Garnet spots it first, or rather spots them first, because there are five of them and they all are getting closer and closer to Earth.
She remembers what happened the last time a spaceship landed at Beach City. She remembers so well she doesn’t want it to happen again. Even more, she has all the reasons to fear this unscheduled arrive since Peridot had the marvelous idea to insult Yellow Diamond at her face just a little time before.
Pearl and Amethyst agree with her the exact instant they see the ships: it’s unexpected and therefore alarming.
So they all go down the beach, followed by Steven and Peridot, and it all resembles that one day and they all remain silent until Garnet regain her confidence.
«Peridot» she calls, and the once homeworld gems snaps to attention automatically. «You know spaceships better than us. What do you think of those?»
Amethyst lifts Peridot up to watch with the telescope and have a closer look.
«That’s strange» she admits after a quick examination. «Those are not warships. They’re simple travel spaceships. I don’t understand by what miscalculation Yellow Diamond sent those here».
«It doesn’t matter» Garnet replies. «This means we can destroy them».
«I’m gonna call Dad!» Steven intervenes. «I’ll bring here Mum’s Light Cannon!»
The gems agree with a nod and the boy jumps on Lion’s back and runs away.
Pearl mutters something to herself.
«What could they want?» she asks, and nobody answers.
Red Pearl, who is maneuvering their spaceship, watches down and lets go a sigh of relief.
«Everyone!» she calls. «Everyone, come see!»
Not everyone can go, because there are really a lot of pearls on that ship and just as much as them on the other four. But who manages to get close to the windows starts screaming with joy and jumps and Red has to tell them to stop or they may crash.
Yellow Pearl holds Blue’s hand and pulls her through the crowd, reaching the glass. She smiles and takes a moment to consider how releasing it is to smile without Yellow Diamond requiring to be serious and precise and efficient.
«Look» she presses a finger on the glass. «Look! There’s someone on the beach!»
Blue Pearl moves her hair apart to see better and her silent mouth becomes an enthusiastic smile. There are indeed four people on the beach, little dots in the distance, but Blue is willing to bet she knows at least one of them.
«Isn’t that the Renegade?» calls some other pearl next to them. «Isn’t that White Pearl, the Renegade?»
«I knew it!»
«Look at us, we’re here, we’re here!»
White Diamond’s Pearl, the Renegade. The one that rebelled against her owner and Homeworld to fight by the side of Rose Quartz and save Earth from becoming a colony, and then never came back. The one pearl that first showed the Diamonds that they couldn’t keep them enslaved forever, that even trying to erase emotions from them and reduce them at simple machines would not have worked. The one that inspired Blue and all the other pearls to follow her steps, even if thousands of years later. White Pearl was the reason they all were there, away from Homeworld, with no intention to return.
«I can’t believe it» Yellow murmurs. «We’ve actually done it».
Red Pearl calls the following ships through the communication system.
«We’ll take around fifteen minutes to land» she announces. «I can’t wait to see their faces!»
«They’re coming closer» Peridot shivers. «Why aren’t we doing anything? Oh, if Yellow Diamond catches me you won’t be able to recompose all the shards she’ll make of me!»
«Don’t worry, Peri!» Amethyst is incredibly calm now that they have a large probability that the Light Cannon will work. «I won’t let you being crushed. Besides, if Yellow Diamond doesn’t retreat in the next five minutes, she’ll be the one with shards scattered all over the ocean!»
«I highly doubt that, you know».
«Relax, Rose’s cannon will ka-boom her!»
Amethyst laughs; Pearl gives her a cold look, finding the situation anything but funny. Garnet never loses sight of the ships until they hear Greg’s van approaching.
Steven waves his hand from the window.
«We got it!»
«Excellent» Garnet says. «Let’s go».
«What are they doing?»
Yellow is a little bit busier with scolding the pearls that are pushing her from behind to almost smash her face against the glass, but she recollects when she hears the same questions running on the mouths all around her. She looks and discovers what also Blue is watching: the gems – because they are gems, they are getting closer and she can recognize White Pearl for sure, plus the Fusion and some other she doesn’t know – are pulling something pink out of a curious machine and placing it on the shore.
Yellow tilts her head.
«Is that a cannon?»
It’s the wrong choice of words. Panic is quicker than the blink of an eye and the pearls scream and start running around the ship, terrified.
«It’s a cannon!»
«They’re going to shoot us down!»
«What do we do?»
«Calm down!» shouts Red Pearl, struggling to keep the spaceship in a straight line.
Yellow looks at Blue and sees that she, too, is not calm at all. It’s not a good sign.
«Can’t you turn back?» asks Green Pearl to the pilot.
«I can’t, it’s too late… I think. I don’t know! » and Green’s question must be the straw that breaks the camel because Red lets go of the controls and holds her head. «How am I supposed to know? I wasn’t made for this! I’m just a pearl!»
Oh no, Yellow thinks. If pearls start to lose the self-confidence that has accompanied them during the revolution everything they’ve done will be useless. Blue would feel guilty.
(That’s also the reason why she doesn’t tell her that she still feels connected to Yellow Diamond, somehow, and that she has the sensation she did everything a pearl wasn’t supposed to do. Blue would feel guilty, and she doesn’t want that).
«Now everybody calm down!» she shouts, angrily. They have started to listen to her since they understood how close she and Blue are, but now her words are unheard.
She bites her lip, fist trembling.
The memory of White Pearl runs in her mind and for a moment she wants to put all the blame on her.
«Really, what a way to greet us».
When she turns around she finds Blue with half body out of the window she has opened, leaning forward to see the gems they are coming closer and closer to.
«What are you doing?!» she squeals, grabbing her waist, afraid she will fall. Blue doesn’t listen: she keeps on waving.
«We’re almost set, Steven» Garnet announces, pushing the cannon on the side opposite to the one Amethyst is pulling. «Be ready to say the password».
«I was born ready!» the boy replies, showing off muscles he doesn’t have.
Greg, curious, walks near Pearl and bents over the telescope to have a closer look: he does so and then frowns.
«Uh, Pearl» he murmurs, «I think you should take a look at this».
«What is it?» she asks.
«There’s someone out of the window».
Pearl tilts her head, surprised. To be honest, she thinks she can see something near a side of the first spaceship, but it’s just a dot and has the sun in her eyes and she can’t be sure. So she switches places with Greg and puts her eye against the lens.
«Blue, if you really want to die you can wait a minute more!»
Yellow holds the other pearl tight and tries to pull her back in the spaceships, but it’s no use. On second thought, maybe throwing themselves in what appeared to be water could be a possible solution for the impending problem; but will thousands of pearls in five different spaceships ever jump down at the same time?
Blue waves her arms as hard as she can. Her eyes, half hidden by the bangs that are moving because of the fierce wind, are desperate. Yellow, from her position, can feel her stomach and chest tremble in the instinctive but useless attempt of screaming.
No voice comes out, but that’s was never a reason for Blue to lose hope.
«What’s wrong?» Greg worries when Pearl slowly walks away from the telescope, shaking. «What did you see?»
Who did she see would be a more correct question.
A ghost, or something very close to it. Not a ghost in the human sense of the term but a ghost indeed, because it should be impossible for her to be there.
Pearl could choose to go on like she didn’t see anything, but it’s a thought that only crosses her mind once and then is kicked away. She can’t. She does not want to.
She is only half aware of Steven’s voice.
«If every pork chop was perfect, we wouldn’t have-»
The group jumps collectively when Pearls yells as loud as she can, and the cannon that had started to glow immediately shuts down. She doesn’t move and is a miracle her legs still have the strength to keep her standing.
«Don’t shoot» she whispers, now. «They’re not enemies».
«And what are they, then?» Amethyst retorts.
She can’t believe she is actually saying it. It’s improbable, it’s impossible, but it’s true.
There is this moment in which Yellow is sure they’re going to die.
It’s improbable that their gems won’t be irremediable cracked if they get hit by a cannon, but Yellow promises to herself that if she’s ever going to regenerate she’s going to find White Pearl and tell her exactly what she thinks of her. Screams and yells from other pearls fill her ears together with the wind from the open window and she for now struggles to hold Blue’s hips and not to lose balance while the ship keeps going without a guide.
And it’s Blue herself that suddenly ceases moving and makes her wonder why aren’t they dead yet. Blue stops waving and her expression goes from worried to surprised to enthusiastic. She turns her head around, trying to call Yelllow’s attention on something, but it’s Purple Pearl that speak first, having fallen near the window and consequentially looked down to the beach.
«They stopped!» she screams. «They stopped, they’re taking away the cannon!»
There’s only one second of silence and then new screams and cries, this time of joy, and pearls jump and hug each other and Red Pearl regains her confidence and grabs the controls and straightens the trajectory of the ship.
Yellow falls back at the sudden jerk and pulls Blue with her, ending on the floor of the spaceship with her on her own lap. They blushes.
«You’re totally crazy» Yellow observes, and she needs to raise her voice because the other pearls are laughing and yelling. «I really have no idea of what crosses that mind of yours».
Blue covers her mouth and her chest shakes at the rhythm of a silent laugh. Yellow wonders when did she start to lose her original arrogance and start faking it because she was overwhelmed by feelings for that older version little one.
It’s probably a lot before their revolution, before the call of that weird peridot, maybe even before the war ended, just after she discovered what feelings were.
Garnet and Greg, on the roof of the man’s van, make signs to the ships and help them landing on the shore. Some reach safe ground more smoothly than others but, as Peridot points out, is clear that who is maneuvering is not very good at it. Not that any of them cares.
Pearl shivers in place. The ships are big and surely crowded and if she has been deceived – maybe it was just one pearl, brought exactly for that reason, and now Yellow Diamond and her soldiers will come out and – she has put everyone’s life at risk. Garnet will never forgive her this time.
But there is no need to worry. The doors of the ships open and slowly, incredibly slowly, the crews come out. The exact moment the first ray of light hit them, she knows.
They are pearls.
And there are thousands of them.
Steven, Greg and Amethyst open their mouths in disbelief, Garnet lifts her specs and blinks a few times; Peridot mutters something not quite easy to understand, but Pearl has forgotten about them. Her eyes are fixed on the pearls, on the thousands of her companions that she had chosen to forget because it hurt too much to remember the sacrifices she made.
Blue Pearl exits the first ship and guides, in some way, the rest of the huge group. They walk cautiously on the sand, already overwhelmed by new sensations. Red, Coral, Grey, Green, Purple, Black, Aquamarine, Bronze, Olivine, Pearl seems to recognize everyone. She can’t, obviously, because there are too many and also because lots of them have been replaced over the years. She is actually surprised she can recognize someone.
Lots of them bring in their arms heaps of gems, implying that they are even more than they show. So many, so many, with so different palettes and outfits and faces and – Pearl can see in their eyes, can sense feelings that once weren’t there and she doesn’t know what happened but she is glad.
Blue walks in front of the others like a true leader, but the instant she meets Pearl’s eyes she loses her composure: she smiles, widely, and before Pearl realizes it she has outdistanced the group and is in her arms, holding her tight in an embrace that almost makes her fall down.
Pearl’s hands shake when she slowly hugs her back. She is sure holding her too strong will poof her, or it will make her disappear and she’ll realize this never truly happened. Nothing she is seeing has sense, or at the very least doesn’t matches what she remembers of Homeworld and its servants.
Those are not servants anymore.
Blue pulls away and smiles, cheeks flushed in excitement for everything she wants to hear and would like to say.
«Blue» Pearl simply says. She recalls the last time she saw her, on Blue Diamond’s Cloud Arena, and she was just a mere shadow watching while Pearl slayed gem after gem.
Blue nods. She’s there.
Pearl snaps back to reality when Peridot squeals and quickly hides behind Amethyst, pointing at someone in front of her.
«She’s here to smash me in pieces!» she screeches.
Pearl looks over Blue’s shoulder and can’t help but smile: Yellow is slowly coming closer, walking with flaunted confidence, and barely recognizes Peridot’s presence. She looks back at Pearl, instead, and raises one hand in a greeting that is at the same time arrogant and awkward.
Pearl lets go of Blue and walks forward to meet her. She is quick to reach her but then stops, unsure of what she should do. She and Yellow got along worse than she and Blue did – Blue got along well with everyone, even when emotions were just a part of how the characterization of the pearl had been made – but meeting again after all of these years is different. It’s a new start.
And she doesn’t have that smug look on her face she had while talking to Peridot. It’s a good new start.
They clumsily hugs each other just to pull away two seconds after.
Pearl can hear Amethyst snort.
«She did know her» she mutters. «I knew it».
Pearl only finds it funny.
«And Pink?» she asks. Pink Pearl is the only one still missing between the four Diamond’s gems.
Yellow shakes her head. It’s enough of an explanation, she doesn’t even need to clench her fist to make it more clear.
«I see» Pearl murmurs, and lowers her head. Then she glances over Yellow’s shoulder and scratches her nuke. «So. Care to tell me what is happening?»
Yellow turns around to look at the thousands of pearls behind them, then shakes her head and – Pearl is shocked, is that a real smile? What else does she not know?
«How much time do you have, White?»
Pearl doesn’t greet the others since they don’t even come closer. They stand on the beach near the ships, looking around, and they seems so confused but so happy and there are so many of them.
So Pearl introduces Blue and Yellow to the Crystal Gems; there is a clear tension which Pearl hopes is born by confusion. Only Steven, of course, is enthusiastic to see them. He cannot believe how many pearls are there. Pearl cannot, either.
Amethyst and Peridot decide to count them and run towards the ships, dragging a baffled Greg with them.
At this point, Yellow starts explaining. Blue helps her with holograms or by nudging her when she’s telling something wrong. She is forced to start from the very beginning, from what happened in pearls’ minds when the Renegade showed off, how that little part of feelings that they had to put in their programming started to grow, inspired by what they were seeing. She explains how pearls became aware, how they started to meet in secret, how their owners tried to destroy them. She narrates the fear and how hard it was to fake in the last period. She tells how Blue guided a new revolution, a revolution made only for the pearls, and how they fought side by side and won. She tells how they reached the ships and left Homeworld, forever, with no intention of going back.
When she ends her tale, Pearl is crying. It’s a cry of joy and relief and tears falls down and she holds her arms and her little body trembles. Steven’s jaw is near the ground and Garnet carefully hides her eyes behind the glasses.
«Then you tried to shoot us down» Yellow snorts, but is clear she is trying to ease the situation. «I’m not saying I expected a welcoming committee, but you know…»
Pearl laughs and moves forward to hug them both. She cries between them, and it feels everything but awkward. Actually, it feels right.
Amethyst and Peridot come back. Greg is behind them, fingers up, counting.
«How many?» Garnet asks, voice hoarse that covers a lump in her throat.
The gems’ heads fall in their shoulders and they smile, embarrassed.
«We kinda of lost count» Amethyst confesses. «But there are thousands of them! Maybe one, or two thousands!»
«And at least half of them holds other pearls retired in their gems» Peridot adds. «I’m surprised this beach can contain them all!»
Garnet is surprised, too. What she wants to say, however, is forgotten when she hears Pearl’s soft sobs.
«I’m so… happy» she says. «Leaving you behind… My friends, my kind… Was one of the hardest things the war required me to do. I knew I couldn’t bring you with me, that you would have never followed me, because you couldn’t consider me a friend but only another pearl, a servant like you. I knew I had feelings because I was defective and I accepted it, but it felt so wrong. And now, now you’re here… You’re all here… and it feels right, it feels so right».
Blue is quick to return the hug, brushing her hands on her back. Yellow looks a bit uncomfortable, but then gives in.
«Now, now» she says, «don’t be melodramatic. Maybe the one that was defective weren’t you».
And they stay like that for a while, until Steven quietly raises his hand.
«Uh» he murmurs, «where are they all gonna stay?»
Pearl raises her head.
That is, indeed, a good question.
In the end they decide that pearls will be free to wander off on the beach for that night – but the city is off limit, because they don’t know how humans would react – and that Garnet will stay too, to help and control them. The pearls really don’t care, on the contrary they seem happy to remain there and watch the sun disappear in the sea. They become more confident and give Pearl and her friends their respects; they greet Greg goodbye when he announces that he’s going away, they converse with Garnet and ask her about herself and more or less they all are very polite and kind in all honesty, not because they are asked to be.
Pearl, however, doesn’t let Blue and Yellow stay on the beach and offers them to go in the house with them. Blue at first is hesitant – she is the leader – but Yellow eventually persuades her.
«After all» Pearl adds, «you’re on Earth now. You don’t need a leader anymore, you’re free».
All three know that’s very close to be a lie, that the complete transition to not having the need of someone that tells you what to do is very slow and difficult for a pearl, but they don’t say anything. Pearl knows: she has made incredible progresses in the last months. If she has to bet, she’d say the first pearl to be completely free from Homeworld’s influences will be Blue.
The house is very different from what Yellow and Blue are used to see, but not necessary bad.
«It’s a little frugal» Yellow observes.
Blue smiles and makes it clear that she loves it.
Peridot, that hasn’t left Amethyst’s for one second and is always careful not to go close to Yellow, slowly emerges.
«Was Yellow Diamond angry at me?» she asks.
The pearl turns around and looks at her from top to bottom, like she sees her for the first time.
«Quite» she replies. «But then we rebelled, so she has other problems now. She probably forgot about you».
Peridot sighs with relief.
«Yeah, but now she’ll send her army on Earth anyway because of you» Amethyst notices.
Yellow and Blue stiffens, the first offended and the second worried. Pearl gently pushes Amethyst and Peridot towards the door.
«I think it’s time for Steven to sleep» she concludes. «We’ll think about problems tomorrow, what do you think?»
Amethyst mutters something but surrenders, and she and Peridot disappear in her room. Steven, who is next to Yellow, moans disappointed.
«Oh, come on, Pearl!» he whines. «I want to talk with your friends, I have so many questions. I’m not tired at all!»
He gets contradicted by a huge yawn that escapes his mouth. Pearl chuckles and pushes him too up the little stairs.
«You will ask your questions tomorrow and you will also call Connie » she murmurs with all the patience and the love. «I bet she’ll be just as excited as you to meet them. But now it’s time to go to bed».
Steven capitulates and slides under the blankets, next to Lion that is already sleeping. His breathing becomes calm and regular soon after.
«What’s a bed?» Yellow asks.
«The place where human sleeps».
«What is sleep?»
Pearl laughs – she has been so happy today.
«I will explain».
They stand on the porch, elbows resting on the banister, watching the beach covered in pearls with some campfire here and there to light the place. Some of them are dancing, some are just talking, someone else is greeting a pearl that is regenerating. Garnet watches them, quietly.
Pearl has just as much to explain as they do. She only tell the basis, however, enough for them to understand who Steven is.
«So he’s Rose Quartz’s – son?» Yellow chokes. «That’s unusual».
«Do you see anything not unusual here?» Pearl retorts, smirking.
«You know what I mean».
Blue, who rests in between them, joins her hands together to make the symbol of a heart and points inside the house with a nod.
«He’s cute, indeed» Pearl agrees. «And I love him very much».
«Half human and half gem…» Yellow is reflecting. «Yellow Diamond would be horrified».
«What Yellow Diamonds thinks it’s not your business anymore».
«I know. I was just saying».
They again know that’s not true. That every little step must be done if they want to leave Homeworld completely behind, to give up also the pieces of it they inevitably brought to Earth with them.
But there will be time.
A soft breeze passes through their hair.
«It’s beautiful here» Yellow says. «I think I understand why you and Rose Quartz wanted to save it».
The mention makes Pearl smile melancholically.
«Are you sad she’s gone?»
«That’s a matter for another day, Yellow».
The topic is dropped. Blue nudges Yellow and the pearl remembers a hologram she had showed her before, on the beach, while Pearl was distracted with other gems.
«Oh, yes» she says. «Blue and I… and everyone… We’ll help you».
«Help me?» Pearl parrots, puzzled.
«With that thing the peridot called Yellow Diamond for. The Cluster, is that it? We’re going to help you fight it».
Pearl opens her mouth to decline, but then closes it again. She has no idea of what will happen in the future, but right now she is happy with her old friends and does not want to start a debate.
They stay silent for a while. Then Blue grabs one hand per each and holds them tight, smiling. They both close their fingers around Blue’s palms and it’s like they are all connected together.
«I’m happy you’re back» Pearl says.
«We’re happy to be back» Yellow replies. «We’re back home».
There’s so much more Pearl wants to say, to talk about, but no words come out. They watch the pearls on the beach and smile.
There will be time.