By Chris Carr <email@example.com>
Submitted: April 2004
Summary: Planes and people are grounded across the US as thunderstorms rage over the eastern seaboard. What happens when the paths of two canon characters cross in Chicago? (The story is set during the episode "I Now Pronounce You…")
Heartfelt thanks to Jenni for her very supportive comments,and to Elena for beta-reading and the guys on the licficmbs and IRC for saying nice things. Also, a wave to Carol; this is the story I mentioned. Thanks for the encouragement!
Thanks also to Tricia for GEing.
The best thing about being stranded at an airport, Dan Scardino thought, was that there was never a shortage of things to look at. By "things" he meant people; the place was crawling with bad-tempered travellers. They filled the departure lounges, taking up every available seat — and quite a lot of floor-space as well. More specifically, Scardino meant women, because men didn't interest him. Nor did women under the age of eighteen or nineteen. Nor, for that matter — unless they'd spent a fortune on personal trainers and liposuction — did women much over the age of thirty-five.
It was a pity, he thought, that it wasn't spring break. Then the place would be crawling with nubile sorority girls dressed in little more than halter-tops, hot-pants and mules, ready to hit the beach as soon as their flights landed in Florida.
Still, there was a surprising number of pretty things to look at, even in early February. Some figures just couldn't be hidden by the roll- necks, bulky fleeces and heavy boots favoured by native Chicagoans. Size eight jeans clinging to slender, toned thighs and a firm, round tush could look almost as good as a pair of cut-offs. He just needed to use a little imagination.
Take that one over there, he thought. She was a tasty piece of eye candy. A smile played around his lips as his eyes followed the statuesque blonde he'd just spotted. She had swaying hips and bouncing hair. Her hair wasn't the only thing about her that was bouncing, either. There was no silicon *there*, he thought.
Or… Oh *my*! What about *her*!
Scardino's stomach lurched in a way he hadn't felt in quite a while. In fact, he'd not felt anything quite like it since Lois had thrown him over in favour of that do-gooding boy scout, Clark K-
No, he thought. He wasn't going to think about that.
He concentrated on the woman he'd just spotted, felt that delicious lurch again, and decided that it was enough to say that he hadn't felt anything quite like since Lois. (Well, there had been the incident with a dodgy prawn vindaloo last month, but that had been less of a lurch and more of a roil, and Scardino was pretty certain that didn't count.)
Her colouring and build weren't that different from Lois's, but he knew that wasn't why he was attracted to her. It wasn't so much that she reminded him of Lois — although she did — as that they both matched up to his preferred type. While he could — and did — appreciate woman of every hue and hair colour, he had an enduring preference for brunettes.
He watched this particular brunette as she stared out of the window at the darkening sky and the planes standing still on the tarmac, her face in profile. It was a pretty face, he decided, framed by a bob of dark hair that looked as though it was in need of a trim. Perhaps she wasn't classically beautiful — her eyebrows could have been a little finer, her cheekbones a little higher and pinker, and her lips just that fraction fuller — but there was something about her that spoke to him of cheerleaders, mom and apple pie. She was, he thought, an all-American girl.
He looked down at the rest of her, his eyes lingering on her chest. She had small, nicely- rounded breasts. He was a connoisseur of such things. He could see that they sat high on her ribs without the aid of a brassiere and he could tell that neither time nor gravity had begun to play tricks on her yet. Her waist was slim and her worn jeans could have been painted to her legs, which tapered down to slender ankles, just visible above a pair of beat- up sneakers.
Scardino let his eyes drift back up to her face. He tilted his head to one side and watched her for a few minutes.
She was chewing on her lower lip, as though she was nervous or, perhaps, merely preoccupied. On her knee lay a dog- eared paperback, which she'd book-marked with a long, slender forefinger.
He wondered which of the many delayed flights she was waiting for. The thunder storms raging along the whole of the eastern seaboard had closed airports from Boston down to Richmond, causing a backwash of chaos across the country as planes were unable to get in or out. He found himself hoping that she was going to Washington, just as he was, and he fantasised for a little while about finding himself in the seat next to hers.
He wondered what her voice was like, what her mouth felt like. Was her skin as smooth and unblemished close up as it appeared to be from here, or was that a trick of the lights and of cleverly applied make- up?
She looked down, and her face was suddenly half- hidden by the curtain of hair that fell forward. She opened the book, found her place, then, absent-mindedly, she reached up and tucked her hair behind her ear. Scardino couldn't help but notice the grace of the movement and the elegance of her wrist and hands.
She wasn't classically beautiful, he thought again. She was so much better than that.
Lucy couldn't concentrate. The words on the page in front of her jumped around, refusing to make any sense as she determinedly scanned across the lines. The book's lack of appeal wasn't simply because it was a badly written romance that she'd picked out of a cut- price bin in a thrift shop; it was also because, no matter how hard she tried to distract herself, her mind kept skipping towards Metropolis, the reason for her visit and the terrible memories of her last stay there.
She sighed and, for the fifth time, forced herself to return to the top of the page. She just about managed to register that Lord Whitehaven was ravishing the servant girl, Rosalind — who, unknown to him, was really a Spanish *contessa*, identifiable only by a very improbably shaped birthmark on her inner thigh — before she lost the thread of the paragraph yet again, and decided to give up on the book once and for all. It wasn't as though she particularly cared about Rosalind's heaving breasts — which, the author had been at pains to point out, were the size of cantaloupes — her perfect honey-coloured skin or her tiny waist. She was only marginally more interested in Whitehaven's narrow hips, rippling muscles and apparently insatiable lust.
Lucy had a thing for tall, dark and brooding heroes. The more angsty, the better, as far as she was concerned.
The problem with that was, whenever she went for taciturn and secretive men in real life, she invariably discovered that their silences meant only that they had nothing worthwhile to say and that they had the intellectual capacity of fruit-flies. There was never anything mysterious or romantic about any of them.
Angst, Dr Friskin had told her after several hundred dollars worth of therapy, was fine in a novel but was to be avoided in real life. Better, the therapist had said, to go for someone honest, open and intelligent.
Lucy thought that honest, open and intelligent sounded unbearably boring.
This time, when she closed the book, she didn't bother to hold her page with her finger. Instead, she twisted around in her seat and put it in her backpack, which was on a wide window-ledge next to her. Then she slumped down into her chair, sprawled her legs out in front of her and crossed her arms over her chest.
She didn't have breasts like cantaloupes, Lucy thought morosely. In fact, she was a little lacking in the breast department, and she wished that she was slightly better endowed. It would be nice to actually *need* a brassiere. Mind you, cantaloupes were perhaps a little larger than what she had in mind…
Then she found her mind drifting towards Metropolis. Metropolis where Lois was getting married. To Clark Kent.
No surprise there, thought Lucy. It had been obvious, the last time she'd seen them, that those two would end up together. Anyone with eyes could have seen it, even if they, themselves, had been pretty much oblivious or — and this was more likely, knowing Lois — in denial.
Clark, Lucy thought, not for the first time, must have the patience of a saint, to put up with her sister. That, and an infinite capacity to forgive, because, as far as Lucy was concerned, Lois often did things that she needed to be forgiven for.
Going back to Metropolis now, and being Lois's Maid of Honour… That would imply that Lucy had forgiven Lois for her most recent transgression, wouldn't it? But Lucy wasn't sure that she had forgiven her. In fact, she wasn't sure that she could ever forgive Lois for what she'd done. It was much easier to deal with her sister from half a continent away than from a distance of a few city blocks.
It was that realisation that had driven Lucy away from Metropolis after the whole Johnny Corbin incident.
She hadn't left Metropolis in its immediate aftermath, however. She had chosen to spend all her savings on a course of therapy first. What a waste it had all been! Dr Friskin had eaten up her college fund, and all the good doctor had come up with (besides the comment about angsty men) was the wonderful insight that Lucy was jealous of, and resented, her sister.
Lucy hadn't needed to be told that.
Lois had been the oldest. Lois had been the smartest. Lois had been the bravest, the most outgoing and… Basically, Lois was everything that Lucy had wanted to be and wasn't.
Lois had moved out of the war zone that was the family home while both she and Lucy were still in high school, leaving her younger sibling behind. It had been bad enough living at home when there had been the two of them offering one another moral support: the Lane sisters against the world. After Lois was gone, however, things had become a hundred times worse for Lucy.
Lucy's grades had never been quite as good as Lois's and her father had taken to calling her "the disappointing daughter" — which was supremely ironic, given that one of the reasons Lois had moved out had been that she couldn't live up to her father's expectations.
For all that Sam Lane had never openly praised Lois and had shown his disappointment in the fact that she wasn't a son, he'd been proud of her in his own way. Lois's leaving had hurt Sam Lane almost as much as it had hurt Lucy, yet, paradoxically, he'd been proud of Lois for "having the guts", as he'd put it, to stand up for herself. "Almost like a man," was what he'd said at the time.
Thus he'd focused his attention on Lucy, blaming her for not having the gumption to leave with her sister — as if Lois had given her the choice! — and for not making the grades that Lois had made. Basically, he'd blamed Lucy for not being Lois.
Of course, Lois had tried to make things right later on. Lucy had even moved into Lois's flat for a while. That had almost been fun. It *would* have been fun if Lois hadn't been so driven, so career- minded.
That drive, that ambition, forced a wedge between the two sisters. Lois's ambition reinforced Lucy's sense of inadequacy because Lucy didn't know what she wanted for herself. In contrast to Lois, who had managed to graduate summa cum laude in record time, Lucy had drifted in and out of college, flitting between majors and supplementing her income with one dead-end job after another.
Lucy felt Lois's criticisms about her lack of focus sharply and struggled not to let her hurt show. Instead, she threw barbs of her own back in her sister's direction. Lois needed a life outside work. Lois needed to date. Lois couldn't let one bad relationship put her off men entirely. Lois needed to be more like Lucy — in that one respect, at least.
Lucy's points had all been valid, except, perhaps, the one about being more like Lucy. Lucy's outward persona — that of a socially confident, good-time girl — was at odds with the real person inside the confident shell. Deep down, Lucy was riddled with insecurities, the legacy of years of having been belittled by her father.
Her father… who Lois had left her with all those years before…
Lucy seldom managed to invest any emotional commitment into her relationships. They were casual flings, little more. Words of love were so much play-acting. Lucy wasn't sure that she was even capable of love.
In the end, much to Lucy's chagrin, it had been Lois who had managed to get the whole relationship thing right, which was why she was finally committing herself to a life with Clark Kent.
Lucy didn't envy Lois Clark — after all, he fell into the category of "honest, open and intelligent", and was, therefore, boring, almost by definition — but she did envy her sister the relationship in the abstract.
And yet… despite all the tension between them, Lucy loved her sister. The ruptures in their relationship couldn't override years of shared childhood experiences: scraped knees; secrets whispered in the dark; comfort given and received as their parents argued into the early hours of the morning.
The fact remained, though, that it was much easier to love her from a distance.
Wow, but that brunette was something! thought Scardino. The way she'd twisted round to put her book away! She was slim, trim and lissom and — now that she had sprawled them out in front of her and he could see them properly — he realised that she had a pair of the most fantastic legs he had ever seen.
He glanced up at the departure screens where his flight was showing as indefinitely delayed and he considered his options. One, he could stay here and window-shop some more, two, he could get yet another so-called coffee from the nearby overpriced concession stand, or, three, he could go and talk to Ms Legs.
It didn't take long — no time at all, really — for him to decide that option number three was the best.
He got to his feet, groped around in a pocket for the small canister of breath-freshener he carried there, discreetly turned away from her, and sprayed. Boy, that stuff was disgusting! he thought with a wince as it savaged the back of his throat. The after-taste was pretty foul, too. Still, whatever it took.
He shook himself, straightened his shoulders, cleared his throat once or twice, then practised what he liked to call his lady-killer smile. Then, when he was convinced that he'd reached the peak of his allure, he sauntered over to his target.
Lucy was so caught up in her problems that she didn't notice the man's approach until he leaned over, picked up her backpack, and dumped it unceremoniously at her feet.
Lucy stared at the man coldly. Didn't he have any manners at all? Okay, so the lounge was crowded and places to sit were in short supply, but that didn't give him the right to touch her stuff without so much as an "Excuse me…" or a "Do you mind?"
He settled himself on the windowsill and grinned at her. It was little better than a leer, really — the kind of expression she usually associated with tooth-paste commercials. And then he said, "So… Do you get delayed here often?"
Oh, no, Lucy thought. He was hitting on her?! What on Earth had she done to deserve this?!
Then again… It had been too long since she'd been flattered in this way.
Back when she'd been doing bar work, the drunks had talked to her like that all the time. Then, when she'd been waiting tables… Well, there had always been a few lewd businessmen around to pinch her butt and a few college boys to ask her out on dates. And there had been Johnny, too. But she wasn't going to dwell on that.
The problem with the kind of clerical work she'd been doing for the last few months was that it severely limited the kind of contact she had with the general public; these days, in the course of her work, she mostly met either other young women who liked to talk about the men they wanted to meet, or older women who loved to bitch about the men they had met. Then, there were one or two women — the most boring of all — who thought babies and IVF were the most fascinating subjects in the world.
Being leered at actually felt kind of good, even if the man doing the leering did look a little sleazy and he had just used one of the lamest lines she'd ever heard.
Lucy looked at him more carefully. At the very least, he needed to comb his hair. A good cut would be even better. Still, as far as she could tell, the messy thatch was actually his, and it wasn't thinning.
She had to be getting old, she decided, if she'd reached the age where hair loss had become an issue. There had been a time when prime turn-offs had been acne and braces. Now it was beer-guts and toupees, neither of which this man seemed to have. He went up a notch in her estimation, but promptly went down again when she realised that he couldn't dress. Who wore Hawaiian shirts in February? For that matter, who in their right mind wore Hawaiian shirts at all?
She lifted her eyes back to his face. *His* eyes, she noticed, were twinkling with humour, as if he was inviting her to share a joke with him.
Had he said something funny? she wondered. She didn't think he had. Then she reached and made a wild guess that he was attempting a little self-deprecation. He knew that his chat-up line was hackneyed and feeble, and he must have realised that she would realise it, too. And now, when it was too late to take the awful line back, he was making a joke out of it. Or maybe he'd been making a joke of it from the start.
Phew! That was a relief! Lucy would have hated to believe that he'd thought it genuinely cool. That would have been a turn-off almost as bad as a toupee or a beer-gut…
Maybe that meant the shirt was meant to be a joke, too. She hoped so.
Replying to his question, she said, "It's my first time."
"Ah," he said huskily and leaning in towards her. "A virgin. I like that."
Lucy's eyebrows flared at the innuendo, but decided to let it slide, at least for now. "And you?" she asked leaning backwards.
"Oh," he said, waggling his eyebrows. "I'm quite experienced." Lucy could feel the multiple meanings behind the words.
Well, she thought, impulsively throwing caution to the winds, two could play at that game. She deliberately pitched her voice downwards and tilted her head so that she was looking at him in what she hoped was a coquettish manner. It was a dangerous game she was about to play, and not one she would have dared to indulge in, in a downtown bar late at night. But, she thought, what possible harm could she come to in a crowded airport lounge, even if he obviously was a chauvinist pig of the first order?
"And what does your… experience… tell you will happen next?"
Oh, now this was interesting, Lucy thought. It looked as though he was actually having to think about his answer. She liked that on two counts. First, it suggested that he actually *could* think, something which made a pleasant change from the Neanderthals she usually attracted. Second, it suggested that he wasn't quite as used to doing this kind of thing as she had originally supposed. Then again, maybe this was all part of his act. Maybe he was exceptionally good at being exceptionally bad.
Whatever, she was found herself beginning to enjoy the encounter. At least it was a better way to spend some time that either reading about Lord Whitehaven and Rosalind or worrying about what she was going to face in Metropolis.
Things were going better than Dan had any right to expect. Not only had she not blown him off immediately — for some reason he'd never really understood, that happened to him a lot — she actually seemed to be showing signs of interest. His grin broadened. If nothing else, a little harmless flirtation would help pass the time until the flight board was cleared.
"Well," he breathed, "The way I see it, we have a choice. We can either sit here being polite to each other for the next couple of hours and regret it for the rest of our lives or…"
"Or?" she asked, quirking an eyebrow.
"Or we can spend the time getting to know one another better, fall in love, run away together and…"
"And live happily ever after. I'll let you choose the house and the number of kids we'll have," he said, too lazy to think up anything else. "You should have some say in the fantasy, after all."
"That's… very considerate of you." She sounded amused and… flattered?
Hey! thought Dan. That was a new response for him. Then again, it *had* been considerate of him, hadn't it? — even if he hadn't intended it that way and he hadn't been making much of an effort. Maybe he should make less of an effort more often; it seemed to be working for him.
He felt his grin give way to a more natural smile.
There was a light in his companion's eyes that he hadn't noticed before. "If we're talking fantasies here," she said wistfully, "I've always liked the look of the Disney castle, myself."
"And with me, there will always be fireworks," he interjected.
She threw back her head and let out a peal of laughter that was loud enough to attract the attention of several disgruntled would-be travellers. "Don't think much of yourself, do you?" she asked between chuckles.
"Well, you know what they say: you can't expect anyone to believe in you unless you believe in yourself."
"Sounds like something my therapist would have said." His companion looked serious for a moment then added, "The only difference is that she would have charged me a hundred dollars for the privilege of hearing it." Her observation was wry, half-way between bitter and amused.
Uh, oh, thought Dan. She's been in therapy. A neurotic woman he did *not* need. Then again, she didn't look neurotic. Moreover, she spoke of the therapist in the past tense.
Besides, this was simply a harmless flirtation, wasn't it? He didn't even know her name and he was worrying about her sanity?!
Well, first things first… "By the way," he said, extending his hand. "My name is Scardino. Dan Scardino. But you can call me Dani-"
"What?! *You* are 'Call-Me-Daniel' Scardino?!"
Dan wasn't sure which of them was most shocked by her explosive response. As soon as the words were out in the open, she clamped both hands over her mouth and stared at him with wide, disbelieving eyes.
Dan frowned. "You know me?" he asked, utterly perplexed. How did she know him? He didn't know her and he was sure that, had he met her before, he would not have forgotten her.
She lowered her hand slowly. Then, shock uppermost in her voice, she said, "You… you dated my sister!"
Oh, d… da… *damn!*
She'd managed to push Lois to the back of her mind, she was talking to an almost-cute guy, and she'd actually been having fun there for a moment.
There had to be a law of nature somewhere decreeing that Lois Lane had the power to destroy everything good in her sister's life and humiliate her at every turn! There was no other possible explanation for the kind of luck that followed Lucy around.
Call-Me-Daniel was staring at her, his mouth open and his brows drawn into a frown. "Your… sister?" he asked. "I don't…"
"Lois," said Lucy flatly. "Lois Lane."
His eyebrows lifted half an inch and his hand, which was still extended in her direction, clenched into a fist. Then he pointed an accusing finger at her. "*You're* Lois's sister?!" He didn't sound any happier about that than she was.
Lucy nodded. "Yes." Her voice came out small and disgruntled. "I'm Lucy," she said, then added, "Lucy Lane."
Oh, d… da… *damn!*
This little flirtation was supposed to have been a distraction, not a reminder. Now they'd have to navigate their way around the awkwardness and social niceties that this revelation carried with it. "So… um… how is your sister these days?" he asked.
"Fine," said Lucy flatly. "Getting married tomorrow, in fact."
"To Kent, I presume."
"Uh, huh," grunted Lucy.
"I never did figure out what she saw in him."
"Well… He's nice and he's pretty good-looking in a clean- cut kind of way."
Oops, thought Dan. Perhaps that wasn't the best thing to say about your newest acquaintance's future brother-in-law.
Then again… "I *know*!" Lucy was laughing and the people around them were glaring. Again. Obviously no-one was supposed to have fun in a departure lounge. "But… Oh! Compared to the other losers she's dated-"
Lucy's laughter cut off in mid-guffaw and she suddenly looked mortified. "I… Sorry. I didn't mean you. You know that, right? I meant people like, um, well, Luthor. Yeah, Luthor. I mean, she almost married him, for goodness sake, and he turned out to be a really evil criminal genius. And, well, after him *anyone* is going to look pretty good."
Oh, good grief! Lucy could babble as well as her sister, thought Scardino. It had to be genetic.
He hazarded a guess. "So, you're on your way to Metropolis for the wedding?" "Yeah. Maid of Honour. That's me."
"You don't sound very happy about it."
"That obvious, huh?"
"Yeah." Scardino wondered for a moment whether or not to ask the next question. Then again, tact and respect for the feelings of others had never been among his strong suits. "So, what's the problem?"
"Besides the fact that I don't stand a chance of hooking up with the best man, you mean?"
"You don't? But surely, a gorgeous lady such as yourself…?"
She smiled at him. His stomach flipped a little, clenched a lot and then flopped over onto its left-hand side.
"That's very sweet of you," she said.
"Not sweet," he replied. "It's true."
"Oh, very true. Sweet and true," she said lightly.
"Seriously, what's wrong with the best man? I mean, there has to be something wrong with him if he can't appreciate a girl like you. He's not gay, is he?"
"Nah, he's not gay," replied Lucy. Then she frowned. "At least , I don't think so. Mind you, if he is, it would certainly go a long way towards explaining why our one and only date was such a complete disaster. And it would also explain why he chose to take me to the Ice-capades."
Ah. Ice-capades. Scardino could see how that might be the date from hell. Just the thought of it was almost enough to make him gag. He had never been a fan of Lycra — too gaudy for his tastes.
Then again… A mental image of Lucy dressed in Lycra popped unbidden into his head. Oh, yeah! Lycra Lucy. That would definitely be enough to make him reconsider his prejudices.
He swallowed. Noisily. And with difficulty.
As much to calm his libido as anything else, he decided to change the direction of the conversation. "Okay, so besides the best man thing, what's the problem?"
Lucy was torn. Should she tell him or not? She didn't know him, but he knew Lois. Besides, he seemed nice and sympathetic. It couldn't hurt, surely. Maybe he'd even understand.
She swallowed. Noisily. And uncomfortably.
Then she said, "Last time I saw my sister… Well, we didn't exactly part on the best of terms. I think she only asked me to be Maid of Honour as some kind of peace offering. The problem with that is…" She looked down at her hands, up at the ceiling, across the concourse towards the undrinkable-coffee concession… Anywhere but at him. "I'm not sure I want to make peace."
"Lucy?" There was something in the way he said her name that made her stomach flutter. Or maybe it was just hunger pangs. She hadn't eaten since breakfast, after all.
She felt his fingers brush against hers and she jumped as he clasped her hand in his, tightening his grip sympathetically.
To her surprise, he seemed genuinely concerned for her. There was nothing flirtatious or sexual about his gesture, but she felt her nerves stand to attention anyway. His touch was warm and sent tingles up to her brain and down to her toes.
The next thing she knew, she was telling him everything, spilling her guts more freely than she'd ever managed in any of her therapy sessions. She told him a little about her childhood by way of background and then she told him a lot about Johnny.
She told him about the mistakes she'd made, about how Johnny had turned out to be little better than a petty crook who had wooed her with sweet words and lived off her money. Then she found herself telling Dan how two madmen had turned Johnny into a cyborg and how he'd died.
How Superman had killed him.
How she'd been forced to watch as the tragedy unfolded.
How she'd stayed with Johnny as the life had left his eyes.
How Lois had allowed Jimmy Olsen to take the photographs that had graced the front page of the next day's Daily Planet.
There was another reason why she wasn't going to hook up with Clark's best man any time soon.
By the time she'd finished, tears were streaming down her cheeks and she was in Scardino's arms. She didn't know how she'd got there, only that she was and that he was rocking her gently, rubbing comforting circles on her back.
Her sobs turned to hiccups and the rocking stopped, but still he held her.
This, she thought, was what she'd needed for months. This was what she should have got from her sister — an unquestioning hug… the opportunity to cry herself out… comfort.
Instead, Lois's betrayal — and Lois's allowing Jimmy to take those most invasive of photos could only ever be seen as a betrayal — had driven a wedge between the two sisters.
They'd both tried their best to keep in touch since; they spoke to each other from time to time, but their differences had killed the closeness they'd shared as children.
"I don't know why I told you all that," Lucy snuffled apologetically into Scardino's chest.
"You obviously needed to tell someone," said Scardino quietly.
"And… I'm *way* cheaper than a therapist!"
She almost smiled at that. "True. Very true," she murmured. Then: "I'm sorry."
"No need to be."
For months Dan had been comparing every woman he met to Lois Lane, and now, having heard Lucy's story, he was wondering how well he'd known her in the first place. He'd known that she was driven; he had even admired that about her. He'd also known that she put her career ahead of nearly everything else in her life; he'd witnessed first- hand the way she would go tenaciously after stories, heedless of the danger she put herself — and others — in. He'd-
Okay, so maybe the evidence had been in front of his eyes all along and he'd just been too besotted to see it all for what it was.
The Lois he'd known — had thought he'd known — had been poised, smart, sassy, beautiful. The one he had just heard about was still all those things, but she was also utterly ruthless, callous and selfish. She had to be to have done that to her own sister.
When he'd been trying to date her, Dan had believed her to be genuinely torn between Clark and himself. Now, with hindsight, he couldn't help wondering whether she'd been deliberately playing them off against each other all along, determinedly working towards the outcome that suited her best.
But no. Even Lois couldn't have been that calculating, that cold- blooded. Could she?
He had so many questions, so many doubts. Yet, in amongst this maelstrom of uncertainty he was positive about one thing: he would never compare another woman to Lois Lane again and find her wanting.
Poor Lucy, he thought.
Scardino liked the way Lucy's body felt against his. She was warm and soft and, even at six in the evening, she smelled of cheap shampoo. However, his left arm had fallen asleep while he'd been holding her and he needed to do something about that. Plus, people were staring at them again. Anyone would think they'd never seen a woman crying her heart out before.
Or maybe it was just that this was the closest thing to entertainment that was available to them.
He was tempted to yell at them all to go to hell, but he didn't want to make Lucy feel any more self-conscious than she already did. He settled for glaring at them instead.
He shifted, pulling out of the embrace and peered at her carefully. "I don't have a handkerchief," he said apologetically.
"'S okay," she said. "I've got some Kleenex in my bag."
"Oh." He lifted it with his right hand and passed it to her while he flexed pins and needles out of his left. "Here you go."
He looked away while she rummaged around, found what she was looking for, and blew her nose loudly.
The crowds in the lounge had thinned a little and, when Scardino looked at the boards, he could see why. Somewhere along the line, the weather must have improved enough to let a few flights out. A few others were showing up as cancellations; he guessed some people must have left, undoubtedly only to try again tomorrow. His own, he noticed, now showed a tentative departure time some four hours distant.
"Which flight are you supposed to be on?" he asked.
"What? Oh…" Scardino watched as Lucy processed the question and tried to gather her shattered wits together. "LA 793," she said.
Scardino scanned the lists until he found it. "Do you want the good news or the bad news?"
"Bad," she answered, not sounding as though she particularly cared one way or the other.
"It hasn't been cancelled."
"That's bad news?" she asked with a frown. Dan liked the way the crease marred her forehead. It made her look studious rather than unattractive.
"It's very bad news for me," he said lightly.
"Oh. And I suppose the good news is good news for you, too."
"No. Actually, it's good for you. Your flight is only showing another hour's delay."
Lucy nodded. "I've already missed the wedding rehearsal, but I guess I might make it in time for the dinner."
"Guess so," said Dan.
Lucy felt empty — emptier than she'd felt in months. Only now, after letting all the emotions out, did she realise how much she'd been holding in. She felt hollow. She felt as though she was floating. She felt good.
She glanced sideways at Dan. For someone with a lousy hair- cut and no clothes sense whatsoever, he was turning out to be a surprisingly decent human being. He was definitely growing on her.
Dan "Call-Me-Daniel" Scardino was nothing like she'd expected. From what little Lois had told her, she'd expected him to be egotistical and over-protective. From what little she'd seen he was…
Actually, maybe he was egotistical. How else could she account for his lousy chat-up lines? And he was very protective. Over- protective? She didn't know about that. Only time would tell, she thought, before realising with a jolt that time was a luxury they didn't have. Her flight was due to leave in — what? — just over fifty minutes.
She sighed softly, regretfully.
Nowhere in Lois's descriptions of Call-Me-Daniel had there been any mention of his gentleness or his ability to care. There had only been irritation — irritation at the odd gifts he'd given her and his single-minded determination to horn in on Lois's dates with Clark.
She, Lucy, thought the latter was rather sweet. At least it showed that Dan had been serious about Lois. Better that, surely, than a man who gave up at the first hurdle in a relationship. Heck, if a guy showed only a fraction of that determination in courting her, she, Lucy, would jump into his arms like a shot.
She glanced at Dan again. They barely knew each other, but she knew him well enough to know that it was going to hurt to have to say good-bye.
They sat in silence. What could they possibly find to say to each other after that emotional upheaval? And yet… Neither of them made any move to leave. A thunder storm hundreds of miles away had been the catalyst that had brought them together. Lucy's own emotional storm seemed to have somehow forced them to stay that way.
It felt awkward to sit around, doing and saying nothing, Scardino thought. But it would be even more awkward to just up and walk away. Besides, he wasn't sure that Lucy was all right yet, and he didn't want to leave her alone until he was convinced that she was.
He glanced sideways at her. He decided that, for someone with dishevelled hair, blotchy skin, bloodshot eyes and a very red nose, Lucy didn't look half bad. In fact, he found the vulnerable look rather appealing.
"You hungry?" he suddenly said.
She shook her head. "No."
"Oh. Okay, then."
A few more seconds of silence passed, then she said, "But if you're hungry I'll come with you while you get something to eat."
"Okay!" He flashed a grin at her. "So, what's it going to be: burgers, doughnuts, wieners or subs?"
Lucy shrugged. "It's your meal. You decide."
Dan considered his options: greasy burgers, stale doughnuts, rubbery weiners or leathery subs. What a choice! Airport food really was pretty disgusting. And seriously over-priced. H'm. He must be hungry, he thought, if he was seriously contemplating eating any of this stuff.
He threw a mental die unenthusiastically and made a decision. "Okay, burgers it is."
Dan started to walk away, assuming that Lucy would follow him. Then he had second thoughts, turned back, and took the pack — which she was in the process of heaving onto her shoulder — from her and said, "Here, I'll carry that for you."
For a brief second, he thought his unaccustomed flash of chivalry had been rendered worthwhile when she smiled at him with unmistakable gratitude. Then he realised why she was quite so grateful and he found himself having third thoughts about his decision to play the gentleman. He supposed it was too late now to change his mind again. He settled for gasping, "What the heck have you got in here!?" instead.
For someone who had claimed not to be hungry, Lucy Lane had one heck of an appetite.
Dan had noticed the way she'd covertly looked in her purse before scanning the menu and deciding to order a milkshake, and he'd tried to be discreet about it when he'd watched her carefully count out a small mountain of loose change with which to pay.
Once they'd settled themselves at a table, he'd encouraged her to help herself to some of his fries. Within five minutes, she'd eaten a generous half of them, so he'd signalled to the waitress and asked for a duplicate order.
"Haven't eaten since breakfast," she said guiltily as she took her first bite of the burger he'd bought her. She chewed, swallowed, looked at him and grunted a "Thanks" before sinking her teeth back into the bun.
Ravenous hunger… a mostly empty purse… and she was in a position where she couldn't bring herself to ask her sister for any kind of help. Was hers a temporary cash-flow problem or was she really so stony broke that she couldn't afford a burger in the worst concession the airport had to offer? Was there anyone else that Lucy could turn to?
Dan chewed slowly, thoughtfully, and realised that he was so worried about her that he was losing his appetite. Then again, maybe that was because of the food. It was enough to put anyone off eating for life.
Anyone except Lucy, apparently. *She* was devouring her burger ravenously, as if it was the best thing she'd eaten in years. He sincerely hoped that it wasn't, because, if it was, it didn't say much for her diet.
"Sorry," she said scant minutes later as she swallowed her last mouthful. Dan guessed she was apologising for her enthusiastic lack of decorum. Either that or she was apologising for accepting his charity. He sincerely hoped it wasn't the latter because he really didn't mind. In fact, he was tempted to even go so far as to think it might actually have been his pleasure to do something nice for her.
"Nothing to be sorry about," he said.
"It's just, all the auto-tellers in the check-in area were out of order this morning and I ran out of cheques three days ago."
Oh. So she wasn't starving; her hunger had been a transitory thing. That was a relief. He hadn't needed to worry about her, after all.
But then he realised that it was almost a pity that he didn't need to because he'd been rather enjoying it.
"It's odd," she was saying now. "You wouldn't think that the death of one billionaire sociopath would make a difference to the day-to- day operations of a business, but I swear things at LexBank have really gone down-hill since he died."
"Yeah," Dan said. "That *is* weird. I mean, it's not like he could ever have found time to run his businesses personally when he was always preoccupied with planning the next murder."
"Not to mention running off to massacre endangered species on a whim."
"Or all his affairs and his hobbies-"
"I think that having affairs *was* one of his hobbies!"
"Okay, not to mention his affairs and all his *other* hobbies!"
Oh, this was great! thought Dan. Exchanging banter was even better than worrying, and laughing together… Well, that had to be best of all. He was going to miss this.
His laughter died away, sinking down in his chest.
Lucy picked up her napkin and wiped her mouth delicately.
Lucy, Dan mused, had a certain amount of poise. She was smart, sassy when she wanted to be, and she was beautiful. What she lacked were Lois's hard edges. Lucy was a softer Lane, a kinder Lane.
A better Lane.
He liked her. He liked her a lot. And he didn't want to say good-bye.
Like they say, he thought, nothing ventured, nothing gained…
She screwed up the paper napkin, put it down on the table, looked up at him, and said, "Yes?"
"You know what I said earlier? About getting to know each other, falling in love and running away together?"
She nodded. A lump of hope lodged itself in her throat and made it impossible to speak.
"Well, we've gotten to know each other a bit better."
Lucy nodded again jerkily and waited on tenterhooks to hear what he would say next.
"I'm not sure about the love part yet," he said. "But I'd sure as heck like to run away with you so that we can figure that bit out."
Lucy stared at him. It took a lot of effort to squeeze the words she needed around that lump of hope, which seemed to be expanding so much that it was almost choking her. Then again, maybe it was the food. She'd eaten so fast that it couldn't possibly have been good for her. "You… You'd like to run away with me? Really?"
"Well, I'd like at least to take you back to DC with me. It'd be irresponsible of me to go AWOL from my job for very long."
"And picking up strange women at the airport is responsible?" she asked.
"You're not strange," he said, deftly dodging her question.
They stared at each other. Their eyes locked. She liked his eyes. She liked the way they twinkled, she liked their colour, she liked their thick lashes and his almost-bushy brows.
She liked him and she found herself being tempted by his offer.
"I can't…" whispered Lucy sadly.
"You can," he said. "If you wanted to, you could."
"It's not as though it's your wedding, is it? You don't need to be there."
"I do. I'm the Maid of Hon-"
Dan interrupted. "But you don't really want to go, do you?"
Lucy shook her head before she could stop herself. No, she didn't want to, but that didn't stop her feeling as though she ought to. It was her duty.
"Then don't," Dan said.
"You make it sound so simple," said Lucy.
"It is simple," he answered. "If you let it be."
She shook her head again. But this time it wasn't a gesture of denial. It was one of disbelief.
Could it really be as easy as Dan suggested? She would be letting Lois down. She didn't want to do that.
Or maybe she did.
What a choice! she thought. She was torn between a sister she'd known all her life and a man she'd met only a few hours before. She was torn between a sister who hurt her in the most painful ways imaginable and a man who had gone out of his way to be nice to her.
She was torn between duty and desire.
"They're calling your flight," Dan said as a distorted female voice blared out of a nearby speaker. "You're going to have to decide one way or the other."
She nodded. "I…" Her eyes flitted between him and the direction of the gates and she made her decision. "I'm sorry," she said.
Dan sighed. "Me, too," he said, and he sounded as though he really meant it. He took a deep breath. "C'mon. Let's go. You can give me your number on the way."
She gasped softly. She'd turned him down and he wanted her number anyway?
He must have read her thoughts because he chuckled ruefully and said, "I'm not going to let you slip away from me that easily, Lucy Lane. I want to get to know you better and, one way or another, that's what I intend to do."
Her stomach was fluttering again, only this time, because she'd just eaten, she knew it wasn't because she was hungry. She hoped it wasn't from indigestion either, because she rather liked the way it was making her feel.
She liked the way Dan made her feel, too.
"Would Lucy Lane, travelling on LexAir flight 793 to Metropolis please report to gate F57, where the plane is now ready to depart."
Lucy had made a last-minute detour to the restroom and then they'd hunted around for the signs that would point them in the direction of her gate. They'd tried talking to each other but they had lapsed into a morose silence as they'd dragged their feet through long carpeted walkways and stood, procrastinating, on the travelators.
Now, though… There was her gate. Apparently all the other passengers had gone through and the flight-attendant who was manning it was looking decidedly impatient. In fact, she was positively scowling as she picked up the handset that would connect her to the airport's Tannoy system. "This is the last call for Lucy Lane. If you do not report to gate F57 within the next two minutes, your baggage will be off-loaded from the aircraft."
"It's okay!" shouted Dan. "She's here, already!"
If anything, the attendant's scowl seemed to deepen.
Lucy took a deep breath, shifted her backpack more securely onto her shoulder, and looked into Dan's eyes.
"Well, I guess this is good-bye," she said, feeling suddenly shy.
"I guess so."
"Well… Call me. I mean… only if you want to. I-"
"I will. I promise."
For some reason she didn't quite understand, Lucy was sure that it was a promise he would keep. "I'll look forward to it," she said, and she meant it.
Their gazes locked for a second or two. Should they hug? she wondered. Should she give him a peck on the cheek? What was the appropriate-"
"Ms Lane! You're holding up the entire flight!" grumped the attendant.
The moment was lost. "Go on." Dan nudged her. "You'd better go. That woman is giving you the evil-eye."
Lucy nodded. She turned away from him and began to walk. She took one step… two… three. Her pace began to slow. Five… Six… Seven…
She stopped. Turned around again. He hadn't moved from where she'd left him. He was watching her avidly, almost hungrily.
She stared at him. This was her last chance, she thought. She shouldn't go with him. Going with him would do even more damage to her relationship with her sister, though she supposed she could live with that.
His expression was shifting from avid to hopeful. And now he was beckoning to her. Oh, glory be! He really, really wanted her to go with him!
She shifted from one foot to the other as she weighed up her options.
Honest, open and intelligent… Lucy realised that he'd shown signs of being all three. That meant he ought to be boring. Then again…
She found herself beginning to smile at him. Her smile broadened, growing into a grin.
Wild hair and hideous shirts aside, he wasn't *that* bad- looking. Plus, he did have some terrible personality defects, such as being an utter pig when it came to picking up women, so at the very least he was a flawed boring. That made him almost interesting.
Oh, what the heck!
She dumped her backpack on the ground, spun round towards the attendant and yelled, "It's okay! I'm going with him!" She pointed a thumb back over her shoulder, towards the spot where Dan was standing.
Then, ignoring the attendant's muttered expletives, she spun around again and launched herself in Dan's direction.
And then… And then she was in his arms, or maybe he was in hers. It didn't matter which. And they were kissing, and he tasted of a combination of greasy burger and that awful breath-freshener that she'd seen advertised on television, right between the commercials for tooth-paste and toupees. And she didn't care about a bit of it because her knees were buckling and they were both laughing into the kiss and…
For Lucy Lane at least, it was a perfect moment, a moment she hoped would last forever.
Which, of course, it didn't. They had to come up for oxygen eventually.
"Oh… my… Whatever am I going to tell Lois?" Her eyes widened into round saucers as the full import of what she had just done suddenly hit her.
Dan shrugged. "Haven't got a clue." He sounded like he didn't care very much, either. From the way he was grinning at her, she could only assume that his mind was on other things.
"Because I'm sure as heck not going to tell her the truth — that I found something better to do with my time!"
His grin broadened, if that were at all possible. Apparently he liked the idea of being that "something better to do".
"I mean," continued Lucy earnestly, "that would just be… well… just a bit tactless, don't you think?"
"Tact isn't my strong point," he said, "but I bet that we can come up with something, if we put our heads together. Maybe we could tell her that you were… I don't know… knocked over by a bus."
"Nah. Boring. How about… kidnapped by aliens?"
Dan shook his head. "Even Lois wouldn't believe that, and given all the weirdness that goes on in Metropolis, that's saying something."
"I know!" Lucy was almost jumping up and down with excitement. "How about, I was running late for my plane and-"
"-you set off the metal detector-"
"-and got stopped by a security guard-"
"-so you decked him-"
"-and won't make bail until Monday!"
"Oh, Dan! That's perfect!"
And then they were laughing, almost hysterical with a confusion of happiness and relief. Their arms were wrapped around each other and they were kissing and-
And the attendant tapped them both forcefully on their shoulders and scowled as she curtly told Lucy that *here* was her suitcase. Then, just for good measure, she asked whether Lucy realised that she'd held up the flight for a good twenty minutes and demanded to know whether they were always this irresponsible and inconsiderate.
Lucy didn't care about any of it, not one bit. The only thing she cared about was the man standing beside her, the man whose insanely happy grin was matched only by her own.
She pushed her now-useless boarding-pass into her back pocket and she and Dan picked up her bags, taking one each. Then she took Dan's free hand in her own and together they walked back the way they'd come.
The original inspiration for this story came from rewatching Metallo. It crossed my mind that Lucy probably wouldn't have reacted well to Lois allowing Jimmy to take the photograph of her with the Corbin cyborg at the end of the episode. Sure, viewers know why Lois did it, but Lucy didn't. So… Lucy probably felt betrayed by Lois. And then Lucy didn't show up for either of Lois's subsequent weddings…
This story was originally posted on the lcficmbs to coincide with Kae's birthday.
Disclaimer and acknowledgements: This story has been written for fun, not profit. No attempt is being made to infringe any existing copyrights held by December 3rd Productions, Warner Bros, D C Comics, or any other copyright holders. Lucy's excuse is taken from the episode "I Now Pronounce You…", written by Chris Ruppenthal.