Pete's the nice guy.
Sometimes, he forgets and looks a little too long at pretty legs under a short skirt when Chloe stood nearby, but his apologies for being a dog are always graceful and goodnatured. They're easy to give, because Chloe doesn't actually care that he looks- she's his friend. A big, capital F friend, who has to complain about the objectification of women just on general principle. Fortunately, she never harps on it long- she says what she has to say, then bumps her shoulder against his to change the subject.
She's got green eyes, great big green eyes that open so wide when she smiles; that disappear into slits when she's furious. They dance when she's excited, and turn smokydark when she's hurt; and it breaks his heart every time she blinks hard and fast, trying not to cry. As far as he can remember, he's only made her cry twice- once in eighth grade when he told her she was a damned nosy busybody when she caught him looking at one of his brother's skin magazines, and the second time when he took Clark's side over that article when he was trying to be a kingmaker.
There are a lot of nevers in him. He never should have taken Clark's side over something that stupid, never should have kept pushing Clark to notice that Chloe noticed him. Never should have tried to give her what she -wantedinstead of what she -needed-. Clark's been stuck on Lana since first grade, and Pete knew deep down that wasn't going to change just because he pushed him hard enough that he put on a tux and managed to remember Chloe's favorite song.
Pete's shirts are worn out at the shoulders from soaking up Chloe's tears. It doesn't make him uncomfortable when girls cry; tears don't frighten him, he doesn't feel helpless. He just wraps his arms around her and holds on, because he knows she just wants to feel her feet under her again. He can help weigh her down, and another never- she'll never know that he breathes slow and deep when she buries her face against his neck, so he can fill himself up with her. She smells like a handful of Red Hots, and he wonders sometimes, if she tastes like that, too.
She doesn't have to say anything when she hoists herself into his bedroom window, abusing his dad's rose trellis to climb up. Pete knows as soon as he sees her trying to smooth her weird Metropolis hair into place. Clark's done it again, and she twists her mouth to stifle words, leaning her head back to blink, fast and hard, at the ceiling.
"What's wrong?" It's a stupid, ritual question Pete asks every time, like it's his only line in the play. He pushes up on his elbows, shifting in the twin bed to make room for her to sit. Wincing a little when she throws her hands out, he watches his juice bottle full of change wobble when the tips of her fingers brush against it. It teeters heavily, settling when she paces into his room. She's in his room, monochromed in shades of purple, all his blue mixing up with all her magenta, and she's trying not to cry, again.
Sitting in the meager space he created for her, she laughs. It's a hollow sound, another scripted moment, that's always followed by something hopeless and self-deprecating. Only the blocking is different this time; her long back to him as she slumps on the edge of the bed- his bed, in the middle of the night, and she's going to leave a Chloe-shaped dent in his comforter that smells like warm, sugared cinnamon when she leaves. Since he can't exactly put his arms around her in this position, he smooths a hand against her back instead and tries to listen to her pretzel logic. She -knewClark and Lana were getting closer, she -wouldn't- have minded- Pete wants to tell her yes she would, but he doesn't- and then something about seeing them in the loft, and honesty, that trails down into incomprehensible tears.
If he were disloyal, Pete would tell her that she deserves better. He can't say that about Clark, so he says, "I wish I could help."
And she turns when he says that, trying out an artless, lying smile when she nods and flicks tears away with the tips of her fingers. "You are helping." She looks weightless and disconnected, curling an arm under herself and half-laying on the bed, then rolling on her side so that only her feet dangle off the bed. It's awkward, and Pete feels like he's going to fall off the other side, so he does what he always does.
It's different holding her in his bed, having her weight and heat in that private place where he thinks -other- things about her, all those things he keeps to himself. It's different because he's not wearing a shirt, and when she curls up against him, her breath and her tears fall on his skin instead of cotton. She's so close right now, the edges of her nails lightly curved against his back, her hair tickling his chin. When she moves, she moves against him, her breasts pressing against his chest, her knees bumping his as the bed creaks in quiet protest.
Fantasies pulse with his blood: all those imaginary times he's pulled her down on these very sheets to kiss her and stroke her waist and maybe more, all the untimes she's rubbed her fingers across the rippled wave of his hair and looked at him with changeable green eyes, soft with wonder and awe, like he's the hero. Like he's -her- hero.
This isn't the time to think about kissing her, half because she's broken right now and it wouldn't be fair, and the other half because she's thinking about Clark, and she might kiss him back. There's only so much selflessness in him, and if she parts her lips to him, -he- needs it to be because she wants something more than anybody who isn't Clark. He's tried giving her what she wants; it doesn't work.
After a while, Chloe stops crying. She stops moving, too, comfortable now in his arms, her cheek drying against his shoulder. Her breath evens out, ruffled by an occasional, reflexive shudder, and she drifts to sleep. Pete steadies himself, sweating in the slice of heat and humidity she brought to his bed. He can't help breathing her in to fill himself up, he can't help tracing the thin shape of her bra's strap beneath her clinging t-shirt.
But that's all he can't help. He won't be revenge or rebound; he can't be anything but Pete Ross, Nice Guy. Friend, with a capital F, and he'll only hold it against her a little if his mom walks in and grounds him for having a girl in his bed in the middle of the night. Just a little, because he has to out of general principle, but he'll bump shoulders and tell her it's no big deal. Then he'll wait and watch for a girl to walk by in a short skirt, because he's a nice guy, but he's still a guy, and there's no point pulling up all his roots and dying because he can't have Chloe. Then it'll start all over again, the way it always does. They've done all this before, and as Pete tries to convince his arm it really doesn't want to fall asleep, he wonders if he's ever going to be what Chloe wants instead of what she needs.
Still, he doesn't move when Chloe exhales a deep, sleepy sigh and shifts, her wrist falling heavily on his hip, her fingers curling in sleepy spasms against his ass. He can have that, at least, and he brushes a kiss against her hair, breathing and breathing her so he can remember this later and slide it into one of those maybe more fantasies. That's all he takes before he tries to sleep.
Sometimes he hates being the nice guy.
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