They're out picking up sandwiches to buffer another late night and the corner joint is out of the turkey salami that Jimmy wanted, so Richard loans Clark his cell phone to ask for an alternate while Richard dissects the menu for something that his son can eat. He thinks idly that the catalogue of edible has expanded unexpectedly of late while Clark stammers through an explanation, gets an answer, and hands back the wallet-sized device as if afraid he'll break it before it's safely returned.
"Why don't you have a cell phone?" Richard questions.
"I, um, don't have anyone to call?" Clark tries, an abashed smile already rising as if he expects the answer to be unacceptable.
"You could call me." This hangs in the air for a beat before Richard continues, mouth tugging upward in a self-conscious smile, "Your mother in Kansas... the bullpen at the Planet... program in your favorite fast-food restaurants so you don't have to stand around waiting for carry-out. And, come on, you're an award-winning reporter with three Kerks under your belt, I'm sure you've got plenty of contacts that would feel safer calling a private line as opposed to the phone lines of the Daily Planet." He hopes he's buried it in enough chatter and there's a thoughtful glint in Clark's eye as he doesn't quite meet his gaze.
"I'll think about it," Clark assures him.
Richard recognizes the tight-lipped smile that is different from any other in Clark's repertoire; this is the closed door and Clark is so very polite about doing it, but no less firm for that. "It'll come in handy before you know it," he tells Clark as they reach the counter. "Come on, you've got to move into the twenty-first century some time."
"You're probably right," Clark mumbles, and this reminds Richard again that the man has been gone for so long that when he left Metropolis it really was the prior century, which in turn makes him feel like a heel so he drops the subject.
Clark knows Richard is right and he thinks about getting a cell phone during the rest of the work week and manages to defer it on the grounds of not finding the time.
The thought had occurred to him before. Of course, he doesn't want to get a cell phone because he's mortally certain he will a) lose it b) crush it by accident c) drop it somewhere when he's costumed as Superman and have someone realize those are Clark Kent's frequent contacts in the address book.
He listens and singles out ring-tones, which he never really paid attention to before - they were like radio frequencies and the variable pop tunes from peoples' portable MP3 players, background noise against the larger sound of distress calls, fire alarms, police sirens, cries for help. He is not surprised that Jimmy's ringtone is "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and Lois's is, fittingly, Venus from the symphony "The Planets" though he's pretty sure Richard programmed that for her, and Richard's is a band he doesn't recognize, with the refrain of "I just wanna fly." It's individual and telling and he can't help but think he'd be stuck with factory default not merely for being unable to program anything else.
Richard's phone is singing, enjoining anyone to "put your arms around me, baby, I just wanna fly," and Clark stands up before he knows it, before he quite realizes there's no one around for whom that would be within earshot.
"Clark?" Lois questions, lifting her head from where it's propped heavily on one arm. She looks dazed, halfway between sleep and stirring herself from a bout of intense concentration. It's late afternoon and her son is downstairs in the park down the street with Jimmy working off nervous energy and she's got copy due as soon as it's done, as does Clark, which is why they're still here.
"Uh, it's nothing," Clark says, and props himself on the edge of his desk. Richard is in Perry's office, gesturing in broad strokes.
"It's not a good time," he's telling Perry, and Clark quickly looks away. More than anything he tries not to eavesdrop on Richard.
"Tell Richard I went up to the roof," Lois sighs, pushing away from her desk.
"Uh, Lois, you shouldn't--" Clark starts, reaching reflexively for his glasses in a practiced self-conscious tic as she turns to give him the eye.
"Shouldn't what, Clark?" she asks, voice sweet, purse dangling from one hand, the other cocked on her hip. A pose of challenge, like almost all her stances.
"N-nothing." His advice is even less welcome than Superman's. As she leaves for the elevator he tracks her progress, almost unwilling, thinking it's been a long time since he put in a visit and she's probably expecting it. They should at least talk about Jason and what Superman can do for him, once he gets older.
It bothers him that Jason's first taste of power was shoving a piano across the room to kill a full-grown man. Somehow it sours in comparison to soaring through sunlit cornfields.
Clark fingers his tie and heads for the storage room.
"Fine, I'll go," Richard snaps, banging Perry's office door behind him in an unusual display of temper. There are times when having your uncle for a boss can turn the man into a whirling son of a bitch, he thinks, especially when Perry knows how to push his buttons and has no scruples in doing so. Even when it means spending a month or more away from his family.
He expects to spend the next few minutes smoothing things over with his colleagues and fiancee over the unaccustomed outburst and is surprised to find the bullpen deserted. With a sigh, Richard goes to retrieve his cell phone and pack his briefcase, shooting a look at Lois's desk - predictably, her purse is gone, so she's upstairs smoking and there's no point calling - and Clark's desk, empty with the standard Daily Planet screensaver twirling across a black backdrop.
There's no belling the man so he wonders how Clark would react if he just bought him a cell phone. There's a song by R.E.M. that he desperately wants to pre-load as Clark's ringtone but the shock value may not be worth his life. Instead, he thinks, he'll suggest Collective Soul's "Shine" because he thinks it might make him smile.