By Jon Knutson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: Superman pays a visit to the Children's Ward of Metropolis General Hospital.
This story's kind of a change of pace for me, and a follow-up to "Metropolis Mailbag."
Lois Lane looked at her watch again. As she expected, it was only one minute after the last time she'd checked. Convinced her watch was slow, she looked up at the large clock on the wall, which confirmed for her it was still only 2:56 pm.
That figures, Lois thought, the first time there's no traffic on the streets of Metropolis, and it's one of the few times I left early anyway. She'd been there since 2:35, and her patience was beginning to wear thin.
Finally, Lois stood up and started pacing.
Jimmy Olsen looked up at her and brushed a lock of hair that had fallen over one eye. "Pacing won't make three o'clock come any faster, Lois."
Lois sighed and sat down again. "I know, Jimmy, I know." She turned her eyes expectantly towards the large open window and squinted, as if the act of squinting would suddenly allow her to see much farther than normal.
Lois' eyes weren't the only expectant ones. There were 48 other pairs of expectant eyes in the room she and Jimmy were waiting in.
The eyes belonged to the current occupants of the Children's Ward at Metropolis General Hospital and the current shift of doctors and nurses. Today was a special day for the young patients, as it was Wednesday, and the first day that Superman would be making his promised weekly visits to the children being treated there.
"There he is!" a young boy called, who was sitting in a wheelchair near the large open window. He pointed excitedly in the distance. The boy had sandy brown hair, and was dressed in red and white narrow striped pajamas. One of his pajama legs had been cut off, as the boy 's left leg was covered in a cast which had been nearly covered with autographs of the doctors, nurses and other patients in the ward.
At the boy's cry, all present began to get more and more excited as the blue and red-clad form of the Man of Steel flew closer and closer, finally floating through the window and landing on the floor.
"Get that camera going, Jimmy," Lois instructed, too intent on looking at Superman to realize that Jimmy had already taken three pictures.
It didn't matter anyway, because Jimmy couldn't hear Lois' instruction, and Lois couldn't hear the shutter clicking over the noise the children made on Superman's arrival.
For a brief instant, Lois was afraid that Superman would be mobbed by the children before dismissing the thought as irrational.
"I've never seen the kids so excited!" one of the doctors shouted to Lois, who was standing next to him. Dr. Sam Becket had taken a lot of kidding over his name most of his life, due to the similarity between it and the names of both a famous playwright and the lead character of Quantum Leap. Aside from the name, though there was no resemblance between this Dr. Becket and either of his namesakes. This Dr. Becket was a young doctor, in his mid-twenties, with boyish good looks that had also earned him the nickname "Doogie Howser" from some of the staff.
Lois thought Dr. Becket was at least as excited as the children, but didn't say so due to her own excitement. There was something about Superman's presence that tended to make the citizens of Metropolis break out in a grin or otherwise feel better… well, with the exception of Metropolis' criminal element, Mayson Drake of the district attorney's office, and a few others.
Superman seemed to be enjoying the visit at least as much as the children. He knew part of it was the ego boost from the adoration, but a lot of it was due to the fact that the simple act of visiting these children was making their day… if not their week.
Dr. Becket stepped forward, gently moving through the crowd of children. "All right, kids, let's give Superman a little breathing space! He's promised to visit with every one of you individually after he performs some super-feats for us."
There was a chorus of "Yays!" accompanying this statement, and the children made their way back to the beds and chairs provided for them, still excited.
Superman looked around him. "Well, kids, what do you want to see me do first?" he asked, smiling.
For a few moments, there was a cacophony of yells as the children offered their suggestions. Superman quieted them town by putting his hands up. "How about if I choose one of you to decide?" He walked around the room, looking at each child individually. "I think we'll choose… you!" he said, pointing at one of the children.
"Me?" Superman's choice was a young girl, no more than eight years old, with long blonde hair tied in pigtails. The girl, dressed in a long pink nightgown embroidered by hand with bunnies frolicking about it. She was one of the few children who didn't approach Superman when he arrived, being confined to her bed.
"That's right, you," Superman said, kneeling by her bed. "What's your name?"
"Katie… Katie Lay," she said in a quiet voice.
"I'm very pleased to meet you, Katie," Superman said, taking her hand. "Which super-power would you like to see me use?"
Katie began to think about this, having been totally caught by surprise. She looked up at the ceiling and stuck out her tongue partially in her concentration. "Can you show me how strong you are?"
Superman stood up. "Well, Katie, you've probably heard that I'm very strong… there's not much here that's heavy enough to demonstrate how strong I am… well, maybe one thing." He turned to Dr. Becket and said, "I'll be very careful," before bending down and lifting Katie's bed gently into the air. Katie's eyes grew so big in surprise that they looked as though they would burst.
There were assorted oohs and ahhs from the children (and a few of the doctors and nurses, as well). After a few moments, Superman set the bed down so gently that Katie wasn't even aware the bed was on the floor again.
The children applauded the feat, and Superman, in true showman style, took a bow. Jimmy continued taking photos as Lois frantically scribbled notes, trying to absorb every bit of detail she could.
Before long, Superman had performed enough stunts to satiate the children, and then it was time for personal visits. As Lois handed Superman a photo from a packet she'd brought with her (paid for from the licensing fees from Superman merchandise), Superman would ask each child how they wanted it signed. Most preferred him sign it "To my friend ______, Superman." Along with the photo came a small Superman action figure, donated by the manufacturer.
As Jimmy's camera clicked away, Lois couldn't conceal her admiration for the Man of Steel. Dr. Becket noticed this, and during a lull in the proceedings, he sidled up next to Lois and said, "Looks to me like you've got it bad for Superman."
Lois looked at him and suddenly became very cold. "And what business is that of yours, Dr. Becket?"
"None, really… I don't suppose you'd consider forgetting him for a boyishly handsome doctor named after a playwright?" Dr. Becket asked with a smile.
Lois relaxed. "No, I don't think so… but if it helps, while I admire Superman a lot, there's someone else who's more important to me."
"Well, as long as I know I wasn't thrown over for an alien in blue longjohns," Dr. Becket said wistfully before walking away.
At first, Lois thought Dr. Becket was serious, but dismissed the thought easily. She'd long become inured to men trying to pick her up when she was on the job… it was one of those things she'd chalked up to being an attractive female journalist. And while it may not have been politically correct, she had to admit she did kind of enjoy knowing so many men found her attractive — not that she'd ever admit that to anybody.
Superman was wrapping up his visit. "I'm sorry, kids, but that's all the time I have for you today. It was great meeting you all, though."
Dr. Becket stepped forward again. "Kids, let's show Superman how much we appreciated his visit… I'm sure we all know that he must have a busy schedule, and it was nice of him to take the time to visit us. So, let's give him a big hand!"
Out of all the applause and cheers that Superman had heard from the citizens of Metropolis since he first appeared in costume, these meant more to the Man of Steel than any others.
Superman waved goodbye to the children, then flew out the window, the children rushing to the windows to watch him fly away.
Dr. Becket approached Lois again. "Next time you see Superman, make sure you thank him… the kids' morale hasn't ever been this high in the time I've been here."
"I'll tell him, but I'm sure he already knows."
When Lois and Jimmy returned to the Planet, Clark Kent was sitting at his desk, working on a story, with a very pleased smile on his face.
Lois sat down at her own desk, pulling out her notes to begin writing the story about Superman's visit to the children's ward, and asked, "You look pleased with yourself… what've you been doing this afternoon?"
Clark leaned back in his chair. "It's kind of hard to explain… let's just say I did a favor that I wouldn't mind doing again and again."
Lois lowered an eyebrow at him. "One of these days, Clark, I'm going to figure out what you've meant by all the enigmatic things you've been saying since we met… and mark my words, I will."
"I'm sure you will, Lois," Clark said, returning to his story. "And I'm sure you'll be very surprised."
Clark's smile didn't wear off until a few days later.