Obviously an ambulance is out of the question. But they can’t just leave Cla- Superman in his crappy apartment. Richard would like to punch him for seducing his fiancee while pretending to be his friend, and judging from the tight look about Lois’ mouth, she's itching to slap him for all those years of lying and deceit. But neither of them can get what they want if the man’s dead.
Once Superman’s coughing fit has passed, Richard and Lois put their issues aside and act in silent, mutal agreement. Lois grabs Superman's glasses and shoves them on his face with more force than is strictly necessary. She and Richard each drape an arm about their shoulders and help Superman out the door and down the stairs.
“Oh my.” An old woman says at her doorway. “Clark, dear, are you alright?”
Richard’s face is tight with the effort of not snapping ‘his name’s not Clark.’ Somehow he manages a pleasant smile.
“He’s not well, ma’am. We think it’s best he stay at our house for a few days.”
“Yes, of course. It’s lucky he has friends like you.”
Through sheer effort of will, Richard’s smile doesn’t falter.
Between them, he and Lois get Superman down the stairs and into the backseat of the car. Lois climbs in with him, holding him upright when they go around corners. Richard drives, glancing every so often in the rear vision mirror at the man that an hour ago was his friend. It’s odd how Richard resents him more for that deception than for the adulterous romancing on rooftops and deep, longing looks exchanged when Richard’s not supposed to be looking.
“She’s right,” Superman manages. His voice is a rasp, throat rubbed raw by coughing.
“About what?” Lois says. Her voice is sharp as she lays a gentle hand against his forehead.
“About being lucky to have friends…” He breaks off into a fit of coughing and never manages to finish.
Richard’s phone goes off just as they arrive at the Riverside house. It’s Perry. Richard presses the ‘answer’ button as he gets out of the car.
“Where the hell are you, Richard?” Judging by the belligerant voice braying down the phone, his uncle is in a towering rage. “I’ve got an international section without an editor and a front page missing my star reporter.”
“Perry, look I’m sorry…”
Richard grabs Clark when he stumbles on the gutter, nearly falling face down onto the freshly mown lawn. Superman, Richard reminds himself sharply. The clumsiness might appear to be classic Clark behaviour, but Richard must remember that the clumsiness was probably faked in the first place. 'Clark' never really existed.
Between them, he and Lois manage to get Superman up the path to the front door.
“I don’t want sorry,” Perry is saying. “I want some damn work done.”
“Look, you’ll have to get someone to fill in today. Maybe Kat – ”
“Fill in?” There’s an indrawn breath as his uncle prepares to launch into another tirade.
“Clark’s sick.” Forcing the name out is difficult, and Perry reads a different emotion into it altogether. Or maybe not so different. Richard doesn’t want the guy dead, after all. Maybe smacked around with a few bars of kryptonite, or caught in a nuclear blast or two, but not dead.
Perry’s voice is quieter when he speaks next.
“Is he going to be alright?”
“He’s going to be fine,” Richard says. He says it firmly, refusing to let doubt waver his voice. Something angry and sour sticks in his throat when Superman has to sit down whilst Lois unlocks the front door. “Look, Perry. I have to go. I’ll call you back tonight.”
He hangs up before Perry can protest and kneels down beside Superman.
“Lets get you on your feet, huh?” He says. He tells himself that it’s pity, not dread, that makes his voice softer.
Superman looks up and nods slowly. Those clear blue eyes are easier to read without the thick-framed glasses. He looks chastened and miserable, like Jason after he’s done something wrong.
Oh god, Jason. Yet another issue a mile deep and wide between them. It must be dealt with eventually, but right now it's far too painful and complex, and Richard puts it out of his mind to think about another day.
"C'mon." Richard gets on arm beneath Superman's and heaves him onto his feet. "Up we go..."