By Lynn M. <email@example.com>
Submitted: October 2003
Summary: A long drive and a sentimental song help Lois and Clark to come to a momentous decision.
This little piece of fluff was inspired the other day when my son and I were walking through a department store and one of my favorite "always makes me smile" songs came on over the store's sound system. It's a song I love to belt out in the car, and I started thinking that Lois might be inclined to do the same. A couple of hours later, this story emerged almost fully formed.
"I have to go to the bathroom."
Clark took his eyes from the four-lane highway to give the woman seated next to him an incredulous look. "Lois, we just left the airport fifteen minutes ago."
"I know," she acknowledged, pushing the automatic window lever back and forth to send the glass sliding up and down.
"You know, if you'd stop super-sizing everything -" He gestured meaningfully at the gigantic plastic cup wedged into the car's standard-sized cupholder. "- It might solve your problem."
"Hey, you've got to stay hydrated, Clark," she said offhandedly. Continuing with her efforts to fix the temperature, she pushed the buttons on the console, sending a blast of cool air directly into her face as the fan turned on full force.
Clark glanced in either direction, then squinted slightly into the distance as far as his super sight would allow. "Really, do you have to go? 'Cause I hate to tell you but you're looking at a long stretch of nothing but trees to use…"
"No, I'm fine. I don't really have to go. I'm just bored," she admitted, leaning over to adjust the vent. She tilted the grate up and down and slid the gauge through its varying degrees of openness.
He chuckled, figuring that was her real motive. She was energy bottled, completely unable to sit still. "We could have flown, you know. I mean, *door to door*."
"Yeah, I know. But I had to use up those frequent flier miles or they were going to expire," she explained for the fourteenth time since they'd left her apartment that morning.
It galled her to let the airlines take away a single mile that she'd earned, and despite his protestations, she'd insisted that since they were in no real hurry to reach Smallville for their holiday weekend, there was absolutely no reason that they couldn't fly "like a normal couple." She'd had enough miles to acquire two free tickets, and when he showed reluctance to join her, she'd called him a snob.
Finally satisfied with the car's interior climate, Lois turned her attention to her seat. The levers on the side allowed her to move the thing up and down as well as forward and back. "Now I'm thinking that maybe we should zip back on Sunday. I don't know how you can stand it. This drive."
"It's only an hour," he chided gently, watching from the corner of his eye as she glided back and forth. "Besides, I kind of like it. Helps me unwind. Kind of like decompressing."
She snorted, a slightly unladylike sound. "Well, I don't know how you ever managed to survive in a town that doesn't even have an airport."
He laughed out loud, taking no real offense at her slur on his home town. He was used to her digs about life outside the big city. "Smallville does have running water and electricity, you know. I even heard tell that they may get that new fangled cable TV one of these days."
"Very funny, Kent." Lois turned her head to stare out the passenger side window. "Wow. I've never seen so much corn. Is all of Kansas one giant cornfield?"
He shook his head. "Actually, there's more wheat and sorghum than corn. And also quite a bit of soybeans. A little bit of cotton…"
"Sorghum?" she echoed, turning to look at him with a confused frown.
"Yeah. It's used mostly for feed and…"
"I know what sorghum is," she interrupted. Reaching under the seat, she pulled her purse on to her lap and began to root around in its dark recesses.
"Don't you have something to read?" he asked as she rummaged in her bag.
"Can't read in the car. Makes me carsick." She looked up at the ceiling as she dug deeper, wincing when she felt crumbs and realized the extra bag of pretzels she'd pilfered from the flight had broken open. "Besides, the only magazines I could find in what those people were trying to pass off as a newsstand were *Combines Monthly* and *The Farmer's Almanac*. A little too glamorous for my blood."
"Nothing glamorous about farming, I'm afraid. Of course, except when it's time for the county fair. Then all the stops are pulled out."
"I can imagine!" she chuckled. "Get out your best overalls and head on down to the hootenanny."
"Hey!" he objected with a wide grin, "I've never owned a pair of overalls in my life."
"A-ha!" Triumphant, Lois pulled out a pack of cinnamon gum. He nodded when she offered him a piece. Unwrapping one stick, she popped it into his open mouth, like a mother bird giving her chick a worm. Her finger lingered on his lower lip, held there just long enough to be intentional. The intimate gesture was not lost on him, and he smiled softly.
They chewed for a while in companionable silence, Lois watching the endless stalks of corn zip by in a dark green blur, and Clark looking for landmarks on the stretch of highway that he had to have driven easily five hundred times.
Lois broke the silence. "So, what *did* you do for fun? In Smallville, growing up? I mean, besides the county fair," she clarified with a grin.
Clark shrugged his broad shoulders. "I don't know. The usual stuff, I guess. Like any normal kid." He tried to think of something more exciting than mucking out stalls and baling hay. "I played Little League. And then football."
"Yeah?" Her eyebrows lifted in appreciation. "Were you any good?"
"Yeah, pretty good," he admitted modestly. "It was kind of bittersweet, though, you know? I mean, my abilities started to develop, and it just got harder and harder to hold back. I spent more time trying not to hurt anyone or let anyone see how…freakish I was than actually enjoying the games."
"You thought you were freakish?" Lois frowned, a sudden melancholy twisting her heart.
"C'mon, Lois. I could bench press the entire cheerleading squad and start fires with my eyes. Not exactly talents one brags about in the yearbook."
He said it without rancor, but still she felt bad, imagining him as a kid. How lonely he must have been. Keeping secrets and feeling that he had to hide who he really was.
"Nobody ever found out?" she asked somewhat wistfully, as if an admission that he'd had one true friend who he'd been able to confide in would make her feel better.
"Nope. Just Mom and Dad, of course." He looked ahead, smiling absently as if lost in memories. "They were really great. They never treated me any differently than they would have if I'd been a normal kid."
When her finely arched brows lowered in confusion, he hurried to explain. "I mean, they never treated me like I was special or deserved any kind of great accolades other than for stuff any normal kid could achieve. Stuff like good grades or getting a story published on the front page of the high school paper."
"You wrote for your high school paper?" she asked, wondering why she'd didn't know that about him.
"Didn't every fledgling journalist?"
"I guess." Of course he would have written for his high school paper. She frowned, wondering what else she didn't know.
"Well, you wrote for yours, didn't you?" he was asking.
"Actually, I was the editor," she admitted proudly. She shook off her dark musings, feeling too content with the present to be maudlin over the past.
"Naturally," he said, giving her a sideways grin. It made him look younger and incredibly handsome.
She reached across the space between them to run her fingertips along the razor straight line where his hair ended at the base of his head. She smiled when she felt a shudder run down his spine. "So, did you?"
"Did I what?" he asked, distracted by the gentle massage she was giving his neck.
"*Bench press* the entire cheerleading squad?"
He reddened, her implication and seductive touches sending a flush of heat throughout him. "That's not what I meant!"
Lois smiled wickedly, enjoying his discomfort. She slid her fingers downward, slipping them inside the neck of his sweater to stroke the hard muscles of his upper back. It was an awkward reach but well worth the effort when she saw him close his eyes for a minute before popping them back open to stare straight ahead at the road. "You're not answering the question."
"What question?" he choked. "Lois, if you keep that up, I'm going to have to pull over."
She let her mind imagine what would happen if he pulled over, and the thought made her stomach tumble. But she didn't want their first time to be in the back seat of a rental car, so somewhat reluctantly she pulled her fingers away and placed her hands in her lap.
"Did you date a lot?" she pushed, determined not to drop this line of questioning.
"Some. Not a lot," he quantified carefully. "There were a couple of girls, but I wasn't known as the big man on campus, if that's what you mean."
Lois turned in her seat to face him, suddenly very curious. She ignored her pleasure in finding out that he hadn't been the high school stud, jealousy not something she wanted to accept as part of her psychological make-up. "Who did you date? I mean, I met that sheriff woman. Were they all like her?"
"Rachel?" Clark thought a minute about the woman Lois had met on her first visit to Smallville. "No. She was real nice and all. But she was kind of a tomboy, even in high school. I usually went in for the girl-next-door type."
"Is that the way you see me? The girl-next-door type?"
He glanced at her, his eyes sweeping over the charcoal turtleneck sweater and short black skirt that she'd worn for the flight. It wasn't an intentionally sexy outfit, but the form fitting sweater accentuated her curves quite nicely, and he was afforded a good bit of her thighs as the skirt hitched northward. He grinned in appreciation before returning his eyes to the road. "Girl-next-door? Maybe a little bit. Although if you had grown up next door to me, I don't think I would have ever left Smallville."
She blushed, pleased with his answer. They passed a few miles in silence, both of them mulling over what life might have been like had they met in their youth.
Lois stretched her legs, shifting her weight from one hip to the other as she tried to find a comfortable position. "Geez, Clark, I have a rough idea of how much you make. You could have sprung for the luxury car instead of the economy."
"I like this car." He defended the sporty red sedan the rental agent had assigned them. "Besides, it gets better gas mileage."
"Yeah, you would know that," she said with a chuckle, appreciating once again Clark's amazing capacity for housing what she deemed to be completely useless information.
Reaching down, she twisted the knob on the car's radio. She fidgeted with the volume until static flowed freely from the speakers, then she began to jab at the preset buttons.
Clark spared a glance downward to see what she was doing and offered her a warning. "Out here you won't find much of a choice. There's probably more on the AM channels than on FM."
"Great. I can spend an hour listening to hog futures and the crop reports," she remarked dryly. "By the time we get to your parent's, I'll be able to grow my own sorghum."
At that moment, the hard twang of a guitar and the soulful wails of a country singer filled the space around them. Lois winced, her finger poised to push the next button.
"Hey, leave it on that. I like this song," Clark protested as he recognized the melody.
"Clark, it's about a guy whose wife left him and took his dog. Even I couldn't write stuff as corny as this," she remarked derisively as the static resumed its annoying hum.
The next few buttons offered more of the same drawling rhythms and long-suffering lyrics, and she sighed loudly in exasperation. "It's funny how the presets on rental cars are always set to country music stations and sports talk shows. You think they come from the dealerships that way?"
"I think its due to the fact that most people who rent cars are business men…"
"I was just kidding, Clark. I didn't expect the lecture series on demographics of the modern car rental customer." Flipping the channel switch from FM to AM, she pushed the search button.
"Oh…this is one of my favorites!" She beamed as an oldies station came through with almost no static. Listening for a minute to find her place, she started to sing along. "*Why don't you marry me, Bill? I love you so, I always will..*."
Clark looked over to where she sang at the top of her voice, slightly off key but with so much enthusiasm he just had to grin. She was actually quite good, and her lack of self-consciousness warmed him clear to his toes.
"…*But am I ever gonna hear my wedding bells? I was the one who came runnin' when you were lonely. I haven't lived one day not lovin' you only. But kisses and love won't carry me 'til you marry me Biiillll..*."
"Man, they just don't make music like they used to," she lamented as the song ended.
Clark laughed. Lois couldn't have been more than five or six when the song had been popular. A raw, unfettered happiness rushed through him, and he felt his chest swelling with the force of it.
"Why don't you?" he blurted out, letting his absolute certainty in his love for her guide his actions.
"What?" She glanced sideways at him, still smiling with the residual joy over finding a favorite tune like a gem in a cracker jack box.
He took a deep breath. "Marry me."
Lois laughed merrily, playing along. "My name's not Bill."
"I mean it. I've got the wedding bell blues." He referenced the song's title, needing the comic relief to give him extra courage.
"Very funny, Clark."
"We can tell my folks this weekend. Call your parents from the house."
She turned her head sharply to look at him. "Clark, really. It's not funny anymore."
But he wasn't laughing. "I'm serious. Marry me, Lois."
She gaped at him, realizing that he *was* serious. "Clark, this isn't something that you just jump into. All because you heard a song on the radio."
"After two years of working together and six months of dating, I don't think we'd be jumping into anything." He continued, discarding all of the planned speeches he'd rehearsed for this moment in favor of pure spontaneity. "I love you. I've loved you pretty much since the minute you barged into Perry's office ranting about crazy guys and the Messenger shuttle. And I'm pretty sure you love me, too."
The last was said with less confidence. "I do," she said softly.
"So then let's do it. What more is there?"
Lois searched her mind frantically. What more *could* there be? It certainly couldn't be this easy. "Well, there's stuff we haven't discussed."
"Like what?" he asked.
"You know," she stammered, unable to come up with a specific example but certain that there must be something. "Important stuff."
"We've got 30 more miles to kill. Let's talk," he suggested, buoyed by the fact that she hadn't out and out refused him.
"Well…OK…what about…well, you know," she gestured to his chest, which at the moment was covered by black cashmere.
He looked down to where she indicated. "What? Superman?" he asked, guessing correctly that she meant his suit.
"Well, yeah," she confirmed, feeling more confident now that she had a legitimate issue. "That's pretty big. I mean, you're Superman."
"Lois, you've known for almost four months now," he pointed out. A frown pulled at the corners of his mouth, sudden doubt gripping him. "I thought you were OK with it?"
"I was. I am," she hurried to reassure him. "But I mean, it's one thing to be dating the Man of Steel. It's another thing to be married to him."
"Is it the commitment? Are you afraid of tying yourself to someone? To me?"
"No. Well, not anymore, anyway." Months ago, she'd come to terms with her fears about commitment. Loving Clark had imbued her with a far more positive outlook on the longevity of her feelings and his. In fact, if hard pressed, she couldn't imagine spending her life without him.
"And why does it matter if I'm Superman? I love you, and I want to spend my life with you. Isn't that what's really important?"
"I suppose," she said, conceding his point. Still, there was the fact that he *was* a super hero. "But you have to admit, being Superman is not your average run-of-the-mill job. I'd have to share you. With the *whole world*, Clark."
"That is a big sacrifice," he acquiesced. "But I can't change who I am. It's part of me. At least now, when I dash off, you know why. And you know that I'd never leave you unless it was to help someone. You'd be part of that. Of saving people who needed saving." He made it sound so noble. Like she'd be some sort of modern day Joan of Arc. "It'd be kind of like being married to a really busy doctor. Who can fly."
She laughed, the thought of Superman flying around in a white lab coat an irresistible visual. He did have a point. Plenty of women, and men for that matter, were married to people who often left their warm beds in the dead of night in the name of public service. Who was she to complain when she herself had been saved by him on more occasions than she could count?
"You know, that's not the only talent I have," Clark informed her with a wink. He removed his hand from the steering wheel and placed it on her leg, just above her knee, all without taking his eyes off the road for more than a few seconds.
"Oh yeah? What else can you do?" she asked, intrigued by the small circles he was making as his hand moved slowly upward, his fingers slipping under the hem of her short wool skirt to caress the sensitive skin of her inner thigh. With a gasp, she thought that maybe she should suggest that he pull over after all.
"You'll have to marry me to find out," he stated firmly and removed his hand, the whole thing a ploy meant to tempt her. She laughed out loud, appreciation for his underhanded tactics replacing the tinge of disappointment that he'd stopped his exploration.
Lois turned serious again. "What about kids?"
"Yep. Want 'em. Lots of them. At least a dozen," he teased, still in a lighthearted mood.
"Clark!" she admonished. "Be serious!"
"You don't want kids?"
"Well, maybe one. Or two," she allowed. "But what if we can't have kids? Because of…well…" She gestured again at his chest, a little less enthusiastically.
"Would you be terribly disappointed?" he asked earnestly, all hints of amusement gone from his deep voice. "I have to know, because that's a real possibility with us."
"I might be a little disappointed," she admitted, surprised to find that she actually meant it. Until she'd met Clark, she'd never thought she'd want kids. But a lot of things had changed since she'd met Clark. "I don't know. I never imagined myself as the earth-mother type. I feel pretty happy with the way my life's turned out. It feels pretty complete, especially since I met you. And I think as long as we're together, kids would just be an extra bit of icing on the cake. But Clark, I know how important children are to you."
He was quiet for a minute, formulating his answer. It was a topic he'd thought of a lot since falling in love with her.
"I've spent my whole life dealing with the fact that I'm different. If it turns out that we can't have kids the old fashioned way, then I'll handle that. And together, we'd find another way." He reached across and picked up a hand that she'd placed in her lap, folding it into his own as his fingers wove between hers. "In the meantime, we can have a whole lot of fun trying."
The last was said as he gave her hand a knowing squeeze, and she blushed slightly. "Clark," she whispered, overwhelmed by the wave of tenderness washing over her and surprised when tears burned the back of her eyes.
"Lois, marry me," he repeated, more serious than he'd ever been his life. "What are we waiting for?"
Lois remained silent. What *was* she waiting for? She looked out the window, then back around the snug interior of the car. She'd turned down the music when the conversation had turned serious, and the soft strains played in the background. The whole effect was cozy and intimate, the two of them wrapped in a metal cocoon sharing bits of themselves.
She laughed softly at the Clark-like setting for such an important question. "I never expected to be proposed to in a rental car cruising down a Kansas interstate."
"Is that what's stopping you?" He looked at her carefully, unable to tell by her tone if she was teasing or serious. "Because if it is, I'll take us to wherever you want. A tropical island beach. Or a remote mountain top. Anywhere. And if you give me an extra two minutes, I'll even get the ring. Down on one knee, the whole bit if that's what you want."
Something that he said caught her attention. "The ring?"
He nodded, then looked sheepish. "I've had it for about three months. I got it after you found out about me and didn't run screaming in the opposite direction."
"Were you really afraid that I'd leave you?" she asked, startled by his admission. She'd confessed her feelings for him before she'd found out about his dual identity, and it had never occurred to her that he'd believed she would just stop loving him.
"Well, you were pretty mad. Admit it."
"Clark, for almost two years you kept probably the biggest secret in of all human history from me," she huffed indignantly. "I think it's realistic to expect that I might be a little irritated by that."
"That's putting it mildly," he snorted. "You didn't speak to me for almost two weeks!"
"Yeah, but then I came around, didn't I?" Actually, she'd planned on staying mad for longer, but she'd missed him too much. Not speaking to him had been almost physically painful, and she soon saw that she was punishing herself almost as much as she was punishing him.
"Slowly," he agreed. "And you made me pay."
"Of course I did," she exclaimed righteously. "And if you're really lucky, I may just forgive you in another couple of months or so!"
"Lois!" he admonished with a laugh, but there was no real censure in it. In fact, if she planned to demand the same payment that she had in the past, he wouldn't mind another few months of being in her debt.
Having agreed to take things slowly, they'd decided to wait on consummating their relationship. But that fact hadn't stopped Lois from pushing his resolve to the limits. Lois's form of exacting restitution had nearly driven him mad, consisting of heated kisses and caresses meant to torment him, always with the knowledge that they'd end long before either one of them had achieved real satisfaction. She called it retribution. He called it cruel and unusual punishment.
Turning serious again, he apologized for what had to be the thousandth time since the fateful moment four months prior. "Really. I hope you know how hard it was for me. Keeping it a secret."
"Yeah, I know." She had forgiven him for that. It was herself that she still had a hard time letting off the hook. "Besides, it wasn't so much the secret. I kind of understand why you did it. It's more the fact that I was so stupid."
"Stupid?" he repeated, taken aback by her harsh tone. "I'd never use that word to describe you."
Lois rolled her eyes. "Clark, I'm a professional investigative journalist. I get paid to notice things. But I let a pair of glasses fool me."
As she said it, she reached over and pulled the frames from his face. She loved the way he looked without them, his hair tousled slightly and nothing to obscure her view of his deep brown eyes. It was the face of the real Clark Kent. No glasses. No cape. Just Clark. The man she loved.
Pulling their joined hands up to his mouth, he kissed each one of her knuckles softly, sending a prickle of electricity up her arm. "So, where's it going to be? Paris? Fiji? Name the place. We can leave Sunday night."
"How about Smallville?" she suggested.
"Yep. Next exit. Five miles." She looked back over her shoulder, the car just having passed the green distances sign.
Suddenly, Clark was slowing the car and pulling on to the highway's wide shoulder. Lois looked around, confused. Had they blown a tire? She hadn't felt anything.
Before she knew what was happening, Clark had turned toward her and lifted her other hand to grasp it with its mate tightly between his hands. "Lois…are you saying…?"
"Yes." She nodded vigorously, the smile growing across her face as a bubble of joy expanded in her heart. "Yes, Clark Kent. I'll marry you."
He only had to come half way before she met him, their mouths coming together to seal the deal.
*I love you so, I always will…*
Disclaimer: All characters are the property of DC Comics and Warner Brothers. *The Wedding Bell Blues* by the Fifth Dimension. The story idea is mine and no copyright infringement is intended.