Epilogue

Garnet reclined on a crinkly bale of hay, watching the others start to gather. Peridot and Lapis had just unfused; they had formed Prehnite when Lapis returned. Garnet smirked as they laughed, snorting and giggling when they flew apart – she knew from the start Peridot was going to break the balcony, and that Lapis would be mad, but they would ultimately forgive each other and fuse. Was she controlling fate? Maybe just a little, but she was a fusion embodied by love, how could she resist picking the future in which she could watch a new love start to grow?

She was pleased that Greg decided to join them; most futures dictated that he wouldn't, but when the van came crawling over the dirt beaten path, the leader was able to breathe a sigh of relief. He hadn't forgiven them, because he wasn't necessarily holding a grudge, but she could tell he wasn't necessarily happy either. It was more out of obligation that he came, she could only guess, but it was still nice to see him.

Pearl would be returning, hopefully, with Amethyst. She had called her from Greg's cell phone shortly after his arrival and exchanging minimal pleasantries and explained her concerns about the purple gem in the Temple. Pearl agreed to try to track her down in the Temple her and bring her to the barn, baring no unforeseen circumstances.

And that was it, Garnet realized. It made her sadder to see it when Pearl came over the hillside with Amethyst – the purple gem wouldn't look at the others, but she did greet Peridot warmly, which struck her as odd. This was it: herself, Pearl, Amethyst, Lapis, Peridot, and Connie, who was absent, with her family.

Greg hung back a bit, sitting on the edge of his van about ten feet from the group while the others gathered. The only one to stand was Garnet, and that was only after all the others had settled down.

Frowning, the fusion crossed her arms and looked around. "I'm proud of you, all of you. We accomplished the impossible – infiltrate Homeworld and come back to Earth. I know… I know it is tempting to feel like we've failed." Peridot lowered her head and Lapis clenched her fists, but everyone else's face remained blank.

"But I don't. Steven wouldn't. He wanted us to come home, to defend the Earth, to continue to be free. I may be your leader, but," she took off her visor, her eyes filled with a certain kindness reserved only for Garnet's most sincere moments. "You are the Crystal Gems. I can't force any of you to do anything – that's the point of Earth. I wanted to discuss how we might… proceed, given current affairs."

No one said anything at first, most everyone avoiding each other's eyes, so the fusion spoke again. "That includes you, Greg. I am glad you came – you see things we are often blind to, as we sometimes get wrapped up in our own world. We need your input, too."

He gave her a slow nod, processing, thinking. Normally, he didn't like to get involved with the magic stuff, but he could see the utility in this conversation. Garnet may not be saying it directly, but the questions were clearly there: do we stay, do we go back, should some stay and some go? Who? When? How?

Finally, Pearl was the first to jump in. "Maybe I am biased, but I can't let this stand. There is no way I can just idly stay on Earth, knowing he's out there." She held her head a little straighter, chin a little higher.

"I want to go to war."

Peridot and Lapis both gawked at her, and even Greg stiffened at her words. Amethyst did not react. Nodding, Garnet said nothing, weighing all options.

"B-but, Pearl, why would you want that?" Peridot began. "Don't get me wrong, we did a pretty good job for such a small team, but…"

"It's something I've thought long and hard about, Peridot. There's more of us here than when Rose and I started the revolution; with careful planning, and strategically using the loss of the Diamond's on Homeworld, I think it's possible. More than possible, really."

Lapis flinched. "I can't believe you, Pearl. It makes me sick that Steven is out there, but they have him. If we just declare war, they have almost nothing to lose. Who knows what they might… do to him." The blue gem clutched her arms a little tighter.

Garnet weighed in. "I don't necessarily think they'll do anything to him directly in response to our actions, Lapis. I'm not saying I'm for Pearl's suggestion, either, but I doubt White Diamond would just throw away her leverage like that."

Rubbing her chin, Peridot didn't sound convinced. "If anything, I say we could try another covert operation, now that we have a better feel for what we can do."

"Yes, but, think about it – even if we were successful, we know Homeworld has a reason to want to keep him. He's not just a… hostage." She eyed Greg warily, trying to measure her words. "White Diamond has need of him. If we just snatch him out from under her watchful eye, she'll come after us and the Earth immediately."

To everyone's surprise, Amethyst was the one to speak up. Her voice was even, dark, and entirely out of character. "I think this is a waste of time. We should just stay here."

That made them all fall silent for a moment, staring at the purple gem like she had just said an unsavory word.

"How could you say that?" Pearl was immediately indignant, and Lapis looked ready to smack her. Peridot looked down, a sad and knowing frown on her face.

Amethyst stood up, throwing her arms into the air in anger. "Are you all even hearing yourselves? I love Steven, I do. But we all almost died, seriously. He wanted this, you heard him, I heard him, we all heard him."

She turned away, kicked some hay, and crossed her arms. The others looked around, stunned, save the green gem.

To their surprise, Greg chimed in gently. "Amethyst, what's gotten into you?"

Hanging her head, Amethyst said nothing but they could hear her stifle a cry. Garnet moved to comfort her, but she shrugged away her hand.

"D-don't you guys get it? I'm not kidding. I really, almost died out there. Peri's gem mod… if it hadn't stopped the blow from that rock when we were Alexandrite, I would be dead. I can't go back there, I…" She sniffled, looking into the blue sky.

"I'm scared. If it hadn't been me, then it would have just as easily been one of you. I don't want anyone else to die, and if you think that marching on Homeworld's doorstep is a good idea after what happened last time…" Amethyst sighed.

"I-I'm sorry."

It didn't sound like the apology was intended for any of them.

There was a tense silence that fell that followed, and they all realized why Amethyst had so wanted to be alone. Peridot must have known – at some point on the Roaming Eye, she noticed– but if she hadn't rigged the tiny, reflexive shield to block direct physical attacks to the gemstone, it would not have triggered, and Amethyst would have been shattered.

Garnet had grown thoughtful and was about to recline back into her tiny throne of hay, but there was a sudden snap in her internal mind's eye as she felt something. Something… what was that.

"Wait." Her voice was immediately tight, a familiar sort of apprehension that they all knew to mean something serious.

"Something has entered the atmosphere. But, no… it can't be."


"I am… sorry, Steven, but we're almost there now. Nothing you say will change my mind." Danburite's cool monotone rang gently in the rattling little pod as Earth came into view.

He mumbled. "I-I know."

Barely, he resisted the urge to add: she would get what she wanted anyways..

Pearl shifted so as to better hold Yellow Pearl, which was at least one little bit of peace he was able to have. She had, apparently, started to corrupt when they found her – that's what Dani said. Maybe he would be able to fix her, unlike Jasper.

"Um… Steven, where should we…" the soft melody of the blue gem nodded out the window, towards home.

"Oh… right. Delmarva, Beach City, it's… this way," he pointed at the little screen in front of them, turning the holographic globe to face his familiar part of the Earth.

After another ten minutes of hurdling through space, the chamber began to grow warm as they moved through Earth's atmosphere. Not uncomfortable, almost cozy, warmer than he's felt in so long. He could start to see the outline of the Temple, the large hills that ran up and down the coast, closing in their little ocean town.

Steven felt a little happy, but it was mostly bittersweet. What did White Diamond want him to do here? What if he didn't do it?

Then the adrenaline of it all kicked in, his heart pumping madly while everything slowed down. They hit the sand, close to the water, and the magnificent stone-carving of the Temple towered over them like White Diamond, maybe even taller. He had never had something to compare it to until now.

Danburite lifted him gently. "Are you ready, Steven?"

He nodded, unsure if he could really form words right now. What was this feeling in his stomach? Regret? Anger? Fear? Happiness? It was hard to tell.

The white gem nodded at Pearl, who moved a finger around the screen and the top of the pod cracked open. There was an infinitesimal moment of pure peace – warm ocean air, salty and bubbling from the shifting tide, the familiar itch of Earth's air in his throat. It was so beautiful he started to cry.

Then, he heard a voice. No, many voices – so many voices he couldn't even count them all.

"Steven!"

"Steven!"

"Shtu-ball!"

"S-Steven? Is it really you?"

They were almost upon them, running through the sand. He could see Garnet and Amethyst and Pearl, all crying and nearly tripping over themselves to get to him, and Peridot riding on Lapis' shoulder like a piggy-back ride, and even his Dad was there, sweating and crying but with such a smile on his face Steven couldn't resist the urge to return the expression.

Danburite gripped him by the underarm, holding him aloft, and turned inward on herself – a little closer, more secure. Pearl had stepped lightly out of the pink pod and held her hands low, standing off to the side.

"W-wait" Dani said, slowing them as they were only a few feet away. Garnet held out a hand in front of the others, many of whom looked piqued, but the fusion trusted this Homeworld gem. She cared for Steven – that much was obvious.

Steven craned his neck to look at her, eyes hidden behind her visor.

"Will you be okay, if I set you down? You still need to rest, and you might get overwhelmed…"

Eyes still filled with tears, he nodded as her face softened slightly. A smile. They were all smiles, right now.

Very carefully, she let him step down into the sand, his bare toes sinking into the grainy warmth. How long has it been since he felt that sensation?

Then, they were holding him, hugging him, passing him around without letting him touch the ground, like he might disappear if one of them wasn't holding him. To be honest, it was a little nauseating to move so much, but the warmth of love and affection dispelled most of the negativity that pooled in the back of his mind.

At some point, Steven found himself lazing softly in Lapis' arm, her eyes the brightest blue he's ever seen them. Peridot and Danburite were having an intense discussion with… his dad, of all people. Garnet was standing behind Lapis, a tear or two still stealing away beneath her visor, but Steven was paying attention to another conversation going on to his left.

"W-White…" Blue Pearl said, bowing in greeting, unsure what else to do. His Pearl said nothing at first, but had a bemused expression on her face.

After a pause, she curtsied gracefully, but threw her arms around the lithe gem in quick hug.

"Blue." Pearl did not need to say anything else – her being here simply being here expressed more words than they could have ever exchanged in their thousands of years of being apart. She may be a Homeworld gem to the core, but they had been friends, nearly comrades if Pearl could have had her way, and at this moment it was just nice to see that she survived.

Despite his worries, Steven sighed comfortably in Lapis' arms, and she snuggled him a little closer with a smile on her face. It was a sad sort of smile though – he recognized it now, sporting it at this very moment on his own visage.

Shifting his weight in her arms, the blue gem whispered low to him. "What are you going to do about Connie?"

Steven cringed, not expecting Lapis to be the one to bring it up, but he was glad to address the matter privately. "Oh, gosh. The Maheswarans… I had nearly forgotten." That was a lie. He just wished he could avoid the conversation a little longer.

"Um," she said. "I don't know what that means. Is that code?" She looked a little bemused, but waited patiently for an answer.

"Oh, no – sorry. Maheswaran is Connie's last name. I was referring to her parents… I need to tell them what happe – Lapis?" He got distracted as understanding spread across her face, followed by a real smile and a brief chortle.

"Steven – oh, I…. Wait, how do I put this?" The blue gem's pretty face went from beaming to puzzled and quickly back to excited.

"Connie is alive, Steven, we're not really sure how, but she's okay. Just, pink now. It was… really weird, actually." She finished the astonishing, literally physically impossible news, very flatly – perfectly befitting the ocean gem.

He felt like he had been smacked again. "Wait – no, no, you're…" She wasn't joking, he could tell by the look on her face – Lapis wasn't necessarily known for her comedy, most of the time.

A little too loudly, he shouted. "I have to see her!" Several of the Gems nearby jumped.

Garnet approached him, then, and he lifted his arms up like a child: pick me up? Smiling, she wordlessly complied, but started walking towards the house.

"Wa-wait, I need to see Connie. Also, a lot of crazy things happened, Garnet. I…" Steven started to say, his speech quickly spilling out in a rush, but the fusion shook her head and delicately interrupted.

"Right now, you need to rest. We will call Connie and let her know. I can make a very good guess that she will be here when you wake up." She smiled that mysterious smile that he missed so much.

They were already crossing the threshold into the house. While he recognized Garnet was only trying to help, that did not necessarily ease his concerns.

The dream – I need to tell them about the dream.

She was tucking him into bed, and he realized he felt tired. So, so tired, and heavy, and he hadn't realized how much he missed resting on the softness of a mattress since he had been gone.

"I…" Steven started to explain his concerns, eyes thick with sudden exhaustion, and then his dad was there, sitting next to him like he used to when they would read until he fell asleep.

Gently, he spoke to his son. "Garnet's right, son. You're here now, and that's what's important, so let's just take this one step at a time, okay?"

Faintly, he nodded, amazed by the simple comfort of his dad's voice. It was so kind, so gentle, and it filled him with so much love.

Steven fell asleep in his bed, in his home, on his planet. Things had been so different since the last time he fell asleep here – that was how this all started, in fact. This time when he would wake up, however, it would be with his family and friends in his company.

One step at a time – one move in the game.

His turn, her turn, his turn, her turn – the match was only just beginning.


It's Over, Isn't It?

(No, it's not)

I am planning on writing a second part of C&C that will explore the fall-out once they return to Earth – Steven recovering from the trauma, Connie re-adjusting to, well, being undead, the Crystal Gems as they try to plan for the future, Greg in trusting the Gems with Steven again, Lapis and Peridot now that they've, well… "formed Prehnite," and other such things.

I am considering writing a prequel to this, set pre- / mid- Gem War that explores what I theorize happened to Pink Diamond, Rose and Pearl's early relationship with each other and Homeworld, and more. There were some hints in this story, but I haven't decided if/when I would launch this.


Plot Changes/Original Plans

This is just a random assortment of facts about the story, plot, and characters that were changed as the plot continued to develop.

The original story was never even supposed to have White Diamond (!). The planned antagonist was going to just be Yellow and Blue Diamond, feuding over how to handle Steven. Blue was going to murder Yellow, instead of Yellow murdering White. The degree of publicity on Steven's capture and execution would have made it impossible (or at least, highly unlikely) for White to stay out of the action. So, she turned into the mastermind, and Blue and Yellow became scheming partners.

Danburite's (Dani) was originally going to be Goshenite (Nicknamed 'Gosh' – Steven was going to enjoy using that pun. "Gosh, you're so dramatic, Gosh." "Gosh, aren't you the quiet one?")

The story was supposed to only oscillate between Earth, Pink Diamond's Zoo, and Blue Diamond's Arm Ship (could you imagine?! No Homeworld?!)

Chapter 28, "The Execution," was planned to be titled "Yellow's Parade" – everything that was made to celebrate Pink's memory was going to be centered around Yellow's "victory." Most of the gems in attendance were going to be her subjects, and the crowds were going to be crazed with rage and anger (militarized) rather than commemorative and celebratory (if that make sense?)

The Jasper that cut-off Pearl and Lapis before they randomly crossed paths with Steven was supposed to escort them to the execution, so Steven would never have sent them to White Diamond's throne room because they never would have seen each other. It was supposed to be one of those, "AH YOU JUST MISSED EACH OTHER!" moments for the reader, but I couldn't pass up angsty Steven pushing them onto the warp pad.

Connie's death was planned very early on, but it was going to be staged as an illusion – by White or Blue Diamond, I couldn't decide. One of them were going to bring out Holly Blue in front of Steven, ask her to list and shapeshift into each of the people he cared about from Opalite's memories, and Steven's reaction to seeing Connie would be enough to tell the Diamond that she was the most important. Then, they were going to "summon her" (like they did with Lar's in the canon-episode "The Trial") and murder her in front of Steven – but, the trick was, Connie and the others were going to be watching from a remote location. So you, the reader, would know she was alive, but Steven was going to think she was dead. Later, when they cross paths, he wouldn't be able to face her, thinking the real Connie was a ghost, illusion, or his imagination.

The whole, epic Prehnite moment at the Human Zoo when she takes out all of the Quartz soldiers, plus Danburite's redemption, were never in the original story. Garnet, Pearl, Lapis, and Peridot were going to travel through space to a nearby Blue Diamond colony, Zyoiton (pronounced "zai-o-tan") that Sapphire had spent several centuries on before the war, and do another "sneak-in-That-Will-Be-All-style," but that seemed long and erroneous just to get them back on track to Homeworld. The plan was, they were going to make sure it was safe, then Lapis would return to Amethyst and Connie, escort them to that planets galaxy warp, waltz right into Homeworld, and then be ambushed. Peridot was going to push Lapis out of the way and get poofed and taken away D:

Instead of shattering a Rose Quartz, Steven was going to be forced to shatter White Pearl – to reinforce how little value Homeworld attributes to Pearl's, and their unbelievable obedience ("Pearl, come forward," … willingly and knowingly waits to be shattered by Steven).

I kept a handwritten journal of notes, and almost every page has this written across the top: "Y Diamond – weaponize," "B Diamond – terrorize," and "W Diamond – manipulate.". At first, it was a plan for their intentions on how to use Steven, a three-way power struggle. Then, it became more of a way to keep their personalities separate.

The last half of being on Homeworld was supposed to be in White Diamond's throne room, where Steven first met White Diamond, not in the Kindergarten. The Kindergarten just… felt more eerie, unnatural, and ended up fitting better.

Mystery Girl was supposed to be in attendance at the Steven-a-Palazoo, or U.U.U Beach Festival HQ, and she and Pearl were supposed to have a teary goodbye. Buuuuut, the party was more about the people of Beach City – she was too much of an outlier, so it didn't really work.

One of the hardest choices was how to separate the gems when they reached Homeworld – I went through several pairings. Here's how things started and grew to be the final set-up. Imagine how different things would have been!

-Amethyst/Lapis/Connie and Pearl/Garnet/Peridot – a group of very lost Gems, and Gems who knew how to get around

-Pearl/Amethyst/Garnet and Connie/Lapis/Peridot – the obvious Crystal Gem and Crystal Temps pairing

-Garnet/Connie/Peridot and Pearl/Lapis/Amethyst – This was *very very* close to being the final pairing, until I decided Peridot needed to get lost for a while. Then, some moving around…

-Connie/Garnet/Amethyst and Pearl/Lapis and Peridot (alone).


Deleted Scenes/Passages

These are more-or-less in chronological order, and only include large chunks of re-written material. For example, a slight sentence change would not be included, but major shifts in dialogue or scene development. Please keep in mind these never underwent the intensive editing process, so expect typos and the occasional poor grammar!

Early Morning Conversations: Instead of speaking to himself, Steven was originally going to have a conversation with Danburite about human behavior.

In response to his body's heightened activity, Danburite walked through the door. It wasn't the first time it's happened since he was brought here many hours ago, and it probably wouldn't be the last. There was some movement in the fingers that Steven recognized as something that would slow his breathing and an oxygen mask was accordingly held to his face but the phantom digits.

After several minutes, he returned to a regular heartbeat, so Danburite made to leave again. Though their interactions were usually scheduled and wordless, Steven liked having a visitor, so he would talk to Danburite even if she wouldn't respond.

"W-Wait. I had a question." He bit his lip, thinking of something to make her say.

"It's, a uh… a medical question!"

At this, she paused, but did not turn around. She said nothing, expecting him to continue.

"Uh, it's personal, sort of… private?" He indicated towards the open door, where Heliodor was diligently standing.

To his surprise, Danburite turned around and looked at him. Her mouth was a frown, but the rest of her face was hidden, so he couldn't tell what she was thinking.

"Very well. I am familiar with the human emotion of shame. Explain." She lifted a hand and a lone mechanic finger flew towards a panel in the wall, closing the door.

Her sudden agreement was shocking to him, but he didn't want to lose this opportunity. Now he was feeling pressured, not expecting his lie to work, so now he was quickly trying to come up with something. The beeping monitor revealing his heart rate was not helping.

"I um, I was wondering, if… ah, no, never mind. I just wanted… the others, do their choosenings ever go wrong?" Steven was blushing despite himself, his question stupidly filling the silence. He tried to tell himself it didn't really matter that he lied for her to stay, he was essentially a war prisoner, Homeworld probably wasn't going to escalate his punishment him for a stupid question.

"Ah. The hypermasculinity of the human male is making you ashamed of speaking about romance and related biological functions. No, they don't. Why? You will not be choosened; you will only be here for a few more hours."

He hadn't expected a response, figuring she would find his question foolish, let alone for her to turn around and begin questioning him. "Uhh, oh. Just, there's no choosening on Earth, just similar things, and those go wrong a lot of the time."

"I know. I have studied your kind for thousands of years. We have designed the choosenings to never fail, so that none of the specimens might experience hurt."

"But why? Isn't it important to feel hurt? That's how you know when things are good." He hadn't intended the conversation to go like this, but now Steven was genuinely curious; he only felt so good in the small room because he had gone through so much pain to get here.

"No. They will not hurt each other; it is not their way. That leaves self-inflicted hurt, which is contradictory to your biological instinct to survive." Her speech was matter-of-fact, and as soon as she finished speaking, she immediately turned on her heel, opened the door and left the room again.

He just stared after her, not sure what to say. He only had a few more hours here, apparently, so he just tried to become as comfortable as he could in his bed, trying to clear his mind and enjoy the small peace he had.

Gem Arrival: Yellow Diamond takes Steven from the experiment room, but in this, there is a second Yellow Diamond on a screen in the room announcing his execution.

It was a really bizarre moment, even by the standards of Steven Universe, who arguably had one of the most bizarre realities imaginable.

After a few more seconds of staring dumbly at the two Diamonds at the end of his vision, he realized one of them was looking down at him, speaking. He tried to focus, concentrate on his own world and not the pounding in his head, trying to understand what she was saying to him.

"citizens… Attendance is mandatory with the exception of essential military gems. All others should be present for this great moment in gem history – once and for all, we will eradicate the rebel Rose Quartz – " Then, she disappeared. Steven realized about halfway through that it wasn't actually Yellow Diamond that was speaking to him – it was a recording of a message, like the one Peridot had set off on Earth from the communications hub. But, that only got rid of one of them – the other had been the one to stop the screen, and she was staring at him with a crazed, malicious smile on her face.

Comfort of the In Between: Heliodor heads off Sugilite and Connie before they explore Blue Diamond's base, forcing Sugilite to unfuse.

Taking a breath to steady her nerves, Connie yelped when she felt hands grab her, but the shout was lost in behind a cold orange hand. Eyes straining to look up, a tall orange gem with long fingers had grabbed her, snaking away to stand in front of the ruined white wall.

"Fusion! Stop, or the girl dies." Connie's eyes went wide as Sugilite turned, snarling. She did not take well to threats, but…

"What, so you can just kill all of us?" She was furious, but she did not raise her weapon.

The gem behind her ear held her up with one hand and covered her mouth tighter with the other, Connie screaming and trying to kick, but it was no use. Whoever this was had long arms, so long that Connie could not even reach their torso as she was held at full length.

The gem grimaced at that. "Don't be foolish – look around you. Do you think I would try to take you on alone? I'm not looking for a fight." Connie wasn't sure to trust the gems words, her voice coated in malice and stinging the back of her neck like poison.

Come on, Amethyst, Garnet… Please…

Sugilite roared in anger, but in a flash she unfused and the two flew apart. Garnet landed gently in a kneeling position while Amethyst rolled unceremoniously away.

Standing up, Garnet spoke. "Unhand her."

The gem complied, flinging Connie forward. She sprawled on her hands and knees but managed to catch herself.

Amethyst ran forward as Connie staggered towards them, grabbing her protectively and pushing the girl behind her.

"What's your deal, punk? What do you want?" She was still riled up with aggression from the fusion, practically growling at her.

"Nothing. Nothing at all." Her voice was flat, face emotionless.

Mysteriously, the gem jumped up to the beams that Connie had been supported on, Garnet defensively summoning her gauntlets as she gazed up, only for the gem to jumper higher and higher, out through a hole Sugilite had made in the ceiling.

The Execution: Steven has a passing thought, but I thought it was too morbid, so I excluded it.

Do Gems even have genocide?

Gemocide? The morbidity of his own joke tempted him to throw himself off of the little platform that displayed him like a living trophy across the gems of Homeworld.

Feeling Blue: The first version of Steven and Heliodor's conversation before he was left alone with Danburite, standing on top of the lutetium prison that held the rest of the Crystal Gems. In this, Heliodor has White Diamond's shards and resurrects her before Yellow and Blue Diamond arrive.

She stood up and turned away from him, her dress billowing lightly in the fog. "Do you remember what I told you when we last departed?"

Feeling a little steadier without her staring at him, Steven racked his brain. Of course he remembered, although it was a little jumbled.

"Yeah, I do. It was… about the color white. It's nothingness, emptiness, yet it exists without being…seen…" his voice trailed off as she turned back to face him, an orange bubble in her hands, white shards suspended within.

"Is that… are those…?" His voice was weak.

Steven was horrorstruck as the bubble popped, several large fragments of White Diamond's gemstone clinked gently in Heliodor's hands.

Shaking as he looked at the shimmering shards, he was reminded of being in the Cluster's mind again, the voices and the echoes in his own brain… It felt like she was trying to talk to him, trying to pierce him with those eyes again. Instinctively, Steven clutched his navel through the ruined white shirt, feeling nauseous, backing up and tripping over his feet. He slipped, fell backwards on hard metal and gawked at Heliodor as a robonoid climbed up her leg, then her torso and perched on her shoulder.

Goop shot from a little opening in the familiar robot, but the color was all wrong from Steven's memory. This fluid was orange, coating the shards in a gross sort of way that was sticky and liquescent. Heliodor set the shards down swiftly and backed away, flicking the orange off her hands as more robonoids started to appear from the darkness.

The world stood still as the scene in the Kindergarten unfolded, all of them watching the white shards start to vibrate and glow with beautiful white light. There was a folding sound, like rocks scraping against other rocks as they tumbled around the ground, and in a moment the fragments knit together to form a badly damaged, large shard of white gemstone.

A shard was not the end of it, however, and the white glow started to change and twist through the fog. Soon, the world was washed in a soft pink light as the cracks and fragments fused together, connecting the fractures. Across the surface of the shard, new stone began to grow and metathesize, life rising within the pretty white stone.

It took only another beat of Steven's heart, but, the air became dark and musty once again. The lights had disappeared, and in its placed was the towering figure of White Diamond, looking down at him with an absolutely terrifying expression on her face.

Who Lives, and Who Dies: Sapphire doesn't warn the others that Steven can't breathe, and they engulf him in a hug.

His eyes were sparkling with tears and his voice was drowned in disbelief. "W-what? You? – I'm the one who…" but he couldn't finish the words, because the next thing he knew there were arms around him, holding him tightly but softly. He couldn't breathe, not from the pressure, but from the enormous guilt. What are they doing?

"W- stop, stop it! What are you…?"

Connie leaned back and looked him straight in the face, and the look in her eyes made him melt. "Steven, you idiot." Then she was holding him again, and they were all holding each other, and it was warm and comforting, but it only made him feel more desperate and confused.

"N-no, I mean, um, I – " Steven was trying for the words, but his breathing was too intense. He was having a panic attack now, not expecting to be overcome with so much love – they should all hate him right now, not this, he didn't deserve this.

Last Waltz: The Homeworld Peridot had originally been somewhere in the Kindergarten; she had been the one to use Steven's plasma to regenerate White Diamond from her shards, and was the one to kick the "robonoid-Crystal-Gem-Peridot" into the hole, unknowingly. Originally, White was going to demonstrate Steven's powers to him by reforming the Rose Quartz gemstone he had shattered in her throne room… but that all seemed really unnecessary, a lot of writing for very little content. But here was how it was going to unfold.

White Diamond turned around and left him floating in front of them, her long strides bringing her to a peak in the surrounding canyon. Steven was still disoriented, but he felt pretty sure that was where he had been set down initially once all of the chaos had started. He thought it had been Dani who brought him up there…

"Peridot, come forward."

All of them, gems, human and in between, looked up in surprise, but they were all quickly disappointed. It was not their Peridot, but Steven, Lapis and Pearl all knew this green gem – she had been the one to do the experiments and the trials, that Pearl had seriously considered killing for spite. She stood at attention, her arms raised in a salute, and she was surrounded by little robonoids; it reminded Steven of the first time he had seen their Peridot back on Earth.

White Diamond bent her arm stiffly and raised it to her shoulder – a moment later, a glittery white bubble appeared, pink shards contained within.

It was too far away for the rest of them to see, but the towering figure lowered the bubble into the green gem's large robotic hands and then immediately sent her away, back into the shadows beyond the fog.

(Later)

White did not fear him escaping or plotting against her – she could tell he was already too far gone. Gliding over to the same cliff-face as before, she summoned her Peridot again, only this time, the green gem was the one to deliver a bubble.

"My Diamond." She bowed her head and offered the glittery orb, and then hastily backed away.

Gracefully, the ruthless leader turned back around and retrieved Steven in his bubble, lifting him to her height once again.

"I cannot risk you shattering yourself by mistake, so stay very still." In one hand, she held the Rose Quartz child, and the other, the Rose Quartz gem, both bubbled, and both entirely at her mercy.

A Tale of Two Cross-Fusions: Garnet was never going to struggle with her role as a leader, but I wanted to develop her more. Originally, Opalite was going to get "gemnapped" almost immediately after forming, but that didn't seem right with the pacing of the story. Here's how it would have happened, though!

but she was cut-off, her words disrupted by a shout and sudden motion beside her.

It was Garnet, yelling across the valley and flinging Amethyst through the air.

"Lapis, catch!" Shaking her head, Lapis barely managed to turn around and grab Amethyst as she was hurdled towards her, and without breaking the momentum, Amethyst flung the end of her whip at Opalite's leg.

With a yell and a painful yank, the blue fusion was dragged into the air. White Diamond snarled angrily – idly dealing with the insurgents while they caused a racket had not been agreed upon, so she tried to grab the purple and blue gem from the air but Lapis swerve and duck just in time.

"W-what are you doing?" Opalite yelled up at them, hanging upside down as Lapis zoomed as quickly as she could back to the other cliff-face. White Diamond was sending hands up to grab them from below, her anger turning the atmosphere blistering again.

But everything had changed too quickly for them to keep up – Lapis could see Peridot's silhouette inside the lutetium, where they had made a make-shift pilot seat, and the outlines of Pearl and Garnet beside her, ready to go. Amethyst was exerting all of her fading strength to keep Opalite from falling, not made easier by their struggling, and it was throwing off Lapis' coordination.

I'm sorry, Steven, you'll thank me later...

The four of them crashed into the pseudo-drill as white hands started to pour inside the open door.

"Now, Peridot!" The green gem had been ready for Garnet's cue, and immediately she started to lift them into the air.

White Diamond was furious, shouting as boulders crashed over the roof on their head. "You will not escape!" She had the little ship-drill trapped in her ghostly grips, and Peridot was struggling to keep them from going down.

"Lapis, a little help?!" In a flash, the blue gem rushed over to her and they touched foreheads, and with a burst of light, Prehnite took their place. Fully able to guide them now, the lithe fusion concentrated the best she could to bend the metal at their feet, guiding them up and up and away, stretching the alloy a bit thinner to seal off the open door, White Diamond's echoing shouts reverberating from below.

"Yes!" Prehnite said automatically as the drill starting to force themselves through the upper echelons of the Kindergarten, destroying any earth or mineral that got in their way.

But Pearl shouted simultaneously. "No!"

Their quick escape may have worked on the outside, but they had not been so lucky within. Lapis hadn't even given the others any notice when she dropped them, flinging herself towards Peridot in her haste, but there had been some serious damage done along the way. Connie's bubble popped when Amethyst flew into her, causing her to lose her grip on her whip, sending Opalite flying into a wall. The force of the hit, combined with their already unstable fusion and Steven's weakening life force, broke them apart almost as quickly as they had been tied together.

Steven had been hurt too much – the moment they made impact with the green wall, he had nearly fallen unconscious; the Rose Quartz splintered straight across the face of the gem, and the sudden intensity of pain turned him numb. Luckily, Garnet managed to catch him before he knocked into anything else, while Holly Blue Agate was thrown against the opposite wall, more-or-less unharmed.

Steven blinked sleepily into the din, disoriented by the unraveling madness and the hollow feeling throughout his body.

"G-Garnet?" he managed, feeling two familiar hands wrap around him gently.

"It's okay, Steven, I've got you."

Pearl had been waiting for this, her blood boiling as she watched Holly Blue start to regain her composure. Gripping her head at the unexpected flux, the blue gem opened her eyes to see Pearl advancing on her, Rose's sword in her hand, face drawn rigidly with abhorrence.

Unfortunately, the flurry of sounds and shouting and whirring of the drill made Pearl lose her balance as they all lurched, Rose's sword falling and sliding across the floor.

"You!" said Pearl, furious as Holly Blue rolled after it, her blue face wicked with hostility and pride. The Homeworld gem hadn't gained her status for nothing, quickly summoning her whip and sent it after the sword, grappling the hilt and swinging it around to make contact with Pearl's chest; Garnet had already been moving, seeing the attack coming and knocking Pearl out of the way, though the move was less than graceful as the green chamber continued to shake.

Then, as if time itself had stopped, they all watched the dangerous blade zoom through the air, twisting and shimmering under the glowing green light. Steven watched it, too, confused as he followed it, looking down as it made contact with his chest. He felt the warmth of his blood rise up to the surface of his skin, watching his clothes turn red.

Steven looked down, his face entirely unconcerned as he examined the sword buried in his chest as if it were just a little bug that had landed against his shirt.

"Huh," he said, and then, poof.

Steven was gone.

The Truth: Connie was originally going to join Pearl and Garnet to speak with Greg, forcing them to confront what's bothering them, but I didn't like the way it was going… It felt forced, so I opted to have Connie stay at the Temple with Amethyst.

Garnet and Pearl were still not speaking, and Connie felt awkward, so she spoke up as they passed the Big Donut; she could see Sadie and Lars inside, arguing while they put on their jackets. It was nearly time for them to close, apparently.

"Will one of you, um, come with me to talk to my parents? I-I don't think I can face them alone." Connie said, holding up her hand to her face. It was still pink, but less so.

Garnet grimaced. "Hmm… I don't know how this… pink-ness, will turn out. If you want, we can wait a few days before seeing them. If it goes away," she tilted her head thoughtfully. "You can tell them as little or as much as you like."

Pearl stiffened slightly, although Connie couldn't tell why, so she nodded her head and they continued in silence. The car wash was coming into view at the end of the street, Mr. Universe's van parked outside as always. From here, they could see the back door was swung open, but there was no sign of the familiar human.

"W-wait." Connie said again, stopping. They both stopped a moment later, turning to face her.

Pearl spoke first, coming to her level as the girl hung her head low. "What is it, Connie? Are you feeling alright?"

She bit her lip, but figured it was best to try to face the truth. "I'm fine, but, what is wrong with you?" Pearl's face turned slightly hostile, but she was always patient with Connie. Garnet's expression was unreadable as she watched behind Pearl's shoulder.

"W-what? Nothing is wrong, Connie." Pearl stumbled over her words slightly, only adding to her suspicion.

"No, really. Think about what we're about to do. I don't think I can… I don't think I can do this if you guys are mad." Garnet and Pearl looked at each other for the first time, but neither of them spoke for a moment. The fusion approached Pearl's otherside, but they still tried to skirt around the issue.

"Connie, we're not mad at you."


Fun Facts

The story was originally going to be called "I Could Never Be Ready," or just "Ready" but, I liked C&C more. Don't know why, really, just always been a fan of names like that follow that convention. (Dungeons & Dragons – D&D, Pride & Prejudice – P&P, etc.)

The numbering for "Log Date 20-57-2" is my father's birthday, rearranged – February 20, 1957.

My favorite chapters to write: (15, 24, 30+31, 38) "It's Over, Isn't It?" "What Divides Us (or, Confusion)" "Feeling Blue" and "The Truth"

I really, really wanted to include Sardonyx at some point – she's one of my favorite fusions – but it never really worked. ):

My computer kept trying to auto-correct "Danburite" as "Danbury," and I'm still laughing about it.

I completed writing "Mourning Star" (13) on my birthday. What a weird way to celebrate.

The original chapter plan was (1-10) Steven's gone, CG on Earth / (11-20) CG head to space/arrive, Steven still in prison / (21-30) Gem's rescue Steven and go home. The story was supposed to take *no longer* than 30 chapters. Whoops.

My visualization of White Diamond, and basically all of "Two Moves Ahead" was derived from artist nic_rii on Instagram's AMAZING three-panel fan art.

(to my frustration, everytime I tried to add the link to these images they were cut-off. If you are interested, let me know and I will provide you a direct link. Stupid formatting!)

The valley in the Kindergarten was inspired by the Battle of 1,000 Heartless from Kingdom Hearts 2, except with much taller walls.

I did not know a single thing about chess when I started writing this story.

All of the biology/anatomy mentioned in relation Steven's healing spit and his differentiated healing tears are founded in real science, but obviously are changed due to magical properties.

Heliodor's body shape and overall presence and attitude were inspired by Slenderman, if he was crossed with a snake?

Broadly speaking, Steven's growth in this story was modeled after William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. His struggle with Opalite and Holly Blue Agate were derived from W. B. Yeat's "Leda and the Swan."

I could not, for the life of me, figure out what I wanted to call Heliodor, which is honestly the reason I waited until Chapter 13 to reveal it. I went around with Amber, Clinohumite, and Beryl. The orange-yellowish variety of Beryl is called Heliodor, named after the sun, so I ended up going with that.

Peridot's reformed outfit was inspired by the bottom-left image from artist "DYN" – I could not find the original post, so please keep in mind that all credit goes to the artist.

-(I could not, for whatever reason, add a link to this. Everytime I tried to add it, it would get cut-off. I apologize - if you are curious, please PM me and I will send it to you. Or, google "Peridot SU with Star" and it will be a four panel image)

I visualized a lot of Homeworld, especially anything that belonged to Yellow Diamond, like the Hyperion Hub of Heroism from Borderlands.

Playlist

Sometimes, I would listen to certain songs on repeat while writing about a specific character, chapter or a scene. Other times, I would generally just play the same few songs to get a "feel" for the story. I've highlighted a few of the songs here.

This Will End – The Oh Hellos – inspired basically the whole story

Everything Stays – Rebecca Sugar/Adventure Time Soundtrack – most scenes involving Pearl or Blue Pearl, also modeled Peridot and Lapis' conversation when they return to Earth (38)

Holland, 1945 – Neutral Milk Hotel – the fight between Ruby and Amethyst in "Fission" (17)

Love Like You – Rebecca Sugar/Steven Universe Soundtrack – Peridot's speech to Lapis in En Masse (19)

Fond Farewell – Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield (originally by Elliot Smith) – basically anything post-Gem Arrival (25) involving Steven

Blue Spotted Tail – Fleet Foxes – Crystal Gem's, particularly Garnet, struggling to accept Steven agreeing to kill them in "Who Lives, Who Dies" (32) and "Last Waltz" (33)

Two Headed Boy Part 1 & 2 – Neutral Milk Hotel – trying to capture that nebulous angst post-We Won (35)

Thank you & A Request from Me!

For those of you who have been here since the beginning to those who jumped in after Chapter 30, I am so happy to have had readers as awesome as you all.

Special shout-out to a handful of people who were instrumental in writing this, from their support to their criticism: Jess4400, Agent66, yarajaeger, Oscine_C, rosexwitch, Dawn, Talltree-san, ThePhantasm, Kingshark, Dredd and TheBlade17. You are all awesome. And to one of my newest readers, SapphireStorm for being super patient & supportive!

Request: as a final, final thought, I just want to ask - did you have any chapters, scenes, or relationships you particularly liked? Connie and Pearl? Steven and Holly Blue (cause why not)? Garnet and Peridot? The fight scene between Alexandrite and White Diamond? All of chapter 28? Anything like that - please, let me know. I want to know what's working so I can try to bring all of my content up to those standards.