Lois pulled up to Kristin’s school exactly on time, and said into the empty car, “Yes, worrywart, you can breathe. I made it without breaking any laws. Well, any important ones.”
“You will not speed with my daughter in the car, Lois,” Lana scolded, her voice perfectly clear through the speakerphone.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m terrified,” Lois said dismissively. “Hey, I hear Jane Lutter still flinches at the mention of your name.”
“She shouldn’t have called you what she called you in my hearing,” Lana replied primly. “I don’t regret slapping her in the slightest.”
The reporter smiled. “And that’s why I let you marry my ex.”
Her clear laugher hadn’t changed in thirteen years. “Your sense of humor is why I let you marry one of my oldest and best friends, Lois.”
“Yeah, right. Nothing could’ve stopped that marriage. Not even a volcano.” Lois had only found out about Clark being late to his own wedding when Lana let it slip at Martha’s wake. Lois grinned to remember the story, picturing Martha hiding the ring bearer’s pillow and then Lana unplugging the speakers, all so she wouldn’t know her groom was delayed. Only those two from Smallville would go to so much trouble to spare her a little anxiety.
Although, on her wedding day, it had been much more than a little anxiety. Lois Lane had never really wanted to be married, and she’d sidled out of the room when her sister Lucy tossed the bouquet at her own wedding. The thought of saying ‘I do’ and meaning it, even with the literal man of her dreams, was shattering. Although in spite of some of the things they’d faced together, and the price she’d paid for choices made in haste and fear, it had been the best decision of her life to marry him.
Lana chuckled. “You’re grinning. I can hear you grinning, Lois. It’s adorable.”
“He’s the only one allowed to call me adorable,” Lois shot back.
“It’s true. Every time you think back on marrying him, you smile like a teenage girl reading Romeo and Juliet for the first time. Have I told you recently how glad I am that you two finally got everything together and that you’re still so madly in love with each other?”
Dodging the question, Lois huffed. “Romeo and Juliet is about two stupid teenagers, it takes place over something like three days, and everybody dies at the end. It sucks. No wonder everyone has relationship issues these days, if that’s our standard of romance.”
“That doesn’t change the fact that you and Clark are completely ridiculous about each other. Or that it’s adorable.”
“Now you’re just being a pest, cheerleader. Don’t you have some last-minute meeting to be at? If you’ve got time to harass me, you could pick up your own kid.” The snark in Lois’ voice was only for show, and both women knew it.
“I’m on my way in right now. Give Little K my love, Lo, and thank you for picking her up. Oh, and thank your daughter for the hair.”
Lois broke the connection as kids began to stream from the school, wondering what she’d meant by that. Kristin had stayed an extra day in Smallville with her mother, and Kala had been there too. So what…?
And then she saw the Kristin hurriedly making her way to the car, catching glimpses of her through the crowd. “Oh my God,” Lois groaned. “She’s lucky Red hasn’t killed her.”
Kristin’s long, beautiful auburn hair—the exact same glorious shade Lana had cherished in her youth—now had bright purple streaks at the temples exactly like Kala’s. Running into her arms, the munchkin hugged her tight and Lois returned it in equal measure. When the little redhead pulled back, she noticed her Lo’s crooked smile and where that hazel gaze was directed. Glancing at the strand just to her right, Kristin flashed the older woman a grin and chirped, “Big K did it. Isn’t it cool?”
All Lois could do was laugh.
Jason woke slowly, snuggled up warm and comfortable with Elise in his arms. He sighed happily; the previous night’s memories were fuzzy, but she was here in bed with him, and that meant all was right and well with the world. Jason slid his arm around her waist and tugged her closer, nuzzling her shoulder. She shifted backwards against him, fitting herself against his body like two spoons in a drawer, and made a sleepy murmur of contentment.
This was the best way to wake up, no urgency. Somehow he knew it wasn’t a lab day and he could drowse until noon. Jason had time to appreciate Elise’s warmth, the curve of her waist under his arm, the silken feel of her skin. He stretched a little and nuzzled into her hair, letting the pale blonde waves tickle his nose—
Jason opened his eyes a little more, blinking in confusion. Something wasn’t right. Elise was a brunette … but that was definitely blonde hair right in front of him.
He sat up abruptly, and Cassie Sandsmark rolled over to look up at him in bemusement. Any sleepiness was blasted out of him by the sheer shock, eyes huge. “Oh, shit!” Jason yelped.
And then realized that by sitting up, he’d knocked the covers down, and he was completely buck-naked. In trying to grab the comforter, he lost his balance and fell off the edge of the bed, landing on his butt on the floor.
Cassie sat up, shoved her hair out of her eyes, and laughed at him as he tried to claw the comforter over his lap and not look at her. “Gotta say, that’s the first time I’ve gotten that reaction,” she teased.
“Oh my God. Okay. Yeah. Cassie, I’m - ” He held up both hands in the don’t-shoot-me gesture. “Okay, wait, I need coffee before I can think, but I need pants before I can make coffee. Also, I may be completely lame, but I need you to have a shirt on, at least. Preferably underwear, too. Please.” That won fresh laughter, and he craned his head around, muttering as he felt his cheeks burning, “Pants, pants, where the heck are my pants?”
“By the door, I think. Calm down, Jase,” Cassie chuckled, finding her shirt beside the bed and tugging it on. Jason awkwardly headed to the door and hurriedly hopped into his pants, change falling out of the pockets.
Memories were coming back now, of Elise leaving after the funeral, telling him she was still his friend but just his friend, for now anyway. Being bummed out, but trying to pick his life back up while still grieving Martha. Cassie poking at him constantly, telling him he needed to get out and do something, stop laying around like an oversized alien sloth, then going with her on a mission that landed them in Toronto since Gotham was still on lockdown. Nabbing a gang of art thieves red-handed, stopping for dinner at the first likely place afterward, and discovering they were both legal to drink in Ontario. A drink or two had sounded like a good idea, it wasn’t as if they’d be driving, and he had a lot of things he’d like to let go.
Canadian beer, Cassie’s sunny smile, the way she always understood him. Making jokes about a goddess and an alien walking into a bar. Leaving, the night air crisp, feeling a little light-headed—Kryptonian metabolism notwithstanding, Jason wasn’t used to alcohol. Making their way back to Titans Tower, by leaps and bounds for Jason, by flight for Cassie, and she’d done a long series of slow loops so as not to get too far ahead of him.
Walking her to her room, talking in the doorway. Jason wasn’t sure if he’d kissed her first, or if she’d kissed him, but it had been very nice indeed. Everyone kept telling him to date other girls, and this was kind of a date, right? Crime-fighting, dinner, drinks, and a kiss at the end.
Only the kiss hadn’t been the end. Jason blushed as he handed Cassie her coffee and sat down again on the edge of the bed. He was wincing slightly, feeling like the worst kind of cretin as he ran a hand through his hair. “Umm….So…”
She bit her lip, clearly trying not to laugh out loud again. “You are seriously adorable, you know that, Super-dork? You look like a cross between an apologetic spaniel and a teddy bear.”
“Well, I didn’t really mean to do this, especially with the way everything else has been crazy,” he said miserably, not really being able to look her in the eye. How could he have done something this completely moronic? His father would be unutterably proud of this little incident, he was sure. He sighed then and continued, his expression earnest as he made himself look her in the eye. She deserved that acknowledgement. It had been his mistake, not hers. “And I never meant to hurt you, either. I mean, Cassie, we’re such good friends and I don’t want to ruin that. And I might have done that because I was drunk and stupid.” He frowned then, shaking his head and looking sheepish. “So now … I have no idea what to say.”
She sighed and propped her chin in her hand, looking at him. Her smile was affectionate when she reached out to rap him lightly on the nose. “Do you have to be the ultimate good guy? Oh Jason, this is gonna come as a shock, but we both know that most of our crew doesn’t consider something like this to be a marriage proposal or something. It happens. It’s okay. I didn’t mean to do this either, you know. But if it was anyone, I’m glad it was you. We were a lot more smashed than we thought, huh?” She gave him an amused little smile.
“Yeah, but … I also feel like an enormous jerk for freaking out. I was just surprised. I don’t remember a lot of last night, to be honest. And I’m not the kind of guy… I mean, I don’t normally do things like this. I mean, Cassie…” He trailed off then, dropping his forehead into his palm for a moment. Of all the situations he would have expected to find himself in, this hadn’t been one of them. Dad might be disappointed, but Mom would have been having a field day with this. After a moment, he glanced back at Cassie. “I’m totally screwing this up, aren’t I?” He was still blushing, and he ran his hand through his already-rumpled hair again.
Cassie raised an eyebrow at him, finally laughing a little. “Stop, you. I’m not mad at you at all. At all, okay? Honestly, I expect nothing less than an awkward morning-after from you, Super-monogamous, regardless of how awesome the night before was. And I kind of appreciate it, you know. Lots of guys would be running up and down the hallway in their boxers yelling, ‘I scored a demi-goddess!’ You, you’re all worried about my feelings. It’s what makes you you, Jason, and that’s part of why you’re one of my best friends. That’s not going to change, you dork.”
“Thanks, I think,” he replied, still bashful. “Besides, you’re not a score. You’re my friend, and a pretty awesome person.”
Bracing her hand on the bed between them, she leaned over and kissed the tip of his nose briefly. “Don’t worry so much. Zero drama. I’m on the pill, and we used a condom. Both times, if I remember correctly. It didn’t suck, and who knows? Maybe there was a reason for it. Besides, what’s one night between besties, right? No regrets here, SB, none at all. I mean, it could have been worse, you know. You could have been out with one of the others. Right?”
That last quip finally made Jason laugh, her grin infectious. “I guess you’re right.”
“I’m always right. Unless, of course, you’d like to take me out on a real date and see where this goes. I’d be up for that.” She shrugged and sipped her coffee, arching an eyebrow.
Everything that had happened so far this morning had through him for a loop, but he found himself smiling back at her. She had a point and one that he decided to let himself seriously consider. “I, um … You know what, I’d like that.”
Cassie’s grin was almost brighter than the sunlight pouring into her room. “Well, all right then.” With a chuckle, she clinked mugs with him. “Awesome.”
Elise was still The One so far as Jason was concerned, but taking Cassie out for dinner and movie would be nice. If his grandmother’s passing had taught him one thing, it was that one needed to live their lives as they came, not wait around for it to find you. And he and Cassie understood each other and she was one of his closest friends. It didn’t have to be the end-all and be-all of dramatic late-teens love, he finally realized. The world hadn’t ended because he slept with Cassie once. Maybe, just maybe, everyone was right and he really should at least date another girl. And if he was going to date, he was starting to realize there was no one right now he’d rather spend time with than Cassie.