by Talya Firedancer

There is a bus line that runs until eleven not too far from Riverside Drive. Ostensibly Clark takes that when he leaves the house early, not for any emergency in particular but when Lois requested a talk after Jason went up for bed, it was clear Clark isn't included in that invite.

Circling around and listening through the south wall occurred to him, because after all if they'd be discussing Jason he has a right as the third party parent, but then it was decided when he realizes if there was anything he needed to know, Richard will tell him.

It isn't even two blocks until he takes flight anyhow, hearing gunfire and surpassing sound to reach before it finds a target.

That seems to set the tone for the second half of his evening. An aborted robbery is followed by an attempted mugging that he thwarts before setting off to stop a murder, then he halts a potential hit-and-run. It's one after another, a litany of all the ways humans seek to hurt themselves or others, just one of those nights.

When he finally lets himself through the skylight at home, it's nearly one o'clock. A quick scan of the apartment reveals Richard is nowhere in evidence, mildly worrisome but not very much so. He retrieves his cell phone and checks for messages -- one, from Martha, calling to make arrangements for the visit they've agreed on for next weekend. He showers the lingering scent of gunpowder and blood, real or imagined, from his skin. He paces the kitchen floor and checks the crossword Richard had left on the counter, provoking a smile when he finds Richard has yet again managed to make a few dirty innuendos fit, even if he can't complete a bisecting row across or down because of that.

After all this and ridding the living room of the pulverized couch as he's been intending for weeks, because of course one has to carry such things down in the middle of the night to avoid notice that he is only using one hand to support a long unwieldy weight, Clark positions himself by the skylight and folds his arms. He is starting to get worried - Richard is never this late.

He tries calling, at last, at past two and it goes straight to voicemail.

Maybe he had car trouble, Clark reasons, and it only takes this one excuse to get him up through the skylight and into the air.

Flying is still a joy after all this time, but he thinks he likes the night flying best. Below him, the velvet crush of night enfolds the city, and individual lights sparkle up like a throng of diamonds lit from within. He skims over rooftops and slows over major veins of traffic and listened. Jason's heartbeat is at the top of his consciousness, when he concentrates; then, because it was nearby, Lois' slow regular breathing as she turns over, dreaming. He sifts through a million other sounds to find the one relevant thread of an overall pattern right now.


It reminds him of an idle conversation not long after he'd told Richard he listens to Jason all the time. "You said you're always listening to, anyone else on that list?" "Of course. Jason...Lois," he'd admitted with a quirk of one brow, "my mother. The Daily Planet building. You."

"Even Superman plays favorites," Richard teased him.

"I'm not a god."

He can only do whatever he can. Sometimes it's not enough. But, being what he is, doing what he can, he thinks he's earned the right to protect what's his, first and foremost.

There are two cars pulled over onto the shoulder and his first thought is accident, given the kind of night it's been, but Richard's heartbeat is strong and steady if somewhat elevated. He has his shirtsleeves rolled up and his tie is gone, probably tossed to the seat of the car, and he looks up and wipes his forehead with the back of one hand as Superman alights, casting an eye over the blown-out tire lying on the asphalt and the young woman holding up a flashlight as Richard lets go of the winch that has the car's back-end raised high enough for changing.

"Need any help?" he asks with Superman's low assurance.

"Superman!" the woman exclaims, nearly dropping the flashlight, hugging herself as if to contain herself from bursting. She eyes him with wonder and awe.

Richard gives him a cocky grin, dispelling the sense anything special has arrived on the scene. "I think we've got it," he says, indicating the new tire he's just gotten onto the car. "I just need to lower the jack and it's done. We'll be on our way soon."

He hears the promise in Richard's voice, I'll be on the way, I'll be home soon.

With a nod, he says, "It's good to see there's still those out on the streets willing to help others," and can't help a small grin at the slight pomposity of his own turn of phrasing; he springs into the air before either can respond, leaving the young woman open-mouthed, staring. Better she give her thanks where it's been earned.

High above he hovers, after they both think he's gone, until Richard has gotten into his car and he's on the road again.

No harm in making sure he won't get hung up again, after all.