Ferb's remaining days at the hospital passed by faster than he had anticipated. Since Saturday evening, he no longer cared about his time at the hospital, whether it went fast or not—his stepbrother's Get Well gift had made up for all the pain and trouble he had gone through before. He was not even the least bit disappointed when the doctors announced that they wanted him to stay there until Friday instead of Wednesday.
Phineas managed to survive the extra week at school without his brother. He was able to come up with a few creations, but without the extra planning with Ferb, his building sessions were much longer, and so he only managed to cook up two. But it had reassured the student body that he was "Back in Town;" his spunky personality and energetic entrances into class had proven that point quite well the following Monday.
Phineas never visited Ferb at the hospital, considering what they had both gone through, but he did begin texting Ferb on his cellphone again, until Friday evening when he returned from school.
Linda looked out the living room window and grinned when she noticed her husband's car park in the driveway that evening at five. Candace and Jeremy had accompanied him to the hospital in order to help him gather his son's things. Linda had remained home to await her parents and finish preparing dinner—she wanted to make it an extra special meal for the return of her stepson and so invited her parents over to celebrate with them. Clyde and Betty-Jo arrived an hour before Lawrence returned, in order to help their daughter with dinner.
Linda's parents ran excitedly out of the living room when Linda opened the front door and allowed the four arrivals to step in. With a smile, she then turned and looked at the stairs. "Phineas!" she called out as loudly as she could. "Guess who's hooo-ooome!"
There was a loud thud upstairs, as though someone was jumping off of a bed, and then hasty, thunderous steps followed down the hallway up to the stairs. Boom-boom-boom-boom came each descending step until Phineas leaped into view and dashed into the entrance with a wide grin. "FERB!" he cried out.
Ferb had just entered the house when his stepbrother came clambering down the stairs. He smiled happily and let go of his crutches in order to embrace Phineas when the fifteen-year-old ran up to him. Lawrence and Jeremy caught the crutches as they fell.
"Man, you don't know how happy I am to have you back home, Ferb!" Phineas exclaimed. "Doing things every day just wasn't the same without you."
Ferb held him tightly, as though it had been the very first time he had ever held his brother that long before. He did not bother saying anything, knowing that Phineas could already understand what he was thinking.
And he could. Phineas leaned back and chuckled. "I suspect the hospital wasn't all fun and games either, huh?" he teased.
Ferb shook his head quickly, making the others laugh. "But the view was beautiful," he replied. Playfully punching Phineas with his right fist, he added, "Though you waited long enough to pull that off, you know."
"I had a moment of doubt, that's all," Phineas said while rubbing his shoulder. Baring his teeth in a smile, he added, "But I'm back to normal now, aren't I?"
"Yes, after a long crack."
Phineas frowned in irritation at this comment, making his family laugh even harder. "I did not crack!" he exclaimed. "I don't know where you and the others even get that term!" He crossed his arms stubbornly. "It's called a moment of self-doubt and fear, thank you very much."
Ferb rolled his eyes amusingly and placed an arm around Phineas again. Phineas's frown disappeared and he smiled again, hugging Ferb as well. "But I did miss you," he said. "And I'm glad you're back, Ferb."
"Likewise," Ferb replied with a wink.
Linda placed her arms around both boys and kissed their cheeks. "And your father and I are very proud on how you two managed to wade through this hard week and a half," she said as Lawrence rubbed Ferb's head. "Ferb in the hospital and Phineas stuck in his fears; you two pulled out nicely, I'd say."
"Spot on," Lawrence agreed. "The bravest of the brave, at least for a fifteen-year-old and sixteen-year-old."
Clyde and Betty-Jo moved in to hug both grandchildren and then turned their attention to Ferb. Although Ferb never really had much of a chance to speak, given that the Flynns spoke more or less for him, he did comply and allow his grandparents to move him to the living room while Linda finished dinner. Jeremy and Lawrence went upstairs to put Ferb's things away.
Phineas watched on the sidelines, happy not to be the one surrounded by the attention. He knew Ferb would not get a chance to speak to him again until after dinner, but he did not mind. The only time Ferb was able to shoot him a glance as his grandparents sat him down was when he wondered where Perry was. Phineas had recognized the stare; Ferb raised his eyebrows and shrugged questioningly.
Phineas grinned, shrugged in reply and then nodded towards the outdoors, indicating that the platypus was probably still out doing something "Secret Agent P". Ferb would have nodded in reply but Clyde and Betty-Jo began to ask him more questions.
Phineas could not help but choke on a laugh until a hand settled down on his shoulder. "Phineas," a voice whispered. He turned his head and watched as Candace nodded hers in the direction of the basement. "Come here for a sec," she added before walking off.
Curious, her little brother complied.
Candace turned on the light and looked about. There was nothing much in the basement save the washing and drying machines, the furnace, the water tank and several boxes filled with old antiques and such that Linda and Lawrence were planning on eventually moving to their store. Once upon a time, when she had been very young, this place had been filled with old gadgets her biological father had once built, along with several of his tools and parts he found around town. These, however, had been either packed away as memories in Linda's room, sold to families who needed contraptions like those, or simply tossed out by the woman herself. Only the tools remained. They had become an emergency pack in case Ferb's toolbox ever went missing.
Candace inhaled deeply and sighed as though she had been holding her breath for a long period of time. A small grin appeared when memories flooded back.
The sound of footsteps descending the rickety set of stairs told her that her brother had arrived. Turning around, Candace found Phineas walking down while trailing his hands over the railing. He looked about. "Why are we in the basement, Candace?" he wondered. "I thought you said this place was boring, not to mention damp and cold." He stopped in his tracks at the bottom of the stairs and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Hm. Maybe that's something Ferb and I could fix once that cast of his is off… I always did find this place needed a spark of life…"
Candace rolled her eyes amusingly. "You always thought everything needed more life to it," she pointed out.
"Well, it's true, isn't it?" Phineas replied with a shrug. "People nowadays make life so dull. Why else am I spending my time finding ways to make it better?"
His sister only shook her head before looking at her brother again. "The reason I wanted to come down here was because I had something I needed to say to you in private," she said. "Someone would obviously eavesdrop if I said it anywhere else, and it was important that no one but you hears it."
Phineas seemed intrigued now. Curiously, he tilted his head to one side as if examining his sister.
Candace grinned in reply. "I'll admit, Phineas; there was a moment on Saturday where I thought you wouldn't follow in on my challenge," she said. "But then this majorly huge flying star started shooting around outside the hospital, drawing a picture of Ferb with glitter that looked like fireworks…" She smiled amusingly. "Though it impressed me and I'm not going to bother telling Mom, since I was the one who asked you to do it, I'm still going to say that it was really weird."
Phineas chuckled. "Let's just say an inventor once told me that I should share my creations," he replied. "No matter how big or small or weird they are."
"Just out of curiosity, what happened to that thing afterwards? You know, how all of those inventions just disappear? What happened to this one? Did Mom ever—!"
Phineas laughed nervously at this and rubbed his hand. "Uuuhhhh, that was actually my fault this time," he said. With a wry smile and a shrug, he added, "I kinda landed wobbly and smashed it."
His sister threw her head back and laughed. "You still haven't learned how to land?" she teased. "Didn't you and Ferb learn that lesson back when you were ten years old?"
"I can't help it; my excitement got the better of me and I forgot to pull out the landing gear. I've still got the blueprints, if that counts."
Candace didn't laugh, but she did smile amusingly. "Anyway," she said, looking at her hands which were situated behind her back. "I just wanted to tell you that I'm really proud of what you did for Ferb, Phineas. And to show you just how proud I really am this time…" She pulled her hands out and brought with them a little wooden red box with golden designs and lock on it. Looking at her brother again, she added, "… I wanted to give you this."
Phineas stared at the box for only a split second before widening his eyes in amazement and laughing. "Oh, my gosh!" he exclaimed. He ran up to Candace and grabbed the box, holding it up to eye level. "Oh-ho, my gosh! It's Dad's old Tinker Box! The one he kept all of his favourite parts and tools inside!" Grabbing the tiny key that Candace handed to him afterwards, Phineas unlocked the box and opened it.
His eyes sparkled as his smile grew. "And everything is still in here!" he added excitedly, going through the little drawers with his fingers. "His mini tools that he used to make all those tiny models, the end of that blue pencil he used to sketch everything, the gold leaves he found in the streets downtown, the parts he never wanted Mom to touch or toss out, that mini race car, that photo of you and me eating icecream, everything! I can't believe it! It's like it was never touched since he last opened it!" He closed the box and tilted it upside down while laughing. "And there's that carving he did of our faces on the bottom! And the date he did it!" He looked up at Candace with a wide smile. "He never let anyone touch this box! He never even let me touch it! How the heck did you get this, Candace? I thought Mom had tossed it out with most of the other junk he had in his old study!"
"She did toss everything out," Candace replied with a nod. After a moment of silence, her smile diminished a little. "But that box was never in that room, Phineas; it was in mine."
Phineas did not reply. He simply waited for an answer.
"A few weeks before the accident, Dad gave me the Tinker Box," Candace explained. "He said he didn't really need it anymore, so he wanted me to keep it… to give it to you when you were old enough and ready." She looked at the box and played with the tiny lock. "I'll admit it, Phin; I was really jealous. I loved that box just as much as you did. I mean, he had it even before I was born. I got mad at him and told him that I wanted to keep it, that you would only empty it and fill it with boy stuff like bugs and dirt…"
When she looked at Phineas, the teenager was still staring at her with the compassionate blue eyes she had known for nineteen years. Candace tapped the box. "Then he asked me what I would do with it if he gave it to me," she went on. "I told him that I wasn't sure; that I'd probably put away and keep it to remember him by." She grinned very weakly. "You know what he said? He said, 'A Tinker Box isn't meant to be put away like a memory; it's meant to be used and reused and reused until it falls apart. That's why it's called a Tinker Box. You tinker with it.'"
Candace rubbed Phineas' head. "Because you had openly announced to us that you were going to be an inventor one day, Dad wanted you to have the Tinker Box," she said. "He knew you'd used it the way he did. He didn't even care if you would toss out the things he put in there. He just knew that you should have it, and because he knew Mom would probably toss it out, thinking it was junk, he told me to keep it safe until I thought you were old enough for it." She smiled warmly. "Though you were probably old enough to have it when you and Ferb started doing all those crazy stunts, I was too annoyed with you guys to even think of giving you the box back then. But now, after what you did for Ferb…" She nodded. "I figured you were ready to have it."
Candace placed her hands on the box and gently pushed it towards Phineas' chest. "So now it's yours, Phineas," she said. "You can do whatever you want with it."
Phineas stared at her in silence before looking down at the box again. His smile had disappeared several minutes ago as he now studied the Tinker Box with more intensity and seriousness. This was no mere box. It was a Tinker Box, an inventor's greatest tool. It was where they stored their ideas if a sketch book wasn't nearby.
He waited a moment and turned the box over again. He did not study the carving in the wood beneath it; he studied the signature in the corner, done with a marker. Although he could hardly read it, he knew who's name it was.
Francis Flynn. The inventor who had once owned this Tinker Box.
And now it was his. Phineas Flynn. The box had been officially passed down to him.
Phineas studied the signature a little longer before turning the box right side up again. His eyes glazed over. "I… never really considered…" His voice faltered as he spoke. Fighting to gain control but failing miserably, Phineas tightened his lips together and stroked the box with his thumbs. "It might sound weird, but… I… After this past week, I…" Tears filled his eyes. "I just realized how much I miss him," he finished shakily.
Candace grinned compassionately and gently placed her arms around her little brother. Phineas wrapped his around her waist and buried his face in her sweater.
"Last time I checked, it was okay to miss your biological father," she said softly as her brother quietly began to cry. "I'm sure even Mom still misses him sometimes. But we've all done a pretty good job at moving forward, just like you always say you do, and I'm pretty sure that that would be the best thing Dad would have wanted for us. Besides; if he had never died, we wouldn't have the dad we have now, or even Ferb for that matter. That's got to count for something, right?"
She felt Phineas nod his head but did not hear him reply. Candace closed her eyes. "Dad would have been proud of what you did for Ferb, Phineas," she whispered. "He probably would have been proud of everything you two did for the past five years… Just as much as I'm proud of the things you two do."
They both fell silent for several seconds. Phineas stopped crying and wiped his eyes, but he did not feel like removing his arms from around his sister. It did not happen very often that Candace hugged him like that, and he wanted to cherish the moment for as long as he could.
Which, to his surprise, ended incredibly quickly. All of a sudden, Candace removed her arms from around him, placed them on his shoulders and yanked him away in order to look at him in the eye. Phineas bolted upright in surprise and stared back at her.
Candace, now wearing a furious frown, bared her teeth while pointing a menacing finger at him. "But if you EVER stuff another goo-gun into my bag and stain my clothes again, I will personally kick your little tooshie all the way to Timbuktu, Phineas Flynn!" she snapped angrily.
Phineas raised his eyebrows in shock before immediately baring his teeth in a wide grin.
"Oh, don't you start that trick!" Candace scolded. "I won't fall for your cute innocence like Mom always does! Not this time!" She pointed at her hair. "Do you know just how long it took me to get all of that goo out of my hair?"
Phineas snickered. "You should have been more specific when you said you wanted something to remember me by, Candace," he giggled. "I thought you meant a memorabilia."
"An automatic goo-gun is not a memorabilia, you Twit!"
"Could have fooled me."
Candace groaned and grabbed a water spray bottle that her mother often left downstairs to feed the few plants she kept on the window sills. Holding it up, she squirted it in her brother's face.
Phineas laughed hysterically and ran to another part of the basement. Candace followed him, squirting him as she went, and only stopped when her brother blew a great amount of dust in her face from one of the bookshelves stored at the back of the room. Candace cried out in shock and disgust, which only made Phineas laugh harder and dash off.
"PHINEAS!" Candace screamed, giving him chase again.
"Lighten up, I didn't do any harm!" Phineas laughed.
"Two-timer, goody-two-shoes! Gimme that Tinker Box back!"
"Beautiful, dotting, nineteen-year-old sister of mine! Oh, how I love thee!"
That only made his sister yell for a moment longer before finally bursting into laughter. As Phineas turned and raced up the stairs, he accidentally lost his footing on the crooked steps and slipped, managing to keep himself and the Tinker Box mostly unharmed.
"Poetic Clutz!" Candace laughed as she raced up the stairs. Phineas had managed to get back up moments before she had reached his foot, but it was close enough for Candace to squirt him in the face again. Phineas shoved her back in order to open the door and dash out, but his sister grabbed his leg and caused him to trip onto the floor with a surprised yelp.
"What in the world are you two doing?" Linda shouted from the kitchen.
Phineas only giggled in reply and got on all fours to crawl hastily away. Candace closed the basement door behind her and leaped onto him with a cry. "He blew dust in my face!" she exclaimed, trying to sound upset.
"She said she was proud of me!" Phineas added, making the family in the living laugh.
"Can't you just say something nasty about me just once?"
"I love you too!"
Linda would have ordered them to stop acting like children, but when she noticed the little red box sitting on the floor nearby where Phineas had dropped it, she refrained herself from doing so and smiled.
"Insult me, you optimistic Dork!" Candace snapped, managing to sit down on top of Phineas' stomach and pinning him to the floor.
All her brother did was reach up and kiss her cheek, resulting in having even Ferb laugh.
Linda picked up the Tinker Box and held it up to her eyes while Phineas pushed Candace off of him and rose to his feet. The two of them bowed goofily as their grandparents, father, stepbrother and Jeremy began to clap while laughing. Candace sprayed Phineas once more before walking into the living room and taking a seat next to her fiancé.
"Oh, there you are, Perry!" Phineas exclaimed as he grabbed the platypus when it walked around the corner. Taking a seat on the carpet in front of his father and stepbrother, Phineas began telling Ferb what had happened since his accident.
Linda rolled her eyes amusingly and set the box down on the table where her son normally sat for dinner. "I'll let it pass this once," she muttered to herself.
She never thought once of tossing the Tinker Box out.