Like Glass

by Talya Firedancer

When he walks through the door and the first sound to greet him is the tinkle of breaking glass he figures it's not the most auspicious of welcome noises. Clark sets aside his briefcase and throws his coat over the broken-backed armchair by the door and adjusts his glasses, locating Richard through a couple of walls where he stands in the kitchen, a finger stuck in his mouth. He has time to note as he hurries for the other room that there are a couple of full suitcases beside the couch that weren't there that morning and his apartment is utterly, surpassingly clean in a way it probably hasn't been for ten tenants' worth of lease lengths.

"Richard." Clark hovers at the kitchen threshold, uncertain once he sees him. It strikes him that he's never seen Richard in anything but business professional, dress shirts and slacks, but here he is, incongruous in Clark's sparkling-clean kitchen in sweatpants and a thin white undershirt. "Are you all right?"

Richard pulls the finger from his mouth and there's a thin trickle of blood there; he bites off a curse and grimaces. "You ask me that question a lot. Ask me later. Maybe a month or a year from now."

Clark swallows, nods, doesn't quite know what to say. "Okay."

"Sorry," Richard says, turning to grab paper towels and mop up the mess of spilled wine and glass on the counter, over the floor. His blood already stains a large shard. "I picked up some wine on the way home after getting my stuff and of course you didn't have any glasses so I got some of those, too. Now I've already broken one. That's got to be some kind of bad luck." He lifts his hand to swipe at the counter and blinks as his wrist is caught in an inexorable grip; Clark is beside him, when before that blink he stood halfway across the kitchen.

"Don't," Clark says, taking the towels from him. "I'll take care of it." He can't bleed.


Richard has already decided he's leaving the house to Lois even though the deed has both their names on it, and she's made it clear he doesn't owe child support but Jason needs a home and he considers the boy his son no matter what. He's sure Lois won't disabuse the boy of that notion, at least for now. He's brought with him what he could bear to pack and he'll figure out the rest as he goes along.

He stands back in the kitchen and watches Clark kneel on the tile and clean up the mess he's made. He leans against the counter and sucks on the wound, wincing at the mingling of wine and blood, dizzy for a moment.

"I'll start looking for a place tomorrow," Richard offers weakly, looking to the bottle of wine and thinking it had been a bad idea, anyhow. His stomach is still too fragile and the soup he had for lunch is still simmering inside, he can feel it.

Clark glares at him, actually glares, and this rivets Richard in place as Clark throws towels and the crunch of broken glass into a garbage can and stalks over to him. "Richard," he says, tone so soft by contrast, "you stay as long as you need to."

"I can't--"

Clark takes hold of his hand, examining the cut in his finger. "Yes, you can. I know my place isn't the greatest and I don't have a spare room, but I think you should stay. That's what you gave me."

Richard sighs, but there's a spreading warmth in him that has nothing to do with the wine. He wants to say thanks; doesn't know how as he remembers some of the things he heaped on him last night.

"This is deep," Clark says, fixing him with a reproachful gaze. "It won't stop bleeding unless you get stitches or--"

Richard makes a noncommittal noise, thinking he'd rather bleed than spend the rest of his night idling in an emergency room. Man invented duct tape for a reason.

"Do you trust me?" Clark says slowly, the skin of his hand warm, so warm and deceptively soft. This is the first time they've touched for any length of time, Richard thinks, and the distraction of this leads to a slow nod. Clark adjusts his glasses, gaze narrowing to a fine point on Richard's finger and there's a brief, sharp pain; he tries to jerk his hand free and finds it firmly captured until Clark looks up, brow smoothing.

"Ow," Richard says, pulling his hand away and inspecting the injured digit. It's not bleeding anymore but now it throbs out of step with his heart. "You cauterized it."

Clark flashes him an uneasy grin, sidling away from him in the cramped quarters of the kitchen which only brings him up against the counter. "Richard--"

"Relax," he interrupts. "I'm not going to tell anyone." He tries to smile, and it tugs his mouth but he can't quite keep it up. Under other circumstances, he thinks, he might be thrilled. This would be a slow-unfolding joy beyond a revelation. Then he thinks of Lois, and the suitcases out beside the couch, and how something else has ended as this has just begun.

"I know," Clark says quietly.

"Will you tell me about it?" Richard finds himself asking. Too bold, he realizes, and amends it. "Everything you can."

Clark tugs at his necktie. His glasses are askew and he takes them off, folding them between his hands, looking over at Richard with eyes so blue he wonders anyone could think them human.

"My name is Kal-El."