I am a Conversation
Steven walked slowly down the long corridor, stepping softly on the white tiled floor so that he wouldn’t disturb the early morning quiet. He didn’t want to be here. Not because he’d never liked hospitals—though he didn’t, they made him feel too much like a gem—but because of the person he was here to see.
He’d had no choice, though. Not really. He’d put this off for too long already. And he’d made a promise.
Finally, he reached the room at the end of the hall. Her room. The door was open, so he knocked on the lintel, then ducked his head to enter when he heard Connie say “come in, Steven.”
Connie was lying on a low medical bed, white sheets covering her up to her waist, with her back propped up at an angle and her long gray hair cascading over her pillows. Steven ignored the small cluster of beeping and whirring machines on the far side of the bed, and the blank viewscreen on the wall. Even after all these years, he still has eyes only for her.
“Hey Connie. You always know when it’s me.” He said, walking over to the bed and sitting down on the floor, so that they could be at eye level.
Connie laughed. “Steven, no one else who visits me is seven feet tall and built like a quartz.” Not that she got many other visitors. But it was true. It was easy for her to forget just how big Steven was when he wasn’t in the room. She’d been the taller one for so long, after all. And he never let himself crowd anyone—somehow he was always aware of every person in a room, and made sure they were part of the group. The only times she could remember him being as big as he truly was were when he’d held her in his arms. That, and on the battlefield. There, he’d stand tall, like a mountain. Enemies would break against him like a crashing wave. “Against us,” said a tiny, traitorous thought in the back of her mind. She stamped it down. She wouldn’t think about fighting together. About being together. About fusion. If she didn’t think about it, she wouldn’t ask for it. And she couldn’t ask. Steven would say yes. Without hesitation he’d say yes.
“…and that’s why I think we should try mom’s fountain again. Connie? Connie, are you listening?” Steven asked.
“Hm?” Connie shook her head. “Sorry, Steven. I get so tired these days. It’s hard to stay focused. What were you saying?”
“I thought it wouldn’t hurt to try mom’s fountain again. Maybe it’ll help, this time.”
Connie smiled softly at him, “We’ve tried it before. It won’t help. You’ve licked me enough times that we know how rose quartz healing works. It’s an incredible gift. But this isn’t a broken arm, or an infection. I’m not injured and I’m not sick.”
Steven couldn’t hold back his reply. “But Connie, you’re dying!” His words hung heavy in the silent room.
After a moment, she nodded. “I am. Steven, human beings don’t just grow up. We grow old. We die. And I’m the oldest human being you know. Maybe the oldest human being alive.”
“Connie, I’m a year older than you.”
Connie didn’t reply, but she glanced down at his stomach, where his Rose Quartz gem rested beneath his shirt.
Steven caught the look, and froze for a long moment. Then he reached out and took her hand in his. Softly, carefully. She was so fragile now.
“Connie, please. I won’t ask for it. I promised you I wouldn’t, all those years ago. But I can’t think of anything else that could help you, and I need to know why. Why can’t I ask you to fuse with me?”
Connie looked down at their clasped hands, unable to meet his gaze. “Steven, I know you miss your father, and I know you’ll miss me. I’m sorry. But I can’t fuse with you. I—I’m not strong enough.”
“You’re the strongest person I know.”
Connie grinned at him, “Well, you’re the strongest person I know!”
Steven smiled back, and flexed his arm. “I’ve got quartz muscles now, like mom. But you’re strong Connie. Strong in the real way.”
“That’s what I meant, too. But I’m not strong enough for this,” Connie said, the grin sliding off her face. “You know what it’s like to fuse, but you don’t know what it’s like for me before, or after. It was different when we were young. But I’m old now, and Stevonnie isn’t. If we ever fuse again, I wouldn’t—I couldn’t end it. I’m not strong enough.”
“But we’d be doing this to save your life!” Steven protested, “Unfusing after, that could kill you. I—we couldn’t take that chance. We could stay fused, like Garnet. Forever.”
Connie nodded. “That’s what I’m afraid of. Steven, I can’t ask that of you. I can’t keep you all to myself. I’d be taking you away from our family, from everyone who loves you. We’d be together, but you’d be gone. It wouldn’t be right.”
“Connie.” Steven said, reaching for the front hem of his shirt with his free hand, and pulling it up to his chest.
“Look, here.” He pointed to the shining pink gem resting where his belly button would have been.
“Your gem? I don’t understand.” Connie said, brows furrowed.
Steven shook his head. “Not my gem. My mother’s gem.”
Connie paused, her mouth half open. “…oh.”
“Exactly.” Steven said, smiling through his tears, “Connie, please. Believe me. I have thought about what this would mean for me, about what it meant for her. I’ve thought about this more than anyone. It’s who I am. I’ve never been able to change that. So I know what I’m offering. And if it’s my turn to make the same choice she did, to give myself up to become part of someone even better, I’m ready. Now, don’t you have something to ask me?”
“I want to, but…” Connie hesitated.
Steven waited for her to finish. When she didn’t, he asked, softly, “We both want this. Isn’t that enough?”
Connie realized she had been holding her breath, and stopped. Her answer tumbled out, “But what about Stevonnie! Steven, is this fair to them? What Rose did wasn’t fair to you, I don’t want to make them feel guilty because we had no choice, or because we’ll be gone.”
“Connie, that’s,” Steven paused, “That’s a really good point. But we won’t be gone like Rose. We’ll be like Ruby and Sapphire and Garnet. And we always have a choice. I’m choosing this. I’m choosing you. That’s what Stevonnie would want us to do. Right?” He looked her in the eyes with that same hopeful smile.
“Right.” Connie nodded at him. She was crying too, now, a tear now running down her face, catching on the end of her own smile. “But I’m too weak to get out of bed. How are we supposed to do a fusion dance?”
Steven took her hand in both of his. “Connie. I’ve seen your smile dance across your face, I’ve seen stars dancing in your eyes. We can dance like that. To the rhythm of our heart beats. Together.” He gave her hand a gentle squeeze. “Ready?”
“Actually, I think I’ve been ready for a long, long time.”
“Yeah. Me too.”