Things Change

by Talya Firedancer

"Richard? Whose toothbrush is that in the hall bathroom?"

"Uh..." Richard struggles to contain an expression of complete incredulity. Objectively, he knows Lois possesses the keenest ability to narrow her focus of anyone else that he knows. That usually means focus to the exclusion of noticing anything else. On the other hand, it's been a week since Richard invited Clark to borrow their guest room. "Lois, Clark is staying at our place."

Frowning, Lois turns from the vanity, disengaging a gold-handled brush from her long, dark curls. "Clark? But where is he staying?"

Richard furnishes her with a wry smile, amused that this is her first consideration. Granted, the man is unobtrusive as a shadow; Richard might have put him up in the coat closet for all he's been about the house. "He cleared out the spare bedroom," he replies. "All those boxes are in the attic now."

"Oh." One unmanicured hand drifts to her mouth, where the ragged thumbnail slips between her teeth. The gesture makes Richard want to take her hand, as always, but Lois snaps whenever a bad habit is brought to her attention. She's set in her ways. "Where's he been this whole time?"

"Honey," Richard says with forced cheer, "you've been working on the Kellerman corruption case. You leave at six in the morning and come home close to ten, remember?" It's more a case of where has Lois been the whole week, but for his part, Richard knows. There's always a story - and he understands, really he does, because you don't get to head the International section of the Daily Planet by being a slouch. For some reason, though, Richard thought priorities would change when he traded the life of a dashing foreign correspondant for a family. And maybe that's the thing, because for him, they have.

"Right," Lois says, brow smoothing. "That reminds me, I need to get going - oh, gosh, it's nearly seven! Bye Richard, kiss..."

Today the kiss is airborne rather than tangible and with a swish of silk skirts she's at the door. Richard is still in his bathrobe and slippers, but then, he takes their boy to school.

She pauses. "How long is he here for?"

Richard takes refuge in his cup of coffee for a moment. Throughout the whole conversation he has been gaining this impression of Lois' take on Clark and it's an unflattering parallel to a stray that Richard has picked up. "Well, as long as he needs, I suppose." He flashes her a perfunctory smile. "Were we using that room for something?" Lois has her den. Now, Richard thinks, he has his spare room, and Clark. Different plans.

"No," Lois replies. "I guess not."

And she's gone.