This is chapter 24 of Fission, a fanfic which explores the possibility that two Gems can not only fuse into one, but a single Gem can also be split into two. For more chapters, please explore the fanon main page.
Sorry I was away for so long! This turned out to be one monster of a chapter... and I still feel like it goes a little fast for my tastes. (Maybe I'm trying to tie up too many loose ends at once...) Anyway, as with all other chapters, I'd love to hear feedback, both positive and negative. (And if it's negative, I'll do what I can to make improvements.) I really appreciate everyone who stuck with this story and I'm glad for any enjoyment you got out of reading my work.
For now, I think this is the end of Coral and Sea Glass's saga. I'm playing around with other Steven Universe ideas, but they're going to need to sit for a while before I write anything down.
Thank you once again! -Katrina
Chapter 24: Teamwork
Yellow Pearl had, if nothing else, an impeccable sense of direction and found her way to the barn within minutes. Lapis was there, flinging what appeared to be colored water at a piece of fabric stretched over a wooden rectangle. This apparently took a great deal of concentration, as Yellow Pearl had to call out to her several times to get her attention.
"Wha-- who?" Lapis jumped and turned around, sending a spray of the colored liquid off to the side. Upon seeing Yellow Pearl, her eyes narrowed. "Oh, you're back," she said nonchalantly. "Are you here to threaten us again? Or did Steven win you over already?"
"I-I..." Yellow Pearl stuttered. She had anticipated in her flight here that she would have a most difficult time convincing Lapis Lazuli she had changed sides. For the blue Gem to already predict her betrayal left her dumbfounded. "He... they... won me over, I suppose."
"Ah. Okay, then," Lapis said with a shrug. She then started to go back to her work, jolting Yellow Pearl out of her confusion.
"Wait, I didn't just come here to tell you that!" she said. "We need your help! My Nephrite is attacking the Crystal Gems right now!"
Lapis froze and turned back to look at Yellow Pearl, her face solemn. "You're sure... it's a Nephrite?"
Yellow Pearl nodded. "I traveled with her here, so yes, I am fairly confident in that assessment."
Now Lapis shifted around nervously. Yellow Pearl didn't blame her. No doubt her command over water was quite remarkable, but Nephites had a unique ability as well. Namely, they could disable the special abilities of other Gems in their vicinity. Within close distance of a Nephrite, Sapphires lost their future vision, Jaspers' incredible strength waned, Peridots could no longer manipulate metal... and of course, Lapis Lazulis could not control water.
Watching Lapis standing there looking so forlorn and helpless, Yellow Pearl questioned if the Crystal Gems truly thought Lapis could help some other way or they were simply ignorant. She was starting to suspect the latter.
"I won't be enough," Lapis finally said. A statement of the obvious. "We need actual, physical weapons."
"From where?" Yellow Pearl asked. Or, started to ask, anyway. As the words left her lips, one of Sea Glass's memories lit up in her mind. It wasn't completely clear now that Yellow Pearl wasn't part of the fusion anymore... but it was clear enough. Not that long ago, the Crystal Gems had come into contact with an old ally... a Bismuth. If they needed weapons... well, there was no one better to ask.
Yellow Pearl closed her eyes, trying to focus. The memory was like a retreating shadow in her mind, always slipping further and further away from her the more she tried to chase it. She attempted to relax, to let the memories come to her.
Bismuth distrusted Sea Glass, she recalled, trying to shed light on Bismuth's personality as much as her location. If she sees me, there's no way she would trust me. She clasped her hands together, feeling the rough scales on her wrists. Nephrite was here because of Yellow Pearl. They were defending her. Even if there was little chance Bismuth would assist them, surely she owed to her new allies to give it a try.
"I... I have an idea," she told Lapis. "Go help the Crystal Gems as much as you can. I'll back as soon as I can get..." Her voice trailed off. What did she expect to get from this? A super weapon? Bismuth herself?
"Get what?" Lapis asked, tilting her head.
"Just go!" Yellow Pearl snapped. Then, spreading her wings, she took to the sky once again.
According to Sea Glass's memories, there were a few places that Bismuth could generally be found back during the Rebellion. The first and most obvious place was her main forge. But since it had been abandoned after her argument with Steven, Yellow Pearl had to rely on Sea Glass's much older memories of Bismuth's other locations. The back-up forges, for lack of a better word, were scattered nearby the Gem Battlefield, prepared to replicate the work of the main forge in the event that Homeworld took it over. Of course, they were all easily accessible by Warp Pad. And if there was anywhere Bismuth would go, Yellow Pearl was certain it would be one of those forges.
The trouble, as it turned out, wasn't with finding Bismuth -- it was with staying in one piece once Bismuth had been found.
"Who's there?" bellowed a deep voice as soon Yellow Pearl knocked at the rocky entrance of the secondary forge. Like the first, this one was also located within a volcano, albeit an inactive one that had grown cold long ago. Startled by the loud voice, Yellow Pearl stepped back and held up her hands in defense, even though the door hadn't actually opened yet.
"I-I... I'm, um..." How did she introduce herself? Certainly not as one of the Crystal Gems. And if she didn't want to get herself shattered, certainly not as "the former Pearl of Yellow Diamond", either.
So... an ally, then? She swallowed hard and called out in a timid voice, "I'm a friend!"
At first, she heard no reply. Then a set of heavy footsteps got louder and louder as they approached the stone door. Yellow Pearl hadn't noticed it before, but there was an indent in the door towards the top, which now lit up like a rainbow. Stone grated against stone as the door swung open.
Bismuth stepped out, looking over Pearl's head at first. The Gem was even more intimidating in real life than in the whispers of Sea Glass's memory. She glanced down and her eyes widened, though in recognition or general surprise at finding someone at her doorstep, Yellow Pearl couldn't say.
"You... are you from Homeworld?" she asked. Well, she knew she wasn't looking at a Crystal Gem, at least. Maybe it was the lack of a star.
"I-I... yes?" Yellow Pearl squeaked.
"Ha!" Bismuth said, then reached for something out of Yellow Pearl's line of sight. "They told me you parasites were still after this place. Didn't think they'd send a Pearl scouting, but hey, maybe attitudes have changed in the past five thousand years." She drew her hand back and Yellow Pearl saw that it now contained a massive hammer about twice as big as Yellow Pearl herself. "So tell me," Bismuth said with a wicked smile, "which of those big Gem elites do you belong to?"
"I-I-I..." Her legs shook. She was going to faint again, she just knew it. But if she did, what would Bismuth do with her? What would the others back fighting Nephrite do without her? No, regardless of how much it went against everything she knew, she had to stand and speak up for herself. "I belong to nobody!" she blurted out.
She was shocked at the confidence, the pride in her own voice at this statement. Not that long ago, she would have been horrified at the concept of belonging to no one. In truth, some part of her was still scared of the idea. But another part, a part she tried so hard to hold onto right now, was excited. Excited to be in a world where she could be her own Gem... to be valued as herself. Not an accessory, but a friend.
"I belong to nobody," she repeated. "And I'm here on behalf on the Crystal Gems."
Bismuth lowered her hammer. "You're here on their behalf, but you're not one of them?" Yellow Pearl noted that she did not actually let go of the hammer. "Start explaining. Quick."
So Yellow Pearl explained. She started with the fact that she used to belong to Yellow Diamond. This was a mistake of the highest order, as Bismuth tightened her grip on the hammer and nearly used it right then and there. But Yellow Pearl raised her wings, showing evidence of her corruption, the proof that she was no longer wanted by Yellow Diamond, or any Gem, for that matter. She explained how she had tried to use the Crystal Gem Pearl to help her regain her status, how she'd realized it was wrong, and how the others had forgiven her. It all sounded so strange when she repeated it back. They shouldn't have forgiven her, had no reason to. Yellow Diamond certainly never forgave anyone -- she paid back the smallest slights tenfold.
But then, maybe that was part of what made Earth different.
"So," Bismuth said, lowering the hammer once more and finally setting it on the ground, "you're not trying to return to the Diamonds... what are you doing here?"
"I'm here because my Nephrite is attacking the Crystal Gems," Yellow Pearl said. "And I need a weapon to help them."
"You want me to give you a weapon?" Bismuth said with a tone of utter disgust.
Yellow Pearl's cheeks puffed with frustration. "Well, I need something!" she said. "I know they can't win that fight on their own, and I know I don't have any skills they could make use of. Coming to you... was the only idea I had left." She winced at voicing her own weaknesses aloud like this. She had always fallen back on her Diamond's strength, she had felt powerful because her Diamond was powerful. Being one's own Gem had its vulnerabilities.
In a strange way, Bismuth looked sympathetic. "I had a weapon," she said, looking off in to the distance as if said weapon were hidden somewhere on the massive battlefield not far from here. "I had a weapon that would have changed everything... but it's gone now." She gritted her teeth in anger. "I don't think I can go back and face Rose right now. I'm afraid of what I'll do. What I almost did last time..." She shook her head. There was obviously something on her mind, but Yellow Pearl dearly wished she would save her musings for another, less pressing occasion.
"Wait here," Bismuth finally said and slipped back into the darkness of the forge. Yellow Pearl heard some banging and clanging around before the massive Gem returned and held out a small, crescent-shaped handle. It appeared to lack a blade of any sort, but when Bismuth pressed her thumb in just the right spot, a red hot blade of light extended from the crescent's tip. It wasn't long, maybe two Pearl-sized hand widths at best. Bismuth loosened her grip and the light-blade retracted.
"I don't have the stash here I did at my other forge," she said. "And you're so puny, I doubt I have much you could use anyway. But this will cut through the outermost armor of the Nephrite's ship for you. Maybe there's something you can do from there."
Yellow Pearl took the weapon and grasped it. Despite its small size, it still weighed heavily in her skinny arms. Getting through the outermost armor meant the weapon couldn't break into the cockpit. Not in enough time, at any rate. But it could get through to the wiring, making the ship open to sabotage by a certain, traitorous Peridot. "I know exactly who could make use of this," she said, smiling. "Thank you for your help."
Bismuth nodded. Not with gratitude, or even a smile, really. Just a nod of acknowledgment. She still looked saddened, but not worried. As if she knew the Crystal Gems would win and only wished she could bring herself to join them.
Well, whatever was in her head, Yellow Pearl certainly didn't have time to ponder it now. She made a quick bow (a force of habit, really) and hurried back to the Warp pad.
The fight against Nephrite was not going well. Yellow Pearl was no expert in military tactics, but she surmised on her arrival that the fire on the beach house roof was not part of the Crystal Gems' battle strategy. Not wishing to put herself in harm's way if she didn't have to, Yellow Pearl landed on the back balcony and carefully crawled through the gaping hole in a shattered window.
She found herself on the upper floor of the house in some sort of... meditation area? There was a large rectangular pillow the size of the fusion Garnet, and the Gems had it propped against the wall. Steven was clutching his legs, leaning against it. Crystal Gem Pearl crouched in front of him, a defensive arm outstretched while Garnet picked up chunks of wood and other debris and threw them through a hole in the wall at the Nephrite's ship. Of course, it was all to no avail. The ship fired its weapons, and the house shook violently.
Peridot glared through her visor, figures scrolling past at an alarming rate. "There's no weakness in this thing!" she yelled. "We have to make a run for it!"
"Make a run to where?" Lapis snapped. "Every time we try to get out onto the beach, she fires missiles at us!"
A chunk of wood fell from the ceiling, tearing a whole in the giant pillow and revealing some battered and coiled springs inside. Lapis winced at the sound, then caught sight of Yellow Pearl. "There you are!" she gasped. The rest of the group turned and stared. Yellow Pearl tightened her grip on Bismuth's gift. Looking at the destruction around her, it now felt horribly small.
"Geez, about time you got back!" Amethyst snapped, catching a falling beam with her whip and flinging it away before it could crush Steven to a meaty pulp. "What did you bring us? Can I throw it? Does it explode?"
Yellow Pearl rolled her eyes. Amethysts had such one-track minds sometimes. "It doesn't explode and we don't throw it," she said, then held the weapon out for them all to see. "It's designed to cut through to the ship's wiring. I can fly Peridot there, and she can break the locks on the ship's doors, opening a way in."
"Right," Garnet said. "Except that Peridot isn't a fighter. Nephrite would slaughter her."
Yellow Pearl rubbed her chin. "Well, what about Pearl then? She's not too heavy. I could fly her over."
Pearl seemed very pleased with this suggestion and nodded her agreement.
"What about you, Garnet?" Peridot asked, sounding annoyed. "You could just unfuse. Ruby and Sapphire are each light enough for Yellow Pearl to carry."
Garnet shook her head. "Oh, no. I couldn't do that. Too traumatizing."
"Traumatizing?" Amethyst asked skeptically.
"That's right. Traumatizing," Garnet replied, sounding completely calm and confident as ever. "I am literally quaking with fear at the thought."
You're not quaking with anything, least of all, fear, Yellow Pearl wanted to point out. But they didn't have time for arguments. If Garnet was refusing to leave, for whatever her ridiculous reasons were, then they had to stick with their first plan.
"You might be able to go by yourself," Peridot said, looking at Pearl. "I mean, you're as handy with tech as I am."
She is? Yellow Pearl found this difficult to believe, but no one else in the room seemed to find Peridot's statement the least bit unusual, so she kept quiet. Crystal Gem Pearl smiled with appreciation at the comment but shook her head. "You're more familiar with modern Gem tech. And this might be our only shot at this. Go. I'll be right behind you."
Peridot nodded and stepped over towards Yellow Pearl, who clasped her arms around Peridot's waist. Well, here goes nothing, she thought and took to the air.
The flight went smoothly at first, as Nephrite still seemed set on burning the house to the ground and admittedly, didn't expect any of the Crystal Gems to gain the power of flight mid-battle. Once she spotted Yellow Pearl and Peridot however, her attacks on them became just as relentless as the ones on the beach house. Yellow Pearl swerved to one side then the other, trying desperately to stay aloft. But she wasn't exactly used to flying, and flying with a passenger made it much worse.
"Left! Left!" Peridot screamed, pointing to her right.
"Don't order me around!" Yellow Pearl snapped back. She spotted a missile coming their way and took a quick dive up, narrowing missing it. The missle exploded in the air below them, and the force of it sent Yellow Pearl spiraling even higher. To her surprise and pleasure, she suddenly found the wing of the Nephrite's ship must closer than it had been a minute ago, too close for Nephrite to fire at them without risking damage to herself. Yellow Pearl quickly dropped Peridot right where the wing met the main body of the ship, then landed herself to catch her breath.
Peridot was gasping for breath as well, though since she had not been the one flying, Yellow Pearl failed to see what could have exhausted her. She was making a strange sound, too. Almost like... laughing.
"What could possibly be humorous about this right now?" Yellow Pearl snapped, straining to be heaerd above the wind.
"You told me not to order you around," Peridot said with a chuckle. "Guess the Crystal Gem attitude really is wearing off on you."
Yellow Pearl's cheeks grew hot. "I-I... I didn't mean... Don't take me for a--" She shook her head. "I'm... I'm going to get Pearl now!" She spread her wings and flew off. Peridot looked positively smug as she pulled out Bismuth's tool and began cutting into the ship's side.
Within a few minutes, Yellow Pearl had returned with her Crystal Gem counterpart and Peridot had already removed a large section of the ship's metal shell. She was elbow-deep in wires (which, for a Peridot, wasn't very deep at all), but she looked thoroughly pleased with herself.
"Pearl!" she said happily, then looked at the two Gems standing beside her. "Erm, Pearls. Glad you're back. I've gotten into the system. When I attach these two wires, an emergency hatch is going to open up right next to us." She nodded to her right side. "That's when you go in and do your thing!"
The Crystal Gem Pearl nodded confidently.
A spark flew from the jumble of wires, and the door opened exactly as Peridot predicted. Unfortunately, instead of sliding sideways, it blew itself off its hinges, smacking Crystal Gem Pearl and throwing her off balance. She gave a yelp and desperately grabbed for anything that could stop her from tumbling over the edge... "Anything" in this case being Peridot's foot. Peridot screeched in surprise, but seeing that her limb was the only thing keeping her friend tethered to the ship, she braced herself against the edges of the hole she'd cut and held fast.
"I've got you!" she called. "Um... sort of. It's okay!"
Crystal Gem Pearl replied with a not-at-all-reassured grunt.
I've got to help them, Yellow Pearl thought and started to open her wings to fly over. But as she did so, something clamped onto her rightmost wing, pinning her down and sending a spasm of pain through her body. She cried out and looked up, only to find herself face-to-face with Nephrite. Her former owner glared down at her with pure hatred and disgust... as if Yellow Pearl's continued existence offended all of Gemkind.
"I thought I saw you land up here," she growled. "I'll not sure how you managed to even get this far... what got into your tiny, malformed brain that you thought you stood a chance against me, but this ends here!" She ground her foot against against the twisted feathers. A tear escaped Yellow Pearl's eyes, flying out into the wind. Maybe Nephrite was right. Maybe she had been foolish to think she could be anything. Maybe she should have just shattered herself when she became corrupted. But it... it wasn't so much to want to live, was it? Even if it was far from home, even if it was without an owner, she still wanted to live...
Her body stiffened at a strange sound. Peridot and Pearl were discussing something... The words were hard to catch in the wind, but whatever it was, Peridot looked unsure, nervous. Pearl was more determined, nodding, as if trying to talk Peridot into something.
"...sure?" Peridot was asking. "Really sure?"
"Positive," Pearl replied. "Do it!"
Before either Nephrite or Yellow Pearl could react, Crystal Gem Pearl swung herself upwards. Then her and Peridot's bodies began to glow. Their two forms merged into one another and instead of two small Gems barely keeping their grip on the ship, there was suddenly a much larger Gem pulling herself to her feet with no effort at all.
The light from the Gem's body faded and she straightened up. She was pale green in color (not that different from Nephrite, actually), with four arms, distinctly Pearl-like hair, and Peridot's signature visor. She looked over her hands in surprise, then grinned.
"Oh ho ho!" she said with a surprisingly powerful laugh. "So this is a fusion! Yes, yes... I can see the appeal."
She turned to Nephrite, standing a good head (or even two) above her. "I'm so terribly sorry, but I need to ask you to leave now."
Nephrite sputtered some sort of nonsensical response but did not move. The fusion, in turn, pulled back her fist and landed a punch right in Nephrite's gut. Yellow Pearl felt the pressure on her wing released and scrambled to hold onto the edge of the ship, unsure if her injured wing would function in the event she lost her grip.
Nephrite did not attempt to go after her. In fact, she seemed to be having enough trouble taking care of herself. She held her injured stomach and tried to face her opponent, but the shock and terror in her eyes gave her weakness away.
"Let's see," the fusion said, tapping her chin in faux contemplation. "Your abilities stop me from summoning a weapon around you, but surely I can still make one, right?" She pulled at the hole Peridot had made in the ship's side, ripping a long thin piece of metal right off it. Her nose turned up slightly as she looked it over, but then she gave a shrug.
"Well, no one said it had to be fancy," she said, holding the makeshift weapon aloft so Nephrite could see it in its full, jagged-edged glory. "Now then... this is what you get when you mess with a Peridot and a Pearl!" She thrust the hunk of metal forward. Nephrite attempted to jump away, but the small fighting space left little room for maneuvering. The metal shard sank into her stomach, poofing her instantly. The fusion cupped one hand around Nephrite's Gem, and a green bubble formed around it. She then held out another one of her massive hands and grasped Yellow Pearl by the waist, pulling her towards the safety of the open emergency hatch.
Yellow Pearl stepped out of the wind and into the ship, shivering with both fear and excitement. She was alive. They had made it. She opened her mouth to express her gratitude, but then the strange fusion turned around and lowered her head, almost as if in a light bow.
"Thank you," the fusion said.
"Eh?" Yellow Pearl stammered. "For what?"
The fusion smiled. "For helping me to remember... that sometimes it's worth getting though your differences."
Back at the house, there remained quite a bit of work to be done. The roof had been all but destroyed, leaving the overall integrity of the structure more than a little compromised. Still, as the trio approached, Peridot clutching the green bubble with Nephrite's gem sealed inside, there was no doubt that a certain air of happiness had settled over the place.
Peridot in particular couldn't stop jumping up and down. "Did you see that? Did you see what we did? Wasn't that amazing? That was amazing, right?" She spun around in a little circle, swinging the green orb like a disembodied dance partner. Garnet, Lapis, Amethyst, and Steven hurried up to greet her, and Peridot was more than happy to share the vivid details of their escapades, along with a few embellishments.
"Wow, you two fused?" Amethyst asked in disbelief. "And like, the fusion explode or anything?"
Crystal Gem Pearl's cheeks went blue and she rubbed her arm. "I guess... when it came down to it, we had enough in common to make it work, regardless of what... happened before."
Yellow Pearl cocked her head. The words had sounded like an apology of some kind. But if they were, Peridot seemed completely oblivious to them, still lost in her little victory dance.
"I can totally understand why you Crystal Gems love fusion so much! We should do it all the time! With..." She counted on her fingers. "...all nine of us! That would be so cool! Wouldn't that be cool?"
"Whoa, whoa, ease up a bit," said Garnet, holding up her hands. "Let's take it one thing at a time. But I'm glad you were successful. And I'm glad," she shot a glance at Pearl, "that you two were able to work together again."
At last, Peridot seemed to calm down, soaking in Garnet and Pearl's last few words. "Yes," she agreed. "I'm glad as well."
Garnet gave a nod and motioned to Steven to follow her down to the beach while the others stayed behind and chatted amongst themselves about the battle. Yellow Pearl followed behind Garnet and Steven a little ways. She tried to stay out of sight, which worked for Steven, although she had the sense Garnet still saw her. It didn't seem to matter either way.
"I still don't get it," Steven was saying.
"Don't get what?" Garnet asked with a chuckle.
"Why you didn't let Yellow Pearl fly Ruby and Sapphire up there to fight? You couldn't have known that Peridot and Pear would suddenly decide to..." His voice trailed off, as he no doubt picked up on the obvious. The fusion was part Sapphire, after all. "Wait, you did know that the whole time, didn't you? You wanted them to make up!"
Garnet lowered her visor by a fraction and winked at Steven with one of her three eyes.
"You're so sneaky!" Steven laughed, and Garnet patted him on the head, making a gentle shushing sound.
"Maybe I am," she allowed. "But for right now, we'll keep that our little secret."
Yellow Pearl smiled, then backed away and let them finish talking. The Earth's sun was getting low on the horizon. She felt the sand hugging her feet, the warm wind cradling her body. This wasn't home, not by a long shot. So many things here still made no sense to her. But she had some hope now... and with allies like Garnet, Peridot, and the others... she was looking forward to learning.