Continuing Tales

And Then There Was Light

A Lois & Clark Story
by Anti-Kryptonite

Part 23 of 23

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The bed was soft when I sank into it a week later, the blankets warming quickly as I brought them up over my shoulders, the pillow cool against my cheek, but there was something missing. I couldn't hear the sound of breathing from the other side of the room, couldn't feel the presence of my partner as he lay on his side facing me, couldn't speak my secrets to him while the moon chased away any would-be eavesdroppers, and so sleep had also deserted me. I had told Clark that I wasn't used to sleeping in the same room as another person, but now I was no longer used to the solitude.

Clark had insisted on moving to Perry's the same day we had told each other our stories, his tiny, embarrassed grin and the memory of how his kisses alone had been able to move me serving as cause enough for the transition. He still spent almost every waking hour with me as we worked on our series of articles detailing the fall of the house of Luthor, usually not leaving the apartment until after ten at night, but it wasn't the same, though I had to admit that I enjoyed the goodnight kisses we shared.

Still, I told myself, shifting on the bed to make myself more comfortable, at least he was here, in Metropolis, in the employ of the Daily Planet, once more officially assigned as my partner. Much better to have him just across the city than clear across the world, especially when he was now so free and open and unburdened.

Henderson had, at least on the surface, accepted our story about the night of Luthor's demise, and although we had been given a light slap on the wrist for not going straight to the inspector, we had otherwise escaped the entire fiasco relatively unscathed. Even better, no one had yet found any of the clone's remains within the ashes and soot-stained, melted debris of Steelworks, which meant no one had connected Superman to Luthor or come to the erroneous conclusion that the superhero was once more "dead."

Every day, it seemed, the MPD uncovered new crimes Luthor had committed, which was a good thing since Luthor's long, vengeful arm had seen to it that Nigel, the key witness, was assassinated just two days earlier. The whole of Metropolis was in an uproar as Luthor's empire toppled from the shining top of Lex Tower all the way down to the corrupt foundation, and the resulting front page stories were keeping both Clark and me incredibly busy. I should have been exhausted enough to fall asleep almost instantly every night, but because Clark's presence left me with an overdose of energy and his absence left me with a sense of malaise, it was usually after midnight by the time I settled enough just to get into bed, let alone fall asleep. Despite the late hours, however, I always woke up early, eager for the moment when Clark would arrive to kiss me as if the nights apart were as hard on him as they were on me and cook breakfast while I kept him company.

A smile curved my lips at this reminder of what the morning entailed, and I finally managed to drift off to sleep, staving off the reality of the empty spot across the room where the cot had once been by imagining Clark lying beside me, his arm resting across my waist, his breaths feathering the back of my neck, his smile filling my dreams.

Dimly, gradually, I became aware that a steady tapping sound was dragging me from my hard-won sleep. Excitement surged through me at the thought that morning had come more quickly than I had realized and that Clark was already here, but the instant I opened my eyes, a disappointed frown overtook me. The bedroom was still flooded with darkness, the moon veiled behind thin clouds.

The tapping sound was repeated, and I froze when I realized that it was coming from the living room window. A bolt of fear sent sparks of lightning through my veins, setting the hair at the back of my neck upright and pebbling my skin. Only—I glanced at the clock—a half hour had passed since I had thought how relieved I was that no sign of the clone had been found. But what if…what if he had survived? What if he was here now? After all, I wasn't quite as convinced as Clark about his inherent goodness.

Cautiously, I slipped from the bed, trying to still the rapid beating of my heart and regretting for the millionth time the emptiness of the space beside the window. The tapping stopped; I had to wonder if it was because he had heard the increase in my pulse-rate.

Firming my grip on my courage and setting my mouth into a grim line, I pulled the bedroom door open and stepped into the living room. The night was heavy with shadows, but the lights from the street below silhouetted the form hanging outside my apartment. He raised his hand in a small wave just as I stepped close enough to see that my visitor wore a winter coat, casual clothes…and glasses.

"Clark!" I exclaimed, the fear instantly obliterated. Hurriedly, unable to wipe away the silly grin spreading itself over my features, I unlocked the window and threw it open. "You're flying!"

"I can fly again!" he repeated jubilantly, laughing exultantly. Gracefully, quickly, as if flying were as natural for him as breathing, he swooped through the window, set his hands to my waist, and effortlessly twirled me around the room.

I couldn't help but laugh down at his shining face as my feet dangled in the air a foot or two above the floor of my apartment. "If I had known you were flying around, I'd have left the window open."

He laughed again, banishing the stillness and silence and darkness that invaded my apartment whenever he left—laughed because he could, because he wanted to, because I was laughing back at him. "I can fly!" he said again, and I idly wondered if this had been his reaction the first time he had discovered he could snub his nose at gravity. "I'm completely back to normal—well, normal for me."

"Which is super," I said with a grin that made him spin me in another giddy circle.

Again, his laugh split the silence, and I felt that I could fly just on that sound alone. How had I ever lived without his smile and laugh and touch and words that lit the very contours of my soul? "That's what my parents said," he told me happily.

"You told your parents before you told me?" I asked, pretending affront, though it really didn't bother me. How could I begrudge him any conversation with his parents when he had been so obviously thrilled the first time he was able to call them six days ago and tell them to come home? Apparently, he had hidden them in Rome, trusting that their lack of plane tickets and passports and their use of cash would hide them among the hundreds of other tourists there. It didn't hurt, Clark had confided, that Jonathan had been saving to take Martha there for their next anniversary.

"No," Clark assured me, taking my remark seriously. "They said that when I told them my other powers were returning."

I set my hands to his shoulders to balance myself and chuckled at the memory of how excited he had been over the past few days as each of his powers returned to him. Before, I had thought he was just happy to realize the Kryptonite's effects were once more proving only temporary; now I realized that he had been counting down the days until he could reclaim the skies.

"So how did you discover that you could fly again?" I arched my brows mischievously. "You didn't go throwing yourself off any buildings, did you?"

"Of course not—that's your department," he retorted, adjusting his grip on me so that he was holding me in a loose embrace rather than out where he could twirl me around. Before I could do more than whack him lightly on the shoulder, he smiled and said, "I woke up when I rolled over and bumped into the ceiling fan. I haven't floated in my sleep since before—well, since before. I came over here as soon as I woke up enough to realize exactly what this means."

"What this means…" I repeated, suddenly breathless over more than just his wonderful, even-more-radiant-than-before, exactly-as-handsome-as-Superman's smile. No explanation had been given for Superman's recent absence; Clark had never mentioned the subject, and I had refused to make up a story before I knew what he planned to do. But if he could fly…would he take up the mantle—or rather, the cape—again?

"Yes," he said, almost solemnly save for the twinkle glittering in his eyes and sparking through his glasses. "I've been waiting to ask you this my whole life."

"Ask me what?" I blurted in shock. That certainly didn't sound like anything to do with Superman. But he couldn't mean…no. He couldn't. He wouldn't.

His smile fought the restraints he had imposed on it, tugging at both corners of his mouth as he finally set me down and alighted on the floor himself. He took a step away from me, then held out his hand to me in invitation. "Lois…will you fly with me?"

Tears sprang to my eyes, tears such as I had never wept before—tears of happiness, of joy, of awe that this man could look at me with such devotion and admiration and hope in every fiber of his being. I blinked the tears away, preferring to smile instead. "You know," I managed to scrape together the semblance of a voice to say, "you are the most romantic spaceman I've ever met."

He blinked, then chuckled. "Exactly how many spacemen have you met?"

"Enough," I replied haughtily before softening. "Just exactly enough."

Inordinately pleased, he smiled and spread the fingers of the hand he still had outstretched. "So, Lois," he said in that hypnotizingly smoky voice. "Will you fly with me?"

"Yes, I will," I whispered as I slid my hand into his, relishing the feel of his unblemished, unscarred palm. Then I cleared my throat and held up a warning finger. "On one condition."

His brows arched playfully as he lifted me once more into the air, slowly spinning us around in an impromptu waltz, his grin delighted. "What condition? Breakfast in Paris? Lunch in Japan? Dessert on a tropical beach?"

"No," I said despite the euphoric feeling unfurling in my stomach at the thought that Clark would give me all those things I had once imagined acting out with Superman—that he would fulfill all the fantasies, conscious and unconscious, that I had ever had. Placing my palms on Clark's chest as I stepped up close to him, I sobered. "I want you to wear the Superman Suit."

Slowly, as if caught in slow motion, his smile melted away, and with it his command of gravity. Our feet settled once more on the floor, Clark's arm loosening from around me. "Lois," he said quietly, his gaze dropping from mine. "Luthor used the name, the Suit, the powers, for his crimes—he mired Superman in his evil!"

"Who do you think would believe any criminal dumb enough to come forward saying Superman tried to get him to work for Luthor?" I pointed out. "Superman's been accused of some bad things before, but a lot of them are so unbelievable that even the National Whisperer won't print them. Even Luthor's henchmen have been too scared of the possible ramifications to blow your identity! Besides, isn't it safer to fly as Superman than as Clark?"

"It's more than that," Clark said, more subdued than he had been since I had told him the end of our story. "The last time I was Superman, the world rejected him—"

"Yes, it is more than that," I interrupted, keeping fast hold of my patience. "You saw that memorial yourself, saw what the world truly thought of you demonstrated in the plaque and the gifts and the flowers. The Suit, the powers, the name, that statue—they're yours, Clark. The clone can't—"

"He hurt you!" Clark cried, the memory of pain shredding his voice to ribbons. His gaze finally returned to me, devouring me as if to reassure himself that I was alive and well; I hated that I had doused the light he had exhibited while twirling me through the air. "He hurt you, Lois," he repeated, almost inaudibly, his hand skimming along my cheek. "He hurt you…and I don't want you to be afraid of me."

"He wasn't you, Clark," I stated gently. "You're not him. I know you would never hurt me. And I'm not afraid of you."

Clark's arms fell away from me, and he distanced himself by a couple paces, half-turning his back to me as he hid the honesty of his expression. "Superman was mine, Lois—ours because I thought of the idea when you told me to bring an extra change of clothes to work"—I blinked, stunned by that casually dropped bombshell—"but Luthor stole him and used him for his own ends. How can I be Superman again when Luthor ruined him so badly?"

"Luthor tried to ruin him," I said softly, knowing it was useless to deny it, shrugging aside the strangeness of the way Clark regarded his alter ego. "But, Clark, if you take back the name and the Suit, Luthor will have failed. Superman's a part of who you are, Clark, not anybody else—not even a copy of you."

Clark angled slightly toward me so he could study my expression intently. "Lois, if I wear the Suit…wouldn't you look at me and see him?"

"No," I said and knew the truth of it as soon as I uttered the word. "No, Clark, I wouldn't. I'd know you anywhere."

A flicker of vast relief moved discernibly through his being as his eyes fell closed.

Encouraged by this, I moved forward to rest my hand on his healed back. "But, Clark," I added seriously. "Don't do this because of Luthor. Don't do it for your parents or for the world, or even for me. Do it for you…because Superman is important and special. And you are so…" I swallowed back a lump and blinked rapidly. "You are so wonderful and amazing and extraordinary, Clark…and there's no reason you should have to hide that."

With a sigh that drained the hidden tension from his body, Clark turned and took me into his arms. His breath fluttered my hair as he dropped a small, meaningful kiss on my temple. "All right," he said quietly, and I had to restrain the urge to throw my arms around him and grin triumphantly. "I have a few Suits at home in Smallville. I'll go get one and come right back."

"I'll get dressed while you're gone, so don't go too fast," I warned him, then impulsively kissed him, delighted—as I had been uncountable times over the past week—at the freedom to do so, at the rightness of it all, at the future spreading out before us.

Clark rolled his eyes, fighting a grin, snatched another kiss, and then flashed out the window.

Choosing out some warm clothes—but not too warm since I planned on staying very near Clark's body heat—I dressed quickly. Most of my excitement stemmed from anticipation, and yet…and yet there was a tiny piece of me that worried whether I really would be able to instantly tell Clark's Superman from the clone's. Even the slightest check to my heartbeat would register like a screaming alarm to Clark's superhearing, and I knew him well enough to know how much that would hurt him.

I zipped up my jacket and ran a brush through my hair to tidy it as I heard a whoosh signaling Clark's arrival. Feeling an automatic smile transform my features, I stepped eagerly into the living room, unable to take in a decent breath of air. Disappointment dampened my excitement when I saw Clark standing there—still dressed in his regular clothes.

"Clark, you said—"

"I know," he interrupted, hopeful trepidation flavoring his voice. "I've just wanted to show you this for a long time. Here."

He offered me his glasses; I took them with only a slight hesitation. "Clark—"

Breath, speech, and thought were snatched away from me, pulled by force of inertia into the spinning blur of transforming colors that had, only seconds earlier, been Clark. The whirlwind lasted mere instants—the transition over so quickly that if I had blinked I would have missed it—and then Superman was standing where Clark had once been.

The real Superman.

And I had been right—I could instantly tell the difference. No wonder, I thought with some bit of vindication, I had not connected Clark to Superman when it had been the clone wearing the Suit; there were a thousand minute differences, from the way they stood to the expression in their eyes to the more diffident, self-conscious way Clark held himself to the astonishing gulf between the clone's guarded wariness and Clark's earnest openness.

"Wow!" The word was almost no more than the expelling of a breath. Hastily scrabbling for composure, I stepped up close to Clark and gave him a small, private smile. "Every time I think I know everything there is to know about you, you take my breath away with something new."

"Good," Clark murmured, the look in his eyes causing the rest of the world to vanish, leaving the two of us alone. "Because that's what happens to me every time I look at you."

My smile widened into a mischievous grin as I carefully tucked his glasses in my pocket, just as I had done in my dream. "You're sure you're completely better, Clark, right?"

He cocked his head. "Yes."

"Good." And with a laugh, I leaped into his arms, knowing he would catch me, confident he would hold me, trusting him to never let me go.

Something, some lingering darkness, fell away from Clark, and his expression lightened still further. As he floated us out of the window and shot straight up into the night sky, I knew without even looking back that the last of Luthor's chains had fallen from Clark's heart, leaving him, finally, unfettered and free.

Clouds spattered the ebony-inlaid sky like paint streaked too thinly over canvas, glittery stars sparkling like diamonds, piercingly sharp, laughingly obscure. The cold waited outside Clark's embrace, but it could not reach me, could not slip past the aura of Clark's presence to latch onto me and drain me dry of his imparted warmth.

Clark nestled me close to his heart. "Where do you want to go, Lois? I can take you anywhere in the entire world."

"Isn't there someplace you've always wanted to show me?" I asked him. Any sliver of doubt I might have had about whether he had truly wanted me to know his secret or not had been destroyed a hundred times over every time he so excitedly, jubilantly shared with me the hidden pieces of his life.

"Yes," he admitted, his voice rumbling through his chest and sending shivers down my spine, doing what the chill of the skies could not. "But this is for you, Lois. I want to take you where you want to go."

"And I want to go wherever you want to take me," I told him firmly, then added mock-sternly, "And you'd better hurry up. It won't be night forever."

"No," he agreed, laughter sending tremors through his voice. "But it could be sunrise forever."

"What do you mean?" I demanded curiously.

He laughed at my impatience. "You know how they say that no two sunrises are ever the same? Well, shortly after I learned to fly, I decided to see if that was true."

"And is it?" I asked.

"It's true," he confirmed contentedly, drawing me still closer to himself as we skimmed over waves that murmured and whispered below us. "In fact, even the same sunrise is different on every horizon. Look."

My eyes followed his line of sight, and I looked out on the world—on the sunrise—as Clark saw it.

The curve of the horizon perfectly showcased the slow progression of the sun as it climbed its way up the slope of the earth, shimmering a million sparkles over water, adding canyons of depth to landscapes, shooing away the shadows almost absentmindedly as it poured its liquid light over the world and pulled the ebony curtain from the sky to reveal colors of a thousand minute shadings. When light reached as far as the eye could see, we ghosted far above the ground below us until the misty remains of cool night were visible, and then we floated there and waited for the sun to reach us, languorously moving forward to peruse the world it illuminated.

Clark moved me in his arms, turning me so that I was parallel to his body, facing downward, nothing obstructing my sight, my arms outstretched as if I could fly on my own, though why should I when it was infinitely better to feel Clark's left arm wrapped around my waist from behind, his right arm laid over mine, his fingers over mine, as if he were an angel that cast a shadow just below him, one over the other.

"No wonder you're such an optimist, Clark," I finally murmured after we had traversed half the globe to witness a thousand dawns, each etched in my mind by the power of their beauty and the delicacy inherent in their transience. I twisted my head to look at him, above and behind me. "Your world is full of eternal sunrises."

Speechless, his expression eloquent enough to set a lump in my throat and send tingling sparks dancing through my body, he wove his fingers through mine and turned me to face him, one arm holding me in the pocket of magical unreality that kept him suspended in the air. The wind swooped and swirled around us, laughing as it twirled between us and startled into silence when Clark's mouth covered mine, capturing the wind between his lips so that he tasted of sky and cloud and rain and open space.

"You know," Clark said when he pulled back to lean his brow against mine as we caught our breath, "you were right when you said I wandered the world searching for a place that was mine, looking for some feeling of connection, knowing—hoping—there was somewhere I belonged. This"—he slipped his fingers from mine to gesture to the gold and silver panorama surrounding us on all sides—"is where I usually went when I couldn't find that place, when I despaired of ever belonging. I searched the entire globe for that feeling of rightness, Lois, but I've only felt it once in my life."

"When?" I breathed out, though within my chest, my heart was fluttering as wildly as if a bird had somehow become incorporeal and lodged itself within me as I flew through the sky that had once belonged to it alone.

Clark's eyes, when they met mine, were as solid, as real, as shocking as if he possessed some other form of heatvision, piercing straight and true to the very center of my being, so direct that the breath caught in my throat and fled. "The day I met you."

Tears wet my eyelashes, dazzling my own vision when I blinked. Bringing my hands up, trusting myself fully to Clark's hold, I framed his face with my fingers. "I can't believe the first time I looked into your eyes, I didn't instantly know you were the man I'd spend the rest of my life with."

He smiled warmly, obviously overjoyed by that statement, and I couldn't help an answering thrill to know that I had the power to bring him so much joy. "Speaking of the rest of our lives, Lois…" He paused to swallow, and I almost thought he looked frightened, though why should he? We had left our scars and wounds and chains all behind. "I'm…I'm thinking that tomorrow, I might ask you out on a date. A real date."

A laugh of molten joy escaped me. "I'm thinking that I might say yes."

His fingers fanned out over my back as he brought up his other hand to play through my hair. "And I'm thinking that I might ask you out a lot more after that, maybe every day, just so I have an excuse to see you even when we're not working."

"I'm thinking I'd like that a lot," I told him. He still looked nervous, though he smiled at my reply.

"And then…" The sun reflected in his eyes, twin orbs of gold and crimson hope. "Then I'm planning on asking you to marry me."

I stared at him a long moment, completely taken aback, completely stunned—completely elated. Twining my arms around his neck, I looked straight into his eyes and uttered the truest words I have ever spoken: "Then, Clark, I'm planning on being the happiest woman who ever lived."

We hung there in the vastness of a sky large enough to encompass the whole of a world, suspended between the silver and gray vestiges of night and the burgeoning gold and carnelian and alabaster of daybreak, hovering between the blurred lines of strengthening light and fading darkness as the sun asserted its dominance. Yet Clark outshone it all as he smiled at me with a smile that told me just how many of his dreams I had made come true.

And then he curled his hand around the back of my neck and lowered his head and kissed me. The wind laughed at us as it danced its merry way around us; the sun lit us in a brilliant ray of light; the clouds obligingly provided the scarcest of veils between us and the world below. But all I knew was Clark, all I saw was his radiance, and all I was aware of was the way he grew to encompass—grew to become—my entire world, filling and occupying my five senses.

The taste of wind-blown mist and cool sky and drops of pure sunshine.

The sound of Clark's smoky voice murmuring my name as if there were no other word in any language that mattered as much.

The scent of his skin, fresh and pure and clean.

The feel of his form defining mine through the strength of his embrace, the gentleness of his touch, and the depths of love revealed through his kiss.

And light—eternal light that is mine and mine alone.

And Then There Was Light

A Lois & Clark Story
by Anti-Kryptonite

Part 23 of 23

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