"Thank you for telling me this, Perry."

Perry nods, attempting an emptily reassuring smile as he glances around Doofenshmirtz, up the stairs, toward Phineas' bedroom.

"I'm sorry," he tries to communicate with only a brief look. Heinz seems to understand. Perry turns and begins walking away, placing his respectfully-taken-off fedora back on his head. The door closes quite gently behind him.

The urge to quit bubbles up again in Perry. Go rogue. Protect his best friend and his family. Help them get away, help Heinz keep what belongs to him. Keep Heinz's son safe, most of all. He's grown attached to the boy, even though he's only a baby.

Perry stops and turns, just barely catching Heinz's foot stepping far-too-slowly up the stairs through the small window above the door.

He shouldn't have left. He doesn't know what Heinz will do. No, no, he would never- That's not like him to-

The fear - probably irrational, Perry knows - overtakes him, and he begins running back toward the house. The only thing that stops him is his watch beeping.

"Agent P! What are you doing skipping training? Report back to headquarters at once."

Perry looks up. The house is so quiet, so peaceful. It usually is, unless one of Heinz's experiments go wrong. It won't be soon, one way or another. He knows that.

"Agent P! Agent P?"

Something tells him things will be better this way, somehow. Something in his gut. He looks down into his wrist communicator and nods, feeling dizzy.

For Doofenshmirtz, it's almost surreal, like he's waiting for imminent death. He guesses he is, technically.

(the procedure is painless, technically; the victim has no recollection of pain just as he has no recollection of the selectively deleted memories, so screaming is to be ignored to retain a-)

"Heinz, I need you to- Heinz, honey, are you okay? You look-"

"It'll be fine, Linda." He can only lie to her if he lies to himself at the same time. This has become apparent to him in their two years of marriage.

"Are you sure? You look like you've seen a ghost."

He smiles at her. She's so beautiful when she's worried. She's so beautiful all the time.

"No, dear. I suppose I'm just a bit tired. Don't you fret." He hugs her and kisses her forehead, looking over her head to the family portrait hanging on the wall. Little Candace sits on Linda's knee, smiling in her quiet, almost serious way. Heinz holds baby Phineas, obviously struggling to keep him still even though he's not even a year old. A happy young family.

Linda notices and turns, hugging his torso and admiring the portrait.

(the homes are scanned for images inconsistent with inserted and deleted memories and said images are destroyed and replaced or manipulated until suitable)

Heinz wants to stay like this forever, until they come. But Linda pulls away, smiling. "I need to go check on dinner. You should get some rest."

He smiles, hoping it's not too weak or fake. "Of course, darling."

He doesn't watch her walk down the stairs. He wonders if that was the last moment they'll share together.

He decides it is and turns toward Candace's room. He peeks his head in. She's sitting on her bed, running a little plastic comb through her doll's hair.

"Precious…" She looks up at him, smiling. Heinz walks forward, not quite knowing what to do with himself and at the same time trying to keep completely composed. He kneels down next to her bed. "I love you."

She giggles and kisses his forehead. "Love you, daddy."

He hugs her. He knows he'll cry if he stays any longer, so he pulls away and says nothing else. He can breathe again once he's out of the room, but just barely. She reminds him so much of Vanessa. He can't even think about what they'll do to her. What they'll do to everyone.

(we're professionals, so obviously no stone will be left unturned)

Phineas' room. He's out of his crib, which isn't surprising to Heinz or Linda anymore. He quickly thwarts Heinz's attempts to keep the thing inescapable every time. Heinz doesn't really look at what Phineas is doing. He knows it's something amazing. What matters to Heinz at the moment is Phineas, and Phineas alone.

This is the last time he'll hold him. He knows this. Phineas, though, seems oblivious, cooing and grabbing for his nose. Heinz closes his eyes.

(a child of this potential can not possibly be raised by a villain like Doofenshmirtz)

(Phineas would more than likely far surpass his father)

(it's not worth the risk to the world to keep this family together)

He opens them again. Phineas giggles. Phineas is too young for his memories to be rearranged. He has no memories. He-

Heinz, still holding Phineas and not sure if he'll ever let him go, stands and moves as fast as he can toward some paper and something to write with.

He writes as quickly and neatly and as ambiguously as he can. He can only pray they'll let it slide. Or, better yet, that they'll never find it. Somehow.

(the OWCA recognizes the shortcomings of our plan, but realize it's ultimately the best for-)

(agents are dispatched disguised as house pets to keep these OWCA-altered families in check)

He has given up now, Doofenshmirtz realizes. He has no urge to fight. No way to, really. Only the complete and utter need to make sure his family, and especially Phineas, knows that he loves them, no matter how all of their memories change.

He sinks to the ground, careful to avoid hurting Phineas, and begins to cry.

That's how they find him when they come.

X

"Stargazing always reminds me of my mum."

There's a profound silence. Phineas and Ferb are sitting on their roof. Perry is between them. He almost perks up at such words, but reminds himself that, no matter how much he's grown to care for Ferb, it's Phineas he's supposed to be watching. Words like "my" and "real" and "biological" attached to the word "dad." He has to report that, every word.

"Is that a good thing?"

Ferb looks at Phineas, with an expression even Perry can't decipher but Phineas understands immediately. He leans over Perry to give his brother a quick hug and then, smiling, looks back up.

(they say it's some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder, I can hardly remember his name, let alone his face; Don or something…)

(the kids don't remember a thing, but Candace was only two-)

(trust me, Linda, darling, whatever happened is in the past)

Perry feels his wrist communicator vibrating and is eternally grateful they decided to switch the loud obvious beeping and flashing lights to more stealthy methods. He gets up, stretching. Moments like this are rare between Phineas and Ferb, but the most Phineas has ever said is he has the notion, more like childish wishful thinking, that his biological father is or was a good man. Perry doubts he'll do anything different tonight.

(Agent P-)

(Perry the Platypus!)

(you used to just call me Perry)

Sometimes Doofenshmirtz's backstories

(I never saw her again)

are physically painful for Perry to listen to. A major part of his job is to listen to them and find anything off or inconsistent about them, so this is understandably troubling.

It's just that they're all lies. A good number, anyway. And Perry knows something they'd done to Doof's brain causes him to speak about his memories, inserted or real, as frequently as possible, just like something they did to Linda's causes her to almost never verbalize the ones she was even left or given a clear picture of.

They seem less like people when Perry thinks of them that way. Manipulated puppets. Robots. Living and breathing but with programmed mannerisms and programmed thoughts and programmed memories. Arranged lives. Characters. Caricatures.

(the human mind is a strange thing)

(you know what also tends to be strange? the platypus mind)

He feels something deep in his gut telling him to go home almost the moment he arrives at Doof's. He makes it quick. Doof doesn't even have time for a backstory, and seems quite offended. As he's walking away, however, Perry hears him agreeing that it is rather late and he doesn't want to keep Vanessa up.

When Perry gets back, the house is relatively dark. All of the lights but the one in the boys' room are out.

Phineas' "Oh, there you are, Perry," seems rather lackluster. A bit tired. Not sad, but thoughtful. They're both sitting on their beds. Ferb is reading and Phineas is sketching. The boys tend to do this - when one can't sleep, the other stays up with him. It's fairly obvious who is keeping Ferb up tonight.

Perry jumps up onto Phineas' bed, nudging against him, hoping he was just up worrying about where he was. He starts petting him, and Perry sinks down into a laying position. He's almost dozed off when Phineas picks him up, swinging his legs over the edge of his bed.

"Ferb? I want to, um-" Phineas sounds rather nervous. Talking to Ferb of all people. "Can I show you something?"

Ferb responds by placing his bookmark and starting to get out of bed.

"Oh, you don't have to get up." Phineas moves Perry out of his way and starts rummaging around in his nightstand. He pulls out an envelope, and Perry gets worried. The OWCA screens their mail, with him supposedly acting as a second defense. Which he usually forgets to do because Doof has never sent anything to this house for any reason, even for a scheme. At least, not that Perry has seen.

Phineas sits down next to Ferb on his bed, and Perry scampers over to them.

"I've never shown this to anyone, not even you, obviously. I want you to read it."

Ferb reads it. Perry does too, as discreetly as he can. Phineas seems to be rereading it for the thousandth time.

They're both silent after that.

This note is very reportable. Might-as-well-burn-it-now reportable. Scramble-Phineas-and-Ferb's-brains reportable.

Safe to say, the OWCA never hears about it.

X

Phineas,

I love you. You'll always be in my heart and I'll always be in yours, no matter what happens. That's all I can say.

Always remember that you're smart. You're creative. You've got the world at your fingertips. Remember that if it's the last thing you do.

Carpe diem. Seize the day. Always.

I love you.

Dad