Timeline: Post-Exodus (from there follows timeline of the Summer Friends series)
Pete and Lana were up in Clark's loft, laughing at some photos of Clark and Pete when they were kids. It was interesting enough seeing the two as youngsters, but Pete's stories really made them funny. Even though they had all grown up in Smallville, she had never been very close to them. Occasionally she heard or saw Pete playing with Clark around the Kent farm, or saw he and Clark walking down the halls of the school, or goofing off in class. She'd always envied that they had that type of close friendship. She had girls she called friends, but never any real friends. The closest was Emily who she met in first grade, after she died it was even harder to connect with anyone. For years she'd been afraid to trust in friendship again. Pete and Clark had been lucky, they always had each other and still had each other.
"Pete, Lana," an adult voice called up to the loft. They got up as she came up the stairs.
"Are we disturbing you Mrs. Kent?" Pete asked.
"No, it's nice to hear someone up here, if it was quiet it would be worse."
"How are you feeling?" Lana asked.
"Physically, better, but..."
"Still worried?" Lana questioned.
"I'm sure we'll get another lead soon," Pete added.
"It's been almost two weeks," Mrs. Kent said. "I think I've faced the fact the only thing that's going to bring Clark home is Clark."
The two suddenly felt bad about sitting in the loft laughing about anything and it showed on their face.
"Don't worry yourselves. I want you to find reasons to laugh. If we're all depressed and worried it'll do us no good. And I bet Clark would want you to be happy and he will be happy to find out the two of you have become so close," Mrs. Kent said. She smiled at them and left them alone again.
"Sometimes I get so mad at him," Pete said.
"No I'm not, I'm the funny guy. I stay in a good mood."
"Pete, you're more than the funny guy. Besides his parents, you're closer to him than anyone."
"Until you show up," he mumbled. "Sorry, I didn't mean that."
Lana was clearly taken aback by this comment before he got the chance to say sorry. Pete had become so comfortable around Lana (much to his own surprise) that half-forgot this was Lana, not Chloe he was with.
"You did mean it," Lana said. "Why did you say it?"
"For the record, I like you. Hanging out with you has been cool, you just don't know what it's like to be on the other end when Clark is around you. And I understand, he's been in love with you as long as I've known him."
"He hasn't been in love with me since--"
"You don't know Clark. It's like--one of those romance novels, not that I read them, or a fairy tale. You always read about this person seeing this other person and it's all so perfect and they're so perfect and the rest of the world doesn't matter because they're perfect and everything should pale in comparison to them and you think it's bunch of bullshit...excuse my language. Then Clark comes along and you see it's happening to him, he's the pauper who wants to be a prince, but the princess doesn't seem to notice." Lana started to speak up. "Give me a minute to finish," Pete said. "So I get use to those moments, Princess arrives, wanna-be-prince is dumbstruck, but the prince is still a pauper hanging out with his pauper friends when she leaves. And then magic of magic the princess sees the pauper and he becomes the prince and you have a perfect first kiss."
"Who said it was perfect?" Lana asked.
"Well, Clark and you liked it enough to keep going," Pete said.
"When did he tell you about this perfect kiss, the night after?"
"Just let me finish my story," Pete said. Lana seemed to want to say more, but was giving him space to continue. "So all this time, the prince, once a pauper, has been watching this beautiful life from afar with the others, but now that he's in it, anytime he spends outside of that world feels like charity to the people he left behind."
"Clark and I are not the fairy tale couple you and Chloe want us to be."
"How'd Chloe get in this?" Pete asked.
"At least you and Chloe can be you and you may fuss, you may fight, but you love each other just for being you. Me, I'm stuck trying to live up to what you two make out to be a lifetime of dreams. I cannot help how Clark feels, but I can't lie and say that I don't like that he feels it about me." Lana sighed. "Clark is a lot like you, he's easy to get along with, understanding, easy to love, and I like that. But I don't like that he's been in love with me so long or thought he was in love with me. I don't like that he's built up so many ideas about what we could or should be. I don't like that I get blamed by both of you for what Clark thinks."
"I don't blame you, Chloe doesn't either."
"Chloe would probably say the same, but she resents me when Clark breaks her heart. Doesn't she know if I could, I would prevent that hurt. I love Chloe and I was so happy when she made me her sister on that stupid homework assignment. It was really great, because it happened right after that fight and I hoped that meant she sees me, me, Lana Lang, messed up Lana Lang and still cares about me. And sometimes I wish I could go to her and say, you know what it scares me that Clark thinks I'm perfect. But then I'd feel guilty because just the way Clark is seeing me is the way Chloe wants him to see her. And I don't know what to do, so I start internalizing again, wondering who's my loyalty to, Chloe or Clark and feeling like I have to choose a side for every occasion. I just wish that when Clark and I had become friends it would have been like him and Chloe, something he wasn't looking for but really liked. And maybe when it became more..."
"It would just happen, to both of you at the same time, for the same reasons."
"Yes," Lana said surprised his comment summed up her feelings so easily. "I'm always scared of this dream that he expects me to fulfill. I hate it."
"Well, if it takes the pressure off, when you look at him his brain turns to mud, so anything you say is poetry and anything you do is right. I think you could pretty much shoot a guy in front of Clark and he'd run to you and ask if you hurt your trigger finger."
"You know," Lana said. "You don't have to always have to be the funny guy."
"And you don't have to worry so much about Chloe. You know what Chloe hates the most about you?"
"What?" Lana asked a little scared of the answer.
"That she doesn't hate you, not really," Pete said. "She never said so, but I can tell."
Lana said nothing. They stood apart for a long time.
"I think we both could use some air," Pete finally said.
"Me too," Lana said. "Don't you owe me a ride anyway?"
"On a horse? Are you sure you want to go there? I was twelve the last time I was on a horse."
"I'm sure it's just like riding a bike, you never forget how."
"Dirt-bikes, now you're speaking my language. Have you ever taken a ride on one of those?"
"No," Lana said as they got up and walked down from the loft.
"How about you try it one day?"
"I don't know," Lana said. "I was the little girl scared of riding my bike to fast because I might lose control."
"And a horse is different?"
"It's alive, it has feelings too, I trust it more, if that makes any sense."
"Well... If you want to have a go at dirt-biking... I'm here. And you're allowed to lose control, I'll be there to pick you up if you fall."
Lana met his eyes and smiled. "But Princesses don't ride dirt bikes."
"Good thing I'm not a princess," Lana said and made her exit before he could say anything else.
Pete smiled to himself and followed Lana out of the loft.
Pete hadn't forgotten as much as he thought, he mounted the horse a bit awkwardly, but rode him easily alongside Lana. The ride had been good for them, the air helped clear both their heads and each felt a little better. They continued to talk about little things as they rode. They decide to ride by the Ross house, where they found Pete's dad sitting on the porch with Hayden and Sam. Mr. Ross looked surprised to see him on back of the horse. Hayden was very excited.
"I thought you gave up your cowboy fantasy," Mr. Ross said walking off the porch and to meet the horse.
"You wanted to be a cowboy?" Lana asked.
"I was a kid," Pete said unusually shy.
"He use to have this cowboy outfit," Sam said. "And he ran around with this jump rope he stole from our sister, using it for a lasso. Dad was sure he would end up in some rodeo."
"Why must my family embarrass me?" Pete asked.
"Anna horsey?" Hayden asked.
"Who's Anna?" Lana asked Pete.
"You, I think," Pete replied.
Just then Hayden broke away from his dad's hand and ran up to the horse. "Anna, wan horsey," Hayden said. "Pease Anna."
"Is it okay?" Lana asked Sam as she slid down of the horses back.
"Yeah," Sam said. "Sure."
Lana put the little boy in the saddle and held him as she led the horse at a slow trot.
"You go baby brother," Sam said hitting him on his back. "A romantic ride."
"Friends, Sam," Pete said. "Lana and I are just friends. It is possible."
"With a girl that looks like that? I don't think so."
"Stop teasing your brother," Mr. Ross said. "My wife and I were friends for years before we became more."
"Just friends, okay that's Clark's wife... as far as he's concerned."
"Hey, we're not talking about his concern, we're talking about yours," Sam said.
Pete shook his head. A car pulled up in the driveway. Pete knew right away it was Jen's car. She stepped out, retrieved a bookbag from her trunk, and walked up top her husband to give him a kiss.
"Mama," Hayden called as he came back toward the house on the horse, supported by Lana.
"Hayden!" Jen replied looking a little panicked and running to grab the toddler off the horse.
"He's okay," Lana said. "I was really careful."
"And you are?" Jen said unimpressed.
"She's my friend," Pete said walking over. "Lana."
"Anna got horsey," Hayden said to his mother.
"I'm sorry if I seemed a little rude, I just worry about him," Jen said carrying her son away. She went back over to Sam and started fussing about Hayden's ride.
"So now you've met Jen," Pete said. "You staying for dinner? We can ride the horses back after."
"Sure," Lana said shrugging.
Dinner was pleasant enough. Lana sat beside Jen at the table and Jen again apologized for getting so upset about Hayden. She explained she was just worried about Hayden and sometimes worried a little too much, because she wasn't able to stay home with him. She said would have been happy to stay home, but she had already started working on her degree before she got pregnant and Sam insisted she continue until she finished. She seemed quite in love with her son and Pete's brother and proud of them both. Jen said she really respected Sam for being a stay at home dad and was glad his family was allowing it. Pete's mother seemed to be the one that didn't like Jen very much, Pete's father was happily chatting with her during the meal. It was during this time Lana got another series of 'What are you doing with your life?' questions from Mrs. Ross. Pete looked annoyed that she was going there again, Lana was just upset she didn't have better answers.
It was dark when Lana and Pete returned to the Kent farm, they guessed the Kents were asleep and even if they weren't they didn't want to disturb him. The horses were returned to there lodgings and the two of them walked away from the Kent farm together. They talked as he walked her home and reached the Sullivan porch sooner than expected.
"Thanks for walking me home," Lana said.
"No problem," Pete replied.
"Pete, you know how your mom was talking about... would want to be my mentor," Lana asked.
"Are you crazy? My mom?"
"She made me think about some things... about where my life is going."
"It seems to be going fine. How many people our age run a business?"
"But is that really what I want to do for the rest of my life?"
"Well, if you want to talk to my mom, talk to her," Pete said. "Maybe she'll give me a break."
"I sort of don't know what to say when I'm around her," Lana said turning toward him. "I feel kind of silly."
"You want me to talk to her for you?" Pete asked.
"Sure," Pete replied. "By the way, what are you doing for the fourth of July?"
"Nell invited me to come up and spend the holiday with her and Dean."
"Oh, I was--"
"I'm not going. Just in case--"
"Just in case there's word on Clark?" Pete questioned.
"Then I don't suppose you'd be interested in joining in on the Ross festivities."
Lana looked surprised.
"But who knows, Clark may be home by then and---"
Lana smiled. "You're inviting me?"
"Well, we are kind of friends now," Pete said.
"I guess I could come... even if he's not." Lana sighed. "I sort of feel a little guilty."
"About having fun... without Clark."
"Yeah," Lana said. "I don't know how to feel. Should I be worried all the time? Should I try to think about something else? Should I be mad at him? I don't even know what to call him, my friend, my boyfriend. Who ran away from me this time?"
"I had fun today," Pete said, mostly because he didn't know how to answer her question.
"Well, I guess I better get going. I'll talk to my mom for you. And we have to arrange a time to ride dirt-bikes, that is if you won't be too busy with royal duties."
Lana smiled. "Bye Pete."
"Bye," Pete said leaving with a return smile. He was starting to like making her smile. In fact, he was starting to like making her smile a little too much.
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