"There's got to be another way," Pearl says. Her heart is beating fast- so fast, it feels like the flutter of a trapped bird in her ribcage. She feels horribly exposed, despite the fact no one would dare enter her Diamond's palanquin without permission, and Pink can shapeshift fast. "I mean, maybe-"
"Blue and Yellow don't care," her Diamond says, scrunching her nose and rolling her eyes. It is strange to see her expressions on Rose Quartz's face. But it's soon to be her face all the time, isn't it? She wants to give it all up. Pearl can't understand it. "They never have," her Diamond continues. "This is Pink Diamond's colony." It is strange to hear her refer to herself with such deprecation in her voice. Pearl wants to soothe it away, but she can't. Pink is still talking. "We can end it all right here, right now."
"You know this is crazy, right?" Pearl blurts out, clutching Rose Quartz's sword to her chest. It is a dangerous risk to take, disagreeing so openly, but Pink is just nodding, her face lit up. "Your status. My purpose. None of it will matter anymore." Pink nods again, smile breaking out. "This will change everything."
"I know!" Pink exclaims, clapping her hands together. "Isn't it exciting?"
Pearl doesn't want to admit it, but it's true. She's never thought of being...well, free until the rebellion. Until Pink decided that she didn't want her own colony, not like this. Until she decided the only way to fight for the earth's freedom was as someone else.
"It is," Pearl says. She can feel her face heat up.
"We can leave our old lives behind," her Diamond says. Now she is starry-eyed. "If this is really my world, I want to give it to the Crystal Gems." Pearl refrains from pointing out that she's technically the leader of the Crystal Gems. "I want to live here with human beings!" Why? Pearl thinks, secretly baffled. There is nothing redeeming about humans that she's found yet. "I want to live here with you! We'll both finally be free!"
Pearl wants to pretend that it is the thought of being free that makes her agree, but she knows it isn't. It's the thought of living with her Diamond, with Rose- released from obligation, released from duty.
"Okay," she says, taking a deep breath, a shy smile blooming across her face. "I'm ready."
"Pearl!" Pink squeals and takes her hands. It feels odd, and Pearl has to remind herself that this is how it will be from now on, that her Diamond will look like- will be this. Will be Rose Quartz.
"I can't believe I'm going to do this," Pearl whispers. Her Diamond laughs.
"I can't exactly shatter myself," she says wryly. Her form ripples and now, finally (for the last time, Pearl realizes with a sharp pang), Pink Diamond fills the palanquin. Her face is alive with excitement as she strides to the front, squatting down on her heels and reaching outside for a flower and a handful of dirt. She offers the flower to Pearl, who plucks it free and tucks it behind her ear. Her insides are shivery with excitement and worry and everything all at once. Her thoughts can't stop circling. What if it doesn't work? What if something goes wrong? What if-
Pink holds out a handful of fake gem shards and Pearl swallows thickly, her eyes prickling. They look so real-
"Convincing?" Her Diamond asks with a grin. Pearl swallows again.
"Very much so, my Diamond," she says, when she thinks she can keep her voice steady. Pink sighs.
"Soon it will be just Rose," she says. She tips the shards into her mouth and Pearl has to look away.
"Wait," Pink says, as Pearl takes up the sword. She looks up in alarm, setting it back down. Has her Diamond changed her mind? She can't deny the tiny flutter of relief deep in her belly at the thought. "There's one last thing I need to do."
"Yes?" Pearl asks, uneasy. Pink's eyes are more serious than she's ever seen them.
"No one can ever find out we did this," Pink says. "I never want to look back." Dread unspools in Pearl's stomach at the pronouncement. "So," Pink continues, reaching out and grasping Pearl's hands and crossing them over her mouth. Pearl goes cold. "For my last order to you as a Diamond, please. Let's never speak of this again. No one can know."
Pearl feels the compulsion take hold, wreathing her bones in ice and fire. Her fingers tingle as her hands drop limply to her sides and she stares, numb, at her Diamond stooping to go outside, to complete the plan. She almost wants to leave her there, wondering what went wrong.
Your status...my purpose... Her earlier words circle in her head, buzzing in her ears. But it doesn't matter, does it? She didn't ask you as Rose, as a friend. She ordered you as your Diamond. She took advantage-
It doesn't matter. Pearl swallows hard, her throat tight, and picks up Rose Quartz's sword. It is heavy and cold in her hands.
She has a job to do.
A duty to her Diamond.