Clark/Chloe angst, futurefic
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Kent. It won't be long now."
Chloe Sullivan Kent blinked back tears. "I understand," she said to the doctor, fighting to keep her voice level when what she really wanted to do was scream and rant, or maybe break down in tears. But rage and tears wouldn't help Clark. What he needed now was support, not hysterics.
The doctor turned and silently walked from the room, and Chloe went across the bedroom. Sitting down on the bed next to her husband, she took his hand and held it protectively in hers.
His hand was much bigger than hers, and ordinarily she could feel the strength in it, but right now it felt like skin and bones, as if the muscles had just melted away somehow. The rest of his body gave that impression, too. He'd once been a strong, powerfully built man, but now he looked thin and frail. His face was gaunt, and his cheekbones stood out like blades. He wore a t-shirt with the sigil of the House of El on his chest, and where the shirt had once stretched tightly across the muscles of his chest, it now looked two sizes too big for him.
He opened his eyes as if his eyelashes weighed half a ton, and looked at her through half-open lids. "Not good news, huh?"
"It would be nice," she said, forcing a smile, "if you could quit using your superhearing when I talk to the doctors."
"Can't help it." He gave her a shadow of his old grin. "You should quit talking to them nearby."
"So you want me to take the doctors a mile away from the house before we talk?"
"How deaf do you think I am?" His smile flashed tiredly, and he spoke with difficulty. His voice, once a deep, smooth baritone, was now only a rasp. "You'd have to go... at least two miles away."
She squeezed his hand gently, and his smile faded. His eyes fluttered shut. She could hear the harsh sound of his breathing as he struggled to drag in oxygen. "I'm sorry, Chlo. I've been trying... to fight this."
"Not your fault," she said, feeling tears burn her eyes. They'd been married for ten years-- not nearly long enough, as far as she was concerned. She'd loved Clark for a very long time, and she'd planned on being with him for the rest of her life. And since he was invulnerable, superstrong, and superfast, she'd expected him to outlive her by years, maybe decades. She hadn't expected to lose him so young, to a genetically engineered virus that attacked his body like a cancer.
Useless cells were growing throughout his body, turning his incredible metabolism against him as they replicated rapidly, destroying his organs and choking off his bodily functions. Nothing the doctors had tried could remove them. Radiation, chemical treatments, even surgery, performed while he was exposed to kryptonite so his skin could be cut with a scalpel-- nothing stopped the relentless growth of the cells. Over the past four weeks, he'd lost thirty pounds, along with all his strength, until he couldn't even get out of bed.
He'd once been the strongest man in the world, and now he couldn't even sit up.
He'd been in a secure wing of the Metropolis hospital, a trusted doctor who knew Clark's identity in charge of finding a cure, but when it became obvious no cure was going to be found, Clark had insisted on coming home. He'd wanted to be in his own house, in his own bed, and she didn't blame him. Now he wasn't connected to any machines, not even a heart monitor. He'd been adamant, and she hadn't seen the point in fighting about it. Connecting him to a heart monitor didn't make the slightest bit of difference at this stage.
"Lex did this to you on purpose," she whispered. "It was engineered for you, and only you."
"Yeah," he answered tiredly. "But you won in the end, Chlo."
She felt her lips tighten. She'd demanded a cure from the billionaire. And when he'd laughed in her face and told her there was no cure, that Superman couldn't be saved, she'd wreaked her own particular brand of vengeance, publishing an article in the Daily Planet that detailed everything she'd found out about LexCorp over the past two years. It had led directly to Lex's arrest. He was behind bars now, and would almost certainly be convicted of a vast number of illegal activities, from terrorism to murder to treason.
"I'll make sure he goes to jail," she vowed. "I swear he'll rot there."
"I believe you." The corners of his mouth twitched. "Lex picked the wrong person to mess with this time."
"Damn straight," she said fiercely. She reached out and traced the symbol on his chest, the symbol of a world-famous hero, and looked into his eyes. "Clark," she said softly. "You can't give up. You can't."
"I can't..." He went into a violent paroxysm of coughing, then dropped his head back against the pillow, panting harshly. "I can't fight any more, Chlo. I'm sorry. I've tried."
"I can't live without you. I just can't. Don't leave me, Clark." Her eyes burned with unshed tears, and she uttered the words she'd said to him so many times in the past. "You're my hero."
"Some hero." His eyelashes fluttered. "Can't even fight a virus."
She squeezed his hand in hers again, trying to reassure him. She knew better than anyone how long and hard he'd fought against his illness. "Even heroes can't win every battle, Clark."
"I guess not. But I always thought I'd die fighting... Doomsday or... Metallo or... something. Not a stupid... virus..."
His voice trailed off, and his eyes closed. She sat beside him, holding his hand, hearing his breathing grow more shallow. She listened to the rough struggle of his breathing, watched his chest rise and fall.
"I love you," she whispered.
There was no answer except the uneven, tortured sound of his breathing. Moments later, he drew in a long, shuddering breath... and then didn't breathe again.
She bowed her head and let the tears stream freely down her face. Almost absently, her hand reached out and traced the crimson and yellow symbol on his chest one last time. The symbol of a fallen hero who'd done great good in this world, and who'd now gone on to the next.
Heroes didn't win every battle, she thought.
But that didn't make them any less heroic.