Continuing Tales

And Then There Was Light

A Lois & Clark Story
by Anti-Kryptonite

Part 5 of 23

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When I woke, the place at my side was empty and cold. I lifted my head, instantly awake and concerned. A smile curved my lips when I saw Clark curled up in the chair near the window, his features peaceful, his color warm and golden as the sun bathed him in its light. It was such a compelling picture that I couldn't move, afraid to disturb him and bring all the pain and fear flooding back into his being.

Even when I did finally rise from the bed, I made certain to remain as quiet as I could. The call to Perry was conducted in whispers; I forbore to talk to myself as I usually did while showering and brushing my teeth and dressing; I tried to keep my small exclamations of pain muffled when I rebandaged the wound on my left arm—though perhaps I wasn't as successful at that last as I had hoped.


I grimaced but stood and moved into the bedroom where Clark could see me. "It's all right, Clark. I'm here."

"What's wrong?" Though he didn't move—I suspected he couldn't, at least not easily—his eyes, still covered by the glasses Superman had returned to him, studied me intently and carefully, flicking to the gunshot wound and away. "Are you okay?"

My reply was a beat late as I tried to process just how quickly he had come out of sleep…with my safety his first concern. "Just redoing the bandage. You did a good job on it, Clark. The wound's already looking a lot better."

"Good." Content, Clark turned his face once more to the sun. I wondered how many days—or weeks—it had been since he had last seen the morning sky.

"I called Perry," I told him carefully, not sure how he would take the news. "He's coming over. The shower's open if you're up to it, or you might want to wait until Perry—"

"I can do it," he said hurriedly, and I scolded myself for my tactlessness. Tact wasn't a quality I had ever seen the need of cultivating—reporters didn't get front page stories through diplomacy—but now I wished I had.

I had to clench my hands into fists to stop myself from hurrying across the room and helping Clark as he slowly rose to his feet. Instead of watching him make his torturous way to the bathroom, I moved toward the kitchen. "I'm going to see about some breakfast," I said over my shoulder and hoped he was too involved in staying upright to hear the emotion trapped within my voice.

From the date on my ATM receipt the night before, I knew I had been held in that cell less than twenty-four hours. Luthor's thugs had picked me up just before midnight, and I had withdrawn money from the ATM at the hospital at ten the night before. From the amount of relief in Perry's voice when I had called him, I gauged that there had been no ransom note—not that I had expected there to be—and that my co-workers had been caught between fear that I had been kidnapped and a suspicion that I had gone undercover to work on a secret story. It wouldn't have been the first time—for either possibility—though both had become rarer in the past two months.

It seemed impossible that so little time—a mere twenty-four hours—had passed since I had first heard Clark's voice again; it felt as if surely a year or more had been lived in that dark cell. And yet, conversely, it felt as if events had hurtled from one point—my kidnapping—to another—Clark's reemergence into my life—and to the best of them all—Superman's resurrection.

That was something I didn't think I had fully processed yet, but that was all right because Superman was still there today, as proved by the muted news I turned on once Clark shut the bathroom door. And the superhero would still be there tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that—"I'm always around," he had said, and even the recollection of those words spoken in his steady voice sent a thrill of elation through my veins.

I had to find some way to talk to him, to touch him again, to reassure myself that the connection I had felt between us from the moment he had flown me from EPRAD to the Daily Planet still existed. That it hadn't been buried with the pieces of his burned-up cape. That it was mutual.

At the sound of Clark emerging from the bathroom, I hastily shut off the news and turned back to my perusal of my kitchen's contents. They were pitifully meager, but luckily for me, I had bought bagels on a whim a week before and I still had a bit of cream cheese in the fridge and honey in the cabinets. Feeling somewhat proud of myself, I set the food out and only then guiltily realized that I didn't have anything for us to drink. I had spent my time pondering Superman instead of brewing the coffee…not that that was unusual.

"Coffee will be ready in a…" My voice trailed off into dead silence when I turned and saw Clark slumped against the partition between the kitchen and the living room.

He was draped in the robe I had gotten as a Secret Santa gift from a reluctant shopper who had apparently chosen the 'one size fits all' and called it good. Its white color darkened his damp ebony hair, made him look even paler than he already was, and seemed to swallow him up in its folds, giving him the illusion—I hoped it was an illusion—of small frailty. A perception aided by the bruises so starkly apparent on his cheekbone beneath the beard, on the bony wrists emerging from the robe's sleeves, on his sharply defined collarbone and descending in a bluish mass lower on his chest and beneath the robe, all of them black and ugly in the light of day and freedom. All of them as much a mute testament of what had been done to him as the haunted cast to his features, the guarded wariness as he looked about him, the painful shadows beneath his bespectacled eyes, the trembling of his hands, and the fact that he couldn't walk the length of my small apartment without growing tired enough to collapse.

"Do…" I paused, my hand outstretched toward him. Tact, I reminded myself. "Do you want me to help you?"

"I think I can make it," he said, his voice as pale a shadow of himself as his appearance.

As much as I knew he wanted to do things himself, I couldn't resist hovering near him as he took the three steps to the small kitchen table. My hand brushed his shoulder as he sat, so light a contact it could have been accidental…but it wasn't. I just couldn't resist touching him to reassure myself that he was all right. That he would survive. That he was here…with me.

"Do you want cream cheese or honey on your bagel?" I asked him, doing my best to keep my tone light and steady. When I had fallen apart while tied up at the behest of Antoinette Baines, he had remained calm and brave. When I had called him, terrified and shaken by the head and invisible body that had shown up in my apartment, he had come immediately with a teasing smile and eyes devoid of fear. When I had almost broken down after throwing my father to the wolves, he had been there for me with a steady hand and a sympathetic ear. When I had trembled in his arms after seeing him almost die at Trask's hands, he had held me and calmed me with his touch and kept my hands clasped in his until they steadied. After all that, how could I fail him now?

I couldn't.

I mustn't.

So I smiled at him as if it were perfectly normal for us to be eating breakfast at my apartment after being rescued from a grim, life-or-death situation. Actually, I thought with a slight frown, that had been somewhat normal for the reporting team of Lane and Kent. What wasn't normal was the fact that he was sick and tormented and looking lost while I was solicitous of his health and worried about his state of mind and afraid for him. That was almost a complete switch to what had once been normal. I missed those days when he had been the one to hover over me, but I had missed him more, and if this was what it took to get him back, it was a small cost.

I sat down hurriedly, idly wondering if the sudden realization was written all over my face.

"Are you all right?" Clark's brow creased as he studied me, and his hand moved to rest on the table, palm-up.

Restraining the urge to weep at the fact that I could see every bone in his wrist and in each finger, I put my hand in his and smiled brightly at him. "I'm fine. How are you?"

His smile was wry. "I've been better."

"Well," I said, inexplicably cheered by his miraculous smile. "We'll have to see what we can do about that."

"Just being in the sunlight is enough," he said very seriously. And when his eyes met mine, that light I had thought never to see again—the light that betrayed just what he thought of me—was glittering like the sun, shattering the darkness of my thoughts. "Being with you."

"You're just saying that because you don't want me to go back to being the senior partner," I replied archly.

"You stopped?" He raised his brows in mock surprise, then tried to hide his wince of pain.

"Well, I let you think I did, anyway." The flippant comment was made almost by habit as I studied him closely. No matter how much he smiled, I could tell he was a lot worse off than he was pretending.

"I'm just glad you're letting me be your partner again." Clark looked down at our hands, intertwining his fingers with mine. "After I left you the way I did…I wasn't sure you would."

"I've gotten used to you." I shrugged, almost desperate to keep the light mood alive. We both needed it, needed a few moments when we could pretend—no matter how weakly—that everything hadn't changed. "Besides, I still haven't learned your trick of guessing the correct codes to locks or finding all the doors with rusty padlocks."

"Ah, so I'm your personal locksmith, not your reporting partner."

"You're both," I told him, my voice much too serious to sustain our teasing byplay, the staple of our relationship. But as I had already noted, our relationship couldn't go back to the way it had been. It had to change, evolve, develop into something more. I couldn't just take whatever he gave me anymore; I had to give something back.

I just wished I knew how.

"So…" Clark looked down at the bagels. "Cream cheese or honey, huh?"

"Yeah." I squeezed his hand lightly, disturbed by its feverish heat and the uncharacteristic sweat on his brow, before withdrawing to retrieve some plates. "Oh, you like sugar and milk in your coffee, don't you?"

"You remember that?" His surprised tone might as well have been a slap, stinging all the more because I knew he hadn't meant it as a condemnation.

"Don't you remember what I take in my coffee?" It was a rhetorical question. I knew, without a doubt, that he remembered everything about me. Hadn't I been reminded of that fact with every personalized note, every awkward phone call, every touch of his hand and glance my way? In fact, he had once sent me a package from Columbia with all the makings of a cup of coffee, complete with a handcrafted mug and the one packet each of artificial sweetener and non-fat creamer that I took with it, accompanied by a note that said he missed getting my coffee for me every morning.

"Of course," he answered needlessly, his gaze on his hands, folded loosely atop the table before him. "But...I don't think I can handle any sugar or milk right now."

"Are you sick?" The question was so stupid even I winced. "I mean…aren't you hungry?"

"A little," he said, but I wasn't sure that he wasn't just being polite. Hastily, I turned to the task of getting our drinks before he could see how shaken I was.

"Well," I said once I was sure my voice would emerge steady. "I still have that box of tea you brought me a while ago. Why don't I fix you a cup of that instead?"

"Thank you." His smile was infinitesimal, his words almost inaudible, the wince of pain as he shifted in the chair heartbreaking.

This was not Clark Kent! Clark Kent was…cheerful, and hopeful, and sometimes annoyingly careful, and…and a lot more things that ended in –ful because the truth of the matter was that whatever Clark might be, he was wholeheartedly and completely that thing. He didn't hold himself back, didn't compromise, didn't commit himself any less than a hundred percent. He was…honest. And that meant that whatever you saw, whatever you heard him say…that was what you got.

He wasn't a shadow. He wasn't a wreck. He wasn't a pale imitation of the partner who had left me on behalf of a friend he now couldn't even seem to stand hearing about.

Why, I thought in frustration, did such a simple, unpretentious guy like Clark Kent always have to be such a mystery?

"Here you go." I set our cups down and sat across from him. "You never told me what you wanted on your bagel."

"Nothing. Just…just the bagel's fine."

We both reached for one at the same time, and our hands collided.

"I can get it," Clark insisted quietly, not meeting my eyes.

"Okay," I said just as quietly. The sticky feeling of honey on my palm made me realize that I was staring at Clark instead of my own bagel, but I couldn't seem to stop. I wasn't sure if I was afraid that he would disappear like a mirage or that he would collapse into a boneless heap. Whichever, I didn't dare look away.

"I'm not going to break," he said without looking up.

I started. Tact, I yelled at myself. I had to acquire that quality as soon as possible. "Can you read minds?" I demanded suspiciously. "Because it's a bad habit!"

"I can't read minds," he said with a quirk of his lips that faded all too quickly. "In fact…I can't do much of anything right now."

"I'm sorry," I blurted and decided to go for honesty in lieu of tact. "I just…I don't know what to do here, Clark. Even you can't pretend you're physically well—and tact aside, I'm not sure you're all that well mentally either. I mean, what that monster did to you—lesser men would gibber at the dark for the rest of their life after treatment like that! But I don't want to hurt you while I'm trying to help. So…tell me what to do. Should I help you move or let you do it yourself and watch you fall?"

"Lois." His hand on my shoulder halted my fountain of words. His gaze was open and earnest, everything I was so afraid he could never be again after a month in that lightless cell. "I don't like this situation any more than you do. I feel just as confused and uncertain and lost as you do—probably a hundred times more. But I do know that we all have to play the hand we're dealt. And no matter what…permanent…effects I have from my stay with Luthor, I have to figure out how to be the best…whatever I am now…that I can be. Because I really do believe that we're put on this Earth—or whatever planet we're put on—to do better than we think we can, to be kind and helpful and generous. And forgiving."

His voice broke the slightest bit on the last word. I didn't notice. I was staring at him—flat-out, jaw-on-the-ground, eyes-popping-out-like-a-cartoon staring at him. Because I hadn't even known people like that existed.

Superman, I reminded myself. Superman was like that.

But Superman had special powers and an extraordinary history and an eye-catching Suit. He was bound to be extraordinary. But my partner? The small-town nobody who stood when a woman entered the room and carried a handkerchief in his pocket and said hello to everyone on the street and would give the jacket off his back to anyone in trouble—who expected him to be extraordinary? Or, I thought slowly, were all those little oddities part of what made him so special?

And how had I forgotten that this was the type of man he was?

"Well," I said tremulously, shaking myself as if from a dream. "I'll help you, Clark. You do know you can count on me, right?"

"I do," he said, his voice none too steady. "Thank you, Lois."

"Yeah." My own voice probably couldn't have lasted more than that single word.

We both jumped a bit at the knock on the door. I let out a guilty chuckle—though I didn't know why—and shrugged. "I guess I'd better see who that is."

"Yeah." As he turned a bit toward the sound, Clark's face went even whiter than it already was, and I suddenly wondered if there were any internal injuries beneath those black bruises.

"Are you all right?" I asked, ignoring the insistent knocking for a moment. "Clark? Clark!"

He swiveled his head to look at me, and I was astonished to see that his eyes had gone almost black.

Concerned, I looked in the direction he had been staring so fixedly, but all I saw were the open windows. When I looked at Clark again, his head was hanging low and his hands gripped the edges of the table tightly. "Clark?" I asked worriedly.

"You should get the door," he said blankly. "But, Lois…" He caught my hand when I started to walk past him. His eyes were pleading as he looked up at me. "Be careful what we say. Luthor…might have planted bugs in your apartment while you were in the cell."

"Good idea," I told him, impressed by the deduction. I should have thought of it myself. Then I winced when the knocking turned into banging. "I'm coming, I'm coming!"

As soon as the locks were all undone, the door opened on a very worried Perry and a grim Henderson. "I hope you don't mind that I called Bill," Perry said quickly. "But I figured he should be here, and as I had originally suspected, you hadn't called him yourself. Are you okay, darlin'?" I chuckled a bit at his spill of words and didn't even feel uncomfortable when he pulled me into a fatherly hug. "I don't know what's more miraculous—Superman's return or the fact that you came out of another kidnapping safely."

"I'm fine, Perry. Clark's the one who's hurt. I don't know what all they did to him, but…" My voice trailed away, and I angrily realized that Perry's open concern and affection had brought me perilously close to tears. Which was ridiculous. As he had said, Superman was alive again; I shouldn't be able to stop celebrating long enough to cry!

"Clark—you said on the phone you had found him." Perry glanced all about, his eyes brightening. "Where is he?"

"He—" I turned and belatedly realized he hadn't moved into sight from behind the partition wall. "He's pretty weak, and he's in pain. He's in the kitchen."

"Who did this to you?" Henderson questioned me as Perry gave me a last smile and hurried toward the kitchen.

"Not that I have a lot of proof I can hand you at the moment aside from the bruises I gave him," I said acerbically, "but it was Lex Luthor. Clark says he's the Boss."

"Is that so?" Henderson raised an unimpressed eyebrow, considerably less of a reaction than I had expected to my startling accusation. "You should have given us your statement last night, Lane. Or at least gone to the hospital. What happened to your arm?"

"Clark was hurt." I had meant to say the words hotly, a defense against the recriminations on my actions, but instead they came out morosely. "He was afraid that Luthor would find us at the hospital."

"And he wouldn't find you at your place?" the inspector questioned sarcastically.

"Superman's guarding us," I explained, satisfied when Henderson raised his eyebrows and nodded his acquiescence.

"Here, Clark, easy now."

I turned at the sound of Perry's gruff encouragement and gasped involuntarily when I saw my mentor half-carrying Clark to the couch. "He tried to stand and fell," Perry explained tersely while he situated my partner as best he could. Clark's eyes were tightly shut, his face twisted in a mask to conceal his pain, and one hand clutched his glasses to his face, as if terrified he would lose them again.

"You weren't kidding when you said he was hurt, were you?" There was no sting to Henderson's words, only traces of shock and horror. Before I could reply, he moved past me to sit on the couch across from Clark. Moving almost in a daze, afraid to look away from my partner, I sat beside Henderson, across from Perry.

"You all right, son?" Perry was studying Clark intently, partly out of worry and partly, I knew, because he had missed the young reporter he had been so willing to mentor.

It had been hard, I remembered, passing Clark's letter of resignation to Perry and seeing the editor's face fall as he had read it. For several days after that, he hadn't been able to shout out curt orders or smile when his reporters scampered at his command. After that, he had been even more bad-tempered than usual—trying to overcompensate, I had guessed. Gradually, however, he had gone back to normal; everyone had, even Jimmy, who had been unusually depressed for weeks after his friend had left. I alone had seemed unable to put Clark behind me, and yet everyone thought I had simply because I was working twice as hard. No one but Perry had understood that I was overcompensating just as much as he had been.

"I'm fine," Clark managed to say, and convinced no one. "I just need to sit here in the sun for a bit."

Perry indicated a duffel bag I hadn't even noticed him carrying, dropped by the door. "Well, I brought over some clothes you left in your locker at the Planet, and I thought you might need a few things, so I grabbed some socks, shoes, necessities, a comb, a razor, stuff like that. Unless you like the bearded look."

The hand holding his glasses drifted lower to skim the beard in question. "No, I…" His eyes drifted past my shoulder to the window behind me, and his hand fell limply to his lap. "Chief, you know I—I mean, Mr. White, I—"

"Chief's fine, son," Perry said, a betraying roughness to his voice.

A tiny smile flickered life into Clark's eyes. "Chief. Would you mind helping me shave? Razors have always…been a bit awkward."

"Sure, sure, not a problem." Perry's eyes flicked to Clark's trembling hands. When Clark tried to stand on his own, Perry was instantly there with a shoulder under his arm. "Let me help you, son. There's no shame in havin' friends."

"No." Clark's jaw clenched tightly, his eyes suspiciously bright. "There's not. Lois, please don't start telling Henderson about what happened until I get back. And would you mind turning on the news? We might find out where…Superman…is right now."

I gaped after him as he and Perry disappeared into the bathroom with the duffel bag. "Can you believe that?" I demanded of the taciturn investigator to fill up the silence that fell on us so abruptly. "Last night, he would hardly even let me say Superman's name, and he acted like the news was pure torture! Now he wants to watch it!" Despite my grumbling, I stood and turned on the television, having my own reasons for wanting to catch another glimpse of the caped superhero.

"Lane." Henderson shifted until I met his gaze. "I know Kent wants us to wait for him, but…how long was he a prisoner?"

"W-why?" I berated myself for the slight stammer.

"Because I'm seeing some signs I don't like. He doesn't trust us, for one thing. He's worried—terrified—about something or other, but he's hiding it. Pretense isn't a good thing when it's coming from a trauma victim."

I winced to hear Clark so bluntly and cavalierly referred to as a 'victim.' "I…I think he was held a whole month, maybe a few days less."

A muscle twitched in the inspector's jaw. "Conditions?"

"Bad." The word was like poison, all the more potent because it was true. "They dosed him with some kind of drug every day. A really painful, really debilitating, possibly fatal drug."

"They gave you the same treatment?"

"No," I said hastily. "But I saw them do it to Clark. And I don't know how much they fed him, but…"

"Not a lot," Henderson concluded, his eyes flicking briefly to the closed bathroom door.

"And Lex taunted him. Clark says he…gloated and…I don't know what all else. But it had to be bad—Lex referred to him as 'that thing.'"

The inspector's low curse and slow shake of his head made my stomach clench into a knot even Superman couldn't have undone. Terror turned my limbs leaden and filled my mouth with dust.

"What?" I demanded, heedless of the shards of panic slicing my voice to ribbons.

Henderson sighed as he removed his tinted glasses to pinch the bridge of his nose. "I've dealt with victims who've been held by a madman, Lane. Even when it's just for a night or two, the trauma is extensive…and it can be very long-lasting."

"Are…" I had to stop and swallow, suddenly wishing Clark was holding my hand or rubbing my back or whispering soothing words in my ear. But he wasn't, and this time, I needed to be the one strong enough to do all of that for him. Funny—for all that I had taunted Clark by saying he could never make it in the big city, I had never really thought of him needing anything. "Are you saying he'll never get better?"

The inspector met my water-cloaked eyes. "I'm saying it'll be hard. But if anyone can do it, I'd lay money on Kent. He's got…something. Some inner strength I haven't quite figured out. And he still smiles when he looks at you, Lane, so I'd say there's some hope."

The lump in my stomach metamorphosed into delicate butterflies that couldn't seem to find anywhere to land.

"But, Lois, you're his friend." Henderson paused, waiting expectantly.

Instantly, I stiffened. "Well, we're partners."

"Lane," he said threateningly.

I heaved a heavy sigh. Old habits died hard. "Fine, of course we're friends."

"He's going to need you, and Perry, and Jimmy, and whoever else can tie him back to the time before his imprisonment. So, be careful with him…and be patient. I know that's asking a lot, but—"

"I can be patient!" I insisted haughtily. Hadn't I already been patient? Hadn't I been kind even though I wanted to shake him and find out why he had been so wary of Superman? I had even made breakfast—didn't that count for anything?

"Well, try your best." The wry twist to Henderson's lips gave him away, but I rolled my eyes anyway. Just because.

"Clark was worried Luthor might have planted bugs in the apartment," I suddenly remembered. I didn't think we had said anything Lex didn't already know, but this was one time where even I wasn't reckless enough to forget about Clark's warning. "Can you test for them?"

"Not without a lot more equipment." Henderson pointedly met my gaze, warning me that what he was about to say was as much a warning for whoever might be listening as it was advice for me. "Lois, I think you and Kent should both stay here. That way Luthor—or whoever's behind this—" He ignored my indignant 'I said it was Luthor!' "—won't panic and do something we'd all, hopefully, live to regret, but it also puts you right where my people can watch over you and give you some back-up if they do make a move. I'll have someone come by later today and check the place over for bugs. I'm also going to send the police medic to document that gunshot wound you've got as well as Kent's condition. That way, when we do catch whoever did this to you, we've got it on record."

"Here we go."

Henderson and I both fell silent and looked up when Perry helped Clark back into the room and lowered him onto the couch. I couldn't help gaping; I was pretty sure that I couldn't have gotten a word to emerge from my throat even if someone had paid me.

With the beard shaved off and hair trimmed, his glasses firmly in place, and himself fully dressed in clean slacks and a black shirt, Clark looked like…Clark. Every time I had envisioned him while he was gone and speaking to me through a phone or a note, each time I had pictured him in my mind while we sat in the cell together…this was what I had envisioned. Minus the bruises and gauntness and guardedness, but still…

Clark looked up and met my wide eyes that widened even farther when he smiled at me. "I must have looked awful before if this is your reaction now," he teased me.

"It's just…" I shook my head and forcibly recalled who I was—Lois Lane, star reporter, not a foolish girl who went speechless because of a smooth jaw and a beautiful smile—or, good-looking smile—well, really, just a…nice smile, yes, that was better. A nice smile. A pleasant smile. A really pleasant smile. A not-as-nice-as-Superman's-but-so-close-it-might-as-well-be smile.

"Good to have you back, Kent," Henderson said, leaning forward to shake Clark's hand.

"Thank you, Inspector."

"So, Lois, darlin', what happened to you?" Perry cut through the awkward silence in danger of falling on us like jagged rocks, his sharp eyes incisive on me.

"Uh, just a second," Clark interrupted. "Lois, have you seen…Superman…on the news yet?"

I glanced to the television set. "No." A suspicious frown reshaped my features. "I thought you weren't too fond of him at the moment."

"I'd…just like to know where he is." Clark shifted uncomfortably, then looked at Perry and Henderson. "You didn't offer them any coffee, Lois?"

"Coffee?" I repeated incredulously. "We need to tell them about Lex so they can go arrest him for what he did to you! You said you had pro—"

"I just think it's polite to offer guests something to drink," Clark said hastily. My rejoinder was stifled when I noticed him clenching his hands, his eyes darting about as if he were afraid of something.

"Fine," I said after a brief pause. "Henderson, Perry, would you like some coffee?"

"Sure," Henderson said with a warning glance that reminded me I had sworn myself to patience. We could all tell Clark was reluctant to admit to what had happened, or maybe he was afraid to let the memories come spilling back in. Either way, a few minutes of time wouldn't hurt us.

"Uh, none for me," Perry said with a worried frown in Clark's direction. "You know I only drink the newsroom brew."

While I was getting Henderson his coffee, a news bulletin interrupted the regular broadcast to announce an earthquake in Indonesia. Perry stood and moved to sit beside Henderson so he could turn the volume up on the TV. Almost spilling Henderson's coffee, I glued my eyes to the screen, eager to see Superman. Intellectually, I knew he was alive and that I hadn't imagined the whole thing, but I certainly didn't mind a bit of extra proof.

"Finally," I thought I heard Clark mutter at the first sign of Superman appearing on the scene. I couldn't help but stare at my partner, utterly puzzled by his manner concerning his friend.

"Who would have ever thought we'd get to see him again?" Perry asked in an awed tone as he watched Superman spin beneath the ground.

"He's something else," Henderson agreed, as close to effusive amazement as I'd ever seen him.

"So, Lois," Perry prompted as soon as I had torn my own eyes from the news, handed Henderson the coffee mug, and sat down beside Clark. "You were going to tell us what happened to you."

"I'm going to record this conversation, if that's all right." Henderson pulled out a tiny tape recorder while Perry turned to mute the news again. "And also…" He pulled out a complicated-looking gizmo that blinked red until Henderson clicked a button and switched the light to green. "I didn't want to mention this earlier, but it should block any bugs that might be here—not permanently, you understand, but it's at least a stopgap measure until an inspection team can get here."

"Aren't those extremely hi-tech?" Perry asked skeptically, eyeing the device closely.

"When Superman first showed up and started taking an active role in investigations, I got a friend of mine in the NIA to get me one. Figured I might need it." Henderson smirked at me. "The press can get a bit nosy when there's a hot story at stake."

"Ha, ha," I said, shifting uncomfortably. I had done a lot of things I wasn't exactly proud of when Superman had first debuted, my fervor sometimes eclipsing my sense of journalism ethics. I darted a glance to Clark, but his gaze was locked on his hands; he didn't seem at all reassured by Henderson's safety measure.

Perry looked between Henderson and me, then obviously decided he didn't want to know. "Well, then, all's good. Now…Lois?"

Inwardly giving myself a stern talking to, I snapped back into the present and tore my gaze from Clark. "Two or three thugs picked me up outside the Daily Planet building at midnight the day before yesterday." I paused, half-expecting Clark to interrupt again, but he remained silent, his eyes on his lap. "I was blindfolded and thrown into the trunk of a car, then taken inside some kind of warehouse and tossed into Clark's cell. At one point, Lex took me aside and started raving about how he was more powerful than Superman and that he controlled the city. When I tried to escape, his henchman, Nigel St. John, shot me in the arm. Clark bandaged it before he was taken aside for his own private conversation with Luthor. And then Superman rescued us and dropped us off at the hospital. Neither one of us felt comfortable waiting inside for Lex to find us, so we came here."

"Do you know the address of this warehouse?" asked Henderson.

"No. But I could take you right to it." Being in Superman's arms had been overwhelming, but I had known enough to assess our location.

"It's in the South Side," Clark said quietly. "I don't know the number, but it's on Canter Street."

Henderson's finger hovered over his small tape recorder. "1462 Canter Street?"

"You've already been there?" I asked excitedly. "I should have known Superman would have led you to it last night."

"I wasn't there," Henderson corrected, "and neither were my people. The fire department, however, was there most of the night. It was such a ferocious blaze that there's nothing left except a pile of drenched ashes. The next warehouse over went up too, but it dealt in chemicals, so the general prognosis is that some of the barrels collided or leaked."

"Or Superman started it himself." Clark's mutter was so quiet that I was the only one who heard it.

I was so shocked that a minute, an hour, or a year could have passed me by and I wouldn't have noticed, wouldn't have been able to do anything but sit there and stare at Clark. Clark, my naïve, idealistic partner who had believed that even Trask had redeeming attributes and that Toni Taylor hadn't been all bad. My partner who had just sounded so paranoid that I was sure he could have been admitted to a hospital ward on that statement alone. How could he hold such xenophobic fears when he himself had pretended to be Superman in order to save the superhero from Bureau 39 and their imaginary rock? What had Lex done to him?

Shrinking under the weight of my shock, Clark's eyes darted up to look at me from beneath lowered brows, but he didn't fully meet my gaze. Though he had never been afraid of my anger, he had never—except when he deliberately provoked it—seemed to like being the recipient of it either.

"Clark? Clark!" Gradually, Henderson's call broke through to both Clark and myself.

"Yes, Inspector?" Clark turned toward the older man.

"Can you confirm Lois's statement?"

"Yes." His voice was almost inaudible.

"Can you give your own statement about what happened?"

Clark folded his arms tightly across his chest, as if he sought desperately to hold himself together. "A month ago, I was visiting my parents on my way to…complete a task. I told them I had proof of Luthor's business dealings. When I returned two days later, I was…confused about something. While they were helping me, we were…threatened…by one of Luthor's men. He must have been following me and keeping my parents under surveillance. I had a…an errand…I had to finish, so I hid my parents where Luthor couldn't find them, and I left. And when I returned, Luthor was waiting for me. I was surprised, and he…subjected me to something painful and took me to the cell. Then, last night, Lois and I got out."

"How did Luthor treat you?" Henderson asked bluntly. "I know this is hard, Kent, but we need to know."

I wanted to reach out a hand and reassure Clark, to quiet the tremors invading his body, to smooth out the torment invading his eyes, to relax the stiffness of his folded arms. But I couldn't. My shock at his accusation of Superman mixed with my horror at what I had allowed to happen to him paralyzed me, leaving me unable to move or speak or breathe.

"He…" Clark swallowed and locked his eyes on the sun, shining in through the two windows facing my living room. "He dosed me with something. Every day. Sometimes more often."

"Do you know the name of this substance?"

"No. I don't know its real name."

"What did it look like?"

"It…was green." Clark spoke only in a monotone, his voice dead, his eyes blank, his body frozen.

"What exactly did it do to you?"

Finally, Clark did move, his eyes turning to look at the TV where Superman was using rubble to build a dam that held back the effects of the ensuing tidal wave. "It made me weak. It made me vulnerable. It made me…broken."

"That's enough," Perry said quietly, shaking his head slightly at Henderson. "Let's, uh, move on to somethin' else."

The inspector didn't argue, but he didn't entirely change the subject either. "Is there anything else you can tell us? I notice you're bruised up—did he have you beaten?"

Clark didn't seem to hear him. Superman's heroic actions were reflected on the lenses of his glasses; the red and blue masked Clark's gentle, tormented eyes from me.

"Those happened when he tried to stop Luthor from taking me aside," I explained, finally breaking free of my paralysis to lay a hand on Clark's arm. Despite the muscle tone he had lost, I could still feel every tendon pulled tight as he fought his way through inward darkness.

"Clark?" Henderson's eyes never left my partner, and though intent, his voice still possessed a hint of gentleness. "Were there other times?"

"Sometimes." The word was torn from Clark, and I shifted closer to him, smoothing my hands over his arm to let him know I was there.

"Did he want information from you?"


I frowned, certain that Clark had told me Lex—no, Luthor—hadn't asked him questions. He couldn't be lying—Clark didn't lie—but what if he had been subconsciously repressing memories?

"What sort of information?" Henderson asked patiently.

"I don't know exactly." Clark's hands tightened into fists, but he instantly relaxed them when I slid my hands down over his. "He just…watched me all the time. Observing everything. Always watching me."

"I see." The inspector exchanged glances with Perry. "And you're sure it was Luthor? You can both make a positive identification?"

"Yes," I said. Clark contented himself with a jerky nod.

"All right." Henderson leaned forward. "Well, we have more than enough to charge Luthor with kidnapping and assault, but I warn you that he'll get off on it somehow or another. These things never stick, particularly when it comes down to your word against his. However, if you hold off on this, we might be able to go after him for something bigger. Without the immediate evidence we need—"

"Why didn't Superman get the evidence?" Clark asked abruptly. Henderson, Perry, and I all stared at him. He stirred and looked at each of us. "Superman broke into the warehouse; he said he had tied up all the men who hadn't run. When he dropped us off at the hospital, he should have gone back to take them to the police. That's his standard procedure. Or when the fire started—why didn't he save them? Why didn't he stop the fire?"

"Clark, you saw Superman on the news last night!" I exclaimed. "He was busy with a dozen other emergencies! I told you he couldn't be everywhere at once!"

"But he left those men tied—bound and helpless—and there was a fire. No matter what other emergency there was, Superman would have felt morally compelled to go save those men first!"

"He probably didn't know there was a fire," Perry said soothingly, holding out his hands in a calming gesture.

Clark met his gaze without flinching. "Trust me, Chief. He knew there was a fire. So why didn't he report it to the police? He always used to try very hard to work with the regular authorities. So why did he just leave? He knew we needed that evidence."

"I'm sure he got distracted," Henderson said. "And I'm certain he'll come talk to me about it as soon as he gets a free moment. It's all right, Kent. We'll find out what's going on."

"No." Clark stood, every movement he made almost painstaking in its slowness and yet rife with purpose. "We need to put Luthor away. We need to gather everything we have. I have my own evidence—bank records, witness statements, incriminating photos—but it's all hidden somewhere I can't get to at the moment. Lois says she's been investigating him. And I can't believe the police haven't had at least a hint that Luthor's not the great philanthropist he wants everyone to think he is." He barely waited for Henderson's confirming nod. "We need to compile everything we have and see what evidence we still need to collect in order to convict him."

Henderson stood. "Kent, we've been trying to tie Luthor to something we can nail him on for years, but he's slippery. Do you really think you can get him?"

Clark paused to look down at me and offered me a hesitant smile. "Partners, right?"

No matter how confused I was about his behavior, I couldn't deny him this, not when there was so much desperate hope in his demeanor. Not when he was begging me. Not when I wanted the same thing just as badly as he did. "Partners," I told him.

"Then they'll get him for you," Perry interjected. "They're the best I've ever worked with."

"All right, then." Henderson nodded decisively. "I'll bring you what we have. We're going to set up undercover bodyguards and an anonymous perimeter around this building. I'll give you whatever resources you need, but only the minimum of people necessary will know our real goal. From now on, we're gunning for Lex Luthor."

I grinned cockily, reasserting myself as Mad Dog Lane. "He doesn't stand a chance."

Only I heard Clark whisper, "Maybe one." And when I saw his eyes drift once more to the image of Superman, I felt a chill run down my spine.

And Then There Was Light

A Lois & Clark Story
by Anti-Kryptonite

Part 5 of 23

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