She stands in formation, woven tightly into a vast glittering tapestry of blue gems. Above them Blue Diamond’s palanquin floats like a ship on the ocean, its diaphanous curtains fluttering slowly. She’s surrounded by Lapis Lazulis, each gem awaiting the order to move forward, their skirts flowing in the breeze around their motionless forms. The tension in her body is unbearable, the order has not come, but a fear grips her that when it does, she will not be able to move. Her body is numb, she cannot feel the earth below her, she has to look down to see if she’s even still there. All she sees is the earth and the plants the court has trampled. She wants to scream, but she can only close her eyes. The scene vanishes.
When she finds the courage to open her eyes again, she sees nothing but the stars in the Earth’s sky. Again, she cannot move. A terrible, familiar pain finds her there, as she realizes she is laying, gem cracked, on the ground as the court scatters around her. The tapestry is torn, the court is shattered. She lays there and watches the Earth turn to face its audience of stars, turning again and again towards the Sun. She cannot scream, so she just closes her eyes.
This time when she opens her eyes she sees the rafters of Steven’s little home. That sight should comfort her, but she can feel the sides of the mirror pressing into her gem, keeping her from forming. She shouts, “Steven!” in one of the voices she acquired in her mirrored prison. No one answers. She squeezes her eyes shut in frustration, willing herself away.
Now she can feel the cold walls of the hand ship’s brig. She doesn’t want to be here, and she wants what she’s hurtling towards even less. Without opening her eyes she moves on.
She opens her eyes. She can see the sun filtering weakly down into the depths. I dragged us here, she thinks, Malachite’s tears are nothing in the sea water. They might as well not exist. She pulls away, knowing that Malachite’s pain is still with her. She keeps her eyes open, and moves towards the sun until she can see nothing but its glare.
When she can see again, she sees Earth, blue like her Diamond, blue like her court. Blue and gold, where the deserts gleam, like herself. Somehow she can see every little detail, every little thing that Steven ever pointed out to her. The insects walking along blades of grass, the leaves turning colors and fluttering to the ground, all the humans striving in their bright, beacon-like cities. She can even see the barn, sitting where it should be in its corn field, with Pumpkin running around it, and all of Peridot’s meep morps within it. She turns toward the blank glare of the moon, and there too the barn sits, looking like a relic, covered in a thin coat of dead moon dust. How sad it looks there, empty of all of the things that made it a home, not merely a barn full of Earth junk. She almost laughs at her mistake, at the thought that she could preserve barn itself, as if she could live in silence and stillness with only her memories of it being a home, and that was all that mattered. She turns back towards Earth. She flies towards the planet, feeling the same resolve she had when she spotted the Diamond’s ships coming towards her, this time without the shock, and without towing the barn behind her. She’s ready to return. She’s ready to be there and fight for her friends.
“Hey, welcome back!” a warm voice greeted her. She couldn’t see, but she could smell the sea and feel the warm sea breeze. Her feet touched the floor, and her weight and substance returned to her resolutely. She opened her eyes and saw Bismuth standing in Steven’s home, hand on her hip, beaming at her. “So you’ve made it official!”
“Made what official?” asked Lapis, at which Bismuth smiled even bigger.
“That you’re a Crystal Gem! Look at your star motif! Kinda subtle but I see it,” Bismuth said, giving her a wink.
Lapis bowed her head, a bit embarrassed, and said, as much to herself as to Bismuth, “What else could I be?”
Bismuth’s laugh was quick, but with seriousness she said, “Lapis, you’ve always had a choice. Even when it was hard to make.”
“It wasn’t hard to make. When I saw the Diamonds’ ships coming towards Earth, that’s when I decided,” Lapis said.
“A crisis brings things into perspective. They’re real good at that,” Bismuth said gently.
“But why are we standing here? Where’s Steven, where are the Diamonds?” Lapis bristled. “Where’s Peridot?”
Bismuth put a hand on her shoulder. “It’s alright, the fight’s over for now. Steven went to Homeworld with the Crystal Gems and the Diamonds.”
“And you’re okay with that?” Lapis rejoined.
“If you can believe it, the Diamonds think Steven is Pink Diamond, he’s as safe as he’s ever going to be, being with them now. They won’t hurt him, not intentionally at least.”
Lapis’s head spun. “Pink Diamond? They think he’s Pink Diamond herself? Wouldn’t that make him your Diamond?”
Bismuth shrugged. “I became a Crystal Gem so I could be my own gem. Steven is Steven, not Pink Diamond. I think the Diamonds will figure that out soon enough.” Bismuth’s face fell somewhat. “I hope. It did take me a while to get my head around him having Rose’s gem but not being Rose. As for your other question, Peridot is here.” She fished a green gem from her apron pocket. “You guys have been out for days, Yellow gave you a good wallop. You should keep her today, I have to go to the forge. Take it easy, okay?”
She handed the little green gem to Lapis. “Your new look is good by the way, I like the gold. I can’t wait to see Feisty’s here,” Bismuth chuckled and tapped the gem in Lapis’s palm. She stepped onto the warp pad, shouting something about calling her if she needed anything, and was gone in a flash.
Lapis sighed. The late afternoon bathed everything in a comforting gold glow, but the emptiness of the house was unnerving. She stepped out onto the front porch. The beach was clean and smooth, there wasn’t any indication of the fight against the Diamonds, except for the surreal forms of the arm ships rising out of the ocean. She sat down at the edge of the porch and put Peridot’s gem next to her. The tide was out, and the small waves barely made a sound. The rush she had felt as she was reforming, the determination and resolve, all fell away from her. She had been too late. The battle had ended. Life had gone on while she struggled with herself, again.
A sudden brightness shook her from her troubled thoughts. She instinctively reached out to grab Peridot’s gem, in case it was an attack, but touched nothing. Instead she turned to see it hovering as Peridot’s form coalesced around it. A second later Peridot herself stood there, gleaming. “Lapis!” she shouted, “Did you miss me?”
Lapis laughed. “I’ve only just reformed myself!”
“I got poofed before I could say it, so I’m saying it now— Lapis, the barn!”
“I know, I’m so—“
“You dropped the barn right on Blue Diamond! No one saw it coming, just BAM! That was amazing!” Peridot leaped up and punched the air.
Lapis laughed nervously. “I was afraid you’d be angry, I stole it after all, and all your meep morps with it.”
“Lapis, I’m not mad. When making meep morps you have to keep your eyes on the future, you have to always be searching for new, more exciting, more evocative meep morp forms!” Peridot was on the verge of pontificating further on the creative process when she froze with a look of realization. “Lapis…”
“What is it?”
“Camp Pining Hearts”
“What about it?”
“We were going to watch the last season together.”
Lapis put her hands over her mouth. “Oh no, Peridot, all those DVDs were in the barn!”
“You didn’t watch it on the moon without me did you?”
“No! But they definitely got dropped on Blue Diamond with the rest of the barn. I’m so sor—“
“What are you apologizing for, we just have to go find them! They’re little plastic discs, a fall wouldn’t damage them too badly.” Peridot leaped the railing and was running down the beach before Lapis could protest.
“Wait!” Lapis shouted, and rushed after her.
By the time Lapis got to the shore, Peridot was already scouring the sand for any sign of the DVDs with her magnetic power, but the citizens of Beach City had done a thorough job of cleaning up. There wasn’t a single sign that an entire barn had dropped here from the sky.
“Peridot, I really don’t think you’ll find them here, and even if you do, human tech is so fragile.”
“Ye-ess, that’s true,” Peridot said, pacing around. “But! Steven said the DVDs are just data, and the data is in many copies. So, we should be able to find more copies. To town!” Peridot grabbed Lapis’s hand and started to march towards the boardwalk. Lapis noticed that Peridot’s form had a little yellow star, and her feet had little boots. Strange how the Era 2 gems were forced to wear things like limb enhancers to adapt them to the norm, rather than Homeworld adapt their ideas of a gem’s form to the realities of Era 2.
“You’re a Crystal Gem too,” Lapis said.
“Of course!” Peridot said brightly.
As they passed by the fry shack, Ronaldo shuffled out. Peridot immediately zeroed in on him. “Hey Curly!” she shouted. Ronaldo looked around in bewilderment. “You with the flaming clothing!”
“Me?” Ronaldo pointed to himself, after he figured out who was randomly shouting at him. Peridot ran up to him, causing him to shrink back against the side of the fry shop.
“You must tell us where we can acquire a copy of Camp Pining Hearts!”
“Oh!” Ronaldo brightened, “of course! There’s a Video Hut Jr. right up the street. I can take you there, since it’s on the way to the grocery store, where I’m going. Don’t tell anyone at Fish Stew Pizza, but we’re adding fish ’n chips to the menu this month.”
The town was beginning to wake up as Spring took hold. The sudden profusion of flowers joined the sudden profusion of stands selling tie-dye t-shirts, and the jingle of sno-cone carts along the boardwalk joined the chorus of birdsong. Some tourists were starting to appear, so while most of the townspeople took Ronaldo and his procession of gems in stride, some unfamiliar faces gawked at them.
Ronaldo, oblivious, launched into his favorite kind of conversation, a one-sided one about conspiracy theories. “There’s an interesting story about Video Hut Jr. That name would imply an original Video Hut, a Video Hut Sr., if you will. At one time Video Hut Jr. was so widespread that there were two locations in Beach City! Two! Beach City has never had two franchises of one business in it. But if Video Hut Jr. was so common, why has no one ever seen a Video Hut? But there are people who claim to have really seen one. Usually those people say they were traveling some place far from home. Perhaps they just misremembered? Or saw a Video Hut Jr. through glare on their windshield? But those who claim to have seen a Video Hut are adamant that Video Hut is real. So why can’t we find any evidence of the existence of Video Hut? Myself and others believe that it’s because Video Hut actually does exist— in another reality! You see—“
“There it is!” Peridot shouted.
“What? A Video Hut?!” Ronaldo yelled, so engrossed in his own story that he hadn’t seen that they had arrived at the perfectly extant Video Hut Jr.
“Wow thanks for bringing us here, er—?”
“Ronaldo,” Ronaldo offered, sheepishly.
“Wow thanks, Ronaldo!” Peridot beckoned Lapis from the dark door on the Video Hut Jr. “Come on Lazuli, they have to have it!” She ran inside.
Lapis stepped in more carefully. The store was dingy inside, the light blocked by faded posters taped carelessly here and there on the tinted windows. At the counter stood a lanky, angular boy who was scratching his close-cropped hair as Peridot interrogated him on the existence of Camp Pining Hearts DVDs.
“Yeah we have it in, pretty sure, let me go check okay?” he said, finally extricating himself from the situation, and stealing away into the back room. As soon as he was gone Peridot began to hoist herself up onto the counter.
“Don’t you think it’s strange that no one here is afraid of us?” Lapis asked Peridot, who was now making her way across the counter to the adjacent wall.
“Why would they be afraid of us?”
“Probably because last anyone here saw us we had apparently called down some huge gems and then had a fight on their beach?”
“Lapis, look!” Peridot had managed to grab a poster that was on the wall. “They’re not afraid of us because this announcement sheet tells them not to be! It’s about the Crystal Gems! And we’re not on it!”
The poster was a group of portraits of each of the Crystal Gems, Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl. The top of it was blazoned with “We Are the Crystal Gems!” Below the portraits the poster read, “Gems are not hostile” and the next line, “DO: treat with courtesy, and they will do their best to do the same for you! DON’T: Panic! DON’T: Call 911 or the Police”, and finally, “provided by Mayor Nanafua’s Human-Gem Community Committee.”
“Do you see a drawing device around here? We have to add ourselves!”
“It’s amazing we’re Crystal Gems now. If I had a Sapphire’s future vision, I would not have believed what I saw!” Lapis laughed.
“I know! When I first came here I thought all the gems here were nuts.”
The clerk slunk back with a stack of DVDs, and seeing the poster in Peridot’s hands, said “Oh yeah, the mayor gave those out to all the businesses.”
“Can you draw? You have to put us on here. We’re Crystal Gems too.” Peridot held the poster in the clerk’s face.
“Oh haha, yeah I guess I can. I got a pen here…” He slipped a ball point pen out of his pocket and took the poster from Peridot. He looked at Peridot and Lapis very carefully before committing a single stroke. He began to work in short strokes, forming a little triangle with pointy glasses and a little circle with a swoosh of hair. He finished the portraits with little dot eyes, line smiles, and a little angle each for their noses. “What are your names?”
“I’m Peridot,” Peridot proclaimed.
“Uh, how do you spell that?” the clerk asked.
“Spell?” asked Peridot.
“You know, with letters?”
“We don’t know how to spell with human letters,” Lapis interjected.
“Okay, that makes three of us. I’ll just guess.”
Under Peridot’s portrait he wrote “PARADOT” and under Lapis’s, “LAPUS LAZULY”. “Okay, you going to rent these guys now?”
“Rent?” asked Peridot.
“Yeah, like you give me money, I give you the DVDs, and then after a week you give them back, that kinda rent?” the clerk said quizzically.
“Lazuli, did we ever have any of that stuff? In the barn? How do we get it, did Steven ever give you any—“
“No, and why would he? What would we ever do with money?”
“Get replacements of Camp Pining Hearts of course!”
The clerk placed a protective hand over the DVDs sitting on the counter. He looked both slightly confused and resolute. “Hey look, I can’t give you these without you paying, but the rental is only five bucks. That’s all you need.”
“Okay, new mission. Five bucks! What’s a buck?” Peridot whirled on the clerk, who sighed in exasperation.
Ronaldo was coming back from the grocery store carrying a large jug of malt vinegar when Peridot came flying out of the video store and grabbed on to him. Startled, he screamed and dropped the jug, which exploded when it hit the ground.
“Ronaldo, we need five bucks!”
“Peridot! Oh my god, the vinegar! I’m going to smell like a fish ’n’ chips basket all day now. Wait— five bucks? Why?”
Lapis walked slowly out of the video store saying, “He said we have to ‘rent’ them and we don’t have money.”
Ronaldo grimaced. “Oh right, you’re gems, I don’t know why I thought you would have money. Listen, I’m only carrying Dad’s money for ingredients, I really can’t lend you any especially since I have to go back and get more vinegar. But my girlfriend has all the seasons, I can bring the last one to the lighthouse tonight. I really got to go now. See you later!” and he rushed off in a cloud of pungent vinegar odor.
The two gems stood awkwardly in the parking lot after he left. “Well now what, we just wait?” Peridot said in a huff.
“Come on, let’s go back to Steven’s house,” said Lapis.
Peridot’s eyes widened. “Oh my stars, Steven!”
“You were really focused on those DVDs! Bismuth told me that he went to Homeworld, and that the Diamonds think he’s Pink Diamond!”
“They think Steven is Pink Diamond? That’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard!” she laughed. She kicked a can that was lying in their path and levitated it absently. “There’s no way that’s true. Steven is Steven!”
Lapis turned stern. “But what if it is true? What if he has been Pink Diamond this whole time?”
“How could he be someone if he never knew who that person was? Makes no sense”
It didn’t make sense, Lapis knew that, but some part of her refused to take that comfort. She didn’t know where this doubt came from, or what she was afraid of. She clamped her mouth shut, frustrated. They walked back towards the beach in silence, the low sun turning the ocean dusky.
Ronaldo clomped up the little house’s stairs and shouted through the screen door, “Hey Peridot, I got them for you!” Peridot shot out and grabbed the DVDs, hastily thanking him at the same time, then shouldering past him to run up to the lighthouse. “Hey wait, I still need to let you in to the lighthouse!” he yelled after her. Jane jumped out of the way as she barreled down the stairs.
Lapis stepped out and looked after Peridot as she ran towards the hill behind the temple, receding into a little speck of determination. Jane caught Lapis’s eye and smiled at her. “I’m so happy to lend you my Camp Pining Hearts,” she said breathlessly, “It was my obsession all though high school. If I may ask, what’s your favorite ship?”
Lapis stared at her. “Ship?”
“It’s short for ‘relationship’,” Jane offered.
“Oh, Peridot has a whole compatibility chart, you should ask her,” Lapis said rather cooly, and turned to walk up the hill.
“Really guys, I’m the one with the keys here,” said Ronaldo crossly, hustling after them.
At the lighthouse, they set up the TV and DVD player in front of a sunken couch. Peridot was reciting her whole chart to Jane from memory, whose enthusiasm for discussing ships was rapidly waning. Feeling restless, Lapis climbed the spiral stair to the lighthouse’s beacon. The clear afternoon had given way to a rather gloomy evening, big heavy blue clouds sat over the ocean, under which night was rapidly gathering. A cool breeze had picked up, whipping little white caps on the water. She had missed the unexpected moods of the Earth in the airless silence of the moon, and on Homeworld too, where the shattered atmosphere was too thin to support much weather other than wind storms. Soon she heard Peridot calling her name.
Lapis joined Peridot, Ronaldo and Jane on the sad little couch in front of the old TV. Peridot gleefully selected “Play All” from the menu, and they all comfortably slipped into the warm embrace of the cozy little world of Camp Pining Hearts. Lapis’s mind, usually spinning with worries readily let them go in the glow of the show, just as it had done when she first saw it. Steven had given her the DVDs to keep her mind off of Malachite, and it worked wonders. So engrossed were they all that they didn’t notice the wind begin to buffet the sides of the lighthouse. A blink of lightning startled them all, and the crack of thunder that followed close on its heels broke the spell the show had put over them. Ronaldo stretched and said, “Wow, what time is it? We should get out of here. If you want to keep watching we can come for the DVDs later.”
“Of course we want to keep watching, we only have 13 episodes left!” Peridot said, as if it were the only sane choice to make.
“You’re crazy, but I respect that. I’ll see you tomorrow at the temple!” and with that Ronaldo and Jane left.
Peridot unpaused the episode and settled into the couch. “We’re only half-way through this season. but I already have to make a lot of changes to the chart. Who knew that Josh would be so good at improv? That’s going to affect quite a few nodes. Perhaps I may even need to rebalance it!” Lapis laughed lightly at Peridot’s intense look, as if she were planning a battle.
A sudden gust of wind howled against the old walls of the lighthouse, and with a very final sounding bang the power went out. “Oh no no no!” Peridot wailed, “not now! We were getting to the end! Quick, Lapis, there’s got to be enough stuff lying around here to make a power supply out of!” In the dark, Lapis put a hand on Peridot’s shoulder as she was about to launch off the couch.
“Hold on. You’ve been obsessed with watching this show all day, ever since you reformed! Give it a rest. We were having fun, but we can still have fun waiting for the power to come back,” said Lapis.
“Nonsense! Why wait for the humans to get their tech back in order? We can do this!”
“We don’t need the show we can just— hang out for a bit! Why are you so latched on to the show?” Lapis kept a hold of Peridot’s shoulder. She sighed and fell back down onto the couch.
“I just wanted our first day after reforming to be a good one,” Peridot said, and quietly, “so you would stay this time.” She pulled her knees up to her chest.
“Peridot,” Lapis said gently, “I’ve made my decision. I’m staying with you, here on Earth or wherever you want to go. I’m not leaving again.”
“You’re not afraid that maybe the Diamonds will come back with some new plan to destroy Earth?”
“I’m worry about things all the time, that doesn’t make my resolve to be here any less strong.”
Peridot grabbed Lapis in a sudden hug. “I missed you!” Lapis held her and said, “I know, I missed you too. I wish it didn’t take something like the Diamonds really arriving like I was afraid they would to realize that sitting on the moon wasn’t helping anyone, least of all me. The moon was so still, it was easy to pretend that the barn had always been like that, empty and silent, not full of life and friends.” A few rain drops drummed on the metal roof. Lightning blinked but no thunder chased it, the storm was blowing away. Peridot and Lapis listened to the last efforts of the storm.
“There is something I’m really afraid of,” Lapis said at length.
“What is it?” Peridot looked up into Lapis’s face, which was turned away towards the dark edges of the room.
“Steven. I know Steven is Steven, but what if the Diamonds— what if they do or say something to him that makes him Pink Diamond?”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know what I mean— not exactly. It’s like us, we were Homeworld gems! I didn’t believe in this place, you didn’t even know what sort of place Earth was when you got here, and now look at us! We’re Crystal Gems! This is our home now. What if they convince him that he needs to stay there and act as Pink Diamond, even if he is still Steven? What if he doesn’t come back? What if he doesn’t want to come back? I couldn’t help him, when we reformed he was long gone! I can’t help him now!”
“Steven would never abandon Earth, but if you’re worried about him, we’ll go check on him ourselves!” Peridot leaped off the couch.
“What? Go to Homeworld?”
“Exactly! Steven might be in trouble, or he might not be, but either way, if you want to help, why wait around here? We have two arm ships, I can totally fix them in no time! This is like when I wanted to go and get you from the moon! So many times I wanted to, and I talked myself out of it, saying I shouldn’t, that you didn’t need my help, and I regret it. Dropping the barn on Blue Diamond? Amazing! But if I could trade that moment for going up there and helping you with your fears I would do it. Whatever Steven’s decision will be, he can use our support.”
The suggestion left Lapis gobsmacked, but at the same time the determination she had felt as she reformed flooded her. If she could come back to Earth, she could go to Homeworld. “Okay” she said.
“Okay.” Peridot nodded, without registering the word. Suddenly her eyes lit up. “OKAY!” she whooped, “We’re going to Homeworld!”
The power flickered back on. Peridot spun in joy. “But first, we have a season to finish!”