t think we want a bunch of cranky gem hybrids with no control over their powers.”
“I don’t wanna be poofed by a four year old,” Lapis stated, crossing her arms.
Garnet stood up, walking towards the door. “Then it’s decided. Tomorrow will be the first day of their training. Until then, let’s get set up. Who knows what’ll happen?”
“You do,” Bismuth snickered, getting up as well. Garnet snorted, opening the door and exiting. The others followed suit, leaving only Pearl behind. The gem looked back down at the open notebook, not even reading the words on the pages.
Briefly, fearful, she wondered if this plan would mean the girls would regain their memories of the past.
For those wondering about the Diamonds' gem status, their bodies are essentially their gem. Now, due to their DNA coming only from a diamond, they won't age like a typical humam. In a sense, they are still 100% gem, but their stones have been repurposed into a different form.
Anyway, I hope that cleared it up a bit.
Chapter 5: Little Steps
Please check out Little Stars by Madam Violet! It's based off my AU and super cute.
The morning came too quickly, and Pearl was nervous. Probably the most nervous she’s been in a long while, not since Steven began to learn about his own powers.
She went through her mental check list one more time. She had to be sure to encourage the girls, least their powers disappear, just like it did with Steven. They can’t force it to come out, and the girls are only four. They’re so small, so young, much younger than Steven was when his gem started reacting.
Taking a shaky breath, Pearl began to pace. Of course, the training course must be easy for a small child to navigate. And it can’t be too frightening to approach, either. Children startle easily; they have difficulty distinguishing reality from fiction still. The Crystal Gems had agreed the Temple was off limits, and Bismuth began to construct a small jungle gym near the light house. It was safer, and it was colorful. The girls would surely love it.
Or what if they didn’t? Nila scared easily. What if the hillside frightened her? What if she clung to Garnet the entire time and refused to join?
What about Xanthe? Maybe she wouldn’t like it, either. What if it was the wrong color, and she threw a fit over that? What if Seren loved it but ended up breaking something or hurting herself? What if Blanca wouldn’t join in with the others because of something, and the Crystal Gems couldn’t figure out what the problem was? What if one of them got hurt, or was frightened, or regained their memories suddenly, or—
A hand grasped her shoulder, breaking her flow of thought. Gasping, she whirled around to see Bismuth standing behind her, covered head to foot in grass strains and dirt, her wide smile slowly fading at the look Pearl gave her.
“Everything alright?” Bismuth asked, placing her other hand on Pearl’s free shoulder. Pearl fidgeted with her hands, trying not to freak out over the endless possibilities of failure.
“Just,” she gulped, “just worried how the girls will react. There’s only so much we can do and so much we don’t know—” Pearl felt large arms pulled her into a warm and tight embrace. She stopped her ramblings, taking in a deep breath before turning the hug.
Bismuth spoke softly, “I know you’re worried. We’re all worried, for different reasons, sure. But we’re worried. This is new and different, and we got no one but each other to work through this.”
“Like how it’s always been,” Pearl added, squeezing a little tighter.
The “jungle gym,” as humans apparently known it has, seemed more like a makeshift Ruby-sized obstacle course. There were three main structures, a slide coming out of one, the tallest possessing stairs and bars connected to the third structure. A tunnel curled out from the third structure all around the other two, with small openings dotted on its surface.
Really, it wasn’t so much a “training ground,” than an over glorified playground. Lapis remembered when Steven and Connie were raising their numerous children, taking to these playgrounds. Honestly, all this thing needed was bright pastel colors, and it could be mistaken for a child’s playground easily.
Lapis sighed loudly, looking down at the runt that was clinging to her leg. Seren giggled, bright eyes gleaming. Arching an eyebrow, Lapis asked, “You gonna let go of my leg today?”
“Seren!” Pearl hollered from the jungle gym. “Come on and join your sisters! You can play with Lapis later!”
No, please, don’t play with me later, Lapis thought as Seren looked at Pearl, then looked Lapis, before calling back to Pearl, “Okay!” Finally releasing Lapis’s leg, Seren scampered off to join the others. Or at least, Lapis thought she was, until the runt turned around and waved her little arms. “We play later?”
“Yeah, sure.” Damn. Why couldn’t she say no? Make up some excuse even, something to stay away from this annoying runt!
…this annoying runt that reminded her so much of Steven.
Sighing again, Lapis moved towards the lighthouse and leaned against a wall. Her eyes drifted towards the jungle gym, watching the four play and interact with the other Gems. This wasn’t training of any sort, but what else could four small children do? They merely climbed up the structure, goofing off as small children tend to do. Pearl had insisted that this was the safest way, as normal play seemed to get Steven to use his powers, and Seren manifested one of her powers through normal play as well.
However, Lapis grew bored of watching the children and turned her head to watch the ocean. Seeing the waves ripple up and down eased her mind, which was currently swarming with intense thoughts from last night.
The Diamonds were beginning to manifest their old powers. Every day they were looking and sounding more like the Diamonds. It was only a matter of time before they regained their memories and returned to their old ways. Regardless of what Steven insisted, the Diamonds had thousands of years to consider changing their ways, and yet it was only when one of their own perished did they finally change.
But not completely. Blue Diamond still disregarded fusion. Yellow Diamond hated organic life. And White Diamond? A control freak to the bitter end.
A sudden yelp startled Lapis, pulling her attention towards the jungle gem. Bismuth was shaking herself, while Xanthe was sitting on her butt, a look of total confusion on her young face. Small yellow sparks frizzled around her face before dissipating with a snap.
The terraforming gem walked briskly over to the gems, eyes stealing a glance over at the still grounded Xanthe before addressing Bismuth. “Hey, you okay?”
“Oh, me? Yeah, just a little shocked.” The metallic gem gave Lapis a cheesy grin, causing Lapis to sigh. The tension in her shoulders slowly loosened, and she took a step back as Bismuth squatted in front of Xanthe, a big toothy grin on her face. “Wow, who knew you’d pack a punch. Guess Imma hafta to call you ‘Sparky’ from now on.”
Xanthe arched a blonde eyebrow, apparently still confused over what happened. “Huh?”
Pearl squatted next to Xanthe, giving her a small smile. “You used your powers, Xanthe.”
“And gave Bismuth a shock!” Amethyst snorted, grinning widely at her own pun. Bismuth scoffed, rolling her eyes. Xanthe gaped, looking between the gems before springing back to her feet, the yellow crackles of energy returning immediately. “I control thunder!”
“Lightning, actually. Well, it’s more accurately described as static electricity—”
“Pearl,” Bismuth interrupted, gesturing to Xanthe’s blank expression. Pearl covered her mouth, uttering a sheepish chuckle before looking back at the blonde hybrid. “Uh, it’s lightning powers.”
Furrowing her brow, Xanthe asked, “But what does light-ening do?” Lapis refrained from snorting loudly. Pearl gave her a look, but Lapis ignored her.
Bismuth waved her hands around. “Your powers can make a gem go POOF, just like that.” To emphasize that point, she snapped her fingers.
Xanthe gave her a doubtful expression, but before she could say anything, something jumped on top of her. Eyes bright, Seren perched herself on top of Xanthe’s shoulders, talking a mile a minute. So fast that Lapis could only make out, “Xanthe can zap people now?!” “Can I zap people too?” “Can Blanca and Nila zap people,” and that was pretty much it.
Bismuth seemed amused by the runt’s energetic chatter, giving a laugh and picking up the redhead. “Hey, hey, settle down, Spunky! One question at a time!”
“But can we?” a small voice inquired. Lapis glanced down and saw Blanca, holding Nila’s hand. Both had curious expressions on their faces. Lapis gestured towards Pearl, who immediately, and rather eagerly, rambled about each girl possessing different “gifts,” each unique to themselves. Lapis tried to refine from rolling her eyes, but from the corner of her eyes, she noticed the runt staring at her, smiling.
She sighed. Great, the runt had her eyes set on her. And when the little Diamond had her eyes set on something, she wouldn’t stop until she got what she wanted.
“Lapis?” Lapis felt a tug on her pant leg. Restraining the groan building in her throat, she turned to see the runt looking up at her with wide eyes.
Suddenly taken by a shy spell, Seren released Lapis’s trousers and clasped her hands in front of her. Fiddling with her small fingers, the small Diamond asked softly, “Uh, can you tell me a bedtime story?”
Arching an eyebrow, Lapis turned fully to face the small girl. “A bedtime story?” she repeated, half wondering if she misheard. Seren nodded eagerly, her brown eyes seemingly glittering even in the low light.
For a moment, Lapis Lazuli hesitated. She had often seen Steven beg for stories from his father, and when Steven himself had become a father, he often gladly shared stories about his life as a Crystal Gem with his children. However, he often joked that Lapis and Garnet were the best storytellers (Lapis wanted to disagree. Garnet told stories far better).
“Lapis?” The gem focused her gaze back on the child, sighing before cracking a ghost of a smile. “Sure.”
Tonight would be a story for Seren. A story about a boy, a lost and broken gem, and the friendship they forged.
Heh, if you can’t tell, I may ship Bismuth and Pearl a lil. Just a smidge but hah, I’m shameless.
Also sorry for the plot progressing slowly. The first few chapters were very info-dumpy, and I didn’t want to drag everyone down with info dumps.
Chapter 6: A Simple Life
Sorry for being a wee bit late. I got sick XD Too busy hacking up a lung to write.
"You girls will really love it. Your firsts day in elementary school, ooooh I can hardly wait to hear about all the friends you'll make!" Pearl chattered excitedly, easing slowly on the brakes as the van parked in front of the tall, brick-colored building. Public schooling had been Pearl's insistence, as she realized that the girls needed to be properly socialized and acclimated to human society. Besides, it would be a perfect opportunity for the girls to make friends outside of the Crystal Gems and each other.
Xanthe crossed her arms, pouting in the backseat. "School sounds dumb. I don't need friends or whatever. Or being in that dumb place."
"I think school sounds fun," Nila replied softly, turning to Seren, who was eagerly bouncing in her seat. "You get to learn new things, uh, I just hope everyone's nice." Blanca, who had been sitting quietly besides her, nodded, before turning her attention back to the window to gaze outside.
"First! Day! Of! School!" Seren squealed in a sing song voice, emphasizing every word with a bounce. Pearl couldn't help the chuckle that left her lips. Opening the van's door, she began ushering the girls towards the building, several times grabbing Seren by her hood to prevent her from bolting.
Several children were already in the main hall, along with some parents chattering amongst themselves. Pearl felt slightly out of place among so many humans, but her attention was pulled back towards the girls, specifically Blanca. "Pearl, do gems go to school, too?"
"Hmm?" Pearl lowered herself to Blanca's eye level, following the girl's pale eyes towards two boys. They looked just like every other child in the building, at least to Pearl, with the stark exception of ruby shards on their foreheads. Pearl looked back at the former Diamond, her eyes flickering briefly to her broad forehead, where, less than a decade ago, a white diamond once rested.
Pearl internally sighed. Of course, the girls would start to notice differences. Steven had noticed differences at that age, asking Greg and the Gems why he had a gem on his stomach while other children didn't. And to the girls, well, it was the opposite.
"Oh no, Blanca," Pearl stated, gently ruffling the girl's hair. "Those boys are hybrids, just like you and your sisters. They just happen to possess a gem shard. A small difference, really."
"Oh." Blanca blinked, then glanced over her shoulder at the two boys. "So, they're like us? Human, I mean?"
Pearl nodded. "Yes, exactly. And I'm guessing they'll be your classmates too. You might even meet other hybrids, who knows! Isn't that exciting?"
Blanca furrowed her brow a little, before returning to a neutral yet pleasant expression. "I suppose."
Pearl smiled before straightening up. Soon school began, and Pearl left the building, after giving each child a pat on the head (although Seren insisted on flinging herself up into Pearl's arms for a proper hug). And by the end of the school day, she would come back to pick them up, eagerly wanting them to each share their own experiences in class. She hoped they would enjoy today, as it would be the first of many days, learning new things and meeting so many new people! Oh, how many friends they will make? She wondered if she could start making plans for play dates soon…
Xanthe knew she'd hate her first day of school, and she was right. It was boring, practicing sitting in circles, pulling chairs up and back, walking around the school, reading big blocky books, counting. All boring! She was just glad that the school day finally ended, and she could get out of that stuffy, stupid building.
She sat on top of one of the long tubes in the "training field," kicking her feet out idly. She wished she didn't have to go back to school, or, better yet, she wished school was at Bismuth's forge. That place was where real learning happened! She got to see Bismuth turn clumps of rock into cool weapons, and Xanthe knew all kinds of types. Rapiers, scythes, glaives, sabers, lances, arrows, chain sickles, axes, the list went on!
And Bismuth herself was pretty cool, too, even if she did call Xanthe a pebble. She had started telling the blonde about the various fights she had gotten into, how she used to beat up bad guys and make them run crying back to Homeworld. Honestly, why couldn't school be more like that? Xanthe wanted to learn how to make cool weapons, not how to sing the alphabet song.
"Gotcha!" A hand jerked out of the small window beneath the tube, grabbing Xanthe's sandaled foot. She yelped and flung herself off the tube, sparks flying around her. Landing face first, Xanthe felt her temper rise as she heard laughter behind her. Springing up, she glared daggers at Seren's smiling face, who seemed clearly proud of her prank.
"You were scared~" Seren sang, sticking her tongue out with a giggle. Xanthe roared in frustration and attempted lurch forward at her—
Only to be picked up by the scruff of her neck by a large hand.
"Hey," she yelped, kicking her legs out wildly, all the while growing angrier at Seren's continued laughter. Bismuth, Xanthe's captor, clicked her tongue. "Hey, yourself. You know you can't fight your sister. It ain't very nice."
"She started it!" Xanthe snapped, squirming harder in Bismuth's grasp. Bismuth only sighed, "And you don't have to finish it. C'mon, dinner's ready. Spunky, that means you too."
"Oh, okay." With that, Seren disappeared back into the tube, exiting out of one side and scampering down the hill towards the house. When Bismuth lost sight of the child, she turned her attention back to the still squirming Xanthe, who was huffing loudly and swinging her arms. Bismuth chuckled. "Geez, you just don't know when to give up, do you, Sparky?"
Xanthe merely grunted in response, her huffing slowly into panting. Poor pebble was tiring herself out rapidly with all that flailing about. Bismuth sighed, shifting her hold on the child so both hands were holding Xanthe up. Lifting her to the gem's eye level, Bismuth added, "You also got quite the temper, for such a little pebble."
"Not little," Xanthe grumbled. "Seren's the smallest."
Bismuth grinned. "You're pretty little compared to the rest of us, 'specially me."
Xanthe merely huffed loudly, crossing her arms and puffing her chest out. Bismuth would have burst out laughing if a nagging thought hadn't struck. Pearl said every day seemed like further confirmation that the Diamonds had truly been reincarnated into these small human vessels. Every day, their powers grew, and so did they. They would learn more about the world they were reborn into, and what society they had left behind. Already Bismuth could see the beginnings of the upper crust she hated so much, the notorious Yellow Diamond, who used her raw strength to overwhelm and subdue others.
Bismuth found herself frowning slightly, her thoughts darkening. Despite Steven's best intentions, change wasn't easy for gems to grasp. Even now, with the Diamonds' Empire gone, many gems continued on as if nothing changed. Many still followed the caste system they had been created in, and many hadn't taken the news of the Diamonds' departure happily. Even Bismuth herself, she had difficult breaking old habits, and she knew if nothing was done… if nothing really changed, Xanthe would become as violent and warlike as her prior self.
"Bismuth? …Are you mad?"
"Huh?" Bismuth refocused her eyes on Xanthe, noticing the look of concern and… fear? Was this little pebble afraid of Bismuth? Bismuth let out a soft exhale, chuckling under her breath. She pulled Xanthe toward herself, letting her rest against her shoulder. "Nah, I'm not mad. Just worried, s'all."
Walking down the hill, the gem thought. Bismuth could say a lot, but she knew Pearl had wanted to give the girls a fresh start, away from expectations, away from the horrors of their past, far away from the cold isolation that was Homeworld. "Bunch of adult stuff. Stuff you'd find boring, really."
"So, you're not mad at me?"
Bismuth didn't answer, not immediately. Instead, when she finally opened her mouth, she chose her words carefully. "How bout after school tomorrow, I teach you how to box? Consider it a little like extra training, only you use your fists to show you mean bismuth."
Xanthe groaned at the terrible pun, and Bismuth grinned widely. Some things need to change, she knew, but there were also things she didn't want to change. Like seeing the little mini tyrants laughing like the children they were supposed to be, and their reactions to her puns.
Peridot tried not wince while pale eyes watched her from afar. Amethyst gave her a glance, then huffed with a roll of her eyes. Peridot gave the quartz a look in return, before glancing back at the former Diamond—the former White Diamond—continued to watch her activities.
Blanca always creeped Peridot out. White Diamond creeped Peridot out in general. She remembered back on Homeworld all the horror stories and rumors the other Era 2 gems shared about the elusive Diamond. All gems back then held a sense of pride towards the gem they served, yet no one ever spoke of the gems that served in White Diamond's court.
All the rumors, of shattered gems cruelly killed for being too slow to salute, to Pink Diamond's demise being the result of White Diamond's temper. Honestly, Peridot had been mildly disappointed to finally see this gem on her knees, off-color of all things, until Steven had explained everything that had happened prior.
Needless to say, Peridot gave White Diamond a wide berth, despite Steven's insistence that things were better now. And this behavior continued towards the White Diamond-reborn-human known as Blanca. She knew it wasn't fair to judge a child like that, but she preferred to be safe than sorry. Besides, there was still the tiniest of chances that these girls will regain their memories as Diamonds, and who knows what'll happen after that?
Amethyst, on the other hand, hadn't grown up knowing much about the Diamonds, especially White Diamond. She had a blank slate, and despite the rather negative first impressions, she was admittedly rather nonchalant about the whole affair. She even made it her personal mission to watch out for Blanca, for whatever reason that Peridot couldn't fathom.
Glancing at her companion, Peridot grumbled, "So why did you invite her to tag along?"
Amethyst shrugged. "Uh, cuz Pearl doesn't want any of the girls to be without 'adult supervision,' or whatever. 'sides, it's not like you're doing anything important or dangerous. This could be, like, a way to introduce Blanca to something other than ballet or dolls."
"Mmm," Peridot grunted, turning her eyes back to the pale haired girl. "Still, you're not really supervising her. You're just letting her sit there watching us."
Amethyst grinned in response. "Oh, that's all on her. Watch." Turning her body half way, the quartz hollered, "Yo, Snowball! Wanna join us! Peri is doing some weird science junk over here!"
Blanca jerked up in surprise, blinking rapidly before shaking her head. "No thank you. I just want to watch."
Amethyst shrugged, still grinning. "See? She's gotta learn how to interact with other peeps, Peri. That's why I dragged her here."
Peridot huffed, rolling her eyes. "Great, so I'm your test subject now?"
"Something like that."
Peridot wanted to shoot something back in retort, but the last time she had done that, Pearl had reprimanded her for teaching Seren the word 'clod.' And Blanca showed herself to be quite the stickler for rules and order, much like her prior self. Instead, she went back to her make-shift PC that she had made from various Earth computers to better mimic her old tech from Homeworld. Sure, she could have easily gotten one issued to her ages ago, but there was a deep satisfaction in building it herself.
Typing on the keyboard, she found herself glancing at Blanca again, the child still watching her with those creepy, pale eyes. Dammit, she shouldn't have watched The Ring with Lapis earlier today. She was already jumpier than usual with Blanca watching her, but flashes from that horrible horror movie made her even jumpier.
Peridot heard Amethyst shift besides her, and from the corner of her eye she saw the quartz trot off behind her. She hadn't had time to consider what she was up to until Amethyst dropped Blanca unceremoniously next to Peridot. Yelping in surprise, Peridot hollered, "Amethyst, just what are you—"
"Blanca can't see what you're doing way over there," Amethyst replied. "'sides, this is perfect for bonding time, right, Snowball?"
Blanca merely looked down at her lap, quiet as ever. Peridot scowled at the screen before glancing back at the pale haired girl. Peridot didn't know what Amethyst saw in Blanca, or why she took such a special interest in the former Diamond, but at that moment, the gem didn't see the tyrannical Diamond she learned to fear. Instead, sitting next to her was a shy, quiet, if not slightly strange child. Peridot gulped, then shifted her body slightly to face Blanca.
"You know, she's right," she said, catching Blanca's attention. Peridot tried not to wince away from those gray eyes that seemed to know too much, forcing herself to continue. "You can't see what I'm doing from over there. So, uh, you have an interest in Gem tech?"
Blanca shifted her unyielding stare to the computer screen, giving Peridot a brief break to collect herself. "…A bit? It looks different from Earth's."
"That's because we had millennia upon millennia to perfect it." Peridot couldn't help the pride swelling in her chest. "Of course, I have managed to fuse both into what you see before you!" She found herself grinning ear to ear as Blanca's eyes widened, awestruck by Peridot's statement.
"Woooow," Blanca breathed. "You must be really smart…"
"Hmph, well, considering how I was specifically chosen by Y—uh, chosen to monitor Earth's activity, I would have to be able to step up to the task!" Peridot saw Amethyst let out a sigh while mentally reprimanding herself. Pearl had insisted that the girls not learn about the Diamonds, at least not their direct involvement until it felt appropriate. In Pearl's own words; 'It's better to let them grow up thinking they're perfectly normal.'
Blanca, thankfully, didn't seem to notice the slip-up. "You were chosen to come here?" she asked, stars seeming to dance in her eyes.
Peridot smirked. "Obviously, one as capable as myself was given the duty to protect the Earth from nefarious evil doers! With Amethyst's help, sometimes." Amethyst snorted in displeasure, despite the grin forming on her face.
The childish awe on Blanca's face struck Peridot with something. Even if this child was formed from White Diamond's gem, she wasn't necessarily White Diamond, at least not yet. Maybe she never would be. And maybe, just maybe, Peridot could let go of her fear and bond with this strange yet adorable child.
Nila was in the middle of coloring when Garnet entered the living room. She looked up, watching the gem closely. Ever since getting back from school, Nila had noticed something about Garnet. Unlike every gem she saw, Garnet possessed two gems, one in each palm. While she had noticed that feature for awhile now, she hadn't considered how different it was, even compared to other gem hybrids, who only possessed one gem.
She set her crayon down and clenched her fists. She was scared to ask, but she also knew Garnet was nice and sweet. She always answered every question Nila or her sisters asked, so why would this one be any different?
"How come you got two gems, Garnet?"
Garnet turned her attention to Nila, noticing those large blue eyes looking up at the fusion with an inquisitive look. Of course this day would come, she had foreseen it would happen eventually, yet she was slightly caught off guard from the suddenness.
Just like with Steven, Garnet hadn't shared with the girls yet that she was a fusion. It wasn't because the girls had been upset as babies when she unfused; she couldn't even bring herself to unfuse near them. That old, nagging fear of their reactions… no, of the former Diamonds' reactions, had kept her from openly sharing this factor.
Garnet reprimanded herself mentally. Nila isn't the same person as Blue Diamond. She was young, innocent, and completely unaware of the darkness that followed the Diamonds' legacy. She wouldn't react like Blue Diamond did that first time. She would not react with disgust, nor with anger, nor—
"I think it's kinda weird," Nila said innocently, grinning slightly. "Cuz, like, no one else has two gems."
Garnet felt her chest tighten, Nila completely unaware of what her words did to the fusion. Weird. Nila thought—no, it was just a child's assessment. She was a child, not an intergalactic tyrant. She couldn't mean anything by those words.
Glad her sunglasses hid her three eyes from the girl, she forced a smile on her lips. "It is unusual, isn't it?" She reached out and patted Nila's head. "I'll do you and your sisters someday why."
A look of disappointment crossed Nila's face before returning to a hopeful look. "Promise?" she asked. Garnet nodded. "Promise."
"C'mon, Lapis!" Seren chirped, holding said gem's hand while bouncing up and down. "Story time, story time!"
"Tonight?" Lapis grumbled, resisting the smile that was trying to force itself on her face. As annoying as Seren could be, the runt did have some endearing factors about her. Such as her contagious smile and happy-go-lucky nature. Honestly, if the kid wasn't running all over the place, Lapis might even find her company enjoyable.
"Yes," Seren pouted, dropping Lapis's hand and crossing her arms. "You promised!"
Lapis tilted her head, cupping her chin. "Huh, did I?" She paused, watching Seren nod rapidly before letting out a chuckle. "Guess I did, then. Alright, one story coming up." With that, she scooped the runt into her arms, Seren letting out a squeal of joy in response.
Tucking her into bed, Lapis sat down on the small chair, that was oddly always next to the runt's bed, and asked, "So, what do you want to hear about this time?"
"What about the boy and the mirror gem?" Seren asked eagerly. Lapis chuckled. "You heard that one like dozens of times."
"But it's my favorite!" Seren insisted, sitting up quickly.
"Alright, alright," Lapis waved her hand, gesturing for Seren to lay down. "Fine, fine. Now lie back down. You're supposed to be getting ready for bed, remember?"
Seren giggled, snuggling into the covers as Lapis raised her hands, water hovering above her palms, forming an image of a single figure.
"Long ago, a gem came to the Earth. She was in a strange place, surrounded by strange people. She tried to leave, but she was imprisoned inside a cursed mirror and remained there for years." The image warped, showing the figure surrounded by other formless shapes, before shrinking into the shape of a mirror.
Taking a second, Lapis noticed how Seren's face scrunched in concern. The other Crystal Gems had told her time and again how much Seren reminded them of Rose Quartz, the selfless leader of the Rebellion. Briefly, she wondered if Rose—Pink Diamond—had known about the Lapis Lazuli in the mirror, would she have freed her, despite not being a part of the Rebellion?
Not that it mattered. Despite what the others said, Lapis considered Seren more like Steven… a much more annoying, hyperactive Steven, but the store traits were there. The carefree attitude, the optimistic outlook, and the annoying habit of butting into matters that weren't his to bother with. That was Lapis's hope, that Seren end up like Steven, a caring, wonderful person who had a big heart and patience unmatched by any.
Continuing, she changed the image in the water to match the words as she spoke; "The gem was trapped in that lonely mirror for so long, until one day, a young boy found her prison. He spoke to her, made jokes and silly fart noises—"
"Like this one!" Seren chirped, before placing her hand over her mouth and blowing a loud raspberry. Lapis grinned widely. "Oh yeah, and the gem loved that joke in particular. She even found a way to communicate back with him, through the mirror."
The image changed to a small figure, the boy in the story, holding the mirror. A brilliant light shown, the mirror leaving the boy's hands and changing back into the figure from before. "The boy found out what had happened to the gem in the mirror, so he decided to free her. The gem was thankful to the boy's kindness, so she vowed to come to him when he needed her."
"And they remained friends forever, right, Lapis?" Seren eagerly finished. Lapis snorted, reaching out and ruffling Seren's thick, red curls. "Yeah, they did. They're still friends to this day, too."
"I love that story! I'm really happy for the mirror gem, she didn't have any friends, but then the boy became her first, so she wasn't lonely anymore—" Seren's ramblings was halted by a sudden yawn, and Lapis's smile softened slightly.
"Okay, sounds like someone's tired. Bed time, kiddo." Lapis stood up and tucked Seren back in. She was about to turn and leave when Seren's sleepy voice called out.
Looking over her shoulder, Lapis replied, "Yeah?"
"Can you tell me another story tomorrow?"
Lapis paused. These nightly story times were becoming a pattern, and while Lapis was at first reluctant, she was gradually getting used to the girl's requests. It was… something nice to do, to help fill the void that Steven left not that long ago.
I'm doing this for you, she thought. Because you did the same for me all those years ago. You gave me so many chances… the least I can do is give this kid a chance.
"Sure." Lapis smiled. Seren gave her a tired smile in response before yawning again and rolling over. Lapis watched her for a moment, before approaching Seren's bedside. She hunched down quietly, murmuring a soft, "Goodnight, Seren. Sweet dreams," and placing a butterfly kiss on her head.
Seren didn't stir, and Lapis quietly retreated from her bedroom, shutting the door softly behind her. When it clicked shut, Seren smiled, eyes still closed. She always knew Lapis was a nice gem, even if she was a bit grumpy. She just needed a friend, and Seren wanted to be that friend. She wanted to be like that boy in the story, helping a lonely gem find a friend.
Before she drifted off to sleep, Seren wondered what story Lapis would tell tomorrow. She hoped there were more stories about the boy and the gem; it really was her favorite story. Maybe she'll ask tomorrow…
Before anyone knew it, a year had passed. Xanthe was happy that they were free from school for three months, but those three months passed way too quickly for her liking. What made it worse, upon returning to school, she seemed to be the only one who dreaded the idea. Her sisters seemed to love going back to that boring place. She, on the other hand, hated the desks, the cramped places, and hated being treated like she was stupid or something.
She knew how to count, tie her shoes, sit properly, read and write, all of that was stuff Pearl had taught them! School was pointless, and yet here she was, forced to sit still in a desk and be bored to death.
Nila and Blanca weren't too bothered by school, eagerly returning to the boring routine without any complaint. And Seren couldn't seem to stay in her seat; she seemed way too happy to be back. It made Xanthe mad, and she couldn't stand it. Why were they okay with this when she clearly wasn't?!
Seren looked over at her, still smiling widely. Xanthe responded with a look of her own, scowling hard in her direction. Seren didn't flinch back, however, instead turning back to some kid next to her and talking rapidly. Xanthe merely huffed, bored out of her mind and annoyed that Seren made it worse. She snapped her gaze back to Seren when she felt a poke on her shoulder.
"What's the face for," Seren asked cheerfully, still grinning. Xanthe glared, crossing her arms in front of her.
"None of your business."
"Are you mad? Cuz you look mad. You got that look on your face, where it looks like you ate a lemon. Did you eat a lemon earlier—"
Xanthe barked, "I didn't eat a lemon, rockhead! This school's just dumb, that's all!"
Seren tilted her head a bit, eyebrows arched. "You don't like school? But it's so much fun!"
Xanthe snorted ruefully. "Nuh uh. It's dumb and boring. Bismuth's forge is way cooler, anyways."
"Do you miss Bismuth? Is that why you're bored?" The redhead grinned widely. "Then why not make friends here? You can be bored together, and that's way more fun than being bored alone!"
Xanthe scuffed in response, but for whatever reason, Seren was done with the topic and shifted back to talking eagerly with the other kid she was chatting with earlier. Still, her words stuck in Xanthe's head for awhile, causing her to ponder, would having another person around make school bearable? She doubted it would be better than being at Bismuth's forge or playing on Peridot's cool computer, but it seemed better than just wasting away at a desk, bored out of her skull.
That settled it, then. Xanthe was gonna find herself a friend, whether that person wanted to be her friend or not!
Seren pulled Nila and Blanca towards the stairwell, eagerly chatting away. Xanthe trailed behind them, arms crossed, but Seren didn't pay her any mind. She was too excited to introduce her sisters to her new friends! She didn't even notice how reluctant Nila seemed, or how disinterested Blanca was. Not that it mattered; they'd surely change their minds when they meet the others!
The 'others' were the two Ruby twins Seren had met on the playground earlier that day. They had been the first to introduce themselves and were eager to make new friends too. Their names were Baxter and Marlin, and Seren loved them already!
It was so odd to find two people being identical in just about every way, from the placement of their gems, to their appearances, to even the way they sounded and acted. The boys also seemed to revel in the attention that brought, often switching places to confuse the teachers. Seren found that absolutely hilarious, considering she could easily tell them apart from a glance. Baxter was the louder of the twins, while Marlin seemed more flowy in style. It was so easy to notice, yet most people didn't. And how interesting and exciting that was!
Rounding the corner, Seren dropped her sisters' arms and dashed over to where the twins stood, drawing their attention. With a happy wave, Seren burst out, "These are my friends! We met on the playground!"
Baxter and Marlin waved their hands at the girls, and Seren could tell from the glints in their brown eyes that the twins were plotting something. Unable to resist the giggle that escaped from her lips, she quickly introduced her sisters, from Nila giving a shy wave, Blanca giving a nod, and Xanthe just rolling her eyes, what a sourpuss!
Baxter moved first, smiling. "Nice to meet you! I'm Marlin, and this is my brother Baxter."
Marlin bowed dramatically, and Seren had to cover her mouth to stop the laughter. "Howdy hi!" Glancing over, Seren noticed how Nila and Xanthe seemed to fall for it instantly. Oh, how she wanted to tell them, but that would ruin the fun!
And yet Blanca arched an eyebrow. "But aren't you Baxter?" she asked, pointing to said boy. "And you're Marlin, right?"
Marlin and Baxter blinked in shock, and the others look at Blanca in shock, before the twins burst out laughing. "How'd you know?" Baxter snorted loudly, laughing.
"Yeah, no one figures us out!" Marlin chuckled, grinning from ear-to-ear. "That's so weird!"
"Yeah, you're definitely weird," Baxter added. "Only Seren figured us out! Seren, did you tell her?"
Seren shook her head quickly. "Nope! Blanca just figured it out."
"So weird," both boys said, snickering. Blanca frowned slightly, but said nothing else. Seren might have mistook the look as Blanca being confused by the boys being in perfect sync, so she continued on as usual, eagerly telling her sisters what games the trio played and how they should join in tomorrow. It was better that way, to have everyone playing games and having fun, after all!
Weird. That was a word used to describe Blanca a lot. She had gotten used to being called that, not even batting an eye whenever someone gave her an odd glance. At least, she thought she was used to it. She was called weird by Seren all the time, and even Xanthe and Nila occasionally dropped that word to describe Blanca's behavior. She should be used to it, and yet for some reason, it was starting to get on her nerves.
Was being called weird bad? Is that why she was feeling uncomfortable now? Or was it something else? Maybe she should be upset because her own family found her weird, despite their own odd behavior. She frowned, unknowingly catching Amethyst's attention. The quartz cleared her throat, causing Blanca to look at her curiously, her expression returning to a blank expression.
"Pizza slice for your thoughts?" Amethyst asked, holding out a paper plate with a slice of pepperoni pizza out. Slowly, Blanca took the plate, setting it on her lap, her pale gray eyes looking down.
"I was… just thinking."
"…do you think I'm weird?"
Amethyst snorted. "Sure, but you get that from me, so what's the problem?"
Blanca frowned. "But isn't being weird bad?"
Amethyst noticed how the answer didn't seem to satisfy the small girl, so she shifted in her seat, scooting close enough to wrap an arm around the former Diamond's shoulders. "Does it bother you?"
Blanca shifted uncomfortable, her grip on the paper plate tightening. "Everyone keeps calling me weird, but I don't know why."
Amethyst sighed softly. Insecurity wasn't necessarily something foreign to her, but to Blanca, it must be so peculiar. Part of her wished Greg or Steven had been here, to offer some kind of advice to help Blanca, but the truth was they were no longer among the living… and as much as Amethyst wished, the fact wouldn't be changed.
And now wasn't the time to feel sorry for herself! If Connie's theory continued to be true, then maybe, just maybe, their goodbyes won't be forever either. And she couldn't let them down by shutting down!
An idea striking her, Amethyst smiled, leaning towards Blanca. "Hey, how do you feel about learning how to play guitar?"
"What gem you got?"
Nila was a bit taken aback by the question Marlin posed to her. Really, she had wondered that, too, but for some reason, the Crystal Gems never told her what exactly was her gem type. She hadn't really minded that, but now, being asked such a question, she began to regret brushing it aside.
"I dunno," she said, picking the crust off her sandwich.
Seren piped up, mouth full. "Bay nevph cold ahs."
"What?" Baxter asked, giving Seren an odd look. Swallowing, Seren repeated, "They never told us. But we got gem powers, so we're hybrids, too. Just got no gem."
"None?" Nataly's quiet voice was hard to make out, with dozens of other voices shouting and hollering. Her large glasses magnified her pink-ish eyes into large dinner plates. Nila shook her head. "Nope, we don't."
"Huh." Quinton, a large boy sitting next to Xanthe, grabbed a fist full of chips and shoved them into his oddly small mouth. "My ma said all hybrids got one. Maybe it's in your butt?"
"It's not in our butts!" Xanthe snapped, slapping the boy upside the head. He merely grunted, seemingly unphased by her.
"We weren't born with any," Blanca quietly added. "That's just how we are."
"But we're differently gems," Seren finished. "Just, uh, we don't know what type."
"Maybe we can guess!" Baxter replied. "Like, maybe Seren's a Ruby like me and Marry!"
"You're small like one," Marlin giggled, playfully poking the redhead. Seren pouted, swatting away his hand. "I'm not small! You're just too big!"
"Xanthe's probably a Quartz," Quinton grumbled. "She definitely hits like one."
"You're just a squishy Topaz," Xanthe retorted. Pausing, she thought for a moment. "Kinda makes sense, though…"
"Oh, oh!" Seren sprang up and slapped her hands on the table. "And maybe Nila's a Zircon! She's really smart like one! Right, Nataly?!" Nataly squeaked in reply, before glancing at Nila. Nila merely grinned sheepishly. "Maybe."
"I could be a Pearl," Blanca murmured, drawing Quinton's attention. "That would make sense."
"You do act like a Pearl," Quinton replied, before chomping down on an apple. "So, Seren's a Ruby, Xanthe's a Quartz, Nila's a Zircon, and Blanca's a Pearl. Makes sense to me."
Xanthe rolled her eyes. "Whatever. We'll just ask Pearl when we get home. She'll know."
"Could you ask her why you don't have gems, either?" Nataly inquired. "I-I mean, it's so odd, and you told me your Pearl is really smart, too… Maybe she knows?"
"She's not our Pearl," Seren interrupted casually. "She's just Pearl. She doesn't belong to anyone."
Nataly blinked in surprise before cowering back a bit. "O-oh, I'm sorry, I didn't—" Nila placed a hand on her shoulder. "It's okay. You didn't know."
Nataly gave her a relieved look before turning back to her own lunch. Nila watched the group, giving them all a once-over. It seemed this topic would have to be continued at home. She just wondered, would the Crystal Gems tell the girls? Or would they just say "wait until you're older," like they do with so many other topics, like where babies come from.
"Hey, Pearl? What kinda gems do we got?"
Pearl turned, surprised by Seren's sudden question. The girls had been in the middle of building a large Lego-constructed tower, and Pearl had taken the time to prepare for dinner when the question suddenly popped up.
Smiling sweetly, Pearl reached down and ruffled the girl's red curls. "Oh, Seren, you and your sisters don't have any gems. You weren't born with any, remember?"
Seren frowned, crossing her arms firmly in front of her. "Yeah, but we got gem powers. So we still got a gem, right?"
Pearl's smile quivered slightly, and her blue eyes drifted up to the other girls. They were all looking at her expectedly, having stopped in their activities. Releasing a sigh, her shoulders slumped a bit. Of course, she knew this day would come. She had tried for years to prepare herself for when this question would come up, always struggling with the answer.
She didn't want to lie to them, but there was a fear lingering… what information could possibly harm the girls? Telling them from the outset that they were created from tyrannical world-destroying basically-godlike gems was out of the question. Think of the trauma and guilt they would feel!
But even sharing minor information, such as their gem type, could possibly open the flood gates. The school system has adopted teaching gem history at certain ages, and eventually the girls would receive this education as well. One of them could accidentally blurt out what gem they were, and that would trigger so many questions, so many uncomfortable moments… so few people knew of the Diamonds' true fate. Most gems had received the news that the Diamonds had willingly exiled themselves (Pink Diamond included, because stars know how difficult explaining the concept of a child would be for every gem in the cosmos).
Refocusing her gaze upon Seren, Pearl chose her words carefully. "Seren, you and your sisters are very unique. You may not have a gem, not physically, but that's because you four were born in a special way." She squatted down, getting eye level with the child.
Smiling softly, she brushed a stray curl out of the girl's face. "Your gems became a part of you. Your gems… were very special. Unlike any gem seen before."
Seren blinked in awe. "So… I'm not a Ruby?"
Pearl chuckled. "Oh heavens, no. But, if you want to be a Ruby, then you're a Ruby. You can be anything you want to be, you can reinvent yourself however you want, and never, and I mean never, let anyone tell you who you're supposed to be. You are Seren Universe, and you're the only Seren Universe there will ever be. Remember that, okay?"
Seren stared at her, eyes wide, bright brown eyes glittering like a thousands stars before her lips broke into a wide grin. "Okay!"
She threw her arms around Pearl, who laughed, lifting up the small child in her arms. How often would she get the chance to do this, she pondered. But, even if she couldn't carry her Diamond anymore…
That will never stop her from being by her side, no matter what.
Big plot coming next chapter, along with a much needed time skip!