Summer Friends #7 - A little too close

by EV

Timeline: Post-Exodus (from there follows the events of the Summer Friends series)

It was now the 5th of July and Pete was feeling guilty, so guilty he had hardly slept. Every time he closed his eyes he saw her, only her. And he couldn't kick the vision, so he got up. So he sat in the kitchen playing with his breakfast, alone, up to early. He heard his brother come into the kitchen, but never turned around and barely managed a pleasant 'good-morning'.

"What's wrong?" Sam asked.

"Nothing," Pete said.

"You worried about Clark?" He asked sitting with him.

"Not exactly."

"You thinking about... Lana."

Pete's face gave him the answer.

"What happened?" Sam asked.

"Nothing," Pete replied.

"Pete, something happened, I can see it."

"I kissed her, okay," Pete told him.

"Did she kiss you back?"

"It wasn't that kind of kiss. It was on the forehead."

"Forehead? And it's got you this worked up?"

"I crossed the line, you know, got to close," Pete said. "But I can't help it, she's--I don't know. She's Clark's girl it doesn't matter."

"I'm sure Clark would understand if while he was gone something happened between you two--I mean he--"

"Nothing's going to happen," Pete told him.

"You're not hanging out with Lana for Clark anymore and you know it. At the very least you need to see how she feels about it."

"I know how she feels. She wants Clark back."

"You can't be sure what she wants unless you talk to her."

"Is that what you did, talk to Jen behind David's back?"

"No, I mean Jen and I got to know each other and became friends because she was David's girl. But we fell in love and it got to a point where we just couldn't deny it anymore and one night we got a little too close, behind David's back. But see we just did it without ever talking about anything or what it would mean or how it would hurt people. And after that first time it got easier to be together, but harder to tell David."

"And I'm not you Sam, I'm not falling in love. I just-- got too close."

"You're right you're not me. But bro, this more than being too close or you would have went for it. Hormones would have took over. You respect her."

"I respect Clark and all the years he waited for this one girl. And she's just one girl."

"Is she, is she just one of many girls in Smallville to you now? Or is she somebody, somebody special. Somebody you'd respect even if there was no Clark."

Pete didn't answer.

"At least Clark and Lana weren't together that long," Sam told him. "He left her and you were there for her. You don't have to let it go as far as I did. You don't have to sit in the shadows and watch the girl you love with your best friend. Clark left her Pete, he left her. After all those years of thinking about her or wanting her, the as soon as he got her, he just up and left."

"You don't know what he was going through. And I'm not in love with Lana okay. I mean you've seen her, she's beautiful. What guy hanging out with her wouldn't get a little attracted. I'm not going after Lana." Pete got up from the table. "I'm not you Sam. This is nothing like you and Jen and David."

He went back to his room. But for the first time Pete almost understood exactly what had happened between Sam and David when Sam fell in love with Jen.

That Monday Lana went in early. She hadn't seen Pete since the fourth of July, when he'd kissed her. It was just a kiss on the forehead. Why was she thinking about it, why was she thinking about him? Because he was her friend, the only close friend she had around right now and it was odd that he was suddenly avoiding her. So there was only one thing to do, keep busy.

At lunch time, Mrs. Ross arrived and to her own surprise that was a bit of a comfort.

"Hello Miss Lane," Mrs. Ross said as Lana walked up to her.

"Hi Judge Ross," she said with her eyes darting away.

"Meet a person's eyes when you speak to them."

Lana cautiously looked up at her. She showed Mrs. Ross to a seat and they sat down together.

"May I ask," Mrs. Ross began. "With a father like Henry Small, why do you feel the need to talk to me?"

"Henry and I don't quite know how to handle each other yet, let alone talk about deeper issues. You seem to ask the important questions, I just wanted help finding better answers."

"Well, if it's any comfort. When I was your age I was worse than you."

"Really?" Lana said shocked and a little too happily.

Mrs. Ross smiled. "I had no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life when I graduated High School, which isn't uncommon. And my mother was a little too 'I trust you'll figure it out', I went through 3 years of college with no clue. Partying, taking the occasional class. But this professor took a liking too me, helped me focus, guided me for the first time in my life. Prof. Eva Union is still my greatest advisor. I took me another few years to get the requirements I needed to get into law school and then of course I had to finish law school. But I did it."

"I thought you always knew."

"Well I didn't, but I try to make the road a little smoother for my boys and I hope I can help you."

Lana half smiled. "Thank you."

"May I ask, what is the nature of your relationship with my son?"

"He's a friend," Lana said nervously. "A great friend, but that's it."

"That's it? Friendships are important Lana, my husband is my husband because he's my best friend, but he's not my only friend or the only trusted male friend I've made in my life. Henry Small is someone I count among my friends. So it's a great asset to have friends, they can get you through bad times. I learned the hard way, holding onto others when you need them is not a weakness or anything to be ashamed of." Mrs. Ross pulled a legal pad of of her briefcase. "So, let's get through the basics. Let's talk about this place."

"The Talon? What about it?"

"Are you planning to go away to college?"

"I don't know, maybe."

"Don't you think the employees you manage deserve better than maybe?"

"Yes," Lana replied. "Well I had a day manager I really trusted, but she's getting married and moving away with her husband next year."

"Have you started looking at other employees who could fill the position?"

"Not really, I mean I want to find another day manager, but I won't have the same trust level and Nell has to approve the person I leave in charge. She mostly trust my judgment since I handle the day to day. "

"Well I suggest you not only look into filling that position, you look closer at employee performance too see who might be left in charge in your absence. What about schools, have you thought about where you want to go, what you want to major in."

"Where, yes. What, no."

"So let's talk," Mrs. Ross said. "What do you enjoy?"

It was Wednesday when Pete finally made his way down to the Talon. Lana was rushing between tables of screaming youngsters when Pete arrived. She had arranged to have a summer movie program with a local summer camp. Every Wednesday they would come to see a new children's film. This arrangement had been made early in June, but Lana hadn't known how difficult a group of excited 6-12 year old kids could be. Luckily she did have them designated to one area for the before movie lunch and it didn't interfere with her regulars. However, it did make for a loud and unpredictable atmosphere once a week.

"Hey Pete," she said sliding past him with a tray of sodas. She didn't have time to ask him where he'd been the last couple days and she thought it sounded too much like a girlfriend question anyway.

"Need some help?" Pete asked as she walked back past him. He had come to talk to her, but he could tell she wasn't in a position to hear him right now.

"Please," Lana said to him while a camp counselor wrestled apart two fighting 8 year olds.

Pete grabbed a Talon apron and began to help the wait-staff with the rowdy campers. Once the kids were all served and had eaten, they moved up to the movie theater for a showing of Disney's Aladdin. Meanwhile, there was a huge clean-up to be made in the area where the campers ate and drank. Pete helped with the clean up while Lana went to observe what was going on with the campers in the movie theater. They had only just made the eating area look decent again when they heard the kids heading out of the movie theater, down the steps, and out the front door to their bus. Pete waited for Lana, but when she didn't come down he went up to the theater area. He found a tired Lana settle in one of the theater seats.

"You okay," Pete said coming over.

"Yeah," she said. "It's just handling this summer camp thing once a week is little more than I anticipated."

"Would you like a caffeine boost?"

"Please," Lana said tiredly.

She pulled out her order pad and jotted down what she wanted. Then she handed it to Pete who went off to get it. When he came back she felt a little more energized from the brief rest and able to sit up.

"Thank you," she said taking the cup from him.

Pete sat down leaving a seat between him and her.

"And thanks for helping."

Pete shrugged. "No problem."

"I haven't seen you in a few days," she said as casually as possible.

"Mom's just been keeping me busy. I got away with nothing for too long."

"Is that's it? You don't seem like your usual self," Lana said already coming back to normal thanks to the caffeine entering her system. "I told you before, you don't always have to be the funny guy. It's okay to tell me if something's bothering you."

"Well I guess I'm worried about some things," Pete said. "Not about Clark," he added to cut off the follow up question.

Lana looked confused.

"Well, I'm still worried about Clark of course," Pete said "But I'm talking about something else, us I guess."

"Us? You aren't saying... you want..."

"No," Pete said quickly. "It just, we're sort of friends because Clark's gone and that's great, but there's really no reason--"

"You think we'll go back to just the occasional good-bye and hello when Clark comes back?"

"Or when Chloe comes back."

"Is that what you want?" Lana asked.

"Of course not, it's just we've never been close like this and if everything ever gets back to normal...I don't want us to go back to that, even it's just out of habit."

"You know what I realized when you kissed me on the fourth of July?" Lana asked.

"What?" Pete asked honestly afraid of the answer.

Lana moved into the seat next to him. "It should have bothered me, us getting so close that you would lean over and kiss me, even on the forehead, but it didn't, because I trust you. You're the first guy who gotten to know me without wanting anything. You weren't making a move or becoming my friend in hopes of something else. You were just there for me." Lana smiled to herself, almost embarrassed but continuing. "You are something completely different for me, the first friend I've had in a long time that I don't have to worry about disappointing. It's not just trusting you, I trust myself around you. I've don't remember the last time I was able to say that."

Pete usually considered himself pretty smooth with the ladies and if this had been any other girl, he wouldn't have been reluctant to act on his instincts, to steal a kiss. He couldn't do that with her and he didn't quite know how to respond to what she said, so he said and did nothing. And he knew Clark wasn't the reason he held back. It was Lana and everything she'd just said to him, he wanted to be that different guy for her. So he just put an arm around her (a far to easy habit these days) and they settled in that comfortable silence they'd found with each other. He knew if Clark were to walk through the doors right now, or Chloe, they'd wonder what was going on, what had changed so much that the two of them they could just sit like this and he couldn't explain. Suddenly Sam's word's became more clear in his head: After that first time it got easier to be together, but harder to tell David. If Clark had returned soon after he left, Pete could have told him he and Lana had a few conversations, that they'd shared only thoughts about him. But being close to Lana had nothing to do with Clark anymore.

"I think you were right," Pete said.

"About what?" Lana asked.

"Jen," Pete said. "Maybe she isn't so bad. Maybe I didn't want to see the whole picture with her and my brother and David. Besides, she's Hayden's mother, she isn't going anywhere, right?"

"Right," Lana said. "He's so adorable, your nephew."

"He's annoying."

"Oh, stop it. You love him, I can tell. You know, you're going to be a great dad one day."

"Dad? Me? Now you're talking crazy."

"Come on, you have to want kids."

"You'd be amazed how growing up the runt in a big family can ruin the appeal of a house full of kids."

"Well I want kids," Lana told him. "I want to give a child the family I never had."

"I guess one wouldn't be so bad," Pete replied.

Lana gave him a small grin. "Girl or Boy. Boy right?"

"Girl, I couldn't deal with a hard-headed boy like me."

"Interesting, most guys want a boy, a little them. But okay, one girl. And what would we name her."

Pete wondered if he should read to much into her saying 'we'. He decided not to focus on it and went on with the game.

"I don't know," Pete said. "Something unique, but not crazy like Shaquinika."

"I can't even spell, Shaq-whatever."

"It's easy, S-H-A--" He paused to think. "quinika."

Lana laughed. "How about Emily? Simple and sweet."

"That'd be cool," Pete said. Pete shook his head laughing. "I'm making up baby names with my best friend's girlfriend."

"Is that what I am?" Lana asked.

"I guess that's up to you," Pete replied.

"I mean is that what I am to you? Your friend's girlfriend and nothing else."

"Of course not."

"Good," Lana said. "I guess I better go, I have work to do."

Lana gave him a kiss on the cheek and left him alone.

"Pete Ross what are you doing?" Pete asked himself as he watched Lana leave, his eyes lingering to long, something he wouldn't have allowed himself a month ago. It was hard for him to believe not to long ago, he and Lana shared little more than the occasional hello and good-bye.

Lana had returned to the main floor of the Talon, which was much calmer with the kid campers gone. One of the waitresses, who obviously had nothing better to do, kept hovering around the counter. She wondered exactly what was behind the glances she kept getting from the waitress.

"What?" Lana finally asked

"What's going on with you and the chocolate cutie?" the waitresses asked Lana as she approached the counter.

"Chocolate cutie?" Lana replied looking a little confused for a moment. "If you're talking about my friend, his name is Pete," Lana said. "Which you should know since we all go to school together."

"Come on, you have to be sick of waiting for Clark Kent," the waitress said. "And Lex isn't around for you to flirt with anymore. So, dish."

"First of all, why would I 'dish' to you," Lana told her. "Secondly, I don't flirt with Lex. Third... even if I was tired of waiting for Clark, Pete is his best friend. I wouldn't put him in that position."

"You already have," the waitress replied. "Do you think the boy is made of steel? He's defiantly getting some limited boyfriend contact around you, you don't think a part of him wants more boyfriend benefits?"

"You sound like Chloe," Lana mumbled.

"What?" the waitress asked.

"Stopped worrying about my friend and get to work," Lana said. A couple of teenagers entered at that moment. "There you go, customers."

The waitress rolled her eyes. Lana didn't feel like acknowledging it. The girl didn't know what she was talking about. She and Pete were doing just fine as friends. But why had she been joking about marriage and an imaginary baby girl with Pete Ross?


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