57 Channels (and Nothing's On)

by zahra

When the doorbell rings, Pete knows it's not for him, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't have hope. Hope against hope as it turns out when his mom hollers that his sister's date has arrived. There's a flash of jealousy and a blue letterman's jacket, and Pete can't believe that his big sister is seeing a ballplayer from Met U.

He turns back to the television, and takes his frustration out on the hapless remote control: QVC, hockey on ESPN2, the Food Network, and the Justice League on the Cartoon Network. Pete's always had a thing for Wonder Woman. He'll admit to being slightly stuck in Wonderland himself, but he can't believe that some dude would drive all this way just to take his sister to the Friday night double special at the Talon. Pete hopes he's never that whipped. Not that he doesn't think his sister is pretty, in that 'sister' way, or even worth it, but it just seems a bit excessive; and maybe that says a lot about Pete himself. That he can't imagine that level of devotion, or desperation.

He smiles as his sister, Kathy, comes tearing through the living room with her ratty Pumas in one hand and her jean jacket in the other. Off again, and that has to be like, the fourth time this week. He wonders if he'll be this anxious to get out the house when he comes home from college for fall break. He waves her off with the remote control and a grin, and goes back to vegetating on the sofa.

He's momentarily startled when he realizes that the Justice League has morphed into the PowerPuff Girls, and some things he just cannot hang with no matter what night of the week it is. Channel surfing again, and he's doing his best not to borrow Clark's brooding crown for the night, but some tendencies just can't be helped. Like Pete's wishful thinking, and the particular thought that if he lived someplace else he wouldn't be home tonight. That maybe, if he lived in Metropolis or Gotham, or even Topeka, his life would undergo some magic transformation. Pete has ideas about being anyplace but here. He harbors dreams that just getting out and getting away, will make him into someone else. He thinks that Dorothy had the right idea when she went to Oz.

His brother, Sam, goes to graduate school in Gotham, and he's always talking about it. About the clubs and the bars, and the girls. Always about the girls. And when Paul tells him about the girls, Pete just nods his head knowingly - like he can relate. But Pete can't - 'relate' that is. He doesn't get the girls, barely even gets the dates, and maybe that's not such a bad thing because look at what happened with Jodie. It's small consolation that neither of his best friends are much better off than him. He's pretty sure that they're just not putting in the effort, not like him at all.

The first time that Sam came home from Gotham for the weekend, Pete was still in middle school. He remember running off at the mouth incessantly and being so hyper than he put Chloe to shame. So much so that Clark told him that if he didn't shut up he was going to give him the kind of wedgie that people would still be talking about at high school graduation. He chuckles to himself as he flicks by the telenovelas on Univision, and remembers the kind of reverence he used to reserve for his brother. He still does look up to Sam, and to Mike too, but he's older now and different things impress him.

His own social life, however, is not one of them.

Eleven o'clock on a Saturday night, and Pete's sitting at home watching reruns of M*A*S*H on FX and waiting for Saturday Night Live to come on. He's waiting to get his weekly reminder that there is life outside the Smallville compound because sometimes Pete thinks that everyone else forgets. They certainly forget about him from time to time.

Not one phone call all day to make plans for tonight. No calls from Chloe babbling about Walls of Weird and 'Alien' marathons on the Sci-Fi Channel. No calls from Clark whining about Lana ignoring him or evading teasing about his latest gift from Lex Luthor. There was no blinking voicemail light when he came back from playing basketball in the driveway. There was nothing at all. At least not for him, and Pete thinks that maybe this is a sign - not unlike the X-Files reruns on the Sci-Fi Network. He suspects that this is just the beginning of everyone going their separate ways. Finally. Inevitably. He hadn't thought it would be so soon though. He had thought that it would be more gradual. Something they didn't actually realize until after they all left for college.

Not that Pete wants it to happen, but he knows it will. He can tell by the way that they're all pursuing their own interests. Chloe with the paper, him with sports, and Clark. Well, Clark's latest interest seems to be his newfound friendship with Lex Luthor. Not that Pete's jealous. Not too much so, because he knows that Clark looks up to Lex, and who is he to begrudge his oldest playmate new friends? But there's the matter of a creamed corn factory, and can there be a worse role model in the world than Lex Luthor? Probably not - even if he is the richest guy around. Besides friends are friends regardless of who they're obsessing over, and so what if Lana and Lex have the same initials? Pete knows who Clark means when he's doodling during math class.

It's almost time for SNL, now, but there are still a few seconds for him to flip through the channels and see that there is really nothing on. The programming is so abysmal that Pete suspects that it's punishment for not going out. Even the TV networks are in on the conspiracy to blame the dateless, but he snorts and has to laugh. Like there aren't enough conspiracies already in Smallville. Enough hidden secrets and their skeletons: Sean, Greg, even Coach Arnold. Everyone's hiding something, of that much Pete's certain, even those he trusts the most. Clark. Chloe.

Pete can't come out, directly, and say what he suspects but he thinks that Chloe complains a bit too much about Lana to hate her quite as much as she claims. He thinks that she might be covering for something else. Jealousy comes in all shapes and sizes. Maybe it's less of a hatred thing and more of an emulation thing. A desire to have the Abercrombie and Fitch life that Lana seems to wear so easily, and to be the Homecoming Queen and the head Cheerleader, and to have the super-jock boyfriend.

At least Pete tried to fulfill that super-jock boyfriend part for Chloe but everyone wants what they can't have, even him.

They're all really a bit sad when he thinks about it - an endless tape loop of wanting and never having. Pete wanting Chloe who wants Clark who wants Lana. It's all just weird and strange and angsty and has been going on for far too long.

On some level, if this is what 'love' is all about, Pete's glad that he's single. It gives him time to himself. Time to observe and grow, and just sit back and watch. All his flying solo has made him much more aware of everyone else around him, especially considering that everyone else around him is in denial. But that's not really his concern because at least *he's* not in denial. Not too much anyway. And he may indulge himself in daydreaming every now and then, but for the most part his eyes are wide open. Perhaps more so than anybody else's in this small town.

But these are only thoughts that Pete is having. Observations. He makes a lot of them when he sits at home on Saturday nights because he's bored, and sometimes being ignored has its benefits. Sometimes staying at home isn't really such a bad thing. So Pete bides his time, because he knows that someday he'll leave Smallville. That this will all fall away from him and he'll be somebody - a somebody amongst a lot of somebodys who'll always have plans on Saturday night.


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