Unfinished Plans

by Talya Firedancer

No one knows besides Lois, Richard, and of course, her doctor.

"Why should I tell anyone?" Lois says, with a shrug and half a smile. She peers up at Richard, gauging his reaction. "It's not like I was planning on having more kids, anyhow." She is pale, but sincere. Composed.

Richard's gut clenches, and he gives her a quick smile in return, and Lois has already turned away before she notices it never makes it to his eyes. I was planning... It doesn't surprise him that she never asked him about his.

Eldest of five, Richard asked her to marry him shortly after she told him the news seven months ago. They bought a huge house together on the river, four bedrooms. And of course, one has been converted to Lois' study, and another is buried in boxes that probably won't be unpacked until five years after they've moved or more, and it's always Lois's plans that go forward.

It's why they haven't set a date yet.

"I'm just glad you're all right," he says, swallowing hope. He settles his hands on her shoulders, thin and hollow after hard pregnancy and a harder premature delivery.

"Why wouldn't I be?" She slips out from under his hands, gliding for the nearby desk, the open laptop, the world of words she always leaves him for. "I'm fine." And she means it. Why would she ask him the same?

In time, he thinks, maybe he'll forget his plans for those other rooms.


Clark Kent is not exactly the kind of person Richard ever envisioned being trapped with in a stifling closet - he figures this is the kind of jam Lois would stumble into, coming after an extra ream of paper, door easing shut behind him, the soft click underscoring a strained yelp - "R-Richard, wait!"

It's dim within and barely enough room for two male bodies, especially when one is big, 6'3", nearly 6'4"... Richard squints at Clark and tries to figure why the bigger man's necktie is crooked, his shirt askew as if he tugged it on in a hurry and suit jacket still hanging over the edge of the chair.

"Clark?" he asks, wary. He looks around for the joke, or the girl. Clark's hair is mussed and his glasses are nearly dangling off his nose.

Clark gives him a quick, uneasy grin, one finger riding the black frames up his nose, and turns a little to finish straightening his clothes, buttoning the vest of his three-piece suit. It's then that Richard's eye falls on the suitcase laid open on the storage room's battered twenty-year old desk.

"You're living out of your suitcase," Richard says slowly, "in the bullpen's storage closet?" His heart eases back to a normal pace, for a moment, he'd been worried they were locked in.

"Uh..." Clark has no response for it, his mouth open and shaping a few soundless syllables before he forces another awkward smile. "Well, uh...I mean, I haven't...exactly...been able to find a place yet."

"Clark," Richard says, frowning, "you've been back to work for nearly three months. Now, I don't know the rate but I'm sure you draw a decent salary, and Metropolis is a big--"

"My mom," Clark interjects, with that hesitant, puppyish kick-fearing look, "her farm is having trouble, so...I'm pretty much sending most of my paycheck out to Smallville, for now."

What are you, a Boy Scout? hovers on Richard's tongue, and the thought occurs to him, Clark really is a swell guy. It's the way he's built.

"Don't tell Perry...?" Clark pleads, and Richard is close enough to smell something on him, fresh cologne, vaguely ozone, the salt of sea air he knows so well from the clouds above the city. As if Clark flew in the window, rather than ducking into the storage room after crashing on the break room couch.

"I've got one better for you," Richard says, and considers teasing him, asking Clark to get his coffee for a month straight, or help keep Jason occupied in afternoons - not like he doesn't do that already, like a man to babysitting born - or "borrowing" him for a few international assignments.

Clark swings toward him, anxiety written plain on his honest face, and this overbalances both. It's a small storage room, as Richard has noted before, and Clark is a big man who doesn't seem to know where to put his hands and feet sometimes. They end up on the floor in a tangled heap, and Richard is on the sea plane, weightless, looking into eyes so blue.

Stammering, Clark untangles them, apologies tumbling from his full lips as he separates them and helps Richard to his feet. Richard can't help but notice his hands, long fingers, firm grip, awkwardness gone as he steadies him and it disconcerts him. The familiarity of that touch.

Clark's mouth is open, the intense blue of his eyes sliding away, and he's moving for the suitcase, shoving it closed. There's a glimpse of a framed photograph, an older woman in a print dress, silver hair waving softly about her face before the lid jostles shut.

"I have an extra room," Richard says. "In the house."

Clark glances over his shoulder, the bright blue of his eyes unfathomable in the dim, almost alien. "I can't..."

"Please," Richard says. "There's just boxes there, now. There's only been boxes there. And you think you don't want my uncle to find out, wait until the gossip columnist sees you coming out of here."

Clark's mouth twitches. "You'd better leave first and give me five minutes."

A chuckle bursts from Richard, surprising them both. "Just hand me a ream of paper, wiseass. You can give me your answer later."

When he leaves the storage closet door ajar behind him, he thinks again of the room in his house piled with boxes. He thinks of Clark's firm hand on his shoulder, and the way he hoists Jason so effortlessly from floor to his broad back. He wonders, will Clark say yes? But he made the offer and it's not a plan, it's not part of the life he lived before and the hopes that have fallen by the wayside one by one. It feels like the right thing to do.

He passes Lois, her face alight from the glow of the monitor, eyes far away in absorption. There are two people he never heard about from her lips, two things she never talked about, and the other one is Superman.

As much as he doesn't understand her, he wonders if sometimes she doesn't understand herself.