Disclaimer: All characters, places, things, and microorganisms are not owned by me. They belong to Dan, Jeff, and Disney.

Chapter 4 – From The Lover to The Friends

The mall.

The abode that many a trinket, tchotchke, and heirloom could be found by the unsuspecting patron.

The building where anything and anybody could be seen.

A place where (like a previous fictitious group of teenagers figured out) it was perfect to have a public conversation in complete privacy.

And that's the situation Isabella found herself in.

After the events of that night, she had left Phineas' household, still with homework, but without another heavy burden that was on her shoulders: the unrequited crush she had had on him. The next day, when she sat down to finish it, she found that concentrating on it was very difficult. Her mind was still swimming from all that had occurred over the past 24 hours.

And she needed to get it out.

That's where the troop came in. She had sent out a mass text to the girls, telling them there was an impromptu meeting at the Googolplex Mall. They had all arrived on time (except for Adyson, who did not disclose why she had been late), and Isabella had immediately launched into an account of what had happened. There were the appropriate oohs and aahs, and also a few pink faces from some of the more intimate details. All in all, it was a very eye-opening morning for the girls, who now saw their leader in a different light.

Isabella felt slightly guilty for telling the troop about the whole episode, since she wasn't sure how Phineas was coping. She was assured by Katie, however, who had heard from Irving that Phineas was going about his daily routine just the same, albeit with a slight spring in his step. She didn't ask how Irving knew that, but it was reassuring just the same.

She peered down at her phone nervously, fiddling with her settings. She had not told the troop everything that had transpired that night, and certain preparations had to be made in order for her to even appear in public. At least the troop hadn't noticed-

"So? What happened after that?"

Isabella looked up to see the rest of her troop, holding their various assortments of pens, Slushy Dawgs, and bated breath in anticipation of her next words. Holly had been the one to ask the question, leaning so far over the table she was in danger of touching the countertop with her nose.

"Holly, I already told you everything. Haven't you been paying attention for the last hour?"

"Actually, no." Holly glimpsed over her shoulder to see Ginger and Milly returning with their soda refills. "I was wondering if Ginger was going to beat her record of eating Slushy Dawgs in one sitting."

"Hey, I heard that!"

"Ging, you've had four this afternoon," Milly said, sitting down at the table again. "I don't think even I have had that many in one go. And that's saying something."

"Yes, Ginger," Gretchen added, her calculator set in front of her, "your optimal caloric intake is being eclipsed right now. Perhaps it would be best for you to just get a Veggie Dawg."

"No way!" the Asian teen exclaimed. "I love meat too much!"

Katie glanced across the table at her, pencil poised over her notebook. "...I'm not touching that one."

Isabella, once she was done chuckling at the blonde's joke, glanced next to her to see Holly studying her face carefully, as if she was looking for something. One could only imagine what kind of shenanigans could come from Holly, who was a major purveyor of antics within the troop.

"Wait a minute, what's that?"

Isabella saw that Holly was pointing at her neck, right where her-

Darn it.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Isabella answered, nervously slapping a hand on the side of her neck.

"C'mon, Isabella, you've got nothing to hide, right?"

"Right. Nothing. Because that's what you saw. Nothing."

"Oh yeah? Well, maybe I can ask Phineas over at the Slushy Dawg stand what it is."

"What!" Isabella wheeled around in her chair, and the distraction was set; Holly was quick to grab her hand and tear it away from her neck.

Only for an amused look to appear on her face. And a dangerous one at that.

"Oh. My. Gosh. Is that what I think it is?"

Isabella tore her hand away from Holly, now blushing furiously. "That depends. What do you think it is? On second thought," she quickly added, as Holly was opening her mouth, "don't answer that."

Holly smiled at her troop leader. "I was just going to say, Chief, that you may want to put a little more powder on that bruise. Or invest in a scarf or something." She turned to Ginger, grin evident. "Man, love sure bites, doesn't it?"

The sound of a hand slapping a forehead rang through the air. The other girls turned to Adyson, whose crown was now slightly redder. "You're going to Pun Jail for that, Holly."

"Don't you mean the Punitentiary?"

The table erupted in giggling as Adyson made a swipe at Holly's shoulder, not pleased by her joke. However, the scuffle was interrupted by the vibrations from Isabella's phone on the table. Quickly grabbing it, she flipped it open to see who was messaging her.

And immediately blushed again.

"What is it now, Chief?" Gretchen asked.

"Oh, it's...nothing."

Katie smiled, looking up from her notebook. "You keep using that word, and yet we know it's a lie."

Isabella threw her phone into her purse, ignoring Katie's accusation. "It doesn't matter anyway. It's not meant for you."

"Well, why don't we be the judge of that, Chief?" Gretchen questioned.

"Because it's a private message, Gretchen," Isabella replied. She placed her hand over her phone out of habit-

Only to find her phone was no longer in her purse.

"Hey, where'd it-"

The troop leader looked up from her bag to see her second-in-command with a wide grin on her face, her phone dangling from an Extend-o-Hand. The rest of the troop were covering their mouths as to not overrun the table with laughter.

"Where did you get that from?" Isabella nervously asked.

"Your purse, Chief."

"The hand, Gretchen."

"Ferb," she said matter-of-factly. "He had an extra one from that afternoon we were breaking the world record for hand shaking; he let me keep it."

Adyson raised an eyebrow at her, smiling slyly. "And was this before or after you were ogling him?"

"I wasn't ogling him, Adyson. I was...merely monitoring his anatomy so that he didn't overexert himself from the humidity that day."

Adyson stared at the smaller girl, clearing trying to think of a comeback, but decided against it. "Whatever, I'm saying you were ogling him."


"Hello! Can I have my phone back?"

Milly looked away from her fellow troop member's argument to eye her leader, who was trying to reach across the table to get her phone back. "Why don't you just let us look at it? It can't be that bad."

Katie nodded her head in agreement with her best friend. "Mills is right, boss. It's not like you murdered anyone, right?"

Isabella sighed. "No, Katie, I did not murder anyone."

Ginger grabbed the phone from the still-arguing Gretchen and Adyson. "Then what do you have to worry about?" She started strolling through her phone, searching for what Isabella had just gotten. "Text or picture?"

"Picture," Isabella relented, not liking the way this was going.

The Asian teen's eyes scanned her photo gallery, trying to find what had made Isabella so flustered. "Let's see, it wasn't Pinky...wasn't a bird...wasn't-"

She suddenly stopped, eyes affixed to the screen of Isabella's phone.

"What is it, Ging?" Gretchen inquired, having pinned Adyson's arm to the table with her Extend-o-Hand.

Ginger said nothing, her face flushed. Her eyes were wide in astonishment as she passed the phone to Holly. Confused, the black girl glanced at the screen, only for her face to adorn the exact look Ginger had.

The rest of the troop gathered around their leader's phone. Isabella could tell from the immediate reactions that they were just as flustered as she was when she first saw the picture.

Of Phineas.

Showing her his back.

And the...impressions that she had left from last night.

A good minute passed before anyone at the table said anything. It was as if they were too afraid to ask the obvious, to see if what they were looking at was indeed what they thought. Finally, it was Katie who broke the silence.

"Is that...Phineas?"

"Yes," Isabella replied, her reddening face hidden in her hands, "yes it is."

"How did he get those scratches on him?" Adyson said.

The troop leader sighed as she lifted her head up. "When Phineas did...this (she pointed to the mark on her neck), I may or may not have gotten a little...excited about it."

Her friends paused for a moment, and then burst out laughing at her explanation. The laughter continued for a good while even as Isabella wrenched her phone out of Gretchen's contraption.

"Man, Isabella," Holly said, suppressing her giggle, "you guys better be careful from now on. You're going to wreck each other before you guys even get married."

"Yes, Chief," Gretchen added, putting a hand on her best friend's shoulder. "At the very least, you should invest in cutting your cuticles."

The girls continued their good-natured jabbing for a while, as Isabella got lost in her thoughts. For all it was worth, she could handle a little teasing from her friends. The fact of the matter was she finally was with Phineas. Sure, it had not happened the way she had imagined it, but both she and her neighbor understood that night that sometimes things weren't meant to play out the way you wanted. What had happened was something both she and Phineas would never want to give up. They both cared for one another deeply. And they were both appreciative of that.

Even though it took a little longer for them to realize it.


AUTHOR'S NOTE: (Yes, that's not the exact title of the Paul McCartney song. Sue me. I like using song titles as chapter names [even if they're slightly altered].)

If the Animorphs series has taught me anything, it's that people can have wacky conversations in public places and patrons won't even bat an eye. So, thanks for that, Mrs. Applegate.

I'll leave you to inference what exactly happened during the night. Suffice to say, I won't be going into any further detail. But it was...heavy, so to speak.

I would like to thank everyone who has read this fic, and especially the ones who have reviewed. As cliché as this is going to sound, I don't expect a whole lot when I put these stories up. The fact that at least one person likes my work makes me happy. The fact that several people like my stories makes me ecstatic. Thank you to everyone.

I'll be taking a break from Phinbella stuff for a little while. I want to put out a couple of one-shots that I've almost completed, and then I'll get into my next large story. Anyone who's read my DevArt page may have a good idea what it's going to be, but you'll just have to wait and see. As always, check my profile for future story updates and also general updates about what may or may not make Arctimon tick.

Read and review, if you like. Until next time, ladies and gents.