Title: A Different Light
Pete stood outside the Talon, casting a disdainful look up and down Main Street. He hadn't been back to Smallville in three years. Not since he left for Gotham Law School--he'd come back after college, packed up the rest of his stuff, and didn't look back as he drove toward Gotham.
Of course, he still knew what was happening in town. He figured it was a Mom thing, keeping him up to date. He knew Mrs. Kent did the same for Clark; it was something they'd joked about during their years at Met U.
Clark still made time to visit, though. Another thing his Mom informed him of. I saw Clark in town the other day. It's so nice that he makes time for visits, despite his job. It ticked Pete off that he couldn't argue that flying or super-speed meant there was no need to make time. Clark could just take it.
Sighing, Pete turned to enter the coffee shop. No, he corrected, the brasserie. He knew Lana had expanded her services since she came home from college. It was only right that he pay her a visit while he was here. He just hoped she wouldn't bug him for details about Clark.
It was...different. Gone were the Egyptian paintings, the purple and gold. The colors were deeper, richer, darker. Yet still inviting. Tables with single flowers in bud vases, plush couches with coffee tables complete with oversized books. Pete knew the space was the same size, but it looked as though more people could fit inside.
Maybe that's what three years away did. Made Smallville seem less...small. Main Street seemed longer than it did when he was 18. Less claustrophobic somehow.
It wasn't too crowded, but it was only Thursday evening. One waitress served delicate looking desserts to an older couple; another gave a group of high school kids sandwiches and coffee. It seemed as though the Talon was still the place to go for study sessions.
"Pete!" A familiar voice sounded near his ear. "I hoped I'd see you while you were in town."
Startled, Pete wrapped his arms around Lana in a brief hug. "How'd you know I was coming?" He sniffed. The air between them was sweet. Had Lana always worn this scent? Not flowery, nothing overpowering; it suited her.
"Don't be silly. I knew you'd be back for your sister's wedding." She pulled away from him, her hands sliding down his arms to grasp his. "Wow, Pete. You're all grown up. Come sit with me. We'll catch up." She led him back to an overstuffed sofa in the back of the main room. "Have you seen Chloe at all? What do you think of Jack?"
"Jack? Who's Jack?" He searched his memory for anyone named Jack as he settled into the cushions. He hoped Jack wasn't Chloe's son. He couldn't imagine that she could take care of a baby.
"Pete!" Lana released one of his hands to smack him on his shoulder. "Jack is the guy she's been dating since junior year at Gotham State!"
"She's still with him? Wow. That's, like, five years." He picked up the maroon pillow sitting between them and began twirling the tassels hanging off the corner with his forefinger. "Wow. I didn't think Chloe'd last that long with anybody."
"When is the last time you actually talked to her, Pete?"
"Um, before law school started, I think." He started to pull harder at the tassels, wondering how strong they were. "We just kind of grew apart. Lost touch, y'know?"
"You live in the same city. How hard would it be to stay in touch?"
"Lana, it's not like Smallville there. It's bigger, busier. You probably wouldn't understand."
"Oh? Why do you say that? Because I'm still here?" Lana put her hand on his, stopping him from destroying the pillow.
"Don't be like that, Lana." He shifted his position slightly, pulling his hand out from under hers. "You've never lived outside of Smallville, you don't know what it's like. Especially being in law school...why do you think I haven't been home? Every summer I have internships, every semester I burn the midnight oil so I can graduate at the top of my class." Pete curled himself around the pillow, and picked up a bit of napkin someone had left behind on the table. Slowly, he shredded it, piece by piece. "Did I tell you about my job offer?"
"Well, no, Pete, you didn't." She looked intently at him. "When would you? We haven't talked in over a year either. The only news I've had of you is from Clark. And even that's sketchy, because apparently you don't talk to him much either."
He met her gaze. "And you do?"
"Of course I do. I still have monthly meetings with Lex for Talon business, and Clark and I email at least once a week. I get phone calls from Chloe all the time, but they usually last five minutes, because she's on her way to cover a story." She gathered the shredded bits of napkin from around Pete, and deposited them on the table. "You're the only one that doesn't keep in touch with us. Why is that, Pete?"
"Why? Because I want to forget about Smallville. Because the city is a completely different place." He slammed the pillow on the table, sending napkin bits everywhere. "Because in Gotham, I'm not the youngest Ross, growing up to be a lawyer, just like mommy and daddy. In Gotham, I'm just Peter Ross."
Lana just looked at him for a moment, obviously comprehending what Pete was saying. "You think less of me because I came back to live here, don't you?"
"Well, no. I wouldn't say that. But you and I, Lana, we're different people. Chloe moved on. Even Clark moved on. But you're still here, clinging to your past." As soon as the words left Pete's mouth, he regretted them. He waited for the wide-eyed look, the trembling lips and the tears that signified `Lana's been wronged. Again.'
She didn't give it to him. "You think I'm going to cry, don't you? Well, let me tell you something, Pete. I've been away. I spent a year in Paris. I spent three in Metropolis. I didn't come back here to cling to my past. I came here to start my future." She waved off his stutter. "No, don't interrupt me. I'm not done. Do you think I could have the Talon anywhere else? I'm twenty-six and I've been running this place for ten years. In another ten years I'll have saved enough money to open up my own place, anywhere I want, without anyone's help. It's my future. Mine."
Pete opened his mouth to defend himself, but was stopped by a hand clamping down on his shoulder. He looked up to see the smiling face of Jonathan Kent.
"Hey, Mr. Kent," Pete said, rising unsteadily to shake hands with Clark's father. "How are you and Mrs. Kent doing?"
"Just fine, Pete. She's actually dropping off some pies for you, Lana." He smiled at Lana before his gaze drifted back to the main counter to settle on his wife. Pete watched as his smile became softer and the light seemed to brighten in his eyes.
Pete felt his chest tighten as he looked between Clark's parents. Would he ever find someone that would make him look like that? Even thirty years later? What if he never found it? What then?
"Thanks, Mr. Kent." Lana turned to Pete and poked him in the chest. "We're not done here, Pete, so don't try to leave." She spun on her heel and walked toward the counter. Pete watched Mrs. Kent greet her with a hug, and then wave over at him. Pete waved back before settling down on the couch again, gesturing for Mr. Kent to join him.
Jonathan looked at Pete before shifting his eyes toward Lana. "She's grown up nice, hasn't she?"
"Oh, come on, Pete." He nodded in the direction of the counter. "Lana's become quite the young woman. She's running this place practically independent of Lex."
"But what about the monthly meetings she mentioned?"
Jonathan smiled. "Those meetings happen to coincide with Clark's trips home. Lex gives us about half an hour of "family time," as he calls it, and he and Lana go over the books."
Pete was silent for a minute, absorbing everything he'd learned. It seemed Lana no longer considered herself the fairy princess in pink. Apparently no one else did either. He looked across the room, watching as Lana talked with Mrs. Kent, noticing for the first time that she wasn't wearing pink. In fact, he thought as he shifted in his seat, the prim outfit she was wearing shouldn't look so sexy. A blue button-down shirt, cuffs rolled up, and khakis. Normal enough. Until she shifted, and he could see a hint of her cleavage because the buttons were not all buttoned.
Startled, Pete blinked a few times and tore his gaze from Lana. "Sorry, Mr. Kent. Did you say something?"
Jonathan laughed and clasped Pete's shoulder again. "I just said that I was going to gather up Martha and head on home." Pete nodded and looked toward the counter again. "I'll see you at the wedding, son. Have a good night."
"Yeah, you too." Pete didn't even get up to say good-bye. He just collapsed against the back of the sofa and let everything sink in. Lana was sexy. Lana Lang was sexy. And independent. And sexy. And walking toward him. Shit.
He exhaled as she sat next to him. She was going to yell at him, he just knew it. He couldn't let her do that.
"I'm sorry that I said all that. Earlier. Sorry." Shit. He closed his eyes and started to count to ten. Maybe he hadn't said that out loud. Maybe she wouldn't think he was an idiot and a jerk. Maybe she...why is she giggling?
Pete opened his eyes and looked at her. Yes, she was giggling. "Lana?"
"Oh, Pete. I'm sorry." Lana managed to look apologetic, despite the twitching of her lips. "It's just that I was going to apologize to you, for telling you off like that."
"No, I deserved it." He turned toward her, right arm draped over the back of the sofa. "Listen, I shouldn't have said that you were clinging to your past. Because you're not. Obviously." He paused to take a calming breath. "I'm the one clinging to my past. I was so insistent that I not be seen as `the other Ross boy' that I forgot that I have to make people see me as who I am. How can they know how I'm different if I don't show them?"
"How can you show them if you never come home?" She reached out and put her hand over his on the back of the sofa. "What's keeping you away, Pete?"
He looked in her eyes, then down to her hand resting on his. "Actually, I was thinking," he paused as he turned his hand over and twisted his fingers with hers. "I was thinking that there's nothing keeping me away." He raised his eyes to hers. "What do you think?"
Lana smiled, a bright smile that he didn't remember from ten years ago. "I think that Smallville won't know what hit it when Peter Ross comes home."
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