Storms around Delmarva happened all the time. The state itself was along the ocean's coast, so it was bound to happen: being prone to nor'easters, typhoons, and even hurricanes. In this case, Hurricane Selma was on its way; and this time, the citizens of Beach City weren't ready.
Did they have the shelter? Of course. Were they equipped with enough resources? Absolutely. But this was under the means of its considerably minimal populus. Beach City always used to be a small town - with small families, small businesses, and small problems. However, since the creation of Little Homeworld and a mass influx of new gems to enter its inhabitants, Beach City's demographic nearly tripled in size. This meant new lives to protect, extended safety procedures to implement, and a hope and a prayer in pulling through this "Storm of the Century", as the weather stations were calling it. Steven could practically feel Nanefua sweating through the phone.
"Don't worry," Steven reassured as he pressed the phone to his ear, "We're going to be fine… Yes, of course we can… We'll... You got it, Mayor. Thanks."
Steven ended the call promptly. His expression was severe as he turned to the others. Gathered in the kitchen were the other Crystal Gems - Pearl, Amethyst, Garnet, Bismuth, Lapis and Peridot. Each one wore the same intense facade: looking as though they were about to engage in combat.
"Okay," the human-gem hybrid began, "Nanefua has ordered everyone to evacuate to the shelter. Pearl and Amethyst, can you focus on organic life? Pearl, you take humans. Amethyst, you take the animals. Make sure everybody gets to the shelter."
"Got it," the two nodded simultaneously.
"Bismuth, Peridot and Lapis," Steven turned, zipping his pink letterman jacket, "Same thing with the Little Homeworld gems. My dad's loaded as many of them as he could into the van, but there are still a few left."
"Oo, ooh! I could use some metallic remnants to teleport them there," Peridot chimed almost too enthusiastically.
"That's brilliant," Steven smiled softly, "Bismuth and Lapis - this storm's gonna be a doozy. Harsh winds and rain might do a number on the shelter. Can you work on infrastructure and water damage control?"
"Like we'd do anything else," Lapis shrugged playfully.
"Consider it done, little man," Bismuth gave a thumb's up.
Steven nodded, turning to their team's leader. "Garnet, can we have Ruby and Sapphire split up? We might run out of power or blankets… or both. Ruby can be a great resource in case the heat turns off."
"And Sapphire?" Garnet asked.
Steven sighed. "Well… she can see the future, right? She can see when all of this is over? I was thinking… Sapphire can be a great source of hope for anyone who needs it."
"I think you're right," Garnet smiled, a tear running down her cheek.
All of the gems looked to each other. Without saying a word, they all grabbed hands to form a circle. Steven bowed his head.
"We're as ready as we'll ever be, guys," the young man muttered, "How're we feelin'?"
There was a pause.
"Scared?" Amethyst remarked, breaking the silence.
Steven smirked. "Me too... Did I mention that you guys are the best?"
"Several times," Pearl replied with a grin, "But it's always nice to hear."
Steven could feel his eyes beginning to well up. However, his concentration was quickly broken.
"Alright, save the mushy stuff," Bismuth commanded, "Time to look alive!"
"Right," the boy replied, breaking off, "See everybody at the shelter?"
"You bet!" Peridot replied.
She broke into a light sweat, as she summoned a massive sheet of metal to her feet, pulling Bismuth onboard. They were out in seconds, zooming through the gaping hole in the wall in Steven's house. Of course, the professional handsmith (who rebuilt the wall in the first place) took notice of this.
"Wait a minute," Bismuth gasped, "Boy, what the heck happened here?!"
"L-long story," Steven blushed, waving them off as the rainbow-haired gem continued to shout expletives.
As they made their exit, cold rain began to pelt Steven and the remaining gems on the house's deck. Lapis turned to the group quickly, her waterbent wings taking form.
"See you guys," the blue gem hummed quietly before taking off.
The gems returned inside, heading to the Warp pad. Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl stood there, with their youngest member smiling at them from the kitchen. Pearl quirked an eyebrow.
"Steven, aren't you coming?" the maternal gem inquired.
"I have to find Lion," Steven replied, "You know how he gets with storms."
"I see," Pearl consented flatly, "Well, just don't be long, alright?"
"...You have your raincoat?"
"Sorry, sorry," Pearl shrugged, "Couldn't help myself."
Amethyst could feel her cheeks growing flush. "We'll… meet you at the shelter, 'kay?"
Steven nodded in reply.
"And Steven?" Garnet added, "...We love you."
The boy felt his own face getting warmer. "...I love you, too."
With a flash of light from the Warp, the three gems were gone. Almost instantly, a crash of thunder crackled against the sky. Steven could hear a low growl coming from upstairs.
"Hmm…" the boy hummed, lightly jogging toward the steps.
As he reached his room, Steven quickly dropped to the floor. On all fours, he crawled towards his bed; where beneath, he was met with two bright, unnervy eyes.
"Hey, buddy," Steven cooed to the set of eyes, "It's okay. Storms scare me, too. But it's easier to face 'em together, right?"
It took a moment, but eventually the massive, pink feline emerged from beneath the bed. With a stretch and a yawn, Lion nuzzled against his master. His wild mane tickled Steven's cheeks and neck.
"Alright, pal," Steven chuckled, "Let's get-"
His train of thought was broken by the sound of footsteps coming from the main floor. Steven's brow furrowed.
Slowly, the two made their way down the steps. As they trailed cautiously, Steven summoned his swirly pink shield in his left hand. Just before they reached the bottom step, the boy called out.
"Who's there?" he tried his hardest to make his unsteady voice sound commanding.
The human-gem hybrid's eyes widened at the sight.
There before him stood Greg Universe, adorned in a black hooded raincoat and thick khaki pants. He could see a knitted smiled brimmed beneath his father's dark five-o'clock shadow. Clutched in his left hand was a flashlight, which he was accidentally shining in his son's eyes.
"Wh-what are you doing here?" Steven asked, squinting at the light, "I thought you were at the shelter. And, couldja turn that thing off?"
"Wha? Oh, sorry," the elder said, quickly diminishing the light, "I just dropped off some gems. Thought I'd come back for you next."
"Aww, Dad, that's-" Steven was interrupted by a ringing of the kitchen phone. The boy turned to his father, to which Greg gave a shrug.
"Nanefua?" he asked.
To this, Steven gave his own shrug. He hustled quickly toward the kitchen, clasping the phone.
"Hi, Nanefua. We just… Oh… Sorry… H-hi, Dr. Maheswaran…"
The boy's expression became puzzled. Greg's was the same as he tiptoed over to his son.
"How are - Huh? … 'Connie'?"
Steven's heart began to palpitate.
"N-no, she's not with me… Did something happen-?… Oh, no…"
Greg placed a hand on his son's shoulder, shivers beginning to wrack Steven's body.
"When-?... Oh, man… Well, you and Mr. Maheswaran must be… What?! … Oh, I'm so sorry, I didn't know… When did he-?... That's awful, I… I'm so sorry..."
Tears were streaming down Steven's cheek. He struggled to keep his voice even.
"Dr. Maheswaran, you need to get to the shelter… Don't worry, you'll be the first to know when I find her… Y-you don't have to thank me, just get to the shelter… Of course. 'Bye."
Steven slammed the phone back into the receiver, slightly cracking the wall around it. Greg's hand was still clasped to Steven's shoulder, feeling his son's uneven breathing.
"Steven," Greg spoke softly, "What happened?"
Steven breathed in deeply, feeling his aching chest expand as he spoke.
"Connie's missing. She ran away."
"What?! Whadda y'mean?! What happened?!"
"She said they got in a fight."
"Last night. Dr. Mahewaran checked her room this morning, and she wasn't there. Thought, maybe, she came here."
The two paused for a second. The former rockstar's eyes teared up.
"And… when did Mr. Maheswaran -"
"Two months ago. On the job, apparently. She didn't really give details."
Greg broke into a sweat, thinking back to Connie. "D-did she call the police or anything?"
Steven calmly grabbed his raincoat from the kitchen chair. "She did. But it's tough with the storm prep, they're doing what they can to find her."
"Oh, Steven. I'm sorry, I… Wait, where're you going?"
The young man mounted Lion. His back was turned from his father.
"I'm gonna go look for her."
" 'Look for her'?" Greg's eyes were the size of dinner plates, "In a hurricane?! Steven-"
"Dad, there's no time for this. You need to get to the shelter."
"A-and so do you!"
"I will. When I find her."
"I said I would find her-"
"W-what if she's found? What if she's already at the shelter?"
"And what if she's not?!"
The room was silent. Steven's cry was still echoing. His warm tears continued to stream down his face, staining Lion's mane.
"Dad… When I spoke to Dr. Maheswaran, I said she'd be the first to know when I find her…"
The young man's eyes snapped shut.
"I didn't say 'if'... I said 'when'."
There was a severity to the boy's grimace, and Greg could read it very clearly. His eyebrows were jolted upward, almost pained. It was like his entire face had been jolted with some kind of cable: energized and vexed with anxiousness. At this, the former rockstar rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably. He emanated a shallow breath.
"I don't… usually do the whole 'worried parent' thing. But this one's tough for me."
Again, another moment of silence encapsulated the room. Greg slapped a hand on his son's knee.
"I'll go to the shelter. I'm hopin' she's there, but… you'll let me know if… when you find her?"
Steven wrapped his arms around his father's rotund mid-section.
"You'll be the second to know."
Greg smiled. "I'll take it."
The two held their embrace for a good minute. A clap of thunder interrupted their moment. Lion roared at the noise as Steven rubbed the animal's head.
"Easy, buddy," the young man cooed. He turned to his father, "It's just gonna get worse out there, Dad. You've gotta go, now."
"Right," Greg flipped up his hood and ran out through the open wall.
He bolted towards the van, calling out before jumping into the driver's seat.
"Love ya, Shtu-ball!"
Flipping his own pink hood over his head, Steven cried back from the deck, "Love ya, Dad!"
The vehicle rumbled to the ignition's engine, revving up to start as Greg made his way to the main road. Steven's eyes were fixed on the van until it was completely gone from sight. Then, he looked up to the grey sky.
The stormwinds were stirring up the clouds as they were beginning to whir much more freely now. The mix of mist coming from the rising ocean tide was not helping visibility much, either. Rain began to mingle with the tear streaks along the tracks of Steven's cheeks. Without looking down, he spoke gruffly to his feline companion.
"C'mon, Lion. Let's find my Connie."
With a growl, Lion summoned a stark white portal mere inches from his nose. The two leapt through without hesitation.