Chapter 3

Feeling Better?

Perry never went down to his lair that afternoon. Unable to bring himself to face Major Monogram – and especially unable to face Mary – he decided that he would take some unscheduled time off. This day was for him, for his thoughts, and for every bit of emotion struggling inside him.

A walk. I need a walk.

His leash is stored in the front room's coat closet. He scuttles in and tugs it out with his bill, ignoring the secret lair entrance behind the umbrella stand. He trails after Phineas with the leash, and is slightly relieved that the boy agrees to take him on a walk.

And then he regrets it, because every place in town reminds him of the last few weeks. That time at the park when he choked on a watermelon seed and she had to kick him in the stomach to get it out. The night at the roller rink when they won first prize to a skating contest they hadn't even entered. The bowling alley, where he had to help her bowl because her claws couldn't hold the ball properly. He had hoped that the walk would clear his head, help him realize that he can get over everything, but all it did was make him even more depressed.

He had had enough. With a tug on his leash and the lightest chirp, he convinces the boys to turn around and take him home.

"Huh, Perry still looks pretty down," Phineas comments on the way. "Poor little guy. Ferb, I know what we're going to do today. We're going to cheer Perry up!"

The boy's new invention is taking up half the backyard, and they still aren't done. Perry rests underneath the usual tree, watching his owners put their new creation together. So far, he isn't sure what the end product will be, but it's starting to look like a giant pet bed, several stories tall, supplied with miscellaneous entertainments specifically designed to pamper him, such as robotic hands that pet, a hot tub to bathe in, a full gourmet kitchen, and a disco room.

The platypus closes his eyes, hoping for a nap, when an annoying beeping sound distracts him. He has spent the entire day trying to ignore Monogram's attempts to page him, hoping that he can put his secret agent life aside just this once, but these last few hours he's felt a gnawing feeling deep down, the same sort of guilt he gets when he abandons Phineas and Ferb for the day.

What if it's important…?

With a roll of his eyes, Perry stands and swings behind the tree, not even bothering to put on his fedora before picking up the rock half hidden in the grass. Underneath it, built into the dirt, is a small screen, with Monogram's face staring up at him.

"Agent P!" he shouts, "We've been trying to get a hold of you all day! We can't seem to get in touch with Agent Ma, and our tracking satellites have lost sight of her since yesterday evening."

Perry's eyes widen. Has she gone rogue, or…

"We believe Doofenshmirtz is behind this. We need you to…Agent P?"

The agent is already gone. He drops into his lair through the elevator tube, and then sprints down to his hovercraft before he can put his fedora on his head. This time, Doofenshmirtz has crossed a line.

It's not at all unheard of for Perry to crash through the evil scientist's wall, but never has he done it with so much fury. Doofenshmirtz is on the couch, in his underwear, watching TV and eating a sandwich when the platypus bursts into the room.

"Perry the Platypus!" Doofenshmirtz shouts, "Oh now you decide to show up! Of course! I've been putting laundry off all day because I've been waiting for you to get here to foil me, and when I finally figured that you weren't coming and that I can just go ahead and start laundry, now is when you decide to show up! Well, I'm sorry I'm only wearing my underwear for this but you have no one else to blame but yourself. Now, let's get started, we're way behind schedule."

Perry's eyes narrow at the nemesis, but with no sight of Mary, he hasn't lost his temper just yet. He watches as the evil scientist stands, points a device at the agent, and presses the single blue button. From somewhere above, a pillow falls, trapping Perry's body inside the fabric and stuffing, with only his head exposed.

"Ok," Doof starts, "so here's the backstory. It all happened when I was a little kid in Drusselstein. There was this bully that would always like to pick on me, and one day decided to tickle me. I know what you're thinking, but you see gleeful laughter was really frowned upon so it was absolute torture, plus tickling really hurts, doesn't it? I mean, your sides start hurting and it feels like your spleen is about to burst, and no matter what you try, all you can do is laugh as if you actually like. Anyways, this guy tickled me so much and I laughed so hard, that I ended up peeing my pants. Everyone laughed at me and it was totally humiliating. And that's why I've created the Tickleinator!"

With a flourished whip of a tarp, a large ray gun is revealed, pointed out of the window, its buttons beeping and blinking. Doofenshmirtz beams. "You see, this machine will curse anyone who's hit by it to be tickled until they pee their pants, embarrassing them in front of all of their peers!" and here he gives an evil laugh before adding: "the only problem is that I had to have something to generate the tickleness, but I didn't want to buy anything because, well, with all of the failed evil plots and having to repair the doors you've broken down, I've been on a budget lately, and every penny saved counts, you know? Luckily, I was walking down the street when I came up with this invention and there was this really pretty green bird right there, and I realized that feathers are perfect for tickling and so I caught it!

The scientist opens a square panel underneath the machine. Trapped in what looks like a giant, glass D battery is a frantic green macaw in a brown felt fedora.

Doofenshmirtz gaps at the prisoner. "Mary the Macaw? How did you get in there? Where did that pretty green bird go?"

Now, Perry's mad.

Flicked from the roof of his bill is a plastic retainer, with a pair of self-automated scissors hidden inside. Perry uses them to cut the fabric of the pillow, releasing feathers everywhere, and allowing him to escape. The agent sprints, jumps into the air, and twists, slapping Doofenshmirtz in the face with his beaver tail. The scientist gives an "umph" and falls backward, hitting the ray gun, pushing a lever up to "full power" by mistake. He stands up slowly, rubbing his jaw.

"You know," he starts, "in retrospect, I guess I could have used the feathers from that pillow to power my machine. But oh well, I'm too lazy to change it now. Here we go."

He presses the red button, excited. Perry stares in shock as the machine fires up, trembles, and bounces. The battery underneath begins to glow a soft pink, and Mary caws in pain, falling to her side, shaking as if electrocuted. The Tickleinator twists, aiming indoors, its ray firing in all directions as it swings, catching Doofenshmirtz off guard with a tempered blast. The doctor falls to the ground, laughing hysterically, and tears forming in his eyes. Another detonation fires at the agent, but he jumps backwards, missing it by a hair. Perry looks up from where he lands, watching Mary squirm within the glass. His eyes narrowed to slits, the platypus runs, zigzagging to avoid getting hit. With a baseball player's slide, he reaches the glass cage, using his fist to punch and break the glass. The machine sputters to a stop, as Perry reaches in and pulls Mary out, cradling her in both hands. For a few seconds, he looks unto her in absolute terror, fearing the worst, but weakly, she opens her eyes and gives him a reassuring smile.

He smiles back, relaxing his shoulders, before picking her up. With a light kick, he presses the machine's self-destruct hidden on the panel's door. The invention begins to smoke as the two agents casually leave the room, macaw in platypus arms.

Doofenshmirtz is still wiggling on the floor, gasping for air between laughs. "C-curse you, P-Perry the P-P-Platypus! Curse y-you! Oh, and here comes the pee. At least I'm already doing laundry."

Perry lowers the hovercraft into his lair, then moves to help Mary out from the passenger seat. She's weak, but significantly better than when the two had finished the mission. He holds her hand, gently leading her off the platform. Standing before him, Mary looks up, coolly giving a thankful smile. Perry's knees start to shake again but this time, he refuses to let it phase him. Like a charming spy from a cheesy old movie, Perry pulls the macaw close, leaning in, keeping eye contact until the very last second, when he—

"Agent P!"

The two agents pull away, surprised, their kiss interrupted and stopped in its tracks. Major Monogram looks on the two with a raised eyebrow.

"Oh, sorry. I see I've interrupted…don't mind me, I just needed to inform you that Agent Ma's field training has ended. Congratulations, Agent Ma, and welcome to the force. Carl is faxing you your certification as we speak."

From Perry's 1990's fax machine, a paper is printed. The platypus takes the diploma, handing it to Mary with a look of depression on his face. The two make eye contact, sadness swelling, realizing what this means.

"Agent Ma, please return to the agency so that we can assign you to your own super villain and host family," Monogram finishes.

Perry slumps, eyes down casted, before giving his now ex-apprentice a sad smile. From his front pocket, he retrieves his own business card, his phone number already circled. He hands the card to the bird, his usual anxiety returning.

Call me, when you get settled in, he thinks to himself. He scratches the back of his head before giving Mary on awkward solute.

Mary just shakes her head, smiles calmly, and leans in, giving Perry a quick kiss on the bill. He's absolutely frozen in surprise, and isn't even able to return her wink. All he can do is watch as she moves to leave the room, and smiles when she looks back at him.

Suddenly over his nerves, Perry stands straight and gives the macaw a final wave and the friendliest of chirps for a goodbye.

Perry returns to the surface, crawling back underneath the tree in his usual pet guise. Candace is staring, gaping, at where the colossal pet bed had once been but is now missing. The boy's mother shakes her head and goes inside, no doubt planning on baking a pie for the kids to enjoy. Phineas however, looks almost as bummed as his sister.

"Oh, there you are Perry," the boy says almost sadly, before turning around and giving the platypus a long look. "Huh…well we didn't get to show you the really cool pet paradise we created but, it looks like you don't need it anymore anyhow. You look like you're feeling a lot better now."

Perry resists the urge to smile.

Yes. Yes I am.