I'd do this big fancy header thing, but I'm not quite sure what this is. My brain? I guess I should warn for all slash pairings implied, but can be read with the "/" or "&", either way. And this Dick is probably a bit more bitter than he was in canon at this point. Oh, and nothing really happens. Yeah, I got about ~2000 words of that. *g* Dick in New York, Robin over and done, at least for him.
Clark sits down on his couch with his bag of Thai take-out, takes off his glasses, flips open his laptop. He has a long night ahead of him, research. Outside the Metropolis skies fill with rain.
The phone rings.
"Hey big guy," Dick says when he picks up. "Busy?"
Clark has a mouthful of noodles, washes those quickly down with a swallow from his bottle of chai. "Supposed to be," he says. "What's up?"
"I could really use a cup of coffee," Dick says. "Tough week." There's a sigh hidden in those words, a false cheer.
Clark closes his file on the Masterson article. Lois will have his hide if he doesn't show up with some wonderful insight first thing in the morning. But then again, it doesn't take much for her to chew him out these days. Nothing a double tall latte won't cure though.
"Okay," Clark says. "Where?" He opens his browser.
"Zani's on Amsterdam near Columbia. You know it?"
"Can you give me a cross-street?"
Dick pauses, laughs. "Clark, are you mapquesting?"
"Uh, yeah," he says. Mapquest gives him twenty-five possibilities for coffee shops when Zani's comes up 'not found'. "A walking Thomas Guide I'm not. I don't know New York all that well."
"I just thought..."
"Hey, I'm not a homing pigeon!"
"There's an image." Dick laughs again, the sound of traffic behind him. A horn blares. Someone curses in Farsi.
"You're not driving are you?" Clark says, concerned.
"A car. In New York," Dick says. "And I'd park it where? Naw, just walking around, getting my dose of exhaust fumes."
"Dick?" Clark says, "Could you put the phone to your chest for a few seconds?"
On the other end, a cut off chortle, but then the sound of leather and then cotton, finally the sound of a heartbeat, clear, strong, unique and familiar and unmistakable. Clark listens to the rhythm of it. The phone pulls away. "Got it?" Dick whispers.
"Yeah," Clark says, eyes closed, the pattern sealed and beckoning.
"Okay, pigeon, home in. See you in ten."
Nine minutes later, Clark opens the door at Zani's, the shop long and narrow, booths on one side, counter on the other. He spies the leather jacket he heard brush away from the heartbeat on the phone. Dick sits at a booth near the back, one lean leg splayed out to the aisle. He's let his hair grow out a bit, dark soft waves curling around his ear. Clark sits opposite, the vinyl sighing.
Dick gives him a slow grin. "Look who decided to dress down."
Clark had left his glasses on the coffee table, changed into an old pair of jeans, t-shirt, retrieved his old leather jacket from the back of the closet. Wet his hair, fingercombed the waves. Still Clark, but a Clark that he hasn't been for a long time.
"I wanted to blend in," he says.
"You blend in nice," Dick says, blue eyes appraising. "Haven't seen you like this in a while. I should call you...?" And he lets the question hover.
"Clark's fine," he says.
"Young," Dick says. "I forget that you're closer to my age than his sometimes."
Not sure what to say to that, Clark reaches for a menu even though he had gobbled up the rest of his noodles in a hurry before changing, brushed his teeth.
"No," Dick says. "It's good. You look good, Clark." He laughs. "I, on the other hand, probably look like shit."
He's seen Dick bruised and bleeding, days without sleep, bags of worry under his eyes. None of that is here now. A certain tension, yes, he thrums with it, glows. "Despite your, uh, rough week, you look good, Dick."
"Liar," Dick says, low and grinning, chin in hand. Clark can count on one hand the number of people who can call him that without instilling anger, guilt, both. Dick is one.
"So this place..." Clark says, fiddling with the menu.
"Kind of old school," Dick says, leaning back. "But you can't beat it for the atmosphere. Plus I kind of wanted to avoid the whole university crowd tonight."
"And the other?" Clark says, not needing to add Titans to the end of that.
"Yeah, them too."
Dick smiles as he says this, but Clark can see the tension in the arm that only appears to be relaxing along the wooden top of the booth bench. For a Thursday night, the place is relatively uncrowded. A young couple sits at the counter, leaning slightly into each other. Only three other booths are occupied. The waitress shouts something to the cook in Albanian and comes around the counter to take their order.
"Just coffee, hon," Dick says, smiling slow and looking up. "Okay, add two orders of llokume too. My friend's got a bit of a sweet tooth, and I think he'll die of bliss when he tastes what you've got here."
Dick winks, sly and sure, much more worldly and confident than eighteen should imply. Jehona, at least according to her plastic blue name tag pinned to her shirt, glances quickly at Clark and back at Dick. She and Clark blush at the same time.
"Sure thing," she says, smiling, just a hint of Albanian in her upper west side accent. She walks back to the counter with a little more sway in her hips than she had before. Jehona looks back and catches Clark looking. She smiles, inviting. Clark shifts, uncomfortable.
"She likes you," Dick says with a smirk. "But what's not to like?"
"You are a horrible flirt," Clark says, slightly appalled.
"No, I'm a good one," he says, the smile finally reaching his brown eyes. His arm relaxes a bit. "I'm allowed."
"So things are going well with Kory?"
"Yeah, one of the few constants in my life." The smile fades and then returns when Jehona brings the coffee and dessert.
She places a small cut glass bowl with a silver spoon on the table as well. "For your sweet tooth," she says. "Albanian sugar."
"Thank you," Clark says, a furtive smile.
Dick raises an eyebrow and one corner of his mouth. "That just for him? I'm not going to get my hand slapped if I take some too?"
Jehona blushes, adjusts her tray. "It's for both of you," she says.
"Good to know. Thanks!" He clicks his tongue, winks and reaches for the spoon.
"Just let me know if you two need anything else." She sashays back to the counter.
"You usually take it black," Clark says as Dick lets the sugar fall, stirs.
"Life's an adventure, Clark. What can I say?" He sips his coffee, looks out the window, lights and traffic. "No, Kory and I are good. Like I said, I'm allowed to flirt." Dick still gazes out the window, sips his coffee again. He doesn't pick up his fork. "There's a few things I'm not allowed anymore."
"Is this about...?"
"Yeah," Dick says, soft. "Growing up sucks more than I thought it would. I'm not fourteen anymore, you know?"
Fourteen. How old Dick had been when Clark met him. How old Dick had been when Clark met Bruce.
"Have you called him?"
Dick turns, puts his coffee down. He picks at his dessert. "A few times. Now ask if he's called me."
Clark eats a bit, lets the almonds roll on his tongue. "Sounds like I don't have to," he says.
Dick laughs, quiet and hard and bitter. "Yeah, just leave your suit at the door. Have a nice life, Dick."
"I don't think it happened quite like that." Clark spoons one, two, three times into his coffee, stirs, never looking away from Dick.
"No, that would have been too easy. Why pluck a bird quick when you can do it slow?" He looks Clark in the eye. "He's got a bit of a thing for pain, you know. I used to think he couldn't help it. Now..."
Clark reaches over, takes Dick's hand in his, firm. "Dick, just stop. He loves you."
A grin breaks out, turns into a harsh, low laugh, but he squeezes Clark's hand in return. Gripping, holding onto something. "You used the "L" word. Careful, Clark, that's a bad word in our house. You'd get your mouth washed out with soap for that."
Clark notices the possessive and present tense of that, but decides not to press it. Dick doesn't need to be reminded where he lives and where he's from. Where he's likely to return.
"It's not a bad word," he says instead.
"Easy for you to say." Dick laughs, a bad joke and much too funny, pulls his hand away. Clark lets him.
They eat for a while in silence, drink their coffee. Jehona comes by and gives them both refills.
"That's what he likes and hates about you," Dick says, putting his fork down. "That it comes so easy."
Clark looks up from his coffee, startled. "Huh?"
Dick leans forward, voice low. "You don't quite fit, Clark. Not in his world. You've noticed. You're not stupid even though he wishes you were."
Clark looks down at his coffee. "You've got a right to be bitter," he says. "But you should see beyond that. This isn't like you."
"Isn't it?" He drums his fingers on the table, even rhythm. "I...I don't know who I am anymore, Clark. I had a job. Now I don't."
"Get a new one."
Now Dick just stares at him, incredulous. "Anyone else and I'd tell them to fuck off. But you..."
Clark shrugs. "You called me," he says.
A slow nod. "Yeah. Yeah, I did."
Clark finishes his llokume, washes the mint away with the last of his coffee. "We can't really talk about this here."
"You're right." Dick signals for the check. He pays, grins when he rips off the guest receipt, hands it to Clark. "You score."
Clark looks at it, reddens all the way to his collar. On the back of the slim receipt, hurriedly scrawled is 'Sweet Tooth', 'Jehona' and a number. He looks up, waves to the counter and Jehona waves back from the register. "Call me," she mouths.
Dick stands. "You should," he whispers. "Before..."
"Before what?" Clark says as they head for the door.
Dick pauses in the doorframe, turns. "Forget it," he says. "You never would." In a whisper, he adds, "Thank God."
Clark blinks but doesn't ask.
"Come on," Dick says, bouncing and turning on the sidewalk, graceful and finding his true laugh again. "Let's go hit the arcade."
"You're on!" Clark laughs as Dick sprints away and he chases him in human time. He catches him, finally, about the waist, breathy. The run longer and harder than it should have been.
"You cheated somehow," Clark says, arm slipping up to Dick's shoulder. They stop, wait for the traffic light, bodies around them.
"I'm not a cheater," Dick says, soft. He twirls inside, wraps his arms around Clark's neck. "But I could use a friend," he whispers in Clark's ear.
"Hey, I'm here," Clark whispers back, returns the embrace, turns it into a hug, necessary, fierce, gentle. The pedestrian light whistles, bodies part around them, move forward. They don't.
Above them, Clark thinks he hears the swing of line, a cape billowing, boots on a rooftop.
Dick pulls away, thrusts his hands in his pockets, storms against the warning of the red blinking hand across the street. One long stride and then two, Clark catches up.
"Shit," Dick says, almost a growl. "It figures."
When they reach the opposite corner, Dick swirls, shouts into the busy night air. "Just let it go! Jesus, what is wrong with you?"
Clark puts his hand on his shoulder. "Do you want me to...?"
"Not unless you're going to..." He swirls and shouts again, "...kick his ass!"
"I can't do that, Dick. I'm not picking sides. I could go talk to him though."
"Nuh uh, Clark," Dick says. He shouts again. "That's what he wants!"
Clark stands there, unsure. "Then maybe you should..."
"Maybe he should learn how to pick up a damn phone," Dick says, muttering. "Had it, Clark. Just had it."
The boots above and across from them, in shadow but discernable to the searching eye, don't move.
"Go home!" Dick shouts. He turns to Clark, puts a purposeful arm around his shoulder. "Come on, there's a pinball machine with our name on it."
Clark looks over his shoulder, once, then walks down the street with Dick, arm wrapping around him.
Dick puts his free hand up, middle finger extended, flips the shadows off. He doesn't look back.
They walk three blocks before Clark hears the boots retreat.
continues in part 2