Actions

Work Header

The Best Mother and Doctor I can be

Chapter Text

Dr. Maheswaran entered the damaged beach house and saw Peridot putting away groceries while Bismuth was working on metal parts for a door closure at the kitchen table. As agitated as she was from her conversation with Steven’s caregivers, she quickly put together that Bismuth had previously been watching over Steven and Connie, and now she had vacated that post.

“Hello Peridot, Bismuth,” the doctor greeted, fighting down her ire and unclenching her hands. She looked to the taller of the pair. “Weren’t you the Gem keeping an eye on Steven and Connie?”

“Oh Hi, Dr. Maheswaran,” Bismuth replied, looking up from her work with a smile. “Lapis relieved me when she came back with Peridot.”

“Yes,” the green Gem interjected, “And once you all finish your conversations, Bismuth, Pearl and I will finish fixing the temple’s exterior. It won’t make a huge difference to me, but I was told that you were going to be interviewing Steven and the loud noises may not be beneficial to your line of questioning.” She went back to putting away the groceries, using a metal step-stool to float to the high cabinets and place boxes of rice and cereal away.

“I suppose interview is one way to put it,” Dr. Maheswaran responded dryly. “Regardless, I do intend to speak with him and pick up my daughter. However, I wish to use your bathroom before I do so. Is that alright?”

“Bathroom’s in good order,” Bismuth answered, gesturing with one hand while the other was shaped into a screwdriver. “No shine off my gem if you need to use it.”

“Thank you,” Dr. Maheswaran replied, walking to the door and closing it behind her. After a moment she set her bag down on the floor and gave a tense sigh. She sat down on the closed lid of the toilet and closed her eyes to think.

This is unbelievable. The gems drove him to run away from home, after getting in a car accident that was severe enough to flip his father’s van and cause him to fall unconscious, which in turn led him to shattering a gem. That’s supposed be a permanent death-like state for them. The fact that happened being the reason he came back after running away to fix it makes it seem like he didn’t mean for it to happen, but I can’t be sure until I ask him. It could be that he regretted after the fact…

He’s only 16 years old and he nearly killed someone. If I didn’t know Steven Universe, I would be going to the authorities with this. But he needs someone he can trust. Connie would never forgive me if I let someone who I couldn’t be sure would treat the gems as people treat him. He shouldn’t have to feel like a monster when all of these awful things happened to him, and not just anyone would understand that. Whoever would be examining him should be prepped on his gem background. I’m going to need a personal connection with the facility to ensure he gets the care he needs. I know we had some residents who went on to work at the East Shore Trauma Center… I think that Dr. Stromberg was an overseeing physician to one of the psychology residents that work there now.

Priyanka took her phone out of her bag with a shuddering breath and unlocked it. She pulled up her messages and found her most recent message to Drew Stromberg was just over 2 weeks ago. Well the last message was from him was the time he asked me to jump his car, so since he owes me a favor hopefully he’ll get back to me right away.

Dr. Stromberg, Can you get me in contact with Dr. Wilkins your psych resident who’s working at ESTC now? I have a trauma patient who’s a special case and I’d rather he not go into the system blind. He needs care asap and I want to try and have him seen tom if possible. She sent the text after proofreading it once. After closing her message to Dr. Stromberg she opened up Doug’s last message.

When do you think you’ll be back? His text read from 4:28pm.

Could be another 1/2 hour or so before I leave and it’s about a 15 min drive from here. If you haven’t started dinner yet, order takeout. It’s been a rough day. She replied. After sending the message to Doug, Drew’s reply came in.

You’re working late for a Wednesday. Dr. Stromberg’s text read. Don’t you get out at 4? And what’s the story for your trauma patient? Is he a minor?

He’s a friend of my daughter’s. I’m making a house call. His family hasn’t had him in the medical system until now and he’s 16. Can you give me Amber’s number? She answered.

I’ll call her and have her text you. You with the patient now? Dr. S asked.

I’m at his house. His name is Steven Universe. I’ve had his father email the insurance to me so I’ll fwd it over once she gets in touch. If you can’t get a hold of her tonight, try to reach someone else from ESTC, he’s going to need a doc prepped on his situation, and I’d rather he be closer to home if poss. Thanks. She replied, and closed her messages.

After putting her phone back into her bag, she pulled Steven’s chart out and took note of the most pertinent details regarding what the Crystal Gems and Greg had said about his condition. She returned the chart to her bag then stood and slipped bag’s the strap over her shoulder. She looked herself over in the mirror, making sure she didn’t appear as frazzled as she felt and exited the bathroom.

Upon leaving the bathroom she found Peridot waiting by the door. “Did you need me for something?” Dr. Maheswaran asked.

“My apologies if this is impolite,” Peridot answered, “but I want to discuss something with you before you speak with Steven. Did Garnet, Amethyst or Pearl discuss his new dream power?”

“No, they didn’t mention that,” Dr. Maheswaran replied.

“Your evaluation with Steven might be better equipped if you’re informed by something I found out several weeks ago.” Peridot recounted. “He mentioned to me having weird dreams when we were watching the new reboot of a Teen Drama, Camp Pi-” Peridot paused, looking away for a moment. “The show’s not important, actually. But the recording he had of the show was partially overwritten via a projection of his dreams. We experimented with this ability to try and make the show more interesting, but he became distressed as we went on. He wanted ‘an excuse to hang out’ as he put it. The dreams showed being locked out from his friends, falling from great heights, and he mentioned not knowing ‘how to be a friend without something to fix.’” Priyanka’s eyes widened. “Perhaps if your medical associates need more insight into what is going on with him, you could ask to tape his dreams. I’ve found studies of dream analysis online,” Peridot’s tone turned annoyed, “but I was told to ‘leave this to the experts.’ Still, I thought this would be useful for you to know.”

With a slight pause to try and process the heap of information Peridot had just given her, Dr. Maheswaran replied, “thank you.”

“You are welcome. Is there any other questions you have? If there’s anything at all I can do to help Steven I want to help.”

“Actually, there is. Connie mentioned you have a tablet. Are you set-up with email?”

Peridot froze and smiled, looking like she was about to excitedly ramble about something before composing herself. “Yes. Do you want me to get the tablet now?”

“Well, I want to give you my email-” Priyanka started before Peridot cut her off.

“Not to worry, I’ll remember what it is.”

“I want to give Steven’s other doctors a brief primer on gem history, primarily the transition from era 1 to era 2 and 2 to 3, because I have limited knowledge myself there. Some background on the Diamonds as their physiology and abilities may help the doctors to understand his difficulties. Also, if there’s anything that causes gems undue stress or pain, I want to tell them so they can avoid unintentionally harming him.”

“To my knowledge most Earth based tech isn’t strong enough to harm gems, but damaging gem tech is based in sound and light, both of which you do have access to here. So I suppose it’s possible to cause issues with the physical form with a sound based technology. Lasers do minimal damage so I think that would be the only light based tech that would be relevant. I’ll send you some details shortly.”

“The email is p-r-i-m-a-h-e-s-5-16@b-mail.com.” The doctor spelled out.

“I’ll have the history primer to you within the hour.” Peridot replied. “The weaknesses shouldn’t take too long either, that I could compile later today, but other than listing off the diamonds previous and current abilities, they don’t make a lot of things public knowledge about the beginning of Era 1.”

“Isn’t their ship on the other side of the beach?” Dr. Maheswaran said sarcastically. “If you tell them it’s for Steven, they should want to help. I would think, anyway, if they consider him family.”

“Perhaps we can persuade them,” Peridot replied, steepling her fingers. “I think if I get Greg and Garnet to come with me it would be more likely to be a productive discussion. Blue Diamond has some sympathy for Greg,” she separated her hands and rotated her wrist several times as she spoke, “and White and Yellow have been treating Garnet with more respect since they were made aware of Steven’s whole… pink condition.”

“I appreciate any background you and they are able to provide,” The doctor asserted. “It will make understanding his issues easier for the doctors examining him tomorrow.”

“So your… evaluation today is preliminary? This isn’t the extent of his treatment then, if I understand correctly.”

“Yes,” Dr. Maheswaran replied. “I’ve spoken to the others about it but I hope to have him seen by a trauma specialist as soon as tomorrow. Based on what you all have told me, the sooner he’s seen the easier is recovery will be.”

“I’m hoping that this will be successful as soon as possible,” Peridot said with a sad smile. “Just one other thing to note, regarding his encounter with Jasper.”

“Garnet said that he didn’t want to talk about it with any of them,” the doctor replied pensively. “Did something change?”

“Although Steven didn’t wish to discuss his time with her, yesterday Greg and I were getting supplies from Little Homeworld, and I saw her there. I confronted her about why she and Steven had met upon his running away,” Peridot quieted significantly, “and her subsequent shattering.” Peridot gave a hard stare as she continued, tone brought back to her standard slightly too loud volume. “I told her I wasn’t able to give any details about Steven’s condition but if she had any ounce of pride left in her gem, and didn’t want me to collapse a building on her to increase her list of disgraces since the end of Era 2 she would tell me what happened to make Steven distressed. She only would tell me, ‘My diamond shattered me in a fight to prove what he could do. He had been made soft by the Crystal Gems and needed a real Gem to test his mettle.’ I told her to stay away from the temple or ‘I’d shove a metal beam through her form so fast she wouldn’t have time to flinch.’ She tried to tell me her purpose now isn’t with her Diamond,” her tone dropped to a more neutral measure, closing her eyes, “and I gave her some choice words I was told not to repeat in present company.” The doctor absorbed Peridot’s long-winded speech with a nod.

“Thank you for the information, Peridot.”

“I will assist in whatever way I can, for Steven.”

Bismuth strode over to the pair and put a hand on Peridot’s shoulder. “We all want to help him. I think you should know what he mentioned to me not long ago at the roller rink.”

Yes, the night Connie insisted wasn’t a date, a few days before the proposal, the doctor thought. She nodded at Bismuth to encourage the broad Gem to continue.

“He was worried about how he thought him and Connie were growing apart. He said he felt like they were ‘living different lives,’ and ‘I wonder if I’m even her best friend anymore.’ I would hope he doesn’t have any doubts anymore, but it might have something to do with how this all happened.”

Priyanka barely registered the last sentence Bismuth said as all of the thoughts regarding Steven’s proposal clicked into place, jaw going slightly slack. It makes far too much sense if he felt they were drifting apart why he wanted to hold onto what he thought was a stable relationship in a time of crisis. And with everything he said during the meltdown that shows evidence of unhealthy self-worth, he wanted to cling to that. Thank heavens Connie has a good head on her shoulders and tried to handle this gently. With a brief pause, she nodded and composed herself.

“I agree with your assessment, Bismuth,” Dr. Maheswaran replied. “I appreciate your input. If there’s nothing else the two of you have to add, I’m going to check my messages and then I’ll be going up to see him.”

“I believe that was the extent of the relevant information to note,” Peridot responded.

“If there’s anything else, Tiny can send you the info on her tablet,” Bismuth added, giving a marginally too hard clap on Peridot’s back, causing the smaller gem to lean forward with a frown. Dr. Maheswaran nodded and strode over to the stairs, pulling out her phone. She saw she had 2 messages once she unlocked it.

The first was from Doug: Parsi Mutton and Tandori Gobi are in the oven. Should I break out the Jackfruit Wine too?

Yes. She replied without hesitation. She opened the second message from Dr. Wilkins.

Hi Dr. Maheswaran, I’m Dr. Amber Wilkins. Dr. Stromberg said you were looking to get a 16 year old trauma patient in at ESTC in tomorrow? Did you want to give me the contact info for his family so I can send you the forms?

I have some of the questionnaires with me and I’m taking the family history before I leave. I’ll be scanning his chart with all that when I return home. She answered. If I want you to do his intake, when should I have them arrive by? She silenced the phone and locked it before heading up the stairs.

As Dr. Maheswaran went up to the first landing to the stairs, she saw Lapis Lazuli draped sideways on a desk chair she believed was Steven’s. The slender blue gem had an elbow on the backrest, as she lounged side-saddle, a Japanese graphic novel titled “I Can’t Believe My Stepdad is a Sword” visible in her hands, and one leg in a four-cross over the other. Priyanka knew of Lapis, but having never formally met her she thought it would be best to introduce herself once she addressed her patient.

As the doctor approached the top of the landing she could see both Steven and Connie lying on the bed. Connie lay on her stomach on top of Steven’s comforter, propped up on one arm with her schoolwork in front of her, facing the stairway and Lapis. Connie had quickly pulled her hand forward to adjust her hair spilling over her shoulder and laid it on one of her textbooks. Seems likely that hand was otherwise occupied before I came up, Priyanka thought. Steven was laying on his side, under a comforter, but his back and legs leaned against Connie’s form. He also had a graphic novel in one hand, the other draped over his hip. The novel appeared to have a group of colorful teens and young adults in action poses but the title wasn’t visible from the doctor’s angle. The young man appeared slightly pale, and noticeable bags were presented under half-lidded eyes. If these weren’t extenuating circumstances, I would have something to say about how close you two are sitting, the doctor mused.

“Mom,” Connie said, leaning forward. “Hi, I didn’t realize you were here yet. I thought the gems would have told me.” She looked pointedly at Lapis, who shrugged.

“Oh yeah,” the blue gem remarked aloofly. “Sorry, I forgot to mention it. She got here a little before I got back.” Connie rolled her eyes with a neutral expression. Steven shifted his position slightly to better take in the conversation and Dr. Maheswaran gave a comforting smile.

“Good Afternoon, Steven, Connie.”

“Hi,” Steven said quietly, his voice a little hoarse. He set the graphic novel he had been reading face-down on his pillow. He had his typical star-tee on but he definitely looked like he hadn’t been out of bed for a while. The tiredness registered in his posture, tone and the way his eyes seemed to lack their usual luster. He looked worse off than she had seen him when he was overworked at Little Homeschool or the day she had seen him at the hospital.

“Mom,” Connie said, stuffing her books into her bag sitting by the foot of the bed. “You and Lapis haven’t met yet, right?”

“Yes,” the doctor replied, turning her attention to the gem and outstretching her hand. “I’m Dr. Maheswaran, Connie’s mother. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Lapis Lazuli,” she introduced herself, and shook the doctor’s hand, her grip deceptively strong. “Crystal Gem. Nice to meet you too. Connie tells me that you’re here to help Steven, right?”

“I intend to do my best,” Dr. Maheswaran replied. Connie sat up and slung her bag over her shoulder. “In order to do my assessment, I will need both of you to leave the room.” Connie turned back to Steven, searching his face. He had a slight frown on as Connie looked him over. “We won’t be leaving immediately after I’m done speaking with him, so you two can say good-bye after.” Connie gave him a small smile, reaching over and giving his hand a light squeeze before getting up and walking down the stairs. The doctor turned her attention back to Lapis who gave a quiet sigh before standing up.

“I’ll be on the deck, Steven.” The blue gem said, still holding the graphic novel and opened the back door to exit. He watched her cautiously, still slightly frowning, as Lapis closed the glass door behind her and settled pretzel-style on the wooden porch a small distance away. Steven turned his attention to the doctor and sat up more fully. The doctor pulled up the chair Lapis had vacated, setting her bag down next to it and seated herself in front of him.

“How are you feeling today, Steven?” Dr. Maheswaran asked gently, pulling out Steven’s chart. He swallowed before meeting her eyes.

“Yesterday was pretty hard… but today’s been a little easier.”

“Are you in any pain?”

“I’m kinda sore, but it’s not terrible.”

“Anywhere you’re hurting specifically? How would you describe it?”

“It’s all over. Like a muscle ache.” He paused and looked away before continuing. “Do you… do you remember the green hand ship from a few years ago? How the town was evacuated when it came down?”

“The green hand ship…” The doctor said thoughtfully. “This was before Garnet’s wedding, right?”

“Right. That one crashed into the beach and left wreckage everywhere.”

“Yes, I recall.” Dr. Maheswaran replied, pausing to let him continue.

“After that ship crashed, the gems asked me to help clean up the debris. I was working at it for hours and I was pretty sore after. It’s like that, not as strongly, but it’s lasted since…” He trailed off.

“Since yesterday.” She finished for him. He nodded, staring at his hands. “Steven, I’ve heard from your family about yesterday’s incident. It may be easier to talk about if we go over some medical terms that trauma patients use to describe triggering events.”

“I’m not like them.” He mumbled. He shifted in place, knees coming up in front of him and arms curled around his waist.

“The circumstances may be different,” she replied frankly, “but having language to describe what you’re going through doctors have found makes it easier to cope with.” Steven was silent. “I understand you don’t like what Ronaldo’s been calling it on his blog.”

“I’m… It’s not his fault I turned into that thing.” Steven answered bitterly. “I have to deal with it.”

“You and the gems can discuss how you want to tell the public about it, but for you, it would be healthier to think about it in human terms. Typically feeling over-“

“But human terms don’t get at what happened.” He interrupted, glaring into his lap. “Pink-zilla is what I deserve.” Dr. Maheswaran frowned. He was usually so polite, she hadn’t expected him to cut her off.

“Steven, I understand that may be what you’re feeling right now, but the reaction you had was a stress response. An extreme reaction, perhaps, but the best way to move forward from it is to find ways to discuss what happened without triggering those feelings again.” She paused, letting her statement settle. “Typically, stress responses like that we would refer to as a meltdown. Do you feel like that would make it easier to talk about?”

“I guess… I can try it…” he murmured, trailing off again.

“Alright, now I have some questions about what happened between our last visit and your meltdown.” She replied, a small reassuring smile on her face. “If any topic becomes too uncomfortable, we can come back to it, or it can be addressed at a later time. Would you be willing to try that?” Steven chewed his lip for a moment before nodding.

“Good. Now between last week and now, your father said that the two of you went on a trip that resulted in a car accident. I understand that there were no other vehicles involved. Can you tell me a bit about what happened? Were you hurt at all?” Dr. Maheswaran waited as Steven seemed to consider her questions. He released his waist and wrapped his arms around his knees, pulling them to his chest. Eventually, he met her eyes and began to answer.

“Dad and I went to his parents’ house. We drove there without him telling me that’s what the place was, he only told me he was going to show me how he became Mr. Universe. I had no clue what he was doing when he hopped the fence in this seemingly random suburban neighborhood in West Keystone and I started to freak out a little.” Dr. Maheswaran’s expression slipped to a disappointed frown. “Once he went in through the window, I followed him and went to write a note to these people I thought were strangers, but I figured it out after a few minutes. I saw his pictures, wresting trophies, baby clothes all in boxes. But after a while, he found the CD he was looking for in the air vent.” Dr. Maheswaran looked surprised for a moment, before training her expression back to a neutral attentive gaze. “We left, he played me the song he got our last name from…” Dr. Maheswaran’s brow furrowed and she opened and closed her mouth once, briefly looking away. Steven paused. “You want me to clarify, right?” She shook her head.

“I don’t want to interrupt you. I can ask him later.”

“No, it’s fi-“

“Steven, if you’re about to say ‘fine,’ I was told by Connie that is a banned word for you right now.”

“Ah,” Steven said, cringing slightly, “Right.” He stopped, face dropping back to a neutral expression. “Well, I can tell you the short version. Dad’s last name was originally DeMayo and he left home at about age twenty. Sometime between then and when I was born, he had his name legally changed to Universe. As far as I know, that’s been my last name my whole life.” She nodded for Steven to continue.

“I knew that I had some family, My Uncle Andy for one, but when dad told me he ‘never looked back’ on his old life, a family he chose to leave behind and kept from me I was angry.” He looked away as he went on. “He wanted me to hear the song so I could find some sort of meaning outside of myself, I had told him I wasn’t sure who I was anymore, and he hoped that hearing the song that was apparently life-changing for him would help. But all it did was get me thinking about everything he turned his back on. He chose a new name, and his parents… He never mentioned them to me before except to say ‘my life was a prison.’ It reminded me of what happened with mom’s family and all the legacy stuff I had to deal with over the past few years.” He paused again, crossing his arms over his bent knees so he could lean on his forearms. She looked at him with concern, but he still wouldn’t meet her eyes. “I felt angry he never told me, that he had a normal life, maybe I could have had one too, and he said I was ‘better off’ than he was.” He spoke the last words bitterly. “I snapped at him about how much he was like mom. I turned pink in the middle of the argument and I pulled the wheel off. We drifted into the other lanes over to the shoulder, but I was panicking. I don’t remember exactly what happened after that, only dad shaking me when I was on the ground outside of the van.”

Dr. Maheswaran’s mouth twitched down, looking him over. He was curled in on himself, and his eyes, still glancing away, looked more tired than before, but weren’t watery. She waited for him to continue but he hesitated. Quietly, she noted a few things on his chart, glancing up after a few sentences to see he was still looking away. After a few moments passed, she looked up to see him watching her. She set her pen down and folded her hands in her lap before addressing him.

“Steven, there’s two things I wish to address before we continue, if there’s nothing you have to add.” She said soothingly. He shook his head. “Firstly, your father comparing the struggles you had to his own experience was incredibly short-sighted. When he and I spoke about this, I told him so. Try not to take his statement about you being ‘better off’ to heart. If he hasn’t apologized to you yet, I’ll tell him that it bothered you, and that he should.” Steven’s eyes widened and he shook his head quickly, straightening slightly. “It was unfair of him to put that on you, and he needs to be the bigger man and say he’s sorry.”

“I already caused so much trouble- I- I don’t-“

“Steven.” She interjected and he quieted. “If you continue to stew on this without it being addressed, you only cause yourself preventable stress. Your pink power is a stress-triggered response; you should try to avoid situations like this. Unburden yourself. Allow others to care for you.” He glanced away again, one arm falling to his side and the other tangled in the hair on the back of his neck, expression one of clear tension. She sighed quietly before continuing. “Secondly, feeling as though you ‘don’t know who you are anymore’ is a very human problem.” He looked back at her, searching her expression expectantly. “When roles or opportunities change for teenagers and young adults, often times there is a period where you feel out of sorts regarding your future, especially if your previous job was a large part of your identity. It’s okay to confide in others regarding this uncomfortable adjustment period. Your support system all wants to help. They’ve all made that explicitly clear to me.” She waited for him to interject but he only took in what she had to say, not answering. “Do you doubt what I’m saying, Steven?”

The young man shook his head. “No, it’s just… I don’t like making my problems everyone else’s. I’m not used to asking for stuff like this.”

“You put a great deal of pressure on yourself.” Dr. Maheswaran replied. “I don’t doubt that is a root cause to some of the issues you’re having.” He glanced down, shrugging. “It’s not selfish to take care of yourself.”

“I guess I thought I was doing a better job of that since a week ago than I actually was.”

“Do you think that those feelings of not wanting to reach out have been going on for longer than that?” She asked. Steven chewed his lip, hands resting back to his lap and didn’t answer. “It’s alright if you want to switch to another topic for now. I have a few more questions if you would rather move on.” He nodded, taking a deep breath. “Regarding the accident, you don’t remember the van flipping?” He shook his head. “After the wheel came off, is there anything you can recall?”

“I remember us drifting into the other lanes, my heart was pounding. I went from mad to scared pretty fast. I stepped on the breaks and as we slowed, it was like I had tunnel vision. The van spun around, I remember the screech of tires… and the next thing I knew dad was hovering over me and I was on the ground.”

“Were you in any pain when you woke up?”

“I had a headache. I wasn’t sore or anything else.”

“Was your vision blurry, or doubled? Or did you feel like vomiting?”

“No.”

“What happened after? Did your father ask you questions to make sure you were alright?”

“He told me I scared him and that the van’s been through worse…” Steven answered. “Then he told me he understood I was ‘having a hard time’ and he was ‘proud of me.’” Dr. Maheswaran’s face fell, stunned. Steven glared into his lap and continued indignantly, “I couldn’t believe it. He was proud that I told him off. But I just crashed the van! He just didn’t get it. How could he say that after what I did?” The doctor closed her mouth, eyes full of concern. He quieted, tone somber. “We were able to get it fixed but… I was angry at myself and I wanted him to be mad at me too. I shouldn’t have been so careless. I could have really hurt him, or someone else.”

“Luckily, that wasn’t the case. I know Greg’s van has a lot of value to your family, but both of you made it through the crash, if a little worse for wear. It’s possible that you sustained a minor head injury, but often those don’t show up on MRI or CAT scans. Did your headache get worse after a while? Or do you have any other issues with memory regarding this incident?”

“No, my headache went away after a few hours. And I still remember most of what happened after.” He paused. “The only thing that was off was after he told me he was glad I ‘had the guts to tell him off’ I remember feeling like… the only way I can describe it was everything started to feel muffled. Like someone started stuffing cotton balls in my ears.”

“Steven, has that ever happened before?” Dr. Maheswaran’s tone was quiet and solemn. “Have you ever felt disconnected from your body or numb, either physically or emotionally, after a traumatic event?”

“I… I know I can astrally project as part of my powers, but you don’t mean that, right?” Dr. Maheswaran shook her head. “… Yeah, I remember feeling kinda numb after some stuff. Emotionally, I mean. I don’t think it happens very often.”

“That’s a symptom of dissociation, Steven.” She replied, pausing. “Have you ever told anyone about this?” He shook his head and curled in on himself again. “When was the last time you remember feeling numb?”

“… After my meltdown.” He paused, swallowing. “I cried a lot after I calmed down from being corr- the big me, and after that I switched from feeling so overwhelmed to basically nothing. Just tired and numb. I knew everyone just wanted to help but with everything out in the open like that I didn’t feel worried, or angry or sad. At least not for a few hours.”

“Feeling numb or being disconnected from stimuli is your body trying to deal with the trauma you went through. If you find that happening again, there are steps we can take to walk you through it. I can go over that with you before I leave.” Dr. Maheswaran waited and he didn’t respond. “Did you want to talk more about the meltdown?”

“No.”

“That’s okay, I have a few more questions for you, but if you need a break, I’ll go get your father or one of the gems.” Steven shifted in the bed and moved away the covers, sliding bare feet onto the floor next to the bed.

“I’m just gonna go to the bathroom,” he answered softly. “I’ll be back.” She watched him retreat down the stairs, taking in the pajama pants and his slumped posture with concern.

After she heard the bathroom door quietly open, she looked over his chart and began to note more. A few of the questions on the PTSD checklist had been answered as Yes between the two conversations: Tried hard not think about upsetting event or avoided situations that remind you of it, and Felt numb or detached from others, activities or surroundings. On the other trauma questionnaire she noted down Transportation Accident, Captivity, Sudden Unexpected death of someone close to you and Serious Injury or Death you caused to someone were all to be marked in the Happened to me column, Assault with A Weapon and Life Threatening Injury were definitely to be filled in with Witnessed it, even if it wasn’t what he experienced, though it likely was, considering the things Connie had told her. She thought for a moment if Combat or Exposure to a warzone would qualify as anything other than Heard about it, but she needed to get more data before confirming that.

He’s been through so much. She thought. I’m amazed it took this long for all of this to come to light, but he needs help now.