by Talya Firedancer

"It's getting late," Clark says for the third time, Jason draped limp over his lap and thigh, and the man looks torn between stretching for his drink and terrified of moving, of waking his little deadweight.

"I know," Richard agrees for the third time, suppressing a grin. Clark clearly has no idea yet what kind of a deep sleeper Jason can be. "Admit it, you're staying at least for the night."

"I shouldn't--"

"What surprises me," Richard changes tracks, "is that you haven't gone off to Los Angeles for a fly-by, at least."

Clark shakes his head, eyes darkening, looking down at the boy in his lap.

"He's sound asleep," Richard says softly.

"I know, I just..." Clark grimaces, hoisting his glasses up with one finger, a motion Richard recognizes now as more than a Clark thing but, to a certain extent, a self-conscious mannerism. The frames are unnecessary, superfluous, a reminder.

He looks down at Jason and pets his hair gently. "I can't go to Los Angeles, you know. For one, do you have any idea how many heroes have laid claim to California?" He's smiling, and Richard starts going over it in his head, and they share a snicker.

"A lot," Richard agrees.

"The other reason goes back to something my birth father Jor-El warned me against before I ever donned the cape," Clark says with a frown, smoothing a hand over Jason's tousled hair. "He said, 'Leave to man those tasks which can be accomplished by man. Else your help will be called for endlessly, even for those tasks which man can accomplish himself.'"

"A wise man," Richard agrees, raising his wineglass. He lowers it after barely wetting his lips, because Clark is still frowning into the distance, beyond the living room, probably well beyond the walls. "There's something more, isn't there?"

"Well, if I were to go over there, I'd be able to stop people from getting hurt. I know that. But the minute I went, I'd be taking sides, you see? The first person I save--"

"Superman's on my side," Richard says quietly, and he sees. There's a struggle on Clark's face, between what he can do and what he knows to be true. He wants to go anyway. 'Leave to man those things...' "You're right."

"I want to help them."

"You can't help everyone," Richard says, and inane as it sounds he has to say it nonetheless.

In Clark's lap, Jason stirs and makes a small sound, turning over, fist pressing against his mouth. "I should go," Clark says. "I'll take him upstairs."

"Let's take him upstairs, but you stay," Richard argues.

Clark's eyes flick towards him, lovely in uncertainty. "Richard..."

Richard gives him a bland smile and gets up, snagging Clark's empty glass from the end-table and heading for the kitchen. "It would be rude to leave before I'm even finished cleaning up, so why don't you take Jason to bed?"

Clark sighs, looking somewhat reproachful, but gets up and cradles the small form to his chest like a treasure. Richard finds that he doesn't mind, after all, seeing him do the things of which he's used to having sole proprietorship. Not if it puts that illuminated joy on Clark's face.

He sets himself to cleaning up the detritus of their Chinese take-out, wrapping the last of the eggrolls to stow away for later and spooning a couple of dishes over respective containers of rice and rinsing out the wineglasses. The mundanity of the tasks is soothing and the silence lulls him and he's suspended in a moment timeless, independent of any other day such that he could turn around and see Lois with a baby in her arms, or the Lois of the past few months, thinned down to blazing intensity. His skin prickles anticipation and he turns around to Clark, the tall broad solidity of him, firm shoulders beneath a dress casual polo blazer, one big hand reaching up for his glasses. Richard is disconnected from all the other points in his life, now distant selves, and what's before him now is the only instant that defines him, natural and real.

He reaches up to strip off Clark's glasses. He wants to run a hand up under his shirt but when he places his hand on Clark's stomach he knows something is wrong.

"This feels weird," Clark voices it.

"Sorry," Richard replies, baring his teeth slightly in lieu of a smile.

"It's still your house," Clark says gently, and it's the nicest sort of come-down but it is one, and Richard steps back to attach himself to the edge of the kitchen sink for lack of anything better to do with his hands.

"Stay anyhow?" Richard offers, tipping his head to the side. "I mean, I know when I go to bed you'll be out the window anyhow. I don't...I don't even know if you sleep at night. But I can't, I can't stay here--" He cuts himself off before his throat closes the words for him. As long as he's nominally not alone, he won't have to be here in the shards of his relationship with Lois. He won't stay up past midnight doing post-mortems and he won't feel the need to go up to that big bedroom, rifling through the shared evidence of five years and presumption of a future and he won't go from room to room, picking out all of the decorating touches that put his stamp on the house when she waved her hand and said for him to do what he thought would look best.

"Okay," Clark says, "I'll stay." He smiles slightly; Richard tries to match it. Clark continues, "I do sleep."

"Well," Richard says, thinking to himself, good. "If you split the spare bedroom with me, I promise to stick to my side and not steal the covers."

Now Clark grins. "I thought I should take the sofa."

"Don't," Richard says firmly. "I need the company." He likes how he slips that in, suave instead of desperate.

Clark barely hesitates. "Deal."