The day before…
Patrolman Murray, coming off-shift after delivering evidence to the S.C.U. offices, lingered around the precinct for a few moments. He made small talk with the detectives, discussed a few cases, and paused for coffee on his way out. As was his habit, he parted the blinds and peered out into the parking lot before heading back to his cruiser. Getting surprised once by the drunk, angry brother of a man he’d just arrested had left him with a lasting caution.
What he saw today, however, was no cause for worry. Quite the contrary; the young cop grinned at the view. Detective Kurland, also coming off shift, saw him and said casually, “See something funny?”
“Grand slam in the parking lot,” Murray replied, never shifting his gaze.
“What’s a grand slam?” Kurland asked.
“It’s a hunting term,” the younger man told him. “When you bag one of each subspecies – like a whitetail, a mule deer, and a blacktail.”
“You tryin’ to say we have deer in the parking lot?” Kurland gave him a dubious look.
“No, but there’s a blonde, a brunette, a redhead, and a girl with black hair, all leaning up against the same car,” Murray said, peering out for a better look. “Nice. I hope they like men in uniform…”
Shaking his head, Kurland parted the blinds next to Murray and took a look. He, however, wasn’t pleased. “You rookie, those are reporters,” he snapped. “Shit, that’s Tobie Raines from the Daily Star, Lois Lane from the Planet, Cat Grant from WGBS News, and … well, I dunno who the redhead is, but I don’t like her choice of company. Hey! Anybody know why we’ve got a media invasion in the parking lot?”
One of the older officers, Lieutenant Dan Turpin, laughed at both of them. “Raines, Lane, and Grant? They’re not here for a story. Hold on, boys.” With another chuckle, he turned and yelled down the corridor, “Sawyer! Your entourage is here!”
“They’re here for Sawyer?” Murray said. He glanced back outside, looking at the lineup in disbelief. “You mean Maggie Sawyer? She’s…”
“Lieutenant Sawyer, boy,” Turpin scolded him. “Hey, Mags! The natives are restless!”
“Tell them to hold on a minute,” Maggie’s voice floated out to them from somewhere in the back of the office. “I’m doing paperwork.”
“Goddamn forms in triplicate,” Turpin muttered companionably. He looked at the two younger officers, grinned, and winked. Raising his voice, he called back to Maggie, “You want me to invite ‘em in for coffee while they wait?”
“Hell no!” she yelled back. “Reporters are like stray cats – give ‘em coffee and they never go away. I already made that mistake once.”
“Twice,” Turpin retorted. “Lane’s got clearance to use the shooting gallery, thanks to you.”
“Would you rather Lois be running loose knowing how to shoot and in good practice, or just throwing lead around like any other civilian who’s watched too many bad cop movies?” Maggie asked, coming up the hallway. “Dan, I’m out of here – we’re already gonna be late to the rehearsal.”
“Yeah, and you’re off tomorrow for Lois’ wedding, unless something big goes down – in which case the bride’ll postpone it herself to chase the story anyway.” Turpin chuckled again and clapped Maggie on the shoulder. “Go on, get out while you can. I just never figured you for a bridesmaid.”
“Who said I was a bridesmaid?” Maggie asked him, and gave him one of her rare smiles. “I’m one of the groomsmen.”
That startled a laugh out of Dan, and Maggie turned to go. Murray stopped her at the door. “Um, Lieutenant? Ma’am? Mind if I shake your hand?”
“Not at all, Patrolman?” Maggie said, doing so with a mystified air. “Mind if I ask why, though?”
“Hoping some of your luck will rub off?” he said apologetically.
She gave him her best level, steely-eyed cop glare, wondering if he was about to make some crude sexist remark. When the rookie just looked abashed instead of sneering, she relented; he meant no offense. “Trust me, that crowd is more trouble than it’s worth most times,” Maggie told him. “You gentlemen take care; Dan, see you day after tomorrow.”
With that she was out the door and heading toward the car, a dark green Mercedes she didn’t recognize. To her surprise, she saw Lana sitting outside with them; then again, no one at the precinct would’ve known who the designer was. Probably thought she was another reporter. “All right, I’m gonna have to ask you lot to move on,” Maggie said in her sternest voice. “You’re disturbing the peace and possibly inciting a riot amongst the single male officers.”
That prompted an amused grin from Lois, pulling herself up from her leaning position against the Mercedes. “Well, that’s a line I’ve never heard before,” she drawled sarcastically as Maggie reached the car.
“So arrest us,” Tobie teased. “I saw somebody peeking out the window; did they think we were about to storm them with questions?”
“No, but one rookie thought he was gonna come out here and try to pick all of you up,” Maggie said.
That brought a round of derisive laughter from the three reporters. Lois pushed her sunglasses up as she grinned even wider. “Oh, someone overestimates his appeal. Especially if you told him who we were.”
“Dan called you all my entourage,” Maggie said with a self-deprecating chuckle. “Then the kid wanted to shake my hand in case having a bunch of women follow you around is contagious or something. Poor boy, I still don’t think he gets it…”
“Not from us, he’s not,” Tobie laughed nastily. “Your entourage wouldn’t do him any good. Me and two married women…”
That brought Lois’ hazel eyes over to Tobie sharply. “Wait just a minute, there, Raines. One married woman and one engaged woman. I’m not married yet.”
“Close enough,” Tobie said. “If you try to skip out on this one, your wedding planner there will probably tie you to a handcart and let Perry roll you down the aisle.”
“I wouldn’t have to,” Lana said. “Martha certainly would, though.”
Seeing an opportunity to harass the news anchor, Tobie said, “Well, at least the rookie’s skills aren’t totally botched. There’s always Cat, who lives up to her name.”
“I do have a boyfriend, you know,” Cat said loftily.
“Who is it this week?” Tobie asked her, feigning innocence while Lois snickered and Maggie tried not to.
Lana cleared her throat quietly. “Ladies? We’re going to be late to the rehearsal as it is.” Over the past four months, she’d gotten to know Lois’ circle of friends well enough to realize that if they got started with sarcastic comebacks, they’d never stop.
“Let Lois drive,” Maggie suggested. “She’ll get us there faster.”
“Are you sure?” Tobie asked, looking from Lois to Lana dubiously.
“Why not?” Maggie said, shrugging. “I’m off duty.”
That little addition seemed rather cryptic to Lana … right up until the moment Lois got behind the wheel, revved the Mercedes’ diesel engine, and smiled a slow, evil smile. But by then, it was too late – Lana had already agreed to let Lois drive and handed over her keys.
Arriving at the Centennial Hotel, Lana was the first out of the car once they slipped into the parking space, resisting the urge to bolt indoors. “What’s wrong, cheerleader?” Lois asked her merrily.
“I will never ride in a car with you again,” Lana said. “Never. I’ll baby-sit your daughter’s insane shirt-diving ferret for a year before I get in a car you’re driving. And under absolutely no circumstances including the end of the world as we know it will I ever let you drive my car. Heck, I’ll let Tobie take me out drinking before I do that again! You are the most reckless, lead-footed…”
The reporter shook her head, eyes skyward, as she slid out from behind the wheel. “Why is it that all you people from Smallville, with the exception of one kid, are a bunch of light-weights scared to drive a car?”
“That’s not driving, that’s completely reckless…” Lana began.
Tobie overrode her. “Look, I didn’t mean to get you drunk,” she explained. “I’m sorry, all right? Besides, I’m not the one who went back to the bar and ordered three more freakin’ Long Island Iced Teas!”
“You should’ve told me what was in them,” Lana reminded her, but without rancor. “Gin, rum, tequila, and vodka? Do I look like I drink any of the above on a regular basis?”
“You’re married to Richard,” Tobie replied. “That’d drive anyone to drink.”
Lana glared, but Lois hit her fellow reporter in the shoulder. “Tobie, shut up! You know how I feel about that topic,” she snapped. “Some of us are rather fond of Richard. Do you remember what I told you about him? Hmm? Remember what I said to you the first time you met him – it still applies.”
“Someday I’m going to ask you what that was,” Lana said, noting the embarrassed expression on Tobie’s face with interest. “I’m just glad we did the bachelorette party the week before, not the day before. Lois was hung over the next morning, and I can’t imagine how horrible that would be tomorrow.”
“It was my fault,” Maggie said as she got out of the backseat, slipping on her sunglasses. “I was supposed to be staying sober enough to keep an eye on all of you so no one ended up in the hospital or in jail.”
Remembering that morning, Lois had to groan. “Yeah, well, from what I can recall, we three didn’t exactly help you much in that arena. Who dared me to do tequila shots? And why did I agree to it?”
“Tobie dared you,” Cat said. “And you did it because you left your good sense three vodka sours behind.”
“Maggie, I’m not trying to assign blame,” Lana told the policewoman gently as they headed to the door, ignoring Tobie and Cat sniping at each other in their wake. “If anyone’s at fault, it’s me. I didn’t ask what was in the drink – I thought it was like hard lemonade, just with iced tea instead – and I never should’ve gone back for three of anything. We have a saying back home: if you can’t run with the big dogs, stay under the porch. And I definitely should’ve stayed under the porch.”
“I don’t know about dogs,” Tobie said, leaving Cat and Lois alone for the moment. She patted Lana’s shoulder with a grin, and continued, “But you’re welcome to run with this gang of crazy bitches any time.”
“Thank you,” Lana replied warmly. “Still, next time I’ll stick to something non-alcoholic for the sake of my own sanity. Lois, my keys, please? I’m sure my poor car is traumatized after that…”
“It’s a freakin’ E320 with a V-6 engine,” Lois complained, tossing the keys to her. “That’s how it’s meant to be driven! It ought to be illegal to drive it like someone’s grandma’s Buick. Jeez.”
“Right,” Lana said, shaking her head. She’d never wanted to know what it felt like to drive seventy miles an hour on surface streets. “Shall we, ladies? I believe everyone else is already here… Lois, I need you for a few minutes for the final fitting on that dress.”
That stopped Lois in mid-stride just outside the entrance. Sighing, she rolled her head back to stare at the ceiling of the garage. Not again… There had been several fittings over the last month and no matter how glorious the dress had turned out, she was just about over the poking and prodding. The look on her face was all too akin to her twins’ faces when they were told they had to clean their room. Even the tone of her voice was the same, that plea for mercy. “Do I have to? I’ve got a doctor’s note…”
“I thought we were done with final fittings,” Tobie groaned. “Is it just Lois, or are we all gonna be subjected to tailor torture?”
“I didn’t hear you complaining when we were all lounging around in our underwear, Tobie,” Cat teased.
“Yeah, well, why would I?” the Star reporter replied. Maggie just sighed heavily, rolling her eyes as she held the door for all of them.
“For the record, Lois is the only one getting ‘tailor torture’ this afternoon,” Lana said. “The rest of you just get to rehearse the wedding until I’m sure you know what you’re doing.”
“Wedding advice from the woman who got married barefoot on the beach in the Bahamas,” Tobie shot back. “Hey, that’s got a nice little alliterative ring to it…”
“The second wedding,” Lana corrected. “For the first I had a big church wedding with all the usual trappings. Far worse than this.”
Slowly, the reality of how many things were left to do and how much of it revolved around her was closing in. Lois was the last one through the door, dragging her feet again. It was starting too feel too real, too close… “Is it really too late to elope?” she muttered.
“The caterer and the band have already been paid, so yes,” Lana replied, catching the reporter’s shoulder. “Come on, it’s not so bad. At least you got Pachelbel’s Canon in D major instead of ‘Here Comes the Bride.’ I hate that piece of music, personally, but my mom…”
That effectively cancelled out any jitters that were creeping up on her. “Any song with the alternative lyrics ‘Here comes the bride, big fat and wide,’ is not a good thing,” Lois commented sourly, the expression on her face and the tone of her voice making the bridesmaids snicker. “My cousin Eric had seen Sixteen Candles on DVD recently and kept singing it all through Lucy’s rehearsal. I’ll have classical, thanks.”
“And I’ll completely support you in that,” Lana replied, one hand in the middle of the reporter’s back to get her moving again.
Lois sighed and stepped forward, remembering how that little debate with her mother had gone. “Thank God, I have someone to back me up.”
They didn’t even make it all the way across the lobby before the daily round of crises began. Kay, looking as if she wished she’d never gotten involved in this wedding, hurried up to Lana with a notebook in hand. “You want the bad news or the worse news?” were the first words out of her assistant’s mouth.
“Both.” Now it was the redhead’s turn to sigh, still heading for the ballroom with Lois being marched before her. “And I’ll go on record as saying that I’m starting to wish you eloped, Lois.”
Kay laughed shortly before listing the current issues. “First off, the florist screwed up the flowers – some of the roses were pink instead of red. I got that one handled, I think, but if they don’t pull through on the correction we might have to run out to another florist and pick up some red roses and hope no one notices that the professional arrangements were tinkered with. Next, the caterer is freaking out because they lost the check.”
“They what?” Lana asked in clear amazement. Lois’ expression said more than words ever could.
“Lost the check,” Kay replied, shaking her head slightly. “They know they received it, and they know they didn’t cash it, but they lost it somewhere in the shop and now they’re totally bouncing off the walls.”
Lois just stood there with crossed arms, her brows knitting. She could feel herself growing annoyed, but she had promised Lana that she’d leave the person-to-person issues to the redhead. Lois had enough stress just going through with the event; she was the wedding planner. Lana had said she could handle it.
Right. More like, ‘I can’t have you going medieval on the staff before I get you married off, you heathen’, Lois thought with a grin. Nevertheless, she weighed in with, “I’d imagine. What kind of idiot loses a check that amount?”
Just then, she heard her thought confirmed out loud. “Thank God Lana’s handling this,” Cat muttered softly. “At least she has a personal assistant to keep track of everything. And less of a tendency to cuss people out for being stupid. Can you imagine Lois doing all this herself?”
The mere thought provoked a snort of amusement from Tobie. “They would’ve eloped. Seriously, look who we’re talking about here. We both know Lois wouldn’t put up with this herself; she’d bail in a heartbeat and say to hell with the moms and their fancy-schmancy wedding.”
“Oh, dear,” Lana was meanwhile groaning to Kay, ignoring the whispered conversation behind her. “Remind me who paid the caterer?”
“The mother of the groom,” Kay said. “And speaking of moms, that’s the best news of all. Mrs. Lane just called a few minutes ago. Her car blew a tire – and I mean it blew out the whole sidewall. She said she ran over something, she and Lucy are fine, but it’s going to take at least half an hour for Triple-A to get to where she is. More like forty-five minutes to an hour, in this traffic. They’re not that far from here, though.”
Hearing that, it was Lois’ turn to groan. Closing her eyes in irritation, she threw her hands up, muttering, “Figures. I just told her to take it to the dealership to get it checked, but no. She wanted to wait until after the wedding. And it blows the day before. God, Mother…”
Lana came to a decision in seconds. “Fine.” Opening her purse, she took out her car keys and wallet, and handed both to her assistant. “This is what we’ll do. Kay, take my car and go meet Ella and Lucy. If you don’t mind, I’d like you to let them drive the Mercedes back while you wait for Triple-A.”
“No problem,” Kay said, trying to hide a smile at the scowl on Lois’ face. “And?”
Tobie had crossed her arms, watching Kay closely. “Wish I had somebody to run around following my orders,” she whispered under her breath.
Finding an outlet for her exasperation, Lois couldn’t let it pass by. “They’d quit and file sexual harassment in a week,” Lois snarked from where she stood, unable to resist letting them know she heard them this time. “This is why you’ll never make editor, Raines. Tradition holds that every editor makes a pass at their secretary at some point, and you’d have to go one step farther to prove you’re better than the boys.”
“I am better than the boys,” Tobie said drolly, looking bored. “And I don’t want management. That’s only for people too old and too lazy to report.”
“So you keep telling us. Probably so much better that you’d drag your poor secretary off to the supply closet,” Lois returned. Now thoroughly distracted from the current crisis by this line of discussion, she walked over to confront her with a smirk. “And you know what? You can bite me about management – I didn’t really get much choice in the matter!”
Before Lois had a chance to think about her choice of words, Cat was on her. “Oh, speaking of supply closets, you mean like you dragged a recently-appointed International editor off to the supply closet last year?” the news anchor interjected sweetly.
“Hey!” Lois shouted, only now realizing how she had set herself up. “I think you’re misinformed, as usual, Ms. Grant. I was already in the supply closet legitimately; he came in to find me and, well, it was barely more than a kiss no matter what you heard. And if you know about it, it was likely you heard plenty. Besides, I’m marrying him – what more do you want?”
“Wait a sec,” Cat replied, eyes gleaming, “isn’t that what Perry White said about Loueen? And now your boss has a baby on the way…” Lois just glared, unable to make a snappy comeback to that.
“After that, run by the caterer’s and pay them with my debit card,” Lana was saying to Kay. She was aware that Lois had stepped away, could hear the whispering behind her but couldn’t make out the words, and on the whole she preferred it that way. “My PIN is 5784. I’ll tell Martha to put a stop payment on the check she wrote to the caterer’s, and she can pay me the amount. Oh, and while you’re out, stop by an ATM and pull some cash for tips – I think one of the empty company lockbags is in the trunk of my car anyway, so you can use that to carry the cash. About three hundred ought to do it.”
“Sure thing,” Kay replied, grinning. “I’ll get right on that, boss.”
“You know I hate that,” Lana scolded as Kay went to carry out orders. “And don’t get a speeding ticket in my car!”
“C’mon, it’ll burn the carbon out!” Kay called jokingly.
“Lois already did that on the way here. The car – and I – will never be the same,” Lana replied, getting a laugh from her assistant. Then she turned to the reporters and one policewoman following at her heels. “All right, you ladies. You get a reprieve from rehearsal until Ella gets here. Lois, come on, let’s do the final fitting. You look like you lost a pound or two.”
That pulled Lois right out of her joking with the other girls. “Bull,” Lois said, looking affronted at that and then a little guilty. “You cannot tell that by looking.” It always happened when she was worried. And, with the big day drawing nearer and nearer, her stress levels were creeping up as well.
Lana didn’t argue with her, just shaking her head slightly. She turned back to head into the ballroom, and nearly ran into Richard. The rest of the bridal party filed past them as Lana gave him a quick hug. “Hello, darling.”
“Hi,” he said, stealing a kiss. “Not that I’m complaining, but you do realize you just gave your assistant your money and your car, right? I would’ve gladly gone and gotten Ella and Lucy.”
The redhead just chuckled and caught his lapels gently. “Did it ever occur to you that I might want you here?” she purred, and kissed him again lingeringly. “C’mon, I’ve got to do Lois’ final fitting and see what the decorators have been up to since I left to pick up the girls…”
This was becoming a very familiar sight whenever this particular pair of newlyweds was around. It had taken some time to get used to it, for the slight feeling of wounded jealousy to fade; both Lana and Richard had been chagrined any time they thought Lois had seen it. Now, four months later, she could only be happy for them. Especially Richard. But that didn’t mean she didn’t heckle them about it. Watching the two of them with an affectionate shake of her head, Lois rolled her eyes at Cat and Tobie and said in a raised voice, “Oh, for the love of God, here they go again… Quick, someone pass me the insulin.”
And they were getting pretty good at ignoring her. Sliding her arm around his waist, Lana nudged Richard toward the ballroom. He draped his arm around her shoulders – she happened to be the perfect height for them to walk like this – and they walked into the ballroom together.
Chaos reigned, as expected. With the wedding so close, everyone was trying to manage the last-minute adjustments to the ballroom itself; the flower arrangements Kay had mentioned, the seating, the placement of the musicians, the positioning of the aisle itself. And this wasn’t even going into the garden outside, which would play host to the reception. The mere thought of all of the things that could go wrong roared up in Lois while she tried, with little success, to fight it back. And then she heard the sound of running feet and giggling voices nearby.