Disclaimer: Pete Ross and Smallville belong to Warner Bros., Tollin/Robbins, and various others who seem to be Not Me. But just see if they ever give you Introspective!Pete.
Pete's never seen the Pacific Ocean. He's been out of Kansas; the annual family trip to Ohio secured that. He's been out of Smallville many times. There are trips to Metropolis and to other rural towns far too identical to Smallville to make Pete entirely comfortable.
He wants to see the ocean like it's shown in the movies. Glistening blue, emerald green; inviting, welcoming. Pete wants to live in California on the coast and be near the ocean for weeks, months, years. He wants to be a beach bum; surfing all day and lying beneath the stars holding a drink with an umbrella in it in one hand and a pretty girl in the other. He wants to be a cliche.
Sometimes, on hazy nights in the Meteor Capital of the World, Pete sits on the back porch and half-closes his eyes. If he looks at it in just the right light, with the perfect amount of squinting, he can pretend that the cornfields are the ocean.
Of course, he knows in the back of his mind that he'll never end up outside of Smallville, and that his cornfield ocean will always end up breakfast cereal in someone's kitchen.
That doesn't keep him from squinting harder when those bleak thoughts creep into the forefront of his mind.
Pete's tried pot before. He found one of his brother's small bags tucked away beneath a pile of magazines. He pocketed it and clumsily got high the following night. He didn't tell anyone about it; he didn't think they'd understand.
He's gone through that small packet slowly; it's become a ritual. He ambles into the kitchen and checks to make sure everyone is elsewhere. He reaches into the fridge and grabs two beers, slipping them into his pockets.
He wades through the corn, heading for the woods and the off-road path that will take him to the old tree house. When he makes it there, he climbs up the rickety ledges and crawls into the fairly large space. He falls onto his back, and just spends a few moments staring up into a starry, cloudless sky. He can't imagine not seeing a clear night sky. It's a given, like the nod you get when you pass people on the road or the fact that the meteor rocks aren't exactly something to be played with.
Pete sits up, pulling the bottles from his jeans and setting them aside; he pulls the plastic bag from his back pocket and fumbles with the paper before finally rolling the small joint into a decent, smokeable shape. He fishes the lighter from where he hid it in the tree house, and lights up. He takes a deep breath, holds it for a moment before letting it out slowly. There it is. That nice, smooth buzz.
He snaps the cap off the beer and sips at it, leaning back against the wall with slowly realized relaxation. He imagines each muscle in his body giving way to a sweet, slow force. That lets him get to the point he loves best: the mind-wandering.
Pete's dad moved here from Ohio because he wanted to start a new life. His parents had just been married, and his mom was pregnant with his oldest brother. They were happy, he's told. His dad got a job working for the CEO of the creamed corn factory, and he worked his way up the hierarchy so that when the time came for the factory to be put on the market, Pete's dad was the former owner's first choice of buyer.
They grew up happy, and healthy; there was always food on the table, though his dad wasn't always home. Turned out running a factory was much harder than it looked, and it required a lot of effort on his dad's part to keep it just out of the red. Of course, then the meteor struck. Half the plant was torn to pieces, the Ross's lives devastated in one insane instant.
In swept Lionel Luthor with an offer.
Pete takes another short puff, followed by a long swallow, and guides his thoughts away from unfriendly subject matter. He doesn't want to have Luthor thoughts in his head while he enjoys his buzz.
Nicer topics. His brothers, for example. He's the youngest of them all, and by default the one who gets picked on the most. It's tapered off, now that they've left high school, but being the youngest still has its downsides.
It's easy to forget that he's the minority in town. Like in that movie, some stupid thing he didn't want to see -- the "token black guy." It's something he didn't even realize was an issue until Bobby McClure called him one of a hundred names he will never, ever repeat. He had no clue what they meant until Sam thundered over to the overweight white redneck kid and kicked the crap out of him. Parents were called. Voices were raised. And Pete still had no clue what "nigger" meant; was it close to booger?
Pete really tries not to think about it, but there are times when the fact that he is black is just ... shoved in his face. It's hard to comprehend why it's an issue. After all, it's just the color of his skin. But in a school with 984 students, where 982 of them are white, it becomes, well, not a problem. But something to be acknowledged, at least.
He thinks about school; sometimes he wonders if he gets by with B's because the teachers are trying to prove that a black kid can make it in a white school. He doesn't kid himself; he's not as smart as Kathy, or athletic like Sam; he's not a math whiz like Mike. He's just Pete. Average, normal guy. But what kind of example would it be for him to fail where his brothers and sister have succeeded?
He's worked through half the joint and three-fourths of his beer with this line of thought. Time to move on.
Jodi was looking good today. She had her hair up in these ringlets that looked like they took twelve hours to do. Pete doesn't really understand women. Even less so having a sister to base all his clues on. They're pretty, and soft, and damn if he wouldn't want a girlfriend just so he could sit around and touch her all day. But he's not that easy, and while a fair share of girls are attracted to him -- he's no slouch -- it's hard to find a girl that will put up with the crap the goes on in his life sometimes.
His ideal woman would be smart and funny -- but doesn't everyone say that? Maybe it's more that he wants someone who would be smart and funny around him, and he'd seem smart and funny to her. She'd be pretty. Of course she'd be pretty. And she'd be crazy about him, but she wouldn't show it. There'd be these shy, small glances in his direction. Looks loaded with meaning that only he could decipher.
She's gonna have eyes that swim when she sees him; she'll flick imaginary lint off his shoulder as an excuse to get closer to him, to whisper in his ear that she loves him, that she thinks he's sexy, that she wants to fuck him in the coatroom. Those eyes'll be dark when she pulls back to look at him with an intensity that kills him. She'll put her fingers to her red, wet lips and just make him wait for it, beg for it ...
And shit, he's dreaming of that girl again. He's got to stop thinking about her. It's gonna drive him crazy, because she doesn't exist. She's the girl whose arm he holds onto at the beach; the girl he knows he's gonna marry someday with a certainty too fierce to question.
He knows that his eyes always scan the crowds for her, like he's on an autopilot hunt for the love of his life. He figures, if he's going to do one great thing in his life, it's going to be falling in love. Because, let's face it, things aren't exactly written in the stars for Pete Ross.
And there goes another long sip of beer and the last drag of the joint, and Pete decides to tell his future to fuck off. He closes his eyes, pretends the rush of wind in the trees is the waves crashing against the shore and that the breeze that passes over him is tinged with salt.
It's good to retreat into fantasy, especially after another day in the neighborhood; some kid got beat to death by another kid, and Pete remembers growing up with both of them and fighting over crayons. Smallville's teen death rate is creeping up in the charts; it's getting damned close to Sunnydale these days. The only reason he knows that is because of Chloe and her never ending research. He had a list of statistics shoved in his face the other day, which read Sunnydale, California (wherever the hell that is); Bellefleur, Oregon; and now, Smallville, Kansas. It wasn't really something he wanted to be aware of.
He can't even count how many kids had died on his hands anymore. It's a gruesome thought either way, but it's somehow worse now that he has to add his toes to the equation. It's been happening forever; kids, adults, people would just up and disappear, or something freaky happens to them. It's just something you live with, do your best to ignore. Like mosquitoes or something. But lately -- Pete doesn't know how to say it, really, other than the obituaries page is suddenly longer than the classified ads, and no one really wants to talk about it.
Wait. He's thinking about this again, thinking about it too much. What's something different, then? More beer. Beer good. Caveman thoughts - argh, argh.
Yeah, he's a little crazy. He knows this.
Okay, women. Pretty women. Chloe's pretty. She's got that whole flippy hair thing going, and whenever he can he sneaks an ogle at her breasts. But with Chloe, it's who she is more than what she looks like. The way she talks for five minutes without pausing for breath, or how she can get excited about just about anything in the damn world. It's even the way she has moon eyes for Clark all the time, and the way she tries to hide it when Pete mentions it and she gets all flustered and has to leave the room.
Hm. Jodi's pretty, but in that weird untouchable way. Like he knows he shouldn't be dating her, but he is anyway and he's going to get as close to that body as humanly possible while his insane luck still holds. With Jodi, her beauty is all this superficial stuff. Her hair, and her makeup. The skimpy clothes he thanks god he gets to see her wearing.
Sometimes, he thinks about guys. This is the kind of thing that he'll only let slip when he's this high, this buzzed. He figures everyone must do it. There was another piece of paper Chloe threw in his face about how all people are inherently bisexual; he couldn't bring himself to throw it away.
He knows that there's tackle-checking in the locker room. Everyone does it, he chants to himself. Everyone checks out Josh Holman's short, thick dick, and Michael Forrett's long, thin one. Everyone has peeked at Frankie Matthew's soft, round ass. He doesn't think everyone has wondered what it would be like to be buried in said ass, but then he doesn't tell everyone that he does more than a little comparing when he's toweling off after gym class.
Fantasy, he thinks to himself. It's all because of the weed.
So instead of moving further with any one of a dozen thoughts that creep up around the image of Matthews ass, he falls back into the familiarity of dark eyes and pouty lips; a beach full of sand and a drink sweating next to his arm. If he concentrates, he can almost feel heat creep up his body instead of the chill that's around in the March air.
What would it be like to be a beach bum for, like, ever? he wonders.
It'd be hot. Sandy, even. Boy, he's creative tonight. He'd wake up at ten a.m., after the tide has come in and the waves are his alarm clock. He'd pull on a shirt, if he felt like it, and close his eyes at the bright morning sun. The pretty girl would hand him his sunglasses, and he'd say hello with a deep, wet kiss that would leave his knees shaking and his dick aching for more. But first, the waves. Clear and cresting, with white foam licking the tops of the curving peaks and damn, but he suddenly got creative.
He'd take out his surfboard, which would be in pristine condition because it would be waxed every night by a beach groupie. He'd lead his gang out to the waves and find the perfect one. He's stand, and sway against gravity and pressure and a million other waves until he was riding high with the wind in his dreads and the sun in his eyes and he'd swoop back down to the beach, falling into the waiting arms of that pretty, dark eyed girl.
There's a creak, and his eyes open. The wind is moving through the tree house, making the floorboards ache and moan. He winces in sympathy. He sighs and looks at his watch: one in the morning. Time to go back to the house.
He gathers up the bottles, the paper, and the bag; puts them in his pockets and climbs back down. As he makes his way home, he ditches the trash in a public can, where all of his beer bottles go.
He heads back through the cornfield, brushing aside the stalks and reigning in a sigh. He can pretend all he wants, but the brushy leaves that scratch his face do not resemble rippling emerald waves in any shape or form.
He gets to his porch; the light's not on. His parents trust him. He's pretty sure they should. He just doesn't want to go in yet, so he settles himself on the porch swing and looks out at the dark night. He half-closes his eyes. He squints just the right amount. The moonlight is shining in just the right way, and there it is -- the shimmer that means the ocean is there.
After awhile, a little more pretending, he gives a sigh and pulls himself up. He stops just at the door, turns back before going in. One last look.
He may never get the board, or the girl. He may not even get out of Smallville. But sometimes, when he needs to just disappear, he takes his stolen pot and his stolen beer and his stolen dreams and watches the cornfield ocean ripple in the night breeze.
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