Chapter 9

Phineas had lost sight of the small clearing as he rushed his way through the trees. He searched straight ahead for either the truck or the car, but saw nothing but dark forest ahead of him.

After a crackle of leaves, Phineas spotted Ferb coming out from a shadow to the side of him. He led Phineas along by a grip of the arm, saying, "Come on, it's this way."

Ferb quickened Phineas' run as they both pushed branches and needles out of their path. Over the wind past his ears, Phineas could hear another set of heavy footsteps chasing them.

The voice behind the trees called out through the night air. "Phineas!"

Digging his heels into the dirt, Phineas came to a halt. This sudden movement caused Ferb's grip to fall off of Phineas' arm as he tripped forward. He turned back at Phineas as he stood up with the warning, "Don't stop or he'll catch you!"

Phineas kept his feet planted firmly in the mud while inspecting Ferb. He then threw out, "What if I WANT him to catch me?"

With a crack and a flap of branches, the Ferb who had been in pursuit appeared before them in the dimly-lit shadows. He made no act than to simply stop and stare.

After a moment's pause, Phineas ran over and clutched both arms tightly around his waist. "Ferb…" he spoke quietly. "…for a sec he made me think he was you again."

Taking his hands around Phineas' shoulders, Ferb positioned so that he was in front. Phineas hid behind him as they both stood and watched the other Ferb, who was now growing angrier by the minute. He was scowling with bared teeth as he flung the mud off his face.

Phineas reached up and tugged on Ferb's shirt. Ferb bent down a bit so that Phineas could reach his ear, though he was still staring watchfully ahead. Phineas whispered softly, "I'm glad I don't have to fight him all alone out here."

Standing back up to better shelter him, Ferb answered, "I'm not going to let anything happen to you."

The other Ferb held his fingers spread tense at his sides as he lashed out, "I need someone's hand on that lever. Maybe I'll just make YOU pull it." With that, he jumped forward and tore Ferb away from Phineas. They fell down into the mud as they tousled about, grabbing each other's hair and snapping sharply while each attempted to stay in control.

Both of them had on an angry and determined grimace, eyeing the other with impatience and intolerance. One had pinned the other, then they swapped and the second was down. After a few minutes neither of them had a clean patch on them, as they were now thoroughly covered in mud. Phineas blinked as he looked from one to the other, and realized that he had lost track of which was which.

"Feeerrrrb," Phineas whined anxiously. "Stop fighting so fast, I don't know which one you are!"

"It's me!" called the Ferb on the right.

"He's lying, Phineas! Don't listen to him!" cried the one on the left.

Phineas covered his eyes, trying with all his might to avoid the scene in front of him. He went around to the shadowed base of a tree and hid behind its trunk. He could still hear the squashing of wet dirt as the fight continued.

A time later, the sounds stopped. He then heard the voice of Ferb call to him, "Phineas... Phineas, I've got him!"

Phineas peered around the trunk and saw that Ferb had his arm around the neck of the other, holding him in a headlock. He was struggling as he tried to claw his way out.

"Come on, let's find something to do with him before he escapes," he said as he repositioned his grip.

Standing up a bit, Phineas came around from the tree, but was still uneasy around the two of them kneeling in the dirt. The captive's eyes had begun to water as he continued to fight.

"But Ferb, we're not going to hurt him," Phineas confirmed.

"He tried to hurt you," Ferb contradicted with another tighten.

"Ferb..." Phineas said with uncertainty. "...Which one are you?"

"I'm you're brother," he answered flatly.

Phineas lowered his stare as he intently surveyed him. "Ferb would never hurt anyone."

"Phineas! You don't recognize you're own brother?" Ferb accused as he leaned towards him, almost choking his subject. The gasping Ferb moved his nearly-closed, drowned eyes to look at Phineas. They held a clear look of desperation.

"I DO recognize my own brother, and YOU Are. Not. Him!" Phineas pointed with incrimination at the Ferb on top. "So, you! Let my brother go!"

Advancing up to him, Phineas came around back and grasped unheedingly onto the side of his elbow, and yanked it off of Ferb's neck in a flinging motion. Immediately he used the momentum to throw the other Ferb backwards into a large puddle of lake water.

Dropping to his hands, Ferb coughed and gasped for breath as he rubbed the spot where he had been constrained. Quickly Phineas appeared kneeling beside him, fretting, "Are you okay? You're okay, right?"

"I'm... fine," he said through a wheeze. "But let's leave before he climbs out of there."

Phineas helped him up by pulling on his arm, and Ferb pushed himself out of the mud. Slipping slightly, both began to make a dash as fast as they could to the parking lot.

As soon as the car was in sight, Ferb ran around and leapt into the driver's seat. Phineas slammed into the car door as he flung open the passenger's side.

Ferb turned the key while Phineas kept a watchful eye towards the break in the forest.

"Do you see him coming?" Ferb asked while the engine rumbled.

Phineas kept scanning the darkness. "I don't think so, but get it started quick."

With a rev, the car burst to life and the dash lights flashed. Not wasting a second, Ferb spun the wheel and drove off onto the road that led back towards town.

The trees passed quickly by the window as Phineas stared out of it. Though it felt like frightening déjà vu, he was thankful that they were heading the opposite direction. But Phineas still could not shake his discomfort, and kept his paranoid gaze on Ferb as he drove quietly.

"Do you think... do you think he's still following us?" Phineas put out, looking back to the receding road behind them.

"He's got his machine, he can find someone else to pull it," Ferb pointed out with thought. "I don't think he will bother us anymore."

Phineas didn't object, but remained anxiously tossing glances over to Ferb.

"Hey Ferb... can you stop the car?" Phineas asked softly and politely.

"We should probably keep moving just to be safe," Ferb answered. However, taking his eyes off the road for a few seconds, he looked over at his distressed brother with an honest concern. After taking a reluctant glance at the rear view mirror, Ferb began to place his foot on the brake, saying consolingly, "Sure, Phin. We can stop the car."

When they were stopped on the side of the road, Ferb turned off the engine and faced over to Phineas.

"Is your arm hurt?" he asked as he placed a hand forward, nearing Phineas'. "Here, let me look at it."

But Phineas shrunk away closer to the door as he pulled back his wrist. Though it looked more than a reflex than a conscious action, Ferb still froze, looking slightly hurt.

"It's okay, Phineas. I'm not him," Ferb tried to say convincingly. Phineas didn't move from his spot scrunched up on the seat.

"...I understand," Ferb said with a sigh. "I might be scared of me, too. I'm not going to push your trust."

He sat back down into his seat and slumped his shoulders as he let his focus wander. They both left the air silent for a while, but it was a well-needed silence. It was Ferb who broke it.

"You saved me some cake."

Phineas tipped his head up from where it was resting on his chest. He looked over at Ferb with interested confusion. "Huh?"

"I figured I would answer your question... since he couldn't," Ferb said as he still stared into his lap. "Dad took me over to meet you guys. Your mom made some cake and you were extra persistent to save it for me."

Phineas' eyes lit up and a great smile crossed over his face. He leapt over the armrest and cup holders to give Ferb a big hug.

"I knew it was you, I just knew it!" he said as he felt Ferb's gentle arm on his shoulder. "I'm sorry I didn't believe you, but that was really scary… I'm so glad you were never him."

Ferb just smiled back at him with his usual comforting, warm smile. "Let's get back home," he offered, while turning the car back on.

Ferb gave the house key to Phineas as he stayed back to brush the mud off of himself in the front doorway. With a click in the lock, Phineas opened it and walked inside.

"Oh there you boys are!" greeted their mom as they came in the door. She looked at them and asked with a questioning tone as she stared Ferb up and down, "Ferb, why are you covered from head to toe in dirt?"

"It's a… long story," was Ferb's tentative reply as he scratched his mud-caked hair.

"Well, you'd better go and get cleaned up or you'll get the couch all dirty," she said as she positioned him off the wood floor and onto the doormat. "So, I've set up the spare sheets and have the pillows in the drier…"

"Oh!" Phineas exclaimed. "That's okay, you don't need to do that, Mom. Ferb's alright now."

Phineas pulled Ferb around almost as though he were showing him off, not caring that he, too, was getting mud spread on him.

"But you shouldn't act that way to your brother, Ferb. I still think some punishment is in order," their mom answered as she looked at him skeptically.

"No! Don't punish him, Mom. I'll vouch for him," Phineas argued convincingly. "That Ferb wasn't Ferb, but this Ferb is. The other Ferb was some kind of clone or something."

"Or an alien," Ferb corrected as a suggestion.

"Yeah, an alien!" Phineas agreed. "It would make a lot more sense if he were an alien."

"Oh, that's my boys," their mom sighed with a smile as she went over to re-gather the bedding. "You have a fight, and you blame it on… clones and aliens."

After she had the sheets in her arms, she looked as though she meant to hug both of them, but stopped when she realized that she would get the clean sheets all dirty. Instead, she headed up to the laundry room with a laugh, saying, "I'm glad to see you two back to normal."

Phineas, already smeared with brown dirt, didn't mind giving his own hug to Ferb. "Normal is a lot better than not normal."

Ferb smiled back. "And a lot better than being thrown out windows."

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All My PnF Fanfics:

PnF: Timeloops

PnF: Ghosts

PnF: Stolen Identity (Viewing)

PnF: Stuck Like Brothers

PnF: Mind Trapped

PnF: Species is a Constant

PnF: Lifeleap (Currently Posting)