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The Gem Plays Tricks on the Mind

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Eyes heavy. Ears ringing. Head pounding. Body tense in pain. Was he even breathing? Yes, the air was cold in his nose. His stomach lurched at another twinge from his gem.

Uggggh he internally groaned. What's happening to me?

Steven struggled to open his eyes. When he did, the world was blurry, glitching almost. Sand blurred with boulders and back again. The ocean would skip between rising and receding onto the beach.

Blinking away the fog, he saw Pearl yelling at him, her cyan jacket stretching with her attempts to grab him. Garnet was holding her back, her mouth turned down in a frown. "Why do I hurt?" He garbled the words slightly. The white gem was crying, tears staining her face.

He glanced down to see what was wrong. There was a singed hole in his shirt, part of the yellow star missing. His chest was red like a rash had instantly appeared. He looked back up to find, frankly, a monster.

White and magenta marbled skin. Razor-sharp claws glinting in the sunlight. The beast hunched over on all fours. Five eyes trained on him, all different colors. Was that a horn coming out of its head?

He got to his feet and stumbled back. "Ahh, uhh, nice monster?" He bumped into something that hugged him. Steven turned his head as best as he could to find a short mass of black curly hair. "Connie?" She looked up, but it wasn't her. Not the Connie Steven knew.

Her eyes were pure black.

Steven screamed. He pushed her away and created a bubble. Or, tried to. The effort itself was excruciating. The form wouldn't stay. The pink force field refused to completely form, fading in and out.

Steven panted heavily, staring at his hands. "What's going on?!" Seeing movement out of the corner of his eye, he spun and took off running as best he could.

The sky kept changing from pale blue to hot pink and back. He was coming up on the boardwalk of Beach City, the Big Donut looming into view. "Aw, I can't go there! The monsters might follow…" He stuck to the sand, bypassing the town.

He collapsed behind a rock where the mountain met the beach. What happened?

***

"Steven! Wait!" Connie started after him but Amethyst held her back. "What? What're you doing?!"

"He doesn't know who you are. You could get hurt." The words were in an undertone, spoken into Connie’s ear.

They watched as he stumbled down the beach. After he was just a dot on the horizon, Amethyst relaxed her grip.

"What even was that?!" Connie spun to face the other gems, Garnet and Pearl.

The former was stuck in place, staring at where Steven had been. “W-why did you hold me back?!”

The fusion bubbled the gem they had defeated to deal with later. “If we had tried to restrain him now, there would have been a lot more damage.” Her voice had a tone of finality, with a hint of pain. She then picked up the weapon it had used.

Garnet turned to Connie. "I don't know. We'll need to take this to Bismuth in Little Homeworld, she may have an idea." The gem shook, the weapon trembling in her hand. It resembled a gun, small in size like a pistol. It seemed to buzz and spark with electricity.

"What about Steven? We can't just leave him!" The purple gem's voice was higher than usual.

"I want you to follow him Amethyst. Don't engage. He thinks we're corrupted." The group watched a purple pigeon fly away. Garnet turned to Pearl, whose gaze was still where Steven had been hit. "Pearl, I need you to focus. Steven needs you to focus."

"But… How can we help him?" Her voice was small as her brain recalled all the books she had read on humans. "Where is he hurt? What is he feeling? Will his physical form be okay? Will his-"

Garnet picked up the rambling gem and gestured for Connie to follow. Lion nudged her, breaking Connie's focus on the tide. The group made their way to the warp pad inside the house.

As they warped into the new gem home on Earth, Garnet ducked, avoiding a jet of water to the face. "You won't get away that- ah ha ha ha Hi Garnet!" Peridot lowered the water gun she had.

"What are you guys doing here? Come to join the fight?" Lapis Lazuli hovered over the group with her water wings.

"Where's Bismuth? We need her help right away!" Pearl had come to her senses, now searching the area for the rainbow-haired gem. She screamed as water-soaked her form.

"Found her!" Connie noticed the gem carried what could only be called a water bazooka and it was aimed right at Pearl.

Bismuth burst out laughing. "Can't let your guard down!" When she noticed how freaked out everyone was, she put down the water weapon. "What's wrong?" She glanced between them all. "Where's Steven? And Amethyst?"

"He was hit with this. Do you know what it does?" Garnet handed over the still sizzling gun.

"Not yet, but I can figure it out. What do you mean hit?" Bismuth started examining the weapon.

"Careful!" Peridot screeched. She levitated it out of reach with her metal powers. "That's a direct decay gun. I've only read about the prototypes. No wonder they stayed prototypes. You're both lucky you didn't get corrupted!"

"Steven was hit with this? Where is he? Is he okay?" Lapis grounded herself and approached Connie.

Connie looked at her feet. Garnet spoke up. "Amethyst is watching him, but he thinks we're corrupted. Peridot, do you know how to reverse it?"

Peridot shrugged. "Corruption wasn't meant to be reversed."

Connie jumped up. "What about the fountain? That reversed the corruption of all the gems, right?"

"That was with all the diamonds though…" Bismuth held her chin as she thought.

“They’d surely want to help, right?” Connie wrung her hands, watching the gems closely.

Pearl sighed. "We can try it, but I honestly don’t know. And it would certainly take them some time to get here…” The gem started mumbling to herself. “How would we even get Steven to the fountain? We can’t hurt him, and he must be so scared… oh..."

Garnet nodded. "It’s worth a shot. Now in the meantime, any more ideas?"

***

It felt like he was vibrating. Vibrating so much that he was floating. But he could feel the grass underneath him, so he was grounded. It was nauseating.

Deep breathes Steven. This'll be fine. Just… find Bismuth! That's right! She can help.

He opened his eyes, the sky still pulsating from blue to pink. The sun was setting over the ocean, another day over. Sitting up, he took in the trees he was surrounded with. The foliage was turning from green to yellow and orange, Autumn starting to come into Beach City. It was peaceful, and he could still hear the surf from here.

He made to stand, a new goal in mind. He managed several strides before another pang from his gem. Panting, he opened his eyes to a solid pink sky with matching clouds. "Uhhh, it's getting worse!"

"Steven!" The warm, booming voice of the gem he was looking for called out.

"Bismuth! Help, something's-" When he turned, he found a three-legged beast with a rainbow mane and grey scales. "Ah! Not you too!" He stumbled backward and fell on his butt. Steven started backing up, eyes trained on the creature.

"Calm down Steven. Breathe." The monster Bismuth spoke slowly.

"Wait, what? You're… you still?"

"Uhh, yeah. Now, don't freak out but you need-" another sharp pain in his head this time, cutting through his hearing. He squeezed his eyes shut and clamped his hands on his ears. When the ringing stopped, he heard gurgling and grunts.

His eyes went wide. He tried bubbling himself again, but the pink bubble refused to form. When that didn't work, he focused on summoning his shield. It glitched in and out of existence on his arm. Before he could try something, anything else, water surrounded him.

“What? No, no no no.” The water orb he was now in spun to face a blue furry creature, one pupil-less eye staring at him. Breathing rapid, he thrashed about in the bubble, trying to punch or kick his way out. The water didn't seem fazed.

Another jolt from his gem, this one stronger than before. Steven screamed out as the world faded to black.

***

Steven with his head rolled back breathing heavily was frightening. His eyes were half-lidded, unaware of where he was. His limbs moved softly with the water he was encased in. Pearl took in the dark circles under his eyes, like when Spinel had attacked. She was doing everything to fight her urge to cradle his sleeping form.

"Okay Lapis, let's see if this'll work. Settle him down." Peridot had set up scanners around Rose's fountain and fumbled with one of them.

The waters had returned to their pink hue. The statue of Rose Quartz, former leader of the rebellion against herself, stood proud, freely weeping above them. The hedges had kept their distance still, somehow aware that they were unwelcome. It was now the dead of night, the stars blinking down on the group.

Everyone else was focused on other things, in case this wasn't enough. Garnet and Amethyst were watching the poofed gem that had attacked, waiting to question her. Bismuth was learning all she could about the weapon. Connie was with Greg, explaining what happened and, reluctantly, getting some rest. Supposedly, the Diamonds were on their way. Pearl wasn't sure if they had understood the urgency.

Pearl walked alongside the boy as he was carried towards the pool. Lapis gently placed him in the water, letting the orb be absorbed by the fountain. Pearl followed, kneeling in the water.

Steven remained still, breathing short and heavy through his mouth. Pearl held his head in her lap, keeping it out of the water. Slowly, his breathing became calmer. The dark circles faded, his cheeks back to their rosy hue.

Pearl sighed in relief. "It's working!"

Steven groaned in response, his eyes fluttering. Blinking away the sleep, he sat up. "Ugh, what happ-?" His sentence was muffled by Pearl smothering him in a hug. He continued mumbling something, but it was lost in Pearl's arms.

"Pearl, he still needs to breathe, right?" Lapis called out from behind the pair.

"Oh, right!" Pearl released her grasp, letting the boy sit up on his own. "I'm sorry Steven! I was just so worried!"

Steven chuckled easily, his smile warming her heart. He slowly got to his feet. "I'm sorry for worrying you! But, uhh, what did I do? Last I remember, you guys were- hughh." His gem started sparking electricity, causing him to shake. His eyes started tearing up as he clutched his stomach.

“No no no, Steven, what’s wrong?” Pearl grasped his shoulder, keeping him steady.

“E-everything’s glitching. Like, like before.” He coughed and gasped for air. The boy looked up into Pearl’s eyes, fear reflected in his expression.

“Before how Steven?” The gem’s voice was soft, doing her best to console him.

“Y-you’re corrupted, but not? The sky’s pink, then blue. Hughhh, not again…” Steven was now hunched over, rocking slightly.

“Sit down you clod!” Peridot called out from behind a screen.

“You need to rest.” Lapis was next to the green gem, looking over the monitors as well.

Before he could argue, Pearl gently forced him back into the pool they were standing in. His gem sparked a few more times before going silent. His breathing slowed back to a calmer pace, his eyes drooping. Pearl stroked his cheek as Steven fell asleep in her lap.

***

“What do you mean you don’t know?!” Amethyst waved her hands in annoyance. “You attack a Diamond with a weapon you don’t know anything about?!”

Her and Garnet were… asking the rogue gem a few questions, to put it nicely. They had settled into one of the houses in Little Homeworld, not wanting to cause a scene. Yes, everyone knew by now Steven had been attacked, but there were differing views on how to handle the situation. Amethyst wanted to do it her way. The fusion was holding a Nephrite by her ankles, having just shaken her.

“I didn’t grab a manual for it! I just knew it would hurt a lot!” The gem quivered in rage. “He should feel the pain I felt when my Diamond, Yellow Diamond, abandoned my colony! All because some… half gem wanted peace.”

“Bruh, that’s… insane! You passed Homeworld to get here!”

“And your point?!”

Garnet, in frustration, clamped her hand over the Nephrite’s mouth. She grumbled in response, but the words were lost.

“We can’t just let her roam around Little Homeworld,” Garnet sighed. “Got any ideas?”

“We’ll watch her. It’s the least we can do.” The commanding nephrite Steven had nicknamed “Centi” stepped forward from where she was watching from the door. Her crew followed her in, sitting at the tables and on the used couches.

Steven had helped with getting the home comforts. He had taken pride in knowing gems wanted to make their home on Earth. Had helped her in making it a home.

Amethyst and Garnet looked at each other and shrugged. “Thanks man. Hopefully, we’ll figure this mess out soon.”

Garnet released her grip, letting the rogue gem fall to the ground. All eyes were trained on her, so she just remained where she had landed.

“H-how is Steven?” Centi looked between Amethyst and Garnet, wringing her hands.

Amethyst coughed. “Eh, Steven always bounces back. Don’t sweat it, his smiley face will be walking around again in no time!” She stretched a bit, her neck cracking. “All right, thanks for babysitting. We’ll check-in later!”

Amethyst led the way out of the house. Sunlight beamed down on her, the sky clear save a cloud or two. She heard Garnet mutter something to Centi on her way out.

“So that was a waste of time…” Amethyst crossed her arms, kicking a pebble down the sidewalk. The crowd of gems from earlier had disbanded, leaving the new gem city quiet. “Do you think Bismuth’s figured out the… thing yet?”

“We’ll know when she’s found something. Now we just be there for Steven.”

“A-are you sure there aren’t other things we could do? Maybe contact homeworld or something?” The purple gem started rubbing her arms.

“We’re most needed with Steven. If you don’t want-”

“Nah, let’s go see the dude…” Amethyst led the way to the warp pad. They walked into Rose’s Garden, Garnet now leading. Amethyst noticed Peridot and Lapis were gone, doing who knows what. Pearl sat at the half-wall with Connie. Greg was in the fountain.

Pearl watched them enter, waiting for the pair to be closer. “Did she say anything?”

“Yes, but not anything useful.” Garnet crossed her arms.

Amethyst’s breath caught in her chest. She could now see Steven in Greg’s lap, sleeping. His face was scrunched in pain, his gem sparking in the water. He whined in pain every-so-often as Greg ran his fingers through his son’s hair.

It should’ve been me.

A flash of yellow light, an orb coming straight at her. No time to think, no time to act. At least on her part. A blur of pink intercepting the beam, crashing to the ground. Laughter. What was it she had said? Even with horrible aim, I still got-! Garnet hadn’t let her finish.

“Amethyst?” Pearl’s hand was on her arm now, though she doesn’t remember when it got there.

“Y-yeah?” Her eyes didn’t leave her sibling's face.

“Would you like to join me or stay here?” Pearl’s voice was soft.

“Uhh…” Amethyst broke her stare, looking at the gem in front of her. “Sure.”

When they were back in Little Homeworld, Pearl pulled her aside. “I just wanted to say that I know what you’re thinking and no, it’s not your fault.”

Amethyst stared at her, hoping her face was blank.

“It’s the Nephrite’s fault for attacking in the first place,” Pearl implored.

When Amethyst didn’t respond, Pearl grasped her shoulder. “Steven just wanted to protect you.”

“Yeah, well, he shouldn’t have. He can’t take hits like we can!” Amethyst shrugged her off. “If I had taken the hit, this mess would be done with now! He could’ve easily healed me and boom! Back in business. His human half can barely handle the corruption! What was he thinking, throwing himself in front of me!” Amethyst growled the last bit.

Pearl sighed softly. “I don’t think he was thinking.”

Amethyst deflated. Her voice turned small. “He’s going to be okay, right?”

Pearl turned away. “That’s what I keep telling myself.”

***

Pitch black darkness is supposed to be soft and warm, like falling asleep. A relief and break from whatever’s going on. From your day, your life, your mind. A small comfort of taking a moment to yourself.

But not now.

It’s suffocating, Steven’s head pounding against his skull. His stomach has gone from lurching to swinging between burning and freezing. He’s vaguely aware of someone stroking his hair, the only thing keeping him grounded.

Why… I just want this to stop…

“... At this rate, they’ll be too late!”

“Wait. We’re overthinking this. How has Steven been healing corrupted gems that we’ve been finding?”

Connie? She’s here? Steven peeled his eyes open to a dark sky full of stars. It would’ve been breathtaking if his head hadn’t started hurting more. The piercing headache started again. Blue to pink skies, glitching figures, heavy breathing.

“Duh! Someone’s asking the real questions here!”

“The- the cabinet.” Everyone turned to look at him, but he couldn’t really see who was who. A pink fog started clouding his vision.

“Steven!” The hand stroking his hair ruffled it now. “How are you feeling schtu-ball?”

Dad? Like I’m dying? Steven blinked a few times, trying to come up with a response that wouldn’t freak everyone out. That’s too dramatic. He sat up on his own, staring into the water. He honestly tried to form a word but groaned instead.

“Of course.” Garnet’s smooth voice started. “It should’ve been the first place to look…”

Steven made to get up and stumbled a bit. Almost instantaneously, he felt several hands supporting him. One on each of his arms, one on his lower back, and one on his shoulder.

“You really shouldn’t be up right now. We’ll take care of-”

“The bath. I need to…” The headache was in full force again, his skull throbbing. Short breaths in and out as instinct. His knees already felt weak.

“Steven, calm down. Deep breaths. We’ll get you there. It’s only a warp away.” Connie’s voice blanketed him, soothing his anxiety just the tiniest bit. Her body against his now, keeping him steady. “Here, I’ll help you.”

The walk was slow-going. He could barely shuffle his feet, let alone keep his balance. Connie was doing most of the work. It took them five, very long, minutes to get halfway across the fountain pavement. But it felt… right. Together. Amethyst offered to carry him. He refused, as politely as a corrupted Steven could.

Corrupted? Is that what I am? Is that what’s happening?

He cried out, losing his grip on Connie. The pink fog enveloped him.

Fire. Raging fire licked his insides from his gem. Had his knees hit the ground yet?

He started coughing, the heat rising to his chest. His ribs ached. His throat burned. His heart pounded, each beat faster than the last.

The intense pain reached his head, forcing his eyes closed. It felt like his skull was going to crack. He gripped his ears, willing it to stop.

And it did.

Panting, he let go of his head. The world slowly blinked into view.

Everything’s so… pink.

“Steven! Are-are you okay?” A girl that’s the word, right? was tightly gripping his arm. Her short black hair was tied back, away from her face. She’s pretty…

Then he focused on her words. “Who’s Steven?”

***

Of all possibilities, this one came out of left field. Sure, she had seen Steven grow horns, tails, even go full out monster in plenty of futures. There were ones where he had just slept the corruption off. There was one he had walked off the attack mid-battle. But amnesia?

They really needed a better understanding of his powers.

Garnet took deep breaths, calming Ruby’s rage and Sapphire’s confusion.

We should’ve taken the hit!

Why doesn’t he remember?

That Nephrite rogue is going to pay for this!

He didn’t fully corrupt, so what is this?

In. Out. It’s just a thought Garnet. Pull it together, for Steven.

The boy in question was still on the pavement, gazing this way and that. He was entranced by Rose’s garden. It was almost a reflection of the past. Except his eyes still had bags under them. Maybe it was her imagination, but they seemed to get darker by the second. And his pupils. Hot pink stared out.

Connie was doing her best to not freak out, answering Steven’s questions. Her eyes seemed wet.

“We still need to get him to the temple.” Garnet uncrossed her arms.

“You’re right! That’s our best chance!” Pearl stopped her shaking, steadying her stance.

Garnet approached Steven and picked him up around the waist, settling him under her arm. “Wooaahh, why are you picking me up, pink lady? Actually, everything’s pink… but why?” His laughter filled the air.

“Dude, maybe he should walk on his own?” Amethyst watched carefully, unsure how to approach.

Garnet shrugged, setting him upright again. Steven stumbled but regained his footing on his own. “Wow. Even my feet are pink!” He started balancing on one foot, trying to touch his other with his finger. His flip-flop made a squelching sound, still soaked from the fountain water.

“Ste-Steven, we need to get going now. Can you walk?” Connie placed a hand on his arm.

“Sure? I can- wait, why are you crying?” He wiped a tear from the human girl-his best friend’s face. “Did I do something? Are you hurt?”

“Uh, not me, but… someone I care about is. A lot.” Connie quickly wiped her face.

“Oh!” He furrowed his brows. “Maybe we can help them! I don’t know what I can do, but we can try, right?” His face broke into a smile.

Garnet felt her chest ache. She wasn’t sure if it was in pain or pride.

“C’mon schtu-ball, let’s get going then…” Greg spoke up, trying his best to keep a straight face.

“Schtu-ball? I thought Steven was my name?” Steven turned before Greg’s face fell. A low rumbling started. “Oh, seems like I forgot to eat…?” He chuckled with his hand on his stomach. “Wooaah! What’s this?” He lifted his shirt, showing his gem.

“Ughhh, it’s worse than we thought. He’s a real doofus now.” Garnet noticed the purple gem’s lip twitch upward.

“Amethyst! This is no time for jokes!”

“He’s the one joking!”

“Quit it you two.” Garnet hushed. “We don’t know if it’s getting worse or not,” she finished in a whisper.

So the group of six crowded the warp pad, Steven in the middle. “What’s this do?” When the warp started, he gasped. “This is so cool!” With stars in his eyes, he went to touch the warp stream, but Garnet grabbed his arm.

“That’s dangerous.” The boy retracted his arm, his eyes now downcast. Garnet sighed as the group came home.

***

The warp had definitely been exciting. Stars at his fingertips! The landing could’ve been better, but Steven giggled through it. That is until the purplish-pink girl with long hair shoved him off of her. Amethyst, right? Maybe.

When they had arrived at their destination, he thought they were in a spaceship! Futuristic screens and tablets filled the glass dome. Pink plants, a bean bag, and a pet bed with the word “Lion” were off to one side. The thin one with the jacket, Pearl? opened the door, revealing a beach.

“Where are we…?” Steven asked, stepping onto the balcony. An ocean breeze filled his lungs as the surf receded back into the ocean. The sky was changing from dark to light as he watched, indicating dawn.

“Home.” The pink man with long hair squeezed his shoulder.

The group went into a room off of the balcony through a sliding glass door. Steven glanced around, taking note of the posters on the walls. He turned to his left and noticed a couple of pictures. The first one was of the women here, smiling. The second was in a decorative frame with seashells. A younger version of the pink man was with a pink woman with large curly hair. Steven picked it up, tilting his head.

Do I… know her?

He looked over to find everyone staring. He quickly set the photo down.

“I’m… I’m going to… uh, go for a walk. Just, keep me updated will ya?” The pink man stammered before heading downstairs, not waiting for a response. A screen door creaked open and shut.

“Did I-?”

“He’ll be back, don’t worry Steven.” Garnet smiled, but her tone betrayed her confidence in the statement. “Now, let’s get you in that bath.”

“W-what?” He felt his cheeks go red. “What does that mean?!”

A hand on his own. Steven turned to find the pretty girl by his side again. “Let’s get you some food first.” A small smile. So pretty… She led him towards the stairs, the women following. “What sounds good to you?”

“Uhh, I don’t know. What do you have?” They reached the bottom, now in a living room of sorts. He slowly turned as he spoke, taking in his surroundings. The women rushed past, speaking in hushed tones. “Pizza sounds good, or even a… uhh…”

The woman from the picture again, a large portrait looming over him. His eyes locked onto the gemstone in her belly. His hand found its way to his belly button, fingers grazing the stone in his stomach. Tears welled in his eyes before streaming down his face.

“W-who is she? W-why am I crying?” The world started blurring, the pink coming in and out.

A squeeze of his hand. “That’s your mom Steven…”

Mom…? A recording, static cutting across the audio. “...that's me, loving you and loving being you.”

A sharp intake of breath. His stomach started aching as his head throbbed. “Do you need to sit down?”

“Are you remembering something?” The thin woman with a jacket looked over.

“Duh! It’s like the rejuvenator thingy! We just need to jog his memory!” The short woman with long hair called out. She definitely looked more purple now.

Rejuvenator? Pink, lots of pink. Searing hot pain, exhaustion in his bones.

“...It’s worth a shot.” The tall woman with an afro shrugged.

“Be- just be careful Amethyst. We don’t want to shock him.”

“Guys, maybe we should slow down. He hasn’t even eaten yet.” The soothing sound of the girl’s voice eased his nerves slightly. He was able to slow his breathing at least.

The purple woman started glowing, the light getting bigger. “Wh-what’s going on?!” Steven’s relative calm jumped out the window as he took in what was happening. The light shifted and morphed into a giant woman, taller than the one with the afro. As it settled, the light broke to reveal a purple version of his… mom.

A video, the women and his mom making music with the pink guy. Dad. That’s right. A flash and he’s looking in the mirror at a tall pink woman with a gem in the same place as his. Another shift and he’s throwing a football to his mom, gracefully jumping to catch it. The same purple version of her, singing on stage. Image after image, memory after memory.

It was too much, the pain in his head now sharp and stabbing. He squeezed his eyes shut, willing the pain away. It felt like he was going to split in two. Grasping his head, he managed a few words. “Please, it hurts…”

“Steven!” He felt someone grab his arm, leading him downward.

***

Slowly, his eyes fluttered open. His vision adjusted to the pink skies full of clouds above him. They were pretty, various shades fading into one another. As he took it in, he realized that the sky was made of clouds. Steven sat up, furrowing his brows. I’m… in clouds?!

He felt around where he was sitting, but it was solid. “Weird… Focus.” What was I doing? Where am I?

Who am I?

He got up and started towards a direction. Where? He had no clue. He just walked, no plan in mind.

There was nothing in the distance. The clouds were endless, like being stranded in an ocean.

Flashes, a blue-skinned woman several times. Different days though. What was her name again? He grabbed his head. “C’mon, work with me here!” His mind didn’t supply any more images or information.

“Just want some answers…” Steven grumbled under his breath.

His environment shifted into a beach, the stars blinking at him. The woman with blue skin was standing with her back to the ocean, her eyes like mirrors. “I’m Lapis Lazuli.”

Steven blinked at the sudden change. “Oh, hi! Do-do you know where we are Lapis?”

“I’m Lapis Lazuli.”

Umm, okay? He shifted in place. “Yeah, you just said that… Can you help me?”

The scene flickered, the sand shifting to pink cotton again. “Wait! No! Please!” Steven tried to grab her hand, closing the distance between them. But the woman was gone, the clouded expanse back.

Steven groaned, kicking the ground softly. It’s so lonely… He sighed, plopping onto the soft pink fluff. “I wish there was someone I could talk to…”

Clouds shifted in front of him to form a mass. The next second, a pink version of himself stepped out. Steven stared, eyes wide in shock. “A-are you me?”

The figure looked down in thought before nodding.

Steven got to his feet. “Great! So, who are we?”

His pink self considered him, furrowing his brows ever so slightly. He shrugged after some time.

Steven’s shoulders fell. “Not so great. Do you know where we are?”

The pink Steven looked Steven directly in the eye before pointing at his head.

Steven furrowed his brows now. “W-what? I don’t understand.”

The pink figure started tapping his temple now. When Steven still didn’t comprehend what he was communicating, he pressed a pink finger to Steven’s head. A slow, deliberate voice said “brain”. Realization dawned on his face.

“We’re in my mind! Woaaah! Dude! This… this is crazy!” Steven started pacing. “How is this… Does that make you my conscious?”

Again, pink Steven looked down in thought before shaking his head in “no”.

Steven stopped walking in circles. “Well, do you know how to get out? Like, into the real world?”

His doppelganger pointed behind Steven. He turned to find a door had appeared. “No memories.”

Steven turned back. “What? Then what’s the way with my memories?” But the figure had left.

The boy groaned in frustration. “I-I just want to go home!” Wherever that is…

A house materialized around him, clouds shifting into walls and floorboards. He was standing in a large room. A large window let sunlight pour in next to the front door. A painting of a pink woman hung above the entrance. The kitchen was to his left, the counters creating a U-shaped workspace. To his right was a couch and coffee table, shelves holding books and knick-knacks. Stairs close to the front door led to a loft.

Steven squinted, approaching the area. He couldn’t quite place why it felt so… familiar.

The landing had a bed and dresser, instantly telling him it was a bedroom. Floor to ceiling windows along the wall illuminated the space. A tv and gaming console were on the floor at the foot of the bed. He noticed the alarm clock on the nightstand and picked it up.

“Heh, that’s cute, shaped like-”

Tearing open an ice cream sandwich mid-song, his heart brimming with joy. “Cookie Cat! He left his family behind!” Pink light emanating from his stomach. Excited yelling filled his ears.

Steven set the clock down, his stomach glowing. “That- that’s right… that happened just over there.” He turned, looking at the fridge. “The first time my…” He pulled up his shirt. A bright pink jewel shined in the light, protruding from his stomach.

The painting. He turned to look at the portrait. The woman was honestly beautiful. Pink bouncy curls flowing down her back. Her eyes closed and her mouth set into a soft, peaceful smile. Her hands clasped gently in her lap, right below the gem. The same one in Steven’s stomach.

Mom, Rose Quartz, Pink Diamond. That’s right. His heart felt heavier as he recalled his mother’s history. But he wasn’t quite there yet, sadness and anger and all the other emotions really not within him. There was something missing.

He went back downstairs, facing the back of the house. The wood floors stopped, affixed to a stone opening. A blue crystal-like platform sat in the open space, set into the rock floor. Just beyond that was a door. It was light blue with a large white star at eye level.

He squinted. Something was telling him “that, that’s what’s missing.”

Steven approached the door, placing a hand on it. He stared at the star. “That’s not right… but why?”

He lifted his shirt again, staring at his gem. “Gems. The Crystal Gems!” He felt a sense of warmth and comfort. My family. How could I forget? The star glitched, now showing gems on the five points of the star. He sucked in a sharp breath. “That’s who Lapis was!” He chuckled, lightly tapping his forehead. “Duh!”

Steven sighed, the feeling of relief short-lived. “But who am I?”

He turned to find a girl on the couch, her hands on her knees watching him. Her brown skin told him she probably wasn’t a gem. Bandages were wrapped around her right hand and one was on her cheek. Long black curly hair flowed down her back, poofing out at the bottom. She was wearing a white shirt, a light blue skirt, and flats. Glasses hung from the front of her shirt.

“No, Steven. I understand now! Your legacy, your destiny... You are everything! ...And I... I am nothing... But I can do this for you! I can give you my service!”

“W-what? You’re not nothing! No one is! Why would I need your service?” Steven slowly approached, watching the girl’s face.

“Your Crystal Gem magical destiny! I want to help!”

“But-!” He started to get closer to eye level with her. “I don’t want you to get hurt!”

Her eyes furrowed as she stood. “But I don’t want you getting hurt either! I can protect you!”

Steven grabbed her arms, now just a little shorter than her. “I don’t want a knight Connie! I want a partner! Jam buds?”

Her eyes softened, water starting to pool. “Jam buds.” She pulled him into a hug.

Warmth, comfort, love. These surrounded Steven Quartz Universe as a blinding light consumed the pair.

***

His clothes felt tight, stuck to his skin. His finger twitched, water rippling back onto him. That’s right, we were at the fountain… Steven groaned softly.

“Steven?”

His eyes shot open. “Connie!” He sat up and the two pulled each other into a tight hug. He relished in her short curly hair tickling his face. She smelled like strawberries, or maybe that was his imagination.

A soft cough. A small voice. “Room for three more?” Steven raised his head slightly and found the gems behind Connie.

“Always.”

The group stayed like that, holding each other for dear life, for what seemed like forever. Amethyst was the first to pull away, and the others quickly followed suit.

This gave Steven a chance to actually take in his surroundings. It was a little jarring to be in his bathroom when he expected Rose’s fountain. “Wait, when did we get here?”

“You fainted in the living room. We may have… rushed things.” Pearl glanced at Amethyst.

“But we were just at the fountain? Connie was helping me to the warp…” Steven scratched his head.

“We can discuss after you get out of those clothes and have some food. They don’t look very comfortable.” Connie helped him up out of the tub and followed the gems out of the bathroom. After changing into the dry clothes sitting on the toilet seat cover, Steven followed.

Pearl was showing Connie a faster way to chop vegetables. Amethyst was raiding the fridge, settling on a carton of eggs, packaging included. Garnet sat at the bar, watching everyone with a small smile.

It was good to be back.