Steven was back on Earth from his short trip to the moon, but the strange dream he had there wouldn’t leave his mind. The thin gem approaching Pink Diamond from behind, carrying a sword… what did it mean?
Dawn had told him not to think about Pink Diamond. She had been evil, she had hurt many gems including Dawn, Sunshine and Moonlight, and also his mother. His mother had done what she had to do, so that they could be free and have a life besides fighting battles that were not theirs.
He could see the fear in her eyes every time Pink Diamond was mentioned. Dawn was the bravest person he knew, she could stay focused and strong in even the worst situations. Anyone that put such fear in her eyes scared Steven too.
Moonlight had once called Pink Diamond the “evil gem queen”, though at the time Steven didn’t know who she was talking about. He knew that she hated her, hated being made by her, hated having anything to do with her. She became a mess every time she talked about the past. Whatever had happened back then, it certainly hurt her a lot.
Sunshine barely spoke about the past at all. She simply reassured him that Pink Diamond was gone, and that she couldn’t hurt anyone anymore. That was Sunshine’s attitude towards everything about the past. Steven knew she had her wounds too, but she would always remind him - and the others - that what was done, was done.
Steven knew he wasn’t getting the whole story. But he also knew that it would be hard to get answers from the gems. It took him forever to even first hear about Pink Diamond. They would never tell him the details of what happened that day.
But the dream didn’t leave his mind! What if… what if that Zircon he met at the trial was right, and Star really wasn’t the one who shattered Pink Diamond? Who was that thin gem with the sword? And if it really wasn’t Star, then why had the gems let him believe it was?
Steven didn’t have answers, and not even the answer to how he could get those answers.
Days passed, and despite the questions running through Steven’s mind and the constant threat of the Diamonds coming back to Earth to check on the cluster and look for revenge on him/his mother, life went on. There were still occasional missions, and enough time to have fun in between them.
Steven was in his room, playing a video game, as Sunshine, Moonlight, and Dawn watched and cheered. For a moment, it was like they were back to months ago, before the threat of Homeworld.
“Just… a bit more…” Steven said, sweating as his character ran through the screen.
“Go, Steven! Go, Steven!” Moonlight cheered.
“You can do it!” Sunshine said.
“It’s your chance!” Dawn said.
Steven pressed the jump button… only to watch his character fall into the dark abyss.
The defeat hit not only Steven, but the three gems as well.
“Better luck next time,” Dawn said, standing up.
“It’s Sun’s turn. Wait a minute, I will go get a snack.” Moonlight said, jumping to the living room and then heading to the kitchen.
Steven gave the controller to Sunshine. His eyes landed on his mother’s portrait, which brought his suspicions back. Sunshine was the least sentimental of the gems, maybe he could try asking her?
“Hey, Sunshine… you know when you guys told me about P-” But he didn’t get to finish his questions, as he noticed Lion chewing one of his t-shirts. “Hey! Lion! Bad Lion, bad Lion!”
He tried to grab the t-shirt from the feline, who pulled it back. They both pulled for a few minutes, until Steven finally managed to free his cloth.
“Stop chewing my things!” Steven scolded.
Lion growled playfully and jumped to try and take the t-shirt back. Dawn managed to lift Steven out of the way.
“He’s getting more and more disobedient,” Steven said.
“Why don’t you keep your shirt somewhere he can’t reach?” Dawn suggested, thinking of this as a nice chance to get Steven to clean his room.
Steven, however, had other ideas. “His mane.” He jumped down, diving into Lion’s mane.
“He’s getting good at it.” Moonlight said, biting an apple.
Dawn just rolled her eyes.
Steven climbed the tree inside Lion’s mane and placed his t-shirt on one of the branches. He looked forward, where a younger tree was. Thinking of Lars was always bittersweet these days.
He moved to get down, but the branch broke and he fell right on the pink bubble floating near Star’s belonging. It popped, freeing the oval, white gem inside.
Steven’s eyes widened as he left the magical dimension.
“I’ve made a horrible mistake!” He shouted, getting the attention of the three gems.
“What mistake?” Dawn asked.
“I… I can fix it!” Steven jumped back into Lion’s mane.
He just needed to bubble the gem again. No big deal. Except that when he reached for it, it started glowing and reforming. This seemed really bad.
At least she didn’t seem to be corrupted. Still, Steven was so afraid that the moment her eyes landed on him, he left the dimension again.
“There’s a gem in Lion’s mane!”
Sunshine threw the controller on Steven’s bed and jumped to join the others in front of Steven.
“A gem?” She asked.
“What is she like?” Dawn asked.
Steven opened his mouth, but realized he didn’t pay much attention. He jumped back into Lion’s mane to take a good look.
“She’s kinda tall, but not as tall as you.” He explained. “She’s very thin, and pale, and… she has a transparent thing over her clothes?”
The gems exchanged a strange look.
“What is her gem like?” Moonlight asked.
“Oval and white,” Steven said. “On her forehead.”
Moonlight’s eyes became teary.
“It can’t be…” Dawn said, raising a hand to her mouth.
“Steven, bring her out,” Sunshine said.
Steven nodded, and jumped into Lion’s mane again.
The gem looked around confused, until she spotted him.
“Wait!” She shouted. “I, uh, could use some help. What is this place?”
Even if he could speak there, Steven wouldn’t know how to answer. So he simply reached out his hand to her.
The gem hesitated for a moment before taking it. As she did, Steven pulled her out of Lion’s mane.
The first thing her eyes met as she landed on Steven’s house was Dawn’s eyes, as she was the gem right in front of her. But it was Moonlight the first one to react.
“Pearl!” She shouted, throwing herself into the smaller gem’s arms.
The gem, Pearl, let Moonlight pick her up in a tight hug. “Moonlight… it’s good to see you.”
“It’s really you!” Sunshine exclaimed as she joined the hug.
“Unbelievable,” Dawn said, a smile growing on her face.
“You all know her?” Steven asked, confused as always.
Moonlight and Sunshine freed Pearl from their hug.
“It is me.” She said. “Sunshine. Dawn.” She greeted.
“Where have you been all this time?” Dawn asked.
“You were gone for so long, we thought Homeworld had gotten you,” Sunshine said, voice sad.
Pearl laughed, but something about it sounded off to Steven. “Please. There isn’t a gem in Pink Diamond’s army who could lay a hand on me.”
Steven scratched his head. “Guys… what’s going on?”
All four gems turned to him, as if only now they remembered he was there.
“Steven, this is Pearl.” Sunshine introduced her. “She was one of the first Crystal Gems. Pearl, this is Steven. He’s one of us.”
“We recruit humans now?” Pearl asked in a half-whisper, not silent enough for Steven not to listen.
“It’s a long story,” Sunshine said.
Pearl shrugged and smiled at Steven. “Hello, Steven?” the way she pronounced his name was a little odd, but it was not the strangest way he had ever heard it.
“Nice to meet you, Pearl. So, are you a Pearl or is your name Pearl?” Steven had to ask. He knew gems didn’t usually have names, but if Pearl was a Crystal Gem maybe she did.
“Both.” She explained. “I am a Pearl, but I chose my name to be Pearl. It has quite an effect, you know?” She laughed a bit. Steven laughed too, though he had no idea of what she meant.
“And what an effect!” Moonlight said, excited. She put an arm around Pearl’s shoulder. “You had to see the faces of the Homeworld soldiers when they saw her coming to battle!”
That… was probably the first positive thing Moonlight ever said about war events. Steven was happy to hear it.
“I was nothing compared to the Rose Squad!” Pearl said.
“Rose Squad?” Steven asked.
“The three of us and Star.” Dawn explained. When did she stand so close to Steven?
Out of the gems, she was the one who seemed less excited about Pearl. Dawn was normally quieter in her emotions, but this was strange. Moonlight and Sunshine seemed about to throw a party, but Dawn was serious and a bit tense. Steven wanted to ask why, but when he made eye contact with her, she shook her head slightly.
“I wish Star was here to see this!” Sunshine said.
At the mention of her, Pearl’s cheeks turned a light shade of teal.
“Where is Star?” She asked.
It was Steven’s turn to blush. “Well, I… I am her son. She gave me her gem, so I’m kinda her, but kinda not?”
“Steven has Star’s gem and her powers.” Dawn explained. “But he’s also someone completely different.”
Steven raised his t-shirt, showing his gem to Pearl. She gasped loudly.
“That’s really her. But… how?”
Moonlight shrugged. “You know how Star was…”
“We don’t always understand Star’s choices,” Sunshine said. “But we have to stand behind them.”
Pearl closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Of course.” With a serene smile, she turned back to Steven. “I suppose you don’t remember anything about me?”
Steven shook his head. “No. I’m sorry.”
“It’s alright.” Pearl’s smile grew. “I’m sure Star had a bigger plan for all of us!”
Steven smiled back at her. He used to believe so too, but recently he had his doubts.
“So, what are we up to now?” Pearl asked, growing excited. “What’s our status?”
Sunshine and Moonlight exchanged a worried look, and so did Steven and Dawn.
“There’s something you should see first,” Sunshine said. She pointed to the warp pad and walked to it, Pearl and Moonlight following.
Steven took a step towards them but Dawn placed a hand on his shoulder. “We’re right behind you.”
Sunshine nodded, and warped the trio.
“What’s wrong, Dawn?” Steven asked.
“Nothing is wrong. I hope.” Dawn shook her head. “This is just strange. Pearl used to be Star’s right-hand gem. Why did Star never tell us she was still alive?”
Steven shrugged. “Maybe she didn’t know?” She was in a pink bubble before he popped it. Maybe Star thought she was corrupted.
Dawn shook her head. “Steven, I want you to be very careful around her. At least until we figure this all out.”
“Do you think… she could be dangerous?”
“She was the most skilled sword fighter in the Crystal Gems,” Dawn said. “Yes, more than me.” She anticipated Steven’s question. “Hopefully this won’t be a worry. But it’s still good to be careful.”
Steven nodded. Then he took her hand, and walked with her to the warp pad.
They warped to the strawberry battlefield. In front of the warp pad, Sunshine and Moonlight patted the back of a crying Pearl. They probably had told her about the end of the war.
“How can you go on after all of this happened?” Pearl asked, turning to Dawn.
Dawn walked to her. “We fought hard for the life we have now. We won’t let anyone take it away.”
“And now you get to have this life too,” Sunshine said.
“We’re all free. And we are together.” Moonlight said.
Pearl wiped her tears and nodded. “I’m ready! I can face whatever Homeworld throws at us. For you guys, and for him.” She looked at Steven.
The way she spoke made Steven a bit uncomfortable. They had just met, yet she was serious. She meant it. He brushed it off as being wartime mentality.
Steven watched in fascination as Pearl and Sunshine spared. They were at the Sky Arena, and he sat on the audience with Moonlight and Dawn.
“Homeworld makes Pearls to be servants,” Pearl explained, as she blocked Sunshine’s punches with her spear. “We are supposed to just obey orders. But then I met Star, and she taught me I could be anything I wanted.”
She found an opening, and managed to hit Sunshine.
“And you wanted to be a fighter?” Steven asked.
Sunshine got up and raised her fist, but was once again blocked by Pearl.
“I’m more than a fighter, Steven. I am a knight.” Her moves were precise. “Ever since I met Star, I gave all I have for her, and for our cause.”
Sunshine aimed another punch with her left hand, covered by her harness, but at the last second, she hit with her left hand, taking Pearl by surprise. She managed to hit her torso.
Pearl fell backward, but she smiled.
“You inspired quite a few gems on your own,” Sunshine said, reaching out her hand to her friend.
“But I wouldn’t be here without Star,” Pearl said, taking it and dusting herself. “Strong as always, Sunshine.”
“Who’s next?” Pearl asked. “Moonlight?”
Moonlight raised both her hands. “I pass.”
“I will fight you,” Dawn said, standing up.
Pearl’s smile grew as she dissipated her spear, and took a sword from her gem. Like Star’s sword, it was not her summoned weapon, but a physical sword that she somehow kept in her gem.
Dawn summoned her own sword, as Sunshine joined Steven and Moonlight in the audience.
“This will be good,” Sunshine said.
Pearl and Dawn positioned themselves, in silence, and greeted each other with a bow before starting.
Steven soon understood why Sunshine said that. This was a whole different level from the lessons Dawn gave Connie. Their inhumane strength and speed made the fight seem like it was something from a movie, except real. He was amazed.
(Dawn certainly wasn’t lying when she said Pearl was the best sword fighter in the Crystal Gems, but she forgot to mention she was very close.)
“Were Dawn and Pearl close back then?” Steven asked. He was still worried about the way Dawn acted earlier, and about what she told him. Yet, as intense as their fighting was, he didn’t feel like they were enemies.
“In their own way,” Sunshine said.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, they… they always had a lot more in common than they realized,” Sunshine explained. “So their personalities clashed at times. But they did care a lot for each other.”
“They were like two lovesick fools.” Moonlight said, shaking her head with a nostalgic smile.
Steven gasped. Dawn, in love?
“It was like they were always competing for her attention.” Sunshine agreed.
“Well… Star.” Sunshine said.
“Oh,” Steven said, looking at the two of them in a different way.
But then he noticed something. He had a perfect side view of Pearl, and her silhouette, the way her hair curled at the back… it was all strangely familiar.
Steven spent the whole day avoiding thinking about what he noticed when Dawn and Pearl spared. Pearl was just so nice, and cool, and Sunshine and Moonlight seemed to love her, and even Dawn warmed up after the sparing. But he closed his eyes and saw the silhouette from his dream, and how perfectly it fit Pearl’s.
It didn’t necessarily mean anything. He wasn’t sure the gem from his dream had done anything wrong, and even if she had, there were lots of gems who looked alike. That may not even be Pearl. Look at his mother and Dawn!
Everything was strange, and Steven wanted to talk with Dawn about it, alone.
The rest of the day consisted of Steven introducing many Earth activities to Pearl. She enjoyed card games (and proved to be very good at them once she learned the rules) and beach volleyball (though she played in a way that would not be accepted in a regular human match), but didn’t want to try any food. Steven wanted to enjoy himself, but he couldn’t help feeling uneasy, and he got a feeling Pearl was not completely comfortable either. If the rest of the gems noticed it, they didn’t show. They were just so happy to have their old friend there.
The day ended with them watching a movie in Steven’s room.
“I am sorry, Henry,” said the lady on screen. “I can’t marry you.”
“Why not, Janet?” asked a man, eyes teary. “I love you so much!”
“We are not meant to be,” the lady replied.
Steven heard a sob. He turned around to see Pearl crying.
“Why does she have to leave?”
“It’s just a movie, Pearl.” Moonlight said. “It’s meant to entertain.”
“What’s entertaining about heartbreak?”
“Humans are weird sometimes.” Sunshine shrugged.
Steven turned the TV off. “I think we should try an action movie next time. Or something else with less… crying.”
Pearl nodded, as she wiped her eyes. “For what I see, Earth has become a rather interesting place.”
“You haven’t seen half of it!” Moonlight said.
“I look forward to it.” Pearl smiled.
“It will have to wait until tomorrow, though,” Dawn said. “It’s Steven’s bedtime.”
“Aaah,” Steven whined.
It was no use. Dawn was very strict about him keeping to his bedtime. He said goodnight to the gems and headed to bed.
Some hours later, he woke up needing some water. It was still dark outside. As he stood up, he heard a low humming. Using his phone to light the way without turning the lights on, he soon saw that Pearl was in the living room, staring up at his mother’s portrait, and humming.
“Pearl?” He called.
She turned at him, blushing. “Steven! I’m sorry, did I disturb you?”
“No, no,” Steven said. “Why are you here all alone?”
“Uh, the others showed me the temple.” She said, looking down. “But it didn’t feel right for me to invade their space like that. So I told them I would try sleeping here.”
“It didn’t work?”
“I’m not really good at this stuff.” She sighed.
“It’s alright,” Steven said, walking to the kitchen to get his water. “Moonlight loves human stuff like eating and sleeping, but Sunshine and Dawn almost never do it.”
As he got back to the living room, Pearl showed him a shy smile.
She was really nice. How could he be suspicious of her?
“Pearl, can I ask you a question?”
“Of course.” She said.
“How… how did you end up in Lion’s mane? What happened?”
Pearl closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I suppose Star put me there.”
“I don’t know.” Pearl sighed. “The last thing I remember was Star stabbing me in the chest. I thought you might know, but…”
Steven opened his mouth, horrified at the idea of his mother poofing a friend. “Did you two fight?”
“No! I would never do anything to displease her!”
Steven felt his eyes getting teary. “I don’t understand…”
“We don’t always understand Star’s choices,” Pearl said. “But we have to stand behind them.”
“You are not mad at her?”
“Of course not.” Pearl smiled. “I’m sure she had a good reason. I have a few suspicions of what it might be, but…”
“She poofed and bubbled you! And kept you hidden in Lion’s mane! You would still be there if I hadn’t accidentally fallen on your bubble!” Steven was really upset over all of this. Why wasn’t Pearl upset? “Friends don’t do that to friends!”
“Steven… you really don’t know, do you? About me and Star.”
“No one really told me anything about you before yesterday.” He wiped his eyes, but more tears fell.
Pearl silently invited him to sit by her side.
“Star had some secrets she couldn’t tell Sunshine, Moonlight, and Dawn.”
“I don’t know any lion,” Pearl said. “But back then, I was the only one who knew of them. I… if you don’t know, I may still be the only one who knows. I wonder if she would want you to know…”
“I don’t know.” Steven sighed. “I never met her, but she left a tape for me in Lion’s mane. She didn’t talk about any secret.”
Pearl became thoughtful. “She left a message for you in the same place I was?”
Steven nodded. “She left a bunch of her stuff there too.”
“Can anyone else access that place?”
“I don’t think so. It seems to only open for me.”
Pearl nodded. “Maybe… maybe she meant for you to find me.”
“Maybe?” Steven shrugged. He thought he knew his mother, but the more he learned, the more she became a stranger.
“And I’m the only one who knows… That’s it! Star knew she wouldn’t be able to meet you to tell you! That’s why she put me there! So I could tell you!”
“Tell me what?”
“Steven, have you heard of Pink Diamond?”
Oh, that. Steven felt something inside of him. Maybe he didn’t want to know.
“Yeah. Mother… shattered her.”
“You don’t know,” Pearl said in a slightly sad tone. “Star was-”
“Wait!” Steven interrupted her. “If you are going to tell me one of Star’s secrets, you have to tell the other gems too.”
Pearl frowned. “I don’t know if I should…”
“Sunshine, Moonlight, and Dawn are my family, Pearl. And they were Star’s family too. And she may have been the type of person to keep secrets from her family, but I am not! Whatever it is, I want them to know too.”
Pearl nodded. “As you wish.”
“It’s still late,” Steven said. “I should probably try to get some sleep. You can try it too, if you want. Tomorrow morning, you tell us.”
Pearl nodded again. “Goodnight, Steven.”
Of course Steven couldn’t sleep any more that night. More than once, he almost jumped out of his bed to ask Pearl to tell him already, but he really didn’t want to face whatever reality she was to show him alone.
Most of all, he wondered what sort of secret was worth bubbling a friend over. The idea that his mother kept Pearl trapped for so long just so she could tell it to him one day was too weird. Why couldn’t she just record another tape or leave a coded letter or, better yet, tell the other gems at once?
The morning took an eternity to come, but it was finally there. Steven and the gems were sitting in the living room, Pearl included.
“Have you eaten breakfast?” Dawn asked.
Steven couldn’t even think about food at the moment, anxious as he was about what Pearl would reveal. “Yeah.” He lied.
“What is this super important meeting about?” Sunshine asked.
Steven took a deep breath. “I talked to Pearl last night, and she thinks Mom may have wanted her to tell us one of her secrets.”
The atmosphere grew heavier, and all eyes were on Pearl.
“I’m not really sure…” Pearl said, fidgeting. “But nothing else makes sense. If she wanted me to keep this secret, she could have ordered me to… or kept me somewhere no one would find. There must be a reason why she left me in a bubble together with the things she left for Steven!”
“Ordered?” Moonlight frowned.
“Bubble?” Dawn squinted.
“I have been thinking about this since Steven freed me. I think this is what Star meant to happen. She wanted me to be here to tell him when the right time came!” Pearl smiled, seemingly not realizing how tense everyone else in the room was.
“Tell him… what?” Dawn asked.
“About Star.” Pearl raised her hand to her chest. “She wasn’t a Rose Quartz like you guys. She was Pink Diamond.”
It was impossible to say who shouted first, or if all three Rose Quartzes shouted together. Steven just grabbed his gem under his t-shirt, too shocked to make a sound. His mind was racing, as he reviewed everything he knew about his mother and everything he knew about Pink Diamond. He just vaguely heard what happened around him.
“What nonsense is this, Pearl?” Dawn asked, her tone harsh.
“It’s true!” Pearl said. “Pink Diamond was the gem I served before the war. That’s how we met!”
“Pink Diamond wanted to destroy Earth.” Moonlight said, her voice cracking. “She wanted us to be her mindless soldiers.”
Pearl shook her head. “She didn’t. She wanted the Earth to be free, and you all as well…”
“Star shattered Pink Diamond,” Sunshine said, firm but not unkind. “There were witnesses.”
“We made it seem so.” Pearl stood up, and started projecting a scene with her gem. “I shape-shifted as Star’s rebel form and used her sword.”
Steven didn’t see the scene, but he heard the gems gasping.
“No… this makes no sense…” Dawn said.
“It’s true,” Steven said. “I had another of those strange dreams when I met Lapis at the Moon Base. I saw the shadows of the Diamonds… and I saw her shadow.” He pointed to Pearl, who looked at him in amazement. “She was with Pink Diamond, and she was carrying Mom’s sword.”
“Steven… why didn’t you tell us?” Dawn asked.
“I didn’t know what it meant!” Steven cried. “And you guys were always so upset when I asked about Pink Diamond. I thought…” He shook his head. “I thought you were hiding something from me. Again. But you guys didn’t know…” He took a moment to look at each of their faces. They were just as shocked as him, and much more upset. “Those dreams… they aren’t really dreams, are they? They’re memories. Her memories. That’s why I have been seeing them.”
“You have entered the minds of other gems and even humans before,” Sunshine argued.
“But if Pink Diamond is really gone, then how could I be able to enter her mind?” Steven asked.
Sunshine looked like she would answer that, but she paused and closed her mouth.
Moonlight groaned loudly, eyes teary. “She lied to us! Everything was a flipping lie!”
“Language,” Dawn said, as she covered her eyes with her hand. “For how long have you known, Steven?” She didn’t sound like she was accusing him, but she did sound disappointed.
“I didn’t know!” Steven cried. “I told you guys about all the other dreams I had! I had no idea what they meant until now!”
“He had no way of knowing,” Sunshine said. “No one had any way of knowing. Star made sure of it. Right, Pearl?”
Pearl shyly nodded. “I know this sounds bad, but if you let me explain-”
“I don’t want an explanation!” Moonlight shouted, running to the front door.
Pearl followed her with her eyes.
Steven looked at Dawn, who shook her head. “I need some time.” With that, she walked to the warp pad and left.
His eyes went to Sunshine.
“This is so messed up.” She mumbled.
“I swear I can explain it!” Pearl insisted.
“It’s alright, Pearl. You don’t need to. None of this is your fault.” Sunshine said. She then noticed Steven’s face. “It’s not your fault either, Steven. And they know it. They just need some time to process this… this whole mess.” She sighed.
“What about you?” Steven asked.
“I’m fine.” She brushed him off. “What about you?” She kneeled down in front of him.
“Me?” Steven wiped his eye.
“Star is your mother. How do you feel about all of this?”
“I’m… not sure?” Steven said.
Sunshine nodded. “Know what? I am gonna bring you some donuts! Then we can laugh at all of this.”
With that, she stood up and walked to the door. Steven called her but she didn’t look back.
“Ugh, I hate it when she does this!”
“Does what?” Pearl asked.
“Treat me like a child. She never talks to me about anything important because she thinks I can’t take it. But I can!” His voice lowered. “I can.”
“It’s not your fault,” Steven said.
“No, I mean, for all of this!” Pearl explained. “This is all my fault. I should have kept my mouth shut. Now everyone is hurting.”
“They’re not hurting because you told them. They are hurting because Mom lied.”
“I lied to them too,” Pearl said in a sad tone. “I helped cover for Star. I… I care about them too, Steven. They are my friends. And Star cared too! It was not supposed to be like this.”
“How was it supposed to go? Did you think they would be happy to hear this?”
“No, no…” Pearl shook her head. “But… ugh, if Star was here she would know what to do!”
Steven clenched his fists. “That’s what I think every time something bad happens.” He said, voice low. “I always think that she would be able to fix everything if she was here. But she’s not! And this is something that she messed up in first place. She’s not here. There’s only me.” He was crying again.
“Us,” Pearl said, shyly.
“There’s only us. I know we barely know each other, but we are on the same team now, right?”
“Yeah,” Steven said, lips curling up slightly. “We can fix this, right?”
“Yes!” Pearl stood up. “Do you have any idea where they could be?”
“I think I know where Dawn is.”
5,300 years before
Dawn watched with an unreadable expression as Bismuth, the Blacksmith gave her a demonstration of her new weapon.
“So? What do you think?” Bismuth asked.
“Who else have you showed this to?” Dawn asked instead.
“You’re the first.”
“Did you want a test run before showing it to Star?” She lightly teased. Bismuth just laughed. “Your work is… impressive, but I don’t think we can use this.”
“Huh? Did you even hear anything I said? With this, we can shatter Pink Diamond! She will be gone, forever!”
“I heard it. But what good would it be for us?”
“With Pink Diamond gone, the Earth would be free! We would be free!”
“We would be doomed!” Dawn said. “Even if we can get near enough to Pink Diamond to use this, which would be a challenge of its own, there are still three other Diamonds who will never set foot on this planet.”
“We will deal with it later. With Earth free, the next logical step is to free Homeworld.” Bismuth argued.
“We don’t have the numbers.”
“More gems will join us!”
“Do you think we will have the time? With Pink Diamond gone, what reason will the other Diamonds have not to blow this whole planet up?”
“There is nothing here that is worth it to them.” Dawn continued. “A bunch of defective gems, a few abandoned structures, and an infestation of organics. The only reason why they are even engaging in this war is Pink Diamond’s pride. If we shattered her, they would want to set an example for the rest of the Empire.”
“You are right.” Bismuth said, placing her weapon on a workbench. “But then… how can we win?”
“I’m sure Star has a plan.”
“Star’s plan is to keep fighting until they give up. But they won’t give up, will they? Even if they do, it doesn’t mean they would leave us alone.”
Dawn thought about it. She couldn’t see an easy way out, but she really believed that Star had a bigger plan, something she would reveal only when the time came. Star was a better strategist than any of them were, and she showed a knowledge of how Pink Diamond’s court worked that was a key in their victories.
“The Diamonds can’t target the whole planet if Pink Diamond is here. It would endanger her.”
“Do you think they care?” Bismuth asked, skeptic. “Would an attack from them even damage one of their own?”
“I’m… not sure.” Dawn said. “But they didn’t attack yet. And I bet the war already costed more than it’s worth it.”
“Let’s just keep this a secret between the two of us for now.” Dawn pointed to Bismuth’s weapon. “If the situation changes, we show it to Star.”
Bismuth agreed. Dawn didn’t have to tell her the other reason she was reluctant in following her plan: she knew Star would never accept it. Many others of theirs would also be uncomfortable at the idea. That could divide the Crystal Gems. It would only weaken them more.
(It wasn’t important that Dawn herself was uncomfortable with the idea of shattering a gem, even if it was Pink Diamond.)
However, just a few weeks later, the news came to the camp that Star had gone and done it herself. She hadn’t told anyone about her plans, not even her fellow Rose Quartzes, who were so close and almost blindly loyal to her.
As confused feelings took over the camp, the Blacksmith pulled Dawn for a talk in private.
“Do you still think Star has a plan?”
Dawn was torn. She wanted to believe it, but it was hard to imagine what it could be when Star had done something that went so against everything she defended so far. She didn’t know what to say.
“It doesn’t matter.” Bismuth shook her head. “Plan and no plan, we can’t follow Star anymore. She is a liar.”
“They said she used her sword, right? That’s bullshit.” Dawn flinched at the crude human term. “I made that sword, and I know it can’t shatter a gem. No weapon I made for the Crystal Gems can. Star herself wanted it that way. She wanted a fair fight.”
Dawn knew that to be true.
“I don’t know what she did, or what is even going on, I just know that I don’t like it.” Bismuth added.
“I’m sure there’s some good explanation…” Dawn said.
“I don’t care! She lied to us, who can say she won’t lie again? I can’t trust her anymore, Dawn. And I can’t follow a leader I can’t trust.”
Dawn nodded. She got it, she really did. But she still wanted to believe Star. The things Star told her meant a lot for her, and to admit that she could be a liar would be to admit that the very basis on which Dawn built her own self could also be a lie, and what did it make her?
Steven was right. Dawn was in the kindergarten, kicking and breaking rocks in frustration. It was messy and so unlike Dawn.
“Steven! Pearl!” Her face took a deep shade of pink as she saw them. “What are you doing here?”
“We were looking for you!” Steven said. “Pearl wants to tell you the whole story about Mom.”
Dawn lowered her eyes. “I’ve heard enough.”
“I know it sounds bad, but you need to listen to me,” Pearl said. “You need to know who she really was!”
“She was a liar!” Dawn shouted. “Do you remember the things she used to say to us… to me?”
“She meant all of it, Dawn,” Pearl said. “She had to keep her identity a secret, but she was as honest as she could be!”
“You don’t get it,” Dawn said in a defeated tone, before kicking another rock. “I knew something was wrong. Even back then. I knew it but I never questioned her. I trusted her! I trusted that she was doing what was best for us all. But she never trusted me.”
“Didn’t she make you the leader after she left?” Pearl pointed.
“I risked my life for her. I used to pretend to be her on the battlefield to distract the enemy! And she wasn’t even in any real danger!”
“She always told you not to do that! You were the one who wouldn’t listen!”
Dawn was quiet for a moment. Finally, she sat down on the ground. Pearl and Steven followed.
“She could have chosen any form,” Dawn whispered. “Why did she have to look so much like me?”
“That… was my fault,” Pearl said. “But it wasn’t on purpose. You hadn’t even emerged yet back then…”
Pearl then told the story of how Pink Diamond got her second identity. Steven and Dawn listened carefully, learning a side of Star they had never known. When she got to the part when Star made her famous speech, the one that made Dawn and the others join her, Dawn was able to fill in the blanks in the story she knew.
“Star was very proud of you. Of all three of you.” Pearl said.
“Huh?” Dawn asked, curious but still clearly hurt.
“Rose Quartzes are the only gem type made entirely by her. She had all these ideas of what you would be like… and you turned out nothing like it. She loved it!” Pearl said with a fond smile. “She realized later that every gem was an individual, but the first noticed it thanks to you, because she knew you all so closely and she knew how you were, for lack of a better word, supposed to be. A soldier who didn’t want to fight, a soldier who would rather create than destroy… a knight who chose who she would fight for.”
“Did I really choose anything?” Dawn said. “I still was fighting for my Diamond the whole time.”
“But you didn’t know who she was!” Pearl argued.
“Besides, was it really about Mom, or was it about the ideas she taught you?” Steven said. “I know you truly cared about her, but she didn’t make you who you are, Dawn. You did!”
Dawn thought for a moment. “Yeah. You are right.” A small smile appeared on her face. “Thanks, Steven.”
Steven smiled back at her. “Do you feel better?”
Dawn nodded. “I still need some time to process all the implications of this, but I will be alright.”
Dawn decided to stay a little longer in the kindergarten, but Steven and Pearl went back to the temple.
“Moonlight went to the city…” Steven said.
“She always liked hanging out with humans,” Pearl commented, in a strange tone.
“Could it be…?” Steven had a guess of which human she could be with.
He was right. When Steven and Pearl arrived at the car wash, they saw Moonlight and Greg sitting on the van’s back, a box of pizza between them, and a guitar on each lap.
Steven kinda expected Moonlight to still be crying, considering how upset she was when she ran off the temple. Instead, she had a serene expression.
“Hey, Steven, Pearl!” She greeted them. “Greg, this is the gem I talked about!”
Greg smiled. “Nice to meet you, Pearl. Moonlight said nice things about you.”
He extended her a hand, but Pearl just stared at it.
“Nice to meet you… human.”
“Greg is Steven’s Dad!” Moonlight explained. “You know, his other parent?”
“Isn’t Steven Star’s son?” Pearl asked.
“It takes two to make a human baby!” Steven said, chuckling.
“I can remind you of the specifics if you want.” Moonlight said in a teasing tone.
She managed to make not only Pearl, but everyone present blush.
“T-there’s no need to!” Pearl said.
“We wanted to check if you are okay…” Steven said. “Because of what happened back home.” He gave an uneasy look at his Dad. He should tell him soon.
“Oh, right.” Moonlight said. “That was super messed up. But I’m fine now. I was talking to Greg about it and he helped me regain my cool.”
“Really?” Steven looked at Greg. “So, you know about Mom…?”
“Yeah.” Greg chuckled.
“And you’re okay?” Steven asked.
“I always knew there where parts of Star’s life that I didn’t know. And it never mattered to me. What mattered to me was who she was in the present. And she was a wonderful person.” He chuckled again. “She never told me she used to be Pink Diamond, and I never told her I used to be Gregory Demayo.”
Steven smiled. Pearl looked at Greg as if he was the strangest creature she had ever seen.
“But it’s gotta be a different story for the gems,” Greg added, placing a hand on Moonlight’s shoulder. “Star made them, so it’s a bit like she was their mother?” He looked at Moonlight for confirmation.
“Just a little bit.” Moonlight said.
“Luckily I know a thing or two about being disappointed by your parents.”
Wish you would teach me these things. Steven thought, and then he mentally scolded himself. He wasn’t disappointed by his mother… just a little bit. But it was not the time.
“I am still very upset at what she did.” Moonlight said. “But Greg is right. She is not here anymore. She doesn’t get to tell me what to do or who to be. I really can be whatever I want!”
“And what do you want to be?” Steven asked.
“Glad you asked!” Moonlight said, eyes glowing. “I want to be me! Moonlight! A Rose Quartz that protects Earth, and parties with humans, and who doesn’t fight unless it’s to protect my friends!”
Steven chuckled. “But you’re already you!”
“Right! And not even Pink Diamond could make me be someone else!”
Steven was very pleased with this outcome. He hugged Moonlight and his Dad, and ate a slice of pizza. This day was tiring and it was only lunchtime. They offered Pearl a slice too, but she politely declined.
Steven left Moonlight and Greg to continue what they were doing (apparently Greg was teaching Moonlight to play the guitar), and pulled Pearl to the temple.
“I’m glad everything ended up alright!” Pearl said. “You are great at conflict resolution, Steven!”
“Thanks,” Steven replied. “But it’s not over yet. There is still one gem to talk to.”
As he expected, Sunshine was in the living room, holding a paper bag.
“I brought the donuts.” She said, looking unbothered by how long Steven took to come back.
“Sunshine… We need to talk. About Mom.”
“Right,” Sunshine said. “Tell me how you’re feeling.” Steven blinked. “No. I want you to tell me how you’re feeling.”
“I told you, I’m fine!” Sunshine insisted. “Don’t worry about me.”
“I know you’re not fine! Why do you keep pushing me away, Sunshine? After everything we went through, do you still think I am just a child who can’t understand?”
“No!” Sunshine was quick to say. “I know you are a mature young man who sees a lot more than he seems to! Really! I just… don’t want to throw another problem at you.”
She sighed. Steven looked up at her with teary eyes.
“Yeah, I am upset. So what? I am a grown-up, I can deal with it. You shouldn’t have to take this burden with me. You have your feelings too and damn, Star was your Mom! This all gotta feel much worse for you.” Sunshine was also teary as she finished.
“Moonlight said she is a little bit like your Mom too,” Steven said, letting the tears fall freely. “It’s okay to be upset. Because since forever you believed that she was this wonderful, flawless being, and only now you are learning who she really was. And everyone always said you were so much like her, and you don’t even know if this is a good thing anymore.”
“Steven…” Sunshine brought a hand to her mouth.
“And everything you knew about yourself is a lie, and you don’t even know if your family is still your family, because you thought you were like them but now you know you are not!”
Sunshine kneeled down and hugged Steven, as he cried more and more.
“I liked being a Rose Quartz like you guys.” He said, between sobs. “I liked having something in common with you.”
“We are still a family, even if you are different from us,” Sunshine reassured him.
“Really?” He asked, parting from her arms to look into her eyes.
“Really,” Sunshine said. “Besides, it’s like Moonlight said. Star was a little bit like our Mom.” She made a face at her own words.
Steven chuckled a bit despite his tears. “This is so weird.”
“It is.” Sunshine agreed, chuckling too. “But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter who she was, or what she is to us. All that matters is that we are a family.” She turned to look at Pearl, who watched silently. “And you too.”
“Me?” Pearl asked, blushing.
Sunshine stood up. “What Star did to you was awful.” Pearl opened her mouth to protest, but Sunshine didn’t let her. “You are free now. You don’t need to live in her shadow anymore. But, independently of what you decide to do from now on, you can always be a part of our family.” She extended her hand.
“I would be honored to,” Pearl said, taking it.
Steven was quick to hug her.
Pearl was outside, stargazing. After hearing from all three Rose Quartzes and Steven that what Star had done to her was horrible, despite feeling herself that it was okay, she had a lot to think about. She had been so proud of fighting for her freedom and she didn’t want to think that she had only been a puppet in the hands of the one she loved, but worse than that being the truth would be for it to be the truth and she be blind to it.
That was a long story that was far from being over, but Pearl was taking the first steps by thinking critically about everything.
Meanwhile, Steven and the other gems were inside, drinking hot chocolate and sharing a calm moment after the intense emotions of the day. They talked about Star, because it was impossible not to after everything.
“We all agree that she was selfish and what she did to Pearl was awful,” Dawn said. “But I think she really believed what she fought for.”
“I don’t care what believed.” Moonlight said. “I know that I believe what we fight for.”
Sunshine raised her cup in agreement, imitating what she saw in a movie. “We will never get to hear her side of the story. We will never get to know who she really was.” Her voice was sad.
“I am thankful to her,” Steven said, attracting curious looks from everyone. “If it wasn’t for her, none of us would be here. Literally.”
Sunshine was the first to laugh, followed by Dawn and then Moonlight.
“I guess she did a few things right.” Moonlight said, and everyone agreed.