Kal-El soared in a tight spiral around the cloud of searing ash and molten rock spewing from the top of the supposedly-dormant volcano. The vortex created by his flight contained the debris, and that was his primary concern at the moment. Thankfully there’s no lava flow
, he thought, adding an extra notch of speed as he rose through the air. Poisonous vapor, chunks of rock, and hot ash were enough to deal with for now; more than enough to wreak havoc on the villages tucked into valleys below the volcano. And, if not contained, the debris could spread on the wind…
Even while he worked to control the volcanic eruption, Kal-El was listening intently to events half a world away. From the sounds of things, nearly all the guests had arrived at the wedding, and Richard was growing frantic. Every few minutes Kal-El heard him mutter something along the lines of “You’d better get back here in time.”
I’m trying, the hero thought, gritting his teeth as he flew. Some of the heavier rocks were starting to fall under their own weight, but he couldn’t help that. He blew a gust of freezing breath to cool them, so at least they wouldn’t start a forest fire wherever they crashed down. Just let me finish this – I’m hurrying as much as I can. Please, please, don’t let Lois find out I’m not there…
Richard was so wound up in thoughts of potential Lois-caused destruction that he had complete blocked out everything but that and constant reminders under his breath to Clark, in spite of the distance. So wound up, that he didn’t even see the groom’s mother approach. “Richard White, where on earth is my son?”
The reporter jumped, stifling a curse. Tilting his head back, he took a deep breath to calm himself. “Martha! Oh, my God. Do you have to do that?!” With a little sigh, he started to explain. “He’s … well, he’s in Indonesia.”
The incredulous look on the older woman’s face almost broke a chuckle from Richard, despite his high-strung state. “What?” Martha hissed. “What was he thinking?!”
“That erupting volcanoes are bad for people living under them, apparently,” Richard groaned. “I don’t think he realizes that Lois will erupt and rain fire and destruction upon us all if he doesn’t make it back in time.”
“She won’t be the only one,” Martha said grimly. “Listen, I’m going to send Ben out to greet guests; you’ve been at this from the start, I’m sure you need a rest. I’ll go let Lana know about Clark…”
Richard glanced worriedly in the direction of the bridal room. “I sent Jason to find her, but he hasn’t come back. I have this sinking feeling that Lois saw him in the pimp hat and she’s having a tantrum.” He actually had the nerve to look guilty.
Richard went from guilty to embarrassed in only seconds, remembering who he was talking to. “Uh, this crazy black fedora I got him. Ron named the thing,” he explained quickly, moving them both toward ballroom. “Let’s do this. I’ll go keep the groomsmen distracted if Ben takes over out here.”
In moments, Ben was standing in the lobby to greet the guests, and Richard was headed back to make excuses for Clark. He found the three groomsmen hanging around near the side door through which they would enter, Ron and Maggie trying to make Jimmy relax. The photographer clearly felt uneasy in a tux, tugging at the collar and watching the clock. “Guys, I’m not sure I wanna be up there in front in everyone,” he said with obvious apprehension. “I’m gonna screw up somehow, I always do…”
“Relax, kid,” Maggie told him. “It’s the groom who’s supposed to freak out, not the groomsmen.”
“You know why that whole tradition exists, right?” Richard said, beaming at Jimmy. Maybe this would distract the boy a little. “If the groom gets cold feet, the best man is supposed to marry the bride. Now, since we don’t have a best man…”
“Already married a Lane,” Ron swiftly interjected.
Maggie gave a droll chuckle. “Disqualified.”
Jimmy just looked at both of them and then turned to Richard, blushing the same fiery red as his hair. “Uh…”
“Guess that’s your job, Olsen,” Richard said with a conversational tone, slapping his shoulder affectionately. “Word of advice: take your vitamins. You’ll need ‘em. Trust me.”
The thought was too much for Jimmy, whose brilliant blush suddenly faded to a cheesy pallor. Ron, who knew better than the others just how long Jimmy had carried a torch for Lois, saw his expression and grabbed his shoulders before he could faint. “Easy, man,” he said, laughing. “You know Richard’s just messing with you. Don’t faint on us.”
“I’m all right,” Jimmy said weakly. “I just… Don’t go and spring matrimony on a dedicated bachelor, okay?”
They all laughed dutifully, Maggie shaking her head slightly. “You’re a cruel man, Richard White,” she said, and turned away from Jimmy and Ron. “C’mere for a sec.”
Richard followed her out of earshot of the others; that steady, inquisitive look from ice-blue eyes still unnerved him. Police officer was one of those professions that were never completely off-duty, and the reporter still sometimes felt like he was some kind of suspect around Maggie. “Yes?”
She knew about his hang-ups – a lot of people were nervous around cops – but Maggie was the one of Lois’ friends that Richard actually halfway got along with. “You’re under arrest for damn nigh giving Olsen a heart attack,” she said flatly, then smirked when he actually looked a little frightened. “Seriously. Where the hell is Clark?”
“He had to step outside for a minute,” Richard replied with a shrug he hoped looked nonchalant. “Wedding jitters, I guess. It’s not every day a guy marries Lois Lane.”
“Yeah, and the thought was enough to make Olsen almost pass out,” Maggie said. “Kinda scary – glad it’s not me. But he likes her for the hellion she’s always been. Why flake out now?”
“He’s a perennial bachelor,” Richard explained, trying to come up with a plausible answer off the top of his head. “It’s a big change, you know? And then there’s the twins to think of, too. Clark’s used to taking care of himself, and now overnight he’s got a wife and kids. It takes a little adjustment.”
She nodded slowly, although it was clear she wasn’t convinced. “And you have no freakin’ clue where he is right now, do you? Because I know a bullshit story when I hear one.”
“Not exactly,” he admitted.
“That’s what I thought,” Maggie sighed, running a hand through her short blonde hair. “Well, Clark’s famous for rushing in at the very last minute, so I’m not gonna panic yet. But if you think he won’t show, tell me, all right? Someone had better be ready to restrain Lois if he jilts her.”
“Oh, he’ll show,” Richard said firmly, hoping Clark was listening this way. “If he knows what’s good for him, he’ll be here on time.”
Martha’s news wasn’t exactly heralded with joy. “He’s not here?” Lana hissed as the two of them stood a few feet from the closed bridal room door, green eyes going wide. “Martha, you’ve got to be kidding.”
“I wish I was,” the older woman replied, shaking her head. “Something came up and Clark had to step out for a bit – how’s Lois?”
“Almost ready,” the redhead told her worriedly. Why now? Oh, of all the times, God, why now? “She’s already had one breakdown; I don’t want to be here if he’s late. But it’s almost time… We have to stall this wedding.”
Worrying her lower lip between her teeth, the designer thought quickly. “Okay, this should work. Martha, the ring bearer’s pillow is under the table just inside the doors. Go grab it and hide it somewhere. That should keep everyone busy looking for it instead of wondering where Clark is.”
Martha hurried off to do that, and Lana took a moment to breathe deeply. “Clark, wherever you are, you’d better hurry back…”
Richard paced just inside the lobby doors, his stomach roiling. Lana had been out five minutes ago to tell him someone had found the ring bearer’s pillow; she’d been forced to yank the wires from the speakers to keep the wedding from starting without the groom. And everyone was now looking for Clark. Perry kept saying that the boy had been late to everything in his life, this was no different – but he’d privately whispered to Richard that he hoped Clark did show up. The consensus was that if Clark didn’t arrive, Lois would kill him. And anyone else who gets in her way, Richard thought, straightening his sleeves for the sixteenth time.
“We’ve got sound back,” Lana said behind him, peering out of the ballroom. “Seen him yet?”
“Not yet,” Richard replied, noticing that she had finally changed into the dress she intended to wear during the wedding. Damn, yellow really suits her. “How close…?”
“Lois is getting nervous,” Lana said, nibbling her lower lip. “We might have to tell her–”
“No,” Richard said instantly. “She’ll bomb the place – it’ll be like Godzilla on crack. Whatever you do, don’t let Lois find out he’s not here!”
“All right, fine,” Lana sighed. “I’ll go break down in tears if I have to…”
Just as she spoke, the revolving doors in the lobby whirred far faster than they should’ve, the mechanism letting out a protesting squeal. Clark rushed through, blue eyes glazed in panic. “Thank God,” Richard and Lana exclaimed in unison. The redhead continued, “Get ready now. I don’t know how much longer I can stall Lois.”
“C’mon,” Richard urged, grabbing Clark’s arm and hustling him to the changing room. He unzipped the garment bag holding Clark’s tux and handed it over, asking, “Did everything turn out all right?”
“Barely,” Clark responded, taking the suit off the hanger. “How’s Lois?”
“She doesn’t know you weren’t here,” Richard said. “Weren’t you listening…?”
“I was a little busy at the time,” Clark said, giving him a look. And then he blurred; Richard heard fabric rustling at high speed, and suddenly Clark was dressed except for the tie. “I can’t seem to knot one of these at super-speed,” Clark muttered, glancing in the mirror as he rapidly knotted the tie.
“Nice trick,” Richard said quietly, holding the door open so they could both get to the ballroom. Just outside the doors, he paused. “Hey, Clark?”
“Yes?” In spite of being pressed for time, in spite of having come straight from saving people’s lives to one of the most important moments in his own, Clark stopped to meet Richard’s gaze and give him his complete attention.
“Congratulations,” Richard said, and offered his hand.
Clark took it, and pulled Richard into a hug. “Thank you,” he said simply.
Those three words and that gesture would have to stand for a great deal: congratulations on being a better man than I am; congratulations on finally having your kids officially be yours; congratulations on winning the woman I wanted to marry; thank you for being a father to my children; thank you for letting her go; thank you for being my friend.
They both stepped back, smiling. “I’m glad it’s you,” Richard said. “If she had to trade up after me, it’s gratifying to know she had to go that high. Besides, no one else could survive marrying her.”
Clark laughed and thumped his shoulder affectionately. “And now you can say Superman considers you one of his best friends,” he told Richard just before they opened the doors.
Richard beamed at that, but couldn’t help asking mischievously, “You nervous?”
“Terrified,” Clark responded, staring at the closed doors.
“Good,” Richard replied, and Clark gave him a startled frown. “You’re supposed to be; it’s not a proper wedding if the groom’s not scared out of his wits.”
Clark managed a laugh at that. “Okay, let’s do this.”
Lana ducked back into the bridal room only to be immediately confronted by Lois, who had obviously been going to open the door herself. “Where’s Clark?” the bride said with a suspicious look. “One minute, everything’s fine, then I’m all alone in here. What’s happening?”
“Sorry, there was a sound issue,” Lana told her calmly, adjusting the chain of Lois’ emerald necklace. “This is just too lovely. Lois, calm down; everything is fine. Clark’s here, you’re set, and we should be ready in just a couple of minutes. The boys are getting set up in the other room, and Perry will be along in a moment.”
The expression on Lois’ face didn’t change. She still fully expected some sort of minor disaster on this of all days. “You’re completely sure Clark’s here?” Lois asked warily, arching an eyebrow.
“I just saw him a moment ago, getting ready to change into the tux,” Lana replied as she did a last minute check of the dress, immensely grateful that she didn’t have to lie.
“Uh-huh.” Lois’ deadpan tone made it very clear that she remained unconvinced.
“Seriously,” Lana told her with a smile, catching her chin. “He’s in the changing room right now. I wouldn’t lie to you – Lois, I can’t lie any better than Clark can. Stop worrying.”
The reporter glared at her a moment longer, then sighed. “You’ve got a point.”
Before Lana could say anything else, they heard a sharp knock and the bridal room door opened very slightly. “Lois, you’d better not be naked,” Perry grumbled.
An instantaneous grin bloomed over Lois’ lips at the sound of that voice. As always, Perry’s presence seemed to immediately ground her. “Like you haven’t seen most of it,” she snarked back, obviously baiting him.
“Not since you were sixteen, and I didn’t want to see it then,” he retorted from the other side of the door. “You were the one who thought running around the house in a long t-shirt was perfectly acceptable. Would’ve thought Elinore raised you better, but she always says you’re a complete heathen anyway.”
“I love you too, old man,” Lois laughed, while Lana marveled at the way Perry had managed to alleviate her anxiety so quickly.
“So is it safe to come in here or not?” Perry asked. “It’s almost time for your last walk as a free woman. Didja have your final meal? Got any last requests?”
Instead of answering, Lois opened the door and scanned the hallway before stepping out. “It’s a wedding, not a death sentence,” she quipped, halting in her tracks to wonder if she’d actually said that, and expecting a scathing taunt in reply.
Perry was uncharacteristically silent, staring at her. After a moment, he managed to murmur, “My nephew married a damn good designer. That’s a helluva dress.”
Lana couldn’t help laughing. These two simply couldn’t do anything normal. “I’m going to check on the music,” she chuckled. “I’ll signal for you two when everything’s ready…”
In keeping with Lois’ wishes for a secular ceremony, they had found a notary to perform the ceremony. Lori happened to be a friend of Ella’s and perfectly willing to preside over the wedding. Just now she was making small talk with the groomsmen. “I’ve known Lois since she was a little girl,” she told Jimmy with a fond smile. “You could say I was part of it all from the beginning. And I’m very proud to be here at the end of one chapter in her life, as well as the beginning of the next.”
Clark hurried to the side entrance that would be used by the groom’s party, followed by Richard, and all three groomsmen let out loud sighs of relief. Jimmy rushed to hug him, saying, “Man, Richard was telling me I’d have to marry Lois if you didn’t show up. I’m too young to die!”
That got a laugh from everyone. “No, I wouldn’t miss my own wedding,” Clark said, taking his place. “I just hope Lois doesn’t decide to, you know…”
“Oh please,” Maggie groaned. “Seriously. We were all afraid we’d have to tranquilize her if you didn’t show. She’s come this far, she won’t back out now.”
“And if she tries, we’ll sic Lucy on her,” Ron said, grinning.
“Amen,” Richard added. “As Lana would say, the caterer’s been paid – you can’t back out now.”
Kay had been in charge of making sure everyone was seated, and now she saw Lana at the doors giving her a thumb’s up. Turning to the groomsmen, she whispered, “Places, everyone!”
“Good luck,” Richard said before hurrying to his seat in the front row.
Clark drew a deep breath, and Ron patted his shoulder. “It’s gonna be okay,” he said. “Just relax and pretend it’s another rehearsal, only with fancier clothes.”
“And a huge crowd,” Jimmy whispered, and Ron elbowed him.
“Nah, don’t pretend it’s a rehearsal,” Maggie said. “Richard was making faces at everyone the whole time, remember? We don’t need that.” The laughter that remark provoked helped ease the tension considerably.
The lights went down, and Clark heard Lana whisper, “One minute,” to Richard as she took her seat. He tuned his keen hearing toward the main doors, where the bridal party was getting ready…
“And walk slowly,” Kay said, as Kala bounced from one foot to the other. At least she’d stopped spinning in circles to make her skirt flare; getting dizzy wasn’t fun.
The music began, softly at first, and Jason stood to attention. He actually started toward the door, but Cat caught him. “Hold on, sweetheart,” she chuckled. “Candle lighters first, then bridesmaids, then you and Kala, okay?”
“When does Mommy get to go?” he asked, looking around for her and Uncle Perry.
“Right after you and your sister,” Kay replied, checking her watch. “Okay, candle lighters – Sam, Nora. Go ahead. Every third row, skip the ones up at the very front. Take your time, no one’s in a hurry.”
The oldest two Troupe kids nodded before stepping out into the ballroom. Kay watched them through the barely-opened door, and once they’d lit all the candles the room took on a romantic glow. “Bridesmaids,” Kay whispered. “Lucy, go. When she’s halfway up, Tobie, you start. Cat, when Tobie’s halfway up, your turn.”
Everything was proceeding according to plan. When Lucy reached the fifth row, Ron started out from the side entrance and met her precisely at the front of the aisle. She took his arm and they proceeded up onto the dais, taking their places behind the altar. The other two couples would follow in sequence, and while Kay was watching them, Lois and Perry came to the doors.
Kala turned around, and her jaw dropped. She had seen the dress, seen the makeup, and seen the hairstyle, but not altogether. Lois was taking deep breaths, clutching her bouquet as if it was a lifeline, and she managed a smile when she met her daughter’s gaze. “Mommy, you look like a princess,” Kala whispered.
“Thank you, sweetie,” Lois murmured, flashing a bright grin for her children, who were both now watching her.
“Jason, Kala, you’re up,” Kay whispered, handing him the ring pillow and giving her the flower basket. “Slow and steady, let everyone see how wonderful you look.” Beaming, they headed out.
Perry reached up to lower the veil, and Lois looked at him with raw terror in her eyes. “Don’t worry,” he muttered gruffly. “It’s no worse than a root canal … for the rest of your life.”
That made her chuckle slightly, and he took his place beside her, waiting for Kay to open the doors. Without turning to look at her, Perry whispered in the gentle tones most people wouldn’t imagine him capable of, “You look beautiful, Lois.”
Lois had already linked her arm through his, but she slid her palm down to squeeze his hand. “I love you, too.”
Clark felt his heart catch in his throat when the twins started walking up the aisle. Jason bore the rings with great dignity, head up and eyes focused straight ahead … where the bridesmaids and groomsmen were desperately trying not to laugh at the infamous hat, which he’d somehow managed to wear into the ceremony. Kala walked at his side, keeping to the same stately pace, and scattered handfuls of rose petals along the aisle just the way she’d been coached. My children, Clark thought, his vision blurring slightly as he watched. Finally, absolutely, beyond any shadow of a doubt, they are my children at last.
The murmurs that the twins’ appearance caused suddenly hushed as the room took a collective breath in awe. Clark blinked the burgeoning tears away and focused on the doors, where Lois and Perry stood. The editor looked solemn and distinguished for once, but that wasn’t what had silenced all two hundred guests. Clark gasped at the sight of Lois, a thousand thoughts crashing into each other in his mind. She’s so beautiful was one of the most prominent, followed by So that’s why they were hiding the dress and I can’t believe I’m this lucky.
In the candlelight, draped in ivory lace, with her shoulders bare and her raven hair loose and wavy beneath the sparkling tiara, Lois looked unearthly, even divine. Absolute silence accompanied her up the aisle, except for the gentle strains of the music. Every one of the guests followed her with their eyes, but Lois looked only at Clark. Their gazes met in spite of the veil and the distance, and he knew she was walking up that aisle for him alone. Her heart was racing, and left to her own devices Lois would’ve bolted, but her love of him kept her steady.
As the doors opened and she got her first look at the warmly-lit ballroom, Lois’ heart seemed to stutter. For a moment, all she could do was gaze around in wonder at the transformation that had overcome the room they had just finished setting up the night before. It had been a beautiful room before, to be sure, but now…
It was only Perry’s gentle nudge that got her going again, glancing at him with worried eyes through the veil. Perry only gave a gruff smile and a slight nod. It’s time, Lois. One more deep breath, one more instant to steady herself, and the bouquet of red rose and white lilies in a death-grip, they stepped forward into the glow of her wedding.
It was like being in a dream; Kala’s comment about princesses hadn’t felt apt until just now, the moment finally here. All eyes were on her as she and Perry made their way up the aisle to the soaring strains of Canon in D, the twins proudly making their way up a dozen steps before them. This is it, kid. It’s really happening. No exploding building, no earthquake, no alien invasion. This is where you get your happy ending.
Just as she was laughing at herself, Lois looked forward and cerulean eyes met hazel, their connection immediate as always. That familiar shiver ran up her spine at the sight of him and her heart sped up; she knew he could likely hear it, knowledge that added a deep ache to the feeling. She felt tears prick her eyes just looking at him, the distance between them finally, forever, closing. Oh my God, look at him. Kal-El. I don’t think I’ve ever known a more beautiful man in my life. Inside and out. Then her natural snark rose up to add, Even in those glasses. Although they’re better than that first pair.
And he’s mine. He’s agreed to be mine. Her heart soared at the thought, and in her mind she spoke to him as if he could hear her. They were so close in so many ways, it wouldn’t surprise her if he knew her thoughts. How could I have ever kept my feelings from you? How could there have been a moment in time that you doubted it, if it feels so obvious to me, hero?
Finally noticing the expression on his face as they drew closer, Lois felt her own lips curving up in an absolutely adoring grin. It was all she had not to laugh out loud. Wow, I guess he really does like the dress. Surprise, Kal-El.