Lana came out of English class pushing her books down in her bag.
"Lana," a voice called causing the books to tumble from her hands.
"Sorry," Pete said helping her pick up the books. "I need to talk to you," he said as they collected the books and stood up.
"What is it, an assignment?"
"No, it's Chloe. Her birthday's coming."
"I'm lacking in ideas for a present and since you're the only girl I know that she hangs out with, I thought maybe you could help me think of something more girl-like and less Pete-like."
"Stuffed animals are always a good way to go," Lana suggested.
"Been there, done that."
"Well she seems to like having those little aliens and knickknacks around the Torch office."
"A few of those are my old gifts," Pete told her. "I've also gotten her computer stuff before, but I REALLY want to get her something nice. Something that's not so...impersonal."
Lana grinned. "You want to get her a gift that's personal? Do I sense someone likes our intrepid reporter in that special little way?"
Pete smiled. He was such a cute guy, she rarely noticed it, but he was a really adorable.
"Maybe I do like Chloe...as more than a friend. But it doesn't matter, I mean she doesn't see me that way." Pete shrugged. "As far as she's concerned, I'm like a brother. But it still would be nice if I could do something special for her."
"I don't know how I can help."
"I'm going to be in Metropolis this weekend, with my mom, actually meeting my mom, she's visiting a friend. And I was hoping you'd come with me. We don't have to make a big deal out of it or anything and I think I can safely say I've exhausted Smallville's gift possibilities."
Lana paused as if she was thinking about it.
"It's not like I'm asking for a date." Pete said.
"What if that's what I need."
"What?" Pete said shocked.
"Well, I have this family thing, a wedding for some distant cousin, in Metropolis and I need a date. It won't be a real date, but with Whitney gone I'm sick of people trying to push me on some 'nice single guy' they know. The invitation says I can bring a date and at least if it's you, I don't have to worry about it."
Pete looked hurt.
"Honestly Pete, who'd think anything about you and me?"
"What do you mean, why wouldn't they?" Pete said. "I mean everyone knows the ladies can't resist this face."
He tried to do a "Mr. Cool" pose, but he just ended up looking silly. She giggled.
"You do have a cute little Usher/LL Cool J thing going on," Lana said pinching his cheeks. "How could I possibly resist?"
"Don't tease me," Pete said knowing Lana didn't take him seriously.
"Why don't you meet me after 5th period and we'll talk about it some more?" Lana told him.
Pete got up early the next morning, ate, and picked up the car. He was prepared for a weekend in Metropolis with his mother, but first he had to pick up Lana. Lana told him her Aunt had gone up that Friday and much like him she was going to be traveling to Metropolis alone. Luckily, Pete had to pick up his mom's car so he just offered to drive.
It seemed Lana wasn't as ready as he was. He arrived at her door only to have her answer it in a robe. And it wasn't anything from Victoria's Secret. It was an old flannel robe. She was still rubbing the sleep from her eyes. She certainly wasn't concerned with impressing him, he barely recognized this ungroomed teenage girl with eye crud. Yet, somehow it was nice to see the otherwise "ideal" girl of Clark's fantasy as someone ... real.
"You're here early," she yawned.
"I thought we were starting early."
"Come on in," she said still yawning.
She must have really been sleepy, because she didn't notice her robe had come lose and revealed a t-shirt that barely grazed her hips and panties. But not just any panties, grandma panties that came up over half her belly. After Clark told him about Lana's striptease, he always imagined Lana in lacy red underwear (not that he thought about Lana naked...often. But he was a normal teenage male, it had crossed his mind). She suddenly closed her robe, but offered no indication that she knew he had noticed that it fell open. He smiled to himself wondering how Chloe and Clark would react to Lana wearing grandma panties and having eye crud.
Pete certainly hadn't seen her at her best, Lana thought as she crossed the mirror in the bathroom. But it was just Pete, so it didn't matter. She wash, dressed, and got herself ready for the day ahead. Her bags were ready to go downstairs, so she went back in the living room to tell Pete she was ready. She discovered however, he wasn't. He'd fallen asleep watching some movie. He was cuddling with a Teddy Bear of Nell's in his sleep. She giggled, the scene was so cute. He looked like a little kid or a big Teddy Bear -- just the kind of guy it's fun to cuddled with. She'd noticed he did that with Chloe a lot, walking down the hall, at the Torch, whenever there was an excuse to share some little connection with her. It was really sweet. She decided to let him sleep since there was no rush and he looked so adorable.
Pete woke up an hour later. Lana was sitting in a living room chair laughing at Saturday morning cartoons. He looked at his watch as he came awake.
"Why didn't you wake me up?" Pete asked.
"Because you and Tina Teddy seemed so cute together, I couldn't bare to disturb you."
Pete, embarrassed, pushed away the bear.
"It's no big deal, we have plenty of time," Lana said.
"Where's your bag?"
"By the door," Lana said.
Pete got off the couch, retrieved her bag and they headed out together. Pete turned on the radio and was surprised to hear the old LL Cool J hit, "Mama said knock you out." He was even more surprised when Lana started softly singing along.
"You like this song?"
"I like LL Cool J. I had a little crush on him way back when. One time Whitney found me washing dishes, singing this song. He thought I had lost my mind."
Lana continued rhyming along with the song. Pete half smiled. Lana slowly seemed to be becoming someone different from the girl he knew. She'd always be the off limits girl though, Clark's love, Whitney's girlfriend, Chloe's symbol of the enemy. Things had changed though, Chloe and Lana were friends -- sort of, Lana and Clark were friends -- kind of, and Whitney was gone. Now here he was going on a date with her -- in a way.
They spent most of the trip singing along with songs on the radio. After Pete started singing along, Lana stopped hiding her voice and began to sing loudly with him. Before they knew it, they were pulling up in front of her cousins house.
"That was fun Pete," Lana said as Pete turned off the radio.
Nell came out of the house with a couple of guys Pete didn't know.
"Lana?" Nell questioned. "What's go---? Why is Pete here?"
Pete was shocked that Lana hadn't told Nell.
"He was driving up here anyway and he agreed to accompany me to the wedding."
"Why didn't you just tell me that?"
"I don't know," Lana shrugged. She turned to Pete who was getting Lana's bags out the trunk. "Pete this is my uncle Wade and cousin David."
Pete greeted each man politely they took the bags in the house.
"Pete and I are going shopping, but we have to stop by and see his mom first," Lana told Nell.
"Don't you want to speak to some more of your family?"
"They'll still be here when I get back," Lana said sadly.
"Lana I--" Nell began.
"I'm okay, I just promised Pete some help with something," Lana said. She nudged Pete back toward the car. Nell just let them go as she turned back in the house.
"So, why didn't you tell Nell I was bringing you?" Pete asked.
"Because she would have made this something it wasn't. Which is silly."
Pete turned on the car. "Why is that such a silly idea?"
"I just don't see you that way Pete."
Pete pulled off.
"What's with you and you family?" Pete asked.
"I don't know. It's weird, when I was a little kid I'd look at them and try to see my mom and dad, but when they'd try to act familiar with me, I'd want to run. I just---I don't know. I get so sick of hearing, 'your parents would be so proud.' It's just reminds me that they're gone and I just want to run and scream."
"You should do it ... go somewhere and scream."
"I did once with Clark," she smiled.
"Can I ask you a question?" Pete asked.
"Do you like Clark? I don't mean as a brother or a friend or anything."
Lana looked toward the floor. " I can't answer that, you're Clark's best friend."
"I wouldn't tell him, I'm the master of secret keeping."
"Yeah, I guess you've managed to keep the secret that you like Chloe."
Pete parked in front of the house where his mom was staying. She saw him pull up, because she came out with her friend Agnes, who was holding her new baby.
"Hello Mom," Pete said.
"Thanks for driving up in the car up sweetie." his mother replied. Then she noticed Lana. "Lana, what are you doing here?"
"Nell's in Metropolis for the weekend too, so Pete gave me a ride up."
Mrs. Ross looked from Pete to Lana and back again.
"Really mom," I just gave her a ride. He turned to Lana. "This is my mom's friend Agnes and the baby is her new daughter Amy."
"Hello," Lana said.
"Would you two like come in?" Agnes asked.
"Actually, we need to borrow the car for a little longer. I just wanted to check in with my mom first," Pete said.
"Where you going?"
"Chloe's birthday," Lana said. "I'm helping Pete pick out a gift."
Mrs. Ross looked from teenage girl to teenage boy, trying to figure out if she was telling the truth.
"Don't be out all night."
"Thanks mom," Pete said getting back in the car with Lana.
Pete pulled off and started for the Metropolis' Mall of Tomorrow.
"Pete, do you think your mom thinks..?"
"Well, mom knows how I am with ladies."
Lana smiled. "Has she ever questioned an outing with Chloe."
"Nah," Pete said. "I think she sees her as one of the guys. Once we camped out, me her and Clark, looking for some freak show Chloe was after. Chloe complained the whole time."
"Not really the roughing it in the woods type is she?"
"Nah, but it's cute to see her all upset," Pete smiled to himself. "You ever been camping?"
"No, not really. I want to though. Whitney and I were suppose to go, but it didn't work out. And Nell's not really the camping type."
"We're here," Pete said and parked the car.
The Mall of Tomorrow was the largest Mall Pete had seen in his life. Lana and himself got lost several times while looking around, but lucky a mall directory was always a few paces away. They visited several stores, but all of them yielded no results. They decided to grab something to eat. Pete had all but given up hope as he sat there eating his burger.
"If I had known it was going to be this hard to find something, I would have just gotten the cheapest buy in Smallville," Pete said.
"Is Chloe's worth it?"
Pete didn't answer, but continued to eat. She noticed he was almost done with his burger and she'd barely eaten a quarter of her sandwich.
"How can you boys eat like that?"
"As nice as I look sitting there in a clean uniform. I actually want to play football before I graduate."
"Don't worry. Whitney didn't shoot up to mid Jr. year and suddenly he was a star. You don't want to peak early, you peak early, you burn out fast. You remember Buck Thomas, he was Smallville High's sophomore football star when we were in middle school.
"Yeah, he ran away from home, they found him doped up in Metropolis. Back in Rehab last I heard."
"Why are you on the team Pete?"
"What do you mean?"
"When Whitney had the ball in his hand, it was magic. You could tell he loved the game. You like to play for fun, but you're not passionate about it like he was."
"It's a Ross tradition," Pete said. "You should understand. Your mom was a cheerleader, your aunt was a cheerleader and you were a cheerleader."
"But I quit," Lana replied.
"Well, Judge Ross doesn't teach her kids to be quitters," Pete smiled that boyish smile.
"You're funny Pete," Lana said.
"Funny? I've been told I'm downright charming."
"A good funny," Lana told him. "You have charisma. That was clear when you ran Clark's campaign. You seemed like you really had fun with that."
"So are politics in your future?"
"Maybe," Pete said. "I don't know."
They finished eating and left the food court. As they were leaving the food court they passed a Jewelry store and Lana paused.
"Pete, come look at this," Lana said.
"Jewelry? I don't know."
"It's a charm bracelet, it's perfect. It's a gift that keeps on giving. If you're ever stumped on a gift in the future, just get her a new charm for the bracelet. For now, you could get that charm that looks like a spider."
"Why the spider?"
"Once I came into the Torch office. She didn't see me, she heard me and thought I was you. She warned you not to throw some rubber spider at her again."
Pete laughed to himself.
"Besides, it's beautiful," Lana pointed out
Lana went in the store pulling Pete behind her. The salesman must have seen them looking at the bracelet, because he met them.
"Sir, I saw you and your young lady eyeing that bracelet. Would you and your girlfriend like a closer look?"
"She's not my..."
"Yes, we'd like to see it," Lana interrupted. "And the spider charm too."
"He took the bracelet out and Lana laid it against her wrist."
"Perfect," she said watching the light dance off of it.
"The lady seems to like it," the salesman said nudging him.
Lana did seem to really like the bracelet, so much so he wished he was getting it for her.
"Can you give us a minute?" Pete asked.
"Sure," the salesman said and secured the jewelry again before walking away.
"You sure this is the right gift for Chloe?"
"It's a charm bracelet. It's a nice gift without the implications of something like a ring."
"Okay, I'll get it and meet you outside," Pete said.
Lana exited and the salesman came back over.
"Charm bracelet and the spider charm, right?"
"Actually, I'd like to see that one that looks like a Torch."
Pete drove Lana back to her cousin's house after they left the mall. She asked for a peak at the bracelet, but he refused saying she saw it in the store.
"Do I need to walk you to the door?" he asked as he pulled up in front of the house.
"No need, thank you for today. It was fun, more fun than sitting around listening to a bunch of wedding plans."
"No problem," Pete said.
She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. And although it was just the cheek, he was shocked.
"What was that for?"
"Because you're charming," Lana said and got out of the car.
Nell was waiting for her when she came in.
"What's going on with you and Pete?" she asked.
"You ran off together seconds after you got her, that's why."
"We're friends," Lana stated. "I was helping him out and he's helping me out."
"I hope you're not using him to avoid us."
"You know I'm not into all this, big ceremonies and planning. It's just not me."
Lana's night was uncomfortable. She was sharing with Nell and two other family members. She had a restless night, she wasn't use to sharing a room. In the middle of the night, she thought she heard the faint sound of pebbles hitting the side of the house. She got up and looked out the window, it was Pete. She pulled on her robe and went outside.
"What is it Pete?"
"I have to give you something," Pete said. He gave her the small box from the jewelry store.
"Chloe's bracelet?" Lana asked.
"Your bracelet," Pete said.
"What about Chloe?"
"All I can think about is you," Pete said leaning in for a kiss. And she leaned in to meet his lips, until....
Lana shot up in bed. Had she just dreamed? No, she couldn't have.
Lana dismissed the dream by morning. She had just finished dressing in her simple white dress when Pete arrived. She met him downstairs.
"Hey Pete, you look handsome."
"You don't look to bad yourself."
Pete could tell the house was in commotion over the coming ceremony.
"We can get out of here and drive down to the church if you want," Lana said.
"Is that okay with Nell?" Pete questioned.
"Sure it is," she said grabbing his hand and leading him out of the door.
"Lana," her cousin Dena called.
"I'll met you outside," Lana told Pete and he went outside to the car. She walked up to Dena.
"Nell's looking for you," Dena said.
"Tell her I already left," Lana told her cousin.
"Okay," Dena replied. "By the way Lana, he's a cutie."
"It's not like that," Lana replied.
"Whatever," Dena said.
Lana smiled to herself and left the house. She climbed into the car with Pete.
By the time Nell arrived at the church, Pete and Lana were sitting comfortably in some middle pews. Nell arrived with the floral arrangements that were her gift to the couple. She located her niece and called her away from Pete.
"Lana, why didn't you tell me you were leaving?"
"Dena told you."
"Your using him as a shield, aren't you?"
"He knows that," Lana replied.
"Hey Lana," Dena said coming in and going to park herself beside Pete. She must have come with Nell. Lana watched her. Something in Lana's gaze sparked a question in Nell.
"Lana, Do you like Pete?"
"What?" Lana said. "As a friend. You know...he's just Pete."
"Sure Lana, just Pete. You know, for a long time Lewis Lang was just Lewis to your mother." Nell smiled. "Watch yourself Lana. He is Clark's best friend and you haven't exactly decided how you feel about him either."
"It's not like that. I have a boyfriend," Lana said and went back toward her seat. She watched Dena flirting with Pete. Pete wasn't her boyfriend, why did she have the urge to knock her off the seat? "Thanks for saving my seat Dena." Dena looked up. "Yeah, saving your seat. Bye Pete."
"Bye Dena," Pete said. He watched her leave.
"Hey Lana, I think your cousin likes me."
"I'd never work. She's here, you're in Smallville, and Dena isn't known for a long-distance attention span."
Lana smiled. Shortly after, the guest and the wedding party arrived, then the ceremony began. It was pretty standard. Pete nearly fell asleep and Lana had to nudge him. In the reception hall she watched a bunch of women fight over the bouquet and the men avoid the garter. Dena started flirting with Pete again and being Pete, he responded. She didn't know exactly why she went over and interrupted them.
"Excuse me Dena," she said to her cousin. "You want to dance Pete."
"Sure," he replied.
She took him out to the dance floor and as they took there positions, she realized something.
"I forgot to ask you if you could dance."
"I can dance," Pete said lifting her hands into his and spinning her out on the dance floor.
"Judge Ross wanted her boys to have culture. This is on her necessary list of skills."
Lana smiled. Then she folded into Pete and the soft music. She let him lead, it was nice. she leaned back a little and met his eyes. He had never noticed how soft they were, how warm. This morning, yesterday, he had been just Pete, but now...now he was something else. He had a nice firm hold on her as they danced. Not lose, like he was afraid she would break. That how it was with Clark when they got to close. And Whitney, Whitney's grip was tight and possessive. But this was nice...firm and confident. As there eyes remained fixed on each other she thought for a moment...just maybe. Then the song ended and the magic was broken a bit. But Lana wondered, did he feel?
"I guess it's time for me to get back to my mom. Told her I'd be home before it was too late."
"Okay, see you in school on Monday," Lana said.
She leaned over to kiss him on the cheek but instead caught the corner of his lips. They both played it off as they awkwardly stepped apart.
"Bye Pete," Lana said.
"Bye," Pete said walking off.
Pete brought Chloe's gift to school with him that Wednesday. He and Lana were back to sharing little more than a passing `Hello`. Whatever had happened in Metropolis stayed in Metropolis. He hadn't told Chloe or Clark about his "date" with Lana, didn't feel like it was worth discussing. Besides, his original plan was still intact. Give Chloe a gift she'll actually like.
Gabe Sullivan had planned a party for Chloe on Friday. She was dreading it. Currently, she was in front of the computer preparing the latest edition.
"Hey Pete," she said without looking up.
"Hey Chloe, I have something--"
"Pete did you go to a wedding with Lana."
Pete paused. "What?"
"You know a wedding." Chloe stopped typing and turned her attentions on him. "A woman in a white dress, exchanging of vows, love, honor, cherish forever, blah blah blah."
"Yeah I went, but how did you?"
"Huge coincidence. A friend of mine in Metropolis happens to be a third cousin to our Miss Lang. He was there too and he recognized you from a photo I'd show him before. So what's going on Pete? You and Lana have some secret affair going on, because if you do--"
"No," he interrupted. "It was nothing, well she was helping me with something," Pete said. "So I agreed to accompany her to this thing."
"What did she have to help you with all the way in Metropolis?"
Pete reached in his bag and presented her with the gift. Chloe took it cautiously and opened the box. Her mouth dropped open.
"Pete, this is really nice," Chloe said. "Thank you."
She threw her arms around him and gave him a big hug.
"It's beautiful," she said as she put on the charm bracelet with the Torch charm. "Lana helped you pick this?"
"Well, she suggested a charm bracelet. I picked out the charm."
"You know, when you want to you can be really sweet."
Pete smiled to himself.
"That's a pretty bracelet," Lana said sitting down beside Chloe. It was the first time she had seen it since the store and she'd just noticed Pete had chosen a different charm.
"Pete gave it too me," Chloe said. "But I guess I owe some thanks to you for that."
"It was mostly him, believe me," Lana said.
"It was a real surprise. I never expected him to put this much thought into a gift. "
"Pete's a good guy," Lana said. "And I think he likes you a little more than he lets you know."
"Are you trying to tell me something Lana?"
"I don't know," Lana smiled. "He's ... I don't know."
"And how was your date with him?" Chloe asked curious.
"Pete told you we had a date?" Lana questioned.
"No, I happen to know a third cousin of yours."
"So, the date."
"It wasn't like that. But he was completely sweet, you should try it."
"Pete and I?" she asked with a raised eyebrow. "I don't know."
"Think about it."
Lana was getting her book out her locker that evening when she found an unmarked envelope inside. She opened it and pulled out a letter. The letter said.
One day I'll get you a bracelet to go with it.
She looked in the envelope and saw the spider charm. She smiled and put it in her pocket. When she got home she put it in a special place. Pete Ross was a pretty nice guy when he wanted to be. Maybe, one day....
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