Spatial disorientation: the inability of a person to correctly determine his or her position in space. In aviation, the term means the inability to correctly interpret aircraft attitude, altitude, or airspeed in relation to the Earth or a point of reference, especially if the reference point has been lost.
The sun hung at its midpoint in the sky, starting the process for sundown and preparing the area for a beautiful sunset. The small town of Beach City lay at the bottom of a hill overlooking it, allowing the figure sitting at the top of it to not only enjoy the upcoming sunset, but the way it would frame the city below.
It seemed counterproductive to be reflecting on such approaching beauty when the day itself had ended in utter disappointment and possible unknown consequences.
Steven Universe, the teenaged figure that sat upon the hill, had made his way out here soon after he and the others had headed back to the barn after their ‘adventure’. It had been just a few hours ago that he, Lapis Lazuli, Peridot, and Pumpkin had been dropped out of the Roaming Eye and into the ocean below. It had been, in Navy’s own words, a “shocking turn of events”, but now, as Steven sat on the hill, looking forlornly up at the sky, the shock had yet to wear off.
In hindsight, it actually wasn’t a shocking turn of events, not when Lapis had been voicing her distrust of the little ruby since he arrived with her at the barn. Lapis hadn’t hidden her annoyance and irritation at the quickness Navy had taken to Earth customs, something neither she nor Peridot had been able to do when they turned their backs on Homeworld and decided to help in the protection of Earth. The former terraformer had been suspicious from the get go and hadn’t let up until Navy had seemingly apologized for causing strife.
Steven knew letting Navy go was a huge mistake – not only did they no longer have a ship capable of reaching Homeworld, they’d given Navy the ability to rescue her crewmates who were still in space and that could only mean consequences for the Crystal Gem and the entire Earth. If the rubies were to return to Homeworld, there would be no way out once the Diamond Authority discovered there were still gems protecting the planet.
The worst part was…it was all Steven’s fault.
This hadn’t been the first time someone had disagreed with his attempts on befriending one of their adversaries. The Gems themselves had voices several dissuasions and complaints against him trying to change Peridot and even Lapis, but those worked out in the end, so why wouldn’t that be the best way to show Homeworld gems just how great Earth was? But that naivety had nearly cost him his life more times than he could count.
He just wanted to see the good in people, but…as he had learned and seen, not everyone was good. For the first time, Steven was actually taking the time to figure out what had happened this time around – Navy, much like Bismuth before her, had seemed incredibly friendly upon their first meeting. Even when surrounded with the other rubies, Navy had seemed to be the only one who enjoyed being on the planet, as well as playing their baseball game.
She had taken to the various Earth customs Lapis and Peridot showed her and she had been happy about learning these things. Navy had accepted his friendship and thrown it back in his face, all with a large smile reflected back at him. She didn’t even hide the fact that her plan had been taking the ruby ship from the beginning; she had wanted to see the look on his face when she did it, when he realized he played right into her trap and given up the one advantage they had over Homeworld.
So how did Lapis see through the ruse and Steven had been shocked by it?
He hated to admit it, but he thought Lapis’ attitude was rude and belligerent. Navy was trying and Lapis just jumped to the conclusion that she was up to no good. And in the end, she was absolutely correct. Previously, the Crystal Gems had mentioned their distrust of Peridot and Lapis, but that had worked out well, so…why couldn’t the others work that way?
If anyone could be drawn to their side, it should’ve been Bismuth – she was a former Crystal Gem, had fought in the war for Earth, so she knew how great the planet was, how wonderful the people were – and for the first time in a while, the teen thought he’d finally met a Gem who would be on their side without question.
And then she showed him the Breaking Point.
He had tried to reason with her, plead with her that the weapon would only turn them into the very gems they fought. It was apparently a hauntingly similar conversation the builder gem had had with his mother, nearly identical if what Bismuth believed and said to be true. And like Rose before him, she had tried to force the issue by attacking him.
And that had just been the beginning.
Ever since she had seen his shield, Jasper continuously called him Rose Quartz, despite his instance that he wasn’t her. It didn’t matter to her and it certainly didn’t matter to Eyeball – he was Rose, just in a different form. But Steven had tried to make them understand, but they wouldn’t listen to him, but…maybe the problem was with him.
Was it possible that his need to see the good in people blinded him to what was right in front of him? Certainly, this situation with Navy highlighted that, but so did his encounters with Jasper and Eyeball; even thinking about Bismuth in hindsight seemed to show that was true. Didn’t Amethyst think it was weird no one had ever mentioned Bismuth to her, not even Rose?
What would Rose have done?
Steven already knew the outcome and aftermath of Bismuth. And that was why the action had stung worse than anything he or the Gems had faced so far.
But would his mother have acted the way he had? By trying to befriend her enemies?
The immediate answer his mind supplied was no.
If she could bubble her own teammate and friend without hesitation, then certainly she wouldn’t have wasted time on trying to talk Jasper and Eyeball out of killing her. But…that was wrong, wasn’t it? If what he was learning about his mother was true, she wouldn’t have bothered showing Peridot the value of the Earth, she would’ve poofed her the way Garnet had.
Rose certainly wouldn’t have freed Lapis, especially if she realized the mirror had sentience; she would’ve bubbled it and kept it in the Temple.
Would Rose have allowed for the baseball game? It was a possibility that even Sapphire had been surprised they were taking, so would Rose have taken it?
He had so many questions about her, about her actions, about everything! And that only made things worse!
Why…why couldn’t people just talk it out? Wouldn’t that be better for everyone?
If the rubies did make it back to Yellow Diamond, couldn’t he just…talk to her?
No, he already knew that Yellow Diamond wouldn’t bother to listen, especially not to him. Peridot had tried that and it had resulted in the rubies being sent to Earth in the first place.
Blue Diamond? She could be reasoned with, right? After all, she had taken over everything from Pink Diamond and it was clear she was still hurting from that loss…
That…was…the result of his mom shattering her.
And then of course, there was Garnet. If Steven hadn’t seen it for himself, he would’ve guessed that Garnet was just scared at facing something from her past and that was okay, seeing as that past hadn’t been good. At least, not where Garnet and Homeworld were concerned. But Steven had seen it – had seen the way Blue Diamond’s eyes had narrowed at Sapphire, how her tone had changed from melancholy to downright cruel.
It was just luck that she hadn’t even realized who was standing before her.
No, Blue Diamond probably wouldn’t be reasoned with or at least not without the concession that if they wanted Earth, she wanted Garnet (or Ruby and Sapphire) and Steven would not allow that. Ugh, it was frustrating! Why couldn’t these things be simple?
He was so focused on his thoughts, he didn’t hear the footsteps coming towards him, ultimately stopping and sitting next to him.
Turning his head sharply to his left, Steven was surprised to see a ruby sitting next to him. It took nearly twenty seconds before his mind supplied that this wasn’t just a ruby, it was his Ruby, one half of the gem duo that made Garnet. And that’s when his mind sped up – it was common knowledge that Garnet, and to that effect Ruby and Sapphire, hated being split up and only did so in times of necessity or stress.
Something must be wrong.
“Ruby!” he exclaimed, his eyes quickly making a cursory glance over the gem’s form. She didn’t seem to be harmed and he certainly didn’t feel the waves of heat that usually came off her when upset or angry. “Is everything okay? Where’s Sapphire? Are you hurt?”
Ruby held up her hands, saying, “Calm down, everything’s fine.”
That did absolutely nothing to calm the teen, as confusion still hung in his eyes. Ruby tried to hold back the grimace that wanted to adorn her face – of course Steven would think something was going on. She could count the number of times they had unfused for a situation, though ironically, she and Sapphire had agreed they had unfused more in the last two and a half years than they ever had in their five thousand plus years together.
“Sapphire’s in the barn,” she continued, throwing a thumb over her shoulder. “Peridot had some questions she just had to ask and well…it was kinda boring, so I came out here, saw you and…here I am.”
“Here you are.”
Ruby gave him a look, one mixed with her own concern and surprise. “I was expecting a much…warmer reception.”
Surely the pun would get him, but it landed as flat as a pancake.
“Sorry,” he whispered. “I’m…I’m probably not the best company right now. I haven’t had the best of luck with rubies lately.” Seeing the look on his companion’s face, he amended with, “Present company excluded.”
“Present company intrigued,” she said, wanting to get to the heart of the matter. She knew Steven could be stubborn when it came to telling someone that something was bothering him and the gem had a pretty good idea what was bothering him now.
“You aren’t still upset about…who was it?”
“Yeah,” the gem nodded. “Are you?”
The phrase ‘I’m fine’ was right on the tip of his tongue, but Steven knew he wouldn’t be able to get away with that, not with the gem sitting next to him. If anyone was aware that he kept feelings to himself, it was her or least her through Garnet. “I just…” he began, looking away. “I don’t understand. Why would she do this? I mean, she…she…she used me! That’s exactly what she did, Ruby, and I don’t understand how or why…”
“I admit, this was a little surprising,” replied Ruby, rubbing the back of her neck. “I really didn’t give those rubies enough credit.”
“We should’ve gotten the rubies when we saw them,” Steven sighed, shoulders hunched. “Maybe she would’ve…”
“What?” Ruby asked, turning to look at the teen. She could see the forlorn look on his face. “Steven, you can’t…you can’t blame yourself for that. Getting Greg back was the focus and that was more important.”
The gem then huffed, before crossing her arms against her chest. “If anything, the rest of us should’ve thought about the rubies’ predicament, but we didn’t. To be honest, we didn’t even think they would be a threat.”
Steven shook his head in confusion. Why wouldn’t they think the rubies were a threat? So many times in the past, they had viewed anyone and anything from Homeworld as dangerous, so why not the rubies? Or were they hoping the vacuum of space would rid them of a threat without having to do any work?
Ruby could see she was losing him. She was supposed to be helping, not not helping! “Do you remember what Garnet told you?” she asked, drawing his attention back to her. “When you told us about Peridot having that Diamond communicator?”
The teen sighed deeply. “That I had Mom’s patience,” he said. “But that sometimes not everyone deserves that patience.”
But wasn’t that the problem? If not for his patience, Peridot was still be in a bubble back at the Temple and Lapis would still be stuck in a mirror; if Jasper had more patience, her corruption could’ve been healed, Eyeball could’ve been saved along with Steven, and they would’ve had Bismuth back in their ranks. Would Mom have gotten through to them? Could Rose Quartz succeed where Steven Universe had failed?
“What would Mom have done?” he asked, his voice soft as he considered the question. “Would she have given Navy a chance?”
Ruby opened her mouth, but a quick reply wasn’t coming. Rose was still a sore topic around them, though she was happy to see Amethyst, Pearl, and Greg moving on. The problem wasn’t actually Rose, per se, it was just the time period that brought back bad memories – it was one of those times when Garnet had literally fallen apart and where her components had done so in the figurative sense.
To date, it was the longest they had ever spent being unfused, including that very first argument that had managed to destroy Rose’s first garden grove.
If Steven had asked this of Sapphire or even Pearl, they would’ve lied to him, Ruby was sure of it. Not that they wanted to lie, but they wanted to keep the idylllic image of Rose for him. Well…that was working out well, wasn’t it?
Steven wasn’t a baby anymore and if he was going to be a Crystal Gem, and if they thought he would stand by their side as they faced off with Homeworld again, he needed to know what was coming. Ruby didn’t like it any more than the others, but she always seemed to be the one voice that felt Steven could handle it, with their help.
“No,” came the response. “She probably wouldn’t have.”
The teen couldn’t hide his surprise fast enough, but Ruby had seen it. As kind and friendly as Rose Quartz was, she was still a soldier, a leader, and a warrior. And she was sure that was something Steven often forgot.
“She wouldn’t have tried with Jasper or Eyeball either, would she?” he murmured. He had thought Rose held some morals – she healed people, she fought for the beauty and life on Earth, she brought people together…
“And I saw what happened with Bismuth,” he spat, bitterly. He wasn’t sure who he was angrier at – Bismuth for creating a weapon that would cause actual harm or his mother for not even telling her friends what happened. “Maybe I am the problem.”
“It’s true!” he exclaimed, turning to look at Ruby. He could feel the beginning of tears from the corner of his eyes, but he was not going to cry. That was his problem. “I just…I don’t wanna to fight anyone! And I don’t want anyone to fight each other. But that’s the problem, right!? If Mom were here, we wouldn’t have lost the Roaming Eye.”
“Yeah,” Ruby agreed, nodding. “But we might not have Peridot to fly it.”
“Yeah,” Steven huffed. “But then she wouldn’t have gone back to Homeworld in the first place and brought Jasper with her.”
“Then Lapis might still be in that mirror,” Ruby countered. This…was not at all how she thought this talk was going to go. “Steven…” she pleaded, clapping him on the shoulder. “Steven, you tried! The fact that they didn’t listen isn’t your fault, it’s theirs. Yes, if Rose was still here, things might be different, but things are already different.
“Lapis wouldn’t have sent us that message about Peridot and Peridot certainly wouldn’t have tried convincing Yellow Diamond to leave the Earth alone. And both of them wouldn’t be in the barn as we speak. That’s all because of you.”
Ruby pulled back her hand and took a breath. She could feel her emotions getting the best of her and the last thing she wanted was to hurt Steven after everything that had happened. She didn’t want to bring this up, but Steven had to understand.
“Homeworld…” she began before starting again. “Homeworld is very different from Earth, extremely different. You’ve only seen a small portion of it. Couple that with the war…”
Steven watched as she trailed off, her face going slack as her thoughts drifted to a time that still affected everyone involved.
“Sometimes,” she whispered, giving him a sideways glance. “Sometimes you can’t shake ideals that have been ingrained, especially when there’s a thousand-year head start. You’ve seen it – with Pearl. Jasper. Eyeball. Bismuth…me. There’s…there’s a lot of baggage that comes with a war, especially the way ours started and ended.”
Shaking her head, Ruby turned fully to her young charge. “But we’d rather you try and miss the mark sometimes than to never try. You’re the reason we have Lapis and Peridot in the first place; none of us could’ve done that. Not even Rose.”
His spirits lifted a little at hearing that. There were so many things Steven had inherited from Rose, but there were things that only he could do, that were only unique to Steven Universe, and those were far more impressive, more important, and more impactful than any of Rose Quartz’ efforts. After hearing people compare him to Rose or even believing he was Rose, it was nice to hear that he wasn’t her clone and he didn’t have to try to be.
Wasn’t that the lesson Bismuth was trying to tell him?
Steven nodded, a smile small gracing his face. They both turned to watch the start of sunset, enjoying the way the sky lit up in vibrant colors, transitioning itself from the blues of the day to the pinks and oranges of sunset before going back to the darker tones of night.
Looking at the sky once again brought back the image of Navy’s face. Steven knew now that Homeworld mass produced gems, so there were millions of rubies, hundreds of pearls, amethysts, and peridots, and a few sapphires and lapis lazulis. He was fairly sure Pearl didn’t miss any of her gem counterparts and Amethyst had never even met another of her gem until they had reached the human zoo; Steven hadn’t even known there were other Rose Quartzes until he had seen them bubbled.
He thought Peridot might miss other peridots, especially when she was working on something that she needed help with and while he knew Lapis used to miss Homeworld, he didn’t know if it was because of other lapis gems or the areas itself. Did anyone ever feel bad for their counterparts? Did Pearl feel bad about Yellow Pearl or Blue Pearl?
“Do…do you feel bad?” he asked, causing Ruby to look at him. “About the rubies?”
The gem huffed. “I hardly ever feel bad for people determined to kill my family.”
“Do you ever miss them?” he continued. “Other rubies, I mean.”
The question made Ruby stop and think. There were very few things she actually missed about Homeworld. If anything, Sapphire sometimes missed things on Homeworld, but it was usually locations when they were in their prime. Other than that, the aristocrat was more than happy to never return.
“Sometimes?” she said, shrugging. “I used to hang out with other rubies back on Homeworld and we had a couple in the Crystal Gems. Actually…” Steven noticed the red gem nervously pluck at blades of grass and her face darkened in an obvious blush.
“I kinda owe you an apology.”
“That baseball game,” she said, raising an eyebrow. “I know Garnet apologized and apologized for us, but…truth is…if we’re talking about other rubies…I did have fun. I guess I had forgotten how much fun I used to have with others.”
Steven couldn’t help but smirk. “I’m surprised you noticed you were playing with anyone at all, nevermind the other rubies,” he said, giving her a look that caused the gem to laugh out loud.
In hindsight, their subterfuge was poorly planned and Ruby could easily admit that her performance had a lot to be desired. But it wasn’t completely her fault – it had been thousands of years since Ruby had seen any of her facet set and it threw her off her game. Though spending most of the game flirting with the Humans’ third baseman wasn’t helpful either…
Not that Sapphire had helped any of that. If anything, she had started it.
“Sass sent and received, Steven,” she chuckled. She shrugged, sending her own look to the teen. “What can I say? I’m a sucker for a pretty face.”
They lapsed into silence once again, but Steven broke it not more than five minutes in. “Do you think we’ll see them again?” he asked. “The rubies. Navy was obviously upset about being left in space and she took the ship so she could get the others. What if…what if they return to Homeworld?”
And wasn’t that the million dollar question? It was the same thing Garnet and Pearl had wondered when Lapis had left Earth and went back to Homeworld. That had been a disaster or at least a very near miss. This…this could actually pose a problem. The squad had been sent to look for Jasper and they had never gotten a direct answer as to where she was.
Would they return to Homeworld? Ruby doubted it, at least not without finding out what happened to Jasper. She knew Yellow Diamond would never accept that kind of failure or ineptitude, regardless of the gem type. Would they return here? Possibly. From Steven’s explanation, Eyeball now knew Rose Quartz’ gem was in Steven and she was quite happy to try and chisel it out of him. Navy obviously got her kicks screwing with Steven’s emotions and if the opportunity to do it again presented itself, she would probably take it.
“We’ll just have to be ready,” she answered. Would they be ready? Could they be? Even with their junior members, there was only seven Crystal Gems against thousands, if not millions of opposing Homeworld gems, with way more advanced technology than they had in their possession.
“We know Homeworld has their eyes on us,” she continued. “So we just need to be ready to greet them when they do. Besides,” she grinned, throwing an arm around his shoulders. “We’re the Crystal Gems. We always save the day.”
Steven giggled, leaning comfortably against the smaller gem. He never really got to hang out with Ruby – or Sapphire – much, usually their appearance came during a time when they needed their distinct personalities or when they were under stress. Just as he expected, Ruby was warm, not hot or scolding, just a comfortable warmth that had the potential of lulling him to sleep.
“Whatever happens,” Ruby said, giving him a squeeze. “We’re in this together, right?”
“Right,” Steven nodded, firmly.
He couldn’t change who he was – he would still worry about people and things, that was just who he was – but he still had a lot to learn. And he couldn’t think of a better way or with better people to do so. “And Steven? You know if anything’s bothering you…”
“I know,” he said, throwing his arms around the gem’s waist in a hug. Releasing her, he pulled out his phone before standing up. “In fact,” he said. “I’m gonna go give Connie a call. I promised I’d tell her how things went with Navy.”
The teen hurried off, waving at Ruby while simultaneous calling his best friend. Ruby waited until the boy was out of range before smirking. “I’m not the only person who’s a sucker for a pretty face.”
The sun continued its dip in the sky, making the bright colors of the sky darken. It would be dark soon and they would need to head back to the Temple, at least before Pearl began to freak out when Steven didn’t come home in time for dinner.
“You gonna stand there and ogle me or you gonna sit down and ogle me?”
The chuckle was unmistakable.
“I didn’t realize those two were mutually exclusive.”
A moment later, the figure who spoke was standing next to her. Sapphire placed a hand on Ruby’s shoulder before taking a seat next to her. “How’d it go?”
“Better than I thought, actually.”
“What did you tell him our reason for unfusing was?”
“Oh,” Ruby replied, shrugging. “That Peridot wanted to ask you something. I thought having it be Lapis, but I didn’t think that would make sense.”
Sapphire answered Ruby’s shrug with her own. “You should have gone with Lapis,” she said. “That’s who I was talking to.” Delivering a kiss to the red gem’s shoulder, the aristocrat gave her a smile. “Told you it was a good idea.”
There was no way to hide the blush that came to her cheeks. Compliments always embarrassed her and it was worse if Sapphire was the one handing them out. It seemed like a simple idea – Garnet had seen it as soon as the quartet made it back to shore, soaking wet and still in surprise at what had just occurred.
Though Lapis and Peridot managed to get over the incident – the former more than the latter, considering she had called the deception from the get go – the gem leader could see this disturbed Steven greatly and if Garnet could see it, Ruby and Sapphire certainly did as well. The thought to talk him had been agreed by all, except Ruby suggested she be the one to do it.
Shrugging again, Ruby murmured, “I was just worried.”
“And decided on a brilliant course of action to address it,” said Sapphire, leaning against her partner. “That’s why I love you so.”
“And here I thought you loved me for my body.”
“That too,” the aristocrat chuckled, delivering an affectionate kiss to the side of Ruby’s neck.
Ruby’s own chuckle joined in, causing her to ask, “Aren’t I supposed to be the charmer?”
“You are charming,” Sapphire agreed, adding a kiss to the red gems cheek to confirm it. “You charmed me.”
Wrapping an arm around the blue gem’s waist, Ruby continued to watch as the sun started to go down further in the sky. “You don’t mind if I stay out here for a few moments, do you?”
“I think I’ll live being unfused if it means being here with you.”
“See?” Ruby whispered, giving Sapphire a quick squeeze around the middle. “This is how you got me to fall in love with you.”
They’d only spend a few more moments out, giving Steven the time he needed to explain everything to Connie and hopefully, Connie would be able to give the teen another observation that wasn’t based on knowing or fighting with Rose or being a member of the various Homeworld courts.
They’d probably only get a small lecture from Pearl for their arrival, but she’d mother Steven once she heard what happened and Amethyst would promise to punch the little brat in the face the next they saw her (something Ruby agreed and would ultimately help with). They would need to sit down and discuss what could happen and the different avenues they would need to take if and when the rubies or Homeworld returned to the planet.
For every possible future Sapphire could see, she did have the hope that Steven could change fate for the better, even if they weren’t clear on how he would do that just yet. In the meantime, they could continue to enjoy the beauty of the people, places, and things they had fought a war for.
They would find a way to save Earth again. It’s just what they did.