The Bottom of the Glass

by Talya Firedancer

It's the end of the week and having Clark in the house has made Richard realize how starved he is for human companionship - at least, not the distaff kind. Though Clark seems to have this ridiculously early bedtime for an internationally-recognized reporter signaled by the shutting of the spare room door shortly after Jason's down for the night, he and Richard have talked every evening during and after dinner about all kinds of things. Discussing everything from Prufrock to the perception of Americans abroad to the best place to eat in Kuala Lumpur to the complexity of the socioeconomic and religious instabilities of the Middle East is a welcome change from immersion in Dora's Explorer and Disney movies.

Beyond child-rearing, though, his conversations with Clark make him realize that most of his free time for the past five years has revolved around the pursuit of Lois. Which is ridiculous, really, when one thinks of it because they're engaged. They've moved in. They have a child and dinnerware in common.

What other hurdles should he have to overcome?

Jimmy Olsen invites them out for drinks and Richard is only too happy to accept, seeing that Jason is with Lois and her parents for the twice-yearly visit. And Richard makes sure that Clark can't escape as it looked he would, edging for the door with both hands clasped awkwardly over his briefcase.

"What else do you have to do tonight?" he asks with a laugh. "You don't need to be in bed by nine tonight and there's no earth-shaking stories that need coverage..."

"W-Well, you know, early to bed and...and, early to rise--"

"All work and no play make Jack a dull boy," Richard counters, and Jimmy blocks Clark's escape route, and they're headed for the favorite bar nearby where the bartender/owner Bippo is already pulling draft in anticipation of Jimmy's arrival.

Two hours and too many beers later, Jimmy is engaged in a furiously gesticulating conversation over the finer points of last night's game with Bippo. Richard is propping up the counter with his elbows, tie loose around his neck as he thinks he really should have ordered an appetizer or plate of something an hour or even thirty minutes ago and he tries not to seem as if he's staring at Clark, who is drinking the fifth beer Richard bought for him and only looks reflective. In the future, Richard thinks, he should not try to drink this man under the table but he still wants to get him into a game of poker.

"You know," Richard says suddenly, "you were gone for three days after the earthquake and you didn't call in."

"I'm sorry?" Clark says, turning the wide startlement of blue eyes on him.

"No one...I don't think anyone else noticed," Richard continues, pushing his beer back and forth between his hands, gazing at the last two alluring amber inches within. "But I asked...I asked Perry. And he said, well, you were probably out on the street covering human interests angles. But you didn't call in."

Clark's mouth rounds in what would be "ohshit" for anyone else but with him is merely a meek "ohh."

"And you didn't come back with any human interest stories," Richard says, eyeing him as the silence stretches on his end. Clark, he is rapidly learning, is a terrible dissembler. He has relied too much on his ability to be invisible to pretty much everyone except Jimmy.

"Well...well, know, i-it was a chaotic time for everyone, and I..." Clark gulps, picks up his tankard, and manfully drains it in one continuous swallow.

Richard wants to applaud but recognizes this would probably be embarrassing for both of them.

"So..." he prompts.

"Um?" Clark looks as if he wants to pretend he forgot about the non-question.

"I know your secret. Admit it," Richard says, and Clark's vulnerable expression gives him the sensation he's just kicked a puppy. Again. Perhaps Clark has had a few too many, after all. "You were at the vigil for Superman, weren't you?"

The dawning relief is not lost on him. "Yes. Well. Yes, I was." Clark is nodding vigorously, and Richard nods too, and they both pretend this was what Richard was going to say originally.

It's too bad Richard is going to forget this in the throes of a wicked hangover by morning.