Continuing Tales

And Then There Was Light

A Lois & Clark Story
by Anti-Kryptonite

Part 9 of 23

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We were halfway back to the Jeep, walking through lengthening shadows, when Clark's returning strength ran out. My first sign that he wasn't as well as he had been was when he stumbled and almost fell. Only his arm around my shoulders kept him upright.

"Clark! Are you all right?"

"I'm okay," he said, the weakness of his voice belying his words. "I guess maybe I…maybe I got an overdose of sunlight today."

Despite the fact that I was supporting half his weight as we made our stumbling way to the Jeep, I couldn't help but smile. "An overdose of sunlight, huh?" I repeated. "You always have had a way with words."

He didn't make a reply until I had leaned him up against the side of the Jeep so I could fish out my keys and open the door. "I didn't know you thought that," he said quietly.

"Thought what?"

"That I had a way with words."

My hands froze, the key inserted into the lock and yet unturned. "I wouldn't have let you be my partner if I didn't," I finally settled for saying. It was such a weak response, so much less than I wanted to say, so much paler than the truth, and yet it was the sort of comment I was comfortable with making. Whereas the truth…that wasn't nearly as comfortable.

And yet…didn't Clark deserve a little encouragement? Shouldn't I be building him up instead of sticking to the teasing repartee at which we were so skilled?

I opened my mouth to tell him seriously just how much I admired his writing when I caught sight of…it.

It was blinding. It was brilliant. It was incinerating.

It was his old smile.

His lips curved upward. He ducked his head when he thought I wasn't looking, and he allowed a grin to make his—admittedly handsome—features even more beautiful, and he swallowed back a chuckle.

It was the old Clark.

I had first witnessed that sight in the reflection of the elevator doors as they closed after I had given him a thoroughly scornful speech meant to assure him I was way out of his league. After that moment, I had witnessed it a dozen or more times, and strangely enough, despite the fact that he was obviously laughing at me, I never felt as if he were making fun of me. Rather, it was as if he saw through my bluster to the person I was underneath, as if by smiling at the façade he was assuring me that he was in on the joke and by hiding the smile he was promising that he wouldn't give me away to everyone else. It was as if it were a secret solely between the two of us, and I could trust him to keep it that way and never to think the less of me for it.

So, in the end, I didn't add anything to my statement; I just grinned up at him, savored the easy smile I received in return, and helped him into the Jeep.

"I'm sorry," he murmured when we finally, painfully, got him situated in the passenger seat. "I should have had us turn back sooner. I didn't mean to—"

"Don't worry about it," I instructed him softly, aching inside to see the drowsiness already taking the edge off the sparkle in his eyes. The day we had been at Smallville's Corn Festival, Clark had walked and danced and helped set up tables and erect tents, and yet at the end of the day, he had still been alert and ready to do it all over again. Seeing him so depleted after a simple walk in the park—far shorter than the route he had walked from his old apartment to the Daily Planet every day—was agonizing.

Even after I had climbed in the driver's side and started the Jeep, I couldn't stop casting sidelong glances at him. Sudden guilt assailed me when I remembered that I never had gotten him any lunch. Not, I realized, that I had any food at home to feed him.

"We should probably stop off and get something to eat," I recommended, ignoring the blaring horn sounded by a driver that must have been new to Metropolis because that light had obviously been yellow when I started across the intersection.

"All right," Clark agreed complacently. If he hadn't spoken, I would have thought he was already asleep; his eyes were closed and his head drooped forward.

"And you need to eat more," I added, hating the mother-hen tone in my voice, knowing it was necessary. "There's no way you're eating nearly enough. That medic left me a list of things you should be eating, but I'm not sure how many take-out places serve that kind of food. Maybe a place that sells soup. Surely chicken noodle soup was on that list. If it wasn't, it was probably because of an oversight. So obvious they didn't think it needed to be written down, maybe."

"I'm fine," Clark interrupted with a small, tired smile.

"Are you?" I retorted quickly. "I'm worried about you, Clark."

His eyes gleamed in the early evening sunlight when he turned to meet my gaze. "I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault!" I pulled into a parking spot in front of a deli that I knew had some soup. "Luthor's the one who did this to you."

His smile was tiny even as he closed his eyes again. "I thought you called him Lex."

"I thought you told me not to," I replied.

"I thought you didn't listen to me."

The smile that curved my own lips was born partly out of relief. "I thought you knew better."

"I thought you tried to keep me guessing."

"That comes naturally—I don't have to work at it," I said with a grin. "Now, do you even like chicken noodle soup?"

"Doesn't everyone?"

"I don't," I said with a grimace. "But wait here a minute while I get us some."

As if sensing my impatience, the line in the deli crept forward, slowing in direct proportion to my haste. When I finally got to the front of the line, I bit back the impulse to rant about the server's lack of speed and ordered enough soup to ensure I wouldn't have to come back for a while. I also grabbed a couple sandwiches. After all, wasn't eating any of the chicken noodle soup, and if Clark would eat more of a sandwich than the soup, I certainly wasn't going to refuse him.

By the time I finally made it back out to the Jeep, Clark was sound asleep, his neck cricked in what looked to be a painful position. Despite that, I didn't want to disturb him so I was extra careful with my driving. The three honks I did get didn't even stir my sleeping partner.

Unfortunately, that meant I couldn't easily stir him either.

"Come on, Clark." I left the food, knowing that coming back for it would be easier than trying to juggle it while also supporting Clark's weight and managing the doors. I went around the Jeep and opened his door for him despite the fact that he hadn't yet moved. "Clark! Clark, we need to get inside."

He rolled his head toward me when I set my hand on his shoulder. The immediate smile that sprang to his lips when he blinked up at me was, astonishingly quickly, replaced by a bleak sadness that felt like a punch in the gut.

"I'm sorry, Lois," he slurred as I reached across him to undo his seat belt. My hands stilled when his finger stroked the edge of my jaw. "I'm so sorry. You think we're free, but we're not."

"Oh, Clark." I set my hands on either side of his neck to steady him. "It's all right. You're safe now."

"No." A desperate look contorted his features and sent uneasiness skittering along my spine. "We're still in the cell, Lois—it's just bigger now."


A sudden whoosh was the only warning I had before a warm hand landed on my shoulder and a smoky voice sounded in my ear. "Can I give you a hand, Clark?"

Clark's expression went suddenly, awfully blank. His hand fell limply from my cheek to lay unresisting in his lap. "Superman." There almost seemed to be a question mark at the end of the appellation.

"Oh, Superman, thank goodness you're here." I gestured to Clark and stepped out of the superhero's way. Perhaps this was just what was needed to make Clark realize that Superman was trying to make amends for the lateness of his rescue. "I let Clark do a bit too much, and now…"

"Let me help." Superman set a hand on Clark's shoulder. "I'll carry you up to the apartment."

"No!" Clark batted Superman's hand away. Hostility was the only word for the naked emotion exposed on his face.

Superman's expression remained neutral, but when Clark set his feet to the ground, the superhero stepped aside. I wanted to protest, wanted to point out that there were a good ten or so steps up to my apartment building's front door, wanted to shake Clark until he expunged Luthor's brainwashing from his mind and greeted his caped friend as he deserved to be greeted.

Instead, I said nothing. I, of all people, understood pride; I knew how much it could burn to have others think you weak. And Clark's speech from breakfast the day before was still fresh in my memory. So I said nothing, and I stood at Superman's side, and we watched Clark make his slow but dignified way up the steps. When he finally made it to the top, he paused to lean against the wall, his head hanging as he caught his breath.

When I made to move to his side, Superman's fingers wrapped around my arm just above the elbow. His breath was warm against my cheek as he bent his head toward mine. "Please be careful, Lois. If Luthor is the enemy as you say, then it's not safe for you to go out. I'm protecting you now, but I could never live with myself if any harm came to you."

"I won't let Luthor make me afraid to live my own life." I stiffened a bit, more to counter the impulse to melt at Superman's touch than because I took offense at his concern.

"I know that." Superman's smile was breathtaking, and it was just a tiny smile. I could only imagine how much effect a full grin could have on me. On second thought, maybe it was best he kept his smiles small for the time being—I wasn't strong enough to face the full blast.

"Don't worry," I assured him, astonished by my hand's boldness when I saw it spread itself over the yellow and red S. "We'll be fine."

"I hope so," Superman breathed. He ducked his head again, but this time, I knew it wasn't to kiss me. I wouldn't make the same assumption I had when he had flown with me. No sirree, this time I knew he was just—

His lips brushed my cheek.

My stomach hit the pavement at about the same time as my heart hit the clouds currently roofing the sky.

A silly smile painted itself across my face. I wracked my mind desperately for something—anything!—to say and came up empty.

With a smile that conveyed both amusement and tenderness, Superman took a step away from me. I almost cried out when his dark eyes moved from me to Clark. "Good night, Clark."

Clark said nothing, though his gaze was locked on us, his hand clenched over the doorknob so tightly I knew his knuckles would be white. His mouth was twisted as if he felt sick.

"Thanks for stopping by," I managed before Superman floated upward into the air and disappeared as abruptly as he had come.

If I had been alone, I might have stood there and stared after him for a moment, but Clark was waiting by the door and I had no illusions about how real his show of strength was. Remembering to wipe the adoring smile from my face, I turned and quickly walked past Clark to unlock the door. I moved to support him as we headed for the elevator, but he walked forward alone, determinedly resolute, as if to prove that he didn't need Superman.

I felt ready to explode with everything I was containing within my body—my elation over Superman's appearance and the kiss he had given me, my frustration with Clark's mental state, my startling compassion for his hurt and sense of betrayal, and my similar empathy for Superman over receiving so little from Clark—yet somehow, I managed to contain it all.

Clark collapsed into a chair as soon as we got into my apartment, and yet I took comfort in the fact that his coloring hadn't reverted back to its wan pallor. Though he looked tired, he no longer looked sick, so I refused to regret the—perhaps—ill-advised excursion.

"I hope you're hungry," I announced when I returned from my second trip to the Jeep to retrieve the food. "Because I'm going to make sure you eat every bite of this."

"I do feel kind of hungry," Clark said, sounding almost surprised. He refused to meet my gaze when I handed him the soup I had dished out for him.

"Here's some water, too." I set the glass down on the coffee table in front of him. "Do you need anything else?"

"No." The word was sharp, almost brusque. From anyone else, it would have simply been an answer; from Clark, the shortness of it practically screamed anger.

Stung, I remained frozen in place. Count to ten, I advised myself. Stop and think what he's been going through. Remember how betrayed you felt when Clark left you—Clark must have felt even worse when Superman failed to show up. He needs time; don't blow up at him.

I had just taken a deep breath to let loose the retort my little pep talk was doing nothing to discourage when Clark visibly relented.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly. When he raised his eyes to meet mine, I was taken aback by the maelstrom of unidentified emotions evident within his eyes. "I didn't mean to snap at you. I…I'm sorry."

Forcibly, I set aside my frustration and managed a fake smile. "I'll forgive you if you eat that bowl of soup and forget to tell the medic that I let you go without lunch."


We didn't say much as we sat there and ate dinner, yet it slowly transformed itself into a companionable silence, the kind Clark and I had shared numerous times when he had still worked at the Planet. The kind I had missed more than seemed possible in the two months he had been gone.

Clark actually ate all of the soup and a piece of buttered bread, and he drank a glass and a half of water. That, coupled with how well he was looking even near the end of the day, made small seeds of hope begin to plant themselves in my mind. Maybe things really weren't as bad as they had seemed. After all, hadn't I myself thought that Clark made things turn out better than they should? This might just be another example of the same.

Clark dozed off and on through the movie I picked out for us; I had meant to work some more on our story as the movie played, yet I found myself watching Clark. I was haunted by the idea that if I looked away and looked back, he'd be just as sickly and pale and bruised as he had been the night we argued outside the hospital. It was a ridiculous fear, utterly absurd, and yet I couldn't shake it.

At the sound of the video automatically cycling into rewind, Clark stirred. He smiled sheepishly up at me. "I guess I wasn't much company, huh?"

"That's all right." I shrugged. "I never like it when people talk through movies anyway."

Relief pervaded his countenance, and yet I couldn't understand why. Clark had always been a bit of a puzzle to me despite my claim that I had him figured out, but he had never seemed as perplexing as he did now. And the thought persisted that if only I had the right puzzle piece to click into place, everything he did and said and thought would make sense.

Shaking off my inner musing, I stood and held out a hand to him. "Come on. I expect your help in researching this story tomorrow, so you need your rest."

"It'll be just like old times, huh?" he asked. His hand was warm in mine, and soft, his long fingers curling around mine as he stood. For some reason, his proximity unnerved me, though why I couldn't say. It had never bothered me before.

"Sure. But you'd better be good," I warned him with a stern glance he didn't believe for an instant.

As before, I let him get ready for bed first; I made sure he was safely settled on the cot before I ducked into the bathroom. My reflection didn't have any dark circles to remind me of bruises; in fact, there was a sparkle in my dark eyes that hadn't been there for a while.

Slowly, reverently, I brushed my fingers over the spot on my cheek where Superman's lips had so briefly rested. I had never heard of the superhero being so affectionate with anyone else, not even with that date who had outbid me at the charity auction. He had allowed her to kiss his cheek—something that had sent hot flames of jealousy spiking through my mind—but he himself had remained aloof at all public appearances. The closest he had ever come to kissing me was…when I had almost collapsed into his arms after he had burst through the wall of that bank vault.

You will always be special to me, Lois. You're the first woman who ever—interviewed me. I was even more certain now than I had been then that he had meant to end that sentence differently, and I would have spent another day in a cell if I could have heard his original thought.

With my mind full of Superman, it was impossible to feel tired. I knew Clark was still awake, too, because he turned his head to watch me as I exited the bathroom and slipped under the cool covers on my bed.

"Good night, Lois," he said softly.

"Good night," I replied, my voice sounding a bit dreamy as I recalled the way Superman had twice told me good night now.

Memory after memory of Superman wrapped themselves around me like a quilt, worn with use, comforting and comfortable. I found myself tossing back and forth, unable to settle, moving this way with this memory and that way with that recollection.

"Do you have insomnia?" Clark's question pierced the darkness and allowed a breath of cooler air to slip past the quilt of memories.

"What? No." I bit my lip as soon as the answer was uttered. Now I had to have a reason for why I was keeping him awake with my restlessness, and it was sure as the Planet's status as the number one paper in the world that I couldn't admit to him the true reason I was still awake. "I…I'm not really used to sleeping in the same room with someone else. It's a little…unnerving."

That was stupid, I told myself acerbically. For one thing, this was our third night together in the same room—or fourth if you counted the cell. For another, it meant that Clark immediately sat up and said, "Do you want me to move to the living room?"

"No, don't!" I exclaimed. I'd never live it down with Henderson if he found out that I made Clark sleep on a tiny loveseat half his size on the same day I had forgotten to feed him lunch. "Please," I added, already regretting my lie. "It's just different, that's all."

Slowly, probably doubting my sincerity, Clark lay back down.

"You know," I began, desperate to keep him in place—more desperate than if I had simply been worried about a lecture from Henderson. "My sister and I used to share a room. We'd talk into the morning hours about little things and dreams of the future, exchanging secrets that were ours alone. Not that Lucy had that many secrets," I said tartly. "Her life was pretty much an open book. But we'd tell each other things we wouldn't tell anyone else and laugh about things we might have cried over alone. It was…nice. Sometimes I miss that."

Hearing the nostalgic tone creeping into my voice and wondering why I was confiding—again!—in Clark Kent, I hastily added, "Of course, then I remind myself that she always borrowed my clothes and tried to tell me how to live my life—despite the fact that she's younger than me—and made me feel guilty about things that I didn't need to feel guilty about—well, maybe some of them I did—and then I don't miss it as much."

Wincing at my own babbling, I clamped my mouth shut. Why did Clark have to be such a good listener? If only he'd shift uncomfortably every once in a while, or surreptitiously roll his eyes, or something to make me realize that he really didn't want—or need—to hear every detail of my life story! But no, even tired and hurting, he had to listen so patiently and attentively and compassionately—it was really his own fault that I told him so much.

"Exchange secrets, huh?" he asked quietly. Perhaps he wasn't as much of a mind-reader as I had thought this morning.

"Yeah," I said. In contrast to my earlier flow of words, I couldn't think of anything to say now. Which was good, I reminded myself. We were supposed to be sleeping, after all.

"I had amnesia once." Clark's words, spoken rapidly and abruptly, were sudden and almost too loud in the quiet that had descended.

I rolled my head in his direction. "You did not."

"I did," he asserted a bit more confidently, his voice smoothed out slightly.

"People don't really get amnesia," I informed him. "It's only on television shows and novels. And, Clark, you don't have to make up secrets to tell me. It's all right, really. I mean, how many secrets can you accumulate in Smallville anyway?"

"It's terrifying not to know who you are or how you fit into the world," he continued, as if he hadn't heard my teasing. So much for being a good listener. "And confusing to know more about mundane details like how to drive or what a post office is than any fact, large or small, about yourself. It made me feel lost and disoriented…and afraid. But my parents helped me. And I could remember…one thing…and the more I remembered about that one thing, the more I remembered about myself."

What thing? I wondered.

"How long did you have this amnesia?" I asked skeptically, then blinked in surprise. That hadn't been the question I was thinking.

"A day," he answered.

"That's not very long," I heard myself say. Why couldn't I ask him what one thing he had remembered? Ask it, I commanded myself, and opened my mouth. "How did you get this amnesia?"

He took a very long time to respond, and I sensed him looking over at me, as if his answer was more important than it seemed. "I hit something very hard and very fast."

"It must have been very hard and awfully fast," I said, infusing my voice with skepticism. So what if I didn't ask him about the one thing he remembered? It probably didn't mean much anyway; in fact, it was most likely his parents. I had seen firsthand how close he was to them, how much he loved them. Despite my thoughts, however, I couldn't quite convince myself. There had been something in his voice when he said he remembered one thing, a quality in his tone that usually appeared when he talked to or about m—that certain thing.

"It was," Clark confirmed, recalling me to our conversation. "I was lucky that I was able to get to Sm—uh, that…I was near my parents when it happened."

Deciding to humor him, I turned on my side to face him in the imperfect darkness. "And when was this? You never mentioned it before."

"It was after I left Metropolis." He turned to face me, too, as if reflecting me back on myself. He cleared his throat, and I frowned at the quiver suddenly affecting his voice. "It was during Nightfall."

My eyebrows rose. "You had amnesia while an asteroid was headed our way about to destroy all life on the planet?" I wasn't sure why I suddenly believed him—I mean, come on! Amnesia?—but I no longer doubted him. And accepting this story made me suddenly swallow, hearing again the way he had described his state while his memories were hidden from him.

"It made it worse," Clark confessed quietly, confiding in me as I had confided in him. It made me feel special to know he trusted me. As friendly as Clark had always been, he was also very private. It had always seemed there was a boundary within him that no one could cross. The closest I had ever come was the short time we had spent in Smallville; and now, today, he was allowing me another glimpse over that wall.

"Worse?" I asked softly.

"Yeah. To face the end without even knowing what had brought me to that point? It was frightening."

"I'm sorry." I didn't know where the words came from—this was one thing that hadn't been my fault—but the emotion in them made me abruptly uncomfortable.

"It's okay." I felt Clark smile again, though how I couldn't explain. The darkness still enfolded us in shadows. "Like I said, I remembered pretty quickly."

Eager to bring things back to normal, I shifted positions yet again. "Well, I've never had amnesia. Not that I'm saying I believe you." As soon as the sentence was uttered, I regretted it. For one thing, it was a lie. For another, it made Clark go suddenly still.

"It's true." His statement was almost inaudible.

"Yeah," I agreed at a matching volume. "I mean, I've never known you to lie."

The apartment went so quiet any intruder would have thought it was empty. I don't know what Clark was thinking, but I was frowning and trying hard to remember if I had ever heard Clark lie. The closest thing I could think of was when he had done me the favor of covering for my father. And even then, he had hardly been able to look Perry in the eye, squirming guiltily and sticking to sentences that were true. Well, and then there was the whole undercover thing with Toni Taylor.

"I have lied," Clark blurted suddenly.

"Wh-what?" I sat bolt upright and glared over at Clark. I felt as if the world had suddenly turned into an alien, unknowable place; I couldn't have been more shocked if…if…well, if Superman had admitted to being a fraud!

And that confused me. I knew everyone lied—it was an inescapable fact of life. It was a lie that had started this whole conversation to begin with! So…why did it hurt so much to know that my honest partner was capable of altering the truth?

"I try not to," Clark added hurriedly, and everything reverted to normal. Of course, I thought with vast relief. In order to be as kind and polite as he was, Clark surely had to lie a few times.

"Everybody lies," I said, lying back down and rearranging the covers. "We all tell lies to make ourselves look better, or to avoid hurting someone's feelings, or to get out of things, or—"

"It's something like that. Something I did—didn't do." Clark sounded so guilty that I couldn't help but smile fondly. If not for the fact that he had swiped some evidence while we were investigating the Smart kids, I would have written him off as an irredeemable boy scout.

Then I frowned. "You're not talking about that night with Cat, are you? Because your story and hers never did agree."

Clark heaved what sounded like a weary sigh. "I never lied about that."

Feeling strangely reassured, I relaxed again. "Hmm."

"It's more about things I had to do, but then…well, I make excuses. Little lies—but I always try to do what I said anyway, so it's not as much of a lie."

"Clark," I interrupted. "You're talking about white lies. Those almost don't even count."

Clark paused, then murmured, "It's that 'almost' that has me worried."

Terror invaded my system and set every cell afire. I jumped from my bed and crossed to Clark's cot in two strides, perching on the edge so I could feel his forehead for a fever. "Clark, you're fine. You have to be fine. You're not going to die, all right? There is absolutely no need to confess any sins, okay? You're going to be fine."

For some reason, I couldn't stop touching him, resettling his covers, brushing back a strand of hair, straightening the collar of his t-shirt. He was staring at me, an indecipherable expression illuminated by the glow of city lights outside the windows.

"I don't want to hear any more talk like that, okay?" I added sternly, not sure I could take another scare like that. "You're going to be okay because I need you. And your parents need you. And the Daily Planet…well, it doesn't need you, but…it's better with you there." Trembling, I voiced the question I hadn't yet been brave enough to ask. "You…are coming back, aren't you? When all of this is over?"

His hand on my cheek was as cool as a breath of fresh air, as gentle as a slight breeze, and as reassuring as the sight of a sunrise. "Yeah," he whispered, his voice dry. "I'm coming back."

"Good!" Relief replaced terror, and I found myself hugging him spontaneously. His hands cautiously rested on my back as he returned the hug. Suddenly embarrassed, I pulled away and gave him a self-conscious smile. "So, you're feeling okay?"

He nodded, his eyes wide as he stared at me.

Needing distance, I stood and took a step toward the bed before looking over my shoulder. "No more midnight confessions, right?"

"I guess not." Inexplicably, he sounded disappointed.

With a sigh, I resigned myself to the fact that I would never understand Clark Kent.

And Then There Was Light

A Lois & Clark Story
by Anti-Kryptonite

Part 9 of 23

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