Disclaimer: Phineas and Ferb isn't mine.

A Rose by any Other Name

The morning began normally, or as normally as normal regarding Phineas and Ferb could get. A missing platypus, a couple of empty threats over the phone to bust them, a mob of fans begging them for their autographs, and a few blueprints for physics-defying inventions drawn up before class began all featured in what seemed to be a perfectly average start to their day.

No, there was nothing out of the ordinary today. So, Phineas wondered in the moment of silence, why did something feel quite so wrong?

He wondered if this was some kind of joke.

They all stared unabashedly into Isabella's locker, because lying neatly on her meticulously stacked books was a single rose, it's head full of spreading crimson petals. Isabella reached for the flower with quivering fingers, then as if she'd changed her mind, instead pried off the yellow post-it note that had accompanied it.

"From your... secret admirer," she read wonderingly, her cheeks colouring a soft pink as she heard the words aloud.

The silence was broken with an obnoxious guffaw. "Ha! The runt has a little lover boy! I bet he reads poetry and... y'know, sissy stuff like that."

Baljeet, ever the romantic, shoved Buford away in a moment of bravery. "Is it not wonderful that such powerful emotions can be conveyed through the language of flowers? Isabella, you must commend this man for such bold actions! "

Then he realised what he'd done, and began to cower at the dark look on Buford's face as the bully cracked his knuckles. "I'll show you bold actions, nerd."

Ferb piped up. "I believe that a gift of a red rose is really rather romantic too."

Phineas' usually cheerful face was occupied with only confusion as he watched Isabella gingerly pick up the offending flower and sniff it delicately, a warm smile blooming over her face as she did so.

"That settles it," he declared finally, stashing away the complex blueprints he and Ferb had previously been looking over. "I know what we're going to do today!"

"And what would that be?" Isabella tore her gaze away from the rose and set it on him, beaming. She looked happier than she had in a long time, and that fact in itself was enough to discompose Phineas slightly, though he quickly recovered.

"We're gonna figure out who your secret admirer is, Isabella!"

Her face fell. "Oh. Actually, I-"

"We could set up a lab in lunch break, and do a handwriting analysis on that message, and -hey Ferb, are you taking a note of this?"

The boy flashed a thumbs up as he jotted down a few sentences in his notebook.

Isabella opened her mouth again, only for her words to be drowned out by the shrill cry of the ringing bell.

Phineas grabbed his books from his own locker, then took the rose and post-it note from her lax grip with a smile he'd intended to be reassuring. "No worries, Isabella. You can count on us to have the results by the end of lunch!"

"But Phineas..."

He and Ferb were gone. Isabella groaned, slumping against a wall, took one look at one of her two remaining friends shoving the other into a locker, and groaned again.

Isabella wasn't at all surprised to find an actual forensic science laboratory up and running on school grounds by the time she'd eaten lunch- Phineas and Ferb had, after all, built even more incredible things- so she decided to confront them straight up, and skip the initial shock, awe and praise she usually showered the two with.

Anyway, they got enough of that from their fan club, which was essentially half the student populace, plus a few teachers, who tended to follow round the stepbrothers whenever they were executing one of their Big Ideas, and sometimes when they weren't. She couldn't help but feel a little smug when this crowd recognised her as the best friend, and parted unanimously to make way for her all the way up to their idol himself.

Phineas was clad in a white lab coat, goggles perched on his triangular head, a clipboard in hand, and he looked utterly adorable. Focus, Isabella, she reminded herself when Phineas spotted her and waved her over.

"Oh hey Isabella! You're just in time- the results from the investigation are just about to come back. Oh, and we found fingerprints on your locker that don't belong to you- we're right in the middle of running it up against all the student profiles. Won't take a minute."

"That's what I wanted to talk to you about, Phineas. I appreciate the effort, but I... I don't actually want to know who my secret admirer is."

"What? Why not?" He seemed honestly baffled.

She smiled. "Knowing would take all of the romance and mystery out of it."

"O...kay? So you really don't want to know who your secret admirer is?"

"Not at all."

Phineas stopped to stare at the girl for a moment, as if he were deep in thought.

"Can I ask you a question, Isabella?" he asked abruptly, no trace of a smile on his usually cheerful face.

"You know you can. Anything."

"What would you do if you found out who your secret admirer was? Would you-" he choked out the word that felt so foreign to his tongue, "-date the guy? I mean, he could be a weirdo, for all you know! A serial killer, or a psychopath..."

Isabella laughed brightly. "Come on, Phineas- that's about as unlikely as Perry being a secret agent or something!

"Where did that come from?"

"I have no idea..." she shook her head, smiling. "Anyway, he's probably a perfectly nice guy. Maybe he'll come in and sweep me off my feet..."

And she began to gaze into space, daydreaming.

Phineas sighed dejectedly, slinking away to find Ferb.

It turned out that girls really liked guys in lab coats. Ferb might have been the silent type, but he sure didn't go unnoticed.

"Marry me!" crowed one of the many swooning girls, as Ferb oh-so-calmly slipped a chart into a plain manilla envelope- an action, that for some inexplicable reason, made the girls go wild.

Not that it was a problem for the collected Brit- in fact, though his face was entirely unreadable to most, it was clear that he was enjoying it far more than he should've been.

His brother on the other hand... Phineas hadn't feared 500 foot falls, nor travelling through space and time, but this- the girls started to squeal his name when they saw the youngest member of the Flynn-Fletchers, then began to giggle maniacally amongst themselves as they blew him kisses- now, this was scary.

Phineas nervously made his way through the crowd to his brother, careful not to trip on any girls who fainted in his path.

"Hey Ferb," he called, pulling him aside from their crowd of fangirls. "Cancel the tests. Isabella doesn't want to know who her secret admirer is."

Ferb held out the envelope he'd sealed just a minute earlier.

"Oh... You've already got them." Ferb nodded in response. "I guess," Phineas said slowly, lifting the envelope from Ferb's hands, "that we should throw these away." He looked at his brother. His brother looked back. "No, you're right, that would've been a waste of time. A peek at the results wouldn't hurt anybody, would it...?"

Ferb raised an eyebrow. "I said nothing of the sort." And as an afterthought, "It's really none of our business."

"Well Isabella's my best friend, so her business is my business. I need to look out for her, that's all."

Ferb continued to stare at him, looking distinctly unimpressed.

"What do you mean I'm being unreasonable? I'm just making sure that if a guy comes in and sweeps her off her feet-" even Phineas could hear the tinge of uncharacteristic bitterness that had leaked into his voice, and it made him recoil in surprise.

Ferb stared some more. Silence.

It was a painful moment when Phineas realised with a start that he didn't want Isabella to be swept off her feet. Not by... not by some random guy that probably didn't know the first thing about her.

The thought in itself was enough to make his eyebrows furrow deep and something hot and utterly sickening churn in his stomach. He tried to swallow down the massive lump that had lodged itself in his throat.

Phineas looked pleadingly over at his brother, who nodded in a sign of understanding, before he tore the envelope open and hungrily scanned its contents.

"Fingerprints found on Isabella's locker belong to... Irving...? DNA on rose thorns... Irving! And the handwriting analysis... it all points to Irving!"

"Did somebody say my name?" The boy in question appeared next to Phineas in a heartbeat, camera in hand, before swooning in a manner remarkably similar to the fangirls surrounding Ferb just a couple of minutes ago.

"Oh Em Gee. Did Phineas Flynn just call for me? Three times? I think I might just faint!" The boy squealed.

Phineas scratched the back of his neck. "Um... Have you been here the whole time?"

Irving nodded earnestly, mumbling something about being a background type.

"...Irving, are you the secret admirer?"

"I knew that a genius like you could figure it out! Yes, I am your secret admirer! What gave it away?"

Phineas faltered. "W-What? My secret admirer?"

"Well, and Ferb's. The roses this morning were just one way of proving my absolute devotion. And you know why? Because you guys are AWESOME!"

Unsure of what to think, Phineas turned to Ferb hesitantly. "You got a rose too?" Ferb shrugged, as if to say 'it happens all the time, dude. All the time.'

"That rose ended up in Isabella's locker," he said. "So... it was actually meant for me?" This realisation caused unanticipated relief to flood him, and Phineas felt terrible for it.

"I got the wrong locker? That can't be possible...! How could I...? ...I'm not worthy of being your number one fan, Phineas. Please, grant me your forgiveness!"

Irving began to spew apologies, promptly flinging himself to the ground to prostrate himself before Phineas, who was becoming increasingly uncomfortable, though he felt no better when Irving's grovelling was interrupted by a small voice he knew all too well.

"So I don't have a secret admirer after all?" All three pairs of eyes shot over to Isabella, who was standing at the entrance of the school building.

"I'm afraid not. That rose was, and still is, intended for Phineas," Irving stated matter-of-factly as he rose to his feet and brushed himself off, as if he still had a shred of dignity left.

"Um, Isabella, I-"

She cut Phineas off quietly. "Oh. Okay. You know, I think I'm going to go study for a bit. Exams coming up, and all that... I guess I'll see you guys later."

Phineas watched the girl walk off, her eyes downcast.

"Did she seem upset to you?" he asked Ferb after she was out of sight and earshot.

Irving snorted. "Of course she was. The one time she gets a gift from a guy, and it turns out to be a mistake."

Phineas glared at him.

"Uhh, I guess that was my fault. But hey, but it's partly your fault too! If it wasn't for you, she'd be swamped with that kinda stuff!"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, she is nice. And smart. Pretty cute too, though I try not to dwell on such things."

"What's your point, Irving?" he inquired, a hint of exasperation in his voice.

"My point is what guy wants to go up against the likes of you? You and Ferb are only the smartest, awesomest, most popular guys in school! And Isabella clearly thinks the world of you. No other guy would stand a chance!"

Phineas only looked confused. "Irving, you're not making any sense. Look, I'm going to go find Isabella, so I'll catch you later."

As Ferb watched his stepbrother take off in his childhood friend's wake, he thought to himself that Irving was making the most sense he had in years.

The bell had rung already, meaning that classes were back in session, and bar the classrooms, the school grounds were completely deserted.

The library, in particular, was even quieter than usual, a maze of tall oak shelves stacked with thick, dusty books, at first glance devoid of any kind of movement or activity.

"Isabella?" Phineas called, the single word echoing off the high, arched ceiling. No reply. Even the reference desk was unoccupied; the sweet old librarian had obviously found something better to do elsewhere. Undaunted, Phineas began to wander around the huge building, his footsteps on the cold stone floor punctuating the silence.

"Isabella?" he called again.

Sure enough, in this haven of order, there was one sole corner of chaos, of strewn papers and scattered books. The girl was huddled in a corner, back against a bookshelf, as she scribbled notes so vigorously that her pencil snapped in her tight grip.

She looked up, blinking tiredly at her friend. "Oh, hi Phineas. Whatcha doin'?"

"Looking for you." He stacked up some of the papers that were spilling haphazardly from her folder, before settling down beside her.

"Aren't you meant to be in class?"

"Aren't you?" he countered, then softened. "Are you okay, Isabella? I was worried, you know."

She smiled vaguely, knowing that any frustration vented at him would be misdirected, and waved it off. "I'll get over it. It was just... nice while it lasted, that's all."

Phineas frowned. He never understood the appeal of receiving flowers or little notes, though come to think of it, he knew very little about romance in general. It had always seemed so frivolous, so perplexing to his mathematical mind, because there were no rules nor formulae by which it could be identified; romance was about as fickle as a passing breeze.

"Why?" he blurted out, genuinely curious to know how one flower could make her so happy.

Isabella cast a glance in his direction, then directed her gaze back down at her hands in her lap.

"I guess that it felt good to be noticed for once... True, it might not have been by the person who I want the most to notice me," her eyes darted to him for a second, "...but at least it was someone."

"I notice you," Phineas assured her blithely.

Isabella held back a sigh. "As a girl," she added emphatically. "It might seem shallow, or even a little vain, but... I think every girl appreciates a little attention sometimes."

"Oh. The rose made you feel special?"

"I suppose you could put it that way. It doesn't matter any more though, Phineas. I never had a secret admirer to start with."

"Well, you are special, so..."

He had begun to fish around in his lab coat pockets, and after a moment, finally pulled something out with a triumphant grin. Curiosity on her part was quickly replaced with shock as he removed the rose from the plastic container it had been kept in during the investigation, and offered the flower to her, a gentle smile playing on his lips.

"That's yours. It was from your secret admirer, wasn't it?" Isabella pointed out slowly.

Phineas didn't miss a beat. "Yeah. It was. And this is from yours."

The implication sunk in a second later, leaving Isabella with cheeks the colour of ripe tomatoes.

He grinned boyishly, scratching the back of his neck from force of habit. "Well, it's no secret. But I do admire you, Isabella."

She reached out carefully to take the flower, as if moving too suddenly would shatter this moment into a million pieces, like fragile glass. Finally, she opened her mouth, struggling to keep her voice even.

"Do I even need to tell you how much I admire you, Phineas Flynn?"

He smiled, eyebrows rising in surprise. "I don't know. But shoot anyway."

She set down her notepad, gingerly placing the red rose on top of it.

"Too much," she admitted, voice barely above a murmur as she leant in to rest her head on his shoulder.

He chuckled, clasping her hands in his, as he often did; a sign of affection for her that he'd retained from their childhood days, in response to which she buried her burning face further into the crook of his neck.

"That makes two of us then," he said, and felt her smile against him.

Perhaps there was hope for them after all.

Okay, I couldn't help myself. These two are just way too cute! Hoped you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!