Title: One for the Team
Summary: He's only been back a day, and it starts.
Disclaimer: Ain't mine. Just playing with them.
Notes: For the SV Undercover challenge.
Pete Ross had been back in Kansas less than ten hours before he remembered why he'd left. His phone rang in the still-empty apartment, surprising him not only by shattering the perfect silence left after the movers stopped clunking his belongings around, but because he was almost positive he hadn't yet had it connected. Either Metropolis Bell was incredibly efficient, or something creepy was happening.
Looking at the receiver like there was a chance it was poisonous, he slowly brought it to his ear.
"Mr. Pete Ross, please?"
"Hi, Mr. Ross. I'm Sarah Lonergan calling from Lex Luthor's office?"
Something creepy, then. None of his stuff was unpacked. Pete wondered how fast he could make it out of the city.
"What can I do for you?" He couldn't find anything to bang his head against. His countertops weren't even clear.
"Well, Mr. Luthor first wanted to welcome you back. He also asked if you could stop by for a half an hour later this week -- say around lunchtime."
"Did he happen to mention why?" Maybe he wouldn't even unpack. If Lex had him killed: poisoned his sushi or spiked his Pad Thai, at least his personal effects could easily be shipped back to his mom.
"No, sir, he doesn't tell me the why. Just the who and the when."
She was way too chipper to be one of Lex's minions. Pete wondered if she was an android.
"Ok." He sighed. Resistance, especially if his theory about Sarah was right, would be futile. "Wednesday?"
"Great. I'll pencil you in!"
"Yes. Great." He hung up, stretched with his arms over his head, and looked around the living room.
"Welcome home, Pete."
"Pete, good to see you." Lex looked maybe two days older than he had the last time Pete had seen him.
"What do you need, Lex?"
"Hey, I just wanted to welcome you back."
"Right, and you'll forgive me if I don't entirely buy that. Now that you've dispensed with the pleasantries, tell me why I'm here, because I know you're not curious about how I've been."
"I'm not, but that's only because Clark keeps me pretty well updated. I'm sure you know about us."
Pete had been gnawing gently on the inside of his lower lip. Right around "us," he bit too hard and sucked the metallic rush away before he spoke again.
"Again, I'll ask you to get to whatever brass tacks you're planning on sticking me with."
"Well, given your distaste for Clark and my ... relationship, I'll just say --"
Pete leaned forward a little. He swore he could hear the second hand on his watch thumping a bass rhythm in his pocket.
"We're not having the smoothest of times right now."
"If you did something terrible, Lex, you gotta' know I'm not gonna' be on your side, here."
"Of course. It wasn't me, it wasn't Clark, it was just -- people have issues, and ours are driving me insane."
"Okay." Pete mentally rechecked his diploma. It definitely wasn't for counseling.
"I need you to help me with this."
"Why should I?"
"Because you're a good person. Why wouldn't you?"
"Because I don't like you, and you don't particularly like me--"
"I like you fine. I always have."
"Whatever. And because ... I don't like you."
"You covered that one."
"Yeah, no, I know. I really don't like you. Like, at all."
"Pete." Lex rubbed the palm of his hand over the side of his head. Pete felt the tiniest flicker of guilt spark in his soul.
"So, I talk to Clark, he talks to you, and you two get all kissy kissy back together, and I get what? A car? Carmen Electra? Carmen Electra in a car?"
"I was kinda' hoping you'd do it because Clark's your friend."
"I've been back in town three days, Lex! I haven't even seen Clark!"
"You should still help me out with this."
"One good reason."
"Because it'll make Clark happy. And happy Clark means a temporary cessation of mopey Clark."
"You really are an evil genius, aren't you?"
"That's what my business cards say."
"There's no nefarious plan underpinning this?"
"You want to know what my pet name is for Clark?"
Pete winced, "I don't suppose you'd consider not telling me."
"I call him my little cabbage. Only in French, and never in front of other people."
"That's ... great. Lex --"
"Point is, I love him. Enough to call him that, and enough to let him call me -- what he calls me."
Pete made a note to grill Clark for that little endearment.
"If you want, I'll never talk to you again, except for Clark-mandated holidays and social events. Even then, I'll keep it short."
And for the first time, Lex didn't look like the big bald baddie Pete had always imagined him to be. He was a guy in love, desperate enough to come begging to The Friend to save his relationship. Desperate enough to do it under full knowledge that The Friend often fantasized about sealing him in the world's largest airtight container and watching him die.
"Same phone number for Clark's cell?"
"Pete. I can't thank you enough. I swear, I'll never even look at you again."
"You and Clark, you love each other."
"Very much, while it may not appear that way right now."
"Actually, no, it's still pretty clear."
It was entirely possible that at that minute, Lex Luthor blushed.
"You don't have to not talk to me. If you're a part of Clark's life, it's about time I dealt with that."
"You're the man, Pete."
"Feel free to not say that ever again."
"Sure. Of course. My bad."
Pete glared at Lex, who was fighting the smile on his face.
"So what happened? Exactly?"
"I'm gonna' let him tell you his side. I have a feeling you wouldn't buy mine, anyway."
He shook his head as he walked out of the office.
In the elevator he dialed Clark's number and let it ring.
"Hey, this is Clark. I've either forgotten to charge my phone, or I'm sleeping, or I'm out on an assignment. Leave a message at the beep."
"Clark! Hey man, it's Pete. I'm sure you know I'm back in town -- I want to get together with you. What about dinner tonight, on me? Call me back, man."
He headed back to his apartment to unpack some more. He'd call Chloe, see how she was, and then he'd plan what to say to Clark.
© scrunchy 2004