It Happened On Christmas
By Nan Smith
Lois Lane crawled into bed.
It had started out a depressing evening. Here it was, Christmas Eve, and it looked as if the dinner that she had painfully put together according to the cookbook's barely decipherable directions was going to be completely wasted.
True, she'd helped Jimmy by straightening out the misunderstanding with Angela over the Secret Santa gift exchange, and she couldn't really wish that Perry had been here rather than with Alice, but it left her with no one to come to her Christmas dinner.
Normally, she would have expected Clark to come, but he'd told her that he was headed for Smallville and Christmas with his parents. She wondered wistfully what Christmas was like in Clark's hometown. He had described it as the biggest party in Smallville, and she didn't doubt that he meant every word. Probably it would be just a corny Christmas in the country with farmers discussing hog futures at the Christmas barn dance, but she couldn't restrain a faintly wistful sigh. If she had been there with Clark and his mom and dad, she wouldn't be standing here in her apartment alone.
For a moment, then, she'd thought that Superman was actually going to come by after all. A gust of wind ruffled the curtains, but then it was gone, and there wasn't a red cape in sight. She'd stifled her disappointment. Superman had plenty of things to occupy his time on Christmas Eve -- things that didn't involve keeping her company. It was silly to hope for anything from that quarter.
And then someone had knocked at the door. Clark, whom she had expected to be halfway to Kansas by now, was standing there.
And so her lonely Christmas Eve had turned out quite unexpectedly merry after all. Even Superman wouldn't have been as welcome, she thought, as Clark. They had eaten an indecent amount of turkey and stuffing, and all the trimmings that she had laid out for her guests -- mostly from cans, but Clark hadn't seemed to mind. He'd said good night well after midnight, and gone back to his apartment, and Lois tumbled into bed, after the nicest Christmas Eve she had experienced in many years.
It was a couple of hours later that she awoke to the sensation of overwhelming nausea. Acid crawled up her throat, and the urge to allow the contents of her stomach to be ejected violently into the room was almost overpowering. Only the knowledge of what a mess there would be later made her haul herself reluctantly out of bed and stagger into the bathroom.
There she remained for minutes, crouched over the porcelain goddess. At last, when it seemed that there couldn't possibly be anything left to eject, she heaved dryly, her arms and legs quivering from the effort it took to maintain her position.
How could she have become so sick this suddenly, she wondered miserably. And how was it possible to keep throwing up when there couldn't possibly be anything left to throw up? Could she have come down with the stomach flu? She'd had a flu shot! It just wasn't fair!
At last, she staggered back and fell into her bed, but the nausea, which had subsided, somewhat, began to build again within a very few minutes, and she found herself struggling back to the bathroom to eject more stomach contents into the bowl.
How could there even be anything left in her stomach? She'd already lost everything all the way down to her toenails and then some! Where was it coming from?
Again, she stumbled back to bed, only to return to the bathroom half an hour later for a third bout. As the night progressed, it was clear that, whatever this bug was, it wasn't going to leave her in peace.
The thought was prophetic. She lost count of the times she heaved herself wretchedly from the bed to make her way unsteadily to the bathroom, usually reaching it just in time.
She lay woozily in bed after the latest bout, and became dimly aware of someone knocking insistently on her door. Lois groaned and pulled the pillow over her head.
"Lois?" It was Clark's voice. "Are you in there? Perry sent me to see if you were all right, since you didn't answer your phone."
Lois didn't even remember the phone ringing. Maybe if she kept quiet, he would just go away.
"Lois?" His voice didn't sound as if he was going to go away. "Lois, are you all right? Can you open your door?"
"Go away, Clark." Another wave of nausea hit her and she lurched to her feet again to trace another path to the bathroom.
From somewhere she heard a characteristic whooshing sound and mentally cringed. The last thing she needed was for Superman to see her in this condition. Unromantic didn't even begin to cover it.
Then she was again leaning over the bowl. By now she had ceased to even wonder how she could still have anything in her stomach. It was obvious that it was materializing from nothing. Whatever it was that was making her sick was evidently destroying her innards and she was throwing them up. Vaguely, she wondered how long it would be before there was nothing but outer skin left. She hoped it would come soon. Anything, including death, was preferable to this.
"Lois?" Clark's voice was just outside the bathroom. "Lois, what's wrong?"
"I'm sick!" she tried to snarl, but the words came out barely audible, and her voice was so weak that she wouldn't have expected him to hear it.
He did, though. He appeared around the edge of the bathroom door, clutching her robe in his hands. "My god, Lois, you look awful!"
She would have replied with an appropriately withering retort, but another fit of gagging overcame her. Somewhere during the process, her knees gave out and she found herself kneeling on the tile floor, leaning over the bowl. There was literally nothing left to throw up except some kind of ghastly green stuff that smelled so bad that it made her want to gag again.
Vaguely, she was aware of a pair of masculine hands lifting her as easily as if she had been a baby, and then she was lying in her bed. The relief was such that she didn't even wonder at it.
"Is there anything I can do?" Clark asked anxiously. "You look horrible!"
She couldn't even begin to reply. The familiar sensation was beginning to build again, and she knew that it meant another trip to the bathroom in a very few minutes. Clark hovered, obviously worried but not knowing what to do. He rested a hand on her forehead. "You're running a fever."
Lois heaved herself up and staggered toward the bathroom again. Abruptly, Clark's hands were supporting her, and she made it barely in time. The hands continued to brace her as she lost the very little amount in her stomach, and leaned weakly over the bowl, waiting for enough strength to return to make it back to bed.
"How long has this been going on?" Clark's voice demanded. It was an irritant, but she guessed she owed him an answer. He'd helped her, after all.
"Since about one or two, I think," she croaked.
"One o'clock! Lois, you ought to go to the emergency room. You look terrible!"
"Just -- the flu," she managed. The nausea was building once more, and she leaned over the bowl to gag again.
When the spasms ceased, she felt the warmth of her bathrobe wrapped around her, and then Clark's arms lifted her up. She put her head down on his shoulder and closed her eyes. If only the horrific nausea would go away.
The next few hours -- she wasn't sure how long it was, actually -- was a confused blur. There were numerous episodes of gagging, but for some reason, she didn't need to get up again, and people did things to her that she later couldn't recall. Eventually, the outside world slid away into fevered dreams that made more real sense than the outer world. Finally, even the dreams faded away.
She was in a hospital bed, she realized slowly. How on earth had she gotten here? Her stomach felt remarkably empty, but she wasn't hungry -- in fact, the barest trace of nausea remained, recalling jumbled memories of the night before. An IV pole beside her displayed a half-full bag of clear liquid, and tubing ran down to a spot on her arm.
She'd been horribly sick, she recalled after some minutes of puzzling out the mish-mash of memory. Clark had come, and somehow she had wound up here.
A woman entered the room, and checked her IV. Then she looked at Lois. "Good afternoon, Ms. Lane," she said. "How are you feeling?"
"My stomach is a little upset," Lois said.
"I'm not surprised," the nurse said. "You had the worst case of salmonella I've ever seen."
"Salmonella?" Lois asked. "What's that? A new disease?"
The woman shook her head, smiling. "Food poisoning," she explained. "I don't suppose you had turkey last night, did you?"
"As a matter of fact, I did. Why?"
"Undercooked turkey is a common source of salmonella," the nurse, or whatever she was, explained. "We always get some cases at this time of year. People don't cook their turkey well enough and the whole family winds up sick. It's not a good way to spend the holidays."
Ohmigosh ...the turkey! And Clark had eaten more of it than she had. "Clark! Is Clark all right?"
"Clark Kent -- my partner. He ate dinner with me."
"I don't know," the woman said. "Superman apparently brought you to the emergency room."
"I need to make a call! If I was that sick, Clark --"
There was a knock on the door and an instant later Clark stood in the entrance, a bouquet of flowers in his hand. He entered on light feet and set the bouquet on the over bed table. "How do you feel?" he asked.
"Not too bad," she said. She glanced at the nurse. "Is it going to come back?"
"Not as long as we keep you on the antibiotics and anti-nausea medication," the woman said. "In a couple of days you should feel fine." She went to the door. "You're on a clear liquid diet today. You probably won't want much for a while yet." She left, and Clark regarded her with concern.
"How do you feel?"
"Not bad," Lois said. "Wonderful, compared to last night."
"I figured that," Clark said. "I thought you were dying. I don't think I've ever seen anyone so sick."
"How did I get here?"
"I called Superman and had him bring you to the emergency room," Clark said. "He was pretty worried about you, too."
"They said it was salmonella," Lois said. "Probably from undercooked turkey. Aren't you sick? Do you feel all right?"
"More or less," Clark said. He loosened his tie slightly. "I might have had a little bit of an upset stomach last night."
Lois looked at him in awe. "You must have a cast iron stomach."
"I've always been pretty resistant to stomach bugs," Clark said.
"I guess you must be," Lois said, wonderingly. "I wish I could say the same. I guess you explained to Perry why I wasn't at work this morning."
Clark nodded. "He said he'd be by this afternoon. He told me to tell you to take it easy and get well."
"I don't have much choice," Lois said. "I don't ever want to be that sick again. I guess that's the last time I cook turkey, though."
Clark smiled. "I'll tell you what. The next time, I'll invite you over and cook the Christmas dinner myself."
"I don't know," Lois said doubtfully. "What do you know about cooking turkeys?"
"Just what my mom taught me," Clark said. "Trust me, I've done it before."
"And nobody ever got food poisoning?"
"Not even once. Mom would have been pretty disappointed with me if I'd made someone sick."
"I'm glad no one else came for dinner," she said forlornly. "Can you imagine what it would have been like with Perry and Jimmy sick, too?"
"Hey," Clark said gently, "it was a pretty nice evening, anyway. It wasn't your fault things went wrong. I had a good time."
"I've never had a nicer Christmas Eve."
She looked up to meet his eyes and saw him smiling at her. "That's good. I'm awfully glad you came."
He sank down on the side of her bed and cautiously took her hand. "That's what partners are for."
"I guess it is," Lois said. "I'm glad you're my partner."
"So am I," Clark said.