And welcome to my latest story. I got myself a Trop Bingo card earlier this year during the first round... and then failed to finish anything before the start of the second round. *sigh* But I'm determined to finish the card, if only for pride's sake. And so, this story, inspired by my "mistletoe kiss" square. It's set in the future while the gang is in college.
On with the show! Enjoy, and feel free to let me know what you think!
"You are not going to believe the idea I came up with tonight," Adyson declared immediately after dramatically throwing open the front door of the house she shared with her friends.
"Maybe not, but I do believe you're going to freeze us to death if you don't shut that door," Buford griped from the overstuffed chair he was lounging in, his legs draped carelessly over one of the arms.
Adyson slammed the door and practically hopped over to the entertainment center on the left side of the room. "So do you want to hear my idea?" she asked eagerly.
Phineas paused the DVD that had been playing and gave his other friends an amused look. "Sure, Adyson, go ahead. We're listening."
The brunette rubbed her hands together. "The IT Club had a meeting tonight to discuss the Christmas dance we're organizing to raise funds for our spring fashion show," she began. "We were trying to decide on a theme. We did a winter wonderland theme last year, and wanted something different."
"You guys did a super job of decking out Evans Gym," Isabella told her.
"Thanks." Adyson grinned at the praise. "It's just too bad everything we were playing around with this time seemed to have something to do with snow. At least, until I came up with my brilliant idea."
"You could just get to the point," Buford grumbled. He gestured at the television, where the DVD player's screen saver had kicked in. "There's a movie we were hoping to get back to sometime tonight."
Adyson sighed. "Fine, fine. We're going with Mistletoe Madness!" Her grin was back, and she looked from friend to friend expectantly.
Said friends looked back and forth amongst themselves. "And what exactly does 'Mistletoe Madness' entail?" Baljeet asked with a hint of hesitancy from the recliner closest to the eager young woman.
"You have to admit, it's not a name that gives the clearest vision of your theme concept," Gretchen added, readjusting her position on the floor and leaning back against the couch behind her.
"And you people are supposed to have imaginations?" Adyson asked, deflating. "It's like, seasonal romance. It's supposed to invoke the passion of the holidays. Mistletoe, you know?"
"So it's a couple's dance?" Ginger asked, sitting on the floor next to Gretchen.
Adyson's shoulders drooped. "No, not exactly. It's supposed to be romantic, though. I even had an idea for a new spin on the whole kissing under the mistletoe tradition."
Phineas leaned forward. "What were you thinking? What's the new spin?"
She gave him a small smile. "I actually wanted to talk to you about that. I was going to ask if you and Ferb could come up with a way to make the mistletoe move around the room instead of staying in just one spot. That way people couldn't just avoid it."
"That sounds interesting," Phineas said, looking at his brother to his left. "What do you think, Ferb?"
"To make it truly effective, I believe you'd have to have some rules in place. Perhaps even create a game of sorts for people to play along with. Otherwise the mistletoe is simply decoration that can be ignored." The tall green-haired young man shrugged. "But the concept is an intriguing foundation."
"A game, huh?" Phineas said thoughtfully. He frowned slightly in contemplation. "Yeah, we could do that. That could be fun. When's the dance?"
Adyson smiled a little wider. "Three weeks from now, the Saturday before finals. I'm supposed to come up with a poster design by Friday so we can get them printed and posted over the weekend."
Isabella smiled at her. "I can help you with that if you want. And I bet Ginger and Gretchen wouldn't mind helping, either." Both girls grinned and nodded.
Adyson laughed. "It'll be like one of our old Fireside Girl fundraisers. I'll even give Katie a call and see what she's up to."
"We'll have it put together and ready in no time," Ginger declared.
"Is the dance going to be in Evans Gym again this year?" Phineas asked.
Adyson nodded. "And we get all day that Saturday to decorate."
Phineas smiled. "Perfect. I'll get the specs for the space and draw something up. You guys'll have a DJ, right?"
"All lined up. We managed to get the Raving Wildcats."
"Oh, that's sweet," Buford said. "Those guys are the best around."
"Definitely," Gretchen agreed. "You'll most certainly end up at full capacity!"
Adyson shrugged. "That's the idea."
Ginger patted the patch of floor next to her and in front of where Isabella was sitting on the couch to Phineas' right. "Pull up some rug and watch the rest of the movie with us," she offered. "We can work on the details after classes tomorrow."
Adyson did as requested, and the group of friends proceeded to have a wonderful night.
"So how many tickets have you sold?" Katie asked when she reached the ticket table outside the gym the night of the dance. Her blonde hair was up in a messy bun, a few stray hairs drifting just to the edge of her ears and making her swipe at them periodically.
Adyson gave her a wide grin. "I don't know the exact number, but I've been told it's more than we planned on. I'm just glad Phineas and Ferb gave us plenty of extra wristbands!" She took the money Katie offered and put one of the aforementioned wristbands on the young woman's wrist.
Katie grinned back. "That's great!" She looked at the thick paper of her newly-acquired bracelet. "Phineas and Ferb came up with these, huh? Seems kind of plain and simple for them."
Adyson shrugged. "Phineas assured me they'd help with part of their mistletoe game setup. He just wouldn't give me specifics. Said something about wanting everyone who comes to be surprised at the same time."
"That's Phineas," Katie said with a laugh. "When do you get to join in?" She gestured toward the closed gym doors.
"Another fifteen minutes. Oliver takes over then. But go ahead and go inside. The others are already here."
"Okay, see you later!"
A half hour later, Adyson had joined her friends inside the gym, and the group of them were standing together enjoying the music the DJs were playing. "I am so glad this turned out so well!" Adyson said with a proud smile.
Isabella glanced around as the others nodded their agreement. "You should be," the black-haired young woman said. "This place is gorgeous, and there are definitely more people than last year."
"Man, the Raving Wildcats are on top of their game tonight!" Buford said, nodding his head slightly in time to the music. "I'm so glad you brought them in!"
"They were happy to do it," Adyson told him. "They gave us a great discounted rate."
"That makes sense," Ferb said. "I understand that Blake Langley is studying fashion design over at Jefferson State College. And I wouldn't be surprised if he comes to your show in the spring."
Adyson's eyes widened. "Really? I didn't know that. I'll have to keep my eyes open for him."
Katie elbowed Gretchen lightly in the ribs and gave her a big grin. "And I bet you'll be happy to do the same," she said in a teasing tone. "You keep looking over at him behind the DJ table!"
Gretchen blushed. "He's quite attractive, you must admit."
"Very true statement," Katie agreed with a laugh.
"Hey, it looks like a bunch of TAs just got here," Ginger said, pointing at a group of older students – most likely in graduate programs – that had paused just inside the main entrance.
Phineas elbowed his brother. "Isn't that Vanessa in that crowd?" he asked with only a drop of teasing in his voice.
Isabella smiled. "Do you think she's with any of them?"
"Please, just stop," Ferb said with a roll of his eyes as he shook his head. "That crush faded years ago."
"I still remember how seeing her made you mix up which blueprint you picked up when we were trying to build the giant sundae machine after Isabella had her tonsils out," Phineas said, chuckling. "It took me forever to get you to admit what you meant when you said you were weak."
"We were ten," Ferb said.
Phineas gave one last snicker then sighed. "Yeah, I know. It's still funny to think about, though." He shrugged. "But I'll stop bugging you about it."
"Which is probably for the best," Baljeet said, looking past them. "Because I believe she is coming this way."
"Hey, guys," Vanessa Doofenshmirtz said as she walked up to the group. "I thought I recognized you standing over here. Neat setup, huh?" She gestured to the decorations around the gym.
Katie nodded and pointed at Adyson. "You bet. Adyson here was on the dance committee."
Vanessa looked at Adyson, impressed. "Very nice. So the IT Club is the fashion designer club, right? I've been pretty focused on my graduate studies, so I'm not completely up to date on all the student organizations."
Adyson nodded. "That's us. We usually host a dance toward the end of the first semester as a fundraiser for a fashion show we put on in the spring."
"This year promises to be quite successful," Baljeet added.
"I'd say," Vanessa agreed, taking a look around at the sizable crowd.
"You went somewhere else for your bachelor's degree, didn't you?" Isabella asked.
Vanessa nodded, stiffening up slightly. "Yeah, San Diego. I took a couple years off before getting accepted at Danville University for my master's."
Phineas frowned slightly. "Is there something wrong?"
Vanessa shook her head. "No, no, that's not it. I just, um… Let's just say I'm much happier going to school here and leave it at that."
"All right, Vanessa," Phineas said with a smile that told her he wouldn't push for what she didn't want to share.
"So you're going to play along with the games, aren't you?" Buford asked the older woman, his eyebrows raised expectantly.
"It depends on the games," Vanessa replied, smirking.
Buford rolled his eyes. "The theme of this thing is mistletoe madness. I'm sure there's going to be some kissing involved at some point."
Phineas looked at his watch and nodded at Ferb. "Speaking of games, Ferb and I have to get things started. Did you want to introduce us, Adyson?"
Adyson nodded. "Do Blake and Ezra know what their part in all this is?"
"They got here just as we were finishing our setup. We explained everything then. Come on, Ferb. Let's do one last check." Phineas led his brother toward the DJ table.
"Then I guess it's my turn," Adyson said. She gave the others a smile and headed off after the two brothers.
"She's going to introduce Phineas and Ferb?" Vanessa asked.
Isabella nodded. "They put together the big game the dance is centered around, based on an idea Adyson had to have mistletoe moving around instead of just being hung in one spot where people could just avoid it. There's apparently a lot of technical stuff involved with it."
Vanessa frowned. "You mean you don't know exactly what this game is?"
The others shook their heads. "They wanted everyone to be surprised, so they worked on it alone," Gretchen explained.
"But it's a Phineas and Ferb creation, so it's bound to be fun and interesting," Katie enthused, grinning. "I'm looking forward to it."
"You would," Ginger said, smiling.
"Excuse me," Adyson said as the last song ended, her voice echoing across the gym thanks to the DJs' speaker system. "It's just about time to start our mistletoe game I know all of you have been looking forward to. And here to explain how it works are the game's creators, Phineas Flynn and Ferb Fletcher!" She stepped away from the microphone as she gestured toward the two brothers while the crowd applauded.
Phineas grinned as he moved up to the mic. "Thanks, everybody. I think you're all going to enjoy this. Ferb and I have installed a track on the ceiling that our mistletoe of the evening will be traveling on throughout the night. And if you look down, you'll notice that the floor is covered with a gym-sized mat made of a special polymer."
Ferb pressed a button on a small panel next to the DJs' equipment, causing a cloth panel to be drawn into a roll above the DJ station. A massive and intricate track system hugged the high ceiling, and a large metallic sprig of mistletoe unfolded from a specially shaped cavity in the far corner. The green-haired young man pressed another button and the sprig began to move along the track, randomly changing direction at intervals.
"I'm sorry to say the mistletoe is artificial," Phineas said with a knowing smirk. There was no way to miss that. "We were afraid that a natural sprig wouldn't be big enough to see that far up." He looked over at his brother. "Go ahead and flip the switch, Ferb."
Ferb did so. Suddenly a grid of light came to life beneath everyone's feet, making most of the crowd gasp in surprise. There was a large number of three foot by three foot squares, each of them with a letter-number combination in the center. They ended just in front of the DJ table and about a foot in front of the partially-pulled-out bleachers on the wall opposite, with a two and a half foot empty space along the other two walls.
"You'll notice that each of the squares on the floor will fit two people," Phineas continued. "And if you'll look at the wristbands you were given when you arrived, you'll see a letter-number combination that matches one of the ones in the grid. Every time the mistletoe is activated by our kick-butt DJs, a different combination will appear. You should go to that square before it stops moving, and if the mistletoe stops above your square, you have to kiss the person you're sharing the space with." He smiled. "To keep things in the spirit of the dance, let's make those kisses on the lips, even if it's just a quick peck, okay?" He paused then briefly glanced at Ferb. "Um, unless you're related to that person. Then I think we can let you get away with something else. Like on the cheek or forehead."
"Aw, come on, Dinner Bell," Buford called out. "You know everyone wants to see you smooching Ferb!"
"Anyway," Phineas went on, blushing slightly, "no one will be able to miss which square gets picked." On cue, the mistletoe stopped. The rest of the lights in the gym dimmed and a narrow spotlight shone down on a square in front of the bleachers. The three people standing there quickly dispersed, much to the amusement of the crowd.
Phineas continued when the chuckling faded. "Now we're going to be fair about this. If you really don't want to play a round – or at all - there should be enough time to move outside the grid, at which point your wristband will deactivate. Only when you're on the grid will a number appear. Now, I'm not sure just how many people we have here tonight, so if there's more people than we have room some people will always end up with blank bracelets each round. It'll be random, of course, like everything else. But be sure to stay on the grid if you want to play; if someone who had a number steps off, a person who didn't have one will be chosen to take their place." He gestured to Ferb, who pressed the second button, causing the lights to come back on and the sprig to head back into its corner. Once it was in place, the grid faded out.
A student in the far corner raised his hand and waved it around. "So how does someone win this game?" he called out once he saw he had Phineas' attention.
"I guess we weren't thinking about having a winner exactly," Phineas replied, glancing at Ferb. "This was just supposed to be for fun, and for celebrating the romance of the season. Like it said on the posters."
"Aw, come on," the guy began to complain.
"Hey!" Buford shouted, cutting him off. "You've got a decent chance of kissing someone who wouldn't normally even give you the time of day. I'd call that one heck of a win."
There was a stunned moment of silence, but no rebuttal.
Phineas cleared his throat. "We'll let the party get rolling again. If anyone has any more questions, feel free to come up and ask."
With that, the redhead gestured to the DJs and stepped away from the microphone, Ferb beside him. The music started up a few beats later.
"This should be interesting," Vanessa commented as a handful of people approached Phineas and Ferb.
"Yeah," Isabella agreed, a slightly worried expression on her face.
"It was nice of you to stand up for Phineas and Ferb," Katie said to Buford.
Buford shrugged. "Yeah, well, what I said was true." He stopped and blinked. "The getting to kiss someone you wouldn't normally get a chance with thing, not the everyone wanting to see Phineas and Ferb kiss thing."
The others snickered. "Oh, I don't know," Ginger said. "I'm sure there are some people out there who like the idea of seeing two good looking brothers kiss. I'm not one of them, but they're out there."
Buford and Baljeet gave her a slightly horrified look. "You are serious," the Indian young man said, just as much a question as a statement.
"You betcha," Ginger confirmed, her smile widening.
"I did not need to know that," Buford grumbled, looking away.
"I didn't either," Vanessa and Isabella said in unison, then gave each other a surprised glance.
Adyson came bouncing up to them at that point. "This is going to be great!" she enthused, totally missing the discomfort of half of the bunch. "I knew I could count on Phineas and Ferb!"
Isabella nodded, mentally shaking off the idea that had been previously presented. "Of course you could," she agreed. "It's Phineas and Ferb."
"Yeah, well, they've outdone themselves," Adyson said. "I just hope some of the club members that are here are taking pictures."
"Forgot your camera?" Katie asked with a wry, knowing smile.
Adyson just shrugged.
It was a little over a half hour later when the DJs let a recent hit on the radio fade away and hit the button to activate the mistletoe and the floor grid. "Hang onto your hats, ladies and gentlemen!" Blake Langley said into the microphone, grinning. "Here comes the first pick of the night. Check your wristbands and get to your square!"
They all checked their wristbands and separated. Isabella ended up not too far away, leaving her to wait for a bit before the person she would be sharing the square with got there. Baljeet was practically in the middle of the gym with one of the graduate students that had come in with Vanessa, a lean woman with short brown hair who was at least four inches taller than him. Buford was in the far corner closest to where the mistletoe was tucked away between appearances with one of the other players from the football team, both of them looking a bit uncomfortable with the arrangement. Katie was in a square just to the left of the DJ table with a nervous young man barely an inch taller than her, the blonde looking amused at the fidgeting of her companion. Gretchen was paired with Ginger in a square close to the far edge of the grid, both of them giggling at the coincidence. Adyson was in a square next to the one that had been highlighted during the earlier demonstration, a young man with long dyed-black hair that hung over half his face her partner. Vanessa stood just a few squares away with another of her fellow graduate students, her expression one of forced polite interest as he talked. Ferb stood in a square to the right of the DJ table, his eyebrows raised as the shorter girl he shared the space with picked at his hair with an awed look on her face. Phineas was bouncing eagerly in a square diagonally across from his brother and nearly in the far corner opposite the table, while next to him a girl with long blonde hair and an expensive-looking blouse and skirt gazed at him out of the corner of her eyes with a slightly disdainful expression that she hid whenever he looked her and spoke.
Each pair made small talk for the most part until the big dramatic moment. With a distinct thunk, the mechanical sprig came to a halt, the lights dimmed, and a square was lit up by a spotlight. A young man and woman the group of friends didn't really know jumped a bit at the sudden illumination and blinked in the bright light, then glanced at each other nervously. A couple of other people started a chant when they hesitated, and soon enough the whole gym was cheering along.
"Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!"
It was almost deafening.
Finally the pair gave in and shared a quick peck on the lips, igniting a roar of joyous approval and applause. They looked at each other shyly when they separated; Blake called out his own approval over the microphone as he sent the mistletoe back where it came from, the dance lights coming back on line. The DJ gestured to his partner and declared a slow dance, inviting the now-blushing kissers to spend some time getting to know each other. Laughter rippled across the room.
Isabella was surprised to see her square partner looking a bit disappointed as he made his exit. She watched him weave through the forming couples for a moment, then headed toward where Phineas still stood, his own partner long gone much to her satisfaction. "Well, that seems to have gone well," she said to the lean redhead when she came to a halt beside him.
"Yeah, that was pretty cool," Phineas agreed, giving her a smile. "Just about how we thought it would go."
"Disappointed it wasn't your square?" she asked him slyly.
"Not really," he replied, glancing in the direction his partner had gone. "For starters, it might have looked a bit rigged had Ferb or I been picked first time around. And it was pretty fun to watch the process from the sidelines, so to speak."
Isabella narrowed her eyes a bit. "Anything else?" she pressed as nonchalantly as she could, having noticed the attitude his partner had been hiding from him.
Phineas looked at her. "Well, to be honest, I don't think my partner was all that thrilled with the whole idea of the game." He shrugged. "Although I don't know why she was playing if that's the case. We said no one had to if they didn't want to."
Isabella decided no response was the best response to that thought. At least he hadn't been completely oblivious.
The other sophomores soon joined them - Vanessa went over to check in with the graduate students she'd come with - Ferb the last to do so thanks to the lingering fascination his partner still had with his hair. "Finally managed to ditch your hair admirer, huh?" Buford asked the green-haired young man, his grin wide and teasing.
"Eventually," Ferb agreed, involuntarily looking back over his shoulder at where he'd left her behind. "She refused to believe it was natural."
"She knows now, doesn't she?" Phineas asked.
"I can't be sure," Ferb replied, turning his head back around. "The last thing she said before I made my way over here was something about how silky it was. I wasn't about to stay and ask for clarification."
The others laughed. "Yeah, I don't blame you there," Katie said.
They joked and poked fun at each other about the partners they'd ended up with for a short time before the girls pulled each other out to dance to a recent radio hit. The guys decided to get something to drink in the meantime then sit on the bleachers. It wasn't long after that that they drifted apart to mingle and socialize.
They went through two more mistletoe kisses before the first one that involved someone from their circle happened. Buford had been paired with a petite shorter brunette, the young woman shifting from foot to foot nervously as they had waited for the mistletoe to stop. When the spotlight came down on them, she froze for a moment as Buford's eyebrows rose in surprise, then smiled shyly. Buford took a hold of her shoulders in a light grip and leaned in and met her lips with his own; it was more than a brief peck, but was still respectfully light and didn't linger. Then as the crowd cheered once he'd drawn back, he leaned back in again, the girl rising up on her tiptoes to whisper something into his ear. He smiled in response and patted her left shoulder, then walked toward the bleachers.
"Did you know her?" Adyson asked when the football player joined the rest of the group.
"Nope. Said her name was Natalie, though," Buford replied. He looked back over his shoulder. "Nice girl."
"Oh, does that mean that you are interested in her?" Baljeet asked, fighting back an amused smile. Buford wasn't above giving him the occasional wedgie for a teasing remark.
Buford gave him a narrow-eyed glare and shook his head. "No, not like that," he growled.
Phineas shared a look with Isabella, who stood to his right. "So what was the smile and pat on the shoulder for?" he asked.
Buford shrugged. "She said she'd been watching me play football this year and thanked me for the kiss."
"You had no idea how to respond to that, did you?" Ginger asked knowingly.
"Maybe," Buford said, drawing the word out as he tried unsuccessfully to put on an innocent expression.
The others laughed.
The next time around it was two football players who got caught under the mistletoe. While they both blushed, they played along and gave each other a quick peck, then bowed to the cheering crowd and gave high-fives on their way back to a group of their friends. Buford gave Phineas a light punch to the shoulder when their group got back together. "That'll be priceless at practice a week from Monday," the muscular young man said with a smirk.
Phineas smiled back. "Just remember, it could be you next time."
"Yeah, but I won't be the first one to have done it."
"Will that really make a difference?" Gretchen asked curiously.
"Probably." Buford gave her a smile. "I'll tell you at the end of the night."
There was a new player when the mistletoe was sent out again. Ezra Murray, one of the DJs, came out from behind the table of equipment and made his way to one of the squares after a look at the wristband not many people had noticed him wearing. He wasn't picked, however; that honor went to Katie and one of the grad students, a huskier young man with shoulder-length, reddish-brown hair who was known to teach some of the introductory math classes when Professor Hightower was feeling under the weather. It was amazing how many Fridays in a semester the professor was ill.
Phineas, Ferb, Baljeet, and Buford watched the girls go off toward the refreshments table once the lights came back up. "Katie's blushing," Phineas noted with an amused smile.
"The others are probably interrogating her as to how much she enjoyed the kiss," Baljeet said.
"That's what I was thinking," Phineas replied, his smile growing.
"Girls and their gossip," Buford said, rolling his eyes. He sighed and shook his head. "So," he continued after a couple of beats, "did any of you guys see the way the girl who got paired up with Baljeet the first time around reacted to that kiss? She looked steamed!"
Baljeet nodded. "I believe she was quite upset," he agreed. "She was standing quite close to my square, and I am sure I heard her growling."
Phineas looked at Baljeet a bit surprised at the description. "Growling? Really?"
Baljeet nodded again. "Oh, yes, definitely. I turned to look in her direction when I heard the sound and saw her looking quite angry. Then she noticed me looking at her and tried to change her expression. That is when I noticed the sound stop."
"Whoa," Buford said in a low tone, his eyes wide.
"I think she's taking this whole thing a bit too seriously," Phineas said.
Ferb watched them with an amused smile. "Yes, girls are the only ones to get caught up in gossip," he murmured.
Meanwhile, over by the punch, Katie found herself totally surrounded by her friends. "So how was it?" Adyson asked, grinning wickedly.
Ginger gently elbowed the blonde. "Was there any tongue?"
"No!" Katie shot back, giving her friend an incredulous glare. "There was barely any pressure, much less parting lips."
"But was it good pressure?" Adyson asked again.
Katie sighed. "It was all right. Not a bad kiss, but there wasn't really any chemistry. I'd give it a five."
The other girls smiled. "Good enough," Adyson declared.
Gretchen sighed. "At least you've received a kiss tonight."
"Yeah," Ginger agreed. "That's one more than the rest of us have gotten so far."
"To be totally precise, Buford has also been kissed," Gretchen corrected. "And it's still quite early in the evening. Your point is taken, however."
"There are a lot of people here tonight," Isabella said. "And a lot of different combinations. We'll be lucky to get picked at all." She sighed.
Adyson gave her a sympathetic look. "Much less get picked while we're sharing a square with one person in particular, right?"
Isabella shrugged. "I didn't say it."
"You didn't have to," Gretchen said.
"Didn't have to what?" Vanessa asked, joining the small group at the table. She filled a glass with punch.
"Isabella's wishing that she could get a mistletoe kiss with Phineas," Ginger answered, not completely successful at fighting back a grin.
Isabella blushed. "Will you guys stop it?"
Vanessa gave her a smile. "There's nothing wrong with wanting to kiss someone." She chuckled. "There's also nothing wrong with not wanting to kiss someone."
Katie frowned slightly. "I take you're talking about someone in particular," she guessed.
"Oh, you could say that," Vanessa confirmed. "One of the guys I came with is another psychology grad student, and he's the last person here I'd want to even pretend to kiss tonight." She gave a little shudder and took a drink of her punch.
"So is there anyone here you would like to kiss?" Adyson asked.
Vanessa took another drink. "Well, I don't know if there's anyone I'd especially like to kiss, but there are a couple of handfuls of guys I wouldn't mind getting one from."
The other girls smiled widely. "So who're you thinking of?" Ginger asked.
"Do we know any of them?" Katie added.
"Hold on a second," Vanessa said, drawing back slightly from the eager expressions. "I'm not talking about potential romance partners or anything here. I've only been here at the university for a year and a half, and most of that time I've spent focused on my master's. Most of the guys I was referring to I only know because I had a class or two with them, or I've talked to a couple of times. Don't even think about setting me up."
"That wasn't what they were thinking of," Isabella said knowingly, giving the others a narrow-eyed glare. "Teasing you and taunting you a bit? That's more their style." She reluctantly smiled. "All in good-natured fun, though. And they'd back off if you really wanted them to."
Vanessa's eyebrows rose. "Speaking from personal experience, huh?"
Isabella nodded. "You know it."
Adyson waved off the last bit of the conversation. "Yeah, yeah, we like to poke a bit of fun. Now back to the subject at hand. We know Gretchen's drooling over Blake Langley…"
"I am not drooling," Gretchen protested.
"…And Ginger's in one of her on-again phases of her crush on Baljeet…"
"There's never really an off-again phase," Katie said.
"Just a less-on-than-usual-again phase," Isabella added.
Ginger stuck her tongue out at them. "You guys are mean."
"And Isabella's thing for Phineas is legendary…"
Isabella narrowed her eyes once again at Adyson. "We've covered this already tonight."
Adyson grinned. "So now we want to know about you, Vanessa."
Vanessa rolled her eyes. "I don't have a crush on anyone. I don't normally do crushes."
"Fine, no crushes. But you said most of the guys you were referring to. That should mean there are one or two guys that don't fit that description." Adyson wasn't letting this one go.
"You know, you didn't say anything about Katie or yourself," Vanessa shot back. "Any crushes we should know about?"
"Well, well…" Adyson stammered, thrown by the sudden turnaround. "A crush? Me?"
The others laughed. "You'll have to come by for one of our get-togethers over Christmas break," Ginger said. "Django should be back from Chicago."
Gretchen nodded. "It'll be quite an entertaining show, too."
Adyson blushed. "Come on, you guys!" She looked around, and upon finding no sympathetic faces pointed at Katie. "What about her? Go after her!"
"I don't have a crush right now," Katie replied calmly, smiling. She looked at Vanessa. "I broke up with my last boyfriend just after the semester started, and there hasn't been anyone since. Not even potentials." She looked back at Adyson. "You're on your own."
"Traitor," Adyson grumbled, crossing her arms over her chest.
"You know, though," Ginger said thoughtfully, "you never really answered Adyson's question, Vanessa."
The attention returned to the older student. "We aren't claiming you have a crush," Gretchen said, "but you said most of the guys you wouldn't object to receiving a kiss from you haven't known long or that well. Who wouldn't you mind receiving a kiss from that you have known for some time, or that you know well?"
Vanessa finished off her punch and put the cup back on the table. "You guys aren't going to leave this one alone, are you?"
"There might not have been a patch for it, but persistence is definitely a Fireside Girl trait we all share," Isabella said.
"Fine," Vanessa said with a sigh. "There's one guy I went to high school with that took a year off of school before heading to college, so now he's only a year ahead of me in his graduate program. I wouldn't object to a kiss from him."
"And?" Katie asked, drawing out the word.
Vanessa hesitated, then blew out an explosive breath. "Ferb. I've known him for almost ten years now. And with us both in college, we've gotten to be friends again, especially over this past semester. I wouldn't mind getting a kiss from him."
The others drew back in surprise. "Really? Ferb?" Adyson asked.
"There's nothing wrong with Ferb," Vanessa said a bit defensively. "He's a great listener, and I have to admit he's pretty cute."
"Oh, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with him," Adyson said quickly. "I mean, hey, I dated him for a while in high school. I just wasn't expecting to know anyone you were going to talk about."
Vanessa blinked. "You and Ferb dated?"
Adyson shrugged. "Yeah. There's always been something about him. He's the strong, smart, and silent type. We even went to our sophomore year homecoming together. But it didn't work out, and we stayed friends. I'm glad we did, too."
Gretchen nodded. "He's good about that." She smiled and blushed slightly at the surprised look she got from Vanessa at her comment. "He was my first boyfriend. Junior year."
"Did any of the rest of you date him?" Vanessa couldn't help but ask.
"Not us," Ginger said, sharing a look with Katie. "But he and Milly dated for a couple months our senior year. We used to joke that he was trying to get his 'Date a Whole Fireside Girl Troop' patch."
"He never would have gotten that," Adyson said, pointing at Isabella.
Isabella just rolled her eyes and shook her head.
Before anyone could say anything else, the music faded away again, and another mistletoe run was announced. The girls all shared an encouraging look then headed out onto the lit-up dance floor. The guys did the same from over by the bleachers.
The spotlight caught another pair of students the gang didn't really know except by sight. They mingled some more once the lights came back up, laughing and chitchatting until Ezra activated the mistletoe once again. They all spread out onto the gym floor.
"Funny meeting you here," Adyson said to Isabella as she joined her in her square.
"I was just about to say the same thing," the black-haired young woman said with a smile.
"Great minds think alike," Adyson said.
They both laughed.
Isabella looked around. "So where's everyone else? Have you noticed?"
Adyson pointed off to her left. "Phineas and Buford are over there. And I think I saw Baljeet with a girl from my American History class a few squares over from there."
"There's Ferb," Isabella said pointing toward one of the corners. "He's standing with a girl from one of his engineering classes."
"Gretchen does not look happy," Adyson commented, gesturing at their bespectacled friend standing a short distance from the DJ table with a huge hulk of a man with dark brown hair who towered over her.
Isabella frowned. "Yeah, I can understand that. He's not someone I'd want to be that close to, either."
Adyson nodded. "After that goon tried to take all the credit for the project the two of them worked on for their Mid-Century Literature class he's lucky she hasn't kneed him in the balls and headed for the bleachers."
A moment later they both cringed along with most of the guys that had been in the immediate vicinity of Gretchen's square. "I guess he's not that lucky after all," Adyson said as Gretchen flew by them.
"You got that right," Isabella agreed. She looked back toward the square. "He may need a paramedic."
"That was a particularly nasty shot."
Two other students stepped into the square after the big guy crawled off the grid and toward the drink table for some ice. The mistletoe continued to zoom around the ceiling along its track, people looking up at it as it traveled over their positions. "So who do you think…" Isabella started to ask when the sprig came to its usual sudden halt.
She and Adyson blinked in the bright spotlight shining down from above them.
Adyson smirked. "What do you know? You got an answer without even having to finish your question."
Adyson grabbed Isabella's shoulders, and before any chanting could start she leaned in and pressed their lips together. She pulled back wearing a smirk. "Was it good for you?" she asked as the crowd whooped and cheered around them.
Isabella sighed then chuckled. "The stuff dreams are made of."
Adyson laughed. "Mission accomplished then!"
"I knew you always wanted her," Buford said to Adyson when she and Isabella rejoined their friends.
"You only say that because I never wanted you," Adyson shot back.
Buford only smirked.
Baljeet looked at them with wide eyes. "What was it like to kiss another girl?" he asked.
Isabella blushed while Adyson shrugged. "Her lips are softer than a guy's," the brunette said nonchalantly. "And she wears berry-flavored lip gloss."
"Thanks for mentioning that," Isabella muttered, pinching the bridge of her nose.
"You guys are great sports," Phineas told them, his face lit up with a bright smile.
"Well, it's not like it was torture or anything," Isabella said as she dropped her arm back to her side, blushing even more.
"I can't wait to see who kisses who next," Buford said. "I'm still waiting for you two to get caught." He gestured between Phineas and Ferb.
Ferb raised an eyebrow. "I never would have supposed you were into such things," he said calmly as Phineas rolled his eyes. "The things you learn about your friends."
Buford started sputtering as the others laughed. "Hey, that's not… I didn't mean…"
"Be careful what you say, Buford," Katie told him in a sing-song tone. "It can come back to bite you."
"Where did Vanessa go?" Ginger asked, looking around.
"Snack table," Phineas said, pointing.
Isabella glanced around herself. "And what happened to Gretchen? She took off after getting paired up with that jerk from her Mid-Century Lit class."
Adyson looked toward the bleachers and shrugged. "Guess I wasn't completely right. She's not fuming on the bleachers."
Isabella looked at the others. "We better find her. She's got to be pretty upset."
"Was that what the commotion was about before the mistletoe stopped?" Phineas asked. "I wondered what was going on."
"Let's just say that you and the other guys don't want a detailed description of what she did to the guy before she took off," Adyson said with a half-smile.
Baljeet, Buford, and Ferb all flinched and squeezed their legs together slightly. Phineas just made a face and shook his head. "I hope she didn't hurt herself. He's not worth it."
Adyson shook her head. "Considering the speed she took off at I don't think she did. But I can't speak for her mental condition."
"Come on, let's split up and find her," Isabella said with a note of command.
"You got it, boss," Katie said with a smile and salute before grabbing Ginger by the hand and dragging her off.
"Make yourself useful," Adyson said to Buford as she took a hold of one of his arms and led him away.
The big man stumbled after her. "Hey, I'm useful," he protested as they disappeared into the crowd.
Ferb tapped Baljeet on the shoulder and pointed in a different direction than the other two pairs had gone. "I guess we will look for her this way," Baljeet said with a shrug. The two of them hurried off.
Phineas smiled at Isabella. "I guess that leaves the two of us. Do you have any guesses where she could have gone?"
"A couple," Isabella said thoughtfully. "Come on."