Clark winced, pacing his room. Martha and Lois had long ago forgotten about his hearing, and they were now shouting at each other so loud he was surprised they hadn’t woken Shelby up and started him barking. Just a bit louder and Ben could almost hear them at his farm two miles up the road.
A lot of the things they were saying were quite hurtful. Clark flinched every time Martha flung a veiled insult at Lois, and every time Lois used the sharp side of her tongue. But they were mostly – mostly – arguing with each other, not merely calling names. If it degenerated into a personal attack, he’d break it up by going downstairs. By making them both turn on him, if necessary.
As long as they were actually talking about the problems between them, though, he’d leave them be. No matter how loud they got.
What he really needed right now was a distraction. Something to take his mind off the two women verbally dueling outside. Clark decided to check on Shelby, and found the Border collie curled up under an end table in the living room, ears flattened to his skull in misery.
“Poor boy,” Clark murmured. The dog could hear the argument too, and clearly hated it as much as Clark did. He coaxed Shelby out from under the furniture and up to his room, and helped the old dog get up onto the bed. While petting and soothing the dog, Clark finally managed to focus on something other than his own discomfort.
Further distraction arrived when his phone rang. Clark stifled a sigh as he picked it up. It was hard to believe that it was only nine-thirty. So much for a quiet evening. “Clark Kent,” he answered, still rubbing Shelby’s ears.
“Hi, Clark,” Lana said. “Just calling to see how things are around the old homestead.”
Clark chuckled, an edge of bitterness in his tone. “Not so great at the moment.”
“Oh? What’s wrong?” The warm sympathy in her voice invited confidence.
“Ma and Lois aren’t exactly getting along,” Clark said. “Actually, they’re outside having a fight at the moment.”
“Ouch,” Lana said, and he could picture the wry frown on her face. “Well, they don’t have much in common, besides the fact that they both love you. What are they fighting about?”
“Lois isn’t what Ma expected,” Clark said.
“No, I imagine she’s not,” Lana chuckled. “Your mother has been dropping hints ever since I got divorced, Clark. I’ve always stopped by the farm when I went home to visit, and since you came back she’s been even less subtle. I guess it’s high time your mother realized that it’s your expectations that matter, not hers. And as far as I can see, Lois meets your expectations very well.”
“Now just convincing Ma of that…” Clark muttered, listening in for a brief moment. “Hmm. I think they’ve finally gotten around to talking about what’s really bothering Ma. At least, she’s a lot louder now, and not even trying to be polite. Just a sec…”
Lana waited patiently while he listened to the argument outside. It had to be killing him to hear that, but if he could glean something from it that would help bridge the distance between the two women, it would be worth it. Lana had noticed how very polite Martha was whenever she had mentioned Lois, and knew that the older woman’s stiff formality concealed her true feelings. Oh, Martha probably wanted to be accepting of her son’s beloved, but the heart was an unruly organ, and would conceive a dislike of someone no matter what the mind ordered it to do.
Much the same way it would fall in love in spite of being sternly told that this was no time for love, and anyway, it just couldn’t be love if you’d only known the man less than a month… Lana was rescued from that train of thought by Clark’s voice. He sounded a great deal more optimistic when he asked, “Lana, could you do me a favor?”
Once the dam had broken, the older woman couldn’t hold back the real reason she had been so angry with Lois. “You and I are – were the only people on this planet who knew the truth about my son! Why didn’t you come to me when you realized you were pregnant?”
“Because I didn’t know how I’d gotten pregnant until I was six months along!” Lois shouted back. Neither woman was thinking about Clark’s hearing at that point – having this argument at last was like pulling a rotten tooth. Once begun, they couldn’t stop; every bit of poison had to be extracted or it would fester forever. “He stole my memories! Your precious boy and his goddamned amnesia kiss! I had doctors trying to tell me that Lex Luthor raped me and that’s how I wound up pregnant!”
Martha’s jaw fell open. A chill swept down her spine at that revelation. If that’s what the doctors thought, then their advice would have been to…
“If I’d listened to them you wouldn’t have grandchildren,” Lois snarled, advancing on her. “I couldn’t remember what happened, but I always knew those kids were special, even before I found out I had twins! I wouldn’t give them up no matter what the doctors said to me!”
“So why wouldn’t you bring them to me?” Martha cried, frustration overwhelming her shock. “You got your memories back eventually…”
“Yeah, and had to deal with the knowledge that I’d almost been solely responsible for the end of the world as we know it!” Lois was shaking with fury as she yelled. “Everything the damned floating head said about me was true! I kept him from his mission just once, and look what happened! We stole one night and the freakin’ Zod Squad just about enslaved all of humanity! All because of me! After all the snide little comments Jor-El made about me, why the hell would I come to you for more of the same?! If you even existed – for all I knew, you might’ve been part of his cover! I wasn’t sure what to believe anymore!”
“Oh, bull,” Martha retorted. “You’re an investigative reporter! You could’ve found out everything you needed to about me. He’s had half his paychecks sent here since he started working for the Planet. All you had to do was check the address. I may not be a fancy college-educated city girl like you, but even I would have done that much!”
“I had a hell of a lot to worry about just then, thank you!” was Lois’ snapped reply. “I’d just had twins, I had to divert everyone’s suspicions from figuring out who their father was, all the while keeping his secret and trying to keep an eye on the twins so they wouldn’t suddenly start showing his powers in public! Not to mention, they were very sickly when they were little – both of them had pneumonia more than once, and they had asthma, and they were allergic to practically everything including wheat! Do you know how much stuff has wheat in it? Or peanuts? Jeez! I never even wanted to be a mom, and then I had two of them, with all kinds of problems!”
“I could’ve helped you!” Martha lashed back. “I raised Clark – how many mothers even know what jicama is, much less that there’s something in it that Kryptonians need? Or just how much calcium they’d need – he was going through spinach and greens like no tomorrow growing up!”
“I had my mom and my sister,” Lois shot back, her emotions now in an uproar. “They were a lot of help, but how could I have explained to them why I wanted to go visit Kansas? Even if I had been sure you existed, even if I could’ve slipped away from my family, why would I come out here and be treated like this?”
“What are you talking about?”
“This!” Lois waved an arm to encompass Martha, the farm, and the town in the distance. “I never wanted to fight with you! I came out here cringing like a whipped dog hoping you’d like me! Knowing that was a fat chance – you’ve been looking down your nose at me just like Jor-El! Like a mongrel bitch that crawled into your kennel and got herself bred by your prize show dog! God! Just call me freakin’ Hester Prynne!”
“The scarlet letter was for adultery, not fornication,” Martha corrected dryly.
“WHATEVER!” Lois could feel her pulse pounding in her temples, and her vision began to blur from anger and frustration. “So what! I’m tired of being looked at like a goddamn leper for having slept with your son! I will not leave him! He left me, the first time around, and I’m damn sure not letting him get away with that again! So you’d better get used to me, because you won’t get rid of me!”
“That’s not the issue!” Martha shouted. “Child, do you really think you’re the first unwed mother Smallville has ever seen? Just because it’s ‘not done’ doesn’t mean it never happened before!”
“And this is supposed to make me feel better?!”
“Yes! This is the Midwest–”
“And boy, do I know it,” the younger woman hissed.
Martha lost the last shreds of her temper. “You don’t know the first blessed thing about the Midwest, girl!”
“I know people are going to talk about me for years, and they haven’t even heard about the kids yet! As a matter of fact–”
“That’s only part of it! Shut up and listen, girl!” They were only a few feet apart now, yelling at the tops of their lungs, and Martha’s eyes blazed with anger. “No, I’m not happy that my first and probably only grandchildren were born out of wedlock! I’m not going to celebrate the fact that their mother isn’t married to my son! But they are his children, my grandchildren! They’re family! He loves you, and they’re yours, that makes you family too! And we don’t turn our backs on family out here!”
“Oh, please!” Lois retorted. “As if you’d welcome me with open arms the minute I showed up! ‘Hi, Mrs. Kent, I’m that girl your son used to talk about – only we did a whole lot more than talk in the end! Meet your newborn grandkids, which were born premature at eleven months! By the way, can I stay here for a bit and whip up worse gossip here than back in the big city?’ Yeah, right! As if I’d ever be that presumptuous!”
That knocked one leg out from under Martha’s resentment. Seen like that, Lois had gone out of her way not to presume on Martha’s hospitality. That made her arrival her last night seem less abrupt. Clark had told his mother that Lois knew where he was, and that he’d given her some time to think. He probably meant for her to come here when she was ready, Martha thought, with the part of her mind that wasn’t blazing with hurt and fury.
“I wouldn’t have turned you away,” Martha said, and though her voice was forceful, she’d stopped shouting. “I can’t pretend I would be delighted to see you, but I wouldn’t have turned you away. And I would never have let those kids even imagine I didn’t love them. When Clark was gone, they were the only part of him still here. At least if you’d brought them here, I could’ve had them when I missed him…”
“And you think it wasn’t hard as hell, waking up every morning to see them?” Lois replied, anguished. “They look like him, both of them. Kala’s hair, Jason’s eyes, the shape of their lips, a thousand little things. Every time I looked at them I remembered him, and I knew he might never come home, and I knew I wasn’t even supposed to remember…”
“I could’ve helped you,” Martha said again. “You could’ve helped me. Pain shared is pain halved, Lois, just as joy shared is joy doubled. And there was joy in raising them – I’ve seen you with them, I’ve heard from Clark and Lana. You might not have been ready to be a mother, but everyone who knows you in the slightest knows you love them both with all your heart. Everyone who has seen you even for a moment knows you’re a wonderful mother.”
Lois fell silent, tears starting to well up. Anger had been her shield, but now that Martha wasn’t snarling accusations at her, it started to grudgingly fade. And to be complimented, by someone who seemed an enemy, and on something so important to her… Beneath all the fury was the sixteen-year-old girl who could never please her father, no matter how hard she tried. The girl who had been scorned and rejected until she turned her heart into stone and rejected the father who had hurt her. The girl who made herself so strong and so independent that only a superman could touch her heart and make her a starry-eyed romantic in a way she had never been before or since.
Martha started to see that girl, then, in the painful sheen of tears in Lois’ eyes. And she remembered what Lois had said earlier, about Jor-El, and what Clark had told her about his biological father’s opinions on humans. She’s just a kid, Martha thought, a scared, angry kid who’s been hurt so much she’d never have come out here expecting another serving of being looked down on. And God help me, I gave her exactly what she was expecting. The only reason she’s here now is Clark – she loves him so much…
“He’s my miracle,” Martha said softly. “I could never have children, and I wished and hoped and prayed with all my might for a son. And then he landed right beside me, the answer to my prayers, and within half an hour of finding him he’d saved Jonathan’s life. With all he means to me, I can’t help being protective of him.”
“If he’s your miracle, the thing you wished for with all your heart, then the twins are mine,” Lois replied brokenly, her voice a little hoarse from yelling. “I never expected them, never even knew I wanted them. I never wanted to be a mom, but once they were here – oh, once they were here, I’d never wanted anything else. The idea of them scared me to death. But when they showed me Jason and Kala, so tiny… I loved them so much from the moment I first saw them, and I’ve only loved them more every day since. Jason and Kala are my miracles, and they’re the only thing that kept me sane while Clark was gone.”
The tears began to spill down her cheeks, and Lois’ shoulders shook with the sobs she was trying to suppress. She dropped her head into one hand, trying to hide her face, the other arm wrapped around herself. As much as Martha had been bitter towards her, resenting the fact that Lois had never even tried to contact her, that they had never been able to share what comfort the twins could give in a world without Clark, now the older woman felt only sympathy.
Carefully, she gathered Lois into her arms, feeling the stiffness of the younger woman’s shoulders. “Shh,” Martha said. “Easy, Lois. I wasn’t here to comfort you all those years; I’m here now. We’re the only two in the whole world who know what it’s like to lose him – to have loved him, been loved by him, and lost him, possibly never to return. You can lean on me.”
That was all it took; Lois’ famous self-control broke, and she wept openly. “I love him… I’m sorry, I’m sorry I didn’t…”
“Shh,” Martha murmured, stroking her hair. “It’s all right. That’s water under the bridge now. Can’t change the past – but I’ll forgive you for being too afraid to bring them to meet a pigheaded old woman, if you’ll forgive me for being a pigheaded old woman.”
Lois gave a choked little laugh, nodding, trying to get the tears back under control. When she seemed as though she was through crying, Martha handed her a handkerchief, smiling faintly at her. “Let’s get inside before we both catch cold,” she said finally. “And Lois – you can bring the twins here. No, I don’t like the circumstances, but he loves you, and you two have the twins. That makes you as much my daughter-in-law as if you were married, so far as I’m concerned. And I’ll back my family against this whole small-minded town, if I have to. Let Jane Lutter say one word about you in my presence…!”
Another of those half-sob, half-laughs, and Lois let Martha steer her up the steps. Lois sniffled one more time, turning slightly to look at Martha, and said, “I take this to mean we have a truce?”
Martha laughed, tightening the arm around Lois’ shoulders slightly. “Of course. I’m sorry it took so long for me to figure this out.”
“I’m sorry, too,” Lois said in a small voice.
Just as they reached the front door, it opened. Clark was inside, slipping his cell phone into his pocket, and he greeted them both with a wide if slightly frazzled smile. “Well, I’m glad you two got that out of your systems,” he said, trying to joke.
“Son,” Martha said after a long moment in which they both glared at him, “stop being a wiseacre and make us something hot to drink. It’s blessed cold out here.”
In spite of her red, swollen eyes and stuffy nose, in spite of the cold that nipped at her ears, Lois burst into laughter at that comment. Clark bundled them both inside, fussing over them until the two women protested. At last, they managed to sit down at the dining room table, chilled hands wrapped around mugs of hot chocolate.
“Well, I suppose we’d better make arrangements to get the twins out here,” Lois said.
“I’ve already taken care of it,” Clark said. Martha and Lois both stared at him, and he shrugged sheepishly. “I couldn’t help overhearing, you know. And when you two finally got down to what the real problem was, I figured this was the best solution. Lois, all you have to do is make one phone call and say the plan has your approval, and the twins will be here tomorrow afternoon.”
“The Emperor of Eavesdropping defends his title, ladies and gentlemen,” Lois said, rolling her eyes. “Well, since you set everything up, I guess I’ll make that call. But if anything goes wrong, Kent, you get all the blame since you went ahead and made the arrangements without asking me.”
“Nothing’s going to go wrong,” he said. “The flight is pretty short, and they’ll be accompanied. Besides, you miss them.” A moment, and then a certain wistful light came into his eyes. “So do I.”
Martha sighed. “Tomorrow afternoon, hmm? I’ve only ever seen them from a distance. It’ll be nice to finally meet them.” Her eyes sparkled with anticipation.
Lana rang the doorbell and waited nervously, her stomach in knots despite the early-morning sun. She wasn’t sure what Perry White thought of her – if he suspected something was up between her and Richard, he might feel he had every right to sneer at her. Not to mention, the prospect of seeing Richard was enough to make her feel giddy and anxious at the same time. She’d avoided him since their date, afraid to admit just how much she wanted to see him…
The door opened, but it wasn’t Perry who answered it. Richard himself caught Lana’s hand and pulled her inside, the redhead giving a startled little yelp as he swept her into a hug. His arms around her, his cheek against her hair, the scent of his cologne under her nose – Lana’s worries dissolved as she returned the hug, letting herself bask in the simple delight of being held.
“I missed you,” he whispered, and she murmured agreement. They pulled back slightly, Lana looking up at him with bright eyes and smiling lips, about to make some teasing remark about his greeting…
And then he kissed her, and love and desire welled up and threatened to overthrow propriety. For several heartbeats, Lana let him, forgetting where she was and what she had come to do. Then she remembered; his uncle could walk up to them at any moment, or worse, the twins. Lana shoved him back, and glared as sternly as she could with her breath still wanting to quicken.
A faintly self-satisfied smile played around his mouth, and her sea-green eyes narrowed. You may have been able to charm every other woman you’ve met into putting up with your mischief, but I’m not every other woman, she thought, pulling back out of his arms. “I’ll thank you not to take liberties, Mr. White.”
“Liberties?” He looked honestly confused, and for a moment Lana pitied him. What do you think you’re doing, Richard, getting involved with me? You think nothing of a kiss like that – I was sixteen before I had my first kiss, and Brad and I dated for four months before I’d let him. Which is longer than I’ve known you, a fact I don’t care to think about very often…
“Do you really want to explain to Jason or Kala why you were kissing me instead of their mommy?” Lana asked, dropping her voice. Richard paled; evidently the thought hadn’t occurred to him until just then. He’d simply been too glad to see her.
“I’m sorry,” he said, looking exactly like a woeful schoolboy caught misbehaving, and Lana couldn’t help smiling. “I just … I missed you. A lot.”
“I could tell,” she replied. “C’mon, are we just going to stand here in the foyer and stare at each other like a couple of infatuated teenagers?”
He laughed, touching her arm lightly and leading her into the house. “I feel like an infatuated teenager when I’m around you.”
“You act like it,” Lana said, making her tone teasing instead of accusatory. She wouldn’t dare admit that was he made her feel, too…
“Things are kind of crazy at the moment,” Richard admitted, talking softly. “Lois is out in Smallville, and I’m sending the kids to her. Well, Clark’s coming out to pick them up and fly back with them. I would’ve flown them out to her, but he said not to worry, he’d handle it. And honestly, when I even mentioned the subject to Perry, he about had another heart attack. Something about letting his three best reporters take vacation at the same time – if I’d called in right after the New Krypton fiasco, he would’ve let me stay gone, but since I’ve been working he won’t let me slack off now…”
Lana had been frowning, and as he paused she asked, “Clark’s coming here to take the kids to Kansas? He said that?”
“Well, not in so many words,” Richard replied. He lowered his voice further to add, “I think he’s flying but not necessarily buying a ticket, if you get my drift. Which at least makes more sense than paying for a round-trip. Why?”
That didn’t make any sense to Lana. Why would Clark leave Lois and Martha alone when they had just bridged the chasm between them? That was too perfect an opportunity for one or the other of them to say something that would spark another bitter argument. “Richard, what exactly did Clark say to you?”
“All he said was, if I was okay with it, he’d handle getting them out there,” Richard replied. “Why? Is something wrong?”
Understanding dawned, and Lana chuckled. “No, no, nothing like that. It’s just that he asked me to fly out with them, and I thought I’d completely misunderstood.”
The disappointment on Richard’s face was comedic. “Wait – you’re going to Smallville?”
“Richard, I was born there,” Lana reminded him. “My parents still live there, and I haven’t seen them since last Christmas. It’s past time for a visit home. Actually, I volunteered to bring the twins, if it was okay with Lois. I’ve been kind of homesick…”
He looked so crestfallen than she elbowed his side lightly. “It’s not like I’m moving back home, Richard. I’ll be back in Metropolis eventually.”
“You know how visits home are,” Lana said glibly, pointedly not mentioning Milan. She needed some time away from this man and the way he made her feel. “Once your mom gets a hold of you, it’s hard to leave.”
“Not my mom,” Richard said. “Her psychotic Yorkies just make me want to move farther from home. And mom herself isn’t all that much better – Dad lets her act any way she pleases as long as she lets him putter around the garage in peace.”
“Poor thing,” Lana said. “It can’t be that bad…”
“She has over three hundred porcelain dogs,” Richard said. “And Dad let her paint the house, except his study, so it’s all white and pink and everything has frills. Lois says it looks like someone exploded a giant bottle of Pepto Bismol in the White House – pun very much intended.”
“I take it Lois and your mother didn’t get along?”
Richard laughed. “That would be an understatement. Lois tried – but Mom’s absolutely blind where her dogs are concerned. The ‘puppykins’ can do no wrong, not even when they’re nipping at Jason’s ankles. I thought I was a Yorkshire terrier until I started going to school.”
“The dog bit Jason? We’re lucky Lois didn’t shoot it,” Lana muttered.
“We’re lucky she didn’t shoot my mom,” Richard replied. His laughter, though, had caught the twins’ attention, and the pair of them now barreled into the hallway.
Jason and Kala came to an abrupt halt, startled to see Lana, and then were twice as delighted. “Hi, Miss Lana!” they chorused, both seeking hugs.
Richard had to grin; she was darned good with kids. Admittedly, the twins were perfectly friendly with anyone their parents introduced them to and showed approval of, but Lana knew just how to talk to them without talking down to them. The faint reservation that had lurked in his mind from the moment she said she’d take them to Smallville evaporated that instant.
Perry had followed them, and his eyes crinkled with pleasure even though his voice was gruff. “Ms. Lang! Come to talk my nephew into a little more free publicity?”
She laughed; thank God she’d figured out his sense of humor. “No, I’m just here to kidnap the twins. I happen to be headed out where Lois is, so I volunteered to escort them.”
“You’re going with us?” Kala asked.
“On a plane?” Jason added.
“Yes and yes,” Lana said. “And your mommy will meet you at the airport – you won’t have to be away from either parent for very long. Just the time it takes to fly there. Is that okay with you two?”
The twins consulted each other with a quick, silent glance, then looked up at Richard. “Fine by me,” he said, once again warmed by their reliance on him. It hurt to send them to their real parents, but at least he was starting to believe in what Lois and Clark had both told him: he would always be the twins’ dad, always be a part of their lives.
“Okay,” Kala and Jason both said to Lana.
That seemed to settle it for everyone; the next two hours were a flurry of last-minute packing and long hugs goodbye for Uncle Perry and Aunt Loueen. For a few moments, it had seemed as though Perry would object to the twins going off on a long flight with someone he barely knew, but Jason and Kala seemed perfectly content in her company, and Richard was at ease.
The four rode to the airport in Lana’s car, which she planned to turn in at the rental place anyway. They had arrived early, with plenty of time to get checked in and for the twins to stand at the windows and watch the planes. Richard stayed with them while Lana went to pick up their boarding passes, and he felt each second passing, bringing him nearer to the moment when he would have to let Jason and Kala go. They’ll be back, he told himself, but even though Lois had promised they would all be back by Monday, it was still a painful separation. Especially since he knew the future held only more and more time apart.
“Daddy?” Jason asked, and Richard stroked his hair. “Is it okay that we’re goin’ to Kansas?”
“Sure, son,” Richard said, with cheer he didn’t feel. “It’s fine.”
“Why’s it called Kansas?” Jason asked.
“Well, Texas was taken…” Richard began in a mock-serious tone, and was interrupted by Jason’s scowl.
“Why’s it really called Kansas?” the little boy demanded with a sigh.
That topic didn’t interest Kala, and she had her own concerns. As usual, she simply overrode Jason’s question with her own. “How come you can’t come with us?”
“Baby, I have to stay here. I’ve got a lot of work to do. Besides, your mommy misses you both an awful lot, and I’ve had you all to myself. I can’t be greedy – gotta share the best kids in the whole wide world, right? It’s only fair.” The comment provoked a pair of sharklike grins and almost identical giggles, making Richard laugh as well. “Mommy will be bringing you home again soon, so I only have to miss you for a little while.”
“Just for the weekend, right?” Kala’s voice hadn’t lost that apprehensive tone.
“Right,” Richard said. Lana had returned, but she was giving him his space. He couldn’t walk with them to the gate, so they had to say their goodbyes here.
Richard went down on one knee, bringing both twins in for a long hug. “You two be good for Ms. Lana, okay?” he whispered.
“Yes, Daddy,” they both whispered back, as reluctant to let go as he was.
“I love you,” Kala murmured, kissing Richard’s cheek. Jason was still young enough that he didn’t think anything of doing the same, snatching one last hug as Richard tried to stand up.
Lana hadn’t wanted to remind them, but they needed to join the line for security. And she was starting to feel a little wistful; she and Don had never had children, a blessing in the long run, but at the moment she wished she had a child of her own to snuggle. Her heart also broke for Richard, who certainly knew that this goodbye was only the first of many in a future of shared custody.
“I’ll call you when we land,” Lana told him, as the twins came to stand beside her.
Richard hugged her, whispering, “I’ll miss you, too.” Lana winced; she hadn’t told him about Milan, wanting a chance to get out of his presence and just think about things. Anytime she was near him, thinking was the very last thing on her mind. She knew that leaving was the best thing she could do, and the twins provided her with the perfect excuse, but she hated to do it. She tightened her hug just a bit, telling herself that she could do this. She had to.
They drew back from each other, and Lana saw it in his eyes before he could lean in and steal a kiss. Her hand on his chest stopped him, and Lana gave him a warning look. No, not now. I’d never get on that plane… “Richard…”
“How long before I see you again, hmm?” he asked. That look, slightly pleading, slightly hurt, and Lana felt a bit more of her resistance crumble.
But in front of the twins, all she could do was give him a quick little kiss, barely more than a brush of lips across his. “I’ll miss you,” she whispered, letting her voice and eyes tell him just how much. And for that, at least, she managed to make him smile.
As Jason took her left hand and Kala her right, they both waved goodbye to Richard. They headed to security, the twins calling out, “Love you!” one last time. It was all Lana could do not to look over her shoulder again one more time.
And as the three of them joined the line for security, Jason looked up at her and asked, “Why’s it called Kansas?”
Clark waited nervously at the terminal exit, peering through the walls and crowds for a glimpse of Jason or Kala. Lois had elected to wait outside with the car; with her parked in the short-term section for Arrivals, they could load the luggage and get on the road much faster than if she’d parked in the garage.
He also suspected she was giving him a chance to see the twins by himself. He had to smile at how subtly she had played it. Not that he hadn’t given his excitement away, having been awake even earlier than usual this morning to do his ‘rounds’ , ready to leave long before both women woke. Lois could be remarkably intuitive that way…
It was red hair he saw first, Lana coming down the terminal with what had to be a twin holding each hand, hidden by the crowd, and her carryon bag slung over one shoulder. Only a few more seconds until they saw him; Clark started to push his glasses up, that old nervous habit, and realized abruptly that he wasn’t wearing them.
Goof, he scolded himself, and then the crowd parted. He saw the twins clearly with no obstructions, and for the first time he saw them as his. His two children, each one toting a backpack with travel essentials, both of them walking on tiptoe while they tried to scan the crowd for him. They’re mine, they’re really mine. Everything I never dared to hope for came true; their mother loves me, and I’m their dad. He had to blink to clear his vision. I’ll never be alone; I have the family I always wanted.
Kala looked up at Lana, and at this distance Clark could hear her asking petulantly, “Where’s Daddy?” Obviously Lana had told them he would be alone. Jason saw him then; his eyes slid past at first, then jerked back as they widened. For a second he looked puzzled, and then Jason managed to recognize him in spite of the lack of glasses and the casual clothes.
“Daddy!” Jason yelled, leaping forward. There was simply no way Lana could hang onto him, as strong as he was. As the little boy pelted toward his father, Lana let go of Kala’s hand so she could run as well.
Clark grabbed Jason in a hug, swinging him up into the air in delight. Jason just hugged him back. Kala was bouncing impatiently beside them, calling, “Me too! Me too, Daddy! Me too!” Laughing, Clark picked her up, tucking her under his arm like a football and making her giggle as she clung to him.
Lana had reached them at a more sedate pace, but she was grinning at their antics. “They missed you,” she said, giving Clark a peck on the cheek since she couldn’t hug him with both his arms full of deliriously happy children.
“All right, you little monsters,” Clark said, setting them both down. “Let’s get going; we’ve got a ways to drive, and there’s someone at the farm who really wants to meet you.”
“We’re really goin’ to a farm? With cows an’ sheeps an’ horses an’ chickens?” Kala asked, taking her father’s hand.
“Yes,” Clark said, “a real farm, but we’ve got chickens and a goat. No sheep. The neighbors have cows, though.”
Before Kala could reply, Jason asked, “Daddy, what does Kansas mean?”
“He’s been asking everyone that since Metropolis,” Lana whispered. “I made the mistake of telling him the name probably came from an old Indian word.”
“It means ‘Shut up, Jason! Nobody cares’,” Kala snapped.
“Kala, be nice to your brother,” Clark and Lana said at the same moment.
“Yeah!” Jason added for emphasis.
In the midst of trying to shepherd the two children down to the baggage claim and keep them from arguing, neither Clark nor Lana noticed that one of the women at the information desk had gone to high school with them. Five minutes after they passed her desk, both twins trying to get Daddy to take their side in the argument, the young woman picked up her cell phone and made a call to her aunt in Smallville. “Guess who just walked past me, Aunt Jane?” she murmured. After a pause, she grinned and said, “Lana Lang, of all people – and she came off a plane with two little kids! … Yes, you heard me! No, wait, don’t call her mother yet. It gets better. … You’ll never guess who met her. I’ll give you a hint, though – the little ones called him Daddy, and he’s got jet-black hair just like the little girl… Clark Kent!”