"Are you sure about this Pearl?" Bismuth asked.
Pearl took in a deep breath. "Yes, but no. I am certainly anxious…but, this is something I need to at least try. Garnet I don't suppose your Future Vision has cleared up any yet?"
Garnet paused and then shook her head. "Sorry Pearl, since the trial last month and Stomps breaking off with a group and settling the old Kindergartens everything major has been a bit hazy. There are just so many chaotic factors right now, I still need time to adjust."
Amethyst looked at the destabilizer in her hand which trembled a little. "Great. So we doing this or not?"
Pearl nodded. "Right, Bismuth, let's get this over with."
Bismuth gulped and walked over to Rose's fountain with a bubble in one hand and a destabilizer in the other. She held the bubble over the water and glanced back. Amethyst lowered her stance and summoned a whip. Garnet summoned both of her gauntlets. Pearl remained standing as calmly as she could, holding the bracer she had modified over the past few weeks.
" Do it." Pearl affirmed.
Bismuth popped the bubble and let the gem fall into the water while she hopped back to Pearl's side, destabilizer at the ready. A few moments later Jasper broke the surface of the water, gasping and splashing water all around her. There was a collective, barely audible gasp. Jasper's form was different this time, her skin marred by splotches and ribbons of teal the same colors as Malachite had been.
Jasper blinked a few times, confused. Then she jerked, suddenly crouching into a fighting stance. Everyone tensed and readied themselves. Jasper still looked far away as she scanned her surroundings. She blinked again and focused on Pearl. Her hands dropped to her sides and she relaxed her stance. There was a long pause, everyone quietly waiting for what happened next.
The words that came out of Jasper's mouth as she looked away from Pearl to the water at her feet surprised everyone.
"You should have just shattered me."
Pearl opened her mouth but didn't say anything, at a loss for words.
"So get on with it. I imagine you healed my gem and brought me back to take what's owed and torture me, right?" Jasper stepped out of the water and then crossed her arms, still looking at the ground.
"No," Pearl finally found her voice, "I-I want to offer you an opportunity."
"What?" Jasper looked up at Pearl, eyes narrow and mouth scowling. "Why? I don't deserve one, especially not from you. You should hate me and-"
Pearl interrupted, "You don't get to tell me how I should or should not feel or what I should or should not do."
Jasper flinched, taken aback by the statement and the confidence with which Pearl spoke. She looked at the ground again.
The others started relaxing a little, although still ready to lunge into action if needed.
"Fine, what's this opportunity?" Jasper asked, and then gestured to discolorations on her arm, "and what did you do to my form?"
"We didn't do anything to your form." Bismuth responded. "I dropped your cracked gem into Rose's healing fountain; it heals any physical damage to a Gem's form or gem."
"Well I certainly didn't choose my form to have these." Jasper growled.
"I didn't choose these stripes on my form either." Pearl said.
Jasper glanced up, "I was wondering about that. So what is it from, what's causing it?"
"From what I can tell," Pearl hesitated a moment, "it's psychological damage."
"What?" Jasper spat and crossed arms became fists at her side.
Everyone except Pearl tensed again.
"What are you saying?! I don't have-"
Pearl interrupted again, "If you're about to tell us how you have nothing to be damaged about or aren't weak, spare us. It isn't weakness and as much as you tore through my mind and life while we were Tiger's Eye, you also exposed yourself. I know you."
Jasper blushed and crossed her arms again, trying to hide her face with her hair. She grunted, "Still waiting to hear about this 'opportunity' you want to offer me."
"Yeah, well stop being an ass and maybe-" Bismuth started but Pearl's hand on her bicep calmed her.
Pearl cleared her throat. "You'll get to keep your form. You'll help Bismuth and I restore a city Tiger's Eye destroyed and follow my orders. Eventually once I'm satisfied you won't hurt anyone else, you'll be free to go."
Jasper raised an eyebrow, "And if you're not satisfied I won't hurt anyone? Or if I try to hurt someone?"
"Then you go back in a bubble, indefinitely."
Jasper scoffed, "What stops me from forcing us to be Tiger's Eye again?"
Pearl held up the bracer. "You'll wear this. Although I'm confident you don't actually want to take over again since you were miserable as Tiger's Eye, too. This bracer ensures it. Homeworld experimented with preventing Gems from fusing without permission instead of shattering them. They didn't finish it but I did, and I modified it. Once it's on only I can take it off, the lock is tuned to my gem. You won't be able to release your form either to get out of it, which will leave you vulnerable to damage. It will prevent you from fusing or taking over anyone. It is not without risk to you, but it is necessary for security."
Jasper hesitated, "That's it? Wear that, clear up a mess until you deem me worthy and then what? Pretend nothing happened?"
Pearl sighed, "Of course not. Forgetting will never happen. I've...chosen to forgive you for my own sake. I didn't have to, and other people would be angry and not forgive you and that would be fine, but for me, this is right. Part of forgiving you is giving you the chance to forgive yourself and face your own issues in your own way, but the bracer is needed for a while for safety. I want you to have a chance to live but I refuse to let you hurt someone else the way you hurt me."
Jasper uncrossed her arms and stared at her hand with dark and light teal spots and marbling stripes running up her forearm for a while. A quiet, meek, "Fine," left her lips.
Pearl paused, the response sinking in, "You agree to the terms and want to try?"
Jasper huffed and shifted her weight from one leg to the other, "I already said fine."
Pearl sputtered a bit, "I just, I want to make sure you understand what you're agreeing to."
Jasper suppressed a growl and felt her face flush. "I do understand. I know not being able to release my form will put me in danger and I'll have to listen to you, but agreeing also gives me," her voice cracked a little, "gives me a chance."
Pearl tossed the bracer to Jasper's feet, "Go on then, put that on."
Jasper clenched her jaw and reached down.
Jasper paused. Everyone tensed again. Jasper was capable of easily crushing the bracer and starting a fight without fear of it containing her.
Finally, Jasper slid the bracer around her wrist and clamped it closed.
"Oh," Jasper relaxed, "is that it? I thought it would hurt or something."
Pearl rolled her eyes and walked over, taking a small tool from her gem. Her hand trembled a little but she ignored it. "I told you we weren't going to torture you. Now let me see it so I can tweak how it fits."
Bismuth hovered nearby and the other Gems moved closer. No one had stashed their weapons yet, but they held them at their sides instead of ready to strike.
Jasper lifted the bracer and Pearl looked at it. She tightened and loosened a few things and then asked, "How does that feel around your forearm now? Not too tight?"
Jasper moved around experimentally. "It's much better actually, I can't even really tell it's there."
"Perfect." Pearl stored the tool in her gem and backed up. "Amethyst has somewhere to take you for now, then tomorrow we'll head to the city we'll be working on.
Jasper's face twitched into a frown briefly but she walked to the Warp Pad with Amethyst. Garnet joined them and they warped away, leaving Bismuth and Pearl by themselves.
"Well," Pearl clasped her hands to steady their shaking, "that went better than expected."
Bismuth gently held Pearl's hands. "Yeah, I guess so. I didn't think she would go for the plan honestly. Now that she has...well, doesn't matter how I feel about it."
Pearl frowned. "It does too matter Biz. What is it?"
"I just," Bismuth scratched the back of her head, "I get the point of forgiving her, I really do. I just... I don't know if I can yet, or if I ever will. And I certainly can't trust her. But it just seems kinda silly since I wasn't the one she attacked and all, ya know?"
Pearl pulled in closer to Bismuth, wrapping her arms around Bismuth's forearm. "That's not silly at all. You don't have to forgive her just because I did, and yes, you weren't the direct...victim, but we both care about each other deeply, and neither wants the other hurt or gone. Also, it's probably good you don't trust her, keeps you vigilant if she does try something. I really don't think she will, but I'm glad you'll be with me to help."
"You know you can count on me." Bismuth smiled. "And hey, guess we have some time before tomorrow, lets go have some fun huh?"
Pearl smiled, "I'd like that."
The next morning Bismuth and Pearl came out of Pearl's room in the Temple and found Amethyst sitting on the couch.
"Where's Jasper?" Pearl asked, tension visible in her shoulders.
"Talking with Garnet on the beach. She'll be in soon."
Pearl relaxed, "So how did things go with the other Earth quartzes?"
Amethyst shrugged. "Overall good I suppose. The air was cleared I guess. Wouldn't exactly say amends were made and friendships formed, but some stuff was figured out. Turns out that first agate they all had isolated Jasper and told her a bunch a lies about the other quartzes talking shit about her and then did the same to Jasper about the others. Kept Jasper focused on training and she ended up winning some tournament and that got her and the agate transferred to Yellow's court. So all this time there was all this hate that had built a wall between them but none of it was even true, just some power hungry Gem pulling the strings."
"Oh," Pearl frowned, "now that you say that... Jasper's memories of direct confrontations between her and her kindergarten mates didn't start until after Laguna Agate had already broken her off from the group and told her the others hated her and were trying to get her in trouble with fabrications. She was ambitious too, one of the few agates made on Earth, and the only one from Earth moved to Yellow's court before we faked Pink's shattering. She never really did like Pink Diamond much, thought she was too passive and disorganized. Not that she said that to Pink directly, pearls just tend to be overlooked and she tended to forget if I was still in the room after Pink left."
"Would that have been what my life was like?" Amethyst asked, "if I emerged on time and had lived under an agate? Just fighting in tournaments for entertainment and clout and being manipulated and punished?"
Pearl sighed, "Not all agates are like that, some are better at creating tight groups and strengthening bonds between quartzes so they all prosper as a group, but those agates don't tend to stick out or do anything overly risky that get them extra attention. So the ambitious agates that want to be ranked higher and eventually earn a coveted spot in a Diamond's court do whatever they can to be noticed. Even if it doesn't necessarily benefit all of the quartzes they are charged with."
Amethyst touched her gem. "I don't know how I would have lived like that."
Bismuth grinned, "You kidding? You're a Crystal Gem through and through, would have been just like the rest of us, trying to blend in and then bam, realizing you don't have to and there's so much more to life."
"Yeah I guess. But like...I don't know, all of the Famethyst fought in the war, several of them shattered at least one Gem, and like all of them guarded a prisoner that was being tortured or something, following orders given to them. I can't, I can't imagine doing any of that. How that would change me. What if...what if I ended up like those that enjoy it? Or just trapped and angry like Jasper?"
As if on cue, Jasper and Garnet entered into the house. Everyone tensed up, although Pearl more visibly so as she stopped an automatic hand going towards her gem for a weapon. Pearl fussed with her hair and looked away towards the Warp Pad, wondering if this really was a good idea for the millionth time. She didn't regret the idea, but as her form ached and tightened into alarm she began wondering if actively working with Jasper would be helpful after all.
"Amethyst," Pearl looked at her long-time friend, "don't bog yourself downs with what ifs, there are a million different things that could have happened instead of what did and no way of predicting with certainty which ones would actually have come true. You emerged when you did, and you are who you are. Now then, Jasper," Pearl forced herself to look the tall quartz directly in the eyes, "we have work to do."
The next few months Bismuth, Pearl and Jasper worked almost non-stop, clearing rubble, rebuilding structures, organizing objects that had remained intact. They had to avoid areas where humans were, limiting their efforts greatly, but the city was understandably uneasy about what they had named the "gemmed menaces" after the attack and reports of former corruptions were pooled and the humans noticed that all had some sort of precious stone on their beings. The trio hid their gems with clothes, a high neck shirt for Bismuth, half mask for Jasper, and a headband for Pearl. However, they still looked unusual by human standards and needed to use their abilities frequently so they found it best to avoid crowds.
They would wait until the dead of night when the humans were resting to work on he hardest hit areas of the city. They had even managed to rescue a handful of humans that had been trapped in shelters or rooms with supplies, despite how long it had been. During the day they focused on areas of town deemed too toxic for humans to work in without protective gear. These areas were deserted for now, low in priority to humans since it would be more costly to restore and less could be recovered. For the Gems though, these areas were perfectly safe, and Pearl created machines and techniques to get rid of the hazardous substances much faster than humans could, even finding ways to draw out and safely re-store chemicals she knew human machines relied on.
Jasper barely ever said a word and never interacted more with Bismuth and Pearl then she absolutely had too. She worked hard though, and followed every direction given to her without question. Despite a lack of obvious hostility though, Jasper still seethed with frustration, anger, and sadness, and sometimes, Pearl thought, maybe even guilt. Pearl still felt uneasy around Jasper, but they had both protected each other and Bismuth when rubble unexpectedly slid, or a structure ended up being more unstable then they could see and collapsed, and one time when entrance into a . She now finally felt certain that Jasper did not wish her any more harm.
Soon, they were cleaning up the last section that was contaminated by a substance toxic to humans. They had been working on the site or three weeks and were nearing completion. While they were taking a break, Pearl approached Jasper. "You've been doing well. We've been getting through all theses sites much faster than expected."
Pearl took in a breath, "After this site I'm not sure where we can clean up without being noticed by humans, so we could take a few days off. You could hang out with the other Earth quartzes if you'd like. Bismuth and I certainly-"
"What are you doing?" Jasper interrupted.
"This...talking thing. What do you think it's going to accomplish?"
Pearl stumbled with her words, "I don't, I mean, nothing in particular. I'm just trying to converse. You don't have to be so...isolated."
Jasper scoffed, "Yes, I do. And you don't have to force yourself to talk to me, I don't need your pity."
"I'm not forcing," Pearl frowned.
"Oh please," Jasper rolled her eyes. "I know you're terrified of me."
Pearl stiffened. "I am not terrified. Uneasy still certainly, I don't know if that will ever go away, but I at least know I don't need to still be afraid of you."
Jasper suddenly stood from the boulder she was sitting on, towering over Pearl and sneering down at her. "You do need to be afraid of me. Everyone needs to be afraid of me."
Pearl held firm. "I don't believe that. Not anymore. You may not be one of us exactly, but you are not a monster."
Jasper suddenly lifted Pearl by her neck and pressed her against a crumbling wall. "You're only right about one thing, I'm not one of you. I will never be, and I will never belong on this miserable planet."
Pearl summoned what was now her helmet and crashed it down onto Jasper's forehead. Jasper shouted in surprise and let go. Pearl spun into Jasper's chest the second her feet hit the ground, knocking Jasper back and onto her behind.
Pearl stood tall and crossed her arms. "So where do you belong, hm? Back on Homeworld? You weren't happy there anymore...not after losing Pink Diamond."
"Shut up," Jasper growled but didn't get back to her feet. "At least things on Homeworld made more sense than this fracture-cursed planet. At least there I had a purpose! It's the closest place to belonging I can get. I would be there now if I was stuck on this miserable rock. I should have never came back! I broke out of this damned crust once, I thought I could do it again...but I was wrong."
Bismuth jogged up, hearing the commotion from where she had been sitting and surveying. "Everything alright?" She tensed as she saw Pearl with weapon drawn and Jasper on the ground.
Pearl didn't break eye contact with Jasper. "Fine. In three days Yellow Diamond will be sending a ship to Earth. In the agreement Steven made they allow Off Colors to join us here and send them every few months. When we were still Tiger's Eye they also allowed any Gem still loyal to Homeworld to return. Since you were unaware of this when the treaty was made and you're so convinced that's where you belong, I'm sure they would be willing to take you back. The ship will land on the beach near the house at noon. Go wherever you like for now. I will meet you at the ship before it departs and remove that bracer before you can go back."
"The bracer stays on." Jasper said.
Pearl raised an eyebrow, although it was barely visible under the visor of the helmet. "I don't think Homeworld would like-"
"If it's really a problem then I'll come back and have you remove it, but I want to try with it still on." Jasper stood to her feet.
"Why?" Pearl asked.
"None of your concern. Now, can I go or not?" Jasper crossed her arms and looked towards the horizon.
Pearl paused, then answered softly. "Fine, go. I'll see you at the ship in three days." She stored her helmet back into her gem.
Jasper grunted and stomped off in the direction of the Warp Pad, pausing as she passed Bismuth briefly to look at the confused blacksmith and then continuing on.
"Uh," Bismuth wasn't sure what to do. She moved closer to Pearl and noticed faint marks from fingers on Pearl's neck. "She hurt you!"
"It's okay," Pearl placed a hand on Bismuth's arm to stop her from chasing after Jasper, "she was just trying to intimidate me."
"How exactly does that make it okay? Pearl, we've been over this, other Gems absolutely do not-"
"Biz please, I appreciate you being protective and supportive, but this really is different. She was very much holding back and she was lashing out because she's still shutting herself off and punishing herself. I felt completely fine defending myself, too. Besides, she's leaving in a few days and that will be that."
Bismuth grumbled. "I guess. I still don't like it though." She gently tilted Pearl's chin up with her thumb to inspect the damage. The marks were faint, much fainter than what Stomps had done and certainly nowhere near what Jasper was capable of.
Bismuth sighed and looked up, pulling her hand away and blushing when she saw that Pearl was blushing all the way up to her nose. "O-oh, uh, sorry."
Pearl reached out and grabbed Bismuth's hand. "Wait, it's, it's okay." Her blush intensified and she laughed. "It's okay. We've always been close... and these past months we've been getting even closer and it's been...nice."
Bismuth timidly placed a hand at Pearl's waist. "Still okay?"
Pearl laughed again and smiled. "Yes." She cupped Bismuth cheek with one of her hands. "I suppose we should get back to work, hm?"
Bismuth nodded, "Probably, we are almost done. Honestly, if we really focus we can probably finish this up today."
"Then we can take a few days off, see what's going on at the house, figure out what we're going to do next." Pearl stroked Bismuth's cheek, then sighed and whirled around, walking back to the machine she was packing up after clean up.
As planned, Bismuth and Pearl finished their work by the time the sun was starting to set. There were several drums of gasoline neatly lined up that Pearl had been able to save from a broken tanker. As with every other sites they had worked on, all the rubble was neatly stacked and organized by type, and the main beams and supports for the buildings that were only partially destroyed were repaired. Bismuth had some steel beams she made piled up for buildings that had been completely destroyed along with some bricks. There was still a lot of work left for the humans to finish rebuilding, but it was the best the Gems could do without being able to work with the locals.
Pearl and Bismuth walked arm and arm towards the Warp Pad.
Pearl started talking, "Well, hopefully all of this will alleviate at least some of the stress of reconstruction for the humans. I am certainly feeling...better now. I know I wasn't in charge of Tiger's Eye and we were corrupted, but I still felt guilty, and it's nice to be able to at least repair some of the damage and save some people too. I, I still do wish there was more I could do to help Jasper though."
Bismuth glanced down, "You did more than enough. She's gotta want to help herself."
Pearl nodded. "I don't think going back to Homeworld is going to be good for her, but I'm not about to keep her trapped here either. Honestly, when I mentioned Homeworld I didn't think she would actually be interested in going back."
"Not your problem." Bismuth said firmly. "I have to admit though, I was surprised too. I mean, she certainly hasn't been trying to make friends but...I don't know, she seemed to at least want to attempt to change and make things on Earth work. We did what we could though, and like you said, we've been able to do a lot of repair to the city."
Pearl pressed her head into Bismuth's arm as the got on the Warp Pad. "It's still...hard. Getting over all that happened...what was done to me. With this milestone though I have to admit I feel a lot lighter. I'm feeling more confident too. I'm still having bad days, but they're growing farther apart. And I'm starting to feel...happier and happier."
Bismuth started tearing up. Pearl looked up and started tearing up too, "Hey now, none of that Biz."
Bismuth scrubbed her eyes. "Sorry, just, so good to hear you say that Pearl. It's been nice to see you recovering."
Pearl smiled, "Thank you. For everything." She closed her eyes and took in a deep breath. As she did a faint glow came over her form, when it was gone, all of the dark brown marking had paled to a light tan.
"Pearl!" Bismuth gasped.
Pearl opened her eyes and followed Bismuth's gaze. "Oh! I- how unexpected! Does this...does this mean maybe these aren't permanent?"
"Ah!" Bismuth picked Pearl up and spun her around. They both laughed until they couldn't anymore and then settled down and headed back home.
Pearl held a hot cup of tea and watched as Bismuth helped Steven draw up plans for what they were calling the Crystal Village. While they had been gone Greg had purchased a good chunk of land near Beach City so they could be a village for the Crystal Gems. Steven wanted to build a school for all the Off Colors ad newcomers to teach them about freedom and living with humans. Garnet, Amethyst, Peridot and Lapis all had ideas for classes they would teach. Steven had a few ideas for classes Bismuth and Pearl could teach too based on requests.
Pearl smiled and then looked at her hand, she still couldn't get over the change. The markings were still obvious, but the sudden change in color made her hopeful. She had accepted their presence recently, and part of her still accepted that they were permanent, but it was still exciting that maybe they would go away, or at least fade even more. She had a theory that it must have changed because she was starting to feel better and more like herself. Pearl wondered if it would continue to change as she continued to recover.
Garnet startled Pearl as she rested a gemmed hand onto Pearl's shoulder. Pearl's gem glowed briefly as she went to summon her helmet, but she stopped and placed a hand on top of Garnet's before it was pulled away. They both said sorry in unison and laughed.
"Well, I may be getting better, but still a little jumpy I suppose." Pearl said and leaned against Garnet as the fusion sat down.
"I probably should have said something first. Nice to have you two here, I see Steven has filled you in on the plans."
"Yes," Pearl smiled, "it sounds wonderful."
"I can't wait to start construction." Bismuth looked up, her face flushed with excitement and stars in her eyes.
Pearl couldn't help the smile that came to her face seeing Bismuth so animated as she filled Garnet in on the actual blueprints and construction plans she had drawn up while talking to Steven.
"This all sounds amazing Biz," Garnet smiled, moving her arm to drape over Pearl's other shoulder, "when will you be available to start?"
"Uh," Bismuth looked at Pearl, "Pearl?"
Pearl blinked. "Oh, um, I...hmm. I don't know. We've gotten a lot done...and we are at point anything else will become very risky."
"Right, everything else will likely be noticed by the humans and we don't need to scare them." Bismuth nodded.
"Scared humans can be dangerous." Garnet said and touched her visors. "Very dangerous. I'm seeing many futures where you two are discovered and several of which the humans attack and cause at least one of you to lose your form."
Steven fidgeted, "Maybe, you could come back home now then? I know it was important for you to help even though it wasn't your fault, but you've done so much now, and you are doing better. And Jasper is leaving now, and, and..." Steven blushed, "I miss you. We all miss you."
"We'll support your decision to go back out of course, but." Garnet gave Pearl a light squeeze, "it would be nice to have you back."
"Okay." Pearl said.
"Look I really do know how important it, wait, what?" Steven perked up.
Pearl smiled. "Okay. I'm ready to keep moving on. Let's start building a village."
Steven suddenly teared up. "Good, yeah," he tried to wipe away the tears but they came back stronger. Steven hugged Pearl quickly, "I-i'm glad," then he ran up stairs.
"Steven?" Pearl called as he left and stood up. She looked questioningly at Garnet.
"It would be good if you talked to him alone." Garnet confirmed. "Bismuth and I can keep working on the village blueprints.
Pearl went up stairs and gently knocked on Steven's door. "Steven?"
She didn't get a reply, but she heard muffled sobbing so she entered and left the door open just a crack. "Hey, what's wrong?" She asked.
Steven had his face buried in his pillow and was shaking. Pearl sat on the edge of the bed and placed a hand on his shoulder. Steven moved finally, sitting up with his back towards Pearl. "S-sorry. I'm happy you're coming home again really, and that you're feeling better. I just, I," he started crying harder again, "I've missed you so much, and I keep having these nightmares, about a lot of things... some of them are that Jasper is going to take you away again and torture you again and...rape you again."
Pearl stiffened and sucked in air through her mouth. "Oh, did you...see that? I...I tried to protect you from the worst of...what she did to me but I couldn't always tell how successful I had been."
Steven nodded. "I know. Most of the time you did and I could only visit when you were alone but...a handful of times I saw her trying to recondition you and one time...one time I saw her doing the other thing. I didn't, I didn't even know Gems did that."
Pearl shut her eyes tight and steadied her anxiety, but tears started to form still. "We usually don't."
Steven shifted and Pearl opened her eyes. She brought out a box of tissues when she saw the state of Steven's face and he wiped snot from his nose. "Wh-why would she do that to you then?"
Pearl let out a long sigh and then pulled Steven close. He rested his head on her shoulder.
"I keep asking myself that too Steven." Pearl said. "It has been one of the harder things for me to work through. I keep swirling between being angry and feeling I'm making excuses for her or just feeling...weak. I know she was desperate for a connection, she had been starved from the affection quartzes are programmed for to encourage camaraderie, she had been brutalized until violence was all she knew and it...damaged her. A lot. The first time she...violated me in that way she thought it was a way to bring us closer. She wanted Tiger's Eye to be more like a fusion, and she wanted me more as a companion. She was aware that...sex could be a type of bonding and show of affection. She...didn't understand how though, and she didn't understand consent. Then that second time she took me over...when the corruption plagued her again, she thought she had to break me the way she had been broken before we could be close and I would be loyal. She found out how it really made me feel and she decided to use it to try to break me. Even though she was damaged and had her reasons, it was wrong though, and it still hurt me. I'm sorry you had to see it, that was something I absolutely tried to prevent."
Steven sniffled and pulled away from Pearl. "I know you did. I could feel you repelling me. Although not that time, I think you were too out of it. How do you...work with Jasper now? Don't you ever...I mean she hurt you so badly, do you ever have feelings like..." he looked down at the ground and his voice lowered, "like you want to hurt her like she hurt you."
Pearl faltered, she hadn't expected such a difficult question. "Wh-why do you ask?"
Steven gripped his pants tightly. "I never told you everything that happened on Homeworld. I, I haven't even told the other Gems."
"You know how I told you when I first went Blue and Yellow had started to accept I really wasn't Pink Diamond, but White was refusing to even talk to me until we escaped from the Tower after Connie and I fused at the ball?"
Pearl nodded. "Yes, and White took over the other Gems, but you proved you weren't Pink and she let the other's go and instead you all worked out a treaty."
"Yeah, except..." Steven's hand went to his gem, "I left out how White was convinced I wasn't Pink. She...she took my gem out of my body."
Pearl gasped and her hand flew to her mouth.
"I...I lost all of my strength, my gem half reformed as a pink energy in my shape. I felt so helpless, I was dying, I, I knew I needed it but I couldn't even walk. Connie had to carry me to my Gem half. I felt happy at first when I was reunited and realized this meant I really was just Steven, but...I was also terrified. All the others under White's control, all of my power useless and stripped, feeling my life draining away, I-" he started sobbing again.
Pearl hugged him, "Oh Steven, Steven." She squeezed him tightly.
After a while Steven calmed and wiped his nose with another tissue. "So far I've mostly just been dealing with Yellow and Blue Diamond. It's been fine, they've even started being more lenient and we might be able to get more resources and everything, but recently, White has been involved too. Every time I see her I get this...pit in my stomach, I'm so scared, then I get angry and I start...imagining things. I don't mean to, but they just happen, like...what would she feel if I was the one in control. I started having nightmares about it even. In one of them I, I ripped her gem right out of her forehead and smashed it to pieces, and I was laughing the entire time." He covered his face. "Then I see you, working with a Gem that hurt you so badly and being fine and even getting better and-"
"Yes." Pearl interrupted.
"You asked me if I ever want to hurt Jasper like she hurt me. The answer is yes. Not..exactly in the same way I suppose. I certainly don't want to take over her form or rape her...but I do have times where I want to hurt her, want to see her broken and helpless at my feet. Then I...almost hate myself for it, sometimes...I even feel like it means I deserved what she did to me."
Steven teared up and nodded. "Do you...do you ever want to just do something that may hurt yourself just to...I don't know how to explain it."
"Be in control of the harm that may happen in some weird, twisted way?" Pearl offered and hugged herself.
"Exactly!" Steven looked at her. "Um, do you...do you ever feel like...like even small things and problems are suddenly big and almost life threatening?"
"Steven I just almost summoned my weapon to defend myself when Garnet placed her hand on my shoulder." Pearl grinned.
Steven chuckled a little, "Oh, right. So...how do you work with Jasper?"
"Hm," Pearl placed a finger on her chin briefly, "that's...a good question. I'm honestly not entirely sure. I was...scared at first almost constantly. Slowly though it started to fade, and I had Bismuth to talk to and rely on. The more we worked together the more we had to help each other and even save each other from injury. It also helped that Jasper physically couldn't take over my form again and was cooperating and listening to me without fuss. I suppose that isn't particularly helpful for you though."
Steven shook his head, "No, it is. It's good to know it's not just me at least. I was...I was starting to feel like I was a fraud and a monster talking about forgiveness and non-violence while having these desires to harm a Gem that wronged me."
"You are not a fraud or a monster Steven." Pearl said firmly. "I know what you mean though. When I remembered what corrupted Tiger's Eye did to that city I...I felt like I didn't have the right to even call myself a Crystal Gem anymore, and that I didn't belong with the rest of you or deserve your friendship or kindness. I was wrong though. That doesn't mean I don't still feel...guilt and I do still struggle with being hard on myself. I just keep...talking about it, working through it, reaching out and just doing my best."
Steven worried his lip and fidgeted. "Connie thinks I should see a therapist, one that specializes in childhood trauma. A professional I can talk to who will give me coping skills and help me work through things. They have...specialist for a lot of traumas actually and even ones that talk to families."
"Is that something you think would help?" Pearl asked.
Steven nodded, "I think so but I'm kinda...scared to go by myself, and I worry finding one that will understand the whole half alien raised in a van by just my Dad and then sentient alien rocks may be a little difficult."
Pearl frowned and hummed. "Yes, I see why that would be nerve-wracking. I take it there isn't someone in Beach City? Everyone here seems pretty used to us sentient alien rocks and our antics."
Steven blushed. "I, um, hadn't even looked yet. If I...if I find someone that could help both of us would, um, would you go with me? We could have separate sessions, just would be nice to have company. A-and I think it could be really good for both of us."
Pearl looked at her discolored arm. "I... how about you look to see if there is someone, and I will think it over?"
Steven smiled and hugged Pearl. "I will, I promise. Thank you! It's going to be so nice to have you home again."
Pearl hugged Steven back. "It will be nice to be home."
"Oh, oh!" Steven sat up, "Connie has been missing sword training with you, can we start that up again every Thursday?"
Pearl beamed, "That is a wonderful idea Steven! I've missed sword training too. Especially with such capable pupils." She ruffled Steven's hair.
Steven chuckled. "I'll have to tell Connie right away!" He pulled out his phone.
"Sounds good," Pearl stood up, "we'll be downstairs waiting for you when you're done."
Three days passed quickly. They started the Crystal Village project with Bismuth's new forge. They had the site prepped, and the basic structure up for the forge. Tomorrow they would move Bismuth's anvil and building materials as well as get the lava circulation system installed. Once that was finished Bismuth would be able to easily make materials needed for construction on site and the project could expand rapidly. Steven also coordinated that the Gems interested in living in the village would join the team at that point and help clear and build the very home they would inhabit.
Presently though, the day was devoted to the diamond delivery. It was from Yellow Diamond this time. She had sent supplies to create more warps on Earth for the Crystal Village and future settlements as well as a single longer distance warp to connect the Temple to the Moon so they no longer had to rely on Lion and the Moon Gems wouldn't be so isolated. The ship also carried three new Gems, a jade fusion, a lanky and tall ruby that faints at the sight of violence, and an agate that wanted a new life where she didn't have to comply to the role she was made for.
Pearl helped move supplies off of the ship as Steven and Garnet greeted the new Gems and started leading them on a tour. Pearl kept looking for Jasper, wanting to offer one more time to remove the bracer before the quartz left. Except Jasper was no where to be found. As they were nearing removing supplies and the ship was due to leave soon, Pearl pulled a small device from her gem. She had installed a tracker in the bracer and the device would give her Jasper's current location. As it narrowed in, Pearl was surprised to see she wasn't too far from the building site for the Crystal Village.
Pearl leapt into the air and quickly reached the building site. Then she walked through the woods and towards where Jasper was. After a few minutes she noticed felled trees and barren soil. She summoned her helmet and continued on more cautiously, starting to wonder if Jasper had been attacked. After a few more minutes the scenery was even more barren, exposed soil, no plants, and splintered stumps with no sight of the tree that once grew tall from it. Finally she came across a stone structure that looked roughly like a cave. A curtain of woven leaves on a frame made from sticks covered the entrance. A small pile of neatly stacked boulders was off to the side of the cave entrance.
"So you found me." Jasper's gruff voice boomed.
Pearl squinted through the visor at top of the stone structure and saw Jasper's silhouette as the sun glared behind her. Jasper jumped down.
"There's a tracker in the bracer." Pearl said and stored the device and her helmet. "The ship for Homeworld is leaving soon, figured you wouldn't want to miss it so I came to get you."
"Well you were wrong. I've decided not to go to Homeworld." Jasper looked away and crossed her arms.
Pearl stood still and silent for a while. "Oh? You seemed so adamant the other day. What changed? Were you attacked? This section of the forest certainly seems to have taken a beating."
"I did this. I didn't want any of this pathetic organic life near my lair."
"Yes my lair. And you were right...I don't belong on Homeworld either. Especially without Pink, so there, happy? I know you aren't going back to do more clean-up in that city too. So I made a place for myself."
"Near where we're building the Crystal Village? Were you...following me?"
"Don't flatter yourself," Jasper spat, "I just...I was at the beach and I realized I didn't know what to do, so when I saw all of you head this way I tagged along. Then I found this place."
"So, this is your home now?" Pearl questioned.
"It is an adequate place for me to live and train." Jasper shifted her weight from one leg to the other.
"Train for what?" Pearl raised an eyebrow.
"Nothing, just because." Jasper shrugged.
Pearl nodded and looked around more. They were near the edge of a cliff that over looked the rest of the forest and had a great view of the nearby mountain and ocean. Pearl imagined the sunsets here would be quite stunning and serene too.
"So what," Jasper huffed, "do I need to help build the village in order to keep showing my penance or is there some other thing you had in mind?"
Pearl thought for a moment. "Help us with the village only if you want to."
"And if I don't want to?"
Pearl shrugged, "Do what you want."
"Fine by me. The bracer still stays on though."
Pearl nodded. "So...what do you want?"
"To be left alone," Jasper turned around and walked towards her cave, then paused at the entrance. "Unless someone wants to fight me, then they can find me here. But only if they want to fight. Sparring partners are good for training after all." She walked the rest of the way in her cave and the curtain closed behind her.
Pearl remained there for a few minutes, debating what to do. This wasn't what she had expected, but she didn't see anything particularly wrong with it either. Part of her thought she shouldn't let Jasper isolate herself, but another part thought of how she had no right to force Jasper to do anything either and couldn't make her socialize.
Pearl sighed and decided to leave. When she got back to the beach and the ship she saw all the supplies were now all unloaded. She also heard the Gems frantically calling her name.
"I'm here!" She called and waved.
She was suddenly surrounded by worried faces and lots of overlapping questions, where had she been, was she alright, was she hurt, why didn't she tell anyone she was leaving.
"Whoa, whoa, let's all just calm down." She smiled. "I was just checking on Jasper since she wasn't at the ship like she said she would be."
"By yourself?!" Steven exclaimed. "What if she had attacked you?"
"Steven, I can take care of myself. I'm not that helpless." Pearl felt herself bristle a little.
"I'm sure that's not what Steven meant," Bismuth said, "we just didn't know what had happened. One moment you were right behind me carrying stuff off the ship and the next you had just vanished."
Pearl bit her tongue. She was frustrated and wanted to bring up the point they would eventually need to let her move about freely without worrying every time she didn't report exactly where she was going, but she also realized it was still rather soon and they only fretted out of kindness and love. "I'll try to be better about letting someone know where I'm off to for now." She promised. "I am perfectly safe though."
"So where's Jasper?" Jay, one of the Amethyst from Pink's former outpost asked, she had come in on the ship for a visit and to let Steven know how humans and the Amethyst were doing. "Yellow wanted this ship heading back fifteen minutes ago."
"She's not going." Pearl replied. "She has made a place for herself in the woods and wants to be left alone unless someone wants to join her for a sparring match."
Jay frowned. "Ah, well, guess that's that then." She looked at the ship. "So you know where she's at then? And she wants Gems to spar with?"
Pearl nodded. "I can take you there if you'd like."
"Maybe next time, the Nephrite flying this ship really wants to get going. I'll hit you up when I'm on Earth again."
Everyone except Bismuth and Pearl went back to the ship to say goodbye as Jay boarded.
"So you really alright with Jasper just going off on her own like that without running it by you?" Bismuth asked.
Pearl shrugged. "Of course, I'm not trying to be her new agate after all."
"Well, yeah, but she just decided her payment for what she did as Tiger's Eye was just fulfilled and she was free to do as she pleased."
"She can never repay me enough." Pearl looked Bismuth in the eyes. "But I think the timing is right. I want to keep closing this chapter of my life and moving on from Tiger's Eye. Keep moving on from the guilt, the anger, and the fear. Constantly keeping Jasper on my radar isn't part of that process. I'm done with Tiger's Eye, and I'm done with Jasper. Time to just keep focusing on me and my future."
Pearl reached out and grabbed Bismuth's hand. "Of course, I hope that continues to include you by my side."
Bismuth smiled and squeezed Pearl's hand. "I sure hope so too."