Continuing Tales

And Then There Was Light

A Lois & Clark Story
by Anti-Kryptonite

Part 2 of 23

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Lois Lane does not fall apart, though, certainly not during a mere kidnapping, so after a while, I pulled myself free of his arms and stood. "There has to be some way out of here," I declared before restlessly moving to examine the confines of the cell by feel.

"If anyone can find it, it's you," he said, his voice a bit stronger and more confident.

I ignored the way his words made me feel and continued my blind exploration. The door was made of some kind of metal, heavy and cold and impossible to budge. The walls were brick. If I believed some of the movies I'd seen, we could possibly pull enough bricks from the wall to make a small exit hole; I was of the opinion that that option was pretty far-fetched.

"I can't believe this is happening!" I exclaimed when I failed to find anything else in the cell except for a bucket in the corner that I refused to think about. There was no cot, no sink, no lock to pick or window to climb out of, nothing save four walls to keep us caged. "Why does this always happen to me?"

"Because you refuse to let the world go by without trying to make it better."

I froze at the words and turned to look in Clark's general direction. Simply hearing him had been enough at first, but now I wanted desperately to see him. It had been too long since I had been able to look into his silvery-brown eyes and see his lips curve up in that irresistible smile. Except I had resisted it, quite often in fact. Mad Dog Lane did not melt into a puddle whenever her farmboy partner smiled at her.

"That makes you a lot of enemies," he added, perhaps thinking I hadn't understood his comment. But I had understood it. I understood that even though I had let him walk away from me, he still thought the world of me. He thought better of me than even I did, and that was saying something. Or it used to anyway. Now, almost everyone thought better of me than I did.

An image of Superman was seared into the backs of my eyelids, mocking me whenever I was tempted to think too highly of myself.

"Lois?" I realized from the rustling noise that followed the sound of my name that Clark was pulling himself to his feet.

"Don't!" I rushed to his side, slipping my arm around his waist when I heard him stumble and fall against the wall.

Horror assailed me. I knew the feel of Clark. He had walked me to my place a hundred times, and a few of those times, he had tentatively slipped an arm around my shoulders, relaxing only when I would signal my acceptance of the gesture by looping my arm around his waist. Due to an embarrassing accident, I knew what Clark looked like without his square suits, and he felt much the same way—solid, steady, firm.

Or he had.

I suddenly knew that no matter how much I had tried to deny it, Clark had been held here for an entire month. He must have been in order to lose so much body mass, to lose so much of his strength.

"Are you all right?" he asked tenderly.

I closed my eyes, suddenly glad he couldn't see me and the tears sliding down my cheeks. It wasn't supposed to be like this. He wasn't supposed to be hurt and locked away. Clark had always seemed too…happy, too cheerful, too full of hope to be confined in one place. His strength had seemed inexhaustible, surviving even after a whole night's stakeout filled with my grouchy retorts and subtle put-downs.

Why hadn't I thought to check up on him? Why hadn't I realized that he would never stop calling me and sending me letters unless I asked him to? Why had I allowed myself to forget just what type of person Clark was? Why had I held onto my anger that he had gone to find happiness without me, helping Superman wherever he had ended up and stealing my place at the superhero's side?

"I'm sorry," I whispered, leaning my head against Clark's chest and trusting his depleted strength to hold us both up. Because even then, even embracing him and feeling how much he had lost, I couldn't imagine Clark not being strong enough for me. He had always been there, always caught me, always backed me up. He had done such a great job of being my partner that I no longer knew how to work without one. That was why I had spent the past two months scarcely sleeping at all, pushing myself harder and harder to find the stories that used to appear all over the place, to write the articles that used to almost write themselves, to prove to myself that I didn't really need Clark Kent, the hack from Nowheresville that had subtly changed my life.

"What are you sorry for?" His fingers curled under my chin and tilted my head up, though why I couldn't say. It's not like he could see me.

"I'm sorry I let you go. I'm sorry I didn't look for you. I'm sorry we're here in this mess."

"Hey, it's not your fault." His thumb gently wiped away a tear, and true to form, since it was him, I didn't even mind that he knew I'd been crying. "I had to leave, Lois. It was…nobody could have changed that. And how were you supposed to know I'd been kidnapped? That's your department, after all."

A watery chuckle escaped me, and I tightened my arms around Clark and buried my head in the cleft between his shoulder and his neck. When his hand tenderly cupped the back of my head, I wondered if I was dreaming. I had played so many scenarios in my head over the past weeks—each one a more improbable reason for him to return than the last—that it now seemed impossible for this to be real.

Even trapped in a dark cell with no civilized bathroom in sight, this moment was better than what my life had become when both Superman and Clark Kent had walked out of it.

"You've obviously picked up bad habits while you've been gone," I managed to say with a hint of the teasing tone Clark seemed to produce so easily. "You shouldn't have left."

Only when the words had fallen into the still air around us and sat there trembling for a long moment did I realize that I had done it again. Clark offered comfort; I offered criticism.

"Not that I blame you," I added hastily.

It was a lie, though.

I did blame him. For a while, I had hated him. He had made me need him, and then he had left me alone. Two men had promised to be around whenever I needed them, and they had both walked away without a backward glance regardless of the fact that I still needed them.

"I'm sorry, Lois," he whispered. His finger drew a gentle line along my cheekbone, and I vaguely wondered how he could touch me so gently and surely in the dark. Had he memorized me so well that he could still remember every part of me? Actually, he probably had; I had caught him watching me often enough with that soft, endearing light shining behind those glasses of his and making it impossible to feel creeped out by his fascination with me.

"You're not wearing your glasses," I observed, not even sure why I said it. It was true, though. I could feel the soft flannel shirt he wore, had felt the denim of his jeans earlier when I had knelt at his side, but though my questing hands had found the beard hugging the contours of his face, I hadn't felt the frames of his glasses. Funny. I didn't think I'd ever seen him without them; I couldn't even picture him without them.

His arms tightened around me, but all he said was, "No. He said I had no use for them anymore."

A thrill of dread curled insidiously through my body. Clark kept referring to "he" and "him" in a tone that bordered on fear. Fear…and hate. It had taken me this long to identify that second emotion because I had never before heard it in Clark's voice. I had thought him incapable of it.

Once more, his finger trailed down my face, gently tucking a strand of hair behind my ear. "I can almost see you. They'll be coming back soon," he told me in a voice barely audible over the pounding of my heart. "He never lets me recover too much before returning. Lois…are you sure you're real? I'm not just dreaming, am I?"

The thought had occurred to me; I just hadn't realized that he would have the same fear. But then, he was the one who had been locked in a cell for a month, obviously tortured if this 'dosing' took as much out of him as it seemed. Why wouldn't he think this was a dream?

"Do you dream about me often?" I couldn't resist asking, my tone neutral.

"Always." The word was little more than an expelled breath, but I caught it, held it close to me, savored it as if it were a rich delicacy. His arms tightened around me, pulling me so close to him that I felt as if surely nothing could hurt me or tear me from his embrace.

That misconception lasted only until the door was yanked open with the screeching of abused hinges and Clark let out a breath that was almost a whimper. He pulled me with him as he backed desperately away from the door, his spine thudding painfully into the corner of the cell, his arms locked around me.

"Ah, Lois, my dear. I had heard you were taking advantage of my hospitality."

I pulled myself from Clark's insistent hold and stepped forward to meet Lex Luthor.

"And I heard you've been hiding quite a few important facts from Metropolis," I said coldly.

The light that silhouetted Lex from behind didn't allow me to read his expression, but the spread of his hands was eloquent. "We all conceal things, my dear. It's the way of the world, and most certainly the way of big business. You should have taken a few lessons from your partner about hiding important facts."

"We're reporters," I stated defiantly. If ever there was a time for me to reclaim my fearless persona, it was now, standing before my fallen partner. "We don't hide things."

"Really?" Lex pretended elaborate surprise. "Guess you never really had a chance for a heart-to-heart with her, eh, Kent?"

Clark said nothing, but he reached out to take my hand and tried to pull me back toward him. It was a mark of how weak he was that I was able to shake his hand away.

"Now, Lois." Lex turned his attention back to me. I was secretly relieved; even in the dim light and pooled shadows, I could tell there was something almost mad in the way Clark regarded Lex. "If we're going to be working together, we really should coordinate our stories."

"Working together?" I repeated incredulously. "You're loonier than Bugs Bunny!"

"Am I?" The sudden dangerous timbre of Lex's voice made a shiver run through my body. "Then you will soon be joining me in that 2-D world. Nigel, bring her. Make it an irresistible invitation."

"As you wish, sir." The tall, silver-haired Englishman moved forward, a pistol in his right hand that unwaveringly pointed the way to my heart. His left hand reached out to grab hold of me.

"No!" Showing no sign of his previous weakness, Clark pulled me behind him and swatted the gun from Nigel's hand.

"Ah, Kent, when will you learn?"

Clark froze. Entranced despite the bizarre situation—or maybe because of it—I looked between him and Lex. The business mogul had pulled a small metal box from his pocket and now he played with the clasp, his black eyes intent on Clark. Clark's attention didn't seem to be on Luthor's words, or on Nigel as he reached out and yanked me toward him; it was focused exclusively on that box. And no matter that darkness cloaked his face, I could read terror in every line of his body.

Enough was enough. I didn't know what kind of hold they had on Clark, but I wasn't about to let that open door be wasted. With a quick twist of my body, I kicked Nigel in the stomach and lunged forward to knock Lex down. The billionaire was too quick, though, dancing back out of my reach and jerking his head toward the cell in a commanding gesture.

Leaden defeat almost paralyzed me when two more thugs—probably the same ones who had thrown me in this cell in the first place—moved forward. Nigel was recovering quickly, and he stooped to pick up the gun.

"Leave her alone!" Somehow, maybe because whatever was in that metal box had been removed from his sight, Clark had regained his courage. Without pausing to even look at me, he tackled one of the thugs, sending him sprawling back into the second man.

No sooner had I moved forward to help, however, than Nigel grabbed my elbow, the gun a cold, sharp point in my side. "I wouldn't advise it," he told me sharply. "Mr. Luthor may want you alive, but bullets don't have to kill. Then again, why not?"

My eyes widened when he swung the gun in Clark's direction.

"No, wait!" I blurted, flinching when I heard Clark cry out in pain. From what I could see, I didn't think he was winning his fight. His strength had never been in brute force or street fighting; it was in his integrity and spirit. "I'll go with you. Just…don't hurt him."

"A wise decision." Nigel backed me out of the cell and raised his voice. "Mr. Luthor, I believe Ms. Lane has accepted your invitation."

"Well, better late than never," Lex drawled, as if two of his thugs weren't brutally beating Clark down against the hard floor of a cell. "Asabi!"

I started when the tall Indian materialized at my side.

Lex smiled at him and handed him the small box that had stopped Clark in his tracks. "Let's not keep Mr. Kent waiting. I believe you know how the process works."

Asabi inclined his head and accepted the box before turning toward the cell. His body blocked my sight of Clark.

Nigel dragged me down a long gray corridor that reeked of mold and disuse. Lex confidently led my escort and me through several turns, up a set of stairs, and into a room equipped with monitors, quietly beeping machines, an odd man-sized, egg-like object that was transparent, and a vault set into the back wall—all very high-tech for the dingy warehouse I had assumed this place to be.

"Now," Lex said as Nigel left the room, "I think you know as well as I, my dear, that there won't be any brightly dressed superhero swooping you up into his arms in a theatrical, daring rescue, isn't that right?"

I refused to show any emotion, refused to let him see how much the barb stung, refused to give into the tears broiling beneath my paper-thin façade. Maybe the old Lois Lane would have been able to snap back a retort, but I wasn't that person anymore. That person had been lost with the disappearance of two men and the mysterious explosion of a gigantic asteroid hurtling toward Earth. That person had been buried along with the few remaining fragments of a crimson cape.

"Yes, well, unfortunately, there are a few other matters to address. To wit." Lex turned to one of the monitors and flicked it on.

Grudgingly, I turned my attention to the screen. A gasp was torn from me when I saw Asabi standing over the crumpled body of my partner. I couldn't see what Luthor's henchman was doing to Clark—but I could see Clark writhing in pain.

"Ah, don't worry, Lois." Lex put a hand as cold as a viper's eyes on my shoulder. "He goes through this every day. Think of it as…a form of treatment."

"Treatment?" I repeated, my voice as dry as the weather had been when I let Clark walk away from me. "That's torture!"

"Oh, my dear, if only you knew." The clear amusement on Lex's features threw me briefly before I could shake off my discomfiture. The man had succeeded in hoodwinking an entire city—he could surely manage the appearance of knowing something about my partner that I didn't!

"Stop it," I commanded uselessly, my eyes locked on what I could see of Clark. "Stop hurting him! What do you want with him? Why are you doing this?"

"I already gave you my answer, albeit for a slightly different question." Lex's breath hissed past my ear as he leaned over my shoulder from behind. "I told you my goal was pleasure. And that…" He used his chin to point to the image of Clark's agony. "That, my dear Lois, gives me a great deal of pleasure."

"You're sick," I breathed out, tearing myself free of his deadening touch.

"They always say that about the true visionaries." Luthor's smile was as cheerful as a corpse's and far more unsettling. "Now, about my publicity—"

"Oh, believe me, when I tell the world you're the Boss, you'll get loads of free publicity."

"You see, I'm afraid that just is not part of my plan."

"Well, it is mine!" I snapped.

"And if we go with your plan, your partner will die a very slow, excruciating death." His eyes narrowed when he noted my sudden worry, and that same cold smile made another appearance. "Even should we make a mutually satisfactory bargain that would allow Kent to go free along with you, I still can't have you telling the world about my extra business. So, I'll up the ante—Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, and everyone else you care about at the Daily Planet will also die, along with your beloved paper itself."

I raised my eyebrows. Some small part of my mind tried to warn me that I was in the middle of a dangerous situation; it didn't do any good. Suddenly, with something to protect and an enemy to put away—and Clark where I could see him—I felt more like Lois Lane than I had in a long time.

"You're going to hold a newspaper hostage?" I sneered.

"Don't believe me? Try me, I dare you. The world may not know my true power, but you will see it. You, Lois Lane, great investigative reporter, will have a front-row seat at the exhibition of all I control. The most powerful being in the world—wasn't that what Superman was called? Yet he is gone and I remain. No one can stand against me, my dear, not you, not your…partner, not anyone." Luthor's eyes devoured the image of Clark as if it were his ticket to the power he was raving about.

If I hadn't disliked repeating myself, I would have told Lex he was insane. If I hadn't been so terrified by the implacable purpose in his tone, I would have laughed at the very idea that he could do as he threatened. If I hadn't been so afraid for Clark, I would have told Lex Luthor exactly what I thought of him, would have tried to trick more information out of him, would have attempted to learn his entire plan.

But Clark had fallen very still, and Asabi was moving away. Soon the heavy door with the lock I didn't have the key to would close. And right now, Luthor was the only one in the room with me.

"Sorry, Luthor," I said flippantly. "I don't make deals with crime bosses."

Then, moving as quickly as I ever had, I lashed out with a high kick that caught Lex squarely in the chest. A blow between the eyes had him flat out on the ground, bellowing his anger. I didn't have time to look for a weapon or to come up with a plan, but then, I rarely planned these things out. Unlike Clark, I believed "winging it" was a viable option at all times.

Hurriedly, keeping my eye out for Nigel or any other thug Lex had standing around, I backtracked toward the cell. I wasn't sure how much time I had before Asabi closed that door—or how much time Clark had, period. Sick, I shoved that thought away. I couldn't lose him, too, not after everything else.

Not after Superman.

I was halfway down the stairs and only one turn away from Clark when Nigel appeared out of nowhere, that stupid gun clenched annoyingly steadily in his hand.

"Come now, Ms. Lane," he tsked. "You didn't really think you could make it out of here, did you?"

"Nigel, you are to be commended."

I whirled and saw Lex at the top of the stairs, trapping me between himself and his butler. There wasn't any good way out of this, I realized. And yet…Luthor didn't want me dead. And from what I could see, I doubted he'd be pleasant to anyone who dared defy or disobey him. Fear of his displeasure might be just enough to give me an edge.

Besides, Clark was down the stairs, not up them.

I dove toward Nigel and several things happened all at once.

The Englishman moved the gun and fired something that grazed the side of my arm.

Luthor let out a roar that froze the blood in my veins.

My foot missed a step and sent me tumbling head-first toward the ground.

Pain exploded in my body, so much that it took me a long moment to pinpoint the origin of it. My left arm stung with what felt like acid; my sides and knees felt bruised and crushed; sharp glass seemed to be trapped in the vicinity of my shoulder; something thrummed and roared inside my head.

"Now that was extraordinarily stupid. Of course, I have to congratulate you: you never do things halfway, do you?"

The cold, reptilian voice swam in and out of my hearing. The pain encompassing my body tried to drown out the sound no matter how I fought to hold onto it as a way to pull me from the beckoning darkness.

"You know, I once thought you might be the one to eventually bear the name of Mrs. Luthor. Fortunately, the incentive to court you left before I could grace you with my ring and my name. Of course…I am tempted. But no. The very fact that you have no idea who shares a cell with you…well, that seems answer enough as to your worthiness. Don't worry about your wounds, my dear. From what I saw earlier, you'll be well taken care of. That thing in the cell really does seem to have a soft spot for you. A good thing...for me. Every being, even super-powered ones, have their Achilles' Heels. Nigel?"

Something grabbed hold of my arm and pulled. I might have screamed, or maybe it was just my wounds screaming at me. Regardless, I could no longer keep my head above the sea of blackness clamoring to have me, and I fell into smothering unconsciousness.

And Then There Was Light

A Lois & Clark Story
by Anti-Kryptonite

Part 2 of 23

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