Phineas rushed after Isabella. He heard the front door slam, and headed out himself, only to see her driving away in a huff. He stopped and hung his head.
The most incredible woman I've ever met, and I blew it with a stupid joke that she overheard exactly wrong.
Yet another mark on my long tally of failures.
He trudged back into the house. Ferb and Gretchen were entangled on the couch, but both looking up at him.
"What happened?" Gretchen asked.
"I was talking to Ginger and made a joke about how, in a bad sitcom, Isabella would come in and see us and think I was declaring my love for Ginger. Apparently, my life is a bad sitcom."
Gretchen winced. "She'd especially hate that it was Ginger."
"And now I have no idea where to go to track her down."
Gretchen said, "Knowing her, she's probably heading back to the apartment for a date with a pint of ice cream. I know there's some Ben & Jerry's in the freezer."
Phineas thought for a moment. "Where's the apartment?"
Baljeet was starting to get cold, but he stubbornly refused to go back inside. He'd have to see them, and he really wasn't up to that. He wondered if he could slip around the house and make it to his car without tripping over anything in the dark.
Behind him, the door opened. "Hey, what are you doing out here? It's freezing." Ginger asked.
Guess I don't get away after all, he thought.
"Just thinking," he said. "How long have you and Phineas been together?"
Ginger snorted, her breath steaming in the cold night air. "Me? And the weird inventor dude? Nice enough guy, but he's not my type. Besides, Isabella would kill me dead. Deader than she's already going to. Hopefully he catches up with her before she poisons my coffee." She closed the door and sat down beside him.
Baljeet looked over at her, her face shadowed. "Oh. I apologize, he made a point of introducing us, and that seemed the logical explanation."
Ginger looked away from him. "I asked him to introduce us," she said in a small voice.
Baljeet blinked. "Why?" he asked.
She turned her face back toward him; he could see sparkles in her eyes, like they were wet. "Because...I'd like to get to know you. You seem interesting and nice." She shivered.
Baljeet slid over next to her and put his arm around her shoulders. "That sounds like a good place to start," he said. "Hi, I am Baljeet."
Phineas found the address Gretchen had gave him; it was a small apartment building with about ten units. Unfortunately, he'd forgotten to grab his jacket in his haste, so he rubbed his bare arms as he looked around for the right apartment. She'd said unit six, which he found on the second floor; he took a deep breath and knocked on the door.
"Go away," he heard Isabella say from the other side of the door.
"Isabella, it's me. Phineas. Can we talk for a minute?"
The door opened a crack, stopped by the security chain. "What?" she asked.
"I'm not sure what you heard, but there's nothing between me and Ginger. I was joking about how bad it would be if you came in and saw us and thought we were a couple...and then you did, and it wasn't funny any more. The woman I was hoping to see more of after the party...was you."
The door closed slightly, and he heard the chain rattle before it opened wider. He could see her now; she was still wearing the pink top and black skirt he'd briefly seen her in earlier, but her makeup was smudged from crying, and there was a small dab of chocolate at the corner of her mouth. She looked at him as if she were worried that he was going to vanish at any moment.
"I totally overreacted, didn't I?" she asked.
"I don't think I'd have reacted any better if the situation were reversed," he admitted. "Can I come in?"
With a hesitant smile, she opened the door wider and stepped aside to let him in, closing the door behind him. He looked around the living room; the TV was on and currently showing a car insurance commercial, and a container of ice cream sat on the coffee table, a spoon sticking out of it. Blushing, she picked up the ice cream and took it into the kitchen as he sat on the edge of the couch.
She returned and sat next to him, looking at him with her eyes wide, seemingly unsure what to do next. That makes two of us.
"I'm sorry," he said, "I...I need to let you know what happened. Ginger asked us to set up the party so she could meet Baljeet. In exchange for that, she told us that you and Gretchen were interested in me and Ferb, because she overheard us talking about how we were interested in you two. From what I saw, she was right about Gretchen...and from your reaction, she was right about you?"
Isabella nodded, sliding closer to him on the couch. "Yes. I didn't know how to say it."
He put his arm around her bare shoulders, thrilling at the skin-to-skin contact with his bare arm. "How much time do you think we've wasted from not being able to put this into words?"
"Too much," she whispered as her lips met his. He could taste the chocolate on her lips, and possibly mint, and then thoughts of anything but the beautiful woman in his arms went away entirely.
Ferb had reluctantly disengaged from Gretchen to play host when Phineas left, and things were starting to wind down. Baljeet and Ginger left, holding hands and saying they both had to work early the next morning. They were making plans to meet up after work as they split off to go to their homes for the night.
That was the signal for other people to start heading out as well. As Buford, the last guest other than Gretchen, finally got moving, Phineas drove up, Isabella riding with him.
"Sorry to leave you in the lurch, bro," Phineas said. "Everything went okay?"
Ferb nodded. "Ginger and Baljeet seem to have figured things out as well." Gretchen had intercepted Isabella, and the two of them were giggling about something with occasional glances back at Phineas and him. "You two worked things out?"
Phineas grinned broadly. "Yes. Yes, we did."
"Good. Let's get cleaning. Mom and Dad are due home tomorrow morning, and whether we call tonight an intimate get-together or not, if the house is a mess, they'll be livid."
"Sounds like time to break out the Clean-O-Tronic, Ferb."
"What's that?" Gretchen said as she linked her arm into Ferb's.
"An invention we built. It cleans things," Phineas said with a grin.
"If it makes the mess any worse, you're cleaning it up, Phineas," Ferb said.
"No, it'll be fine. You'll see." Phineas headed off into the basement, returning a moment later with what looked like a mailbox with six arms. He set it on its wheels, pulled a remote from his pocket, and pushed a large green button on it. The arms jerked as the mailbox started to move, then it stopped suddenly with a loud pop as a bit of smoke started to come out of the top.
Phineas sighed. "Okay, maybe not." He picked up the mailbox and carried it back downstairs.
Isabella shook her head, chuckling. "Can we help?"
"That would be marvelous," Ferb said.
Linda got out of the car, exhausted after their long plane flight and the ride back from the airport. She'd gotten a bit of sleep on the plane, and needed to stay up to get her internal clock reset to local time, but the idea of crawling into bed was incredibly tempting. Her husband, Lawrence, popped the trunk open and grabbed their suitcases, following her into the house.
Neither of their sons, Phineas and Ferb, were moving yet, apparently; unsurprising, it being early on a Saturday morning. Their daughter, Candace, burst through the front door, shouting, "Ah-HAH!" Candace looked around. "But...they had a party last night. Where's the mess? Where's the stains?"
Linda shook her head. Candace's need to catch her brothers doing something - anything - wrong still hadn't gone away. "It certainly doesn't look like anything happened, Candace," she said, "but if it turns out that they're busted for some reason, I'll be sure to let you know."
Candace grumbled as she headed back out the front door.
Lawrence sat down heavily at the kitchen table. Linda turned on the coffee maker, then went to join him.
To Linda's surprise, a young auburn-haired woman wearing eyeglasses and one of Ferb's shirts padded barefoot into the kitchen. She was startled to see them, an "Eep!" escaping her lips.
Ferb, dressed in his pajama pants, came into the kitchen behind her. "Oh, hello Mum, hello Dad. I didn't expect you home quite so early."
Linda raised an eyebrow expectantly.
"Gretchen, this is my mother, Linda, and my father, Lawrence. Mum, Dad, this is Gretchen."
Gretchen gave them her best "please don't eat me" smile. "It's a pleasure to meet you," she said.
"Nice to meet you too, Gretchen," Linda said. Turning to Ferb, she said, "Candace said there was a party here last night."
"Not a party, no," Ferb said. "More like...an intimate get-together."
Yawning, a black-haired young woman wearing one of Phineas's shirts entered the kitchen. "I smell coffee," she mumbled before stopping in her tracks at the unexpected people at the table.
Phineas, walking behind her in his robe, stopped short as well. "Oh! Uh...hi, Mom and Dad. This is Isabella," he said. "Isabella, these are my parents, Lawrence and Linda."
Linda sat back in her chair. "A very intimate get-together, from the looks of it."
Four people facing her all blushed as one.
Many, many thanks to everyone who said they wanted more of this. I hope I've met your expectations.
I don't have any solid plans to come back to this setting, but wouldn't say it won't ever happen. I didn't have any solid plans to continue it after the first chapter, after all.