After this, Clark thought, he may never attend a party again. Aside from the obvious injustice of the situation, Clark couldn't even occupy himself with Pete. He had finally tracked down the host, chatting up some girl, and needless to say he wasn't keen to exchange small talk with his pissed-off best friend. Pete hadn't been acting like himself for the entire day, in fact, and Clark worried that the murders were getting to him more than he was letting on.
It wasn't long before Clark was back in the living room, weaving in between the sea of teenagers. His armchair was now occupied by a couple making out, and he groaned, turning around to reach for another can of soda.
A sudden scream cut through the chatter and buzz like a knife, demanding silence from the room, which obeyed - aside from the music, which continued to blare. Clark froze, hand inches away from a soda can, and he snapped around.
The center of the room had cleared, everyone who had occupied it pressing themselves as close to the walls as possible. Every person except three.
At the other end of the room, huddled together and terrified, the drunk red-head and her boyfriend gripped each other. The girl was on the verge of tears, mouth still open from the scream she had just uttered. Facing them no more than two meters away, eyes cold and murderous, stood Pete, gun in hand.
The couple stood shaking, clinging to one another for what they knew might be the last time. They were too scared to beg for help, and the crowd of teenagers were too scared to offer it. All of Pete's body language, his expression, the way he held the pistol not too tightly or too loose, it was so certain, so purposeful. He wasn't bluffing.
Acting on instinct, and not even registering the room full of people, Clark darted out from the crowd and in a flash, tackled Pete to the ground, rolling through the doorway into the dining room. The gun went off, putting a small, bullet-shaped hole in the ceiling, and producing a few more screams.
As soon as Clark returned to normal speed and let go of his friend, Pete was back on his feet, his fingers slack around the pistol.
"Pete! What are you doing?" Clark kept his tone low so as not to attract any attention to the room, but urgent to show Pete he was serious. Although, he had a feeling that no one would come looking for Pete even if the two of them were yelling at the top of their lungs. Even now, he could hear the scurry from the next room as people hurried to get out of the house.
Pete's face hosted a strange expression - not murderous, and not angry like a minute before. It was a mix between confusion and gratitude. "I did it for you." Was all Pete said before his eyes rolled up into his head and he collapsed in a heap on the floor.
12.47am. On the front lawn of the Ross household, at least thirty people stood, mingling, sobbing, taking statements from the witnesses. All their faces were colored blue and red from the lights fixed atop the two police cars parked on the front lawn. And in the back of one, unconscious, sat Pete, slumped against the window, hands in cuffs behind his back.
Needless to say, someone had called the cops. Everyone who had been at the party was questioned, and (to Clark's relief) they all gave the same story as to how he was stopped; "I didn't see anything, he just... disappeared."
This was the same thing Clark said when he was asked. He was glad that no one had seen him use his powers, but he was far from happy. What had gotten into Pete back there, he had no idea, but it disturbed him beyond comparison. His words still rang clearly in Clark's mind, a doppelganger for the guilt he'd already been feeling.
I did it for you
"I just can't imagine Pete doing something like that." Martha said for the hundredth time as she tipped more scrambled eggs onto Clark's plate. The news had reached home before Clark had, and hadn't been able to leave either of his parents' minds since.
"It's like he just lost control." Clark recounted the night before. "And when I stopped him, he said... he said he did it for me."
"He said what, Clark?" Jonathan turned all his attention on his son, but Clark had prepared for this, and shoved an extra-large forkful of eggs into his mouth. Jonathan sighed, recognizing the weak avoidance tactic, and continued. "Son, you can't have this kind of damning evidence against you, you're already linked to these murders in too many ways."
"But I didn't do anything!" Clark insisted through a mouthful of egg.
Jonathan nodded. "I know, son, I know you didn't." He braced a reassuring hand on Clark's shoulder. "We know you, and we know you're not capable of anything like that. But the problem is, those sheriffs don't."
"Well what am I supposed to do?" Clark asked, exasperated. "Call a do-over, get him to take it back?"
"You need to go and see Pete and try to work out what's going on in that head of his." Jonathan said firmly. "He's going to be questioned, and you need to make completely sure that he isn't going to say anything that might land you in there with him."
Clark entered the Torch just as Chloe replaced her telephone on the receiver. He'd heard the end of the conversation from a distance, but not enough to know what the outcome was.
"Was that the sheriff's department?" Clark asked as soon as he was through the doorway. Chloe jumped and whirled around, a hand flying to her chest.
"Clark! You scared me." She paused for her heart to slow to its regular pace, then looked at him strangely. "Yeah, it was. You're quite the eavesdropper."
"What did they say?" Clark asked, ignoring her comment.
"About Pete?" Chloe asked, as if it wasn't already obvious. "Do you want the good news or the bad news?"
Clark's heart sank. "I'll take both."
"Alright." Chloe seated herself to relay the information her press-pass had just helped her receive. "The good news is, Pete can't be responsible for the murders and Lana's attack."
"He has an alibi?" Clark guessed.
"Not just one." Chloe informed him. "Pete has an alibi for every single night someone was murdered. No way is he their guy."
"That's a relief." Clark felt as if the weight on his shoulders had been lessened slightly, but then he braced himself. "And the bad news?"
"He's still up for attempted murder." Chloe said, bringing the weight straight back down again. "If he's found guilty, he'll be facing a minimum jail time of seven years."
"But how can he NOT be found guilty?" Clark groaned, realizing Pete's chances were pretty slim. "He turned a gun on some innocent kids; there was a room full of witnesses."
"This is Smallville, Clark." Chloe said simply. "And Pete's behavior was... not his own. There's a good chance that something else is going on here. Something that could potentially save Pete from prison."
Clark couldn't say how much he hoped she was right. He took a moment, absorbing everything she had just told him. It was hard to think of Pete in prison, sharing a cell with a guy twice his size and age. It wasn't how he knew Pete.
"Can we at least go see him?"
The guard unlocked a second gate which led into the small concrete hallway lined with cells. It had always reminded Clark of the pound, except instead of locking away dogs, they locked away humans.
The iron-bar door swung open, letting Clark and Chloe into the narrow hallway. "You've got ten minutes." The guard informed them, before locking the door behind them and turning to go back to whatever job he'd been doing previously.
Pete was in the first cell, sitting with his back against the stone wall. He was clad in a neon-orange jumpsuit which clashed frightfully with his skin tone. He turned when he heard them come in, but made no move to get up, and he stared at his friends in apprehension as if he wasn't sure what they were going to say. The two were silent for a moment, before Clark finally approached the bars.
"How's it going?" He offered weakly. He didn't know how Pete would react - if he'd cooled down from the previous night or not. However, he did know that - for the moment, anyway - he was glad for the iron bars separating them.
"Oh, can't complain." Pete replied sarcastically, but both Clark and Chloe were glad to hear the good-natured tone in his voice.
"How are they treating you?" Chloe asked, surprising even herself by the first question that came to her lips.
Pete shrugged, getting to his feet. "Like I tried to kill a couple people."
"Only fair, I suppose..." Chloe mumbled, slightly taken aback by his forwardness. Clark, however, was pleased with his friend's attitude - whatever had happened to him last night was gone now. This was the Pete he knew.
Still, he had to ask.
"Pete, what happened with you last night?" He spoke the question on all of their minds.
Pete sighed, but didn't break eye contact. He wiped the sweat from his palms against the orange fabric of his pants, and nodded. "Well, my new friends don't believe me," Pete rolled his eyes down the hall to where two guards were standing, deep in what was surely a meaningful conversation. "But I'm gonna be totally honest with you."
It was now that his cheery façade gave way, showing the nervous temperament they all knew had been lurking underneath. His brows knotted together in worry, he leaned close to the bars so that he could speak softly.
"Clark, I don't remember anything."