Five Things that Never Happened to Peter Ross
(1. Touch me)
Really, was it his fault he was a freak? Okay, so maybe he shouldn't have been showing off to the Kents' new adopted son, Clark, but when you're eight cornfields are cool, man! It just so happened that Pete's family owned the biggest field in all of Smallville.
How was Pete to know that the day he decided to show his new friend the fields would be the day meteors would fall from the sky!? But Clark had pulled through fine. Had the metabolism of a race horse, but that might just be puberty and not puberty + freak meteor powers. No it was Pete that had to screw his eyes shut while he got his hormones under control every time either Chloe or Lana -- or, hey let's face it, anyone with boobs -- walked in a room. And, oh God, sometimes Mrs. Kent did this thing with her hair...
If only he were just hiding an erection -- spontaneous indoor brushfires were a little harder to explain.
(2. Digital camera access)
Just because a man wants a son doesn't make the daughter he gets male. Even if he feminizes the name he'd always intended to give, what his wife assured him would be, his youngest. Even if he treats her as roughly as his only other son. Even if his youngest daughter is just like the boys.
Nothing can make a she a he. Well, nothing except some well timed surgery and hormone treatments, as Chloe keeps reminding her.
Pete frowned at Chloe. "That's not the point. Look Clark," she said turning her attention back across the table, "the boys on the football team don't care that I can pile-drive them into the pavement. And, yeah, I'm about as comfortable in a dress as they are in kilts for the St. Patty's day parade, but they don't see that, man."
"Then what do they see, Pete?" Clark asked, exasperated. How many times had they had this conversation?
"A guy with two girls as his best friends."
Clark rolled his eyes and crossed his arms on the table.
With a sigh, Chloe agreed. "It doesn't help that you're in the math club, Clark," she said, putting a hand on his crossed arms.
Peta willed herself not to be jealous. Heck, this was a good thing! Or it would be if Clark weren't so blind that he couldn't see that Chloe was head over heels, crazy in love with him. `Cause then rumors of flaming homosexuality would burn out -- or at least be downgraded to a two alarm case of bisexuality. And Chloe would be happy. They'd both be happy. Which was good because Chloe and Clark were like members of the Ross household...another sister and brother to extend her blood-loyalty to. So what if she hadn't thought of Clark as any kind of familial relation for the last four years or so. It wasn't like Smallville was ready for any kind of Jungle Fever lovin' no matter what the good citizens thought.
"So what do you want me to do?" Clark was saying, having slipped from Chloe's hand.
"Be more of a guy."
Clark threw up his hands. "How am I supposed to do that, Pete? I can't change who I am."
"We're not asking you to change," Chloe said. "Just, you know, hang out with the guys more."
"I don't know if either of you have noticed, but the entire math club is male."
Peta frowned. "But they're geeks." When Clark gave her a questioning look, she clarified: "They may as well be asexual for all the play they get."
Eyebrows in his bangs, Clark said, "So now I'm asexual?"
"No! I don't know if you've noticed but you're a little too muscularly defined to be asexual." Ignoring Clark's blush Peta muttered, "Which is just enough to make you gay."
Shrugging, Chloe said, "You know maybe we're going about this the wrong way. Maybe Clark should just ignore this whole thing. Be the bigger man."
"Sure, if he wants to be the biggest man ever beaten to a pulp," Peta said darkly. "Look, Clark, as someone who loves you," hesitate "like a brother, let me impart my tomboy wisdom: You need to lose us. Not permanently of course, but...dude you look pussy-whipped."
"Pete, I don't care!"
"Fine, fine, you don't care. But how are me and Chloe gonna feel when we have to visit you in the hospital because you're the victim of some hate crime!?" She was not gonna cry. She was not gonna cry. They were just images in her head, after all. Absolutely nothing to cry about.
Clark had the audacity to laugh. "It's nothing to get worked up about, Pete."
Fuming, Peta turned to Chloe. "Would you explain to this...this dimwitted, cow-pies for brains, idiot that this is a lot more serious than being the third corner in a Lana/Whitney love triangle!?"
Clark reached across and laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "Peta..."
Which she promptly shook off. "Don't you dare `Peta' me, Clark Kent. It doesn't matter that you're strong as an ox. You can barely fight me, Clark. How do you expect to fend off four or five or six of them?"
A tense silence descended on them: Chloe watching her best friends stare each other down. It was obvious that Clark was warring with some kind of internal indecision.
"What?" Peta demanded. "What aren't you telling us?"
Clark shook his head. "It's nothing."
But Chloe had also picked up the scent. "No, it's something. Isn't it?"
"It's just that..." They watched Clark struggle for the words. "Look, those guys can't hurt me, okay."
"They Can't Hurt Me."
"You swear," Chloe demanded with narrowed eyes.
Pete wouldn't be put off. "How do you know that?"
"I just do, Pete."
With a growl of frustration, she barked, "I'm tired of you `just knowing,' Clark. I'm tired of blindly following you around praying that it all doesn't go to hell!"
"No Chloe! You know I'm right! We give Clark sound advice and he goes and sticks his foot in it anyway." Fists clenched, eyes unfocused, Peta trembled with rage and inexplicably hurt feelings. She pushed through the thick feeling in her throat and said, "Can't you see we're just trying to protect you?"
Peta gasped as hot, fat tears rolled down her cheeks. Screwing her eyes shut she tried to stop them, but found the coming harder and faster -- and without reason -- with every breath she took.
"Pete, are you--"
She tore away from the unseen had she knew was coming. She pushed herself out of their booth and ran out of the Talon.
"--all right?" Clark's words fell like lead. Chloe's hand on his forearm was the only thing stopping him from going after Peta. "I've never seen Pete cry before. Not even that time she broke her arm in two places."
Chloe was still staring out the door as if that would bring Peta back. "I have."
(3. The intersection of technology & life)
Sitting on his rock in the Fortress of Solitude, Pete had to conclude that the place was unutterable boring. Wasn't there that whole thing about no man being an island? Yeah, well he'd ranted and raved that very same point to that Kal'El guy for about a week to no avail. It probably didn't help that it hadn't been a week straight. The guy visited his floating ice palace when the mood struck. And why Fly Boy felt the need to decorate his spaceship in an Arctic motif (read: ice everywhere) Pete didn't know.
And of course Fly Boy wouldn't even talk to him. Mostly. Oh yeah, that was a real boost to the ego being addressed, on a good day, like a child or, on a bad day, as a recalcitrant animal.
Their favorite argument:
Pete: We're the only two sentient beings on this flying hulk of ice. Wouldn't you like someone to talk to?
Kal'El: Many creatures within the Fortress are intelligent.
Pete: But can you understand them?
Pete: But can you have a conversation with them?
Pete: (becoming desperate or angry, depending on the prevailing mood) But would you want to?
Kal'El: Which is why I keep our discourse to a minimum.
Pete: But why? It's obvious I'm capable of intelligent conversation.
Kal'El: My intelligence for surpasses yours.
Pete: But you have to admit I have potential.
(A baleful look from Kal'El)
Pete: I NEED SOMEONE TO TALK TO!
At which point Kal'El usually flew off, although not before giving Pete one last condescending look.
Their second favorite conversation:
Pete: How about you pick up another person from Earth to keep me company. It could even be another dude--
Pete: C'mon, man. Can't you even consider it?
Kal'El: Terrans are not in deficient enough number to warrant acquiring another.
Pete: Isn't this supposed to be like a floating Noah's Ark or something? All the creatures get to go in together, two by two? Male and female?
Kal'El: That would not produce sufficient genetic diversity to reestablish you people.
Pete: Okay, then how `bout letting me get to know some of my fellow inmates?
Kal'El: You are not even fluent in all the languages of your world. How do you propose to converse with beings that, heretofore, you didn't know exist?
Pete: I'll learn!
Kal'El: Many of the environmental conditions of your `fellow inmates' are toxic to your biology, and vice versa.
Pete: (hands thrown up in exasperation) I'll avoid those. We'll talk on the phone, use e-mail, sign language...whatever! I'm going stark raving mad here, man. Can't you give a brother a break?
Kal'El: (after an interminable silence) We are not related.
Pete: Grr... (after a silence during which Pete is completely ignored) How about a computer?
(Kal'El looks up)
Pete: Yeah man! A computer. As smart as you claim you are you've got to have one. Probably an AI too.
Kal'El: Which would be beyond your mental capacities.
Pete: Look Fly Boy, you're not getting it. I'm willing to learn, okay? I don't care how difficult it is or how inept I may seem...the least you could do is let me try.
Or some variation thereof. Kal'El usually seemed to ponder Pete's proposal for a moment then go back to whatever he had been doing -- much to Pete's chagrin.
It didn't help that the contents of his habitat never changed. The least Fly Boy could do was clean his cage once in a while, Pete thought grumpily. It was one of the reasons he kept suggesting visiting the other "animals" in the zoo. Hey, maybe he could survive a methane-based atmosphere. They'd never know if they didn't try.
At least he had paper. Reams of the stuff. And pens. And pencils. No music though. Pete found himself humming tunes he had no name for, and others he didn't know he'd picked up. But writing and drawing became his preferred past-time, if he could be said to have had a past-time. At the rate he was going Pete would have written the Great American Novel three times over and no one would ever know. The still life's were getting repetitive, though. So much so that Pete had taken to drawing the glacial interior of the ship. At least what he could see of it.
Which had led to a "discussion" along these lines:
Pete: Hey, Fly Boy.
Kal'El: Please don't call me that.
Pete: Oh yeah, `cause `Pete's always on the tip of your tongue when you talk to me. Look, I wasn't calling you to start an argument -- as if that would be new.
(Kal'El gives him a baleful stare.)
Pete: Right. Right. So, uh, quick question: I know this will probably sound crazy and make you doubt my intelligence even more, but are the ice formations in this rust bucket changing?
Pete: (doing a double take) They're changing?
Kal'El: Yes (condescendingly)
Pete: Hey, off your high horse, Mr. Spandex. (a moment of irate silence. Pete sighs) Okay so how is it happening?
Kal'El: The ice is growing.
Pete: Yeah man, I realize real ice grows. First graders know that ice grows, but that stuff (gestures to the world beyond the glass wall of his habitat) isn't real.
Kal'El: (glancing quickly around) What makes you think this isn't ice?
Pete: (stares blankly at Kal'El for a long moment) This entire ship... You're telling me this entire ship is made of ice?
Kal'El: No, the Jarha'leen is made of a metal similar to your Terran steel, but exponentially more durable. Only the interior is covered in ice.
Pete: But how do you--?
Kal'El: I am impervious to such things. While even moderate exposure would probably kill you, this is not dissimilar to the conditions of my home planet.
Pete: So you just...let the ice grow. (at Kal'El's nod: ) Then why hasn't it crushed us yet?
Kal'El: The reason is beyond your limited capabilities to understand.
Dreams break the monotony. When he was first brought to the Fortress of Boreditude he did a lot of sleeping. When he wasn't demanding his freedom. (Another old favorite conversation that, surprisingly, didn't last long.) Unfortunately sleeping all the time made Pete even more tired when he was awake. That soon became so 5 minutes ago. But the dreams were nice. After a long day of contemplating his non-existence it was nice to lose himself in the memory of his home. Well sometimes it wasn't, but at least he got to hang out with Chloe and date Lana and play ball with his brothers instead of moping about never seeing them all again.
Nightmares broke up the monotony too. Like the nightmare that Fly Boy was gonna do a Fox Network style alien autopsy on him. Or the one where he wasn't really on a space ship, but some mental patient in a padded room. Or the one where he was being suffocated by a fur pillow.
Hold up. That had never been one of his nightmares before...
Pete jerked upright, fully awake. And was awarded with an armful of bloody scratches. "Hey! Ow! What the--E!"
There at the foot of his bed was a short-haired tuxedo cat. He licked his paws with disdain as if Pete should have been honored to be killed by the cat. At least Pete thought it was a boy. He seemed to remember Lana, the girliest of all girly-girls, saying that toms were broader across the shoulders. "And just, well, manlier," she'd said with an embarrassed shrug.
"Now where the hell did you come from," Pete wondered aloud as he gingerly pulled off his tee shirt and dabbed at his arms.
The cat looked up at him with luminous green eyes as if to say, Don't you know?
"Actually I don't," Pete said with a mild chuckle. Eyeing the cat warily, he made his way to the animal...letting it sniff him when he got close enough. One firm scratch behind the ears and under the chin had the cat purring better than any car engine Pete could remember.
"Now the big test," Pet said to the animal. "You gonna let me find out if you're really a boy or a crossdresser?"
Eyes closed, the cat continued to purr.
"Well, I guess here goes..." He quickly lifted the cat. "It's a boy! Pete dropped the cat and raised his arms in a touchdown salute.
An angry rowr let him know the cat was not amused.
"Hey, sorry guy. Man, things must be getting really desperate on Earth if Fly Boy's importing house pets." He came close enough to let the tom sniff his hand again. "What am I doing? You're not a dog."
Pete could have sworn the cat snorted at him in a , You better believe it buddy, way.
Amused, Pete said, "We're gonna have to give you a name, little dude. You don't know it yet, but you're in for the long haul." He paused. "Unless, that is, you have a name already." Pete reached for the cat's neck again.
The tom began to bristle.
"Hey, I promise not to drop you. I swear." A distinct look of mistrust crossed the tom's furry face, but then he dropped his head and began cleaning his tail.
"All right," Pete said softly, feeling around the tom's collar for a nameplate. "Here we go." Pete picked the tom up, cradling him in his arms. "Huh, a nametag with no name. Looks like I get to pick one out for you after all. How about... How about Tom?"
The cat looked up at him as if to say Pete could do better than that.
"You're right," Pete said gamely, "I can. Uh how about Ralph? No? Um, what about Whit-- No way. Whitney was a prick and probably still is. Hey, I have it: how do you like Clark?"
The cat meowed disapproval.
"Okay, okay, so I'm not sure where that came from either. You wanna be Alf? No, Alf ate cats. Y'know this would be easier if you were a more distinctive color."
The cat continued to wash himself.
Pete frowned. "This is turning out to be a whole lot harder than I thought it'd be." He thought for a while, stroking the cat in his arms. "What do you think of Max?"
The cat purred.
"You like Max?"
The purr became a deep rumble.
"He likes Max!" Pete picked the cat up under its forelegs. "You like Max!"
"Right, right," Pete said, quickly bring Max back into the circle of his arms. "No more cat manhandling. Got it."
Again with the kitty snort. Pete was going to have to get Kal'El to let him at the computer database so he could research this odd feline phenomena.
"Hey, I wonder if Fly Boy's still around or if he dropped you off and split. I don't know about you, but I'm voting for the latter," Pete told Max as he made his way off the bed, cat in hand -- or arm.
"You think maybe I should shower and dress?"
"I didn't think so either," Pete said with a grin. So decided, he made his way out of his habitat house and into the surrounding garden. When he'd first "moved" to the Fortress of Solitude, Pete had painstakingly lugged the heavy wrought iron lawn furniture from the far side of the house over to the floor-to-ceiling observation window. A table and four chairs when all Pete would probably ever need was one. It just so happened that Kal'El's work station was directly across from Pete's base of operations...such as they were.
"Hey Fly Boy! You in?"
Kal'El flew from an unseen part of the ship to Pete's observation window. "I've asked you not to call me that."
"And you've yet to address me at all, so I'd say we're even. Hey, so look, before we get off on one of our favorite tangents -- what's with Max?"
Kal'El raised a curious eyebrow. "Who?"
Pete held up Max. "The cat, man. The cat."
"You've named him then?"
Pete looked down at the cat napping contentedly in his arms. "Yeah. So, uh, is the pet situation down on Earth that bad? I thought you told me that animals were doing okay. You gonna beam me up a cocker spaniel next?"
Frowning, Kal'El said, "I do not `beam up,' as you put it, anything."
"Oookay. What about the cat, Fly Boy? Does this mean I'll be getting some company of the human variety soon?"
Kal'El turned away from the observation windows and walked to his work station.
"Fly Boy. Hey Fly Boy! Kal'El!"
He looked up at Pete from his console of ice. "No."
"No? But what--"
"The domesticated feline population on Terra is sufficient enough to spare one individual."
"Like how you spared me?" Max began to bristle in Pete's arms. "Hey, I'm the only one who's supposed to be pissed off," he said to the irritated cat as he smoothed Max's fur.
"The two situations are not at all the same."
"How not?" Pete demanded.
Kal'El returned to his work.
Pete slapped the glass.
"...The cat is expendable." With a final keystroke Kal'El looked up at Pete and said, "You and your people are not."
Pete watched as, for the first time since being brought aboard, a look of indecision crossed Kal'El's face. Then the alien got up, stepped back from his chair and took off. "That's just like him," Pete said to Max before turning back to his "house."
As it so often happened, the seasons in the habitat changed literally overnight. Pete knew the trees would be wreathed in russet and gold when he found warmer clothes in his closet. He still hadn't figured out how Fly Boy managed to do it, but he had long since stopped complaining about the intrusion to his privacy. It remained to be seen if Max the Cat would handle it as well.
"Get ready for a shocker, Cat."
Max looked up from his food bowl with complete and utter diffidence.
"Hey, don't say I didn't warn you."
When they had both eaten Pete led the expedition "outdoors." "So what do you think, Max?"
The cat stalked slowly, sniffing the air, before bounding in the direction of the observation window.
"If you don't mind I don't exactly feel like talking to Fly Boy right now."
Max ignored him.
"Okay, okay. We'll go look, but I refuse to stay." There was no one in the ice filled chamber. "See," Pete said thumping the glass, "no one's...home?"
With a swoosh of cold air the observation glass had gone up at Pete's touch. "What the-- Max, get back here!" Pete called after the cat as he bounded through the entryway. Hopping over the little rise himself, Pete followed. "Get back here. You don't know what's out there. In here. Whichever here this is! Max!" Pete bent over double looking for the runaway cat.
"That was quicker than I expected."
Pete straightened, turning quickly.
Kal'El stood before him in his outlandish blue leotard and red cape. "Although I suppose I should have expected it."
(4. Taking it as low as you'll go)
It would just be wrong for Pete to be Lex's pet. So he's not. One could postulate that Lex is Pete's pet. Not that Pete makes Lex wear a collar or anything. And its not like Pete's had Lex in any form of physical bondage ever. Things like that were often so messy and needed far to much work and explanation. Pete really couldn't see himself trying to make Victoria Hardwick understand why Lex liked to follow him around like a dog on a leash. Literally.
No, the master/servant relationship is much more subtle than that. The only people observant enough to notice that Pete is always one step ahead, that he always walks through doors firsts, and that Lex's yeas and nays come a heartbeat after Pete's are, well, Lex and Bruce Wayne. Being doped up on the handiest narcotic, however, makes Wayne a moot point.
Now does Pete make Lex kneel outside his apartment door before being let in?
Yeah, he does.
(5. Song on our hearts. Murder on our minds.)
"See, I'm not like the rest of them..."
"Please, Pete. Don't do this," Chloe whispered.
"I always knew it was too good to be true. Head cheerleader, class president, A+ student, Miss Popular dating the star football player--
"But Clark wasn't good enough for you. You had to alienate me from my best friend. Although I guess if Lex weren't filthy stinking rich you wouldn't have wanted him." Pete shrugged. "Just my luck, huh?"
Awash in green light, Pete looked unearthly as he looked down at Chloe's prone body. "It was never like that, Pete," she said weakly. "I never meant to push you and Lex apart."
"But that isn't what tipped me off," Pete went on, as if they had never gotten off topic. "You were everywhere, Sullivan. Every incident, every occurrence, all the strange events that made it on Lana Lang's Wall of Weird -- you were there. Funny thing is that it was Lana who pointed it out to me. Me who was looking. Chloe, her hero, the only person at Smallville High who let her go on and on about her poor dead parents, is at least mentioned in every single one of Lana's articles." With a triumphant grin he said, "Someone hasn't been very careful, has she?"
Chloe lunged for Pete. "As if anyone read her crap anyway!" The restraints on her arms and legs kept her on the table. Green veins popped out of her skin from the sudden exertion.
"Yeah, that's what I figured you thought," Pete said, sitting back on his stool. "Which got me to thinking."
"Thinking's a dangerous pastime, Ross."
Grinning Pete said, "I know. So I start to think, what if Chloe Sullivan isn't the do-gooder hero that all of Lana's articles make her out to be. I mean, for real, when have most of us gotten to one of these Freak of the Week happenings? At the end. Even when we've been directly involved we've always been in the middle. I've never seen one of these things go down from start to finish. I know Lana hasn't. Clark's so dumb it wouldn't matter, and I'm pretty sure Lex hasn't..."
Pete clenched his teeth, trying to contain his fury. "So I started wondering if, maybe, you were instigating everything. What if Sullivan was the bad guy, huh? And it all started falling into place," Pete said with a smug smile.
Smiling, Chloe said, "Pete, c'mon. That's insane. Do you really think--
"Uh uh uh, Chloe. It's too late to front now. You already blew your cover when I mentioned Lana's articles. And when you collapsed when I gave you that green stone. I saw the way you used to freak out when Lex wore the green signet ring. He told me it was from a piece of one of the meteorites that nearly killed him."
Chloe was thin-lipped with silence.
"Lex doesn't wear the ring anymore, Sullivan. Why not?"
"I don't know, why don't you ask him. Oh, that's right, he hate's your guts!"
Pete snorted. "Oh yeah. Real mature. I'll tell you what I think. I think you and the meteorites have something in common. I think you convinced Lex that he didn't need a stupid ring to remind him of how he'd practically come back from the dead because every time you were around him with it was like you were dying."
"Shut up, Ross."
"I think being around the green meteor rocks really is hell for you, Sullivan. Really, look at you. Where's that dewy glow? Why you're downright pale. Oh, and are those veins popping out of your skin, Sullivan? And dude, like literally."
Chloe lunged for Pete again. The metal bands on her arms cut into her skin.
Eyes fixed on the blood trickling down her wrists, Pete said, "You know I don't think I've ever seen you bleed, Sullivan. I don't think I've ever even seen you with a bruise." He reached over and rearranged the rocks surrounding her body, bringing them closer to her wrists. "You've never been sick. You've never even had lice, which I hear for white kids is pretty friggin' abnormal not to get."
Chloe moaned in agony.
"I was right wasn't I?" Pete said softly. "What are you, Chloe Sullivan?"
"More than you'll ever be," she hissed.
Pete shrugged. "Yeah, well considering that I plan to make sure you're dead before I leave...I'm pretty sure this is going to be your last front pager in the Torch."
Shaking her head, Chloe vowed, hoarsely: "You'll never make it out of here alive, Ross. When I get out I'm gonna hunt you down and rip you apart piece by piece."
Pete got out of his stool and disappeared beyond Chloe's field of vision. "See I actually came prepared for killing you."
As his steps came closer, Chloe began to writhe on the table, in more pain than she'd ever known. Pete appeared with a cardboard box. "The perks of being the town weirdo is that people don't think it's strange when you wander around in their fields and yards. And the perks of living in Smallville is the abundance of green meteor rocks. They're everywhere. You can hardly spit without hitting one." He smiled as if they were friends. "But I guess you knew that."
Writhing on the table, Chloe didn't seem to have heard him at all. Pete didn't mind. He set the box on the stool and proceeded to take out stones. "This is just what I've picked up in the last month. I've been collecting for years, but nothing serious. Well, at least not until I started having serious doubts about you."
"It occurred to me, talking to Lana, that Mr. Sullivan adopted you right around the time of the shower." Pete set the stones around Chloe's body. "You started appearing in the news right afterward, anyway."
Chloe moaned incomprehensibly.
"Yeah, that hurts doesn't it?" Pete said with a smile. He began setting the glowing green rocks on Chloe's stomach. "I wonder how long it'll take for them to kill you."
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