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The Best Mother and Doctor I can be

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It had been 6 days since Dr. Maheswaran had seen Steven Universe in the hospital. It was surprising to not have heard anything from Greg or the Gems, especially since the doctor had given Greg an earful regarding Steven’s healthcare, but Connie texted her mother that day with cause for concern.

I’m going over to his house. I finally talked to him and I think there’s something wrong. I don’t think he’s being honest with me, her text read.

Not being honest with her? I don’t like the sound of that, the doctor thought. She was lucky she had a break in her shift when the text came in and she replied right away.

What do you mean? Dr. Maheswaran replied. Please keep me posted, and no going out into space overnight without coming home first.

Ok mom, Connie’s response read. I just mean he was being dodgy when I asked him some things. I’m worried and I’m going to get to the bottom of it.

Dr. Maheswaran stared at her daughter’s reply, frowning. That’s incredibly vague, she thought. Either he’s seeing other people after proposing to Connie, or my diagnosis needs a follow-up immediately. She put those thoughts aside before continuing her shift, but her concern lingered, listening out for any pages over the hospital’s loudspeaker that mentioned the name Universe.


Once the workday was over, Dr. Maheswaran checked her phone again. Connie’s reply came in about an hour before, reading: I’m staying over. He’s had a really rough day. Dr. Maheswaran was astonished at her daughter’s bold reply. All the gems and his dad are here. You don’t have to worry about anything happening.

What in the world is going on? The doctor thought. She’s not asking permission; she’s assuming that this is ok to disregard the rules because of extenuating circumstances, and she isn’t telling me why. How can she expect me to just say yes? Dr. Maheswaran furrowed her brow as she walked to her car and unlocked the door. Before immediately jumping to conclusions, she decided to check her other messages to ensure that the Gems or Greg didn’t send over any more pertinent details that would make this at all less disconcerting. Her texts read mostly normally: an invite to a dinner party next week, a reminder for a seminar that she had signed up for, political spam message, and a text from Doug, that started Honey, don’t get too worked up...

Oh yes Doug, perfect way to make me worry less, she thought sarcastically. She opened the text, frowning as she sat in the driver’s seat.

Honey, don’t get too worked up but Connie asked if she could stay over Steven’s house tonight, and I said ok. Now I know you’re worried since they’re teenagers, but she assured me that she wouldn’t be alone with him for any extended period of time since all the gems are there and apparently they’re nervous to let him out of their sight. Something gem related happened and although I didn’t get all the details it took a toll on him. The message continued in a second text. Greg said Steven was exhausted. I wouldn’t trust it if Greg hadn’t assured me there would be no funny business and Connie would be sleeping on the couch. She already has a plan for which of her classmates would bring her notes and assignments after school tomorrow and she’s stopping by the house to pick up her books as soon as Steven’s asleep. See you when you get home, Priya.

Priyanka looked over both texts a second time, making sure she wasn’t missing something. It seemed like the orderly structure as parents she and Doug had planned for was being shelved for some still unknown reason. Connie, don’t you see this is a big ask, she thought, and Doug, how can you just roll over on this? What is going on? She closed her messages and opened her contacts. She selected Connie from her favorites and brought the phone to her ear. Dr. Maheswaran anxiously tapped on the steering wheel as the phone rang, looking around the parking lot to ensure she was not being watched. She let out an agitated huff as the call went to voicemail. She glared at the phone as she brought the receiver from her ear and hung up.

We need to talk about this young lady. Dr. Maheswaran texted. Pick up your phone. Connie’s reply was nearly immediate, which only annoyed her mother further.

I’m still in the room with him and he’s trying to sleep.

I want more details, Connie. The doctor answered. What happened? I know your father said it was gem related, but I am not satisfied with that answer. Was it the swelling? Was there an attack from a rogue gem?

It’s complicated. Connie replied. The typing indicator went on for a moment and Dr. Maheswaran waited. It’s related to the swelling, he had another bout of that but it was more extreme than that. He’s been keeping things from the gems, they didn’t know he went to the hospital, and apparently a lot happened in the past few days. We’ve all been comparing notes, trying to figure this out, but I don’t know how much he wants me to say. He didn’t want to ask for help when he needed to and he was trying to avoid making anybody worry because he felt bad about it. Dr. Maheswaran stared at the screen for a moment, trying to read between the lines and finding herself frustrated at the lack of detail in what Connie said.

What do you mean, more extreme than the swelling? Dr. Maheswaran asked. She waited two minutes with no reply, fiddling with the radio and drumming on the wheel impatiently. Connie, answer me or I’m calling Greg. Frustratingly, that still didn’t get an answer from her daughter. After another two minutes ticked by, with no indication Connie was typing, Dr. Maheswaran closed her messages and opened her contacts. She called Greg, as she had promised, shutting the car off as it rang. After three rings Greg picked up.

“Dr. Maheswaran, hi.” He answered, his voice tight but trying to sound pleasant. “How are you?”

“Greg, I’m not calling to exchange pleasantries.” She replied bitterly. “Connie won’t answer her phone. I know she’s there. I know something gem related happened to Steven and she said it was ‘more extreme’ than the swelling.” Her voice began to raise in volume as she spoke. “She wouldn’t tell me anything else. I know that whatever happened is the reason she’s staying over. What I want to know is exactly why. Now are you going to give me details or am I going to have to come there myself to get answers?”

Greg was stunned for a moment but he sighed before responding. “It’s a lot of things, Priyanka. A lot happened since the hospital. Are you… are you sitting down? Cause this might take a while.”

“Yes.” She answered sternly. “Firstly, was Connie hurt?”

“No,” he replied quickly. “I can’t say this whole thing was easy on any of us, but she didn’t come to any harm.”

“Good. And Steven?” her voice softened slightly, in the back of her mind she suspected the answer.

“Physically, he’s ok now. But he got hurt before. And this is going to be a lot to deal with.” Greg answered. He paused before continuing. “When he was discussing his trauma with you, did he mention anything about his shapeshifting powers?”

“Yes,” she replied, “he said ‘I almost turned so old I died’ and ‘I lost control of my body and turned into a blob of cats’… does that have anything to do with swelling? Or what happened today?”

“Yes,” he replied shakily, “at least we think so.” A beat of silence passed between both parents. “He had another bout of swelling when I came over earlier today, but this one was more… uniform. He looked like he grew into his early twenties. He was broader than I’ve ever seen him, more muscular, and taller than Garnet. We were trying to get him to tell us what was going on with him, we kinda had to corner him to get him to talk-“

“Greg!” she bit back. “What were you thinking? Cornering a child with trauma often leads to panic, or lashing out.” Greg didn’t answer immediately. She paused, voice quieting. “What happened?”

“He was frustrated.” Greg answered. “He snapped at us; he started talking about all of the things that happened since the hospital and how he could make mistakes and fix them. How we didn’t have to know about any of it.” He paused again. “He called himself a fraud and a monster and that’s when his powers started to react. He grew spines out of his back and started looking and acting like a corrupted gem.” He swallowed before continuing. “He was huge, bigger than the hillside the temple is on. I’m sure anyone who was in town saw him. It took a while to reach him, but thanks to Connie we all got through to him. She helped us all pull our collective heads out of our a- rears,” he corrected before stopping.

“Greg,” Dr. Maheswaran started, “it sounds like he’s struggling with his trauma more than he’s let on before. You all need to step up and give him support and professional help. He can’t be left to deal with this on his own. I’m sure this incident is weighing on him from what little Connie told me.”

“Yeah, I think you’re right. I’m ready to take whatever steps we need to, to help him through this.”

“But Connie can’t be his primary support here, you are his caregivers and she needs to take care of herself, her studies, her future aspirations.”

“I don’t think it’s just that Steven wants her here. I think she’s not ready to leave yet either. If you came here to pick her up right now I’m pretty sure she’d fight you on it.”

“I’ve been texting her and she is pretty insistent that she’s staying tonight.” Dr. Maheswaran agreed. “My daughter has a mile-wide stubborn streak. Even if I forced her to come home, she’d probably sneak out. I’ve caught her doing it twice before this, and Doug has caught her trying to sneak back into her room three times.”

Greg chuckled, “Ah, well, I definitely did that when I was her age, and for less noble reasons. I wasn’t saving the world.”

“Four out of the five times it was just to see Steven.”

“Considering everything that’s come to light, he’s been going through a lot. I’m glad that they’re always there for each other.”

“Your choice of words is interesting, considering what Connie told me about what happened before the hospital.”

Oh,” Greg answered nervously, voice cracking. “We probably need to address the whole proposing thing at some point, huh?”

“Connie said that she told him ‘Not now, Steven.’ That’s not a no. So yes, I will want that to be addressed in the future if our children are planning on getting married. However, that isn’t a pressing issue right now.”

“Ok,” Greg replied. “So what are our next steps, Doctor?”

“Firstly, have you gotten him into the insurance system like I suggested last week?”

“Yes, he’ll have coverage starting tomorrow.”

“Good. The next steps are him seeing a specialist for his mental health. I’ll be coming tomorrow to give him a follow-up assessment and to pick up Connie. I have a feeling if you tried to bring him to me he’d at the very least be hesitant.”

“Yeah. We’re going to do whatever he needs. He’s exhausted right now, but tomorrow sounds good. I hope this hasn’t put you out, Priyanka. This is a big help.” The doctor smiled.

“I’m here for my patients. Unless I’m unable, I’m going to do what I can to get them the help they need.”

“Thank you,” Greg replied, his voice warm with gratitude. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“See you tomorrow, Greg.” Dr. Maheswaran hung up, and started her car to make her way back home.


The following afternoon Priyanka finished her shift and drove down to costal Beach City to visit the Universe family. The weather was pleasant, warm and partly cloudy as she followed the winding streets with her window half-down. She noticed the town itself didn’t seem to have any damage, whatever destruction Steven’s corruption caused had left Little Homeworld and Beach City proper unmarred. Once she pulled up to the house, however, she could see construction was in the process on Steven’s front door and siding.

She parked next to Greg’s van, shutting the car off. Once she got out of her car she saw Garnet and Greg sitting by the outdoor furniture on the porch. Garnet waved the doctor over as she came up the porch stairs. Seeing Garnet waving caught the attention of Amethyst and Pearl, who quickly made their way outside.

“Have a seat,” Greg said, his voice tired but friendly.

“Who’s with Steven right now?” Dr. Maheswaran asked.

“Connie, Bismuth and Lion.” Pearl answered, her air somewhat strained. “Lapis and Peridot are on a supply run. They’ll be back soon.”

Dr. Maheswaran sat and folded her hands in her lap. Garnet leaned on the porch railing, one hand hanging relaxed by her hip and the other supporting her on the banister. Amethyst hopped up on the railing to sit next to the fusion. Greg sat on the lawn chair opposite the doctor. Pearl was the only one of the five remaining standing, standing a few feet from the table with her fingers interlaced in front of her.

“How has Steven been today?” Dr. Maheswaran asked.

“Low energy,” Garnet answered quietly. “He woke up after eleven, which is very unusual for him.”

“How is his appetite?” The doctor continued.

“He’s had two meals today,” Pearl replied, “Brunch was Eggs, fake bacon, and a quarter of a cantaloupe. Late lunch was veggie soup. He hasn’t wanted anything else. He came down for brunch, but he asked us to bring the soup upstairs.”

“He apologized for it too,” Amethyst interjected, her tone unusually glum. “Connie’s been trying to get him to see that he doesn’t have to apologize for needing help, but it’s slow going.”

“Did he finish both of his meals?” Dr. Maheswaran probed.

“Yeah,” Amethyst answered. “That’s a good thing, right?”

“It’s important that he keeps his strength up.” The doctor replied. “What happened yesterday may have taken a toll on his mind, and very likely his body. It’s possible that kind of extreme strain will affect not only his appetite, but his mood and sleep patterns as well. He should be under observation for at least a few days, and any significant changes should be brought to his doctors’ attention.”

“What other doctors is he going to need to see?” Pearl asked gently.

“That’s partially why I’m here to assess him.” Dr. Maheswaran answered. “Based on my previous appointment he likely should see a child trauma specialist, but he may need someone who deals in other specialties as well. There’s a considerable department in the hospital I work at that may be the right fit in this case, however, there are other facilities all over the state if ours isn’t what he needs.”

“Would the hospital only treat him as an inpatient?” Greg prodded nervously. “Or would he be able to get treatment on an outpatient basis?”

“I believe its inpatient only,” she replied, one of her hands going to rub at her chin, before resting back in her lap. “Are you concerned about him having an overnight stay or that he may be uncomfortable spending time away from his support system?”

“Well, the second one would be true for any inpatient support,” Greg answered solemnly, “but for your hospital specifically, I think he would be especially uncomfortable considering his swell-up was there. I don’t want to put him in a position to have the experience be more anxiety inducing.”

“Ah, I understand.” The doctor regarded him sympathetically. “I’ll find a facility that does both in and outpatient treatment. They only would admit him as inpatient if they truly think he needs it, and any paperwork I forward will have noted he should be considered for outpatient preferably.”

“We want what’s best for Steven; however this needs to be handled, we will offer our support.” Garnet affirmed, her tone notably somber. The gems nodded.

“Can you tell me more about yesterday’s incident? And are you using any specific terms to refer to it?” Dr. Maheswaran asked.

“Ronaldo’s been calling it ‘Pink-zilla’ on his blog, according to Connie.” Amethyst answered, folding one of her arms across her chest. “Though no one but us knows it was Steven, well us and the Diamonds and Spinel.” The purple gem jerked her thumb over her shoulder to where the Diamond’s ship rested a distance away on the beach.

“We told Ronaldo not to release any more information regarding yesterday’s attack,” Pearl added, “and that we will have a statement be released through the mayor’s office no later than tomorrow. If Steven’s feeling up to it tonight, we were going to discuss how he wants to handle telling the town what happened. This isn’t something that the public needs all the details on, and if he wants it to stay private we will enforce that.” She paused closing her eyes. “Regarding your first question, I think it would be easier to show you the moments before ‘Pink-zilla,’” her tone slightly disparaging on the mocking name of the incident. Pearl’s gem glowed and began to show a hologram of Steven, Greg and Connie.

‘We are worried!’ Connie’s holo-double said, voice wavering.

‘Steven, you know you can tell us anything.’ Holo-Greg pleaded.

Frowning, holo-double Steven’s enlarged form snarled,‘It's not that easy. You know what? I don't have to deal with this.’ Holo-Pearl, Holo-Amethyst and Holo-Garnet moved into view, preventing him from leaving.

Priyanka tried to keep her face neutral as the group surrounded Steven in the hologram played on but she felt her stomach ache with discomfort.

'Hold up, dude.' Holo-Amethyst said.

'Steven! You have to stop running.' Holo-Garnet implored.

'Please,' urges Holo-Greg.

Holo-Steven froze with a shudder and the irregular swelling returned on his face.

'Steven, we should get you back to the hospital.' Holo-Connie warned.

'HOSPITAL?!' Holo-Pearl and Holo-Amethyst shouted together.

Holo-Pearl continued, 'When were you in the hospital?!'

'You didn't tell them?' Connie's holo-double reprimanded.

Priyanka’s stomach gave another uncomfortable turn and she swallowed. This scene became increasingly more worrisome as it continued but she fought to keep it out of her expression.

Holo-Steven's form distorted more and he groaned. As the swelling balanced out with a few unsteady breaths he replied, voice strained, 'it wasn't that important, you guys.’ His voice began to sound more confident, face showing a pained smile, ‘You're making a big deal out of nothing. Have I done some things wrong? Sure! I trashed the house today. I broke an anvil. What teenager hasn't? Dad and I had a little disagreement. That's practically a rite of passage!'

The holo-versions of the gem trio and Connie turned their attention to holo-Greg and he shruged with an unnerved grimace. Holo-Steven seems not to notice this as he continues, ' I mean, it would be weird if we didn't, right? And maybe, I've had a not-so-nice thought or two about, like, you know, slamming White Diamond's head through a pillar ,’ he makes a gesture of doing that with his own face, ‘but it's not like I actually went through with it! I only actually shattered Jasper!'

Holo-Connie, Holo-Greg, Holo-Pearl, and Holo-Garnet all gasped, whole Holo-Amethyst shrieked 'WHAT?!'

Nervously, Holo-Connie stuttered, 'you're- you're joking, right?

'Oh, don’t worry,’ Steven’s holo-double replied, ‘I fixed that too! I can fix anything! I can just keep messing up and fixing things forever, and you'll never have to know or think about any of it!’

‘Steven,’ Holo-Garnet called, voice desperate.

Holo-Steven’s expression turned to a hollow frown and let out a shuddering breath before continuing. ‘How messed up is that? That I've gotten away with this for so long. You have no idea how bad I am.’ Holo-Pearl raised a fist to her mouth. Holo-Connie and Holo-Greg’s expressions were stunned speechless. Holo-Amethyst and Holo-Garnet both grimace, guilt plastered on all of the gems’ features. Holo-Steven’s frown turned to a withering scowl. ‘You-you think I'm so great, and I'm so mature, and I always know what to do, but that's not true! I haven't learned a thing from my problems! They've all just made me worse! You think of me as some angel, but, I'm not that kid anymore!’

He paused, voice dropped to a despondent degree. ‘I’m a fraud.’

Priyanka felt her hands shudder in her lap as she fisted the cloth of her pants. She cannot tear her gaze away from the boy she has come to know have his insecurities laid bare for his family to see. It made her heart ache that he felt this way about himself.

Holo-Steven’s knees gave out, collapsing to hands and knees in the center of his family. He sobbed, inhaling deeply before repeating, ‘I’m a fraud!’ Palms push from the ground as he set his elbows beneath him and hands tangled into his curls.

Priyanka’s lip quivered and she can’t force herself to care that she isn’t able to be objective anymore. Why are they saying nothing? Why aren’t they doing anything? How could you all let this happen! He was hurting, and all of you stood back and watched!

‘I’m a monster!’ he shouted as his body trembles violently. Painful looking spines burst forward from the holo-double of the boy, shooting upward as the group stepped back. The spines stretched out forty-feet, laying behind him as his hands shifted to claws and the rest of his form began to distort. Muscles swelled, arms became elongated and his mouth distorted to accommodate sharp teeth and tusks with a horrified inhuman screech. His curls vanished, and in their place a row of five horns broke through skin, which began to look hard and scaly. His features resemble a bipedal lizard with massive arms that appeared gorilla-like as they supported most of his weight.

‘STEVEN!’ the group shouted as he continued to grow, neck elongating and he shot forward, loping over the group that blocked the front door and crashing through the front of the house, bellowing loudly.

Priyanka shut her eyes, and said, “that’s enough.” The holo-vision disappears and the group looked to her with concern. She opened her eyes and met Pearl’s gaze first, followed by Greg’s. “I know that this is an extreme situation, and you all probably are going to need some time to process this, but he’s the one that went through that. You have to step up and put him first.” She paused and let that command settle. “If any of you can’t do that, you have to let others step in. For his health and safety, you must prioritize his needs.” She paused again, looking around and getting a nod of confirmation from the Gems and Greg. “Children and teenagers who go through significant trauma without proper treatment often turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as avoidant behavior, which seems to me what he’s been doing up until now, but also lashing out, self-harm, substance abuse, other addictive behaviors…” she trailed off as she sees Greg curl his fist and his face shift with discomfort.

It’s probable he’s had some experience with one or more of those, Priyanka thought and her expression softens. “I would like to discuss more some of the things he said and family history which would be helpful in finding the best treatment options, but I’m going to step away for a moment.” She stood, and walked toward the stairs and back to her car. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.” She called as she steps onto the sand. She managed a deep breath as she sat down in her car and closed the door. She fought the urge to scream.

I can’t understand how these people could let it get so bad, she thought as she leaned her elbows forward on the top of her steering wheel, resting her head in her hands. And Connie is now in the middle of this. I have to figure out how to tackle this. They all love him, they want what’s best for him, but they are so utterly helpless at this point. He deserves better- stop it, you know that line of thinking isn’t constructive. He needs guidance, structure, and if they can’t give it to him I will have to have him admitted until they can get their act together. She let out a shuttering sigh.

His symptoms are presenting in worrying ways. Imposter Syndrome is very likely, clear self-loathing, intrusive thoughts of violence, what else has been keeping in? I have to make some calls when I’m done here, he should be seen by specialists tomorrow if possible. The University of Delmarva is two and a half hours away but may be the best fit. Perhaps someone at work has a connection with East Shore Trauma Center, that’s only a little over an hour away if I can get my foot in the door. I have to make sure he’s getting the care he needs. Someone has to stop this spiraling. She took a few more centering breaths to calm herself and opened her car door to return to the group.

She saw Lapis along with two water clones soaring in onto the porch, arms laden with construction material as they landed. Peridot was not far behind, floating in on metal supports bound with wire and touched down on the beach before jogging up the stairs. Once Lapis set down her load of siding, Peridot extended her hands. As Dr. Maheswaran approached, she could see the lithe blue gem shrug several reusable grocery bags from her shoulder and hand them off to her smaller companion as the pair talked with Steven’s family. After a moment, Peridot nodded at the doctor and carried the groceries inside. With a wave, Lapis walked around to the back of the house and out of sight.

Pearl was the first of the group to turn her attention back to Dr. Maheswaran. “You said you had more questions for us, right?”

“Yes,” the doctor answered, and all eyes turned back to her as she took her seat. “Firstly, what did he mean when he said, ‘I trashed the house today’?”

“His voice,” Pearl answered quietly. “When he has been getting too emotional and isn’t controlling his voice, it can cause damage. It cracked the glass door in his room. That was one of the first things we fixed while he had his meal downstairs. So he wouldn’t have to look at it.” She paused. “It happened a few times before, too. His mother also had the same power, she used it before she came to earth.”

Greg interjected sadly, “That’s why she spoke so softly all the time. She probably was afraid of raising her voice.” Priyanka nodded.

“So before the meltdown, his damage to the house was accidental?”

“Yeah,” Amethyst answered. “Wait, meltdown?”

“His argument with you before he changed.” Dr. Maheswaran replied. “If he isn’t comfortable calling this incident Pink-zilla, that’s the best human way to describe what happened. It may make him feel more comfortable talking about it as I can imagine having it relate to a human problem may make it more bearable to tackle. Now, what about him and Greg having a disagreement? How recent was it?” She focused her gaze on Steven’s father.

The man clenched his jaw before answering, voice worn and gravely. “Two days after the hospital, I took him to my childhood home in West Keystone. He saw pictures and mementos from me growing up. I went there to get an old music CD and to tell him about how I really found myself through music. But when we were talking about it, he was angry, angry that he never knew his grandparents or had normalcy.” The man rubbed his arm with discomfort. “I said that he had it better off not living life feeling imprisoned, having freedom but I realize now that was definitely the wrong thing to say.” Priyanka regarded him incredulously. “He said ‘you’re just like mom.’ We kept arguing and he went pink, and dislodged the steering wheel. The van went out of control, but luckily we didn’t hit anyone.” The doctor stared in stunned silence, eyes wide. “The worst of it was the car flipped onto its side. I pulled him out. We both made it out without being hurt. I got a tow truck to bring us back to Beach City, but he barely talked to me after that until yesterday. He was acting very distant. I really fouled that whole situation up. But I’m gonna do everything I can to make it better.”

Dr. Maheswaran leaned forward on her elbows to the picnic table. She steepled her fingers and touched her pointers to the bridge of her nose. “Greg,” she started, hesitating. “I know you don’t have a good relationship to your parents. But you made something he was struggling with, feeling out of place, too much about your own parental issues. That wasn’t fair to him. And you said you pulled him out of the car? Was he knocked unconscious by the crash?”

“He briefly wasn’t responding,” he replied regretfully, “the van flipped onto the driver’s side so I unbuckled him and hauled him out through the passenger’s side. Once we were both out on the ground, he came to. It really scared me.”

“If that happened two days after the hospital, what happened the day before that?”

“He wasn’t up for much.” Greg answered. “He slept in, but it wasn’t very restful sleep. We talked a little, watched some movies and I got us take-out.” Priyanka sat back up straight, face turning stern.

“So after the accident, why didn’t you schedule any follow-up?” she asked before turning her attention to the gems. “And why weren’t you all here for all of this?”

“I don’t have a very good excuse,” Greg answered, looking at his hands in his lap. “It was late when we got back from West Keystone, but I could have called you in the morning.”

“And he didn’t call you after that because after getting into an argument with us over the accident, Steven ran away from home,” Garnet answered solemnly. Dr. Maheswaran jumped to her feet.

WHAT?!” she yelled, slamming her hands on the table. Greg flinched, while Pearl and Amethyst stared in shock. Garnet’s expression was unreadable. “I don’t understand how that wasn’t the first thing you could tell me about how this whole thing started! How many days was he missing? Where did he go? How did he get back?”

“He was gone for three days,” Pearl choked out, looking away.

“He went into the woods, he didn’t want to be found,” Amethyst murmured.

“He came back on his own,” Garnet answered. “He came back because he shattered Jasper and needed the diamond essence to fix it. We still don’t know how it happened. He won’t talk about it with us.”

“We weren’t there for him when he needed us, after the whole proposal and hospital thing, because we were on a Little Homeschool field trip with no cell service,” Amethyst said, keeping Dr. Maheswaran’s gaze.

“We had no idea,” Pearl continued, “the first thing Greg told us about was the car accident and we were most concerned about the pink power causing himself or others to get hurt.”

“I should have told them after he went missing,” Greg added, “but I was just focused on finding him, and I didn’t really think about the why.”

“We all screwed this up.” Amethyst concluded. “We’ve been trying to put together what’s been going on with him for the past few months so we can figure out how we went wrong. We want to be better for him. Connie helped us see that when she talked him down.”

“You don’t have any other option,” Dr. Maheswaran said resolutely. “If you want him to get better, you have to recognize your missteps and be better for him. I’ll ask about his family history later, I want to hear his side of things.” She stepped away from the table and marched through the Beach House’s broken doorway, scowling.