Underneath

by Te



Underneath
by Te
March 2002

Disclaimers: No one here is mine, except when I have those dreams involving battery acid and network executives.

Spoilers: Nicodemus.

Summary: Pete doesn't really have a plan.

Ratings Note: NC-17

Author's Note: You don't really have to read "Thick" first, but it helps.

Acknowledgments: To my We, for patience and understanding and nagging and such. To Livia, because she will always be a woobie in my eyes, no matter how ancient she gets. g

Feedback is a gender-confused something-or-other's best friend: thete1@earthlink.net

*

Pete remembers... enough.

Not how he wound up in the hospital, not why his right hand smelled like gun smoke (though he has suspicions), and not why he had such a headache.

But... none of that is as important as what he does remember.

A sense, more demanding than instinct, more pure than memory, that somewhere in the midst of the haze there was proof.

Lex is just another Luthor, screwing over everyone in his path to get what he wants. No idea of what it means to be a friend, and Pete's damned if anyone can convince him that he gives a fuck about that.

Lex is...

And he never wanted to be his father, or even sound like his father, but he understands now. More than ever. That look in his eyes when the Luthors are in the paper, and the raw ugliness of the feeling behind it.

Pete knows what he'll see in his own eyes if he looks in the mirror.

God, if he could just remember --

No. That's not important right now.

Everyone's better now, out of the hospital, and Pete's been back at school for a few days now. This... this whole flower thing is over now, and it's not like there won't be another incident.

That day at the plant... God, what they'd done to Earl. All covered up by the day after, of course.

Pete slams his fist against his locker and winces at more than the hurt. Too many people in the halls for this. To see this.

Luthors and their money and even if some tiny part of him wants to remind him about how Lex had walked in, unarmed...

No. Something about fire and... books?

All part of the awful flood of emotion just beneath the surface of his skin. Close enough to bleed right out and drown the world if he isn't careful. He can't go there, even if he knew the way.

There's not much he can do, but...

There is something.

And it's nothing as organized as a plan, because if it was then he'd have to admit... things he doesn't want to admit.

Because it's not like he's... like that, but...

Clark.

And it had taken the dreams to tell him what he already knew. The way Lex looked at Clark like something he could own if he could just figure out the price. The way Clark let him look like that, and never did anything about it but smile.

Clark's the most oblivious guy he's ever met. Smart in all the ways that'll get him into a good college and maybe out of Smallville someday, but he has no idea.

If he can't notice the way Chloe, God, Chloe who does everything but show up at his loft naked, how could he notice Lex?

Another thing he doesn't want to look at too closely, because he knows it's not going to happen. Chloe's been in love with Clark pretty much since her family moved here, and it's a personal source of pride that Pete hasn't humiliated himself on that score publicly.

Much.

But Lex doesn't seem to care who sees him looking at Clark in ways Pete wouldn't dare to look at Chloe in public. Probably doesn't think the Smallville hicks understand. Knows he could crush any one of them if they got in his way.

The silence hits him all of a sudden, and Pete realizes he's been standing in front of his locker for long enough that the halls are just about empty. Everyone either at practice or afterschool activities or just on the way home.

Checks his watch. He's still got a little while before the meeting he set up with Clark by the boiler room.

Doesn't want to think about all the questions in Clark's eyes about that. They should've been jokes. Clark had spent all day shooting odd and God help him concerned looks at him, while Chloe looked at them both like people keeping a secret just to spite her.

He loves that look on her face with something like idiot completion. Something too big to really understand, but true. Chloe's always on behind those wide eyes, always thinking, questioning... no one could ever be bored with her.

No one with a brain.

He wants to believe that if Clark ever turned around and saw her that he'd be okay with it, that he could be happy for them -- because how could Clark not be happy with Chloe?

But... that's just another part of this.

Because Clark smiles at Lex and looks at him -- sometimes, only sometimes -- like he doesn't mind Lex's looks at all.

Like he maybe *isn't* that oblivious. Knowing just enough to... something.

Nasty, skittering thought: What if it's already too late?

Too easy to picture Lex showing off his damned castle (and Clark spends so much time there), sharing expensive booze and turning Clark, their Clark, his Clark, into that loose-limbed, giggling, helpless thing from Pete's dreams.

And he knows what Lex would do with him.

Pete shakes it off as best he can. Because even if it *isn't* a plan, then it's at least something he can do. Protection.

Clark, who is maybe three feet taller than him and able to push people through doors, needs this. Or something like it. Just so he'll know.

Pete thinks maybe things would work out better for more people if they knew there were always other options. And if there's something sliding somewhere beneath that thought, something more than a little dark and scary, well...

Sometimes you had to make sacrifices for your friends.

To keep them safe.

Pete looks around carefully before pushing open the door to the boiler room. The administration could never keep a lock on the door, and he thinks maybe one day they'll just stop trying.

Install a condom dispenser and put up pictures of everybody's parents or something.

Mildly cracked laugh that he barely manages to swallow, and he has just enough time to notice that some of the dark is darker than the rest before there's a hand on his shoulder.

"Jesus --"

"Sorry, Pete. The light's broken." And Clark squeezes his shoulder once before moving his hand. He sounds sheepish.

"I'm too young to have a heart attack, man."

Soft laugh in the darkness, and Pete can hear Clark shifting around. Sitting? That would be... that would be good.

Pete drops his own backpack, thinks for a second, then pushes it up against the door. It won't keep anyone out, but they'll have some warning, at least. "Where are you?"

Clark's hand on his wrist. Warm and huge as the rest of him and Pete's heart stutters a little. Too young. Right. "Over here." Brief tug and then Pete's sitting down next to Clark.

Not as much difference this way. Closeness he hadn't even had to take for himself. Pete's sweating beneath his jacket, voice in his head very close to screaming things he doesn't want to hear, *can't* hear right now. Because this is what has to happen.

He won't let it be a question in his mind.

"... secret, Pete?"

Pete blinks, and it's like time just got away from him, because... it's not like he can really dick around now that he's here, right? That would... that would be too much like lying. So Pete just takes a breath.

"Pete? Are you okay?"

And rests his hand on Clark's thigh.

Clark gasps, tenses under his hand. "What..."

Pete squeezes his eyes shut, forces himself not to move, snatch his hand away, make this a joke. Because. Because this has to happen because he's getting hard because it's so dark and he can't let Clark... "We... we're friends, right?"

He can feel Clark relax a little beside him. "Pete, of course we're friends. God, you don't still think... I mean... how much do you remember? About that night?"

"Enough, Clark. And... I remember other things, too." Pete turns in a little, guesses he's probably talking at Clark's neck, but he can't look up. Can't open his eyes. "I know other things."

And Pete can practically hear Clark's face scrunching up in confusion. It's like being punched with something massive and soft, low in the gut. "What... what do you mean?"

"It's... it's..." Squeezes Clark's thigh in frustration and shudders when he realizes what he's doing. So many damned layers to this, and Pete wonders if he can spit this out. If he's ever going to really know what he's doing. If it makes a difference.

"Pete, it's okay, man, you know you can tell me anything..."

Can help laughing at that, and not because it's particularly funny. "Clark." Pete's voice breaks a little in the middle of his name, and suddenly Clark is right there, braced over him, hands on his shoulders without even fumbling and Jesus one day he's going to have to ask him how he does that, but...

"You're scaring me a little here, Pete. C'mon, tell me..."

Pete fumbles enough for both of them, gets his arms up between Clark's, his hands on Clark's face. He didn't mean to brush his mouth, but he did, and it lets him know where it is.

"Pete...?"

"I've seen the way he looks at you, man..." Little shock that it comes out without stutter or pause, not enough to stumble over.

"Who --"

"You know who. And you... you know why he looks at you like that, right?"

Clark doesn't say anything, just shifts a little like he's about to pull away. Pete tightens his hands on Clark's face. Holds on.

"You know, Clark, and he's... I know you think he's a great guy, but Jesus, he's..."

"Pete." And there's a little heat in Clark's voice. A little anger. "All he's done is try to help out this town, fix the messes his father made --"

"He's playing you, man! He's playing all of us, and I don't know how yet, but I know I saw..." (Book fire gun) "I saw something, Clark, I swear..." His voice isn't steady anymore.

Clark's hand on his wrist, not tugging so much as squeezing. "Pete, that flower had everyone crazy. How can you be sure?"

"I don't know! I just... I can feel it."

"You... you've been mad at the Luthors for a long time --"

"Yeah, nice of you to finally notice --"

"Pete, what...? How am I supposed to know things if you don't tell me?"

Pete sighs a little. He wasn't going to go here. There's nothing to do here. Bodies buried, everything pushed down so far that it can't be found. "I... well, you know now, okay? I just don't want you getting hurt."

He can feel Clark's smile in the dark. "Hey, I'm not completely useless, Pete. I know how to keep my eyes open, okay?"

"Even when it comes to Lex?"

"... even then."

And it's not much of a pause, but... it's enough. "Clark..."

Another squeeze. "Christ, Pete! I mean, this is like asking me to spy on you, or Chloe, or Lana!"

"None of us are Luthors, man --"

And Clark's gone from him, cold in his absence. Pete can hear him pacing in the small room.

"Clark --"

"So we should all be judged by who we're related to? Is that it? Because, you know, Nell's kind of a bitch, Pete. And what about your grandmother? The one who keeps telling you to stay away from 'them damned dirty crackers?'"

Pete can't hold in a snort. "Okay, but c'mon, Clark, you know us. You know we're not like them --"

And Clark's back just like that, kneeling in front of him, hands on Pete's knees. "Yeah, Pete, I know you. I got the chance to know you, without everyone and their uncle telling me why I shouldn't."

"But Clark --"

"God, Pete, why can't you... look, I've seen what kind of world Lex comes from --"

"Right, exactly --"

" -- and ever since he got here he's been trying to become something different, something better than what his father wants him to be. Than what this whole town expects him to be." Clark's squeezing his knees, and Pete doesn't need light to know that Clark has that pleading look on his face.

And God, Clark always was a good judge of character, and he never, never wants to not trust his friend -- his friend -- but... fire.

"Pete, please. I just... I just want. Look, I know you have reason to hate Lionel, but you can't even remember what happened that night! Why can't you give him a chance?"

Pete shakes his head and Clark is squeezing hard enough to hurt now. Pete grabs Clark's hands, or thinks he does. The next thing he knows, Clark's holding his hands, fingers twined and Pete knows he has about as much hope of breaking that grip as he does to grow another foot. Something about the complete lack of tension... or of that kind of tension. Hard to think and Clark is talking.

"... don't want to have to keep splitting my life up into all these jagged little pieces, all of these spaces where I can be your friend or Lex's friend, Lana's friend or Chloe's, my father's son or someone with... with a life and and fuck I'm just so sick of this!"

And Clark is pulling back again and he sounds like he's about to cry and Pete can't think of anything to do but reach out. Shakes his hands free of Clark's and pulls him into an awkward, semi-upright hug. Clark between his legs and Clark's face hot, breath humid against Pete's neck.

Pete squeezes tighter and tries to get his mind to work because this... this is nothing like anything he knows.

It's not as though he hasn't blown off the "jock-straps" for Chloe a million times, as if she doesn't know he always would, but Clark...

Curling, slippery sense, dark and low, that this is maybe something he can give that Lex can't.

More than that -- that this is the opening he needs, and maybe the only one he's going to get.

Slips one hand between them, just as Clark is starting to pull away again. Rests it against Clark's chest.

He can feel Clark's rueful smile against his throat, a parting of lips and the absent press of teeth. Pete gets his other hand on the back of Clark's neck. Pets, strokes just a little.

"Chloe's gonna have her first school-wide exclusive if someone gets a picture of this, man. We'd never be able to explain."

Pete takes a deep, shuddering breath. "Yeah, well... maybe there's nothing to explain...." Cups the back of Clark's neck, lets him pull away just enough that they're face to face again.

"Pete?"

"You remember back in middle school? The substitute health teacher that told us everything before the school board found out?" Pete can just catch the gleam of Clark's grin in the dimness. He's not sure how to feel about how easily Clark gets used to every bit of closeness, every touch that Pete takes. Like... like this is something he could do. Anytime.

"They fired her so fast... I thought my Dad would have a heart attack when I told him what made the other parents so upset..."

"Oh, man, they made you tell them? I would've blushed so hard you could see it --"

"Like I didn't?" Clark's big hand resting on his shoulder. Clark's smile so close. "So, c'mon Pete. Give."

"Yeah... yeah. Well. Remember how she. Uh. Remember when Dustin made that fag joke and the teacher went off on him, and, like, kept us late for lunch giving this whole big speech and everything?"

"Yeah, she was pissed. I thought she was going to make Dustin eat the blackboard erasers or something."

Pete snickers. "Well, she wouldn't be the first teacher, or, like, person to want to..."

"Pete... is this... are you...?"

"No! I mean... I mean, I..." Well, damn. Had he really not expected Clark to ask that?

"Aw, hey, Pete, I didn't mean... I mean, it's okay if you are, I'd never..."

"Clark."

"Hunh? Oh. Yeah. Guess I'm not doing too well here?"

Another wash of rueful feeling, and really... it's hard to know these things for everyone right? "No, it's not you. I just... I was wondering."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. About you. Because... and don't get mad at me again, man, but Lex wants your ass." And Clark does laugh, but that pause tells Pete all he needs to know.

"Jesus, Pete, you don't even --"

"You know what I'm talking about, Clark. Everyone sees how he looks at you."

"Look, just because he's not all... all hung up on things like --"

"Like the rest of us small-town hicks?" Pete's even voice is back again, somehow.

"No!" Clark squeezes his shoulder, somehow manages to move even closer. They're almost tangled together now. "God, are you gonna cut me even a little slack here? I was gonna say like our parents. Like whoever got that teacher fired, okay?"

Pete nods slowly. He knows that. He knew that. "I just... it's a little hard to stay... open-minded when it comes to Lex. I don't want him to take advantage of you, man."

"Ooookay. And you can stop talking about me like some kind of blushing virgin any time now, Pete."

"Well, you do bat your lashes and -- ow!" Pete rubs the side of his head where Clark's slapped him. "You do!"

"I do not!"

"Yeah, you just keep on believing that."

Smiling at each other, and Pete can feel Clark settling a little, loose-limbed but still very much there. Not like the dreams. Clark... It must be the dark, because Pete thinks he'd go crazy really fast if he was always this aware of Clark. How damned big he is.

"Clark --"

"Pete, what if... oh, sorry. What were you going to say?"

"No, it wasn't anything important. Go ahead."

"Okay... uh. Yeah. What if... I mean, it's not like I'm... I mean. Shit."

"What is it?" Pete takes a chance and rubs the back of Clark's neck. Squeezes when he feels him shudder a little. He thinks he knows.

"What if I do know a little about Lex wants. What if... what if I maybe possibly sort of might want it, too. Maybe. A little."

"Aw, man --" And Pete cuts himself off. Knows enough that his first response isn't going to get him anywhere, and Clark's all tensed up in front of him, around him... Jesus, so big. Would probably be behind him if his back wasn't to the wall. "Look. Look. You know I wouldn't... I wouldn't treat you any differently, right? You're my best friend --"

"But it's Lex."

"It doesn't have to be."

Sharp, sudden gasp kicks off a long, heavy silence. Clark is still tensed up, and Pete can't tell if he's looking at him or not.

"Clark?"

"Pete... you... what. What are you saying?"

Something like shock to realize his other hand is still pressed to Clark's chest. Holding him back, maybe. Or just... touching him. Splays his fingers out and presses a little harder, tightening his hand on the back of Clark's neck to make sure he knows that Pete isn't trying to push him away.

"Oh..."

Not a no, not yet, and it's funny the things your mind finds to hold on to when you're going insane. Pete runs his hand down the center of Clark's chest, frustrated more than he thought he could be by the layers of clothing between them. Bites his lip hard and tries, uselessly, to see.

Winds up fumbling at Clark's waist for the hem of his shirts, brushing the fly of his jeans with a gasp of his own. Gets his hand under and shit, why does Clark always wear so many layers? So warm. Has to touch, stroke, barely aware of what he's doing because some part of him isn't convinced that he's not burning, that Clark's smooth skin will feel less like something desperately vital if he just keeps touching.

Soft sound when his palm hits one small nipple and Pete's not sure which of them made it.

Clark's hand squeezing his shoulder, Clark's other hand scrabbling something like a code on the wall behind them and. Jesus.

Pete's hard again, too fast, too easily for anything like comfort and Clark still isn't stopping him.

Takes a chance and pulls his other hand from around Clark's neck, down under his shirts.

Both nipples between his fingers now, hard and. God, just there.

"Pete..."

"Yeah." And he knows he isn't answering the question. Knows there was a question by the way Clark's shaking now. Turned on. Turned on and he wanted this. This is between them now.

This is them. Right here.

Pete's going a little lost with it, a lot crazy. Pulls up Clark's shirts enough to duck his head into the warm, blind cave of them. Messy-wet mouth on Clark's chest and Clark is curling away now.

Stilling sudden and telling when Pete gets his mouth on one nipple.

Another, deeper shudder when Pete sucks (Chloe, Chloe's breasts look so heavy and he wants to hold them), something like a moan when Pete bites, just gently.

"Oh God. You're really -- Pete --"

Bites harder and twists and it's not that different from the time his sister's friend Liz had let him do this. She'd liked biting, too. Twists and bites at the same time and Clark's hands slide down his back, slow and it feels a little helpless.

Like Clark wants.

Hands digging into the muscle there, fast and hard enough to make Pete groan, and then they're gone again.

"Pete oh Jesus Pete --"

Twists one more time and keeps sucking and biting while he lets his hand slide down Clark's chest again. Both hands on Clark's hips for a moment and they're both sweating. It's so hot.

Pulls back just enough to lick, suck the salt from Clark's chest before diving in again, lick his way to Clark's other nipple and mouth him there. Clark's hands back on him again, pressing on his head through the shirts, skittering down to Pete's hands like he doesn't know what to do with them. Or any of this.

Small, dark twinge of guilt and victory. Lex hasn't done this, hasn't touched him or made Clark feel like this or... anything. Catches himself smiling against Clark's nipple and bites again.

"Oh God, Pete, I can't believe you're doing... you want this?"

His laugh is harsh to his own ears. "What does it look like, man?" It isn't as honest as it could be, even though it is.

Clark's laugh isn't any better. "I didn't know... oh God, Pete, that feels..." Broken off into a long, low moan when Pete catches Clark's nipple hard between his teeth and flicks his tongue there again and again.

And then Clark's pulling away, giving Pete just enough time for his stomach to drop and his heart to rise before he realizes that Clark's pulling his shirts off, flinging them into the distance.

Hands on Pete's face, pulling him up and the kiss is awkward. Rough. He's had better -- much better, but Clark seems so determined.

Like this is something that has to happen before anything else can. Thick, wet tongue in Pete's mouth and he sucks before he realizes he wants to, and if the kiss isn't any calmer, it is... better. Hotter.

Kisses.

Clark mumbling words things that half make sense --

"just had to --"

Clark's sucking his mouth and --

"so soft. Hard... kept noticing --"

Hauling Pete closer until he's half in Clark's lap and it's out of control, barely enough time to breathe and the fear of getting caught is in his veins, rushing and electric and no more ruthless than Clark's hands --

"Pete... fuck, why didn't you --"

"Wha...?" It freezes him immediately, and they're panting into each other's mouths for long moments before Clark stiffens. Pulls back. "Pete." There's something... off in Clark's voice.

"Sorry, man, I just needed to --"

"Pete. Why are you doing this?"

And the wire is ice, just like that. Pete swallows. "Uh... Clark? You may have noticed that I've been hitting on you for, like, hours here."

"Pete... you spend all this time warning me about Lex, and now you're all over me --"

"Hey, I had some help here --"

" -- just like you haven't been in love with Chloe for as long as I've known you --"

"This isn't about Chloe --"

"No. No, it's about Lex, right? Jesus, Pete... you... I can't believe you! You'd... you'd have sex with me just to keep me away from him?"

And something in the way Clark sounds so betrayed, so incredulous, like... like protecting someone from Lex isn't something that needed to be done... Pete scrabbles until he catches Clark's wrist.

"Pete, no -- Jesus --"

Presses Clark's hand against his crotch. "Does this feel like I'm playing you, Clark? Like I'm doing this for... for..." And Pete swallows against the bile in his throat because this feels familiar, too.

Familiar like everything he's come to regret, every time he hurt someone. Every time he (lied) disappointed himself, but Clark...

They need this.

"Oh." Fingers curling slowly over Pete's erection through his jeans. "Pete... you're hard."

And his laugh feels awful, but he can't hold it in. "Yeah, no shit, Clark. You were... you were turning me on."

"I... oh, man, Pete, I'm so sorry --"

And he *can't* hear that, shakes his head sharply and lurches in to take Clark's mouth, bumping teeth hard until he can get it. Clark, thank God, doesn't try to stop him, just opens his mouth and accepts. Sucks Pete tongue and Jesus, he's learning so fast.

Rubbing Pete's cock through the jeans hesitantly and kissing like he knows exactly what he's doing, exactly what they both want.

At least there'll be one livable lie.

And Pete can't stop. Gets up on his knees and pushes closer, thigh between Clark's and God, yeah, he's hard, too, and that's enough of an invitation. Gets his hands on Clark's fly and has a pure vertigo moment at the angle, of all things, but...

It's not so different. Clark's cock fits against his palm, demands to be stroked with every pulse and jump and --

"God, Pete, do you want --" Another squeeze, harder this time.

"Yeah, please --"

Awkward and awkward and Pete's just about to try to help when Clark gets him out, gets him in hand and starts jerking him off without pause and Pete barely has time to feel the cry building up in his throat before he catches Clark's mouth with his own.

Moaning together and it's fast and he's so hard and Clark's hips are pumping and so are his and Clark's other hand is on the back of his head. Holding him there, holding him still and kissing him so hard Pete thinks he can maybe feel his mouth bruising. Not letting up and he hopes his hand knows what it's doing, because there's not much oxygen getting to his brain anymore.

No air at all and it's like the dreams, thick and sweaty-hot and raw and the helplessness is back, the need maybe never left.

Clark.

Thumb over the head of his cock and yeah, God, yeah, and Pete has tricks of his own. Adds a little twist and now Clark is groaning into the kiss, jerking him faster, harder, so good, so good and Pete comes whimpering into Clark's mouth, shaking and needing and finally having to yank his head back.

Gasping and squeezing Clark's cock convulsively and --

"Oh God, Pete --"

Clark's coming all over his hand, sticky and. And.

Oh, Jesus, he just did this.

They just...

Wipes his hand on his jeans before he can think about it, and he can feel Clark looking at him. Wishes he could get something a little better than dumb shock on his face, but it's pretty hopeless.

He'd just jerked off his best friend.

No, he'd just had sex with his best friend, and that's different, because he wasn't supposed to... Pete wasn't supposed to want this that much, and now he's not going to be able to not think about it.

This is always going to have happened, and there's nothing he can do about it, and fuck, for all Clark knows...

"Wow. That was... Jeez, Pete, were you saving it up for a year?"

Pete manages a shaky smile. "What can I say? I produce, bro-tha..."

Clark punches his shoulder lightly and snickers.

For all Clark knows, nothing is wrong with this at all. Pete swallows hard, shifts back until he can sit down again.

"So... Pete."

"Yeah?"

"Um... what now?"

Pete blinks. "Uh... I. Uh. Hmm."

Clark snickers again. "Yeah. Did you want... I mean. Uh..."

"Yeah?" He can hear Clark running a hand through his hair. He really hopes he used the right one, and boy did he ever not need the Something About Mary flashback. Bubbling hysteria right under the surface.

"Was this... was this like a... one time thing?"

"Um..."

"'cause... heh. It beats doing it yourself."

Pete doesn't need to see Clark's smile to be terrified. And for all the wrong reasons. Forces a laugh through bruised lips. God. "Yeah..."

"Cool," Clark says, as if Pete had answered everything, and settles in next to him again. Strangely familiar wet sounds and Pete realizes that Clark's licking his fingers.

Pete shivers as his cock gives a painful lurch.

"You okay?"

Not even remotely. "Yeah. Just... aftershock, you know?"

Clark bumps shoulders with him. "Heh. I got you good." Pete can hear the grin in Clark's voice. It's too infectious to ignore.

"Trust Clark Kent to take sex to the five year old level."

"Oh, that's... That's kinda gross, Pete."

"Oh, man, ew." Pete socks Clark in the arm and they're wrestling like it's middle school again, like this had never, would never happen, only...

Clark's arm around his back and Clark's thigh up around his waist and it all comes back. All of it.

Breathless laughter and the scent of them in the air like a stain.

And Pete can't stop thinking of Lex's smile.

End.



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