"Try not to have any disasters tonight," Richard says on his way out of the bullpen, Jason's hand clasped firmly in his. "I'll pick you up at your place at eight?"
"Okay, sounds good," Clark waves back, beaming because Jason is wiggling his fingers at him, eyes lit up.
"Bye, Mr. Clark! See you soon, right?"
"Yep," Clark replies happily, then when they're out of sight, he turns to shutting down his workstation but can't help overhearing Richard explain to Jason that he'll be staying at Mrs. Klein's for an evening of fun and excitement and answers the why with a pat explanation of how sometimes adults need alone-time. They're halfway down the elevator shaft when Jason asks helpfully, oh, like you and Mommy? and Richard chokes a bit but settles on yes, well, kind of like that.
He wonders how they'll explain things to Jason when he gets older and hopes Lois doesn't try to beat them to it first.
Clark doesn't have a car because he's never needed one and in Metropolis the commute by subway or foot or the occasional cab is assumed, especially seeing as most business districts have parking structures set to gouge tourist wallets and not even the Daily Planet boasts employee parking. Once there's no one left to notice he takes to the window, and the twilight of the sky is his.
Metropolis deepens into shades of trailing purple and burnished gold as he skims over the tall buildings, scanning for trouble or a shout, any sign he's needed. It's a blessedly quiet evening and he flies past a bank clock, noting the time - two hours left to go - and he quickens the pace, lifting a hand to the skies and punching upward, piercing a ragged veil of clouds high above, pushing against the dome of the world until the midnight blue of horizon gives way to the starred black backdrop of space. There he wheels, doing a cursory spot-check of Earth's airspace for any meteors incoming; planets wheel in their orbitals and there's nothing off, no sense of anything amiss.
Satisfied, he scoops a hand to rotate him against the black and he pivots lazily, looking over the bulge of Earth and the metallic gleam of the space station not so very far away. Below him the planet swims with blue-jeweled brilliance, the life-bearing treasure of the solar system. Not quiet, though - for him it will never be quiet, even in the deep of space. The noise of humanity washes against him on all frequencies, underlaid with the groan of continents moving, oceans and rivers coursing, all the sounds of nature and every creature and it batters at him for a moment, all of it coming at him like an unstoppable tide.
Mindful of Richard's admonishment, he samples frequencies for disaster and finds none. It's gratifying, like the planet's gift to him for an evening, and he breaks first the sound barrier, streaking faster than a falling comet on his way in, then catches up to light and passes it. He has to slow down well before he drops below cloud-level, of course, or he'd punch holes in buildings with the wake of his passage.
When Clark touches down through the open roof of his skylight he has an hour left and it's plenty of time.
Technically he doesn't need to shower. He doesn't sweat and never has to worry about clogged pores; still, growing up in Martha Kent's house ensured a regimen of hygiene and he enjoys the feel of the water on his skin. It also clears off scents he knows no human should carry around with them; wind, ozone, depending on what he's been doing that night even gunpowder or smoke. Tonight he showers and pats on some cologne his mother gifted him with for a birthday seven years ago never thinking how little occasion he might have for it and he scrambles into dark slacks and a dove-gray shirt and a black blazer, unsuccessfully trying to suppress the recollection of last time he's been out on anything that qualifies as a date. He scrutinizes his reflection as he settles his glasses back into place and thinks it doesn't seem fair and has he gotten greedy? But thinking over it, Richard has been the one pursuing him.
Every step of the way.
This time the flush warms him clear through and he allows himself to think of Richard's mouth, and Richard's fine long-fingered hands, and Richard's clear blue eyes on him, seeing beyond the suit or the glasses. There's a ringing in his ears and he blinks, horrified when he realizes it's coming from the pants flung on his bed, the ones he stopped by the Planet to pick up on his way home.
"I am, I am Superman; and I know what's happening...I am, I am Superman; and I can do anything..." his phone sings, and Clark bolts for the bed, rifling through his pockets thanking all his lucky Kryptonian ancestors Richard didn't spring this particular surprise on him in the middle of the bullpen. He'd have seized up the phone and crushed it or had his biological equivalent of a heart attack or both.
"H-Hello?" Clark says weakly, even though he already knows who it is because Richard's programmed his own phone number into Clark's phone and it tells him on the display before he even flips it open. He needs the normality of an opener.
"I'm here," Richard tells him. "Downstairs. I know I'm early, but, well..."
"Oh," Clark says, trying to will his heart back to its usual pace.
"Clark, you okay?" Richard says with some concern.
"Richard, you...my cell phone..."
"What's the matter, don't you like R.E.M.?" Richard questions, laughter lurking behind ostensible concern.
"That wasn't very nice," Clark says reproachfully, and now Richard chuckles outright.
"Come downstairs and I'll switch it to something else," he promises. "I know you can't keep it but I thought it would be fun, just for me to call you with it that once."
"You're good at picking ringtones for people," Clark says quietly. "How long did you have that one picked out?"
There's silence on the other end as he moves through the apartment, locating his keys and wallet. Then, "A while," Richard admits. "Before I went to Baghdad."
"I'll see you downstairs. Be right there."
He wonders as he locks the door if Baghdad was the turning point for Richard, and knows he can't ask. It's enough for him to be here with him now, almost too much as far as Clark is concerned because there's still the larger share of him wondering how long can it last, this happiness, part of him still disbelieving over the heady rush of someone's smile focused solely on him.
He tries not to think that he's had to take something from Lois for this to happen.
Clark can't hold onto pensiveness as he steps outside and sees Richard outside on the curb, waiting for him, hands in his pockets.
"You're not really mad, are you?" Richard asks apprehensively as Clark draws near.
"What?" Clark shakes his head and smiles widely, dispelling his anxious thoughts. "No, no it's okay. Just...make sure to change it before I give the number out?"
"Deal," Richard says with a relieved smile, and lifts his hand to flag a cab. "You like Greek, right?"
The enthusiastic cries go up from a nearby table like the foot-high gaslight flames that billow up from saginaki platters, left to hover long enough to broil the cheese before the waiter expertly extinguishes them with a jet of lemon juice solution. The Parthenon is crammed full that night, most of the tables six-tops or more and Richard and Clark are crowded into a nook near the open patio - one of the few deuce tables in the popular restaurant - with a fabulous view of the Wayne Fountain in the midst of Metropolis Park. The place is full of people and high spirits and a noise level near the legal limit and Richard would apologize if he thought it mattered to Clark.
He knows Clark can hear whatever he says, and Clark is good at pitching his low voice in such a way it reaches his ears with no problem.
"Sorry for not choosing something more intimate," Richard apologizes anyhow, giving Clark a self-deprecating grin and tipping his glass of Ilaros red.
"It's all right." The same kind of smile tugs at Clark's mouth, and Richard focuses on it, fascinated. "This is nice, I've never been here before."
"Usually you have to make a reservation at least a week in advance," Richard confides. "But the maître d', Nico, says he owes me, I introduced him to his wife." He almost hopes Clark won't ask him more. Or maybe he hopes he will.
They've already put their menus aside; Richard settling for his stand-by, the roast lamb with a side of moussaka, and Clark venturing for the Macedonia platter, a combo of almost everything and all of it good.
"That's nice," Clark comments. "How did that come about?"
He notes the reporter's use of the open-ended question and grins at nothing in particular. "Well, Angela was, uh, one of my brief flirtations in high school," he says, and rubs at the back of his neck. "And Nico and I were kind of an item in college. After he and I broke up, Angela came to visit me and a couple of friends and I introduced them to one another, because I kind of had a hunch they'd get along."
"Wow," Clark says after a moment, one finger going up to his glasses, and Richard disguises a wince by reaching for the carafe of wine at the center of the table.
"Clark, am I your first?" he asks, so soft his query is swallowed up in the restaurant's din.
"Well..." Clark gazes out beyond the patio now, grimacing as he looks beyond the colored jets of the illuminated fountain.
"Ah." Richard sucks in a breath; he meant to avoid the subject. "Lois." It's almost sub-vocal, that utterance, but Clark's head snaps up and he's looking at him, his eyes brilliant and intense and unfathomable. It doesn't seem strange anymore, to him, that they both loved her. He doesn't know yet how Clark feels about it, though.
"Actually, I dated a little bit in high school," Clark says conversationally, just loud enough to be heard but not to project any further. "It...never went anywhere. It's hard to make a connection with anyone when there's so much I have to hold back."
"I can understand that," Richard says, raising his glass a bit. "No, what I meant earlier - sorry, I didn't phrase it very well - I guess I was asking if I'm your first guy?" He trails off on a questioning note, feeling wry and unspeakably awkward as Clark's thoughtful gaze returns to him.
"I kind of thought it was one-sided," Richard hurries on to cover the gap. "I mean, almost right up until we...I was never really sure. You don't seem, ah, the type."
"Type?" Clark echoes, reaching for his own wineglass and downing most of it in a swallow. The temptation pricks Richard, again, to see if he can make a dent in Clark's sobriety and he makes a mental note to switch to ouzo shots later to see if that makes a difference.
"Well." Richard wishes he could retract that word now. "I mean, you seem utterly. Well. Straight. Not to imply that I don't..." His brow furrows and he looks at his wine, wondering if maybe he's the one who's had too much already.
"I'm not 'the type' in Smallville," Clark says ruefully. "I was different enough without being different in that way, too. But you know, after I got access to my father's memory crystals, I learned all sorts of things about Kryptonian culture. One of those was that Kryptonians were a lot more fluid in their view of sexuality, and it...fit with things I'd been feeling already."
"And what's that?" Richard prompts, pushing the carafe in Clark's direction, wordlessly urging him to take that third refill out of reach.
"Who you love, who you care about and...want. It's all on an individual basis," Clark says softly. "What matters the most is who you're with and how you feel about them, not their gender."
Richard raises a brow. "So Kryptonians are bisexual."
Clark demurs, "Well, they don't even use that word. It's more of a sliding scale." His hands gesture and put his wineglass in jeopardy.
"Does that make you Richard-sexual right now?" Richard cracks a joke, and the smile slides off his face as Clark lifts his head to meet his eyes, his gaze that hungry degree beyond intensity.
They say nothing because Clark's saying it all with his eyes and Richard is trying to wrap his brain around words that don't involve "take me to bed now" all in a row mostly for the thought that they have dinner on order and his maître d' friend will never forgive him if he skips out. Into this void comes the waiter with an array of platters stacked up one arm; he extracts two deftly and places them before the two of them and lingers long enough to ask if they need anything else, to which neither responds.
Dinner topics revolve around subjects less risky, and Richard can't quite tear his gaze away from Clark's mouth as they discourse on everything from the virtues of shougi versus chess to Richard's steadfast belief in the Loch Ness monster.
When the waiter asks if they want dessert, simultaneously they reply "Check please."
The time for waiting or 'later' is over.