Space was huge. Enormous. It didn't appear that the ship was moving; though it could also be justified by the fact that the engines were still busted, right... anyway.
It was nothing new to him - after having gone to the Moon Base, been stuck in a bubble out there, gone to the Human Zoo in the speed of light, abducted and sent to Homeworld. Nonetheless, space didn't cease to amaze him as his eyes met the countless stars through the window thing in the room. Steven could never deny how beautiful and (literally) breathtaking it was - despite all the negative implications space had upon him. It was frightening to remember; that feeling of butterflies (not good, but bad ones) in his stomach resonated again.
Steven exhaled as he looked at his own gem, located in his belly button. Every time he did so, he would remember that the gemstone wasn't an ordinary Rose Quartz, but a Diamond... he had already taken a long time to get used to being half-Rose Quartz, but now he was half-Diamond. It didn't make it any better.
Steven had barely gotten time to just- breathe it out. He hadn't had space (no pun intended) to put his feelings into perspective. Not when Garnet had split up, not when Sapphire had yelled at everyone and fled to- to who knew where; not when Ruby had nearly burnt the house and was hopeless, lost; not when Pearl couldn't even open her mouth without being accused of hiding everything, when she hadn’t even been physically able to tell them the truth; nor when Amethyst, who had finally come to terms with who she was, now had to accept that the one gem that had told her how beautiful and perfect she was... had lied all along. Not to mention his father, the most loving and accepting person he had ever known, was under a crisis, too.
He knew better, thanks to Lars; that Rose- Pink Diamond wasn't evil by nature. But it would be hard to convince the others as well. Not that they were to blame, anyway.
Speaking of Lars, Steven had just realized that the older teenager had not added anything since... his breakdown. He had stopped crying and cursing himself, but Steven could see how thoughtful the other was. The captain's eyes contained several questions and thoughts, thousands of words that Steven couldn't quite read.
It didn't make the half-Diamond better once realizing this. Steven hadn't... put Lars' feelings into further analysis before. Lars had become this- this awesome, confident space pirate, the captain of a rebellious group of gems and that had done all sorts of amazing things to get back home; deep inside, however… he must have a lot in his heart.
Lars had cried, broken into pieces a moment ago. He hadn't said actual words other than brief apologies, but they had been carried with a lot of sentiment, guilt... remorse...
For him to just let the pain out like this, Steven wondered something.
Holding MC Bear Bear close to him, the young boy hesitated to open his mouth, fearing that Lars might not want to talk about it. He would understand if that was the case, but Steven couldn't help the curiosity that grew inside him.
"H... Hey, Lars?" He called him, as the captain seemed way too out of reach at that moment.
Lars blinked several times, his eyes then catching Steven gazing at him.
"Oh- Sorry, what is it?" The pink boy asked.
Steven looked away for a moment, thinking of the right words he wanted to say.
"D... Do you ever... talk to the Off Colors about... everything?" He asked.
It seemed to have caught Lars off guard at first, but he didn't seem ultimately surprised, as he probably knew what Steven meant. The black-haired boy lied close to his chest, as he was too short to reach his shoulder, and awaited.
"No..." Lars replied, after remaining quiet for a few seconds. "I mean, I've... opened up to them before, but... not like this."
Steven hummed in understanding. He proceeded to make more questions:
"Do you feel like you have to be strong? Since you're... their leader and all?"
Lars shrugged. "In a way... well, it's not actually like that, I think. Since we're all wanted space pirates, I don't, uh, have time to... think about my well-being. All I do is tell them what to do all the time, because we're always on the run.
"Even if I do come down here sometimes, I don't... usually have much time left for myself. It's not that I don't want to, I just... can't have that for me."
Steven nodded in silence, his eyes gazing at the stars outside again. It was practically the only view they had. The only way they could let out all their thoughts and share them with the endless, outer space. And each other.
"It's... tough being the leader," He said. "To keep everyone together when you can't... think of what to do with your own problems."
Lars nodded in agreement, silent.
"I mean," Steven rephrased. "Garnet is the leader, but as I grow up, my role as a Crystal Gem has been... changing a lot. I'm the one that has been looking out for them; and now that Garnet isn't there, then... everything is my responsibility."
He let out a deep sigh, as he remembered his family fighting. There wasn't that same trust and understanding the Crystal Gems had always had. Everything had fallen apart, as their origins were based on the lies of Rose Quartz. They wouldn't look at him the same way; Pearl was the only one that did not wish harm to him, but even then, she was still under... Diamond influence - because Pink Diamond was still there, in a way.
Nobody looked at him as Steven Quartz Universe anymore. He was nothing but Steven Diamond DeMayo now. Or Pink Diamond herself. He had never seen the others look at him, at his gem in a way that looked like he was a monster. That he should... be gone. It was like... they hated him. For real.
"I... I don't know if they can even... trust me, anymore," Steven admitted. "I- can't blame them, to be honest, but... it's just... how am I going to do what I'm supposed to do when nobody wants to be near me?
"How am I going to deal with all this- this Homeworld stuff, everything on my own? W-Without my friends by my side?"
Steven felt tears flooding his eyes again, only for them to roll down his face. He didn't expect Lars to answer that, because... well, he didn't know if there would be a solution for that. It was too much to take in, too much to accept. Even then, Steven wasn't sure he could ever accept it; even if his mother wasn't evil like the other Diamonds. It didn't mean that she had done everything perfectly.
The space pirate sighed, quiet for all that time, but he frowned in realization. Before that, though, he still managed to comfort Steven with a pat on his back.
"Steven, look, I..." Lars began, sounding hesitant for a moment. "I may not know what it must be like to be in your place right now, but I do know that- that if your friends do care about you, they'll always look out for you.
"Yeah, they're... all lost and upset now but- I'm sure they don't hold anything against you. They... They love you, Steven - and they know you're not your mom, even if you have her gem, it- it doesn't mean you're the one that started the war, that hurt Pearl and lied to everyone. It was her. Not you.
"Like you, they just... don't know what to do about all that information, either. Honestly, you should give them time," Lars advised. "I- I doubt you guys can solve everything so quickly when there's too much to process.
"And, most importantly," He placed a hand on Steven's shoulder. "I think you should give yourself time, too. You can't- help anyone when your heart is heavy."
Steven looked at him with admiration. Lars had always been this profound person before, but not so openly - it would still come as a surprise to him how far Lars had come.
"Well, it's- it's not going to be easy, believe me," The older teenager reminded. "But I know you guys can come around with it one day. Like, come on - you guys have been fine without your mom this whole time, right? You've still accomplished many things because- you're the Crystal Gems! You guys can do anything, without Rose, without Pink Diamond, whoever the hell she was!"
Steven couldn't help laughing at Lars' language; but the captain was right. Well, they would have initially become hopeless without Rose's guidance in many instances but remembering how far everyone had come... Steven wished he could show this to them, too; but, like Lars had said, in their own time.
"Alright, but don't tell your moms I said 'hell'. Nor ‘ass’," Lars whispered to his ear, making Steven snort. "They wouldn't let me hear the end of it."
Lars grinned, though there as some hidden sadness in it. The boys gazed at one another, until Steven's own smile faltered at the sight of his own gem, that was uncovered.
"I guess I'm just... afraid of what's coming next," Steven admitted. "Which- Which is weird, because I've always been fine with changes, you know? It's something that I tell everyone! That things would be different, but, in the end, everything would be fine!
"I'm... not certain about it anymore," He sighed. "I'm not certain about many things anymore."
Steven hid his diamond under his clothes, feeling ashamed. He hadn't expected to feel this way about the future. He sure was a hypocrite- for telling everyone he knew about how good differences could do to the world, and there he was, frightened of what awaited him and the Crystal Gems.
"It's- It's okay to be afraid," Lars assured him. "Honestly, I don't think we can always accept changes right in the first time, right?"
He nodded. "I guess so. But it's... a lot to take in, you know? And- And I know they might just need time and everything, but it really seems like they hate me. They... They look at me as if I was their enemy. Even though... I am. In a way."
Lars hummed. Steven dried his face.
"Like, what if they don't... actually accept it? E-Even if they love me, I... I don't know," He sighed. "I-It's probably dumb to think that way, yeah. S-Sorry."
Lars looked at him, apologetic. He seemed… a lot sadder than before. He took some time to continue.
"It's... It's not. Unfortunately, those things can happen in life," The pink teenager said. "Sometimes, even if we do change and prove otherwise, it's... not always going to work. People that once loved us and everything could just... not ever see you the same way again - and maybe they don't want to be near you. Which really sucks.
"In this case, though, you- you're not responsible for what your mom did. But since she's half of you and all that, your friends might still feel some... resentment. And it's- It's not your fault, alright?"
Lars sighed, taking a moment to resume his argument.
"L-Look, I don't- want to be a downer or anything, like I always am," He cleared his throat. "But- I just can't... assure you everything will definitely be fine, all sunshines and rainbows. Because sometimes, it doesn't turn out to be that way. Because life... isn't always fair. And we've... got to accept it one day. Not right now, but in the long way."
Lars sometimes could sound pessimistic, but he wasn't... wrong. Steven had learnt some things about life at a young age – and not to mention everything that had happened to Lars. They sure had both learnt a lot in such... few years of life.
"But hey, this is just a possibility," Lars still tried to look on the bright side. "Literally anything can happen. I guess all you can do right now is wait. And see what you can do about it."
Steven sniffed. "Yeah. Y... You're right."
Lars sighed, as if he wanted to tell him he was sorry for showing him the bad outcomes. Steven silently told him it was alright, giving him a sad smile.
"Don't worry about... accepting everything right now," Lars emphasized. "Because it sure is scary."
Steven blinked, upon certain realization. He looked at Lars, curiosity filling his eyes. A question wouldn't leave him alone, and, while he was sort of afraid to ask it, he ended up doing it anyway.
"Are you... afraid of going back home, too?" Steven asked.
Lars' body froze for less than a second, but he soon let out a sad laugh and stared at his own feet.
"Yeah," He replied, snorting. "I... I am."
Steven nodded; he would have developed the question better, but Lars already seemed to know what were the words he was about to tell him.
"After everything I've been through, I'm... I'm scared," Lars continued. "I don't know how everyone's going to react to me, I'm... I'm so different and- and nothing would be the same thing anymore. And... especially after I've been so- so horrible to my parents and Sadie, after I've run away from the Cool Kids in that potluck thing... would they even accept me?"
Steven was sure they would; his parents were absolutely proud of him. Sadie, too; and the Cool Kids would sometimes ask about Lars, as they had known a thing or two about what had happened on Homeworld. They seemed to be excited to meet him again. They all were.
There was no reason for him to doubt that. At least Lars would be back, right? At least he would go back and try to fix what he had done wrong. Unlike...
Even then, Steven couldn't assure him the exact positive thing would happen, either. He would have before, but... Lars did have a point.
Both boys sighed at the same time, perhaps sharing the same thought. They looked at one another, revealing all that hidden loneliness, everything they had been forced to bottle up inside them.
Lars then broke the silence:
"Hey, even if everything goes wrong when it comes to the gem stuff," He said. "At least you still have your- your other friends, right? Your best friend Connie, for example? Like- she came out here in space, was willing to fight against a freaking Homeworld gem to help you and- and us! I doubt she would ever think differently when it comes to you."
Steven smiled, having not quite realized it, to be honest. Connie was his best friend, after all. It was a shame he hadn't been able to tell her everything. She had always been busy training with him and Pearl that she had barely had any time for her family. Connie also deserved to have some rest, right?
"And, well, I don't know about your dad," He said. "But I've known him enough to feel that he's pretty accepting of your- your gem life, huh? Maybe... Maybe he'll understand, too."
Oh, his dad. His case was the one that shocked Steven the most, honestly. Greg had always been alright with everything - with his mom being an alien, with her keeping secrets from him, but once there was Pink Diamond reveal, he... couldn't take it. Greg had talked to Blue Diamond once and- knew some of Gem history, the motives of the War and things like that. To know that the woman he loved had been one of those giant ladies that had kidnapped him and taken him to a human zoo, that were willing to destroy the Earth because of Rose's lies... it had been the last straw.
Though Steven guessed Greg was also angry because of how it all… affected Steven, right? Like- gosh, Greg had gone to the point of arguing with the gems about it! Steven had overheard it, though; his father hadn't wanted him to see him like that. It just wasn't like him. Could Steven blame him, though? Clearly not.
So, Lars could also be right about that.
"Yeah..." Steven's face lightened up.
"See? It's not so bad," Lars smiled. "There will always be people out there that care for you, no matter what happens."
The black-haired boy looked at MC Bear Bear, with a genuine smile on his face, now.
"And if... if you need to talk about- about everything, I'm- I'm here, too," Lars assured. "I know I may not understand a lot, but you can always count on me. And if those Homeworld jerks come to get you, you can bet that we're going to beat all their freaking asses and kick them right to a black hole!"
Steven laughed, with Lars snorting along. Out of everyone, he hadn't expected Lars would be the one to lift his mood up. It was odd. But Steven could never complain about it.
"Besides, talking about human and gem stuff is hard, I sure know that," Lars smirked. "But you're not alone in that, buddy.
"Us Off Colors," Lars said, his hand aiming for Steven's chest. "Stick together, right?"
It was there that Steven started laughing. Laughing and crying. Lars ended up doing the same and, with this, Steven jumped into Lars' arms, hugging him tightly. The other returned it willingly. Lars sure- sure was amazing. It was good to know that, despite everything, despite all the horrible things that... that could happen, he wasn't alone.
They weren't alone.
The two managed to hug each other tighter. Steven shut his eyes as the tears wouldn't stop falling, but it was- such a great feeling, to let it all out.
Soon enough, however, Steven could tell the room became brighter - brighter than all the stars that iluminated the room. There was... a white light and... and...
He opened his eyes. Slowly, to adjust the weird ilumination of the ship again.
His feet were the first thing his eyes lied on, until he realized they were shown.
That is, the dark boots were lying on the floor. As well as a couple of sandals.
And his gloves, too.
"Wha- my- y... your..."
What- What was with his voice? It didn't sound like... anything familiar. As he aimed for the boots on the floor, he realized that the color of his feet - as well as his hands - was... not too pink. But not... like a normal, human skin color.
His hand felt something on his tummy. Something solid, cold. He could feel the- the diamond gemstone replacing his belly button.
He shrieked, jumping in shock. He stumbled while trying to stand on his feet, realizing there was just one pair of legs there.
"Wha- Woah!" He screamed.
"S-Steven, what happened?!" He asked... himself?
"Oh my god, we... we fused!"
What on earth-? How was that possible? Lars- wasn't even a normal human anymore! He was this... pink, inhuman thing that didn't resemble a gem in the slightest, either. Weird.
The... fusion looked at the stars outside. However, as he analyzed more clearly, he could distinct his own figure. He gasped as soon as he recognized his- his appearence.
He was obviously taller than both Lars and Steven. His hair was... curly, black - but with a pink part filling a great part of what represented Lars' hair. He wore Lars' black cape, that was somehow still big for him. Steven's t-shirt hung under it, the star visible. Lars' space suit was tight, but not uncomfortable. His pants were shorter, with Steven's blue jeans shorts beneath it. His legs, longer than before and his feet, bigger, as he had previously noted.
His stomach was exposed, revealing the Rose- Pink Diamond gem. He stared at it for what- what it felt like forever.
"H-How- come this even happened? I don't- We-!" He tried to speak, but every word that came out of him was weird, was...
Part of him was speechless, unsure of- of how to feel about this. The other...
... felt bad.
"Oh- Oh no! I- I didn't mean to- I-!" He quickly apologized. It... It wasn't coming from Lars.
"I-I just-!" He didn't know what he was saying. There were too many thoughts and feelings, coming from the both of them.
"I-I'm... I'm sorry!" He- started... crying.
He panicked. A sudden, horrible feeling resonated in his gut. The haunting feeling of guilt. Another part of him - Lars, however, tried to... to keep himself together. Somehow.
"W-Wait, it's..." He wanted to say it was okay, but... it was... he couldn't describe it.
"Please, listen to me!"
He couldn't stop crying and- he was trying to tear himself apart. With such force and... and pain.
"Wait, no!" He tried to stop himself.
But it was too late.
"I'm- I'm SORRY!"
Thus, that bright light resumed, blinding him.
It was like- he was thrown out of somewhere and fell with his face right on the floor. It hurt.
Lars moaned in pain, trying to get himself off the ground. He proceeded to stare at his own hands. They were... that same tone of pink again. And the same size.
If that made sense.
It had been so sudden.
For a moment, he had felt... warmth. He had felt his heart beating faster, almost like a normal human pulse. He could breathe like a human again. It was like a part of him had been replaced by... by another, that... had been hidden for so long, until that very moment.
Is that how fusion worked? How you disappeared, but at the same time, you... were there all along? With someone else?
It- It was... was...
He heard someone crying.
"S-Steven?" Lars' gaze was quick to find the younger boy, that somehow managed to get to the other corner of the room and isolate himself there, leaving MC Bear Bear behind.
"I-I'm- I didn't mean to- to do it!" Steven couldn't form actual sentences without sobbing and letting out more tears.
Lars... Lars didn't understand. He- He thought he had helped him feel better? Maybe not- fully better, but-? Like?
"W-What's the matter?" The captain asked.
"I did- I did it again!" Steven snapped, sounding angry but not at Lars.
"You did what?"
Steven growled. "I- I just did- something without your permission AGAIN! Why do I keep messing things up?!"
Steven pulled his own hair with force. Lars grabbed his arms on impulse, perhaps to prevent him from hurting himself.
"Steven! I'm- I'm not mad," The older teenager assured him. "Really! It's- It's okay!"
Lars wasn't exactly... okay. He was confused, if anything. He didn't know what to think about fusion. He had admired it, in a way, as he saw how Rhodonite and Fluorite formed amazing beings. However, it never came across him that he could ever experience it. He had forgotten that Steven was half-human; and he had fused with Connie, right? Lars was no longer human, though. Still...
He might not understand it, but- he wasn't mad. It had just been an accident. It wasn't like Steven could control his powers - the powers of a freaking Diamond, for that matter.
"It's okay," Lars managed to smile, despite all his complicated feelings.
Steven, on the other hand... did not appear to feel better. Not even with Lars' reassurances. He was shocked. Frustrated.
... like he couldn't... accept it.
"What?" He asked, genuinely confused. "W-Why?"
What sort of question was that? It was simple - he wasn't mad!
"Steven, seriously, I'm not angry at you," Lars reaffirmed anyway, though part of him warned him as the other's face shifted into one of... rage.
"Why?" Steven insisted.
"Because- it was an accident, it happens! Right?"
Steven panted and stared at him in downright disbelief. It was like he wasn't- he didn't want to believe that, when Lars was saying the truth. But- why was he doing that? Why wasn't it enough?
"Lars, how come you're- you're not mad?" Steven asked yet again. "How come you don't hate me?"
Lars groaned, losing his patience. "Dude, I'm telling you that it's fine! You don't have to keep asking that, alright?"
"But I don't- I don't get it!" Steven raised his voice. "I don't get why it's okay! W-Why are you willing to- to be my friend after- after EVERYTHING I did to you?!"
Lars was caught off guard by all that, even though part of him knew he shouldn't necessarily be surprised - because he knew he shouldn't, well, blame Steven for feeling that way. He hadn't been the best to him, before. Steven had always insisted on being his friend, even though the older teen had been a huge ass to him. To be fair, Lars should be the one asking that. Yet he knew Steven would always make it so it was his own fault instead, not Lars'.
"Steven, what happened back on Homeworld wasn't your fault," Lars assured. "I'm serious, it's not a big deal anymore-!"
"Of COURSE it is! It- It costed your life, Lars!" Steven snapped. "B-Besides, I'm not even talking ONLY about Homeworld, I'm talking about everything else! I never asked your permission for anything!
"I... I never asked if you wanted my help! Even then, all I've ever done to you was… was to mess your life up."
Lars gazed at him with regret. He despised seeing Steven blaming himself like that. As soon as he opened his mouth, a lot more words smacked him.
"I always thought I was doing something great, I- I believed I was helping you all along but- but I'm so blind," Steven continued. "What's worse is that I've done it more than once!
"I never thought about your feelings, Lars," The captain heard a sniff coming from him. "I possessed you and nearly ruined your relationship with Sadie, a-and then I got you kidnapped, sent to the middle of nowhere, away from home, and- and killed. And I turned you pink and possibly immortal, too!"
"Steven," Lars panted. "I- I know you didn't-!"
"Just- stop," Steven interrupted him before he could even start. "I know what you're going to say- that I 'didn't mean it', and all that jazz, but it doesn't change the fact that I still did all that to you!
"You don't have to do this, Lars! You don't have to- to forgive me, to be my friend- you can still hate me!"
Lars blinked. What- was he seriously saying all that? After everything he had told Steven, he dared to freaking doubt him?
"Are- Are you serious?" He asked, angry. "Do you WANT me to hate you? Is that what I'm hearing?!"
"I-In a way?!" Steven snapped. "You're just- fine with me around you, even though I keep doing things without your consent!"
Lars groaned. "Steven, why won't you just-?!"
"You didn't care before, so you- you don't have to accept me just because I- I revived you! You don't owe me anything!"
Lars gasped without making a sound. "St- Steven..."
The captain only stood there, frozen, dumbly staring at the other boy in disbelief. No, he- he hadn't just heard that, right? He hoped he was wrong, but-
... he wasn't.
"I've only... hold you back this entire time. You don't even have to see me once you guys get home," The younger boy said miserably. "I'm... I'm sorry, Lars."
Steven leaned against the wall behind them, turning his back to him.
"I... I've never done anything right, anyway," Steven muttered under his breath bitterly, but Lars' ears caught that; which only made his heart break even more, if that was possible.
Lars would have objected, but he couldn't. Those last words and the look on Steven's face caused his will to fade. He... He couldn't believe Steven had the freaking gut to say everything he had just said, right to his face. Did- Did he really think that way? Did he believe that Lars didn't truly care about him?
The older teenager remained silent afterwards. He wanted to make Steven believe him when he said he didn't hate him. He could never do so.
Like he had said, Steven might still have done those things, but Lars knew that Steven was trying his best to improve himself. He was willing to help Lars and made sure to never... disrespect his privacy again. Lars couldn't possibly be angry. He- He was better than his mother, if... if that was what he feared; Lars was sure that was the case.
Yet, again, the space pirate couldn't blame him for feeling so guilty. He just... wished he could prove Steven he did care about him. There must be a way to do it, right?
He didn't know.
How could he convince him? If he argued more, he would only repeat the same things and- and Steven would still not believe him.
Lars moaned quietly.
He remained silent as Steven refused to look at him in the face. The stars looked at both boys, possibly waiting for Lars' next move. All of them, with their bright light filling all the blackness of space, giving it meaning, giving it hope.
Much like how Steven had given Lars life. A meaning, a purpose... the pink teen couldn't be any more grateful.
S... Something deep resonated inside him. Something that wasn't negative, but deep... from his heart.
It wanted to get out.
So, Lars, taking a heavy sigh, allowed it.
He wasn't feeling much better now. Not after finally putting Lars in the first plan.
He just didn't get why Lars was never mad at him about everything. Steven had done so many wrong things to him, but the older teenager wouldn't even mention them anymore - instead, he would just push them aside and classify them as not a "big deal".
No wonder why Connie had left him once he had returned home. He was so neglectful about others' feelings...
... just like her.
Steven sighed, concluding that he should probably go back to Earth. He didn't want to bother Lars anymore. He... shouldn't have come.
He would have said something, but soon realized that Lars was the one to initiate the conversation...
"If I could begin to be
Half of what you think of me,
I could do about anything,
I could even learn how to love..."
Was Lars actually...?!
Steven turned around immediately. He found Lars standing up and walking around the room, resuming his...
"When I see the way you act
Wondering when I'm coming back,
I could do about anything,"
Lars grabbed the… the plastic flowers from the left side of the room and looked at them.
"I could even learn how to love...
... like you."
Lars smiled sadly at the little flowers in his hands, only for it to fade.
"I always thought I might be bad,
Now I'm sure that it's true
'Cause I think you're so good-
And I'm nothing like you!
Look at you go, I just adore you!
I wish that I knew"
He turned around, lowering his head.
"What makes you think I'm so special..."
... Steven couldn't...
Stars, not only did he find out who his mother truly was, but now he got to discover that Lars could- could sing, too!?
... but the song...
... wait, it- it wasn't over; Lars... continued.
"If I could begin to do
Something that does right by you
I would do about anything,"
The older boy raised his head, facing the stars...
"I would even learn how to love..."
He caught Steven's reflection on the glass, revealing a rather shocked Steven. Lars smirked at the reaction.
"When I see the way you look,
Shaken by how long it took,
I could do about anything,
I could even learn how to love
Lars turned around once more, facing the real Steven. He smiled at him.
"Love like you..."
He stepped forward, kneeling down.
Then, he handed Steven the plastic flowers.
... like you."
His hand reached for the little plastic flowers.
Yet Steven didn't even... know what to say.
He only stared at Lars, amazed at what he had just watched.
Lars' eyes widened in realization.
He- he had just sung.
In front of someone.
In fact, he couldn't remember... singing at all before.
It had happened so fast...!
He hadn't thought of- of expressing his feelings that way!
And- god, since he had barely practiced (or never, ever), then- then what if, in reality, he had sounded awful?!
Steven was awestruck.
... Lars couldn't exactly read his expression, to be fair.
Except that his eyes... sparkled?
... dear god-
Well, he- he did want to tell Steven he didn't hate him, but- but not like that!
Though, if Steven's reaction meant that it worked, then... Lars should be happy, right? Right!
Yet, Lars could swear his own cheeks turned a darker shade of pink. He couldn't even- well, feel hot or cold that often anymore, but he swore he felt his temperature rising.
This- This was embarrassing.
Lars cleared his throat and proceeded to sit next to Steven again, without adding anything else. It was... the best thing he could do after- after that performance. He screamed internally.
"H... Hey, Lars?"
Lars nearly jumped but tried to take a deep breath and forced a smile.
"Yo," He said, managing to hide his tension.
Steven looked at him with admiration, but with question, too.
"D... D-Did you really mean all that?" He asked.
Lars blinked in disbelief.
"Uhh- yeah?" He groaned. It was obvious that he meant it, or else he wouldn't have freaking sung it in the first place! "Dude, of course I meant it, I- I think you're awesome!"
Steven... blushed? It- It honestly hurt Lars to see how surprised Steven was to hear him say that!
Though after everything Steven had gone through it was understandable. Besides, Lars had never- directly said that to him before. Though he had believed he had made it clear to him.
Even then, Lars was never good at expressing his feelings. No, he was horrible at that! So... yeah.
"I... I never hated you, Steven," Lars sighed. "I know it didn't seem like that before; I guess I was just too caught up in myself to admit it, so I- I don't blame you for not... accepting that."
"I... had no idea," Steven whispered.
"It's- It's okay, I've never been good with... opening up, honestly," Lars cleared his throat again. "But it's true, Steven. I really do admire you, dude. You proved me that I can do- anything, that I can be afraid without feeling ashamed... you taught me that I can... be myself.
"Besides, I can see that you- you try hard to correct your mistakes, so- that's why I'm... I'm not mad at you, because I do see that you're trying."
Steven smiled at him. Lars could feel his cheeks heating up.
"Ugh," He groaned, but he ended up laughing. "I'm sorry you had to get through my horrible singing to know that."
"Don't worry about it," Steven assured. "You did great!"
"You really think so?"
"Yeah, of course!" Steven grabbed MC Bear Bear. "And MC Bear Bear approves it too - you should consider our opinions, because we're both musicians!"
Lars snorted. "Thanks, buddy."
He ruffled Steven's hair, making the other laugh as well. Lars then rubbed his own neck, silent as he couldn't take off the fact that he had freaking sung of his mind.
Suddenly, Steven said something that outright shocked him:
"I... I think you're pretty great, too."
Lars admitted he had not seen it coming. Even though he shouldn't be surprised.
"... yeah?" He said.
"I've- I've always thought you were cool," Steven continued. "Even though you, well... were usually grumpy and everything, but I- I admired how realistic you were sometimes, when everyone else pretty much… sugarcoated life to me, in a way. Besides, you like a lot of interesting things, like- wrestling, cooking- and I really liked that!
"But mostly, I admire how you became this really cool space pirate," Steven smiled tiredly. "Like, you're away from home and you have to guide the Off Colors, and- I think you've been really impressive here, in outer space. I mean- you stole a cool cape, a fast ship from Homeworld, and- done all those other things Emerald said before; stole the 'flotanium' thing off of Yellow Diamond's mine and battled against a whole bunch of soldiers! Like- how cool is that?! Not to mention you can sing, too!
"You're- You're really smart! You might not think that way about yourself, but it's true, you're- you're awesome, Lars!"
Lars laughed, flustered.
"Aw, gee," He most definitely blushed. "Thanks, Steven, I'm- I'm glad to know."
He gave Steven a side hug, in which the short boy wrapped his arms around his thin body tightly. Lars felt squished this time; god, how strong had this kid become...
"O-Oh, sorry!" Steven let out, as soon as he realized that. "Sometimes I forget my own strength."
"It's... fine," Lars laughed.
"Yeah, it's weird getting used to these... features."
Lars realized that Steven stared at his own reflection on the window. Their images were difficult to distinct, in the middle of all those stars outside. The other boy had lifted his t-shirt to look at his gem again, only to lower his head in shame. Lars watched him for a moment, concern visible in his expression.
"W... W-Was the fusion bad?" He asked.
Lars didn't quite expect him to ask that, but... he tried his best to word his thoughts.
"Well, it sure was something," He admitted. "But... not bad."
"It just happens all of a sudden," Steven said. "It happens when people are synchronized in thought and state... s-sorry."
"It's fine, really," Lars assured again.
Silence was their form of communication, until Steven broke it once more.
"And… I’m sorry for saying all that to you earlier," He sighed.
"It's okay, pal... I wasn't any better before," Lars shrugged. "We've both had our fair share of mistakes."
"But you did change for the better," Steven noted.
"So did you," The older boy patted his back, making the other smile.
The two were soon quiet again, meeting all the stars facing them. Lars heard Steven yawning and felt his short body snuggling against his own. It felt... heavy. He couldn't imagine how exhausted Steven must be.
The black-haired boy dried yet another tear but looked much better. Lars was sure he could see the light, the hope in his eyes again. This time, it did not fade into the darkness of space; which was quite a relief. Thus, Steven shut his eyes, with a smile on his face.
In the meantime, Lars faced the communicator near them, realizing it had been quiet the entire time. He hoped everything was fine with Fluorite.
In fact, space had been incredibly calm? There were usually Homeworld ships chasing them down by now; knowing those aliens for as long as he did, he guessed they were still looking for them.
Lars looked at Steven, realization hitting him like a bullet; Homeworld was still hunting the fourteen-year-old boy down. To make matters worse, Steven, in a way, was Pink Diamond!
God, how- how would the other Diamonds react? Would they even believe that Steven was technically one of them? Would they still be willing to punish him since his mother had betrayed her home planet, regardless of being a Diamond or not?
Goodness. Lars clearly didn't know - and, to be honest, he was not willing to know the outcome. Whatever could possibly happen, Lars would make sure Homeworld didn't land their hands on Steven. That moment, a dialogue was- impossible; it wasn't any more soothing the fact that the Off Colors were criminals as well, so nobody would even get the chance to explain anything. The Crystal Gems wouldn't know anything, either.
"Steven," Lars whispered, as to not scare him upon realizing how comfortable Steven felt lying on him. "Steven, y-you should go home."
"You're almost falling asleep, you better do that in your bed," Lars noted. "Besides, you- you're not safe out here, r- remember?"
Steven's eyes widened. "Oh, you're right! If- If they find out, they- shoot."
The younger boy recomposed himself, though looking slightly disappointed to be interrupted. If they weren't in the middle of outer space, wanted by the Diamonds, Lars would have let Steven take a nap, to be honest; it was all he needed at that moment.
"Oh, wait- oh my god, how long has it been since I left?" Steven facepalmed, the question not aimed at Lars; since he had absolutely no notion of time in there.
Space was always deceptive; for instance, Steven had told him that he and the Off Colors had been flying around space for more than a month. He hoped it hadn't been weeks already since Steven left home.
"Did you at least- let the others know you were here?" Lars asked.
Steven looked away, guilty. Lars was incredulous.
"I might have... thought they wouldn't come back for a long time because of Sapphire being gone and all..." Steven cleared his throat.
"Steven..." Lars groaned quietly, but continued, more understanding: "Look, it's okay to have some time for yourself, but you should remember to let them know when you're coming here, okay?"
"Y-Yeah, I... I forgot that, sorry."
Lars didn't say anything else, because he knew that, when Steven had left, it might have not crossed his mind that at least- like, Pearl or Amethyst could check on him. Though, the last thing Steven needed was his family freaking out over the fact he was gone, apart from having to accept the fact that their leader had lied to them for several years.
Though, before any of them could do anything, he heard the familiar, anxious voice of Rhodonite through the communicator. It was louder than he expected, which lead both boys to jump in surprise.
"C-Captain Lars! A-Are you there? It's Rhodonite!" She said.
He pressed the button to reply. "Yes, I'm here. What's new?"
"Ah, yes! I, uh," She cleared her throat. "F-Fluorite needed our help with the nova thrusters, so we left the shields and weapons activated and the autopilot mode on. S-Sorry for not letting you know before, I-"
"No, it's fine."
"Oh? Anyway! I- I have great news!" Rhodonite claimed excitedly. "T-The engines are almost repaired!"
Lars blinked. "I-Is that so?"
"Yes! B-But, uhm, we need your help! T-There's something about the settings that we weren't able to figure it out."
The captain was shocked by the fact that the engines were almost recovered from Emerald's damage. He probably shouldn't be, but there was always the bad ending to it all. He realized he had taken some time to reply his comrade, as she was calling his name.
"O-Oh, sorry, j-just give me a minute!" Lars said.
"Well, I'm afraid we can't give you a minute, we don't know anything about time in space," Rhodonite cleared her throat.
Lars snorted. "Yeah, n-nevermind. We'll be right there!"
He shut the communicator down and stood up.
"Let's go, Steven," Lars beckoned. "We gotta go to the engine room. We're almost heading home!"
He couldn't contain all the excitement, as his body was shaking. Lars was about to warp them up to the engines when he realized that Steven was still standing there, in front of the stars.
"Steven? You coming?" Lars asked.
The other boy didn't answer. The captain sighed and walked up to him.
"Steven, come on," Lars insisted. "We gotta go!"
Steven... sniffed. The older boy put his hand on the other's back.
"Steven," He called him again. "What's wrong?"
The half-gem looked at him, as if he was desperate for help.
"Lars, how... h-how am I going to tell them?" He asked.
God, how- how come that hadn't even gone through his head before?!
How would his crew react upon the revelation? They only had become more confident, which had been a lot clear in their last battle to steal the flotanium, and- to have everything snatched away from them by telling them Rose Quartz never existed in fact...
"Oh, sh-" Lars would have finished that word, but Steven was quick enough to prevent that, thankfully (though Lars didn't know if it was intentional).
"I- I don't want to just- hide from them that my mom was Pink Diamond," Steven said. "But- they all look so happy with- w-with themselves and… for them to know it was all a lie... I..."
Tears formed in his eyes again. "W-What would they think of me? What if t-they also hate me, w-what if- I don't- I-!"
While Lars was unsure of what to do about the topic, he focused on calming him down.
"Hey, St- Steven? Steven."
Lars grabbed him by his shoulders, forcing him to face him.
"Breathe," Lars told him.
"Just- inhale, exhale. Very slowly," Lars managed to sound calm. "Can... Can you do that?"
Steven panted, but gradually started to follow his… advice? Order? Whatever. It was working, at least. The younger boy let out shaky breaths, but soon stopped panting.
"Yeah, that's right," Lars encouraged, breathing slowly himself so it could help him. "Just breathe... keep doing that."
He waited for a few minutes but tried not to stay there longer before Rhodonite thought something happened to them.
"Better?" Lars asked.
Steven nodded. "Y-Yeah, thanks."
"Good," Lars patted his back. "W-We can deal with that later, okay? Now, come on, dude!"
The two rushed to the same spot they came from. Lars closed the window compartment and warped them both to the engines.
Steven had forgotten how green the engine room was. He had gotten used to the stars in that other place they were.
All the Off Colors were there, using the controls of that... huge spherical thing. Homeworld technology was weird.
"Ah, captain Lars!" Rutile exclaimed as soon as Lars approached. "We're almost done! We just need your help with something."
"Right, what is it?"
Steven merely watched them doing whatever they were doing, while he sat on the stairs. He admired that Lars knew enough about alien technology. Steven did know something about gem destabilizers and the effect of gravity and speed of light had in gem bodies. Other than that, he had zero knowledge of their language. He could see those weird letters in all those screens.
The Off Colors all looked out for one another. They were concentrated, working as a team. Steven felt the guilt in a small spot inside him, as he hadn't seen the Crystal Gems working like that anymore. Not to mention that... would they all be this motivated to return to Earth in case they found out who his mom had been? Would they think their fight was worthless, like his family believed now?
Steven tried to keep it together, as to not have another crying attack; especially not in front of the others. If they could only know... what he really was.
He quietly looked at MC Bear Bear, asking him, without making a sound:
What should I do?
Steven hid his face, burying it in the teddy bear's plush. His head was spinning with thousands of questions and regrets and- he couldn't manage to stop it.
Though he would figure it out in his own time.
He couldn't do anything right now. His heart was heavy, full. His mind, even worse. It was lost somewhere. Somewhere in all of those horrible memories Pink Diamond had stored for him. Lost in his friends' anguishes.
He would have to take a while, to go on a slow, painful journey to get it back.
Luckily, he still... had people there for him. He had Lars, Connie, Greg... his human friends.
Maybe this would get better. He would figure out a way to tell the Off Colors. They deserved to know the truth soon or later. Steven was not doing what his mother had done all this time.
He could do this.
On this own time. Yeah. He could do this.
He heard a loud noise, coming from the engines - apart from all the gasps coming from the rebellious group of gems and Lars. A bright, yellow light came out of that weird ball.
"O-Oh my stars!" Rhodonite exclaimed.
"We... did... it," Fluorite smiled, relieved.
Steven rushed downstairs. "W-Wait, so you guys-?"
"W-We fixed the engines!" "They're back online!" The Rutile twins replied in excitement.
"Oh my gosh! You guys will be on Earth in no time!" Steven grinned.
He noticed that the captain was still where he stood. He stared at the screen, that had some weird text. The other gems were all blabbering in amusement.
"The engines will be fixed! We can set the course to Earth!" Padparadscha claimed, leading them all to laugh in joy.
Lars, however... was quiet.
"L... Lars?" Steven called him.
He replied with only these words:
"We... did it."
Steven smiled. "Yeah, you- you did it. You'll finally be home."
Lars turned around, his eyes sparkling. There were tears in them.
"We- We really... we really did it!" He raised his voice, but not in an aggressive meaning.
He lifted Steven suddenly, which lead him to gasp.
"We did it!!" Lars laughed.
Steven laughed along, as well as the other gems. They all celebrated; he figured they had taken forever to get the "flotanium" thing, to finally repair the engines. It had sure been a battle for their lives to accomplish that!
Sometime after, Lars guided them all upstairs. They returned to their posts and were setting the ship to hyper speed mode. Steven watched Lars grin like never before, as he couldn't even stand still on his seat. The younger boy smirked at the sight, but soon, his smile faded again. He... would better get going.
Lars was right about Homeworld hunting him down; and he doubted the Diamonds would believe that he had Pink Diamond's gem. They would still shatter him for what his mother had done. He... couldn't do that all over again. Not... right now.
"Hey, uh, Lars? I... better go back home," Steven handed him the teddy bear. "The Gems might be freaking out if they don't find me there."
Lars had been distracted, so he took some time to process what he had just said.
"Oh, alright, yeah," He said.
The two were silent. Lars noticed he wasn't feeling well.
"You okay?" Lars asked.
"Y-Yeah, of course! It's just... there's too much in my head right now," Steven admitted. "And I wish I could... do something about your friends, y-you know."
The captain's excitement was replaced by concern and... certain guilt, too. Steven didn't want to burden him with that, either.
"I know," Lars sighed. "But you should get some rest before anything, alright? Once we get home and everything's... settled, at least, then you can tell them - hopefully with the help of your friends, too. I'm sure they wouldn't just leave it unexplained.
"B-Besides, if something happens in the way home, I don't want you getting hurt, either," He sounded a bit shaky for a moment, perhaps remembering the battle against Emerald, that had ended up with Stevonnie crashing in the Jungle Moon, having almost died. Steven couldn't blame him. Not to mention the whole Pink Diamond thing...
"Yeah, you're right."
Steven rubbed his own arm, still not feeling quite motivated. He was afraid to just... return home, to go back at everything that had been weighing on his back. He glanced at the Off Colors, who were thrilled to go to Earth. He truly hoped everything would be settled in the end. Even if it meant that the Crystal Gems weren't together or anything.
Lars let out a sigh and approached him.
"Steven," He called him, taking him back to reality.
The fourteen-year-old gazed at him, a tear threatening to fall. Lars dried it smoothly.
"Whatever you're going to do, it will be awesome," The captain said. "I know that. Because you know what?
"I believe in you."
It was enough to have Steven's eyes sparkle. Lars smirked at the reaction, his smile, genuine and encouraging.
"And I believe in you too, Steven!" He imitated MC Bear Bear again. "You kick ass!"
Steven laughed. "Thanks, MC Bear Bear."
Lars snorted and gazed at him in silence.
"Take care of yourself, alright?" He requested, worry clear in his voice.
Steven nodded. "You too."
Lars opened his arms, welcoming Steven into a tight hug.
"Thanks, Lars," Steven said. "You're the best."
"No prob, bob," He replied a few seconds later.
The young boy grabbed his cheeseburger backpack, that had been left next to Lars' seat. He then reminded of the others and turned around.
"Bye, guys!" Steven said, waving at them.
"Oh- bye, Steven!" Rhodonite smiled.
"Goodbye!" "See you on Earth!" Rutile waved... both arms at him.
"Captain Lars will be making an adorable impersonation of the teddy bear to cheer Steven up!" Padparadscha said, leading Lars to snort and blush.
Steven turned back to Lars. "I'll see you home, then."
"Yeah," The other replied with a grin. "I'll see you."
The younger boy cleared his throat. "Now, if you may..."
Lars rolled his eyes and kneeled down, imitating a goofy voice again. "Here, my 'lord'."
Steven frowned a little, though still smiled. "Don't call me that."
"Alrighty. Now go out there and make me proud!"
Steven laughed. "I will!"
He prepared for launch.
"Here I go!"
With that, he jumped (with the precaution to not hyperjump all the way to the ceiling) and returned to the pocket dimension, thus heading home.
"Captain, the ship is ready for hyperjump!" Rutile exclaimed. "We'll be heading towards Earth whenever you're ready."
Lars took a deep breath.
"Right - Twins, let's get outta here!"
"Right away, captain!"
They activated the nova thrusters - shortly, the Sun Incinerator headed in the incredible speed towards Earth, his beloved home.
Lars let out a relaxed sigh as his body felt heavy on the seat. All the struggling had been worth it. He held MC Bear Bear on his right hand while the other had the poster of Sadie Killer and the Suspects he had left there. He looked at Sadie with a smile on his face.
While he was afraid of everything that could happen back on Earth, he couldn't wait to see everyone. He couldn't wait to attend to her show, to explore Beach City and the surroundings with his gem friends. They would love it!
Lars was so deep in thought that he hadn't realized someone was calling him.
"Captain? C-Captain Lars?"
He shook his head, finding Rhodonite and Rutile awaiting; as well as Fluorite carefully watching him.
"O-Oh! Sorry, guys," Lars laughed nervously. "What is it?"
The gems looked at one another, worry and hesitation in their eyes.
"C... C-Could you tell us what happened to the Crystal Gems?" Rhodonite asked. "If- If Steven got to tell you, that is."
Lars' smile faded within a few seconds. He let out a deep sigh.
"Look, guys..." He began, gulping. "I'm not going to lie - the Crystal Gems have found something really shocking and- upsetting about... about Rose Quartz."
The Off Colors gasped.
"Oh no," "Is that so?" The Rutile twins asked.
"Y-Yeah," Lars lowered his head. "They're not taking it very well. Which is why Steven wasn't feeling fine, either. They're going through some hard times now."
"But what did they find out about Rose?" Rhodonite insisted. "Did he tell you?"
Lars paused; He really didn't want to lie to them, to hide things from them, but... he couldn't just- spill the beans to them. Not when Steven felt terrible about it, nor when the Crystal Gems weren't even able to take care of themselves anymore. He would at least need Steven or one of the Crystal Gems to explain everything, but no one was capable of doing so. Besides, he had no idea how his crew would react upon the truth.
His heart ached as he took a deep breath.
"I... I really can't explain it," Lars admitted. "I would need help from Steven and the others, but right now they're not fine. Maybe they can tell you everything once we get to Earth; they'll make it clear to you one day, alright?"
They all looked uneasy, concerned. They didn't push him to say the truth, which, while part of him appreciated, the other was tense, guilty. He pulled his own pink hair, unsure of what to do about it.
"I'm... I'm sorry," He said quietly, but the others caught that.
"A-About what?" The right Rutile asked.
"I- I don't want to hide things from you or anything," Lars clenched his fists. "I really don't, but... but I..." He shut his eyes.
They remained quiet, giving him sad looks.
"I predict that Captain Lars will not feel well for not telling us the truth," Padparadscha said, sounding worried.
"It's... it's alright, Captain" Rutile assured. "If that's the case, then we... we understand."
Lars raised his head. "You do?"
Rutile nodded with a concerned smile. "Of course." "If you believe that it will be better to know everything when we head to Earth, then we believe you."
"We... trust... you... Captain," Fluorite said.
Lars knew he shouldn't be... this relieved. He knew that no one thought less of him. He guessed that because of everything Rose had done, then...
He offered them all a smile. He could have never asked for better friends. Lars hated doing this to them, but he assumed it was the best he could do for now.
"We will take your word, Captain," Rhodonite tried to encourage him as well, which he appreciated very much.
"Thanks, guys," Lars smiled sadly.
"I... shall... check the... engines... again," Fluorite reminded. "Excuse... me."
"Of course," Lars nodded. "You guys can return to your posts. Rhodonite, let me know when we reach the Earth's solar system - and watch out for any threats."
"Right away, captain!" She returned to her seat.
"Padparadscha, you may return to your post, too. And Twins, maintain the speed at this rate."
"Yes, captain!" "Yes."
Everyone returned to their posts except for Padparadscha, who, before reaching her seat, told him:
"You are a great leader, captain," She told him. "I know you are doing what is best for us."
Lars' smile widened. "Thanks, Pad."
She returned to her seat, without adding anything else. He spotted Rhodonite, working as always. He remembered the feeling he had when he was fused with Steven. He had already asked one thing or two about fusion to her, when they had hidden in the Homeworld Kindergarten. Fusion was something deep, personal and that connected two or more beings, in a rather amazing way.
He had felt confused but… secure, when fused with Steven. It had lasted a moment, though; but it was... special.
Lars smiled as he glanced at the purple teddy bear. He and Steven had sure come a long way. From just an annoying kid to a great friend of his, someone he could rely on. Steven surely was a great individual. He taught him so much.
The two of them had learnt a lot. They had to deal with a lot, to remember that they were unusual and not human, but not gems, either. They were something else. That was not quite clear - like their reflections on the window they had faced earlier then -, but filled with all those stars, all the light that, in the end, formed... something entirely new. Something extraordinary. Both had done unimaginable things by just... being themselves.
Lars sure had learnt that the hard way - thanks to Steven and himself, above it all. It wouldn't be easy to get used to all their new abilities, appearances, legacy... but none of that would change what they really were.
He was afraid of what was coming next, but he wasn't alone, at least. He would remember that a fourteen-year-old kid was right there, to support him. He had his friends beside him as well.
Lars faced the grand glass, that showed him how fast they were. He watched the stars all speeding away. He exhaled deeply, his mind transcending to nowhere again.