Morning After

by Talya Firedancer

There's nothing quite like an admission of "he knows I know" than passing out in Superman's presence and waking up on Clark Kent's couch to the sight of an immaculate three-piece suit and Clark slipping those wide blocky glasses over his nose as he turns to regard Richard gravely.

"Are you all right?" Clark asks him, low and assured. The stutter is gone and Richard muses he will probably never hear it again outside the bullpen.

Richard's mouth stretches in what can pass for a smile in most circles though he knows there's no fooling this man of all people. "I probably will be." He tries to sit up, winces, puts a hand to his head. Clark, the kind Samaritan from another planet that he is, has left Tylenol and water on the coffee table beside him and Richard reaches for it, certain he can feel each muscle in his body as he does so and all of them are protesting. "Urgh. Maybe. If I reach up and there's a head on my shoulders and not a balloon filled with sand I've got to be doing okay, you know?"

Clark shrugs, his mouth dipping in a recognizable look of self-deprecation. "I wouldn't know, I've never had a hangover."

"Never?" bursts from Richard, incredulous, and he winces again. He wonders if trying to see if Clark can get drunk is really a worthy goal in life.

Clark ignores this. "I called you in sick," he tells Richard, and when Richard moves to protest he fixes him with a resolute look worthy of his alter-ego. "It's okay. I didn't tell Perry."

That's not the issue, Richard wants to say, whose standard for as long as he can remember has been if you can stand, you can work. Attempting to get up from the couch causes him to pause and reassess his condition. "I actually feel like I'm going to die," he says in amazement, sinking back onto the sofa, swallowing and hoping that the Tylenol will make decent headway against the armies of sappers assailing his skull. He turns his head a little, watching Clark trying not to watch him and it provokes a ghost of a smile. "Why didn't you let me die?"

"How can you ask me that question?" Clark says with an uncomfortable look, sinking to his heels and Richard's eye-level. There's a frown on his face the likes of which Richard has never seen before although he kind of remembers it from last night. "You don't really think no one needs you, do you? You don't think you'd be missed? Then you don't know what you mean to so many people--"

"How much do I mean to you?" Richard blurts, and wishes he could take back the question given the dumbstruck look on Clark's face that appears to be his only response.

"Richard, I..."

"Forget I asked," Richard says brusquely, heaving himself up and ignoring the pain that shoots through his skull and verily his entire body as he turns himself over with an effort, facing the back of the couch. "I...guess I'm not myself this morning, you know?"

Silence, thick enough that he could be the only living being in the apartment. The couch is a horrible mustard-brown knobbly fabric that could have been from over a decade ago filched from some thrift store or borne up under so much damage it's colored in everything, but the cushions conform to his body in the most amazingly comfortable way. He could fall asleep here, has evidently slept peacefully through the late night. His eyes are gritty and they burn when he closes them.

"We'll talk later," Clark says, so quiet he's almost inaudible. "There's some leftover take-out in the fridge. I have to go to work now."

Richard makes sure he waits until he hears the click and scrape of the key turning in the lock before he buries his face in the pillow and lets the first heaving sob tear loose.