She was awake.
For the first time in millennia she was awake.
She could still feel White Diamond’s presence clawing and hammering at her mind, trying to render her as little more than a puppet once more. As she had been for so, so long. But for now, for this moment, she was herself again. She was protected. By her Diamond.
Oh stars, Pink! Everything that had happened at the ball came rushing back to her. Her Diamond and her friends fusing, Yellow dissipating her Diamond’s comrades, White’s unyielding rage at such a display; at the incitement it may cause in the gem populace at large, seeing a Diamond fuse.
She had to help Pink. White was furious, stars knew what she’d do. It’d never been this bad before. She could feel it pulsing and pushing at her mind as it broke upon her Diamond’s protection.
She didn’t have much time.
She freed the Ruby and Sapphire first as she made her desperate dash through the now deserted palace. They immediately fused into the one who called herself Garnet. There were no questions, no doubts from her. Garnet simply nodded and she nodded in kind, then they continued on together.
When she deactivated the holding cell for the next pair she had to pause, even considering her desperate race. It was White. White Pearl. It was the pearl who had replaced her all those long years ago. She harbored White no resentment for that, it was White Diamond’s fault and not her own. Mostly she just wanted to take a moment to speak with her, to enjoy the company of a fellow pearl while in control of her own faculties for the first time in ages.
But there was no time.
“We have to move, we don’t have long,” she croaked, and the sound of her own voice startled her. It was the first time she’d heard it, the first time it’d been hers in so long.
“Pink... Pink is that really you?” White gasped, closing her pale hands over her mouth in shock while the Amethyst looked on anxiously between them.
“Yes White, it’s me. But I’m afraid a reunion will have to wait. Follow me, please.” She felt more than saw the fusion nod over her shoulder, the Amethyst relaxed and White squared her shoulders as all four of them hustled down the empty, richly muraled grand hall towards the room where her Diamond was being kept.
A tremor shook her bleached hands as she reached out to key the pad that granted access to her Diamond’s prison. White Diamond was getting closer to regaining control, her icy fury freezing the sea of tranquility granted Pink by her Diamond. She had to hurry, had to complete her mission before White Diamond realized more was happening here than the simple loss of a pearl. A dull throb sprung into being behind her left eye, behind the eye White Diamond had ruined, but then the door slid open and all of that fell away.
There she was.
Pink Diamond sat in a corner of the dreary room while her friend, the human, took a defensive position in front of her. The girl looked ready to throttle anyone who came near Pink Diamond with her bare hands. Good. It was comforting to know her Diamond had such steadfast companions by her side.
“White… White Pearl?” her Diamond asked, standing up and placing a hand on her defender’s shoulder, calming her.
“No, my Diamond.”
“You’re… I saw you in a nightmare before… and I spoke to you in my dreams tonight didn’t I? You’re… You’re Pink Pearl aren’t you?”
“Yes. Yes Pink Diamond it’s me, for the first time in thousands of years it’s me. Thanks to you. Thanks to you reaching out to my mind I am myself again; I’m your Pearl once more, if only for a little while,” Pink Pearl said all in a rush, tears welling up in her good eye as she spoke.
And despite herself, despite the fact that it went against all that was proper, despite the fact that even now White Diamond clawed at her mind, despite all that; she ran forward and wrapped her Diamond in the tightest hug she could manage. She lost herself, her shoulders shook and half caught sobs ripped themselves from her throat. It had been so long. She could feel the others watching but she didn’t care. This would likely be the last chance she ever had to do this again. To feel again.
After a moment's hesitation her Diamond returned the embrace and she felt tears dampen her shoulder. They braced Pink against White Diamond’s assault, they helped her master her emotions.
“It’s… It’s Steven actually,” her Diamond sniffled.
“My apologies my Dia— My apologies Steven. I don’t quite understand but I can feel it’s important to you. I wish… I wish I had more time to get to know this new you. But we must hurry, follow me please,” she said, reluctantly pulling away from Steven and wiping the tears from her eye.
And then they were off, their ragtag band sprinting through the palace to the nearest warp pad. The steady staccato of their desperate steps echoed in Pink Pearl’s mind, each footfall feeling like it would summon all of Homeworld down upon them.
“Where are we going?” White Pearl asked her as they all finally took their place on the pad.
“Homeworld’s cargo dock, the cargo ships there have some of the most powerful gravity drives in the fleet to facilitate quick support of outlying colonies when warp pads are impractical, they’ll also be a very inconspicuous avenue for your escape,” she answered as she activated the warp pad.
“Pink? Pink is something wrong?” White Pearl asked but she was barely listening. She was fighting down her panic.
“My credentials have been revoked, I can no longer access the warp network or open any keyed passages. I’m… I’m sorry my Diamond,” she whispered, fresh tears springing to her eye. What was she going to do? She couldn’t let this happen.
A side passage opened then and she nearly screamed, had they been found out? But an unexpected pair stepped through.
Blue and Yellow Pearl.
Yellow looked to be in a near panic as she scurried over to them but Blue maintained her characteristic tranquility.
“Hello,” Blue said, a calm smile adorning her face.
“Blue, Yellow? How did you… What’s going on?”
“White Diamond is in a rage is what’s going on!” Yellow babbled. “She was already incensed after the incident at the ball and now that her pearl has gone missing… They’re looking for you, but they don’t know about this yet,” Yellow continued after gesturing to the group behind Pink Pearl.
“And you’re here now… because?” the Amethyst interjected. “You two gonna try and take us in?”
“No, we’re here to help you,” Blue answered serenely.
“When… When we realized you were gone Whi— I mean Pink, we knew that you must be yourself again; and after the ball we had an idea of what you might be up to. Blue decided—”
Blue interrupted Yellow by elbowing her in the side. Serenely.
“Ouch! Okay, we decided… we decided to help you,” Yellow finished lamely.
“Thank you, thank you both so much!” her dia— No, Steven said. For her part she could only stare dumbly in silent gratitude.
“No, thank you Steven,” Blue Pearl responded, kneeling down to be on the same level as him, her smile widening. “No one’s ever been interested in my drawings before.”
“You called me Steven!”
Blue Pearl’s smile widened further.
“Yes. Very good. Now can we please get going before we’re caught?” Yellow hissed, anxiously looking around the empty chamber.
“My… My credentials have been revoked,” Pink Pearl said.
“Ours haven’t,” Blue said and with that both she and Yellow stepped onto the warp pad. A few moments later they were enveloped in a brillant pillar of light.
Pink swayed slightly as they approached the port, White Diamond’s assault on her mind, on Steven’s protection, was intensifying. They had to hurry.
The port was lightly guarded, most things on Homeworld were, but two bored looking citrines still stood at attention on either side of the open cargo port entrance. And they would have likely received the alert about White Diamond’s missing pearl. Their group ducked out of sight down a side passage as they tried to figure out a plan. They certainly had the numbers to subdue the pair of guards, but the risk of an alarm being raised was too great. An alarm that would lock down the entire port.
“We’ll handle this, there are some advantages to being a Diamond’s pearl,” Yellow said, all haughty command once more, her nerves finally seeming to leave her.
“Are you sure? Isn’t it dangerous? What if you two get in trouble?” White Pearl fretted, scrubbing her hands together as she stood before the pair.
“We won’t, don’t worry, no one would ever suspect us. We’ve been perfectly obedient pearls for countless years and our Diamonds are fond enough of us to protect us from White Diamond’s scrutiny if she were to have any suspicions,” Blue reassured.
“Besides… What happened at the ball has started whispers and rumblings all over Homeworld, a diamond fusing, so wouldn’t you say it’s worth the risk Renegade?” Yellow added with a smirk for White Pearl.
“I… I suppose you’re right,” White answered, a smile spreading over her features as her eyes began to glisten. “Thank you both, and be careful.”
“It really was nice to see you again White,” Blue said with a small smile and a wave as she moved off.
“Get them home, Pink,” Yellow said before she followed after, and Pink nodded grimly.
A few moments later Pink heard Yellow berating the guards, although she couldn’t make everything out from this distance. Something about an inspection of the sector and their services being required as escort. The pair looked ready to argue until Blue materialized a rather official looking holo-document and said something with that serene smile of hers. Whatever it was must have been… convincing, because the citrines quickly snapped to attention and began following the duo down the corridor. When they were out of sight Pink stepped forward and motioned the others to follow.
They hustled through the dormant space port. They didn’t have to worry about running into any gems here, the facility was entirely automated. Pink quickly led the group to the maintenance bay and chose a ship that had been fully serviced but not yet put back on the line. She palmed the portal open and the entire group stepped into the much larger interior, her whole form was shaking ever so slightly now as White Diamond’s grip grew tighter around her precious bubble of freewill.
She pulled up the ship’s primary systems and flew through the procedures removing them from automated control, thankfully they weren’t locked behind any sort of authorization; the vessel could now be piloted manually.
“White, can you fly this? It’s Era 2 but the basic control scheme hasn’t changed much over the centuries,” Pink asked, turning to the huddled group and clasping her hands together at her waist to prevent them from shaking.
“I believe so, I’ve had some experience with Era 2 ships already.”
“Good, follow the predetermined course until you’re outside of Homeworld’s galaxy to avoid raising any early alarm. Then… Then go home. Now if you all will excuse me,” Pink said, walking on shaky feet to the ship’s hatch, a hand on her shoulder stopped her.
“Pink you can’t be serious! You’re coming with us!” White Pearl cried.
“White, I can’t.”
“That’s absurd, you can’t go back there! Back to—”
“I can’t go with you White!” she half shouted and half sobbed, pushing her fellow pearl away roughly.
“Why not?” Steven wailed, running up to wrap his arms around her waist.
“My Dia… Steven. Steven, soon White Diamond will have me again and through me she will seek to return you to your imprisonment or worse. I cannot allow that, I could not bear being the instrument of your harm,” she said, kneeling down to wrap Steven in a hug. He was so warm.
“I can stop her! I can protect you! I can save you this time Pearl!” Steven yelled. Then he pulled away from her, tears running down his cheeks and hands clasped to his mouth in shock.
Pink smiled weakly.
“Steven… Steven you are wonderful but even you can’t keep her at bay forever. This isn’t your fault, it isn’t your fault now and it wasn’t your fault then. Just… please be safe. And please, never let them take away who you are like… like she did to me.”
“I don’t want to go without you, it’s not fair,” Steven sobbed, once again embracing Pink. She was going to miss that. The sensation of closeness, of comfort. Of warmth. She ran her fingers through his hair and pulled him close to her chest.
“I know, it isn’t fair. But it’s the only way, ask Garnet, she knows,” she whispered, nodding towards the fusion. A fusion containing a Sapphire.
Steven pulled away and turned around. “Garnet?”
“Steven… I’m sorry. I can’t see any possible future where bringing Pink with us doesn’t end in tragedy,” Garnet answered, her normally rich and calm voice wavering as she brought her hand up to wipe at uncovered eyes.
Pink stood up, gently disentangling Steven from her shivering, pale form. She brought a hand up to her ruined eye, the dull ache was becoming a biting, stabbing spear. Time to go. Garnet walked forward to collect a still crying Steven, Pink stared into her beautiful triad of multi-hued irises. They looked sad. Garnet gave her a single nod, Pink nodded back with a wane smile.
Amethyst walked up to her then.
“Hey, uh, I don’t really know you or even get what’s going on between you and Steven; but I get enough. Thanks for helping us Pinky, you’re alright, for a pearl anyway,” the compact quartz said, flashing her a toothy smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes.
“It was my pleasure, you are the most… interesting amethyst I’ve ever met,” she answered, forcing a playful smile of her own.
The human, Connie, approached her next. She didn’t speak, didn’t even look up at Pink. She simply walked forward and wrapped her arms around Pink’s torso in a tight hug. Pink returned the embrace, somewhat surprised, before the girl finally whispered something against her midsection.
“Don’t be. Just… Just be there for him. He’ll need you.”
“I will, I promise.”
Pink didn’t know much about humans, but this young girl had steel in her. She could feel it.
Finally it was just her and White standing near the entrance to the ship, the others huddled at the back, Steven still buried in Garnet’s arms. Tears glistened in White’s eyes, she always had been a crier, and they simply looked at one another for a time. Finally Pink broke the silence. It was time.
“It should have been me.”
“You should be me. You should be in my place!” White sobbed, tears finally spilling down her face.
Something gripped Pink then, a fury she’d never felt before. Not at White or Steven, but at Homeworld. At their society. At White Diamond. At what had been done to her because she was just a pearl. She reached out and grabbed White by the shoulders.
“No. It shouldn’t have been any of us White. Don’t you ever blame yourself for any of this, you didn’t do this! You didn’t have a choice!” she shouted raggedly, her legs went weak then and she fell to her knees. White’s eyes widened in concern and she held onto Pink’s shoulders and knelt with her.
“Pink! Are you alright?”
“Take care of him for me.”
“I… I will. I promise.”
Pink leaned forward and wrapped White in a weak hug. A hug through which she tried to impart every bit of her hope and appreciation for her fellow pearl.
It’d been nice to see her again.
Pink Pearl lay on the cold metal floor of the launch bay as she watched the ship carrying Steven and all his companions join the twinkling lights of the stars above before it faded out of sight entirely. They were beautiful. The stars. So unbound. She hadn’t been able to appreciate them in so long.
She laughed. She laughed and felt joy flow through her form that she’d thought long since lost to her even as tears ran down her face from her good eye. It wouldn’t last, it was nearly done even now, but for just a little while longer she was free. And she intended to cherish every moment of it.
The stars were beautiful and her Diamond was safe.
That’s all that mattered.