Continuing Tales

And Then There Was Light

A Lois & Clark Story
by Anti-Kryptonite

Part 13 of 23

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I must have blacked out for a moment because it felt as if I were awakening from a deep sleep when a soft hand touched my shoulder, long fingers curled around my arm, and that so-familiar voice cajoled me from the darkness into the light. "It's all right, Lois. Everything's fine, really."

"Hey, are you all right?"

I blinked and squinted against the unexpected glare creeping in around the contours of the delivery truck. The man dressed in white coveralls was peering at Clark and me from his self-appointed post over Nigel.

"I'm fine," Clark assured his friend—and me, I suspected. "Lois, this is Harv. I met him when we were investigating the South Side fires. He used to be one of my sources, but today, he let me borrow a uniform and hitch a ride with him."

"A doctor," I commanded the man. Serrated shards of light and darkness were alternating within my head and embers burned in my left arm; the only way to distract myself was to focus on what we needed to do. "We need a doctor. Clark—"

"I'm fine," he said yet again. He even stood up, as if to prove his point, rather shakily offering me a hand to pull me to my feet as well. "I don't need a doctor. But you…" The shadows seemed to gather in his eyes as he studied me. "You're bleeding, Lois."

It was true. My gunshot wound had, unsurprisingly, broken open, and I could feel the stickiness of dried blood on my temple. Still, that was inconsequential next to what could have happened to Clark. "It's nothing," I said with a shrug that made me immediately wince with pain, belying my statement.

"Then no doctor." Clark's voice was filled half with command and half with a plea.

"Fine," I acquiesced. Then I glanced toward the unconscious Nigel. "Police. We need to call the police. Or take him to the police." I shook my head, trying to clear out the gauze that wrapped my mind, probably protecting me from the full extent of my injuries.

Clark wrapped his hands around my arms, but looking up at him, I wasn't sure whether he was steadying me…or himself. "Lois—"

"Clark!" I exclaimed, a ray of light suddenly piercing through the mental haze. "Do you know what this means? We have Nigel! If we can get him to testify against Luthor, we…we could be almost done with this."

His smile was slight, as if he didn't comprehend how close we were to seeing Luthor behind bars. Well, he'd realize it soon enough, I determined. It was far past time to close this horrible chapter of his life forever; time for him to move on. And I would help him. Soon, everything would go back to normal, to the way it had been before he and Superman had been forced to leave me.

As if my thought had summoned him when my cries for help couldn't, a whoosh preceded Superman's hasty entrance into the warehouse. His step checked briefly as he took in the scene. A strange expression reshaped his features, but when he met my eyes, I saw only aloof neutrality.

"Superman." I turned toward him even as I wrapped my uninjured arm around Clark's waist, not quite sure he was able to stand on his own. "You're here!"

"What happened here?" Superman looked straight at Clark. "How did Nigel—"

"I'll tell you later," I promised him impatiently. "We have to get him to the police right now. And," I added when Clark wavered unsteadily, "I need to get Clark back to the apartment. A taxi! Harv." I turned to Clark's friend and had to say his name twice more before he was able to tear his gaze from the larger-than-life superhero. "Get us a taxi, would you? We can take Nigel to the—"

"I'll take him," Superman offered. "It looks like I was…too late…for the original rescue. So, the least I can do is drop him off for you."

"Oh, thank you!" I sagged a bit in relief. A long stay at the police station filling out papers and repeating our statements was something I was more than happy to avoid. "There's another man unconscious by the opening. Tell Henderson we'll be by later today to give our statements. Right now, we just…"

"Of course." Superman smiled, but it seemed much more distant than the smile he had given me after kissing me the night before. Not that I was in the best shape to analyze his expressions; not that I could tear my attention from Clark's quickly dwindling strength and warm touch to focus on the superhero.

"Thanks," I said again when Superman bent and hoisted Nigel up. I forced a smile for him, feeling a bit bad that I couldn't spare him more attention. But he performed rescues all the time, I assured myself; he surely understood that there were more important things to attend to at the moment.

"I'm glad you're all right, Lois." Superman smiled again—I couldn't summon the strength needed to compare this one to any of the others—and moved to pick up the other thug. He looked back toward us, shadows blanketing his form. "Clark. We'll talk later." Then, with another whoosh and the fluttering of his crimson and gold cape, he disappeared into the sky.

Though he stiffened at Superman's words, Clark betrayed no other reaction.

Instead of watching Superman until all sign of his trademark colors had faded, as I usually did, I turned back to Clark. "All right," I said softly. "Let's get out of here."

Harv had a taxi for us in short order. Clark tried to apologize for any damage made to his vehicle, but Harv waved it off with a remark that he'd been meaning to get an overhaul done on that truck anyway. I gave him my own absentminded thanks before getting Clark settled in the seat.

We didn't say much as we made our way back to the apartment; Clark was slumped back against the seat, his face turned toward the sun, and I was trying to order my thoughts and push away the pain beating out a jarring tattoo in my head and stroking tiny blades along the wound in my arm.

"I'm sorry," Clark mumbled when I had to support him on our way up the steps into my apartment building. "I thought I was done with this."

"Hey, it's okay." I smoothed my hand over his chest as I leaned him against the wall in the elevator. "You'll be back to normal again after a bit of rest."

He nodded and closed his eyes, leaning his head back against the wall.

"Clark." I kept my eyes fixed on the elevator doors, my voice small. "Thank you. For coming after me."

His fingers curled around mine in a gesture so much more comforting than could be explained through mere words. "You'd have done the same for me."

But I hadn't, I thought dismally as I helped him into the apartment and guided him to my bed instead of the cot. He was too drained to even notice—or at least to protest—and he pulled off the coveralls and stretched himself out without a murmur.

For a long month, Clark had faced the kind of treatment I had gotten such a small taste of today…and I hadn't come for him. I hadn't even looked for him. Luthor might have been the one who imprisoned and tortured Clark, but I was the one who had let him stay there.

Yet Clark, who had been free for less than a week, had dared to follow me into a situation that could have easily seen him back in a cell…or dead. He had even tried to place himself between me and his captor, no matter that Nigel had been holding that box.

All the terror I had pushed aside came surging back inside my mind like a flood, knocking aside everything else and filling up every crevice and niche. I couldn't seem to stop touching Clark, reassuring myself that he was well, that he was alive, that he was here with me.

"So," I said, desperate to distract myself from the image that kept replaying in my head—the image of Clark crumpling lifelessly to the ground. "How did you know where I was?"

A slightly guilty expression painted itself across his face. "I overheard you talking to Perry."

"You overheard me," I repeated, at first surprised before remembering that there were several instances when Clark had demonstrated that he had remarkable hearing. "Oh, Perry—"

Clark's hand on mine stopped me from rising. "I called before I left and told him I was fine and that he didn't need to come check up on me."

"And he believed you?" I asked dubiously.

"No." His tiny chuckle drove back some of the shadows still flooding my heart. "But I think I convinced him to hold off on coming until the lunch hour."

"So he'll be here any minute," I realized with a glance to the clock. "Great. He'll never pass on a message from a source to me again."

Aside from a tired smile, Clark didn't reply. He kept staring at me, though I was surprised that he hadn't fallen asleep again. Something took my heart in a tight hold as I stared back at him, something that made colors seem brighter, edges seem sharper, and days seem both longer and shorter and altogether infinitely more worth living. Something that made it hard to breathe and stilled the dizzy swirl the room seemed to want to travel around me.

"You shaved," I whispered, reaching out to stroke the smoothness of his face.

"It was easier this morning," he said, as if that explained anything. His jaw clenched as he looked away. "I don't know that it'll be as easy tomorrow."

"But there'll be a tomorrow for you!" The fierce words were out and shivering between us before I had even realized that I was speaking.

Clark studied me a moment in silence, his expression evenly divided between concern, curiosity, and hope.

"I thought you were shot," I admitted numbly. I splayed my hand over his chest, still amazed that he was unharmed. Only when I felt liquid warmth on my cheeks did I realize that the flood within me was leaking out into the open by way of tears that seemed even more distant than that old Lois Lane who didn't cry and wasn't afraid to investigate tips and only tolerated her partner.

"I'm fine, Lois. Really." Clark smiled up at me, one hand rising to cradle my face next to his palm. "I wasn't shot."

"But you fell," I insisted, uncertain why I couldn't just let this go. Uncertain why I was looking at him as if I had never seen him before. But I hadn't, had I? I had never before realized just how much of a hero my partner was. I had never before allowed myself to recognize just how much courage and integrity and brilliance hid beneath the Midwestern exterior.

"It…" Clark hesitated and looked away. "It was just a…shadow of an old pain."

The box. Whatever was in it—more of the drug they had dosed him with, I guessed—scared him. The simple sight of it was enough to pause him. And yet…he had still forced himself forward. Still come to me.

"Are you sure you're all right?" I asked him softly, my voice little more than a breath.

For the first time, Clark allowed me to see a hint of the uncertainty he felt. For an instant, his fear was unveiled behind his glasses. "As long as you're real, Lois…I am."

Compassion—overwhelming, unfamiliar, all-consuming—seared away the flood of terror within me and filled my mind and heart with a soothing, healing, cleansing warmth.

"Oh, Clark." Without a second thought, I stretched myself out beside him and took him into my arms, resting my head on his chest. "I'm here," I whispered in his ear. "I'm really here. I'm not going anywhere. This isn't just a dream. I'm here."

All the words I hadn't been able to give him in the cell…now I had them. Such simple words, just an affirmation that I was there with him, that he wasn't alone—and yet they seemed to do wonders. Clark's arms tightened around me even as he relaxed under me. I couldn't see him, not with my head pressed against his shoulder, but I swore that I could feel the darkness of the cell retreating from around him, reluctantly relinquishing some part of their hold on him.

One of his arms kept me held tightly to himself while the other drifted upward to cup the back of my head. It was the same way he had hugged me after he had almost been shot by Trask, the same way he had hugged me after rescuing me from that bank vault—

I frowned suddenly. That hadn't been Clark. That had been Superman. He had crashed through the thick, reinforced walls as if they had been paper and caught me before I could fall. He had carried me outside into the cool air and set me down on my feet only when he was convinced that I could remain upright.

Clark hadn't been there that day.

And Superman hadn't been there the day in Smallville when I had suddenly—as sudden as the sound of a gunshot—realized just how much Clark meant to me, not just as a partner, but as a friend. When I had seen how close I could come to losing him and ran to him and taken him into my arms because I knew, then, that I did not ever want to be without him.

I had tried to erase that memory in the two months he had been gone, but in doing so, I had lost so much of myself and left Clark buried in darkness.

But now he was back. He was here…with me.

"I'm here," I continued to whisper to him, a calming stream of words and promises and assurances that dulled the agony flaring through my arm and slowed the pounding tempo in my head. "I'm really here. I'm not going anywhere."

When his hand in my hair loosened slightly, I pulled back and tilted my head upward, moving automatically. I had almost brought my lips to his before the feel of his breath feathering across my cheek jolted me from my thoughtless move.

Shaken, disturbed, I resettled my head on his shoulder as if that had been the reason I moved at all. Clark's arms didn't tighten around me, he didn't say a word, his eyes were closed as he held me—I dared to hope that he didn't realize what I had almost done.

How could I have almost done that? Something fluttered through my stomach, something akin to the ethereal pixie dancing through my heart and disturbing its even beating. My thoughts had scattered in a drunken whirl as soon as I realized what exactly I was about to do.

I had almost kissed Clark.

Worse, I had almost done it without even thinking, as if it had been an automatic move, as if it had been as natural as…as breathing!

But I loved Superman! He had kissed me just the day before! I had been in his arms! He had told me he cared for me! What was wrong with me? Kissing Clark would have been unfair to all three of us—Superman, Clark, and myself!

"Thank you for being here, Lois." Clark's quiet murmur startled me. "I just…I don't…just…thank you."

"Don't worry about it," I said in a voice as dry as autumn leaves.

Don't worry about it. I was doing the opposite myself, but I knew it wouldn't do any good. Just leave it, I advised myself. I had a head wound, after all, and had just gone through a somewhat traumatic experience. The almost-kiss had only been a byproduct of the fact that I had been thinking about Superman, that was all. If I had been dazed enough to confuse Clark and Superman in my memories, then it was obvious that I could have done the same thing in the present moment as well. Clark had saved me when I called for Superman and Superman had left in a hurry just as Clark had been prone to do—clearly, the distinctions between the two men had blurred, but once I got some sleep and maybe some Advil, I'd be fine.

By the time I managed to talk myself into shrugging off the incident, Clark had fallen asleep, his embrace strong and sure around me despite the weakness that had been evident in his steps. For a long while, I couldn't resist studying him, my head tilted upward on his shoulder, my thoughts gradually slowing their frenetic pace and drifting toward sleep.

Finally, with a deep sigh, I burrowed closer to Clark and slept, falling into a dream where Clark cradled me in his arms and took me flying through the skies, his glasses casting bright sparkles of light until I took them off with a laugh and tucked them protectively close to myself as the wind caressed us with cool fingers.

The strident ring of the phone jolted me from the strange dream. Groggy and disoriented, I tried to shake off the effects of the dream—which had obviously been influenced by that strange lack of distinction between Clark and Superman—and slipped as gracefully as possible from Clark's arms to grab the phone. A hiss of sharp pain slipped from between my teeth when I unthinkingly reached out with my left arm.

"Hello?" I asked into the phone while trying to convince my body that curling up into a ball wouldn't make the pain go away.

"Lane!" Henderson's voice was so full of surprise that I almost missed the note of relief also imbuing it. "You're home?"

"Of course. Where else would I be?" Spotting Perry's distinctive handwriting on the notepad beside the phone, I tilted my head to read the note he'd left behind.

Lois, didn't want to wake you two, but I expect a full report on what in the samhill happened today. I'll be by this evening. And I hope you don't expect me to ever believe you again when you say there's nothing to worry about. –Perry.

I glanced at the clock, surprised to see that Clark and I had slept a good four hours.

"Where else would you…!" Henderson took a deep breath. "Maybe where I am—or someplace worse."

"Didn't Superman tell you I'd be by later to give my statement?" I scowled. Though my head was no longer aching, I already regretted pulling myself away from Clark's warm embrace to listen to another lecture from the irascible inspector.

"Your statement?" Henderson repeated. "Superman? What are you talking about? You're sure you're all right?"

"What are you talking about?" I retorted. "Shouldn't you be trying to get Nigel to testify against Luthor?"

"Nigel?" The inspector paused for a moment. "Lane, I'm at the hospital. I rushed down here as soon as I got word that the protective detail I gave you was here. They're in surgery right now. One of them woke up long enough to inform me that while following you toward the Red Light district, their car was inexplicably hurled toward the side of the street and into an oncoming semi-truck. The officers left behind to watch Clark were attacked by some rough characters that look like they came straight from Gotham's alleys, all of whom insist they were paid off by some gang lord they can't—or won't—name. So…why don't you tell me what you're doing?"

I sat down on the side of the bed heavily, the phone clutched to my ear out of sheer habit. No wonder my bodyguards hadn't come out of nowhere to save me this morning.

But…there was something missing in Henderson's sharp report.

"Nigel," I said aloud. "Are you saying you never…Superman said he'd take him straight to you."

"Lane." There was a warning note in Henderson's voice, similar enough to Perry's when I went off on a tangent that I snapped back into the present.

"This morning, Perry passed on a tip from one of my sources. She claimed she knew something about the Boss."

"And of course you went to meet her."

"Yes," I said, choosing to ignore the sarcasm dripping from Henderson's voice. "She wasn't there, though. I don't know if Nigel paid her off or…well, I didn't see a body, but…Nigel was there. He—"

"Was Kent alone in the apartment then?" Henderson cut in.

I couldn't help but glance back at Clark, relieved to see that he was still sleeping, his glasses sitting incongruously on his nose. The late afternoon sun immersed him in its almost-liquid glow. "No. He came after me."

"So there was no one at the apartment?"

"No," I said with an irritated scowl.

"All right. I'm coming over with a team. They might have bugged the place again. Stay put, and don't say anything you don't want a certain someone else to know."

"Bring a medic," I said with another look to Clark and cradling my injured arm closer to myself.

Henderson didn't bother to make a reply—unless an aggravated sigh counted as a closing remark.

Hanging up the phone, I turned once more toward Clark. A line had appeared to crease his brow, and his hand twitched over the side of the bed I'd been sleeping on. The confessions he had made in his letter about the nightmares Luthor had left him were still starkly clear in my mind, so I sat next to him and reached over a gentle hand to caress his cheek.

Instantly, he quieted, his brow smoothing. "Lois," he whispered drowsily. A slight smile chased the fear from his features.

I froze, then quickly withdrew my hand.

I had thought my emotions had fluctuated wildly concerning Clark when he had been gone, but that had been nothing compared to now. It terrified me how much he seemed to depend on me. And yet it amazed me how strong he was even after everything that had been done to him. Half the time I felt only the protectiveness one should feel for a partner; the rest of the time, I was trapped between frustration, awe, and an inexplicable feeling that left me unable to clearly see anything but the softness of his eyes and the warmth of his smile and the way he seemed to exude a light that shattered the shadows his absence had birthed.

The letter had thrown me. Its astonishing accusations, its blatant confessions, its startling statements…I hadn't known what to make of it. It had left me feeling as if I couldn't know the man who had written it because there was so much more passion and boldness within its words than Clark ever allowed me to see when I looked at him.

Yet the letter didn't really change anything, I realized with an inward start. Clark was the same person he had been before. It was only I who had changed. I who had grown with the realization that Clark didn't fit into the nice, neat label I had given him upon our first introduction. He didn't slide into any category I had assigned him—in fact, he seemed to move between them, partner and friend and brother and—

A shudder passed through my body like the precursor to an earthquake.

A brother?

When had Clark ever acted like a brother?

Never, I thought, and a lump appeared in my throat. It would be easier if he had, easier if that was all he meant to me, easier if I could leave it there and turn my attention back to Superman.

And maybe that was what had so scared me about that letter. Not his absurd assertions concerning Superman's allegiances. Not his revelations about the things that had been done to him. Not the confusing statements that were impossible to understand without some ambiguous piece of information he had neglected to write down. No, what had left me unable to speak to him and barely able to look at him had been the—the love; I forced myself to think the word—the love that infused each word and every sentence.

Clark loved me.

And that was why I had been bouncing back and forth between holding him at arm's length and snuggling up beside him at night. That was why I went from kissing Superman to telling Clark that I didn't like seeing him with other women. That was why I sat here at his side, unable to move, barely able to breathe as I watched his chest rise and fall just hours after I had thought him dead.

Clark—the best man I had ever met aside from Superman—loved me.

It was such a blinding revelation that I was left hunched in on myself, shielding my eyes from the brilliant, burning light. As much in the dark as before…and all alone.

And Then There Was Light

A Lois & Clark Story
by Anti-Kryptonite

Part 13 of 23

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