This was a first for him, and that was saying something. He stared at the living room ceiling from where he lay on the couch, sighing and fidgeting listlessly. He looked at the TV remote with disdain. There was nothing on worth watching at the moment, or any time soon for that matter. He looked up at the clock, which read 12:11 PM. He rolled his eyes and looked back at the ceiling. Having absolutely nothing to do and no one to do anything with was uncharted territory for Ferb Fletcher.
"Okay, I know I used to get on your guys' case about being normal for just one day, but this is too normal," Candace said as she stood next to the couch observing her brother. "You can't tell me there's nothing you could do today. It's Saturday, for crying out loud."
"Phineas and I got through all our projects for the summer before school started," Ferb told her. "And we didn't have a chance to brainstorm any weekend projects before he left with Isabella and her mother for the amusement park this morning."
Candace shook her head at him. "Ferb, you're fifteen years old. You've got to become a little more autonomous. With Phineas and Isabella dating, he won't always be around to help you fill the time."
"Thank you for stating the obvious, Candace. I was present at his birthday when they finally got together, you know."
Candace was about to berate her brother's sloth-like, or perhaps even platypus-like, behavior more when the distinct sound of a growling stomach cut her off. She shook her head in disbelief at him.
"Okay, that settles it," she said, leaning over the couch and looking directly at him. "If you're so helpless without someone else to do stuff with that you can't even remember to eat lunch then you give me no choice. Ferb, I know what we're gonna do today. We're getting lunch out at Mr. Slushy Dawg."
"Please tell me you're not eating there every day just because Jeremy is an assistant manager now," Ferb said as he sat up carefully so as to avoid knocking his head into hers.
"Hey, college isn't cheap. Besides, Jeremy told me they just hired a new girl a couple weeks ago to help out on weekends. You never know, she might be cute."
"And looks are all that matter, right?"
"No but they do help."
"All the same, I'm not in the market for a girlfriend right now."
"Last I checked you were pretty thoroughly single."
"Oh come off it, Candace," Ferb said, uncharacteristically losing his cool for once. He stood up while speaking. "You know what I mean."
"No I…wait, you're still pining for that goth chick? What was her name…Cassandra or something like that?"
"Right, her. I remember her now. But Ferb, she's got to be long gone by now. If I remember right she's about my age, which means she's in college now like me. And since I haven't seen her around in years I'm betting she's going somewhere outside of Danville. Heck, probably outside of the Tri-State Area for that matter. Not to mention…well…"
"Look, just drop it alright? I get it, believe me I do. Six years' difference in age is way too much to ask anyone to overlook, no matter how mature the younger one might actually be. At least that's what anyone I've ever talked to about this has told me. I'm just now starting to finally accept that."
"If that's the case then why are you getting so upset?"
"Because just because I'm accepting it doesn't bloody well mean I like it!"
Candace was struck silent for a moment as Ferb snapped at her. He instantly regretted it and hung his head.
"I'm sorry, Candace. I didn't mean to yell at you."
"Hey, at least I know one of you two is acting like a normal teenager somehow. All teens indulge in histrionics. I should know."
Candace winked at him, which managed to get a chuckle out of the green-haired teenager that was immediately followed by another audible growling from his stomach.
"Okay, enough drama for now," Candace said, grabbing her purse and fishing her keys from inside it. "Let's get you fed."
"Yeah, food does sound like a good idea the more I think about it."
The two got into Candace's small and very obviously used car and headed off to Mr. Slushy Dawg. Ferb spent the trip staring blankly out the window. As much as he was grateful for the forthcoming meal, he did not see how getting overpriced, greasy fast food would improve his day.
By the time they arrived at Mr. Slushy Dawg, Ferb's stomach was threatening to digest itself and several other internal organs if it didn't get food soon. He didn't care anymore what kind of food he got so long as there was enough of it to satisfy his hunger. He opened the doors leading inside for his sister as always, but upon stepping inside himself his heart fell. The line to the counter was several people long.
"I'm going to pass out from hunger before we can order," he commented upon seeing the line.
"Well, standing here isn't going to get us our food any faster," Candace told him as she shoved some cash into his hands. "You get in line and place our order when you get up there. I'm gonna go pop in on Jeremy."
Before Ferb could protest, Candace had already danced her way towards the back of the restaurant to find her beau. Ferb's aggravation reached new heights as he took his place at the end of the line, shoving the money into his pants pocket. As it turned out, the line was moving fairly quickly. He couldn't see who was working the counter, but whoever it was they were clearly an incredibly efficient worker. Just a few minutes after getting in line, he finally stepped up to the counter to place his order, only to find a rather pleasant surprise there.
"Welcome to Mr. Slushy Dawg, may I take your order," said a uniformed and weiner hat-wearing Gretchen. Her expression changed to one of surprise upon seeing her customer. "Ferb? You eat here?"
"Gretchen," Ferb replied, also surprised. "You work here?"
Gretchen giggled at his question. "Yup. Mr. Johnson hired me a couple weeks ago. I only work the weekends and only from the morning until just after the lunch hours."
"Candace mentioned that Jeremy had hired someone new, but I had no idea it was you. You look, uh…well…"
"It's not exactly a fashion statement, is it?"
"I'm afraid not. But you do look like you're enjoying the work."
"Admittedly, food service isn't what I want to do forever, but yeah. It's kinda fun. Mr. Johnson is a good boss, and he's taught me pretty much everything I know here. It's not much money, of course, but it's more than I'd make just hanging around at home all day."
"That's very true, and admirable I might add."
"Thanks. So what brings you here today?"
"A paucity of available endeavors. Candace is treating me to lunch since Phineas is out and about."
Gretchen nodded understandingly. "Ah. Say no more. You're not the only one who's annoyed by that."
Ferb was about to ask what she meant when he heard a distinct buzzing coming from her pocket. She produced her cell phone, flipped it open, and looked at it scathingly before handing it to him. The screen displayed a text message from Isabella with an attached picture of her and Phineas somewhere at the amusement park they were attending.
"That makes the seventh message she's sent me today about their date," Gretchen complained. "I'm practically a spectator for the entire event."
Ferb smirked at her as he handed the phone back to her. "Too bad you can't sell pay-per-view rights to it. I'm sure there are those who'd pay top dollar for a live video feed."
"Irving would be all over it, no doubt."
They both broke into laughter at the idea, only for Ferb to become a bit conscious of the fact that they were wasting so much time with such a friendly conversation while she was on the job.
"Anyway, I'd best place my order," Ferb said, looking around a bit. "Don't want to hold things up."
Gretchen quickly punched her employee code into her order screen as he spoke. "Oh no worries, there's no one behind you. But go ahead whenever you're ready."
Ferb looked the menu over carefully as he considered what to get. "Two jumbo Slushy Dawgs with cheese and an order of waffle fries, with a large lemonade to drink. Now what to get Candace…"
"That's just for you?"
Ferb shrugged at her. "I'm starving. Haven't had a bite since breakfast."
"I will never be able to fathom the titanic dimensions of the teenage male stomach," Gretchen said with a laugh as she punched in the order.
"Give me a classic Slushy set for Candace, also with a lemonade."
Gretchen punched a few more buttons on her screen and completed the order. She quickly whirled to the areas where their food was kept warm and began gathering the food. As she went about her job, Ferb couldn't help but watch her. He'd known her from years before when she was Isabella's right hand with the Fireside Girls, and she'd been the one he'd invited to go to England with them for the royal wedding. Just as the past few years had seen Phineas, Isabella, and himself grow and mature, Gretchen certainly had as well. She still stood fairly shorter than the rest of them, but over the last year or so had begun to develop a figure that even Isabella was somewhat envious of; one that even the unflattering Slushy Dawg uniform couldn't completely conceal. She still kept her chestnut-colored hair short and she continued to wear glasses instead of going with contact lenses, which to Ferb only added to her charm.
Ferb knew, however, that her attractiveness went far beyond simply being easy on the eyes. She had an intellect that practically matched his own, a razor sharp wit that never failed to make him laugh, and an adventurous spirit that, while not as creative as Phineas', certainly rivaled his in its thirst for new experiences. The only thing that snapped him out of his daydream was another angry, insistent growl from his stomach. He silently cursed his hunger and went back to simply waiting for the food, which Gretchen finished assembling just moments later.
"Here we are," she said, sliding the completed tray of food towards him. "That'll be $22.50."
Ferb fished into his pocket for the cash Candace had given him and handed her twenty-five dollars. Gretchen handed him back his change with a smile that he could tell was not merely practiced for the sake of her job.
"Sorry I can't come out to hang with you guys," she told him. "My shift doesn't end for another couple hours."
"Another time, perhaps," Ferb said, picking up the tray. "Thanks again for the food, and congratulations on the job. I'm sure this place is better for having you on board."
Gretchen blushed slightly at the compliment as Ferb carried the tray to an empty table. She spotted Candace finally emerge from the back after being shooed out of the employee only area by and stifled a giggle. She then went back to people watching, as Ferb had been her last customer for the moment. She kept a watchful eye on the brother and sister, though, making sure they had an enjoyable lunch.
It was her turn to daydream a bit now. Ever since their return from the trip to England years ago, she and Ferb had become much closer friends. Yet despite a few attempts on her part to get his attention in a slightly more romantic manner, the two of them had remained simply close friends. She now had a full understanding and appreciation for everything Isabella had gone through with Phineas up until the two of them had finally gotten together at his most recent birthday.
For a teenager, Ferb dressed impeccably well; favoring slacks, buttoned shirts and sweaters over the jeans and t-shirts his brother favored. He wasn't perhaps as athletic as other boys, but she found him quite cute all the same. Plus, she had based her longtime crush on him on far more than just his looks. They had read and discussed a myriad of books together over the years. They had shared favorite philosophical ideas with each other. They simply understood each other on a level that she knew most actual teenaged couples did not.
No sooner did she think about other couples than her cell phone buzzed in her pocket for what was now the eighth time that day. She rolled her eyes and, after checking to make sure she didn't have any new customers yet, quickly produced it from her pocket and flipped it open.
"OMG, we r in line 4 carousel," the text message from Isabella read. An attached picture showed the raven-haired, Mexican-Jewish girl embracing Phineas. The two had been together for a couple of months now, and looked like they were having quite a fun time together.
Gretchen let a small sigh escape as she deleted the message and pocketed her phone again. She quickly straightened up as she heard someone enter the restaurant, but as the customer turned the corner and headed to the counter, her heart felt like it dropped through the floor.
"You know as much as you say you don't like Slushy Dawg you're really making short work of that food," Candace told him, smirking as she watched him taking his last couple bites of his second hot dog.
"Never underestimate the power of hunger," Ferb said after finishing his food and wiping his face with a napkin. "Besides, you weren't going to leave me alone until I came with you, so I figured I'd just meet you halfway on that point."
"Ferb, is that you," said the new customer, who had overheard his comment and recognized it from long ago. Ferb looked around from where he sat and almost did a double-take. Five years had seen her grow a bit taller and add a green streak to her hair, but he recognized Vanessa instantly. She still seemed to prefer dark colors for her clothes, but she had varied from solid black to add accents in deep red and violet to her wardrobe. Ferb felt his old but familiar feelings for her stir as she approached.
"Holy cow, Vanessa," Candace said, standing up as she saw her. "It's been so long! You look fantastic!"
Vanessa smiled pleasantly at Candace as she approached. "Hi Candace. You're looking…well…for one thing a lot more relaxed than the last time I saw you."
"Yeah, long story about that. What brings you here?"
"Just thought I'd grab a drink is all. I'm on my way back to my mother's house after stopping in to see my dad. I was just going to head back out, but I overheard you and Ferb talking…do you mind if I join you for a bit?"
"Oh, you can have my seat," Candace said, stepping away from the table. "You guys are the ones who should catch up. I think I'll go bug Jeremy again for a bit."
Ferb fell silent as Candace disappeared and Vanessa sat across from him. This time it was due to being at a loss for words rather than not having anything to say.
"You seem to be doing well for yourself," he said after several silent moments.
"Yeah, getting out of Danville was the right idea for me," she replied. "I'm really just back in town for the weekend. I go back to college tomorrow thankfully."
"What're you studying, if I may ask?"
"I'm double majoring in Political Science and Criminal Justice. My dad doesn't approve, but I'm not doing this for him."
"I take it you're still not on good terms with him, then."
"A little better than when I last saw you, but I still have a hard time reconciling his behavior. Like you said to me that day in Paris, I tried meeting him halfway on some stuff. Dad just really goes overboard sometimes, though, and I can't justify jumping after him."
"I can appreciate that, I guess. Still, family is family no matter what they say or do. I'm sure he still cares a great deal for you."
"Yeah, I guess so. So how're you doing? You're in high school now, right?"
"Yes, I just started my Freshman year a couple weeks ago."
"Don't let Danville High get to you guys. It gets better once you're out of there, trust me."
"It doesn't seem all that bad to me. We're quite enjoying ourselves so far."
"To each his own, I guess. Anything interesting going on?"
"Well my brother finally has a girlfriend. I'm here this afternoon because he's off with her at an amusement park."
"Well good for him! I'm glad he's happy. So…how about you?"
There it was: the question Ferb had known was coming. Knowing it was coming, however, still hadn't prepared him to answer it. He suddenly found his voice lost again as he fumbled for what to say. His silence spoke volumes to Vanessa, however.
"I see how it is," she said. "Sorry. I imagine it's not easy for you."
"I'm getting used to it," Ferb told her. "But you're right; it's been hard for me."
"Is there anyone you're at least interested in at all?"
"That's…really difficult for me to say."
"Don't worry about it then. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."
"No, it's not like that. I don't mind talking about this sort of thing, it's just…it's hard because…I feel quite conflicted."
Vanessa sat back, folding her arms and crossing her legs as she looked at Ferb intently. "I'm listening."
"On the one hand, I have some…well, unresolved feelings. They involve someone I felt strongly for a long time ago, but she was older than me and probably never even considered being with me a possibility. Despite knowing these feeling would never be returned, I held on to them."
"You're older now, though. Why not tell this girl now?"
"I hadn't seen her for years," Ferb said slowly as he looked directly at Vanessa. "Until just now, in fact."
Vanessa slowly straightened up, a look of utter shock crossing her face as she did. "Ferb, are you serious?"
"This isn't the sort of thing I could joke about, Vanessa."
"How long have you felt like this about me?"
"Since I was ten."
"Five years? So I was sixteen…that was when I was with Johnny. But we broke up before we graduated. I'm not seeing anyone now, but even so…"
"I'm not asking you to start dating me right now. I didn't even figure on seeing you today, if ever again."
"So why are you telling me about this, then?"
"Because…there may be someone else. Someone I hadn't even considered in this manner until recently."
"What's she like?"
"In ways she's not so dissimilar from you, really. She's sharp, courageous, and quite pretty. Well, at least I think she's pretty."
"So another version of me, then. I guess you know your type."
"She's- I mean, it's not like that. Your similarities end there. She's quite bookish, and much shorter than you or I. She's my age, though. In fact I've known her for some years. She's been a good friend."
"Let me guess…your feelings for me are keeping you from telling her."
"Pretty much, yes."
"Too bad I won't get to meet her. I could give you my opinion on if she's actually worth it or not."
"Actually, you almost did meet her before you got out of line to come talk to me."
Vanessa raised an eyebrow at him and looked up, spotting Gretchen standing behind the counter waiting for her next customer. She smirked as she looked her over from her vantage point.
"The Slushy Dawg girl," she asked, stifling a chuckle. "Are you sure about your assessment of her? Seems like a bit of a step down from me."
Ferb suddenly felt a twinge in the pit of his stomach, and not due to all the food he'd just eaten. Parts of his conversation so far with Vanessa had felt odd, as if she was looking down on things like her hometown, school, and even her father. Now here she was passing judgment on a girl she didn't even know properly. None of it sat right with him, much less the fact that for so long he had felt so strongly for someone he apparently hadn't actually known at all.
"What do you mean by that," he asked, furrowing his brow as he waited anxiously to hear her explain herself.
"Well, I mean, how you described her before had me thinking she was just a slightly nerdier version of me, but if she works at a dead-end place like this? Maybe she's not everything you thought she was."
"You're going to judge her based on a part-time job she took to make a little extra money? That's surprisingly shallow for someone I thought was more sophisticated than that."
"Oh come on, Ferb, this is a fast food joint," Vanessa said, looking around the place with some disdain now. "It's hardly skilled labor. Places like this exist to keep people down. They churn out cheap low grade food that's terrible for you. It's almost as bad as those big box stores that make billions by dumping ultra-cheap stuff made with sweatshop labor on the public."
"You're eating here too, you know," Ferb retorted, now becoming upset with her.
"I stopped here for a drink," Vanessa told him, blowing off the point. "I wouldn't even consider eating the stuff they pass off as food. Not to mention I have no idea what kind of people are back there making the stuff."
"You mean the kind of people like my boyfriend," Candace said, stepping back over to the table. She had her arms folded and was glaring at Vanessa now. "You know suddenly I'm glad we never had many run-ins with you in the past if this is the kind of person you really are."
"At least I don't feel the need to use my boyfriend as an excuse to hide and eavesdrop on a private conversation," Vanessa said, standing up to look Candace in the eye.
"I stayed in earshot because I was worried you might not live up to his image of you," Candace shot back. "I'm glad I did. Whatever college you're going to may be great for what you're studying, but they must not be teaching how to act like a reasonable human being."
"This is ridiculous," Vanessa said, shaking her head. "I knew coming back to this hole of a town was a mistake."
"Then learn from that mistake and don't bother coming back again," Candace told her coldly. "We're doing just fine without the likes of you."
Vanessa took one more look at Ferb, whose expression couldn't help but show his disappointment. She grabbed her purse, turned on her heel, and made her way out of the restaurant without another word. Candace quickly sat across from her brother once she saw her speed off on her motorcycle.
"I'm so sorry about her, Ferb," she said. "That's the first time I've met someone so self-important and arrogant. It probably runs in her family."
"It's okay," Ferb said dejectedly.
"No it's not. You really had a thing for her. It's got to be pretty shocking to see what kind of person she's really like."
"It is. She didn't seem like this back when I first met her. I guess I just had an image of her that was only skin-deep. I never actually knew what she was like."
"Maybe. It could also be that she's just changed over time to become the person she is now. She's had different experiences, learned different things, and sees things from a perspective that you and I don't understand or agree with. Time changes all things, as they say."
"That's very true. You're certainly an exemplary testament to that. No offense."
"Please, honey. Don't I know it."
"All things considering, though, I don't feel all that bad about it. If anything, this helped give me the closure I needed on those old feelings I had for her."
"If that's so, then what about…"
Candace nodded her head in the direction of the order counter, where Gretchen was talk to yet another customer. Ferb looked over at her and couldn't help but smile just by seeing her. He took a moment to think, and then looked back at his sister.
"Candace, do you suppose you could head home on your own from here," he asked her.
"I guess, but why," Candace asked.
Ferb blushed as he cracked a small smile. "I think I now know what I'm going to do today."
Candace smiled widely at him. "Now that's the Ferb I know. Just call me if or when you need a ride somewhere. I'll smooth everything over with mom and dad."
"Thank you, Candace. You really are quite a great sister."
The brother and sister exited from the restaurant together, both preparing for an afternoon that would redeem what had so far been an incredibly lackluster day but that now promised to instead end quite memorably.
Gretchen hung up her wiener hat and, after getting complimented by Jeremy for her work once again, headed for the employee exit at the back of the restaurant. Ferb and Candace had left a couple hours earlier, but she had seen Vanessa earlier. She remembered her as someone Ferb had admitted to having unresolved feelings for before. She'd put on a brave face the rest of the day, but between that and Isabella's continued status updates on her date she wasn't feeling all that great as she opened the door to leave the restaurant for the day. She practically jumped out of her skin when she spotted Ferb leaning up against the outer wall of the restaurant just outside the back door.
"Ferb, what're you doing here," Gretchen asked once she calmed down. "I thought you guys left hours ago?"
"We did," Ferb told her. "Well, Candace did. I walked around for a while to kill time and then came back here about a half hour ago."
"Well I didn't know when your shift ended, and I didn't want to call you since I know Isabella was bugging you with all those messages."
"That's not what I mean. Why did you come back?"
Ferb took a deep breath and decided to get right to the point. "I wanted to see if you were doing anything this afternoon."
"Me," Gretchen asked, now completely confused. "Uh…I didn't have anything planned…"
"How would you like to take in a movie, then? Perhaps some dinner, too?"
"Ferb, I don't understand…what's this all about?"
Ferb sighed and stepped closer to her. "I saw Vanessa earlier in the restaurant."
"I know...I couldn't help but see her. Did you guys talk?"
"We did. And that talk helped me figure something out. All this time I've been holding on to the feelings I had for her, but I realized that those feelings were based on a false perception I had of her. It wasn't really love I was feeling at all. It was just infatuation. Whether she's become a different person from the one I knew before, or whether she's been this way all along, honestly I don't know. But that talk helped me let go of those feelings once and for all so that now…now I can focus on some much more real feelings I have developed about someone else who I know far better; and who I have come to like far more than I ever liked Vanessa."
Gretchen's heart skipped a beat. "I-is that so? Is it, um, anyone I know?"
"I should hope so," Ferb said, stepping even closer so that he as mere inches away from her. "You see her every time you look in the mirror."
"Ferb…this isn't a dream is it? Or maybe a hallucination brought on by overexertion? Maybe the smell of hot dogs is getting to me…"
Ferb put his arms around her and hugged her gently. He could feel her trembling and ran a hand through her hair to try and calm her.
"It feels fairly surreal to me as well," he told her. "But I think that just proves that it doesn't get any more real than this. I'm just sorry it took so long for me to realize how I feel about you, Gretchen."
"It was worth the wait," she replied, burying her face in his chest. "You were definitely worth the wait."
"So, about that movie then…"
"I would like nothing better," she said, smiling up at him now. "But I'd like to get changed first if you don't mind. This look isn't a fashion statement I'd like to make outside of work, and I'd rather look nicer for my first date with my new boyfriend...oh my God I can't believe I just said that."
Ferb laughed a bit at her statement of disbelief. "How far is your home? I could have Candace pick us up."
"Not far, I ride my bike to get here but we could walk if you don't mind."
"Walking my new girlfriend home? That sounds fantastic to me. Wow…my girlfriend. I rather fancy the sound of that knowing it's you."
Gretchen giggled and quickly retrieved her bike from the side of the restaurant. She started walking towards home with Ferb falling in alongside her on the other side of the bike. She felt her phone buzz again in her pocket, but promptly pulled it out, turned it off, and put it back in her pocket again. It was time to stop spectating Isabella's date and start enjoying one of her own.
Candace couldn't help but laugh as she drove for the happy pair in the backseat of her car. After having dinner at a family restaurant, Ferb and Gretchen had hit the movies for their date. The theater Ferb had chosen was one known for showing older movies on the cheap, and as luck would have it they were able to take in a fairly famous pirate-themed action movie that both he and Gretchen were fond of. They were in the backseat now singing pirate songs as Candace drove to Gretchen's home to drop her off.
"I know it's hardly fine cinema," Gretchen said after they finished their song, "but that's still just such a fun movie."
"Totally," Ferb added. "Don't tell Phineas I said this, but pirates are infinitely cooler than ninjas."
"Oh you have no idea how many times I've debated that with Isabella."
"Probably at least as many times as Phineas and I have argued the point."
"And this is why I'm glad I'm not a nerd," Candace added. "I couldn't stand putting up with all the inane arguments. Pirates vs. ninjas. Sci-fi vs. fantasy. All that nonsense."
"This coming from a lifelong Ducky Momo fan," Ferb retorted.
"Hey, word to the wise: don't sass the one driving you around for your dates," Candace said defensively. "And at least we Mo-mites are united in our fandom."
"Mo-mites," Gretchen repeated. "I've…got nothing."
It wasn't much later that Candace pulled up in front of Gretchen's home. She turned around in her seat to look at her two passengers.
"All ashore what's goin' ashore," she said in a pirate accent. "And Gretchen, welcome to the family."
"Candace, we just went on our first date," Gretchen replied, suddenly a bit flustered by Candace's comment. "It's not like we're-"
"So long as you're with my brother, you're family," Candace told her. "Just like Isabella. And I can't tell you how glad I am it's you I got to say that to."
Gretchen smiled and nodded to her as she unbuckled her seat belt and opened her door. "Thanks, Candace. It means a lot to hear that."
"Oh, and Ferb," Candace said, looking over at her brother as his girlfriend exited the car. "Until you get back to the car, I see nothing."
"You are indeed the best, Candace," Ferb told her, grinning as he got out as well.
Ferb quickly jogged around the car and joined Gretchen to walk her back to her door. He felt her hand seek his out and took it in his own, his heart rate jumping as he did. They stopped just a few feet from her door and she turned to face him.
"I've never had more fun than I had tonight, Ferb," she told him bashfully. "Thank you for everything."
"I'm the one who should be thanking you, Gretchen," Ferb told her. "You have been a wonderful friend for many years, and being with you makes me feel…well, it's really indescribable. All I can say is I can't think of a more completely beautiful girl than you to call my girlfriend."
Gretchen blinked a few times as she began blushing furiously at the compliment. "Okay, well that cemented it."
"Come again," Ferb asked, a bit confused.
"I was debating whether or not I was gonna do this, because part of me was worried about things moving too fast between us. But after such a fabulous day with such an incredible guy who I like so much and especially after what you just said…oh, darn all these words getting in the way!"
Ferb remembered Phineas telling him that being kissed for the first time was an electrifying experience, but he had no idea of the pinpoint accuracy of that description until Gretchen quickly pulled him down and kissed him fervently. He closed his eyes, put his arms around her, and simply enjoyed the mélange of sensations he was experiencing: the softness of her lips, the warmth of her closeness, and he picked up on a scent coming from her that resembled sugar cookies. It was every bit as physically pleasing as it was emotionally pleasing. When they finally finished kissing what seemed like ages later – though in reality it was just over a minute – he had to fight off the urge to simply resume it immediately.
"I'm off work tomorrow at three," Gretchen told him quietly. "Will I see you again then?"
"I'll be there without fail," Ferb told her. "We can figure out what to do then."
"I'll look forward to it. I should probably get inside now, though."
"Right," Ferb said, slowly letting go of her. "I'll see you tomorrow, then."
"Absolutely. G'night, Ferb."
Ferb stayed where he was and watched as Gretchen went to her front door, looked back at him one more time, and then quickly slipped inside, closing the door behind her. He took a deep breath and made his way back to the car, only to spot Candace leaning over the roof of her car, smiling at him.
"You've got a live one there," she said playfully. "Shall I figure on being your wedding planner too as well as Phineas'?"
"You were watching us," Ferb said in disbelief. "I thought you said-"
Candace scoffed at him. "Did you honestly think I wasn't gonna look? By the way, I give you guys a 7.5. Not bad at all for a first kiss, but definitely room for improvement."
Ferb's entire head turned beet red as he silently got into the car again and buckled his seat belt. Candace got in moments later and began driving off towards home.
"She's a terrific girl, Ferb," Candace told him a while later, letting him relax a bit before talking to him again. "You and Phineas both have fantastic girlfriends. I think you've got a lot of good times in your future with her."
"Yes. Yes I do," Ferb said without looking at her. He was too busy reliving the date in his mind; especially the wondrous last few moments of it.
Gretchen lay on her bed, staring at her ceiling. Ferb had left in Candace's car only a few minutes ago, and after finding that she was alone at home except for Hector, who was sleeping soundly in his cage, she had simply flopped down on her bed and promptly lost herself in her memories of the day. What had started as another standard weekend day for her had ended with an amazing date and an unforgettable first kiss. She didn't know what was better, remembering that kiss or looking forward to their next one, which she fully intended to make happen the very next day.
She sat up and wondered what to do until her family came home; only then remembering that she'd never turned her cell phone back on after turning it off hours ago. Turning it on, she saw several more text messages from Isabella. As she looked them over briefly while deleting them, a sly smile spread across her face. As soon as she finished clearing the messages out, she hit one of her speed dial buttons and held the phone up to her ear. Two rings later, the other end picked up.
"Hey Izzie, it's me," she said into the phone. "Yeah, I just got all your texts and pics. Looks like you guys had a good time. Well, I was following them as you were sending them for a while, but then Ferb and I went on a date and…ow. Izzie, I'm deaf in my right ear now."
Gretchen spent the next fifteen minutes telling her best friend about most of her day with Ferb, though leaving out the juiciest bits on purpose to tell her in person next time she saw her. She had to save some of the details so she could see Isabella's reaction to them in person. Plus, she wanted to talk to her face-to-face about the perks that came with being romantically involved with a member of the Flynn-Fletcher family.
I have to admit, of all the P&F fics I've written so far this one is my personal favorite. I had a load of fun writing this one from beginning to end. I hope you've enjoyed reading it even half as much as I enjoyed writing it, though something tells me there's going to be people who take exception to my portrayal of Vanessa here. To that all I can offer is my own perspective of her as a character.
I don't think Vanessa is a very mature person at all, even for a teenager. She seems quite self-centered (evidenced by her song in "Vanessassary Roughness" and several other me-first comments she makes in her appearances during the series so far), she doesn't regard others very well (evidenced in "Finding Mary McGuffin" when she takes a doll from a little girl, for crying out loud; not to mention her poor relationship with her father) and she especially seems to look down on people who're dissimilar from her and her clique. Her few redeeming moments only seem to come when she gets her way to some degree. Plus, let's be honest here, she is Heinz's daughter and he's not exactly a good person either. Apples do not fall far from the tree, so I saw little problem with assuming that a couple years of college plus some distance from her life in Danville would further exacerbate her many character flaws. You're certainly welcome to disagree with my portrayal of her in this story, but I have no intention of changing it. If nothing else, it facilitates the story I wanted to tell here which was about how Ferb and Gretchen get together in the continuity I'm working to create through all of my fics. In order to accomplish that, I had to reconcile whatever feelings Ferb had for Vanessa and for me that wasn't going to happen without some kind of confrontation with her. If nothing else, chalk Vanessa's attitude and personality here up to one of the themes I have been touching on in just about all of my P&F stories so far: Time changes all things, especially people.
If you want to see Vanessa portrayed in a better light, there are many other fics out there that get her and Ferb together. I personally recommend anything by KicsterAsh as she has written some fantastic stories that most certainly feature them as a couple. But for my continuity here, it's all about Ferb & Gretchen. And that's the bottom line, 'cause Lowrider said so. ^_^
Thank you again for your time and patronage, and I do hope you enjoyed this fic as well as my others.