Continuing Tales

And Then There Was Light

A Lois & Clark Story
by Anti-Kryptonite

Part 6 of 23

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"Henderson, can I talk to you for a minute, please?" Clark tried to stand, but the inspector stilled him with a gesture and moved to sit beside him. Our conversation had dragged on longer than was probably good for Clark, but we had needed to map out our strategy for going after Luthor and our plan for the next couple of days.

Perry took my arm and led me to the other side of the room; he knew me too well to think that I wouldn't have tried to stand close enough to hear their whispers. "What are we going to print in the afternoon edition?"

I grinned up at Perry—he and I had always been something of kindred spirits, the ink in our veins connecting us as closely as if we were truly related by blood. "Well, I don't want Luthor to think I'm hiding scared, so I'd like to at least run the story of my capture and rescue by Superman. The rest is still under investigation. I'll write it up and e-mail it to you."

"All right, sounds good. Now, uh, Lois, you promise me you'll be careful?" Perry placed a warning hand on my shoulder. "I don't want to wake up one morning and find out you've disappeared to the same place as Elvis."

"All right," I said with a mock-reluctant sigh, "but what a story that would make."

He chuckled obligatorily at my weak joke. "Maybe. But not good enough to risk your life over it. Or Clark's life."

I frowned over my shoulder at Clark, who was still whispering to a perplexed-looking Henderson. "Does he seem all right to you, Chief?"

"Lois, honey, I…" Perry looked, suddenly, much older than I knew he was. "People change, Lois, especially when there are outside forces just beggin' them to."

"But he's still Clark?" I had meant it to be a statement; unfortunately, it came out sounding more like a question.

"Yeah," Perry said with a smile I could tell was forced. "Uh, yeah, he's Clark. You…you take care of him, all right? He…well, let's just say he needs you. Just…just be careful with him."

"I will." Two simple words, two syllables alone out of the entire English language, but they felt like a solemn promise, one I had already made in a blackened cell.

When Henderson stood and moved toward the door, Perry walked back over to Clark to give him that weird half-handshake, half-hug men were so fond of. "Now, Clark, I know we're keeping your reappearance under tight wraps, but would it be all right if I told Jimmy you were here? The kid's been missin' you somethin' awful."

"Sure," Clark said after a hesitation that was evident only if you were looking for it. And I was. I was looking for anything that might give me the key to unlocking the mystery known as Clark Kent.

"Just don't let Cat know," I warned, only partly sarcastically. "Oh, and, Perry, have Jimmy bring over all my Lexcorp research. He knows where I've got it stashed at the Planet."

"Sure thing. You two take it easy, you hear?"

"The medic and tech team will be by in a bit," Henderson added. "Stay close. We can't afford to lose you two, not when you're our star witnesses."

I didn't think it was very fair that Henderson gave me a warning glare, as if I were untrustworthy or something. I mean, Clark was too weak to even stand on his own—did they think I'd just abandon him to go out chasing leads? The loud thump as I firmly shut the door behind them gave me a little vindictive satisfaction—and drowned out the quiet whisper in the back of my mind tempting me to do exactly that.

"So," I said, turning back to Clark. This morning, despite my uncertainty about how to handle his weakness, we had been comfortable with each other. Now, for whatever reason, awkwardness seemed to have made itself an unwelcome intruder. "What do you want to do? I have to write up the story of my capture and rescue, and after that, hopefully, I'll have my research to look through."

"Please." Clark's mouth tightened, turning almost white, his lips tinged a pale blue. "Don't mention me in your story. I don't want my parents to show up while we're…in the middle of this."

"We…we already agreed, just a few minutes ago, that we'd keep your presence a secret," I said slowly, tenderly. "So, anyway, what do you want to do?"

His eyes flickered. "Well, like I told Henderson, I can't get to my stuff right now, but I can at least make a list of what I do have so we know what we've got to work with."

"Sounds good. I'll get you a notepad and pen."

"Thanks." His voice was faint with weariness, and he slumped back against the cushions as if even holding his head upright was too great a feat for him.

The rest of the day passed in a progression of visitors. Some medic with hands considerably less deft and gentle than Clark's treated and rebandaged my wound after taking a few pictures of it. He wanted to look Clark over, but my partner, who had been dozing in between jotting down his list of photos and witness names and file numbers, roused himself to flee into the bathroom and even I couldn't get him to come out until the medic had left entirely.

A team came by and scanned for bugs. They didn't find any, but Clark still seemed nervous about saying too much. He also refused to let me turn the news off. If one station stopped covering Superman, he'd flip through the channels until he found another appearance. When the superhero wasn't on the screen, Clark seemed edgy and unsure, constantly glancing out the windows and jumping at small sounds.

Finally, just after dinner—a dinner at which Clark ate even less than he had at breakfast or lunch—Jimmy showed up, his arms wrapped around a box of all my files and disks, his enthusiasm for seeing Clark so real and cheerful that I couldn't help but relive my own joy at seeing Clark again. It was good to be reminded past my growing bewilderment over Clark's behavior that it was a miracle I still had my partner at all.

I took the box of research from Jimmy so he could sit next to Clark, the words spilling from his lips so many and so fast that they filled my apartment with their excited tones and animated cadence. Clark listened to him, a smile on his lips that, though small, was genuine and pleased. Every once in a while, he'd murmur a reply, his deeper, slower tone a counterpoint to Jimmy's rambling words. I watched from the kitchen—I didn't want Clark to be upset that I hadn't offered Jimmy a drink—and then from the opposite couch as I sat down to begin organizing the things Jimmy had brought from the Planet.

Finally, even Jimmy could tell that Clark was exhausted and needed some rest, but when the kid stood to leave, Clark roused and grabbed hold of Jimmy's arm. "Don't go," he protested. "I haven't seen you in so long."

Jimmy's face transformed with an enormously pleased expression, and he willingly sat once more. "I know. It feels like years, huh? I'm glad you're back. The phone-calls weren't enough."

"I know." Clark's answering smile was drowsy. "Have you gotten your own byline yet?"

"Yeah. Well, Lois helped me, so I got to share it with her. We wrote the…" Too late, Jimmy saw my frantic head-shake. His voice slowly trailed off.

"Wrote what?" asked Clark, completely oblivious.

"Well, I'm the one who found the remnants of Superman's cape. So we wrote the…you know, the 'Superman Is Dead' article."

"Oh." Clark opened his eyes fully for the first time since Jimmy had made to leave and he met the kid's gaze. As closely as I looked, I couldn't find even a hint of Clark's recent discomfort with the subject of Superman. "I'll bet that was hard for you, Jimmy, but I'm sure you did a great job. I always knew you were going places—probably behind Perry's desk one day."

"Really?" Jimmy brightened, and I suddenly understood why he had taken Clark's departure so hard. Clark had believed in Jimmy, had always been there to help him and encourage him to aspire to better things—and Jimmy had needed that. I hadn't done that for Jimmy, nor had anyone else in the newsroom. Though we respected him for the information he could dig up for us and found him useful for running errands, we certainly didn't look at him and see a future editor-in-chief.

But Clark did.

It suddenly occurred to me to wonder how many others Clark had done that for. Even Cat had seemed different—in a manner of speaking—while Clark had worked at the Planet, and a surprising number of people had immediately noticed his absence. How many of those people who had asked me about him had been inspired to greater and better things while Clark was there?

"I'll have to read it." Clark's voice recalled me to the present, and I hastily looked down at the file in my hands to hide my preoccupation.

"I'll bring you over a copy," Jimmy volunteered eagerly. "I tried to make sure everyone knew Superman had gone out a hero—Lois helped a lot, of course."

"I'm sure she did," Clark said with no hint of sarcasm. "Lois is very good at helping newbies. She sure taught me a lot."

"A senior reporter's job," I said breezily, but inwardly, I was shaken. The truth was, I had only been able to write the retrospective Superman article because I had learned how to do what I termed the "touchy-feely" stuff from Clark. In fact, I had written a great deal of that article by imagining what he would have said and how he would have said it.

"Well," Jimmy said, "I should probably get going."

"Already?" Clark clearly struggled to sit up straight, his gaze moving to the news. "But I haven't heard about your latest girlfriend."

"What girlfriend?" Jimmy said morosely, once more sinking back to the couch. "Like I told you before, I haven't had a girlfriend since Lucy moved to California."

I bit back a comment and studied Clark over the top of the file I was supposedly reading. It was obvious that he was exhausted, and I was pretty sure he couldn't be that pressingly concerned about Jimmy's love life…so why didn't Clark want him to leave?

My breath caught in my throat. Unless…unless he didn't want to be alone with me? Maybe my tactlessness had offended him. Or—a much more likely possibility—he was afraid I'd start asking him some serious questions once we were alone.

Clark kept Jimmy there for another ten minutes before I decided that I needed to intervene. "Clark, you need some rest," I said bluntly. "Jimmy can come back later. We—"

"Actually," Clark moved his gaze from another news report about Superman to Jimmy, "I needed to ask you something, Jimmy. As you can see, I can't go anywhere right now, but I need all my records on Luthor, and they're hidden quite a ways away. You still have your car?"

"Yeah." Jimmy nodded. "It's not much, but it can get me places."

"Good. Do you think Perry would let you leave for a couple days if it were for the investigation? If I gave you written-out directions, would you mind getting my stuff for me?"

"I wouldn't mind." Jimmy shrugged. "And I think the Chief can get by without me now that I'm not having to reset his bass and fix the horn on his golf cart all the time. Where do you have the stuff stashed?"

"I've written the directions down," Clark said slowly, pulling a piece of paper out from beneath his leg. "But memorize them, Jimmy, and then burn the paper as fast as you can. And don't ever read or speak the directions out loud—you never know who's listening. And don't tell anyone where you're going. Can you do all that?"

"But why—"

"Please, Jimmy." Clark turned that same pleading expression he had given me earlier onto the kid. And if I hadn't been able to resist it, I was absolutely certain that Jimmy didn't stand a chance. I was right, too.

"All right, CK. If it's important to you, I'll do it."

"Thanks, Jimmy." Clark shook Jimmy's hand, his smile a bit tremulous. "I've missed hearing you call me that."

"Well, then, make sure you stick around this time, okay?" Jimmy grinned at Clark's slow nod and stood. "I'll see you later, then, CK. Good night, Lois."

"Good night, Jimmy." I stood and locked the door behind him. When I turned back to Clark, I saw him picking up the remote and flicking off the television he had insisted remain on all day.

"Why did you ask him to go get the stuff?" I asked quietly. Out of all the questions boiling up within me, I'm not sure why that was the first I uttered.

Clark stiffened. "Did you want to get it?" he replied.

"No. But why did you tell him he couldn't even keep the directions?"

"Luthor's dangerous, Lois." Clark finally turned to face me, his gaze steady, his expression sincere. "He has resources very few people would guess he has. He's powerful enough to control every criminal operation on the eastern seaboard, and smart enough to keep it hidden from everyone for years. I don't think we should be underestimating him…or his tools."

"Hmm. Maybe so, but I still think you're acting a little paranoid." I crossed my arms over my chest. And yet, inwardly, I was pleased. Clark had always been the more sensible one of our duo. I couldn't even begin to count the number of times he had tried to stop me from doing something a little reckless. He had even, astonishingly, succeeded a few times.

"Please, Lois, just…" Clark sighed and fiddled with his glasses. "Just humor me."

"It's all right, Clark." I crossed the room, sat at his side, and placed a warm hand on his arm, stilling his nervous mannerism. "Le—Luthor scares me too, but we'll get him."

"Thanks, Lois." Again, he smiled at me, and again, I reminded myself that it was a miracle he could still smile at all. But I didn't want this tired, washed-out, polite, weary smile. I wanted his brilliant, blinding, incinerating smile, the one that almost always preceded a delayed chuckle, the one that stemmed from a quiet confidence and gentle grace such as only Clark Kent had possessed. I wanted the smile that reassured me he was just as he had always been.

"Have you finished your list of the proof you have?" I questioned, aware that our silence had stretched out like a strained rubber band.

"Not quite yet; I'm sorry. Did you need help with your research?"

Under the guise of looking at the files I had strewn all across the coffee table, I considered what I should do. Both Henderson and Perry had warned me to be careful with Clark, and I really was trying, but impatience was burning underneath my skin like its own network of veins. I didn't want to be cooped up in this tiny apartment looking at paperwork when I could be talking to Superman.

"Listen, Clark, this stuff can wait until tomorrow. I think I might just take a walk and see if I can't find Superman. I can ask him all the questions you had for him earlier—which I'm sure he'll have an explanation for. It'll—"

"No!" Clark had gone so pale that I instinctively put out my hands to grasp his shoulders, certain he was about to faint. "Please, Lois, don't leave! Henderson said we should stay here. And the bodyguards—"

"Clark, I'm a reporter, not a desk jockey!" Trying to contain the edginess that had been building up within me all day, I sprang to my feet and began to pace. "I can't sit around and let other people do my running for me! And Superman, Clark—he's alive! Do you know what that means?"

"I think I do." His quiet words cut through my arguments and dampened the skitters of impatience sparking through my body. "It means you don't have to blame yourself anymore. It means you're freed of all the guilt you've heaped on yourself. It means your dreams…can still come true. It means a second chance."

"Exactly!" I sat beside him and placed an earnest hand on his knee. "Clark, I need to see him."

"I know that." He placed his own hand atop mine, the weight of it sturdy and comforting, the feverish heat of it frightening. "But, Lois…I…" He withdrew his hand to run it through his hair, a nervous habit that was as familiar as it was endearing.

It was time for me to give back to him—hadn't that been my own earlier decision? Hadn't I, just this morning, promised myself that I wouldn't let him down?

Swallowing back my sense of urgency, I smiled gently at Clark and patted him on the shoulder. "You're right, Clark. It's late already, and we've been at it all day. Why don't I put on a movie or something? Tomorrow's soon enough."

Clark's hand dropped to his lap and it was his turn, finally, to gape at me. "What?"

"One night can't hurt anything. And I was just kidnapped, so an evening of relaxation is probably exactly what I need."

"You're serious?" Given my cooperation, Clark didn't seem to know what to do with it. "Are you…sure you're all right with this?"

"Clark…" Once more, I took his hand. Ours had always been a somewhat physical relationship—which baffled me, really, since, post-Claude, I hadn't been all that comfortable around men—but I couldn't remember ever feeling such a need to hold his hand or pat his shoulder or feel his arm near me. Though I didn't want to admit it, maybe I was still afraid of losing him, of turning around and finding that he wasn't really there, of waking up alone again.

"Clark," I said again. "I understand that you don't want to be alone, and it's all right. I promised I'd be there for you, remember?"

"Yes. I do." His smile wasn't as blinding as the ones I longed for, but it was radiant in its own way.

For the rest of the evening, I didn't allow myself to even consider leaving the apartment, or wonder how I could contact Superman, or think about all the questions I wanted to ask him. Instead, I sat next to Clark, and I laughed at the movie, and I luxuriated in the feel of Clark's arm around my shoulders, and I remembered all the reasons I had missed Clark Kent.

When the credits began to roll, I turned my head toward Clark. An involuntary smile curved my lips when I saw him sleeping, his glasses sliding off his nose and a lock of hair draped across his temple. I allowed myself to simply watch him for a moment, stunned by the amount of protectiveness I could feel toward a single person.

"Clark," I finally whispered. I was reluctant to disturb him, but I knew he'd sleep better on the cot the police had set up under a window in the bedroom—the cot he had earlier made me promise would be his. "Clark, wake up."

He stirred and sleepily looked up at me. He'd been weak all day, but it was only since evening had fallen that he had begun to look and act so weary. Whatever drug Luthor had dosed him with was obviously still in his system, and it scared me. The medic had quietly explained to me that if Clark had been consistently dosed with a narcotic, we could be facing a torturous withdrawal. He'd warned me of several symptoms to watch for, yet I was desperately hoping that Clark would exhibit none of them.

"Come on, Clark." I stood and took Clark's hands to help him to his feet. "Time for bed."

I helped him to the bathroom door, then kept myself busy tidying up things in the living room. Every instinct I had was screaming at me to help Clark, but I wanted to let him do as much as he thought he could. Remembering what he had said this morning when I asked him how to help him, I could do nothing but respect his wish to accustom himself to his own new limits.

When Clark emerged, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt and fiddling with his glasses, I watched him to make sure he got into the cot all right. "You have enough blankets?" I asked him worriedly, trying my hardest not to hover.

"I'm fine. Do you think the sun will shine through this window?"

Despite myself, I chuckled. "I knew you'd ask that, so I made sure of it. What is your deal with sunlight, anyway?"

Pulling the blankets up around himself, Clark shrugged. "I don't know all the specifics, but…it makes me feel stronger, better, more alive."

"Well then…" I paused, suddenly realizing that in a bizarre sort of way, I was tucking him in. In all the scenarios I had dreamt up over the last two months of what we'd do if I ever saw him again, this had not even been a possibility.

"Good night, Lois. Thanks for helping me out." Clark's words defused my sudden awkwardness. He had always seemed to possess a sixth sense for me, able to instantly detect if I was uncomfortable around him, and he had a real talent for keeping himself unthreatening.

"You're welcome, Clark. I'll see you in the morning, all right?"

"Yeah. And, Lois…" He waited until I turned to look at him, his own face cloaked in shadows while I stood in a beam of light emanating from the living room. "Please, be careful."

I frowned at the unusual good night, though inwardly I was pleased that he cared so much. "Of course. And you…dream of the sun."

"Always." It was the same reply he had made when I asked if he dreamed of me, and I had the distinct impression that he considered it to be the same question. That should have made me uncomfortable; it should have scared me into thinking up a way to get him out of my apartment. Instead, I found myself smiling as I walked back to the living room.

I don't know why I was surprised. Clark had always had that effect on me.

And Then There Was Light

A Lois & Clark Story
by Anti-Kryptonite

Part 6 of 23

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