"Captain's Log: uhhh... Monday? Honestly, who cares anymore..."
"So, we invaded one of Yellow Diamond's asteroid mines to extract the flotanium we needed. Several Agates were guarding it, but we defeated them and escaped successfully... that is, before Homeworld ships started chasing us. We lost them, but it might not take long for them to find us; so, we're all alert.
"Meanwhile, Fluorite is working to fix the engines down here, but it's taking a while... for now, we can only wait - and watch out for any suspicious ships out there. Hopefully, she will have repaired the nova thrusters before anything happens.
"If everything goes well, then we'll finally reach our destination: The Earth."
Lars let out a deep sigh, as his eyes met the stars.
"... home," He whispered, effectively.
Once he finished, he threw himself on the captain seat. Weirdly enough, he actually felt drained - and it hadn't even been the most dangerous battle the Off Colors had faced. Well, Lars would rarely feel any exhaustion, really.
Though... it was sure becoming very... tiresome.
Well, anyone would be excited to go on a space adventure – where you could ride a fast spaceship with your friends, wear a cool cape and commit crimes against a tyrannical system. Not that it wasn’t a remarkable experience anymore, clearly not- it was just...
Space was wide. Huge. The concept of time no longer mattered there. He couldn’t tell anything anymore.
In spite of all the thrilling adventures, space was still that endless black pit, were it not for the countless stars that painted it. Astronauts would definitely envy him due to finding several solar systems, all sorts of planets and whatever. However, it was just... not like the Earth – no matter how breathtaking it was.
On Earth, you could actually... be yourself. It certainly was no bed of roses, considering how judgmental people could be; but there was so much beauty to that planet, so much... life. Homeworld would only turn a blind eye to it all. Then, they would eradicate anyone and anything that didn’t fit their twisted concepts of a successful empire.
The Off Colors had been forced to hide- for eons, because they would have been shattered. Lars tried not to think too much about it at this point, but it was awfully hard. The thought of his friends excluded from society and further getting killed simply for looking “wrong” to the eyes of horrible dictators was frightening, painful. It was still as messed up as when he had realized upon meeting the Off Colors.
Luckily, though, the journey to Earth would come to an end... eventually. There wouldn’t be a specific time of arrival; again, time was useless in the middle of outer space. Though, the captain had only started making all those log dates thanks to Steven’s occasional visits and his own intuition... and also because he had always wanted to do that, for some reason. Perhaps it was part of his wishes as a little kid. Yeah.
Lars relaxed on the seat while the Off Colors piloted, concentrated. Fluorite hadn’t given any further reports on the engines. It would take time for any results. The captain was still hopeful, in spite of his homesickness and certain impatience; yet he knew he couldn’t blame Fluorite. Emerald sure had done some damage...
He gazed at the big, starry dimness outside, his mind transcending to... nowhere. Well, literally nowhere. Still.
He could not wait to get home. One day, they would all be on Earth and would be in peace. They would all be free.
A smile formed on his face.
Then his hair glowed and the unfortunate feeling of a whole thing coming out of it led him to scream.
"EEEEK!!" Lars blurted out.
Suddenly, there was Steven, who had made a near perfect landing.
“Ugh, Steven-!” Lars almost yelled at him, but then contained himself, knowing he shouldn’t get mad at him visiting out of the blue.
“Oh, s-sorry, Lars,” Steven apologized anyway.
“No, I- ugh,” Lars sighed. “Sorry, I know I should’ve gotten used to you coming here.”
“It’s okay, I guess I can’t really blame you- I can’t imagine what it must be like to have a magic portal inside your hair... and having things bigger than it coming in and out of it on a daily basis."
Lars snorted. “It’s still weird, yeah. But- it’s okay, really. It’s always great to see you.”
Steven smiled at him, though... the older boy couldn’t help feeling there was... something off. That is, about Steven. He didn’t know why.
“Sooooo,” Steven cleared his throat. “How has space been?”
“Eh, same ol’ thing...” Lars shrugged, but then smirked. “... except we showed those Agates who’s boss!”
“Oh!” Steven’s face lightened up. “You guys went to those asteroid mines, right?”
Lars nodded in response, watching Steven become excited in amusement.
“That’s great to hear!” He said. “Are the engines working now?”
“Yeah, well,” Lars moaned. “It’s... still going to take a while to get them to work... but we’ll be home soon, I guarantee!”
“Hah, so,” The pink-haired boy smiled. “How have things been back home?”
“Oh, uh, good,” Steven nodded. “They’ve been... great.”
The joy in his voice... faded. For some reason, Steven was looking around a lot, instead of facing Lars. The captain raised an eyebrow at those signs.
“C’mon, what’s up?” Lars asked. “Any news?”
“No! I-I mean,” Steven blushed after nearly screaming, which had made the older teen flinch. “Home’s been... the same, yeah. Except- wait.”
Steven bent down, revealing a... cheeseburger backpack as he removed it from his back.
“Actually,” Steven started. “I wanted to give you something.”
He handed Lars a piece of paper- that was not just some piece of paper: it was a poster of Sadie Killer and the Suspects, wearing cool costumes and- and playing in a stage iluminated with several colors!
“Remember that show I told you?” Steven asked. “They made this really cool poster to promote it- and my dad’s been helping them with that, too. They’re all really excited about it and yeah... I felt like you’d love to have this.”
Lars admitted to gazing at the poster with admiration. He then grinned and created an entire scenario in his mind; maybe he would be there, watching Sadie and the Cool Kids performing live, in those neat outfits... and his friends would all be there, too – it would be amazing!
“That’s so awesome!” He exclaimed. “Thanks, Steven. I really hope we can all be there to see it.”
“Heh,” Steven laughed quietly. “Me too.”
Lars glanced at him, noticing the other’s smile fading. He raised an eyebrow.
“Hey, uh, are... are you okay?” He asked.
“O-Oh, yeah! Of course,” Steven replied, smiling. Yet, it wasn’t quite... genuine.
Lars frowned, which was not unnoticed by the other boy. In fact, he did take a closer look at Steven. His eyes were actually puffy. Not to mention there were some... dark bags under them, too.
“Are... you sure?” The older teen asked.
“I mean it! I’m just... kinda tired,” Steven rubbed the back of his own neck. “Been having lots of fun, like always!”
Steven let out a weird, nervous laugh. The captain was about to say something else, but soon the Off Colors (except Fluorite), reached them; good thing they had the autopilot option.
“Hello, Steven!” “It’s good to see you!” The Rutiles greeted him.
“Oh, hey, guys,” Steven said. “I heard you were awesome getting that... thing for your engines!”
“Yeah! You should’ve seen us in combat!” One of the twins said.
“We literally just invaded one of Yellow Diamond’s properties,” Rhodonite added, nervously at first, but she seemed pretty excited, though. “And there were hundreds of Agates!”
“But stars- we got to battle amazingly!” One of the Rutiles said.
“Hah, yeah! You should’ve seen the looks on those Agates’ faces,” He laughed. “They were all running way like a whole bunch of cowards, crying ‘MY DIAMOND, HELP!! THEY ARE INVINCIBLE!!!’”
They all laughed, and the Off Colors remarked and re-told the showdown at the asteroid mine.
"We were- actually fighting! For our cause, for our freedom..." “We were like- like the Crystal Gems!” The Rutile twins commented.
Rhodonite’s face actually lightened up upon the realization and added: “Oh! In fact, when we get to Earth, we would love to know more about them! And meet the rest of them!”
The gems continued admiring the Crystal Gems, much to Lars’ enjoyment.
“To imagine that Rose Quartz gave up on everything she had been assigned for, to free herself and others...” Rhodonite said, her four eyes shining in adoration. “She- She surely was great!”
“Indeed!” The other gems agreed.
They kept fushing over the rebellious Rose Quartz. They were all so joyful and hopeful, so... inspired!
It was fast, but Lars’ eyes spotted Steven’s expression changing drastically for one second; his smile disappeared completely. Then the black-haired boy turned his back to everyone else in the room, to... to avoid them.
As if... he were trying to hide.
No one seemed to have noticed. The other gems maintained their cheerful conversation while Steven was...
... he was shaking.
“S... Steven?” Lars called, quite unsure of what to do.
He received no answer from the other boy.
“Steven!” He spoke louder, his hand reaching Steven’s shoulder, which- which led Steven to let out a horrified scream.
Lars was frozen where he stood (sat?). Steven downright panted once he faced the other again, as if something had just tried to attack him. His eyes were wide, fearful...
Soon enough, though, the younger boy shook his head and brought himself back to reality.
“O-Oh, god! I- Sorry about that,” Steven said. “I-I was just, uhh, spacing out- in space! Haha...”
He started laughing, yet Lars didn’t find it funny in the slightest. Once he noticed this, Steven’s laughter died out and his facade fell again.
Steven wasn’t okay and- and it was written all over him; especially as he would just... laugh it off.
“What’s the matter, Steven?” One of the Rutile twins asked, all the Off Colors now focusing on Steven. “You sounded... scared.”
“It’s- it’s nothing!” The younger boy replied with a weak smile. “Really, I’m fine, I-“
“Oh no," Padparadscha said, suddenly. "I predict that Steven won’t actually be feeling well - especially not once we... talk about the Crystal Gems."
As soon as Steven heard that, his eyes immediately widened and avoided any contact. It only increased Lars’ suspicions.
It was clear that nothing was fine.
"W-Wait, what?" One of the Rutiles said, suddenly perplexed.
"What... does that mean?" The other asked, both twins looking at Steven.
"Oh no," Rhodonite said, concerned. "A-Are the other Crystal Gems alright? Did- something happen to them?"
The Off Colors all looked tense and tried to talk to Steven at the same time, yet he wouldn't dare to say the truth.
"I- No! They're all doing great! D-Don't worry about it," He tried to assure them, but Lars wasn't buying it. Definitely not.
“Steven, seriously,” Lars asked crossing his arms. “Something did happen back home, right?”
“... n... no, it’s just...” Steven sighed. “I-I don’t want to talk about it, it’s- it’s not your concern.”
“What do you mean ‘not my concern’? Dude, I know something serious happened and- and I want to know,” Lars responded impatiently- and bitterly, in a way.
“I-It’s not serious, please, just- just leave it,” Steven insisted on avoiding the topic. “It’s fine.”
Lars took a deep breath. “Steven-“
“Ugh, I already said it's fine!” Steven raised his voice. "Why- why won’t you believe me?!"
“Because you don’t look fine, at all!” Lars suddenly blurted out in response. “You look terrible and you keep lying and avoiding talking about it, it’s- literally written all over you! Do you really think I’m STUPID?!”
He silented Steven, who flinched. Lars’ face softened almost immediately upon realizing the tone of his own voice – as well as the shocked looks on the others’ faces.
“Oh, god, I’m- I’m sorry,” Lars apologized to everyone, but mostly Steven. “I didn’t mean to- I-“
He sighed deeply and tried to breathe. He can't just- behave like a dickhead like that. Well, Steven wasn’t collaborating, but it didn’t help that Lars wouldn't really do much better in situations like these.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He faced the other boy again.
"Steven," He started. "I- We all know you're not fine. W... We want to know what happened because we care about you. Yet- yet you refuse to say anything, and-!"
Lars stopped before he could get stressed again. God, why was this so hard... He really wasn't good at this.
But... he had to try.
"It's just... you're always helping others," He continued. "But you don't seem to... to help yourself. I- I can tell that, because I know you have a lot going on in your life- a lot that... that other people wouldn't understand. And- I get it, you know?"
Steven was utterly quiet, not daring to speak. Lars gazed at him with worry and certain guilt; which wouldn’t make the other feel better, he assumed.
Lars placed a hand on Steven’s shoulder.
“Look, I..." The older teen sighed once more. "I know I’m not the best person to talk to, but- but I mean it, if something happened, I... I want to help- even if I’m, like... out here, in space. I can, well... listen.”
The younger boy looked away; he... he didn’t appear to be better. Lars looked all over the Off Colors, whose eyes were flooded with questions they were anxious to ask.
Steven lowered his head. Lars squeezed his shoulder slightly.
“Steven, please,” The captain said, his voice... nearly breaking. "I'm- I'm worried about you. We all are.
"Just... tell us what happened."
Only silence answered him. Steven was immobile and absolutely quiet. Lars didn’t try to pressure him anymore, knowing it wouldn’t do any better. He knew he should give Steven time to try to speak, to say the right words- because talking was difficult, Lars knew of that too well.
Everything was silent, lifeless... if not for the noises coming from the engines downstairs. The Off Colors didn’t add anything. Lars then realized that one of Steven’s hands reached his belly button – where his gem was placed. One of them proceeded to clutch his t-shirt.
Lars couldn’t ignore that sign; especially not when he noticed how shaky Steven’s hands were. Adding Padparadscha’s prediction, Lars assumed it must involve... the other’s mother.
He was about to aim for that particular subject when the other boy decided to speak.
"L... Lars," His voice was quiet, nearly a whisper that could have gotten lost in the dimness. "I..."
Steven was hesitant, as his hands still grasped his t-shirt and his eyes would not meet Lars'. Actually, they...
... they aimed at the Off Colors.
Soon enough, he turned around fast, perhaps not to let anyone truly notice; but Lars ended up catching that.
"I, uh... c- could we..." Steven's voice was clearer now. "Could we talk... i-in private? Like, you and me? I-If that's... alright."
Well, Lars couldn't lie that he was... actually taken aback by Steven's request. Steven had always been pretty comfortable with the gems, having not thought of anything negative upon first meeting them and instead trusting them meaningfully. So, asking them both not to be around the Off Colors was... sort of surprising. The gems themselves must feel the same way, as the captain glanced at them; they were caught by surprise and were asking each other several questions through their eyes.
Still, the way Steven looked at them told him that... maybe it would be best if they talked alone. Besides, if- if that would help him, then Lars was willing to do so. Hopefully, he would give the others an idea just so they weren't so worried about him.
"S... Sure, yeah," Lars replied, realizing he had been out of reality for a bit. "We- We can do that. Actually, there's another area in this ship I go sometimes. So, uh, we can go there."
"Oh," Steven nodded. "O-Okay."
"Well, uh, stay here while I talk to them, alright?"
Lars stood up and walked to the Off Colors, guiding them a bit far away from the younger boy. Steven anxiously waited him near his seat, avoiding looking at the other gems.
"We'll go to, well, my... thinking room," He informed them. " If- If there are any emergencies, remember that I installed the communicators down there, so please let me know of anything."
The Off Colors nodded, yet... they all looked insecure at the same time. He was sure it was because of Steven.
"We'll- We'll be back soon," Lars assured.
"It's just... I wonder why he won't tell us," The right Rutile admitted quietly.
"Yeah, why aren't we supposed to know?" Rhodonite asked, a bit too loud; but she sounded pretty tense, so Lars couldn't really blame her.
"Look, I'll... I'll talk to him, he probably just needs some space and time to think... m-maybe he'll tell you guys later," Lars tried to assure them, but he wasn't so sure himself.
His friends didn't seem quite convinced, either...
"I'll... try my best," Lars sighed. Soon he regained his composure, though. "Well, you may return to your posts for now. You keep your eyes on any strange movements out there, okay?"
The Off Colors all returned to their seats immediately. Lars turned around, finding Steven gazing at the captain's chair. The older teen observed him for a bit, wondering what could have... possibly happened to the Crystal Gems.
It must have been really... bad, if Steven didn't want the Off Colors to know. And if the main reason involved his mother, then... what could it be?
Lars was aware of Steven's complex feelings towards Rose, but he couldn't really... imagine what had occurred.
Finally, Lars stepped forward and went back to Steven, who jumped in surprise.
"C'mon," Lars beckoned.
He aimed for the button on his chair and pressed it, warping Steven and himself somewhere else.