Garnet had seen the explosion, and rose from the temple with Amethyst at her side, panicking until they saw the small parachute descending in the sky. Pearl clutched Steven close, just relishing in the feel of both of them being alive, and trying not to think of how - because of her - they were nearly not.
"You know, minus the almost blowing up junk, that was pretty fun," Steven said, as if he sensed Pearl's regret and was trying to lighten the tension. "Like, I got to see more of space then I ever did before!" Pearl gave him an affection squeeze but Steven could still tell how upset she was.
"I'm really okay!" he piped to the gem, trying to ease her guilt. Pearl's grip on Steven inadvertently tightened and she felt her throat tighten, needing to look away.
Pearl stepped out of the chair and released Steven just in time for his terrified father to scoop him up into a hug. "Steven, buddy, you're alive!" He pressed a large kiss on the boy's forehead and squeezed him like a teddy bear. "I can't believe you did that to me!" he cried, holding the child close.
"Dad—whoa!" The boy squeaked from the pressure of his father's embrace. "I'm gonna suffocate in your beard! Ahhh, beard attack!" he giggled—but his laughter was cut off as his father jerked him to eye level and Steven met his steely gaze.
"Young man, what were you thinking? You scared me right to death! What did I tell you?" He shook the boy in his grasp and Steven seemed to shrink by ten sizes. "I told you no going to space! You were grounded!"
"But there's no gravity when you're in space!" The man's sharp eyes narrowed, his expression deadpan. He sighed and put the boy down, but his grip stayed firm on the chubby arm.
"Well you've had enough space escapades for one night," Greg griped and was already starting to drag the youngster down the hill with him. "And now you really are grounded..."
Pearl could feel her own shoulders shake, the terror of what almost happened taking her in a death grip. She almost...they almost... Sweaty hands to her face, the woman backed up from the seat as if she was deathly afraid of it—and she rammed into the hard, armored chest of who she feared the most right now. She froze. She couldn't even look up.
"Whoa, P!" Amethyst laughed from beside her, staring up into the night sky as debris fell like rain to the beach below. "That was quite a spectacle, even by my standards. Couldn't wait for us to get here for the party to start?" A hand on her arm shut her up.
"How is Steven?" Garnet's voice was so flat and low that it frightened even Pearl.
"He's okay, I made sure..." Pearl stammered. "He's left with his father for the night and he'll be back in the morning, most likely."
The tall gem seemed to tower even taller than usual and was all the more intimidating as she stepped towards Pearl. "And you?" she demanded. Her tone was so crisp and curt, it cut through the smaller one like a knife.
"M-me? I'm fine." Pearl's breath caught in her throat when Garnet suddenly grabbed her firmly by her shirt collar and jerked her head, gripping Pearl's face in her strong hands. Her face went bright blue in shame and embarrassment as she tried to avoid her eyes. The slightest jerk of her head made Garnet whip it angrily right back. She tipped it forward and examined the shiny stone imbedded in the woman's forehead.
Pearl remained silent as she was checked over, not dare having the audacity to growl that she was not a child and was perfectly capable of taking care of herself. Not now at least.
"You seem fine," Garnet said, her voice still taking on that terrifying, emotionless air. Without a word she started back to the temple, expecting her comrades to follow.
What Garnet was feeling always eluded the other gems, and Pearl wasn't sure if she ever considered it a blessing or a curse. Now knowing she wasn't able to see the rage steaming behind three glowing eyes made her relieved for the visor. Neither gem uttered a word all the way back to the temple; even Amethyst knew it was not a good idea to be making wise cracks right now. Pearl looked like she was going to pass out.
They stood in the living room of the temple, basked in the moonlight. For the first few moments not a word was exchanged and all that hung above them was ominous silence. Then Garnet spoke, and both gems straightened.
"Amethyst, you should go to your quarters for the night." It was a suggestion, but they all knew better: it was an order. "Pearl and I are going to speak in my room." That made even Amethyst's mouth drop.
"Y-your room?" Pearl stammered, turning to Garnet. Garnet guarded her room as seriously as a dog did with a bone, and Pearl had been lucky to catch only a few glimpses of it. The leader whipped her head towards her and Pearl shut up immediately.
"Yes, my room—and we're going, now."
All Pearl managed to catch before they entered the glowing doors was the flash of concern on Amethyst's face before Garnet's body blocked it, and blocked her only escape. Now Pearl knew better then to run, but she still couldn't help the juvenile instinct of wanting to.
"What were you...THINKING?!" Garnet suddenly thundered, and slammed her gauntlets into the floor below her, cracking them. Pearl backed up rapidly, shaking in terror. She was ashamed to release a soft whimper.
"You got that right!"
"Garnet, please," Pearl begged, barely even able to understand her own feeble and pathetic pleas because of how desperate and shaky they were. "I—I'm sorry! I—I just wanted to show Steven space! Our home! I wanted to..." Her voice trembled and broke. "G-go home..."
"And to do that you decided that building a cheap spaceship and just taking off was a good idea?!" Garnet snarled at the woman, nearing her. She punched the wall and debris crumbled down. "Do you realize what you almost did to Steven?! To yourself?!"
The crash echoed as Garnet plundered through more floor tiles and Pearl backed up desperately to put some distance between them. She had never been more afraid before, not even in the face of the most dangerous monster she had faced.
"I do! I do!" Pearl cried and felt tears start to trickle. Sobs threatened to burst out with every word shouted at her, and her fear mounted the angrier Garnet became. The gem was not above using physical force on them, by any means. And although she couldn't remember the last time it occurred, the threat always lingered like a cloud of dread when they were in trouble. "I'm sorry! I'm SORRY!"
"I can't BELIEVE you could be so reckless! And—to just leave! You didn't even tell anyone! None of us knew where you were! You both could have been killed! Amethyst and I saw the ship explode! We feared the worst! You and Steven almost DIED out there!"
"I KNOW AND I'M SORRY!" Pearl finally screamed, her emotional wall broken as she fell to her knees and bawled. Fear, regret, and shame took over all at once and all she could see was Steven, his body broken in the grass, motionless and never to breathe again. She lost it, and she covered her face and head, shaking. "JUST GET IT OVER WITH! GET WHATEVER YOU'RE GOING TO DO TO ME OVER WITH!"
Pearl sat there and prayed to the gods that whatever punishment she was going to receive would be over with quickly and she whimpered when she felt Garnet's hands clamp onto her arms and pull her up. But as she braced herself, she instead felt the pair of arms wrap around her. She sobbed and shook, terrified that Garnet was going to snap her in half, but the woman just held her close.
"I'm not going to hurt you Pearl," Garnet murmured softly into her shoulder as the smaller form trembled into her chest. "I'm just..." Her grip tightened, like she feared the woman would disappear. "I thought you were both dead. We realized you were both gone, and then we saw the blast..."
Pearl heard the crack to the taller woman's voice and what was left of her broke completely as she burst into further tears and clutched to Garnet, like a needy little kid just desperate to know she was forgiven and not hated. "I...I'm suh...sorry! I'm so sorry, Garnet!"
"I know," the taller woman responded gently. Her tone was so soft and calm-such a contrast from earlier and the usual Garnet. But she knew how badly Pearl needed comfort right now. "I know...and you are forgiven."
Pearl shook her head in denial into the taller gem's chest and Garnet nodded gently and patiently, even as Pearl shook her head more. "Yes...you are."
"Rose would h...hate me."
"Rose would not hate you..." There was no one in existence more forgiving then Rose. Oh the amount they screwed up while in her charge, and yet, always forgiven. It was the type of leader that Garnet aspired to be.
"I almost...St...Steven...!" Pearl sobbed. All she could feel was her own guilt and it crushed her. Not even the embrace could soothe her. "Oh Garnet what was I thinking?" she blubbered into the woman's chest. She was constantly lecturing Amethyst about her adequateness of being a caretaker when she's the one that just launched them both into space in a deteriorating rocket. What a disgusting hypocrite she was. She failed. She failed as a caretaker. She failed as a...mother. "I...I could have...could have..."
"Don't think about that," Garnet ordered gently, and was prepared to hold the woman until she finally calmed down. Being a leader meant many things, and one of them was that Garnet would always do without question was pick up her teammates when they fell to pieces. "That little boy is one resilient warrior." She smiled gently as her fingers threaded lightly through Pearl's hair. "He can survive anything."
Garnet pulled back after a moment and surveyed the smaller face in her hands. Pearl was an absolute mess, her face swollen and tearful as her shoulders jittered with an occasional hiccup. The gem found herself staring into a shiny, wet pair of blue eyes, and for a rare moment, she let her guard fall.
Slowly, she lowered her visor, and then, she took it off her face completely. Pearl's shoulders relaxed, and she felt calm. Garnet's three eyes were so much more gentler then she had ever seen them—in the rare moments that she had if her visor was knocked off her face. There was something so comforting about seeing the part of their masked leader that she almost never had.
She wiped her eyes and was relieved when no more tears followed. Her face fell forward, almost shyly and she averted her eyes, relieved that she was able to blame the blue tinge to her cheeks on her recent crying session.
"How are you feeling now?" Garnet asked. Her own voice was slightly awkward, and she slipped her visor back over her eyes. Even though Pearl couldn't see her eyes anymore, she could tell she had averted her gaze as well.
"I'm...I'm perfectly fine now." That was a lie and really, Pearl felt like her own throat was closing up for multiple reasons, but she had to get out of Garnet's sight before her chest burst. She felt like a mouse face to face with a hungry cat for an entirely different reason now.
"I know sleeping isn't essential for us," Garnet said, "but you should rest easy tonight anyway. Try to calm down from everything that happened."
"I really just want to see Steven," Pearl sighed. All that talk of nearly blowing the boy to bits just made her want reassurance that he was fine, in one piece, and wasn't going to go anywhere. "I need..." She knew she sounded stupid, but she had no other way to say it. "...I just need to see him."
Garnet nodded in understanding and looked back at the door. "Amethyst probably thinks I killed you."
"I thought you were going to too..."
"I was thinking about it," the leader responded, in that eerie way that left you to wonder if she was joking or not. Pearl shuddered and Garnet quirked a slight grin at her. "Go see Steven—that's if his father doesn't have him trapped behind bars with chains bound to his ankles." That was likely after how angry they saw Greg was.
Pearl nodded and slowly made her way to the door. Her eyes stung and she held her shoulders to keep from shaking. She was sure she was going to break down again, but when she reached the door, a soft voice put her at ease.
"Good night, Pearl..." Three simple words, but yet Pearl could feel the meaning behind them. 'It's okay, and you're forgiven...' They were so soft, meaningful. It was like getting reassurance that you were still loved even after you screwed up. Pearl sniffled and gave a soft smile.
"Good night, Garnet."
It was silent when Pearl finally left Garnet's quarters. Amethyst had done what she was ordered and stayed in her room (although Pearl couldn't help but suspect she tried to eavesdrop some way through the conversation). All that greeted Pearl was the moonlight through the windows, the ticking of the clock and the hum of the fridge.
All she wanted was to see Steven, but she knew the child was probably out like a rock from their terrifying escapades.
She made her way down the beach and just listened to the soft lap of salty waves. Pearl was grateful for the silence, since it gave her time to think—and there was a lot that she had to think about. Steven, home, earth, her sheer desperation that almost killed them, Garnet's rage, her soft gaze, how she spoke to her... Those eyes... So much kinder then you'd ever think a hardened warrior's could be.
She rose from the sand after weighing in her mind the consequences of waking exhausted Steven yet again, and she was just about to turn back to the house when she saw a little silhouette pattering down the sand.
He had escaped his apparent unsupervised grounding (or his "captor" fell asleep) and he was running towards her with tears in his eyes, likely having woken up from an awful nightmare about the ordeal. It wasn't hard to tell that both of them had recently been crying about the whole mess. "Pearl!"
Pearl whipped around to see the little boy running towards her in the sand and caught him as he fell in her arms.
(A/N: After I rewatched Space Race I had to think about all sorts of things that could have happened after it. And judging by how Pearl panicked in Secret Team when she went against Garnet, it's not hard to tell that in the face of her anger she'd probably break to pieces, especially since Garnet is terrifying when angry. It's also pretty evident by that episode and a few others, that Garnet uses "scare tactics" a lot so this is definitely something that I could see off screen.)