Timeline: Post-Exodus (from there follows the events of the Summer Friends series)
"ANNA!" Hayden yelled as Pete walked through the Talon doors with him.
Lana smiled at Hayden and Pete. It was late and there were only a few evening regulars left. Lana and one waitress were left handling the handful of customers.
"Hey Pete," Lana said walking up to them. "What's Hayden doing with you?"
"I was babysitting," Pete replied. "We went to the playground at the elementary school."
"Mr. 'I-don't-want-any-kids' was babysitting?"
"Well, Sam had a job interview."
"And cute babies are a great way to get numbers," Pete said with a smile as he pulled a few from his pocket."
"I can't believe you're using that old trick," Lana said as he put the numbers away.
"It may be an old trick, but it's still a good one. Seriously, Sam told me he and Jen had a talk and he would be happier working. If he gets the job, Hayden will be going to Day Care. For now, babysitting gets me out of being down at the courthouse with my mom during the day."
"Did I tell you your mom and I had a talk earlier this week?" Lana asked.
"No," he replied. "She did though, talked about you all through dinner. Did she drive you crazy yet?"
"No, she's great. We talked about Colleges and who's going to run the Talon if--when I go to College."
"I never thought about that," Pete replied. "I guess you going away to college, me going away to college, all of us. It's not that far away, is it."
"Not as far away as we like to pretend."
"You have the summer camp group again tomorrow, right?" Pete asked.
"Yes," Lana said. "They're watching the NeverEnding Story."
"Wow, I haven't seen that since I was a kid."
"Have you ever read the book?"
"There's a book?"
"Don't feel bad about not knowing, I only found out it was a book by accident. I was like thirteen and I ran across it in a library. Unfortunately the book didn't take me to meet Atreyu or Falcor. I didn't get to name the child-like Empress either."
"I'll have to check out that book."
"I have a copy I could loan you. I'll bring it by tomorrow and you can bring Hayden by for the movie if you want."
"Eat Pea?" Hayden said asked pulling on his uncles clothes.
"He's hungry," Pete said.
"Sit down, I'll take care of you."
Pete took Hayden and found a seat. Even though it wasn't on the Talon menu, she made a couple Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches for Hayden. She also found some markers and paper for Hayden to amuse himself after he finished, since Pete was killing time at the Talon. As the customers thinned out, Lana took a rest and sat with Pete and the toddler. They talked a lot about nothing, somewhat about Clark, a little about Chloe, and a bit about Pete's mother. It was such a change from the beginning of the summer when all they talked about was Clark. They seemed to have settled back into a comfort zone, the 4th of July kiss was forgotten, or at least put to the back of their minds as something unimportant. Hayden got sleepy so they said good-bye and Pete took him home.
The next day Pete came by the Talon with Hayden. The movie had already begun for the campers, but Lana let him go up with Hayden and watch the film. When the movie was done, the campers left. Pete and Hayden were the last to come out. Lana met them as they came down to the Talon's main floor.
"Did he liked it?" Lana asked.
"He slept through the middle," Pete told her "But he saw the beginning and the end."
"Doggy fly," Hayden said.
"It was a luck dragon," Lana told him.
"Doggy flyin'," Hayden insisted.
Lana giggled and then she handed a book to Pete.
"The NeverEnding story as promised," Lana said.
"Thanks, I'll try to read it," Pete said. "Right now I have to get the little monster home."
Pete started for the door with Hayden.
"By the way, how did Sam's job interview go?" Lana asked.
"It went okay, I guess, he didn't really talk about it."
"Listen, if he's still looking, I'm looking for a new day manager, somebody who maybe I'll trust if I decide to go away to school when the time comes. Now, I'm not saying he has the job, but I'll give him an interview and if things work out, maybe a better one will come when I go away to school."
"Thanks Lana. Oh, we're both free Saturday right?"
"Yeah, my day is free."
"Now it's you who owes me a ride now, so how about it?"
"Sure," Lana replied.
"Bye Anna," Hayden said as Pete walked him out.
Lana smiled watching him leave with the little boy.
"I don't have any friends that watch me the way you watch him," said the familiar voice of Natalie Hunt. "Won't Clark be disappointed, if he ever comes back that is."
"Natalie?" Lana questioned turning to face her.
"Yeah, right, none of my business," Natalie said in response to Natalie's look. "But it will be Clark's business. And won't your little friend, whats-her-name, the one who works on the paper. Won't she be thrilled to find out you've moved on after all that Clark-trouble you two had last year. I wonder how what's-her-name, Clara?"
"Chloe," Lana replied trying to hide her annoyance. "And you know what Natalie...order something or leave. The rest of is none of your business and I'm not talking about it."
When Pete got home he found Jen on the porch studying. Hayden crawled up in her lap and did his best to tell her about the movie, putting an end to her studying for the moment. Jen mostly nodded her head listening to him, but she barely understanding most of what he said. Pete sat on a porch chair a foot away from them, reading as Hayden talked. Eventually Hayden tired and sat still in Jen's lap.
"What you reading?" Jen asked when Hayden was quiet.
"The NeverEnding Story," Pete said. "Lana gave it to me."
"That was nice of her," Jen said.
"Yeah," Pete replied. "She may be able to give Sam a job at the Talon too."
"Really?" Jen replied rather pleased. "Well thank you for stealing your friend's girlfriend," Jen said. She could immediately tell this comment rubbed Pete the wrong way. "I'm sorry, I'm just kidding. I know she's just your friend." Jen looked at his book. "You like her though," Jen said. "I mean she gives you a book and you come home and read it right away."
"On a warm day when you could be out dirt-biking or trying to mack on a couple of girls or a million other things you usually do with your free time."
"My best friend is missing. This isn't exactly my happiest summer."
"Yet, you're happy with Lana."
"You don't know me that well Jen," Pete said. "And you don't know her at all or Clark."
"No, but you don't know me that well and it never stopped you from making judgments. You know that the thing I regret the most? It's breaking up your brother and his best friend. Nothing hurt more than Sam deciding Hayden's middle name, Hayden David Ross. He won't say it, but he misses his friend and I hate that I'm the reason they can't be friends. I would love it if David and Sam could just make up."
"Then why even cheat on David and cause all the trouble?"
"I had romance on the brain, love conquers all. I thought I truly loved Sam so David would understand in the end. It didn't happen. So I thought, he'll get over it. But he hasn't and for the rest of my life I'm going to have to deal with guilt over what happened between Sam and David."
"Does David know about Hayden?" Pete asked.
"I'm sure he's seen him with us. He works at the hardware store now. Whenever we see each other, we just kind of pretend we don't, for everyone's benefit."
"But nobody told him... about the name?" Pete questioned.
"No, no one told him, I don't think they did anyway."
"Well, Sam and I can't say two words to him without being shut out, so I don't know who could."
A car pulled up in the driveway interrupting their conversation. They both knew it was Sam as soon as they saw the car. Sam got out and went in the back of the car to unload groceries. Pete got up off the porch to help him and they carried the groceries in the kitchen.
"Sam, you need to call Lana," Pete said as they unpacked the bags.
"Why would I call Lana?" Sam asked.
"Because she might be able to hook you up with a job," Pete told him.
"Yeah, she's got a spot open at the Talon. She's willing to give you a shot at it."
"Cool, I'll call her."
"Hey Sam, have you tried to talk to David -- since the fight I mean?"
"Talk to him about what?"
"Anything, did you try to make it right with him?"
"He doesn't want to make it right Pete."
"But have you tried?" Pete asked.
"It's hard to try when a person won't even listen to you?"
For some reason, Pete was suddenly determined to try to fix things. As far back as he could remember, Sam and David had been best friends and he wanted to believe that two guys who'd known each other that long could survive a conflict over a girl. He didn't further explore why proving this was so important, he just knew he had to give a shot. So around Noon the next day, Pete found himself walking up the street in front of the Talon. Lana was coming out of it's doors just as he passed.
"Hey Pete," Lana said. "Where you going?"
"Hardware store," he replied as she joined his stride toward the store.
Pete shot her a questioning look.
"Seriously, I have to pick up some things. I didn't know how destructive a group of kids could be."
"What you going for?" she asked.
"David, he works there. I thought maybe I'd stop by and talk to him."
"Wait a minute, David Braxton? That's Sam and Jen's David?"
"He always seemed so sweet," Lana said. "I couldn't imagine him beating someone up, even over a girl."
"From what I hear," Pete said. "A broken heart can make a man do crazy things."
"From what you hear?"
"Well, you know me. I'm usually the heart breaker, not the one with the broken heart." He shot her his trademark joking grin.
"Stop being silly, there had to be some girl that just swept you away and you couldn't have her or you lost her."
"Nah," Pete said. "I guess you know, I had my situations that didn't work out. Like Chloe, I really liked her, I mean... more than most. I took her seriously, you know? She's smart and spunky and... she loved Clark." He tried compose himself before continuing so he didn't sound like a smitten 12 year old. "But you know, I wasn't going to beat up Clark over it. And seeing what happen to Sam and David, seeing what happened to you and Chloe and Clark, it seemed like it was just pointless to invest all that in a girl for something that doesn't seem to last anyway."
"It's okay though, to invest all that in someone. It's worth it, even when it ends badly," Lana told him. "I agree with what you said before, it's the friendships that will stand the test of time, but even after I broke up with Whitney I had memories of those moments that were good and magic with him. And even though he's dead, part of me will always belong to him and love him. Who knows if any of us will be dating or married to anyone else in our little circle years from now. But maybe we will, maybe our true love isn't waiting out there for us to find, maybe it's right here. And in addition to friendship there's a whole other type of happiness to be found with that special person."
"Sounds too much like a fairy tale to me," Pete said as they reached the door of the hardware store.
Pete opened the door for Lana and she stepped in. He followed behind her. They walked up to the counter together and Pete began looking for David amongst the couple of employees wearing the store aprons. It never occurred to him to look behind the counter.
"Hello Lang." a man said from behind the counter.
"Hi," Lana replied elbowing Pete.
"I got what you called for," the man behind the counter said retrieving a box from a shelf behind him.
Pete turned toward the guy Lana was talking to and saw his name tag. He would have recognized him without it, but he would have done a double take. Years ago his blond hair had been shorter, so short there was hardly any hair. Now it framed his face in curly blond locks. And the former slim basketball player had also gained some weight.
"David?" Pete questioned.
"Little Petey?" David questioned in return. "Hey little man." Pete then knew David obviously didn't extend his detest of Sam to Pete. "You here with her?"
"I heard you were working here and I came by," Pete said.
"To see me?"
Pete reached in his pocket and took out a picture. He handed it to David.
"That's Hayden DAVID Ross, Sam's son," Pete said. All joy leaked from David's face. His eyes lingered for a second on the toddler's picture and then he shoved the picture back at Pete.
"Good for Sam," David said.
"David, Sam misses you."
"It doesn't change what happened."
"Nothing can change what happened, but nothing can change all the stuff before that either. All the years you spent being his best friend and all the years he spent being yours. He wants his friend back, but you have to give him the chance to make it right. That's all I wanted to say."
Pete turned and left the store. He lingered outside. A few minutes later Lana came out carrying her box. He took the heavy box from her and carried it back to the Talon for her. He helped her put it in the back storage room.
"Is he mad?" Pete asked as he settled on a bench in the storage room.
"David? No, he was just kind of quiet after you left," Lana replied. "I think you made an impact, he just needs time to think. That was a brave thing you did in there for your brother."
"You think Clark would react like that?" Pete asked "If he ever found out you had fallen for his friend, like maybe if it were you... and... maybe... Lex."
"Or you?" Lana questioned.
"Maybe, you think he would be as mad as David? You think he would hate m...Lex forever?"
"I don't think Clark is the type of person who could do that, he would probably be upset, but he'd do his best not to show it."
"He's come so close to having everything he use to watch from afar and I don't know what he would do if our... if your feelings changed."
Lana didn't answer for a long time. "Maybe if he were actually around we could ask him what if, but he's not here is he? He ran away. It would actually be a relief if I could move on to some new amazing guy, but every morning I wake up worried about him and every night I go to sleep hoping he'll be there in the morning. In-between I just try to go on with the day, like Mrs. Kent said, there's no point in sitting around depressed. And I still don't know what I'll do when he comes back."
"Lana, am I just here because Clark can't be?"
"What?" she said looking up at him.
"You can't talk to Clark or Lex or even Chloe, so it's me. I'm the next best thing to all those other people."
"I could ask you the same thing. Are you only being my friend, because the other best friends aren't available."
"I told you, I like hanging out with you."
"And I like hanging out with you," Lana replied. "You're not my replacement Clark and I hope I'm not your replacement Chloe."
"Believe me, you're not Chloe."
"Why it started doesn't matter, does it? Hopefully if... when things get back to normal, it'll be like we said before, there will be one good new thing, you and me."
They sat in silence for a few moments.
"Can I ask you something?" Lana said. "Where did this idea of me and Lex come from?"
Pete laughed. "Well, you know, things."
"Things like you flirting with Lex," Pete told her.
"I don't flirt with Lex!"
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