Author's note: This was originally created for a monthly challenge at ; if you haven't visited the site, please do, it's a lot of fun, and a fantastic sucessor to ! The prompt was "First Kiss." Just read the whole thing, I promise you'll get it at the end.
"How could this have happened?" Lois's voice came out as a barely audible whisper as she choked back tears.
She stared blankly at the floor, refusing to look up at the handsome man that sat next to her on the park bench. It was of necessity to stare incessantly at the mulch beneath her tiny feet, for fear that if she gazed into Clark's concerned blue eyes, she wouldn't be able to maintain the remaining composure she had left. His hand rhythmically stroked her back as she leaned against his sturdy torso, allowing the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest to soothe her.
Despite the comfortable temperatures, low humidity and the gentle early summer breeze that lifted the hair from Lois's face, the air felt heavy and oppressive. The couple seemed oblivious to those that milled about on the pleasant afternoon carrying on their errands, shopping and late lunches. Laughter drifted from a table across the street from the park where Lois and Clark sat in the shade of an old crepe myrtle.
Clark barely moved as he held Lois's tiny hands in his, as if they would shatter. He leaned forward and kissed her forehead but she seemed unaware of the attempt to comfort her. In fact, she almost seemed unaware anyone was even there.
Clark found himself unable to prevent the scene from vividly repeated itself again and again and again. Everything just seemed wrong, as if the whole scenario was something from a dream. This wasn't really happening. It couldn't be.
It was simply a cold, nothing more and Lois just didn't understand why it was such a necessity to Clark for her to waste time at the doctor. Clark's incessant pestering about the chest congestion that wouldn't go away had grown too frequent and he knew it was easier to shut the man up and make a trip to the doctor instead of ignoring him.
He knew her well; therefore he conveniently knew how to push her buttons. So what had begun as a routine exam caused the physician's brow to furrow and ask for more tests.
That was a week ago. After the blood was drawn and chest x-rays were completed, she received a phone call from the office to return for a follow-up.
Clark stood beside Lois with his hand on her shoulder as she sat on the exam table, nervously swinging her feet as the doctor came into the room. As a journalist, it was something of a skill or learned practice to dissect someone's expression and extract additional information, but the lines in the doctor's face were neutral, unreadable.
The doctor washed her hands, opened the chart as she sat on a stool and turned to face Lois and Clark. As a sigh escaped the seasoned physician, the pit of Clark's stomach fell away and immediately he knew the news wasn't going to be something either of them wanted to hear.
"Ms. Lane, the test results have come back positive." She stood, took an x-ray film that had been brought with her and slipped it onto the viewing panel. After the light was flicked on, the image of her semi-occluded lungs glowed in contrast to the x-ray's black film. "As you can see," she gestured to both individuals "your lungs have quite a bit of infiltrate, bilaterally in fact, which basically means you have a pretty decent amount of fluid in your lungs, which is why you've felt so congested and have been coughing lately. But this," she circled a bright white mass in the lower lobe of the left lung "is what really is the problem. It's a malignant tumor." She paused and with regret, shook her head. "It's lung cancer. I'm so sorry."
Clark knew something wasn't right with her lungs; they had sounded horrible. He should have seen it; he should have been more vigilant, more persistent and checked more frequently. He continued to mentally berate himself for his inability to spot the tumor, because it would have been easily treated if he had found it when it formed. But when there were multiple tumors on the x-ray, it seemed to indicate the main one had been there for awhile and had spread.
Neither Clark nor Lois held any specific qualifications in the medical industry, but both were well aware that when tumors were found in multiple locations, it wasn't a positive outlook. It was an aggressive form of lung cancer and the life expectancy wasn't long. A year at best.
"Lois, I'm so sorry," Clark murmured. His large arms encompassed the small woman and he held her to his chest as her frame rocked violently as she cried. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry." It was all he could say. He should have found it early.
This time, he couldn't save her.
The room was quiet, save the ragged labored breathing of the exhausted woman that had wasted away to almost skin and bones. Clark shut out the sounds of the outside world; he didn't want to hear them. Tears began to splash down his cheeks. He knew as her heart rate slowed, it wouldn't be long. "Lois, I'm so sorry, I couldn't save you."
Despite the morphine drip that eased the pain and the oxygen tube, Lois's eyes continued to sparkle with a vibrancy that betrayed the dying body that encased them. She smiled. "How many times have I told you, that you can't always be there for me? You're never going to get it, are you?" She rolled her eyes, and paused to battle for oxygen. "Please, Clark, go."
He protested, shaking his head and took her hand in both of his. "No. I'm staying here."
The terminal and impending nature of her death that loomed in the shadows was something Clark couldn't spare her and they both knew it. But he could save others.
"We both know that there's nothing more that you can do for me. I don't need you anymore," she smiled bravely. "But the rest of the world does."
"But I need you, Lois," he choked on his own words. "I don't know how to be here, how to live on without you. I don't know if I can." He laid his head on her chest. "Lois, I love you so much. I can't be without you."
"I love you, Clark." A frail hand pulled his chin from her chest and their eyes met. "You're Superman, you'll be alright," she stated with finality and confidence that indicated the argument was over.
Sensing the conversation had drawn to its natural conclusion, Clark's hand drifted along the contours of her skin, along her jaw line and combed through her hair on the pillow. Clark smiled for his own reassurance to belay the devastation that lurked beneath his skin and bent forward to brush his lips across hers again.
It was the last time.
Clark gasped and his eyes flung wide open into darkness. His racing heart and jagged breathing drowned the other sounds that usually flooded his ears. Alone, he glanced at the alarm clock that provided the only light in the dimly lit apartment bedroom and remained shaken by the vivid dream that still tugged at the edges of his consciousness.
With the world momentarily silent and cries for Superman absent, he flopped back against the bed and stared blankly at the ceiling. The difficult choices that plagued him and had swirled about his head no longer seemed complicated. After he returned to Earth, Lois, despite her pent-up anger, risked her life to save his and they had a son. A son who would need his father.
The moment of calm passed as quickly as it came, and someone crying for Superman filled his ears. As he rocketed into the night sky over the bay, he promised himself that he wasn't going to let his family slip through his fingers.
It had been a long night, which thusly translated into a busy morning for the newspaper to cover all that Superman had accomplished while most of Metropolis's residents were asleep. As Clark entered the bullpen, predictability didn't disappoint; everyone swarmed as hornets often did. He needed to talk to Lois and thankfully, she sat at her desk, completely oblivious to the surrounding chaos.
Clark weaved amidst the zig and zags of copy boys, section editors and other staff to his desk that was across from his partner's. "Morning Lois," he managed brightly despite his own fatigue from the sleepless and draining night, never mind the dream that scared him far greater than anything else ever did. "What's going on in the world?"
"I'm busy Clark, and where have you been? Didn't you see what happened overnight? Superman's been a busy guy and I'm up to my elbows in leads on about five different stories, one of which I've got a deadline for in about ten minutes…" she droned on and lost herself in her own clutter of notes, frustrated at the tight timeline. "But thank goodness at least one of us," she gestured to herself with the point of a pencil "can handle it. Oh, and Perry also wants me to miraculously pull another quote from Superman about the dam he prevented from collapsing in China, never mind he seems to think I've got you-know-who on speed dial. If it were only that simple," she grumbled. "Anyway, we'll chat later, okay?"
Lois fluttered her fingers distractedly in Clark's general direction as she sipped her coffee and then completely returned her attention to the organized chaos she often referred to as her notes.
Clark's hands firmly took the back of her chair as he took a deep breath and spun her to face him.
"Hey, I was in the middle of something!" She protested with bewilderment as her rounded eyes began to search her partner for an explanation.
He pulled Lois to her feet and didn't give Lois a chance to pause for rebuttal or an improved grasp on what he was about to do, because if he did, he would have never been able to mount enough willpower to undertake a second attempt.
Clark pulled Lois toward him, slid his hands to her face and pulled her into him, kissing her without any reserve or concern that his actions were completely out of character for the steadfast mild mannered reporter.
Immediately an eerie and hush silenced the close vicinity of the desks as others simply stared at the man who seemingly lost his mind, some seemed to have felt regret for him and the awkward moment he created in a hasty flash of foolishness. As Lois pulled away to gain her breath and digest had just happened, she recoiled and slapped him soundly across the face. Jimmy, who was nearby winced as he was nearly convinced it was the slap heard through the entire building.
"Just what the hell was that about?" She hissed. Lois's eyes burned as her angry façade trembled. The petite woman grabbed her partner before he was able to formulate a reply and dragged the much larger man through the bullpen floor to the elevators. "You've got some nerve, Clark. I know you had a crush on me before you left, but I just ended a very serious relationship with Richard. You've got no right to come up and kiss me like that," she shuddered.
Lois punched the button for the roof exit and glared at him. "Unlike some people I know, I'm not going to have a scene in front of everyone. I'm going to chew your ass out in private."
"I promise, Lois it's the last time I'll ever do that again."
"I'd certainly hope so," she huffed.
Clark loosened his tie in a nervous fashion as he watched the numbers climb and finally come to a stop at the roof level.
"Because the last thing I want to do is loose you, Lois."
"Loose me," she echoed. "Clark, you've never had me."
She did her best to ignore the pleasant buzzing of electricity that still lingered on her lips and kept her knees locked in extension to prevent their collapse from a shockingly amazing kiss. Lois's hand pressed the button to keep the door open to the elevator, regained her composure and swiftly exited the elevator into the small hallway leading to the rooftop exit.
"Yes, I did." The door slammed as they exited the building onto the roof of the Daily Planet.
"Lois," his firm statement of her name boomed across the vacant roof and caused Lois's brisk strides to abruptly halt. She froze, and turned slowly. Her saucer sized eyes examined Clark in disbelief.
"Clark," she whispered as her eyes lingered at the neckline of his shirt and her body began to shake has he continued to approach her.
Superman's confident voice sent a ripple through the air. "There's something I have to tell you."
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