One month ‘til…
“I feel like I’m back at prom,” Ron joked as the groomsmen headed into After Hours Formalwear to buy their tuxedos.
“What’s a prom?” Jason asked, tagging along at his uncle’s heels.
“A big dance for high school kids,” Richard replied. “You have to dress up to impress your girlfriend.”
The little boy looked up at him worriedly. “Is everything about growin’ up really about girls?”
“Only for Richard,” Clark muttered. The remark provoked laughter from the guys and a heavy sigh from Maggie.
Lana waited for the laughter to die down before turning an utterly wicked smile on Richard. “I have no objections to your obsession with women, love,” she purred, and had the satisfaction of making Richard blush.
Jason didn’t get any of that, so he sighed and rolled his eyes like his mother, provoking still more amusement.
A clerk came up to them quickly, and Lana turned her considerable charm on the young woman. “We’ve got an April wedding, and this is the groom, the groomsmen, and the ring bearer,” she said, indicating Clark, Ron, Jimmy, Maggie, and Jason all following her. Then she elbowed Richard slightly and added, “Plus one friend of the family who needs a new suit for the wedding. Now, for the groom’s party, I need something both classic and contemporary. Oh, and notch lapel, because quite frankly I loathe shawl lapels and I’m none too fond of peaked. And the groom will have a vest and necktie instead of a bow tie as well.”
Jimmy gave her a quizzical look and whispered under his breath to Ron, “What the heck is she talking about? I didn’t know buying a suit was this hard!”
“I have no idea, man, just roll with it,” Ron muttered. “She’s the designer and the wedding planner, we’re just here for the measurements.”
Richard, who heard that, snickered. Not that he knew half of what Lana was saying, either. If this pretty young thing is going to be our customer service person, I bet Olsen leaps out of his skin when she measures his inseam. Poor kid.
Lana and the young woman were communicating in designer-speak, and the rest just let themselves be carried along bemusedly to be measured and to try on tuxedos. Jason, the smallest and first fitted, quickly got bored and tried to wander off, so Richard kept him company as he browsed among the displays. That meant he did miss the look on Jimmy’s face when the girl measured him, and the rest managed not to snicker.
Clark had to actually stand up straight, and the clerk’s eyes widened when she saw his height. “Hmm, you’re really tall,” she said appreciatively. “We do carry big & tall sizes, but I think you might need some tailoring for the best fit. And of course, a tux has to be adjusted for a woman. We offer tailoring…”
“That’s fine,” Lana interrupted her with a smile. “I’ll take care of it.”
When she finally found the tuxedo, none of them could deny it. It had a faint pinstripe that made Clark grin to think of Lois’ beloved pin-stripe suit, and in spite of the fact that it was sized for a heavier man, it still hung well. “Perfect,” Lana said simply, and the red vest and tie she found matched both it and Lois’ chosen color scheme. The rest of the party was easy to suit, and Richard came back just as Lana picked out a suit for him as well. “Hey, don’t I even get to look at my clothes anymore?”
“No, darling,” Lana replied. “Trust me, you’ll like it.” Then her gaze dropped to Jason and her eyes widened. “My goodness, Jason, where did you find that hat?”
“Isn’t it great?” Jason beamed from under a wide-brimmed black fedora.
“That has got to be the biggest pimp hat I have ever seen in my life,” Ron said, and Jimmy looked askance at Clark. After all, the mild-mannered reporter had once worn a gray fedora almost daily… Even Maggie was charmed, Jason’s enthusiasm too infectious for her to keep worrying about taking a long lunch break.
Lana just stared at her husband, unamused. “Richard, sweetheart? This is why you don’t choose your own clothing anymore.”
“What? It’s cute on him,” Richard said. “Not like I’d wear it or anything…”
She ignored him and turned to look at Jason, currently showing off his hat to Clark. “I used to have one like that, son,” Clark was saying. “But I don’t think your mother will like it.”
“But I like my hat!” Jason said. “It’s cool.”
Richard sighed heavily. “Oh well, we can’t upset the bride. She might shoot us all. C’mon, Jason, give me the hat and I’ll put it back.” Jason pouted, but the moment Lana turned her attention back to the suits, Richard winked at him. At that he surrendered the hat, which Richard handed over to their clerk while mouthing ‘Hold this for me’ behind his wife’s back. The young woman just grinned with amusement.
All that was left was picking out shoes, and with that dispatched the group headed up to the counter. Their salesclerk was smiling even more as she scanned their purchases; she worked on commission, and this represented a substantial amount.
Before anyone else could even open their wallet, Lana had handed the young woman her credit card. “All on the same order, please,” Lana said, and with a smile at the boys she added, “I get frequent flier miles.”
“Of course, Mrs. …” The girl glanced at the card for the name, and her eyes went comically wide. “Lang? Lana Lang, as in L. Lang? Oh, wow … what an honor…”
The rest of the group tried not to snort laughter, Richard especially, but Lana just reached across the counter and took the girl’s hand gently. “Now, don’t,” she said gently. “I’m no different from you, except I design the clothes and you sell them. We work in the same industry, remember?”
“Yes, but you’re … you’re…” the salesclerk stammered.
“Rich, famous, and gorgeous,” Richard supplied, still chuckling.
“And you’re biased,” Lana said. “Ignore my boy-toy. I’m just another customer.”
Richard’s indignant squawk at that remark made the girl laugh and regain her composure, and they finished the transaction and headed out of the store with him still grumbling. “You don’t have to go and call me your boy-toy in front of every single fangirl you meet, Lana.”
“Oh, please, Richard,” she sighed. “That was how you introduced yourself to my seamstresses, remember?”
“Yeah, but I’m your husband now,” he griped, and then stopped suddenly. “See, you just ticked me off so much I forgot something.” With that he darted back inside, only to return moments later with Jason’s hat.
The little boy, who had cast pleading looks at him while Lana paid for their purchases, had started pouting the moment they left the store. Now he jumped up to hug Richard, who let him wear the hat to their car. Lana groaned in horror. “Oh, no, Richard. No. Lois is going to kill us all.”
“Nope, only Richard,” Clark said, slapping his former rival on the back and making him stagger only a little. Opening the car door for Jason, who practically bounced into the back seat, he added, “When Lois asks where he got that hat, you get to tell her, Richard.”
“Fine,” he replied, still grinning at Jason’s gleeful smile. Richard glanced around to see who was in earshot before continuing. Everyone had somewhere to be in the middle of the day, and Ron and Jimmy were waiting to give Clark a ride back to work. Maggie, the most pressed for time, had simply waved and called goodbye, her squad car already disappearing out of the lot. Safe enough for what he meant to say. “Hey, Clark. If the girl in there went nuts over Lana, what do you think she would’ve done if she knew whose inseam she really just measured? Faint, probably.”
“Richard,” Lana sighed, as Clark looked slightly horrified. “I swear to you, anyone who works in the fashion industry for more than a month no longer notices where their hands are on you. It’s really not sexy when you’ve done it forty times before your first coffee break, and every single man claims he wants his trousers cut extra deep regardless of whether he actually needs it.”
“Oh, I think she’d notice if she knew,” Richard said salaciously. “There are days when I’m very glad I’m not you, Clark. The temptation would be terrible … and besides, I happen to prefer my wife to yours.”
“I know, Richard,” Clark said, shaking his head. “I remember what you said about having too much fun with my x-ray vision, so for the sake of humanity, I’m glad you’re not me. And now I’m going back to work.”
Richard got into the car, still chuckling, and Lana swatted his shoulder. “Ow! What?”
“Why do you have to be so … so…?” She trailed off, glaring at him.
“Devilishly handsome?” Richard suggested, and Lana sighed in annoyance.
“Devilish, anyway,” she muttered, glancing into the backseat. “Is your seat belt buckled, Jason? Then let’s get you back to school so I can tell your dad what I think of him.” Richard snickered at that, and Lana gave him a tight-lipped, annoyed smile. “I might even use a few of Lois’ driving words.”
“Oooooh!” Jason called out in a singsong voice. “Daddy’s in trouble!”
Two weeks ‘til…
Clark woke with his face buried in Lois’ hair, the pair of them still tangled together the way they’d finally fallen asleep last night, lying on their sides like a pair of spoons, the top of Lois’ head under his chin.
Last night… He sighed gustily. At the company party – really Perry’s birthday party, but no one admitted it – Lois had intimidated Grizzly Lombard into paying up on the bet he’d made years ago with Jimmy. Unfortunately, she did it by dressing very, very provocatively when she went to confront the sportswriter, and Clark had been just as affected as everyone else. She had also had a few drinks, which led him to bring her back to her apartment, and one thing had led to another…
So much for not fooling around before the wedding, he thought. With a slight smiling of remembrance, he amended, Well, no fooling around past a certain point. We’ve never stopped riling each other up, it’s just that we weren’t going to go this far. But then Lois had to come to the office party looking like a million bucks and acting like she owned the heart of every man there…
No, it’s not her fault. I started it. And she even tried to remind me that we’d said we wouldn’t until we were married. But she looked so tempting and I wanted her so much – wanted to remind her and myself who she belongs to after that nonsense with Lombard – and it’s been three months since we… In her sleep, Lois cuddled back against him with a soft groan, and Clark just chuckled at himself. I may have failed to prove that true love waits … but oh, what a failure.
On that note, he had to get out of bed before he wound up breaking their promise again. Her warm, soft curves pressed against him and inspired tempting ideas. Gently, he tried to disengage from her, which made Lois whimper in her sleep and try to cling to his arm around her waist. Clark tried to be careful, but in the end, Lois wound up practically falling over onto her face.
That woke her up. “Where’r you goin’?” she muttered, her eyes only half open and her hair falling forward over her face as she sat up to stare at him.
“Lois,” he sighed, starting to get dressed. “I can’t stay. We said…”
“Yeah, we said, but we broke that pretty well last night,” Lois grumbled. “Three times, as I remember. Heck of a way to break in the new apartment.” That made her smile wickedly, but the serious look on his face brought her back to the topic at hand. “Look, Kal-El, the only time I get good sleep is when you’re here with me. C’mon, it’s only two more weeks, and I miss you.”
That gentle tone seemed to irritate her, and Lois huffed at him, falling backward onto the bed and crossing her arms. “Fine. Go, then.”
“Don’t,” he said, sitting beside her and resting his hand on her shoulder. “Lois, please don’t. You know how I feel about this. I mean, I fully intended to marry you the first time around, and look what happened…”
“That was before we sent out two hundred invitations,” Lois snapped. “It’s a fact now – we’ve already got the license, I’m not going to turn up pregnant, and your mom can damn well get over it if you’re worried about her being disappointed! This is supposed to be our apartment, this is where the famous interview began, and this is where we began. And all of the history here just makes me miss you more.” Under her breath, she added, “Now I remember why I sold the damn thing – there are too many memories of you, and not enough you.”
Ah, yes. That had been another reason why he couldn’t make himself hold back last night – this apartment. This was where he’d daydreamed of revealing his identity, and this was where he had sometimes, in the middle of the lonely night, imagined finally making love with her. “Lois, listen,” he said quietly. “It’s none of those reasons. The whole reason I wanted to wait until we’re married was out of respect for the relationship itself. What we have together … it’s something special. And I wanted it to stay special.”
She looked up at him, her brow knitting slightly. “I think I get what you’re saying,” Lois murmured, and then her hazel eyes filled with that look of determination that he knew so well. “If that’s what’s bothering you, then, I’ve got the cure. Finish getting dressed; we’re going out.”
With that vague pronouncement, Lois got out of bed and headed for the shower. Clark could only watch her, perplexed. What on earth did she have in mind?
One week ‘til…
Lois woke up with a groan, her head throbbing and her mouth dry. She could smell strong coffee somewhere nearby, and she blearily raised her head from the pillow to peer around. This wasn’t her bedroom … but there was coffee on the table beside her, and she sipped it gratefully.
Memories began to trickle back in. Last night had been the bachelorette party – that explained why she was waking up on someone else’s sofa. She vaguely remembered drinking wine with dinner at the very upscale restaurant, and then Loueen and Lucy had gone home sober in deference to their children. The rest of the women, however, had gone out on the town – and that somehow included Lana, Lois remembered with a worried frown. “God, how much did I drink?” she groaned.
“Enough to kill a horse,” Maggie Sawyer’s voice came from somewhere behind her. “Is it safe to get near you, or are you still gonna snarl and try to smack me?”
“I’m awake,” Lois grumbled, shoving her rumpled hair back from her forehead. “God. Why did I let you guys talk me into this? Why?”
“One last wild night out with the girls, and I didn’t talk you into it, Tobie and Cat did,” Maggie replied, coming further into the room. She looked at Lois critically and then shook her head with a sigh. “You look like hell, Lois.”
“Bite me, Sawyer,” Lois growled, sipping the coffee.
“Be glad I was there,” the lieutenant sighed, sitting down on the chair opposite Lois. “I was the only one halfway-sober enough to make sure you and the rest of the boozers got some hydration before you went to sleep. Your head would be twice as bad if I hadn’t.”
Lois vaguely remembered whining as she was forced to drink an entire quart of some sports drink. “Yeah, you were also the one who said I couldn’t go back to my apartment,” she replied. “Which is why I’ve got this knot in my shoulder from sleeping on your sofa.”
“I’m not having you get sick in your sleep and choke to death a week before your wedding, Lois,” Maggie said seriously. “We see it all the time. I wasn’t going to leave you alone to sleep it off. If anything happened, you would’ve been glad to be here.”
I think Kal-El would’ve flown to my rescue if anything drastic happened, Lois thought, but she merely yawned and shuddered at the taste in her mouth. “Thanks, Maggie,” she said. “I’m sorry you got elected to be the responsible one last night…”
“Well, I think Lana had planned to stay sober and keep an eye on everyone,” Maggie told her, “but Tobie bought her a Long Island Iced Tea and didn’t tell her what was in it. From what I gathered afterward, Lana decided she liked them and bought herself three more. She was totally smashed by the end of the night – you and I had to practically carry her up to her hotel room.”
Lois sat up all the way at that. “Is she okay? Lana’s not a drinker…”
“She’ll be fine,” Maggie reassured her. “Probably about as hung over as you are, but basically okay. If your ex ever finds out it was Tobie who got her started, though, he’ll never forgive her.”
“Richard will get over it,” Lois said. “Nobody held a gun to Lana’s head and made her drink. It’s high time she got a chance to kick up her heels, anyway.” She yawned again and grimaced. “Ugh. Maggie, do you have some mouthwash or something? Yuck.”
The lieutenant chuckled. “Go take a shower, Lois. It’ll clear your head and rinse off the cigarettes-and-spilled-beer perfume you’re wearing. There’s a travel toothbrush on the sink you can use, and Listerine in the medicine cabinet. I haven’t woken Tobie yet, so you’ll have hot water.”
“Thanks,” Lois replied, smiling for the first time that morning. “I owe you, Mags.”
“You’ve been in debt to me for years,” Sawyer replied. “And if you don’t quit calling me that I’m gonna pitch you out the front door without a shower, or the rest of your coffee.”
“That would be police brutality,” Lois joked weakly. “Seriously, though. Thank you for looking out for all of us. I don’t think anyone expected to get as drunk as we all did, and I’m glad you were around to keep us off the front page of someone else’s newspaper.”
Maggie grinned. “Any time,” she said. “Besides, getting to watch the four of you sing karaoke – badly – was worth the trouble.”
“Oh, God,” Lois groaned. “I thought that was a nightmare!”
“Nope, it was real. Including ‘Stand by Your Man’ and other hilarious classics,” Maggie laughed. “Anyway, scram. I’ve got to leave for work; you’re a lucky sucker for having two weeks off. I’m gonna wake Tobie for I head out, so she’ll probably drink the rest of the coffee by the time you get out.”
“I’ll take another cup into the shower with me if I have to,” Lois replied, arching an eyebrow. Thank God, Clark has the twins at his place. I’m just going to go home and sleep this off. Oh, my head – I haven’t been this bad off since college.
“See you at five for final fittings,” Maggie said, still amused. “Altering the freakin’ tux is taking almost as long as making the bridesmaids’ dresses from scratch.”
“Well, if you could show up for more than half an hour at a time,” Lois teased. “The rest of us have been subjected to tailoring torture for a couple hours at a stretch, and the dresses were started before you guys bought the tuxedos.”
“Speaking of clothes,” Maggie added, “your stuff’s on the back of that chair, freshly laundered. I know, I ought to run a halfway house for drunken reporters. Now go on, stop talking and get showered – some of us have jobs to go to.”
“I didn’t want the week off,” Lois replied testily. “Perry made me take the time.”
“Hey, he’s giving you away at the wedding; that makes him an official father figure. So he can do that,” Maggie shot back.
Left without a suitable retort, Lois just rolled her eyes and gathered up her clothes. “This is gonna be a long day,” she muttered under her breath. “As if the last two months haven’t been…”