The three gems all looked in different directions, trying to avoid looking at one another. The whole night was a disaster, all because they couldn't keep themselves together in a single fusion. Not even for Steven.
"I can't believe this," Peridot muttered aloud, her bulky arms crossed over her torso. "Just one night was all we needed, and we couldn't even manage that." Despite her words, Jasper could hear the accusatory note in the green gem's normally monotone voice.
"Hey! Don't you go dumping this on us!" The larger gem stalked closer towards Peridot, towering over her both physically and in anger. "We weren't the ones who couldn't get through a stupid dinner, just because someone can't handle a little digestion!" Peridot pulled her cylandrical fingers closer to her rounded palms as her arms went down to her sides.
"You know I can't stand eating! Just the thought of it, all that... that sludge going down my throat, snaking through my body, and then leaving it, just... ugh." A shudder ran through her body. "We could have just said we weren't hungry! We wouldn't have been lying! We don't even need to eat!"
"That's not the point, Peridot!" Jasper rasped as she bent over to get into the smaller gem's face. "We were doing this for Steven, just one night so that we could impress his friend's parents and they could keep getting along! Now things are worse off than before! Maybe if someone knew how to talk to them over the phone!"
"Oh, don't you bring that in-"
"Can't even handle a simple-"
"Stop!" Both gems halted mid-argument, and turned their heads in Lapis's direction. The diminutive azure gem clasped her hands up near her shoulders, eyes gazing up towards the top of the slope. All the while the other two had been arguing, she had been watching Steven chase after Connie. He seemed to be catching up to her now, they were nearing where the street was up there. "... We shouldn't be blaming each other for all of this, we were all a part of the problem," she sighed. "We all made up Tourmaline, after all. It's just too difficult to make way for everyone's personalities when there's so many to contend with... We should have known that this wouldn't work."
Lapis turned her head from watching the children, and gazed at the Maheswaran parents, who seemed to be arguing amongst themselves. Greg was basically standing there awkwardly, not seeming to know what to do.
"... Maybe it's not too late to talk to 'em?" Peridot and Lapis looked up at Jasper, who was rubbing her neck uncertainly. "I mean, maybe we could still explain the whole thing to them. Probably wasn't the best idea to come to dinner as a giant, six-armed woman anyhow."
"... You might be right," Peridot agreed reluctantly. Lapis smiled hopefully, seeing her two friends begin to agree on a course of action.
"Good, this is good," she said softly as she began to look up at the children on the slope again. "We'll just wait until Steven brings Connie back, and then we can go to the Maheswarans and explain the whole-" Lapis cut herself short with a loud gasp of air.
"What?! What's wrong?!" Jasper asked quickly. Lapis looked as though she was completely frozen in place. However, she managed to break her stupor just enough to point a delicate finger up the hill. The gems followed along its line of sight, and let out their own sounds of shock as they saw the children climb aboard a bus that had pulled up while Lapis had been looking away. In a few moments, they were on board, and the vehicle began rolling away.
"Steven!" The gems yelled in unison as they saw the bus pull away with their charge and his friend within.
"What?! What's the matter?!" Greg asked, shocked by their sudden cry.
"Steven and Connie just got on a bus!" Lapis answered more loudly than she had intended.
"What?!" The Maheswaran parents were involved as well, now that they heard their daughter's name involved in the conversation. Without a moment to lose, the group of parents and parental figures were up the slope, watching the bus begin to disappear around the bend.
"Wh-what do we do?!" Lapis cried out, wringing her hands. "There's no water here, I can't do anything to stop the bus!"
"Jasper!" Peridot cried. She was looking at the electronic pad that was made up with some of her fingers, her hand trembling erratically. "I can't get a response from the drone I left with Steven! He's overridden my admin controls! How did he override my admin controls?!" Her nasally voice had gone up a few pitches, making it almost sound distorted. "You're fast, Jasper! You have to stop them!"
"Hey, not even I'm that fast!" The orange-skinned gem snapped back at the smaller green.
"Well somebody has to do something!" Doctor Maheswaran cut in. "My daughter is getting further away as we speak! If that boy lets something bad happen to her, then I swear-!"
It's a good thing Jasper's too focused to get angry at her, Lapis couldn't help but think with relief. But she is right, we have to do something!...Wait! I know!
"Jasper, Peridot!" The other two gems looked at her as she spoke aloud. "We have to fuse again, all three of us!" They began to protest, but she continued before they could get started. "We need to be big and fast if we want to catch up with that bus, and Tourmaline is the biggest and fastest thing we have! We'll need to hold ourselves together, just until we can manage to catch up to them! For Steven!"
The three gems looked at one another, a spark seeming to pass between their eyes.
"...Alright then," Jasper muttered, fists clenched as she shifted her feet apart. "Let's do this thing."
The children huddled close together in one of Tourmaline's huge hands, in the center of the palm as far from one of her gigantic fingers as possible. By the looks of the lights ahead, they were almost back to the restaurant... and, likely, all the trouble they were getting into for this. When they were finally back amongst the adults, the scolding immediately began. The Maheswarans for Connie, and the gems and Greg for Steven.
"I don't even know where to begin young lady," Dr. Maheswaran started, giving her daughter her most intense look.
"Do you have any idea how much trouble you're in!?" The doctor paused when she heard Jasper's raspy tones over by Steven. "What on earth made you think hopping on a bus headed to nowhere was a good idea?! Do you know what could have happened to you?!"
"You could have drowned in the ocean! Gotten into an accident! Cracked your gem!" Lapis threw in, eyes wide with fear of what might have occurred.
"Statistically speaking, there are a number of things that could have happened to you, just by getting on that bus!" Peridot added in.
"Sorry kid, but we're gonna' have to punish you for this," Jasper grunted as she crossed her arms over her chest. "So, I say... no dinner for ten thousand years."
"Ten thousand?!" Steven repeated meekly, eyes wide and fearful.
"Oh, no no, Steven, not that," Lapis cut in, waving off Jasper's threatened punishment. "We're not going to stop you from eating... maybe... no TV for you."
"For ten thousand years," Peridot butted in. The effect was near instantaneous in drawing a reaction from Steven. He immediately began crying about some show he was planning to watch and how awful they were for doing this to him.
"Hey, it's only because we care, bud," Greg reassured him with a pat on the shoulder.
"Wow, I don't think I've ever seen such a masterfully given punishment before." The foursome of guardians looked towards the doctor as she approached them with Connie close behind. "I'm honestly more fond of 'it's for your own good', myself, but this is still very effective."
"And that 'ten thousand years' thing was pretty funny, I have to say," Mr. Maheswaran added in.
"History shows that the usage of negative reinforcement when it comes to behavioral modification in young humans, while not viewed as effective in today's world, still holds its own merits in regard to increasing respect of discipline and authority," Peridot deadpanned her response. He only laughed in response, indicating to her that he really had no idea what she was saying at all.
"Well, I have to say, while we were surprised at what happened this evening, we now see that the two- er, four of you," she corrected herself quickly, "are very responsible and effective caregivers. So... while we do have our reservations... I think it's safe to say that, so long as you remain this responsible when our daughter is under your watch, she and the Universe boy can keep spending time together.
As they watched Steven hug Connie out of the sheer joy of being allowed to be friends again, the gem trio nodded towards each other.
They had done well, for themselves.