They wouldn’t let me walk out of the hospital. Instead, I was instructed to stay off my legs for a while longer. It was a welcome reprieve, as I honestly felt as if I was still in the throes of naptime. Garnet, though she wouldn’t look at me, she graciously pushed me out of the hospital in a wheelchair. The world didn’t seem all that different than when I last saw it, much to my joy. It appeared the Crystal Gems had kept the earth safe, even though I had been gone for such a long time. It was then I began to wonder how long it had truly been.
I peered over to my left, where Amethyst was trudging along beside me. She was staring at the ground, seemingly mentally farther away than she physically was. I wasn’t sure how to bring her back, but I figured talking to her might be the best way.
“How long was I gone?”
Amethyst’s eyes widened, and she lifted her face to look into mine. As she studied my face, her mouth fell open in a surprised gape.
“Are you serious?”
I was going to respond with a yes when Garnet jumped in with a monotone:
“Steven’s 243rd birthday was last week.”
I peered up, but I could only see the bottom of her chin. She was still not looking at me.
243 years? A blink of the eye for gems, as far as I was concerned. I peered up at the sky, admiring how blue it was but also admiring how little it had changed since I had last seen it. The earth was as resilient as ever. Still, Steven was…
“Steven was human… wasn’t he?”
This time I looked at Pearl, but she was looking in the opposite direction. Her hands were at her face, and her shoulders were shaking. She must have been crying again. This time, Amethyst spoke up.
“Of course he was. What do you think?”
There was venom in those words, but along with the venom… just more sadness. We were coming up to the parking lot. Cars were scattered across the lot, but only one looked like the one we were heading towards. It was a white van with multicolored stripes across the side. Amongst the colors was a name:
I did my best to fling myself forward out of the wheelchair, but with it still moving and my legs still wobbly from reforming after such a long asleep, I quickly found myself on the ground. It didn’t hurt all that much, but Pearl still yelled out:
And almost instantly, she was at my side, helping me up and back into the wheelchair. Her face was a beautiful rosy shade, flush from all of the emotions probably raging inside her. Tears also seemed to be a new permanent feature in her eyes. While it was depressing, I couldn’t help but think she was more beautiful experiencing such emotion. It seemed they had all become much more… human in the time I was away.
Even after my mishap, it didn’t take long for us to get back to moving toward the van. As we neared, Amethyst threw a punch, leaving a small dent in the side panel.
I had half a mind to say something to her, but the other half determined it wasn’t the best time. Instead, I silently allowed Garnet and Pearl to help me in the van while Amethyst walked over to the other side. Once I was in the passenger seat, I was able to see Amethyst climbing into a small white car parked right next to the van. Pearl took the driver’s seat, and Garnet sat in the back.
“Whose car is that? That Amethyst is driving?”
Pearl winced, and though she tried to respond, her words were tumbling out of her mouth in an incomprehensible slurry. Garnet answered instead.
“That’s the Dondai. It’s Steven’s car.”
At the mention of his name Pearl whimpered.
“I can drive if you need me to.”
Pearl shook her head, cranking up the van and gripping the steering wheel as if it was the only thing keeping her together.
“No, thank you, Garnet. I am okay.”
It felt like she was lying, but again, I kept that to myself. Instead, we all silently watched as Amethyst cranked up Steven’s car and pulled out of her spot. Then, Pearl did the same, following close behind. As we drove along, I focused on the view. Gems and humans meandered back and forth, living their lives in perfect harmony. I couldn’t contain my excitement, especially as I saw some human-gem couples walking together hand-in-hand alongside some fusions laughing and talking out in the open. It was everything I had dreamed. It was a world where everyone could be who they wanted to be. I looked to Garnet and Pearl, grinning wide and hoping to get the same energy back. Instead, they were both solemn, quiet, and mournful. How could the world have finally reached this level of peace, and the Crystal Gems were still so… sad?
Was this not what they had fought for? Was this not the dream gems had died for so long ago? It was. I clearly remembered that’s what it was, and seeing all the happiness on the faces of the gems and humans walking around so freely on earth was proof enough of that. But then, why were the Crystal Gems not happy, too?
I was about to ask them myself when Beach City came into view. It was much busier than I remembered it being. Granted, there were a lot more beings than I remembered in general. A proper city had grown up in the once small, insignificant Beach City. Neighborhoods lined the road all the way up to the boardwalk, and in those neighborhoods, I could just barely catch signs of gems and humans intermingling and living in them. Once we were up by the boardwalk, I could see lines and lines of people and gems queueing up at the local businesses, people and gems enjoying the beach and water, and even humans and gems squealing and having fun at the theme park. This wasn’t the earth I once protected all that time ago.
It was so much more. It was so much better.
But we weren’t taking time to sightsee. Instead, we pulled off over the boardwalk onto the sand. Gems and people alike waved at the van as we drove by, and despite not recognizing any of them, I made it a point to wave back. We pulled around to the other side of the beach, behind the cliffside. There, a little beach house was built on the side of it. I didn’t remember the house, but the cliff was plenty familiar, along with the statue carved into its rockface. It was the Crystal Temple.
As soon as our caravan pulled to a stop, I flung the door open. I was down on the sand in a matter of seconds. Pearl called my name in that panicked way she was so prone to do, but I paid little mind to her. My feet pressed into the warm sand. Though it felt my legs might crumple beneath me at any moment, I relished the warmth of beach life. It was something I used to love so long ago. That certainly hadn’t changed despite being away for over 200 hundred years.
At that thought, the name Steven came back to mind. I didn’t have long to muse over his existence before the sound of spacecraft rushed in overhead. Looking up, a sight I hadn’t seen beyond 200 years was beginning to come down. The Diamond ships, all three of them, which could only mean Blue, Yellow, and White were here. Even as I saw it, though, I couldn’t quite believe it. Blue and Yellow, sure, but White? Panic was blooming in my chest, but as I peered around me, all the other Crystal Gems appeared calm.
Amethyst had left the Dondai and joined Garnet on the beach. Pearl had made her way over to me, but her focus was the same as the other two. They were all watching the ships land. I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t hold back the panic in my voice as I yelled out:
“Why are we just watching them land? Aren’t we going to do something?”
Garnet shook her head.
“They’re not here to hurt us. They’re here to mourn.”
Mourn? I glanced at the ships again as they settled into the ocean, causing a few waves to erupt and crash along the shore. The Diamonds didn’t mourn. Well, Blue maybe, but there was no way Yellow would, much less White.
“Mourn? What would those three mourn?”
Amethyst scoffed at that.
“You, for one.”
Pearl gravely shook her head, then hid her mouth behind her hand. Tears were once again creeping up.
“I called them and let them know about Steven. They said they would try to make it to say goodbye. I don’t know how I’ll… I’ll…”
At that point, she had dissolved into a sobbing fit. Garnet jumped in in the meantime.
“We probably won’t have to tell them. Not when we have her.” When I looked to see who she was referring to, her gaze was trained on me. Before I could ask any more questions, though, the main ship was opening.