Continuing Tales

And Then There Was Light

A Lois & Clark Story
by Anti-Kryptonite

Part 8 of 23

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Bruises ringed Clark's wrist.

They had probably been there the entire time I was in the cell with him. Certainly, they had been there yesterday—in fact, I had even noted the fact that he was bruised over a significant portion of his visible body. But yesterday, I had had the relief of our freedom to counter the effects of the bruises. Yesterday, I had had my elation over Superman's return from the grave. I had had my resolve to see Luthor put away for good and my confusion over Clark's altered behavior.

Today, I had nothing.

Today, I woke with my head pillowed on Clark's chest, my hand resting near my face, his hand lying reverently over mine, and the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was the black bruise adorning—scarring—his sharp wrist. Like pieces of darkness torn from our cell to rest beneath his flesh with the appearance of inescapable manacles.

And it was my fault.

No, I hadn't been the one to beat him or menace him with a green drug or gloat over him. But I had let pride and work and anger stop me from doing what I was best at—investigating. What would it have taken to realize Clark was in trouble? Surely after not receiving a call from him after Nightfall's destruction—to make sure I was all right, to hear me rave about Superman's astonishing heroism—surely then I could have called his parents. And when I found out they were gone…well, wouldn't that have jumpstarted me on a road that might have led to that tiny cell?

One phone call.

One phone call that had never happened, and now the sunlight Clark so craved fell in a wide swathe across the bedroom to shine a spotlight on what he had suffered as a result.

I didn't, as I had halfway expected, feel embarrassed to wake up in the arms of my colleague and friend.

I felt ashamed.

I felt physically sick.

How could Clark not blame me for, if nothing else, at least the duration of his imprisonment? As nice as he was, as much as he liked me, didn't human nature itself demand that some part of him—no matter how small and neglected a part—hate me for what had happened to him?

And yet, just as Superman said nothing about the heat-wave or my belated article proving his innocence, Clark had said nothing to indicate that he blamed me for anything that had happened to him. He didn't say anything about how I had fought—no matter how uselessly—to keep Superman in Metropolis and yet refused to raise a finger to stop him from leaving. He didn't breathe a word about the fact that I could have started a search for him weeks ago.

Instead, he tried to comfort me. He soothed my fears and chased my nightmares away. He gave and gave and gave, stark contrast to my suspicions and frustration and stubbornness. And I wondered if the darkness of that cell was actually encased in my heart even more so than in Clark's flesh. His bruises would fade and disappear, banished by the light; mine might fester and grow in shadows.

Everyone was so concerned that Clark wouldn't get over his captivity, but I hadn't, frankly, seen that the forced imprisonment had changed Clark's basic character all that drastically. But what about me? Would Iever be able to heal?

As smoothly as haste allowed, I slid free of Clark's arms—cringing when he stirred in his sleep and whispered my name, relaxing fractionally when he calmed—and ran to the bathroom. When I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror, the dark circles under my eyes looked too much like Clark's bruises, and I was abruptly, violently, ill.

I only wished that bitter failure was as easy to wash away as the taste of vomit.

Two men in my life—one a hero, the other a friend—and I had failed them both. Yet even Henderson had recognized the fact that Clark didn't seem to have changed his opinion of me at all. And Superman…

For whatever reason, Superman seemed to hold me in high regard. I don't know what I had done to deserve it—he had seemed to feel the same toward me even before I had introduced myself to him just before our flight to the Daily Planet—and I don't know why he had never seemed to revise it. Last night, he had looked at me with the same approving gaze he had given me since my first glimpse of him; he had spoken to me with the same level of openness and trust as when he had assured me I would always be special to him; he had shown me a new side of himself in a way that I had, quite honestly, never really expected.

But I didn't deserve that level of consideration from either of them.

And with that dark realization, the joy of the day before disappeared, leaving bleak resolve in its place.

I showered and dressed out of habit, almost perfunctorily taking care of my gunshot wound. I was careful to avert my eyes from my reflection lest I once again be reminded of Clark's pain. I made some toast and cut up some apples for breakfast, and I actually remembered to brew the coffee and set some water on the stove for Clark's tea. And then I sat down in the living room and began going through all my intel on LexCorp. I couldn't allow myself to be distracted by daydreams about Superman or worry for Clark's mental and physical condition. I didn't dare think about the past lest I find Lois Lane once more buried beneath a mountain of guilt and self-recrimination. I simply concentrated on the daunting task of bringing down Metropolis's largest crime-lord.


"Good morning, Clark." I allowed myself a glance at Clark and instantly regretted it. The sight of him drooping and confused in the threshold to the bedroom was like a punch in the gut. He looked so vulnerable! Still! When would he be better? Would he ever be better? "There's toast and apples in the kitchen. Please, eat some. You need the proteins, or vitamins, or whatever it is that food gives you."

"Really?" The wry humor apparent in his voice stole my breath, but I dared not look away from the file in my hands.

"Yeah. Oh, and where did you put the list of what evidence you have? I'd like to look it over. Henderson's supposed to send over copies of what they have later today."

"It's still on the notepad." Though he gestured to the coffee table, he didn't look away from me, and his brow was furrowed, as if he were trying to read my mind. Which scared me a little—he was so good at seeing everything I fought so hard to keep hidden.

"Call me if you need help with anything," I said. It sounded more like a dismissal than a helpful offer.

"All right," he said uncertainly.

Only when the bathroom door closed behind him did I lower the file and squeeze my eyes shut. What was I doing? Just because he was a reminder of all that I was seeking to atone for didn't mean that I had to push him away!

When he emerged from the bathroom dressed and looking a tiny bit steadier on his feet, I managed to dredge up a smile for him. "Are you feeling any better?"

"I think so." He said it confidently, but I wasn't sure how far I could trust his assessment of his own condition since he had, after all, tried to tell me he felt fine the same night Superman rescued us.

"You didn't shave," I observed.

Almost nervously, he reached up and adjusted his glasses. "I…I wasn't sure I'd be able to."

"You've been shaving for a while now," I observed dryly. "Surely it's gotten easier over the years?"

"Well, I…" Again, he adjusted his glasses, and this time, I noticed that his hands were still shaky. Clark shifted his weight uncomfortably, a shadow darkening his expression.

"Let me do it," I offered impulsively.

Clark froze. "I…I don't think…"

"It can't be that hard," I interrupted, setting aside the papers and standing up. "Come on."

Shaving his stubble wasn't exactly taking down Luthor, but it was something that Clark needed. Something I could do for him. I knew Clark well enough to know that he would never countenance the idea of me working to pay off a debt to him, but that wasn't what I was doing, not really. I just wanted to show him that I was willing to be his friend despite what my inactivity had cost him. I wanted to reassure him that he wasn't alone.

In my dream, both Superman and Clark had been torn from me, yet it was Superman who had given me that disappointed look. I hated analyzing myself or my dreams, but I couldn't shake the thought that Superman had been the one to be disillusioned because Clark knew me well enough not to expect anything more. He hadn't expected me to look for him in the month he had been captured. He had known I hadn't called his parents to find out what had happened to him. He had been surprised to realize that I possessed any incidental knowledge of him—such as what he took in his coffee.

But I wanted Clark to expect more from me. I wanted him to know without a doubt that I would stop him if he tried to leave again, that I would look for him if he disappeared, that I would never let anyone hurt him again. Helping him shave was just a symbol of my silent promise to him.

Clark stayed utterly still and strangely quiet while I erased the dark hints of stubble from his face. His eyes never left my face, which could have been discomfiting. Could have been…but it wasn't. Instead, I kept my own expression open and friendly, though it did flicker with surprise when he ducked away from my attempt to remove his glasses.

"I'd rather keep them on," he said quietly.

"All right," I agreed slowly.

I finished in silence, my movements slowing when I took a washrag to wipe his face dry. He was quiescent beneath my touch, his eyes almost painfully intent upon mine. And suddenly I couldn't help wondering how many times he had broken the silence of his cell to beg me to search for him. How many times had he prayed that I was coming for him? How many times had his voice echoed in the confines of that black cell only to fall on deaf ears? Was that why he was silent now?

My hands shook, and I hastily lowered the cloth, turning away to hide my shattered expression from Clark.

"Lois." His voice was as gentle as the hand on my arm freezing me in place. "You're not still blaming yourself for Superman's exile, are you?"

That was close enough to my thoughts that I promised myself I'd never again believe him when he said he couldn't read minds.

"No," I said shortly. "You're all done. You need to eat something."

"It's not your fault, Lois. You can't take responsibility for other people's actions or crimes."

"I know." I faced him, forcing a smile that did nothing to smooth out the crease in his brow. "I'm just…I'm eager to find something on Luthor. He's probably laughing right now, thinking he's gotten away with kidnapping just like he's gotten away with everything else."

"He probably is," Clark agreed far more evenly than I could have in his place. "Just remember that he's the one behind everything. He was the one who framed Superman for the heat-wave, not you. He's the one who—"

"He framed Superman?" I gaped at Clark, staggered by the revelation.

"Well…" A strangely panicked expression washed the concern from his features. "You…I read your article that proved it was LexCorp Nuclear Plant that had been causing the rise in temperature. That Superman was innocent."

"It was," I said impatiently. "But…it wasn't an accident? I mean, I suspected that Luthor knew his Plant had problems and covered it up, but…you think he did it intentionally?"

Clark seemed to shrink in on himself. "That's what he said. He…he liked to brag about how he had pulled Superman down from the skies."

"Something else I should have investigated," I remarked, bitterness tainting my tone.

"Please, Lois, don't do this." Clark stood to place his hands on my shoulders. "Did you take responsibility for the Messenger's explosion? Did you blame yourself for the fires started by the Toasters? Did you confess to complicity in your father's work? Just because you report on the stories—or don't know about them to report them—does not mean they're your fault. This was all Luthor's doing—let him take the heat for it!"

It was hard to see him; his features blurred as if I were looking at him through water. And I was—tiny drops of salty water. "But…you were his prisoner for a month, Clark! I could have gotten you out! I should have gotten you out!"

"Shh, it's not your fault." Clark pulled me into a hug as naturally as if we were simply shaking hands—more naturally, even. As soon as his arms were around me, holding me close to his too-slight frame and comforting warmth, I felt tension drain away. My bones threatened to collapse in a trembling pile; my muscles relaxed with a single touch; my emotions calmed and settled, allowing his convincing arguments to echo and rebound within my head.

"I am sorry, Clark." I lifted my head to look up at him, though I didn't step out of his embrace. I didn't think I was yet strong enough to stand on my own. Which was odd, considering the fact that he was the one who wavered on his feet. "I understand, in theory, that your captivity is not my fault. But…I'm still sorry that I didn't look for you."

"And I'm sorry that I left you." His smile was only an imitation of the ones he used to give out, but it was a smile nonetheless, and for now, it was enough. "So, no more apologies? No more beating yourself up over things that aren't your fault?"

"I guess," I said, pretending casualness in order to conceal just how much his open forgiveness was affecting me. "Just make sure you eat something—you look like you're going to blow away," I added as I reluctantly took a step away from him. A flicker of something—disappointment?—passed across his face when his arms fell back to his sides.

I walked with him to the kitchen and made sure he was eating before I returned to the research on Luthor. Strangely, I was even more determined than before to see Luthor sentenced to life in prison. Clark's forgiveness should have allayed my terrible impatience for justice; instead, it only seemed to make it stronger. Clark was so good, so open, so…so undeserving of the things Luthor had done to him.

And Superman…Superman deserved justice for being driven from his home. I could still remember the crushing pain he had tried to hide the day he had said goodbye in the midst of that crowded hallway in the courthouse. It had devastated him to think he had been responsible for the heat-wave; it had almost destroyed him to be asked to leave the city he had adopted as his own. I could only imagine how hard it must have been to travel constantly from city to city, country to country, always moving lest he bring down the sun's heat on those around him, never able to use his powers to allay the suffering he encountered.

All Lex Luthor's fault—not mine. Clark was right. Luthor was the monster, and it was up to me—and Clark—to take that monster down.

Henderson himself came by to deliver the MPD material as well as some forms we needed to fill out in order to file a formal statement. I greeted the inspector distractedly and listened only well enough to register how little the police actually had managed to get on Luthor. Clark's list of proof was a bit more impressive, including copies of actual files that proved Luthor had implemented his plan to build his own space-station before the Messenger had been sabotaged, witnesses who claimed that Luthor had funded the development of the Toaster weapons and the Mentamide 5, transcripts of phone conversations between LexTower and known terrorist groups, and photographs of a blurry Luthor confronting Roarke and Congressman Harrington the night before they turned up dead from an alleged "botched mugging."

"How did you get all this?" Henderson asked incredulously after he had skimmed the list. I wasn't sure I had ever seen the laconic inspector so impressed before.

Clark shrugged. He was ensconced in a chair by the window where he could soak in the sunlight. "I realized almost from the moment I came into town that Luthor was corrupt, so I started investigating him right away."

Henderson shook his head. "If you ever want to become an inspector, just let me know. I'll have the paperwork ready."

Slowly, Clark's eyes moved to me, though I pretended not to notice. "No thanks, Bill."

"Well, I'm already feeling much better about leaving this investigation to you two." Henderson shot me a warning glance. "Just be careful, please. Luthor's sure to have a way to explain away seventy or eighty percent of what we have. You two as witnesses, however, that's what'll tip the case."

"Superman's looking out for us," I assured him.

The inspector nodded, clearly relieved. "Good. I was hoping he'd keep an eye on you. All right. I'd better leave. No need to draw more attention your way than absolutely necessary. You're looking better, Kent."

"Lois is taking good care of me," he said. For some reason, he seemed more subdued than he had a moment earlier.

"It must be the sunlight," I said with a puzzled frown. "You'd almost think it had healing powers the way you sit in it all the time."

"Whatever works," Henderson interjected.

As soon as the inspector had left, I returned to my obsessive perusal of our proof. Clark was going through some files, too, but out of the corner of my eye, I noticed him dozing off a few times. The medic had said it was a good thing if he got a lot of rest, so I didn't disturb him.

I wasn't aware of how much time had passed until my stomach growled in dissatisfaction. Surprised, I glanced up and realized that the noon hour had come and been replaced by early afternoon. Guiltily realizing that I hadn't bothered to see that Clark ate any lunch, I glanced over at him. He was slumped over in the chair, a file resting in his lap, his head propped up against the back of the chair as he slept. In the sunlight, his skin looked almost golden, and I dared to hope that it had permanently lost its ashen tint.

Promising myself that when he woke, I'd make sure he ate something, I ignored my own hunger and turned back to the research. Maybe I couldn't solve this in a day, but I was determined to give it my best effort. I wanted Clark to feel safe again. I wanted Superman to feel welcome again. And I…I wanted closure. I wanted to put this chapter of my life behind me forever.


Startled out of my intent focus, I looked up. "Clark!"

He set a hand to the coffee table as he bent to look at me, but otherwise, he appeared much steadier than he had just that morning. "Lois, I think you need a break. You're working way too hard."

"I thought you were the one who said we needed to put Luthor away."

"I did, but I didn't mean you had to do it all before tomorrow. Please, Lois. It'll be good for you to get out." I had just opened my mouth to protest when Clark glanced back toward the sunlit window. "Besides, I haven't been outside for a long time. I'd love to take a walk in the park myself, if you don't mind."

"O-of course not!" Hastily, I jumped to my feet, wincing when files scattered across the floor. "Do you have a coat or a jacket?"

"Perry brought me one. I think he must have raided his sons' closets."

"Where is it? I'll grab it when I get my coat."

"It's with the rest of the stuff he brought." Clark moved toward the door. He walked slowly but steadily; all in all, I was amazed at how much better he seemed. It was hard to be sure in the late afternoon shadows, but I was relatively certain that the bruises had faded somewhat from his face.

"Great way to take care of him, Lane," I muttered to myself as I opened the closet and pulled out my coat, then ducked into the bedroom to grab Clark's jacket from the duffel bag Perry had left. "Just forget him and make him beg you to take him outside!"

The minute I came into view around the corner, Clark's eyes met mine. "You're not blaming yourself for things again, are you?"

My step checked. "What? No, of…of course not. Why would I do that?"

The sight of his restrained grin stole the breath right out of my lungs and left me literally incapable of taking another step forward. "No reason."

"Good," I managed to say. "Then…then let's get going."

Luckily, Jimmy had brought my Jeep back when he had visited, so I was able to drive us to Centennial Park. Not that I wanted to go to Centennial Park, but Clark did, and no matter that I had avoided the place since they erected Superman's memorial, I didn't have the heart to deny Clark's request, not when he was obviously taking so much pleasure in being out and about. The piercingly sharp winter sun fell across his lap in a gold-and-carnelian bundle that gave him the illusion of having more substance and fewer bruises as he drank in the sight of everything we passed.

As soon as I parked, I jumped out and hurried to help Clark out of the Jeep, but he had already slid to his feet. For a long moment, he didn't move at all, just looked around at the sights, his gaze pausing first on a cluster of trees, then on the benches set near the perimeter of the park, then on the groups of people strolling along the green pathways. I didn't turn to see everything else he looked at; I just watched him. I had never known anyone to take as much pleasure in the small things as Clark did, as if he delighted in normality and thrived on the ordinary. Once, I had scorned that quality; now, I envied it.

"You ready?" I finally asked, careful to keep my tone patient. Ha! I thought triumphantly. Wouldn't Henderson have been surprised if he were there?

"Yes." Clark turned his face up to the sun, then smiled down at me. I could have sworn the dark bruise perched on his cheekbone had shrunk before the warm light. And was it my imagination or was he standing straighter than he had since before I woke to his hand on my shoulder and watched him walk out of the newsroom with his shoulders slumped?

When my hand settled in the crook of his arm without any conscious direction, I tried to tell myself that it was just because I didn't want him to stumble and fall as we walked toward the fountain set in the center of the park. But that was a lie. The truth was that even before he had left me, even before I had known him a full two weeks, I was already taking his arm proprietarily. I had always told myself it was just to keep him out of Cat's clutches, but the gossip columnist was nowhere in sight now.

The delighted smile Clark gave me in response to my gesture scattered my thoughts so completely that I forgot I needed to justify the physical closeness.

"Hmm." Clark glanced around us at the steady stream of people passing us in both directions. "Why is it so busy here?"

I paused, abruptly reminded of the reason I had avoided this park for the past month. "Don't you remember, Clark? I told you this is where they buried Superman. Well," I hastily added with a glance up to the sky to check for any hint of a red and blue flash. "Not Superman—just his cape. It's usually much busier than this, but I guess the news of his return has made the memorial seem a bit…I don't know, unnecessary?"

"Superman's memorial?" Clark fell completely still, his arm beneath my hand turned suddenly slack, his gaze fixed on the tip of the Superman statue visible in the distance.

"I suppose he'll probably visit it himself and make some sort of statement," I said thoughtfully. "He's always been good about stuff like that. But he has been awfully busy all over the world lately."

Clark gave me a sidelong glance. "He has to build up good will…secure his place."

I scowled at him, unable to bite back my irritation on Superman's behalf. "I think Superman helps because he cares."

"Superman does, yes," Clark agreed carefully. "Lois, would you…would you mind if we visited the memorial? Or…or do you not want to?"

After a slight hesitation, I shrugged. "It's all right. Now that I know he's alive, I don't think it'll be near as painful."

The closer we got to the memorial—the more Clark's steps slowed and his expression closed down—the more I wondered if this was such a good idea. Clark already seemed to possess some inexplicable hostility—or, at the least, mistrust—of Superman; what would the sight of the life-size statue of Superman and the plaque at its base do to his mental and emotional state?

Clark's step checked when he caught sight of the memorial and the carpet of flowers, tokens, and cards that lay at the steel feet. As if in a trance, Clark moved forward until he had to crane his neck to look up at the superhero's silver eyes, fixed on their stern perusal of the city before him. I kept close to Clark's side and was glad of that when his knees buckled. Quickly, I helped him to the bench placed where visitors come to pay their respects could sit and gaze upon the statue as they remembered the myriad ways Superman had influenced their lives.

"So much admiration," Clark murmured, almost as if he spoke only to himself. His eyes roved over the multitude of items left behind by well-wishers from all over the world. "So much acceptance…not alienation. Not fear. Not distrust. And yet…what good is it now? He's stolen it from me." The last sentence was whispered so softly I convinced myself that I had heard him wrong.

"Clark." I hesitated, then placed a hand on his shoulder, determined to help him even as I reeled in confusion over his seeming ambivalence toward his friend. "What's wrong? Why do you…" I trailed off, unable to even explain his strange moods. "Don't you like Superman?"

"I do like Superman," Clark said softly. When I followed his gaze, I saw that he was now staring directly at the S symbol engraved in steel. "He was always there when he was needed, able to save lives, able to safely do things no one else could. He got to see hope birthed in people's eyes, got to see them realize that the world possessed more than just darkness, that it contained good and hope and light as well. When I was absent, or late, or just…not enough…he was there. He was what everyone wanted, what the world needed. What I needed." Abruptly, Clark turned his head and looked straight into my wide eyes. "He saved your life a dozen times, Lois—and that alone makes him worth it all."

"He saved your life, too," I pointed out eagerly.

"Has he?" Clark looked away as his hands clenched into tight fists.

A shiver that had nothing to do with the cold bench on which we were sitting passed up my spine and traveled through my body in spreading ripples.

A stray memory floated to the forefront of my mind. Clark, depressed after covering a drive-by shooting, sitting next to my desk and bitterly asking what good Superman was if he couldn't save everyone.

Suddenly, with the speed of a lightning bolt that left one electrified with shock, I thought I might understand why Clark distrusted Superman. Why he seemed to fear him one moment and idolize him the next. Why he couldn't stand to talk to him yet wanted to know where he was at all times.

I had been blaming myself for Clark's prolonged captivity; it had been Clark himself who had assured me that it wasn't my fault. And yet…he had said nothing to indicate that he didn't fault Superman for it.

Was it possible? Could Clark, even if only subconsciously, be blaming the superhero for not rescuing him earlier? Did he think that it was because he was Superman's friend that he had been captured by Luthor and tortured?

And if that was the cause of Clark's ambivalence…what could I possibly do to change his mind? How did you undo a month of torture? How did you downplay four weeks of pain and isolation and terror? How could you possibly expect a man—even a man like Clark Kent—to set aside his nightmares and give a smile, a handshake, and unequivocal forgiveness?

"Clark," I asked, already dreading hearing his answer so unmistakably spelled out yet needing to confront it. "If you could ask Superman one question—any question—what would it be?"

Clark shifted, then gave me a forced smile. "Is this an interview?"

"No," I replied softly. "I just…I just want to know."

"Okay." His brow creased slightly as he considered his answer, the emotion in his eyes diffracted by the lenses of his glasses. "I would ask him…is he happy?"

"What?" I blinked, caught off-guard.

"I'd ask him if he's happy being Superman. If being rescuer, savior, and world icon is enough for him. I would ask him if a…a half life…is enough to sustain him. Because I think that's something he needs to know. Something I need to know, now more than ever."

My mouth was open, but I couldn't get a single word to emerge.

Clark angled his body slightly toward me, as if to block out the sight of the statue. "So, Lois, if you could ask Superman one question—any question—what would it be?" The shift in his position had shaded his glasses from the direct glare of the light, and now I could see cautious hope warring with uncertainty in his soft eyes.

If he had asked me that question before I had heard his response, I don't know what I would have said. Maybe a question about what Superman did when he wasn't making rescues or attending emergencies or flying me above the clouds. Maybe I'd have asked him how he could be so good as to give up so much in order to save so many.

But after hearing the concern inherent in Clark's answer, I knew there was only one thing I could say. And not only for his sake, but for mine as well—because I now badly, desperately, wanted to know Superman's answer.

"I think," I began slowly, "I would ask him why—when he was there countless times to save my life—why wasn't he there to save you from harm?"

Astonishment eclipsed all other emotion in Clark's face, his expression disbelieving yet touched.

"Why didn't he save you?" I asked again. "Where was he? You were so loyal to him, Clark—leaving your dream job and your friends to traipse after him from country to country. I know it wasn't for your career—every time I received one of your postcards, I would look up the local news of whatever city it came from. There were always reports of minor miracles, lives inexplicably saved, small catastrophes averted, all done quietly and carefully before you both moved on and I'd receive another card from yet another city. Yet you didn't write a single one of those articles—you didn't capitalize on the fact that you were Superman's companion. You simply went with him because…I guess because you hate injustice and because you didn't want him to be alone. So why, after all that, was he not there for you when you needed him most?"

"Nightfall—" Clark began with an unsteady voice, but I interrupted him.

"I know." I smiled and looked down, slightly uncomfortable with the amount of emotion I had unveiled. "I know he was saving the world. And I respect him for that, and I admire him, and I'm extremely grateful. But…that's the question I would ask."

"You know," Clark began consolingly, his fingers curling under my chin to tilt my face upward. "I wasn't as bad off as you seem to think."

"What?" I gasped disbelievingly.

"I mean, sure there was the Kry—the dosing. And, occasionally, Luthor would come with his men and…" Nightmares flashed through Clark's eyes, their potency undiminished by his glasses, before he banished them to some dark corner of his mind with a smile and a glance my way. "But…most of the time, I was just left in the cell." The care with which he chose his words was a dead giveaway to the fact that he knew he was putting an insanely positive spin on things. "Lois, I was so used to seeing everything and hearing so much and always having to be somewhere, always needed by someone. But…well, in the dark, it was quiet, and…and I wasn't always needed, wasn't constantly being bombarded by sensation."

"Except by pain," I interjected, thinking that his description of his conditions sounded a lot like sensory deprivation—in other words, like torture, particularly for someone as sociable and friendly as Clark.

"I wasn't used to the pain," he admitted, abruptly standing, as if afraid of what his face would give away. "But I could ignore it. I could escape it by fleeing into memories. I'd remember my parents—how much love they gave me, how much unconditional acceptance. And my friends, people I've met all over the world. And the Daily Planet—Perry and Jimmy, even Cat. And I'd remember you." The genuine smile he gave me was close to his old smile but not quite there. "After all, Lois, it's impossible to be depressed while thinking about you."

"You know, Clark," I began, trying and failing to hide that I had a lump in my throat, "I think everyone knows that the dark side of the moon has never been touched by light, but I'll bet you could find a bright spot even there."

"I could if you were standing there." As soon as the words left his mouth, Clark blushed, his eyes dropping from mine, and he began to stammer out a clarification…or a retraction I didn't want to hear. So I stood and pulled him into a hug, holding on for dear life to keep him from evaporating. If willpower alone could have granted me one wish, then my touch would have taken away all the pain Clark had endured.

"I'm so glad you're here," I told him without lifting my head, the next plea falling unbidden from my lips. "Don't leave me again."

His arms held me together while his hand pressing my face to his shoulder grounded me to this reality. "I'm not going anywhere," he promised fiercely.

And without doubt or hesitation I believed him.

And Then There Was Light

A Lois & Clark Story
by Anti-Kryptonite

Part 8 of 23

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