It is with a studied rhythm that Homeworld’s twin suns pull each other up through the darkness, blanketing the sky in a soft pink glow as they ascend, going slowly, all gentleness. Yellow Diamond watches the familiar spectacle from her latticed window, hand beneath her chin, mind elsewhere as the fractured light glances off the angular planes of her face.
To a being who has lived ten thousands of years upon years, the emergence and passing of a new cycle is but a blink of the eye, a meaningless unit in the long linearity of her given lifetime. And yet, as she has learned so viscerally in even just the past six thousand years alone, the surest, and perhaps only way to measure time is to judge it by the movements of the other gems around her.
And by other gems, she means Blue Diamond.
For she always means Blue.
Her strength, her weakness, her light, her darkness, her partner, her monomaniac fixation, her fellow goddess, her friend.
(The dichotomies and multitudes of their relationship have always stunned Yellow Diamond at best and scared her at worst.)
For six thousand years, she scheduled her entire existence around knowing exactly where the other matriarch was at all times. In-between court sessions and trials and all of the various other councils Yellow convened alone, she sent Pearls to inform her of where Blue Diamond was and what exactly she was doing. The trail of her mourning was as readily available to her as reports on potassium deposits in faraway colonies.
She learned, intimately, that Blue rotated between haunts every so often like an organic beast migrating between seasons. Each spatial relic of Pink Diamond’s past were but pastures to graze in prolonged misery.
Against her own volition, Yellow came to understand that some cycles, by the sheer fact of what they once were, were harder for Blue Diamond than others.
The anniversary of Pink’s emergence into the world.
The day they decided to bequeath her her own colony.
The remembrance, the haunting, the sadistic exhibition of her shattering.
Before they laid eyes on what they had thought to be her shards, the Diamonds had never truly known pain, the sharp dimensions of it, the astonishing depths.
When Blue Diamond’s screams rent the air for the first time, the entire Earth seemed to scream with her, wailing an unholy, feral song to which the three deities did not know the lyrics, though they sang along anyway. With their hands outstretched towards the colony Pink Diamond had once called home, they tried to fill in the melody the best that they could.
And they corrupted hundreds upon hundreds of gems.
And they shattered thousands more.
Because they had never lost anything before then.
And they wanted to make someone else and everything else feel the extent of their loss, too.
It is not an excuse.
A justification either.
It is only history, raw and unsanitized.
Yellow Diamond abruptly closes her eyes against the rosy sunrise as though stung, her fingers spidering against her tall nose.
Today would have been the 6,242nd anniversary of the shattering.
Nearly a year ago, they learned that everything they had ever assumed about their beloved Pink Diamond was a lie—including this very date.
Still, the old memories come unbidden—the shards, the terror, the ungodly screaming.
And yet, the familiar is now tempered by the newer sensations that have surfaced to foreign planes in her mind ever since she has met, loved, and wanted to do better for Steven Universe: the guilt, the helplessness, the fragility of everything, of it all.
When Yellow Diamond snaps her eyes open again, the images still burn the backs of her retinas, and it all comes together in one jangling, dissonant, clashing symphony—lights and noises, echoes and pale ghosts: the shards, the guilt, the terror, the helplessness, the ungodly screaming, the fragility of everything, of it all.
She is naked.
Fifty foot tall, the fragments of thousands of gems all over her hands, she is exposed.
With a violence that startles Pearl—who’d been running algorithms on her screens—Yellow stands up from her alcove, stretching her long limbs extensively, as though trying to excise something out along with the stiffness, too.
“Sorry,” she says gruffly, glancing away. (She’s working on it—she is—but apologies still don’t come easily to the matriarch.) “Just have somewhere I need to be.”
With a few quick taps of a nearby panel, Pearl pulls up and enlarges a video feed of the throne room. A snatch of heavy blue fabric dragging against the floor is all she needs to see.
“... that wouldn’t happen to be the throne room, my—I mean, your—um, Yellow Diamond, would it?” (Pearl is working on it—she is—but thousands of years of ingrained slavery are hard to completely forget, too.)
Relief mixed with gratitude mixed with awkwardness darkens the gold around Yellow Diamond’s sharp cheekbones.
“Thank you, Pearl.”
A similar blush scribbles itself across the bridge of the smaller gem’s nose.
(They’re both working on it—they are—Diamond and Pearl alike, trying to figure out what it means to be companions in Era Three. Equals. Maybe one day, friends, if such an unstudied phenomenon can happen between them after all these unchanging cycles of mastery and slavery.)
(But she wonders to herself—she wonders this every day—is there grace enough in this universe for the Diamonds?)
(Is there such a thing as absolution and reprieve?)
Brow furrowed above her eyes, Yellow finally sweeps out of her chamber, heels clicking reliably against the marble veined floor.
(She doesn’t know.)
(She isn’t sure she wants to know.)
The passage between her chamber and the throne room is a covered bridge, the path intricately laid, sunlight slanting through the arches and onto her handsome armor in patches.
She doesn’t stop to look below—doesn’t have time to spare even though she has all the time in the world—but even as she walks, she can hear all the many ways that Homeworld is changing, the echoes of the reforming city drifting up to the palace like sacrificial smoke. There is the humdrum of communication—talking and conversing, snatches of loud laughter. And there is the steady thrum of ship traffic zooming through the brightening sky.
She knows, without looking, that there are flashing colors and newly constructed infrastructures. Councils are being formed, the judicial system overhauled independently of the Diamonds' oversight. Representatives for the various Gem types are elected fairly and democratically. An economy based on rare rocks—locally sourced from Homeworld’s own Kindergarten—is slowly but surely being constructed by business minded Peridots. Gems from all eras and cuts and cabochons are cohabiting side by side, communing and learning to coexist without prejudice and fear.
Their world, for the first time in millions of cycles, is evolving.
For good and for the best.
With a pang that tightens her diamond as she finally approaches the intricately carved double doors leading into the throne room, Yellow Diamond wonders what it means that she is falling into the same pattern she has threaded year after year for 6,242 years.
Do Diamonds ever change their facets?
Or are their hardnesses immutable, unchanging?
(She wonders—she wonders this every day—if one day the universe will pronounce judgment on the three of them for their crimes against Gemkind?)
(Will doing better be enough to lighten the sentence?)
(Is doing better the same as being better?)
She curls her fingers tightly around one of the quartz handles and pulls outwards, her nerves suddenly electrified as the square of light from the door slowly pools into the throne room and across the floor, inching and seeping until it touches the hem of a heavy, dark robe.
“Yellow.” Blue Diamond looks up, awed. “You remembered.”
As has been the Diamonds' shared habit lately, she's kneeling in front of the warp pad, cerulean fingers neatly templed on her lap, her posture reminiscent of the weeping statues in the Saturnal Spire, many of them immortalized in prostration. Yellow can see the traces of wetness beneath her grooved eyes, a telltale and familiar sign of what has already passed and what is yet to come.
“Did you think I would forget?” She asks, immediately loathing that the question sounds so vulnerable and needy, as though she’s dependent—and maybe she is—on a negative answer.
“Yes”—she interjects impatiently—“I always want to know your truth.”
But, to Yellow’s surprise, Blue laughs quietly, the edges of her plump, blue lifted along the contours of her smile.
“Stars above, you still never wait for someone to finish their thought, do you?”
“I didn’t intend to interrupt! I just—“
“Yes, I know, Yellow. Come.” Blue Diamond extricates her hands from one another and pats the empty space next to her. “Be with me, please.”
It is an irresistible request, an invitation that Yellow could never refuse (though she has never fully tried). With a few, stiff strides, she join the other matriarch on the floor, sitting crosslegged, even as her armored spine is ramrod straight.
Appropriately chastised, her cheeks are dark with golden flush.
“Are you happy now?” Yellow mutters beneath her breath.
“Yes,” comes the quiet reply that very nearly paralyzes her. Perhaps realizing this, Blue Diamond extends the same hand she used to gesture towards the floor and places the tips of her fingertips on the spines of Yellow’s gloved knuckles. “I am…. in my own small way—happy and also undeniably sad. It is a curious contradiction.”
“Oh,” Yellow Diamond can only say, swallowing hard.
“Oh,” Blue Diamond agrees, leaning—softly, very gently—against her, so that their shoulders touch. Her silvery hair falls to the side at the movement, the light from above crowning her head in liquid amber.
“I didn’t wish to be alone today,” she admits, frowning, “but for the last six thousand and sundry years, you have unfailingly ensured that I never was alone on this date... even when I thought that I wanted to be, even all the times I pushed you away.”
Yellow‘s breath hitches, shallow of air.
They’ve scarcely talked so openly before, even now, and perhaps especially now that the Diamonds are trying their damnedest to amend the wrongs of their pasts.
Even beyond that, intimacy is hard.
Indeed, it is one of the few lessons that the resilient general has yet to master for all of her focus and control.
She still doesn’t have all the steps in order yet... if there are even quantifiable steps to intimacy at all.
“You pushed me away often,” she finally says, and try though she does, she can’t quite keep an accusatory tone out of her voice.
(Even if the Diamonds don’t wear their wounds, that doesn’t mean they were never inflicted.)
“I know,” Blue confesses, closing her eyes tightly against what Yellow knows to be a deluge of memories. “I knew all along most likely. I wanted to hurt you as were hurting me. If I could make you feel even a fraction of the misery that I did... if I could make any gems who crossed my path understand... I was quick, injudiciously so, to do as much.”
The matriarch is precise when it comes to identifying and analyzing her own emotions—incisive—another ability which Yellow never quite learned in thousands of millennia.
“We don’t have to talk about this now,” she says quickly, “if it’s too much.”
(It's always too much for Yellow.)
“But I want to.” Blue abruptly opens her eyes, and Yellow is startled to see that they’ve hardened, her expression pinched. “I mean, I suppose I need to... for there is this feeling in my chest, Yellow. It pulses in my very diamond and has expanded with each passing second that I have been up today. And I want to get rid of it—I must.”
Her fingers tense where they rest upon her hand, and the space between palm and knuckles, blue and gold, is electric with energy, pulsating.
The column of Yellow Diamond’s throat is thick, sticky with feeling.
“I have a feeling, too,” she admits, her voice surly. “When I awoke... and recalled what day it was... I couldn’t shake it.”
Blue’s eyes are wide and tired, weary with six thousand cycles of mourning. The carnage is pooled all over her face. It scarred both of them. It nearly maddened White.
“Name it, Yellow,” she whispers, and it is almost a supplication, desperate and reverent on the Diamond’s lilting tongue. “Please.”
What is there to do but comply?
What stands between her and a handful of words except her own sheathe of an ego of a personality?
Yellow Diamond flinches before she ever opens her mouth, half-hating and entirely fearing what she is about to make their reality.
“I miss her, Blue.”
“And?” Because Blue Diamond knows—she always seems to know—when her sentences are unfinished, when words remain unspoken.
Yellow’s eyes burn, the leakage threatening to spill out.
“And I feel guilty about it, for missing her now… after what we did to her... after what we have done to so many other gems.”
To ourselves, too.
To each other.
More unspoken aches, though the merciful Blue Diamond is kind enough not to call her out on them.
A single tear glances down her long, oval face, collecting calmly on the point of her chin.
“How can we be moving on,” Yellow continues, wiping roughly at her eyes with her other hand, “if we are here again? The same place we have been every year for the last six thousand years? On the floor, broken. Our world is turning, Blue! Evolving! Transforming! Do we not revolve with it?”
If this is the pattern and the routine to which they inevitably return, does this not mean that they will one day become stagnations and calcifications?
Monuments and monoliths to their own shattered pasts?
What is all their progress, their actions and their actions and their atonements and their actions, if they cannot ever abstain from this vicious ceremony?
Will they still be here, six thousand years more from now, missing a gem who will never come home to them again?
Will there never not be a day when a rosy, pink sky doesn’t evoke her name on their tongues?
She used to sing flowers into full bloom.
When Blue isn’t immediately forthcoming with an answer—her dark lips parted slightly in silence—for the first time in the entirety of her existence, Yellow feels no triumph in being right.
There is no pleasure in the conception and epiphany of their eternal damnation.
There is only acceptance, she thinks, glancing down at the warp pad, dull and empty.
(Steven hasn’t visited in twenty-one cycles now.)
Stoic and unceasing resignation.
“Yellow Diamond...” A tall hand cups her chin gently and draws the general’s gaze upwards until all the goddess sees is blue. Her eyes. Her complexion. Her alice blue hair. Her lips. Blue Diamond looks at her all over, and there is an ancient sadness engraved in all the geometric lines of her face. “Do you really believe that multiple things cannot be true at the same time?”
“No,” Blue cuts her off firmly. “Let me finish, please. We have done horrible things, and we are trying, every day, to do better. We hurt Pink immeasurably... and we are hurt—stars, we will be devastated—by her loss forever. Those sentiments are not mutually exclusive.” Blue’s voice hitches, her warm breath so close that Yellow can feel it on her skin. “They can’t be... or else, what do we have to look forward to for the next thousands of years of our lifetimes? How can we deal with the enormities of our lives if we do not allow our lives to be enormous—both an exemplar and a testament to complexity?”
Yellow stares at her companion incredulously, wanting to believe in the grandiosity of their existences (again) but not quite daring to (as she had once so easily done before).
Dichotomies and multitudes and holistic systems of so many moving, working parts—Yellow Diamond, for all of her intelligence and logic and ratios and statistics, does not know how to compute them. Her morality has always been a straight line that favors extremes, tilting like an unbalanced scale, from one weighted end to the other.
“But you feel it, too,” she argues hoarsely. “You have a feeling in your chest as well.”
Her gaze unwittingly travels down to Blue’s gem, gleaming brightly against her cerulean complexion.
But the other Diamond, fingertips still captured beneath her chin, doesn’t allow the moment to linger, insisting, with a gentle nudge, that Yellow Diamond holds her head up high.
“And so this just means we have a final pair of questions to ask ourselves, yes?” Blue smiles lightly, all tenderness and sadness, all warmth and terrible grief.
Dichotomies and multitudes.
They stun Yellow Diamond, and they perplex her, and they frustrate her to no conceivable end.
Even now, she isn’t sure that she’s following, and yet, as the two of them sit here—linked by touch and millennia and memories—she knows, without ever being able to articulate the sentiment into words that would matter or make sense, she would follow this gem to the ends of their world, conceivable or otherwise.
“What do we do with this feeling now that we have it?" Blue’s smile only deepens, becoming more felt, arctic eyes melting. "And how do we make sure it doesn’t go to waste?”
Her face shines in the brilliance of the warp pad’s newly glowing light.
“Today,” she says, “we allow ourselves to feel the pain of losing Pink... and we play with Steven Universe... and we not only love him, but show him that we do.”
“And tomorrow?” Yellow dares to ask.
A concentrated beam whooshes downwards from the ceiling of the palatial hall.
“Tomorrow”—Blue Diamond squeezes her hand—“we can move forward again... hand in hand.”
There are colonies to continue dismantling and long corroded infrastructure to repair. Homeworld’s grid system needs to be replotted, and a Kindergarten on Iphigenia would be a meaningful location to repurpose as an organic life conservation facility. Transportation services between Homeworld and Earth are still being configured, especially given Earth’s less than spaceship friendly atmospheres and surfaces. Former gem experiments require a delicate unraveling and a reckoning both for Yellow Diamond who ordered them to be carried out in the first place. Blue and White and Yellow Diamond alike, all three of them in harmonious union and sync for the first time in thousands of years, want to build a memorial spire in Sector 9 for the Rose Quartzes to inhabit if they should so choose—a place of rest and healing, circled all throughout with restorative waters.
“I... like the sound of that.”
The tentative beginnings of hope creep into her low voice.
“I thought you would,” Blue teases as particulate matter and atoms and long reclaimed stardust begin to arrange themselves into the boy named Steven Universe.
“We start now.”