by Talya Firedancer

Richard leans against his shoulder, a pensive look etched onto his handsome features that has only deepened over the past few minutes, and Clark waits patiently for the first hints of what's bothering him to come forth. They're lying sprawled together on the bed, having done in the couch beyond death or unnatural lifespan, and they share a glass of Shiraz that Richard keeps filling from the bottle set within reach on the nightstand.

"You'll have to tell him some time," Richard says at last.

Clark is no mind reader, but sometimes with long familiarity or sudden insight, physiological reactions will give him cues obvious as someone screaming into his ear. Richard doesn't use a bullhorn but he's always got Clark's attention. Tonight, it's an easy guess as to the subject matter; really, Clark had it narrowed down to one of two topics.

"I know," he answers, equally grave. "Not yet."

"Then when?" Richard prompts, and his pulse is quickening now, the pace of his heart transmitting a vestige of fear over things he can't control and hardly understands. It won't be calmed by the kiss Clark drops on his bare shoulder.

"I'm always listening to Jason now," Clark tells him. "I won't let anything happen." Anything else, the thought lies unspoken between them, and Richard finds purpose in straightening out a wrinkle in the sheet; Clark closes his eyes. It's always thus, because no matter how hard he listens, sometimes there is something bigger that needs doing.

Now there is Jason to consider, and he still hasn't finished reordering that into his ranking of priorities.

Even Lois had been ranked behind Metropolis, when the city was threatened by an earthquake but her peril was unknown to him. If he were faced with a choice between an intercontinental crisis or speeding to the side of the only remaining scion of Krypton besides himself... He didn't want it put to the test, because he already knew the answer.

"You know," Richard says thoughtfully, pushing against his shoulder, "I'd like to take him to your Mom's farm."

Clark is able to pull his expression smooth when the line of Richard's finger runs from the bridge of his nose on down. He kisses the finger that presses, briefly, against his lips. When he opens his eyes, Richard is smiling, his pulse serene, and all is right with the world. "I think that can be managed," Clark says without stammering, though the thought chokes him up as soon as the words are out. "I, uh, I..."

Richard waits, lounging on one elbow and toying with the stem of the empty glass.

"I've been wanting to introduce you to my mom," he says, and his face is red while he tries to rationalize why this should make him feel shy.

"Good," Richard replies, and stretches for the wine bottle again. "I want to meet her. And, you know, every kid should get to play on a farm at least once."

Clark agrees, then reaches to cover Richard's hand, and the empty glass is set aside as they agree with a glance that it doesn't need to be refilled after all.

There is that much he can show Jason, for now.