Before this, she had never understood just why Phineas looked up to his brother so much.

All she had seen was an abnormally silent boy, with lanky limbs and bright green hair, who could build things. Nothing obviously special- well, except that he could create, say, a rollercoaster spanning the entire town in just a few hours, but that was special in that wonderfully normal absurdity that characterized the two boys. Nothing that seemed outstanding about his capacity for emotional support or companionship or whatever else it was that made the step-brothers so close.

She also noticed that Phineas almost never actually referred to him as a step-anything, or even specified him as older. He was just "my brother", and that was all. Like that was all that mattered. And Isabella had never seen that sort of thing in any other sibling relationship before- indeed, they were more best friends, at times, than siblings. But sometimes she had seen evidences of the fact that they lived together, ate together, practically breathed together.

Like when sometimes, all that they had to do was look at each other in a strange way, and then one of them would say a word or phrase that obviously meant something, because they both burst into hysterical, half-restrained laughter. No one else knew what was going on, but they were completely lost in their own experiences, oblivious to everyone's strange looks. And she found that if Ferb was feeling chatty that day, and the two were just sitting and talking- both very rare occurrences- then they could sit together, speaking and laughing in disjointed parts of a story that somehow was mutually understood. And when she asked them what something meant, or to explain this or that, they talked over and with each other, in perfect pitch and rhythmn, sounding almost like one person.

They seemed to be, sometimes, one person stuck in two wildly different bodies.

However, there were times that their silent genius knew when to stand up, take control because he knew Phineas was about to lose it. There were times that everyone could see that even though they were only three months apart, there was no doubt that Ferb was the older, the wiser, the strong one that Phineas needed, desperately at times, to keep him together.

Before now, Isabella had never seen that strength, that core of iron that made Ferb dependable and comforting and safe.

They were making some sort of display, a stage for something. In recent years, Ferb and Baljeet had reached an agreement: when it came to stage production, Baljeet headed lights crew, and Ferb was set crewhead and production manager. But someone still needed to put up the damn things.

So as Baljeet was rewiring the board to correspond to the revised lights plan, muttering to himself, Ferb was on a ladder, affixing a heavy spotlight to the underside of the balcony.

And then Buford walked under it, drum kit being carried with great difficulty, and bumped the ladder.

It swayed under the preteen boy's feet- he looked decidedly nervous as he shifted his weight- and as it became clear the tall ladder was going end over teakettle, he threw his tools, judging the speed, the height, the variables-

As he was falling, in an incredible display of agility and acrobatics, he turned his body in just the right ways to avoid serious harm. He looked like a gymnast almost, curling his shoulders in just the right angles to make sure there were nothing more than bruises left, slapping the ground just right as he hit the stage and rolling across, with his momentum pushing him further and further until the energy was spent...

And he fell off on the stage!

That one was only a five-foot drop, luckily enough- not enough for the grevious, life-threatening injury that would have awaited him had he not showcased his apparrent circus blood, but it was definitely not something he expected. He hit the grass below with a thud, stunned by the sudden development.

Isabella, having witnessed this with her mouth open in surprise at his abilities, dropped her armful of costumes and ran for her friend, hopping off the stage without hesitation to get to him at the slightest hint of trouble.

Ferb was laying curled on his side, his eyes shut tight and biting his lip. He was holding his left arm tenderly, trying not to move or cry out. The rest of him was remaining forcedly still, trying not to jolt the wrist that was giving him obvious pain.

"Are you alright?" Isabella was reaching out, doing her best to touch him softly- she knew he didn't like being grabbed by anyone unless he trusted them explicitly, and she wasn't quite sure she was a part of that priviledged group yet. (Actually, it was less of a group and more of "just Phineas", but the redhead had run off to do Important Things.)

The boy in front of her jerked back, his eys still carefully closed.

"Don't." His voice was quiet, breathing ragged. He didn't sound as confident as he usually did, but that probably had a lot to do with being in pain, although you wouldn't know it unless you had been around him a long time- his normally blank expression wasn't one of agony, but of supreme concentration, like he was doing his best to get his body to shut up and listen to him so he could get back to work.

"Your wrist-"

"Is fine." His voice was sharp and clean, cutting off abruptly to deter her. His breathing was slowing, but with a lot of effort- he was trying to calm himself.

Isabella wouldn't be deterred.

"No, it's not, let me see."

"No." Ferb's eyes snapped open, his posture straightening until he was sitting straight up, and he was looking straight at her.

And as one strange portion of her brain noticed that she had never quite registered that his eyes were such a deep shade of brown before- like tree bark, or the earth that she uses to plant her flowers in springtime- the other, rather disjointed parts were realizing depths in him that they had never really paid attention to.

Because as she looked at her friend from across the street, Isabella realized that even though there was pain evident in his face and body language, his eyes suggested something combatting it fiercely, something that would never, ever give in. There was a fire, a steely, stubborn intelligence and will in his eyes, one that she had never allowed herself close enough to see before. She realized that this had to be the only twelve-year-old that she knew without a doubt could go under rigorous torture and all that would come out of his mouth would be, "Go to hell".

Phineas had told her, once, when asked why Ferb seemed so "unemotional", his reply was that his brother actually felt very strongly- probably more than most. But he hid it behind a stoic mask, because he didn't want to get hurt, and didn't want to hurt anyone else, either. She hadn't believed it at the time. How and why could someone hide, divert, and hold back everything they felt? Surely it would be a superhuman effort, surely no one could ever do it.

Now she could see. Now she knew that even though he could care a thousand times more than anyone else, and he'd still be able to hold back if it was to keep everyone he cared for safe. He was strong, and dependable, and comforting, and he knew it, and he knew he had to remain as such for the people who cared about him. That's why, and that's how.

She knew this all the second she looked into those brown eyes, that belonged to her (Former? She still wasn't quite sure) crush's older brother, that burned and held fast and said a thousand things at once.

And she was fascinated.

And for the next hour- in which Phineas came back and, upon noticing his brother's discomfort, very forcibly removed him from the scene and made him go inside and take care of himself, if only for a minute- Isabella thought. She wondered about her emotions, about how Ferb's overall extraordinary resilience had never conciously clicked in her mind, about her now-apparrently-former crush on Phineas seemed very, very insignificant.

But most of all, as the two brothers walked into their house together, arguing over who had told who a specific story, she wondered about Ferb. Because before now, she had never seen his strength.

SunsetOfDoom here. Once again. Back from my rapid abandonment and re-finding of the PnF fandom that I know and love.

Due to the recent semi-influx of Ferbella fics (YAY!), I've decided to write my own little schpiel. Yes, that's spelled wrong. No, I don't care.

But what I've noticed is that in most of the other fics, it's very... Straightforward. I'm not dissing them, much, but it seems very "Tell, not show." There's just "OHYA THERE'S HIM AND HER AND THEY LIEK TTLY LURVE EACH OTHER KAY?", and I don't think that does this pairing justice. There's real potential chemistry, if people look up and see it.

And that's what this story is about- it's about falling in love with something that was right in front of you, that just never clicked before.

This and a partner of its' that I'm planning on posting soon are very out-of-the-blue. Normally I keep this stuff in my head for months before daring to put it on FF. But I think I'm getting braver, and I think I'm getting better.

Sucky author's note is sucky. I'm sleepy.

Reviews are love. Constructive criticisms are glomp-worthy. Flames are lulzworthy. So... Click the button. I'm dying here.