I meant to do this one a day, but apparently I don't have enough patience today. At least it's not five minutes after the last post...
Here's the next chapter!
Title: Capturing the Past - Chapter Two
Author: Cynthia J. Klawitter
Category: Gen; Drama; Hurt/Comfort
Spoilers: Nothing really this time around
Season: Post series (by one year)
Warnings: None I can think of
Summary: Having lost one family, Candace and Phineas' biological father returns to reconnect with his older children. When Candace isn't willing to oblige, Phineas isn't given the option of doing the same. Although the police are doing their best when both Phineas and Ferb go missing, Candace and the rest of the kids are determined to do some hunting of their own. Will they be able to find the boys in time?
A/N: My take on the Candace and Phineas' biological father returns and causes problems for everyone. I like how it worked out. Also, unless specifically stated otherwise, this piece does not take place in the same timeline as the majority of my stories.
Status: Complete (as of 1/14/2012)
The two boys spent an hour lying on the beds, looking around at the small, windowless room they had awakened in. The beds were in each of the two far corners from the single door, with maybe the width of a bed between them and between the ends of the beds and the wall with the door. It was lit by a single, simple fixture in the center of the ceiling, and there was nothing decorative on the grey concrete block walls that they could see from their positions. There was nothing either of them could see that could be used to break out, even if they'd been feeling all right. As it was, with nothing to see or do, and not a lot to talk about, they eventually drifted back to sleep.
The boys woke up at seven the next morning when the sound of a door closing reached them. They were surprised to see an older blond man standing at the foot of Phineas' bed holding a tray loaded with food. He spared Ferb the briefest of glances then smiled at the shorter redhead. "Rise and shine, sleepyhead," he said gently.
Phineas blinked and shot a look at Ferb as he sat up and pushed himself back to sit against the back wall. "Um, yeah," he said slowly, not recognizing the man in the least.
"I brought you some breakfast," the man told him, setting the tray down on the end of the bed. There was a plate with scrambled eggs, hash browns, and bacon, another smaller plate with two pieces of buttered toast, and two glasses, one of milk and the other of orange juice.
"Uh, thanks?" Phineas couldn't help but share another look with his brother.
"I'm sure you've got quite an appetite, so if that's not enough let me know. I don't mind whipping up some more food." The man sighed when Phineas didn't say anything. "I guess it makes sense that you wouldn't recognize me; I'm sure your mother never mentioned me to you, much less showed you pictures. And I know I have a lot of time to make up for, something I have every intention of doing." He paused when Phineas' eyes narrowed slightly. "I'm your father, Phineas, William Flynn, and I'm finally back to have the relationship with you we should have had all along."
Phineas swallowed and shared yet another silent look with Ferb, whose expression had turned somewhat wary. He licked his lips as he returned his gaze to William. "All right," he said noncommittally.
William nodded and smiled. "I'll let you eat breakfast before it gets cold, and we'll go somewhere for a nice long talk when you're finished." He turned around and left, and the sound of the door locking echoed through the room soon after.
Phineas crawled forward and looked at the tray, then over at Ferb. "This just got really weird."
"Do you believe he's telling the truth?" Ferb asked him.
"Well, it would explain why he brought us here, and I think a few facial features look like ones Candace and I have. I guess we can find out more when we talk to him later."
Ferb shook his head. "I don't think I'll be going with you when he comes back," he commented.
Phineas just looked at him, confused. "What do you mean? Don't you want to come with us?"
"That's not the problem. I don't believe that man wishes to speak with me, only you. When he came in, he looked at me once then dismissed me. And none of his statements were aimed in my direction." Ferb raised his eyebrows and waited for his brother to understand.
"I don't know about that," Phineas protested. "Why would he take both of us and then ignore you?"
"We do spend a lot of time together," Ferb replied. "Perhaps he found no opportune moment to take you when you were alone."
Phineas nodded in concession of the point. "Well, I could see that. But still…"
Ferb pointed at the tray of food. "There's only enough food there for one person."
The redhead looked for himself. "No way, there's definitely enough there for both of us. Just look at those piles of eggs, bacon, and hash browns. And there are two pieces of toast."
"And only one glass each of milk and orange juice," Ferb added simply.
Phineas looked again, and his shoulders slumped. "And only one fork and spoon." He sighed. "I was hoping it wasn't that bad, that he wouldn't do that. Of course, the fact that he kidnapped us and locked us in a windowless room doesn't exactly suggest the best kind of person to begin with." He met his brother's gaze. "He couldn't have always been like this. Mom never would have married him and stayed with him for as long as she must have if he was really a bad person. Something must have happened to him to make him like this. Maybe I can find out when I talk to him." Ferb nodded his agreement with the statements. "Once we have an idea of why he's doing this, we should be able to figure out a way out of here. Everybody's got to be worried sick by now." He smiled. "But for now, let's eat. If we're still hungry, I'll ask for more. You won't have to worry about getting enough while we're stuck here."
Ferb gave his brother a grateful smile, then joined him on his bed. The two ate, hoping they'd end up with more answers than they'd started the day with when the time came for Phineas to talk with their captor.
* * * * * * * *
Perry the platypus lay curled up on Candace's bed next to the sleeping girl as the sun rose the morning after the boys had disappeared. He'd listened carefully as the rest of the family and Isabella had given their statements to the detective the night before and just knew Linda's ex-husband was the source of the problem. He really hoped he could take care of Doofenshmirtz's evil plan quickly that day so he could do something to help with the search afterward. He had to do something; he loved the boys too much not to. Maybe there was even a way the O.W.C.A. could help…
Before he could take that thought any further, Candace started moaning as she rolled back and forth in the bed. Apparently she was in the midst of a nightmare. Perry couldn't blame her; he'd had one of his own earlier that night but had managed to get back to sleep. But he didn't want to see the girl suffer. He might not have been as close to her as he was to the boys, but she was still part of his family.
The blue platypus moved onto Candace's chest and started to chatter. It took a couple of tries, but suddenly the teenager gasped as her eyes flew open. Perry waited to be dumped on the floor - she usually tended to grab him and take him to where the boys were, holding him at arm's length until she had deposited him with them, but would make quicker work of him when she knew they weren't available. So he was surprised when she sat up and took him into her arms, burying her face in his fur.
"Oh, Perry," she sobbed, the words muffled. "I'm so scared!"
Perry chattered again, wishing not for the first time that he could use human speech. He gave her neck a little rub with the top of his head and hoped she'd find it as comforting as he found her embrace.
"How could he do this? Why would he do this?" she asked with another squeeze. "I just wish I knew what he wanted with them." She took a deep breath and released it, getting her crying under control and turning her face so her cheek was lying against Perry's soft fur. "Maybe I should have talked to him more, asked him some more questions," she mused a touch mournfully.
Perry knew that wouldn't have changed anything, but as the only person in the family who had known this William Flynn was back in town it was natural Candace would be feeling her share of guilt. No matter how frustrated they made her, she loved her brothers very much. That Perry had never doubted.
Candace sighed. "I guess it really wouldn't have made a difference, but I'd feel like I had more to offer right now," she refuted herself. She sat up and held Perry at arm's length. "Thanks, Perry," she told him with a tiny smile. "I needed that."
He chattered again, and was pleased to see that she seemed to understand it was his way of telling her it had been no problem whatsoever. He'd stick with her as long as he could this morning, keep her company. Seeing how much Candace was hurting made him even angrier - and that much more determined to see this kidnapper brought to justice after the boys were returned home unharmed. The man didn't want to know what would happen if the boys were actually harmed…
It wasn't long before Candace had taken care of her usual morning ritual and scooped up Perry to head downstairs. They found Linda sitting alone at the kitchen table, staring into space as she drank her coffee. There was a sorrow in her eyes that she masked as soon as she realized she had company.
"Oh, good morning, Candace," she greeted her daughter. "Did you sleep at all?"
"A little," Candace admitted. "But it wasn't the most restful night I've ever had."
Linda smiled at her. "I think I'd be more surprised if it had." She rose to her feet. "Go ahead and sit down, sweetheart. I'll make you something to eat."
Candace grimaced as she gently placed Perry on the floor. "I'm not sure I can eat anything."
The older woman went into the refrigerator and pulled out the carton of orange juice. "You have to try, dear," she said as she went to the cupboard for a glass. "It won't do the boys any good if you get sick." She filled the glass and brought it over to the table, then started preparing breakfast.
Perry stuck close to Candace's feet as she sighed and sipped at the juice. Things just weren't the same without Phineas and Ferb around. He missed them terribly, and he knew it was worse for the rest of the family.
Lawrence came down just before Linda finished making the meal. Perry was happy to see him give Candace then Linda a warm hug, his wife getting an extra kiss on her forehead. "Are you going to call your parents today then?" the man asked as he stepped back to allow Linda to get everything put together to take to the table.
"I'll call them in a little while," Linda said once she sat down with the other two. "They like to get up a little later when they don't have anyone staying with them."
"Are you going to call Grandma and Grandpa Fletcher?" Candace asked.
"I will after we've finished eating," Lawrence confirmed with a nod.
As they continued their meal, Perry was satisfied that they were pulling together well, and so felt comfortable enough to sneak off for his scheduled meeting with Major Monogram. With one last fond look at his family, he was off.
* * * * * * * *
Candace somehow managed to finish her breakfast, grateful her mother had insisted she eat when she realized her stomach had settled down once it was full. The two ladies chatted as they cleaned up, Lawrence having gone upstairs to his craft room in the attic to call his parents, giving each other unspoken comfort. She made one last check of the table to make sure she hadn't forgotten anything and noticed something. "Hey, where's Perry?" she asked.
Linda looked up from wiping down the stovetop. "I have no idea. I guess the boys not being here affected him more than we realized, since he usually doesn't disappear until later in the day." She smiled. "I think he'll be okay. Why don't you help me with the laundry? I have a load in the dryer I forgot to bring in last night."
"Sure, Mom," the teenager agreed.
Once they'd folded the clothes from the dryer and Linda had started sorting the remaining laundry for another load, Candace took the basket inside to put everything away. She had to fight back tears when she put the boys' things in their room, and made a promise to herself that she'd let it all out later when she knew there wouldn't be as much of a chance of being overheard. She wasn't going to hurt either of her parents more than they already were.
The last thing the teenage girl had to take care of was a small pile of old towels her dad used in his crafts room. She silently slipped up the stairs to the attic, then paused just outside the door when she heard Lawrence's voice on the other side.
"I know, Mum, I'm trying. I just have to keep it together for Linda and Candace. Of course, they're devastated."
Candace blinked. Like he wasn't? She knew how much it was hurting him that his son was missing - both sons.
"I suppose I can take some comfort that they're together. The boys are quite a team."
He had that right. Phineas and Ferb just completed each other in a way that was almost spooky. In fact, there were times when Candace felt like an outsider around them. She knew they loved her, but still…
"Yes, Linda's first husband, Candace and Phineas' father. We don't know what he wants with them, just that he spoke with Candace the day after her birthday." She heard him sigh. "She must have been so shocked to see him, to know that her father finally wanted to reach out and connect with her after so long. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a small part of her that wishes for that connection. I can't blame her."
Tears welled up in Candace's eyes at the dejected tone the man used to talk about her. What was he talking about? Why would he think she would want… Realization set in suddenly. She hadn't told her parents exactly what she'd told William Flynn, just that she'd told him to go away. She had to fix this, make him understand…
"You really don't have to. I just wanted you to know…" Candace found herself almost holding her breath as she waited for him to finish his sentence. What were her grandparents saying? "Oh, all right then, if you insist. Call me when you have all the details and I'll meet you. I love you, too. Goodbye." She heard him hang up the phone and sigh loudly.
Her heart went out to the man behind the door. That was the man she considered her father, no matter that there wasn't a biological connection. Not even after William Flynn showed up out of the blue did that change in the slightest.
"Hey, Dad?" Candace said tentatively as she opened the door and poked her head in. "I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"
"Oh, Candace!" Lawrence said, startled, as he brought his head up sharply from where it had been resting on the arms he had crossed on his desk. "No, no, of course you're not interrupting. I just finished speaking with my mother." He managed a small smile. "Apparently she and my father are determined to fly over to be here now that they know what's going on with the boys."
"Good. I'm glad they're coming," Candace said, meaning it wholeheartedly. She brought the towels she was carrying over to the desk and set them down. "But there is something I wanted to talk to you about."
Lawrence reached out and gently took her hand. "Anything," he said simply.
Candace smiled. "There's something I forgot to tell you about what I said to Mom's first husband." She was determined to not call William Flynn her father ever again, not even with the biological qualifier.
"You don't have to tell me everything," Lawrence said quickly, giving her hand a squeeze.
"I do have to tell you this. I want to make sure you understand." Candace returned the squeeze. "I told him that I already have a dad, someone who accepted me from the beginning, who was there for me when it counted, and who loved me like I was his own." Her eyes teared up again as she spoke, especially when she saw that Lawrence had been flabbergasted into silence. "You're my dad. The only connection I have with William Flynn is biological, and I wish I didn't have that. It never crossed my mind to want anything from him; I have everything I could ever want from a dad right here." She sprang forward and wrapped her arms around Lawrence's neck, satisfied when she felt him tightly return the embrace. "I love you, Dad. I always will."
"Oh, sweetheart," Lawrence murmured next to her ear, his voice shaky. "I love you, too, so very much. But I never would have blamed you for wanting something from him."
Candace gave a little laugh. "And that's exactly why I don't need anything from him."
The sound of a throat being cleared had them pulling apart and looking toward the open doorway. Linda stood there smiling at them. "Is everything okay?" she asked.
Lawrence returned the expression then reached over and gave Candace's hand another squeeze. "Everything is just fine," he said decisively. "And my parents are coming on the first flight they can catch apparently. They're going to call and let me know the details so I can pick them up at the airport."
Linda nodded. "I called my parents while you were talking to yours, and they told me they were jumping in the car as soon as they got off the phone with me. So they should be here in a couple of hours."
"Looks like we're going to have a full house," Lawrence commented. "I'll get this room ready if you'll take care of the guest room."
"I'll do it," Candace offered, wanting to do something to distract her from her returning dark thoughts.
"No, I'll do it," Linda said. "You should go downstairs and talk with Isabella. She got here just as I finished my phone call and asked about you." She smiled. "She's waiting in the living room."
Candace blinked. "Oh. All right. I guess I'll be downstairs then." Her parents gave her approving smiles and she left to join her guest.
* * * * * * * *
Major Monogram's image loomed large on the monitor in Perry's secret lair when the platypus entered from his usual elevator wearing his fedora and made his way over to his padded chair. "Ah, good morning, Agent P," the major greeted him. "Doofenshmirtz appears to be up to his old tricks. We've received reports that he's been buying all sorts of used computers from garage sales all over the city and doing research on virtual realties and computer programming . He's also rented Tron and the three Matrix movies." The white-haired man rolled his eyes. "I don't know why they couldn't have just made the first movie and left it at that. The two sequels just totally confused the issue."
"I don't know, sir," Carl, the intern, said from off-camera. "I thought it was a thought-provoking commentary on modern society and the trend toward…"
"Quiet, Carl," Monogram interrupted him, scowling. He looked back toward Perry and cleared his throat. "Anyway, to make things worse, once again everything Doofenshmirtz has checked out is days overdue. Get out there, find out what he's up to, and put a stop to it."
Perry saluted, then hesitated. He wanted to see what the organization could do to help find Phineas and Ferb, but wondered if he should ask now or after he'd taken care of Doctor Doofenshmirtz's latest evil scheme.
"Agent P?" Monogram asked, confused by the unusual hesitation. "Is there something wrong?"
The question made Perry's mind up for him. He pulled out a picture of the boys and held it out.
"Your owners?" The major was even more confused. "Did something happen to them?" His eyes widened in surprise when Perry nodded, and he looked to his left. "Carl, see what you can find out about recent activity relating to Phineas Flynn and Ferb Fletcher."
"I'm already on it, sir."
Monogram returned his attention to his top agent. "Don't worry, Agent P. We'll have answers for you as soon as possible. Now go stop Doofenshmirtz."
This time Perry saluted and hurried off.
* * * * * * * *
It didn't take long for Perry to make his way to the top of the Doofenshmirtz Evil Incorporated building, where the evil scientist tended to launch his plans. He crashed through a window to find Doofenshmirtz standing in the midst of a massive array of computers of all shapes and sizes. Some of them were pretty old as well. What in the world did he think he was doing this time?
Perry leapt forward and landed in a fighting stance, then inwardly cringed when he felt a small panel sink beneath one of his feet and heard a soft click to go with it. When he found himself inside a platypus-sized glass jar topped by a lid with holes poked in it, he gave a sigh and glared at the now-gleefully smiling doctor.
"So, you've discovered my collector jar trap, Perry the Platypus!" Doofenshmirtz gloated. "I got the idea from my old neighbor Kenny. He used to collect fireflies in jars just like that. They always died, though, because he forgot to make holes in the lid, but you'll notice I didn't forget."
Perry just gave him a half-lidded look.
"Anyway, I'm sure you're wondering what I could be doing with all these computers that I picked up from garage sales all over the city." The brown-haired man gestured grandly to the devices that filled the space behind him. "I got the idea from a T-shirt I saw that talked about being my world and you're just living in it. I thought, what a wonderful idea, creating my own world for everyone else to live in! I could make all the rules, and everyone would have to obey them!"
Unseen by the raving doctor, Perry rolled his eyes. Typical. But there wasn't a long and involved tragic backstory to listen to, that was a plus.
"But how would I make this new world, you may ask yourself," Doofenshmirtz continued. "I asked myself the same question. And then it came to me: virtual reality. I would create a computer-generated world and suck everyone into it, where they would have to start playing by my rules! And so…" He walked over to a huge covered lump on the other side of the room that Perry hadn't noticed before. "Witness the Welcome-To-My-World-Inator!" With a triumphant, evil cackle, the man yanked the tarp away with an overly-dramatic flourish to reveal a giant laser that the wires from all the computers led to.
Doofenshmirtz smiled even wider when he saw Perry narrow his eyes in concern. "Yes, Perry the Platypus, tremble in fear. For when I activate this laser, it will form a giant dome around the entire Tri-State Area, and everyone inside will find themselves living in a world of my creation!" He laughed evilly.
A few seconds later his laughter trailed off, and a sheepish look transformed his features. "Although I haven't really finished creating that world yet," he said with a slightly embarrassed shrug as he walked back over to one of the computer consoles. "There are still some bugs I'm trying to work out, and the program's not entirely stable quite yet. But I'm working on it, and it won't be long before I'm ready to go, I'm sure. You just wait." He started to hit keys on the keyboard. "Now where was I…" he murmured, squinting as he scanned the page of computer language that was on his monitor.
Perry sighed. This figured. At least he had some time to figure out how to get out of this trap…
* * * * * * * *
Candace and Isabella greeted each other with a hug when the older girl came downstairs. "How is everyone?" the black-haired girl asked once they both sat down on the couch.
Candace shrugged. "We're doing all right, all things considered. I'm not sure everything has set in yet, though, and the longer this goes on, the worse it's going to be."
"Yeah," Isabella agreed sadly. "It feels weird to come over here and not ask Phineas 'whatcha doin'?' like I usually do."
Both girls sighed.
"Well, I called Baljeet and Buford and told them what was going on," Isabella said after a moment of silence. "I have a feeling they're both going to end up coming over to make sure you guys are okay."
"Oh, wow, I totally forgot!" Candace exclaimed, eyes widening. "I was supposed to go over to Jeremy's with Stacy and Jenny to watch his band rehearse this afternoon!"
"You could still go," the other girl told her. "I'm sure your parents wouldn't mind."
Candace shook her head. "No way. Even if they'd know where I was I know they'd worry, and that's the last thing I want." She pulled out her cell phone. "I'll just call Jeremy and tell him I can't make it. Once I explain why I know he'll understand." She hit a number on speed dial and waited for her boyfriend to pick up.
It didn't take long. "Hey, Candace," Jeremy's voice greeted her. "What's up? You know, I'm really looking forward to you getting to see the band rehearse. It's been a while."
"Yeah, about that," Candace drew out. The excitement in his voice was going to make this harder than she'd thought it would be. "I… I'm afraid I can't make it today."
"What's wrong?" Jeremy asked, worry thick in his tone.
Candace sighed. "My brothers are missing," she explained simply. "And since they're gone I figured I should stay home. You know, keep my parents' stress level down by making sure they know where I am at least. You know what I mean?"
"Sure, I understand," Jeremy said softly. "I don't blame you for wanting to stay home. In fact, why don't I come over and keep you company? You need someone there to support you, too, and I've always liked your brothers."
"But what about your rehearsal?"
"We already had to cut it back an hour because Dustin has a cousin's wedding to go to. I'm sure he won't mind rescheduling. And Coltrane will understand. Don't forget, he's your friend, too."
Candace smiled. She had the best boyfriend ever. "Well, okay. As long as you're sure. It'll be nice to have you here."
"Then I'll see you after I make a couple of phone calls. Bye, Candace."
"Bye." She ended the call and flopped back in her seat with a dreamy sigh. They were so going to get married.
Isabella watched her and couldn't help but smile. "I take it Jeremy's coming over," she said.
Candace sat up abruptly and blinked, startled. "Oh! Yeah, he said he'd cancel his rehearsal and come over to support me." She relaxed again and let her previous smile return. "He's the greatest."
Isabella's smile turned wistful. "Yeah, he sounds pretty great."
"Don't worry, Isabella," Candace said sympathetically. "Phineas will come around one of these days."
"I know. Sometimes it's just hard to be patient." The younger girl shook herself and forced a brighter smile. "But I can wait."
Candace gave her brief hug, then opened up her phone again. "I'm going to call Stacy and Jenny, too, to let them know about the change of plans. Then maybe we should go sit outside, especially with all the people that might come over."
"Sounds good to me." Isabella sat back to wait.
* * * * * * * *
It was nearly halfway through the morning before William came to get Phineas, the boy having requested a second full serving of food that he and Ferb lingered over for as long as they could. But the talk couldn't be put off forever, and Phineas and Ferb shared an intense look before the redhead preceded the older man out of the room. Both boys gave a quiet sigh when the door was locked again once it closed.
William proceeded to guide Phineas through the room just outside of the one the boy shared with his brother - the man's bedroom, apparently - and to the right down a hallway to a large open space lit by a number of bare light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. There were also a few small windows made of frosted glass blocks in the wall across from their entrance. In the center of the room was a table and two chairs, driving home Ferb's assertion that this talk had only been meant for the two people currently in the space. Phineas' shoulders dropped a bit. He liked to think the best of people for as long as possible - just look at Buford - and was always disappointed if they fell short.
The two of them sat across from each other, William watching Phineas, and Phineas staring at the top of the table. The boy had no idea what to say; he didn't want to bring up the wrong thing and make the man angry. He and Ferb needed whatever information they could get out of this man that claimed to be Phineas' biological father, and that meant he had to be willing to talk. So Phineas was going to play it by ear, be reactionary instead of taking the lead. Of course, that was only going to be effective if the man would actually say something instead of just stare at him…
"So, Phineas," William finally began just as the redhead thought he was going to have to take his chances and start the conversation himself. "Do you have any questions for me? I mean, I'm sure you do; your mother can't have said much about me, and it must have been strange not having a real father around all this time. So you go ahead and ask anything you want, and I'll do my best to answer."
Phineas brought his head up sharply when he heard William say he hadn't had a real father around, a flash of anger zipping through him. Lawrence Fletcher was the only father he'd ever known, and he was the best dad a kid could ask for. Phineas knew he was loved, and that was all he really needed. It was certainly more than this man could claim to have given him over the years.
But he held his temper in check. He had a feeling he should tread lightly with this guy, and considering William didn't acknowledge Lawrence and his place in Phineas' life, it was probably safe to say bringing up his happy home - minus William Flynn - wouldn't be wise either. A quick thought flashed through his mind. If Lawrence wasn't going to be acknowledged, the man probably didn't realize Ferb was Phineas' step-brother. Maybe he shouldn't bring up that fact…
"Um, well, I guess I could start with how you met Mom," Phineas said finally. He was actually kind of curious about it. He'd double check and get Mom's side of it later, of course.
William smiled, his gaze turning a bit distant. "Oh, your mother," he said with a chuckle. "Such a beautiful woman. I was a roadie on her comeback tour in the summer of '92; it didn't take long to fall head over heels for her. Luckily for me she started to return my feelings. We spent all of our free time together, and then, while we were in Nevada during the last part of the tour, we decided what the heck and got married at one of those twenty-four hour chapels in Las Vegas. A whirlwind romance." He shook his head. "What a couple of crazy kids."
Phineas realized the guy must have been talking about the Lindana reunion tour, but he didn't want any other details about it. Those should come from his mother herself. "Wow, sounds like it," he commented weakly. It seemed like the thing to say.
William nodded, still lost a bit in the memories. "Definitely. And then, a couple of months after the tour ended, Linda found out she was pregnant. We couldn't have been happier." He sighed.
"Um, if you were so happy, why did you break up?" It just didn't make any sense.
"We didn't stay that happy, unfortunately," William replied, his mood darkening. "I was a professional roadie; your mother wasn't happy with all the time I spent on the road working with different tours. And then she got suspicious when people told her about the people I was spending time with while I was away, and started demanding I come home more often. How was I supposed to do that and still earn money for the family? And the people I spent time with didn't effect how I felt about her." He gave a little growl that made Phineas sit back in his chair, worried. "But she just couldn't leave it alone."
Phineas jumped when William suddenly sprang to his feet, sending his chair flying backward with a loud clatter. He thought about saying something to calm the older man down, but had no idea what that something would be. So he just bit his lower lip and decided to ride it out.
It would be interesting to get Mom's side of it all, though.
"Why in the hell couldn't she just leave it alone!" William raved. "We had it all!" He started to pace, and Phineas began to wonder if the man knew he was still there. "And then she shoved me out the door, believed all the things everyone had told her. And then a couple of months later tells me she's pregnant again!" William ran a shaky hand through his pale blond hair as he continued to move back and forth. "But she didn't do anything more than ask for money for the kids. Looking back, that was pretty reasonable, really. Not like Christine. No, not like Christine. That one had to had to have everything. After making me stop touring, she takes my job, my house, my car, my retirement, my band… She went after my reputation and smashed it to pieces. But was that the worst? No… She didn't just want money for the kids, no, that would be too easy. She cut me off completely, legally, embarrassing me in front of the whole world. Then she lets another man come in and take my place! They took his name… I didn't even share that any more…" His breathing was heavy and his pace frenetic. "They were mine, and then they weren't."
Phineas' eyes had widened steadily through the man's rant, every word granting him a little more clarity to what was going on here. He was guessing William had married again after Mom divorced him, and that he'd had at least two other kids. But now he was divorced again, and he wasn't seeing the children. His second wife had married again as well, and her new husband had stepped in where William hadn't.
Well, that was awfully familiar.
But maybe there was something more to this second time around than just what had happened with Phineas and his family. Whatever it was apparently had William on the edge, a scary edge, one that had Phineas happy he'd chosen not to bring up Lawrence or Ferb. The man had told him that he meant to create a relationship with him, but he'd been kidnapped to make it happen. This wasn't just weird, it was dangerous, and the redheaded boy thought it was even more dangerous to Ferb than himself. If William figured out who the green-haired boy really was…
Phineas shuddered at the thought. He'd have to do everything in his power to get Ferb out of there, or at least buy him some time so he could get out himself. Then he could find help and lead the cavalry back in time to save the day. He knew he could count on Ferb. But now he had to get back to his brother and talk over what had been learned. Phineas concentrated hard so he could remember as many exact details as possible; he knew from all of his and Ferb's projects that it was the little details that could make all the difference.
* * * * * * * *
Clyde and Betty Jo Flynn arrived at their daughter's home just before lunch and were warmly greeted by their son-in-law. Betty Jo moved to immediately take Linda into a tight embrace while Clyde shook Lawrence's hand, clasping the taller man's upper arm comfortingly.
"Oh, honey," Betty Jo murmured into Linda's ear. "Everything will be all right, you'll see. And we'll stay until it is."
"Thanks, Mom," Linda said with a small smile and watery gaze as the two women broke apart.
"So where's Candace?" Clyde asked, quickly stepping over to take hold of his oldest child.
Lawrence gestured toward the backyard just before Betty Jo came over and engulfed him in a hug of his own. "She's sitting with a group of the neighborhood children under the tree in the yard. They all came over to make sure we were doing all right." He returned the hug heartily. He'd always liked his in-laws.
Clyde nodded as he gave Linda one last squeeze and stepped back. "Those kids of yours have a lot of good friends, good kids, each and every one of them. That's why we enjoy having them come up to the cabin."
"So have the police been able to tell you anything more about Bill and what he's been up to?" Betty Jo asked.
"No, I'm afraid not," Linda answered a bit sadly. "They agreed he was their prime suspect, especially since he came back so suddenly, but said it might take some time before they knew anything for sure."
"I'm sure they're also doing a bit of checking on us, as well," Lawrence added. "At least, that's how they do it on those modern detective shows." He shrugged.
Linda gave him a frown. "You're not helping, dear."
Lawrence blinked. "Right. Of course. Sorry about that."
Linda sighed, then came over and hugged him. "No, I'm sorry. You were right; that's what the police need to do to cover all the bases. I just wish they didn't so they could focus on whoever really did this. I want my boys back."
"So do I, darling. So do I."
"Lawrence, my good man," Clyde said once the younger couple had a moment to compose themselves, "why don't we leave these two lovely ladies alone for a little while to have some girl talk? I'm sure if they hear anything they'll call us down, and you can fill me in on any new projects you've got going on."
Lawrence blinked again, not having expected the suggestion. "Of course." He turned to his wife. "Will that be all right, darling?"
She smiled at him and his obvious concern for her. "That'll be just fine. I could use a little time alone with my mother. We'll make some lunch and call you down when it's ready, how about that?"
Lawrence smiled in return. "That will be lovely." He then let himself be led upstairs by Clyde.
"How are you really doing?" Betty Jo asked once the men had disappeared up the stairs.
"I'm a nervous wreck, to be honest," Linda said in a tired voice. "I don't want to believe that Bill would be capable of this, but nothing else makes any sense."
Betty Jo scowled. "That man never treated you or Candace the way you deserved," she said with an old anger.
Linda gave her mother a small smile. "You never liked him, Mom. I always knew that."
"I never really knew him," the older woman corrected. "And he seemed determined to keep you all to himself, at least when he was around. Then, when you finally decided enough was enough and sent him packing, he stomped away like a spoiled brat. Now what exactly was I supposed to like about him?"
"Oh, Mom, when I look back I see things just like that, I promise. But at the time…" Linda shrugged helplessly.
"You were young and in love," Betty Jo finished with a sigh, shaking her head. "I understand. I always did. I just didn't like it."
Linda gave a short chuckle and wandered over to the sliding door in the living room that led out to the backyard. She let her gaze focus on the large group of children sitting under the tree, her eyes watering a bit at the lack of the two boys that normally sat in the middle of them. "I try not to imagine the horrible things that could be happening to my boys," she murmured. "I remind myself that Bill tried to reconnect with Candace, not hurt her. And then I try to stop the thoughts that flash through my mind of him being angry with her and taking her to do terrible things in revenge for rejecting him. Above all, I do my best to hide all these negative thoughts from Candace and Lawrence, because I know they have enough to deal with on their own." She sighed.
Betty Jo joined her at the door. "I'm willing to bet good money that Candace and Lawrence are thinking the same kinds of things, sweetheart. If you shared yours - edited, of course - you may find that they'd share theirs with you, and you'd all feel better, at least a little. I mean, I must admit I was thinking some pretty dark thoughts on the ride down here, and so was your father. He'll never admit it to you, but he was." She sighed as she continued to watch her daughter's profile. "Have you gotten a hold of your sister?" she asked after a brief moment of silence.
Linda shook her head. "Tiana and Bob are off visiting a remote scientific outpost in Alaska where a friend of hers works. She'll get my message to call me when she gets back to Anchorage." Her eyes shifted to the side to look at her mother. "This isn't something to share in a message, and I don't even want to try to hint at it or how important it is. The last time I did that they were in Africa, and I got a frantic phone call at three in the morning asking me if the hot dog vendor who had killed Lawrence had been caught yet, and if there was any chance she could get back in time for the funeral. It took me forty-five minutes to calm her down and assure her that Lawrence was fine."
"Oh, that girl!" Betty Jo said with a chuckle. "She was always the calmer of the two of you, but when she does get going, it's a sight to behold!"
"I have to admit, I do wish I could have seen her face when she realized the mistake," Linda admitted, fighting back a smirk.
"Now Candace is like you," Betty Jo continued. "Impulsive and excitable, quick to explode but just as quick to forgive, and with a heart of gold."
Linda nodded. "I do my best to forget that fact when she comes to me with yet another wild story of what the boys are up to." Her brows furrowed as she frowned slightly. "Actually, she's only done that a handful of times this summer, unlike last year. I guess she's growing up." She refocused on said girl outside as Candace sat under the large tree next to Jeremy with his arm around her shoulders.
Betty Jo followed her daughter's gaze. "It had to happen eventually, although she's not there quite yet. You'll still have your little girl for a while yet." She smiled. "It's good to see her friends are here as well as the boys' friends."
"I always got the impression that Candace's friends were fond of the boys." Linda sighed. "But it amazes me how many people this whole thing has affected. I mean, look at them out there, sitting together to support Candace and each other. And every one of them made sure to tell Lawrence and me that they were sorry and we should let them know if there was anything they could do for us."
"Like your father said, they're good kids." Betty Jo's eyes shifted over when the backyard gate opened and a group of five girls skipped through. "Are those the Fireside Girls?"
Linda looked for herself and nodded. "Apparently. Isabella must have cancelled a meeting."
Her mother rolled her eyes. "Or they're like the others and are here to support your family." She pointed toward the new group, who were all waving at the two ladies with small, sympathetic smiles. "Oh, they're getting so tall!"
Linda silently agreed, waving back at the girls with a small smile of her own that faded once they joined the other children under the tree. "My boys should be out there," she whispered after a long moment, her voice cracking.
Betty Jo just looked at her then pulled her into a tight embrace. She fought back tears of her own as Linda finally gave into her grief and sobbed into the supportive shoulder, then gently led the grieving mother away from the doors and toward the couch. This had become a waiting game, and those were always the hardest. But she would be there for her family, and if she had a chance, William Flynn would feel the full wrath of her displeasure.
* * * * * * * *
Perry did his best to control the volume of his slightly labored breathing as he stretched his arms above his head and twisted the lid of the jar he was trapped in loose. Fortunately for him, the robot arm that had tightened it in the first place hadn't screwed it to its limit, and so the reversal of the action - at least at the rate it was being done - wasn't causing any undue noise. Well, not enough to distract Doofenshmirtz from his programming.
The other positive factor in Perry's favor was that the evil scientist talked to himself as he worked, with the occasional aside to his nemesis thrown in for good measure. This kept the secret agent up to speed as to the scheme's progress. Doofenshmirtz was close, but it was still iffy, and the program was quite fragile. This on top of the fact that over half of the computers being used to power this thing were at least a decade out of date - Perry thought he even saw a Commodore 64 somewhere - gave the platypus an idea of how to stop everything in its tracks. He just had to get out.
And there it was. Perry smiled a little cockily and prepared himself to push the lid off and jump out of the jar in one smooth motion; he only had one chance at this. After a mental three-count, he jumped up, his momentum shoving the lid aside as he caught the edge of the jar and tipped it over. A quick agile somersault had him rolling to his feet as the metal lid clattered on the floor.
Doofenshmirtz spun around in shock. "Perry the Platypus! How did you get out of my trap?" He scowled darkly. "No matter! I'll just…" His threat was cut off by Perry's acrobatic flip over to one of the banks of older computers, the animal landing behind the machines where the wires twisted around each other. "What… what are you doing?" The man's eyes widened as realization dawned on him. "No! No, don't pull out those wires! Everything will crash!"
So of course Perry did just that.
"No!" Doofenshmirtz wailed. "My virtual reality! The program is falling apart!"
The platypus found himself forced to quickly jump back as sparks began to fly, traveling up and down not just the wires he'd pulled, but the other connections as well. It all seemed to be building up to something quite improbably dramatic. Perry took that as his cue to leave. It was more than apparent that this scheme had been effectively foiled - and that as usual there was an explosion imminent.
"Curse you, Perry the Platypus!" Doofenshmirtz cried as Perry jumped out of the window he'd made his original entrance through.
Perry released his parachute just as the top of the building blew up in a glorious fireball, floating to earth amidst a shower of glass and metal shards.