For those of you that haven't seen Chapter Eighty, here we go.
The morning of…
Richard unlocked Lois’ apartment door early in the morning and headed inside, whispering to Lana, “Be quiet. If she’s not up yet, I don’t want to wake her.”
“She’s your ex, not a hibernating bear,” Lana whispered back. “Besides, someone has to wake her if we’re going to get her and Kala to the spa in time.”
“Just let me put coffee on and get the kids up,” Richard replied, moving easily through the apartment. They’d been over often enough to visit, and were planning to stay here for a week to watch the twins while Lois and Clark went on their honeymoon, so both of them were comfortable in the apartment.
While Richard started brewing coffee, Lana glanced through the latest pictures the twins had made and hung on the refrigerator. Jason seemed quite the portraitist – she quickly recognized several drawings of Lois and Clark. And then, to her immense and unexpected joy, she saw a drawing titled ‘My Family’ which included everyone. Both grandmothers, the Troupes, and even she and Richard were represented. “Richard, look,” she whispered, nudging him.
He grinned just as broadly as she had, and then opened the fridge. “Damn, she’s got Panera bagels,” he said to himself. “And that hazelnut spread…”
“Leave that alone,” Lana hissed at him. “We’re not here to raid her fridge, Richard!”
“Speak for yourself,” he replied. “Besides, who says I’m taking these bagels for me? I’m just making the twins breakfast.”
“Yeah, right,” Lana sighed. “Richard, shoo. Go make her coffee and I’ll fix the bagels for everyone – you included, you shameless mooch.”
He rolled his eyes but set about making three cups of coffee. Not without a final mutter of protest. “We’re house-sitting and twins-sitting for a week; the least she owes me is a bagel.”
“Hush,” Lana scolded him as she spread the hazelnut cream on five bagels. “We both leaped at the chance to have the twins all to ourselves for an entire week, and you know you love the chance to be back in Metropolis again.”
“You’re right,” Richard conceded, “as usual. Besides, you realize that that balcony out there is the one where the first Superman interview took place? It should be on the national register of historic places.”
Lana took Lois’ coffee and her own from him, picking up two bagels for herself and the reporter. “Sometimes you are such a fanboy, love,” she commented, kissing him. “I’m going to get Lois.”
“Seriously, put the coffee down and leave,” Richard told her. “Lois is dangerous in the morning. Let me get the twins up and sic them on her.”
“So she can yell at them instead of you? Let me handle it.” Shaking her head at his silliness, Lana headed into Lois’ bedroom, expertly balancing the bagels and coffee.
“I love you,” Richard called after her as he went in the opposite direction to wake Jason and Kala. “I’ll miss you – I’ll write you a great obituary.”
Rolling her eyes, the redhead went into the darkened room, where Lois was merely a lump under the covers. “Good morning, Lois,” Lana said gently.
Lois growled in her sleep, moving around just a bit, which gave Lana pause for a moment. This might actually be as dangerous as everyone claimed… Oh, please. Lois isn’t half as vicious as she lets people think she is. You know perfectly well that most of it is a front.
Besides, she wouldn’t harm anyone who brings her coffee. That’s a proven fact, according to Clark. With that comforting thought, Lana sat down on the edge of the bed, placing the bagels on the nightstand, and held Lois’ coffee mug just in front of her while sipping from her own. “Come on, it’s time to wake up,” she said soothingly. “You have a busy day ahead of you. Coffee and breakfast await.”
For a long moment, Lois didn’t move or acknowledge her presence. Lana sipped coffee patiently, barely able to hear Richard at the other end of the house coaxing the twins out of bed. She knew Jason was sometimes as difficult to wake up as his mother, but Kala at least ought to be excited to start the day…
While she wasn’t looking, Lois reached out from under the covers and took the coffee mug from her, sipping the hot black liquid before she even sat up fully. Lana had to chuckle at her; that wavy hair was currently a mass of tangles, and those keen hazel eyes were mere slits in her scowling expression, pausing in inhaling her coffee just long enough to let out an enormous yawn. Giving a low groan in the back of her as she stretched slightly, she happened to glance at the redhead’s face. “Wha’s so funny?” Lois grumbled.
Lana fought to hide her smile. “Your hair is an absolute wreck,” she told her, unable to conceal all of her amusement. “Come here, let me see if I can do something with it. Breakfast is on the table there – we broke into the bagels. Sorry.”
“That’s why I bought ‘em,” Lois replied, a trifle less grouchily as she sighed and turned her back to Lana in defeat. If it was as bad as she said, the designer might have better luck than she would. “Having bagels keeps Richard out of the éclairs in the freezer. You might wanna learn that bait ‘n’ switch trick, living with him. He’ll steal your food.”
Lana chuckled as she started gently untangling Lois’ hair. “I’ll remember that.”
In Jason’s bedroom, Richard had disentangled the twins from each other and gotten them to at least sit up. They now had separate bedrooms, though they were still sleeping in the same bed, simply alternating rooms. Dr. Marrin said that was fine for now, and their comfort and security was of primary importance. He had turned out to be utterly professional where the twins were concerned, and luckily Jason and Kala hadn’t spilled the truth about their father.
It almost garnered him a little respect from Richard – and considering that he’d seen the blackmail photos, it took a lot to respect Kinky Briefcase. Richard smirked a little as Jason hopped out of bed, his sandy hair still tousled. He was still wearing the Godzilla pajamas he’d gotten for Christmas. Kala saw her brother getting up, and in an effort to beat him she dove out of bed and raced past him.
Richard blinked in amazement; she was fast. She’d gone by like a greyhound, her feet thumping loudly on the carpeted floor, and Jason just glared at her with a surly expression. “Girls,” he grumbled, scrubbing the sleep from his eyes.
“C’mon, tiger,” Richard said, patting his son’s shoulder. “Up and at ‘em. Today’s the wedding, remember?”
The transformation that came over the little boy’s face was amazing. From grumpy and sleepy he went directly to wide-eyed and excited. “I get to carry the rings today!”
“Exactly. And you have to look your best, so hop to it.” Richard shepherded him into the bathroom, where Kala was already standing on the footstool and brushing her teeth. She gave Richard a wide, foamy grin when he tousled her hair.
Fortunately, the twins were fairly quick about their morning routine once they were out of bed. Richard had them ready in less than half an hour – although not dressed in their wedding finery. They would change into those clothes at the last minute to keep them from getting dirty.
Once Jason and Kala were seated on the patio, eating bagels and drinking juice, Richard went to check on Lana. He hadn’t heard any snarling from Lois or calls for help from Lana, but that didn’t necessarily mean that his ex hadn’t killed his wife silently.
To his surprise, Lois actually looked halfway awake, drinking her coffee like a normal person instead of hunching over the mug like an angry hawk. Wonder of wonders, Lana was actually sitting there untangling her hair – which Lois generally wouldn’t let anyone do. The slightest pull on one of those knots would make her yelp and curse and swat at the offender. As it was, Lois actually looked slightly blissed out, leaning into it. Richard shook his head in disbelief. “The kids are up,” he said conversationally. “Lana, I don’t know what kind of horse-whisperer mojo you have goin’ on here, but you should seriously take this act on the road. That right there is the equivalent of sticking your head in a lion’s mouth.”
Well, obviously it hadn’t blissed her out that much. Although by the sparks flaring in those eyes, that woke her up just a bit more. “Shuddup, you big jerk. You come over here, I dare you.”
“Hush, Lois, just ignore him,” Lana soothed, then gave her husband a disapproving look. “Richard, it’s not difficult. All you have to do is keep quiet until she gets some caffeine in her system.”
“Yeah, well, I’ve tried that, and I got coffee burns all down my leg.”
“Because you bonked me in the nose, jackass. Not only that, I didn’t get to sleep until three in the freakin’ morning! And then I didn’t even get the damn coffee because you spilled it when I hit you!” Lois snapped, glaring at him savagely.
He remembered why she’d been awake that late … unfortunately, he tended to wake refreshed after a long night, while Lois woke up grumpy. “Hey, I was trying to hasten your evolution from primordial ooze to human,” he said, grinning slightly.
“Richard, hush,” Lana scolded. She didn’t see Lois’ evilly amused little smile – any comeback Richard wanted to make was stifled by the presence of his wife. “You’re just making her worse.”
“Fine,” he said, taking a step closer. “I’ll take Jason out – the groomsmen are having brunch together. You ladies have fun at the spa, and watch Kala; she’s hyper this morning.”
“I wonder who stirred her up and made her that way?” Lana asked rhetorically. “Go on, darling. I’ll see you at the Centennial. Love you.”
Daring Lois’ proximity to kiss his wife, he replied with a grin. “Love you more.”
Once he was gone, Lana managed to coax Lois the rest of the way awake despite her muttering. A second cup of coffee had helped this state of affairs along. She got Kala dressed in her flower girl tracksuit again, since the little girl insisted on it, and when Lois came out of the shower Lana ambushed her with the hooded shirt the bridesmaids had purchased. “Lana, come on! No,” Lois protested vehemently, trying not to notice the redhead’s reflection in the mirror as she brushed her hair. “You are not getting me in that thing; I told Cat she was a sick woman for even buying it. It is not happening, Lang. Get over it.”
“Lois, it won’t hurt you to wear it for one morning,” Lana said cajolingly. “Please? All the bridesmaids are wearing their matching shirts for the trip to the spa.”
The reporter crossed her arms and glared. “Okay, first of all, I don’t wear hoodies. Secondly, it says The Future Mrs. Kent on the back, and I’m going to Lane-Kent, thank you very much. Third, it’s got a great big fake engagement ring attached to one shoulder. Don’t I have enough humiliation coming up later today?”
Her own reply was a pleading gaze from sea-green eyes … and then a wounded look from the pair of hazel ones that mirrored her own. She hadn’t even known Kala was in the room. “You don’ wanna match with me, Mommy?” Kala asked.
And now there were two sets of disappointed eyes gazing back at her over her shoulder. Just give in this once. It’ll be easier… Lois groaned, covering her face with her hands. “Why did you have to gang up on me?” she whispered. “Oh, fine. It’s only for one morning…”
The rest of the bridal party, including both mothers, met them at the spa, and everyone exclaimed over Lois’ shirt. Tobie, Cat, and Lucy got to wear red shirts that had the word Bridesmaid written across the front in glitter, and someone had found similar black shirts reading Mother of the Bride and Mother of the Groom for Ella and Martha. Even Kala strutted around proudly in her white tracksuit that proclaimed, in bright pink lettering, her flower girl status.
This trip was Lana’s treat; in spite of Lois’ insistence that the dress and her wedding planner services were gift enough, Lana had quietly booked them all for facials and manicures the morning of the wedding. Including Kala – the dark-haired little girl quickly became the darling of the spa staff with her excited antics. When everyone was getting clay mask facials, which they had to leave on for fifteen minutes, one of the spa attendants came by with a tray of cucumber slices and put one on each closed eyelid. Kala watched this with her head cocked and a frown line beginning to appear between her dark brows, until she could contain her curiosity no longer and asked Ella, “How come you’re puttin’ food on your face? That’s gross!”
Ella laughed. “It keeps your eyes from looking puffy,” she explained. “Gets rid of dark circles, too.”
Kala scowled, looking from her Nana to her mother. “Puttin’ pickles on your eyes does that?”
“Yup,” Lucy confirmed, as the rest of the girls snickered.
Still frowning at her mother, Kala leaned forward and whispered, “Nana, Mommy draws dark circles around her eyes. On purpose.”
“That’s eyeliner, sweetie, and it’s something different,” Ella said. The other women tried to contain their laughter, Lucy failing conspicuously, as she continued, “The cucumbers – not pickles, pickles are what cucumbers turn into – help get rid of those nasty gray baggy spots under your eyes. Which you don’t have, because you’re young.”
“Oh,” Kala replied thoughtfully. “It’s still weird.”
“Feels nice, though,” Cat told her. “Give it a try, honey.”
Kala obeyed, looking suspiciously up at the attendant who placed two thin slices of cucumber over her eyes. The rest of the group realized she evidently approved when they heard her snoring a few minutes later.
Lois had been uncharacteristically silent throughout this, and Ella reached out with a mother’s intuition to take her hand. She could feel the tension vibrating in her oldest daughter, and squeezed her hand gently. “Lois, it’s going to be just fine,” she whispered.
“Are you still stressing, Lane?” Tobie called, softening her usual harsh banter. “C’mon, it’s a wedding, not a root canal. Some of us actually envy you.”
“Yeah, and you’re marrying Clark,” Cat added. “He’s like the sweetest guy on the face of the earth. Quite a catch; relax and take pride in it.”
Lois couldn’t help chuckling a little bitterly. What did they know, anyway? She wasn’t just marrying Clark; she was marrying Superman, too. This was her wedding with Kal-El, and every time the two of them had tried to be together in the past, something had gone catastrophically wrong. She’d found out his identity, and the Zod Squad arrived to turn their world upside down. They’d almost patched up their relationship while searching for the twins last year, and then she had gotten kidnapped and Luthor almost killed both of them. What would it be this time? An asteroid? His father’s dire pronouncements? Or maybe that old standby of a first-time groom, cold feet? It could be as simple as that – why would he, with everything he was and could be, want to settle for her? Lois Lane, nasty-tempered over-caffeinated journalist, a woman with a permanent chip on her shoulder…
Ella was holding her left hand, and now someone else took her right. A work-worn hand, lightly callused, the joints thickened by arthritis, but the skin papery-soft as only an older person’s could be. Martha. “I am so very glad that you and my son are getting married,” she said quietly. “I’m delighted that he has found such deep and profound love, and I’m positively ecstatic that I can officially welcome you and the twins into the family. But you know, Lois, you and Jason and Kala have been family all along. This ceremony is simply that – a formality recognizing what everyone already knows to be true.”
Silence met her words, until Ella asked softly, “Are you sure you don’t want to run for Congress, Martha? You’ve got quite the gift for oratory there.”
“Just saying what needs to be said,” Martha replied, and Lois squeezed her hand. It didn’t quite banish her jitters, but it drove them far enough away for her to relax a little.
Coming back from brunch, the groomsmen headed into the ballroom. Richard was the first one through the doors, and he came to an abrupt halt, staring around him. “Wow,” Jimmy said softly behind him.
The room, which they had last seen after rehearsals yesterday evening, had been transformed overnight by Lana’s team of decorators. The boys had helped set up the chairs, but the black frames and white seat cushions looked a little stark without further decoration. Now, with black candelabras holding white candles at the end of every third row and a fine red ribbon run along the backs of the chairs, the seating was elegant. The carpet running down the aisle was white, with a narrow tracery of black and silver along the edges, and the windows had been hung with sheer white draperies that bore the same pattern. They had been pulled back with wide, silver-edged red ribbon to let in the afternoon light; the ceremony would be conducted without artificial lighting, just the candles and the waning sun.
Lois wanted a secular wedding, so the various accessories were on a table up on the dais at the front instead of on an altar. Lana had covered it with two tablecloths, a black-bordered red one underneath and a lace-edged white one on top. The red and black only showed through the openings in the lace, which Richard particularly admired as he wandered in.
The flowers looked lovely, too – someone had fixed the mix-up over the roses, and the white lilies used sparingly in arrangements lent a traditional touch. In fact, the entire room spoke of Lana’s particular style, grounded in classical sensibilities but with a more streamlined, modern approach. No frilly ruffles here, but plenty of rich fabric neatly gathered into soft pleats. The silver and crystal champagne flutes and serving set were ornamented with scrollwork, but even that was clean and elegant.
No wonder Lois let Lana take over the planning, Richard thought. This is all very much to Lois’ taste. Who would’ve thought that two women so different would have such similar styles?
“This is pretty wicked,” Jimmy remarked, looking over the guestbook and the silver platter for the guests to engrave. “Lois and Clark went all out, didn’t they?”
“Funniest thing was everyone arguing over who got to pay for what,” Ron told him. “Both moms wanted to foot the bill, Clark and Lois fought over how much they were allowed to contribute, and Lana donated her time, her employees’ time, and the dress. I’m sure she picked up a couple of other things, too, though no one knows exactly what. I’ve seen people try to get out of paying for stuff before, but this is a new one on me.”
“Lois and I didn’t fight,” Clark corrected mildly. “We just didn’t want either of our mothers spending so much on this wedding. But if I’m totally honest, I’m kind of glad she and I didn’t have to pay for it all ourselves.”
“Geez, I’d have gone broke,” Jimmy said. “I can’t imagine what it all cost.”
“Wait ‘til you see the reception stuff,” Richard told him. “Eight kinds of dessert treats, not to mention the hors d’œuvres… Hey, wait a sec. I wonder if the caterers have been here yet.”
The groomsmen all paused, the thoughts of sweet and savory snacks filling their minds. Richard grinned and rumpled Jason’s hair as the boy looked up at him in confusion. “Hey, sport, how ‘bout we all go make sure the reception food tastes good?”
“Lois will be furious,” Clark warned.
“No, she’ll just kill you all,” Maggie said. “Especially if you get to it before she does. You do know there’s cheesecake involved, right?”
“You know, once in my life I’d like to have a bite of cheesecake before Lois gets to it,” Richard replied.
“Not on her wedding day,” Maggie retorted. “I don’t want to have to tell your wife she’s a widow. Forget it.”
Jason had been looking back and forth between the adults while they talked, but since no one seemed to be heading toward food, he went back to his primary concern of the morning. “Daddy, when can I wear my pimp hat?”
Ron and Jimmy immediately dissolved into laughter, while Clark looked dismayed. “Not yet, Jason,” Richard said patiently. “Wait and surprise Mommy right before the wedding.”
“You want to die, don’t you?” Maggie asked. “First you try and steal the desserts, and then you want to ‘surprise’ Lois with that hat. You ought to have something to live for; you just got married a few months ago! Quit trying to get yourself killed by your ex, okay?”
“He’ll get away with it,” a new voice said, and they all turned to see Kay approaching them. She gave Richard a wry smirk as she continued, “I keep thinking my boss is going to completely lose her cool, but somehow he manages to make her think he’s cute and funny.”
“I am cute and funny,” Richard said with his broadest grin. “Not to mention devastatingly handsome and virtually irresistible.”
“Stick with cute,” Kay told him, laughing. “It’s keeping you alive. Anyway, to answer your question, the caterers haven’t set up yet. But they do have a tray of samples set aside for anyone who helps with putting the reception tables in the garden, and since you all have a while before you have to get dressed…”
Jason looked up at her with wide, pleading eyes. “Miss Kay, does this mean I can have some cheesecake?”
“Maybe,” Kay chuckled softly. Trying to distract him, she asked, “Where’s your sister? I’ve never seen you two apart.”
He made an absolutely disgusted face. “Gettin’ her hair done with ev’rybody else. Girls. Bleah.”
Everyone laughed, Ron patting his nephew on the shoulder. “You’ll change your tune one of these days. Girls are kinda fun, when you get older anyway.”
“Kinda?” Richard said incredulously, the expression on his face priceless. “You have four kids, man.”
Everyone met up again when the girls got back from the spa that afternoon. All except Lois – she’d been forced to allow a professional to style her hair and do her makeup, and no one wanted the groom to see her before the wedding. So while the mothers and bridesmaids met up with the boys and kept them distracted, Lana hustled Lois off to the bridal room.
No one realized what had happened until Lana had already closed the door to the bridal room. Then Richard looked up and sighed in exasperation. “Damn! They did it again! She managed to sneak away again. Three months off the job and I’m losing my reporting instincts.”
Tobie bit her lip on a sharp retort, while Cat gushed, “Oh, you guys, she looks so beautiful. You’re going to be so surprised.”
“Isn’t that what everyone says after you have life-altering plastic surgery following a car wreck?” Richard groused, more than a little annoyed with himself. “Either that or after you die and the mortician puts makeup on you…”
“Richard!” Lucy yelped, and hit him. “Get over yourself! You’ll see the dress today. We promise.”
“And nobody with a y-chromosome gets to see the bride before she walks up the aisle,” Tobie added, editing the remark in deference to the children.
No one had yet noticed Kala preening; she had been giving a little bit of very light makeup while her hair was styled, mostly so she wouldn’t feel left out. Jason was the first to spot the hint of blush and lip gloss, and he leaned forward, staring. Kala beamed at him, so proud of how adult she looked until he asked, “What’s the matter with your face?”
The little girl looked as if she’d been slapped. The look of indignant rage that crossed her features came straight from her mother. “You’re a stupid boy!” Kala yelled, the embarrassment obvious in her voice. “It’s makeup, dummy-head! It’s what grown-up girls wear!”
“But you’re not a grownup,” Jason protested. “You’re just a little kid!”
After feeling like a princess, nearly as pretty as Mommy, this was not what his twin wanted to hear. Kala shrieked angrily and lunged at him, and Clark had to snatch her up by the waist before she revealed her super-speed. “Enough,” he said sternly, looking down at the child on his hip.
“But Daddy!” she wailed, lower lip trembling.
“Sweetheart, you look lovely,” Clark told her with a proud smile, chucking her under the chin. “Jason’s just never seen you in makeup before. Besides, he’s a kid too.”
That seemed to avert the threatened tears, Kala giving Jason a superior look, as Richard pulled the boy over to him. “We’ve got to work on your girl skills, son,” he teased Jason. “You obviously take after Clark there. It’s all right, we have a few years before you start dating.”
Jason didn’t understand, cocking his head in bemusement, but Clark heard him and looked up. “Um, Richard?”
“What exactly are you trying to say about me?” Everyone went silent, watching the two men – everyone except Kala, who was still pouting and glaring at her confused brother as Clark set her down.
Hoping he hadn’t taken it as an insult – they both knew what was real and what was an act – Richard grinned apologetically and said, “Well, you’re not the most suave guy on the face of the earth, Clark. I mean, not everyone can be me.”
Clark just looked at him steadily, seeming not to hear the nervous chuckles. “If that’s the case, Richard, then how is it I’m marrying Lois and you’re not?”
“I’m already married,” Richard said quickly.
“Yes, but you were engaged to Lois. And now she’s marrying me – that has to be the ultimate statement in the dating skills department.” Only then did he smile broadly, and everyone burst into laughter at Richard’s expense.
Tobie, however, particularly appreciated seeing her longtime rival knocked down a peg. She stood on tiptoe to hug Clark and kiss his cheek, snickering, “Thanks.”
Clark just shot Richard a very perplexed look over her shoulder, which Richard returned with even more bewilderment.
In the bridal room, Lana checked her watch and breathed a sigh of relief. “We’re running a little early – the guests won’t arrive for an hour, and all that’s really left for us to do is get you dressed.”
“Lucky me,” Lois said sarcastically, although she was grinning just a bit. “Leave me some breathing room when you lace that thing this time, okay?”
“As much as I can,” Lana promised as she unzipped the garment bag that held Lois’ dress. “Listen, Lois, do you believe in wedding superstitions?”
“Not really,” the reporter replied, sitting down with a sigh. “I wasn’t exactly planning on getting married. Ever.”
“Well, there’s the one about something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue,” Lana began.
Beginning to get it, Lois nodded. “Okay, so that’s why the handkerchief has blue embroidery. Well, that’s taken care of.”
“The dress is new and Ella’s emerald pendant was handed down from your grandmother, so it counts for old. That leaves something borrowed.”
Lois gave her an arch look. She had seen that thoughtful expression on Lana’s face several times in the last two months. “You’re plotting something, cheerleader.”
Lana handed her a small jewelry box, and Lois opened it, eager for something to distract her from the impending moment of truth. Inside was a pair of emerald drop earrings, set in silver. While not a perfect match for the new ring and the antique necklace, all three pieces would harmonize well. “I know you wanted to wear the silver filigree earrings I gave you for Christmas, but what do you think of these?”
The expression on Lois’ face was answer enough as she looked up at her, shaking her head. What could she possibly say? “Thank you, Lana,” she managed quietly, her expression open and honest with affection. “You didn’t have to do this. Any of this. You’ve really gone out of your way on this wedding and I don’t think I could make this up to you.”
Shrugging one shoulder, the redhead said, “What else would you expect me to do for the sister I never had?”
Unable to help herself, Lois felt her heart constrict. For a moment she was going to reach out and squeeze Lana’s hand. Oh, to hell with it. Impulsively, Lois reached out and hugged the older woman. Smiling, she murmured again, “Thank you.”
The bridesmaids and moms finally left Richard to his humiliation and headed off to the bridal room to help Lois get ready. “Okay, people,” Kay told the groom’s party. “Time to get dressed. Family members will start arriving in forty-five minutes. Hustle it!”
“You’ve been working for Lana too long,” Richard said, giving her a quick wink before hurrying off to change into his new suit. In spite of having teased Lana about not letting him pick out his own clothes, he couldn’t fault her taste. The dark blue suit fit perfectly, and its color made his eyes stand out.
He was the first one finished, and since Clark was helping Jason get ready, Richard ran out to his car and brought back the black fedora. When Jason walked out of the men’s room in his brand-new suit, Richard was waiting for him with it, and the little boy’s yelp of delight was audible in the lobby.
That accomplished, Kay drafted Richard to go meet the arriving guests. Ron’s family would be here shortly – two of his sisters were looking after the kids while he and Lucy got ready for the wedding. Richard was particularly looking forward to seeing Michelle and Christiana again, and when they were the first ones through the door he greeted them with a broad grin and open arms. “Michelle! Yonnie! Looking lovely as always. I see you brought the herd.”
The two young women both laughed as they gave Richard hugs and kisses on the cheek, Michelle carrying her four-month-old namesake. The three older kids also hugged their Uncle Richard, who complimented Nora and Joanna on their dresses and admired Sam’s new suit.
Their arrival seemed to be the cue for other friends and family members to start showing up. Perry and Loueen were next, and Richard teased his uncle about actually looking respectable for once. When the older man retorted that Richard was hardly one to talk about respectable, Loueen split them up before they could start bantering.
Still chuckling, Richard met the next handful of guests and directed them inside, where Kay seated them. He was just getting the hang of all this when Clark suddenly appeared at his side.
Literally appeared; Richard hadn’t seen him walk up, but he felt the draft of super-speed. “I have to go,” Clark muttered distractedly.
“Oh, no,” Richard said, his heart sinking. “Not now. Not today. C’mon, man, not today.”
“It’s a volcano in Indonesia,” Clark replied, his eyes focusing on Richard. “I can’t…”
“It’s your wedding,” Richard hissed. “You know Lois is scared of something like this happening – the whole reason she’s been acting like the tough-as-nails General’s Daughter because she’s out of her mind with terror. Clark, no. You can’t leave…”
“Richard, I have to.” The look of desperation in Clark’s eyes made the conflict in his heart apparent. The lives of hundreds, maybe thousands of people, or his marriage to Lois – choosing between the two was never going to be easy. “Tell them I stepped out for a minute. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” With that he was gone, only the open lobby doors betraying his passage through the room.
“You’d better get your ass back here as fast as you can, or Lois will kill us all,” Richard muttered, knowing Clark could hear him. He would’ve liked to swear pungently and extensively, but the guests started to arrive in earnest, and he had no time to himself. All he could do was hope with all his heart that Clark made it back in time…
“Flyboy just got owned,” Tobie told Lois the moment she walked into the bridal room. “Utterly, completely, totally smacked down. By Clark.”
That got her an incredulous look, and the girls had to tell Lois all about that brief exchange between Richard and Clark. Cat finished the tale by adding, “And then Tobie was so glad to see your ex get one-upped, she went and smooched Clark on the cheek. Thus proving that the apocalypse is at hand.”
“Oh, stuff it, Grant,” Tobie teased back. “It won’t really be the end of the world until you stay in a relationship more than six months.”
Amidst more sarcastic comments, Lana chivvied Lois out of her clothes and into the bridal gown, with Ella and Martha helping make sure the fabric didn’t get wrinkled. Everyone was so busy that they didn’t notice how quiet Lois was. For once, the snarky reporter wasn’t participating in the good-natured teasing amongst her friends.
At last, with the dress on and properly laced, everyone went silent to admire the full effect. Martha carefully lowered the tiara onto Lois’ raven hair, arranging the veil. Ella stepped forward and fastened her mother’s emerald necklace around Lois’ neck. She paused, looking at her daughter – the oldest, the problem child, the one she never really expected to get married. The one she always worried she hadn’t been able to do right by. But here was Lois, radiant in ivory lace, the silver and emeralds gleaming.
“Wow,” Tobie said softly, for once without a cynical comment.
“Aw, sis, you look amazing,” Lucy added, sniffling a bit.
Ella bit her lip, her eyes glistening. “My little girl,” she whispered, touching her cheek. “Oh, Lois, you look stunning.”
Lois looked at her mother for a long moment, her expression unreadable, and then the dam broke. Everyone reacted with shock when she burst into tears – a first-time bride was expected to cry at her wedding, but this was Lois Lane. She was infamous for doing the unexpected, and very few people knew her romantic side.
Fortunately, Lana had the presence of mind to grab a handful of tissues and hasten to Lois’ side. “The rest of you, out,” she snapped, the first time any of them had ever heard the redhead even slightly raise her voice. When they didn’t obey instantly, Lana looked away from Lois to glare at the group of them. “If you all get weepy and sentimental she’s just going feel worse. Go. Now.”
They filed out, even Lucy and Ella, and Lana tilted Lois’ head back and dabbed at her face with the tissues. “It’s okay to be nervous,” she soothed. “Here, sit down for a minute.”
“I’m not nervous,” Lois protested weakly, trying to dash the tears from her eyes. “I’m wondering what the hell’s wrong with me.” But she let Lana coax her into sitting down, and held still while the redhead checked her makeup and blotted her face gently.
“Oh, really?” Lana asked. “What do you mean?”
“Something awful’s gonna happen,” Lois murmured pessimistically as she stared at the ceiling, unaware that Kal-El was already in Indonesia. “It always does – we never win. Every time things start to go good for us, something awful comes along to ruin it all. We got together the first time, and the freakin’ Zod Squad came along. After he came back, when we started to get back together, goddamned Lex Luthor almost killed all four of us. Now that we’re married, something else is gonna happen…”
“Lois, nothing bad is going to happen,” Lana soothed, taking one of her hands. And then, trying to distract her, she teased gently, “Besides, you’re not married yet. You still have almost an hour to go.”
“I don’t mean the…” Wide hazel eyes turned to gaze at her, Lois looking almost frightened, before she gave a self-deprecating little chuckle. “Um … damn. That was stupid.”
Lana sat back and stared at her suspiciously. What is it with this woman and secrets? “Um, what? Lois, what have you done now?” At least the reporter wasn’t crying.
“Uh… You know the office party? When I got Jimmy’s car for him?”
“Richard and I were in Gotham, but we heard about it.” Lana crossed her arms and kept on giving Lois her best older-sister stare. “I hear you had the attention of every man in the place.”
“We slipped,” Lois said in a tiny voice.
“We slipped, all right?” The stress she put on the word brought almost immediate understanding from Lana, who nodded. Lois gave a heartfelt sigh. “Freakin’ Smallville values. Anyway, Mr. Morality was beating himself up about the next morning, and we already had the license, so we went to the courthouse…”
“Why you little sneak!” Lana said, half incredulous and half amused. “You mean to tell me you’ve been married for two weeks? Lois!”
“Well?” Lois looked thoroughly ashamed of herself, and finally glanced back at Lana. The other woman’s expression made her laugh and drop her head in her hands. “Yeah, we’ve been married for two weeks and not acting like it. He hasn’t even been to the apartment since.”
“You mean you haven’t…”
“No,” Lois groaned feelingly, rolling her eyes back. “And it’s killing me.”
That cracked both of them up so hard that Lois wasn’t the only one with tears in her eyes. “Oh, dear God,” Lana finally sighed. “That’s just priceless.”
“Yeah, go ahead and laugh,” Lois replied. “I guess this is punishment for jumping the gun.”
“Jumping the superhero, more likely,” Lana replied, almost offhandedly.
Not faking her shock, Lois gaped at her. “Lana!”
That effectively broke both of them into laughter again. When they’d managed to control their snickers, Lana asked, “Are you going to be all right?”
“Yeah, I think I’m gonna be okay,” Lois sighed. “I just… I never planned to be here, you know?”
“I know,” Lana said, taking her hand again and squeezing it gently. “Sometimes the best things in life are the ones you didn’t plan for and couldn’t ever expect. Look at me and Richard. And before you make some snide remark about needing insulin to look at us, I’ll remind you that you and Clark are just as adorably romantic.”
“Can’t argue with you,” Lois replied with a rare sweet smile. “We kinda make the phrase ‘star-crossed lovers’ ridiculously true, don’t we?”
“Yes, but you also prove that old saying, ‘love conquers all’,” Lana reminded her. The reporter could only smile tremulously, the enormity of this day still hanging over her. Having that certificate of marriage was one thing, but it hadn’t seemed real until just now, seeing her reflection in the mirror. She looked like the princess her childhood had never let her want to be. And for today only, that was just fine.
As Lois was getting settled down, Jason burst into the room and skidded to a halt. For a moment, he just stared at Lois, and the dumbfounded expression on his face made it clear he didn’t recognize his own mother. “M-mommy?” he stammered, and then slowly grinned. “Wow. Mommy, you look beautiful.”
Lois chuckled through the last of her sniffles. “Thank you, sweetie,” she said, returning the smile. Only then did she take in his appearance, a look of slow-dawning horror on her face… “Lana, what is that on my son’s head?”
“Uncle Ron says it’s my pimp hat!” Jason replied brightly. “He says I gotta walk like this when I wear it…”
His exaggerated strut made both Lois and Lana break down laughing all over again. When she finally caught her breath again, Lois gave one last disapproving look at the hat, and let out a deep sigh. Gathering her courage, she looked over at Lana with a small grin. “Okay, gang. Let’s do this.”