By LadyBiker <LadyBiker@aol.com>
Submitted April 1999
Summary: How might Lois and Clark celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary? In this next-generation story, the author envisions a future for our favorite couple.
Lois Lane Kent pushed a wayward curl behind her ear and reread her latest editorial, blue pencil in hand, bifocals threatening to slide down her nose. Satisfied after the third reading, she turned to her computer and quickly tapped out a few keystrokes, sending the scathing indictment of the sanitation workers' strike to layout for inclusion in the next morning's edition.
"Where is he?" she murmured, quickly glancing up and scanning the bullpen. "He knows I need that piece on Senator Armstrong in … " a quick glance at her watch, " … yikes! … in 15 minutes! Ah, well, he should be here soon. Hasn't missed a deadline in years."
Lois rolled her head, easing some of the tension in her neck. The editor's job hadn't gotten any easier, though these days the internet version of The Daily Planet was more popular than the newsprint version. With the explosion of the computer age, advertising sales had skyrocketed and the bad old days of wondering if there would even be a Daily Planet in a few more years were history. As editor, Lois worried more about forming policy, molding public opinion and exposing corruption than circulation figures. Suppressing yet another sigh, she remembered Perry's lectures about circulation and sales from years ago and the constant pressure he was under from "the suits" upstairs to keep those figures up. Thank God she didn't have to deal nearly as often as Perry had with delivery truck break-downs and running short of printing supplies.
Oh, how she missed Perry. "I'd give anything just to hear him bellow 'Lane! Kent! In my office!'" Lois mused. Perry had begun grooming Lois for the job of editor twelve years ago, when Sammy was just 2 years old, slowly deferring more and more of the decisions to her, and handing her the reins of "the best newspaper in the world" when he retired in 2008. More like a father to her, in some ways, than her own father, Lois was glad that he and Alice had reconciled and had thoroughly enjoyed their retirement years until Perry's death two years ago.
"Where do the years go?" Lois thought. "There've been so many changes, so much has happened … " She took off the bifocals, rubbing the indentation they left on her nose, and glanced around her office, Perry's former domain. She smiled, thinking about how smoothly the transition to editor had been made the second time she held the job. The first time she just wasn't ready to take on the responsibility. She and Clark hadn't even been married a year, that time, and, well, her determination to prove that she could do the job all by herself had certainly put a crimp in their marriage. When she'd accepted the job the second time around, she'd had a little more warning and was a whole lot wiser. She was much more willing to let her seasoned reporters, like Clark and, even, Ralph, follow their instincts these days. On top of everything else, Clark was a huge help to her as an unofficial assistant editor. "He'd better get his instincts in here real soon with some copy I can use," she muttered.
The office looked a lot different than it had in Perry's day. Lois had chosen softer colors and fabrics and more comfortable chairs, and she had opened the room up to more light. About the only signs remaining from Perry's tenure were the Elvis clock with its swinging legs and a framed picture of Perry and Alice on the bookshelf. Lois just couldn't bring herself to get rid of that darned clock and she found herself, from time to time, turning to the picture of Perry as if to ask his advice. And sometimes she could swear she heard him answer!
"Lois," Jimmy Olsen burst through the door breathlessly, "I just found out that Radex, y'know, the hardware firm that's bidding on the police department's upgrade? Well, I just found out that their majority stockholder is a shadow corporation owned by TechCorp, the conglomerate that was implicated in the chip-cloning scandal two years ago. This is big! TechCorp nearly brought international banking to its knees … "
"Jimmy! I know the TechCorp story. Remember, Clark broke that one wide open. Have you confirmed your information? Double checked? Does anybody else know? Do we have a scoop?" Lois's eyes lit up at the thought of beating everyone else to the punch on this one.
"Got it all … before anybody else. I can't wait to see the reaction when this hits the 'net. Man, I'd love to be a fly on the wall at the City Council Budget meeting." Jimmy could hardly contain his excitement.
"Golly," Lois thought, "42 years old and he's still bouncing around the room!" Out loud, she said, "Run with it, Jimmy. You're the business expert. Do you have enough to drop the bombshell in Sunday's edition, then follow-up next week? Or should we rush it to print tomorrow?"
"Way ahead of you. We'll make more of a splash on Sunday and there's no one else even looking in this direction. I'm writing up the Radex connection and I've already assigned Jenkins to the in-depth review of the banking scandal and how it ties in as a sidebar in Sunday's Business Section. I'm going to have Jenny Smith help me hound them all next week for follow-up on the reaction. Oh, man, Councilman Roper's gonna turn purple! He's been 'no commenting' me for a month on Radex. I'll bet you anything he has his finger in that pie."
"Good, Jimmy. Good work. Have you heard from Clark? His piece on the Senator is due now!"
"Haven't heard a thing, Lois. You don't think he got … tied up on something … y'know? Do you need some copy as a standby? Maybe I can rustle up something … "
"No, no, I can give him 5 more minutes." Lois frowned, on the point of fuming. "I hope nothing's come up. I was really counting on dinner with you and Penny tonight … "
"And we'll make that dinner, too. With time to spare!" Clark swept into the room, a bouquet of a dozen red roses tied with a lovely red ribbon in his arms. Stooping to plant a quick kiss on his wife's upturned face, Clark presented her the flowers with a flourish and said, "Happy Anniversary, honey. Jimmy, shut the door, would you? I've got some fast typing to do."
As Jimmy shut the door, blocking the office from the bullpen's view, Lois exploded, "You bet you do! This is cutting it pretty close, even for you, flyboy! I've saved 12 column inches for the Armstrong story and if we don't get it to layout in 5, no, make that 4 1/2 minutes, I'm gonna have a hole in my front page the size of Cleveland!"
"CK, I keep telling you that with the technology these days, you could talk the story into your cell phone. You don't even have to be anywhere near the office to file it." Jimmy couldn't get over how resistant Clark was to technological change. Lois was less of a dinosaur when it came to computers.
"Jimmy, I can type it faster than I could say it." Clark's hands were a blur over Lois's keyboard. He was grateful that technology had improved to the point where he was burning up fewer keyboards. "Taa-daa! For you, Madam Editor."
"Oh, goody," Lois deadpanned. "I have two whole minutes to edit it." She sat down, fumbled for her glasses and put them on, then began reading, only occasionally changing a word here, a phrase there. Finally sparing Clark a smile, she tapped in the command to send it to layout and said, "Just made it! Well, that interview certainly cleared up a few questions. Clark, for a while there, I thought you might actually miss a deadline."
"And risk getting you angry on our anniversary? No way!" Clark turned apologetic. "Honey, I'm sorry I cut it so close. I'd wrapped up the Armstrong interview in plenty of time when there was three-car pile-up on I-90. I would have just let the EMT's handle it, but a little girl was in critical condition and had to be rushed to the hospital. The doctors think she'll be OK, since I got her there so fast. Then I had to hurry to pick up the roses, then dash back here to file the story. Y'know, I can only fly so
fast holding roses … "
Lois giggled in spite of herself. Sniffing the roses, she said, "OK, you're forgiven. You didn't actually miss the deadline and I could have stalled another ten minutes, anyway, if I'd had to. OK, guys, here's the game plan. I have about an hour's more work to do here, then I'll be ready to go home, round up the troops, and get ready for our date tonight. How's that sound?"
"Suits me," Jimmy said. Wow, he'd known about CK ever since C.J. was born, what, 18 years ago, and it still blew his mind, sometimes. "I'm about to head out anyway. Penny should be getting home about now. We'll get the kids ready and meet you at your place in … let's say … 2 1/2, 3 hours? Around 7:00?" At Lois's quick nod, Jimmy added, "Lois, are you sure your Mom won't mind keeping Perry and Angela, too? I can get a sitter … "
"Jimmy, I'm sure Mom won't mind. You know she adores your kids. Besides, she's got Sammy as an assistant babysitter. Sam can keep Perry busy and Lanie and Angela will probably rope Mom into a 'tea party' the minute she walks in the door. Besides, Lucy and Bob are dropping off Ellie and Bobby so they can go out with us, too. With four of her six grandchildren around her, Mom will be in 'Grandma Heaven.' What's two more?"
"Four of her six grandchildren? Where's M.E. going?" Clark turned to Lois.
"M.E. has a study date with Jason. I told you about that, Clark."
"Lo-is, I thought we agreed that M.E. wasn't going to accept dates on a school night."
"I'll see you soon, guys!" Jimmy beat a strategic retreat out of the office, quietly closing the door behind him.
Lois let out a sigh. "Clark. She's 16 years old, a straight A student, a reporter for the school newspaper, and a star on the basketball team. She needs about as much sleep as you do, thanks to those 'super' genes of yours. You are way too overprotective. Why, I was practically raising Lucy at her age … Let her have some fun. And it IS a study date. She has a big research paper due next week. Mom doesn't have any problem with the idea."
Clark rolled his eyes. Study date, indeed. He wasn't at all sure he liked the idea of Martha Ellen even seeing Jason at all, let alone on a school night. But, if he'd learned anything else over the last 20 years, he'd learned that when the Lane-Kent women ganged up on him, the best thing to do was to simply agree. He knew his daughter, though. She'd giggle a lot on this "study date," smooch with Jason, eat too many french fries, then stay up half the night finishing up her research on the internet.
Clark sighed, "All right. OK. I won't make a big deal about it this time. But, really, Lois, I am not over protective … "
"Yeah, right!" Lois snorted, "and Elvis never sold a single record."
"Look. I'm gonna head on home and spend some time with the kids before Ellen gets there. Want me to whip up some dinner for them while you finish up here?"
"That would be great, Clark. I'm sure Mom would appreciate your cooking better than my take-out." Lois smiled up at her husband. She knew he wasn't buying into the idea of M.E.'s study date completely, but she also knew he didn't want to rock the boat, today of all days. Lois stood up, reached for the vase in the bookcase, and began arranging her roses. "Thanks for the roses, honey," she said with a sly grin. "You're still the most romantic husband I've ever had."
"Oh, yeah? You have, maybe, other husbands stashed away somewhere that I don't know about?" Clark asked, as he snuggled up behind her and planted a kiss on her neck, sending shivers up and down Lois's spine. "If you think the roses were romantic, you ain't seen nothing yet," he growled.
"That's what I'm counting on!" Lois squirmed to paste herself more firmly against Clark, his arms surrounding her warmly. "Don't worry about other husbands. With you around, Earth guys still don't stand a chance. Let's see, dinner at 7:30 at Angelina's with Jimmy, Penny, Lucy and Bob, we should be home by 9:30, 10, which means Lanie will already be down for the night and Sam will be about ready for bed, too. Mom will probably be too pooped to stay much later. M.E.'s old enough to let herself in … don't have a cow; I told her she had to be home by 10:00. So, I'd say from about 10:30 on, it's gonna be pretty much you and me, kid." Lois was practically purring as she added, "And I know what pasta does to you."
"Hmmmm. Sounds like a plan." Clark nuzzled just behind her ear, causing Lois to squirm even more. He just loved it when she did that! "Guess I'd better get going, then, and do my part. See you in a little while, tornado!"
Lois looked up from her paperwork. Time to get going! She had about an hour and a half to get home, change clothes and run a last minute check on the kids before the anniversary dinner party. Calling a hasty, "See you later," to the night editor, she dashed for the elevator.
As she drove home through the early evening traffic, Lois returned to her musings from earlier in the day. "Twenty years. So much has happened, not all of it good." She smiled, though, as she thought about her years with Clark. Who would have thought? "Mad Dog" Lane, rabid reporter with a "take-no-prisoners" style had turned into a stable, responsible news editor with a brood of four super-kids. Wow. And Bernie Klein had told Superman he couldn't have kids with an earth woman. Ha!
C.J., their oldest, was in his freshman year of college at his dad's alma mater, Midwest State. Lois missed him, but she knew he would be all right. He'd solemnly told them, the week before classes started, that he wasn't going to declare a major just yet because he was only 18 and he might change his mind, but, after interning the last two summers at the Planet, he was considering majoring in Journalism. Not that he'd absolutely made his mind up yet, but … Lois's smile widened. C.J. was so much like his father, even looked like Clark had at that age.
Lois remembered when she'd discovered that he was developing powers like his father's. C.J. had been loading the dishwasher when he was 14 and, not unusual for a teenager, had misjudged the distance to a glass, ramming his hand right through it. Glass flew everywhere, but when Lois had run to check him for injuries, she found out he didn't have a mark on him! Two year old Lanie had been terrified, sure C.J. was hurt, but, no, not a scratch. As Lois had begun to pick up the glass, C.J. had stopped her with a hand on her wrist and, in a voice remarkably like Clark's, had said, "Let me handle that, Mom. You might get cut."
She and Clark had called C.J. aside for a talk later that night and got the shock of their lives when C.J. calmly told them that he knew his dad was Superman and that he was starting to grow into a "junior Superman." Then, to top that, he told them that M.E. was in on it, too, that even though she was only 12, she was starting to develop some powers of her own. "After all, girls do mature faster," he'd said. "She's been hearing things she shouldn't have been able to for about a year now." Lois had quickly fetched M.E. into the conference.
Thankfully, C.J. and M.E. had been very level-headed for their ages. They'd kept their knowledge of their dad's secret from their parents for almost a year because Lois and Clark hadn't mentioned it first. Though they had discussed it between themselves, they had never mentioned the fact that their own father was Superman and that they were starting to develop some odd abilities with anybody else, either inside or out of the family. After that experience, Clark and Lois had initiated "the talk" with Sam when he was 12 years old. Lois didn't want any more surprises like that!
Speaking of surprises! Lois's smile got even wider as she thought about Lanie. Lois had thought her brood was complete when Sam was born. They'd had Clark Jerome Kent, Jr., in 1998, Martha Ellen Kent in 2000, and Jonathan Samuel Kent in 2002. Perfect stair-steps. C.J. was a younger version of Clark, M.E. reminded Lois of Lucy at that age, and Sam, well, Sammy was pure Lois. He had her temperament, her curiosity, and, yes, was just as impetuous as she had been as a child. Lois knew she loved all of her children, but, well, Sammy just held a special place in her heart. She worried about him sometimes. If Clark was over protective of M.E., Lois had to admit that her "wild child" brought out the mama lion in her.
Then, just as Sam was entering second grade, just as Lois was getting really comfortable in her editor's job, just as she was thinking things had settled down to, well, normal for them, *boom*, guess what??, *take down.* Those darned Kryptonian wigglers found their mark and she was pregnant again at 41! She had been so mad, she hadn't spoken a civil word to Clark for a solid week! She considered the entire pregnancy a dirty trick that someone had played on her. Amanda Lane Kent made her appearance in 2010, and Lois swore somebody must have switched babies at the hospital, because Lanie was the sweetest, cutest, most precocious child Lois had ever seen. Lanie was six, now, and there was really no doubt whose child she was. With that dark curly hair and those liquid chocolate eyes, she was a total heart-breaker and, as Perry had said, the "spittin' image" of Lois. Lois felt so lucky when she thought about her children.
As she rounded the corner two blocks from her home, Lois's thoughts turned to the losses they had suffered over the years, as well as the joys. Jonathan had been the first to go, just two months after Lanie had been born. Lois was so thankful that he had lived to hold Lanie. She'd never forget Martha's call, early on a Monday morning. Jonathan had died quietly in his sleep. Martha couldn't face living in the farmhouse alone after Jonathan's death. After discussing it with Clark, Martha had sold the farm and moved to a small apartment in Metropolis to be closer to "her boy" and his family. She'd been a godsend to Lois, helping with the children (mostly Lanie and Sam, though Grandma Kent was well loved by all the children). Lois and Clark had thought about buying the farmhouse themselves, to keep it in the family, but Lois knew that as much as she loved Smallville and as much as that house meant to Clark, she would never really want to live there. Following a few honest and heartfelt discussions, they had made the decision to let it go.
Martha had slipped away just two years ago, with no warning. It seemed to Lois that one minute she was fine, a healthy, vigorous 81 year old, and the next minute, she was just … gone. Clark had been devastated to lose his father, but when his mom died … Lois shook her head, ruefully. There was definitely something about sons and mothers. She knew how close she felt to her two sons. If it hadn't been for Lois and the kids serving as his anchor, she didn't know what would have happened to Clark when his mother passed on.
As she pulled into the driveway beside the house, Lois thought of her father. Sam Lane had fallen ill earlier in the year and, after a brief illness, had died this past summer. It had been Clark's turn to buoy her up. Oh, boy, fathers and daughters shared a special bond, as well. He and Ellen had remarried in 1998, just before C.J.'s birth. Sam had loved to quip that Ellen couldn't stand the idea of her grandchildren having divorced grandparents, so they had gotten remarried for the sake of the grandkids. The truth was that they were miserable without each other, though they had spent much of Lois's childhood being miserable together. A remarkable family therapist had helped them rebuild the relationship, and, for the most part, they had been able to spend the last 18 years of Sam Lane's life as a happily married couple. Lois smiled, remembering how she had finally gotten the family she always wanted after she had started a family of her own.
Lois entered her home to the sounds of children laughing in the kitchen while they helped their father prepare dinner. Throwing her jacket and briefcase on the hall tree, she called out, "Hi, everybody! I'm home. Clark, that roast smells wonderful! Hi, M.E., hello, Sammy. Lanie, how was school today?" Lois bustled around the kitchen, dispensing kisses and hugs, ruffling the dog's ears, and ending up beside Lanie in the dining room, where the young girl was desperately trying to remember which side of the plate the forks should go on. Lois bent down to help. "Put them on this side, sweetheart." Lanie beamed up at her.
"We learned about firemen today," Lanie announced. "They really do have spotted dogs!"
"Mom, Coach says I can try out for the lacrosse team next Spring. It'll be junior varsity, but it's a start." Sam was kept pretty busy by Killer, the family mutt, who was driven to distraction by the smell of the pot roast.
"That's great, Sam. Please take Killer out on the deck and give him his dinner before we have to mop the floor! Has he had his afternoon walk?" Lois gave her son another quick hug.
"Yes ma'am, right after school. When Perry and Bobby get here, can we take him down to the park to play frisbee?"
Clark jumped in on that one. "Sam, it's a school night, even though Perry and Bobby will be visiting. You know this is a special occasion. Don't take advantage. Besides, Grandma Lane will probably feel much safer watching over the littler kids if there's a man in the house."
Sam saw right through that one, but decided, uncharacteristically, to let it go. "OK, Dad," Sam threw over his shoulder as he took Killer out the door.
"Is dinner about ready, Dad? Jason's picking me up soon to go to the library." M.E. had inherited her father's height, along with his other special abilities, and already stood taller than Lois.
"Coming right up. How're you coming on the salad?"
"All ready and on the table."
Clark was dressed casually in an open collar shirt covered by a charcoal sweater, with the sleeves pushed up to his elbows, and dark pants. Lois said, "Clark, I thought we agreed to dress up a bit for tonight. I mean, not that a tux is necessary, but … "
"Just let me get dinner on the table for this crew, honey. Ellen called; she should be here any minute, then she can take over and we'll go get ready." Suiting actions to words, Clark put a bowl of steaming vegetables on the table. "M.E., would you get the drinks ready, please? Milk for Lanie, you and Sam can have either soda or tea, I think Ellen will probably want iced tea. You want something to drink while we're getting ready, Lois?"
"I'd love a glass of wine. Clark, there are 6 plates set?"
"Lucy called. Dr. Bob was held up with a patient a little later than he expected and she had a parent-teacher conference run overtime. Ellen is picking up Ellie and Bobby and bringing them over here for dinner, since we have plenty and it's already cooked, while Lucy and Bob get dressed. M.E., get milk for Bobby and Ellie, please. Here's your wine, sweetheart." Clark presented Lois with sparkling amber liquid in a long stemmed glass, quickly kissing her on the nose, then spun around to take the roast out of the oven (using oven mitts, Lois noted, for Lanie's benefit). Lois noticed him surreptitiously lower his glasses and gaze at the roast for a few seconds.
"Must not have been completely done," Lois thought, taking a sip of the wine. Just then, she heard her mother enter the front door and sing out, "Hello! Anybody home?"
"We're in here, Mom. Hi, Ellie, Hi, Bobby!" Lois opened her arms to her niece and nephew, then gave Ellen a quick hug. "Mom, we really appreciate you coming over tonight. Clark's cooked a great dinner; hope you're hungry!"
"Starving!" Ellen declared. "Mabel Johnson had me out shopping all afternoon for a gift for her granddaughter, you know, the one who's marrying that nice law student, what's his name, at Christmas. I've looked at more china and lingerie today than I care to think about!"
"Uncle Clark, my science project won the school competition and now it's gonna be entered in the city-wide contest!" Ellie was practically jumping up and down, vying for attention in the busy family. "Do you want to hear all about it?"
"Ellie, that's great!" Clark hugged the energetic child. "I have to hurry now to get ready to go out with your parents, but how about we talk about it on Sunday when you come over to watch the Midwest State-Indiana game? C.J.'s going to be in the starting line-up. Isn't that great?"
Ellie beamed and said, "Yes! OK."
At the same time, Lois exclaimed, "He is? But, the coach has been keeping him on the bench. I mean, he is a freshman … "
"Sorry, honey, in all the excitement I forgot to tell you. We got an e-mail from C.J. I printed it out for you, it's around here … somewhere." Clark whipped his head around, automatically counting children's noses while he looked for the errant e-mail. He came up one nose short, then quickly stepped to the back door, opened it, and called out, "Sam! Son, dinner's ready!"
Ellen interrupted, "Lois. Clark. I can take it from here. You two go get ready, you don't have much more time! Get moving, now."
"Here's the e-mail, Mom." M.E. said, as she took the paper from the refrigerator magnet, where it had been hidden in plain sight. "C.J. says to tell you he promises not to hurt the Indiana players too much. He's going to be a starting defensive lineman." M.E. grinned at C.J.'s family joke. As the two oldest and the two with the most developed superpowers so far, the brother and sister were extremely close. It had almost broken M.E.'s heart when her brother had left for college, but she was compensating nicely by seeing Jason, the current love of her life.
"Hmmm. He says here to give his love to Grandma," a nod to her mom, " … and to say 'Hi' to the Wilson side of the family. 'Hi,' Wilsons!" Lois smiled at Bobby and Ellie. "And that his history professor is really an old poop. And about the game on Sunday. And kisses to his sisters and a punch in the arm to Sam."
"Dad already delivered the punch, Mom, you don't have to!" Sam offered from the sink as he washed his hands for dinner.
Clark dusted his hands with a sharp clap, "OK, everybody, settle down for dinner. Lois, I'll race you upstairs."
"You're on! No cheating!" Quickly setting her empty wineglass on the counter, Lois was the first out the door.
"Alone, at last!" Lois sighed.
"Hmmmm." Clark planted a quick, but thorough, kiss on her lips, murmuring, "That won't last for long. We'd better get a move on."
"Uh huh." Lois wrapped her arms more tightly around his neck and moved in for another kiss. "I guess we'd better. You're absolutely right."
She felt him smile against her mouth, then oblige with a much more thorough, lingering kiss, his tongue teasing entry into her mouth. Oh, my, after 20 years, his kiss made her want to throw all their plans out the window, lock the door, and just stay home …
Clark shifted against her in their embrace, groaned softly, and said, "Hold that thought for later, honey. Everybody'll be here in about a half hour. Or sooner, if I know Jimmy." His large hands roamed down her back, ending at the waistband of her skirt. He slowly, so slowly, began unzipping her skirt, making small soothing motions against her lower back.
Lois sighed into his mouth. "Ohhh. Do you have to be right all the time?" But she pushed away from his encircling arms, whipped off her skirt and lightly ran to the bathroom. "Do we have time for a quick shower? Would you use your buzz-buzz to dry my hair?"
Clark laughed at his retreating wife, "Yes and yes." With a mock serious wiggle of his eyebrows, he announced, "Hang on, honey, I'm going to speed things up."
With a whoosh, Lois rapidly found herself under a warm spray of water with her husband rubbing shampoo into her hair. Before she could think twice, she was out of the tub being gently dried at superspeed by strong hands holding a warm fluffy towel.
"Now you can concentrate on hair and makeup. Get a move on." Clark gently commanded, "Angelina's is waiting … "
M.E. looked up from dinner with a slight start, a look on her face that was familiar to her brother, Sam, and her grandmother, Ellen. Ellen had finally been told the "Family Secret" after she drove Lois to distraction 10 years ago, insisting that Clark was having an affair because of all of his sudden disappearances. Clark had been skeptical about her ability to keep the secret, but she had proven herself trustworthy.
At her grandmother's questioning glance, M.E. said, quietly, "Jason's here. So are the Olsens and Aunt Lucy and Uncle Bob."
Muttering, "M.E., you're better than a doorbell." Ellen got up to answer the door. Lanie, Ellie and Bobby seemed oblivious, engaged in conversation with Sam and all trying to talk at once.
M.E. jumped up from the table and skipped upstairs lightly. She didn't exactly use superspeed, but she was rapping on the door of her parent's bedroom in record time.
"Come in," came Lois's muffled voice from behind the door.
M.E. cautiously opened the door to find her father zipping up her mom's sparkling blue cocktail dress. "Mom, Dad, you look great! Everybody's just arrived. I wanted to say goodbye before I left and wish you a happy anniversary. Uh, Dad, should I 'keep an ear open' tonight so you won't be disturbed?"
Clark did, indeed, look handsome in his dark suit, cream colored shirt, and slightly subdued (for him) tie. "That won't be necessary, M.E., but, thanks. I e-mailed C.J. earlier this week and told him he was 'on call' tonight. I don't want any interruptions short of a nuclear bomb this evening! And I really don't want you flying off on your own without me or your brother around."
"Awww. Dad! I can take care of myself!" It didn't quite sound like a whine.
"M.E., we don't have time to go over this now. Just trust me. At 16, there are a few things you just aren't ready to handle yet." Clark was gentle but firm. He worried so about his little girl getting herself into some of the situations he'd faced over the years.
"OK. Have fun! And I'll be home by 10:00. Mom's already laid down the law." M.E. bent to give her mother a quick peck on the cheek, then she was out the door in a blur.
Clark frowned. Lois sighed, then rolled her eyes. "Clark, she's Ultrawoman. She'll be fine."
"Lois, she's Ultra*girl* and she doesn't know half of what she thinks she knows … "
Lois tried to deflect his concern by bringing up a new subject. "You know," she mused, "You and C.J. aren't half as clever as you think you are, either. I've already heard some rumors about there being two supermen … "
"Yeah. I've heard them, too. I haven't figured out what to do about that, yet." Clark ran his fingers through his hair, his familiar "worry" gesture.
"Well," Lois continued, "he looks an awful lot like you, but he's obviously younger, with a slighter build. I really thought the idea of the blue cowl covering part of his face would do the trick, but I guess we didn't think that one all the way through."
"After everything I've been through, I can understand C.J. wanting to keep the superhero part of himself secret, instead of the 'normal' side, but that cowl has just fueled the rumors," Clark said. "I almost wish that I'd thought of that! There was even one story that Superman had called in recruits from New Krypton as a first stage of taking over the earth. You'd think by now they'd know better!"
"We could always tell the truth," Lois offered quietly. "Not that he's C.J. Kent, Clark Kent's son, but that he's Superman's son."
"Then there'd be a world-wide hunt for his mother. I don't think so."
"C'mon, worrywart. Let's go have a nice anniversary dinner with our family and friends. We'll solve all this another time." Lois tried to jolly Clark out of his mood.
"Deal," Clark said, happy to set the problem aside for the time being.
Lois and Clark took the "good" car this evening. Dark blue, sedate, it fit Lois's image of a vehicle for an important newspaper executive and, luckily, could seat six adults comfortably if they were friendly. They'd recently bought a new mini-van, though. With four kids bringing their immediate family to six people and a dog (even if three of the family could fly), they had needed a vehicle for school runs and hauling sports equipment and family vacations …
Bob, Lucy's husband, was telling about his last minute patient. "I swear, I'll be glad when the Jackson kid grows out of the stage of sticking stuff up his nose! This is the third time I've seen him for that this year!"
"Gee, Bob. I never realized what a hazardous job being a pediatrician is." Jimmy grinned at his friend. "I bet the worst part is, some of your patients can't even tell you where it hurts."
"Oh, they have their ways, Jimmy. When I get thrown up on, I have a pretty good idea."
"Bob!" Lucy squirmed around from the front seat where she was seated next to Lois and lightly slapped him on the knee. "We are going out to dinner, here! Penny, quick, raise the level of conversation!"
Penny laughed and snuggled closer to Jimmy. "Well, let's see. Nothing much to report from my work. Nothing nearly that dramatic, anyway." Penny had changed a lot since her days as a secretary hunting down Superman. She and Jimmy had lost track of each other, then met again in New York when Jimmy was working for The New York Times as a reporter fresh out of journalism school and Penny was on her way up the corporate ladder with a national software firm. They'd renewed their acquaintance, had a few laughs over her mis-identification of Jimmy as Superman, then found that they'd both grown up enough to fall in love. Penny had been astounded at how close she had actually come in her search for Superman when she found out his identity after they moved back to Metropolis. She was a little bit mortified to learn that he'd already been married when she had lured Superman to that alley for a kiss, but now she was happy just to have Lois and Clark as friends.
"What about you, honey, anything new in big business?" Penny asked Jimmy.
"Um … Lois?"
"Go ahead, Jimmy. It's all in the family. But nobody better breathe a word or I'll have to hunt you down and kill you!"
Grinning, Jimmy related the story of the Radex and TechCorp connection and the tie in to the city government bid. Clark perked up his ears. "That's the first I've heard of this, Jimmy. I wonder if some of my notes from two years ago will help out."
"Yep. They sure will, Clark. I've already used the stories you wrote as source material, but your notes would be even more helpful. Sorry I didn't clue you in before I left work; things got kinda hectic."
"No problem! I wasn't around much today." Clark carefully eased the sedan into a parking space at Angelina's. "We'll get right to it tomorrow. Well, here we are … and right on time!"
The glittering group greeted Antonio, the maitre d', warmly as they entered. Bob stepped up, "Antonio, we have reservations for 7:30, the Wilson Party."
"Of course, Bob, so good to see you again. And we are celebrating the Kents' Anniversary, are we not? Happy Anniversary, Lois, Clark. Everything is ready. Mama demanded a special meal to be prepared in honor of the occasion. Please, come this way." Antonio was enthusiastic, but professionally reserved.
Lois gasped. "Antonio, what a wonderful surprise! Please tell your mother we appreciate her kindness."
"It is our pleasure," Antonio smiled, gallantly. There really was an Angelina, the matriarch of the family. Clark had sought her out shortly after visiting the restaurant the first time with Lois. Lois was still amazed at how quickly Clark made new friends. Of course, speaking fluent Italian hadn't hurt. Angelina was all but retired now, handing over the daily operation of the restaurant to her son, Antonio. But she still kept a firm hand on quality control and kept track of her favorite guests.
Antonio quickly led them to a secluded table for six, beautifully appointed and softly lit by candlelight. He gestured to their waiter for the evening to begin serving the first course as he poured the wine with a flourish. Almost bowing, he inclined his head to the table, "Should you require anything, anything at all, please, let Umberto or myself know."
Jimmy smiled and stood up. "Antonio, before you go, please, join us in a toast."
"Oh, yes, please do!" rang out around the table.
Signaling for an extra glass, Antonio poured himself a small glass of wine and waited expectantly. Jimmy cleared his throat and raised his glass, "To Lois and Clark. May the rest of your lives together be as wonderful as the first twenty years have been."
Lois smiled. Antonio and Bob both said, "Hear, Hear" in agreement and there was a delightful tinkling of glasses around the table. Clark laughed and said, "My God, Jimmy, you're getting downright eloquent!"
"Oh, golly, twenty years!" Lucy wailed in mock horror. "Well, we're only five years behind you!"
"And we're only two years behind you," Penny laughed. "Here we are, all old married couples. Lois, Clark, any thoughts to share to keep us youngsters going?"
"Well, let's see." Lois said, half-seriously, "It helps if you marry your best friend, right, Clark?"
"Absolutely. I was lucky my best friend was a woman!" Clark teased.
"And share the child care responsibilities," Lois added. "Although we are all past the diaper stage, right? Any plans to add to the tribe?"
That question was greeted with a chorus of "NO" from all five of her dinner companions.
Bob laughed, "I think eight kids between the six of us is all we can handle. They've already got us out-numbered!"
Lucy agreed, "Lois, you and Clark get to keep the prize in that race. Two is my limit!"
"I'll agree with you there, Luce," Penny chimed in.
"And," Clark added, in a more solemn tone, "the real trick is, sometimes you just have to let the rest of the world take care of itself and spend some time together."
He got another round of agreement on that sentiment and earned a raised eyebrow from Lois. She knew how hard he had struggled to take his own advice, still feeling torn between family, job and Superman to this day. It had taken her quite a while to convince him that, no matter how fast or how strong he might be, he couldn't be everything to everybody all the time.
As Umberto set plates before them, the party happily settled into conversation, accompanied by the tinkling of glass and the soft sounds of silverware on china.
Smiling at the happy party lingering over coffee, Umberto queried, "Ladies, Gentlemen, may I offer you some dessert?"
All three of the women sighed. Clark glanced at Lois, wrinkling his nose a little, "C'mon, Lois. It is a special occasion! And they do have that wonderful 'Death By Chocolate' that you love so much."
"You are wicked, Clark Kent," Lois teased. "I'll never fit into this dress again! How about we split one, OK?"
"Yes, done. Umberto, one 'Death By Chocolate' and two forks, please."
"I think I have just about room for half a dessert," Lucy said, winking at Bob. He nodded in agreement.
"Me, too. What do you say, honey?" Penny asked.
"I say make it three desserts and six forks, Umberto." Jimmy smiled back at Penny, leaning over to kiss her cheek.
Lois slyly looked sideways at Clark. Creamily, she said, "Clark. Do you remember … ?"
"Oh, yes! I remember, Lois. Maybe I should have asked for just one fork." Clark delighted in the peal of laughter this brought from her.
"Uh oh, sounds like a story!" Jimmy said.
"Not a big one, just a little one, Jimmy. This is where Clark and I came on our first official date. After our official almost first date. Angelina's had only been open about a year. The decor has changed, some, but the food is just as delicious. We had quite a conversation, as I recall. Clark, I'll never forget that look on your face when … "
"Ahem! Lo-is, some things really should be private. I know we're reporters, but we don't have to report everything!" Clark interrupted.
"Don't mind her, Clark. You know, by now, she just loves to embarrass people! Lois, tsk!" Lucy mock-glared at her big sister, then broke into a big grin, mouthing the words "tell me later."
Bob looked up. "Oh, good. Saved by the dessert!"
Bob insisted on treating everyone, wouldn't let Jimmy or Clark pay a dime. "You'll get the next one, don't worry," he said, while Lucy beamed on in pride.
"All right," Clark told his brother-in-law, "I think Jimmy and Penny's anniversary comes up next. Number 14, right?"
Jimmy grinned, "Yep. Who'd have believed it, huh?"
"Jimmy, I've been feeling that way all day. How could twenty years have passed so quickly? We've been through so much," Lois commented, "but it all seems to have … I don't know … happened last week? Or, at least, last year. Not twenty years ago."
Clark smiled. "Lois, it takes time to have four kids, win all those Kerths, become senior editor … "
Penny laughed, "Earn a degree, have two kids, become v.p. and you, Jimmy, Business Editor … "
Bob added, "Start a pediatrics practice, have two kids, and Lucy was named Teacher of the Year, just last year … "
Jimmy grimaced, "Taking on mortgages, braces … paying for college in your case, guys … Oh, God, we're old!"
"No we're not, Jimmy! How can I be old when I have a six year old daughter?" Lois laughed. "I tell you what, though, that list of accomplishments made me tired. It's getting late; what say we go home?"
"Thank you all for making the anniversary even more special," Clark said graciously, as they all stood to leave.
The returning party found Ellen asleep on the couch, with Sam, Perry, Ellie and Bobby watching a "Star Wars" revival on t.v. Closer inspection discovered Lanie and Angela asleep in Lanie's bed, with Angela in a borrowed nightgown.
"Penny, they look so peaceful," Lois whispered. "Let's just let them sleep and we'll make sure Angela gets home in the morning in time for school, OK?" Penny nodded her head in agreement.
The Wilsons and Olsens collected their remaining sleepy children and, with hugs all around and a few last "Happy Anniversary" wishes, left the Kent household.
"Mom," Lois said gently, shaking Ellen awake. "Thank you so much for staying with the kids tonight. Here, you're barely awake, let Clark drive you home."
"Hummmph. Lois, then he'll be stuck across town. I drove my car." Ellen murmured.
"Ellen, I promise, it won't be a problem," Clark grinned, helping his still fuzzy headed mother-in-law to her feet. "You keep forgetting," he whispered in her ear, "I'm Superman."
"Oh, right. I forgot for a minute, there." Ellen sleepily waved her hand at him. "OK. Clark, drive me home," she ordered, then stopped to kiss Lois. "M.E.'s not home yet. I'll see you this weekend, dear. Sunday, right?"
"Right, Mom. We'll cook up something here, then watch the game," Lois said lightly.
Ellen spun on her heel, "Oh. That reminds me. Clark, there wasn't much, but I put the leftovers away and Sammy and Ellie filled the dishwasher. The roast was wonderful. I'm so glad Lois married someone who can cook … Lord knows, I tried to teach her … "
"Mom. Good night." Lois interrupted, rolling her eyes.
"Good night, dear. Happy Anniversary!" Ellen gathered her things, patted Lois on the cheek, and allowed Clark to escort her to the door.
Clark flew in the back door, waking Killer, who woofed softly in greeting, then promptly went back to sleep. Still in the suit, he grabbed some chilled wine and glasses from the kitchen. Clark did a quick scan of the house, smiling in satisfaction to see M.E. at her computer, busily pulling up information for her report. Sam was snoring softly, nestled in a bundle of bedclothes. In the next room, Lanie and Angela slept quietly, forehead to forehead, though Lanie's thumb had found its way to her mouth. "Thank God for super teeth," Clark thought, recalling Jimmy's comment about Perry's braces.
His eyes literally lit up when he spied Lois in their bedroom. Humming softly to herself, she was brushing her hair and had on the beautiful silver negligee and robe set he had secretly left on their bed before leaving for dinner. Clark swore he could smell her favorite perfume from the kitchen.
His grin got wider as he recognized the tune she was humming, "Fly Me To the Moon." And she called him a hopeless romantic!
Clark made his way up the stairs, stopping briefly at M.E.'s door to softly say, "Good night, M.E. Don't stay up too late."
"I won't, Daddy. 'Night." M.E.'s voice, muffled by the door, sounded distracted.
Lois was eyeing herself critically in their full-length mirror when he entered the room. Setting the glasses and wine on the nightstand, Clark quietly closed the door, spun into the electric blue sleep shorts and robe Lois had given him last Christmas and crossed the room to take Lois in his arms. "Now, there's a beautiful sight! Do you remember where we left off earlier?"
"Sure do. But I think your eyesight is on the fritz. Beautiful? Clark, I have bulges where I never used to have them!"
"Lois, I've told you before and I'll tell you again, until you really, really believe me," he moved behind her, cradling her in his arms and looking at their reflection, "you are beautiful to me … always have been, always will be."
Lois sighed. "Twenty years. I still can't believe that. Oh, honey, I believe that you will always be blind where I'm concerned, but … twenty years. Wow. And with each baby born, it got harder and harder for me to lose all the weight. I know I'm not terrible to look at, but even you have to admit I'm sagging a bit, here and there."
"Where? Here?" Clark asked, kissing her neck, nuzzling his way to her chin. "Or, here?" he asked, running his hands across her stomach and softly stroking her belly. "Or, are you talking about here?" slowly, slowly turning her in his arms and reaching down to encircle her waist with his large hands.
Lois giggled. "All of the above." Lois slowly drew her hands across his back, under his robe, rubbing a delicious pattern lightly with her fingernails.
"Nope. No sags. I swear, I don't feel a single sag. Just years and the children we made together. That only makes you more beautiful." Lois's eyes shone with unshed tears as Clark bent his head to capture her mouth with his.
Lois moaned into the kiss, sending shivers through Clark. "Oh, honey," she breathed against his mouth. "That is such a sweet thing to say."
"Mmmmmm," was the only reply Clark was capable of making, as his hands moved to her shoulders and gently removed her robe. Lois reached for the lapels of Clark's robe, and the two garments slid to the floor creating a puddle of silver and blue silk.
After a time, Clark held Lois nestled snugly in his arms. "Wow, woman, you wear me out!" he softly exclaimed.
"Oh, good," she breathed, "that was my plan."
He chuckled in her ear, "Mission accomplished."
They snuggled awhile longer, his breath becoming steady and slowed. Lois was almost sure he had fallen asleep. Suddenly, he stirred and drew back to gaze into her eyes, a warm, loving gaze, held for minutes as he searched for some answer in her soul.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Well, I was just wondering … " he mused. "If you had the last twenty years to do all over again, is there anything you would want to change?"
"Oh, yes!" Lois surprised him with her quick answer. "Only, you'd have to go back a little further than twenty years to grant my wish."
"OK," he said cautiously. "What would you like to change?"
"I would have said 'yes' immediately, the first time you asked me to marry you. I wouldn't have made us go through three proposals and three weddings before we finally got together. I would have grabbed you and found the nearest Justice of the Peace the first time you asked … and then Lex couldn't have stolen our first wedding … and I would have told Zara and Ching and all of New Krypton to go to blazes … and C.J. would be, oh, probably 20, 21 years old now!" Clark laughed and stopped her babbling the only way he knew how, by kissing her senseless.
After she recovered, somewhat, she gazed at him a moment. "How about you? If you had it to do all over again, what would you change?"
Clark looked at her thoughtfully, took a deep breath, and calmly said, "Lois, there are many things I probably would have done differently if I'd known then what I know now. But the main thing … the main thing is, I would have asked you to marry me the very first time I saw you, in Perry's office. You would have said no, but I wish I had asked you that day and every day until you finally, inevitably, said yes."
"To heck with being best friends first, huh?" she asked, almost shyly.
"I knew from the moment I saw you. I'm sorry it took me so long … "
"Shhh. I agree with you, Clark. If I had it to do all over again, I would … do it … all … over again. Only sooner!"
Author's note: LabRat told me to do this, really, she did! So, if you don't like it, it's all her fault! Of course, if you like it, it's entirely mine! The title is from a "new country" song, very sweet, with the same title. Sorry, I can't remember the artist. Just be grateful you can't hear me singing. <g> BTW, the big guys at Warner Brothers, et. al., own the rights to these characters (except the ones I've invented — but feel free to use them if you like!) and I'm not doing this for profit, just for enjoyment. Will that cover the standard disclaimer statement? Anyway, I hope you like it … or, at least, refrain from throwing rotten vegetables.
Thank you, LabRat, for the proofing, the encouragement, and the fine examples you've given me.
Submitted by LadyBiker@aol.com