Steven Universe Oneshot

23 August 2023

4,347 Words


☆Consider all of the music/albums named in this fic as recommendations. There's a lot.

☆Flashback portion is slightly canon-deviant; set between "We Need to Talk" and "Greg the Babysitter".

The monotony of crashing ocean waves had always been familiar; most of his life, Steven had both expected it - missing it when the ocean was stolen - and tuned it out as part of a background hum. Over the few times he’d been away from Beach City over the last 17-odd years, the missing sound was the first thing he’d notice.

Of course he was missing it now. He was missing a lot of things.

The motel bed felt wrong. Smelled wrong. Musty. Stale. There wasn’t the background white noise of the sea meeting the sand. Instead, it was the constant cacophony of the stop and go freeway traffic of Jersey.

It was nearing midnight - at least, that was if the digital alarm clock on the bedside table was right. It did have a partially broken display; the 3 at the end of 11:43 was left looking like a backwards C. He knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep. Steven curled into himself.

He’d been away from home for a little less than two weeks. A feeling in the pit of his stomach began to simmer. It wasn’t quite homesickness. Perhaps it was something else.

A quick glance at his phone revealed three things.

His battery was at ninety-seven percent, thanks to the car charger it had been plugged into for the last few hours.

A goodnight text from Connie with a heart emoji at the end, sent at eleven sharp.

A missed call from his dad, ten minutes prior. The ringer had been silenced in anticipation of him actually going to bed.

Steven’s heart caught in his throat. Why would he call at this hour? Was something wrong? He was ready to rush home at the drop of a hat - no questions asked - why wasn’t he picking up - why -

“Hey, Schtu-ball-”

“Dad!” He cried out, a little louder than he’d anticipated it coming out. “Is everything okay? I saw your missed call and I-”

“Woah, woah, woah. Calm down, Steven.” Greg interrupted. “I was just calling to say goodnight and make sure you got to Jersey alright. You doing okay?”

Steven took a deep, shaky, calculated breath, remembering what his therapist told him. In for five seconds, hold for two, out for as long as he could. “I’m okay.” A repeated, drawn out breath. Five. Two. Slow out. “Just worried is all. Can’t sleep. The usual.”

“Can’t sleep, eh?” His dad asked. “Anything on your mind you wanna tell your old man about?”

He rolled over, gaze shifting to the window with curtains drawn as tightly as they could. Still, a thin sliver of moonlight - or was it sulfur streetlight? - spilled through a slit between them, bathing the room in a haze that only really revealed fuzzy outlines.

“I don’t know.” He answered, more truthful than he’d been in a long time. “I’m kinda homesick - but I don’t want to come home? But here feels wrong. I don’t know what would feel right, though.”

“Steven, you’re finding yourself. It’s natural to feel lost. I know how I felt when I was your age.”

“I know.” He sighed. “I just wish I could sleep off the feeling at least.”

There was a pause - a groan - the distant sound of shifting covers and mattress springs. Then, a guitar strumming. “I put you on speaker, by the way.” A few more notes plucked. “When was the last time I told you a bedtime story?”

He half chuckled, tracing the rough, pilling duvet with his free hand. “I think I was fourteen, maybe fifteen? Aren’t I too old for this?”

“You’re never too old for a bedtime story.” With the punctuation of a F chord, followed by A minor. “Can I tell you a story about me and your mom?”

Steven considered the idea. Mom-Rose-Pink Diamond-she was such a touchy subject… and yet, he hadn’t thought about her in ages. She encompassed such a strange duality. She was lovely. She was awful. She hurt. She healed. She was a rebel. She was rebelled against. She kept so many secrets. She wanted him to know. She loved him.

He still didn’t know how to feel about her.

"What kind of story?” He finally asked.

“Nothing crazy, kiddo. I have something that I think you’ll like. I promise.” Greg answered. G minor. B minor.

Steven set the phone down, switching it to speaker mode and rolling to lay flat on his back, staring up at the ceiling. “Okay.” He visually traced the cracks in the paint. “Tell me a story.”


Beach City, Delmarva, USA

September 199x

The late summer heat had fried the grass in Vidalia’s front yard into a color not unlike her hair. It crackled under Greg’s feet as he cut across the lawn to her front door - knowing she’d kill him if she knew - before he knocked on her door, rocking back and forth on his heels.

Asking favors like this always made him nervous.

There was a long pause. He wondered if she was even home, although the shitbox-type, saltwater-rusted sedan resting in the driveway seemed to indicate so.

Thirty seconds. No answer. He considered knocking again, but as he raised his fist, the door swung open to reveal the heavily pregnant former groupie he knew well.

“Greg, fancy to see you on this lovely morning.” Her tone was flat, unamused. “What do you want?”

Attempting to play cool, he leaned on the doorway, combing his hair back through his fingers. “What, you think every time I drop by, it’s to ask you for something? Can’t a friend just… hang out?”

She didn’t take the bait. “C’mon, spill the beans, Universe. My feet are killing me.”

“Fine, you got me. I’m short on cash - any errands you need me to run? Chores to do? I’ll take anything.”

She snorted, rolling her eyes with a smile strung thin across her lips. “What, need to pay off the last eighth you got on layaway from Fryman or somethin’?”

“What- no!” Greg shook his head frantically. That had been paid off last week. “I… wanted to take Rose out on a date is all.”

“Oh, a date.” Her voice was teasing, knowing. “What’s the plan? Gonna wine, dine, and-”

Actually, Vidalia, I was gonna take her to a music store. She doesn’t have a collection at all - no CDs, no cassettes, not even a record!” He paused. “Well, she has one CD. Mine.”

“Wow, you really gotta expand her taste beyond that junk you put out.”

Greg deflated a bit, though scoffed at her jab. “Rose happens to love my music.”

Vidalia shook her head, stepping back to let him in. “I can think of a few chores for you to do. You gotta earn this date night money, though. Baby shit ain’t cheap.”

“Oh, you’re going to have the cleanest house this town has ever seen.” He replied, stepping into the cool of her home.

It was just chores, how hard could it be?

It could be very, very hard, Greg learned.

Vidalia was ruthless with her list, breaking down exactly what she wanted done in each room, occasionally adding to the workload as she lounged on the sofa, feet kicked up on the coffee table, box fan blowing at full capacity. The kitchen and bathroom were spotless; a bassinet was assembled with much struggle; groceries were fetched from the town supermarket; the oil in Vidalia’s car was changed.

He grumbled as he vacuumed the entryway rug. This felt exactly like home. Exactly what he ran away from. His mom would always get on him about keeping everything perfect. There were the expected chores. There were the extra ones when his parents found something wrong with what he was doing. God forbid he sat on the good couches - the ones with the plastic over them - because there would be hell to pay.

Existing was hardly allowed in the Demayo household.


He half jumped as he wound the vacuum cord, shuffling to the living room to begrudgingly await his next task. Vidalia was now half-melted into the cushions, clipping coupons from a catalog.

“You can be done, dude. You earned it. Grab my purse from the kitchen, will you? It’s next to the microwave.”

It was like music to his ears. There wasn’t an ounce of hesitation as he fetched the bag, handing it to her.

“...You can stop doing that happy dance thing, dude.” She muttered, rifling through its contents, tossing half of it on the coffee table as she did so.

Spare change.

Napkins clearly stolen from Fish Stew Pizza.

Watermelon rollerball lip gloss.



Another scrunchie - this time, cheetah print.

The tiniest bottle of nail polish Greg had ever seen.

“Ah, here they are.” She produced a pair of ten-dollar-bills, crumpled and lipstick-stained. “You worked, what, four hours? This rounds out to about minimum wage. Don’t spend it all in one place.”

As if he was receiving a holy relic, Greg gingerly accepted the cash, folding it neatly and tucking it in the pocket of his jorts. “I really appreciate it. You ever need a guy to help out, I’m your man.” He shot her a pair of finger guns to solidify the deal.

“Noted. Now get out of my house. It’s naptime o’clock.”

He didn’t have to be told twice, nearly sprinting out and to the temple. This was a partial struggle - sand was not made to be run across with such abandon. As he arrived, he noted it was empty. Not unusual, he mused, sitting and waiting on the steps as he tended to do.

The temple was a strange place.

It was distinctly inhuman. To be fair, so were the gems. Rose had tried to explain what they were, once. A core of mineral - organic or otherwise - served as the closest thing to a brain or heart or soul. The lines were fuzzy when making comparison to human anatomy. This core took form as tangible light - the body of a gem. They didn’t need to eat. Or sleep. They could theoretically live forever.

Rose and the other gems - even Amethyst, the youngest by far - were much, much older than him. Compared to their lifespan, his whole life was simply a day by comparison.

It made him feel small.

Yet, in their inhumanity, there was a semblance of mankind. There was emotion; anger and joy and sadness and compassion. There was the desire for something new. To make connection. To live.

Greg ran his fingertips over a crystal that jutted from the cliff wall, tracing over the perfectly smooth, geometrically flawless facets. This one wasn’t alive, but there was a palpable energy within its structure.

The familiar sound of the warp pad behind him alerted that the gems had returned. Jumping to his feet, he eagerly watched them return to form. Amethyst clung to Garnet’s leg - much like a child to a parent - while Rose and Pearl seemed mid conversation.

“-think that it’s irreparable or- oh.” Pearl’s expression fell to one of disdain as she took notice of their interloper. “It’s you.”

“Greg!” Rose had no such reaction, running over to scoop him into her arms. “What are you doing here?”

“H-hey there!” He could never get used to how strong she was. Not that it was a bad thing, of course. “I, uh, wanted to take you out tonight!”

“We’re busy. So you should leave.” Pearl crossed her arms, eyeing the couple with an expression typically reserved for rude customers at a restaurant. “Goodbye, Greg.”

“We’re not doing anything tonight, at least… I don’t think we had plans.” Rose replied, setting Greg down with a little more force than would have been preferred.


“Tonight will be free.” Garnet cut her off, neglecting to peel Amethyst off her leg as she strode over. “We’ve done enough today. That is, if Rose agrees. She makes the final call.”

There was a tense half-second before Rose beamed. “Well, that settles it. I’ll see you all later, then!”

Without making time for comments or concerns, Rose simply scooped Greg back up and walked out onto the beach.

“So, where to, Starman?”

“Well - if you let me down - we can walk together.” He chuckled, letting her pause to place him back down. “That’s better. Anyway, I wanted to take you music shopping! You only have my CD, so I thought you might like to expand your horizons.”

“Ooh- how fun! I’ll have to borrow one of Amethyst's human music playing things.”

He half-tripped in the sand. “She has a CD player? Since when?”

“I’m not sure, I think Garnet said she stole it…” She hummed in thought. “I remember Pearl going back to pay for it… Was it ten years ago…?”

“Oh, it’s probably a turntable, then. CD players didn’t get big until pretty recently.” Greg pulled his van keys from his back pocket as it came into view. He hoped he had enough gas to get where they were going. “I forget that human timescales are… the way they are.”

“They are strange.” Rose waited patiently for Greg to unlock the back doors so she could slip into the cargo area - she couldn’t quite fit in the passenger’s seat. “You’re so primitive - you’ve barely made it out of your star system! And that’s just the satellites!”

Getting into the driver’s seat and starting the engine - grateful he had a half tank of gas after all - he sighed. She didn’t mean to say things that hurt. She didn’t know any better. “I sometimes forget that you’ve actually taken a space train to the cosmos. I think it’d be nice.”

“Oh, it’s amazing!” Even though he couldn’t see her, he knew that her face had lit up. “I wish I could just show you Alpha Centauri - it’s a great system, lots of colonies and-”

She stopped. Obviously she’d struck a nerve - with herself. However, she took a breath and restarted herself.

“Anyway, we can’t really get off-planet anymore, but why would I want to? Earth is amazing. They don’t have - where are we going?”

“A record store.”

“They don’t have record stores anywhere else but on Earth! Now that’s something special.”

The rest of the short ride was full of sparse conversation, lighthearted and interspersed with pleasant silence as they listened to a tape. Soon enough, they rolled into the parking lot - poorly paved, painted lines for spots long since faded. Greg made his best guess at where one was, rolling in next to a beat up station wagon.

Helping Rose out of the back, he gestured up at the building; the sign simply labeled it ‘RECORD STORE’, the backlight flickering in and out. “Here we are. Best place for miles around.”

She seemed to revere the shop as they stepped inside - ignoring the NO SHIRT, NO SHOES, NO SERVICE sign that was scrawled in permanent marker and blue taped to the door. Her dress was long enough that they likely wouldn’t notice. Sure enough, the pink haired clerk barely looked up at them, thumbing through a zine at the front counter.

“Welcome to the record store. Let me know if you need help finding anything.” She droned, boredom dripping from every syllable.

“Thanks!” Greg replied, leading Rose towards the back where the CDs were kept, weaving past bins of vinyl records with the characteristic musty smell.

“Alright,” He brought her to the first - and largest - section: Rock and Roll. “They’re sorted by genre, I think this’ll be a good place to start if you like my music.”

She pursed her lips in thought, running a finger down the tops of the jewel cases, watching them fall forward in a domino effect. “How do I choose? I’ve never heard of any of these bands before.”

He paused, taking a look at the artists to choose from. There wasn’t a lot he had to work off of for a recommendation - all he knew was that she liked his music. Therefore, he decided, she’d probably like his influences. One by one, he plucked discs from the selection - taking a few detours into other genres - amassing a collection from which she could pick. Once he was satisfied, he held out the small stack.

“Let me know what sounds interesting, I’ll give you the details on ‘em.”

Carefully analyzing the covers, she thumbed through them.

“What’s an Oingo Boingo?” She held up a colorfully illustrated jewel case, a painted scene from Día de Los Muertos.

He took the case from her, beaming. “This is a good one, Dead Man’s Party. It’s my favorite new wave album, Danny Elfman is a genius!”

She nodded, taking the disc back. “I believe you, Starman. Let’s get this one.”

The next CD.

“This one looks so violent-“

“Oh, no, not really.” He chuckled, shaking his head. “I mean, some of the lyrics are a little… inflamed… but it’s just ska. Turn the Radio Off… I’ve been meaning to get this one, actually…”

The process continued.

No to Pretty Hate Machine. She wasn’t ready for industrial.

Yes to Sgt. Pepper. It was almost disgustingly inoffensive.

No to Breakfast in America. He already had one somewhere, now that he thought of it.

No to The Madcap Laughs. He’d just cry the whole time.

Yes to 90125. You always say yes to Yes.

Yes to a few bargain-bin oddities and local band limited releases. Never knew what you’d get with those.

He wandered a little more with her, pointing out things he had in his collection already across all the forms of media he had. She made him promise to put on a record for her like they did that one time they tried to fuse.

He agreed – but only if he could pick what they listened to.

It was a deal.

The selections were brought up to the clerk who only half paid attention to what she was doing, scribbling down names and prices on the receipt paper. Her colorful Hawaiian shirt didn’t seem to match her personality.

“Good selections. I like the Fish one you got. That’ll be seventeen eighty-two after tax.” She shoved everything into a paper shopping bag – clearly from the local grocery chain – and held out her hand for his cash which he fished out and handed to her.

“Two eighteen is your change.” She didn’t need to do the math on a calculator, evidently, and handed him the bills and change. “Have a day.”

“Uh, thanks.”

“And you, lady?”

Rose looked up, smiling as always.

“I like your hair. What dye you use?”

“Oh, it’s naturally like this.” She replied, wrapping a curl around her finger. “It’s kinda sad that humans don’t get to have fun colors.”

There was a pause.

“Huh. No shit.” The clerk muttered. “That’d save me money.”

With another goodbye, the pair left the shop. The sun was just beginning to set, painting the sky in pleasant oranges and pinks. Since the van didn’t have a CD player, they opted to listen to another tape with the promise of a listening session soon enough.

“So,” He began, maneuvering through the sand cautiously, as always cursing the lack of traction control. “Shall we park and pick out a record?”

“Oh, yes please.” Rose seemed to be buzzing with excitement, almost bursting out of the back the moment they parked. The pair took their time to set up.

Amp on the ground – hooked up to the battery. Turntable on top. Mattress moved to lay flat on the floor. Crate of records pulled closer.

Choices, choices.

Greg mused over the milk crate for a few moments, trying to decide what to put on. He flipped through the records - it was supposed to be alphabetical by artist, then chronological. The only correct way to sort. Of course, they were still out of order from when Marty decided to critique everything he had.

The Doors, Self Titled.

Good contender, maybe a little heavy on the psychedelia.

The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds.

No, that would get him too emotional.

Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

Too long and a little conceptual.

The Who, Quadrophenia.

Even longer. Even more conceptual.

Pink Floyd, The Wall.

WAY too long and conceptual.

He huffed, fingers dancing across the tops of the dust covers with a discerning, perhaps disdainful methodology. It had to be right. It had to be perfect. Nothing too long. Nothing too abstract.

His digits hovered, hesitating.

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

David Bowie.

Shorter. Still conceptual, if a little loosely so. An alien, among the last of their kind, a savior of Earth. Beautiful. Strange. Unknowable.

It was perfect.

Gently, with reverence, he slid the vinyl disc from the sleeve and set it on the turntable, allowing the needle to fall on the outer dead wax.

“So,” Rose sat on the floor of his van, legs dangling lazily off the back. “What have you picked for me, space cadet?”

He handed her the now empty sleeve to ponder as he joined her. “Something I think you might like - it’s a concept album. Ziggy is an alien, he came to Earth to protect it from certain doom - kinda like you.”

"Someone from space wrote this? What planet are they from?” She looked concerned - or was it excited? - or scared? Greg always had such an awful time reading her not-entirely-human facial expressions.

He shook his head. “No, no. It’s just a story. Made up. Though… Ziggy did become a persona for a minute…” Greg trailed off.

She ran her fingers over the raw edge of the paper, gentle as to not hurt the already fragile fibers that flaked away and smelled faintly of mildew. “A persona?”

“Oh, you know, an alter ego.” He mused. “A character. Same face, different name.”

She laughed, flipping the sleeve over to ponder the back. “Humans are so strange. Why would you change your name just to make music?”

“I’m sure everyone’s got their reasons. I changed my name.” He replied, leaning against her arm.

“You… Did?” She paused, grip faltering subtly. “Your name… isn’t Greg Universe?”

“It’s only half my name.” Greg took a heavy sigh, interlocking their free hands. “I changed it legally, but my birth name is Greg DeMayo. It’s not a very rockstar name and… It wasn’t me. It reminds me of things I’d rather forget.”

Her thumb traced across his knuckles slowly. Her skin - did gems have skin? - was, as always, warm but not uncomfortably so, and extraordinarily soft.

“When gems emerge, they aren’t given original names. Their name is what kind of gem they are. They have an identifier of where they emerged to help set them apart, but that’s really only for their higher-ups to worry about. There are - were - thousands of Amethysts. Thousands of Pearls. Thousands of Rose Quartzes.” She hesitated, shuddering as if reliving a horrible memory. Perhaps she was. “Garnet is something exceptional. Fusions have a chance at inventing themselves. Giving themselves a name. Even so, they are a combination of parts. There are millions of Rubies, hundreds of Sapphires. Gems don’t get to change what they are so easily.”

Greg gave her hand a squeeze. “You’ve always told me that Earth is a place to grow. To change. To reinvent who you are. Haven’t you done that already? Really, what’s in a name?”

“To gems, a lot.” She gave a halfhearted chuckle. “But maybe you’re right.”

“I only try to be right… Sometimes, anyway.” He ran his fingers back through his hair, uneasy in the moment of silence. “Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if Greg DeMayo became the rockstar instead of Greg Universe. I don’t think the gimmick would have stuck as hard.”

Rose drummed her fingers idly on the floor of the van. A perfectly timed, perfectly repeating drum. Never missing a beat.

“I think I would have still fallen in love with you.” She finally whispered. “After all, you’re more than the universe to me.”

“Thank you.” He leaned up to press a kiss to her cheek. “And Rose? You’re more than every star in the sky.”


“Did…” Steven trailed off for a moment, not quite knowing how to form his words. “Did you ever suspect…?”

“No, never.” Greg audibly set his guitar back down, leaning back on the bed. “I had no reason to.”

The motel ceiling wasn’t offering answers, though his eyelids were much heavier than before.

“Whatever happened to those CDs?”

“I think they ended up in my storage unit.” He paused in thought. “Which means they’re in Amethyst’s room now.”

“Do… Do you think if I asked, she’d pull them back out?” He asked.

He wondered how the jewel cases would feel in his hands. Something his mother once held. Something that had nothing to do with gemkind. They weren’t instruments of war. They weren’t objects of diplomacy. There wasn’t pain or suffering associated with them.

They were pieces of music.

“I think she’d be more than willing. I can mail them up to your Uncle Andy and you can pick them up from his place when you stop there, if you’d like.”

“Yeah, I think that’d be great.” Steven yawned. “Thanks, dad.”

“Of course, Schtu-ball.” Greg yawned as well – the contagion of exhaustion. “Ready to get some rest?”

He turned back to his side, half-wrapping the duvet around himself. “I think so. Hope to leave here by noon.”

“Well, let me know when you leave.”

“Will do. Love you.”

“Love you too, kiddo. G’night.”


His phone beeped as the call ended. Something akin to relief flooded him, though it could’ve been exhaustion or the like. He didn’t quite know.

Either way, he plugged his phone in and pulled up a music streaming app.

Search bar: David Bowie.

Album selected.

Volume set to minimum.

Track One: Five Years.

Something poignant about reinvention, he thought, finally closing his eyes. After all, what’s in a name?

He could be anyone.

For now, though, he was content with becoming himself.

After all, it was what he knew best.

And he wouldn’t want anything else in the universe.


☆Is this in character? Is this well written? I don't know and frankly do not care! I haven't written a good oneshot like this in ages

☆Fun fact! The record store clerk is literally just me. This is MY story so I do whatever I want with the minor characters.