Can’t Go Back
((Hey, I’m finally back!! I’m sorry for the wait- life is absolute chaos right now. I’m trying to work on things when I’m able to, though, and here we can finally pick back up from where we left off!! Thank you all so much for your patience. Love, Andi))
Steven is finally home, but… well, he shouldn’t be for very long.
He has Diamond duties and is sure to be so behind on paperwork- plus the Diamonds are sure to be furious about what happened.
So he should get on back to Homeworld as quick as he can… right?
(Continue reading on Ao3 or below.)
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He was floating.
Or… was he?
It was hard to tell. He was definitely in the sky—the fresh air arguing with his messy curls in cool gusts of wind. So he had to be floating, surrounded by the violets of sunset that were steadily turning darker as he continued to move through it.
He went up higher, surprised at the lack of clouds as the space around him turned to pitch black night with just the pinpricks of stars living so very far away to light the area. He was going too high… but it was so peaceful. And it had been so long since he’d been able to float with so little effort.
A bright movement to his left caught in his peripherals, and he sharply turned to look. Two new, larger dots had appeared from nowhere and seemed to be moving. Shooting stars? Oh, that had to be beautiful from the ground especially. But they seemed a little too close to Earth for comfort. Maybe he should check for any expected showers and any possible dangers of them because these two really were rather close.
Unless they weren’t actually stars? They did seem to be getting bigger quickly. And instead of all the different colors of fire, they were just pure white.
He glanced down towards the Earth for a moment… but as he did a full, slow spin, there was no Earth to be seen. There was nothing but stars that suddenly all felt too… flat. Too white. He fumbled to turn himself back around towards the mysterious white dots and just as he got there, his arms were suddenly pinned to his sides and something took an iron grasp on him.
Blindingly white fingers cuffed their way around his whole body as two deadly talons buried their way into his skin, and in no more seconds, he was ripped into two…
And then he was falling. Earth came rushing back into view as he dropped like a rock towards it. There was nothing he could do—there was no stopping this—he couldn’t float, he couldn’t fly, no one to come help him—just hard ground racing towards him.
He couldn’t even brace for impact because there was no bracing for this—
Steven shot upright, panting hard as he lit up his lofted bedroom with vibrant pink. After a moment of flailing around somewhat in panic, it pretty quickly set in that his house completely silent and empty with only the waves crashing on the shore outside to keep him company.
He was fine. He was safe. It was just another nightmare. Just another bad dream—he dealt with those all night, every night by now. What was one more?
But after a few slow moments, reality started to settle in a tad more. He was… he was home. He was actually home. He wasn’t— He wasn’t on Homeworld. He wasn’t in the tower anymore.
It took a few minutes for that fact to process and for Steven to comb through his recent memories to figure out how that had happened. After being trapped in there alone for however long he had been—he remembered the count was somewhere over two weeks—not very much had even registered in his mind anymore.
He’d been in the tower… and then suddenly there was light. And then he was being moved—being carried. He had some vague memories of being taken care of by Lapis and Peridot and Pearl, but mostly he could just remember his dreams from however long he’d been sleeping for. None of which had been particularly good, but he’d decidedly had worse as well.
After a few slow minutes, Steven pushed off his blanket and slowly hauled himself up out of his bed—heading straight over towards his dresser. However he’d gotten out of the tower, he knew it hadn’t been the full time the Diamonds had intended to keep him in there for. So while there was no way in the universe he was willingly going back into that tower to please them, there was surely some damage control that needed to be done.
The glow of his skin faded out as he searched his drawer—settling on one of the easy, plain white shirts he’d begun wearing a couple years prior (it was a lot easier to replace them when he accidentally ripped through them- an occurrence which was thankfully much less often now as he’d learned to suppress the swelling issues) and a pair of jeans. His usual attire, but it was comfortable and easy. He grabbed a pair of socks as his eyes adjusted to just the moonlight streaming through his windows and headed for the stairs.
As Steven made it down the first two steps, he froze at a familiar sound he hadn’t heard in a very long time.
The house lit up a light blue for a moment as Pearl emerged from the Temple. Pearl-Pearl. Not the rejuvenated, overly-annoying version of Pearl he’d grown used to and tired of—even if she’d been poofed, she would never wear the outfit she had on now. She noticed him quickly, and Steven was stunned still again as she spoke up.
“Steven! I’m so glad you’re finally awake—we’ve been so worried. Lapis and Peridot went over to Greg’s to check on Garnet and Amethyst. I’ll have to call and let them know you’re up.” Steven couldn’t help as tears of… relief? Joy? Probably some combination of the two? that started to well in the corners of his eyes. Pearl was back.
A long moment of silence stretched as he processed the information, but he couldn’t help notice as Pearl’s expression changed from relief to confusion and slight concern.
“Steven… Where are you going? We picked up some of your favorites to eat when we brought you home, and the shops are all closed this late.”
That sobered Steven up. Was he still overjoyed to see and hear Pearl talk and look like herself? Of course. But… well… that meant she wouldn’t be happy with his answer either.
“I was just… going to figure out how mad they are.” As the confusion visibly turned to disapproval, Steven was quick to try and explain. “You know how they get when they’re mad—especially White, and she’s the one who made me go there and I don’t want…” The tears were coming back again quickly as his voice faltered. All the horrific possibilities of what White could do if she tried. All the things she had done in anger already… He couldn’t risk it.
Pearl’s approach was steady, but her expression was stern. Her own worries crept into her voice as she stopped at the bottom of the stairs, but her tone was still firm. “Steven, you need to rest. You were locked in there for far too long without sunlight and without actual Earth food.” She was growing angrier now, but Steven knew it wasn’t at him. “Forget what they want. If they insist on treating you like this then they frankly don’t deserve to spend any time with you at all. And if they want to start the war again over what we did, I’ll have more than a piece of my mind to give them.”
It was too much. The relief and the joy of the version of Pearl he knew best and the only one he considered his family finally coming back, the swell of love he felt from just how much she genuinely cared about him (over the stupid worshipping he’d suffered through over the past year), the guttural fear and anxiety of the Diamonds and their reactions, the stress of not knowing how much work had surely piled up for him or what had gone wrong in his absence, and the deep resentment towards… well, towards all of Homeworld…
The tears finally spilled over, and he practically jumped over the remaining few stairs. It took Pearl a stunned moment before she wrapped her arms back around Steven in return, but once they were there, she didn’t let go of him for hours as he cried—finally letting out so much he’d been piling up on himself without the gems, without his family, there to support him.
He’d have to return to Homeworld at some point. Likely rather soon as well—if he didn’t go to them, they’d send someone for him eventually.
But for now… Pearl was right. And he’d admit as much to her a thousand times and bear all the gloating such an admission brought as long as it meant she was back to her overbearing, fearless, rebellious, strict, motherly self.