"You know," Clark begins a non sequitur while waving his chopsticks in a warlike fashion, "the whole point of a secret identity is that it's supposed to be secret." They have a spread of fresh sushi and other Japanese dishes on the kitchen table between them, omiyage of an early-evening distress call to narrowly avert disaster in Tokyo once more. Of any other city besides Metropolis, Clark said upon his dismayingly mundane return through the door, Tokyo has had the most numerous brushes with oblivion and they like to shower Superman with any gifts they can press on him.
"Every superhero needs a sidekick," Richard counters. He plucks something from his mixed rice dish, a sausage that has been cut up into the shape of an octopus. It even has "x"s for eyes. He has to admire the attention to detail before he bites its head off.
"A sidekick." Clark levels him with a knowing look that says he'd dispute the term but is far too polite to do so.
Richard dissolves into a grin. "Actually, if we're talking about me, I prefer the term 'hero support.'"
"So should I get you a milliskin costume, too?" Clark prompts, going along with this now, a slight smile tugging at his mouth.
"No...no, I think I prefer to be the incognito sidekick," Richard says hastily. "Hero support. Besides, you look better in spandex."
Clark objects immediately, "It's not spandex!"
"Fine, whatever you called it. Milliskin?"
"That's right." Clark snags a piece of sushi deftly between his chopsticks but regards it broodingly before dipping it into the common soy sauce dish located between them. "It's Kryptonian fabric, with the same indestructible molecular properties I have. Actually, I don't know if I can make more. Without the control crystals that Luthor stole from me..." His brow darkens and he falls silent.
This conversation has taken a turn for the worse, Richard decides, and he needs to lighten it up again. "What about a secret signal? You still haven't gotten a cell phone, you know. Gotham has the Bat Signal--"
"I am NOT Batman," Clark says hotly, now sounding a good deal more Kal-El than any mild-mannered reporter could manage.
"Okay, okay... it might be useful, though, if you had a cell phone with worldwide capabilities." Richard bestows a grin on his friend that manages to be only slightly smug. "I have the perfect ringtone picked out for you already."
Clark looks wary, as he should. "I don't know. I mean, I guess I should, but... I'll have to think about it."
They eat for a moment in silence. Richard has sampled world cuisine extensively and Japanese is among his favorites, so he devotes the appropriate gusto to its enjoyment.
Richard lifts his glass of wine, tilts it reflectively. "Clark? You could have tried to put me off, you know. I kept expecting you to try and gull me with one of those cock-and-bull stories you feed Jimmy, or Perry, or Lois, but you never did. Why not?"
"Well, it just didn't seem right," Clark replies, frowning as if he's not sure. He looks to Richard and flashes a smile. "I guess, when it comes down to it, I didn't want to lie to you, Richard."
"Good." Richard settles back in his chair, satisfied. "I believe all relationships should be founded on truth. I'm glad you gave it to me."
"Relationship?" Clark echoes, the set of his mouth and eyes suddenly unreadable.
Richard tilts his glass the other way, refracting amber sparks over the table. "Yeah," he says, not even attempting to delve into the major question Clark is hinting at. "You think the same thing, that a relationship should be founded on truth. Don't you?" The legendary three tenets of Superman: truth, justice, the American way.
"Yes." Clark has set his chopsticks aside, and looks at the hands he's set flat on the table. "I do."
That's the key, Richard thinks suddenly. Whether he couldn't enter a closer relationship with those people who touched his life because he had distanced them by withholding the truth, or he couldn't give them truth and the relationship never matured, that was what was missing between Clark and everyone else. For some reason Clark had decided he was different.
Richard intends to show him how he values that.