Spoiler: Duplicity, but if you don't know that Pete knows by now, you may as well not be reading fanfic. Disclaimer: somebody else owns all of it. Do whatever you want with it. Motivation: oh, I just so want to do this to some of the fatheads still running around.

It had been almost a week, and it was still -- well, weird.

Yeah, weird. Weird beyond any of the synonyms he could find in the thesaurus.

A week ago, his best friend since like forever had been a tall geeky dork, a white guy who hung out with the only black boy in his grade (which was weird enough in Smallville), who played a mean game of one-on-one with him but wouldn't go out for team sports, who fell on his ass every time he got around the cheerleader he was mooning over (and he was mooning over a cheerleader who was making out with the quarterback of the team he wouldn't even try out for, go figure), who was always running off with some lame excuse that would have made him seem like even more of a clueless dork if it weren't for the fact that he always seemed to turn up when you really, really needed a hand.

One day later he was best friends with a tall geeky white dork who just happened to be from another planet. And then he had been tied to a chair and threatened with certain torture and almost certain death by a crazy old coot who was obsessed with the stupid meteorites that had trashed the town more than a dozen years ago. He had smashed the old dude with a chair and watched the weirdometer climb yet another notch when liquefied meteorite made the dude basically vibrate to death. He had learned that the clueless dork white-guy was always running off and always turning up because he could see through walls and move faster than a car, that the clumsy geek wouldn't go out for sports because he could basically bench press the whole team, and that his fool of a best buddy fell on his ass every time he was around the cheerleader because her dumb necklace -- made from one of those ridiculous meteorites that had turned Smallville into such a crazy place -- was deadly poison to the otherwise bullet-proof extra-terrestrial he thought he had known since like forever.

There weren't enough synonyms for weird.

The tall geeky clueless dork white guy walking home from school beside him was being pretty quiet. Pete wondered what it was like to LIVE the definition of weird.

Two days ago, he'd accused his best friend of being a liar (which he was) and stormed out on him, pushing away the image of the desperate hurt on Clark's face, vowing not to ever speak to the only guy he'd ever really hung out with, ever again. Then his best friend had stopped his car, which had been doing thirty at the time, with his bare hands.

No wonder he was a liar. He had to be. About his whole life, and everything he was. Pete would never, ever, get that image out of his mind.

("Pete." Deep breath. "I'm sorry. I wanted to tell you. I just couldn't.")

("How the -- " many shallow breaths. "How the HELL did you just DO that?")

("The spaceship." Clark had sat down heavily in the dirt, as if talking were much more of an effort for him than bringing a car in third gear to a dead stop by standing in front of it. "The reason we tried to get it back. The reason I had to lie to you. It's mine.")

("Now what bull are you talking, man? I'm the one who found it!")

("No." Clark looked up at him in torment, and if Pete hadn't been so mad and confused, the fear and pain in his best buddy's eyes would have terrified him. "I mean, it's MINE. It's how I came here.")

("How ... you ... came ... ")

("Here." Clark stood up wearily, and made a half-hearted sweeping gesture around them. "To Earth.")

So maybe he could be forgiven for going a little freaked out. Yeah, right. He wasn't the one who had to spend his whole life as an exile on a planet where he didn't belong. Pete wondered how Clark kept from going crazy, absolutely flipping out sometimes. It had to be tempting, to chuck the whole secret thing and say to hell with it, why even bother with Algebra 2? Why bother with anything? Why have to pretend to be normal all the time?

Except for the minor matter of people like Hamilton. And the Luthors. Pete shuddered. If Lionel ever found out about Clark, and the meteorites ... he would rather sell himself into slavery at Lex's mansion first.

And Clark was still friends with the jerk, even knowing the Luthors had been behind Hamilton! Pete decided to keep a sharp eye out for green rocks from now on.

"Penny for your thoughts," his alien best buddy said softly.

"Uh?" Pete felt a flash of embarrassment at being caught out. "What makes you think I was thinking?" he joked, covering fast. "About anything except girls, that is."

"You shivered. I didn't think it was cold. I just wondered if, well...." Clark trailed off, looking away.

Oh, hells. Clark was worried that Pete was still mad at him over the whole secrets thing. Or worse yet, scared of him, now that he knew what Clark could do. Or maybe Clark was worried that his best friend wouldn't want to be friends with someone anymore when they turned out to be from another planet.

Abruptly, Pete was very angry indeed, a deep slow anger burning all the way to the core of his sense of justice. He fed the flames speculatively, waiting to see what they would build into, while changing the subject on the surface.

"No, it's not cold. You can't tell?"

Clark shrugged. "Not really. I mean, I can match grades to a thermometer by touch, but I have to concentrate on it. Like the vision thing."

"Real scientific there, mister wizard," Pete snorted. "No wonder you have the fashion sense of a magpie. You probably just put on whatever was lying around on the floor last." He mimed a swat at Clark's head, not to break his hand, reaching for the worst accent his oldest brother had ever tried to teach him. "An' yo momma dresses you funny!"

Clark threw back his head in genuine laughter. "Pete! I haven't let mom dress me since second grade. And where on EARTH did you learn to talk like that?"

"Television, of course," Pete said in an elaborate British World News accent. Clark collapsed into giggles. Pete smiled. It was good to see Clark lighten up and actually let go a little. Maybe he could make his confession while the mood was still light. "Actually, yeah, I was kind of thinking about you. About how tough all this must be on you. About what a doofus I was for freaking on you. About what I said to you. Clark, I'm really sorry about that. I know that's not enough. I don't know any way to make it up to you. And if you told me to get lost, I'd deserve it. But still -- thanks for being a friend."

Clark blinked, and his eyes went suspiciously bright. Oh, lordy, no, Pete prayed, please don't cry. If my brothers ever found out.... I'd never live it down.

"You don't -- owe me anything," Clark managed, huskily. "I'm sorry about -- having to lie to you. And I'm sorry about having to tell you the truth. It wasn't -- fair to you. To have to put you in that position." He ran his sleeve over his eyes, and Pete stepped up his prayers that no one saw. "Lose-lose situation," he shrugged, a little more under control but with a defeat in his voice that made Pete cringe. "Some friend, huh?"

The anger that Pete had been nursing went up in a full-sized bonfire. He grabbed Clark by the upper arms and wrenched him around -- fully aware, from the moment's resistance, that he could only do so because Clark allowed it out of surprise -- and hissed into his astonished face. "You -- you dork! You doofus! You total, clueless dimwitted...." His mouth worked for another minute, soundlessly, out of words.

"Alien?" Clark supplied, with a pitiful attempt at a smile that cut Pete's heart even as it fed the fire. "Freak?"

"Yeah!" Pete shoved him back, so mad that he actually budged Clark one amazed step. "Alien! Freak! The only white boy in Smallville who pals around with the only black kid in class! Man! They still lynch you in some places for that, you know? Is that the only reason you hung around with me? Because you weren't afraid of being lynched? Is that the only reason you trusted me at all? Because you knew you couldn't be hurt by the rednecks? Yeah, some friend! I'm not mature enough, or man enough, or WHITE enough, to be your friend? So much for 'welcome to the family'! Or did your dad really mean that he didn't think a BLACK boy could handle the responsibility?"

Clark went a distinct shade of green. And they call ME colored, Pete snorted to himself. The fury was fading, having found an outlet, but the fire remained in his mind. He was going to have to do something about that overactive sense of justice, a separate cool part of his mind decided. Maybe become a lawyer. Or take on a business. Or run for Congress.

"Pete...." Clark whispered. For one awful moment, Pete thought Clark might faint. He gripped Clark's biceps again, in support this time, to keep him from falling. "Don't...."

Whatever words Pete might have been able to dredge up -- and oh, hells below hells, he had really stepped over the line now, but there was no going back -- his prayers were all but answered by the interruption of snickers and catcalls from the basketball court they had been passing. "Heeey, lookit the faggots!" "Hey, Ross, ain't he a little pale for you?" More jeers, consisting mostly of unimaginative obscenities and racial epithets.

Pete's fury flared up again, but it was nothing compared to the sudden supernova that went off behind Clark's eyes. For one second, Pete felt the muscles under his hands turn to solid steel. For one second, he got an all-too-frightening sense of what Clark really was, and what he could do. To the lizard-brain of ancient instinct, being in the presence of such power was more terrifying than the worst of nightmares and monsters.

To Pete Ross, Clark's best friend, it was a giddying drunken high. Clark, a teenager more alone than anyone had ever been, a reclusive boy whose capabilities defied imagination, had trusted him with the knowledge of himself. His whole self.

Clark turned to face the three senior jocks (that even Whitney had gone out of his way to warn his younger friends were bad news) on the court, the casual relaxed movement belying the flare Pete had seen in his eyes. Pete personally would rather have faced a two-ton scorpion. "Actually," Clark said in a gently carrying voice that would have sent anyone with any brains screaming down the street, "we were just talking about going out for the team when you get booted for cheating."

"Haw, haw!" More crude comments concerning the athletic prowess of the known wimp and the, well, shorter boy, who seemed to have a "thing" for each other.

"Mm. Maybe we could learn a few things from you, then. Care for a game of two-on-three?"

Pete's eyes went very wide. "You WOULDN'T," he whispered.

"Let's just say," Clark returned in a low calm voice, "That people who aren't human don't have much tolerance for bigots, either."

Oh. Hells twice over. Pete hadn't quite thought that one out when he threw Clark's self-pity back in his face. Sure, Clark could pass as a white boy. But he wasn't.

Clark's saunter over to the court was something Pete had never seen before, either. What must it be like, to know that no one and practically nothing could touch you? And to have to hide it? No, Pete corrected himself, to CHOOSE to hide it.

So that he could have friends. Like Pete.

Clark took the ball out of the would-be bully's hands with a smooth, not-quite-super-fast motion that made the three suddenly a little uneasy. Clark could not, after all, hide his size and physique. They began to wonder if they had let themselves in for a little more competition than they had bargained for.

Clark didn't relieve them of any misgivings when he turned to Pete and remarked, "Remind me not to break the backboard."

"Who do you think you are, Michael Jordan?" Pete showed all his teeth.

Clark laughed. ("Holding back?" Pete had asked "A little." Small smile and self-deprecating shrug. Yeah, sure. Like a rocket was "a little" more powerful than his car.)

Pete wasn't sure he even wanted to imagine how difficult a game his friend had to play, every day. How hard it must be to even get out of bed every morning and put on the careful restraints, the false face. How hard it was to never be able to quit playing pretend.

Clark was looking directly at Pete when his mid-court shot bounced unerringly back to his partner. He blocked two opponents' rush with unobtrusive fingers. Pete made score after score after score, and Clark just always seemed to be accidentally in the way of the jocks. (Pete imagined they were going to have quite a collection of bruises from their increasingly obvious attempts to elbow the brother from another planet.)

It wasn't at all like having Michael Jordon on your side. More like having a genie run interference for you. More like being partners with a god.

The game began to attract observers, and Clark slowed himself down with a sigh. It was just a game.

Just another game.

(But Pete was surrounded by girls afterward, and Jonathan, who'd heard a detailed and expansive account from a proud Papa Ross, snuck a wink at Clark after dinner.)

Clark actually made it to the bus on time the next morning. He and Pete exchanged a high-five (Pete remembered all the times he'd done that before he knew that Clark's high-five could shatter a bank vault, and shook his head). They sat sniggering to each other and basking in the admiration of all the jock wanna-bes who were now trying to figure out how to get the famous Pete-and-Clark team to either play against them or join them.

Pete's admiration, though he was careful not to embarrass either of them by showing it, was reserved for Clark. Not for the ball game. For the other game, the much harder one, that Clark had to play every second of every day. For being a friend.

Weird, hell. Some games, Clark's smile told him, were worth playing.