By Yvonne Connell <firstname.lastname@example.org> or <Yvonne@lcfanfic.com>
Submitted: February 2003
Summary: Clark decides to bid Lois a final farewell in an unconventional way.
Author's Health Warning: This is not a warm and fuzzy, feel-good Valentine's Day story. I intended to write one of those, but this is what came out instead. I suppose you could call it a romantic deathfic, if such a thing exists. I actually think it's quite a happy story in a funny sort of way, but judge for yourself!
Dedicated to Wendy Richards, the best beta-reader a writer could ever ask for
For the third time in five minutes, Clark walked along the sidewalk on the opposite of the street to the flower shop. The first time had been to check where it was and that it was open. The second time had been to confirm, with a couple of furtive glances, that they had the appropriate stock. The third time, in theory, was the time when he was going to cross the street and stride confidently inside.
He glanced across in the general direction of the shop — yes, it was still there, and yes, he could enter any time he wanted.
Maybe not just yet.
Besides, there was a newsagent just along the sidewalk, and didn't he still need to buy the February edition of his favourite sports magazine? Yes, he should do that before he forgot about it. The flower shop could wait.
Two minutes later, he'd bought his magazine and was ready for his fourth attempt to make up his mind. He meandered along the street, slowly approaching the point of decision. It was now or never. He couldn't keep wandering up and down like this for ever — they'd start to notice him!
Taking a deep breath, he turned sharply and made a bee-line straight across the street towards the shop. This was better; this was decisive. He plunged through the door and straight up to the counter. "I'd like a single red rose," he announced boldly.
The young girl behind the counter smiled — or was that a smirk? "Are you sure, sir — just the one? We're doing a Valentine's Day special today — just $19.99 for a dozen red roses. You get them gift wrapped in pink tissue with a heart-shaped balloon and an extra-large card from our Romance collection."
He glanced where she was pointing. One entire wall of the shop was devoted to a display of Valentine's Day specials, the red balloons bobbing gently up and down amongst a sea of pink tissue and deep red roses. The effect was startling, if not exactly subtle.
He shifted his gaze back to the shop assistant. "I'm sure. Just the single rose."
"O-kay," she said, clearly of the opinion that he was foolish to reject such a once-in-a-lifetime offer. He waited while she picked a solitary rose out of a bucket on the floor, wrapped it in plain white tissue, and handed it to him. "Do you want a card to go with that?"
He shook his head. "No, thanks. This will say everything I need to say."
She raised her eyebrows. "That's kinda cute."
He gave her a brief smile and quickly paid for the flower.
"Hey, don't I know you?" she said just as he was leaving.
He hesitated, torn between the truth and his desire for a quick exit. Glancing back at her bored, gum-chewing demeanour, he made his decision. "I doubt it," he replied, and left before she could question him further.
It was a typical February day, grey, chilly and damp, with a light fog swirling around the high-rise tower blocks and office buildings. Up in the sky, the clouds clung to Clark's body, leaving a fine sheen of water droplets to add to his already-damp suit. He ascended the heavens slowly, anxious not to destroy his precious and singular cargo. His goal, however, drew steadily closer, until at last he was breaking through the last of the clouds and into the gloriously bright sunshine above.
He sighed with pleasure, feeling the energising rays penetrate deep into his body. These days, he found himself needing this extra little treat more and more often. Sure, he could manage without it, but life was just that little bit easier after he'd sneaked a few minutes of full sunshine during a cold Metropolis winter.
Settling on his back, he floated free above the clouds, his face turned upwards to the sun with his eyes closed. He held the rose safe against his chest and inhaled deeply to test its scent. Nothing. Well, that was probably too much to expect from a two-dollar rose bought from a tiny flower shop in downtown Metropolis. Still, some fragrance would have been nice.
He'd made the right decision, he was sure of it. Lois would prefer the simple, elegant statement of a single rose to the exuberance of a whole bunch. Besides, he hadn't much liked those balloons.
Of course, buying anything at all had been a difficult decision. He hadn't been at all sure that he wanted to make this gesture, just because tradition demanded it at this time of year. It wasn't as if he loved her any more today than any other day of the year — quite simply, he loved her every single day of the year. Every moment of his life.
But this felt right. He was going to enjoy presenting it to her.
The simple grey stone tablet, with its newly chiselled inscription, stood out from all the others. It was clean and fresh, devoid of the moss and lichen growing over most of the other tablets. Clark stood silently before it for a few moments, letting the quiet, calming atmosphere of the cemetery settle over him. The damp air was chilly, but in his long woollen overcoat and with his newly-energised body, he was oblivious to the weather.
Once he was sufficiently soothed, he bent down and laid the single rose carefully on Lois's grave. "Happy Valentine's Day, honey," he murmured. "I know you think I'm a sentimental old softie, but I couldn't let this day go by without telling you how much I love you."
As soon as the words left his mouth, he felt tears prickle sharply at the back of his eyes. He sagged against the tablet, momentarily unable to hold himself together. She'd left him far too soon…
But he'd made a promise to himself this morning, hadn't he? He stood up sharply and cleared his throat. "I'm sorry, honey," he told her. "I didn't mean to do that."
He gazed silently down at the tablet again, composing himself by drawing on her remembered strength. She'd been his anchor for so many, many years. There was no reason why she couldn't continue to be so, just because she was gone.
But the truth was, she had left him too soon. True, they'd both known that she would pass away first, and as they'd grown old together and she'd become more frail than he, it became even more apparent. But she'd gone before he'd even started saying his goodbyes.
A quick passing away was often considered a mercy, but in Lois's case, and as far as Clark was concerned, it was premature.
She'd counselled him frequently on the subject, of course. He hadn't wanted to listen, but she'd insisted on making him face it. He'd been instructed to live a full life after she was gone. Nothing would make her happier, she'd said, than to know that he was enjoying life, and she'd be overjoyed if he also managed to find another woman to share that life with. He was not, under any circumstances, to wallow in his grief. Lois didn't approve of wallowing.
"I thought I'd find you here."
The words, spoken by a very familiar voice, jolted Clark from his musings. He turned slowly. A tall, handsome figure, well wrapped up against the cold, was standing a few paces away wearing an expression of familial concern.
Clark smiled weakly. "I guess you know your father better than he knows himself, then. I wasn't sure I was coming here myself until about an hour ago."
His son shook his head in disbelief. "You and Mom were the most romantically entwined parents a kid could ever have," replied Jon. "You were a teenage boy's nightmare come true."
Clark raised an eyebrow. "We were, were we? You never mentioned that before."
Jon shrugged. "Didn't want to rain on your parade. Besides, it was fun at times, watching you two struggle to keep your hands off each other."
Clark chuckled. "You," he said, pointing at Jon with mock sternness, "have a very evil streak. Have I ever told you how much you take after your mother in that respect?"
"Frequently." Jon paused for a moment. "Can I join you?" he asked, indicating his mother's grave.
"Of course," replied Clark, inviting him to step closer with an outstretched arm. Jon moved to stand beside Clark, and gazed quietly at the grave for a while.
Clark wondered what his son was thinking. As far as Clark could tell, Jon had adjusted as well as a man could to the loss of his mother. She'd been a forceful presence in his life, right up to the end, but with the perspective of a year, Clark could see that Jon had actually known better than himself that Lois was likely to pass on sooner rather than later. Now, the small comments and hints Jon had continually dropped made sense, whereas at the time, they'd seemed preposterous and quite unwanted.
On impulse, Clark wrapped his arm around Jon and gave his shoulders a squeeze. "Thanks for coming, Jon."
"No problem — I wanted to come." He nodded at the rose. "I like it. It's just right for Mom."
"No fragrance, of course," said Clark. "She'd be disappointed about that."
They fell quiet again, both contemplating the simple rose and the grey stone beneath. Clark kept his arm wrapped loosely around Jon's shoulders, glad of his son's strong physical presence — another anchor to grab onto alongside Lois's.
"Dad, are you okay?" asked Jon suddenly, breaking the still quiet of their vigil. "I mean, I know you can't be totally okay, but generally, are you all right?"
Clark was touched by his son's concern, and for a moment, wasn't sure how to answer him. He turned to face Jon. "I'm fine. Your mother's death hit me pretty hard, as you know — harder than I'd expected, but I'm doing okay."
"It's just, I haven't seen you around the newsroom much lately," Jon said.
Clark grimaced. Trust his son, one of the Planet's busiest, most productive journalists, to find the time to notice his Dad's absence. The boy had more energy than was good for him. "I prefer to work from home," he explained with a shrug. "It's more peaceful there."
The type of material he wrote these days didn't require him to be in the newsroom, anyway. He could do most of his research online, or by picking up the phone when he needed something fresher and more original than the information available on the net. And face-to-face interviews could be done anywhere.
He felt himself being scrutinised by his son. "Okay," said Jon reluctantly. "Just don't be a stranger, will you? Come by the apartment any time you like."
Clark nodded. "I will."
"Because I worry about you rattling around that big house of yours all alone."
Clark smiled. "I can take care of myself, you know. I'm still Superman."
Although he'd cut back a lot on that. He'd found over the years that he couldn't continue at the same pace as he'd maintained in his thirties. Now in his late seventies, he was still pretty fit, but the stamina wasn't there any more.
"Yeah," said Jon with a nod, "I worry about that, too."
Clark shook his head. "First Lois, now you. Doesn't anyone trust me to do this stuff right? I have been doing it a while, you know."
"We just care about you, Dad," replied Jon seriously.
Clark cocked his head on one side and regarded his son. "Hey, lighten up there — I'm not going anywhere any time soon."
"I know," said Jon. He nodded at Lois's grave. "You want me to leave you two alone a while longer, or will you join me in Calder's for a cup of coffee?"
"I'll stay," replied Clark. "I've got a few things more to say to her."
"Okay." To Clark's surprise, he wrapped his arms around Clark and hugged him tightly. "Look after yourself, Dad," he said gruffly.
"You too, Jon," said Clark, returning the hug with warmth.
When Jon had left, Clark turned back to Lois's grave. "We did okay with Jon, didn't we, honey? I think his biological parents would be proud of him."
He closed his eyes, recalling that amazing night when they'd discovered Jon downstairs in the living room. Lois had been radiant, her eyes lit up from within as she'd cradled Jon in her arms. She'd looked so right, as if all her mothering instincts had suddenly activated just at the right moment in time.
She'd been a pretty fabulous mother — sure, she'd made mistakes, but what parent didn't? Clark had made more than he could remember.
And as a wife…
He hugged himself against the cold — a chill that came from within, not from the winter weather to which he was still invulnerable. She'd left too soon. He'd tried to do as she'd instructed him, but he'd found it hard when she'd been ripped away from him so quickly. He'd expected to have longer to prepare for this stage of his life.
But maybe there was something he could do about that. He'd learned a long time ago that he was telepathic. He'd also come across so many strange and unexplainable things in his time that he kept a pretty open mind to most things. He didn't exactly believe in the paranormal, but neither did he exactly disbelieve in it. There was also no doubt in his mind that he and Lois had shared a link which was totally indefinable in terms of conventional science and wisdom.
Instinctively, he knew that if he was going to make this work, he'd need to get closer to her world. He didn't intend to step over the barrier, but maybe he could meet her somewhere at the threshold.
Using a technique he'd employed only once before, and in quite different circumstances, he began to steadily lower his vital signs. Okay, so it was a little risky, but he was confident that he could pull himself back at will, and anyway, it was a risk well worth taking if he could connect with her for even just a second or two.
Jon walked slowly and reluctantly away from his father. He'd hoped to persuade him over to Calder's for coffee, so that they could have had a longer chat. They hadn't talked properly for a while, what with his hectic job and his Dad's increasing absences from the newsroom.
He sighed. There was something eating away at his Dad, he was sure of it — despite those smiling assurances that he was fine and coping adequately with his loss. How did you cope with losing someone as vital to your own existence as his Mom had been to his Dad? Jon was only too aware of how close they'd been too each other — as he'd joked, they'd found it pretty hard to hide their desire for each other, let alone their deep love and fierce dependence on each other.
Jon was beginning to understand his Mom's occasional griping over his father's habit of keeping things from her. He was having the same trouble himself. Things had been pretty much out in the open at first, but lately, he'd felt his Dad drawing away from him. Those absences from the newsroom weren't just because it was more convenient to work at home, Jon surmised.
Of course, it didn't help that everyone knew who he was these days. That was largely thanks to the same genetics which had left him outliving his wife by such a large margin. People grew old more slowly these days, but even so, his youthful looks and excellent physique had stood out beside Lois, an elegant but clearly elderly lady.
Reaching the cemetery gates, he turned to glance at the lonely figure in front of the gravestone.
And, to his horror, saw it slowly topple to the ground.
He sprinted back to his father, falling on his knees beside him and leaning over to study him, his heart thumping wildly. His Dad's face was ashen.
"Dad!" he cried out, very near to complete panic. He scrabbled frantically at his father's clothes, clearing a path so that he could listen to his chest. Thank God, there was still a heartbeat! But it was so slow — he held his palm a couple of centimetres above his Dad's mouth and thought he detected faint breaths. He confirmed that by listening for a couple of moments.
Relief flooded over him. His father was still alive.
"Dad, what's happening to you?" he asked desperately. He grabbed a hand — it was barely warm. "Don't do this!" he begged.
Because he already had a dreadful inkling as to what was happening. He cursed himself for leaving him alone — for not insisting that they go for that cup of coffee. Tears began to roll down his cheeks, but he ignored them and grabbed his cell phone from an inside pocket. Thumbing the emergency button, he waited impatiently while he was connected.
"Ambulance," he barked when asked to choose an emergency service. "Come on, come on," he muttered urgently when another wait ensued.
At last, he was through. "My father's just collapsed. We're in Metropolis cemetery…"
Clark drifted serenely through the white void, confident with every passing moment that he was drawing nearer to Lois. Already, he could feel her presence quite strongly.
"Lois? Are you there, honey?"
He listened intently, finally detecting a faint, indistinct reply. "Lois, is that you?" he asked.
"Clark? What are you doing here?"
He smiled indulgently. Only Lois would greet him with a no-frills, strident demand for information. "I came to see you," he replied. "Except I can't right now. Where are you?"
"How am I supposed to know? They don't issue maps around here, you know."
"Feeling a little cranky, are we?" he said with a fond grin.
"Being dead'll do that to you," she replied. "You should try it sometime. No, cancel that — one of us has to stay behind to pay the mortgage on the house."
"Honey, we paid it off years ago."
"Oh, yes. Well, I still don't want you to join me just yet. I'm having too much fun."
"Yes. But we're not here to talk about the fun we dead people have, now are we?"
"No, I guess not," he replied with a touch of melancholy. "Lois, I-"
"Look, do you think you could get a little closer? I'd really like to see you, honey."
"Okay, I'll try, but this is kind of a tricky balancing act I'm working with here. Hang on…"
"We're losing him!" barked the paramedic. Jon gripped the edge of the bench he was perched on opposite his father. Don't do it, Dad…
There was the ominous whine of an increasing electrical charge, then the medic was applying the paddles to his father's chest. Jon flinched as his Dad's body jerked upwards on the gurney.
"Ow!" exclaimed Clark.
"Honey, what is it?"
"Someone just gave me an electric shock," he said indignantly. "That hurt almost as much as Deathstroke."
"Clark, just how much of a risk are you taking?" asked Lois suspiciously. "That electric shock wouldn't be a defibrillator, would it?"
Clark pondered. "Maybe. I'm not sure."
"Oh, honey! I told you I don't want you over here just yet — Jon still needs you. The world still needs you."
"I know," he said. "But I…you left too quickly, Lois. You didn't give me a chance to say goodbye properly. I had so much to tell you."
"Well, tell me now, but make it quick. I don't want you getting stuck here."
Clark expelled an exasperated breath. This wasn't exactly the romantic farewell he'd hoped for. "Lois, I-"
And suddenly, there she was. A slim, elegant figure, dressed in her favourite jeans and sweater and wearing the most beautiful smile he'd ever seen on her. He gasped. "Lois, I can see you!"
He reached out his arms, and to his delight, discovered he was able to hug her tightly to his body. He buried his face in her shoulder. "Oh, honey, I've missed you so much," he murmured. It was so wonderful to hold her soft, feminine form in his arms again, breathe in her familiar scent, and simply feel her reassuring arms around him. Reunited with Lois, his world was whole once more.
"Clark, you can't stay here," she murmured. "However much you miss me, you have to go."
"I will, I promise," he whispered. "Just give me a few more moments so I can tell you how much I love you."
She raised her head from his shoulder and kissed him. Oh, how he'd missed her kisses — once so easily given and taken, and now only a memory. "You don't have to tell me. You've shown me — every day of our lives together, you showed me how much you love me. As I love you."
He pressed his lips tenderly to hers, making sure he savoured every moment of the kiss — sealing it in his heart forever. Which reminded him… "Do you know what today is?"
She frowned while she searched her memory, and then gave him a wicked grin. "Hallowe'en?"
He laughed. "Good guess, but no. It's Valentine's Day."
"Valentine's day, huh? Interesting day to pick for a ghost hunt, Clark."
He shrugged. "Anyway, I brought you a present." To his delight, he discovered he was holding the red rose in his right hand. He held it up for her to see.
"You big sentimental softie, Clark Kent," she said with obvious pleasure. Taking the flower from him, she sniffed its petals. "No scent," she observed.
"No. We thought you'd notice that."
"Jon and I."
She gave him a quizzical look. "You went shopping for the most romantic gift a man can give a woman with your son?"
"No, he was just there at your graveside with me."
"Ah. You should go back to him, you know."
He nodded. "Yes."
"Is he wherever they're using that defibrillator on you?"
"Then you should definitely go back. Right now, Clark."
"One more hug," he insisted, and held her as close as he could. "I'll always love you."
"Me too. Now go."
He released her slowly, again sealing away the memories for later. He'd bring them out again whenever he was lonely or sad, or simply in need of a good hug. Lois would always be with him, now that he'd been given a second chance to bid her farewell properly. "Goodbye, Lois Lane Kent."
"Au revoir, Clark Jerome Kent." She smiled tenderly. "And Kal-El."
"Don't leave this place, will you?" he said. "I'll be back at some point to make sure you're still having fun."
"Take your time getting here," she murmured softly, and then in a stronger voice, added, "and tell Jon to marry that girlfriend of his before she gets bored waiting for him."
He smiled. "I will."
"He's back," announced the paramedic.
Jon breathed a huge sigh of relief, feeling suddenly giddy from the released tension. "Is he going to be okay?" he asked anxiously.
"It's looking good. Nice steady output, and his bp's coming back up."
Jon crossed the small space between the bench and his Dad's gurney, and knelt on the ambulance floor beside him. Already, a small amount of colour had crept back into his father's cheeks. Taking his hand in his own, he murmured, "What were you thinking, Dad? You know how much we all need you."
He wasn't expecting a response, but to his surprise, his father's eyelids fluttered for a few moments then opened slowly. He watched the dark brown eyes struggle to focus, and then begin to search around for something familiar.
"Dad?" he whispered, hardly daring to hope that his father was truly back and fully conscious. "Can you hear me?"
His Dad's face turned towards Jon and broke into a dozy smile. "Hi, Jon," his father said. "Your mother says you have to marry Linda right away."
"Oh, Dad!" exclaimed Jon in a broken voice, not sure if he was laughing or crying. "I'll do anything she says, just as long as you don't pull any more stunts like that ever again."
His father grinned. "Don't worry. Your mother would most likely tan my hide if I did. She says she's having far too much fun over there without me."
Jon swallowed. "So you really did…?"
"Yeah. She liked the rose, by the way."
Jon reached across and hugged his father carefully, taking care not to dislodge the electrodes still monitoring his vital signs. "Don't ever do anything like that again," he murmured. "Please."
"You said that," his father observed dryly.
"I'm saying it again. Did you say goodbye?"
"Yeah. And I did it right this time."
"So you won't need to do it again?"
"No, so you can stop worrying." His Dad paused a moment. "I think I need to sleep now. Visiting the dead takes it out of a guy, y'know."
Jon nodded, settling back on his heels. "I know."
He watched his father drift off to sleep. Passing a weary hand over his face, he glanced at the paramedic. "Are we nearly there?"
"Yes. And don't worry — your father's going to be just fine. We've got a Star Labs medic waiting for us at the hospital just in case, but I don't think there'll be any complications."
The cemetery was just as peaceful at dusk as it had been that morning. Jon made his way quickly along the paths, anxious to reach his goal before they shut the gates for the day.
His Dad was ensconced in a hospital bed at Metropolis General, wide awake and insisting to anyone within earshot that he was perfectly fine and ready to go home. A brief word with his doctor had largely confirmed his Dad's self- diagnosis, but a note of caution had been sounded, and so it had fallen to Jon to insist firmly that he remain exactly where he was. His father had grumbled, but had finally capitulated when Jon had resorted to a little emotional blackmail and cited his mother's apparent threat to tan his father's hide if he put in a reappearance on her side of the netherworld.
Jon wasn't entirely sure whether he believed all that, but his father patently did, so that was good enough for him.
Besides, he was here, wasn't he? About to satisfy his own curiosity.
He reached the appropriate line of headstones and glanced along to his mother's. It appeared to be as he'd expected, but just to be sure, he walked right up to it.
The flower his father had laid on the gravestone had disappeared.
He nodded. "Thanks for sending him back, Mom."
He stood quietly for a moment, listening to the stillness of the place. Why was it that cemeteries were such oases of calm, even when they were in the centre of cities?
Satisfied with his findings, he turned and trod back towards the gates.
"Marry her, Jon!"
He almost jumped out of his skin, and then burst out laughing. "Yes, mother," he chortled.