OK, this is the end for real. Kind of predictable, but we'll see what you guys think. Let me know.

Epilogue: "Devious"

Earlier that day …

The sun was setting as the Kent family finished dinner. Martha had made her specialty, pot roast and potatoes, and they were just finishing up when there was a rap at the screen door.

Jonathan, who was facing the door, looked up. "Pete," he said, recognizing the silhouette. "Come on in."

Pete Ross entered. "Sorry to be bothering you during dinner."

"It's all right, Pete," Martha said, standing up. "We're about done."

"Let me just clear the table and wash the dishes," Clark told him.

"Let me help," Pete said.

"You don't have to do that," Clark started to say, but Pete was already running the water in the sink.

"I eat here enough times to warrant helping you with the dishes," Pete told him.

Jonathan grinned. "Maybe we should adopt you, too," he said jokingly.

The two parents retired to the living room, giving the boys time to talk as they washed and dried the dishes.

"The ball's still in your court," Pete said, handing Clark a sudsy water glass.

Clark sighed. "She doesn't want to talk to me right now."

"I heard." Clark looked up sharply at his friend, surprised that Chloe had told him about her outburst. "I was down the hall talking to Rachel Harris. I heard her screaming all the way past the south staircase." Pete's face softened. "Look, I'm not going to pretend to know everything about women, but I do have an older sister who vents often and loudly."

"And?" Clark prompted.

"And I propose that you watch a movie with us tonight at her house."

"She's going to drag me out on my ear," Clark pointed out. "And kick me with her steel-toed boots."

"Nah, she's got a soft spot for you," Pete said. He paused in his washing and looked at Clark. "Are you sure you're over your Lana fix? Because for as long as  you've been my friend, if you hurt Chloe's feelings, even bruise them slightly, I'm going to hurt you. Or die trying," he added, eyeing Clark's biceps.

"Yeah, I know," Clark said softly. "I'm over Lana. It's always been an illusion with her. Which isn't to say that we're not friends, because we are. But that's all we'll ever be, you know?"

Pete nodded.

As soon as the boys finished the dishes, Clark told his parents where they would be. Martha insisted on his bringing one of her pies. But as soon as Pete pulled up to the Sullivan house, he gasped.

"Oh, man, I forgot to do something at home," he said. Pete hoped he was a convincing liar. He rarely had any reason to lie to Clark. Pete looked at his face. Clark didn't look suspicious. Thank goodness he was so unassuming and naïve.

"OK," Clark said. "Let's go back to your house."

"Nah, you go in and hang out with Chloe," Pete insisted. "I'll be back in a couple of minutes." Clark looked dubious. "Don't worry about it. Just get in the house, make nice and we'll hang out like always. Nothing to it."

Pete drove back into the road quickly. He didn't want Chloe to see that he had dropped off Clark. Everything was going according to plan.

Pete drove home, calling Chloe on the way from his cell phone. He wondered if his plan would work. His sister told him that boring movies always did wonders for people who wanted to get together. Their minds wandered off the movie and onto each other. Pete had plodded through "Meet Joe Black" this morning and hated it. He knew Chloe would hate it. When he hung up with Chloe, he called Laura Horton. He had to tell her he was giving her video back tomorrow.

***

It was almost nine-thirty, and Pete had had cake at Laura's house with her parents. They seemed to like him, and that was always a good thing. Laura asked Pete about the video, and when Pete had said he hadn't enjoyed it, she didn't seem too broken up over it. In fact, she was happy that he was honest. Pete's phone had not rung all evening, and he took it as a sign that Clark and Chloe weren't even thinking of him. That was a good thing, right?

He decided to pass by the Sullivan house, just to peek in the window and make sure that the two weren't fighting. Or maybe Chloe had kicked him out after all. No, he decided. If Chloe had kicked him out, Pete would have received a call from Clark an hour ago.

He tiptoed to the edge of the front window, which gave a perfect view of the couch. It was better than he had planned.

The reflection from the television was the only light in the room. Chloe was snuggled up against Clark's shoulder, sleeping. The movie was still playing, but Clark wasn't paying attention to it. His arm was cradling Chloe's body, which was curled into his. His lips were buried in Chloe's hair, and his eyes were closed, too. Pete felt like a perverted old man witnessing such an intimate moment, so he looked away quickly.

"My work here is done," Pete whispered to himself, jumping over the bottom squeaky porch step and to his car.

- Fin 05.13.2002