It's only been a few weeks but there is a rhythm to the comings and goings of Clark, of Superman, of Kal-El and if it's not quite the regularity of the tide it's something Richard can fathom. They usually go to work together but rarely return home together; Superman has rounds to make, Richard discovered shortly after taking up residence on the battered Kent sofa. His new roommate makes a lap of the world with the same devotion Clark gives to covering his news beats but unless there's a major crisis he usually has it taken care of in an hour, or two.
So Richard knows if he has time to crack open a bottle of pinot noir in the evening and cook an actual meal rather than unboxing take-out, Kal-El is stalling.
It's pushing nine when there's a sharp breeze outside, not the sonic boom of true urgency but the whistle of fast passing. A few moments later, he comes through the open archway of the kitchen, the one that leads in from the dining nook, and he's in dress casual now - slacks and a pale blue t-shirt, his face naked. It had taken Richard the better part of an evening to coax him out of wearing glasses even at home, because it's hard to stir someone from an answer of "on principle." He takes the wineglass that has been left on the counter for him and studiously avoids looking at Richard.
That was another thing that had surprised Richard - Superman eats. Well, Clark does, and he'll split a bottle of wine with him although Richard has sneaking suspicions it would take an ocean of the stuff to cause even the slightest inebriation. When asked, Clark had replied simply, "the sun powers Superman; my body still needs nourishment same as yours."
Richard thinks about the rest of the body's needs, and whether it's all too possible for someone to be touch-starved after five years' absence, yet unable to break down the barrier of that long self-alienation.
"Clark," Richard begins, leaning against the counter, cradling the bowl of the wineglass in his hand. The heady scent of garlic is in the air, soup is simmering on the stove, everything is ready but for this it can wait as Clark picks at a thread of the casual clothing Richard was surprised he owned and sips at his wine to occupy his mouth, avoiding conversation. "Talk to me. I know you heard."
Clark lifts his head with those eyes so blue, looking at Richard with his mouth shaping the first of many syllables, discarding them all. His gaze slides to the far side of the kitchen and his mouth firms for a moment, the line of that stubborn jaw flexing. "Well, I wasn't planning on bringing it up, Richard."
"Why not?" Richard slashes a hand sideways, barely noticing he's just about spilled a glass of decent pinot noir.
Clark fixes his eyes on that part of the kitchen that is so fascinating to the exclusion of everything else, setting his wineglass down with a sharp crystalline click. His expression is wistful, thoughtful, then that one Richard is fast becoming familiar with - intractable. Stripped of his glasses and the physical and verbal tics wielded as so expert a shield to the rest of the world, this isn't really Clark - it's Kal-El, as was explained to him that first most forthcoming night.
It's not easy for Kal-El to open up to anyone, Richard thinks, because he probably never has.
"It's between you and Lois," Clark says.
Richard waves a hand impatiently, realizing he's spilled when the wine sloshes over his hand. He sets his glass down with a sigh and fetches a paper towel. "Actually, Clark, I'm talking about the part that was none of her business." He raises his eyebrows, concentrating every ounce of his attention on the man, and is rewarded by the perceptible flush that spreads ever so faintly over Clark's cheekbones. He echoes Lois's unsubtle wording. "I'm hot for Clark?"
Clark's head jerks up, and the intensity of those blue eyes is on him now. He gives him a searching look, but it's not surprised. Not angry, or repulsed. The entirety of that look is a little overwhelming, and Richard finds he's the one who has to duck his head, first.
"It's too soon," Clark says finally.
Richard sighs. "Right, I'm sorry. I know that you and Lois-" They've never talked about it but Richard can only imagine the painful duality of Kal-El's relationships with Lois, and he's seen those looks on Clark's face when he thinks no one can see him. He remembers how Superman ran his eyes over Lois's prone body on the seaplane, and the reluctant lift of his head before pronouncing her 'fine.'
"Don't get me wrong," Clark interrupts. "I...came to terms with what I can't be for Lois. Believe it or not, I did a long time ago. I mean that it's too soon for you."
"Me?" Richard says in surprise. "But that's--"
"You still have a chance," Clark cuts him off again. "It's only been a few weeks, and Lois is stubborn but, well, if you're the one apologizing it's easier."
Richard opens his mouth, stunned, but Clark is speaking over him before he has a chance to properly frame outrage.
"Five years ago, Kal-El -- I -- was ready to give up everything. Including being Superman, because there was a way for me to become mortal and walk that path with her. I was ready to commit myself to one person and that didn't happen." His face darkens as he reaches for his wineglass, twirling the stem between his fingers, spinning the glass so fast the wine doesn't even stir. "The world needed Superman more than it ever had before. There was no one else. So I had to...I had to..." He trails off, lost somewhere no man, no human perhaps, can follow.
Richard remembers kneeling generals, a pleading President, explosions and incinerations in those dark days when everyone had thought the whole world lost. That had been only weeks before he'd moved to Metropolis.
"I needed to become Superman again, and when I did, I knew that Lois and I couldn't be together anymore. Not just because any villain with half a brain could use her against me, but because she couldn't handle it." He looks up from his wine, now meeting Richard's eyes with pained but earnest clarity. "And I don't know if I can go through that again."
Richard has realized, throughout the course of this, that it really isn't just Clark telling him that it's too soon for Richard. His first assumption was more or less correct. He thinks he is beginning to understand.
"I'm not her, Clark," Richard says, but Clark has looked away already, past the table, past the dining nook, looking across Metropolis maybe for a way to escape with his hands already braced against the counter as if he's going to push off. If Richard is connecting the dots properly he thinks maybe a long trip into space looked great after losing his lover - which apparently was for good despite rooftop liaisons after Superman's return.
"I can't. Not when you and Lois--"
"I think I'm the one who gets to decide that, and I already did. It didn't work out between us." It's Richard's turn to sigh. He swallows the last of his wine and sets his glass by the corked bottle and moves closer, pushing his luck when Clark is so clearly poised for flight.
"Then, you're on the rebound, and I won't take advantage--"
"Kal-El." He lifts his hand to touch the man's cheek.
This stops Clark in his tracks, and now he looks. The bright blue of his eyes is an ocean, an endless sky, wide enough to dive into and never surface again. He is speechless, open, waiting.
"Maybe you just need to hear it from me," Richard says quietly, resisting the urge to snatch his fingers away from Clark's warm, smooth cheek. "I'm not asking you to give up everything. I wouldn't want you to; it's part of who you are. And I want you to know, I...I like who you are. I want--"
"All right," Clark says, turning into him, cheek moving under his touch, eyes veiled in a sweep of dark lashes.
It can't be that easy, so Richard looks up at him, mouth slightly open. "All right?" He snatches his fingertips away as Clark's lips part and blue eyes lock him into place and the distance between them is negligible, millimeters, a tilt of the head -- a yawing gap.
"I...you...I mean, I want--but, you know I never meant to - to intrude, or interfere, or--"
"I know," Richard murmurs, and stretches, closes that distance.
For now, everything they have to say doesn't need words.