The ride back to Earth in Peter the Panda's panda spaceship was quiet. The ride to the Meapian home world had been quiet, too, of course, but then there had been a mission to keep Perry's mind occupied--a ship to track, coordinates to adjust, a clock to race against. Now all that was over. The robots had stopped attacking, but Perry and Peter had not stuck around to witness the planet's great victory; besides the risk of meeting Phineas and Ferb, theirs was a rescue mission, and it was complete.
Maybe that was why the quiet in the ship felt so unusual. Ordinarily Dr. Doofenshmirtz would have been keeping up a running commentary: "Is that a quasar? Isn't that a weird word, quasar? You know, this reminds me of a backstory from when I was a kid back in Gimmelshtoomp..." Now, though, he sat hunched up in the back--the ship wasn't really designed for tall humans--staring at the floor between his knees and sniffling. Perry patted his hand comfortingly, but part of his mind was elsewhere. He kept glancing forward at Peter the Panda in the pilot's seat.
Peter kept his eyes directly on the path in front of them. The autopilot probably could have brought them to Earth with little trouble, but Peter seemed determined to fly it himself. He was a perfect secret agent; he seemed almost an automaton. Perry himself was taciturn, yes--not like that yappy Agent P over in Acronym's division--but he understood the power of a look. Peter never even betrayed that much. Perry almost hated him for being so cool now. Personally, he found the end of a really dangerous mission to be the hardest part--all the anxiety he had built up on the way there still lingered, and there was no longer anything constructive to do with it. Peter showed no emotion, had shown no emotion this entire day. He simply did what had to be done. Now he had his full attention on the controls, deaf to Doofenshmirtz's tears--and he called himself Doofenshmirtz's nemesis! With that thought came back all the original resentment, the anger, the betrayal of trust, the heartbreak--everything Perry had felt and forgotten in the wake of the mission.
When they arrived on Earth, the first stop was downtown Danville and the Doofenshmirtz Evil Incorporated building. Perry squeezed Doofenshmirtz's finger and offered him a sympathetic smile in spite of everything. Peter tipped his hat at him as he stepped out. Doofenshmirtz recompensed them both with a halfhearted wave. Perry hoped he would at least get some sleep.
Perry climbed into the passenger seat and put in the coordinates and the access code for the entry dock to his own lair. He would debrief with Monogram first and decompress a little; he didn't feel ready to fake it in front of Phineas and Ferb, not yet. It was a little unusual to grant access to Peter, but Perry judged that it was safe. He was a fellow O.W.C.A. agent, and even if Perry was disinclined to like him personally, it was obvious that he could be trusted.
Peter glanced over at Perry once, and returned his attention to the ship. Perry did not try to start a conversation. But when the ground opened to receive them at Perry's lair, Peter parked the ship and climbed out after him.
Perry looked at him in surprise. Peter touched Perry's shoulder, then held up a paw in a 'wait' signal. He wanted to show Perry something.
Peter took out his wallet, took something out, and started to unfold it. Perry recognized the crumpled latex almost immediately. Peter had saved Balloony's corpse? Perry felt a little sick. Doofenshmirtz's anthropomorphizing tendencies must have been catching.
Perry must have looked as horrified as he felt, because Peter held up his paw again, and now drew a roll of duct tape from his hat. All agents carried duct tape; you never knew when it would come in handy. Now Perry understood. And, now that he forced himself to really look at the flattened balloon, there was only one hole in the latex. The long-lasting spray Doofenshmirtz had invented must have kept it from popping entirely.
Perry held up his own finger, and rushed off to find the canister of helium that he knew was in here somewhere. He brought it back, and he and Peter got to work. Peter stretched the balloon out while Perry patched the hole with duct tape; then Perry carefully untied it and held it still while Peter switched on the helium.
When they were done, Balloony lived again, almost as good as new.
So Peter did care. Perry's frustration with him gave way to admiration; Peter was eternally cool, even blunt, but he always did what needed to be done. And Perry had been too distracted by his own chaotic emotions to think of this. Perry tipped his hat to Peter in gratitude, then handed him the balloon, thinking that he could take it to Doofenshmirtz on his way back to Seattle.
But Peter shook his head. He gave the balloon back to Perry, closed Perry's hands around the string with his own. The meaning was clear. You give it to him. He's your nemesis.
Perry nodded, and held tight to the string. Peter tipped his hat and climbed back aboard his ship. Perry watched him until the roof had closed again under him.
"Morning, Agent P," said Major Monogram on the screen. "Sources tell us that Dr. Doofenshmirtz is still playing with his balloon, so, uh, I guess you have the day off. Again. He's a weird, weird man."
Perry saluted and turned to go, but froze at the sound of the roof sliding open.
"Intruder alert!" cried Carl.
"Great googly-moogly!" exclaimed Monogram. "Hold tight, Agent P, I'll mobilize the--"
Perry held up a hand to indicate that he had the situation under control. He knew who it was; what he didn't know was what he was doing here.
"Well, okay, if you say so," said Monogram. Perry switched off the screen and walked over to the entry port, where Peter the Panda was hovering just above the ground in a much more modest vehicle than his spaceship--the regulation hovercar, but painted with a bold black-and-white theme quite unlike Perry's own snappy blue and orange stripes.
Perry looked at Peter inquisitively. Peter reached across the passenger seat and offered Perry a hand up. What the hell. Perry took it.
As Perry buckled his seatbelt, Peter reached into the glove compartment and handed him a brochure for the Space Needle. He kept his eyes on Perry while Perry glanced at it. Perry flashed him a thumbs-up.
Perry reached over and punched in the code to open the doors again, and Peter flew out towards the Pacific Northwest.
The ride was quiet, but this time it was comfortable. Perry watched Peter drive and couldn't help but admire that focus--and the one time Peter did look back at him, Perry glanced away and watched the sky instead. Peter the Panda was still intimidating, not to mention blunt, cold, and enigmatic--but, Perry thought, it was going to be fun to figure him out.