by Talya Firedancer

It took nearly a week to find a decent place outside the slums that will take a tenant who's had no renter's history for the past five years and still has loft space available, but Clark perseveres in the way he didn't in his search for a cell phone. It's furnished in late nineties Goodwill and the carpet has stains of questionable origin even x-ray vision can't fathom but he pays the deposit without complaining and marvels that here of all places, he found a loft apartment - one with a skylight, no less. It will come in handy, once he gets up there and modifies it.

He moves in one morning in about two minutes because all he has to shift is luggage, really, and tries not to think too hard about the transition meaning the end of something.

It's been six days since Richard left Metropolis.


That night that Richard slams the door to Perry's office Clark turns with his necktie undone, his hands on the buttons of his shirt in preparation to leave the trappings of Clark behind on the floor of the storage closet and he hesitates. Richard is pale and obviously upset and he's Clark's friend, but Lois is waiting on the roof or pretending she's not as she nurses a cigarette and Superman has left her alone to her thoughts for what could be considered too long already.

He makes a choice because he always has to.

Richard's brows raise as he catches sight of Clark. "Careful, there, if anyone besides me sees you they may think you've formed a dependency on the closet."

Clark flushes, and tries to remember how long it's been since he's done that. The first time he saw Lois, maybe. "Is something wrong?" he asks quietly, and Richard gives him a long, thoughtful look, and Clark realizes not only is his tie still undone but he's asked it the way Superman would, low and confident, as if he has the right to demand the answer.

"I have to go," Richard says. "As soon as I can book a red-eye to Baghdad."

The wrench that statement gives him leaves Clark awash in soft astonishment. "B-Baghdad? Oh, no... But, but Perry--"

"Says I'm the only one who can do this job and come back alive," Richard says, giving him a tight smile. "Ben Nassar has disappeared, his hotel thinks he was taken hostage."

Clark's lips shape the start of any number of sentences he can't work through to a less-than-awkward conclusion; Richard shakes his head and interrupts him before he's begun. "Will you take care of them?"

Oh, Clark thinks, oh no. He opens his mouth to say no, not if Richard means it like that. "Of course," he replies instead, wondering at which point he started to think about Richard's mouth the way he fondly dwells on the pulse of Lois's slender throat.

Even if Richard were not leaving, he knows now that he needs to find his own apartment as soon as possible.