Continuing Tales

And Then There Was Light

A Lois & Clark Story
by Anti-Kryptonite

Part 16 of 23

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A long sleepless night passed, stretching out so interminably that I was ready to scream. Finally, however, whether guided through the same fixed orbits by the pull of the sun or by sheer willpower on my part, morning arrived to shine dimly through the tiny windows high in the bedroom wall. And now that morning had finally arrived, I found myself conversely wishing that time would stand still, would go backward, would have paused in the pre-dusk dark so that I didn't have to open the door I had slammed, walk back out into the room I had left so abruptly, and face the man I had fled.

I delayed the inevitable moment as long as possible, taking my time dressing in warm, comfortable clothes and packing up my things. I even grit my teeth past the pain caused by my inept handling and changed the bandage on my wound myself. I couldn't bear to let Clark do it, not when I'd have to look at him and see just how badly I'd hurt him. Not when I'd have to sit there, quiescent and seemingly unmoved, as his hands drifted over my skin and tempted me to forget all the reasons I had slammed a door between us.

When I could stall no longer, I stepped in front of the door, took a deep, shuddering breath, and set a trembling hand to the doorknob.

Then I pulled my hand back and paced out a few, short lines.

Coward, I named myself silently. That was enough, fortunately, to galvanize me into action. Nobody called Lois Lane a coward—not even me.

So I set my hand decisively to the doorknob, twisted it with a flick of my wrist, and yanked the door open. For my bravery, I was rewarded the sight of Clark's back.

He was standing at the window, his skin turned golden by the morning sunshine, his eyes fixed in the direction of Bender's yacht. For some strange reason, he had his glasses pulled down low on his nose while he squinted at something or other. He stayed in that pose for a long moment before finally letting out a tiny sigh, his shoulders drooping, and pushing his glasses back up. Then, almost reluctantly, he reached down and picked up the binoculars Perry had loaned us.

My foot scuffed the edge of one of the tables book-ending the couch, and Clark started, lowering the binoculars and turning to face me with wide eyes.

"Anything yet?" I asked before he could make any mention of the night before. My voice came out sounding strained and nervous, but at least it came out. I hadn't been sure it would when I first caught sight of Clark's expression metamorphosing from surprise to a mixture of characteristic concern, painful wariness, and that ever-present hope.

"No," he replied quietly in that distinctive voice of his. "Nothing yet. Bender's up, though, and he's been kind of active. He might be getting ready for a meeting. I've got the recorder set for voice activation."

"Good," I said hoarsely, unable to tear my eyes from him, unable to look at him, the result being that I darted glances of him out of the corner of my eye, as if he were too bright to face full-on.

And he was.

I had thought that the way last night had ended and the terrible, downward-spiraling thoughts that had filled my midnight hours would have doused the brilliance I had seen in him. I had been sure that the early-morning light would be shining brightly enough to make Clark seem no more radiant than usual. I had assumed the star-struck tendencies that had taken hold of me last night had been nipped in the bud by my realization that I had betrayed either Clark or Superman by kissing him.

I had been wrong.

Clark still shone. He still seemed every bit as amazing and perfect as he had seemed the night before, maybe even more so because, though he watched me so carefully and hopefully, he selflessly let me pick the conversation, let me speak only of work-related topics, let me pretend that I had been unaffected by his unconscious charm. He still drew me toward him, so much so that it was almost impossible for me to keep the coffee table between us.

Think of him, I reminded myself sternly, repeating the conclusions I had come to the night before. He was amazing—I wasn't arguing that—amazing enough to deserve someone who loved him for himself, someone who put his needs above her own, someone who wanted, above all else, to make him happy.

Not someone who was selfish enough to kiss him just because she loved that he loved her.

Not someone who confused him in her mind with his estranged best friend.

Not someone who could think of another man a breath after kissing him.

Not me.

So, no matter that I wanted to smile at Clark and step close to him and throw myself into his arms—carefully, because he still looked a bit off-balance—and let him hold me and maybe kiss me again…no matter all of that, I had to remain professional and aloof…and alone.

I had promised myself that I would be the friend he needed, that I would give back to him, that I would take care of him. Now was the time to fulfill that silent promise.

"We're picking up sound all right?" I asked when I became aware the moment of silence had stretched out too long.

"Yes," he replied minimally. He swiveled in place to follow me with his eyes as I wandered the room aimlessly. My steps threatened to inch nearer him, but I brutally restrained myself. "Do you need me to look at your arm, or bandage it again?"

"No. I got it." The bandage I had managed to tie was a bit bulky and had restarted the slow burning in the wound, but I wasn't about to admit that to him. I couldn't, even though he was staring at me with such soft eyes and an earnest expression that tempted me to confess my every thought. To steel myself against him, I forced myself to remember the condition he had been in when I had been put in the cell with him. The way he had flinched when I pulled my hands out of his after imploring him to confide in me. The way he had turned his back and left the room after I had given Superman the same words I had so intensely given him.

Just as I had given Clark a kiss even more moving and powerful and wonderful than the one I had shared with Superman.

I don't think I had ever had a lower opinion of myself than in that moment, not even when I had thought I was partially responsible for Superman having to face Nightfall alone.

"I didn't have anything to cook for breakfast," Clark said hesitantly. "We might be able to order in something."

"Oh, no, that's okay." I waved my hand in a vague gesture. "I think I brought some honey buns or some kind of pastry. That should do in a pinch. Of course," I manufactured a laugh," I'll have to move into the gym for a month when this is all over."

Something flickered in Clark's expression. Whatever it was, I wasn't sure that I was coherent enough or awake enough or enough myself to try to interpret it. Besides, I hadn't had any luck figuring him out since the night he had woken me at my desk and stunned me with a letter of resignation and a kiss goodbye; why should now be any different?

"Lois," Clark began with a deep breath, and I tensed. I couldn't let him mention last night, couldn't let him talk to me in that kind, tender voice, couldn't let him get close enough to reach out and draw a finger along my cheek…or I would succumb. I knew I would. And I couldn't, not until I had straightened everything out within myself. Not until I could decide what I felt—really, truly felt—for him. Not until I was sure that I was done hurting him.

"You're sure you haven't seen anyone arrive yet?" I moved toward the window, vaguely aware that my movements were stilted and unnatural. Too late, I realized that I had gotten so desperate to find a distraction that I had forgotten I wasn't supposed to draw so close to Clark.

"No," he said simply, though he would have been justified in pointing out that he would surely have mentioned it if he'd seen anyone arrive at Bender's yacht. "Here."

I froze. His hand—the same one that had traced the contours of my face with such gentleness—was held out toward me as he offered me the binoculars. His eyes—the same eyes that still glowed with the same light that had compelled me to kiss him—were intent on my face. His voice—the same that had woven such spells around me the night before—was strained and patient as he repeated my name.

"Thanks," I choked out and took the binoculars, careful to avoid physical contact.

It seemed almost impossible for the moment to get any more awkward, so I was relieved beyond measure when the phone rang, though the volume of its sudden chime made me jump. Clark started as well, but he only looked away, so I set the binoculars down and moved to the phone.

"Hello?" My voice trembled on that single word, so much so that even I wasn't able to recognize myself in the greeting.

"Lois?" Perry asked, a frown evident in his tone.

"Perry." I forced a smile in Clark's direction. He formed his own fake smile, then turned back to the window, raising the binoculars to his eyes, masking whatever emotion he was too polite to show me.

"Lois, I think you should sit down."

"Why?" I asked suspiciously. Something took my heart and squeezed in a grip as tight as Luthor's thugs had held me. I was almost afraid to hear Perry's answer—no, I was afraid of what he had to say. I didn't think I could take anything else at this moment. I was so tired, tired of what Luthor had made of my life, tired of my own confusion and guilt and bewilderment.

Perry hesitated, stammering a bit before finally saying, "Lois, you said Luthor had threatened the Planet if you didn't do as he demanded, didn't you?"

I sank blindly to the couch, my hand turned numb on the phone. "Yes."


"What happened?" I demanded, bolting upright though I had just sat down, my eyes sparking with fire. Luthor had already taken my partner, had tried to take my hero, and was keeping me from my job—there was no way he was taking the Planet. No way in the world.

"It's nothing definite yet," Perry warned, the note of fear that threaded his words belying his own reassurance. "One of the board-members passed along a warning that…well, our advertisers seem to be jumpin' ship. And ever since Clark and Superman left…well, for a while now, we've been…our circulation's been just a bit low. The recent exclusive with Superman has been helping, but…my friend says the board's about to meet with our creditors. It's…it's just not lookin' good. And with what you said about Luthor's threats, I thought…"

As if dragged by a strong magnetic pull, my eyes were drawn to Clark. When I had insisted that Luthor could not hurt a newspaper, Clark had retorted that the Planet was infinitely vulnerable. He can kill Perry; he can set a bomb; he could even buy it if he wanted to. His warning echoed sonorously within my head, blotting out the sound of Perry's flat assurances.


I hadn't recognized my voice when I answered the phone, but this single denial…this I recognized. For perhaps the first time since Clark had walked away from me, I sounded like myself. Mad Dog Lane—I had been pretending I could still be her, but she had become nothing more than a façade, a show of bravado to hide just how lost and uncertain I was without my partner.

But now…that determination, the will to fight against any odds, the stubborn refusal to accept defeat—it was me. This was me. This was who I was.

"This is not going to happen," I sternly instructed Perry. "We can't let him get the Daily Planet. I won't let him win, Chief."

"Of course not." There was a resolve in Perry's voice that hadn't been there a moment ago. "We'll stop him."

"You need to find out everything you can. Use whatever contacts you have to see what made the advertisers—"

"I've been around the block a coupl'a times," Perry interrupted. "I think I know how to handle myself. You and, uh, your friend, in the meantime, need to get us the exclusive on Luthor. That'll boost circulation."

"Among other things," I said grimly, my eyes still fixed on Clark, whose stiff shoulders indicated he was upset about something. Probably the tone of my voice.

"Don't worry, Lois. You take care of your end of things, and I'll hammer out the details on this side. No two-bit millionaire is going to get the better of us."

"That's more like it, Chief," I said with a grin that felt unfamiliar on my lips.

"Lois!" Clark turned from the window and beckoned me to his side.

"Got to go, Perry!" Not waiting to hear his goodbye, I hung up the phone and hurried to the window. Clark handed me the binoculars and turned to flip the switch that allowed us to hear the words spoken on the yacht.

My sharp intake of air marked the moment when I saw Bender gesturing Nigel forward, glancing about so furtively that any passerby would be sure to take notice.

"Nigel!" I exclaimed. My hands tightened over the binoculars, anger surging up in my heart in tandem with the waves lapping against the yacht's hull. "Quick, Clark—call Henderson."

Clark stepped to the phone, but I didn't concentrate on his hushed conversation with the inspector, instead focusing my attention on the words relayed through our equipment.

"Let's make this quick," the short lawyer was saying in his customary fussy voice. "I can't afford to be seen with you."

"You're behind the times, Sheldon," Nigel said congenially, helping himself to the cup of tea Bender had sitting on a nearby table. "There's no longer any reason to worry about the so-called law. Ever since Mr. Luthor acquired his newest employee, things have been looking up for all our interests."

"He's using him for this?" Bender squeaked, his eyes bugging out. "I thought that wasn't working out as well as hoped."

"Well, there are still a few bugs to be ironed out." Nigel shrugged and looked casually around the docks, a glance that took in his surroundings with a cold, seasoned eye.

I couldn't help but take a tiny step backward, my gunshot wound clamoring with remembered pain. Clark's warm hand on my back as he rejoined me at the window strengthened and reassured me. Determinedly, picturing the Planet in my mind's eye, I looked through the binoculars again.

"Despite those minor flaws," Nigel continued after a careful sip of tea, "LexCorp's worldwide business dealings have already doubled in profit. Having muscle that is intimidating, quick, and above reproach works well for Mr. Luthor. However, the reporters continue to be a problem, which is why I've come."

"Of course I'll represent Mr. Luthor at any trial that should occur." Bender sounded slightly more confident now that the subject had turned, though he kept glancing fearfully up at the sky.

Frowning, I turned to Clark to ask if he had any idea what they were talking about. My frown melted like vapor at the sight of Clark's jaw clenched painfully tight, his eyes flashing anger to match the expression he had worn when Superman had returned him to the apartment two nights before. His hands were balled into fists, and it was a good thing he wasn't the one with heat-vision considering how intently he glared in the direction of the yacht.

"There won't be a trial." Nigel's voice, emanating from the equipment behind us, jolted me and snapped my attention back to him and Bender. "That's the entire point of this meeting. When Mr. Luthor called you a week ago, you promised him you would carry out his instructions to the letter."

"And I did!" Bender exclaimed, holding his hands up in a warding gesture. "I hired the men to follow that photographer just as he asked."

"Jimmy!" The name slipped from Clark's lips, and I glanced up at him, disturbed when I saw that the color had drained from his face. "I knew he should have been back by now."

"Then tell me, Sheldon." Nigel stepped so close to Bender that he loomed over the smaller man. "Why has Mr. Luthor not been informed that this task has been completed?"

Bender backed away. "It has been! I told you over the phone—they'll be on their way back to Metropolis with proof they've completed their end of the bargain as soon as they let the kid lead them to whatever he was sent to find."

Clark shook his head. He looked so unsteady that I set down the binoculars and took hold of his arm to ground him, temporarily allowing the murmur of Nigel and Bender's conversation to become nothing more than background hum.

Clark's eyes were wide and worried when he met mine. "I spent so much time trying to counter the major threat that I completely forgot about more ordinary ones. And Luthor must have been counting on that. Jimmy—"

"Is a smart kid," I told him, meeting his gaze forcefully and refusing to show a hint of the doubt tickling along the edges of my mind. "He knew that what you were asking him to do was dangerous. He'll be on his guard."

"Did he know?" Clark looked to me, searching my face for some sign of reassurance, which I gave him willingly.

"Clark, you made him memorize the directions, told him not to repeat them aloud, and sent him off to who-knows-where in the middle of the night—I think he knew it was dangerous. But he knows his way around. Trust me—I've seen him get in some places even I had trouble breaking into."

Finally, a tiny smile broke through Clark's guilty fear. "Oh, well, in that case…"

I smiled back at him—because, really, it was impossible not to—and then gestured back to Nigel and Bender, whose conversation had degenerated into an argument over Bender's allegedly shoddy work for Luthor. "Besides, with the conversation we're recording, we've practically got Luthor nailed." But impatience and impetuousness had been resurrected along with Mad Dog Lane, so I grabbed Clark's sleeve and pulled him after me. "Come on. We've got to stall Nigel until Henderson and his men get here."

"But the protective detail he assigned—"

"We've already lost Nigel once thanks to bought cops!" I snapped, tossing Clark his flannel jacket to throw on over his t-shirt. "I won't let it happen again. Perry said Luthor's moving in on the Planet."

Clark's head snapped up, and his compassionate expression made me swallow hard. "I'm sorry, Lois."

"There's nothing to be sorry for," I stated firmly. "The Planet's going to be fine—we all are. We just have to bring Nigel in."

For the record, fear, impatience, and bravado don't lead to the wisest decisions. It was not until the cold wind slid past my form to tease Clark's clothes and hair that I realized I was dragging him after a man who had helped terrorize and torture him. A man who had hurt him just the day before.

"Clark—" I turned, ready to reluctantly tell him he could stay behind if he wanted to, but the sight of him turned me mute. His visage was pure determination and grim resolve; fear might as well have been an alien emotion for all that it seemed to be affecting him.

"So, what's our plan exactly?" Clark asked quietly, his hand on my arm the only point of warmth in the winter air. He was, I suddenly perceived, just as ready to see this over and done with as I was.

"Plan?" The cocky grin I threw him made him smile even as his eyes narrowed with worry. "Obviously, you've forgotten a few things about working with me. We'll confront him, delay him long enough for Henderson to arrive with the handcuffs. It shouldn't take him long to get here."

"He was waiting for our call," Clark confirmed. "But I told him to bring as many people as he could—the more witnesses around, the likelier it is they can't all be silenced."

"Good thinking," I congratulated him. Then I tugged him forward, grateful for his comforting presence, his hand on my spine, and his unwavering support. Our footsteps sounded hollow and loud on the dock, the wood giving slightly beneath our weight. Mist rose from the waves around us, stirred by the crisply cold winter air.

"Nigel!" I called out, darkly satisfied when he and Bender turned to face me, one coolly displeased, the other horrified. "You didn't really think you could get away with this, did you? You're even dumber than you look."

"Insults, Ms. Lane?" Nigel's silver brows rose in artificial disbelief as he set down the teacup and moved to the railing. "Don't you think that's a bit unwise in your current situation?"

"My situation?" I repeated haughtily, crossing my arms over my chest. "This situation is completely under control. You're surrounded by the police. Inspector Henderson's here."

Bender jumped and looked all about nervously, but Nigel only sneered. "A nice ploy, Ms. Lane, but patently false. If the police were really here, they'd never let you confront me with only a broken man at your side."

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Clark flinch, and explosive rage snapped into being within me. My voice emerged as pure steel. "The police don't 'let' me do a lot of what I do. And Clark is not 'broken.'"

"A cripple, then." Nigel turned to Bender, his movements focused and economical. "Come on."

"What?" Bender gaped as the Englishman hurried toward the ramp leading to the dock. "What about Luthor's newest asset?"

"One of those bugs we need to fix—now move!"

I exchanged a startled glance with Clark before settling into a combat position. No way was Nigel getting away from me again. There were no police here now—good or bad—and this time, it depended on me to apprehend Luthor's henchman.

Bender scrambled after Nigel, and the two came barreling down the dock toward us. Anticipation fizzed within me, bubbling up to send sparks of adrenaline racing erratically through my veins. My Taekwondo lessons sped through my mind in a blur, my muscles coiling and tensing in response to each recollection.

"Lois, he has a gun!" Clark shouted, and shoved me aside.

I hit the dock on my wounded arm and felt the sky explode to lodge sharp, burning stars beneath the bandage I had so clumsily tied. Blinking away tears of pain, I looked up to see Clark reaching out a hand and clasping Nigel's wrist, grappling to keep the gun aimed at the sky. With his other hand, he landed a blow on Nigel's face.

The Englishman seemed to move back with the punch, absorbing its force, then brought up his other hand stiffly and chopped it into Clark's stomach. Moving fluidly, Nigel's hand kept traveling upward and smashed straight into Clark's chin, snapping his head back.

Gasping for air, Clark stumbled backward, a final blow sending his head slamming into the mooring post. A sharp crack sounded loud through the rising vapor and dulled the pain shrieking for my attention.

Bonelessly, Clark's body tumbled off the dock and hit the frigid water.

His glasses, knocked aside, lay only a foot away from my slack hand.

"A pity Mr. Luthor isn't done with you yet," Nigel said as he looked down at me.

I had no time to spare for him, his words fluttering their callous way far above me. My hand closed over the glasses.

For an instant that stretched into eternity—paused lest I be forced to realize what had just happened—I could only lie there on the cold wood and stare at the glasses that rested so innocuously in my hand. How many times had I seen those glasses? A hundred times, a thousand, and yet always before they had been lit from behind by dark eyes that sparkled with some inner brilliance.

Now, they were lifeless and dark…and alone.

Like me.

"Clark!" The utterance of his name snapped me back to clarity, and in one move, I darted to my feet and knelt at the edge of the dock. A glance to the right proved that I had been motionless for only a second or two. Nigel and Bender were just reaching the end of the pier, escaping yet again.

It didn't matter. They were inconsequential. All that mattered—all that registered—was the sight of the ripples that marked the place Clark had fallen fading away and vanishing.

"Superman!" I screamed out to the cloudy skies, more out of habit and dying hope than anything else. "Please, help!"

Without another thought, I dropped the glasses aside and sucked in a deep breath. Then I dived beneath the lapping waves.

Cold such as I had never known—a temperature so cold it could no longer be defined by that word—enveloped me. Each wave sent by the current sheathed me in another layer of ice that threatened to steal all mobility from my limbs, all thought from my mind, all breath from my lungs. In fact, I almost sucked in a mouthful of water when the bitter cold first engulfed me in its frigid embrace; only the thought of Clark's limp body sinking so quickly—unbelievably, terrifyingly quickly—under the fog-touched surface of the water kept me from sucking the ice into my lungs.

It was dark—so dark that if I hadn't spent a day in a lightless cell, I would have said nothing could possibly be any blacker. The light of the sun was sucked into the waves and then slaughtered by the cold, falling still and lifeless so that the water around me could clutch its frozen bounty to itself. As my eyes—my limbs, my heart, my every molecule—screamed and screeched impotently against the surely subzero temperatures, I despaired of being able to pierce through the blackness around me to find any hint of my fallen partner.

I flailed my arms about, hoping against hope that he would still be close enough to the surface to be reached by my delayed grasping. Even if I had not been holding my breath, I would have been breathless—panic and a fear so deep it astounded me and shook me to the depths of my soul were erasing any and all intelligent thought from my mind.

Only when an emerging sob reminded me that I hadn't breathed in far too long did I struggle free of the ocean's jealous, frostbitten embrace to pull in a breath that tasted of winter and cut like shards of glass. Tears trickled down my cheeks—summoned by the cold, noticeable by their so-temporary heat against my frosted skin. One more breath, cutting deeply and burying hailstones deep in my chest, and I forced my mutinous, torturously slow body back under the black waves.

I dove deep, water and current streaming against my cheeks, the cold gathering my heat as zealously as a thief collected jewels. I peered uselessly through the dark liquid, salt trickling into my mouth and tasting as bitter as the fear taking the place of blood, cold and slow within my veins. Only one thought survived the airless surroundings: Please, don't die. Don't die. Don't die. Please, don't die.

Despair, as leaden and deadening as the temperature, made as if to sink me when my hands hit the sand that lined the bottom of the world. I had dived as deeply as possible, yet I had caught no sign—sight, sound, or touch—of Clark. I needed air badly, but I couldn't bring myself to head back toward the surface, not yet, not until I found him.

I could feel my body slowing to a dangerous crawl, my mind shutting down, the last thought I had managed to hold onto beginning to slip away, abandoning me in favor of elusive warmth.

My hand closed over stiffened fabric. Cold flesh. Frozen hair.

Bubbles tickled my temples as I let out air I should have preserved. I buried my hands deeply into the flannel shirt Clark was wearing and pulled upward with all my draining strength.

He was so deep, so heavy, so unresponsive. His shirt tangled itself around my fingers, wrists, and forearms, but the rest of him was stubbornly anchored to the bottom of the sea. More breath escaped me as I tugged at him, panic encroaching and sending a burst of hot, serrated adrenaline into my system.

Clark's body finally lifted, buoyed up by the waves that lent their aid now that they knew exactly whose life was at stake. I strained for the surface, glad now for the bubbles escaping from my mouth, following them like breadcrumbs to the surface, to air, to warmth—a concept that now seemed foreign.

Please, don't die. Don't die. Don't die. Please, don't die.

We broke the surface of the water with a splash. My body almost went into shock at the change in temperature and the sudden presence of oxygen. Gasping, crying, shivering, I struggled to keep Clark's head above the water. His skin was so pale—almost corpse-white—his flesh so cold—my own doing nothing to warm it—and his eyes were shadowed and closed—making me realize that it was possible to feel even more terrified.

The arctic water tugged at me from all directions, trying to draw me ever downward. My body was rebelliously tired, refusing to obey the simplest of commands, and I had to constantly blink droplets as cold as ice-chips from my eyes.

"Clark! Clark, please!" The shivers pervading my frame made the words almost unintelligible, and the lap of the ocean against the dock—so dauntingly far away—almost drowned out the sound of my voice. "Clark, w-wake up! Please, wake up!"

Please, don't die. Don't die. Don't die. Please, don't die.

It was a litany that wouldn't shut off, given frightful substance by the feel of Clark's still, heavy—how could he be this heavy?—form.

"Clark!" My breath ghosted over his cheek, and miraculously, his hand rose to his face, as if to catch the relative warmth. My muscles turned into liquid themselves, transmogrified by the depths of my relief and residual terror.

Clumsily, slowly, he began to tread water, and just the feel of him moving beside me was enough to instill within me a faith in divine providence. "L-Lois?" His own voice was even weaker than mine.

"Clark, h-help me," I commanded breathlessly. "Help me!"

The cold sapped our reserves of strength, and I felt the water around me grow stronger, feeding on me and everything that made up myself. Clark's arm around me was all that kept me upright, and yet I could feel myself helping him stay afloat, as if we supported each other, remaining above the water only so long as we remained partners in survival even as we were in reporting.

"Lois, I'm s-sorry!"


"I'm s-sorry I hurt your arm."

If I hadn't been so involved in living long enough to learn anew what warmth was, I would have stopped right there and laughed until I cried.

"It's all right," I managed to say as my hand closed over the wood of the dock. "I'll l-live."

It was an agonizing ordeal to drag ourselves onto the pier, but finally, Clark managed to pull me up onto the wood. My hand fell on Clark's glasses, and I felt tears squeeze their way past the ice built up over flesh, burning whatever they touched, turning into ice themselves.

"Here." I offered the glasses, Clark's fingers awkwardly, stiffly bending to hold them. My own hands moved from the glasses to run over his chest, his arms, his neck, his face, moving of their own accord, traveling under commands I was too numb to consciously give.

Clark hesitated a long moment, his own eyes intent on me, before he finally reached up a trembling hand and slipped the glasses back on. Some part of me noted that this was the first time I had seen him in the light without his glasses, but it was such a small, inconsequential part next to the realization slowly dawning on me—the realization that he was okay. That, once again, I could reassure myself that he was alive, still breathing, still able to speak and smile and take my hand. It was a habit I had fallen into, this reassuring myself of his well-being, and it was one I would do almost anything to have every reason to break.

"Nigel!" Clark's gaze moved from me to the dock perpendicular to the one which soaked in the water we dripped over it. My iced frame quaked with the shudders of cold and terror that refused to let go of me, but Clark's own shivering seemed to abate the instant he caught sight of Luthor's henchman.


"The Daily Planet," Clark exclaimed. "Jimmy. My parents."

And he was up and stumbling into a shambling run after Nigel and Bender, their proximity proof that we hadn't actually been in the water as long as it seemed.

I wasted a precious moment gaping after Clark with complete incomprehension.

"And he calls me reckless!" I muttered before forcing myself to my feet.

Bender, looking back to see Clark behind him, swerved madly to the edge of the dock, almost toppling into a nearby boat, but Clark ignored him, intent on Nigel.

Fortunately for me, Bender wasn't a great runner by any means. I really didn't mean to tackle him and send us both sprawling across the docks, but my entire body was on the verge of a complete lockdown. With a bit of extra effort, I managed to turn the move into an attack, stiff-arming him down onto his back.

"Don't move!" I commanded him in a voice that sounded as cold as the water. The boat Bender had almost fallen into provided rope near enough for me to grab. My fingers, however, were too stiff and swollen to make tying his hands behind his back an easy chore.

Bender was gibbering something I couldn't make out over the roaring in my ears. It didn't matter. As soon as his hands were tied, I ignored him, my fragmented attention turning to Clark.

My insane partner had pulled Nigel around to face him and had gotten in a few good blows. Nigel, oddly enough, seemed almost nervous as he faced Clark, as if something about Clark's manner or expression unsettled him. Despite that, he fought back, his age doing little to slow his trained reflexes.

Clark refused to give up, though, even after Nigel punched him in the stomach hard enough to make him double over. I almost cried out when he teetered on the edge of the pier. I knew without even thinking about it that I would never survive another dip in the arctic waters, yet I also knew that if Clark was once more submerged, I would unhesitatingly jump in after him again. So different from my dream when I hadn't been able to summon enough courage to leap off the ledge. And yet…was it courage when I knew I couldn't survive without him in my life?

Recognizing my inattention, Bender squirmed beneath me. Ruthlessly, I shoved him into the dock with a knee in his spine. "Don't even think about it," I warned him, urging my abused hands to grab more rope and tie his ankles together. "Do you have a gun?"

He stammered out a long answer that boiled down to a "no." Shoving him aside and using the momentum to rise to my feet, I rushed forward. Clark wasn't a fighter—not trained, anyway—and he was taking a beating from Nigel. Yet, surprisingly enough, Clark was able to keep standing, able to take the blows the Englishman rained down on him with only occasional grunts of pain to give away how much it hurt, able to keep Nigel in place with a fast grip on his coat.

I opened my mouth to call Clark's name but closed it without making a sound—the last thing Clark needed was a distraction.

Nigel seemed to realize that he needed a fast way out. Sweeping at Clark's ankles with his foot, he managed to gain a yard of distance and an instant of time, which he predictably used to pull out the gun from its side holster.

My eyes widened, but Clark didn't even hesitate, stepping in close and knocking the gun aside just as he had in the cell while protecting me. The gun skittered to the side, demanding and receiving my immediate attention. My hands protested my continued demands, but ineptly closed over the weapon.

When I stood once more, I almost exclaimed in frustration. Clark and Nigel were too close together. If I tried to pause Nigel with a threat, he'd simply grab Clark and use him as a hostage. And if I actually pulled the trigger, there was no way I'd be able to aim well enough to hit only the Englishman, particularly with the violent shudders tearing their way through my body.

"Where are you, Henderson?" I gasped out under my breath, and raised the gun.

Whether Clark saw me out of the corner of his eye or simply needed a moment to take a breath, he staggered back several steps and granted me the opening I needed.

"Nigel!" I snapped, and shockingly, my voice emerged with crystal clarity. "I dare you to move and give me a way to pull this trigger with a clear conscience."

Nigel froze, his blue eyes darkening with emotions I was too cold and tired and hurt to interpret.

Clark dropped to his knees, his head bowed as he curled in around himself, catching his breath and conserving body heat.

I kept the gun, unwavering, on Nigel, Bender visible in my peripheral vision.

I wanted nothing more than to run to Clark and take him in my arms, feel his arms envelop me, his heart beat steadily within his chest, his breaths whisper through my hair. But I couldn't risk letting Nigel move, not when I was afraid that Clark would once more go after him should he run again.

"Clark," I said after a moment. "There's rope in the boat behind me. Tie Nigel."

It took him a long moment to make it back to his feet and to the boat, an even longer moment for him to force Nigel's hands behind his back. He had just finished awkwardly pulling the knot tight when I heard the sirens.

A moment later, uniformed cops were spilling onto the wooden dock, surrounding us, swarming around the boats and yachts, taking Nigel and Bender into custody, fading away into obscurity for all the attention I paid them. I simply dropped the gun to the soaked wood and staggered forward.

Clark's arms were already opened to receive me, and when I fell into them, he willingly closed them around me and blotted out the rest of the world.

And Then There Was Light

A Lois & Clark Story
by Anti-Kryptonite

Part 16 of 23

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