Continuing Tales

And Then There Was Light

A Lois & Clark Story
by Anti-Kryptonite

Part 18 of 23

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Working steadied me, banished the confusion that had become so prevalent and formed a barrier that didn't allow it entrance again. Clark and I managed to get our case against Luthor ready fairly quickly, seeing as how we'd been working on it all week. We readied for bed silently, but I didn't think I was alone in thinking that the room seemed colder and the blankets more necessary now that we were once again in separate beds.

When I woke the next morning, things seemed clearer, sharper, everything cast into greater and more defined detail. For the first time I realized that we were so much better off than we had been for months. Nigel was in custody, Luthor's primary lawyer had been arrested, we had a mountain of evidence to throw against the Boss, and I was sure—stubbornly sure—that Jimmy would arrive any day with the proof needed to irrevocably connect Lex Luthor to the Boss.

And Clark…Clark was free. And he was healing. He was better. He had stood up to Nigel twice, played a pivotal part in capturing him, and—though I had forgotten this the night before—already made it clear why he had told me about the Kryptonite. He had wanted it dealt with and destroyed so that it couldn't harm Superman, which was proof enough that he was on the mend. Whatever lies Luthor had dumped into his mind, whatever fantastical reasons for Superman's absence Clark had come up with himself, they were slowly being eclipsed by the reality he was beginning, once more, to believe in.

A gust of wind swept my hair back when I stepped out of the bathroom, dressed and ready for the day. It was a cold wind, a winter breeze, and I frowned, perplexed, as I moved into the living room.

Clark was standing next to the window, his hands gripping either side of the frame, his face tilted upward. The low murmur of his voice reached my ears by way of another breeze issuing in from the open window, swirling the white curtains around Clark so that he seemed engulfed by mist. A flash of red and blue hanging just outside the window confirmed my suspicion.

Without a word, I moved farther into the living room, not averse—with my newfound clarity of thought—to eavesdropping on the two men in an attempt to find some clue as to the nature of whatever argument stood between them.

"That's not true," Clark was saying, his tone as stubborn as it used to get when I tried to convince him to lie for a story. "Age and power don't matter. What makes Superman is what he does for others."

"I do what is necessary—it is you who doesn't understand that."

My brow creased in surprise. Without being able to see both men, it was suddenly clear that their voices were almost identical. Superman's was a bit deeper, more controlled, less inflectioned, and Clark's rang with more passion, but their pitch was the same.


"Later," Superman said tersely. "I hear something."

A whoosh coincided with a last violent billowing of the curtains, and the red and blue colors disappeared, leaving the white behind to shine undimmed and undiluted. Clark stayed motionless for a long moment; I was now close enough to see that the window frame was straining under the tightness of Clark's hold on it.

"Clark?" I said, surprised when he made no response, as if he hadn't heard me. "Clark! What was Superman doing here?"

Slowly, moving as stiffly as if he were frozen, Clark pried his fingers from the wood and swiveled in place to face me. His expression was blank. Terror and confusion threatened to slip past the widening chinks in my wall, but I stubbornly refused them entry.

"Clark," I said again, a bit louder. "Why was Superman here?"

"Superman," he repeated hollowly.

"Are you all right?" I stepped right up next to him, vastly concerned by how out of it he seemed. He had always seemed angry with Superman, or afraid of him, but now…now, he seemed more…defeated. As if he could no longer summon the energy needed to distrust and dislike Superman. I briefly wondered if that was a good sign before deciding that anything that left Clark looking and sounding like this could not be a good thing.

"Lois." Finally, Clark met my eyes and the force of it almost drove me back a pace. "Do you ever feel like you're invisible?"

I raised my eyebrows. "I've found that I don't like being invisible, despite how handy it could potentially be."

He looked back toward the window. His hand rose slowly, inexorably, to his glasses. "Do you ever feel like people never look at you at all—or, worse, that they look at you and see right through you? I keep thinking that one day, they'll finally look and really see me and I'll know I'm not invisible anymore. But it's taking so long, and what if…" Carefully, almost fearfully, Clark pulled his glasses off his face and stared down at them, sheltered in his palms. "What if the fact that everyone looks at me and never sees what I thought was hidden inside me…what if that's a sign that I'm really not who I thought I was? What if I really am just what everyone else sees?"

"I…" I tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. Clark without his glasses looked a lot like…like Superman. I had, of course, noticed that they had several physical similarities, but it had never bothered me before. After all, one of the women who worked in the Daily Planet's publicity department looked almost exactly like my sixth-grade teacher, yet I knew for a fact they weren't related. Superman was a Kryptonian, Clark a human—I had always dismissed their similarities as a genetic oddity. But with the glasses removed…it was a much more pointed resemblance.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," I said belatedly when I realized Clark was still waiting for an answer to his rambling question.

"I know." His smile was almost bitter. "Believe me, I know."

"But," I added, determined not to let this moment pass if it was the one I was waiting for. "I want to."

The dark bitterness faded and vanished from his face, replaced by a shadowed desperation. He reached out a hand toward me, the glasses dangling from his fingers. "Lois, am I crazy?"

I blinked, stunned by his choice of topic. "What?"

"Am I crazy? I know some people—Henderson, Perry, probably Jimmy…you?—think I'm paranoid, traumatized, unbalanced, and delusional. But…what do you think?"

"I'm not a psychiatrist," I temporized, wincing to hear my own voice utter Henderson's weak excuse.

"Lois, please." Clark's eyes begged me for something he was lacking, something he needed, something he had received all the time from his parents—reassurance, guidance, advice, acceptance…love. "If you tell me I'm crazy…I'll believe you. And then I'll do whatever you tell me I need to do. Just…please. Tell me."

"I think," I began slowly, knowing of a certainty that Clark's future would be shaped around my answer, conscious of my promise that he could depend on me for the support his parents had once given him so freely. "I think your time in the cell affected you, and we'd be stupid to try and ignore that."

His eyes—so open and exposed without the cover of clear lenses—fell closed to hide his shattered expression. "You do think I'm crazy."

"I didn't say that!" I snapped, stepping even closer, invading his personal space, startled again—or still—by how different, how familiar, he looked without his glasses. "I said it affected you…but it didn't change you. You are who you've always been." I smiled at him, laying my hands flat against his chest. "You're the kindest man I've ever met, and you have unbelievable quiet strength and gentle grace and incredible selflessness. You're the man I admire more than anyone else in the entire world. And," I continued, swallowing before forcing these last words out. "You're the only person I'd be…okay with…losing the Pulitzer to."

All trace of any emotion except hope, happiness, and amusement were gone from him, crushed and swept away. "Wow. That's big."

"Big?" I repeated incredulously, my hands dropping from his chest before he caught them and held them close to him. Which made it hard to finish my exclamation. "That's enormous, Kent! That's world-shattering!"

The sound of his laughter, the sight of the bright sparkle in his eyes, the feel of his hands curved around mine—it softened something inside of me and sent fluffy dandelion seeds dancing through my stomach. "So, what do you think, Clark? Do you think you're crazy?"

"I think I'm the luckiest man in the world to have you in my life," he answered tenderly. It was the smoothest, most beautiful evasion I'd ever heard.

"Well." I smiled to hide my sudden self-consciousness and astonishment over how much like Superman he looked with that half-smile curving his lips upward. "That just proves that you are crazy. But." I smiled back at him, the warmth and gentleness of my own smile surprising even me. "It's the kind of crazy you've always been. The kind of crazy I don't want you to lose."

"I won't," he said, his voice turning the two words into a vow. I was distracted from that, however, by the feel of his fingertips settling themselves over my cheek. "Some lunacy is considered brilliance, after all."

"Exactly!" I pronounced breathily, my heart trembling as I tilted my face upward. "And I should know!"

"Lois." Whatever else Clark was about to say—or do—was preempted by the sound of a knock at the door. If physics allowed wood to shrivel beneath an angry stare, my door would have been melted slag on the floor. It didn't budge beneath my glare, however, and Clark dropped my hands and slipped his glasses back on, banishing the disconcerting resemblance to Superman.

Fighting the urge to sigh heavily, I stalked over to the door and pulled it open.

The hapless policeman who stood on the other side actually pulled back a pace at the force of my glare. "Uh, Inspector Henderson sent me. I-I'm here to pick up—"

"Yeah, yeah." I waved my hand dismissively and allowed him to step inside.

"You came alone?" Clark asked before I could even make a move toward the papers we had prepared. His eyes were narrowed as he studied the man. "How do we know Henderson sent you?"

The officer blinked. "Well, here's my badge, and a cell phone if you want to call Henderson."

Clark ignored the proffered objects. "No. This isn't right. Henderson said he'd be here."

I looked between Clark and the officer. For an instant, I wondered just how paranoid Clark was—but only for an instant. Clark was my partner; more, he knew intimately how dangerous Luthor was. And he was right—Henderson would never have sent a single officer we didn't recognize on sight.

"Don't move," I told the man, sliding to the left in order to block the doorway. "We'll just call Henderson and get this all straightened out."

"I don't understand." The man's pale eyes darted between Clark and me as he sidled farther into the living room, closer to Clark, who didn't budge from his spot, his hands clenched into fists. "The inspector said to come up, grab the stuff, and get right back."

"What happened to the three squad cars?" I asked skeptically.

"Three?" The man shrugged. "I guess they got tied up."

"Guess again," I said coldly. Belatedly, I noticed his hand sliding into his pocket, his attention moving to Clark.

"Hey!" I tackled the man, sending us both crashing to the floor. Luckily, I saw both his hands splayed against the rug—empty. He hadn't managed to retrieve whatever weapon had been stashed in his pocket.

Clark pulled the man to his feet and held him still while I rose and brushed myself off. "Did Luthor send you?"

I froze and stared at Clark. Never before had I heard him sound so…menacing. No, menacing wasn't the word—resolute. Resolve shone pure and undimmed through every particle of Clark's being, blinding the man in his grip and capturing my immediate attention.

The man clamped his mouth shut, though his eyes were wide.

"He must be getting a little desperate to resort to this," Clark continued, unfazed by the man's silence. "What happened to his newest 'employee?' Is his convoluted plan backfiring on him?"

"What's going on here?"

I whirled to find Henderson standing in the doorway, several officers arrayed behind him. "There you are!" I exclaimed. "This man claims you sent him to pick up our…research. I think he has a weapon in his pocket."

"Is that so." Henderson gestured commandingly, and a few of his men entered the apartment to take the man from Clark and handcuff his hands behind his back. They frisked him—ignoring his sullen stillness—and pulled something small and square from his pocket. When they handed it to Henderson, I crowded in next to him to examine the object.

It was a box made of metal, perhaps lead. It looked sickeningly familiar. It was a bit smaller than the one Luthor and Nigel had flaunted, but it almost certainly carried the same thing within it. Dread and curiosity mixed in equal parts within me.

Worried, I glanced up to see Clark still watching the man as he was led out of the apartment. He didn't seem to have yet noticed what we had retrieved from our prisoner.

"Luthor used this to scare Clark," I murmured quietly to Henderson, angling my body to hide the box from Clark's view. "I don't know what's inside."

Narrowing his eyes behind their tinted lenses, Henderson flipped the latch and folded open the lid of the box. A malignant green glow spilled from the opened box to suck the light out of the room. The poisoned light emanated from a tiny chip of rock contained within the lead box, confined to the darkness until the lid was opened and allowed it to seep outward.

"What is that?" I asked in a voice that sounded as if it came from far away.

"My guess?" Henderson shook his head, his eyes locked on the alien stone. I knew what he would say even before he spoke. "Kryptonite."

He was right. Clark had said the rock that could hurt and kill Superman was green. Somehow, though, I had not expected the stone to glow green. It clearly marked it as alien, the noxiousness of the color a clear sign of its deadly capabilities.

"We need to destroy it," I said firmly, decisively. And I reached out and closed the box, then latched it with finality. "We have to get rid of it. We can't risk Luthor getting hold of it again."

Henderson's pause was so brief it was almost non-existent. "You're right. I know someone I can trust, someone very smart and familiar with melting things down. I'll see if I can get him to destroy this permanently. We owe Superman."

"Just don't tell him what the stone does," I warned.

"Of course not." Henderson looked insulted. "I trust Dr. Irons, but this is Superman's secret."

"Right." I nodded and turned toward Clark as Henderson slipped the box into the pocket of his coat. One look at Clark, however, and I knew that, despite my precautions, he must have caught sight of the box.

His face was white, his eyes tight, the gashes inflicted the day before seeming darker and deeper, and he wavered unsteadily on his feet. Before I could do more than take a step toward him, he staggered backward and sat down heavily on the couch.

"Clark?" I sat beside him, slipping my arm around him. "I'm sorry. I tried to make sure you didn't see it."

He forced a fake smile but didn't open his eyes. Leaning back slightly, he tilted his head up toward the beams of sunlight allowed to pour back into the room now that the Kryptonite had once more been hidden away. The effect of the simple sight of the stone on Clark was amazing—and horrifying. Somehow or other, Luthor had managed to make Clark as terrified of the Kryptonite as if it affected him.

I suddenly felt sick—not with nausea, but with the beginnings of a foreboding understanding.

Reluctantly leaving Clark for a moment, I showed Henderson what he needed to take and helped his officers pack it up. Then, wringing a promise from the inspector to call us the instant he got the warrant, encouraged by the news that Nigel was negotiating a deal with the police, I closed the door behind our visitors.

When I turned to face Clark, I was disturbed to see him leaning back against the couch, dark smudges stained beneath his eyes. His hands shook when he half-heartedly raised them to his glasses.

"Clark?" I asked, and blinked to hear the amount of worry coloring my voice and tainting my tone.

"I'll be all right," he said quietly. "It wasn't too bad. Just…startled me, that's all."

"Hmm." I bit my lip, not reassured, until he opened his eyes and turned his head to smile at me.

"Really. I'll be okay. It was only for a second. I think I'm starting to get used to it."

Only a second…yet it had completely discomfited him. More, it had seemed to hurt him. Physically hurt him. It had sucked the light and warmth out of his body and left behind this wan, weakened husk.

The world threatened to shake itself to pieces beneath my feet and send me spiraling out into open space with no caped superhero to save me. The answer was there, just out of sight, but reaching for it would mean endangering everything I had managed to build between myself and Clark. Did I really want to do that?

Could I afford not to?

I had never before hidden from answers in my life. In fact, I had made it my life's work to ferret out the truth and tell it to as many people as possible. So why was I hiding now? Why was I avoiding the truth? Why was I content to let this secret languish in the dark without even attempting to bring it into the light?

For whatever reason, however it worked, that Kryptonite—unfettered by lead—had physically affected Clark. There was no other explanation. It had caused him pain and even now left its mark on him.

Why had it affected him?

"Don't worry, Lois. Even without the rest of what I have, what we gave Henderson should be more than enough to take down a lot of Luthor's operations."

Shaken from my dazed, whirling thoughts, I slowly turned my head to look at Clark. The sight of him, weak and yet still optimistic, made me realize he thought I was worried about sending the stuff off with Henderson. And I should have been, really, but the realization that Kryptonite hurt Clark loomed over my impatient anticipation.

"It was great investigative work," Clark added. His expression was earnest and sincere, proof that he believed what he said. "The research you collected, linked with the MPD material, will certainly end some terrible operations, places like LexLabs—"

He continued, but I couldn't hear him over the roaring noise in my ears, the blood rushing to my head and making the room swirl crazily all about me.


The Mentamide 5 experiments had proven the lengths to which Luthor would go just to find anything that would give him and his company an edge. He had perpetrated, endorsed, and controlled those 'scientific' experiments, looking for the next big thing or a way to control more power—and that had been on innocent children to whom he had no direct connection. How much further would he go when his victim had directly challenged him and refused to be swayed by his tainted charisma or broken beneath his twisted menace?

What had Luthor done to Clark while he was his prisoner? What awful experiments, what inhumane tests, had he conducted on my defenseless partner? Would Clark even know if Luthor had manipulated his DNA or altered his blood chemistry? Perhaps he retained only flashes of memory, snippets of moments he thought merely nightmare. Maybe his fixation with the idea of an imposter Superman was rooted in half-buried, fragmented memories of what Luthor had attempted to make of him.

I contemplated this terrible idea, this horrific theory, even as I forced a casual response to Clark's compassionate reassurance. It was, perhaps, the most awful idea I had ever come up with, and yet I knew the whole time that it was merely a distraction, a false, patently untrue theory I had fabricated in order to keep my mind busy. I could not help but know—as I sat beside an already strengthening Clark and began working with him on the beginnings of our exclusive—the truth behind Clark's vulnerability to Kryptonite. The truth behind his once-frequent quick exits and prolonged absences, the multitude of Superman stories he had seemed to come across so fortuitously, the reason for his departure from Metropolis coinciding with Superman's, and his recent hatred and mistrust of the superhero.

But it was a truth so enormous, so terrible, so radical, so mind-blowing, life-altering, and heart-shattering that I could not think it, could not dwell on it, could not allow myself to connect all the pieces. Because the minute I accepted this truth—the minute I allowed that it was reality—I would also have to acknowledge that everything I knew about Superman and Clark was a lie. And that would, in turn, mean that basic facts I accepted about myself were also false.

And…I wanted to hang onto that feeling of contentment I had felt since lying beside Clark the afternoon before, still damp from the hot shower that had done less to erase the icy cold than Clark's simple touch.

So, for a while longer, I avoided the truth, escaped reality, hid in the dreamworld I had been occupying since a handsome man dressed in a strange costume strode toward me and consumed a bomb, and I simply enjoyed working with Clark—the Clark I knew, the Clark I was comfortable with, the Clark I was becoming increasingly drawn to.

But then someone knocked on the door and rudely interrupted my stay in the world as I had thought it to be.

When I opened the door—muttering darkly about what Henderson could possibly have forgotten and why he couldn't use the phone like an ordinary person—I found myself gaping at the visitor, his arms wrapped around a battered cardboard box and a grin adorning his dark, cheerful features.

"Hey, Lois! Did you miss me? Boy, you guys wouldn't believe how much trouble I had!" Jimmy would have said more—probably would have spilled the entire story of his trip, complete with every sordid detail—but Clark had pushed himself off the couch and stumbled to the doorway.

"Jimmy?" The relief, concern, and happiness warring for dominance within Clark showed clearly when he pulled Jimmy forward, clapping him on the back, half-hugging him, heedless of the box making every move awkward. "Jimmy! You're all right! I was so worried about you!"

"Hey, it's all right, CK, really." Jimmy met Clark's eyes for a long moment, and despite the awkwardness of our positions, something was communicated between them, a message of understanding that Clark had asked something dangerous of Jimmy and a forgiveness of that request and what might have come of it. It was a remarkable moment for all that transpired in it, and I found myself taken aback by Jimmy's growing maturity.

"Well, are you going to come in or just stand in the doorway all day?" I finally asked, mock-irritation coating my voice.

With laughter from all three of us, we stepped into the living room; I bolted the door behind us. Jimmy set down the box of—I presumed—Clark's long-discussed proof. Though he was doing his best to hide his Kryptonite-induced weariness, I made sure that Clark sat down as well. No need for him to strain himself unduly.

"How did you get here—by way of Antarctica?" I asked at the same moment as Clark said, "Are you sure you're all right?"

Jimmy's brows rose as he looked between us. "I followed CK's directions, and I'm fine."

At the sight of Jimmy's confusion, I decided to take pity on him. "We overheard Nigel St. John and Sheldon Bender discussing the men they'd sent after you."

"Ah." A strange medley of emotions played itself out over Jimmy's mobile features. "So, I was right! Those men were after me. Wow, I…whoa."

"What is it?" I asked, my brow creasing.

"Nothing. I just…I thought I was just being paranoid."

"What happened?" Dread suffused Clark's being—evident in his tone, expression, and posture—as he awaited Jimmy's reply.

"Not much," Jimmy hastily assured him, and I felt a warm rush of affection for the younger man. Jimmy had always been a good kid. He was the only one besides Perry who had ever braved conversation with me, his cheerful attitude seemingly making him impervious to my standoffish manner, and as a result, he had often been able to elicit a smile from me in those days when few besides a big lead or a prominent page-one article had excited me.

"I noticed a car following me," Jimmy began to explain. "But—"

"Just a second." Clark shifted and turned toward me tentatively, as if afraid I might explode at his suggestion. "Uh, Lois, do you want to make—"

"Some coffee," I finished for him. My tone was resigned, which didn't explain why I willingly flipped on the television as I headed into the kitchen. Behind me, I heard Clark give Jimmy some unconvincing explanation about him looking tired. Jimmy did appear a bit worn, and it was easy by looking at him to see that he'd been traveling, but his eyes were alert, his shoulders straight. Truthfully, he looked better than Clark did.

Hastily, I shoved that thought aside and focused on making the coffee.

Superman didn't show up on the news—in fact, I hadn't heard any news about him since before I had tested him with Clark's questions—but even Clark knew we couldn't delay forever. Jimmy was impatient to tell his story, trying to get a word in edgewise and looking between us with a perplexed expression when we continued to interrupt him. I myself couldn't help wondering at my own uneasiness and the worried glances I kept throwing the TV.

Finally, Jimmy set down his coffee mug and met Clark's eyes. "What's going on here?"

Clark froze with a deer-in-the-headlights expression that made me smile.

"We're just a little nervous," I supplied when he said nothing. "Quite a few things have happened in the last couple days, and we're waiting for Henderson to call with the news that he has an arrest warrant for Luthor."

"We're that close?" Jimmy brightened. "Smooth! I thought this was the type of investigation that would go on forever! But, CK, you've got a ton of hard proof—how come you never brought it before?"

"I…" Clark gave me a sidelong glance. "I was waiting until I was sure it couldn't be refuted. And then…then it was too late."

"All right, Jimmy." I focused my attention on the younger man, trying to distract all three of us from the nightmares seeping through Clark's short explanation. "What did happen to you?"

"Well, I'd been driving for about a day when I realized that I kept seeing the same car behind me. I thought it might be following me, especially when it kept showing up over the next two days. So, finally, I stopped in a town, called 911, and reported a car with their license plates as stolen. I thought maybe I had just caused some innocent people no end of trouble and was feeling kind of guilty about it, but if…if they really were from Luthor, then I'm glad I did it."

"That stopped them?" I asked dubiously.

"It seemed to." Jimmy shrugged. "I told the police right where they could find the car, and I made sure I didn't leave before they got there to take the two men into custody just in case they would take off after me. By the time they would have straightened everything out, I was long gone. But, really, that was all the excitement I had. I followed the rest of the directions, picked up the stuff, and came straight back here. Clark, why did you send me to so many different places?"

Clark smiled self-deprecatingly. "I was hoping it would stop anyone from following you. Plus, I was afraid that if you went in a straight line, Luthor or his employees would be able to guess where you were headed. But that was quick thinking, Jimmy. Good job."

"Well…" Jimmy shrugged self-consciously and took a sip of his coffee.

I looked to the box Jimmy had brought with him, my fingers itching to look through the evidence Clark had compiled. I had read the list of what Clark had, but it was very different to actually see and feel the research. "Shall we look through this and organize it for Henderson?" I asked eagerly.

"Sure." Clark's smile was somewhat amused; he knew me so well.

"Hey, do you think we could order a pizza while we do this?" Jimmy asked, his tone plaintive. "Coffee's good, but a pizza's better."

"Of course." I stood quickly, tossing Clark a triumphant smile. "Today, I'll cook."

"That's not cooking," Clark said with a laugh as I picked up the phone. "And don't order from Ralph's Pagoda!"

"We're ordering pizza, not Chinese," I said haughtily before quickly turning and allowing my hair to fall forward and hide the blush in my cheeks as memories of that night at the marina poured through my mind like a verdant rainfall.

Soon, the living room was decorated with the semi-orderly chaos of papers, photos, tapes, files, plates, and pizza boxes. Though Jimmy had looked at the stuff as he had boxed it up, he hadn't understood the full scope of what Clark had on Luthor. I was in the same position—I had heard Henderson's awe over Clark's list of proof, but I hadn't realized just how much work Clark had put into this investigation.

And he had done it all on his own.

Though…how had he managed to get these pictures of Luthor with Roarke and Harrington when he had been in a different country? How had he taped a conversation between Luthor and known terrorists when he hadn't been in the city? How could he have researched the files on LexCorp so thoroughly while he traveled from continent to continent?

The proof he had on Luthor was irrefutable; his method of obtaining it was incredibly suspect.

But then…I thought I could make a guess on how he had managed to get to Metropolis so quickly and so often—maybe even explain how he had so quickly realized that Luthor wasn't the philanthropist so many thought him to be.

"What is this?" I frowned as I pulled a small, smooth globe bearing the familiar green continents of Earth from the bottom of the box.

Jimmy looked over his own mountain of evidence to see what I was talking about. "Oh, that. I wasn't sure if you needed it, CK, but it was right next to the rest of this stuff, so I grabbed it just in case. I hope that's okay."

"Sure, Jimmy." Clark's answer sounded absentminded; his aside to me was much more pointed. "It's the globe I told you about, Lois."

"What gl—" I cut off abruptly, suddenly reminded of exactly what globe he had told me about—in whispers, in the dead of night, a secret between only the two of us. "I thought you gave it back to him," I observed, proud of how neutral my own voice sounded.

He matched my tone. "I don't remember saying that."

Jimmy looked between us, but he knew enough not to interfere.

I fingered the globe, caught by its heavy, almost dense feel. An alien feel. Suddenly resolute, I straightened and carefully set the globe aside. "Jimmy, where did you find all this stuff?"

"Didn't CK tell you?" he asked innocently.

I grit my teeth. "No, he didn't."

"Oh, well, I was pretty surprised actually. Clark's directions led me all over the place, which of course added a lot of traveling time, and when he made me zigzag through three different states, I—"

"Jimmy!" I snapped.

His eyes widened, as if he weren't sure why I was getting after him. "It was in Smallville."

"Smallville?" I repeated incredulously, turning disbelieving eyes to Clark. "You kept all the evidence needed to connect Luthor to the international crime-lord—the evidence needed to condemn Luthor as a monster—in Smallville?" My voice was rising. "Clark! Everyone knows you came from Smallville—that joke made the rounds through the whole city when you first started working at the Planet! You couldn't think of any place more original?"

Clark shrugged. "Would you have guessed where it was?"

My mouth agape, I stared at him a moment longer.

"I wouldn't have," Jimmy volunteered, earning a wrathful look from me that had him throwing up his arms in a warding gesture. "Hey, it was pretty hard to find anyway. Those trees all looked alike, and even with the directions, I almost didn't find it. I mean, at one point, I was actually counting my own paces—hoping that my paces were the same as Clark's—from a wagon wheel! It took me forever just to find that wagon wheel!"

I narrowed my eyes, not sure I wanted to hear the answer. "And just where did he have them hidden?"

"In his tree-house," Jimmy answered promptly.

"A tree-house," I repeated dumbly. The most crucial information in a case sure to be big enough to rival Watergate, and Clark hid it in a tree-house? He was right—absolutely no one would ever have guessed it. In a way, it was almost ingenious, not that I ever, ever, planned on admitting that to him, secrets or no secrets.

"And, CK, I love the name of it. Did you come up with it yourself? How old were you?"

"About ten or so." Clark's eyes were intent on me, as if even though Jimmy was the one asking the questions, he was really giving the answers to me.

"Wow." Jimmy shook his head. "Kansas kids really are different. Those are way bigger words that I ever would have used at that age."

"It seemed appropriate," Clark murmured quietly.

"What is the name of this tree-house?" I asked, almost on auto-pilot. I could feel my dreamworld, my careful oasis of fantasies, collapsing around me, crumbling into dust and sifting around my feet.

Clark looked straight at me. He said nothing.

"The Fortress of Solitude!" Jimmy exclaimed, completely oblivious to the electricity suddenly crackling between Clark and me. "Can you believe that? Of course, I guess you were the only kid on the farm and the next door neighbors were about two or three miles away—well, you know that, Lois. We were there before."

I forced a grimace that loosely passed as an affirmative smile, but I couldn't tear my eyes off Clark. And then the next moment, abruptly, I couldn't bear to look at him. I felt as if I were going to hyperventilate, and so I forced myself to take deep, steady breaths just to counteract the effect. But it wasn't enough to blot out the truth I could no longer deny.

"He told me it was in the North Pole," I whispered.

"I knew that was what he'd tell you," Clark said, singularly unhelpful.

"The North Pole?" Jimmy frowned at us. I had thought he was unaware of the tension, but at the concerned look on his face, I suddenly knew that he wasn't unaware, that his abundance of words and chatty answers were merely an attempt to smooth out whatever was wrong between Clark and me. How was he supposed to know that the real problem wasn't Clark and me, but Clark and Superman?

"You're not sending me there next, are you?" Jimmy joked when the silence stretched out into awkward infinity.

Clark managed a thin smile and turned his gaze to our friend. "No, of course not."

A gasp escaped me at the sight of the smile he was giving Jimmy—it was Superman's smile.

I bolted to my feet and almost slipped on the dust and ashes of my dreamworld. "I need a drink!" I blurted, then winced. "I mean, I need something to drink—uh, coffee! Definitely! Yes, more coffee. You need anything else, Jimmy?"

He shook his head warily, as if thinking that might be the wrong answer.

"Clark?" I held my breath as soon as the name—the question—slipped from my lips.

"Yes." His reply was so weighted, so intent, so deliberate, that I knew he wasn't saying he wanted more tea. He was answering my question, trying to tell me that he was, despite what I was learning about him here, still Clark.

Unable to acknowledge that—unsure how it could possibly be true—I escaped into the kitchen. Leaning there against the counter, I squeezed my eyes shut and focused on my breathing.

It didn't help.

All I could think about were the identical expressions Clark and Superman could wear. The similarities between their features. The matching colors of their eyes, their hair, their skin tone. The harmonizing pitch of their voices. Clark—Superman—could it be? I couldn't believe it.

And yet…it all made perfect sense.

"Hey, Lois, you in there?" Jimmy edged a step into the kitchen, his coffee mug held like a shield in his hands. And yet there was genuine concern in his dark eyes as he looked at me. "I thought I might take a bit more coffee, after all."

"Okay." I simulated another smile and took his cup from him.

"Uh…" Jimmy rubbed his hands together and looked around. "So, should I take the stuff down to the MPD? I could stop by on my way to the Planet. I have to get down there and make sure Perry hasn't given my job away."

"No." I hastily turned back to the coffee when Clark entered the room and leaned against the partition wall. My voice was somewhat muffled when I continued. "I think you should call Henderson and get an escort. Luthor might have seen you arrive with the stuff. And you might want to stay at Perry's until this is all over, just in case."

"Good idea," Clark said quietly. His eyes never left me; I could feel them on my back. If I had turned to look, I was sure they would have been pleading with me, but I wasn't certain what he wanted from me. Actually…I did know. I just wasn't certain that I was ready to give him an answer yet.

"Here, Jimmy." I turned, carefully avoiding looking at Clark—his pleading was much easier to ignore than deny—and handed Jimmy his mug. "And…I'm glad you're back, and safe."

"Me, too." A pleased smile brought a glow to Jimmy's face. "I'm just glad I could help. I'd do anything to take Luthor down after what he did to—after what he's done."

"Me, too." I paused, but when Jimmy moved to return to the living room, I stepped forward and called his name. He turned back curiously. Clark watched silently. "Jimmy…was there a ladder built into the tree-house?"

A slight, puzzled frown crossed his face. "No, actually, there wasn't. I had to break into your parents' barn to find a ladder—hope you don't mind, CK. No one seemed to be around to ask."

The breath froze in my lungs. His answer was hardly the deciding fact to tip the theory running circles through my mind from hypothesis to near-certainty, but it was enough to make it seem suddenly real.

"The tree-house was in good shape, though," Jimmy continued, trying to fill up the silence in the apartment with innocuous words. He glanced at Clark—easily, smoothly, making it look effortless, as if anyone could do it. "Your parents must usually keep it up, huh?"

"They look in on it every once in a while," was the ambiguous reply, answering without giving anything away. The type of reply at which Clark excelled.

Of course his parents looked in every once in a while, I found myself thinking acerbically. They had to make sure "Superman's" globe was safe!

Jimmy moved back into the living room, but Clark stepped closer to me. I turned all my attention to the coffee I was pouring into my mug, hunching my shoulders in around myself.

"Lois," he began, his voice so soft and worried. Just like Superman's. The touch of his hand on my shoulder was just like Superman's, too. I shrugged it off, scorning the warmth and weight of it.

"You'd better go sit down," I said in a detached voice. "You still look a little shaky."


"Go, Clark!" I snapped.

And he did. And I didn't look at him as he went. But somehow, I knew he winced away from my dismissal, and I knew his shoulders were slumped with dejection and his eyes possessed only a sliver of the hope usually beaming outward from him in all directions.

But I had so little attention to spare for that; all of my attention was turned to the task of assimilating this new truth, this revelation, this secret of all secrets that had dominated every confidence Clark whispered to me in the glowing darkness. There could be no more denying it, no more hiding from it, no more explaining it away with a hundred other perfectly logical, human explanations. No, now I had to accept it. Now I had to face it.

The last of the contentment instilled in me the day before slipped away.

My hand formed into a tight fist, crushing Clark's teabag within it.

And Then There Was Light

A Lois & Clark Story
by Anti-Kryptonite

Part 18 of 23

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