He'd gone and done it.
Steven now knew better and Cactus Steven was the last straw.
The last few months had begun to creep on him on the slippery slope of realization; of out of all the changes that he'd never expect to come across, that people were leaving him. Even his own creations.
Cactus Steven letting slip of his own, real, private thoughts had Steven in a stasis of panic and desperate retrieval, roping in and hoping, just hoping the gems wouldn't begin to question him. From what Steven could see, Amethyst was the only one trying to reach out to him; her own suspicious line of questioning in asking if he was okay. To the average person, they'd be like I'm fine or, no I need help.
Steven decided on that note that he wasn't gonna be like that. He couldn't let them know what was wrong. He just couldn't. He'd let Amethyst know he felt he was losing his touch but the nagging question remained, fixed on his notice board of unanswered queries.
Why did he need to be needed?
He'd kept deflecting everything the questions Pearl and Amethyst asked of him and Garnets gaze did not make him feel comfortable at all. Even as Steven burned internally, his own mentality searing in horrible flames, he had to, no...he needed to contain it. He just couldn't let people know what was wrong. He just couldn't admit it. Deep down he knew...
Instead of channeling it into a deep seated conversation, Steven decided, that perhaps...Earth was holding him back. If everyone else was leaving, why couldn't he?
Wasn't that normal?
He figured, that maybe, the Diamonds might need him. At least, they were there. Originally it was annoying that they wanted him around, but now? There was an appeal to it. He could become a part of something greater, more sound, more influence and with his power to change, he could continue to do so. He'd helped them see the error of their ways but now they could do more. He could also get see Spinel and see how she was doing now.
The more he thought about it, it sounded like a solid plan.
Of course, when he informed the Gems about this, they begged him to reconsider. He was a Crystal Gem. He was needed there. And when he laughed in their faces, they immediately turned to each other, confused by his random outburst of chuckles. Amethyst asked him again.
Is he okay?
No, but he will be. He'll be able to build and find purpose once again on Homeworld. Find new ways, discoveries...he would be needed, people would come to him for help like a just ruler would for their subjects and they could visit him when ever they wanted. Or if the Diamonds had their way, they would need to book an appointment. Subconsciously that part would make him feel extra important.
He told his Dad, who was also on the fence about it, but begrudgingly stated he would support Steven no matter his choice, just that as long as he thought long and hard about his decision.
He told Connie, who did come around one more time before he left. Steven smiled all the while and said he'll come back to Earth when he's not busy. To which he said he'll be very busy so finding time would prove difficult. Connie was neither here or there, only holding a similar reaction to his Dad. Figures. They won't understand now but they will in time.
It was sad but Steven knew it had to be done. It was necessary for him to grow and change this way. Ever since he'd finally absorbed the notion that he was a Diamond, he'd always felt this niche of responsibility he had to oblige to. Hence him helping out with Little Homeworld felt just right, even for the short space of time he'd been assisting other Gems there. Gardening clearly didn't work, but...then again, Gardens always had negative connotations so, it was probably for the best that he didn't continue with that hobby anyway.
They did have a brief going away party at the Beach House, to where everyone had gathered, from those at Little Homeworld and even Bismuth, Peridot and Lapis and the other Lapis whom he'd like to call Freckles. Even Volleyball showed up. Unbeknownst to everyone else, he'd already told the Diamonds he was gonna move in and that with Volleyball being repaired, she would now become his personal Pearl. She didn't have to, but she was more than happy to be his guide on Homeworld. Steven didn't like it at first, knowing Pearls should technically not have to follow per say but she wanted to serve.
He'd mentioned some of this during his thank you speech. Pearl was wary about it all the while, looking at the others with worry. All the while he donned that smile, that smile that to those who knew him well, was slightly off from his regular grin. He'd had most fooled...but not the Gems. Not Connie. Not Greg. His mask slipped off briefly but everyone else? It was still, happy, cheesy Steven Universe.
The day had arrived for him to leave. He'd gotten all of his things in boxes and the others were helping him move them to the Galaxy Warp. It wasn't until Connie had come into the dome that she got to ask for some alone time with him.
"You're really going through with this?" She asked.
Steven adored Connie and completely understood she had her own life to lead. What ever she decided to do with her life, he would surely be proud of her.
"It's time for me to move on...It was going to happen eventually." He told her, using logistics on his own cargo with a notepad.
"I mean, come on Connie. You're going to college. You're going to have a huge contribution to this world. I can feel it."
Connie raised an eyebrow.
"Well, I hope so." She said, her words almost becoming unsure murmurs.
"I mean, weren't you worried about the Diamonds smothering you?"
Ah simpler times, simpler worries.
"They have Spinel for that, remember?" He reminded her.
"Besides, when I told the Diamonds I was moving in with them, they were thrilled and they promised me that they won't be that clingy anyway. And they know I'm half organic so, funnily enough, they're already making adjustments for the Pink Diamond Palace to accommodate me. And get this, they're look into researching in connecting Homeworld to Earths internet. I mean, it's probably gonna be super slow but..."
Connie sighed, interrupting his spiel.
Connie put her hands on his shoulders and looked him deep in the eyes, which had him trying to think of what she was up to.
"Steven..." She said, her tone less than enthused.
"You're not gonna have human contact there...face to face I mean...you know that right?"
Steven shrugged. Didn't bother him that much.
"Hey, I'll still be with family." He assured her with a grin.
"As long as you take into account my new schedule, you can come over...provided you have a gem with you to use the Warp Pad of course."
Didn't comfort Connie all that much.
"I can tell you're worried." Steven continued.
"It's for the best and it'll be a new chapter in my life. You should be happy for me."
Connie tried to feign a smile, but there was a growing feeling in her gut that told her otherwise.
"I know..." She said.
The two hugged it out. He'll miss Connie for sure. The only solid connection he had here besides the gems and his dad. Even more so than the latter two. His heart had settled on her long ago, but...things had to change for the better and it wasn't as if leaving wasn't bittersweet...
The next person who visited Steven was his Dad, who was in tears. He'd ran in and picked up his son and almost hugged him to death.
"Dad, woah...I'm gonna be far...but not that far." Steven assured him.
Greg put him down and wiped a tear from his face.
"Sorry Schtu-ball but...you're all grown up and ready to face the real world. Or at least...another world." He commented.
"Heh...you know it."
It was then Volleyball appeared out of the Warp with that endearing grin on her face.
"Oh Steven, preparations have been completed. We can move you in now." She said.
"Well dad, this is it." He said, having his hands on his hips.
The two hugged for the last time for a while.
"Cya Steven...just remember we'll always be here if you need us...oh and I think the Gems want to talk now..."
Greg left Steven be, as Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl entered. He loved them dearly, but he felt like his last set of...conflicting actions and words creating new wounds that had yet to heal caused a tiny amount of tension between them.
"We're gonna miss you dude." Amethyst commented.
"Yes. Be extra careful out there Steven." Garnet told in her usual try to be neutral way.
"You sure you don't need us there with you?" Pearl queried.
No...but he appreciated them asking.
"It'll be fine. You guys have defended the Earth long since before I was born." He told them.
"The Crystal Gems will remain its defenders and helpers as they always have."
They were now ready to take in those reigns now that they were more than capable of doing so.
"You don't need me."
Pearl frowned, then started to bawl her eyes out as she hugged him ever so tightly, much to his dismay.
"We-we'll miss our baby boy..."
Oh not this again.
"Pearl, remember...this is Adult Steven now." Garnet reminded her.
"Yeah...he's not Classic Steven..." Amethyst explained, her tone almost mocking him.
Classic Steven...words that still irked him so. Pearl moved away, then donned a soft smile as she held her hands in front of her.
"Sorry...I'm still trying..." Pearl croaked.
That was okay. She'll get the picture eventually.
The four squeezed each other like it was the last embrace they would ever have. He was going to miss them a lot, as Steven expected a huge weight to lift off of his shoulders, not realizing the context sounded worse than he would intended it to be.
"Good luck out there. Stay safe." Garnet urged.
They didn't want to let him go, as Steven forced them to disconnect as he stepped back onto the Warp Pad. The three waved him, with water gathering in their eyes. Steven waved back as Volleyball finished stacking all of the boxes with them.
And with that...the Warp Pad went off..and he was gone.
Amethyst immediately turned to Garnet, desperately wanting to know what the future held for him.
"Is he really going to be okay?" She asked her.
Garnet hummed, her tone not entirely positive.
"After all this, he still didn't want to talk to us. I've been trying but...he would never budge."
Pearl sighed, still being filled with all the worries in the world.
"He won't like me saying this, but he's as stubborn as his mother." She admitted, clearly not liking that comparison.
They knew something was beginning to emerge, especially since Pearl witnessed that...pink state of his back in the Reef. Volleyball had the full spectrum of Pink Diamonds fury and now it had begun in Steven as well. Deep down, even without Garnets visions, they knew something lurked on the horizon and it wasn't gonna be pretty. After the chaos with Cactus Steven, they knew something was definitely up and Steven simply didn't want to knuckle down on the problems that had begun to rise on the surface.
"Steven needs to go away for a bit, for him to realize what he really wants." Garnet told them.
"He knows we're here."
Amethyst looked up at Garnet with a sad expression.
"But will he come back?" She asked.
Garnet, for the first time in a while, was unsure.
"Depends on when he decides to properly ask for help." She replied.
"Otherwise...he's not going to find it easy."
Only time will tell.