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 14 here.
Lex lifted his head as Perry White, of all people, walked into his office. He narrowed his eyes, glaring as dangerously as he was able.
"I thought I told you to get out of town."
Perry shrugged a shoulder and offered him a wry grin. "Some stuff came up."
Lex didn't doubt that. With a reporter like Perry, stuff always came up. He might not like the guy, but he had to admit the man could sniff out a story like a bloodhound.
He rose to his feet and fixed Perry with a glare that was even icier. "I trust this stuff did not have to do with Clark Kent."
Perry sighed. "Um, it might have." At Lex's quick, threatening movement, he held up a hand. "Truce, Lex. You were right and I was wrong. Clark isn't a story. He's just a kid."
Lex relaxed. "Fine," he said, slightly mollified. "So why are you here, exactly?"
"I just wanted to say..." Perry looked like he'd bitten into a lemon. "I wanted to say I was sorry."
Lex stared at him blankly. Of all the things he'd expected the hardened old reporter to say, that wasn't it.
"Sorry?" he echoed. "For what?"
"For using you as a source all those years ago." Perry sighed. "I thought at the time it was necessary, but... well, you were just a kid, Lex. You should have been off limits. I'm sorry."
Lex felt his mouth gaping open. In order to make it work again, he forced sardonic words out of it. "So after all these years, you've developed a set of journalistic ethics?"
"Looks that way," Perry said, looking as surprised by it as Lex felt. "I guess you can give your young friend Clark the credit. He... well, he made me look at myself, really look at myself. I don't like what I see."
"You mean drunk and washed-up doesn't appeal to you?"
Perry grinned wryly, apparently unhurt by the jab. "It's not just the drunk and washed-up part," he said. "To be perfectly homest about it, I don't like what I was before, either. Trying to get at the truth is a good and valuable thing, Lex. But trying to get at the truth by any means necessary... well, that's the part I have issues with, I guess."
Lex couldn't come up with another jab. He only stared at Perry.
"Anyway..." Perry shrugged a shoulder. "I've already apologized to Ms. Lang and Clark. I thought I'd offer you an apology, too. And just so you don't feel you have to shove me into your Porsche again, I'm heading out of town this afternoon."
He flashed another arrogant, infuriating grin, and then turned around and walked out of the office. Lex watched him go, then slowly sat down, shaking his head.
He'd never expected to get an apology from Perry White.
"Thanks again for the ride."
Clark Kent grinned at him. He was dressed in jeans and a white t-shirt. He looked fresh and clean and ready to get started on farm chores.
"It's the only way I could be sure you'd get on the bus," he answered, but with a warm smile that said he didn't really mean it. Perry stood there, looking the kid over, and Clark fidgeted a little under his scrutiny. "What?"
Perry smiled a little. "You really are kind of a freak, you know that?"
Perry noticed the kid's discomfort. He shook his head, trying to reassure Clark that he wasn't going to toss him over a cliff again. "I'm serious. You try to help people, even fools like me, and you never ask for anything in return. When I saw your face up there after it was all over, I suddenly realized I was about to tear down a good person. I just... well, I just couldn't believe there was actually anyone like you out there."
Clark rolled his eyes, in a gesture so teenage it made Perry want to laugh. "Trust me, Mr. White, I'm not that good."
Perry shrugged, refusing to argue about it. It was obvious to him that a young man who was willing to risk his life to save an old drunkard was a damn good person, but he didn't want to make Clark uncomfortable by carrying on about it.
"I'm just glad nobody got hurt," he said instead. "Chalk it up to hallucinations or the DTs. All I know is, I got a wakeup call. I am..." He glanced at his watch. "Exactly 17 hours and 5 minutes sober."
"I'm glad some good came out of all this," Clark said with unmistakable sincerity. "So what's next?"
"Well..." Perry blew out a breath. "If you found the guts to go over that cliff, maybe I can find the courage to finish the one story I let go." The one story that had haunted him all these years. The story that had wrecked him. The story that he'd always known he'd have to finish up, sooner or later, no matter the cost.
Clark grinned at him. "Something tells me the world hasn't seen the last of Perry White."
Perry grinned back at him. He was scared, but he was also exhilarated. It was a sensation he hadn't experienced in a long, long time. "Something tells me you're right."
He saw the bus coming toward them, and extended his hand. Clark reached out his hand and shook it.
And Perry noticed that the terrible rope burns on Clark's hands were entirely healed up.
Impossible, he thought. They couldn't possibly have healed since yesterday. But somehow, they had.
They'd been badly abraded, dripping blood. But now the skin was perfectly unmarked.
Shocked and confused, he pulled his hand away. The bus pulled up in a hiss of air brakes and a blast of hot air, and Perry turned blindly and walked toward it. To cover his confusion, he blurted, "Rumor has it I still have a friend or two on the Daily Planet. And, uh, by the way, I, uh, I went over a couple more of your Torch stories."
Oblivious to Perry's shock, Clark cocked his head. "And?"
"Well," Perry said, climbing onto the steps and turning back to look at the kid, "they're rough, and half the time you bury the lead. But I do see a glimmer of hope. If you ever make it to Metropolis, look me up. I owe you one."
He lifted his hand, and the kid grinned his wide, sweet grin and waved at him. Perry climbed up the steps and fell wearily into a seat. The bus took off, and Perry looked back, seeing Clark Kent standing in the middle of the road, watching him leave.
He remembered everything he'd figured out about the kid, and then discounted. He remembered the mysteriously healed hands. And he remembered the way Clark had risked his life for an old, drunk fool.
Clark Kent was a mystery, all right. But he wasn't a dangerous mystery, as far as Perry could tell. And besides, he was just a kid. And Perry would be damned if he'd ever allow himself to exploit another kid in pursuit of a story.
He put Clark Kent out of his mind. He turned around and faced forward as the bus rolled toward Metropolis.
Toward his future.
Read Chapter 16 here.