(Get ready folks. This is by far the longest chapter yet, and for a good reason. Everything is about to change and we are officially near the final peak of the story. Shattered Realities has been a wild ride and it only has about five chapters left. I hope you all enjoy where it's going to go and I hope you're all prepared for the heart ache and suspense that awaits you!
I have to give credit to one of my dear readers, "Komnenid", who suggested a plot that's going to lead to the suspenseful end of this story. Without them in fact this fic would have a very different ending. But now, shit gets real. So buckle up folks. It's time for this entire story to be flipped upside down.)
"What do you think is going on down there?" Steven whispered as he perched against the railing, trying to see through the rungs without being spotted. "They look like they're...talking." Connie rolled her eyes.
"Anything besides that?"
Steven scrunched up his face and tried to push it through the rails. With a pop, he managed. "Hmmm..." He gave a small gasp when for the second time that night, he saw twin hearts rise from either of their gems, one gold, one green. "They did the heart thing again. But...what do you think it means?"
"Is it The Glint?"
"No...I think it's different then the Glint."
Jasper and Peridot both sat there, frozen. They stared at both of their respective hearts, and Jasper hastily smacked hers away. Peridot's face fell a little and she looked away.
Jasper winced. "Come on, don't be like that," she grunted at the green gem. Peridot kept her arms crossed over her chest so the orange gem scooted up next to her until their knees touched. Just the slight contact against her leg made Peridot's green face darken. She tried to pull away but found herself immobilized, even though no one was holding her down.
"I just...don't want to make anything awkward," Jasper said slowly. Although she was quite certain just starting this conversation was what made things awkward.
"Why should it be awkward?" Peridot mumbled. "We know the feelings are mutual."
"Yeah I-I guess." Now Jasper was fumbling for words. "But I don't want to make anything too...intense. This is—I'm bad at this. I don't know how this dating thing works." She avoided Peridot's gaze.
"From what I understand about the humans we seem to be doing it right." Peridot went over the surroundings. "Strange food, flowers and mood lighting. It even smells like fire and smoke from earlier. I think everything had been done right."
Jasper chuckled awkwardly. "Yeah...and I guess it's up to us to finish the rest of the night as...right as we can."
"Well that's going to be rather difficult, as I sense we're being spied on."
Jasper glanced up the stairs and smirked as Connie ducked away. Steven however was stuck with his head in between the rails. "Yeah, I can see that."
The trapped boy wriggled and squirmed as he heard footsteps behind him approaching up the stairs. Connie had hid behind the bed, but he was trapped hopelessly even as the shadow of the two gems fell on him.
"Your stealth needs some work." Peridot smiled. She rose her hand and suddenly one of her detachable fingers separated from the rest, hovering toward him. "So does your camouflaging ability." The floating finger embedded into his side and Steven shrieked with laughter as he tugged back more desperately, trying to arch away from another finger that assaulted his other side.
"It might help if you pick a hiding space where your big fat head won't get stuck in," Jasper snickered as she carefully helped the kid get free and passed Peridot's fingers back to her. "You can come out, Connie. I know you're just as much of a culprit here." Guilty eyes slowly peeked up from behind Steven's bed.
"What was that thing you did?" Steven asked as Jasper set him down on the bed. "The heart thing you both exchanged? Is that another gem thing?" Both of them flushed and Jasper growled. "That's none of your business, brat!"
"It is a gem's way of communicating emotions. In this case, affection," Peridot informed as Jasper's face grew darker. "It can happen with any relationship and it's a gem's way of saying 'I love you.'"
"Peridot, shut up!" Jasper snapped. She scowled at a starry eyed Steven. "Yeah, yeah, just...get into bed before I decide I will tell the gems that you decided to play with a Sizzling Serpent." She grabbed Connie by the arm and tugged her out. "I have to take Gremlin number two over to your Dad's so he can take her home." She sighed. "Then I guess it's back to dream duty."
Steven felt bad that they had to cut their date off so soon. "I was thinking that maybe tonight you two could just...spend some time together? Yellow Diamond hasn't tried to contact me in a while and you two need to finish your date."
Jasper and Peridot looked at each other. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah! She hasn't come back since, so..who knows, maybe she knows you guys are protecting me and that's enough to scare her off." Jasper and Peridot chuckled.
"If you say so. We'll probably come back to check on you later anyway. We'll be on the roof if you need us," Peridot said. Jasper looked at her quizzically. "Apparently they have a spoon in their star constellations and even a lion, and I want to find it!"
All that was around the boy was stars and planets of all color but Steven knew enough to keep his guard up. Every time his dreams started happy, they ended awful. At this point Steven didn't even know what was a dream and what was reality. Or at least, the illusion of reality that happened in his dream.
He was in space. For now that was all he knew...but as he looked around it became more apparent that this wasn't some innocent star gazing spot (if he ever thought it was). Something hummed beside him. It was metal and huge. It towered to the size of the temple and Steven could barely make out what it was. It hummed like his fridge; a low, deadly hum that just grew steadily louder by the second. It looked like a satellite with a twenty foot long antennae sticking out vertically, but he knew better. It was a laser. A very large, very deadly...laser.
"Impressive, isn't it?" The child whirled around, and the moment he saw her slanted face something inside him snapped.
"YOU!" He lunged at the woman, the quartz on his belly humming with rage as he summoned his shield and hurled it like a disc, so hard that he could hear it whip through the air and it actually sounded painful when it impacted the side of Yellow Diamond's head.
She staggered and held her head with a wince, holding up one clawed hand in peace. "Hold on..."
"I'M NOT LISTENING TO ANYTHING YOU SAY!" He was like a rabid animal, hurling his shield again and again, beating at her in rage, lunging at her, tearing at her clothes and even trying to bite at her.
Yellow Diamond dodged his attacks with ease and recalibrated herself evey time she was hit, chuckling. Finally she laughed and pulled the fierce little minx off her foot, dangling him by his collar to her face. He hissed and spit and pinwheeled his arms in rage. "My goodness, what a wild beast you are."
"THIS WILD BEAST IS GOING TO SCRATCH OFF YOUR FACE!" His fingers curved like claws and lunged towards the woman's face but she simply held him away from her until the boy exhausted himself. "Are you done?" The child's eyes burned with hatred, but he said nothing as Yellow Diamond lowered him to the ground.
Steven was so tired his knees buckled until he fell to them, panting. He gazed up at the laser. "What is that thing?"
"Magnificent isn't it? The finest, state of the art gem technology, powered by useless gem fragments, with a range of 75, 000 000 000 00 miles." She stopped. "In fact, I think there's even more miles." And she gave a gleeful giggle.
Steven sneered. "I don't care about your stupid laser thing, okay? And I don't care about you! So go show off to someone that does care." He started to get up and look for a way out of this nightmare, but the tyrant's next words froze his blood.
"You should care because...look where that laser is aiming."
He trembled and his eyes slowly followed where the pointed barrel was looking at. It was small at this distance but Steven could still make it out by the mingle of blue and green on a small vulnerable sphere. "E...earth." Fear trickled down his spine but he refused to show it to the monster. "This is just a stupid nightmare! I'm not afraid, because that thing isn't real!"
Yellow Diamond blinked, wide eyed, and then she started laughing hysterically. The child's face burned with rage and embarrassment. "What are you laughing at!?"
"Y-yo-h-ho-hou!" she finally spluttered out, slapping her knees. "You're s-so cute and st-stupid!" She recovered from her insane giggle fit after a moment, wiping tears from her eyes. "Ah child, are you so daft that you haven't even figured out your own gem abilities? Do you really think that you'd be able to talk to me if you were having one of your stupid human sleep apparitions? Look around you, Quartz. You're on Homeworld!" She grinned. "And you're about to watch the eradication of your pathetic species."
Steven shook his head in denial. "No, you...you said you needed earth in tact to do...whatever crazy thing you were going to do! Why would you blow it up?"
Yellow Diamond smiled. "Oh you misunderstand. See, this machine isn't going to blow up that hunk of rock. It's designed to specifically drain the energy from your puny planet and all of its life. It will wipe out your species, those traitourous gems and frivolous things we gems don't need, like your earth water and greenery. All we need is a vast landscape to build anew on and expand the Kindergarden." She waved her hand. "It's getting cramped here after all."
Steven narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "If you had this thing the entire time then why didn't you bother using it if all you want is to take away life on earth and just keep conquering?"
Yellow Diamond chuckled as she walked over to one of the holographic lifts that carried her up to the top. She gave a few orders to a couple of drones and immediately, the humming of the deadly weapon grew louder. "Well as I said, this is a new machine. We've been working on its completion for the last couple hundred years, and when I found out that your mother still lived on in you, I had a different agenda." She tapped the edge of the laser and then looked down at him. "I want to make you a new deal."
Steven snarled in hate. "I'll never make a deal with you!"
The gem smirked. "Hm, very well." She fell back nonchalantly against a hovering seat surrounding the floating panel of lights. She stretched and gave a bored yawn. "Fire."
Steven shuddered as the metal screeched and echoed through Homeworld's atmosphere as the gears in the large machine twisted and cranked. The noises were horrific and no amount of clawing at his ears could drown them out. The humming became louder, like a swarm of millions of bees. The barrel of the gun began to glow, sucking in the energy it drained from the gem fragments.
"My shield can stop this!" Steven yelled over the sounds of the weapon. "It stopped your lasers once, it'll do it again!" Yellow Diamond only continued to smile.
"Oh, I know."
Steven made a mad dash towards one of the lifts, trying to reach the same altitude where the laser was. There were so many discs in the air, hovering like individual steps of a floating staircase. Steven leaped towards one and continued jumping up the sky as the laser's power grew, each individual spiral of the barrel beginning to light up.
Just when the colossal blast tore from the barrel Steven dove in front of it, his gem glowing and the rose shield summoning larger then its size had ever been, making the child that stood behind it seem like an ant in comparison. The blast didn't even stand a chance as it hit the barrier like a wall, dying the moment it touched the power. Steven felt his entire body threaten to give out as he fell to his knees, panting. His entire body ached in fatigue.
Yellow Diamond jumped down from the control panel and landed on a lift that levitated right next to him. Her wicked smile couldn't have been any bigger if it tried. "The question is, how long can you stop it?"
"As...as long...as it TAKES!" Steven snarled through his panting. He shoved himself to his feet and faced the barrel straight on.
"How much power do you think you have, little Quartz? All I have to do is keep shovelling gems into this machine, but I believe you have a limit on how much more times your frail little body can summon that shield."
The machine began to hum again and Steven braced himself. This time the pain had a whole new level as the shield expanded in size to try and bear the power of the hot energy surging against it. The very effort caused every one of Steven's muscles to contort in agony and he screamed in pain, but he refused to back down.
"Keep your focus Quartz! You give up, you wake up, and your entire planet is destroyed. Don't you want to save your home?"
It fired again and pain radiated from the very core of his being. He could feel his gem screaming, he could feel his mom screaming... The shield was threatening to crack, and so was his gem.
"STOP!" he screamed. His exhausted body fell to the ground and tumbled off the lift, no energy left within him to even summon his bubble. He shut his eyes and waited to hit the ground, but something snapped him up by the collar before he could. His entire body was slack in defeat as he sobbed and didn't look up. "I...I'll talk."
Yellow Diamond's lips turned up in satisfaction. "Good..."
Steven didn't offer anything more then defeated and pained sobs, shuddering within her grasp. He refused to look up at her.
"I like you Quartz," Yellow Diamond said. "I admire you and your persistence. You're every bit as a strong fighter as your mother, and that's why I'm willing to spare you...and your entire planet." At last, the boy slowly raised his head.
"What?" he mumbled.
"Your planet is a dime a dozen really. I can find many more like it through out the galaxies, and it doesn't have to be earth in specific. I don't need your planet, so I don't have to destroy it. I just need a planet, many of them, and you are going to help me get them." Steven's eyes widened. "I'll spare earth. I won't ever make contact with it again. Your planet, your family, they will all be safe to live on their worthless lives...as long as you uphold your end of the deal. You stay with me, and I'll leave earth alone."
Wide eyed, Steven looked back over at his planet in the distance, and back up to the laser.
"Remember, one push of that button and it's all gone. You can't keep up that shield much longer, and you can't stay in this stasis state forever. You go back home and it's over."
His mind whirled as the fate of the world literally sat in his palm. He had the option to save earth right now. All of humanity, all of his family...at the price of never again seeing them. Everything he had and everything he loved would be gone. But when it came down to it...did earth really need him? Every life he knew could easily go on without him. Connie would still go to school and grow up. The gems would still be bubbling monsters; Sadie and Lars would still be working at The Big Donut and Beach City would still go on. Humanity would still live...it would just be without him.
Maybe this was for the best. Deep down he knew the gems and his Dad really just wanted Rose, but that was something that he could never give them, and every day that they saw him was just a reminder of that that they were all forced to live with. And he himself could never live a normal life. He wasn't a human...and he wasn't even a gem. So maybe, this was what his destiny was meant to be...the savior of earth.
"What do you say Quartz? ...Do we have a deal?"
The boy shut his eyes. "Deal." He opened them again and they flared with hate. "But I have conditions... You are never, ever to talk about the Crystal Gems or earth. They're not your concern anymore and they won't be mine so you are never to mention them again! Ever! And the name is Steven! I am not my mom! A-and..." He swallowed. "I get a day to say good-bye."
Yellow Diamond smirked and plopped him down on his feet. "I think those are fair conditions. We have a deal, Quartz." She reached down and placed a hand on his stomach, where his gem was. Steven froze in terror. "Wh...what are you doing?"
"In our culture it's how we affirm deals, it signifies a promise between two gems. It means you won't break your word and I won't break mine." Steven looked up at her, trembling. Slowly, he placed a hand on her chest where her diamond was, and tried to bite back a whimper.
"Th...then I...I'll see you tomorrow." He choked back a sob. "I'll come at...midnight, o-our time. It's...the same time we're at right now. But I know the gems will try to go after me."
"I've thought of that, don't worry. They won't be able to." She smirked. "Well then, farewell Steven. Until tomorrow. I look forward to the future we're going to build..."
It didn't feel like things were real when Steven opened his eyes. It felt like last night was just a nightmare, but Steven knew that the terrors that happened last night were a reality and that there was nothing he could do about it. This was his very last day...on earth.
"C'mon you three! Stop being shy already!" Amethyst grunted from the living room. "We haven't got all day you know! Steven is gonna be awake any moment! He's gonna wanna see this."
"There are more angles on this thing then I'm used to," Peridot whined. Steven finally came down the stairs. What he saw should have filled him with such joy and on another day, he'd be bouncing. Right now, his heart hurt. Everything hurt...just to look at them.
Lapis, Jasper and Peridot all stood there, clearly having just regenerated. Their outfits had subtle differences, but Steven could see the main ones clear as day. Stars. Stars took the place of the diamonds that were usually on their uniforms, and even their hair style was slightly different. Jasper's hair was mostly the same other then a few distinct added angles to replicate the look of a star. Lapis's hair was shoulder length and wispy, but Peridot's mostly stayed the way it had been.
"You three rock those outfits," Garnet grinned. Amethyst just scoffed.
"Naaah...I think we wear 'em better."
Jasper was the first to turn to Steven, and everyone else's eyes followed, excited and overjoyed. "How do we look as Crystal Dorks Steven?"
"Gems!" Pearl hissed. Garnet chuckled. "They couldn't wait for you to wake up so you could see them. They wanted to look like part of the team for the Beach City Palooza."
"B-Beach City Palooza... He almost forgot about it and what they were supposed to be singing. His last song number with the gems. The last time he'd ever be on that stage, in front of those people. He forced a grin. "Yeah, I can't wait! A-are you guys excited?"
"To sing?" Jasper griped. "Oh yeah, I'm overjoyed. Can't imagine anything greater. At least I don't have to wear a dress."
"You can if you want," Lapis snickered and dodged a swipe from the larger woman's hand. "I bet you'd look dainty and adorable."
"Want me to throw you in the bathtub, water gremlin?"
"No fighting today gems," Garnet said, looking pointedly between Amethyst and Pearl and Jasper and Lapis. "This is a day Steven has really been looking forward to and we want to make it special for him."
"For Steven," the gems agreed.
It took everything Steven had not to burst out sobbing right then and there as he looked at his family. His amazing gem family that would give up the entire world for him. This is all he ever wanted, was to have them all as his family. They were all living together, he could see them all every day. He could surf with Lapis, play video games with Peridot, and wrestle with Jasper. His world was finally right where he wanted it...and he was about to lose it all.
"Guys, I just..." His form shuddered and he sucked it back. "I just want to tell you that I appreciate all of this so much. I know you don't really want to do it, but you're gonna do it for me. Everything you do is always for me and you're all just the greatest family that anyone could ask for." The gems could sense the emotions within him, but they knew that Steven was a child equally prone to tears of happiness and sadness.
"We love you Steven," Garnet said simply and the rest of the gems nodded. "Yeah!" Amethyst noogied him. "Knuckle head. Besides, I'm kinda looking forward to it. It's fun to sing when it's with you!" She lobbed him to Peridot like a football and the startled gem yelped as she caught him. She turned him upside down and swung him lightly by his feet.
"You have done a lot for us." Peridot turned him right side up after a moment and Steven found himself resting against her chest, just wanting to feel all of their arms and for them to never let him go. "I've never...sang before. It's unheard of in Homeworld, but we'll do it for you." Always for Steven.
He didn't even want to go to this thing. That was so funny since he was the one that planned it to begin with, but he didn't need a reminder of everyone that he loved that he'd never see again. He didn't want to say good-bye to Connie and his Dad without being able to even say good-bye. It wasn't fair. It just...wasn't...fair. And the worst part was trying to fake being happy when his heart was falling to pieces inside his chest.
"Steven!" The sound of his Dad's voice would have brought bursting excitement any other day. Right now, it was just pushing the dam of tears to break. "Buddy, hey!"
Still, Steven ran to his father and jumped into his arms like it was any other day, laughing as his Dad twirled him and tickled him with his his furry beard, rubbing it against his face.
"How's my little star? All excited for your big debut tonight Stu Ball? You're on in just a few more numbers. I know the town is looking forward to seeing you again." He gave his kid a bounce. "They always are."
"Y-yeah..." Steven averted his eyes. "I guess I'm kind of nervous though." Immediately, Greg held him up over his head and raised an eyebrow at him.
"You? Nervous? I didn't think you even knew the meaning of those words. Since when have you been afraid of performing?"
"I—well I'm not really afraid of performing, I'm just really afraid." He looked at the ground. "About...the future, I guess. Whenever I read comics and watch cartoons the good guys always win and the bad guys are always defeated. But...that's just fiction. What if reality isn't like that? What if the bad guys do win sometimes?"
Greg was caught off guard by this deep and completely irrelevant musing from his son. His paternal instinct told him something was really wrong just by the expression on his little boy's face, but he knew he was still waiting for an answer. "I...well I guess sometimes the bad guys do win kiddo, but in the end life gives you what you really deserve." He smoothed his boy's hair. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." Suddenly he leaned in and wrapped his arms tightly around his Dad's neck, feeling his long hair tickling his face and smelling his cologne for what was probably the last time. "I love you Dad."
Greg nuzzled his baby close and ran his hands through the child's curls. "I love you too, kiddo." He hesitated, like he was about to ask something else, but decided against it at the last moment. "Go make me proud on stage." He paused and Steven felt him grin through his hair. "It looks like your favorite performer has arrived."
Steven opened his eyes and glanced over his father's shoulder to see her. Her hair was curled and bouncy, and she wore a flower headband. A dark blush her mother applied radiated off her dark cheeks. She wore a sparkling blue dress that fell to her ankles and Steven was sure that he had never seen her look so pretty before.
"Connie!" He turned and bolted to her. His best friend waved, but she didn't expect the way she was nearly bowled over by the force of his tight embrace, that nearly sent her hurtling to the ground. "Whoa, Steven!"
He hugged her tightly. She smelled like peaches and books. "You're so pretty!" He felt Connie freeze in the hug, but she returned it just as quickly, thankful her blush could hide the redness that erupted over her face. "And I'm so happy you're gonna be performing with us..."
"W...well..." Connie stammered and grinned. "I'm really happy that you guys decided to include me in this."
"Well yeah." Steven chuckled. He held her face in his hands. "You're important to the crystal gems too. We'd be nothing without you."
The girl's face heated with disbelief. "Steven that's not true." She laughed awkwardly. "The gems have been living without me all of their lives. I mean, it's only been a year that they've known me. S-sure I'm an ally to them, but their lives can go on without me."
He squeezed her hands. "But my life can't." At that Connie's eyes widened. "Every day when you come over...you bring the sun with you. It's almost like it's kind of rainy without you." He rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "I mean I guess I can still have fun on the days where you aren't able to come over, but it's never the same. Going to the Big Donut, sword training, reading books... It's just not the same thing without you there. And I'm not the same. I just...don't feel complete."
"I..." Words completely failed her. She wasn't even able to formulate a proper thank you. Words couldn't express her gratitude.
Steven felt like his chest was threatening to burst. He had never felt grief this way before. He was suffering the type of loss that a little boy should never have to feel...and yet, they were all right here. Everyone he loved was always gonna be right here, but he'd still never see them again. Somehow, it was worse then them all being gone. He looked into her eyes. They were on stage in just a few minutes. It was now or never.
"Dad always used to tell me stories about my Mom, but I never really got it until I met you." His hand curled into her small one, fingers entwining. "He said it was like finding the other part of his heart and...I found that in you. My name...it may be Steven Universe, but...my universe is you."
He leaned in and he barely touched his lips against hers. It was so soft and fleeting, but he hoped the touch could linger for a lifetime after he was gone and she had to live without him there. She'd find a way. You had to be crazy to not want to be with Connie.
The two children stood there even as the curtains started to pull back and the light fell on them. Neither spoke and neither had to as they just held hands.
"Hey, Steven, Connie," Sadie called to them quietly. "Get ready, you're all on." The children broke hands when shadows suddenly fell on them and they were crowded in a three way hug by Pearl.
"Oh you two look so adorable," the gem giggled, giving their shoulders a squeeze. "You look just like your mother and father did Steven. You should have seen them on stage." Her eyes misted over. "They were both so happy."
"Thanks for letting me be a part of this guys," Connie gushed and Pearl squeezed her tighter. "Oh of course our little knight! We couldn't be happier."
"And last but certainly not least, the performers you've all been waiting for! Steven, and The Crystal Gems!"
The curtains pulled back and Steven's hand reached out towards his family. He wasn't looking at them but he felt several palms; small, chubby, thin, giant and detached all press against his palm. The family separated and made their way to their assigned instruments. The spot light was on them and so was the small population of Beach City. Eyes, all adoring and eager stared up at him.
The Pizza family, his friends, the mayor, creepy little Onion... And at the front row, his beloved Dad with stars in his eyes. Before Amethyst could even strike her drum Steven held up his hands. The gems and city looked at him in confusion as he stepped forward with his microphone.
"Before we begin, I just want to say...thank you, Beach City." The citizens all looked at each other. "Each one of you are great and...so tolerant! I mean, you put up with your houses and your businesses and stuff getting wrecked by gem monsters. You even put up with random evacuations when there's evil invaders from another planet that come and try to destroy the earth!" The crowd gave nervous laughter.
"And I've only been here for eleven years, but you guys have made these years awesome! I've got a lot on my plate, and...I'm not a normal kid, but thanks to Beach City I get to act like it sometimes. I can go and get pizza, I can buy donuts, I can play with my friends and I can even waste all my quarters at an arcade! And I know the gems...they're all so thankful for you guys too."
He smiled back at his family. "B-because you got to show them...just how awesome humans are." His throat tightened and his air threatened to choke off the rest of his speech. "And I just want you to know... that the Crystal Gems will be here to protect you forever." Even...if I'm no longer here.
His fingers reached down, and strummed softly against the chords of his ukelele.
"If you're evil and you're on the rise
You can count on the eight of us bringing you down!
'Cause we're good and evil never beats us!
We'll win the fight and then go out for pizzas!"
The rest joined in, each soloing their respective verses. "We are the Crystal Gems!
We'll always save the day!
And if you think we can't
We'll always find a way! That's why the people of this world believe in
Pearl and La-a-pis!
The crowd erupted into excited applause as their number went on, but for Steven it seemed time had stopped. All the joy and excitement around him didn't even touch his ears. He strummed his instrument but his spirit felt detached from his body, heart twisting until he was sure it was going to burst into shattered fragments inside his own chest. His eyes shut and the tears started to slowly make their way down his cheeks.
Jasper's arm looped around him. "I will fight for the people that saved me
To get revenge on the world that enslaved me!"
Lapis's wings extended as she floated up, drawing an excited gasp from the crowd.
"I will fight for the child I know!
To grant my fellow gems their freedom!"
"I will fight because it is my duty!
On earth I live, I thrive I salute thee!"
And when Steven felt his friend's fingers curl in his own he was certain that nothing could possibly hurt more. "I will fight fight because although I'm a human
Together combined with my friends we can't be beat!"
"The odds are against us
It won't be easy but we're not going to do it alone!"
Steven began to cry freely as they sang the last verse together, his voice warbling across the airwaves and drawing concerned looks from the crowd. But the music was so loud on stage that the gems weren't able to detect anything out of the ordinary.
"That's why the people of this world believe in!
Pearl and La-a-pis!
Beach City screamed and jumped to its feet in applause. Steven wiped his face and bowed collectively with his family, and awkwardly with their three new additions that didn't quite understand the movement. In fact the weight of Peridot's limb extensions caused her to fall forward and for the whole team to burst into laughter.
"Give it up for Steven and the Crystal Gems, everybody!" Mayor Dewey shouted to the small screaming and cheering crowd. "Here to protect and serve the human race forever, and even after that!"
Steven was still holding Connie's hand, but it didn't stop him from running and leaping into the arms of his family. The gems all tried to get their arms around him at the same time, which made for a very awkward and crowded embrace, but Steven still felt the love that radiated from it. There was still tears on the left side of his face and they caught the attention of two certain Homeworld gems. "Thanks guys, for doing this. It-it was really awesome and I still can't believe that you and Lapis and Peridot sang," he giggled to Jasper. He was far enough in the hug that he was protected from any of her playful attacks.
"Aren't they supposed to have refreshments or something?" Amethyst asked from inside the huddle. "I'm hungry."
Pearl scoffed as they pulled back. "You're not hungry. We don't get hungry. You just want to eat and eat so you can complain to me about a sore stomach all night."
"Sounds about right, yeah."
"My mouth is a little dry from singing," Garnet said. "I think some punch might hit the spot." She looked down at the two kids. "And there's cake for the children." The group all dispersed from the stage and Connie ran to her proud parents. Steven however was snatched behind the curtain before he even had a chance to step off the stage.
"Spill the beans Steven," Peridot ordered as she jabbed the confused, upside down Steven in his chest.
"We're not stupid." Jasper uprighted the boy and sat him in her palm. "What's going on? You started crying right in the middle of the performance. And I know you're an emotional cry baby, but come on." Steven tried to ignore her and squirm away, but it was no use. Jasper's grip was like iron and he knew she wasn't like the other gems. They might be more passive and let him talk on his own time, but not these two. After all, they were used to interrogating someone, having done it for thousands of years.
"You cried. We want to know why." Peridot said. "Let me rephrase, we demand it. What is wrong Steven?"
"Yeah." Jasper gave him a little shake. "This is supposed to be a happy night. I mean come on, you made me sing and now you're going to be a sad sack? I didn't embarrass myself on stage for you to get all weepy for some reason!"
"So we want to know the reason!" Peridot crossed her arms. "And you're going to tell us."
"Guys," Steven began. "I just..." But he trailed off when under the fabric of his shirt began to glow, and suddenly, a pink holographic heart rose from his gem. It floated in front of his eyes, and suddenly, Steven just broke. He at last rasped out a wail and collapsed against Jasper's chest, sobbing violently.
Peridot and Jasper were absolutely taken aback by this sudden outburst. They exchanged concerned glances and gazed down at the bawling boy. Gems glowing, twin hearts suddenly rose from them both in response to the interaction, but neither tried to bat it away.
"Steven?" Jasper rumbled quietly, looking down at the broken child. "What's going on?"
He gave a deep inhale and started to sob anew, arms reaching and grasping at the orange gem as much as he could. "I-I'll te-tell you..." he sobbed out. "I pr-pr-promise..." He looked up at her with watery eyes. "J-just not tonight...okay?" he gulped. "Tonight I just—I just want to...be with you guys and spend time t-together t-the rest of the night." For as long...as I'm able to. "O...okay?"
Peridot and Jasper were at a loss. "...Okay," they finally agreed and watched as their boy fell into another tearful fit. Steven inched up so he was practically pressed against Jasper's face and his hot tears drenched her cheeks. Her instinct was to pull him off, but something forlorn inside her told her not to...and to make time for this as much as she could... As much as they could...
The two gems looked at each other, a thumb rubbing the boy's curls.
...Before they never could again.
"What time is it Spinel?" Yellow Diamond snapped as she stood on the central warp pad, arms crossed over her chest in annoyance as her golden eyes targeted the horizon for any sign of the boy. "Earth time moves so damn slow. Surely it's...whatever the boy said it would be already, isn't it?"
"Um..." A small plump burgundy colored creature with a jagged spinel stone over where her left eye should be scanned through the watch she had programmed into her database. "It's hard to say, ma'm." She squeaked as Yellow Diamond glared down at her. "You see, earth has many different time zones in relation to their sun and their moon. It depends on the area we're in."
"Well what time zone is it that we're in then?!" the woman snapped. Her tiny assistant cowered.
"W-wait I think I've found it! Yes, it is...11:50 pm right now, in the evening."
"Well is that close to this 'midnight' that the Steven told us about?"
"Checking ma'm, and yes! It says midnight is a term referring to 12:00 am. Which is in ten minutes. 'Am' seems to mean...the morning."
Yellow Diamond stared. "The morning? But isn't that when the earth sun is up? How can that be in ten minutes? Does their moon really lower that fast? Isn't this the time when the human species is supposed to be recharging?"
"Apparently not, ma'm. My records say that the earth's sunrise isn't for another five hours and twenty six minutes. For this part of the planet anyway." The leader just blinked. "The time of day and their natural light source seems to depend on the side of the planet they're on."
Yellow Diamond shook her head. "This planet's logic infuriates me." She looked over when the warp pad blinked and smirked as a very silent, very miserable boy trudged over. "Ah Steven, you're even earlier then you said you'd be. Approximately five minutes earlier. Wonderful."
"Pearl taught me to be punctual," the boy mumbled, refusing to look at her. He instead looked over to Spinel, who gave a small, very timid salute.
"This is Spinel, the royal advisor. She'll be accompanying you Steven and serving you. Whatever you wish for is her command."
Spinel bowed. "It's a pleasure to serve you, your highness."
Steven stared up at Yellow Diamond. "Your highness?"
"Of course," Yellow Diamond chuckled as she gave a signal to Spinel. "You bore your mother's gem, after all, a member of the Diamond line of royalty. And as you are now my charge, that makes you an authority figure of Homeworld as well."
Steven only felt even more hollow. If he were declared king of the universe right now that wouldn't make him feel any better. In fact, knowing he'd be treated like royalty while the rest of Homeworld was forced to suffer and be tortured and trashed just made him feel even worse.
"Are you ready Spinel?"
"Ready, your majesty." Spinel suddenly moved to the edge of the warp pad and Steven watched as she pulled some sort of contraption out of her gem. It looked like some sort of weird electrical plug.
"What is that?"
"A device that ensures not only does the warp pad stop functioning, it stops existing," Yellow Diamond said. "It's programmed to wait until we've left and then it will melt away the entire transportation system, ensuring that it can never again be fixed, and that we can never be tracked."
Steven's heart clenched. "Oh."
The warp pad lit up and instead of mumbling a soft good-bye Steven chose not to even think of his home as the light flashed them away and the beeping device in the metal surface melted away any trace of the warp pad until there was nothing left but ash.