The first few minutes at the table were almost overwhelming for Perry the Platypus. It was a noisy, chaotic clash of voices, dishes, and elbows as everyone reached over each other to scoop dishes onto plates. And not just their own plates; both Heinz and Vanessa were scooping spoonfuls of various delectables onto the other's plate, as well as Perry's. Soon his large round china dish was filled with a sample of everything Heinz had made.
Perry weighed 6 pounds. This was more than average for a platypus, but most of the extra body mass was muscle. Aside from Heinz's irresistible cheese, Perry had never had so much food sat before him in his life. He wasn't sure his stomach was big enough to eat everything on the plate, but he resolved to do his best and at least make sure to take one bite of everything.
The noise died down once the plates were full and Perry, Heinz, Vanessa, and Norm's squirrel started eating. Perry was able to relax now. He tried the asparagus first and found that it was delicious. He forced himself to give another dish a taste as he listened to the conversation.
Dinner dialogue at the Doofenshmirtz table was loud, unpredictable, and prone to both long off topic rants and hasty interruptions. Norm's non sequiturs made it that much harder to keep track of the banter.
"There's an up-and-coming local group called Splitting Headache that I really like right now. They're having an outdoor "Chilled to the Bone" concert in the old lot behind the cemetery this weekend and I was planning on going with Lacey."
"You know, my first crush was on an ocelot cub named Olivia. Unfortunately, she didn't feel the same way. She was nice about it, though; we were able to remain friends."
"My Geography teacher is the worst. His class is so dull. I wish he would just retire already. Everyone knows he hates his job."
"I THINK I FORGOT TO UNPLUG THE SHRINK-INATOR!"
"Being a lawn gnome allows you to know all about your neighbors without them thinking you are nosy. So, that was a bonus."
"Last time you went to a costume party you dressed as Lady Gaga and embarrassed everyone!"
"I did get to do a little bit of evil today. Some time during the night I ripped the tag off my mattress in my sleep. And then this morning I purchased a word processor, and I uploaded it onto the computer in the lab and the computer in the living room! Two computers! I'll upload it onto your laptop too, sweetie, if you think you would use it..."
"WOULD YOU LOVE ME IF I WASN'T SO TALL?"
The Doofenshmirtz family didn't hog the entire conversation. Both Heinz and Vanessa made a point to ask regularly if Perry needed any refills or if he was in agreement on a specific topic. When Heinz told stories of their battles he would often pause to see if Perry had anything to add, and he never complained when Perry interrupted with a chatter to correct a mistake the scientist had made in his retelling of events. Perry even answered a few friendly "yes or no" and "simple answer" questions.
"Do you understand German?" A nod yes.
"Do you remember your platypus family?" A nod no.
"Have you always been affiliated with the OWCA?" Another yes.
Perry used a combination of pointing at an egg dish and pointing at his hat to indicate that his egg had hatched in an OWCA incubator.
"Have you ever met another sentient platypus?" A reluctant no.
"Are you rooting for Alice and Jamison to get together on Our World is Everything?" An enthusiastic yes.
"How old were you when you met Dad?" Two fingers.
"Have you given any thought to what you'll do when you retire?" A shrug of the shoulders. Perry hoped that was a long way in the future.
Questions for him mingled with stories of Vanessa's childhood and Heinz's old schemes. They talked about their day, and jokes they had heard, and about new businesses in town. There was much laughter. Perry learned a lot about the dysfunctional family and, though he revealed nothing vital or Top Secret, they learned a lot about him, too.
When Heinz was full, he leaned back in his chair and massaged his stomach. "You know, this was nice." He sighed gently. "Sitting down with family and Norm and enjoying a big meal. This... this was very pleasant. We should do this more often."
Vanessa and Norm both agreed, but Perry could only fake a smile. He had enjoyed this. A lot. He would fondly remember this feast for as long as he lived. But Perry knew that there could be too much of a good thing. As wonderful as recreation with the Doofenshmirtz family had been, Perry had his own family at home who needed their beloved pet platypus. Also, Perry needed to maintain some level of professionalism. It was Perry's job to fight Heinz and make sure the eccentric man didn't do any damage in his quest to rule the Tri-State Area. While Perry felt he could allow the occasional excursion or fun day off, he knew he couldn't let moments like this become too frequent a habit.
The OWCA could take away Perry's family and nemesis at their own discretion, and Perry was already so emotionally attached to both sides of his life that he didn't know how he would cope with losing either one. They had done so once before, last summer before the day when Heinz invented his Other-Dimension-Inator. The monotreme felt that losing them again would be even more difficult. He couldn't put himself in a position where it became even harder.
Perry decided to let himself have this night before distancing himself again.
"We should do something fun before we eat dessert." Heinz was saying.
I don't knooow. Maybe play a game, or watch a movie?"
It was decided that Vanessa would choose potential games while Heinz looked for potential movies, and then the group would vote on what to do.
Perry noticed that Vanessa choose three games that required little-to-no talking, and the group decision granted Skiddley Whiffers the victory.
Heinz had picked three potential movies. Perry immediately vetoed The Amazing Misadventures of a Young British Wizard. He hated how unrealistic the movie was. Not the magic or the fantastic creatures, no- Perry could suspend his disbelief. But Perry had seen first hand what happened when adults abused one child while pampering another, and a boy like Larry Kotter it did not make. In the end, the old classic Space Adventures won in the film category.
After some mild bickering, the foursome decided to run the movie softly in the background while they played the game.
"I'M THE JEEP!"
"The hair dryer is mine!"
"I'll be the nose, and Perry the Platypus picks the fedora! Remember, if Perry the Platypus wins (which is really likely since, you knooow, winning is kind of his thiiing) he doesn't actually have to say "Skiddley Whiffers". He can just ring the bell."
"Yeah, duh Dad. We're not platypus bigots."
"I MIGHT BE A PLATYPUS BIGOT!"
"Shut up, Norm!"
Contrary to Heinz's prediction, Perry didn't win. He spent most of the game in leg irons. He didn't mind; it gave him several "mini-thwarting" opportunities as he made sure that Heinz didn't cheat. In the end Norm (that lucky robot!) had rolled Double Kings and rung the victory bell after a mere 24 minutes.
Norm decided to quit while he was ahead and left to paint on his pajamas, leaving Perry, Heinz, and Vanessa alone to watch rest of the movie. Heinz and Vanessa each ate a piece of Doonkleberry pie, but the platypus was still full.
Perry liked the film. Space Adventures was one of Phineas and Ferb's favorites and the monotreme knew all the dialogue by heart. He watched as the gallant heroes decoded the ancient runes, as they had their first encounter with the Big Bad's right hand woman, as the Princess escaped from her cell...
"Peeeryyyyy... Peeeryyy the Plaaatypuuuus..." a sing song voice was calling out to him. Perry opened his eyes. Apparently the movie was over. Vanessa was on her knees in front of the TV placing the disk back in its case and Heinz was-
The platypus realized that he had fallen asleep. Perry was leaning back against the couch, and sideways into Heinz. He immediately sat up, embarrassed. The scientist didn't seem to have minded.
"I should get to bed," Vanessa yawned. Perry looked at a clock and saw that it was 10:30. "Goodnight, you two. Have fun with the Traffic-Light-Change-Inator tomorrow."
"Vanessa! You've ruined the surprise!" Heinz scolded, but he didn't really sound angry. The teen smiled, waved, and headed to her room. Heinz looked down at the platypus.
"Don't think this gets you out of listening to my backstory tomorrow, Perry the Platypus. It is still relevant, even if you already know the name of the scheme." Perry nodded. He expected no less.
"Sooo, what are your plans? I didn't know you were going to stay this late. Are you leaving? If you want, you can stay in the guest room."
Perry shook his head no. There were some boundaries he never intended to break. Spending the night when there was no emergency was were he drew the line. Besides, Perry was likely to sleep walk into someone's bed in the early hours of the morning out of habit. That would be embarrassing no matter how it ended.
"Oh, you are going?" the man was clearly trying to hide his disappointment. "Well, be careful I guess. I expect you here tomorrow around 1:00. And after you thwart me, you should tell me about anything Vanessa told you that isn't confidential. I want to make sure I don't irritate her again."
Perry nodded. He would probably be up half the night deciding what he could say. The monotreme turned to leave.
"Wait!" Heinz called. "Its... its cold out! You should take this with you!" The scientist handed Perry the blanket that he had left when Heinz was sick. Perry took the warm fleece bundle and folded it into his hat. He planned on using it the moment he got in his hover car, but he didn't want to let Heinz see that the cold bothered him.
Perry hopped onto the floor and made his way for the patio. If he left now he would make it home before Linda and Lawrence returned from their antiques auction.
"Wait! Perry the Platypus!" Heinz ran out after him. Perry turned to stare at the man.
"Perry the platypus, I just... I wanted to... it means..." the man sighed, then almost whispered, "Thank you, Perry the Platypus."
Perry smiled and nodded before climbing into the vehicle and flying away, leaving Heinz Doofenshmirtz alone with his thoughts on a cold November night.