By Pam Jernigan (ChiefPam@nc.rr.com) and Sarah Wood (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: Two really big things are happening in Lois and Clark's life: their current investigation, which could potentially pull the plug on Intergang — and their imminent wedding. The happy couple hopes these two events don't interfere with each other.
[Note: The authors wish to thank Laura, Donna, Amy, Leigh, Cesar, Chris, Cindy, Kelly, Elaine, Evelyn, Kelley, and Pam's mom]
"It looks great," Lucy assured her sister. Lois looked at her reflection in each of the three mirrors facing her and sighed. She had been standing on a little step stool for a half an hour while poor Mrs. Tyrell, the bridal shop owner, fussed around her, taking measurements and adjusting the hemline and clucking to herself. Before that she'd spent two hours looking at, trying on, and rejecting an assortment of wedding dresses, and her enthusiasm for the whole procedure was starting to dim.
"It looks nice," Lois agreed cautiously, fingering the lace overlay on the skirt. Her mother had been pushing for the glamorous Cinderella gowns with the puffy skirts, long trains, flounced shoulders, and beads and sequins everywhere. Lucy had been trying to get her to wear one of the more modern mermaid-style dresses that hugged the body down to the knees and then suddenly flared out in a ridiculous frill. Lois had balked at both those extremes; she didn't think of herself as the type to wear frills and ruffles, but this one might just do.
"Well, it's… elegant," Mrs. Lane conceded. She moved around Lois, inspecting her from all angles. The gown was designed simply, with a fitted bodice trimmed in seed pearls, moderate off-the-shoulder puffed sleeves, and a gently flaring skirt overlaid with a web of lace, also trimmed in seed pearls. There was barely a train to it at all.
The more Lois studied her reflection, the more she liked it. Her mother was insisting on a big ceremony, so she might as well dress the part, she rationalized. And she just knew that Clark would love it. And, she admitted to herself with an internal grin, if she bought this one she could be done with shopping for a dress.
"I like it," she announced. Lucy smiled at her encouragingly.
"You're sure?" her mother asked, with a barely suppressed sigh. Ellen Lane had hoped for something less… plain, but she supposed she was lucky her independent daughter would be wearing a gown at all.
Lois smiled brightly, her decision made. "Yes, this is it. Thanks, Mrs. Tyrell, I'll take it." Now maybe she could get out of here and back to her real life.
"All right, now for the veil," her mother said, seemingly willing to stay in the bridal boutique all day. Mrs. Tyrell started toward that section of her little dress shop.
"Oh no!" Lois said quickly. "I'm not going to wear a veil, silly things, completely outdated." The seamstress stopped short and turned, awaiting the outcome of the latest discussion.
Ellen Lane looked doubtful. "Lois, darling, every bride wears a veil…"
"Yes, but the symbolism is terrible. Being given away like a gift-wrapped package. Besides, I want to be able to *see* Clark!"
Mrs. Tyrell smiled to herself. Another one of those. She quickly selected just the thing. "Miss Lane? How about this?" She held out a froth of lace for inspection.
Lois saw that this veil would only drape down the back of her head, not cover her face. The headpiece had room for some silk flowers, too, the seamstress pointed out. Lois tried it on, and they considered it.
"Lois, it's just not the same…" Mrs. Lane protested weakly.
"Well, I could just go without." Lois teased, turning a little to see the side views. It did look good against her glossy dark hair, and Lois found that she didn't mind looking just a little like a fairy princess.
"No, this is fine, dear," Ellen backed down hastily. She'd take whatever concessions to tradition she could get. A thought struck her, belatedly.
"Lois, you're not, well, avoiding things, dresses and things, you know, because of your last experience with a wedding, are you?" As soon as she spoke, she wished she hadn't, but Lois just looked at her in disbelief.
"C'mon, Mom, that was two years ago! Besides, this is *Clark*, not Lex. It's not the same at all. Anyway, I'll take this veil." She handed it back to Mrs. Tyrell and started her escape from the gown, assisted by Lucy. "I don't want to rush out on you, but I just got word about something Clark and I have to investigate. This could be big, Mom, I mean *really* big!" Her eyes shone as she spoke of her work. As the Daily Planet's top investigative reporter, she had excellent contacts throughout the city, and one of them had come through for her with what looked to be a major scoop. And here she was, trying on dresses, when she should be out there tracking down leads.
Lucy laughed. "Uh-oh, there she goes again! Lois, how can you think of anything but your wedding? It's only two weeks away!"
Lois waved impatiently as she began putting her own clothes back on. "I know, believe me, but I never realized how much work was involved in planning a wedding. It's nothing but decisions! Which hall for the reception, which church, what date, what kind of script should the invitations be written in, who do we invite, what kind of flowers do we have on the tables, what color should the bridesmaids wear…"
"All right, I get the idea!" Lucy laughed.
"Well, I have to make all these decisions and they're just not things I'm interested in, really, or very good at, and now I've got this really important story to uncover and I'm wasting time trying on a dozen dresses…"
"Wasting time?" her mother cried. "Lois! It's not a waste at all! You want everything to be just right for your big day."
"No, Mom," Lois corrected firmly. "*You* want everything to be just right, I would've been quite happy having a quiet little ceremony with just some of our friends and family present, and so would Clark. You wanted to get the church and the great hall and invite everyone you know. Well, that's fine, I can live with that, but right now I've got to get back to the Daily Planet and fill Clark in on this story." She finished getting dressed.
"Well, Lois, it's just that I want you to have a wonderful wedding, you know, after what happened…" Mrs. Lane's argument trailed off at the sound of her daughter's exasperated groan.
"All I want is for Clark to be there at the altar."
Lucy grinned broadly. "Of course he'll be there, Lois! He's madly in love with you!"
Lois harumphed but said nothing. What could she say, that he might have to fly off to rescue someone or foil a crime in progress? In the year since their engagement, since Lois had finally pieced together the puzzle about Clark's sudden disappearances, there had been plenty of dates abruptly cut short and dinners at her apartment that grew cold while she waited for him.
Clark had sworn to her that nothing would keep him from being there on time. "You're more important to me than anything or anyone in the world, Lois, and I promise you I won't let you down," he had declared, and he meant it, she knew. Yet how could he ignore someone needing help? How could *she* ignore someone needing him? As a joke, she'd bought him earplugs to wear the morning of their wedding, to block out some of his super hearing, but inside she was more than a bit worried that something would go wrong, *something* would happen, and that she'd be left standing alone in the church, with no possible explanation. A quick ceremony at the courthouse probably would have been a lot safer, but Lois hadn't been able to disappoint her mother, so she'd agreed to a church wedding. Which seemed to get bigger and more complicated every time she turned around.
"Everything will go just perfectly, don't worry," her mother said soothingly, mistaking Lois's feelings for the more usual sort of pre-wedding anxieties. "Now, the dress is taken care of, I'm meeting on Thursday with the video crew, and…"
"Video crew?" Lois let out a groan of dismay. "Mom, I don't need a video crew!"
"It'll be wonderful to be able to watch it over the years," her mother insisted, and Lois, once again, gave in. "Where was I? Oh, yes, the photographer's booked, she'll be at the church for the first set of pictures." Lois did her best to simulate an appreciative smile. "Tomorrow we have an appointment with the caterers at three to select the menu, and then…"
"Hold on," Lois interrupted, wide-eyed. "You didn't tell me about making any appointments! Mom, I can't make it at three tomorrow, I've arranged to meet a source then. I can't change that," she added quickly, forestalling the objection. "I can't get in touch with him."
"Well we can't delay the appointment with the caterers either," Mrs. Lane said just as determinedly as they all left the store together. "There's only two weeks left before your wedding, we have to make the final arrangements."
"Can you go alone, Mom?" Lois asked, her eyes pleading. "You have great taste, I trust your judgment completely! Whatever you choose, I'm sure it'll be delicious."
Mrs. Lane sighed heavily, but inside she didn't mind at all, it would in fact be easier without Lois there fidgeting and looking at her watch and arguing with the caterers. "I'll handle it," she agreed.
"Thanks, Mom, really, for all you've done," Lois said as she started backing away from them to head towards her Jeep. "I've got to run now, I'll talk to you later!"
"I'll call you tomorrow evening," her mother called after her. Lois gave a little wave and hurried off. Mrs. Lane looked darkly at her other daughter and said, "Lucy, when you get married…"
"Don't worry," Lucy laughed. "I'll elope!"
"Don't you dare!" her mother said, suddenly smiling. She looked again at Lois's retreating form. "She's just so…"
"Headstrong?" Lucy suggested
"She seems to be more interested in this new story than in her own wedding!"
"Well, that's Lois for you," Lucy said cheerfully.
Lois tapped the steering wheel impatiently. Trying on dresses had taken much longer than she'd anticipated, and she was anxious to tell Clark about this new lead, and make some phone calls to her contacts, see if she could find out anything more. Anything about Intergang was news and a potentially big scoop, but if her source could be believed, this would be a great opportunity to do real damage to the criminal organization.
The timing, of course, was terrible. Two weeks before her wedding was no time to get involved in something that required a lot of snooping around. Thank goodness her mother loved handling the wedding plans, she thought with a wry smile. Mrs. Lane had been very disappointed to be left out of the plans for her aborted wedding to Lex Luthor. Now she could run the whole show.
And what a show it was turning out to be! She and Clark had envisioned a sweet and simple wedding with just a few guests present, some pretty flowers, and Elvis music for Perry afterwards. How had it become a major event? A video crew? The live band, the huge vases of flowers, the three bridesmaids, and a guest list that made Lois gasp. She hardly recognized some of the names there! It seemed that the only person in the world who couldn't make it would be her father, who claimed that his research could not be disturbed even for a day. It was a disappointment in a way, but in his absence, she'd asked Perry to escort her down the aisle, and the Chief had been walking on air ever since.
Clark was being very patient and supportive about the whole thing, she reflected thankfully as she waited for traffic to move again. He calmed her down, reminded her that her mother loved her and wanted her to be happy, and assured her that as long as they were together exchanging their vows it didn't matter what kind of hoopla accompanied it.
Still, just thinking about the nauseating shade of pink her bridesmaids would be decked out in made Lois cringe a little. She worried about the expense, too, although her mother was only too happy to take care of most of it. Lois shrugged. "If she wants to spend even more money on flowers and a video crew, I guess I can live with it," she said aloud.
Then, not surprisingly, her thoughts turned forward to the sources she could call on for more information. Her eyes narrowed as she plotted a strategy for getting the scoop of the year, maybe even the scoop of the decade!
When Lois arrived back at the Planet, Clark wasn't at his desk, so she got right to work. She'd gotten a tentative meeting set up when she was surprised by hands on her shoulders. She smiled and tilted her head up. Clark leaned down to give her an upside-down peck on the lips. Then he settled on the corner of her desk to wait until her phone call was finished, idly stroking her arm while she took some cursory notes.
"So, how did the search for the perfect dress go?" he asked as soon as she hung up the phone, brown eyes twinkling. He knew about her limited love for shopping.
Lois laughed a little, and entwined her fingers with his. Everything seemed better when she could share it with Clark. "It went just fine. I'm all set, and you're going to love it." She looked at him quizzically. "So where've you been this morning? I thought you'd be here writing up that vandalism story."
"I was meeting with a source," he replied easily, glancing around the room in a manner that appeared casual. She recognized his usual cover story; he'd been needed in the Suit. He didn't elaborate, so apparently it was nothing unusual. With a brief nod Lois eagerly jumped in with her big news.
"Clark, listen to this — " She looked around the busy newsroom, then dragged her partner into an empty conference room and closed the door. "I was contacted by Bobby Bigmouth this morning, he had a message for me from Marvin Gates!" she burst out, too excited to bother sitting down.
"Marvin Gates?" Clark looked puzzled. "Who's… wait, isn't he one of the lawyers working for the Parrish Casino?"
She nodded. The partners had tried investigating the casino earlier that year, suspecting it was a front for Intergang, but hadn't been able to get any proof. "Gates wants to meet with me, he said he has something I might be interested in. Clark, I just know he's working for Intergang! I checked him out right after speaking to Bobby, he earns far too much and works far too little, it's fishy. I mean, who pays someone who hardly works?"
"No one I've ever worked for, that's for sure," Clark responded cheerfully.
"Now, what's going on in here?" Perry White opened the door of the conference room and stood in the doorway. "You know, I don't pay you two to stand around all day!" The partners looked at each other and grinned. "Are you talking about your wedding again?" Despite his grouchy words, there was an indulgent smile on the Chief's face.
Lois smiled at him fondly, and motioned for him to come all the way in the room. "Now why would we discuss that?" she teased. "My mother has it well in hand."
"Lois has got something big, Chief," Clark said seriously, making sure the door shut behind Perry. The two of them quickly repeated the news to the Chief.
Perry's attention was caught. "But kids, this could get dangerous, you're going to have to be real careful."
Clark agreed, shooting a meaningful look at his more impulsive partner. She nodded impatiently. "I don't think Intergang has any sneaks working here, but I'm not going to take any chances. I'll try to set up a meeting with Gates, but I can't contact him directly, so it's going to take some time."
"Well, alright," Perry growled. "Work on that; I'll reassign the mismanagement investigation. But Lois, I'm still waiting on that piece I assigned you last week." Lois nodded meekly. "And Clark, what in tarnation's happening with that vandalism story you're writing?" Clark took his cue from Lois and just nodded. The Chief Editor glared at the pair, but he was bluffing and they knew it. He knew that when they were on the trail of something this big they would be too distracted for any other work, and he secretly hoped they would have enough time to handle all the wedding details. Alice said that planning a wedding was a lot of work, and while he didn't see what could be so hard about it, he'd learned not to question Alice.
After Perry left, they sat down to discuss details.
Clark began the brainstorming. "We should prepare a list of things to ask Gates about."
"He could give us details on some local Metropolis operations." Lois chewed on a pencil.
"We should dig up every rumor we've got on Intergang," Clark decided. "And since we can't let this secret get out, we'll have to do it all ourselves. He's probably involved in that money-laundering scheme we think they're running through the Parrish Casino."
"With a name like that, it's got to be connected to Bill Church."
Clark frowned into the distance. "Yeah… we should look into that again. Maybe some undercover work? We need to get a closer look at their books."
Lois slanted an inquiring glance his way. "Is that something Superman could help us with?" She spoke obliquely out of habit.
He shook his head. "I understand that lead-lined paneling is very popular these days, in certain circles. This is going to take a lot of work, but it should be worth it."
Lois shrugged. "For this story, I'd walk to China — Gates could crack Intergang right open." She flashed a smile at him. "Lucky for him we're good at keeping secrets."
"You are, anyway…" He smiled tenderly. "Sometimes I don't know how I managed without you."
She laughed. "Badly. Some of the clues you dropped…" She'd long since overcome her embarrassment at not seeing the obvious. "Anyway, we've got a lot of work to do, and I don't think any of it is a job for Superman. Not yet, at least. I've got some sources I can talk to. Can you get started searching through our files? That'll give us our first list of questions for Mr. Gates."
Clark nodded, and escorted her out of the conference room. "I'll get Jimmy to help me with that, I just won't tell him exactly why we're looking." Lois waved a hand in vague affirmation, her attention already focused on who to call next.
"Jimmy?" Clark looked around the newsroom. Jimmy emerged from the supply room, looking distracted.
"What's up, CK?"
"We've got to dig up everything we've got on Intergang, Jimmy. Confirmed, unconfirmed, even wild goose chases, everything."
"No problem." He hesitated a moment, then continued. "I just want to thank you again, CK, for asking me to be your best man — this is like the coolest thing I've ever done! I'm really honored that you picked me."
Clark waved this aside, embarrassed. "I'm glad to have you, Jimmy. You've been a good friend." He looked more closely at Jimmy's expression. "Is something wrong?"
"Not exactly," Jimmy hedged. Clark waited expectantly. "It's just, well, I have to make a speech for you, you know, at the reception, the best man always makes a toast to the happy couple. I've never given a speech before, I don't know what to say! I've been trying all week to get something written down but I…" He ran out of steam and just sighed. "I guess I'm just nervous. I don't want to ruin your wedding with a lousy speech."
Clark laughed, resting a hand on Jimmy's shoulder. "Jimmy, you couldn't possibly ruin our wedding! Don't worry so much about it, you don't have to make a long speech, just a quick toast. You'll do fine," he said reassuringly. Jimmy didn't feel very reassured, but he smiled weakly nonetheless. "Now, let's get to work! If Perry catches us standing around talking about the wedding again, he'll have both our hides!"
"So, one week left before the Big Day," Martha Kent said cheerfully to her son and future daughter-in-law over a nearly-empty dinner table. The Kents had arrived in Metropolis that morning to stay until the wedding, and the young couple had been updating them on the ongoing plans for the wedding. "Are you getting nervous yet?"
Clark and Lois exchanged a wry smile. Lois had a sip of her wine and let Clark do the talking for them. "Well, Mom, perhaps 'nervous' isn't the right word. You know we wanted just a simple ceremony, but Mrs. Lane wanted Lois to have a big beautiful wedding, and things have sort of snowballed."
Jonathan Kent leaned back in his seat, his plate empty and his stomach full. "Well, you may appreciate all those special things later, son. I know I would've liked a video of our wedding." He smiled at his wife, and she reached out and slipped her hand into his, returning the smile lovingly.
"We know that," Clark said, checking with Lois for silent confirmation. "It just seems like this whole thing has gotten out of hand. We just wanted to be together." Mirroring his mother's actions, Clark reached over and clasped Lois's hand. The Kents saw the glow on her face, and smiled. Their love had grown over the years, and it was exciting for them to see their son just embarking on that same journey. They had always liked Lois, but in the year of their engagement they had spent more time with her and their fondness had become love. Martha, especially, felt a kinship with the feisty young reporter, and saw echoes of her own youth in those sparkling eyes.
"When you're promising to love one another, you won't really notice what's going on around you," Martha suggested gently. "I know on my wedding day, I only had eyes for your father."
A warm and comfortable silence drifted over the foursome.
"That was a great dinner, Mom," Clark said at last, his eyes still on his beautiful bride. "Are you giving Lois some pointers?" he added teasingly.
"Come on, Clark, I've gotten a lot better!" Lois protested, trying not to smile. Her cooking had become a long-running joke between them.
"Well…" he said slowly, grinning broadly. "Yes, you have," he conceded.
"It's not as though you're marrying me for my cooking," she added with a sly grin.
"You've got that right!" Clark laughed, dodging in his seat to avoid the playful swat she aimed at his shoulder. Martha smiled indulgently at their horseplay as she began to clear the table. Clark jumped up to help her, or to evade Lois, no one was quite sure.
"So, Lois, tell me more about this investigation you two are working so hard on," Jonathan suggested, as he got up to get a deck of cards for their regular after-dinner game of poker, a pastime they had all come to enjoy.
Lois sighed. "Marvin Gates, the lawyer who wants out, has given us some scraps of information through a third party, and they've checked out okay, so we know he's legit — but we haven't been able to set up a meeting with him yet."
Having done the dishes at superspeed, Clark sat down again beside Lois. "It's very frustrating," he said with feeling. He wanted so much to be able to nail the Churches without the Suit. "We can't publish what we have yet because it would implicate him, or so he thinks. He would be such a gold mine if we could just get him to produce some evidence!" He sighed, and Lois rested her hand on his arm comfortingly. "He wants Superman get him out of the country after he tells us everything he knows, and we agreed to that. I guess we just have to wait until he gets in touch with us."
Martha returned to her seat wearing her green visor and carrying the penny jar. As she began to hand out the "poker chips", Clark shuffled the deck at superspeed, and Lois gave him a little shove.
"Show off!" she said softly, smiling at him. His poker skills had certainly improved in the last year, since she'd insisted on teaching him the game.
"Oh, I see, it's showing off when I'm shuffling, but it's completely different when I do the dishes," Clark said, nodding, his lips twitching as he tried to keep a straight face. "I thought you didn't like double standards, honey."
"Well," Lois said, uncomfortably aware that he had caught her that time. "Oh, all right, you win!" she finally concluded, laughing along with the others. "Just keep doing the dishes, partner, and I'll forgive all the showing off!"
"I think I just got suckered," Clark groaned, winking at his mom as he finished dealing the deck.
Jonathan tossed in his one penny ante, and then asked, "So, son, when's the bachelor party?"
Martha and Lois simultaneously rolled their eyes. "Don't tell me you're going to have that ridiculously old-fashioned thing," Lois groaned. "I don't understand why men feel a need to have a wild night before getting married, it's as if they think marriage is awful! Clark, you'd better not be planning on going to a topless bar!"
Clark shot his dad a dirty look before turning to his future wife with a sheepish, innocent shrug. "I don't get to make the plans, Lois, the best man arranges everything. I won't let them get too wild, though."
"Well I agree with Lois," Martha said firmly. "Why does the groom get a night on the town, and the bride gets household gifts, and maybe some lingerie if she's lucky," she added with a wink at Lois. "It's a very old-fashioned way of looking at marriage."
"It sure is!" Lois said vehemently. "I think the bride and groom should both be given a party wishing them luck and giving them both things they'll need as they make a life together."
"Sounds much more sensible," Martha nodded as she upped the ante.
"Sure does!" Clark put in quickly. "Topless bars, it's ridiculous, right Dad?"
All eyes turned to Jonathan, who was frowning over his cards and fiddling with two pennies thoughtfully. He looked up, wide-eyed. "What? Why is everyone looking at me?" he asked, a bit bewildered.
"Oh, honey," his wife laughed. "Just say you agree with me and you'll be fine."
"I agree with my wife, absolutely," Jonathan said obediently.
"See, Clark? Listen and learn," Lois advised, a twinkle in her eye. "Your dad's a real pro at marriage!"
Clark was busily tapping away at his keyboard when Lois entered the newsroom Monday morning. She made a beeline for the coffee pot and searched for her mug. "Now who's gone and taken my coffee mug!" she asked loudly. Clark grinned and waved her over.
"Your coffee's ready and waiting, honey," he informed her, standing up to give her a gentle good morning kiss. Lois slipped her arms around his waist and smiled up at him. He was so thoughtful in so many little ways.
She slipped out of the embrace and sipped at her coffee. Grimacing, she said, "You must've gotten here quite a while ago, it's cold!"
"Here," Clark said, standing close to her with the coffee mug between them. He lowered his glasses after a quick study of the newsroom to be sure no one could see, and used his heat vision to warm the drink up again. "I've been here for almost an hour, I wanted to finish that piece on vandalism."
She took another sip of her coffee. "Mm, much better, thanks. So," she glanced around the newsroom to be sure no one was near, "do we have an in at the casino?"
Clark smiled. "Charlie the bartender lives! I start tonight, and I've got you an interview for a waitress position this afternoon — I told them you were my girlfriend."
"Hmm, that could work. And if they know we're together, I may get fewer propositions." She grinned.
"I know you can handle a few propositions." Clark had learned the hard way not to be over-protective of his independent lady; and he had absolute faith in her fidelity. "I was just tired of those cover stories where we have to pretend to not love each other." They shared a bittersweet smile.
"Well, starting tonight is good," Lois said briskly, getting back to business. "We only have a week to wrap this up, one way or another." Gates had given them the name of the man in charge of the money-laundering at the casino, a seemingly minor flunky named Sam Reynolds who they hadn't bothered to look into before. A few minutes in his office should be all they'd need. "Let's get to work."
"That's my Lois!" he responded with a broad grin. "I'm almost finished with this, then I'll be all ready for our meeting with Bobby Bigmouth. Chinese food again?"
"Yes, but not from China," she said with a giggle. "We can just stop in at Peking Palace. I sure hope Bobby's got some good news, this is very frustrating! I can feel it, Clark, this is going to be really big! If we can ever get the story!"
"Um, sorry to interrupt," Jimmy said uncertainly from near Clark's desk. "CK, I think these are the last of the Intergang rumors." He handed a very slim file over, but hung on tightly to a clipboard.
"Thanks, Jimmy, you've been a great help," Clark said appreciatively. When Jimmy shifted his weight from one leg to another and back again, showing no signs of leaving, the two reporters shared an inquisitive glance. "Something on your mind?"
"It's my speech," Jimmy burst out. "Can I try it out on you? You can tell me what's good and what's lousy and help me rewrite it."
The partners broke into laughter simultaneously. "Jimmy!" Clark protested. "I can't proofread your speech!"
"Don't look at me," Lois added with a grin. "You're going to have to find somebody else!"
Jimmy sighed as he looked down at his clipboard. "I guess you're right. Thanks anyway." He looked around the room for a moment and then his face lit up. "Oh Paula! Can you spare a minute?" he called, hurrying off.
Lois and Clark looked at each other and laughed again before settling down to get some work done.
"What've you got for me?" Bobby Bigmouth asked as he slid into the back seat of Lois's Jeep, startling Lois. Clark, of course, had heard him coming.
"That depends," she said cagily. "What've you got for *us*?"
Bobby inhaled the delicious aroma of Chinese food coming from the bag Lois was determinedly hanging on to. "Egg rolls…" He closed his eyes and sniffed again. "Sesame chicken?" He debated for a moment. "Okay, Lane, here's the deal. Gates is definitely willing to talk, but he doesn't trust you two to protect him. Gimme an egg roll."
"None of that's news to us," Lois scowled. "No news, no egg rolls."
Bobby turned to Clark and opened his mouth to speak, but Clark looked stern. With a sigh, after licking his lips, Bobby grumbled, "Okay, okay. I told him you agreed to get Superman to fly him to the country of his choice, but he's worried. Seems like Intergang suspects something, they're keeping a close eye on him, that's why it's so hard to get in touch with him now."
"Did you pass along our latest questions?" Lois demanded.
"Yeah, but don't blame me cause he didn't answer them!" Bobby complained. "He won't tell me anything! All I know is, Gates is looking over his shoulder all the time."
"It took a week for you to come up with this?" she asked disdainfully. "Did he set a time and place to meet?"
"Not yet, he's trying to plan a cover first, he said he'll be in touch with me soon."
Lois looked thoroughly displeased. "This is ridiculous! It's been over a week and we're no closer to getting something we can print!"
"That's not my fault," Bobby protested. "This Gates, he's a cautious fellow, and with good reason. If word gets out he's been talking, his life ain't gonna be worth much."
Clark, seeing the dark flash in his partner's eyes, stepped in. "Bobby, we need to know what Intergang suspects, what they know, and what they're doing about it. If Gates is in danger we need to move fast on this. Bill Church isn't the kind of man to wait for absolute proof. If he has reasonable doubts about his man he'll get rid of the problem. Permanently. Lawyers for Intergang have a habit of ending up dead," he said, remembering Martin Snell's untimely demise. "We've got to meet with him as soon as possible. Once he tells us what he knows, we'll get Superman to fly him somewhere safe."
"You sure Superman agreed to this? Isn't it like aiding a criminal?"
"It's saving the man's life after the little weasel rats on the other criminals," Lois said hotly. "Superman understands that Gates could help destroy Intergang and end their criminal activities for good."
The snitch backed away from Lois's tirade. "Okay, okay! You oughta know, you're so close with him."
"Now what's that supposed to mean?" Lois asked testily. It was a sore subject for her. News of her engagement to Clark was no secret, so every time she was seen in the company of Superman the rumors flew faster than he could.
"Nothing!" Bobby cried, holding his hands up as though to fend her off. He shot a look at Clark, who grinned back cheerfully. "Listen, Lane," he said more firmly. "I told you all I know, I passed along your messages, I've gotten messages back to you… I ain't doing this for fun, ya know. So gimme my egg rolls!"
Lois peered at him through narrowed eyes, as though hoping to read his mind. Then with a resigned expression she dug into the bag and brought out a container. "Here, enjoy."
"Mmm, Peking Palace, I always do!" He accepted the container greedily, snatching it from Lois's hands, and then looked expectantly at the bag. "What about the rest of it?"
"Are you kidding! For what you came up with? All you told us is, Gates is going to try to get in touch with you soon. For that, you get egg rolls."
Bobby argued from the back seat, and Clark gave her a reproving look. She gazed at her partner's gentle brown eyes, and her heart softened. "Oh, here!" she reluctantly agreed, handing the entire bag over. Clark's lips turned up in a warm smile. "But you can consider that payment for telling me when we can meet Gates!" she added in a tone that allowed for no arguments. Clark held back a laugh; she was so determined to get her own way, somehow! That determination, that drive to accomplish what she set her mind to, was one of the things he loved about her, even when it exasperated him.
Stuffing an egg roll in his mouth, Bobby mumbled an assent and slid out of the Jeep just as quickly as he had come.
"Well, that could've been better," Clark said. Lois merely sighed. He held her face in his palm, turning her head towards him. "Oh honey, I know it's frustrating, but we're getting there. Bobby will probably call tonight, just after you've gone to sleep no doubt, with a meeting set up for tomorrow night or something."
"I hope so!" Lois responded. "Do you realize we're getting married in a few days? How're we going to wrap this up and write it before the wedding?"
"Hmm, you're right, that is tight timing. Maybe we should just postpone the wedding."
Lois looked up, outraged and a little hurt, until she realized he was joking. "Oh, no, you're not getting out of it that easily, Kent." She grinned, and he returned it, pleased that he'd managed to lighten her mood. "I did want to see something in print before we left, though. And I refuse to let someone else write it up while we're gone. These are our contacts, our sources, we did the legwork, we investigated things. I know you don't want to see it under anyone else's byline any more than I do, Clark Kent!"
"You're right," he conceded, "I don't. But I'm not going to pass up on a honeymoon with you for *any* story."
"Well," she said slyly, "I'm not asking you to pass up on our wedding night!"
Clark let out a laugh at that one. "If you had your way, we would've had our wedding night months ago!"
Lois pouted playfully. "Getting you drunk didn't work, and neither did my attempt to overpower you and pin you down!" She started giggling at the memory.
"I just want our wedding night to be special."
"It would've been special anyway. Every minute with you is special."
Clark traced his bride's jaw with one finger and smiled. "Watch out, honey, you're getting romantic on me!" he teased, and his kiss cut off her protest. For a moment she tried to push him back so she could speak her mind, but only for a moment. Kissing him was simply too sweet a pleasure to deny herself. Of course, they hadn't done much more than kiss in the entire year they'd been engaged, and it was driving her crazy! But she knew that, to Clark, it was important that they wait. She respected him and would respect his wishes, even though she didn't share them. She had even enjoyed the game they played sometimes, when she would tease him and he would resist temptation.
It was just as well, though, that their wedding was less than a week away. Lois wasn't sure she could keep her hands off him much longer.
Late afternoon on the Thursday before the wedding, Lois contemplated the stack of files on her desk. It was definitely smaller than it had been yesterday, but it wasn't yet small enough. She sighed. She hated to give away her stories, but these simply couldn't wait until she and Clark returned from their honeymoon, and Perry would never countenance losing them altogether. There were other good reporters available, and she'd just have to force herself to distribute these last leads. She was doubly frustrated; if she hadn't been working so hard on this Intergang thing, she could have wrapped some of these up. So she'd sacrificed several good stories, and Bobby hadn't yet called back to set up the promised meeting with Gates. It was too late now, though, with only one day remaining before the wedding.
She looked around for some prospects, hoping she didn't see any. It was late in the day, and the staff in the newsroom had thinned out. Paula, one of the paper's newer feature writers, was still at her desk, talking to Jimmy. Lois thought that her friend might not make a total hash out of one of the stories that needed to be delegated. She gathered up the folder and rose from her desk, stretching. As she walked up behind Jimmy, she could tell that he was practicing his speech on Paula. Again. Paula's eyes met Lois's in a plea for help. Lois grinned, and tapped Jimmy on the shoulder with her file folder. "Jimmy, I need to talk to Paula, okay?"
"Yeah, sure, no problem, Lois…" Jimmy flushed, embarrassed at having been caught rehearsing, and stumbled off. Paula smiled gratefully for the interruption.
Lois explained briefly what she needed and what she'd already done. Paula nodded calmly. "I'll cover it, Lois, don't worry." Paula looked Lois over shrewdly. "So how are you holding up?"
"I'm fine, really." She sat down heavily in the chair next to Paula's desk. "Getting married is hard work, you know?"
"But you got some fun stuff at the bridal shower," Paula teased lightly. The bridal shower given by Mrs. Lane (and attended by all of Ellen's friends) had been a model of decorum and tradition, and Lois had hated every minute of it; even the lingerie she received from her future mother-in-law had embarrassed her.
Lois made a face. "Yeah, right. Half a set of china, the pattern of which my mother picked for me — I didn't realize I'd let her do so much, but…" She tapped her fingers on Paula's desk. "There are so many more interesting things to do in the world than shop for dishes."
"You mean like go on stakeouts?" Paula asked dryly, having just returned from one too many of those herself.
Lois smiled dreamily, remembering the stakeout which had been her 'almost-first date' with Clark. "Oh, they're not all that bad. And undercover work can be pretty fun, too." Their recent work at the Parrish Casino had proved that, even though it had taken three nights to get access to the right office. It had also proved that Intergang was definitely laundering money, but Perry was holding off on printing that story until they could get more information from Gates.
The other reporter laughed. "Sure, when your partner looks like Clark."
Lois flushed slightly, but laughed as well. "Hey, there's nothing wrong with your partner, you know."
Paula shrugged. "Scott's not bad; we're good friends. But never mind about me." She leaned forward. "The question on everyone's mind is — will Superman be at your wedding?" Paula was a keen observer, and she was perpetually intrigued by Lois's relationship — or, recently, lack of one — with Superman. It would be fascinating to watch him watch her get married.
Lois winced. She and Clark had done all they could to cool down those rumors, but the public apparently loved for their superhero to have a girlfriend, and maybe they weren't always as good at hiding their emotions as they should be. "Why does everyone ask me those questions?"
"Because you always have answers," Paula pointed out promptly. "So?"
"Alright." Lois gave in to the inevitable. In the last year she'd gotten a lot of practice at prevarication and obfuscation on this subject. "I don't know for certain, but I don't believe you'll see him there." At least with any luck, he wouldn't be wearing the Suit. "But now, I have work to take care of."
She distributed the remaining files and returned to her newly-clear desk. She wouldn't have too much work to do tomorrow unless something broke on the Gates case, so she started looking around for Clark.
She found Clark in Perry's office, with Perry and Jimmy. They all stopped talking suddenly when she entered the office, awakening suspicions.
"What are you guys doing in here?" She walked over to behind Clark, letting one hand rest on the high back of the chair while the other dropped to his chest. He reached up and clasped her hand warmly.
Jimmy blushed, and Perry looked away, but not before she saw the guilty look on his face. Lois had one of the leaps of intuition and logic that had made her career. "You're talking about a bachelor party! Clark, I thought you didn't want one?" She looked down at his upturned face; he looked uncomfortable with the subject. He would have been just as happy without one, but…
"Well, Jimmy and the Chief went to a lot of trouble planning it…"
"It's an archaic and outdated ritual that should be abolished," Lois said, rolling her eyes as she walked out of the office, returning to her desk. Clark caught up to her a minute later.
"Lois, I really don't know what they're planning, it could be pretty tame." Lois, however, was no longer thinking about that.
"Clark, look at this!" She waved a pink message form in his face, too fast for him to read. "Bobby finally came through for us! Our 'source' wants to meet me tonight!"
"That's great! Where and when does he want to meet?"
"In the old Metropolis quarry, outside of the city, just over an hour from now. I think I can make it…" She looked at her watch, all business now, the bachelor party forgotten.
"We can make it, no problem." Clark corrected her. She looked up at him, startled by his firm tone. "I'm not letting you get the big break in this case all by yourself — I've worked too hard on this. Besides, it could be dangerous. Wait right here."
He strode back to Perry's office, and Lois didn't need superhearing to be able to tell that he was excusing himself from his bachelor party. A smile played on her lips. It was reassuring to see where his priorities lay.
Lois dropped her car off at her apartment, then Clark changed into the Suit and flew her to the quarry. They hadn't had much time for flying lately, so Lois took advantage of the opportunity to shower kisses on his face and neck while he laughingly tried to evade her.
"We're almost there, Lois, and he might be there first, so stop that."
She made a face at him, but settled back in his arms. The last thing she wanted was a revival of the rumors.
He landed them near the entrance of the quarry, which was deserted. Clark, still in the Suit, found a convenient rock to sit on. Lois paced, watching the entry road in the gathering darkness. She glanced at her watch. "I guess we're early."
Clark leaned against the rock face, looking completely at ease. "By maybe half an hour. Well, it won't hurt us to relax for a little while. We haven't had many chances for that lately. What with this story, and all our relatives in town…" His voice trailed off and Lois re-focused on him. She stopped pacing, and sat down next to him on the rock. Lois tucked herself under one of his arms, enjoying the warm solidity of his body. For once, Clark wasn't worried about them being seen in this position; after all, they'd be able to see car headlights approaching long before anyone arrived.
"You're right," she commented, after a short interval. "This is good." She ran a hand over his "S", enjoying the relative novelty of it. She'd come to understand that these were his working clothes; he preferred to be out of them whenever possible. Lois grinned a little to herself. She preferred him out of his clothes, too, if only he'd give her the chance.
Clark smiled as he felt her relax. Lois in full-throttle mode was exciting and enthralling, but she needed some coaxing to pull back at times, to avoid burning out. He didn't expect she'd ever cease being an overachiever, but it was his goal to help her relax from time to time, to get a little more balance in her life. When she could be persuaded to let her guard down, she was sweeter and more loving than Clark had ever dreamed when he'd first fallen for her.
She soon started to fidget, playing with her engagement ring. He waited patiently to see if she wanted to open up. Presently, she asked, with determined cheer, "So, are you planning to wear the Suit under your tux on Saturday?"
He heard the worry under the cheer, but tried to distract her, grinning down at her. "Don't you think I should? After all, if I'm not wearing the Suit, you won't be married to Superman, only to me."
She laughed in spite of her worry, and gently slapped his chest. "You goof! I don't want to be married to Superman." She paused a beat, then continued. "I wouldn't mind a life-long affair with him, though."
It was his turn to laugh then. "Planning to cheat on me already… you think you know a person, then they pull this sort of thing on you." Clark, forgetting that he was in the Suit at the moment, threw the straight line out, anticipating an energetic response. She only sighed.
He tipped her chin up so he could see her face. "What is it, hon? You're not playing up to par tonight."
She smiled a denial. "It's nothing, really." He held her gaze, gentle disbelief all over his face, so she continued, her smile fading. "Well, I know you promised, but I don't see how you could help it, and I couldn't really even blame you, but how would we explain it? Oh, Clark, it's just that I'm still worried that you'll have to, you know, 'go meet a source' sometime during the wedding. I don't want to be left standing at the altar — and then no one would understand why I wasn't mad at you, or why we'd still get married…"
Clark lost all trace of amusement, seeing the depth of her fear. He turned a little to face her more squarely. "Lois, I promise to you that I will *not* leave you stranded at the altar, no matter what the reason."
Lois searched his face, and drew strength and reassurance from his conviction. She smiled shakily. "You know I love you, Clark Kent."
He pulled her close for a long hug. "And I love you, Lois. Nothing will ever change that." He rubbed her back, willing her to relax again. At length she did, and shifted in his arms to a more comfortable position. Then he felt her stiffen, and she said, "Oh, that reminds me, I've got a present for you."
She sat up and started patting her pockets, finally pulling out a small box, which she presented to him with a flourish.
He looked at her speculatively, then opened the unsealed box. Inside lay a pair of earplugs, and he began laughing helplessly.
She joined in his mirth, releasing the last of her tension. He re-closed the box and slipped it back in her pocket, hugging her once more.
"Oh, Lois…" he said when he could stop laughing. "You're wonderful. How did I ever get so lucky?"
She gave him a little extra squeeze, and gently corrected him. "This wasn't luck, sweetheart, we worked hard to get here."
They waited like that another hour before Lois insisted that Clark see what was keeping Gates. While she waited at the quarry, he flew back to Metropolis. In their research, they'd found out where Gates spent most of his time; Clark soon spotted the man. He flew back to the quarry.
"We've been stood up, Lois — he's in the Metropolis Men's Club, playing billiards." Clark's voice clearly showed his disgust with the lawyer, and Lois rolled her eyes.
"What a jerk! I can't believe we've spent all this time on him, and then he sets up a meeting and doesn't even show!"
Clark groped for an explanation. "Maybe he was interrupted, or we misunderstood somehow?"
"Whose side are you on, anyway?" Before he could say anything, she answered for him. "I know, I know, you're just trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. And I love that quality in you — when it's not driving me crazy!" She threw up her hands, but let her anger dissipate.
Clark just smiled at her display. Sometimes she positively sparkled… and even though he was sometimes scorched by her flame, she was definitely worth the burns. "So, what do we do now?"
She tilted her head and considered. "Well, either of our apartments is out, since your parents are staying with you, and I just don't want to hear my phone ring…"
"And I don't really want to go to that bachelor party," he assured her.
Lois swept a glance at him from under lowered eyelashes and smiled mischievously. "We could rent a motel room, you know…" She closed in on him and started running her hands over the costume.
Clark grabbed her hands and stood firm. "Lois, I want our first time to be perfect and special… some cheap tacky motel room will not do. And the way we've been spending lately, cheap and tacky is all we could afford."
She pouted, but gave up cheerfully enough. "Alright, alright. Can't blame a girl for trying."
After picking up some casual clothing from Lois's empty apartment, they headed south for a quiet dinner along the North Carolina coast. They didn't want to be recognized at dinner, either as reporters or as a cheating fiancee on a last-fling date with a superhero, so they both wore baseball hats, and Clark went without his glasses. They'd eaten at the Crab Hut before; it was the sort of place where baseball hats were practically required.
Their food was delivered quickly. "So," Lois said, cracking a crab leg, "What do we have to do tomorrow?"
"Not much," Clark answered cheerfully. "I want to go over the Parrish Casino story one more time; I've thought of another angle to add to it. And then there's the wedding stuff. I've got to pick up my tux from the rental place. The rehearsal starts at 5, with the big dinner after that, so there goes the evening. If we don't get any more from Gates, the Chief'll probably find us some chores to do during the day."
Lois made a face. "Sure he will. I hate re-writing other people's copy, especially when I don't get any credit for it."
"It's called helping out the younger writers, Lois," Clark lectured amiably. "Everybody needs help getting started, even you did, I bet."
"I hated being on the other end of it, too," Lois grumbled around a mouthful of crab. "It's okay for you, you're actually good at helping them. Hey, there's an idea, you could teach!"
Clark's lips twitched. "And be stuck inside all day? I don't think so."
She shrugged, grinning. "So write a book. It'd bring in a little extra money, and being published is always a good thing for a journalist."
Clark shook his head, but didn't reply, concentrating on his seafood pasta instead. Lois still made a slightly larger salary than he did, due to her seniority among other things, but Clark didn't mind. She still showed flashes of insecurity at times, comparing herself to Superman, and having a larger paycheck seemed to help.
After dinner, they walked outside to the darkened beach, moving away from other people until they reached the deserted area they'd landed in earlier. The night air had a touch of chill, so as they watched the ocean, Clark stood behind Lois, holding her in a warm embrace. She leaned her head back against his shoulder.
"You know what, Clark? I haven't even thought about what we should do on our honeymoon…" They'd arranged to spend two weeks at a remote hunting cabin owned by the Kents' neighbor, Wayne Irig.
He chuckled. "Yes you have, you've been bugging me about it for months."
She gave him a playful swat. "Besides that! What does one do at a hunting cabin?"
"Well, it's not hunting season. There's a lake, so we could fish a little. Or hike the mountains. Or swim. And when we get tired of that, we can always fly somewhere — I hear Gotham City has some wild night life."
"That all sounds good." She hesitated, knowing that she'd have to share him, even on their honeymoon. "I'll bring some books along, for when you're… busy."
Clark winced a little at the thought of being busy in the Suit on their honeymoon. "You're right, Superman ought to be seen while we're out of town; I'll have to fly some patrols over Metropolis while we're gone. And probably get pestered by reporters wanting to know how I feel about you getting married. Your friend, Paula, can be a real pain on that subject."
"Go with that emotion, Clark, it'll convince her you're upset," Lois teased. "She's convinced Superman will be suffering agonies of jealousy."
"Pretty hard to look agonized these days, honey." He leaned down to nibble her ear. "I'm very satisfied with life."
She turned in his arms and reached up to kiss him. He returned the kiss with interest, but pulled back before it could go too far. She held back a groan of frustration, reminding herself that soon there would be no reason to halt.
Clark breathed deeply to clear his head. "Well, time to get back to Metropolis…" He stepped back, took a final look around, and changed back to the Suit.
Lois nodded. They would have a busy day tomorrow, but the wedding was the day after that, and then finally they'd have their long-awaited wedding-night in the Honeymoon Suite of the Lexor Hotel. When they'd made the reservations they'd laughed with memories of their previous stay there, and made jokes about packing a few board games to take along. Afterwards they would have two whole weeks alone together as husband and wife. Lois smiled dreamily at the thought as Clark scooped her up into his arms and they flew home.
Lois's eyes flew open. "I'm marrying Clark today!" she said aloud in wonderment. She leapt out of bed, a most unusual way for her to wake up. In her haste she knocked her teddy bear to the floor, and scooped it up immediately. She held it before her and told it, "I'm getting married!" In an exuberant outpouring of joy she planted a kiss on the bear's nose.
As she held the bear close for a moment, Lois remembered the fair in Smallville when Clark had won the bear for her. She had felt so relaxed and comfortable with him that day, they had had so much fun together. That trip to Kansas had changed a lot of her city-girl notions of farm life, and of Clark.
It was very early, and the morning air was still and calm. The sounds of traffic were muted and distant. Lois felt a peaceful hush all around her. "This is the last time I'll wake up alone in my room," she murmured, looking around slowly. "From this day on, Clark and I will be together, and we'll sleep in *our* bedroom." It seemed unreal, somehow. Everything did. The morning was too quiet, the hour was too early, and Lois had the strange sensation that she was dreaming all of this.
A quick pinch reassured her that she was, indeed, awake; this was, indeed, the morning of her wedding to Clark Kent. Lucy would be asleep on the sofa. Martha would be coming over soon, along with her mom and the two cousins who Ellen insisted just *had* to be bridesmaids. Lois rolled her eyes at the very idea, for she barely knew either of them and saw them only at infrequent family reunions. Soon her apartment would be overflowing with excitement and chatter and taffeta gowns in a garish pink, so Lois made the most of her time alone. She was sure it would be the last quiet time of the day.
She moved slowly around her room, touching some of her belongings, letting her eyes fall on everything, wondering which items she would pack away and which she would have in her new bedroom with Clark. She would be moving into his apartment when they returned from their honeymoon. She would never again be woken by the nasal tones of Mrs. Harrigan from upstairs, who perpetually left a window open and sang loudly, off-key, while making breakfast. She would never again bump into the foot of her bed and stub her toes. She would never have to bang on the radiator pipes to coax them to life.
"I'm going to miss this place," she admitted to herself, feeling nostalgic already. She'd lived there for more than ten years, and it was her home. "Oh stop it," she told herself, wiping at her eyes. "You'll be with Clark, you'll have a home together, filled with love and warmth and happiness." She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and a tiny laugh escaped her. "What is it with me and weddings? I have no reason to cry! Clark is the sweetest, most wonderful man on Earth! I'm thrilled to be marrying him, it doesn't matter what I leave behind because it's nothing compared to what lies ahead."
She nodded to herself, sniffing once more as she got her emotions under control. "That's better, Lane," she said to the mirror. "Lois Lane Kent… This time it'll come true," she said, smiling. Just then her alarm went off; the wedding day had begun.
Clark was already awake when his alarm went off. He was lying on the sofa, thinking about the wedding, and married life in general, and feeling very strange. He'd dreamed of this day for so long that it was hard to believe it had finally arrived. He wondered if Lois was suffering from bridal jitters, but he wasn't worried about her changing her mind; once she made a decision she stuck to it. He also worried about getting through the ceremony without incident. Things should go smoothly, but fate had been unkind to them before.
Clark stood up when his parents came out of his bedroom. "Good morning, honey," his mom said, giving him a kiss and looking up into his eyes. "Did you sleep well?" As usual there was a light teasing note in her voice.
"Not really," he grimaced. "Nerves, I guess."
Martha smiled knowingly. "That's perfectly normal, Clark, this will be a huge change in your life! Change can be stressful, but marrying Lois will be the best thing to ever happen to you."
Jonathan chuckled. "After all they've gone through together, Martha, they should hardly notice a little thing like a wedding."
That elicited a grin on his son's face, but it faded quickly, and Martha inspected him more closely. "Something's still bothering you, Clark, what is it?"
Clark ran a hand through his hair, agitated. "What if someone needs me during the wedding? What if, in order to be there for Lois, I have to let someone die? Someone I could save, but choose not to." He looked to each of them, searching, but found no answers, merely sympathy.
"You can't be everywhere, you can't save everyone," Jonathan said gruffly. "You have a right to a life of your own, Clark, you have a right to happiness. For today, son, you're not Superman, you're just Clark Kent, and you're marrying the most wonderful girl on the planet." He paused, looking over at his wife. "Well, the second most wonderful girl." Martha beamed at her husband. "Don't let anything spoil it for you."
Clark gave his dad a grateful smile and nodded.
"Well if that's settled, how about you whip up some breakfast while we get showered and dressed," Martha suggested. "I have to go to your bride's apartment soon." She winked at him. "We've got a busy day ahead of us!"
Lois waved away the breakfast offering her mother held out. "I couldn't possibly eat," she moaned, feeling her stomach tighten into knots.
"Nervous?" Lucy asked with a cheeky grin.
Lois contemplated throwing something at her sister. "Just wait until you get married," she muttered darkly, but Lucy only giggled. Ellen Lane shook her head at the all-too-common interplay between her daughters. Remembering her own pre-wedding butterflies she wisely took the plate back to the kitchen, weaving around her nieces Carolyn and Diana, who were helping each other with their dresses.
There was a cheery knock on the door, and Lucy jumped up and opened it to Martha Kent. The hubbub that had been going on for an hour grew even louder with the new arrival, and Lois felt herself beginning to feel overwhelmed again. Suddenly there was a comforting hand on her shoulder.
"Good morning, honey," Martha said softly, giving her a kiss on the cheek. "Things are a bit crazy, aren't they. Why don't we put on some nice music. I hear you like "Fly Me To The Moon." Lois looked up, startled, and Martha wiggled her eyebrows conspiratorially, brandishing a tape in one hand. "You look beautiful, Lois, and everything's going to be just fine."
"How's Clark?" Lois asked immediately, envisioning him in a tuxedo.
"Well, I think he's about as anxious as you are," her mother-in-law-to-be called cheerfully from the stereo as she put the tape in. "Would you believe he couldn't eat a bite of his breakfast? Said he would throw up if he did!" She laughed, pleased to see Lois smiling also. "I don't think I was able to eat on my wedding morning either." As the familiar strains of Lois and Clark's special song together began quietly, Martha came back to Lois's side. "Did you sleep well?"
Such a normal conversation was a relief to Lois after an hour of bombardments about hair stylists and make-up and urgings that she get dressed already. She felt the knot of tension in her shoulders ease somewhat. "I had a hard time falling asleep," she confessed.
"So did Clark," Martha said with a laugh. "We could hear him pacing around practicing his vows!" Lois felt pleased and reassured that she wasn't the only one feeling nervous and excited. Clark had maintained such an aura of unflappable calm and certainty throughout the wedding preparations that there had been times she had felt so exasperated she wanted to shake him. Now she realized that he had been performing the duty of a rock for her to lean on, keeping his own anxieties to himself for her sake. She sighed softly, her love for him welling up in her heart again.
Martha smiled approvingly. "Now, honey, I'm going to make you a cup of chamomile tea and then I think it'll be time to start getting ready."
"I don't drink tea," Lois said quickly as Martha went to the kitchen.
"Coffee isn't going to calm you down, this will. You just sit back and let us do all the fussing," Martha told her.
"That's right," Ellen Lane agreed. "Darling, the beautician's just arrived, so when you're ready with your tea she'll start doing your make-up." She momentarily rested a hand on her daughter's shoulder and squeezed lightly. "It's going to be a wonderful day," she promised.
"Jimmy!" Perry boomed cheerfully, clapping the young man's shoulder heartily and making him stagger slightly. "Glad you made it on time! Come on in!"
Jimmy Olsen came down the steps, looking curiously around Clark's apartment and waving to Jonathan. "Where's the groom?"
"Getting dressed," Jonathan Kent answered as he finished with his bow tie. "I hate these things, Martha's so much better with them."
"It looks fine, and so do you, son," Perry added to Jimmy, somewhat surprised at the transformation in his young photographer. "Got the rings?" he added slyly.
Jimmy patted his pocket with a faint smile. "I'm not going to lose them," he said, as if to assure himself of that. "Hey, CK, you almost ready?" he hollered.
"Be with you in a minute," came the reply.
Jimmy grinned at the two men. "So is he nervous?"
"Is Elvis the King?" Perry drawled. "I've never seen him so uptight!"
Clark was, indeed, feeling very tense. He stood before the mirror, trying to perfect the fit of his cummerbund. He felt somehow naked without the Suit on underneath. He was determined, as a gesture to Lois, to leave it behind for the ceremony, but he still felt uneasy. Lois was very important to him, but he felt he had a responsibility to the planet that had nurtured him, as well, and it was sometimes hard to find a balance between the two. Helping people was second nature to him, and the disguise his mother had created to enable him to do just that had been a part of his wardrobe for three years now.
He heard his father call to him, telling him they had to leave for the church soon, and his insides twisted again. He took a deep breath, staring at his reflection. "I do," he said firmly. He thought of Lois, pictured her in his mind: those expressive eyes, those soft lips, those shapely legs. "I do," he repeated softly.
"Son, I was beginning to think you weren't going to come out!" Perry chuckled, knowing that Clark would never change his mind about marrying Lois Lane. He'd seen Clark falling for the sharp-tongued reporter right at the start and couldn't be happier about their marriage. Sure, he'd gotten a bit worried during their courtship, for if things hadn't worked out between them it could've broken up the working relationship that had led to so many fine articles and amazing scoops for his paper. Now, however, with the wedding less than two hours away, he was confident and filled with good cheer.
"He was probably practicing those two words again," Jonathan said with a special smile for his son. Clark and Jimmy gave each other a quick greeting, Jimmy produced the rings to allay any doubts and safely pocketed them again, and the men stood there looking at each other for a moment in silence, a little male-bonding moment that would have had Lois rolling her eyes, Clark reflected with a smile.
"Well then, son, let's get you to the church," Jonathan said, resting an arm on his boy's shoulder, swelling with pride and happiness for Clark. The Kents had worried for years that Clark might never find someone to share his life with, that he might never be able to enjoy the warmth and love and family that his parents had together. Now Jonathan looked at his son and all those fears were put to rest.
"Oh honey, you look beautiful," Martha said warmly as Lois emerged from her room, fully dressed and made up, the veil floating down her back, surrounded by her bridesmaids. Against their bright gowns she stood out starkly, wearing such a simple elegant gown and looking more poised and assured than anyone had expected her to look.
"You look wonderful, dear," Ellen added, coming over to kiss her smooth cheek. She was filled with maternal loving at the sight of her daughter getting ready to get married.
"Are the limos ready?" Lucy asked, checking her hair again quickly.
"Downstairs and waiting," her mother answered. "You three girls will go in the first one, we'll follow you." Just then the phone rang. "Oh heavens, I'll get it," Mrs. Lane said. "Hello?… No, this is her mother… I'm afraid not, we're just about to leave… I'm sorry, sir, but my daughter is on her way to… I can take a message," she said firmly. Her tone carried to Lois over the excited chatter of her cousins, and her reporter's instinct made her come to her mother's side. Ellen frowned at her, waving her away. "I don't care who you are, Lois cannot talk to you right now."
"Oh yes I can!" Lois said determinedly, grabbing the phone. "Hello, Lois Lane here."
A furtive whispery voice said, "Thank God! Lane, it's Gates, I'm in trouble!"
"What's happened?" Lois asked, glaring at her mother to leave her alone.
"They're on to me! I had just enough time to grab my disks and get out of my office, and now they're coming after me. If you want your story, you'd better meet me in an hour." He shot off an address that Lois automatically filed in her head.
"Are you positive you'll be there?" she demanded, feeling a sickening sensation spreading from the pit of her stomach throughout her body at this terrible twist in plans. She was still angry about the no-show at the quarry and wasn't sure if she could trust Gates this time.
"If I don't show it's because I'm dead," the man hissed. "I'll wait for ten minutes, if you're not there I'm leaving, I've got to get away. They're following me, I tell you! Make sure Superman's there as well. One hour," the rough voice warned again, and then there was a click. Lois stood there holding the phone, her mind racing.
"Uh-oh," Lucy said slowly, recognizing that look.
"Lois, darling, come on, the limos are waiting, it's time to go."
Lois blurted out, "Hold on!" to her mother and began dialing Clark's number.
"We don't have time for this," Ellen Lane said, getting a bit agitated. "Who are you calling?"
"Clark," Lois said shortly, listening to the phone ring and willing him to pick it up.
"He's probably already at the church, which is where we need to be."
Lois hardly even heard her. There was a click on the other end of the line. "Hi, this is Clark," came a cheerful voice. "I can't answer your call because I'm getting married! I'll call you when we get back from our honeymoon. Leave a message."
"Damn!" she said softly, putting the phone down with a bit more force than necessary. One hour… in one hour's time she'd be Mrs. Lois Lane Kent, and she'd have missed the chance to bust Intergang. She couldn't leave Clark at the church, she *wouldn't*, but Lois Lane did not pass up on a major scoop. "Damn that man for not showing up at the quarry," she said fiercely.
"What was that? Look, dear, I don't know what that was all about, but we really need to get to the church now," Mrs. Lane said determinedly, grasping Lois's arm and steering her towards the door.
"They won't start without you, but they will be waiting," Martha said with a worried smile. Whatever that phone call had been about, it had transformed Lois and shattered her peace of mind. "I know Clark will get worried if you're late," she added, hoping to make the bride smile, but Lois instead jumped into action.
"You're right, Clark's there waiting, I have to see him," she said, galvanized. "Come on, hurry, let's go!" She grabbed her sister's hand and practically ran for the door.
Martha and Ellen shared a look of astonishment that turned into a chuckle. It was so hard to keep up with Lois! First she dug her heels in, insisting on taking a phone call, and then she was hurrying everyone else out the door in a rush to get married! Well, she certainly would keep life interesting for her husband!
The bridal party crowded into the church, whispering and bustling in excitement, but the bride herself was looking rather pale and anxious. Perry was waiting for them, and a beaming smile lit his face. "Lois, honey, you look beautiful," he said in a hushed voice, kissing her. He nodded greetings to the mothers of the happy couple.
"Chief, something's come up," Lois said urgently, sure that he, of all people, would understand and help her. "I've got to speak to Clark."
"Well, you know, he's waiting just in there for you," Perry said with a big grin as he gestured to the closed doors flanked by church ushers.
"I need to speak to him, in private," she insisted.
"There'll be time for that later," he assured her, thinking she was just jittery about the wedding. "Is everybody ready? Come on now, folks, let's shake a tail feather." He helped the ushers to arrange the procession and got everyone calmed and silenced in time for the doors to open. Mrs. Lane and Mrs. Kent entered the church side by side, both feeling more than a little bit disturbed by the bride's behavior.
"Perry!" Lois hissed.
The two young bridesmaids began their parade down the aisle, their faces excited and their stiff skirts rustling with every step.
"This can't wait!" Lois cried softly.
Lucy Lane began her solo walk as maid of honor.
The doors closed, and Perry escorted Lois into position in front of them. "Calm down, Lois, I know you're excited," he said comfortingly.
"You don't understand," she groaned helplessly.
"Sure I do!" He took Lois's hand and placed it on his outstretched arm, patting it reassuringly, standing as tall and proud as any father. The Wedding March began, its triumphant notes ringing out in the church. Lois felt a despairing lurch in the pit of her stomach as the doors were flung open. The congregation rose as one, turning their many faces towards her.
Clark stood before the altar, looking gorgeous in his tuxedo, and she could see his face light up with love and joy, and relief, when he caught sight of her at last. Perry tugged slightly on her arm, and so Lois began her walk down the aisle, feeling utterly torn. He was waiting for her, as she knew he would be, and the love she felt for him made her ache inside. It had been a long and arduous journey to this moment in time, and there had been many obstacles to overcome, but they had done it! They were finally getting married!
Naturally, for Lois and Clark, it was not that simple.
"Oh sweetheart," she whispered unhappily, her eyes never leaving his face. "I hope you can hear me over this music. We've got a problem."
In the last few minutes before the ceremony began, Clark watched his mother walking down the aisle towards him, grateful for a familiar face. He had no idea who most of the guests filling the church were, and was too nervous to scan the sea of faces in search of people he knew. Jimmy kept nervously checking the pocket with the rings, and Clark himself had to fight the urge to adjust his glasses, his tie, his cummerbund.
Martha reached her seat and smiled at her son, thinking with pride that he looked very handsome in his tuxedo, although perhaps a little pale. She saw how restless he was, waiting for his bride to come to him. When at last the Wedding March began his eyes lit up, and Martha turned with the rest of the guests to watch Lois enter the church.
Clark watched Lois start down the aisle with tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat. He'd waited years for this moment; both it and she were so beautiful that he didn't realize at first that she was saying something. He hastily tuned in to her.
"- problem. Gates called me this morning, he's on the run. It's now or never — what do we do?"
It took Clark a moment to take in what she was saying, but when he did, the lump in his throat plummeted to his gut. If all eyes hadn't been on the bride, the groom's dismayed expression would have been cause for consternation. As it was, people were starting to wonder about the bride's worried look and the way she seemed to be talking to herself.
Lois saw her partner's expression change and knew he had heard her. Thank goodness he hadn't worn those silly earplugs. She belatedly realized that people were looking at her strangely, and pasted on a smile. She tried to discreetly speed up their progress down the aisle, but Perry would not be hurried. This was his moment of glory, and he was basking in it.
For the rest of the impossibly long walk, Lois kept her eyes glued on Clark. She had envisioned many variations on this day in the past year, ranging from a few words said by a judge all the way up to the fairy-tale wedding of her mother's dreams (including one nightmare in which Clark had interrupted during the vows, claiming an urgent need to put more money in the meter, and had run out, leaving her to face the mocking laughter of the guests). But nothing had come close to this agony of nerves. To steady herself, she focused on the man she loved and would spend the rest of her life with. He looked more handsome than she had imagined, but the troubled look on his face wasn't very reassuring.
At last they reached the altar, and Perry tenderly removed her hand from his arm and extended it to Clark, who took it solemnly. During the rehearsal Lois had thought this bit of ceremony very silly, but she was glad of it now; her mind was so full of turmoil that she didn't feel connected to her body. Perry gracefully stepped back and sat next to Alice in the second row, and the wedding party turned to face the preacher as he started his sermon. "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here…"
Clark didn't hear what the preacher was saying. Now or never, she had said. Two weeks of investigating, of trying to meet with Gates and get the evidence they needed to expose the Churches and bring an end to Intergang, and it had to be now, during their wedding. Fate apparently had something against them.
"What did Gates say?" he whispered to her. The preacher paused, looking at him sternly, and he gave an apologetic smile.
As the preacher resumed his monotonous reading, Lois whispered almost soundlessly, knowing he could hear her. "He said to meet him in half an hour; after that he'll be gone." She chewed her lip restlessly, wishing they could leave, but reluctant to suggest it.
Clark noticed her agitation, and came to a decision. "I hate to say it, but… we'll have to postpone our wedding," he said regretfully. Lucy noticed the whispering and looked at him with a puzzled frown.
Lois nodded as disappointment clashed with the familiar thrill of finishing an investigation.
"Intergang is more urgent than getting married." He gave her hand a light squeeze, feeling an ache in his chest.
She returned the squeeze, her mind racing as she searched for a better solution. "Is there enough time to say the vows, sign on the dotted line, and then go?" she asked hopefully, although even as she said it she doubted that they would be able to find a private place for her to change in time for Superman to fly her to meet Gates. Superman carrying a bride in his arms would create a major scandal.
Clark shook his head a bit. "We're going to have to drive." He turned to face her, his face full of regret. "I'm so sorry, honey…" Jimmy discreetly elbowed him in the back, wondering what was happening.
Lois gave him a very faint smile. "So am I, sweetheart, but there's nothing else we can do. I guess this'll just have to be our almost-wedding day," she said with determined cheer, assuring him with her eyes that she was behind him completely.
She abruptly leaned forward to tap on the preacher's black book, interrupting his droning voice. "Excuse me, we're going to have to do this some other time." His jaw dropped as he looked up, astonished by the brazen interruption.
Together, Lois and Clark turned to face the gathering. A ripple spread through the sanctuary as the guests stared forward in fascination. Ellen Lane put her hand over her eyes in resignation, shaking her head slowly. Martha and Jonathan looked at Clark with raised eyebrows, only slightly surprised by the turn of events clearly taking place.
Lois had opened her mouth to make their excuses to the guests, but then she caught sight of her mother. "Sorry, Mom," was all she managed to say.
Clark squeezed her hand reassuringly. "Ladies and gentlemen," he said loudly, "we're terribly sorry, but there's been a major break in our investigation. We're going to have to postpone our wedding." There was a collective gasp. "Why don't you all go ahead to the reception and we'll be there when we can."
Relieved, Lois started tugging him down the aisle, making a beeline for the front entrance. She hiked her skirt up to be able to run, hearing the buzz of startled conversation rising as they fled down the aisle, her veil streaming out behind her. As she neared the exit she realized that she still had her bouquet in hand, and she tossed it over her shoulder. It landed in Cat Grant's lap. Cat stared down at it with wide, horrified eyes.
Lois and Clark flung the double doors open and ran down the wide stairs together, presenting a most unusual sight to the passers-by on the street. Clark saw the limo waiting at the curb and gestured to it. "We might as well get some use out of it."
The driver was stunned by the unorthodox arrival of the bride and groom as they ran towards the car. Lois dove into the back seat, struggling to pull her skirt in with her, the veil catching and being pulled askew. Clark hurriedly scrambled in behind her as she quickly moved over and gave him room to sit down. Lois gave the driver the address Gates had provided, a warehouse near the docks. "And hurry!" she added urgently. The driver shrugged, obligingly pulling away from the curb with a squeal of tires. Lois found herself thrown into Clark's lap.
Clark put his arms around her to keep her there, and she brushed her fingers over his face lightly. "Well, we did it, we canceled our own wedding," she said softly.
"If there had been some other way…"
She put a finger over his lips. "No regrets. We can get married any day, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime shot."
"I was afraid you wouldn't see it that way," Clark confessed. "You were so worried about Superman interfering with the wedding."
"This is different," she said. "This is our story, not you running out on me." She gave him a tender smile. "I was afraid you wouldn't let me cancel the wedding, after I gave you those earplugs and everything." She sighed. "I hope Mom isn't too upset. I don't think she understands how huge this story is."
"She will when it hits the headlines tomorrow," Clark said comfortingly.
"Oh, Gates wants Superman to be there," Lois suddenly remembered.
He kissed her lightly on the nose. "Well, almost-Mrs. Kent, Superman started his vacation this morning, so you'll have to take me instead. We can contact him later, after Gates has given us the evidence."
Lois arched her brows in surprise, and pretended to peek under his tuxedo shirt. "You mean you're all alone in there?" she whispered.
"I wanted it to be just us," he whispered back, and she gave him a beautiful smile, touched by his gesture. "Of course, we ended up having to go meet a source after all," he added with a grin.
"I think it gave the wedding a unique, Lois-and-Clark feel to it," she returned teasingly. "I gave that preacher a shock, though." She giggled as she remembered the look on the dour man's face. "Next time perhaps we should get married in the middle of nowhere, where there won't be anything to interrupt the ceremony."
"Is Kansas nowhere enough for you?" Clark asked, his eyes sparkling with mirth.
"Perfect!" she returned, winking at him mischievously before giving him a happy kiss.
The car slowed down, and they were startled to see that they had arrived at the docks already. "Here it is," the driver said, coming to a halt after cruising past several abandoned buildings. "Are you sure this is the right address? Place looks ready to fall down."
"This is it," Lois said determinedly as she took Clark's hand, gathered her skirts in her free hand, and awkwardly climbed out. "Don't bother waiting, a friend is going to meet us and give us a ride back later."
The man shrugged again, thinking they were the most unusual bride and groom he'd ever seen, and drove off, leaving them standing before a thoroughly dilapidated warehouse. They glanced at each other. "See any sign of him?" Lois asked quietly as Clark scanned the building over the top of his glasses.
"The paint is lead-based, it's hard to see much," he said. "Let's go on in, but watch where you step in those heels, honey."
Lois picked her way carefully over a pile of planks and other debris, holding her partner's hand for balance and trying to keep her hem from catching on things. "I hope he makes it this time, I'll kill him myself if he doesn't show up after we put off our wedding," she muttered.
"I hope he managed to get enough evidence to put both the Churches in jail forever," Clark said fervently, pulling a couple of boards away from the door and helping Lois through. She smiled a thanks at him, brushed some dust off his tuxedo, and tried to straighten her veil.
"He said he had just enough time to grab his disks and run, so at least he's got something," she said reassuringly, for she knew how important this was to Clark. "See anything?"
He scanned around them and pointed, leading the way towards what might have been an office. A creature, probably a rat, scuttled away in the darkness and Lois shivered, keeping close to Clark's side. A few holes in the ceiling let in a bit of light, but that mostly served to emphasize the shadowy reaches of the immense building.
"Gates?" Lois hissed.
"Lane?" came a cautious response. The reporters entered the room and saw him standing there, in his expensive Armani suit, amid the filth and cobwebs. He was obviously nervous, but immediately began pulling himself together. "Thank God you're here," he snapped, regaining his composure. "Who's he? And what's with the get-up?"
Lois folded her arms across her chest. "My partner, Clark Kent. Obviously we were on our way to get married." She couldn't help but glare at him. "So, we finally meet. The quarry was too much trouble for you? Couldn't bear to leave your billiards game?" she inquired icily.
"I got collared by some of the other attorneys, they took me to the Metropolis Men's Club, I couldn't get away without arousing their suspicions," he explained irritably. "But that's not important."
"Not important?" Lois spat. "We had plans, mister, that we canceled for that meeting, and you never showed." Clark put a steadying hand on her arm, reminding her to cool off.
Gates glared at her as he mopped his brow with a silk handkerchief. "In my briefcase is enough evidence to convict both the Churches of a number of crimes and cripple Intergang. I'm sorry for the inconvenience in getting it to you," he added sarcastically. "In case you forgot, I'm the one whose life is on the line here."
"It's not my fault you're a criminal," Lois mumbled in disgust.
Clark shot her a warning look. "Why did you decide to get out now?" he asked Gates, wanting more than just hard evidence for their story.
"Pete Langley and I were siphoning Intergang funds into a private account," Gates explained, looking almost proud of himself. "We embezzled almost a million dollars in the last two years, but Church finally got suspicious. Pete wasn't careful enough. He had an 'unfortunate accident' driving home one night. I was afraid it might happen to me one day, so I got in touch with you," he said to Lois. "I know you're friends with Superman, and he's the safest way for me to get out of the country."
"So this isn't prompted by any moral scruples," Clark said, not surprised in the slightest.
"Hey, I'm a tax attorney, I never hurt anyone," Gates scoffed, his hard eyes showing no remorse. "I'm giving you the evidence you need to put the Churches in jail, you're supposed to have your pal Superman to get me to safety, so why don't I see a cape around here?"
"He'll be here soon," Lois said quickly. "He promised he'd help you, so come on, open up the briefcase, show us what you've got."
The arrogant man considered that for a moment, brow furrowed. "Well, I guess Superman wouldn't go back on a promise. I'll show you how to find what you're looking for. I've got computer records of different companies that Intergang set up in the Caribbean, such as Island Realty and Bishop Industries, and the transactions to them. The system for laundering is complicated."
"We'll try to keep up," Lois said sarcastically. Gates hefted his briefcase onto a filthy table, stirring up a thick cloud of choking dust. The three of them coughed, waving the air in front of their faces, which only stirred up more dust. "Nice spot you picked," she couldn't help but say.
"You know, Lane, I'm beginning to wish I'd approached Kent, here, instead," Gates growled as he turned the combination latches. Clark, wondering if Lois could hold her temper for the few minutes it would take him to fly home for the Suit and come back to rescue the sleazeball, used his X-ray vision to look into the briefcase, curious to find out how full it was. With his mind thus occupied, it took him a moment to realize what he was seeing. Thin wires ran from the latches to a flat package hidden in a compartment along the bottom of the attache case.
At that moment Gates flipped the latches open. "No!" Clark screamed, grabbing Lois and swinging her away from the briefcase, trying to shield her with his body. Her protest at being so roughly pulled away was never heard as the trigger set off the bomb and it exploded with a thunderous boom. The windows were blown out an instant before Clark was propelled through them by a powerful shock wave. A blast of heat engulfed them, a roaring filled their ears, and pieces of debris rained down on them.
Clark prayed he had been able to protect Lois from harm. He looked down at her and let out a horrified cry. Tongues of fire were licking at her wedding gown and eating their way rapidly through her veil. Now a safe distance away from the inferno, he set them down, snatching the veil from her head and flinging it away as he turned his superbreath on her dress, putting the flames out immediately.
"Lois? Are you alright?" He examined her closely, terrified that her legs had been burned, for the entire bottom half of her skirt had gone up in flames, and the new hemline around her knees was scorched. Fortunately he had reacted so quickly that only the material had burned.
"I think I'm okay," Lois said shakily. It had happened so quickly she wasn't quite sure what was going on. "Clark!" she suddenly squealed, slapping at him wildly. "Your jacket's on fire!" He quickly took it off and together they stamped out the little flames. Then, inevitably, their eyes turned to what remained of the warehouse. Flames hungrily devoured the plentiful wood, and pieces of debris littered the water alongside. Parts of the building still stood, but they could hear occasional crashes as more of the roof fell down.
"Stay here," Clark told her firmly. "It doesn't look safe for you. I'll be right back." He went to the office first, although he knew in his heart that nothing could have survived that explosion. The outer wall remained, blackened. He used his superbreath to put out the fires and blow away some of the smoke before climbing in through the window.
The furniture was gone, the inner walls had been blown away. He searched without much hope and found a barely recognizable piece of the briefcase and the bomb. He didn't touch them, knowing that the experts would want to examine what remained for any clues. He didn't see any computer disks, and didn't expect to. Nor did he find any remains of Gates himself.
"Clark!" Lois called from by the window. "Did you find anything?" she asked hopefully. Then she saw the wreckage he stood in and her face dropped.
"Nothing," he said, just as dejected. He climbed back outside to join her. "I saw the bomb just as Gates was unlocking the case, it was rigged to blow when the latches were sprung open. I didn't have time to do anything but grab you and try to shield you from the blast. I'm sorry, honey."
Lois stepped closer to him and held his face in her hands. "You have nothing to be sorry for! You saved my life."
"I wish I could've saved the briefcase too," he said heavily.
"Well you couldn't," she said firmly. "Don't be so hard on yourself, sweetheart. We're alive, that's the important thing, and it was a very close call. I think we're pretty lucky."
Looking down into the eyes of the woman he cherished, Clark felt warmed. "Very lucky," he agreed, pulling her into his arms and hugging her tightly. "Your dress and veil were on fire," he said with a shudder.
She glanced down, for the first time noticing her damaged gown and reflexively putting a hand to her head. Looking around she spotted a tiny scrap of satin and lace and picked it up. There were several scorched burn marks and holes on what little remained of it, and with a gulp she realized that it had, indeed, been a very close call. She examined Clark to assure herself that he was fine.
"I don't think the tuxedo shop is going to be very happy with me," Clark said ruefully, as Lois fingered a long tear in his shirt.
"It's a good thing you don't have the Suit on under this," she pointed out as the first wailing clarion of the fire department trucks reached her ears. "What's our story going to be?" They quickly agreed upon an explanation for the officials just before the first truck came screaming towards the still smoking warehouse. To be continued…
The police agreed to take down their statement at the scene as long as they promised to come to the station the following day and answer any more questions. Lois and Clark nodded, both feeling tired and let down now that the crisis had passed. They were supposed to meet Marvin Gates in the building, just as they approached it exploded, they didn't see him but they presumed he had been inside at the time. Yes, they were lucky to be alive, no, they didn't need medical attention, they just wanted to go now. The police officers finally finished asking them questions and they began walking towards a street where they might find a phone.
Lois slipped her arm around Clark's waist. "We canceled our wedding for nothing," she said in a small voice, feeling unbearably disappointed.
"Not for nothing," he disagreed gently, rubbing her back soothingly. "The chance to get that evidence was too important to pass up on, we had to try."
"But it's all gone."
"The evidence Gates had, yes, but it isn't a total loss. All our work investigating the Parrish Casino has given us a lot to go on; we can look into the accident that Gates's friend Langley was in, see if we can find any evidence there; and now we know about two Intergang-owned companies, we can look into them. And we've got the inside story on the explosion," he added teasingly, but Lois wasn't in the mood to banter.
"The Churches aren't likely to be spending any time in prison."
"We'll get them, someday," Clark promised fiercely. "And if we can close down their primary money-laundering operation it'll take them a while to get back up to speed." Finding a phone, he placed a call for a cab. They stood close together next to the phone booth while they waited, trying to ignore the stares they were getting for their filthy and haggard appearance.
"We'll write up the explosion straight away," Lois said, beginning to plan her next moves, and Clark smiled fondly at her. Somehow she always managed to bounce back. "You can write about Gates himself, the human interest thing, while I do the hard news."
"Of course," he said with a grin.
"Well, anything I would have to say about that slime wouldn't be very complimentary," she pointed out persuasively. "Anyway, we can write this up pretty quickly and then go to the reception."
"Maybe we should go there first," Clark suggested.
"No, then we'd never get away in time to have the story ready for the Sunday headlines."
He recognized the glint of determination in her eyes and simply nodded. "I suppose it won't take long, and we can leave them in Perry's box for someone else to go over." Seeing Lois open her mouth to object, he gave her a firm look. "Everyone is waiting for us."
"Okay," she gave in, contenting herself with the knowledge that at least the story would be under their byline. Even though it wasn't the Scoop of the Decade, it was still a Lane & Kent piece.
The reception faltered along. The food was excellent, the live band was superior, the bar was open, and the guests certainly had a lot to talk about, but as the hours passed without sight or sound of the bride and groom, the guests gradually began to drift away, making polite thank yous to Ellen Lane as they left.
Perry White got up on the small stage and appropriated the lead singer's microphone. "Now, I know that things didn't go as planned here today," he said to the thinning crowd. "Y'all came to see a wedding, and the bride and groom had to answer the call of duty. Even Elvis served his country, you know. He came back, and so will they." With a wicked grin, Perry asked the band to play "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Are You Lonesome Tonight".
"Come on, people, this here's a party! Let's not waste it!" He and Alice opened the dancing and were soon joined by the Kents and a few other couples. Jimmy, both relieved and disappointed that his speech wouldn't be needed, consoled himself by convincing the bridesmaids that ceremony demanded that they dance with the best man. Lois's cousin Carolyn, an 18-year-old blonde, held his attention in particular.
The Daily Planet reporters took over two tables and managed to have a wonderful time. They debated the issue of whether Lois and Clark would reschedule the wedding or just slip off and elope, and none of them were in the least surprised that the intrepid reporters had put an investigation ahead of their own wedding ceremony.
Cat Grant breezed in, eye-catchingly attired in a glittery green body suit. She danced with all the men, laughing as Perry dipped her, spinning a breathless Jimmy around the floor, and even had a whirl with Jonathan Kent, much to his consternation and Martha's amusement.
"Enjoy your dance, dear?" Martha asked with a sly grin as her husband returned to their table, out of breath.
"Well yes… I mean no…" Jonathan was flustered by the unexpected attention. "Oh, let's just play cards, I don't want to dance anymore." He withdrew a pack of cards from his inside jacket pocket.
Martha's eyes widened. "What on earth did you bring those for?"
He looked up, surprised at the question. "For our after-dinner poker game, of course."
Martha laughed. "Oh Jonathan! Well, Ellen, what do you say? Are you in?"
Mrs. Lane had been feeling rather withdrawn, embarrassed by her daughter's behavior, knowing that all her friends would be gossiping about this little scandal for some time to come. Everyone had been very polite, of course, assuring her that the wedding would no doubt be rescheduled, that it was a magnificent party, that the investigation was obviously very important, and that weddings were called off all the time. For a while she had felt angry that all her work arranging the wedding had gone to waste, and then she had been disappointed that she still hadn't seen her daughter actually get married. Watching the guests dancing and chatting finally relaxed her; everyone was enjoying the party despite the lack of a happy couple to toast, so her work hadn't been for nothing.
The invitation to play poker brightened her up. "Certainly," she accepted warmly. "It will give us something to do while we wait for the bride and groom to arrive," she added dryly. Shaking her head, she laughed softly. "I suppose I should have known that something like this would happen when the phone rang this morning. Lois has been so busy on this story for a couple of weeks now."
"I understand it's a very important investigation," Jonathan said carefully. "They're trying to get enough evidence to put two of Metropolis's most dangerous criminals in jail."
Ellen's eyes widened slightly, for she had been too busy with wedding preparations to pay much attention to the story Lois was so distracted by. "Well, I hope they're successful, then. It's just a shame that they couldn't wait another hour or two."
"You must be very disappointed," Martha commiserated. "I know you went to a lot of work to put all this together."
Ellen made an elegant motion of dismissal with one hand. "I loved doing it, but I should have paid more attention to what Lois really wanted. They weren't comfortable with all this," she admitted, gesturing to the band. "I suppose this is what *I* wanted for Lois. At least it's a day we'll all remember, and at least they left the church together."
Wanting to help his son's relationship with his future mother-in-law, Jonathan spoke up. "Clark loves your daughter, Ellen. They will get married."
"Somehow," she agreed more cheerfully. "I'll let them arrange it themselves next time, though. After all, I have another daughter," she added with a smile as Lucy wandered over. "Lucy, darling, would you like to join us for some five card draw?"
Lucy sat down agreeably as Jonathan began to deal the cards. "Great party, Mom! The band… the food… When I get married, are you going to throw a big splash like this for me?"
Ellen and Martha shared a quick smile. "If you want it, dear, absolutely."
"Cool!" Lucy exclaimed, bringing some consolation to her mother's heart.
When the would-be bride and groom finally arrived at the reception, still wearing their ruined outfits, only the closest friends and relatives remained at the reception hall. The poker game was in full swing, with Ellen as the surprise lead, proving to be as competitive as her daughter. At another table a few reporters lingered over their drinks. After all, it was an open bar. Perry and Alice were swaying to a soulful Elvis tune, as were Jimmy and Carolyn.
"Lois!" Ellen cried, spotting her daughter at the door. Alarmed by the charred remains of her wedding gown, she ran over to hug her daughter tightly before pulling back and examining her. "What on earth happened? Are you two alright?"
"We're okay, Mom," Lois reassured her, glancing around as everyone crowded in to greet them and hear the news. She explained about the explosion and looked down mournfully at her once-beautiful gown. "It's ruined," she said a little sadly, looking at her mother apologetically. "I'm sorry, Mom."
Ellen hugged her again. "Oh Lois, I don't care about the silly gown! I'm just relieved you're alright."
"But we canceled the wedding, and you worked so hard to try to make everything perfect for me," Lois sniffled, not wanting to start crying in front of everyone.
Her mother smiled at her gently. "There's no need to apologize, darling. I understand that you had an important break in your story that just couldn't wait." Then, with a twinkle in her eye, she added, "But next time, dear, just send me an invitation!"
Lois hugged her in relief and gratitude, drying her eyes. "Thanks, Mom," she whispered.
Perry White hugged Lois too. "Are you kids sure you're okay?" he asked, concerned by their tattered clothes.
"We're fine, Chief," Clark said. "Unfortunately, the evidence was destroyed in the explosion, but we wrote up what we could for the morning's headlines and we'll set to work on Monday following up some other clues we've got. Our pieces are in your in-box, perhaps Paula could go over them."
"We're too tired to do any more work tonight," Lois added. "I'm sorry we were so late getting here, but we just had to get our story in tomorrow's edition."
Perry, proud of his star reporters, asked a few more questions about their meeting with their source, and others chimed in with questions about the explosion, until Clark held up his hands to quiet everyone down. "You can read all about it in tomorrow's paper. We're in need of a shower and some clean clothes, I think." He wiped a smudge of grime from Lois's chin with a smile. "Lois and I would like very much to have a very small wedding at my parents' house — next weekend?" He looked inquiringly at his parents.
Jonathan looked pleased, and Martha rapidly calculated a few things in her head. "That would be wonderful, Clark, but it will be a very small ceremony…"
Lois and Clark shared a smile. "That sounds great, Martha," Lois replied.
The couple thanked everyone again before going outside. They strolled hand in hand down the path to the waiting limousine. "So, where to?" she asked.
"Well, we have reservations at the Lexor Hotel for the honeymoon suite," Clark said a bit uncertainly. Lois stopped abruptly and looked up at him, searching his eyes. "It'd be a shame to let it go to waste."
"Are you implying what I think you're implying?" she demanded, suddenly feeling butterflies flittering crazily inside her.
Clark smiled at her, and the impact sizzled up her spine. He gestured to the car, where the driver was holding the door open for them expectantly. They entered it quietly, sitting beside each other without actually touching, suddenly less at ease with each other than they've been for over a year. Lois's heart was racing. After waiting so long, could he possibly mean what he'd said?
"Is this okay with you?" he asked quietly.
"You know I've wanted this for a long time," she said with an unsteady laugh. "Are you sure it's what you want? We're not actually married yet." As much as she had teased him about waiting, she didn't want him to do anything he'd regret later.
Clark looked at her, his eyes as intense as she'd ever seen them. "That's just a technicality. Today is our wedding day. I love you, Lois, and I will marry you. I came so close to losing you today, so tonight I want to hold you close to me. I need you," he said fervently, clasping her hand between his.
"Oh Clark," she murmured, moving closer to cuddle against him, feeling a thrill course through her body at the contact between them. "Tonight will be perfect."
Clark held her close to him, and their lips met in a passionate kiss as the limousine glided through the night.
With a sigh of satisfaction, Lois grabbed the printout of her copy and perched on the edge of her partner's desk. "How's it coming along, sweetheart?" she asked, leaning over to plant a moist kiss on his cheek.
Clark paused in his typing long enough to give her an intimate smile. "Almost done."
"I'm going to drop mine into Perry's box," Lois told him. Clark nodded as he turned his attention back to his writing.
Trailing her fingers over his shoulder in a light caress as she rose, Lois enjoyed a little shiver of delight. They had had a magical night at the Lexor, it had been everything she had fantasized about and more, and she couldn't wait until the weekend. The partners had agreed, after that one night together, to stay at their respective homes during the work week and wait until their true wedding, but Lois was already regretting that romantic promise. Every glance at Clark reminded her of that evening and made her heart race. Concentrating on work had proved to be a very difficult task.
Perry looked up with a special smile he reserved just for Lois. "Hi honey, finished the follow-up piece on the Parrish Casino?"
"At last! Mine's about the Intergang connection, Clark's writing the financial angle of it."
"How's the police investigation coming along?" the chief asked as he picked up Lois's article to skim through it.
"I spoke to Detective Marley earlier. The Feds closed the casino down and raided it for evidence. Sam Reynolds, who was in charge of the money-laundering, has been taken into custody. There's no telling right now how much Intergang managed to delete or remove first, but it looks like the investigation will have some major results," she said, with deep satisfaction. "And in the meantime, with the casino shut down, Intergang can't funnel their money through it, which means they can't finance any legal operations until they've set up a new laundering operation. That should take them a while."
"You two did a great job," Perry said seriously, extending his words to Clark, who was entering the office with papers in hand.
"Unfortunately, neither of the Churches are being implicated, there's nothing to link them to the casino," Clark said, still upset on that score.
"We'll get them, partner," Lois told him determinedly. "Perhaps when we look into Island Realty and Bishop Industries, those two Intergang fronts that Gates told us about, then we might find something implicating the Churches. We'll start on that first thing tomorrow morning."
"Okay, partner," Clark said, feeling better knowing that Lois would work hard with him to expose the Churches as the heads of Intergang. They gazed into each others' eyes, forgetting where they were, forgetting about their boss sitting at his desk.
Perry looked fondly at his ace team. "Why don't you two lovebirds call it a day, go on outta here."
Clark held out his hand to Lois, and she slipped hers into his. "See you tomorrow, Chief."
"Well now, hang on a second," Perry said, a bit disgruntled. "You two were supposed to be enjoying your honeymoon this week and next, you're not supposed to be in here working, you should be off together, alone."
"We're going to have our honeymoon next week," Clark told him, giving Lois a look that showed her how difficult the waiting was for him as well. "We'll be working this week, tracking down the other leads we have. After postponing our wedding over this story, we want to cover every angle we can think of!"
"Well, if you're sure," Perry said uncertainly. It was clear to him, from the way the partners were lost in one another, that they ought to be alone together, but he certainly wasn't going to kick them out of the newsroom and assign the Intergang pieces to another reporter.
"We're sure," Lois answered. "This is *our* story, Chief, and we're going to see it through."
Somehow, Perry was not surprised.
Lois frowned as she woke, because Mrs. Harrigan from upstairs was singing like a rooster. She opened her eyes, looked around at the unfamiliar room, and sat bolt upright, instantly awake for the second time in her life. She realized that she was hearing a real rooster, not her old upstairs neighbor. This was Clark's childhood bedroom, she was in the bed he had slept in almost all his life. His high school pennant hung on the wall above the desk where he had done his homework, a row of athletic trophies lined a shelf, some academic certificates were framed and on display.
Sitting there in his bed, Lois pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around her legs. This past week had been incredibly busy, a time to follow up on all the clues they had, and triumphantly print the story of the Parrish Casino being shut down by the authorities… but it had seemed like the longest week of her life. She'd been glad to finish everything and escape to the quiet, peaceful countryside.
The rooster crowed again, and Lois scowled. She had been under the city-girl impression that roosters did that only at dawn, but she had hazy memories of that sound disturbing her several times during the night as well. The sun had come up, though barely, and she could hear Jonathan Kent outside, tending to some farm chores. Definitely not the life for her, she thought. She sniffed the air and smiled as she realized that Martha was baking something. Her own attempts at baking had led to a kitchen covered in fine white powder that had proved remarkably difficult to clean up, but she loved Clark's mother's cooking and fresh baking. Clark obviously accepted the fact that Lois was not much of a cook and didn't expect her to take his mother's place, and during the year of their engagement they had frequently flown to Smallville for home-cooked dinners and a competitively friendly game of poker.
"I should try to get some more sleep," she told herself, feeling anything but sleepy. "I don't need to be up for another hour at least." She climbed out of the bed even as she said the words, wandering around the room, trailing a finger over the certificate Clark had received for journalism in high school. The first time she had been in this room she had been critical of his awards, coming as they did from such a small town, and she had looked around as though investigating Clark's background. Now, however, she let her eyes fall on each treasured momento of his childhood, wishing she had been there to share it with him.
Going over to the open window, Lois pulled the curtains back and rested her elbows on the sill, her head propped in her hands as she surveyed the fields. She felt so relaxed and peaceful out here. Clark was right, it was a wonderful break from the fast pace of the city. The air was fresh and sweet, since it wasn't blowing from the directions of any animals, the smell of baking wafted up from the kitchen window, and she could hear birds trilling.
Leaning forward a little she could just see the red roof of Wayne Irig's house in the distance, where Clark and Jimmy had spent the night, the Kents' farmhouse having barely enough room for Lois and her family. Lois smiled, feeling a familiar warmth glow inside her, as though a ray of sunshine had been let into her heart. "I wonder if you can hear me," she said aloud. "Well, just in case you can, I love you." Her smile turned into a big grin. Talking softly and knowing Clark could hear her had been endless fun in the past year, a wonderful game she played with him. It was a shame, she often thought, that she couldn't hear him in return. Or perhaps it was just as well, she suddenly decided, thinking of all the times she had mischievously distracted him with whispered sweet nothings while Perry was trying to talk to him. Clark would certainly have paid her back for that!
She took a deep breath of the country air, feeling hungry for one of Martha's fresh rolls, and gazed up at the sky. Yesterday's weather forecast had called for increasing cloudiness and chances of showers during the day. She had exchanged a secretive smile with Clark over her mother's head, and Clark had excused himself for a few minutes. He had probably blown the clouds further east; at any rate, the sky above was a soft, pastel blue, with only a few wisps of white.
"What a beautiful day to get married," she murmured, gazing dreamily at the Kansas morning while she pictured Clark in his tuxedo.
"No chance of showers on *our* wedding day," Clark murmured in satisfaction as he gazed up at the sky. He was standing on Wayne Irig's back porch in his boxers, enjoying the fresh farm air. Being back in Kansas was like a balm to his spirit, for as much as he loved his life in Metropolis, he needed at times to get away from the noise and the rush and return to this peaceful place.
He stretched, wishing he could go for a flight over the wheat fields. They were so beautiful from the air, dancing and rippling in the breeze and stretching out endlessly below him like a golden sea. With Wayne whistling nearby, however, he knew that was impossible. He concentrated momentarily and picked up the sound of Jimmy mumbling slightly in his sleep inside the farmhouse. Just then he caught Lois's sweet voice, and his head lifted immediately as his eyes sought his bedroom window and zoomed in on it.
There she was, chin in her hands, looking his direction although he knew she couldn't see him from so far away. "I love you," he heard her say in a tender voice, and he felt a warmth course through his veins. She looked comfortable and relaxed as she always did when in the country. It took her a few hours to shed the vigor that city life required and settle down to the slower pace of the small town, but it had proven a wonderful respite that had softened some of her edges over time.
Of course, Clark knew that Lois's relationship with his mother had a lot to do with that. The two of them were like kindred spirits in many ways, although Lois was far more driven. Martha had been both a confidante for Lois and a motherly figure, and watching the two of them side by side as they prepared dinner, or looked through the Kent family photo albums, or read the Smallville Press, had given Clark a great deal of joy. Ever since discovering his super powers he had felt a despairing sense of loss, of not belonging. He had been set apart from everyone in the world, and only his parents could know and understand him. He had been so afraid that his desire for a woman to share life with, his longing for a family of his own, would remain unfulfilled.
He cherished Lois all the more for making his life complete, for accepting him as he was, for loving him without reservation and becoming a part of his family. He saw her gaze up at the sky with a dreamy expression and felt a humble gratitude that she was a part of his life. He could remember the loneliness of previous years, the pain of not knowing who he was and where he had come from. Those days were now distant memories, however. Today he would truly embark on a new life, an exciting life with Lois forever at his side, partners in every sense of the word.
In a few short hours he would pledge, before friends and family, to love Lois for the rest of his life, however long that might be. In his heart he had long since made that vow, even before they had gone on their very first date. There would never be another woman for him, he had known that with complete assurance for a long time.
This past year had been magical for Clark, the fulfillment of dreams he had nearly abandoned. Their love had grown stronger and fuller with the passing months, as they had learned more about one another and opened their hearts and bared their souls to each other. Clark had learned to be comfortable using his super powers in front of Lois, a major adjustment after spending so many years hiding them from everyone but his parents, and Lois had reconciled the two separate identities of Clark Kent and Superman into what she sometimes jokingly referred to as her "Super Clark".
The road they had traveled to reach this day in time hadn't been an easy one, it had been fraught with peril and liberally scattered with potholes and speed bumps — Clark grimaced slightly as the name Scardino flashed into his consciousness — but perhaps that made this moment all the sweeter and more precious. An excitement began to blossom in his heart as he realized that soon he would be married to Lois, for he knew that here and now there would be no dramatic interruptions.
Sweet strains of Mozart drifted softly over the garden. Jimmy patted his pocket yet again, assuring himself that the precious rings he had been entrusted with were still there. Jonathan turned once again to the back door of the house, wondering if the bride was ready yet. Wayne Irig adjusted his Sunday suit uncomfortably for the fifth time. Father Thomas, who had known Clark for most of his life, smiled at the young man in a reassuring manner, not realizing that the groom felt no sense of uneasiness or anxiety at the delay.
Clark stood serenely in the summer sunshine, feeling its warmth on his head and shoulders, his soul tranquil and suffused with a sense of rightness about everything; the morning was beautiful, the breeze carried with it the scent of the flowers his mother had gathered and arranged on the small table in front of Father Thomas, and he basked in the love of these people who were so dear to him and in the love of the feisty and impetuous woman who meant the world to him. The passing minutes merely gave him a little more time to appreciate the wonder and joy in his heart.
The back door opened and all eyes turned towards it immediately in excitement. Martha and Ellen came out of the house, both wearing simple but festive dresses and both smiling happily. They propped the door open and came down the porch steps, which they had decorated with clinging vines and interspersed daisies running along the banisters. They approached the small knot of men slowly, side by side, looking proud of their children and joyful at the occasion. Lucy Lane appeared in the doorway, the flowers artfully tucked into her hair and a flowing blue dress combining to give her an air of prettiness and simplicity. She paused there a moment, enjoying the attention, before sedately making her way to her place in the small circle.
Everyone's attention was riveted on the doorway, awaiting the first glimpse of the bride. Ellen felt a momentary flash of worry that, once again, something would occur to disrupt her daughter's wedding. Martha gazed at her son, bursting with pride in him and happiness for him. Jonathan, who had been similarly bursting for several minutes now, waited with excitement for his daughter-in-law to come into their family's open arms. Jimmy held his breath, one hand firmly held over the slight ridges in his suit that were the rings he had been guarding for some time now. Wayne, having panned his camcorder over the assembled group and garnered plenty of footage of the groom, was ready to at last capture the bride on tape.
Before the pause could lengthen into a discomfiting delay, she was there. Perry White, obviously aware of the honor bestowed upon him, had a hand clasped over Lois's on the crook of his arm, perhaps to assure himself that she wasn't going to pull away. Clark, however, had eyes only for Lois.
Framed by the ivy-bedecked doorway she stood out starkly in a white dress that seemed to float around her calves and lend a surreal quality to her beauty. The sweetheart neckline bared an expanse of creamy skin unadorned with any jewelry, her hair shone with auburn highlights in the sunshine, and her face was aglow with an inner light that sprang from her love for Clark.
Clark knew he would never be able to say with any certainty what the dress was made of or in what style, he would only remember that Lois had never seemed more beautiful to him, and their eyes connected across the garden and never wavered. She came down the stairs as though floating over them, without looking down at her feet, trusting Perry to guide her to her fiance. Watching her approach him, Clark felt an almost painful surge of loving and tenderness.
Lois was in no hurry this time, she allowed Perry to escort her with dignified paces. Every deliberate step brought her closer to the man she loved, and she felt the glory of the moment wash over her, filling her with light and love until she felt as though she were gliding on air. There had never been a sky as blue, air as pure, or a moment as beautiful as this. She had never experienced such a profound sense of destiny.
At last Perry was lifting her hand and placing it in Clark's strong one, and their fingers entwined and squeezed gently as they gazed at each other in awe and wonder. Father Thomas began to speak in a gentle, lilting voice. He spoke of togetherness, of love that could overcome anything, of trust and sharing. Neither of them heard the words but the feelings touched them and brought them closer together.
Standing facing one another, holding their hands between them, surrounded by a circle of people who loved them and shared in their joy, Lois and Clark smiled at each other, blissfully savoring and treasuring the moment.
"Do you, Clark, take Lois for your wife? Do you promise to love and cherish her every day of your life, and respect and honor her above all else?"
Clark found himself so engulfed with emotion that he had to swallow before he could answer. Lois's trusting eyes were so clearly filled with love that he wanted to take her in his arms and hold her close against him. He accepted the small, simple ring from Jimmy and slid it reverently onto Lois's trembling finger, then lifted her hand to his mouth and brushed his lips softly against it. "We do," he said, speaking the first word softly for her alone and letting the second one sound out clearly for all to witness. A delighted smile added even more brilliance to her face and made his heart well up with pleasure.
Ellen sniffled softly, seeing the adoration plain on the handsome young man's face, the love he so clearly felt for her daughter giving her a wonderful contentment even as she swallowed the sadness of her little girl leaving her family to start a new one. The sweet man she would be proud to call her son-in-law was so completely in love that he had gotten the vows wrong, she thought with tenderness.
Lois barely heard the preacher's voice as he asked if she was prepared to do the same. Her entire world was narrowed to this one man, this honest and gentle soul, who had always been there for her since the day they met, whether she had known it or not, looking out for her, keeping her safe, loving her without hesitation or reservation. He had never turned his back on her, never treated her selfishly or cruelly, and she knew he never would. She was overcome by a sense of awe that she could be so lucky as to be loved so passionately and so deeply by him.
With a start she realized that the preacher's question hung in the air and everyone was waiting expectantly for her answer. Seeing that the bride had been utterly lost in Clark's loving gaze, there was a ripple of soft laughter that she shared in.
She flashed a smile at Jimmy as she took the remaining ring and placed it on Clark's finger. "I do," she said, her voice clear and sweet and certain as she slid it into place.
Father Thomas spoke some more, but once again the couple hardly heard the words. Overwhelmed by their feelings, they breathlessly waited for the moment that they could erase the slight space between them and be forever united. At last they heard the magic words pronounced, husband and wife, and with a small cry of happiness Lois took a half step forward and slipped her arms around Clark's neck. He held her close, one hand cupping her face as he bent his head to kiss her full lips, and Lois felt his tears land on her cheek. Their lips met with all the sweetness of a first kiss, and each was aware that it was made all the more special for being the first kiss of their life together as a family.
"You may kiss the bride," Father Thomas said wryly as the couple's closest ones laughed and clapped in a display of love and joy.
Lois let her head fall back, looking up into her husband's eyes. Clark gently brushed his own tears from her face. "I love you, Lois," he told her, his voice husky with emotion.
"And I, you, Clark, with all my heart," she vowed, pushing back the lock of hair falling into his eyes. "Forever."
"Forever," he echoed as he swept her into his arms again and buried his face in her soft hair, letting the smell and feel and sense of her envelop him completely.
"I think you'd better put us back on the ground," Lois whispered into his ear in merriment as she felt herself floating.
"We are on the ground," he responded, and flashed a beautiful smile at his wife's startled expression.
"Then kiss me again," she demanded softly, her eyes dancing.
So he did.