Perry and full cast, from "Perry"
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Read the story from the beginning here.
Read Chapter 4 here.
Drinking didn't do much to dull Perry's awareness that he was pathetic. The problem, he decided, was that he hadn't had enough tequila. More tequila would solve the problem. Enough tequila could cure all ills.
He sat in the Wild Coyote, this time at one of the old, battered tables. When he'd walked in, the bartender had fired him a look that said, Okay, but one word out of you and out you go on your ass again. Perry wasn't stupid-- well, not when he was sober-- so he'd sat down at a table, requested a bottle of tequila, and kept his mouth shut.
He wasn't sober any more, but he still didn't feel much like opening his mouth. He didn't have much to say. His brief conversation with Chloe Sullivan was still haunting him. He couldn't get her words out of his head.
I have a penchant for the truth. That's something your freaks and shrieks cable show gave up around episode two.
Deep down, he knew she was right. He was reporting on crap he didn't believe in, crap that he deliberately exaggerated, crap that he knew perfectly well people had just made up. He sensationalized the facts, even altered the facts, in exchange for a paycheck.
When had this happened to him? When had he become a junk journalist who didn't give a rat's ass about the truth?
He sucked down another glass of tequila, and sighed. He knew perfectly well when it had happened. In fact, he could pinpoint the exact moment his life had gone to hell.
The doors swung open, flooding the dark, smoky interior of the bar with brilliant sunshine. Perry squinted against the light, seeing something gliding toward him. Something that glowed with white light, as if it were an angel, come to collect his mortal soul.
The "angel" moved toward him, and as the doors swung shut, it resolved inself into the ordinary, earthly form of Clark Kent.
Perry almost rolled his eyes at his own fancy. Clark Kent wasn't an angel. He was just a kid. A kid who'd risked his life to save Perry, admittedly, but still, just a typical Kansas farmboy. A nice kid, but nothing special, and certainly no angel.
"Mr. White," Clark said. His voice was still pitched in carefully respectful tones. Perry got the feeling the kid didn't approve of his drinking, but had been raised to respect his elders and never tell them when they were making asses of themselves. "I've been looking for you."
Perry raised a glass to the kid, sloshing tequila over the table. "And here I am. You may have the makings of a reporter yet, Kent."
"Like you used to be?" Clark settled his long, solid body into the old chair, which creaked like it was being tortured under the kid's weight. He looked at Perry with serious green eyes. "Chloe and I did some checking after you left."
Perry sighed. He should have figured Miss Penchant for the Truth would have done some digging into his past. He had a feeling the girl spent a lot of time digging.
"Memories fade," he said sardonically, "but a Google search never forgets."
He reached for the tequila bottle, but Clark's hand dropped onto his wrist. Clark's touch was very gentle, and yet his fingers imprisoned Perry's arm as surely as an iron shackle.
Once again, Perry was impressed by the kid's strength. Must be all that farm work, he decided.
"Another drink isn't going to erase the fact that you used to be one of the best reporters in Metropolis," Clark said, his voice as gentle as his touch. He sounded genuinely concerned, like Perry actually mattered to him. "What happened?"
Perry rolled his eyes, trying to pretend that the idea that he used to be one of the best reporters in Metropolis didn't strike a knife right through his heart. "Life is a journey, grasshopper," he drawled, managing to pull his arm away from Clark's steel grip and snag his glass. He waved it at the kid. "And sometimes the trip is smoother with a little lubricant." He took a long gulp, then glared at Clark belligerently. "What's it to you, anyway?"
Clark shrugged a big shoulder. "Maybe it's the journalist in me," he answered. "Or maybe it's that I realize if you have a gift... you shouldn't turn your back on it."
Perry blew out his breath in a long sigh. The tequila made him more honest than he'd usually allow himself to be. Or maybe it was just Clark's sympathetic eyes that drew the truth out of him. People didn't look at him with sympathy much any more. He was too much of an asshole.
"I made exactly two mistakes in my life, kid," he said at last. "The first was getting into journalism."
"What was the second?"
"Thinking it mattered." Perry looked past Clark, at the bartender. "Hey. Another bottle."
"No," Clark said over his shoulder. "He's had enough."
He rose to his feet, then grabbed Perry by the upper arms, and Perry found himself being pulled out of his chair. The kid was still being gentle about it, but his grip was as irresistible as a tractor beam. He pushed Perry toward the door, and Perry went toward it, because he really didn't seem to have much choice in the matter.
"I don't get you, kid," he said, slightly amused by Clark's efforts to save him from himself. "I strong-armed your parents, picked on your girlfriend, and ticked off your lady editor. And still, here you are trying to help me. Trying to play the hero."
The swinging doors opened again, and Perry squinted against the light. He couldn't see who'd entered, but a sardonic voice spoke.
"Sometimes Clark's faith in his fellow man outweighs his common sense."
Clark tilted his head. "Lex?"
The door closed, and Perry saw the distinctive bald head of Lex Luthor glinting in the sunlight.
"It's all right, Clark," he said. "I'll deal with Mr. White from here."
Clark let go of Perry's arms, and Perry twisted his head and gaped back at him. He'd been thinking of the kid as just a normal smalltown high school kid, a decent but naive hick with manure on his boots and straw in his hair. But the fact that Clark was on first-name terms with a world-famous billionaire put something of a different face on the matter.
"I may have underestimated you, kid," he said.
Lex spoke sharply, almost protectively. "Clark doesn't have anything to do with this."
Perry looked back at Lex, forgetting about Clark for now. A man didn't waste time looking at a kitten when he was faced with a tiger. "Look, Lex," he said, going for an ingratiating tone, "if this is your old man's idea, tell him I got the message back in Metropolis. I have no intention of revisiting the past."
Lex spoke tersely, an undercurrent of danger in his tone. "This isn't about my father, White. It's about you."
"Lex." Clark sounded as gentle as ever, as if he was trying to calm his friend down. "Don't you think you're overreacting a little?"
"Considering the way he went after Lana," Lex said, "I thought you'd admire my restraint." He reached out and grabbed Perry by the arm, none too gently. "Let's go."
Perry sighed, and looked back at Clark, who was still looking confused and worried, as if he might confront Lex and intervene on Perry's behalf. Perry smiled, trying to tell him without words that it was okay. He'd already screwed up enough of the kid's relationships today. He didn't need to mess up whatever friendship existed between him and Lex.
"Thanks for the help, kid," he said, and let Lex haul him out into the daylight.
Read Chapter 6 here.