Author: Deadly Chakram PM
They say that the first year of marriage is the hardest. No statement is ever truer than when Kal-El, Prince of Krypton is forced into a marriage that he never knew about. An alternate universe story.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Chapters: 21 - Words: 122,259 - Reviews: 35 - Favs: 16 - Follows: 10 - Updated: 05-18-12 - Published: 03-15-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7928568
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Where are you?"
"Down in Kel's room, trying to get him ready."
"Still?" Lois asked, sounding amused, even in her impatience. "We have to be downstairs in twenty minutes."
"I know," Kal called back, sighing. "Try explaining that to our son."
Kal heard Lois' light footsteps coming closer as she made her way down the hall. He tried once more to get the shirt he was holding onto his squirming, protesting two and a half year old son. But the boy wasn't having any of it. It had been all Kal could do to wrestle his son into his tiny pants and shoes.
"Come on, please?" Kal pleaded with his child.
"Noooooo! I want mooooommmmmmy!" Kel wailed around the drool-covered fingers that were shoved into his mouth.
Kal sighed, feeling all but defeated. Kel could be just as stubborn as his mother, when he wanted to be. And today, apparently, he wanted to be stubborn. Normally, the prince didn't mind it. But today, he just didn't have the time. He needed Kel to cooperate. Kal looked helplessly at Lois as she strode into the room, shoeless and still putting on one of her earrings.
"Help me," Kal pleaded.
Lois chuckled at the sight of her husband. He was on his knees, one strong arm wrapped around the waist of their son, while the child thrashed and squirmed, drool dripping down the hand that was half-shoved into his mouth. She laughed even harder at the look of absolute desperation on Kal's face. The man could broker peace between feuding lords - she had seen that first-hand on numerous occasions - but he was totally lost when it came time to persuade an unwilling child away from the dangerous edge of falling into a full-blown tantrum.
"Mommy!" Kel said, brightening considerably at the sight of his mother.
"Hi, sweetie," Lois said soothingly, kneeling as Kel broke free of his daddy's grasp and rushed into her arms. "How come you won't let Daddy get you ready?"
"Want you," Kel said in injured tones.
"Sorry," Kal said, apologizing to his wife. "I really tried."
"It's all right," Lois said, accepting the shirt that Kal held out towards her, like a drooping white flag of surrender. She slipped the garment easily over Kel's head and helped him pull his arms through the sleeves, now that he was suddenly being compliant. "There, that's not so bad, huh?" she asked him.
Kel rigorously shook his head, emphasizing that no, it really wasn't so bad after all.
"Thanks," Kal said, with a relieved sigh. "You are a miracle worker, you know that?"
"I try. But, weren't you going down to Jai's room for a pep-talk?" Lois asked.
"Yeah," Kal said, standing and nodding. "I was."
"You still have time, if you want to go."
Kal shifted his weight and awkwardly scratched his left ankle with his right foot. "I don't know," he managed to say, sounding as indecisive as he looked. "I wanted to give you a hand around here, so you'd have enough time to get ready."
"Oh, that's okay. I'm mostly ready."
Kal hesitated for a moment. He really did want to see Jai before his brother walked down that aisle to be wed. But he also knew that Lois had her hands full. Then a thought struck him.
"Kel," he said, looking his son in the eye. "Want to go visit Uncle Jai with me?"
Kel grinned widely. "Uh-huh!" Then, he paused, thoughtful for a moment. "And Lin too?"
Kal nodded at his boy. "Sure. Your sister can come with us."
"Okay!" Kel bounced in place for a moment. He was about to race out the door of his bedroom when he suddenly turned and ran past his father instead. He went to the miniature armchair and grabbed a well-worn, well-loved, tan and white stuffed dog, affectionately named "Woof." He hugged the stuffed animal tightly. "Can Woof come?"
Kal chuckled. "I wouldn't dream of leaving him behind."
Kel gave a squeal of excitement and hugged the toy even tighter. Kal affectionately ruffled his son's hair, careful not to make it messy.
"Come on," Kal said, "let's go get Lin." He looked at Lois. "She's ready to go?"
Lois nodded. "All set."
"Great. I'll meet you down in the Council's chambers. I won't be long," he promised her.
Lois chuckled and patted his arm. "I know. And thanks." She stretched up on her toes and kissed him lightly on his lips.
Kal nodded, then left the room, heading next door to his daughter's room, Kel trailing him. Lin was laying on her back, staring sleepily up at the mobile hanging above the crib. Kal smiled down at her, making cooing noises. Then he reached in and gently picked her up. She was only six weeks old, and Kal marveled at how tiny and perfect she was as he nestled her against his chest. He held her close, her head resting on his shoulder. He kissed the side of her head, then turned to his son.
Kel nodded and took his father's free hand. Together, father and son left their chambers and walked out into the halls of the palace. Kel was relatively subdued as they walked, which Kal took as a blessing. He wasn't sure he could juggle a hyper two and a half year old and a six week old at the same time. Not without Lois. Or at the very least, Marthe.
Kal smiled inwardly at the thought of Marthe. His old nursemaid was now nursemaid to his own children, whenever he and Lois were both occupied, or just wanted a little time to themselves. They didn't utilize her services often, loathe as they were to be parted from their children, but it was nice to know that she was there at hand if they needed her. And, Kal thought to himself, a kinder, more trust-worthy woman could not possibly be found. She had told the two proud parents on more than one occasion how much she loved to watch over the little ones. Kal knew that it stemmed, in part, from the woman's own, never fully realized, desire to be a mother.
It took only a few minutes to get to Jai's chambers, and Kal let his son do the honor of knocking on the door, an honor that the child seemed to take very seriously. After a brief moment, Jai came to the door, already dressed in his ceremonial robes. He grinned when he saw who his visitors were and immediately picked his nephew up. He tickled Kel quickly, causing the child to shriek with laughter.
"Unca Jai!" Kel laughed.
"Hey, kiddo," Jai said, smiling brightly. "Hey, bro," he said, looking at Kal. Then he kissed his niece's head.
"Jai!" Kal grinned, slapping his brother on the back with his free hand. "Looking good!"
"Big day! Are you nervous?"
"Nah! I'm good...I think. You guys just missed Ching though."
"Ah," Kal nodded, stepping into Jai's chambers, and following him into the living room. He was shocked at how neat and orderly the place was. Kal didn't think he'd ever seen Jai's rooms without some element of chaos to it before, and for a split second, he wondered if he'd wandered into the wrong chambers by accident. "Did he come for a pep-talk too?"
"Yeah," Jai said, sitting on the arm of the couch.
"Oh. Well...want another one?" Kal teased.
Jai snorted a laugh. "That's funny, Kal. It seems to me like you were the only one of us who needed a pep-talk on his big day."
Kal's face darkened for only the slightest of instants. He still felt badly about how he'd handled his own wedding day. He still felt guilty that he'd once viewed that day as the worst day of his life. He knew now that his marriage had been the true beginning of his life, not the end of it. He glanced quickly at his son, looking to see how much of this he was listening to, but the boy was crawling on the floor, making Woof investigate Jai's bookshelves, engrossed in a conversation with the stuffed toy.
Jai's grin faded. "Kal, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to dredge up..."
Kal shook his head and shifted Lin's weight a little. "No, it's fine," he said, gently cutting his brother off. "I did need the support you and Ching gave me that day. I'm still grateful for it. Knowing you guys were rooting for me, and that you were so confident I'd find a way to make my marriage work meant the world to me. It still does. Anyway," he said, waving the air vaguely with his free hand, "that's not why I'm here. To rehash the past, I mean. How are you holding up?"
Jai's smile returned. "Just fine. Except, well, the waiting is killing me. I can hardly sit still. I just hope I don't flub the few lines I have to say."
His older brother laughed. "You'll do just fine."
"You really think so?"
"Of course I do," Kal assured him. "Trust me. I've been through it before. It's easy."
"I guess that's true," Jai smirked.
"You're a lucky guy, Jai. She's a good woman."
"I know." Jai nodded thoughtfully. "And to think...this almost would have been impossible, if her birth-husband hadn't..."
"I know," Kal said, cutting him off again. "I know." He sighed heavily.
He didn't like to think about the circumstances which had opened the door for the romance that had blossomed between Jai and his wife-to-be. He didn't like to dwell on the idea of what might have been. It still made Kal very uneasy, still threatened to freeze the blood pumping through his veins, still sent chills racing up his spine.
Luci had almost been wedded to the late Lord Nor Uthor.
Promised to him from her birth, Luci would have - should have - become Lady Luci Uthor. And, Kal reflected somberly, it was likely that she would have wound up becoming another one of Nor's victims. She had too much of the same fire that Lois had; the fire that Kal so dearly loved but knew Nor never would have tolerated. The only thing that had saved Kal's sister-in-law from that fate had been Nor's execution. Kal felt a wave of guilt wash through him as he once more felt grateful for the fact that Nor's death had set Luci free from the contract that had once bound her to the sociopath.
Beside him, Jai must have been having similar thoughts. He sighed heavily, dropping his eyes to his hands, which lay folded in his lap. A silence fell between them, neither one quite sure what they could say now to disperse the lingering darkness of those thoughts. In the end, Kel was the one to break the silence.
"Unca Jai?" he asked, wandering over, his deep brown eyes wide. "Play with me?" Then, with a glance at his father, he added, "Peeees?"
Jai chuckled along with Kal, and just like that, the heaviness in the air was gone. "I wish I could, buddy."
"But..." the little boy protested.
"Kel," Kal said gently. "Today is a big day for your Uncle Jai. He's marrying your Aunt Luci. Isn't that exciting?"
Kel enthusiastically pumped his head up and down in a fierce nod. Then he promptly went back to playing with his stuffed dog. Without looking up, the boy furrowed his brow, a perfect copy of Kal's look when he did that. "Aunt Luci play too?"
"Soon," Jai promised the child. "Very soon. I promise."
"Okay," Kel said solemnly. If his Uncle Jai made a promise, that seemed to be good enough for him.
"Man," Jai said after a moment, fidgeting with collar of his robes. "I don't know how anyone can stand these robes. I feel like the collar is choking me."
Kal laughed, bit down a teasing retort, and nodded sympathetically. "I know just what you mean. Anyway, I'd better get going. I promised Lois I'd meet her down there. And besides, I'm sure Dad will be here any minute to check on how you're holding up."
"Thanks, Kal," Jai said. "It means the world to me that you popped in here before the ceremony."
"Hey, my baby brother is about to take the most wonderful, most life-changing step in his life," Kal grinned. "How could I not stop to make sure that you're still in one piece? Or fleeing from the palace in terror?"
"Wait, I thought having children was the most wonderful, most life-changing event," Jai replied, a teasing edge to his voice. "I'm quoting you directly here, from two and half years ago when my favorite nephew was born."
"That's true," Kal conceded with a laugh. "But, well, one step at a time, bro. One step at a time."
Jai chuckled, then stood. Kal did the same. The two brothers embraced in an awkward hug, careful not to crush Kal's newborn daughter between them.
"I'll see you at the feast," Kal said, smiling brightly and patting Lin's back with infinite gentleness. "Remember, you'll do just fine. Kel? Come on, we need to let Uncle Jai finish getting ready."
"Okay," the boy said, running to his daddy's side.
"Say bye to Uncle Jai," Kal said, smiling down on his son.
Kel turned and waved one small hand. "Bye, Unca Jai!"
"Bye, kiddo," Jai said, waving back.
Kal took his young son's hand and led him out of Jai's chambers. They passed Jor-El as he neared the same door they had just exited through. The Supreme Lord gave them a smile, but he looked preoccupied with ensuring that the event to come went smoothly. He was always a bit on edge when it came to large events, especially those that the entire population of Krypton would be viewing on their video screens. Kal offered his father a winning smile, then patiently took his children down to the Council's chambers.
Heads turned as he entered, his daughter now fast asleep on his left shoulder, his son grasping his right hand. The boy looked a little overwhelmed at the sheer number of people in the chambers, but he was all smiles. Kal thought that one day, his son was going to be quite the little heartbreaker, as the child began to wave at the people he passed.
Kal, however, felt slightly awkward as he walked up the center aisle, just as he always did when he found himself at the center of people's attention. The gathered lords and ladies openly stared at him; he could feel their eyes on him even without looking. He knew they were all curious to catch a glimpse of the new little princess that had been born to the royal house of El, despite the fact that Lin's perfect little face had been splashed across the planet's news right after her birth. That too, had made Kal slightly uneasy, even through the immense pride he had in his expanding family.
It was with a sigh of relief that Kal found his seat, up at the front of the room. Lois was already there, sitting next to Zara and Ching, quietly chatting with them. Kal slipped into the row, and Kel launched himself at his mommy. Kal smiled and greeted his brother and sister-in-law, while Lois easily lifted her son into her lap. She bopped Kel's nose lightly with one finger, and the child laughed, his eyes sparkling. A second later, Kal leaned in a gave his wife a chaste kiss on her lips.
"Miss me?" she asked, teasing him.
"Always," he replied sincerely.
Ching rolled his eyes good-naturedly. "Are you two ever going to leave the Honeymoon Stage?" he teased.
"Well, that depends," Kal retorted. "Are you and Zara ever going to?"
His brother laughed. "Well played, Kal. Well played."
Ching shifted a little in his seat, adjusting the couple's four month old daughter, Tara, in his arms. Like Lin, the girl had found the events of the day to be more than exhausting, and was passed out on his shoulder. Kal leaned over and kissed the baby on her head, inwardly smiling at how much Ching doted on his daughter. No child could ask for a more grateful, loving set of parents, Kal thought to himself. And no two people had ever been more deserving of the beautiful little girl. Kal's only regret was that Tara was destined to be an only child.
Zara had not wanted to conceive again after the miscarriage she had suffered as Lux Uthor's prisoner on that terrible Winter's Deep, a few short years prior. The loss had been too great. In fact, it had nearly broken her and Ching. So they had stopped trying for a time, preferring to step back and take some time to heal. Zara had even admitted to being ready to stop trying altogether, and simply live out her days childless; that had been the depth of her wounds.
But, as fate would have it, Dr. K'lin had begun to experiment with a relatively new treatment. Kal had never pried to find out just what was involved with the actual treatment, but it had something to do with simulating the energy of a yellow sun's rays, and had been based on the theories set forth by Dr. Samm Lyne. Zara and Ching had debated about trying it for several long months, before finally deciding that it was worth a shot. Within a month after starting to work with Dr. K'lin, Zara had once again been with child.
Dr. K'lin had overseen the entire pregnancy, treating Zara often twice a week with the specially developed lasers Lois' father had fabricated. And somehow, the treatment had worked. Zara had managed to keep the pregnancy. But it had been a rough nine months, and she had been confined to bed rest for nearly the entire time. She had never once complained, and Kal gave her a lot of credit for that. Being confined to his bed when he'd been recovering from his fractured skull had nearly driven him up the walls, even with Lois constantly at his side. And yet, whenever he'd asked Zara how she was doing, she had only ever been all smiles and gratitude for the child that had been growing within her.
It had been the delivery which had proven to be the most difficult. She had managed to go into a natural childbirth, and they had all thought that the worst was over. But fate had pulled one last, cruel trick. Complications had arisen as she went through the last stages of labor, and Zara had nearly died as she struggled to bring her baby daughter into the world. In the end, Dr. K'lin had had to cut the girl from Zara's womb in an emergency surgery.
Zara had never once regretted it, but the damage to her body had been done. Severe bleeding had occurred, and there had been no choice but to remove Zara's womb. It had been a heartbreaking development for the new parents, even as they celebrated the birth of their child. Kal knew Ching had always envisioned himself surrounded by many children. But he also knew that his older brother could not possibly love his daughter anymore fiercely than he did.
Tara was, quite simply, the center of Ching's universe.
"How's my favorite niece?" Kal asked, gazing at the child.
"She's doing well," Ching replied, beaming at his daughter. "You were with Jai just now?"
"Where else?" Kal asked, grinning. "He's chomping at the bit to get down here."
Ching laughed. "I know. It's good to see him so excited about this. You know, there was a time when I never thought I'd see the day when Jai would be in love. Let alone getting married."
"I know." Kal nodded his agreement. He paused for a second. "I passed Dad in the hall when I was coming down here. He looked stressed out."
"Well, you know Dad. He always worries when it comes to these huge events." Ching made a half-hearted shrug, careful not to disturb the sleeping baby on his shoulder.
"Exactly. I offered to help him with the planning, but he refused."
Ching gave him another half-shrug. "He told me. But he didn't want anything to distract you from the impending birth of your daughter."
"Yeah," Kal sighed. "I know. And I appreciate that, but I wish I could have taken some of the stress away from him."
"He wouldn't even let me help." The man sighed. "So, how's life with two kids treating you?" Ching asked, winking at him, and changing the subject in one smooth move. He asked Kal that same question on a regular basis, always in a teasing manner. "Getting any sleep yet?"
Kal chuckled. "I got a full four hours last night," he grinned back. "My daughter is a night owl."
He lightly rubbed the infant's back in a soothing manner. He didn't mind the interrupted sleep in the least. Tending to his daughter was worth it, and made the sleepless nights bearable. In fact, Kal enjoyed the moments alone with her in the small hours of the night, while Kel and Lois remained blissfully wrapped in their own dreams. Kal loved holding the girl, soothing her, rocking her, and talking to her until she fell back to sleep, safe and tiny in his strong arms.
Ching snorted a laugh. "Tara's becoming one too. Aren't you, sweetheart?"
Tara's only response was to suck on her thumb, her breathing deep and even as she slept. Kal smiled at the baby and nodded.
"Great," Lois said, never taking her eyes off her son. "They'll be well prepared for sleep-over parties when they get older."
"Hmm, aren't we rushing things?" Kal asked, gazing at his daughter with such love that he felt his heart would surely have to burst open. "I thought we agreed that we want her to stay this tiny for as long as possible."
Lois giggled a little at her husband's joking tone. "Well, if we do that, we'd probably be too busy to have any more babies," she said, winking at him.
"More?" Kal squeaked out, his eyes going wide as a slow grin spread over his face. "I do like the sound of that."
Still, he felt guilty even as he said it. He always felt badly about his ability to have more children, when Zara and Ching could not. But a quick side glance at his older brother reassured him that there were no hard feelings. In fact, Ching looked quite amused as he watched Kal and his wife interact.
In Kal's arms, Lin started to fuss in her own dreamland. Carefully, he shifted her so that she no longer rested against his chest, but lay, instead, in his arms on her back. Kal quietly rocked his body from side to side, humming almost inaudibly. It wasn't a specific tune, just one that Kal made up on the spot, though it had notes of familiar children's lullabies held within its folds. Kal stifled a grin as the thought struck him that not even in this one simple task was he ever one to be a conformist.
For a few long minutes, Lin continued to fuss, until, at last, Kal's efforts soothed away whatever dream or discomfort she was experiencing. Her breathing evened out and she grew quiet and still once again. Kal ran a finger over one of Lin's tiny pink cheeks, then brought it to her dainty, petite hand. Even in her sleep, she instinctively grabbed hold of it with a tight grip. And, as always, Kal's heart absolutely melted.
A few minutes later, Samm and Elle Lyne entered into the room. They swiftly made their way to the same row as Kal and his family. Both smiled at the sight of their two grandchildren. Kel's small face broke into a huge lopsided grin, one that so perfectly matched his father's. Samm scooped the boy into his arms for a few minutes, before setting him back down on Lois' lap. Then he fondly bent to kiss his granddaughter.
"How are my grandkids?" Samm asked, never taking his eyes off Lin.
"Doing well. How are you guys?" Kal asked, his eyes flickering up to Samm and Elle briefly, before resting back on Lin's face. She had a sort of hypnotic effect on him, he thought wryly. Both of his children did.
"We're well, thanks," Elle replied.
"Congratulations, by the way," Kal said, still rocking Lin in his arms. "I'm so thrilled that Luci and Jai..." his voice trailed off as Lin started to wake and cry. "Shhh..." he tried to soothe her. "It's okay. Daddy's got you. It's all right."
Lin quieted down again as Kal bounced her in his arms. She stared up at him, her eyes a perfect copy of her mother's. Next to Kal, his son was staring attentively at his baby sister.
"Lin?" he asked.
Kal smiled at his son. "She's okay, buddy."
"Sure?" he asked, looking dubious.
Kal chuckled. "Positive. See? She's fine."
"Okay," the boy grinned.
Kal grinned right back at his son. Another minute later, Jor-El finally slipped into the empty seat that was waiting for him. He reached out his arms, eager to have one of his grandchildren filling them. Kal dutifully handed his father Lin. The Supreme Lord's face positively lit up, and all of the tension in his features that had been there earlier melted away as he cradled the infant.
"Hi there, baby girl," the Supreme Lord cooed. His voice grew lighter as he talked to the baby princess, warming the hearts of everyone who could hear him.
"Daddy?" Kel asked, breaking Kal out of his thoughts.
"Up?" the boy asked.
"Sure!" Kal beamed as his son practically took a flying leap off Lois' lap and into Kal's.
In a second, he had the boy settled on his lap, his son leaning back into his chest, seemingly completely content. Kal kissed the top of his son's head affectionately.
Nearby, Samm chuckled and Elle's smile grew wider. Samm looked about ready to say something, but as he opened his mouth, the doors to the chambers opened. A hush settled over the gathered crowd as Jai stepped confidently into the room. Kal could see that his brother was having a hard time maintaining a dignified pace, so eager he was to begin the ceremony. Everyone in the room stood as he entered, and Kal picked up his son, resting the child's weight on his hip. Kel snuggled into his side and rested his head against Kal's neck. Once more, the prince's heart swelled with pride and love as he held one of his children close.
Jai strode to the front of the room. Kal could see his brother's lips moving as he quietly greeted Trey. Then Jai's eyes swiveled out over the crowd, taking stock of the lords and ladies who would bear witness to the union between Luci and himself. He saw his family in the sea of faces, which wasn't hard, as they were sitting up front, and he nodded at them. Kal nodded back reassuringly. Jai looked a little nervous to Kal's knowing eyes. His little brother was still obsessing over whether or not he would trip over the words when it came time to recite his vows.
A moment later, the doors to the chambers opened a second time, this time admitting Luci into the room. Just as Lois had been, a few short years prior, the young woman was dressed in the black ceremonial robes the occasion demanded. In his mind, Kal was instantly transported back to his own wedding day. Lois had taken his breath away then, with nothing more than her stunning looks. Later, she had proven that her mind was just as alluring as her body. And once they had learned to get along, Kal had instantly been under her spell as he fell in love with her personality. It hadn't been hard at all for him to fall in love with his wife, once they had put aside their injured feelings over being sold into a contracted marriage by their fathers. Everything about Lois was so beautiful, so wonderful, so ideally suited to his own personality.
As always, Kal felt a surge of love and gratitude well up within his chest as he thought about the woman he was married to. He knew, in his heart, that no more perfect match could have ever been made for him. And he found himself thankful for the contract that had been forged when he was younger than his own son was now, which had bound his life to Lois'. That didn't mean that Kal had suddenly taken a liking to the archaic tradition of arranging marriages between children and unborn babies, not in the least. But, in this one instance, he found himself thankful for it.
Kal rocked his son absently as he watched the marriage ceremony begin. Now and again, he found himself rubbing circles on the boy's small back. Kel stuck his fingers in his mouth and silently endured the ceremony, clutching his stuffed dog the entire time. Once or twice, the child became so quiet and still that Kal was sure he'd fallen asleep. But each time, when he peeked down to check, the boy was wide awake, looking about the room with wide, curious eyes.
Before long, the ceremony drew to a conclusion. Kal blinked in surprise at how fast it had flown by. He had been so terrified on his own wedding day. And he'd harbored so much dread for the unknown element that his wedding night had held, that the ceremony had seemed to take the better part of a year to get through. But Kal now realized that it had only taken about an hour.
After Jai and Luci departed from the chambers, Kal stood again, and walked down to the feast with his family at his side. His free arm was around Lois' waist; the other was holding Kel close. A quick look at Zara and Ching revealed an exact duplicate. Side by side, the two couples walked through the halls, in flagrant defiance of the traditions which demanded that the women trail the men by two steps. Kal caught a few shocked looks as he passed some of the other nobles, but they mostly attempted to hide it. Only Trey looked at the princes with patient resignation, if not acceptance that they would never change.
Once at the feast, Kal sought out Ruce. It was good to see the man, Kal reflected. He hadn't seen his friend since the day after Lin had been born, when he'd come to welcome the new baby into the world. For a long time, the two men chatted, until at last, Kel grew restless. Kal smiled patiently at the boy, then took his leave of Ruce. He set Kel down on the floor, and the boy happily scampered off to play with some of the other young children who were in attendance. The prince took comfort that Marthe's watchful eyes never strayed from the child.
For the rest of the evening, Kal made small talk with the other lords and ladies. Most of them politely asked how his young family was doing. A few of the more brazen lords attempted to forge marriage contracts between their children and Kal's. Kal shot down each offer as politely as he could, which earned him more than one frown. And, from the looks of things, it seemed Ching was in the same position. A number of times, Kal saw his brother shake his head emphatically, and reflexively clutch Tara even tighter. But both brothers were resolute in their staunch refusal to sell their children into marriages. Each child would be given the chance that neither brother had ever had: the chance to grow up free to love and marry whoever they deemed worthy. And for Kal, that meant that his children could choose another noble or the poorest commoner. It made no difference to him, so long as his kids grew up happy. So long as his kids had the chance to love someone as wholly, as fiercely, as purely as he loved Lois.
The feast itself was a rather nice event, Kal thought as the night wore on. He hadn't enjoyed his own at all. He'd barely tasted the food that night. He'd barely touched the expensive wines that had so freely flowed. He had barely been able to exchange two words with Lois that night. And the thought of the festivities ending had filled Kal with terror, because it would leave him alone with a total stranger. He hadn't felt ready for that, not in the least.
But tonight, everything was different. Kal sampled every single dish that came out. He savored every bite of food, delighting in the tender meats and steaming vegetables, the rich pastries and cakes, the savory seafood. Jon had well out-done himself, and Kal planned on letting him know that, first thing in the morning. Throughout the night, Kal took the opportunity to sample several of the wines that were being passed around, never drinking much, but enjoying the ones he did try. Several of the wines were newly imported from other planets that Krypton traded with, and it was anyone's guess as to when Kal would next be able to sample them. He made a mental list of the ones he would attempt to purchase at a later date.
But best of all, the thing Kal loved the most, was that this time, Lois was almost constantly at his side.
That knowledge set the prince's heart to soaring. Every time he touched her, every time he looked at her, his heart did a flip-flop in his chest. It made the entire event more than enjoyable. It made it actually a pleasurable experience, which took Kal off-guard when he realized that fact. Of course, there was the added bonus that he wasn't the center of attention, and could slip out of the spotlight to the comfortable sidelines as much as possible. Jai was the center of attention, the one everyone was honoring. Well, Kal thought, Jai and Luci. Kal was more than thrilled that that was the case; that the two of them had gotten together and had formed a loving bond that seemed as solid as the one he shared with Lois.
And, he thought wryly, this time, he looked forward to retiring to his chambers at the end of the feast. He looked forward to putting his children to bed and then climbing into his own, with Lois. Perhaps, if either one of them still had any energy left, they would join together and make love. A slow smile spread over his lips at the thought, and he shot Lois a discreet glance. But she was thoroughly engrossed in a conversation with Zara, each of them holding their respective daughters close to their chests, each swaying as they talked, rocking the girls ever so gently.
He was slightly disappointed that Lois missed the look he'd sent her. But, in the same moment, saw Jai finishing a conversation with Lord Ra, so he took the opportunity to saunter over. He hadn't had a chance yet to speak with his brother since he'd visited Jai in his chambers, hours before.
"Congrats, bro," Kal said, thumping his baby brother on the back in an affectionate manner. "Welcome to the better side of life."
Jai flashed him a thousand watt smile. "Thanks, Kal."
"And you didn't even flub your vows," Kal teased him.
"No, I didn't," Jai laughed. "I almost cut off Trey as he was speaking them though, when I went to repeat them."
Kal chuckled. "Yeah, I noticed that. I saw the look Luci gave you when you did that too." He shook his head in amusement.
"Aw, man. You saw that too?" Jai groaned good-naturedly. "I'm never going to live this down, am I?"
Kal shook his head again, laughing. "Nope."
"Good to know."
"What are we teasing Jai mercilessly about now?" Ching asked, coming up alongside Kal.
"His race to repeat his vows before Trey finished speaking them," Kal said.
"Ah," Ching replied, raising his eyebrows in his humor and shrugging. "Got it. I can work with that." He winked at his youngest brother.
"Oh, man," Jai groaned again.
He looked ready to attempt a retort as Lois wandered over, holding a fussing Lin in her arms. She was flanked by Marthe, who was ushering a toddling Kel over to his daddy.
"Hey, guys, " Lois greeted them in one fell swoop. "Jai, congrats again." She leaned in and gave her brother-in-law a quick peck on the check. "I'm so happy for you."
"Thanks. Are you heading out?" Jai asked, shooting a glance at the clock.
The feast still had at least another hour. Possibly even longer, judging on how deeply the gathered lords and ladies were still imbibing. Only a few scattered handfuls of people had already left.
Lois shrugged slightly, patting the baby's back gently, trying to soothe her. "Sorry, Jai. I really am. But this little one needs a diaper change and a feeding."
Jai nodded in understanding. "By all means then." He leaned in and kissed his niece's head. "Night, sis," he said, looking again at Lois.
"See you in the morning," she assured him.
"Maybe," he winked at her. "Depends on how well the wedding night goes."
Lois shook her head, amused at Jai's incessant antics. "That's my sister, Jai," she said, in mock admonishment.
Jai grinned and shrugged. "And, your point is...?"
Lois playfully slapped his shoulder. "Goodnight."
"Are you taking Kel too?" Kal asked.
"Yeah. It's way past his bed time."
"Nooooo!" the child protested, rubbing his eyes with the back of one hand. "Not sleepy yet!" He stifled a yawn.
Kal smiled at his son. Then he bent and picked the child up. He smiled at Marthe. "I'll take it from here."
Marthe shook her head. "You should stay and enjoy yourself. I can help Lois easily enough."
"Thanks," Kal said, shaking his head. "But I don't mind."
Marthe nodded, a knowing smile on her face. "All right."
"Aw, you're taking my favorite little man away?" Jai complained good-naturedly.
Kal nodded. "He's tired. He needs to go to sleep."
"Nooooo! Wanna stay up!"
"See? He wants to stay and party," Jai argued.
Kal chuckled. "You are a bad influence," he said, a teasing tone on his tongue.
"Of course I am. I'm cool Uncle Jai!"
Kal exchanged a look with Ching. A mischievous grin appeared on both men's faces.
"Just you wait," Ching said.
"Wait? For what?"
"We are so going to influence your children," Kal finished for Ching.
"Children? Hey, give me a break here guys. I'm only a newlywed!" Jai paled a little as he spoke the words. Clearly, he hadn't yet given much thought to the inevitability of starting his own family.
"Doesn't matter," Ching said, shrugging.
"Aw, not cool, guys. Don't freak me out like this."
"Freak you out like what?" Luci said, slipping to her husband's side.
"Oh, nothing," Kal said, the mischievous look still dancing in his eyes. "We were just heckling Jai a little, that's all."
Luci raised her brows in a perfect imitation of Lois. "About?"
"Babies," Jai offered, gulping around the word.
Luci nodded thoughtfully. "I see. Kal, am I going to have to tell my sister that you are scaring the wits out of my new husband? On my wedding night?" She put her hands on her hips, though Kal could tell she was at least half-joking.
"Uh...no," he stammered, rubbing his son's back as the boy yawned again.
Ching snorted a laugh and Luci turned to him. "You know, Zara and I are pretty close too," she warned him.
"And on that note, I'd better get my son to bed," Kal said, effectively disentangling himself from the conversation. "Congratulations again, Luci. I'm thrilled for you. Come on, Kel. Say goodnight to your aunt and uncles."
Kel frowned. "Night."
"Night, buddy," Ching said, ruffling the boy's hair.
With that, Kal turned and left the feast, stopping only to bid his father goodnight. Then he entered into the hallway. As the doors shut behind him, cutting him off from the festivities, he was enveloped in a blissful silence. His body sagged the tiniest bit with relief to be out of the public's eye again, and from the lords and ladies who had been trying all night long to match their children with his own. He shifted Kel's weight on his hip, then quickly made his way back to the chambers he shared with his family.
Once inside, he quickly got Kel ready for bed, getting him changed into the child's favorite pair of pajamas and tucking him into his bed. As soon as the boy was settled, Fasa jumped up and curled into a ball, guarding Kel's feet. Then Kal sat on the edge of the small bed and picked up the book that Lois had given him on the day he'd discovered that he was going to be a daddy. He thumbed through the book and found his favorite short story - a tale about a puppy who wanted a boy to love, and who had a few adventures before finally finding the right child to befriend. Kel was sound asleep by the time Kal finished reading the second page, so he gently set the book aside, kissed the boy's forehead, and headed into his own bedroom.
Lois was there, sitting in the rocking chair she'd set up by the windows. She was gently rocking in it, humming a lullaby as she nursed their daughter. A slow, peaceful smile unfurled over Kal's lips as he gazed upon the woman he loved and the tiny girl who had him wrapped around her little finger. He quickly crossed the room and kissed Lois' head, causing her to smile up at him.
She didn't speak. But her humming morphed into a low, whispered singing. Mesmerized by the sound of her voice, and the love he had for her, Kal sat on the edge of their bed. But before long, Lin had eaten her fill and fallen asleep. Lois started to rise from the chair, but Kal silently stood, reached for his baby, and whisked the girl off to her own room. He gently kissed her head, then laid her in her crib, before heading back to his own bedroom. Lois was already beneath the blankets when he entered, a loving, inviting smile on her face as he stepped into the room. Kal beamed a smile back, closed the door, shed his fine clothing, and joined her in the bed. They made slow, gentle, deliberate love that night.
When they were done, Lois curled up into his side, laying her head on his chest, just above his heart. Kal's arm tightened around her, pulling her even closer as he lay on his back. His pulse was still racing, but he was completely at peace. Lois' free arm draped across this stomach, and she squeezed his body in a tight hug. She breathed a sigh of contentment and her eyes fluttered shut. Kal could not hold back the smile from crossing his lips, and he leaned his cheek against the top of Lois' head. His own sigh matched her own.
"I love you, Kal," she murmured sleepily as he stroked her dark hair.
"I love you too, Lois," he replied, "so very, very much. You are the best thing to have ever happened to me."
Kal lay there for a short time, still awake, marveling at his life. He was more than lucky, he knew. His father had managed to arrange his marriage to the only woman on Krypton Kal could ever possibly give his heart to. Though their life together had started on a difficult note, they had both learned to look past the anger they held. And what they had found hidden behind each other's defensive walls was nothing short of a beautiful, blinding, heart-altering, life-changing love they could share with one another.
In Lois, Kal had found his partner, his best friend, his love, his family, his very heart, and his home.