Well, this is my first completed Phineas and Ferb story, done at an unreasonable hour at the poking and prodding of my fickle muse. It only took about two hours to finish this, but I really should have been sleeping instead of writing. But I have to admit I'm proud of this little fic. And as an explanatory side note: this was born of my surprise when, during "Get That Bigfoot Outta My Face!", Candace said, "No, you're a joke, Phineas!" in such a nasty tone. She's yelled, screamed, and gotten sarcastic, but that's the only time I can think of where she just plain sounded mean when snapping at either of her brothers, and I don't buy that she was acting. So, I just had to write this. Enjoy, and be sure to tell me what you think!

P.S.: To any of you reading this that normally follow my Stargate SG-1 stories, I promise my muse is slowly (very slowly) drifting back to both Just a Small Experiment and A Road Not Taken. She's just not there yet.


Candace Flynn sat on a log on the coast of Badbeard Lake near her grandparents' cabin staring out across the water. The younger kids were running around playing games while they waited for supper to be finished, and she could hear their laughter echoing around the landscape. As a young adult, she couldn't quite bring herself to join in, although she'd had fun the night before when she and her grandparents had scared the kids with their fake Bigfoot. Of course, then she'd gotten freaked out by the silhouettes of a line of monsters running along the horizon while she'd been gloating…

Surprisingly she wasn't bored, even though she wasn't really doing anything she normally considered fun when she was at home. The redheaded teenager found herself simply enjoying the view and relaxing. Maybe she should try this more often once she got back. Then again, she'd actually have more time to do it if her brothers would stop driving her crazy with all their insane projects. How could she relax when they were risking life and limb - okay, that was only some of the time - and doing things she'd never get away with in a million years?

No matter. She'd do her relaxing now. She scooted down so she was stretched out on the ground with her arms folded under her head on the log.

"Candace? Are you out here?"

Candace sat up fifteen minutes later at the sound of Grandma Betty Jo's voice. She sounded worried. "I'm down here by the lake, Grandma!" she called back, pushing herself up to her feet and brushing herself off.

The older woman joined her moments later. "Oh, there you are, sweetheart. Are you enjoying the lake view?" She smiled at her granddaughter.

"You bet. I didn't think I'd like just sitting out here so much, but it feels good to just relax." Candace returned the expression.

"Have you seen Phineas today?" Betty Jo asked.

Candace blinked. "Is he missing? I wouldn't think he'd take off like that while he's playing camp director."

Betty Jo shook her head. "No, he's up at the cabin with the rest of the children. It's just that he doesn't seem his usual enthusiastic self. I was wondering if you'd noticed."

The girl was about to deny seeing any such behavior when she stopped and really thought about it. Phineas had been quieter than normal at breakfast that morning, but he still participated in the planning for the day so she hadn't thought much of it. He seemed happy enough to play referee for the games they put together instead of jumping right in. And he'd focused more on eating at lunch instead of talking, but Buford and Baljeet had been going back and forth about the modified rules they'd had in place for the game, with Isabella and the rest of the Fireside Girls adding their two cents worth when they could get a word in edgewise. She'd left for the lake soon after helping clean up, so she hadn't seen anything else, but now that her grandmother had said something…

"I guess he has been a little quiet," Candace finally admitted. "Maybe he's still tired from all the excitement last night."

"I thought of that, but it doesn't seem quite right. Do you think you could talk to him, find out what's going on?"

"Me? Why don't you ask him?"

Betty Jo smiled. "I did. But he said there wasn't anything wrong, and I didn't think I should push. Maybe if you asked him he'd realize he was being more obvious than he thought and would share something."

Candace sighed. "I guess I can ask. But we don't exactly go around sharing secrets with each other on a daily basis. I might not have any more luck than you did."

"As long as you try I'll feel better. And if Phineas talks to you, maybe he will, too. I'll send him down here so you two can have some privacy." The older woman nodded and headed back the way she came, leaving Candace to think about what in the world she was going to say to her brother when he arrived.

She wasn't any closer to a solution when Phineas walked up to her a little while later. "Hey, sis," he greeted her, again with less enthusiasm than normal. "Grandma said you wanted to talk to me. What's up?"

"Oh, yeah," Candace drew out, trying desperately to come up with something witty and insightful that would magically break through any barriers the younger boy might have up. It didn't take long to admit she had nothing; it was time to wing it and hope for the best. "So, you seem kind of quiet today. What's going on with you?"

"Did Grandma tell you to say something?" Phineas asked with a small frown. "She asked me that earlier. I told her nothing was wrong, but apparently she didn't believe me."

"Well, yeah, she did," Candace admitted. "But when I thought about it I knew she was right. So what's going on?"

The boy shrugged. "Nothing. Everything's fine."

Candace scowled at him. "Baloney. Yesterday you were bouncing off the walls… well, the trees… all excited about running Camp Phineas and Ferb and handing out patches to the Fireside Girls and anything else Grandpa could come up with. Today, not so much. You barely said anything at either breakfast or lunch, and you sat back and basically watched everyone else play games under the guise of being the referee. That's not like you, you have to admit."

"Someone has to be the referee, and Ferb deserved a chance to play." He wouldn't look her in the eye, a sure sign he was avoiding something.

"Grandma or Grandpa would have been your referee if you'd asked, and you know it," Candace refuted. She was starting to really get worried. It rarely took this much effort to get Phineas to talk about anything; he was a very straightforward young man.

"It doesn't matter, Candace. I just need a little more time and I'll be fine. You don't have to worry." He was looking at his feet.

"Ah ha!" Candace cried triumphantly. "There is something wrong! I knew it! You can't fool me!"

Then Phineas looked at her, a piercing gaze in which his sister was surprised to see a lingering hurt behind a touch of anger. "I fooled you last night. But then, I'm just a joke to you, so it doesn't really count, does it?" He blew out a loud breath and turned away. "I'm sorry, Candace," he said into the stunned silence. "I didn't mean that. I know you were just setting up your own practical joke. Forget I said anything. Like I said, I'll be fine with a little more time."

Candace was frozen as Phineas started to walk away, then quickly shook it off and ran after him. She grabbed a hold of his arm and stopped him. "Wait just a second, Phineas," she said when he refused to turn around. "What are you talking about?"

He shrugged. "When you freaked out about Ferb and my prank with the dummies on the pulley system we set up in the trees. I tried to calm you down by reminding you it was just a joke and you said I was a joke." He shook his head. "I know you were just acting. Don't worry about it." He gave the arm his sister still head a light tug, but stopped when she didn't let go.

"Oh, Phineas," Candace murmured. She'd been pretty angry the night before when her brothers' practical joke had been pulled; as much as she knew it was just about time to pull off her own, it still bothered her that she'd fallen for the prank anyway. They really had gotten her, and good. Her explosion hadn't completely been an act. And now she knew that the words she'd snapped off in anger had hurt one of her little brothers - and he was excusing her for it, almost blaming himself for overreacting.

"Really, Candace, it's okay," Phineas said after the silence had gone on a little too long.

"No, no, it's not," Candace said firmly, then pulled the younger boy into a tight embrace. "It's never right to hurt you, even when it's just for a joke. I'm sorry."

Phineas slowly brought his arms around her waist to lightly hold her in return. "It's okay, Candace. Really, it is."

Candace shook her head. "No, it's not. Even if it really had been all an act it wouldn't be okay, but I…" She paused to take a deep breath. It was always hard to admit when she'd done something wrong, but it had to be done - Phineas deserved it. "I was angry when I said what I did. I wasn't just acting. You'd scared me, and I lashed out and said something I didn't mean. I'm so sorry." She buried her head in her brother's darker red hair and tried to fight back tears.

Phineas' arms tightened around her. "Aw, Candace, it's all right," he said sincerely. "If we really scared you, I understand. You always yell and snap at people when you get scared."

She couldn't help but give a little laugh at the statement. When did he get to know her so well? "Yeah, well, it still doesn't make it right, especially since I hurt you." She sniffed as she pulled back just enough to look Phineas in the face. "I don't think you're a joke, Phineas. In fact, your story was really good. That was the problem." The corners of her mouth twitched upward, and she wiped away a couple of tears that had escaped from her dark blue eyes.

"Your acting was really good, too," Phineas complimented her in return, smiling. "And so was Grandpa and Grandma's. What did they do with the blow-up Grandma after we all ran away?"

"It wasn't a blow-up doll. I guess Grandma has an identical twin sister named Lorraine who comes out when they want to play a prank on someone," Candace explained, ending the hug completely but not moving very far back. She couldn't help but grin at the memory.

Phineas laughed. "That's so cool!" he declared. "I can't wait to tell Ferb. He's been wondering about that all day."

Candace laughed herself. That didn't surprise her in the least. "Just don't tell Grandma and Grandpa that you know. I think they like having that little ace up their sleeve."

He nodded. "I bet."

"So…" Candace trailed off, sobering. "Are we okay now?"

"We're just fine," Phineas said with a gentle smile. "I didn't mean to scare you that badly, and you didn't mean to hurt my feelings. I accept your apology if you accept mine."

"Deal." They shook hands, then Candace pulled Phineas back in for another quick hug. "I do love you, you know," she said once they broke apart.

"I love you, too," Phineas replied in a heartfelt tone. He glanced up toward the cabin. "We better head back. They should all be playing hide and seek." A glint sparkled in his dark blue eyes. "And if we're really quiet I bet we can scare them all, one at a time. Are you in?"

Candace gave him a grin that matched his playfully wicked tone. "You bet. Let's do it."

The Flynn siblings hurried off quickly and quietly to put their plan into motion, happy to have smoothed over the hurt and misunderstanding that had sprouted between them. And Betty Jo watched from the top of the stairs that led down to the lake, satisfied that all was once again right with the world.