Steven had been craving donuts all day but he had been busy on a gem mission and no matter how much he asked, no one would let him go back to buy a donut.
“We need to concentrate on the mission, Steven,” Pearl had said, much to Steven’s annoyance. “You can have a donut when we get home.”
“But that might be hours from now!” Steven cried, waving his arms around. He hoped that it would annoy Pearl enough for her to give in, but he should have known it wouldn’t be that easy.
“Come on, P! A man needs his donuts once in a while. Plus, I kinda want one right now.”
Steven grinned over at Amethyst. At least she always had his back when it came to food.
“Amethyst, don’t encourage him. We have to focus if we are going to defeat these mutants.”
“Pearl is right. Don’t worry, Steven. The donut shop will still be there when we get home.”
“Urgh, Garnet! Why do you always have to side with Pearl?”
“I don’t always-”
“Hey!” Pearl seemed offended by this but Garnet just smiled and continued talking.
“I don’t always side with Pearl but this time, she is right. Come on, the sooner we get this done, the sooner we can go home.”
“Fine…” Steven didn’t want to admit that Garnet was right.
By the time they had finished their mission, the Big Donut had already closed. Steven sulked for the rest of the evening.
The first thing he did when he woke up that morning was rush to the Big Donut. He didn’t care that it was weird to have donuts for breakfast. He was gonna do it anyway.
“Hey, Sadie!” He waved to the girl who was opening the shop for the day.
“Oh, hey, Steven. Up early, are we?”
“Yeah! I wanted a donut all day yesterday but we were busy with gem stuff. But I finally get to have one now! I’m so excited!”
Sadie laughed. “Well, hold your horses. I need to actually get inside first.”
Steven watched impatiently as Sadie fumbled with her keys and got the door open. He only just held himself back while Sadie got herself inside. He ran over to the counter, stars in his eyes.
“A chocolate frosted donut please!”
“Sure,” Sadie grinned.
As Sadie got Steven’s order ready, he looked around. Something was odd. Something or someone was missing.
“Hey. Where’s Lars?”
“Oh, uh, he didn’t come in today,” Sadie shrugged, bagging the donut. “He said he was sick but I bet he’s just lying. Whatever, I’m used to it.”
Steven knew that Lars lied about being sick so he could get time off work but he didn’t think it was a lie this time. He had been acting different recently. He was less enthusiastic than usual and very quiet. That wasn’t like him. The last time he was in the Big Donut, Lars didn’t say a word to him and just handed him his donut without even making a comment about how bored he was.
“Alright. Well, uh, have a good day running the shop all by yourself.”
Sadie smiled sadly, handing Steven his donut. “Yeah, will do.”
Steven made sure to leave a bit extra money on his way out. But before he got to the door, he turned back around.
“Hey, can I get another one of these?”
“Okay. Who’s it for?”
“Lars. He might want one, I dunno.”
“You’re really gonna go check on him?” Sadie seemed surprised. “I mean, he’s probably just sat in his room playing video games or hanging out with the cool kids or whatever.”
Steven shrugged. “Maybe. Or maybe not.”
Sadie thought it was best not to argue. “Fine but don’t act surprised when he isn’t actually ill.” She shook her head, chuckling. “You really do see the good in people, huh?”
“Of course!” Steven took the second donut bag and put some change on the counter. He made sure to leave a tip. Sadie was gonna need it if she was working two shifts by herself.
Steven walked down the road on the way to Lars’ house. He took a bite out of his donut and it was delicious but he couldn’t stop thinking about Lars. Was he okay? He probably needed a friend to help him out. Good thing Steven was here to save the day!
“Lars!” Steven knocked on Lars’ door several times.
No one answered. He assumed that Lars’ parents were at work and maybe Lars was too sick to come to the door. He waited for a few minutes while eating his donut. He popped the last bite into his mouth and was about to turn around to leave when the door opened.
Steven frowned at him. He had large bags under his eyes and he was wearing a shirt that he had never seen him in before. It was very dirty and he wore track pants that had a bunch of stains on them. It was a bit surprising for Steven. Lars always talked about how he wished he was cool like the ‘cool kids’ and yet, he dressed like this?
“Lars? Sadie said you weren’t at the Big Donut.”
“Yeah, I- Look, if you’re just here to tell me how lousy I’m being then you should just leave, alright?”
“Lars…?” Steven didn’t like how this was going.
“I mean it, Steven. Just go. I don’t want to talk to anyone right now.”
“Come on, Lars… Don’t you wanna talk to your best friend, Steven Universe. Eh?” Steven winked, nudging Lars lightly in the ribs. He flinched and Steven blurted out “I’m sorry!”
“Whatever, Steven. I guess you can come in, even if it’s just to shut you up.”
“Yay! Goin’ into Lars’ house!”
Steven made himself at home on Lars’ couch, wiggling his feet about. “This couch is really comfy, Lars!”
Lars stared at him as he got a packet of cookies and a bowl out of the cupboard. “Uh, thanks. You can sit on it as long as you want.”
Lars shook his head, trying not to smile. Steven sure was annoying sometimes but also he couldn’t help but think he was just an adorable little kid trying to help him.
He sat down opposite Steven and emptied half the packet into the bowl. “Want some cookies?”
“Sure. I mean, I’ve just had a donut for breakfast but I could take cookies too.”
“Wow, you’re being so healthy, Steven…”
“I know right! It’s great.”
Lars looked at him flatly. “That was sarcasm.”
Steven looked crestfallen. “Oh. Uh, I knew that.”
Lars sighed. He had hoped that he would get this whole day to himself, with no one expecting things of him but now Steven expects him to be at work and put on a brave face. It just doesn’t work like that…
“Hey! I almost forgot. I bought a donut for you, Lars. I already ate mine,” he laughed. “But I kept yours safe.”
“Wow…” Lars was ready to be sarcastic towards Steven again like he always was but, this time, he was genuinely grateful for Steven’s gift. “Thanks, Steven. You really bought one for me?”
“Yeah! I thought you might need it.”
“Even after Sadie told you that I was probably skiving off work?”
“Yeah,” Steven sighed. “She did say that but I wanted to come here with an open mind.”
Lars smiled, but it had a hint of sadness behind it. “You always see the good in people, huh?”
“That’s exactly what Sadie said!” Steven said excitedly.
Lars gave a hollow laugh. “Of course she did…”
There was a silence that followed while Lars tucked into his donut and Steven had a few of the cookies. It was nice that Steven had believed that Lars was a good person who had good intentions but Lars didn’t believe it himself. He took Sadie for granted and got her to do most of his work for him just because he wanted to seem cool. But he knew he was a socially awkward mess and he was surprised that those guys even liked him still. He bet that Sadie would get along with them better than he ever would. He just wanted to feel accepted for once but he was too scared to be himself. It would never work that way. He was just never good enough...
“Hey, Steven?” He had spoken before he had planned to. He had an urge to air some grievances of his and, even if he didn’t want to do it, now was the best time. He was sure that out of everyone he could tell, Steven was the best person for the job. He would never judge anyone, no matter how crazy they were.
Steven looked up, hopeful that Lars might be opening up to him for once. “Yeah?”
Lars thought for a while, thinking of the best way to say what he wanted to say. “Look, if I tell you, don’t tell Sadie, okay? I don’t want her to know.”
“Uh.” Steven didn’t quite know what to say but he played along anyway. “Sure? What d’ya got?”
Lars closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Apart from that one time I hung out with Jenny, Sour Cream and Buck, all the other times I’ve been off sick, I’ve actually been sick.”
Steven furrowed his eyebrows. “But why wouldn’t you want Sadie to know that?”
“Because…” Lars put a hand to his forehead. He didn’t want to say it but he knew he had to. “I’m depressed, Steven, alright?”
Steven’s mouth formed a circle. “Lars… I-”
“Don’t pity me. I don’t need it. I only told you because you wouldn’t stop badgering me about it. I haven’t told anyone else about this and I don’t plan to.”
Steven was speechless. He knew about this from accidentally stumbling across it on the internet and asking his dad what it meant but he hadn’t thought that anyone he knew had this. He didn’t know how to handle it or what to do. He felt so useless sitting there while his friend was clearly in pain.
Lars stood up, still holding his head. He couldn’t deal with the silence anymore. He didn’t want Steven to say anything but he also didn’t want him to stay silent or do nothing. He felt on edge after finally telling someone about his depression and he didn’t even know if Steven supported him because he was even saying anything!
“Aargh!” He couldn’t take it anymore. “Steven! Don’t just sit there! I-”
But before he could complete his sentence, he had been tackled into a hug by Steven.
“Lars. I don’t know what to say or how to help you, but I’m here for you, okay? And I know Sadie will be too and your parents and anyone else you decide to tell. We all care about you, especially Sadie. You’re not alone in this.”
Lars finally found the strength to return Steven’s hug and, for the first time that week, a genuine smile found its way onto his lips. Tears started to well in his eyes and he closed them, letting the tears fall down his cheeks. These were not sad tears, however, which he had cried enough of just this morning to last him a lifetime but they were happy tears. They were hopeful tears; hope that maybe he wasn’t so alone after all.