If he could take back today, Greg would do so in a heartbeat. “I swear I can feel my hair falling out…” He rubbed his eyes with his hands. When he invited Tooie and Coren to come with him to work, this was not how he thought it would go. It seemed like a good idea! Greg was always at work, and he missed hanging out with his sons. It’d been a couple of days since the incident with the gems, and he could tell that Tooie was feeling a little tense. He sighed as the dying squeaks of another chew toy started from somewhere behind him.
Turning on his heel, he could see Coren ravaging a raccoon chew toy that he’d bought last week. ‘Looks like I’ll need to buy another one on my way home.’ Greg looked out the window of the control room to see Tooie spraying down a car with the hose. His son had volunteered to wash the car, saying he’d be able to dry it better with his floating powers, but Greg knew the young man really wanted a breather from Coren.
Don’t get him wrong; he knew his oldest son loved his younger brother. But watching a baby 24/7 was stressful. Tooie probably needed the break since today had been a little more hectic than usual. While Greg washed cars, Tooie had done his best to entertain Coren in the control room. The little guy did not want to stay cooped up, though.
This meant he had somehow found a way out of the control room when Tooie wasn’t looking and ended up getting halfway through a cycle in the car wash. He’d also shredded one of the roller brushes. And chewed through one of his water hoses… And gave Tooie a heart attack by playing an unprompted game of hide-and-seek…
Okay, Greg also needed to make a trip to the Big Donut after work so he could get Tooie a couple of Cookie Cats. A pop broke him from his thoughts. He didn’t even need to look to know that Coren had broken the squeaker in the toy. “Hey, Dad. I’m going to take Steven out to the lighthouse. I’ll meet you back home when you’re done with work?” He spun around to see Tooie standing in the doorway.
“Done already? I thought you just started washing that car?” His oldest son smiled as he walked past. “No. Just finished rinsing it off and drying it.” He chuckled as he took in the mussed areas of his dad’s hair. Must’ve been tugging at it in stress. “I think we’ve been in your hair for long enough today. I’m hoping he’ll burn off some energy playing around outside, and most people don’t go the lighthouse anyway.” He stopped in front of Coren and picked him up. His younger brother smiled with the toy still in his mouth.
“Yeah, that sounds like a good idea, Schtu-ball. Have fun!” He waved as Tooie and Coren headed out. Once the two were out of sight, he sighed in looked out the window. Shredded bits of the brush were still visible inside the wash in clumps. He stretched out before heading for the supply closet. ‘Now, where was that replacement brush?’
It was a beautiful day in Beach City. There was a refreshing coastal breeze, and flowers were growing plentifully on the hill to the lighthouse. Tooie had gathered several of the yellow flowers before sitting down beside his brother. He skillfully twisted the stems into a chain as Coren batted at a beetle crawling in the grass.
They sat in comfortable silence, enjoying the serenity of the day. When the chain became long enough, Tooie tied it together into a flower crown. “Perfect!” Coren abandoned his beetle friend to look up at his brother. He startled when he felt something placed on his head. Tooie smiled at his little brother. He looked so cute in the flower crown. “Here.” He held his phone out, with the camera on selfie mode, so Coren could see himself.
“Fawer!” His tail wagged in delight as Coren started gathering flowers in his hands. He tried to twist the stems into a chain, but they kept falling apart. Calloused hands placed new flowers in front of him. Coren was met with a gentle smile as his brother guided him through the steps. After a couple of flowers became a chain, Tooie moved his hands away so that Coren could try for himself. It was a little messier than Tooie’s, but his younger brother’s chain kept growing.
“Did it!” Little hands held the flower crown up to Tooie. He chuckled as he laid on the ground so Coren could put it on him. “Thanks, Sunshine. I love it!” The other purred in joy as he started on making another one. Both looked up at the sound of flapping.
“Yo! Whatcha up to?” The purple owl quickly shifted into Amethyst. “I was flying by when I saw you two up here. Thought it’d be nice to see hang out?” She snorted when she saw their flower crowns. “You two look cute.” Tooie blushed at the compliment. He turned at Coren’s lack of a reaction but to see him focused on the chain. “Thanks. We’re making some flower crowns. Have you ever made any before?”
She shook her head. “I’ve seen them before, though. Are they hard to make?” Tooie gestured to the flowers surrounding them. “If you want, I can teach you? It’s not too hard.” She jumped to her feet and gathered an armful before returning to them. With a pile of flowers, they had plenty for Tooie to show her the steps. As Amethyst did her first chain without Tooie’s help, she felt a hand tug the hem of her shirt. “Amwest!” She saw Coren holding out a crown to her. “Aww! Thanks, Steven.” The purple gem set her chain down and placed the crown on her head.
It felt nice to be included. No yelling, no danger, no expectations. So different from being around Pearl and Garnet. It was like she could be herself around them. Amethyst chatted with Tooie for a while as she continued to make her own crown. Coren slowly drifted to sleep in Tooie’s lap, lulled by the warmth of the sun and the smell of the sea.
It must’ve been the day to go to the lighthouse because an hour later, Garnet and Pearl were making their way up the hill. When Tooie saw them, he tensed. It had been a couple of days since the incident, and he wasn’t sure what to expect. Pearl looked uncomfortable, and Garnet was as stoic as ever.
“Tooie. I figured you’d be here.” Amethyst shrugged at him when Tooie glanced at her. Looked like she wasn’t sure what to expect either. “Hello, Garnet. Did you need me for anything?” Garnet cleared her throat and sat down, so she wasn’t towering over the others. Pearl knelt down beside her.
“I’ve been thinking about what you said, and I realized that you were right. Rose meant a lot to us. We were basically family, and since Steven is a part of Rose, that makes him family too. I shouldn’t have avoided him all this time.” Tooie narrowed his eyes ad he thought about her epiphany. Pearl took advantage of the silence to interject. “I shouldn’t have acted like Steven was sick either.” She sighed as she stared at the sleeping child. “I am uncomfortable around him because I lost many friends to corruption. It’s hard seeing Steven partially corrupted, and not thinking about the possibility that he could corrupt fully. I didn’t want to get attached, only to experience it all over again.”
Tooie let out a relieved sigh at her admission. “It’s okay, Pearl. I get it. But taking that out on Steven is not. Isn’t it worth it to spend time with him now, so that if something ever happens, you have those memories?” She nodded in agreement. “You’re very wise for your age, Tooie. You’re right, and I’ll get used to him eventually.” She smiled sheepishly at him and gestured to their little group. “Would you mind if we join you? It’s a rather nice day today to relax, and it would make for some nice memories.” Tooie smiled, nudging Coren awake. His baby brother let out a big yawn as he blinked the sleep from his eyes.
“Look who came to visit, Sunshine.” The little one gazed at the newcomers with starry eyes. “Paw! Garnie!” His tail wagged furiously as he crawled over to them to hug them. Both returned the hug with a smile. “Nice to see you, Steven. What are you doing?” Garnet watched as Coren grabbed several flowers in his hand. “Surprise!” She chuckled as Tooie joined him in creating another chain of flowers. Amethyst snickered at how obvious Coren’s ‘surprise’ task was.
It didn’t take either brother long to finish their crowns, and both motioned for Garnet and Pearl to bend down. Tooie placed the crown on Pearl, while Coren placed his on Garnet. The two gems smiled as they noticed everyone was wearing a flower crown. Under the warm sun of a nice spring day, a wonderful change occurred. Their little family got a little bigger.