Space is where he truly belongs to, where he found his true self, alongside his gem friends. It’s endless, infinite and amazing. That’s not to say there are no barriers to break down, as he and the Off Colors face enemies along the way – mostly gems who haven’t come to terms with the changes Homeworld has established in their vast empire and take it out in the worst ways possible. Likewise, the space pirates also rescue gems who, like them, have been hiding so save their own lives, either from said enemies or for not knowing about Steven’s existence at all.
Regardless, it’s a journey Lars has grown passionate about. That doesn’t mean he will forever wander around space, though; he makes sure they get back to Earth every now and then, if possible, by summer or the holidays. Earth is still his home, after all.
Like that, the Off Colors return a month or so before Christmas (he managed to install some systems in the Sun Incinerator to inform them of the time back on Earth). It’s almost winter, yet the weather retains the calm chill of the autumn, a soft blue sky greeting them once they land on the station in Little Homeworld. Several gems greet them, though not with the same closure when it comes to Lars. Rutile, Rhodonite, Padparadscha and Fluorite were the students there and got to form new friendships and bonds, while others are now introduced to them. If it counts, Lars feels like the proud parent as he watches his crew getting along so well with their classmates (so much that an incredibly dumb smile creeps in the captain’s face).
The main Crystal Gems welcome him more directly, while surprised at his arrival. They even note that Steven doesn’t know, or else he would’ve definitely been waiting there. Lars reassures them that that was the intention. He wants to surprise the kid.
Lars did let Steven know he would try to be back by the holidays but didn’t make it clear he might make it a little earlier. With the latter visiting him occasionally, the former felt as though he should do the same more often, and for a longer period of time, when he can.
In said visits, Steven didn’t always look so… fresh. He’s been having a rough time adapting to so many changes and making decisions; the exhaustion in the boy’s face was very much clear, and it took a lot of time for the kid to break out of his own wall. Steven told Lars about pretty much everything, especially the events that succeeded the graduation; accompanied by a cathartic breakdown the older hadn’t expected, until he listened to him and understood. While Lars couldn’t do much other than comfort the kid, Steven found himself going more often to space, and opened up more to him when he couldn’t tell his moms about it.
Lars is… still new at this, really. Helping people. Most of the time he listens and offers his arms to Steven, though it does seem to be enough, and that soothes the captain.
To be fair, he has to say that the most recent visits weren’t as heart-wrenching. Steven looked much better, and not dead tired. He said he was figuring stuff out, discovering new things, knowing people and, well, himself. The pink teenager gave him a proud smile and told him he would make it one day. The kid was more hopeful than he’d seen him in a good time.
Now, while the Off Colors reunite with their own friends, Lars makes his way back to Beach City, keeping his space captain outfit on. He catches gems working in the small town, and while it’s not summer, there are still people going out, cheerful as always, as they interact with the aliens.
After reuniting with his parents, who were getting themselves a couple snow cones from Larimar and Snowflake, Lars spots the beach and part of the statue that composes Steven’s house. With his surprise plan in mind, he waves them goodbye and heads to his destination. He’s only now noticing just how big the beach house is now.
Finally, he reaches the door and… just before knocks he hears some cheerful chatting from inside; voices that he doesn’t recognize. Otherwise, he recognizes Steven’s, which is enough for him to reveal himself. The talking ends a bit, and so footsteps are coming to the door. God, he can’t wait to see the look on Steven’s face.
With that in mind, he’s certainly not expecting a tall, pink gem to answer it. Her hair is long and messy like Amethyst’s, so he concludes she’s a quartz. Her eyes seem to brighten up at his presence – even though he’s never, uh, seen her before?
“Hi! I’m Rose Quartz!” She introduces herself.
Huh, a Rose Quartz? He doesn’t think he’s ever met one.
(As a grim reminder, Lars wonders what happened to the quartzes with Pink Diamond hiding behind her other persona back then.)
This Rose is thrilled to see him.
“I’ve never seen you before!” She comments in awe, gazing at his black cape. “Wow, you look so commanding and majestic!”
At the compliments, Lars’ cheeks burn. “Uh, t-thanks?” He replies, unsure what to say. “I’m, uh— I’m here to see Steven?”
She gasps and grabs him before he gets the chance to introduce himself. The Rose easily lifts him and takes him inside (even though the height difference is barely there).
“Guys, guys! Look!” The gem introduces him to two other Rose Quartzes: one has straight, bright pink hair and a darker skin in comparison, much like his, whilst the other has massive pink curls… wait, didn’t Steven’s mom look like that?
Speaking of Steven, the teen’s jaw drops at the sight of him.
“Lars?!” The kid exclaims, already standing up.
The captain is a bit relieved to see him, so he smiles.
“Uh, hey, dude.” The Rose lets go of him as Steven approaches. “Thought I’d— oof! ”
He’s caught and squeezed by Steven’s strong arms; though, well, he doesn’t mind it at this point.
“Lars, I didn’t even know you were coming so soon! Why didn’t you tell me?” Steven pulls back to face him with starry eyes. “I could’ve thrown you a party or something!”
“Nah, man, I wanted to surprise you.” Lars smirks. “We can arrange that later.”
Steven laughs, legitimately releasing tears of joy. “Gosh, I’m so happy to see you!” He hugs him again, and Lars snorts and ruffles the kid’s hair with one of his hands.
“So are we!” The Rose behind them startles them out of their hug, making them realize the other quartzes have joined in.
“Oh, um, guys, this is Lars… Lars, Rose Quartzes,” Steven awkwardly introduces them to one another.
“Hey,” The captain says.
“Lars is like, a really cool name,” The, uh, chill quartz comments.
“Steven, why didn’t you tell us you had such a cool brother like Lars?!”
Lars lets out an alarmed “What?” just in time for a loud squeak to come out of the younger boy.
“Oh, no, no, he’s not my broth- he’s not a gem!” (Lars can’t help noticing just how quickly he corrects himself) “He’s actually a human!”
Fangirl Rose (he might just call her that) gasps and asks, excited, “Really? Are there more pink humans?”
“No, it’s… kind of a long story.”
The Rose Quartzes grow quiet, noticing Steven’s sudden change in tone. There’s the same grief and guilt Lars has unfortunately become familiarized with; and so, the space pirate decides to do something about it.
“You see, uh…” Lars puts a hand on Steven’s shoulder as he faces the pink gems. “I got hurt – like, real bad –, but Steven saved my life with his healing powers. That’s why I’m pink.”
The other boy releases some bit of tension, perhaps reassured that Lars sounds heartfelt in his words.
“Aw, Steven is so amazing, isn’t he?” Fangirl Rose praises. “He helps everyone!”
“Yeah, in more ways he can imagine,” Lars adds, patting the kid’s shoulder. Steven’s face reddens in response, as well as revealing a flustered smile.
“Uhh, anyone hungry? Just me?” The younger laughs again, showing more nervousness. “I’m gonna get something for me. You can sit with us, Lars – I mean, if you want.”
“Of course, dude.”
While Steven prepares himself some lunch (reassuring he doesn’t need help so they can chat), the captain is already bombarded with questions and compliments.
“How do you know Steven?”
“What do you like to do?”
“You like ‘cooking’? Steven likes it, too! You guys are so creative!”
“How did you get that cape? That’s, like, real fancy stuff.”
“You’re a space pirate and you can cook? That’s awesome!”
And so on.
To be honest, Fangirl Rose and Chill Rose are the ones talking to him at all. The curly-haired one remains silent the whole time, yet her eyes are always on him, as if she’s looking deep into his soul. Lars doesn’t exactly know how to feel about it, but she doesn’t appear to dislike him. If anything, a curious smile comes out of her when he starts narrating his first adventures with the Off Colors in outer space. They remark they would love to meet his friends one day, for that matter. He laughs a little at the thought, slightly worried about the Roses going overboard with the Off Colors in case they encounter.
However, the thought is soon pushed aside. From what it looks like, they act so young, even if they’re thousands of years older than him. It’s like they’re children, eager to know the world – or the universe in this case. Considering he’s never seen a Rose Quartz before, and with Pink Diamond in mind, he assumes they must’ve been isolated and punished for simply… being themselves. He decides not to ask them about it, aware it must not be something easy to talk about. Pink really is someone he has complicated feelings for, and he can never imagine how that must be for the Roses, as he thinks about his talks with Steven.
Well, inevitably at some point, the pink gems reveal they were bubbled and abandoned in Pink Diamond’s Zoo (which he faintly remembers knowing about?). Nowadays, the Zoo is closer to Earth, so the quartzes are able to visit Steven and the planet overall more often. They’ve been learning a whole lot about the Earth, and it sounds a lot like the Off Colors in their first days home, too. It’s pretty endearing.
Steven joins them somewhere in the middle of the conversation, and so Lars updates them on what he’s been doing in the past few months. All four of them listen like children hearing someone telling stories, and it’s heartwarming.
Though, with the younger boy now eating, Fangirl Rose asks Lars, “Hey, are you not ‘hungry’?”
“Oh, not really, I’m good.”
“He can eat, but uh, he doesn’t need to anymore,” Steven explains.
“Yeah, it’s fine,” Lars adds, the three pair of curious eyes going back to him. “I got used to it.”
“Oh, we don’t need to eat, either!” Fangirl Rose says.
“You’re really like one of us,” The laid-back quartz points out.
Lars becomes… a little thoughtful after that. To be fair, it’s not the first time he’s confused for a gem; far from it. He did impersonate a high-ranked gem at that cosmic jubilee, after all. Nobody from Homeworld believes he’s organic, unless Steven tells them about him, or when they realize their gem weapons and scanners don’t work on him. Besides that, he’s sort of accepting his altered body at this point, concluding he’s not exactly a human anymore, while not being a gem, either.
The thing is, no gem has ever been this excited about him being similar to them. Besides, now that he thinks through it, Fangirl Rose did… refer to him as Steven’s brother? Then Steven explained Lars wasn’t a gem, as if maybe implying that the Roses are like his siblings or something?
“Hey, uh, I hope that’s okay to ask, but… why did you call me Steven’s brother earlier, when you thought I was a gem?” The captain wonders.
He’s surprised by a new voice that answers him instead of the two Roses and Steven.
“We were created by Pink Diamond,” Quiet Rose explains. “As well as Steven, so we… are like siblings.” She looks at Steven, as if wondering if she worded it well.
“Yeah, that’s pretty much it! We were all created by the same person. And, well, I am named Steven Quartz Universe, right?”
“Heh, that makes sense.” Lars smiles at them; they do look like a nice little family.
“Y’know, even if you weren’t made by Pink, I would be glad if you were our brother!” Fangirl Rose says. “You’re so awesome!”
“Oh. Huh…” Lars doesn’t know what to say, but he’s not uncomfortable; simply thoughtful.
The other Roses agree with her, in their own ways; Chill Rose hums and Quiet Rose smiles. Steven… instead faces his plate of rice, carrots and other vegetables. Lars silently shoots him a concerned look, but he doesn’t comment on it as the quartzes resume the conversation, starting with one particular question.
“Do you have siblings?”
While he doesn’t take his eyes off the Roses, he can tell Steven is glancing at him from the corner of his eye. Lars is hesitant to reply that he doesn’t.
“Nah, I’ve always been on my own as a kid,” Lars laughs awkwardly.
Then, he’s answering questions about his own family, since the gems are so curious about everything.
In the meantime, Steven has not said a thing. Lars can only watch him every now and then.
(So can the silent Rose from afar.)
When they’re finished with lunch, Steven returns from washing his dishes to propose something.
“So, you wanna check on the plants upstairs? I feel like they could use some watering and company now.”
“Sure!” Fangirl Rose instantly agrees, and so does Chill Rose. Lars and the quiet quartz follow them.
They all head to the dome thing, which is filled with green besides many different colors such as pink, blue and yellow. The most, well sociable Rose Quartzes are very into watering the plants, and Lars finds himself watching in the distance; mostly because Steven seems to be avoiding him… he doesn’t want to confront him with the Roses there, as to respect the younger’s privacy.
The space pirate is quiet in his own thoughts while the rest have fun. He’s quick to notice that Quiet Rose is observing him, and it kinda creeps him out. The environment starts feeling a little unsettling and Lars hates that he wants to be alone for some time, since he doesn’t exactly know what he can do when there’s something looming in the air.
Like that, he gives them a lousy excuse that he has a call to pick up (he does have his communicator with him, one he and the Off Colors share), so Lars heads outside and ends up at the porch in the upper floor of the beach house. He sighs in frustration, as he doesn’t know what happened with him and Steven; why does he feel so bad?
Lost, he stares at the above, eyes meeting the sky and the temple statue. Lars can only hear the ocean now, which manages to calm him down for the moment.
… Someone approaches him. Rather than Steven, it’s the reserved Rose Quartz that has arrived.
“Uh, hey.” He clears his throat, trying not to sound too nervous, yet failing all at same.
There’s only silence to follow. Lars tries to break the ice again.
“You wanted to get some air?” He asks her.
She doesn’t answer… but she does settle in beside him, imitating the same sky gazing action. Lars silently throws a few glances at her when she isn’t looking. It’s weird, really, that she looks like Steven’s mom, but she’s not her.
They don’t speak for what it feels like forever. So, when the Rose does talk, he’s caught by surprise; especially with what she says.
“Steven is not upset with you.”
Lars blinks at her. “Huh?”
“I noticed the way he reacted at you being called our brother; and when you denied having siblings. He’s avoiding you, but you should know he doesn’t hold anything against you.”
… well, damn. She sounds like a mind reader or something.
“From the short time I’ve known Steven, he tends to… not be honest about his feelings. Or, he keeps his most negative ones to himself,” She continues. “He has been working to improve himself nowadays, but… he’s still remorseful going to anyone.”
Lars sighs. “Yeah… the kid beats himself up for a lot of stuff.”
She hums, pausing for a moment before continuing, “He’s afraid of welcoming you as a brother… and so are you.”
He looks at her, feeling… exposed.
“W-Well, if he doesn’t want to see me that way, like… I mean, why would he?”
“Of course he wants to; but he fears you wouldn’t want to approach him that way. Maybe, because he feels like he would be burdening you.”
Lars thinks about her words, remembering just how much the kid apologized for saying what was inside his head. He… doesn’t think he’s seen it through that perspective. Lars knows he’s not going to quit that so soon, yet he can’t help wondering if he’s made Steven feel like a burden.
… Wait. The graduation. When Steven feared he would kill his friends with his pink dome, Lars bit, “Wouldn’t be the first time”. God, he feels stupid. He hasn’t even apologized.
He gazes back at the Rose Quartz, uncertain.
“It’s just, I’m…” Lars tries to think of the best words. In just a few, he strives to imply many things within. “I’m not a Rose Quartz.”
(Meaning, why would he want someone like me as his brother? )
Apparently, she understands what he means.
“Steven taught us that being siblings is… much more than that.” Rose smiles fondly at the beach. “It’s more than being related, than being… perfect. Siblings take care of one another and never give up on it. Our bonds have only strengthened, because we accepted ourselves and each other; because it’s based on trust and love. Is that not how it is for you two?”
With that said, he thinks about it all; about how much his relationship with Steven has changed. How the two boost each other’s self-esteems. How Lars always gives him a hug when he needs. How they lean on each other as they stargaze in silence, only relying on their presence at all... And, to add up, the way Steven watches him whilst Lars narrates his adventures, like a little kid looking up to their older sibling.
How come he’s never realized?
“You should talk to him,” The Rose takes him back to reality. “So he knows it’s okay.”
Lars nods in determination. “Will do.” He grins and resumes, “Thanks, Rose Quartz.”
She returns it with a more genuine smile, but she says nothing. It’s more than enough for him.
After a little more time in a comfortable silence together, Lars and Rose return to the dome, finding the other three still having fun; while not ignoring the two. Fangirl Rose shows him a pink flower and says that it reminded her of him. Lars smiles at it, while noticing that Steven has released a nervous cough and avoided it all at same.
Later on, the quartzes decide to return to the Zoo through the warp pad. They did only arrange that lunch for now, but they are looking forward to seeing him again; he can certainly tell that from the way Fangirl Rose hugs him.
“It was great knowing you, Lars!” She tells him. Jesus, crushing hugs do run in the family.
“Same here,” He laughs, muffled by her body. “We should definitely hang out sometime.”
“We should all like, have a space cruise or whatever. Or you could see the Zoo,” Chill Rose suggests. “Pretty sure everyone there is gonna love you.”
“Right, yeah.” Lars silently wonders how many Rose Quartzes there are…
They hug Steven and say farewell, soon gone within seconds by the shining, bright light of the warp pad. After that, only silence greets them, if not for a nervous cough coming from Steven.
“You, uh… a-are you leaving, too?” The kid asks; from his tone, he seems torn between wanting Lars to stay and wanting him to leave. The captain knows it too well.
“Nah, I’m not in a hurry or anything.”
Lars rubs the back of his head, unsure how he should start this. He wants to talk to him – the problem is that he still sucks at this. Ugh.
Before he can open his mouth to come up with anything, Steven does it first.
“H-Hey, uh- sorry for…” He looks down. “For acting weird. I… Gosh, I don’t know how to say this.”
Steven pulls part of his own hair, as if forcing himself to say anything.
“Hey, don’t worry about it.” Lars takes his hand to stop him from hurting himself; it happens on instinct.
The kid looks more defeated, somehow.
“I-I’m not mad at you or anything. Really, I’m being all weird,” Steven reassures him, in the worst way since he’s blaming himself. “It’s… It’s kinda embarrassing.”
Lars sighs. “Steven, you know you can tell me anything, right?” He’s said this before, but he will say this as many times as he needs.
Steven stares at his own feet, eyes hesitant. Lars waits and doesn’t pressure him.
“It’s just… I dunno, this is probably dumb,” The former begins. “But, seeing you and the Rose Quartzes getting along, it… it really felt like you were my family, y’know? Like, when your relatives from far away meet again and have a good time together? It was… It was nice. They really liked you.”
Lars smiles. “Yeah, I liked them, too.”
Steven pauses, playing with his own hands while figuring out what he should say.
“And, when they said you could be part of our family, I… I realized something,” He continues. “I-I guess you can disagree or think that’s weird, okay, it must be; but the thing is, you… you’re like a brother I never had.”
Lars softens his face. He’s not necessarily surprised, not after speaking to Quiet Rose earlier, but… in a way, maybe he is shocked that Steven looks up to him like that. Even before they were close, the kid was always following him around, so badly wanting to be his friend. And look where they are now.
“Y-You’re always looking after me, and I’m… I’m okay, sharing things with you. I don’t feel like I need to pretend anything, I can go to you and feel safe. I can feel like someone’s there for me when nobody else is,” Steven is now looking at him, eyes growing deep but not in a negative light. “Like, life is really hard. It sucks sometimes, and it… it sucks a lot. I mean, sure, I have the gems, I have my dad and Connie, and my friends, I’m grateful for them; but knowing you’re there for me, even if you’re far away, and you’re willing to look after me and not say my feelings are stupid and that I should be strong the whole time… everything feels less hard. I-It feels worth it.”
Lars gapes at him, unsure what he should say.
There’s a sniff… but it doesn’t come from Steven.
The half-gem gasps. “Wha- Are you crying?!”
Oh. He is. But, come on. This is… god, this is the best thing he has ever heard. He really means the whole universe to this kid, this awesome kid who’s changed his life in so many ways.
Steven doesn’t seem to notice the sheer joy in his tears, since he starts apologizing like crazy, “Oh, no, I’m so sorry, please don’t cry? Y-You don’t have to see me that way—”
Lars laughs, crying harder and yet and he opens his arms. “Oh my god, shut up and come here already.”
The younger can barely ask what he means as he’s immediately squeezed by Lars, who buries his face in Steven’s shoulder.
“Y-You’re not mad?” The kid wonders.
“Of course not,” Lars laughs again.
“B-But I… I did so much wrong to you.”
“I really don’t blame you for anything, Steven. And…” Lars sighs, tightening his hold. “Sorry for, y’know. Giving you the wrong impression.”
“It’s okay. You have the right to be mad at me, though.”
“Hey, come on. I don’t get why you won’t forgive yourself when you make sure everyone else feels better about themselves,” Lars tells him.
Steven hums and contemplates. For once, he returns the hug and mumbles, “Yeah… you’re right.”
They stay like this for a long, long time; so long, that it actually starts bothering Steven.
“Uh… are you gonna let go?” He asks.
Lars mocks him, “Just a couple more minutes.”
Steven snorts. “I hate you.”
“What, you really just said I was the best brother a minute ago.”
“I never said you were the best.”
“Come on, Rose Bro,” Lars teases, laughing.
Steven seems to gasp in realization. “Oh my god… Rose Bros. It’s perfect.”
“I never thought you’d come up with a genius name like that.”
“Okay, ouch, I’m literally Lars of the Stars!”
Steven laughs harder, and for once the two release one another. They’re both laughing and crying – it’s a mess. Once the whole joking around ceases, Lars wraps an arm around the other’s shoulder and pulls him for a side hug, as they both head to the door.
“Hey, man, I’m… I’m really glad you told me that stuff.” Lars grins gratefully. “It means a lot to me.”
Steven blushes and smiles back, while Lars side hugs him tighter.
“C’mon, Rose Bro, we have the whole day off,” Lars says, and they leave all the plants behind them, encountering the soft breeze again. “How about we beat each other’s asses in videogames?”
“Woah, hey!” Steven reacts to the bad word and elbows him. Lars snorts.
“Don’t worry, dude, our moms aren’t here to hear it.”
“You don’t know that – I can assure you that Pearl detects bad words way up from Homeworld. Don’t test her.”
“Yeah right, sounds nothing to a space pirate; she can’t hear my sailor mouth up there.” Steven rolls his eyes, while grinning widely.
The rest of the day consists of them playing videogames; Steven is way better than Lars imagined, but like hell is he going to say that. They then settled for some movie Steven had, only for the kid to fall asleep on his shoulder. Lars already lets the Off Colors know he's staying a bit longer with him. Well, he doesn’t need sleep, and yet he doesn’t even realize he blacks out until he notices that Amethyst is taking a picture of them, snorting to herself and fleeing before Lars can protest.
It’s not like he can get out, anyway. Steven is like a giant koala, hugging Lars like his life depends on it. And you know what, he’s not complaining. What are brothers for?