By Blaise Pascal <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted June 2005
Summary: Taking place in a hospital, Lois and Clark, despite their illnesses and their old age, still find ways to share some WAFFy moments together.
Note: Ideas from this story were borrowed from a wedding sermon that I heard recently (thank you, Father Jeff). I actually wrote this over three years ago, but I never had a chance to submit this until now. This story is a stand-alone, and does not draw upon events from any of my previous stories. It also assumes that none of the world events that took place after 1998 ever happened. Comments welcome.
Disclaimer: The story is mine, but the characters are not. I'm merely borrowing the characters from WB, DC Comics, etc., etc. No borrowing, copying, or distributing without my permission, etc., etc.
[Metropolis, St. Mary's Hospital]
[Monday, October 24, 2067, 9:34 P.M. EDT]
Clark Kent's eyes opened. He jerked his head up, squinted at the clock on the other side of wall and groaned. 'Uh oh,' he thought. 'I'm late.' He sighed as he slowly moved the sheet out of the way.
Clark couldn't believe that he had dozed off again. The day had been actually normal (at least, it was normal for someone who had been in assisted living for the past seven months), but it had seemed that Clark had been dozing off, and had been sleeping, more often than he had used to. He took a deep breath and grasped the railing on the sides of the hospital bed as he lifted himself up. It was becoming more difficult to move anywhere, and it was frustrating.
Of course, Superman would have had no trouble lifting space shuttles into space, much less moving about. But Clark was no longer Superman. Charles, his oldest grandson, now had the title. Clark, for his part, had been gradually losing his powers ever since he had retired from the Daily Planet a little over thirty years ago. It was at a routine physical last year when Dr. Emil Hamilton II (Dr. Klein's successor as Clark's 'physician') had informed Clark that all of his powers were gone and that he was human just like everyone else.
There was a time when Clark had longed to be 'like everyone else'. While he would never have imagined that this would be the way he would become human, Clark never mourned the lost of his powers. Ever since he retired, he had long felt that he had done all that he could do, both as a reporter for Metropolis's Daily Planet and as Superman. What he had done as Superman was obvious to the people of planet Earth, but what he had done with his words in print were just as effective to the citizens of Metropolis. As far as he was concerned, it would be a matter of time when both he and Lois would die (hopefully together, Clark thought) and go to a better place.
Of course, Clark realized that because of his powers he had quite a bit of time left. Interesting enough, while he himself had been in decline the last thirty years (in decline for a Kryptonian, anyway), Lois, his wife, and only the woman he had loved for what had seemed like forever, had always been in good health. Dr. Hamilton wasn't sure what had caused Clark to lose his powers.
The doctor could only offer two theories. One was that the same yellow sun that had gradually given Clark his powers in the first place (from birth to age eighteen) took his powers away from him as he reached the end of his life. The amount of his powers throughout his life, in other words, could be graphed in a bell curve. The power of flying, which was the last of the powers Clark had acquired, was the first to go. And the superhearing, which Clark had gotten first (when he was six), was the last to leave him.
The other theory had to do with what Clark had done to one of his closest friends over seventy-years ago. Clark had to give some of his life force to Jimmy Olsen because he had somehow turned into an old man. What Clark had done turned Jimmy back to normal. Dr. Hamilton had theorized that, because Lois had been physically close to Clark for so many years, Clark had, little by little, given his life force to her, which was taking away his powers in the process, due to his advanced age. But why didn't Clark start to lose his powers until thirty years ago? Dr. Hamilton felt that it was because Lois had always been in excellent health, and that it wasn't until she herself reached the age of seventy when she depended on Clark's life force to maintain her excellent health.
It didn't matter to Clark why he was losing his powers. After all, he had felt that he had done all he could do. The first thirty years after retirement were simply a bonus, because Lois had always been by his side. They had team-taught a course in Journalism for Metro U., Lois's alma mater. They had written their autobiographies together, which had become long-time best sellers. And of course, they had done quite a bit of traveling, visiting their children, grandchildren & great-grandchildren, all of whom by then had scattered all over the country.
Starting from last year, however, things had been more difficult for both of them. Their hearing gradually lost its sharpness. They started to forget things. Both of them started wearing glasses (for Clark, though, it was the first time he had to wear glasses with *prescription* lenses). Worst of all, it had become more difficult for Lois and Clark to stand, walk, and move about.
After enduring months of this, Lois and Clark decided to move into a retirement home. Their children and grandchildren objected to this, of course. They had preferred that Lois and Clark would live with CJ and Laura (the children), who with their spouses were living in the *same* house in midtown Metropolis. CJ, Laura, Jo, and Jerry were all approaching seventy themselves, and they were all retired, but all of them were still in good health, and they had the ability to care for Lois and Clark. But Lois and Clark would have none of it.
Lois's reasoning, though she did not tell Clark, was that she had thought her husband might feel useless and inept if he were to be always surrounded by people (meaning his family) with superpowers. Clark's reasoning, though he did not tell Lois, was that he had assumed, that since Lois had been always independent she would not want to take orders from anyone, even if it was from her own family. Luckily for them, the waiting period at the St. Mary's Midtown Retirement Home very short at the time, so the couple moved in to one of the apartments in early March.
Then came the bouts with pneumonia.
It had come as a surprise to everyone when Clark had been diagnosed with pneumonia in mid September. Two weeks later, Lois had gotten the same thing. They were transferred to St. Mary's Hospital, which was next door to the retirement home. Unfortunately for them, since the facilities were run by a very strict Catholic order of religious sisters, they were separated by gender (even though Lois and Clark were married!) and were placed in opposite sides of the building, Clark in 3rd Floor East and Lois in 3rd Floor West. The two of them had been in their respective rooms ever since.
Lois and Clark's seventy-first wedding anniversary was the first one that they could not spend together because of them being bedridden. They had been in such a bad shape then that neither of them could visit the other. Instead, their family had to visit them separately. Two small, short celebrations were held in each of the rooms. When the family had visited Clark, he had maintained a cheerful exterior, but inside he had been mourning the fact that he hadn't seen Lois in over a month, and that he and she hadn't done anything together.
Since Clark had contracted pneumonia first, and since he *used* to be Kryptonian, he had been able to recover first. He had been feeling better since a few days ago, but the doctors and nurses had told him that he needed to stay for a while longer for observation. Then, he would be released to his apartment at the retirement home. He visited Lois in her room as much as he could, but it wasn't enough. So he had come up with this idea on Friday, an idea that gave him something to do regularly before going to bed. A nightly ritual.
The first thing to do was to wait until 9:30 in the evening. He had found out that at this time of night the number of nurses in the 3rd floor was the fewest. And today, Clark would have to hurry it up a bit because it was now 9:38 and he was running late. Slowly but surely, he dragged himself out of bed, using every bit of strength that he had. His wheelchair was strategically placed in front of the night lamp next to the bed, so he only had to stand for a short while before situating himself in the wheelchair.
He checked his appearance, though it wasn't necessary. Clark was wearing the usual hospital gown and pair of socks. His glasses were on the little nightstand under the night lamp, from which he promptly fetched. The slippers, however, were nowhere to be seen. Now where were they? Then Clark remembered; the slippers were under the hospital bed, where they always had been.
Now that everything was ready, Clark flipped a switch on the arm of the wheelchair. Fortunately for him, the wheelchair was fully motorized. It came to life, and Clark began the difficult task of maneuvering it (since he had always had problems with the controls). The wheelchair darted forward. He pushed the control knob to the right to make the right turn. To late, Clark realized that he didn't have a wide enough angle to make the turn, so he and the wheelchair bumped into the wall, shaking the clock in the process. He winced at the sound, and listened for anyone who might be out in the hallway.
Nothing, not a sound.
With a short pull on the control knob, Clark backed up. He noticed that the dent in the wall was more pronounced (Clark had bumped into the wall at the same spot three times before). He pushed forward, quickly reached the door, and paused. The door to his room was an automatic sliding door, easy enough to get through. However, the corridor outside the door was a bit narrow, and Clark had to always be careful exiting the door and stopping quickly so that he could avoid hitting the wall in the corridor.
He pushed the control knob forward, moved through the doorway, and quickly let go of the controls to stop the wheelchair.
With frustration, Clark backed up, favoring his knee. Once again, he had hit the wall in the corridor. Would he ever get this right? Shaking his head, the wheelchair darted forward, beginning the longest and most difficult part of the journey. It was the longest because it was quite a distance from his room to Lois's. And it was the most difficult because he must pass the main lobby on the 3rd floor, where one solitary nurse was on duty.
Clark had studied the working habits of the other nurses, and particularly the lone nurse in the lobby. The other nurses seemed to be everywhere *but* the path he took from his room to Lois's. The nurse in the lobby worked at a desk with a high counter in front of it, and right next to the desk was a door to an office. Her shift began at 9, and she always started her shift by doing paperwork of some kind. It was always done a little after 9:30, and by that time, she would go into the office to file the papers away.
When Clark reached the lobby, he saw that the nurse was not at her desk and that the office door was slightly ajar. There was a small window in the office, and with his glasses on Clark could see the nurse filing away in the far corner of the office. He applied more forward pressure to the control knob on his wheelchair, as if it allowed him go faster. The nurse's desk and office was the last thing he had to pass before he was in the clear, and he had reached the desk when he saw the nurse walking towards the office door, about to return to her desk.
Looking straight forward, Clark kept going, hearing the footsteps getting closer. The door closed just as he made it to the hallway that led to the west wing. It was very possible that the nurse saw him as he passed, and so he braced himself for her voice, waiting for her to ask him where the heck he thought he was going. But none came, only the squeaking of the desk chair as she sat back down.
Unbeknownst to Clark, the nurse had known all along what Clark was doing. Nancy had actually seen him pass through the lobby two days ago, and she had been secretly watching him do the same thing every night since. Despite regulations, she let him go, knowing full well who he was and where he was going. Clark Kent and Lois Lane were the two most famous patients on this floor, and Nancy knew that they had been married for a *very* long time. Simply put, Nancy was a hopeless romantic, and she knew what Clark was going to do. (How else could she have convinced the other nurses on duty to stay out of sight at this time of evening?)
Clark continued forward, thinking that he had once again duped the nurse in the lobby. Luckily for him, Lois's room wasn't too far in the west wing, fourth door on the right after the lobby. Although he had been increasingly a victim of forgetfulness, he could never forget Lois's room number: 348, the same as the house on Hyperion Avenue they had lived in for so long. Right next to the door was a small keypad. With shaky hands Clark typed the code: 1, 9, 6 & 7 (which, another coincidence, was Lois's birth year). The door slid open, and Clark wheeled himself through the doorway.
The room was dark, save for one single faded light over the bed. It was the same size as Clark's room, but her bathroom was bigger. The bed was partially raised. Lois was sleeping, with a paperback lying in her lap. The small HLCD (High-definition Liquid Crystal Display) mounted on the wall on the far corner was still on. Slowly Clark moved until his wheelchair was in front of the nightstand. He raised his arm to one of the buttons on the wall near the bed and pushed. The bed moved slowly into a more upright position.
The movement caused Lois to stir from her sleep. She blinked once, twice, and looked around the room, almost in confusion. As her gaze fell onto Clark in the wheelchair, confusion turned into happiness. "You're late," she whispered, smiling.
"I fell asleep," Clark whispered back. "I seem to be doing that more lately."
"I assumed that you forgot. We seem to be doing that too these days."
"Never." Clark scooted forward and grabbed the arms on his wheelchair. He forced himself up, slowly and carefully. Quickly he took hold of the metal railing on Lois's bed for support. At the same time, Lois, with difficulty, sat up and moved towards Clark, expectation in her eyes. He leaned forward, and she tilted her head up, and despite their unsteadiness, their lips met in a goodnight kiss, a short and sweet kiss, a kiss still full of love, a love that was forever.
As they broke apart, gravity and age took over. Lois flopped back onto the bed, and Clark collapsed into the wheelchair, at the same exact moment.
"Good night, Lois."
"Good night, Clark."
Clark reached out with his right hand and grasped her left. As if on cue, both of them heard voices outside her room, getting closer. The goodnight kiss had been applied. The interlude was over.
Lois looked at him with sad eyes. "You better go."
"I know," he sighed. He reached for the control knob on the wheelchair and reversed a little. Then he moved forward towards the door. He checked the outside for any more voices. He heard none. Just before he exited the room, one whispered voice stopped him.
He turned around. "Hmm?"
"I love you."
"I love you too." Clark lingered for a moment longer, watching Lois closing her eyes and immediately falling asleep, with a big smile on her face. He faced forward and passed the doorway, this time not hitting the wall opposite the door. Clark too, was smiling.
He was getting better, and he could see that Lois was also getting better. In no time at all, he surmised, he and Lois would return to their apartment, and they could resume saying 'Good night' the old fashioned way. Certainly, they did not have much time left in their lives, but, as Clark had once said early on in their marriage, "It's not the years that count. It's the moments. Right now. As they happen." Still smiling, he turned left, and began the long trek back to his room.