When Pete met Clark, Clark was eating his mother's daffodils. Pete was only three at the time, so he didn't know they were daffodils, but he did know that they tasted bad, and that Clark was gonna be in really big trouble.
Actually, at the time he didn't know Clark's name, either. He'd just been dropped off by Mrs McKinney and was very angry, because Sarah Schubert had kicked him in the knee when he didn't share his truck, and he stormed down the path to tell his mother he hated daycare and was never going back again, ever, except this kid was sitting in the garden, chewing on flowers.
Oh, and he wasn't wearing anything, either.
"Who the hell are you?" Pete said (Sam had just taught him to say the H-word).
Clark smiled at him, and offered a flower.
"You're in hell trouble with my Mom," Pete said, and took Clark's hand and led him around the back to his treehouse.
Clark didn't know how to play any games, and he didn't talk, but he did break the leg off Pete's He-Man doll. Pete was gonna yell, but Clark started crying, so he didn't. When Mrs Kent came running out, Clark held up the doll and said a lot of stuff that sounded like what Ling Xiu said to her mother, and Pete thought for sure he was getting the blame.
"Oh, honey," Mrs Kent said, "it's okay." She knelt down and whispered to Pete. "If he ever breaks anything, don't worry, we'll get you another one."
"Yes ma'am," Pete said, and he and Clark Kent became best friends.
Pete knew he was way cooler than his new best friend Clark. After all, he had three older brothers and knew more words than Clark. Not that Clark knew many words at all, but Pete had fun teaching him. Clark knew milk, cookies, sandwich (kind of-- he thought everything he could eat was a sandwich, including flowers). Pete taught Clark He-Man, ice-cream, cartoons, ass, and cooties; after that, Clark seemed to manage just fine on his own.
When they started kindergarten, it was cool to already have a best friend. The other kids didn't like Clark much, because he didn't like to play, and wouldn't touch anything unless Pete told him it was okay. The other kids said Clark was weird. Pete took him outside and fed him flowers until Clark smiled again.
It was like having a little brother, which was extremely cool.
When Pete was six, he and Clark saved up their pocket money and ordered themselves some Amazing Live Sea Monkeys from the back of an Incredible Hulk comic. Every day after school, they ran to Pete's place to see how much they'd grown. Clark usually ran with Pete for half of the way and then raced out of sight after the corner shop.
When they'd had them for two weeks, Pete arrived home to find Clark staring glumly into the space shuttle tank. "I think they're sick," Clark said.
Pete checked, and they weren't swimming very much. "Perhaps they need more sun," he suggested. "We'll put them out on the porch."
"Good idea." Clark picked them up, and the shuttle exploded.
"Clark!" Pete shouted. "You shouldn't have touched them!"
Clark scrabbled on the wet carpet. "I'm sorry! I forgot! Quick, get a bowl or something!"
Pete shoved him out of the way. "No, don't touch them. You get a bowl, and don't break it on the way up."
Clark was back with a bowl of water, and Pete put all the sea monkeys they could find into it. When he'd finished, he noticed that Clark was really upset.
"Sorry," he said. "It's not your fault."
"It is. I forgot to be careful." Clark stared sadly into the bowl. "They're not moving."
"They're only stupid sea monkeys," Pete said. "Sam says they're not real monkeys anyway."
"They are so!"
"They're baby prawns, Sam says," Pete insisted. "We should just eat them now."
"I'm not hungry," Clark said, but then reconsidered. "Maybe they'll wake up if we put them in the microwave?"
When Pete was eight, he discovered girls. Clark spoke English by then, but he didn't seem to understand when Pete told him about Lucy Maynes and her curly hair and her eyes and her smile.
Pete said he was going to ask Lucy to go behind the bike shed.
"You don't have a bike," Clark said.
"You don't have a fucking clue," Pete said (Sam had just taught him the F-word).
"You don't have a fucking bike!" Clark said back, and then blushed and ran to the boy's bathroom and put a bar of soap in his mouth.
Pete went behind the bike shed with Lucy, and she kissed him and then kicked him in the balls.
"Women," Sam explained, "are crazy cunts. Don't say that word around Mom."
"Cool," Pete said, struggling manfully with his pain.
He didn't say the word around Clark, either.
When Pete was ten, Clark discovered Lana Lang.
"Man, I told you she was fine," Pete said.
"She's really nice," Clark atmitted, but whenever she came over to talk to him, his face turned green and he ran away.
"Really, girls don't bite," Pete said, rubbing Clark's back as he dry heaved. "Well, not girls like Lana, anyway."
"I think I'm allergic to girls," Clark said, eyes filling with tears.
"Have I ever told you that you're a world class freak?" Pete said. Clark smiled and put on his tough face, and he was okay after that.
When Pete was thirteen, Chloe transferred in from Metropolis and permanently attached herself to Clark. He didn't mind, because she was funny and made great sandwiches (which he called "daffodils" whenever Clark was around), and she told him all the girl secrets he wanted to know, including what Jennifer Colley said about him in the girls' bathroom. They were friends for life, after that.
"Is it just me," she said one hot day when they were swinging on swings in the park out of sheer mind-numbing boredom, "or is Clark kinda--"
"Not of this earth?" Pete guessed.
"Yeah," she said, chewing her gum, and leaned back until her blonde hair trailed through the gravel with every swing.
"He's a friendly alien," Pete told her. "He's trying to learn our customs."
"And he's been on this planet for how long?" she demanded.
Pete grinned. "When it comes to little social intricacies, like asking girls on dates, Clark Kent is a very slow learner."
When Pete was fourteen, Chloe showed him a scrapbook. "Swear you won't tell Clark," she said, and wouldn't let him have it until Pete hooked pinkies with her and vowed on his grandmother's grave. He took the scrapbook home and read it from cover to cover, and then ran all the way to Chloe's with it. "You think Clark is like Petunia Wilson?" he demanded.
"Have you got a cowpat for a brain?" she snapped. "Petunia could stretch her body like she was rubber. Clark can't do that."
Pete hadn't had his growth spurt yet, so Chloe was taller than him, but he still managed to back her into the corner of her bedroom. "You listen up and you listen good," he told her. "Clark is my friend and if you so much as--"
"Chill out, Spartacus!" she said, making frantic 'no' motions with her head and her hands. One of her braids swung out and slapped Pete on the cheek, and he backed out of their reach. "I was thinking, maybe if we find out what's causing all this stuff, we can help Clark rejoin the human race."
"Oh." Pete sat on her bed and studied her Backstreet Boys posters while he thought about it.
Chloe sighed, and flopped down beside him. "Petunia went really whack, Pete. I just thought it might help if we had more information."
"Petunia's father ran off with their plumber. I don't think that's gonna happen to Clark."
"Yeah," Chloe said, eyes sparkling, "but the Kents have a really hot postman."
Pete thumped her head with the scrapbook and then thought for another minute and said, "okay."
"We're his friends," Chloe said, taking a deep breath and letting it out again.
"We've got his back," Pete agreed, and then forgot about the scrapbook, because he'd noticed that there was lipstick on her David Duchovny poster.
When Pete was fifteen, he convinced Chloe to tell Clark about the Wall of Weird.
"Look," he said to her. "We've figured it out, but it's no use if he doesn't know. We can't keep this from him."
"Do you think he-- uh." she waved a hand at the wall, which looked more Weird by the day.
"I don't think anything," Pete said. "I just think we need to let Clark in on the secret, and leave the rest up to him."
When Pete was sixteen, Lex Luthor came to his birthday party.
"Look, Clark," he hissed, after some complex eyebrow communication had convinced Chloe to distract Lex. "I'm not sayin you can't have sons of evil money-sucking bitches for friends, but I'm not sayin' he's got a personally monogrammed Ross House welcome mat either, you know?"
Clark looked like he'd just broken Pete's He-Man doll. "Pete, c'mon. He was all alone, and he's been working twenty-hour days to save the plant. And he brought you a cool present."
Pete looked over at his Mom, who had kept a careful list of all the toys of his that Clark had ever broken. Pete had been fourteen before he found out that Mrs Kent never knew about any of them. She was staring at Lex with something like admiration.
Chloe caught his eye and told him in eyebrow language to chill out and pull the stick out of his ass. Pete told her he was gonna tell Lex she had a big girly my-hero crush on him. She told him she did not! and flounced into the living room to dirty dance with Patrick Walden.
"Okay, maybe. It depends what the present is," Pete told Clark, and Clark beamed.
"It's a limited edition Beastie Boys LP!" he blurted, and then ducked his head. "Um. But try to act surprised when you open it."
Pete faked the surprise but not the delight, and Clark rested his hand on Lex's shoulder, and a little "o" of surprise formed on Chloe's lips.
"So, not an alien," Pete said later, as she helped him clean up.
"Apparently not," Chloe said, resolutely gathering up dirty glasses.
When Pete was seventeen, he and Chloe broke up. Or, more accurately, Chloe dumped him.
"Eight fucking months," he said into his beer glass. The beer made bubbles when he talked into it. "Eight fucking months."
Clark tried to take the glass away from him. Pete didn't let him. "I'm sure she'll realise that she's made a mistake," Clark promised.
"She is wrong, wrong, wrong, and stupid, and that sleazoid prick will go back to Metropolis and fuck all his sorority girlfriends but not before he gives her a disease that makes her itch for the rest of her life."
"Well," Clark said. "I wouldn't exactly put it that way."
"And by the way," Pete said, "when are you gonna tell Lana that it's really Lex you're hot for?"
Oops, he thought, after a minute. He might have had too much beer to drink. He started to apologise, but Clark wasn't there anymore.
When Pete was eighteen, he and Clark roomed together at Met U. He couldn't help noticing that Clark--
"that you float in your sleep, okay? And don't tell me you don't, because you wake me up every morning when you crash back down again."
"Oh," Clark said. "I'm really sorry, Pete. I can only control it when I'm awake."
"So," Pete said, after Clark sat there and looked miserable for a while. "What happened? You were in a plane when the meteor shower hit?"
"Something like that," Clark said, then stood up and started pacing. "No, actually, there's a lot more."
"Good," Pete said. "'Cause the plane theory didn't account for the clairvoyance and the teleporting."
When Pete was nineteen, Clark stopped sleeping in their dorm room. He'd strip down, brush his teeth and climb into bed, but sooner or later Pete would look over and Clark wouldn't be there any more. Clark would occasionally drift off into a blissful smile, but he spent too much time tearing paper into shreds for Pete's liking. Lex Luthor had also started calling again.
"I'm gonna take a wild guess," he said, when he'd gotten four cones into Clark and Clark was floating bonelessly above their filthy carpet, "a blind stab in the dark, and speculate that you and Lex are on again."
Clark smiled goofily, then frowned, and then crashed to the floor.
"I'm discreet, not stupid," Pete told him. "I wanna know if he's treating you right."
Pete went down to the LexCorp building between classes the next day, and asked to see Lex. He was surprised that it only took a few minutes before his name penetrated the secretarial firewall, and he was ushered into a glass-walled office.
"Pete," Lex said, warm smile and vibes that raised the hair on the back of Pete's neck. "What can I do for you?"
An insolently raised non-eyebrow.
Pete thumped both fists on the desk, and got right in Lex's face. "I've got some advice for you Luthor, and if you give a motherfucking damn about Clark Kent you're gonna thank me for it when I'm done."
Lex smiled at him, a rare genuine smile, like a shark's. "Okay. I'm listening."
"I've been Clark's best friend since we were three. I knew Clark when he couldn't speak English. I know more about Clark Kent than anybody except maybe his parents, and I'm telling you, I don't know a whole lot."
Lex leaned back in his leather chair. "And your point is?"
"My point is," Pete told him, "I don't know the half of it, but what I know is enough. And if what you know isn't enough for you, then you don't deserve him, and you and I are going to have a problem."
"What are you implying, exactly?"
"I'm implying that you need to send Clark some flowers and swear to him on your mother's fucking grave that you'll stop snooping around behind his back."
There was a flicker of reaction, there, and Pete felt the shark grin slide into place on his own lips.
"I think you want Clark to be happy, Lex, and right now, he isn't happy. Just so you know."
Lex didn't say anything, so Pete left.
By the time he got back to the dorm, there was a bunch of flowers (roses, one of Clark's favourites) sitting on Clark's bed, and an envelope for Pete on his dresser.
Gold-embossed Lexcorp stationary. Lex's messy left-handed scrawl. 'Thank you.'
When Pete was twenty, Lana came back from Paris.
"Is Clark around?" she asked, after ten minutes of polite small talk.
"He kinda--" Pete gestured to Clark's bed, covered in clothes and books. "He kinda lives with Lex in everything but name."
"Oh," she said, flawless face falling.
"Listen, Lana," he said, clearing a space on the bed and sitting her down on it. "I know you blame me, but it was for the best, you know?"
"I don't know what gives you the right to make those decisions for us," she said, dropping the pleasantly distant veneer.
"I didn't think it was fair to you," Pete snapped. "Eventually, Clark agreed with me."
"Oh," she said again. "I'm sorry, Pete. I just--"
"Hey, no, I'm sorry." He got up and grabbed his jacket. "Come on. I'll take you out and make it up to you."
When Pete was twenty-one, he and Lana went home for the summer.
He called Clark's place while Lana unpacked for them, and Mrs Kent told him that Clark was staying at Lex's for the weekend.
"He, uh. At the mansion?"
"He told us," Mrs Kent said.
"It's a good thing," Pete assured her. "They're good together."
She sighed. "Tell that to Clark's father."
"You know," Pete said. "I think I will."
When Pete and Lana drove up to the Luthor mansion, Clark and Lex were sitting on the grass by the flowerbeds, surrounded by stems.
"What about this one?" Lex said, holding out a daffodil.
"Hi guys!" Clark said, and took a bite out of it. "We're getting in touch with my inner freak."
"He likes those," Pete told Lex. "And hydrangeas, you got any hydrangeas?"
"No hydrangeas," Lex said, "but try a violet, they're delicious."