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Someone Who Cares

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Heinz’s memory had been wiped several times; Linda’s only once.

There was something about being a parent, it seemed, that made it harder to forget. Being a good parent, at least, and Heinz was, for all his faults and missteps, a good parent. Sure, he had skewed Vanessa’s moral compass a little, but she was a teenager and rarely did anything criminal. If anything, his interest in evil kept her away from crime--it wasn’t cool if her dad was into it and all that. And above all else, he loved her deeply, cherished her more than anything.

Perry (codename: The Platypus) had read through tens of files that read about the same as Heinz Doofenschmirtz’s; the parent taken away from the kids, memory wiped, only for the memories to resurface time and time again. Perry had colleagues that had thought it could only happen to women, because before him it always had been. Their bodies, the theory went, could remember carrying and birthing the children (not to mention the stretchmarks and any birth-related scarring that could tip off the mind), so of course the memories would be hard to get rid of completely.

But then there was Heinz.

And of course Heinz wouldn’t be able to forget. There was so much pain in his life and in his past, the kind of scars that sink deeper than the skin and instead rest on the soul. And then out of all of that, out of his failed relationships with every adult human he came across, there came three adorable bundles of helplessness, that needed him to take care of them. Creatures that loved him with only the condition that he love them back.

Being a father was one of the easiest things Heinz had ever done; losing two of his children was the hardest.

Perry had been assigned to Heinz (the first time) when he was involved with Linda, and had shortly learned the whole story.

Vanessa had been born during divorce proceedings. Things with Charlene had been rough for a long time, and their daughter had been conceived just before the worst began.

Heinz had fought very hard on dual custody, and when he lost, he fought even harder for ample visitation rights. That he’d won in full. She was the highlight of his week, he never missed a visit, even though, for the first year, it meant putting up with Charlene.

That was when he met Linda--for the second time. They ran into each other at the store, and he’d apologized uncomfortably for their failure of a date, and congratulated her on becoming a popstar. “You sure proved me wrong.” Then he thanked her for putting him on the “right track.” For believing in him.

They’d talked in the cereal aisle for far too long, the kind of conversation where the guy stocking the shelves starts and finishes, and a new guy comes to stock a different shelf, before it’s over. Heinz’s damaged awkward nerdiness was attractive to her, as were his paternal instincts, and by the time they parted ways Linda had offered Heinz the chance to make up for their terrible drive-in date.

This time he didn’t blow it.

Heinz was skittish about commitment after Charlene, but he had always been a romantic at heart, so when he found out Linda was pregnant he proposed the very next day, in the most dramatic fashion possible. Replete with homemade fireworks.

They’d both kept their names, which had eventually made things easier for O.W.C.A.

Linda had been good for Heinz. Too good, honestly. They didn’t always get each other, but they loved each other. Heinz got a dayjob designing prosthetics like his own, and worked on ruling the world in his spare time. He had a workshop in the garage which he encouraged Linda leave alone, and insisted the children never go near, since things had a tendency to explode.

Much like she does with the boys now, Linda encouraged Heinz with blind devotion and excitement, never quite understanding the breadth and depth of the situation. Like she had all those years ago, every time Heinz’s spirit started to flag she insisted that anything is possible, this time citing her own pop-stardom as proof.

Vanessa and Candace got along, and surprisingly so did Linda and Charlene, which made pickup and dropoff a lot easier.

When Perry was assigned to Heinz, he’d introduced himself on neutral ground with a business card, then wrote him a note indicating that he should rent a place for evil-doing so that the kids would never toddle into a battle.

Heinz had done as instructed, and his ideas were good. Dangerously good. It was only Perry’s skill as an agent that kept him alive and the tristate area free. Later Heinz would rely on backstories to give him inspiration and oomph, but back then he thrived on encouragement, on the idea that someone believed in him, so of course he had to do his very best. He couldn’t let them down.

Everyone, even Vanessa and Candace, had been excited for Phineas’s arrival. Unlike the girls, he was a conscious effort, a purposeful choice on both ends to expand their family. Even Perry was happy for them. He’d met the little girls a few times on accident, but they’d been good enough to stay out of the way while Daddy got Thwarted, and Perry had done his level best to keep from inflicting physical damage. They didn’t need to see that.

And Heinz had been so enthused when he found out it was a boy. Finally, he could make up for his own terrible childhood, and give his son the boyhood a boy deserved.

Shortly after Phineas was born, Perry’s brother moved to America with his wife and soon-to-be-son, and they insisted Perry come live with them. After all, he had a hectic schedule, kept odd hours, and otherwise he would never get a chance to see them. And this way he might be able to help once the baby came.

He thought that life would be like this forever; Heinz and his family, Perry and his, locked in an eternal battle of good and evil that good always won, both of them satisfied with the way life looked.

But then Phineas took an interest in building.

Most kids had terrible twos where they broke things and ran wild and tried to get themselves killed. But Phineas, having watched his father tinker with less dangerous projects at the kitchen table, constructed a working robot from scrap left lying around and wires he pried out of some of his educational toys. It was clunky and lopsided, but it never failed to move when you tapped the button that made it walk.

Linda was astounded and Heinz was so proud. But when Major Monogram told Perry, the agent had gone cold. He knew what happened when evil geniuses had genius babies.

If Phineas had been older--seven or eight maybe--and made something like that, that level of genius could be handwaved, but at two?  At two it was cause for concern. That was too much intelligence to allow to be corrupted--the kind of intelligence that could destroy or conquer the world with too much or too little guidance.

And his robots only got smarter. Before long he was making things with a rudimentary AI, modifying his baby bouncer to bounce higher, and installing things in the house to allow him access to counters and the refrigerator and all other things adult-sized.

Linda was concerned for his safety and scolded him when he did things that were unsafe, made Heinz take apart the elevator to the counter, but she was fine with him building things as long as Heinz was supervising and Phineas wasn’t using power tools.

It had been inevitable.

Perry hadn’t been the one to wipe Heinz’s memory--it was too high-profile for that, a massive project spanning the tristate area, so the Major himself had been called in to do it. They had to wipe dozens of minds--the Flynns, the Doofenschmirtzes, schoolteachers, family friends, essentially anyone who had had more than a passing knowledge of the Flynn children’s father or Heinz’s children.

But Perry had warned him. It wasn’t technically against the rules--no one had told him not to, it wasn’t in any of the regulations or handbooks. Though it was clearly a violation of the spirit of the law. Still, absolutely a judgment call. And Perry had made the call (correctly).

He knew Heinz inside and out. Heinz loved his children more than life itself, and he would fight to the death to keep them, but he would never see them again if that was what it took for them to be safe and happy. He knew a lost cause when he saw one, and when it came to his kids, he wouldn’t fight a losing battle.

Especially since when people fought O.W.C.A. on this, they always lost. And then instead of taking the parent away from them, O.W.C.A. took the kids away from both parents. Usually taking them on as wards of the state in their own private nurseries and academies, training them as agents. Taking away all of the choices they would otherwise have in how to run their lives.

With Candace’s single-minded focus and Phineas’s inventing capabilities, that was absolutely what would happen. They would probably take Vanessa, too, as a punishment for trying to beat the system. Perry made sure Heinz understood that.

Besides, there was no time--Perry made certain of that, too. By the time he told Heinz, time was almost up, he couldn’t possibly whip something together to fight it.

He’d lost before he’d started, and all he’d had time to do was go home, wrap his family up tight, and tell them how much they meant to him, and how he wanted to spend every moment of his life with them.

He got ten more minutes, and then that life was over.

They implanted fake memories to fill in the gaps. Heinz had been single and receiving alimony checks (his dayjob was caput, too many people at the plant had met his family), trying and failing to do evil. They didn’t even let him keep Perry--that had been cut away, too.

An imaginary father/husband had been made up for Linda; a military man. And the next day an agent had been sent out with a flag to tell her her husband was dead, killed in the line of combat. Killed protecting several small children, a war hero to be sure.

Perry had insisted on it. The kids should be proud of their father, even if it was for the wrong reasons.

There had been relocation of course--having the old spaces around would trigger memories, it was common knowledge. Everything of sentimental value that Heinz had given or received was donated, except for a few generic items strategically left to give the impression of the military father’s existence. Candace’s Mary McGuffin doll (the one Vanessa always coveted) for instance.

It was at that point that Perry was encouraged to introduce himself into Linda’s life, so he could properly keep an eye on Phineas and make sure Heinz never got to him, and to steer him in the right direction, make sure that his abilities were used only for good.

The implication was that Perry should become romantically involved with Linda, but Perry was very much not interested in that. However it was around that time that his sister-in-law died. He still isn’t certain if that was a tragic accident or a “tragic accident,” but he didn’t become O.W.C.A.’s best agent by digging around and asking question when things went sour.

It was impossibly hard on Lawrence and Ferb. They were so isolated here, Perry the only family they had in the states, and with very few close friends.

Perry wasted little time in arranging for Lawrence and Linda to meet. He sent Lawrence to a grief counselling support group O.W.C.A. was running (specifically for this purpose), and inundated Linda with advertising for the same event. They even had a playroom set up for the kids, wherein the child-minder was also a certified grief counselor and child psychologist.

It went exactly as Perry thought it would; Lawrence was exactly the kind of damaged, awkward nerd Linda was drawn to, and Linda was exactly the kind of warm-hearted, encouraging homebody that Lawrence needed in his life.

Meanwhile shy Ferb, who had also shown a lot of advanced technical skill, was instantly drawn to outgoing, precocious Phineas, with whom he shared most interests. Candace was wary of new people, but Ferb was someone she could sit and be quiet with, which she needed; Phineas filled the hole in his life with talk.

Phineas and Ferb were supposed to be too young to understand, but they were both smart enough to understand with amazing depth and clarity the fact that they had parents who were never coming back. The O.W.C.A. backstory made it out that Phineas barely knew their father, but the loss of Heinz, however erased on the mind, was heavy in his heart, and all too raw.

Perry met the Flynns officially before long. They'd never interacted with him enough for it to trigger any memories. While Heinz was floundering for ideas, grappling with the weight of loss without the memory of what had gone, Perry had time to focus entirely on the integration of the families--meaning he had a lot of free time to babysit while Linda and Lawrence went out on dates. Candace and (especially) Phineas enjoyed having “Uncle Perry” around so much that Linda insisted he come live with them when they moved in together. They even all learned sign language for him.

Linda loved Lawrence more than she’d ever loved Heinz. It was natural, really. She understood Lawrence, she could pay more than lip service to his hopes and dreams and hardships. He wasn’t an incredibly deep thinker, either, where archaeology wasn’t concerned. Lawrence was easy. Heinz had never been easy. Could. Never be easy.

It was a whirlwind romance, but set on Jupiter; the storm was meant to stay. They married, they opened an antiques shop, and it was like the families had never been separate to begin with. They were the epitome of “blended.”

When Perry was notified that Doofenschmirtz was on the move again--really doing meaningful work--it was like a weight was lifted. Finally, Perry’s life could go back to normal, doing what he did best.

It hurt a lot more than he expected, reintroducing himself. This time Heinz knew sign--didn’t know why he’d decided to learn it, but he knew it. In that respect it was easier, almost heartwarming.

But there was so much history between them. So much that Perry knew that he hadn’t at the start. It could never be a truly clean start, because Perry still had an intimate knowledge of who Heinz Doofenschmirtz was and how he operated. It left Heinz at a major disadvantage in their battles for a very long time.

Which meant it was a very long time before “normal” resumed.

And he was so happy to meet him, just like the first time. Excited he’d been noticed. Not realizing that his file was already seven or eight years thick. Not realizing that Perry had been part of the organization that tore apart his happy family life.

The first time his memory was wiped, it was Major Monogram who put the helmet on and flicked the switch. It’s always the helmet the first time, a hard reset. The serum is for subsequent wipes, a soft reset for upkeep.

Seven years since Heinz met Perry the “first” time, and Perry’s had to push the plunger ten times. He always does it himself, he insists upon it. It hurts every time, and that’s the thing--it should hurt. No one else at O.W.C.A. would care a lick, but Perry does. Perry cares enough to wince while he does it and hold Heinz as the effects set in. Perry carries the weight of what he’s done, what he’s doing.

Even watching Heinz treat Norm like garbage is difficult, because Perry remembers how carefully he handled Phineas, how he supported his every endeavor and interest, let him prattle on and monologue for hours at a time. He rejects Norm because Norm can never measure up to the real thing, even though he doesn’t remember what the real thing was like.

But it’s in there, rattling around in the background, gnawing at him. Perry knows when he’s starting to remember because he’ll stop and stare into space for minutes at a time, trying to form words, trying to grasp at the shadows of remembrance, and Perry wishes he could sink the syringe in then before it starts to hurt so badly.

But the agency’s rules are strict. Until they have concrete proof of memory they have to wait. Like when the business happened with the second dimension, and Heinz wasn’t meant to be among the memories being wiped. At first.

That had come moments after they’d been loaded into vans to be carted off to O.W.C.A., when Heinz had, with the smallest voice and the most maturity Perry had ever seen in him, quietly admitted, “You should probably do me too. I don’t know that I have the self-control not to tell them they’re mine.”

Perry’d stared at him in surprise and Heinz had smiled painfully and shrugged. “It was eh, after I was doomed by the puppet. And I didn’t want to blow it like I always do. I figured, I might have to forget, but at least I can have this time now, right?” Then he’d looked longingly toward the van the kids were riding in. “They’ve grown so much. And such nice kids, really, Linda has done an amazing job with those two.”

Then he’d taken Perry’s hand and, awkwardly, not looking at him, added, “Thank you for looking after them, Perry the Platypus. Really, I feel like I owe you.”

“No,” Perry had signed after squeezing the man’s hand, “You really don’t owe me anything.”

Then he’d told Heinz about his kids. The amazing things they’d done, the ways they’d become just like him--and just the opposite of him. He watched tears well in Heinz’s eyes. Strictly speaking he shouldn’t be indulging him, but he was about to get a hard reset (two, it turned out), and if he’d already remembered, what harm could there be?

They had to muzzle him Hannibal Lecter style to be sure--and tie him up--but he didn’t fight. He smiled at Perry as Perry fit the mask in place, and it almost broke his heart.

Sometimes the level of trust Heinz put in him made Perry hate his job.

There are days that Perry doesn’t think about it, and those are blissful days, days made possible only because everyone at home is normally so happy and carefree. Because the life that came before “Phineas and Ferb” really doesn’t matter to any of them in the slightest.

And there are days when the tally won’t leave his head:

Heinz: 13

Phineas: 2

Candace: 2

Ferb: 1

Lawrence: 1

Linda: 1

Perry: 0

Something about having children taken away makes it so hard to forget for good. He chalked the kids forgetting easily up to them being so young when it happened. But somehow love between two people was easily erasable. Linda and Charlene see each other at cooking class all the time and still Linda doesn’t think about Heinz. Heinz sees Linda on tv every so often, and it doesn’t bother him. Though he does seem to remember her when he remembers the kids.

Perry often wonders if Linda would struggle the same way. If ten in seven years would be her score, too. Or if maybe her memories would be less dense, because she’s always known love, has been inundated with it since birth. Whereas Heinz--Heinz had to make a human to have it love him irrevocably.

Most of the women who struggle against the mind wipe get wiped about once every other year. Some are more like Heinz. Many only get wiped every five years or so.

Linda loves her kids, she’s a great mom. But she’s never had to fight for affection as desperately as Heinz Doofenschmirtz. So Perry can’t help but think that her tally would be lesser.

He often wonders how many more times he’ll have to force himself to push that plunger. How many can he take? Is there a limit? Will he one day crack, break under pressure?

Will my tally ever reach 1?

Sometimes that’s the only thought that makes him go through with the injection. Because someone has to be left to remember.

And it has to be someone who cares.