The weather on the afternoon of the wedding was absolutely perfect. That morning it had been storming fiercely, but it had only taken Heinz and Ferb a few hours to rig up a Weatherinator, and now it was a balmy 72 degrees, cloudless skies.
Heinz made his way to a chair in back. He had expected to walk his baby girl down the aisle one day, but in the end Vanessa and Candace had decided to go with a less traditional ceremony, and now his only role was to sit far enough back in the audience that Vanessa wouldn’t notice if he drifted off during their poetry reading. He wasn’t as young as he used to be, after all, and the sun was warm and catching stickily on the flowers in a distinctly hazy fashion. The entire day felt like a dream, the way that important things do; it was hard to believe that Vanessa’s wedding could be a reality, not when he had such clear memories of a small child with big eyes requesting a Mary McGuffin doll.
With all that in mind, it didn’t even strike him as unusual for a moment to see Perry the Platypus making his way down the aisle in Phineas Flynn’s arms. And then the moment passed, and he was seized with an unholy terror and the panicked realization that he could not, in fact, flee his only daughter’s wedding.
There wasn’t any real reason to flee from Perry the Platypus anyways. It was just that awkward moment when you came across someone who used to be important. He’d always known that Perry lived undercover as someone’s pet; he had to belong to Phineas and Ferb, then. It was the only explanation for his presence at Candace’s wedding. For a moment, Heinz was tempted to laugh hysterically. He remembered the fear when Vanessa had seemed serious about Major Monogram’s son, the panic at the idea that he might have to choose between his daughter and his life’s work, and the desperate relief he’d felt when he’d realized that there was no contest, that Vanessa would always come first in his life.
That was something he’d kept in mind when, home from her first year of college, Vanessa had stammeringly come out to him, and it was a thought that had crossed his mind again just a month ago when Vanessa had thrown open his front door and collapsed in tears onto his couch.
“She hasn’t sent back the RSVP card; I don’t think she’s going to come.” she sobbed into his shoulder. “I don’t know if she’s ever even going to talk to me again.”
“She’ll come around, Vanessa. She will - she just needs time.” He reassured her anxiously, aware that he was lying through his teeth. Judging by the look Vanessa gave him, she knew it too.
“How were you so cool with it, Dad?” she asked, once her tears had slowed. “I - when I realized, and I thought about telling you guys - I thought it would be the opposite. I thought you’d be the one to have a problem.” she looked a little ashamed as she said it, and he tried not to be hurt by the words. He could see why she would think it; he’d always been far more prone to hatefulness than Charlene, who breezed through life with a kind of self-centered indifference.
“I was raised by ocelots.” he responded, trying to put it into words for her, so she’d understand that she never had anything to fear from him. “I spent four years of my life fighting a platypus. A giant robot thinks of me as his father.” Vanessa giggled through her tears. Norm had begged to be allowed to cater the wedding, but Candace had firmly nixed the idea, and they’d placated him by letting him make the potato salad.
“Seriously, though - I have a giant robot for a son, and you thought I’d object to a lesbian for a daughter?” he insisted, and she dissolved into real laughter for a moment. He was pleased to see it, but he also hoped that she could hear what he was actually saying. That none of it mattered; that the important thing was to find the people you loved and hold onto them, no matter what. That that was what she meant to him, and she never had to worry about being let go. That he was proud of her for finding someone worth loving and holding onto them no matter what the world said about it.
Before that day, Heinz Doofenshmirtz had let exactly one person fall out of his life, but after Vanessa left he took Charlene’s picture off the wall and raised his count to two.
She was absent from the wedding ceremony, but so were Vanessa’s tears; her smile was radiant, hands intertwined with Candace’s, as they exchanged poems of devotion. His daughter’s happiness was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen, but still, devotional poetry was apparently a length business, and his eyes kept wandering over to Perry the Platypus.
Perry had gotten old. He’d known that, intellectually. The agent had been getting slower, without any conscious decision Heinz had been making his traps just a little easier to escape in order to compensate, and then suddenly one day he’d looked up when his door was kicked in to see a badger wearing a fedora.
“And just who are you!?” he demanded, irate, looking up from his fizzinator. “Don’t you think it’s a little unprofessional, sending in a substitute with no warning? I had like four platypus-specific puns planned into my monologue, I’m going to have to rewrite the entire thing...”
He hadn’t gotten the chance. Agent B had kicked his way out of the soda-can trap like so much paper, destroying his inator in a matter of minutes. The eccentric-old-maninator had met a similar fate, followed shortly by the darkinator and the seatbeltinator, and he’d eventually realized that Perry must have retired, that he wouldn’t be back.
He’d reminded himself firmly that their relationship had been a purely professional one, that he’d had another nemesis in the past, Peter, and that he would get used to Byron. The rest of it, the multitude of wild adventures and intimate moments they had shared - well, that had just been part of the job, hadn’t it? And even if it hadn’t been entirely, what of it? He couldn’t invite his ex-nemesis over for checkers.
Still, evil had lost some of its appeal. Vanessa left for college shortly after, and he retired, looking for more honest work. He spent three years falling in and out of unappealing corporate jobs before he happened upon Flynn-Fletcher Inventions, a startup company being run by two recent high school graduates.
A year later Vanessa had accompanied him to a corporate picnic and met his bosses’ older sister. And now all the important players in his life were gathered together at a single wedding; it was a small world. A small world and a short one; Perry had new wrinkles around his eyes, new gray in his fur. How long was a platypus’ life span?
It was because he was staring in Perry’s direction that he noticed the way Ferb’s fingers stroked briefly over Phineas’, in a gesture of affection and comfort, before wrapping around his wrist in a familiar way. Heinz had a startling flash of realization about his bosses’ relationship. For a moment he was put off by it - siblings? It seemed wrong. Then he considered how far away from them Linda and Lawrence were sitting, how they hadn’t even come over to say hello to their sons, and remembered the pre-wedding family dinners that Phineas and Ferb hadn’t been able to attend. He thought of Vanessa, crying on his couch, and of Perry, who could easily die without ever knowing how phenomenally important he had been, and was abruptly too ashamed of himself to bear it.
He held onto the feeling through the ceremony, which ended when his daughter kissed another woman with tears of joy streaming down her cheeks, and through the photographs, which seemed to take actual decades to complete, and then he brought it back to the forefront of his mind as he entered the reception hall and made his way over to the elderly platypus.
“Some wedding, huh?” he started, grabbing the retired agent’s attention. “Do you know she wanted Roger to officiate? I have never been so grateful to have Washington taking up all his time...”
Perry chittered at him, and it was as easy to understand as it had always been; shock, amusement, just the slightest bit of uncertainty. No tone of remonstrance, and Heinz suddenly remembered that Perry could have contacted him too, that it had been a mutual failure.
“I wonder, Perry the platypus, if I could get you a drink?” he asked.