Seventeen in a Small Town
by Jessie

Summary: A seventeen-year-old Pete takes issue with his love life. Slight Chloe/Lex and even slighter Clark/Lana.

Spoilers: First season, up through "The Tempest"

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: Smallville does not belong to me. No copyright infringement is intended. No profit is being made.

Archive: If you'd like to archive, please just ask first. Otherwise, you can find this story at fanfiction.net or http://www.angelfire.com/home/ideano8.

Author's Note: Special thanks to Josh for all his help and encouragement. Feedback would mean the world to me. This is my first Smallville story, so please let me know what you think of it.

***

When Pete Ross was seventeen years old he could still count on one hand the number of times he'd gotten past first base. Hell, he really didn't even need the hand to count, because there had only ever been the two times.

The fact bothered him.

He was a decent guy, wasn't he? And fairly good looking too, if he did say so himself. Smart. Athletic. Generous. There was a whole damn list of attributes he had that should have had every girl within a ten mile radius swooning over his cleats.

Except that they weren't. And no matter how he tried to explain it to himself, or how he tried to convince Chloe and Clark that his dating techniques were far better than your average high schooler's, he was more than a little frustrated by the whole thing. He was a good guy. He really was. Why the hell didn't every one else see this?

Oh sure, he could get a date with just about any one he chose in thirty seconds flat. But it was in keeping them that he had trouble. Was it just him? Was it something in the water? Was he doomed to have his picture up on the Wall of Weird alongside every other mutant freak who'd ended up dead- or worse- without ever having gone all the way?

Maybe that's what it was. Maybe he was mutated. Maybe that meteor shower had affected him just as much as it had affected every one else. Only instead of being able to shape shift or freeze stuff, he just couldn't get a girl.

Well, that was certainly a depressing thought. What kind of a comic book character would he make, if his one power was repelling the opposite sex?

But then again, maybe he was just exaggerating things. He was only seventeen, after all. He still had plenty of time to find the right girl. That one, perfect match. Some one he could spend the rest of his life with.

Or, at least, five minutes in the janitor's closet before fifth period.

It was entirely too frustrating for words.

How did Clark do it? Sure, the guy wasn't exactly the epitome of 'the ladies man.' And his track record in the dating department looked like it belonged in the newest edition of 'The Darwin Awards'. But in the past year... Well, Clark's luck seemed to have been changing.

Pete simultaneously wanted to kick his friend's ass and beg him to share his secret. Clark had two- *two*- beautiful girls hanging on his every word, and it seemed all he'd done to get them there was smile a little and wear plaid.

But the worst part? Clark had no clue. Sure, he knew about Chloe's crush. And he knew that there was something between him and Lana, especially now that Whitney was gone. But he seemed to have pushed most of this knowledge back into the far recesses of his mind where he might never have to stumble over them again for fear of embarrassment or, hell, actual happiness.

It was downright painful to watch.

Something about the whole thing made Pete slightly sick to his stomach. But then, Clark was his best friend. And Pete really was a decent guy, so he probably wouldn't be doing anything he'd live to regret anytime soon. That included telling Clark off, stealing either one of 'his' girls, or punching the guy in the face.

Sometimes being the decent guy really sucked.

Especially when he still didn't know how to find that 'right' girl. He knew she had to be out there somewhere. It was simply a matter of finding her and keeping her around long enough to convince her of his merit as a boyfriend.

And how did Clark do it? Well, Pete had once been desperate enough to ask, but in all honesty that particular conversation hadn't been one of Clark's finest hours. The guy really just didn't know what it was. Hell, he didn't even know that there was an 'it.'

But then, maybe Pete had been wrong about the whole thing. Maybe Clark was just as clueless and lost as he was. And, maybe, Pete was exaggerating things again, as he was often prone to do despite the fact that his parents were convinced that he was the more sensible of their children.

He was tired of trying to be the sensible one. Just like he was slowly becoming tired of being the decent one, even though some part of him knew that he'd never give up the title. It just wasn't in him.

But back to the source of his frustration. Or at least part of his frustration, since it was hard to blame a guy he'd once shared a sandbox with for *all* of his dating troubles. And Clark really was about as naive as they came. Always had been, and Pete was fairly certain he always would be.

So. Lana Lang had finally woken up to the fact that Clark was head over heals for her, and she for him. Wonderful. The only problem was that they were both too scared to admit it, especially since Clark still felt guilty about Chloe.

Which is where this entire soap opera really started to get interesting. If you were into that sort of thing, that is. Which Pete wasn't. But he tried to get through it as best he could, wishing all the while that everything would suddenly uncomplicate itself and let him have a shot at playing the leading man for once. You know, the one who gets the girl in the end.

He liked the idea of that a lot more than he was probably willing to admit. Because, really, what kid ever imagined themselves as the sidekick when they could be the superhero?

He'd once- lifetimes ago, when he was sixteen- thought that Chloe could be his girl. *The* girl, even. But that fantasy had died the moment Clark started to show the smallest interest in her, and Pete was forced into the very uncomfortable state of both loving Clark like a brother and hating his breathing guts.

Except that then Clark had gone and left her at the dance last year. Left her for Lana. And, when he talked to Pete about it a couple days afterward, he seemed fully convinced that Chloe would never forgive him.

How little he knew her.

Chloe, in fact, did forgive him. And it didn't take her very long either. Clark was one of her two best friends, and she wasn't about to give up that friendship because certain feelings didn't run as deep in one of them as they did in the other.

Pete had been especially happy to hear that she was through mooning over Clark. Not that she'd ever been one for sighs of longing and embarrassed giggles like most other girls. But if you knew Chloe at all, it was easy to pick up on whether or not she liked a guy.

The fact that she was willing to talk to them at all was usually a sure sign.

So Pete had been practically bouncing when he figured out that, although Chloe might still have something of a 'thing' for Clark, she wasn't as far gone as she'd once been. She seemed to have realized that there were- to pen a phrase that Pete had learned to detest over all his years of hearing it- other fish in the sea.

But, of course, none of those other fish seemed to bear the name 'Pete Ross.'

Clark, on the other hand, was oblivious to this change in Chloe, and continued to try and prove himself worthy of her and her affection. He understood that she was serious when she told him that she just wanted to be friends, but he seemed to feel a certain responsibility to stand by her side regardless. Even if it was only in the role of 'best friend number 2.'

And where did this leave Pete? Because there he was, seventeen years old, and still only able to recall two occasions when third base had even been a possibility.

He may have been a decent guy, but he was still a guy.

And really, so what if he still had something of a 'thing' for Chloe? The current competition for that particular heart was a little more intimidating than some farm-boy he'd known his whole life.

Yep, that's right. Out of all of those 'fish' in the great, wide sea that was Smallville, Kansas, Chloe's most recent crush had to be the one and only Lex Luthor.

Pete honestly didn't think his luck could get much worse. Not only had this guy stolen Clark from him, but now Chloe too.

But maybe he was looking at this all wrong. Maybe the question of the day wasn't how Clark did it, but more, how did Lex do it? Because, as much as he hated to think of it, the man had probably gotten more action than half of Smallville High combined. And with as little as there was to do in such a small town, that was saying a lot.

Only he really- *really*- didn't want to have to ask Lex about any of it, especially if it meant finding out just what Chloe would have in store for her if the two of them ever did become an item. And Pete was just waiting for the bombshell that that would be. As if the entire town- himself included- didn't have enough reasons to hate the Luthors, sooner or later they'd get to add 'corrupting the town's youth' to the list.

But no, Lex and Chloe hadn't gotten together yet. All the two of them had done was share quite a few cups of coffee and quite a few more arguments over the finer points of journalism and Metropolis.

It looked completely innocent to any one who didn't know that arguing was as close to foreplay as Chloe got.

Not that Pete knew this first hand, of course. He sincerely hoped that no one did- but didn't like to think long on that particular subject- he just knew his friends really well. He knew people in general really well, and could easily tell what made a person happy and what didn't.

Yet another item for that long list of 'things girls should find attractive about Pete but don't.'

What was he going to do?

He supposed he could always try playing the 'knight in shinning armor' card, and rescue Chloe from the evil clutches of Lex Luthor before anything serious could happen between the couple. Except that he was very keenly aware of how badly that might go. Chloe was as stubborn as Clark was naive, and Pete could only imagine how Lex got when he didn't get what he wanted. The combination seemed lethal.

Not that Pete really knew for sure whether or not Lex wanted Chloe. For all his ability to read people, he still couldn't quite figure out the boy-billionaire, and didn't really care to either. But he sure as hell wasn't willing to take the chance. And if Chloe was happy, well then...

Damn. He really hated this whole 'decent guy' thing.

One of these days he was going to have to learn that, in the grand scheme of things, nice guys finished last. Maybe that's what it was. Maybe you had to be some kind of quasi-evil along the lines of a Luthor if you wanted girls to sit up and take notice.

And maybe this train of thought was just a little too melodramatic for a seventeen-year-old football player. He didn't imagine his brothers would have had thoughts like this at his age. But then, his brothers had never had any problems getting a girl to go home with them.

Then it was just him, huh? Pete Ross, the antithesis of boyfriend material. The nice guy. The good friend. The reason such lines as, "you're like my big brother," were invented.

Maybe he *was* mutated. And Lex Luthor- who had now taken, from Clark, the majority of Pete's anger- was profiting from it. Though it wasn't as if Clark was getting away empty-handed either. He still had Lana pining over him, even if he wasn't doing anything about it. And if the thing with Lex didn't end up going where Pete was sure Chloe wanted it to go, then she'd be right there next to Lana, once again vying for wonder boy's attention.

And if the thing with Lex *did* go where she wanted it to? Well, then the situation would just be that much more difficult to take. Because there would be his two best friends in the entire world with grins plastered across their faces twenty-four seven while he sat around going over game-plans for the Crows and taking cold showers.

Oh God. What if that was how things ended up? Clark and Lana drooling over each other at the Talon while Chloe and Lex did God knows what up in that mansion.

It was too disturbing a thought for him to process.

But no, he wasn't going to do this. He wasn't going to judge like this. He was going to play the role of supportive best friend, and he was going to play it better than any ten people ever could. Because that's who he was. And that's what Clark and Chloe needed from him.

Except that, when push came to shove, and they both had their respective romantic interests all tied up- disconcerting mental images aside- what was Pete left with? Not a whole lot, as far as he could see.

At least, not in the way of dating, anyway. He still had his health, right?

Christ, that sounded lame.

But it was true. Really. He did still have his health. And his family. And two of the greatest best friends in the history of the universe, even if neither one of them were very sharp when it came to the birds and the bees. And football. And a good sense of other people. And hope that one day he'd find that perfect girl.

He was a decent guy, after all. It would happen. It had to happen.

But first he had to get through being seventeen. Which was proving much harder than his brothers had made it out to be.

Sooner or later it had to end, though, right? And then, maybe, he'd need more than five fingers to count on.

Maybe he wouldn't have to see his face up on the Wall of Weird under the heading, "dating reject."

Maybe he'd get to play the lead for once.

And maybe, in the end, he'd get the girl.


The end.