A Dying Flame

By Christy (Attalanta@aol.com)

Summary: Lois' declining health forces Clark to face the possibility of life without her.

Many of the characters (and the song featured) in this story aren't mine. I've always wondered how Clark would get by without Lois, especially since they must realize that, chances are, she'll die first. As for continuity, my Lois and Clark world departs from the TV one during "I Now Pronounce You." There was no cloning, no Lex Luthor arc, and the New Kryptonians didn't arrive until one year after Lois and Clark were married. Any comments are welcome.


"He's beautiful, sweetie," Lois told her granddaughter as she handed her first great-grandchild to his mother and sunk back into the couch, taking a deep breath. Worried, Clark looked at his wife but she nodded her head slightly, indicating that she was okay. Lois knew that Clark thought that she was in pain, that the cancer that had been racing through her body was hurting her. But that wasn't the case. Lois was remembering years ago, many years ago, when she had held *her* first child in her arms. It was a bittersweet memory for her since Clark had been away on New Krypton and she wasn't sure he would ever return. Speeding her mind forward in time, she remembered coming home from the Daily Planet one night and answering the knock on the door, amazed to see Clark, who was even more amazed to see Lois and a baby. That was a much happier memory, and Lois felt a smile creep over her face.

"Are you getting tired, honey? Do you need any pain medication?" Clark asked her, still concerned.

"A little tired, but no, I don't need any pills," she answered. With help from her equally aged husband, Lois rose and put on her jacket, preparing to leave.

"Do you want me to get the car? I parked it pretty far away and you shouldn't walk all that way," Clark suggested.

"No, I want to walk." While I still can, Lois added in her head. "It's a beautiful day outside and the wind makes me feel so alive." After saying good-bye and sneaking one last peek at their great-grandson, Lois and Clark headed towards their car.

It was warm for late March and, as they walked hand in hand down the sidewalk, Lois took a deep breath of the warm air and relished the feeling of the breeze on her skin. She snuck a peek at her husband next to her. They were lucky, she realized, lucky to have each other after being married for over fifty years, lucky to be healthy enough to walk down the street needing just each other for support.

Lois also realized that she was lucky that she still fit with Clark. It was an unusual thought, she realized, one that no other woman would have, but it used to weigh on her mind quite often. She remembered when they had been just- married and Dr. Klein told her that Clark's, that Superman's, aging process would "stabilize and slow." She was dismayed to think that she could be separated from him by time, something even Superman couldn't control. Even after he had given some of his life for both Jimmy and Connor Schenk, Lois still didn't know whether Clark would age normally. So they just managed to live their life one day at a time, not worrying too much about the future. And, as it turned out, they had nothing to worry about-Clark, although still *super*, looked all of his eighty-six years. Whether it was giving up some of his youth or whether he would have aged normally anyway Lois didn't know. But it didn't matter. All that mattered was that they were together.

"What are you thinking about?" Clark asked his wife.

"Us, the past, the present, how much I love you," she told him slowly, smiling. Lois thought back to when she had met Clark, regretting the pain they had put each other through, remembering their first date, when she, scared about its implications and her feelings for him, had closed the door in his face, remembering when he had proposed, the stunned look on his face when she told him that she knew he was Superman. She rewound her mind further, remembering hearing, as a little girl, her parents fight deep into the night and vowing she would never allow herself to be hurt like that, remembering gleefully leaving home to spend a year in Ireland as an exchange student, not even missing her family. Family-boy that word sure had a different meaning now than it had when she was younger. Lois couldn't imagine life without Clark or her children. She had changed, and, surprisingly, the change made her happy.

They reached their car and, after Clark helped Lois in, he climbed in himself and drove them home. Suddenly, in the middle of their conversation, Lois grew silent. Clark turned to look at her and, taking in his wife's suddenly pale skin and clenched jaw, and asked if something was wrong. She didn't give him a verbal answer, but the look of pain and fear in her eyes told Clark all he needed to know. Parking the car and changing into his Superman suit, he scooped her up and flew her to the nearest hospital.


With his head in his hands, Clark couldn't help thinking that this was all his fault. If only he hadn't listened to Lois when she said that she could walk to the car, if only he hadn't listened to her when she claimed that she felt well enough to visit their newborn great-grandson. He couldn't lose her over this, not now. Attempting to divert his attention from his sick wife, Clark instead surrendered his mind to the captivating melody being piped into the hospital waiting room. And, although it was probably a remake of a remake, the song still held an enchanting quality for Clark.

"A mountain of stone, a door of steel Can't stand in my way, I'd go on Brutal machines, unbending laws Can't slow me down, I'd go on I've learned how to deal and when to fight I know what's real, I know what's right I'm not afraid, a wounded dove I can tender in a world so tough

I'm sure I could face the bitter cold But life without you, I don't know"

"Mr. Kent? Sir?" The nurse pulled Clark from his world of what-ifs as she shook his shoulder gently. "Mr. Kent, your wife's doctor can see you now."

"What about Lois, my wife? How is she? Can I see her first?"

"She's asleep, sir, but the doctor can tell you more," the nurse answered as she led Clark to an empty meeting room to talk with Lois's doctor.

"Sit down, Mr. Kent, sit down," the doctor urged him. She was in her late forties, maybe fifty-about the same age as their youngest daughter, Catie, Clark thought, as he sat on the chair across from the doctor.

"How is Lois?" he asked, desperate to know and unwilling to hear the doctor's answer. Fearing the worse but daring to hope for the best, Clark felt a sick, sinking feeling in his chest.

"Mr. Kent, your wife is quite sick. I think you already know that, don't you?" the doctor asked him. Clark nodded, feeling his stomach plunge to his feet. "It seems her cancer has spread. Your wife should have been in the hospital, Mr. Kent. Her doctor should've hospitalized her long ago."

"She doesn't want to be stuck in a hospital room," Clark told the doctor. "And her doctor told me that her cancer is spreading. No one has told *her* how bad it is, but somehow I think she already knows. When can I take her home?"

"I'm not sure you understand the gravity of the situation, Mr. Kent. Your wife's cancer has spread from her ovaries to, well, to just about everywhere in her body. It's even in her brain." The doctor's final words caught Clark's breath and he exhaled deeply. "If Mrs. Kent."

"Lane," Clark interrupted the doctor, remembering when Lois had first suggested the idea of keeping her name. Of course he hadn't cared-it was *her* name and he didn't want her to change it. He loved her, Lois Lane, just the way she was. Is. "Her name is Lois *Lane*, not Kent."

"Well, you and Ms. Lane have two choices right now. She can stay here to be with people who can help take care of her, but she's not going to get better, Mr. Kent. Which is why I would suggest taking her home. You said yourself that she doesn't want to be here, cooped in a hospital room, waiting."

With all the implications of the doctor's last word, Clark knew that he and Lois had no hope left. Lois was dying-but how could this be? Sure, they'd known that she was sick for quite a while, even known that it was very serious, but Clark had somehow managed not to deal with it until now. "How. how long?" he asked the doctor.

"She doesn't have very much time, Mr. Kent. I would just take her home and let her be around people she loves. I'll take you to her room now, if you'd like."

"The winds of the heart can blow me down But I get right up and stand my ground I've tasted fear, my share of pain The wasted tears of love in vain I've held you tight, pushed you away Now with all my might, I beg you to stay"

"Lois? Honey?" Clark called as he entered his wife's hospital room. There was no answer, but he could see her tiny frame asleep on the bed. The doctor handed him some paperwork that was needed to discharge Lois and left him alone with his wife. Seeing her lying there, Clark recalled a stuffed bear that Josh used to have-throughout the years the bear had grown old and weathered by Josh's relentless love. Like Josh's bear, Lois had been through so many adventures. Clark closed his eyes before the tears could spill out.

Sitting in the chair next to Lois's bed, he held her hand and stroked his thumb gently across the back of it until Lois woke up almost half an hour later.

"Where.?" she asked him.

"Sshh, don't talk, honey. You're in the hospital, but the doctor said that you can go home as soon as you feel up to the journey, which, if I know you, will be sooner rather than later," he said, smoothing her hair from her face.

She nodded her head, awakening more and trying to sit up. "I want to go home now, Clark. That soon enough?" she asked him with a slow, groggy smile.

"I've got your discharge papers right here," he told her.


After blanketing Lois into the back seat of the car, Clark drove them home. Keeping one eye on his now- sleeping-again wife, he switched on the radio, hoping the noise would distract him from the situation. He checked the volume to make sure that it was too low for Lois to hear, not wanting to wake her. Suddenly, he realized that the song playing was the same one he had heard earlier that day in the hospital waiting room. Clark concentrated on its lyrics and felt his head spin as he comprehended the song's words.

"I'm sure I could face the bitter cold But life without you, I don't know

I know what I want, I know what I need But there's just one thing I must believe Deep in the night by a dying flame You will be there when I call your name"


"Mom?" Lara called as she placed her hand gently on her mother's. "Mom, are you awake?"

"We're glad you could get here so quickly, honey," Clark told his daughter. Since she had moved to Los Angeles, their visits had become a little more infrequent, but not as rare as a normal family's would-if Lara wanted to see her parents or siblings she could just fly over. "I think she's been waiting for you," he said, almost choking on his words. As he saw his daughter's tears welling up in her eyes, Clark could taste his own salty tears roll onto his lips.

"Lara?" a voice called from the kitchen. Catie, Josh, and their spouses walked through the door and into the living room where Lois was lying in a hospital bed. They greeted Lara and her husband with open arms and tears.

"Aunt Lara, Uncle Jeff," another voice said as Catie's daughter, Lois and Clark's youngest granddaughter, Julianne, joined her family in the living room. Julianne was closer to Lois and Clark than any of their other grandchildren-Catie and her family had always lived in Metropolis and, after her husband died, Lois and Clark had looked after Julianne and her brother once they were forced, because of tired, aging bodies, to retire from reporting. Julianne was more like Lois than anyone Clark had ever known. His own children seemed like more balanced combinations of himself and his wife, but, whether it was due to the amount of time they had spent with Julianne, she was, as far as Clark was concerned, a teenaged Lois Lane-impetuous, headstrong, passionate. He knew this was as hard on Julianne as it was on the rest of the family.

Just then, Lois awoke, smiling to see her eldest daughter. Although she couldn't speak, Lois motioned for her family to come closer. When they reached her bed, she held out her hands, beckoning her family to hold them. With wide eyes, she looked at Clark. He was surprised to see that she was the only one in the room whose eyes weren't wet with tears. After feeling a sharp squeeze from Lois, Clark felt the hand entwined with his go limp. Slipping his fingers from hers and up to her neck, he felt for her pulse. It was gone. Listening close, he tried to pick her heartbeat out of the others in the room. He couldn't.

"She's gone," he told his family as he let out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. He turned to look at his family-Jeff was embracing Lara and Josh's wife was holding him. Julianne and her mother had their arms around each other and both were shaking with quiet tears. Clark looked at Lois, feeling empty- he had no one to hold on to anymore. Sensing his loneliness, Catie and Julianne held out two arms and welcomed him into their embrace.

"I'm sure I could face the bitter cold But life without you, I don't know I don't know"


"I don't know. I'm pretty worried about him. He isn't acting like himself," Lara said to her brother and sister.

"Of course he isn't-his wife and partner just died. God, can you imagine? Mom and Dad were so close. And after over fifty years of marriage *and* working together, could you imagine yourself suddenly alone?" Josh asked his sisters.

"It's going to be so hard for him. After Chris died, I just didn't know what to do with myself. I didn't think I could ever feel normal again, never smile, never laugh, never mind raise two children by myself. But Dad and Mom." Catie choked up before she could relate just how much her parents had helped her with Andrew and Julianne after her husband died in a car accident just weeks before his thirty-forth birthday.

"When Jeff's father died, a friend told him that his mother would probably be okay, handle everything and get over it, if she lasted a year after her husband's death." Lara told Catie and Josh.

"What do you mean, `if she *lasted* a year?'" Josh asked.

"I mean if she didn't get sick herself within a year. That happens a lot-after someone's spouse dies, they just sort of give up because they're so lonely. Not just physically give up, but emotionally, too. I know Dad may be pretty physically, well, *super*, but emotionally." Lara said.

Upstairs Clark could hear his children talking about him from his bedroom while he was supposed to be resting. His bedroom, he thought, it wasn't even *their* bedroom anymore, just *his.* "Oh, Lois," he called out weakly as he turned down the harsh light emanating from his night stand lamp in hopes of sleeping for the first time in days.

They had buried Lois that afternoon. The weather was just like it had been the day she had insisted on walking to the car because the wind was making her feel "so alive." Just when he thought that he couldn't cry anymore, Clark felt fresh tears flow down his cheeks. How was he going to live without her? Lois had such an effect on him. To most of the world he was invulnerable, he was *Superman*. But he was putty in her hands. One touch from her could make him relax with familiarity, smile with bliss, or shiver with desire. They were, Clark remembered, soul mates. So what would his soul do without its mate? he wondered, not really wanting to know.


"There you are," her voice said. The sound seemed almost alien to him. For the past few days he had expected to hear it every time he turned a corner in their house, but now when he did hear it, it was a shock. Turning in bed, Clark could see Lois standing in the bedroom door. She looked different to him, younger, happy, peaceful. He looked deep into her eyes and stood to greet her. Rising out of bed, he noticed that *he* also looked younger-the wrinkles he had grown accustomed to were gone, his back no longer stiffened as he stood, and, looking down for his slippers, the hair that fell into his eyes was dark, not the gray he had become used to. Taking Lois's hand, he pulled her towards him and held her, afraid she would leave him for a second time. He wanted to tell her how he missed her, how he needed her, how she had to stay with him and never leave again. But, looking down into her eyes, he saw that she already knew. As she slowly withdrew from his embrace, her hand ran from his back to his shoulder, and then down his arm, lingering at his fingers, which she continued to hold tightly. "Come with me, Clark," she beckoned, knowing he would. Hand in hand, Clark walked with his wife towards the brilliant white light that had appeared in the doorway.



"I Don't Know" is written by Jean-Jacques Goldman, J. Kapler, and Phil Galdstron, performed by Celine Dion, on the CD Falling Into You.