By Wendy Richards <email@example.com>
Submitted March 1999
Summary: Picking up soon after the episode "Oedipus Wrecks," Lois and Clark work through their painful memories and finally set things right.
This story was inspired by watching the Aaarrrghhhh <g> for only the second time, which happened to coincide with some excellent discussion on the fanfic list about those five episodes, and a couple of wonderful vignettes from Pam J. The story started buzzing around in my head just before the discussion, but as ideas come from many sources, apologies and grateful thanks to any of the participants who feel that their observations ended up in this piece. The story takes place after 'Oedipus Wrecks', and the 'rebuilding' in the title refers, of course, to rebuilding the 'wreckage'.
The characters in this story are the property of DC Comics, Warner Bros and December 3rd Productions. No infringements of any rights is intended by the writing and submission of this work of fiction.
Comments, as ever, very welcome!
Walking slowly along the road leading to Lois's apartment block, Clark silently asked himself, for about the thousandth time that week, just what almighty powers he and Lois had managed to offend. Surely no two other people could have had such a run of bad luck — no, a disastrous run of catastrophes — as the two of them. They should have been married now, and just back at work after their honeymoon in Hawaii. Instead, they were definitely *not* married, and were still trying to come to terms with the consequences of their wedding-that-wasn't.
It was like something out of a bad soap opera, Clark told himself moodily. Worse even than that laughable moment in Dallas when Bobby had come out of the shower and Pam had realised that the whole of last season had been a dream. If this was a TV show, Clark had grumbled to his parents, no-one would believe it. Lois replaced by a clone before the wedding ceremony, the real Lois kidnapped by Lex Luthor of all people. And it had taken Clark a couple of days to realise that the person he was married to was not who she seemed — he was disgusted at himself for that. And then Lois had told him she didn't love him, and had gone off with Luthor, willingly. And as if all that hadn't been bad enough, when he had finally got her back, she didn't remember anything about him, or the two of them together, and had actually fallen in love with that crazy Deter guy!
Well, it was all over now, and he supposed that he should be happy: Lois was back to normal, she remembered that they were in love, and they could just take up where they left off. That, at least, was how some of their friends, and Lois's parents, saw it. All's well that ends well, and all that.
But it just wasn't as simple as that! Clark kicked an empty tin can, watching with idle curiosity as it shot across the street at about sixty miles an hour. What should have been the happiest day of their lives had been utterly destroyed. And instead, they had to deal with the memory of some very painful events — more so for Clark than Lois, since she had been suffering from amnesia of one form or another during most of the events. Clark wasn't sure that he had recovered from the trauma; and as for Lois, in the two days since she had recovered her memory it was clear that she was still suffering. She tried not to show it; she would turn up for work at the Planet and attempt to behave perfectly normally, but Clark could see the distant, sad expression in her eyes. She talked to him (about work), she laughed with him sometimes, she even still wore his ring, but he could tell she wasn't happy. And for the life of him, he couldn't figure out exactly what was bugging her. Was she angry with *him* for not having done enough to save her? Was she, like him, hurt and sad that after all their preparations they still weren't married?
Clark had been very tempted, once Lois had recovered her memory, to sweep her up into his arms and fly her off to Reno, or Gretna Green, or anywhere else where they could be married quickly. The urge simply to elope was extremely tempting; and Clark suspected that his would-be father-in-law thought that something along those lines was precisely what Clark should do - not that Sam Lane knew about the scooping and flying, of course. But he had decided against that course of action. Lois had been denied the wedding of her dreams, thanks to Lex Luthor's evil schemes, and Clark had no intention of depriving her of her dream wedding a second time. So, when the time was right, he would talk to his parents about arranging a wedding in Smallville. Lois should like that, he thought: she enjoyed visiting Smallville, and she loved his parents. The problem, of course, would be Ellen, who was already in therapy following the fall-out from their last wedding. It didn't help that the day itself had cost a small fortune, as Sam hadn't failed to remind her; he hadn't begrudged spending the money on Lois, but he did very much grudge having spent it on a frog-eating clone.
So they would wait until Clark could arrange, and pay for, another white wedding. Lois would need another dress, he thought; although the beautiful dress she had chosen for their first wedding was still at his apartment, he couldn't imagine that she would want to wear it after it had been worn by Lex's clone. And although Clark had in a strange way grown fond of Clois, as he had christened her, he could understand that Lois might not feel the same way. After all, Clois had taken her fiance away from her, married him, and tried to kill her — and had also told Lex Luthor about Superman's true identity, although Clark wasn't sure that Lois knew that. So far, he had avoided discussing the clone with Lois, but he wasn't sure whether this was a good idea. Perhaps they needed to air the subject.
They should talk about what had happened. Clark knew that in his head, but in his heart he wasn't sure that he wanted to dredge up all of the hurt and pain and suffering — especially considering that, if he was honest with himself, some of that hurt was directed at Lois herself. Oh, he knew that it was unfair of him to blame her in any way, but he had several pictures lodged solidly in his mind. One was of Lois, outside the Ace o' Clubs, telling Clark that she had never really loved him, that seeing Lex again had reminded her of how much he, Lex, had meant to her. Another was of Lois in a wheelchair in the hospital, staring at him in polite disinterest, enquiring, "Excuse me, but do I know you?" A third was of a joyful Lois telling him that she was in love — with Max Deter. And the final image, the one which had nearly driven the poisoned stake through his heart, was of Lois telling the newsroom that she was quitting, to marry Deter and live in Europe with him.
<*How* could she have done that to me?> he demanded silently, agonised.
<How could you have abandoned her?> his conscience retorted. <*You* let Luthor drive off with her. *You* went along with Deter's methods, even though you didn't agree with them. *You* are Superman, and yet you couldn't manage to find her in that underground subway where Luthor was hiding her!>
<Okay, so I'm not perfect either> Clark admitted. <But I am allowed to feel hurt too, aren't I? It's not as if I'm actually going to say any of this to Lois!>
But that was perhaps his problem, Clark reflected. Oh, it was truly wonderful to have Lois back. He had been so relieved when she had regained her memory, and had remembered all that they had been to each other. If this had been a work of fiction, a caption would have flashed up to say 'And they all lived happily ever after.' But life just was not as simple as that. Lois was introspective and clearly unhappy. And Clark? Well, he was happier than he had been a week ago, that was for sure, he acknowledged. But he was not *happy*. He had too much pent-up emotion trapped inside, too many unresolved issues he had been unable to put out of his mind. He *needed* to be able to talk about all this with Lois, but he wasn't sure that he could — or even if she was willing to. She certainly hadn't seemed to want to talk so far.
Where were he and Lois going from here?
He hurried up the steps to her apartment, pausing outside the door. Jimmy had told him that Lois had left early, pleading a headache; with the head injuries she had suffered lately, no-one was willing to take any chances with her health, and so Perry had encouraged her to go home and rest. The apartment was silent; Clark paused, and listened with his super-hearing. He could detect her heartbeat, but it was agitated. Something was wrong.
He quickly produced his key and let himself in. The room was in darkness, but his eyes quickly adjusted to the lack of light. Lois was sitting on one of the sofas, her head in her hands. Her shoulders were shaking, and he could now hear ragged sobs.
He crossed the room in an instant, and was on the sofa next to her, his arms wrapped tightly around her, her head held against his chest.
"Lois? Lois, honey, talk to me. Please," he murmured, his heart feeling as if it was being ripped in two by her sobs. "Tell me what's wrong."
<What's wrong?> Lois thought incredulously. <You of all people must know what's wrong…> Clark *had* to know, she thought… Although she had recovered her memory, during the short time since remembering the details of their relationship she had also had to assimilate a lot of unpleasant facts about what had gone on since their wedding day. She now remembered being kidnapped and held prisoner by Lex, and the horror of discovering that Clark had married a clone of herself. No matter how much she tried to reason that Clark could not have known about the swap, she couldn't silence the tiny voice inside her head which suggested that his marriage to the clone was a betrayal of *her*, Lois.
She pulled slightly away from Clark, staring blankly at some point in the distance. How could he not understand the nature of the thoughts which were torturing her… She excused her act of distancing herself by reaching across to switch on a table-lamp.
Clark was taken aback at Lois's putting distance between them, but he was determined not to allow her to drop the subject. They *needed* to talk, to put this whole episode behind them. He took a deep breath. "Lois, you know I love you more than anything in this world, and it just kills me to see you this upset. Please, can we talk about this? I know the last few weeks have been a nightmare…"
She turned to face him, noticing the tension in his face, the little lines of strain around his mouth and eyes which had not been there a few weeks earlier. Almost unconsciously, she reached out a hand and traced the line of his lips with her index finger. His own hand came up and held hers gently against his face, and he kissed her finger softly.
She blinked away the remaining tears, and forced herself to focus. "Clark… it's just so hard to come to terms with it all… I mean, that was supposed to be the happiest day of my life, and I was kidnapped by the man I hated most in all the world, and tortured, and…" She trailed off, swallowing and looking close to tears again. Clark determinedly put his arm around her shoulders again.
"Lois, it was horrible, I know, and believe me, I wanted to kill Luthor for what he did to you — forget my 'ethics', this was about you. But… but, Lois, we have to try to put it behind us and move on."
Lois nodded, and breathed deeply in an attempt to regain her composure. "I know. It's just… Clark, it's not that simple! Lex kidnapped me and all that was horrible, but then there was that clone who tried to kill me, and I lost my memory, and I got taken in by that awful Deter man. And now everyone thinks I should be okay and just getting on with my life, but my mom's in therapy again and is barely speaking to me, Perry acts like he's walking on eggshells around me, everyone else at work looks at me weirdly, and you… well, you've barely let me out of your sight since I got my memory back!"
Clark blinked, wondering whether Lois was suggesting that he was being over-protective — or was she trying to say that she simply didn't want him around? "Lois, I spent days not knowing where you were, not knowing if I'd ever see you again. Then when I got you back you didn't know who I was and I had to stand back and let Deter tell me I couldn't see you. Is it any wonder I want to spend as much time with you as I can?"
"Yeah, I know," Lois whispered. "It's just… I'm finding all this really difficult. Even now… this apartment… I never expected to be living here now, still! Look around, Clark — most of my stuff is still packed up, ready to be taken across to your place! We should have been married and living together now, not… not in this weird limbo."
"Lois, we *will* be married." Clark spoke reassuringly, in a low but firm voice. "Let's get over all this mess, and we'll arrange our own wedding, our own way. No white doves, or Swiss bell-ringers, just whatever kind of wedding *we* want. We'll get you a new dress, and this time we'll make sure Lucy's there to be your maid of honour — I'll fly her there myself if I need to. We *will* get married. I can't think of anything else I want more."
<Then why don't you fly me off to Vegas or Reno or somewhere, and let's just do it?> Lois wondered agitatedly. <I don't care about fuss, or dresses, or guests — we just need each other. I don't even care if it's some tacky Elvis Chapel of Love!>
But she got to her feet and paced to the other side of the room, wrapping her arms around herself, hugging her waist. "Clark, it's not as simple as that. Of course I want us to be married. But I'm really having a hard time coming to terms with everything that's happened."
He threw out an arm in her direction, in unspoken appeal. "Lois, I know it's been tough. It wasn't a picnic for me either, I promise you! But we can talk about it, and — "
Lois's eyebrows shot up. "What do you mean, it wasn't a picnic for you? You weren't the one who thought Lex was going to kill you — all right, I know that quantum disrupter did hurt you. But he was going to have me transferred into another body! And then Deter…"
"Lois, I *lost* you!" Clark protested. "And then, when I found you, you told me you didn't love me, that you'd realised you preferred Luthor!"
Lois winced as if in pain. "Clark, you *had* to have known that he'd done something to make me say that! You're Superman — why couldn't you have stopped him taking me away?" She crossed to the other sofa and collapsed onto it, shaking with reaction.
Clark inhaled sharply and stared at her in disbelief. "Lois, what could I have done? I *knew* he must have had some hold over you, but all I could hear was your voice telling me you didn't love me! I felt…" his voice dropped to a whisper, "I felt like I wanted to die."
Lois remained silent; Clark, once he had started, felt that he needed to get his hurt out into the open. "Lois, I know that you'd lost your memory. But that hurt me so much… and later, when I found you and Luthor in the subway, for a moment I thought you were actually going to shoot me with that disrupter. You didn't, and I managed to get you out of there. But then, in the hospital, you stared at me and told me you didn't know who the hell I was." He paused, then resumed. "Have you any idea how I felt when I had to try to get to know you all over again, with Deter telling me when I could and couldn't visit? When you told me you were in love with *him*? It felt like you'd taken a chunk of Kryptonite and cut out my heart with it."
Listening to Clark's words, Lois flinched as the accusations sank in. She supposed, in a way, he was entitled to feel hurt… but she couldn't help what had happened. She raised her head and faced him. "Clark, I'd lost my memory — what was I supposed to do? You could have got around Deter - you're Superman, for heaven's sake! If you guessed he was up to no good, as you say, why did you leave me there? And I still can't believe you let Lex take me." She stopped, wringing her hands. "But that's not all, Clark. Just how long did it take you to realise that… that creature wasn't me?"
Now it was Clark's turn to flinch. "Lois, it wasn't obvious…"
"Umm… a couple of days."
Lois flinched visibly, and appeared to shrink into her seat. She then faced Clark again with an angry expression, and spoke tensely. "Clark, when I saw her, she didn't even *look* like me — those clothes she was wearing, her make-up, the way she did her hair, the way she spoke, even… She was completely different!"
"Yes," Clark agreed. "But that didn't happen all at once — she… she went shopping…" <And ran up an enormous credit card bill> he remembered. <Mostly my cards, but she had one of Lois's as well… something else to deal with. She damn nearly bankrupted me!>
"Clark, you were… with her, you *kissed* her — at least I assume you did?" Lois retorted. "How could you not have known?"
Clark hung his head. "I know, Lois, and once I figured it out I was kicking myself for not having seen it. Sure, I kissed her — I thought she was you!"
Shaking her head, Lois replied, "You remember when you were cloned? I thought the clone was you at first, but as soon as he kissed me I knew he was a fake. And I barely knew you then!"
Clark nodded; he remembered the occasion. "I know, Lois. Actually, it wasn't actually kissing which gave it away — she didn't actually seem to want to kiss me much. It made me wonder what was wrong… and the weird behaviour, and the clothes… I just gradually realised that the reason she didn't seem like you was that she… wasn't… you."
Watching Clark's expression, Lois could see the pain and the self-disgust in his eyes. He had removed his glasses a moment or two before, and his eyes were suspiciously bright. She was seriously tempted to go over and sit beside him; but there was still a major unresolved issue lying between them.
"Clark, I can understand, and forgive you, for all the rest — you didn't know what was going on, and I know that my… past history… with Lex probably made it easy for him to talk you into believing I wanted to go with him But… there's something else.. I'm not sure I can put behind me so easily."
He watched her carefully. "Lois, what is it? You know I'll do anything I can…"
She sat with her head bent, her brown eyes staring at her engagement ring as she twisted it around on her finger. "It's… well, Clark, we *waited* - and it was so darn hard at times when all we wanted was to be together, to rip each other's clothes off and make love… and it would have been your first time… and because of that *damn* clone we've lost that for ever!"
<So *that's* it!> Clark thought with relief. "Lois, I didn't… I mean, it didn't happen!"
Her head jerked up and she stared at him. "You didn't sleep with her?"
"I… well, we shared a bed, but nothing happened." <But not because you didn't want it to> his conscience reminded him. <*She* didn't!>
"You mean even then you suspected something wasn't right?" Lois began to feel as if things might be all right. Clark hadn't slept with the clone, he'd been aware very early on that there was something weird about her.
"Errr… no, not then," Clark confessed. He *had* to be honest about this if their relationship was to survive, he believed. "No — uh, she fell asleep. And I… well, I didn't know what to expect. I mean, the next morning I was confused, wondering whether you… she… had gone off me or something… I mean, I've never been married before, or lived with someone… I thought, okay, she *could* be tired, it was a long day… but then she wasn't interested in talking about it, or planning — and she even cancelled Hawaii." He met Lois's eyes. "It was all so — confusing, I just didn't know what was happening. And call me stupid, but I just didn't figure out immediately that she was a fake."
<I would have> Lois told herself silently. But she recognised that no good would come of saying those words aloud. It was clear that Clark already felt bad enough about the situation, that he had told himself dozens, probably hundreds of times, that he should have realised earlier. She would achieve nothing by making him feel worse than he already did. And realising that he had not slept with her clone had lifted a huge weight from her mind.
Clark moved suddenly, and dropped to his knees in front of Lois. "Lois… my love, I am so terribly sorry about everything. You don't know how many times I've told myself I should have been able to find you, I should never have let you out of my sight at the church, I should never have let Deter get within a million miles of you…"
Lois stretched out her hand and cupped his cheek. "But you can't run my life for me, sweetheart. I love you, Clark, but you have to learn and understand that you can't protect me all the time. Sometimes things are going to happen to me that you can't prevent, and you have to stop beating yourself up about it."
He gave her a wry smile, covering her small hand with his larger one. "Sure, I know. Does that mean you're going to beat me up each time for not taking better care of you?"
She returned his smile. "No, of course not. And I'm sorry I did now… it's just the stress of it all. Over the past couple of days, I kept thinking what if this, or that, had happened… but there's no point in trying to rewrite history. It happened." She inhaled deeply, then continued. "I guess what was really bothering me, underneath it all, wasn't missing our special day, or even not being married now — but wondering whether you'd slept with *her*, and hating it that it bothered me. I mean, I *knew* you thought she was me, so I couldn't have blamed you if you had."
<I'd have hated it if you'd slept with Luthor while he had you convinced that you were his woman, Lois> Clark thought, but didn't say the words. Instead, he kissed her palm and spoke softly, "*I'd* have blamed myself if I had. I'm just glad that that end of things worked out the way they did."
"Anyway," Lois continued, "I've just realised that this is stupid, us telling each other what we should have done differently. And you — you shouldn't be apologising to me for *anything*. This wasn't your fault, it was Lex Luthor's, and he's the one we should be directing our anger at."
"Except that he's dead," Clark observed dryly. "Let's hope he stays dead this time…"
Scooping Lois up into his arms, he seated himself on the sofa with her on his lap. "Lois, this has been probably the worst time we've had to go through. But it's over, and we're still together, and I want us to get married just as soon as we can arrange it. I need to know if that's what you want too?"
Lois's face lit up. "Yes, please."
Clark's expression softened. "How would you like to get married in Smallville?"
The delight in Lois's expression was clear. "Oh, Clark, I'd love it!"
"Then that's what we'll do," Clark stated. "I'll talk to my folks in a while — they'll get the church and the flowers organised, and once they give us a date we'll get Perry to give us the time off. I don't think there'll be a problem there!" He hesitated. "Lois, what about your mom?"
She shrugged. "She won't be ecstatic, but then I don't know whether anything would please her after this debacle. She and Dad can come if they want."
"Then I'll get onto it. Any preference as to a date?"
"As soon as possible, Clark. Please," Lois replied quickly. <Then we can really put this whole mess behind us>
Clark landed silently in the back yard of the Kent farmhouse in Smallville, setting Lois gently on her feet as he did so. It had been a hectic two weeks, he thought, but it was finally time; it was their wedding day.
He had spent the last couple of weeks arranging their time off, taking Lois's belongings to his apartment, and flying to Smallville for brief visits so that he could help his parents sort out wedding arrangements. Lois had been busy re-packing her things, booking flight tickets for her parents and Lucy, and taking Clois's purchases back to the shops and arranging refunds. Clark had been highly impressed at Lois's activities in this regard: he almost never returned anything he bought, even if it was faulty, and so seeing Lois in action demanding refunds for perfectly good items of apparel was breathtaking. Still, he mused, at least he no longer had any financial worries. She had also bought herself a new wedding dress; he hadn't been allowed to see it, even though he had flown it to Smallville himself. Lois had made him promise not to look inside the protective cover, threatening to get a lead-lined cover for it if he failed to give his word.
Martha and Jonathan hurried out to welcome them, cutting off Clark's reflections; they were both hugged and drawn into the kitchen.
"Now you don't have much time to get ready," Martha reminded them. "The minister is expecting us at the church in just over an hour. Lois, you can get ready in our room — Lucy's due over from the hotel any minute."
Lois grinned at Clark on her way towards the stairs. "No peeking, Flyboy!"
He leered at her. "Superman doesn't 'peek', Lois!"
"*Superman* may not, but I know *Clark* does," Lois retorted. "Just don't this time!"
He was standing beside her in an instant. "I love you, Lois." His lips claimed hers briefly in a warm, intimate kiss. "See you in church… don't be late."
She curved her palm around his jawbone. "It's the bride's prerogative to be late… but I have every intention of being there, honey. Don't worry."
Clark relaxed a little, reaching out to draw her body against his. "Mind if I X-ray your ankle as you walk down the aisle?" he murmured.
Lois, understanding what had prompted her fiance's enquiry, smiled. "Even better — I'll kiss you before we exchange vows."
Gazing at her reflection in the mirror as she applied her make-up, Lois reflected on the thought that this was now the third wedding she was preparing herself for. The first, when she almost married Lex Luthor, she usually tried to block from her mind. In many ways, that should have been the perfect wedding. No expense had been spared: the dress, the flowers, the jewellery Lex had given her the day before the ceremony, and even the Archbishop of Metropolis to perform the ceremony. And yet she had known that the wedding was far from perfect. She had realised in time that she was preparing to marry the wrong man.
Then there had been her wedding to Clark. That, too, had been carefully planned and no expense spared on the many little details which should have made the day perfect. And yet it also had not been right. They had made the mistake of allowing Lois's mother and her wedding co-ordinator to take over, and as a result some aspects of the occasion had been taken out of Lois and Clark's hands. Lois had been aware that some things were spiralling out of control — and Clark, in his typically patient way, had made a small protest, but ultimately had given way. <Because he thought it would please me> Lois thought now, smiling wryly. <Clark would do almost *anything* if he thought it would please me. How could I ever have thought that he didn't care?>
<Because he kept disappearing off to be Superman — and didn't tell me> she reminded herself. But there had been good reasons for that; and she had now completely come to terms with Clark's uniqueness, his Kryptonian heritage. For all that he was an alien from outer space, he was also very human in so many ways: he was emotionally vulnerable despite his physical invulnerability, he had an infinite capacity for caring about people, and he had a deep-seated need to belong. And he had chosen to belong to her… Lois felt immensely privileged as she dwelt upon that fact. The strongest, most powerful man on earth wanted *her*. And she would do her very best to be worthy of him.
And this wedding today… it would be perfect in every way. Martha and Jonathan had taken care of the arrangements with the church; a friend of Martha's in Smallville town had done the flowers; Martha herself had baked and decorated the wedding cake; and the reception was going to be held in Smallville Park, in the town itself. The weather was warm, absolutely perfect for a barbeque and line-dancing; Lois was looking forward to doing another tush-push with Clark.
Lois turned her head, to see her sister pointing anxiously at her watch.
"It's almost time to go, Lois. You look… you look absolutely beautiful!" Lucy, dressed in the pale blue sheath they had chosen for her maid of honour's dress, and with her hair in a stylish French pleat, looked pretty stunning herself, Lois thought. It was *so* good to have Lucy here this time.
"Doesn't she look beautiful, Mom?" Lucy appealed to Ellen, who was seated on the large double bed, watching her daughters prepare for the wedding. Ellen dabbed her eyes carefully with a linen handkerchief.
"Stand up, Lois, let me look at you properly." Lois stood, allowing the watered silk dress to fall in folds around her legs. The dress was in a simpler style than the one she had chosen for their original wedding, but she had fallen in love with it. It had a tight bodice with a scooped neckline, flaring out into a full skirt from the waist downwards. Long, pointed sleeves and a fine veil completed the outfit. Her hair had been styled simply, falling softly to frame her face, and the make-up was subtle although she wore a bright shade of lipstick which she knew Clark liked.
A tap on the door interrupted Ellen before she could start fussing too much, to Lois's relief; Jonathan called out to say that he and Clark were just leaving for the church and that Sam was downstairs with Martha. Lois quickly suggested that they should go down, since Ellen and Lucy would need to leave before long.
In the car on the way into town, Clark was doing his best to stop his hands from shaking. Jonathan glanced at his son and threw him an amused smile.
"Son, you're even more nervous than you were last time! What's got into you?"
"Oh, I don't know, Dad… I've really been looking forward to this, to having Lois as my wife at last. I mean, after everything we've been through, we deserve to be together!"
"I'll say you do, son. You've had a truly terrible time. But nothing is going to go wrong this time." As he spoke, Jonathan was surreptitiously crossing his fingers. Everything *had* to be right this time…
Clark fell silent, willing his mind to empty itself of memories of those bleak few weeks. This time, everything would be perfect. The ceremony itself would be beautiful; he knew the church in Smallville, having attended there with his parents as he was growing up. Many of his childhood friends would be there: Rachel, now the sheriff, with her husband; Lana and her fiance, some of the guys who had been on the ball team with him, Wayne Irig and his family. And Jimmy had flown out from Metropolis to reprise his role as Clark's best man — he should be waiting at the church, along with Perry, who was acting as an usher. Clark had been delighted that both men had been able to come for the wedding; he and Lois had been afraid that Perry would be reluctant to leave the Planet for even a day in order to attend.
The direction of his thought changed, and he saw Lois in his mind's eye. Lois… his fiancee, soon, at last, to be his wife. It had been a very long road from that first meeting in Perry White's office to today: almost three years. And yet Clark had known in that first instant of meeting Lois Lane that she was the woman he wanted to spend his life with. It had taken him some time to persuade her, of course; he still remembered the first of her attempts to put him off.
<Don't fall for me, Farmboy, I don't have time for it>
And yet only a matter of days later she had accepted an invitation to dinner — only to refuse again as she'd remembered a dinner date with Lex Luthor. Luthor… the man she had gone on to become engaged to. That had been another bleak period in Clark's past, he ruefully reflected now… but he had recovered from that long since, and now even admitted that he had been in large part to blame for Lois's actions during that period. If he, as Clark, hadn't behaved like a spoilt, jealous kid; if he, as Superman, had actually told Lois some of what he knew of Luthor's activities…
But that was all over, and then there had been the delight of knowing that he was Lois's best friend in all of the world. Having her invite him to be her date at the Kerth Award ceremony — only to find that the tables were turned and instead he was asking her to be *his* date… Lois throwing herself into his arms after she had discovered that he wasn't dead after all… Lois telling Superman that there was nothing she wouldn't do for Clark… Lois agreeing to go on a date with him… their first kiss, which had stirred him in a way no experience had ever before done, better even than flying… Lois choosing *him* over Scardino and Superman… Lois offering her life for his parents', because she wanted to help him… Lois telling him that she knew he was Superman…
Yes, he thought now with a delighted grin, Lois had worked it all out for herself. While he had still been struggling with working out how best to tell her — and when — and being desperate to tell her that he was so overwhelmingly in love with her, his brilliant little tornado had figured out his disguise. And while he was still struggling with the ramifications of Lois knowing, and even — oh, so stupid — deciding that he had to give her up for her own safety, she was busy figuring him out yet again, understanding his vulnerabilities, being strong where he was weak. While he was still groping his way through the difficulties and pitfalls of living two lives, she was busy assembling the real Clark Kent, in her mind and in their lives. Lane and Kent, the lest team in town… in every way. Even Superman needed Lois Lane.
And in less than an hour, she would be his wife. Their rings were in his pocket; his was the same ring they had chosen before the previous ceremony, but they had selected a new one, matching his, for Lois. He had, without telling her, engraved hers inside using his laser vision: he had written, 'Forever… because it just is'. He hoped — no, he knew — that she would remember the words.
His attention was recalled to the present as the car slowed and drew to a halt outside the small clapboard church. Jimmy and Perry stood outside in their morning suits, matches to Clark's and Jonathan's; they greeted him and joined the Kent men as they went inside to speak to the minister.
"Lois, honey, it's time for us to leave now." As she spoke, Martha Kent gave her soon-to-be daughter-in-law a gentle hug, her eyes suspiciously bright. She had been very tempted, earlier, to join the Lane women as Lucy helped Lois to get dressed, but had tactfully decided that Ellen should be allowed to have her moment as mother of the bride. After all, so much of the organisation of the ceremony had been done by the groom's parents, rather than the bride's.
Lois hugged Martha in return, then turned to Ellen. "Mom — thank you for being here. I'm so glad you and Daddy could make it."
"What, miss my little girl's wedding?" Sam's voice was over-cheerful, Martha suspected deliberately so in order to hide his own emotional reaction to the day. Ellen hugged her daughter, then hustled Lucy out to the car. Lois was then left alone with her father.
"Well, Princess, we have about five minutes, I guess," Sam volunteered after a moment of silence. "You still want to go through with this?"
Lois stared at her father, ready to launch into a passionate defence of Clark if Sam even attempted to criticise him. But Sam's expression was, for once, concerned and caring; and Lois found herself softening. On other occasions she might have demanded why Sam was deciding all of a sudden to play the loving father when there hadn't been much evidence of that as she was growing up. But today was different; this was her wedding day and she wanted nothing to spoil it. Besides… it was always possible that both Sam and Ellen were really making an effort, for her sake. They hadn't argued once since arriving at the farmhouse.
So she gave her father a brilliant smile. "Absolutely. I love Clark, and I can't wait to marry him. And after… last time… I intend to make sure everything is perfect today."
"It will be, sweetheart — I promise," Sam replied, crossing his fingers and hoping that it would be.
Clark stood with Jimmy at the front of the aisle, wondering whether he could check his watch again without the other man thinking he was panicking. Surely it was almost five minutes past the hour? Where was Lois?
The organ was playing Handel's 'Sheep May Safely Graze' in the background. The church was almost full; besides close friends and family of the bride and groom, most of Smallville had turned out to see the son of two of the town's most popular residents tie the knot. Clark knew without turning to look that his parents were in the seat just behind and to his right; Ellen and Lucy Lane waited just outside the church, and Perry had engaged Wayne Irig in conversation — something about the influence of country music on Elvis's work, from the snippets Clark had overheard. Dr Klein was sitting behind Martha, who was making reassuring noises as the scientist worried about what his research staff were doing with his projects in his absence.
Clark stole another surreptitious glance at his watch.
"Hey, CK! Relax!" Jimmy hissed. "It's the bride's prerogative to be late, and it' s only a couple of minutes anyway. Lois will be here — you know she will!"
Clark grunted, only half convinced. <Yeah — barring being kidnapped by an evil psychopath, or poisoned, or brainwashed or…>
Suddenly his super-hearing kicked in. A car had arrived; he focused his hearing, at the same time inwardly cursing Jimmy, who appeared to think that he was fulfilling his best man duties by chattering endlessly in an attempt to take Clark's mind off his bride. Was that the rustling of a dress? A veil being pulled over Lois's head? Clark couldn't tell.
Yes! That was Sam's voice, encouraging Lois to take his arm so that he could help her up the steps. She was here!
He forced himself not to turn around as a small commotion came from the entrance; Ellen was fussing around Lois, straightening the skirt of her dress and pulling at the veil before pronouncing herself satisified and hurrying up the aisle to her seat on Clark's left. As the organist struck up Lohengrin's Bridal March, Clark thought he could detect Lucy's footsteps, then two others, one of which was definitely Lois.
He allowed himself to steal one quick glance over his shoulder. Lois was gliding up the aisle on her father's arm, towards him. He hesitated, then lowered his head so that he could see over the rim of his glasses. One quick X-ray, and he allowed himself to relax.
<I'm getting paranoid!> he told himself. <*Nothing* is going to go wrong this time!>
As Lois reached Clark's side, Sam released her arm and stood to her side. Clark allowed himself to turn and look properly at his bride-to-be; even despite the veil, she looked radiant, he thought. Lois was always beautiful to him, but here, at this moment… He swallowed, feeling a lump in his throat. Suddenly, in a lightening-fast movement, Lois lifted up her veil and leaned up towards Clark, kissing him swiftly before composing herself to face the minister. Under her breath, she whispered so softly that Clark needed his super-hearing to catch her words, "Now you *know* it's me."
The ceremony passed in a blur for Clark; he was vaguely conscious of Sam 'giving' Lois to him, of the minister reading prayers and leading the singing. Then it was time; they were exchanging vows. Gazing at Lois, he repeated in a low, husky voice, the solemn promises to love, honour and cherish her, in sickness and in health, "till death us do part."
Lois swallowed; that husky tone of Clark's always made her feel emotional. His deep love for her was so obvious in his eyes, and in his voice as he recited his vows. Raising her eyes to his, she was oblivious to the congregation as she responded, making her own promise to love, honour and cherish him.
Then the rings were produced and blessed: Clark took Lois's small hand in his and gently slid her ring onto her third finger. His voice a caress, he held Lois's gaze and repeated the traditional liturgy, "With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow." It was the second time Clark had repeated those words as part of a wedding ceremony; he couldn't help a flash of deja-vu as he remembered sliding the ring onto Clois's finger only a little over a month previously. Of course, at the time he had thought he was marrying Lois, and it had been the happiest moment of his life; then had come the pit of despair once he had discovered that Lois had never made it to the wedding ceremony.
<*This* time it is real>he assured himself. <This is Lois; I love her; and we are being married>. He allowed himself to relax as she smiled at him before reaching for his ring and taking his hand in hers. She had a little trouble sliding the ring onto his finger at first, and as she struggled she emitted a silvery laugh. Lucy and Jimmy, watching from either side, caught each other's eye and grinned.
Then she had succeeded, and she was gazing up at Clark as she repeated the same words as he had spoken a few moments earlier. "With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly good I thee endow."
The minister placed Lois's left hand over Clark's, held their joined hands high, and proclaimed, "I now pronounce you husband and wife. What God has joined together, let no-one put asunder."
As the minister released their hands, Clark released a breath he hadn't realised he had been holding. They had done it! — they were married. Apart from the minor technicality of signing the register to fulfil the requirements of the State of Kansas, of course, but that wouldn't take long. Lois was his wife… at long last. Before he could react, she had thrown back her veil and was reaching up to kiss him.
The register signed, with Jimmy and Lucy as witnesses, Lois and Clark walked back down the aisle arm in arm, as husband and wife. Friends and family reached out to congratulate them and cameras flashed, but the couple barely noticed.
"We're really done it, Clark!" Lois breathed.
"Yeah, I know," he murmured happily. "You know, right up until the moment you were standing beside me in front of the altar, I was still afraid something was going to go wrong."
She squeezed his arm. "Yeah — I saw you X-ray my ankle, you cheat!" she whispered, conscious of their possible audience.
He smiled ruefully. "Sorry — I couldn't help myself." He glanced down at the ring on his finger; after the ceremony with the clone he had only worn it for two days. He had removed it once he had realised that his 'wife' was not who he had believed her to be, and had kept it in a drawer since then. It seemed right on his finger now.
They emerged from the church into the bright sunlight, to be showered with confetti and rice.
"Nice to see you haven't forgotten how to tush-push," Clark laughed later as they participated enthusiastically in the line-dancing.
"Hey! I was always as good as you were," Lois protested. "Your problem is you just don't think city people know anything about the country."
"Well, you sure gave a great impression of understanding the country, Lois," he teased her. "You were positive half the men were cross-dressers, and you couldn't believe anyone had heard of a fax!"
"I still had to look after you," she pointed out, unabashed. "I mean, you didn't even know what to do when you got a paper cut!"
Clark held her tightly against him, taking advantage of the movements of the dance to whisper in her ear, "I'd never had a paper cut before. But you sure liked watching me suck it!"
Not remotely embarrassed, Lois grinned. "Yep, I did. *Very* sexy!"
"So are you, my beautiful wife," Clark breathed in a low, husky voice. "And I look forward to showing you how sexy you are later tonight!"
"Mmmm, me too" she murmured. They left the impromptu dance-floor and strolled arm-in-arm towards the edge of the clearing. As they walked, Clark nudged Lois and gestured back towards the dancers.
"Look — your mom and dad. Looks like they're having a good time."
Lois's jaw dropped; Sam and Ellen were ignoring the traditional dance steps and were in each other's arms, dancing cheek to cheek. She marvelled at the sight: not only were they not arguing, they actually seemed to be enjoying each other's company. Her attention was caught by a flash of pale blue a few feet away, and she looked away from her parents to see Lucy being twirled around by Jimmy.
She heard Clark laugh, and knew that he had also spotted the younger couple. He leaned towards her and murmured, "Wonder whether they're getting to know each other better than they did all those years ago?"
Lois laughed in return. "Could we stand it, Clark? I mean, Lucy would be on the phone to me all the time, and you'd have Jimmy asking for advice… and if they had an argument, we wouldn't know whose side to take!"
"We wouldn't take sides, we'd just try to get them back together," Clark suggested.
"Superman, the mediator!" Lois giggled. "I suppose all that time you put in helping to negotiate peace treaties might come in handy…"
They strolled into the wooded area at the edge of the park, pausing to exchange long, loving and increasingly passionate kisses. Clark found himself becoming more and more impatient, and with a groan raised his head from Lois's. "Do we have to stay much longer?"
"I was just wondering that myself," she murmured, giving him a mischievous glance from under lowered eyelashes. His mouth twitched, and he growled in response.
"I should just scoop you up now and fly away with you — never mind about all those guests!"
"Well, where *are* we going tonight?" Lois demanded.
He grinned, his white teeth flashing in the semi-darkness. "Wait and see." He slung his arm about her shoulders and urged her on. "Come on — let's say our goodbyes quickly and get out of here."
It seemed hours later by the time they had hugged and kissed everyone who wanted to wish them well, but finally Clark was behind the wheel of his father's truck; Jonathan and Martha would be driven back to the farmhouse by Wayne Irig. Once at his parents' home, he swept Lois into his arms and into the house. "We're leaving as soon as you've got changed," he instructed.
"Leaving? For where?" Lois grumbled, but secretly she was enjoying the feeling of being surprised. It had been a wonderful day so far, and if whatever Clark had planned for the evening was even half as good, she would be blissfully happy. Of course, it couldn't help but be special… their first night together as husband and wife, their first time making love…
"So just *where* are we going?" Lois demanded for about the fourth time during the flight. Clark ignored her, enjoying the sensation of holding her body close to his as he flew them both, reminding himself over and over that she was his wife.
Some minutes later, he took pity on her and informed her that they would be landing shortly. Lois glanced down and saw a sandy beach, and a glorious sunset. "Where are we?" she asked, enthralled.
He smiled, enjoying her reaction. "A tiny island in the Caribbean. It's pretty much off the beaten track, and it's also very exclusive. We've got a villa here for a week."
"Yep." Clark couldn't keep the details to himself any longer. "I had a word with the travel editor; told him I wanted to take you somewhere really special, where there weren't going to be hordes of tourists. He told me about this island. He said the only drawback was that we wouldn't be able to fly here, that we'd need to be taken across by boat from another island."
"But he didn't reckon with Superman Airways," Lois giggled.
"Well, there is always that advantage," Clark agreed, making a gentle landing in the midst of a clump of palm trees. No-one seemed to be around; first checking with his super-hearing, he spun back into his jeans and T-shirt. "Our luggage is already here — I flew that over this morning and checked us in before I took us to Smallville." He produced a key from his pocket. "Ready to start our honeymoon, my beautiful wife?"
Lois grabbed his hand. "Lead on, my handsome and very thoughtful husband!"
The villa was bright, airy and air-conditioned, and backed onto the beach; however, neither of them paid any attention to such details. Clark swept Lois off her feet and carried her inside, straight through the living-room and into the bedroom. He lowered her, allowing her body to slide against his. She reached up her arms to embrace his neck, pulling his head down to hers for a passionate kiss.
"Clark… we've waited long enough," she whispered against his mouth. "Make love to me, please."
Clark swallowed. He so desperately wanted to make love to his beautiful, talented wife. "Yeah." Wrapping his arms around her waist, he floated them both a few inches off the floor, and began to waltz her around the room, his hands roaming freely over her body as she responded gladly to his touch.
Closing her eyes, Lois remembered a scene from a long time ago. <That's not dancing… *This* is dancing…> She allowed one hand to trail inside the collar of Clark's shirt, pressing her lower body against his.
"I need you," she whispered to him."
"And I need you. I will always need you," he replied. "No matter what happens, no matter what we do, I will love you forever."
<My love is forever because… because it just is> The words came back to Lois as if Clark had spoken them aloud. She pulled her head back and gazed into his eyes.
"I hear you've been looking for me," she murmured.
"All my life," he replied.
Their lips met again in a long, passionate kiss; Clark floated them both over to the bed and lowered Lois gently beneath him. This was the moment he had been waiting for; they would finally be united in the physical expression of their love. All of their courtship had been leading up to this; the wedding ceremony itself, in which each had promised to worship the other with their body, had also foreshadowed this union. In that moment, he was glad they had waited; it would make their wedding night so much more perfect.
Lois reached for her husband, her need for him making her impatient. She had wanted to wait to make love, even though at times the waiting had nearly driven both of them insane. But now, at last, the time had come, and it felt *right*.
They made love, bathed in the moonlight which was visible through the window, renewing the vows they had earlier made in the unspoken promise of their physical love for each other. As Lois fell asleep at last in his arms, Clark remembered a long-ago conversation with his father, when he'd spoken of his need for a job, a desire to belong, and his need for a special woman to love.
As he listened to Lois's heartbeat, he knew that he had finally been given everything he needed.