Disclaimer: The familiar characters and settings in this story do not belong to me. They are the property of DC Comics, Warner Bros., December 3rd Productions and whoever else can legally claim them. I have written this story solely for its entertainment value and am making no profit from it whatsoever. The story, however, is mine.
By Nan Smith
The wedding reception that had been hastily arranged by Martha Kent and several of her friends from the church was a small affair. Wilma Cooper, owner of the town's oldest bakery, had provided the wedding cake and she regarded the towering white-frosted confection with tears of pride. Two ladies from Martha's art class were still fussing over the arrangement of the flowers at the central table when the sound of the Reverend Sweet's pickup truck outside alerted them to the fact that the wedding party was arriving.
Sure enough, barely two minutes later the bride, dressed in a lacy swirl of frothy white, entered on the arm of her groom, followed by the crowd of chattering guests. Wilma sighed sentimentally at the sight of the handsome young man. She could remember Clark Kent from the time that he had been barely tall enough to see over the counter of her bakery - and before that, really. She still recalled the day when Martha Kent and her husband had walked proudly into her store with their beautiful baby boy. She knew that Martha and Jonathan had always wanted a baby. They had adopted Clark privately, Martha had told her -- there had been some mention of one of Martha's distant cousins who had died unexpectedly in some kind of accident, leaving Clark an orphan, and no one questioned the explanation too closely. Wilma had a cousin of her own whose parents told exactly the same story -- a polite untruth, she knew, to hide the illegitimate birth of a baby to some other young female relative by her embarrassed family. Such a story hadn't been particularly uncommon back in those days. Wilma knew the rumor had been generally accepted, many years ago, and she had always regarded the Kents' willingness to give a home to the innocent result of such an indiscretion to be a very kind act. She was sure that Martha knew of the rumor, but she hadn't seemed disturbed by it. That was something that Wilma had always admired about Martha Kent. She never let the opinions of others bother her.
In any case, that was water over the dam. Clark had been a charming little boy and later an equally charming teenager. Wilma had often wished that her two sons would take a page from Clark Kent's book when it came to behavior, but of course they hadn't. She had seen him often during his high school years, for he had been a member of Smallville High's football team and he would frequently stop by her bakery on his way home after football practice to purchase some dreadfully fattening treat to tide him over until dinner. She'd fully expected it to go to his waistline, but obviously her worry had been unnecessary, she thought, observing Clark Kent's broad shoulders and narrow waist in the charcoal suit that he had worn for his wedding. Wilma sighed again, gazing happily at the young couple. Clark's bride was a lucky woman. Wilma would never criticize her darling husband, but Thomas was beginning to grow broader across the middle these days, and even in his youth he had never had a form like Clark Kent's. Thomas's weakness for chocolate eclairs had finally begun to catch up with him, she knew, but he continued to believe that the football that he'd played thirty-five years ago had put him into such shape that he didn't need to worry about his diet.
Martha Kent caught her eye and the two women managed to make their way through the small crowd to an empty spot near the back of the room.
"Any sign of those nuisances?" Martha inquired in an undertone.
Wilma giggled. "No," she replied, keeping her voice as soft as Martha's. "Some new ones showed up this morning in town and were asking for directions to your place, just as Maureen and I were putting the cake into the van -- with 'Congratulations Lois and Clark' as plain as day on the icing. They didn't even notice. I guess they're out there now with the rest of the mob. How are you ever going to get home?"
Martha chuckled. "Superman promised to drop us off after the wedding. I figure if they hang around the farm for another day, it'll give Clark and Lois a good head start. The last thing that they need is the press following them around on their honeymoon!"
"Oh, I know!" Wilma said. "I read some of the awful things the Dirt Digger was saying about her. They were being just plain mean!" Wilma shook her head. "They should be ashamed of themselves. Don't worry," she added. "If any more reporters ask me anything, I won't know a thing. I can play the sweet, confused little old lady very well, thank you!"
Both women giggled this time.
"I wonder how long it's going to take these city people to figure out we're not as stupid as they think," Martha said.
"I don't think they ever will," Wilma said frankly. "I hope most of them don't, anyway. It's been so much fun sending them out chasing their tails since they showed up in town."
Martha laughed softly. "Well, after tomorrow they may not stick around once they realize Lois isn't here anymore." She glanced around. "Where's our band? They're supposed to be here."
"They're changing clothes in back." Wilma waved to the doors at the rear of the Community Center. "I guess everybody's about in their places. It's almost time to cut the cake."
"Ah! There they are," Martha said. "Is the food all set out?"
"The guys from the Korner Kitchen were unloading it a few minutes ago," Wilma assured her. "I'm sorry it had to be a buffet, but there wasn't time for anything else."
"No, it's better this way," Martha said decisively. "Better go sit down. I think we're about ready to start."
Clark Kent glanced around the room of the old Smallville Community Center. He'd been here for many local events during his growing years and now he was here to celebrate his wedding to Lois Lane.
Jonathan Kent escorted them to their places of honor at the head table and he gazed with almost a sense of unreality at one of Wilma Cooper's famous wedding cakes. Wilma, as he'd come to know her over the years, was the kind of cook that gave dietitians and aerobic instructors nightmares, and the high-caloric creations that emerged from her little bakery made no pretense of being anything but what they were -- but they tasted as good as they looked.
"It's a good thing we're going to be getting plenty of exercise," Lois murmured in Clark's ear. "I've gained five pounds already, just looking at that cake."
"Don't worry," he said as innocently as he could. "We'll work it all off -- and then some."
Lois looked sharply at him and then, to his surprise, suddenly giggled and blushed to her hairline as she belatedly translated his meaning.
Perry White was approaching with a large cake knife in his hands, decorated with a lacy, white bow. He presented it to Lois. "All right, folks!" he announced. "It's time for the bride and groom to cut the cake!"
Clark rested his hands on the knife but let Lois guide it. She cut out two tiny slices, as Jimmy Olsen's camera flashed brightly.
Now came the moment of truth. Did Lois expect him to mash the cake into her face? He'd seen it done but he certainly had no wish to do the same. That kind of practical joke on his wedding day wasn't the slightest bit appealing. Carefully, he took his tiny shred of cake and raised it to Lois's lips.
She cast him a look of gratitude and opened her mouth to accept the bite. He saw her eyes open wide as she tasted the cake. Wilma's cakes never had the "commercial" taste to them of most store-bought cakes. It had almost seemed to a much younger Clark Kent that they could nearly have been baked in his mother's oven.
Lois raised a piece of the confection to his lips and he took the bite.
"Thanks," Lois whispered.
"You're welcome," he said softly.
Somewhere in the background someone had started tapping his spoon on the table and rapidly the sound spread until everyone in the room had joined in. The guests were demanding that the groom kiss the bride. Clark gave a bashful grin and obeyed, to the cheers of the assembled crowd. In the background, the band struck up and he led his bride out onto the floor for their first dance as a married couple. Somewhere behind them he was aware that his mother had moved in on the cake and was cutting it into chunks for their guests. From the rear of the Community Center, he could smell the aroma of well-prepared food that had certainly come from the Korner Kitchen. From somewhere, the pop of a champagne cork punctuated the music. All in all, it was starting off to be a great wedding party.
"How do you like your big day, Mrs. Kent?" Clark murmured in her ear.
"I'll like it much better when we check into our hotel this evening," she whispered back.
A finger tapped Clark on the shoulder. "Do I get to dance with the bride?" Jonathan Kent's voice asked, sounding amused.
Clark grinned down into his bride's face and surrendered her to his father. Ellen Lane was standing a short distance away and Clark stepped over to her, bowing gracefully. "May I have this dance?" he asked his new mother-in-law.
Lois's mother nodded, giving a tiny smile, and let Clark put his arm around her waist.
She was surprisingly light on her feet. They danced in silence for a short time and then Ellen spoke. "I suppose you know what you're letting yourself in for, Clark."
Clark consciously resisted the impulse to stiffen. "What do you mean?"
"The tabloids," Mrs. Lane specified. "Right now they're excoriating my daughter as a gold digger. They're claiming that she married Luthor for his money."
"I know," Clark said. "I hope you believe me when I say that the money has nothing to do with how I feel about Lois. I loved her long before this -- situation -- took place. Neither of us has any interest in it -- except that it's nearly gotten Lois killed several times."
Mrs. Lane regarded him neutrally. "I'm not sure I completely believe that," she said. "How can the money not matter to you?"
"Believe me," Clark said, "Lois and I are perfectly capable of supporting ourselves. Luthor's money is more trouble than it's worth. I'm not interested in it and Lois isn't the sort to live behind electric fences for the rest of her life. We'll be making arrangements to deal with that situation after the thirty days from the date of Luthor's death are up."
Mrs. Lane cocked her head at him. "What can you possibly do with it?" she asked. "It's not as if you can just act as if it doesn't exist."
"We have lawyers working on it," Clark said quietly. "We'll take care of it later. Right now, Lois and I have just gotten married. I want her to enjoy her honeymoon without having to worry about other things. And the last thing I want her to think about is Luthor."
Ellen Lane looked at him curiously but said nothing. When the music stopped, he bowed slightly to her. "Thank you for the dance."
She smiled faintly. "You're a very good dancer." She paused. "Be good to Lois," she said finally. "I haven't been the kind of mother she should have had, but I do want the best for her. I hope you believe that."
"I do," Clark said sincerely. "So do I." He escorted her back to her seat next to Perry and Alice White and turned to look for his bride.
The band started to play again. Lois and his father were just coming across the floor toward him when they were intercepted by Sam Lane. Clark mentally crossed his fingers in the hope that everything would go well during the dance and headed across the floor toward his mother.
Martha Kent looked up as he bowed formally to her. "May I have this dance?" he inquired.
His mother got to her feet. "I was wondering when you were going to ask me."
Clark grinned as the band swung into a fast country dance. "Come on, Mom. Let's show them how it's done."
The wedding party spilled out of the Community Center two hours later, following Lois and Clark. On the steps of the building, Lois turned her back and raised the bouquet. There was immediate movement as the younger women in the party were chivvied toward the front. Lois waited, to give them time, and then tossed the bouquet over her shoulder.
Clark glanced back and grinned when he saw that the flowers had sailed slightly to the left and that a surprised Pete Ross was clutching the tasteful arrangement of Baby's Breath and white roses. Then he opened the door to Reverend Sweet's pickup truck and gave his bride a hand into the ancient vehicle.
Moments later, Superman quietly deposited the truck in its parking space behind Reverend Sweet's home. He leaned in the window of the passenger side to give his bride a quick kiss. "I'll be back in a few minutes, honey."
Lois turned the quick peck into something more substantial. "Hurry up, Superman," she told him. "I'm anxious to get on our way."
Clark grinned. "Your wish is my command," he told her. "Give me fifteen minutes to get everybody back where they belong and we'll go."
It was actually twelve minutes and twenty-three seconds by actual count when Clark Kent knocked on the window of the pickup truck. Lois opened the door and stepped quickly out. "Is everyone home?"
He nodded. "Yes. I told Bill Henderson that I planned on taking about four more weeks of rest and recovery time before I made my reappearance back in Metropolis. I did, however, recover our luggage from the plane."
"The one we left in the mountains."
"Oh, that plane."
"That's right. I figure I'll drop it off at Metro Private Airport sometime around midnight. That way Perry's friend can have it back. It's in perfect working condition except for the radio. It's just low on fuel. I wouldn't want someone who was trying to help us out to have to absorb a cost like that."
"That's true," Lois said. "What did Bill say?"
"About me coming back? He said it was a good idea. He said he doesn't want Metropolis to see a sign of Superman until he's fully recovered. I told him a little more about what Luthor did. Hopefully, it will give him a little leverage with Luthor's assistants."
"I hope so," Lois said. "Next to us, I trust Henderson more than any other investigator in Metropolis."
"I guess confidence isn't an issue with you, is it," Clark said. He smiled widely. "It's good to see the Lois I've always known back." He pulled her into his arms for a long kiss. "I was worried about you, you know."
"I know." She put her head on his shoulder. "I did doubt myself -- after making such a horrible mistake. You were nearly killed, the Planet was almost destroyed for good, Jack nearly went to prison -- and Lex almost had him killed, too. And that was only the part we know about. Who knows what he had in mind for everyone else?"
"It wasn't your fault," Clark said.
"I know," she said. "Now I know. Lex planned the whole thing. He always got what he wanted, no matter what it took, and he wanted me. I was a challenge that he couldn't resist. If you want the truth, I think he preferred to break the law to get what he wanted. I think it gave him some kind of sick thrill, but that wasn't my fault. It was his."
"Exactly," Clark said.
"In fact," Lois continued, "I was only really at fault one way. I wouldn't listen to you. I was so determined to be right, to prove that my judgment about men wasn't at fault, that I refused to listen to the only man I've ever really trusted -- my best friend. That was where I went wrong."
"I can't really blame you for that," Clark said. "I messed up too, you know."
"I know," she said. "But if we remember to talk, to really communicate from now on, and to really listen to each other, I don't think we'll have too much trouble in the future. Do you?"
"Probably not," Clark said. "At least I have my parents' example to copy."
"So do I," Lois said. "And I have my parents' example not to copy. Between both sets of examples, I think we'll do all right."
"So do I," Clark said. He nodded to the rear door of Reverend Sweet's house. "They're waiting for us inside," he added. "Once we change clothes, we can really be on our way. We have a honeymoon to begin."
Lois took his hand and started toward the little wooden house. "In that case, Mr. Kent, let's not keep them waiting."
The sun was shining brightly on that afternoon, four weeks later, when every newspaper in town, from the Daily Planet to the ones that Lois candidly appraised as bottom feeders, sent representatives to the news conference that had been announced by the Chairman of the Superman Foundation.
There had been rumors flying for a month about the Man of Steel and his long absence from Metropolis. He had been seen once, four weeks ago, and it was rumored that he made the occasional appearance at an emergency, but those incidents were few and far between.
Some said that Superman was suffering from some sort of rare and fatal Kryptonian disease and had placed himself into voluntary quarantine. Others held equally unsubstantiated theories but now maybe the Foundation that had been established in his name was going to shed some light on the mystery.
Clark Kent circulated among the crowd. He and Lois had returned from their honeymoon a week and a half ago, and for a week and a half the tabloids had hyped the story of Lois Lane, gold digger extraordinary, which they had now revived after several weeks with nothing new to report. Now they had the added juiciness of Lane's clandestine marriage to Clark Kent and were playing it for all it was worth. One enterprising writer had gone so far as to advance the theory that it had always been a plot between them that Lois should marry Luthor and that somehow Kent would also profit.
Lane and Kent had refused to answer questions about the whole, mysterious affair, which sent the tabloids and others not so far removed from that station, such as -- in Lois Lane's opinion -- the Star, into a frenzy of speculation, none of it to their credit. But today the local journalism community was simmering with a new set of rumors about the upcoming press conference.
"Hey, Kent! You got any idea what this is about?" The question came from Leo Nunk, whom Lois would have characterized as the bottom feeder of bottom feeders. Clark resisted the temptation to set the toes of his shoes on fire and shrugged.
"Thought you and Lois had some kind of in with Supes," Nunk continued. "Doesn't he give you a heads-up about these things?"
"Nope. I haven't spoken to him in weeks," Clark said truthfully. "Haven't you consulted Madam Zina or someone about it? I'd think you'd have the whole story by now." He turned his back on Nunk and began to work his way toward one side of the crowd, making certain that a number of other people noticed his presence and ignoring Nunk's under-the-breath comment concerning his sexual habits.
There was a stir at the podium. Murray Brown, looking very dignified in his role as the Chairman of the Superman Foundation, climbed the steps to the stage and approached the microphone. The crowd of journalists surged toward him and Clark slipped quietly away and vanished through the door that led to the backstage area.
Lois was there, sitting on a folding chair and looking nervous. Clark, now clad in the famous spandex suit, strode into her line of sight and came to sit beside her. "Hi," he said in a near-whisper.
"Hi," she responded. "I'm glad you're here. Did you have any trouble getting away?"
He shook his head. "Ready to make the Metropolis Star look like the rag it is?"
He could sense her relaxing. "You bet. I've been looking forward to this since we thought of it."
Clark could hear Murray Brown speaking to his audience. "Murray's sure enjoying himself," he remarked softly. "He's informing them that your representative approached the Superman Foundation several weeks ago, and that they were happy to help you. Get ready. You're almost on."
A young man approached them as he spoke. "Mr. Brown is almost ready for you, Mrs. Kent." He turned to Superman. "And you, sir. If you'll both follow me --"
Meekly, they trailed their guide to the wings of the stage, from which they could see and hear everything that was being said. A reporter raised his hand. "What kind of arrangement does Lois Lane have with the Superman Foundation?"
Murray ignored the man. "And now, without further ado, I present our founder, Superman."
"You're on," Lois whispered. He gave her a reassuring smile and strode onto the stage.
Murray Brown extended a hand and the two men shook hands firmly before Murray stepped back from the microphone. Clark looked down into a sea of faces, striving to keep his expression pleasant but neutral. "Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen of the press," he began.
"Hey, Supes! Where've you been all this time?" The brash voice from the crowd was definitely Leo Nunk's. Clark ignored it.
"Due to circumstances beyond my control," he continued, "I have been absent from Metropolis for some time. I'm back now, and have no intention of leaving again. During my absence several events took place, upon which the press has reported extensively. I don't think I need to go into them. However, as a result, The Superman Foundation would like to make an announcement." He paused, looking over the men and women below him. A few of them had actually reported the facts of Lois's marriage to Luthor and had refrained from lurid speculation, but more had done a great deal that would put them in his black books for a long time to come.
He turned to look at Lois, standing just out of sight of the audience. At his nod, she entered, crossing the stage to where he stood. Her heart was thumping hard but outwardly she showed no sign of her nervousness. A murmur had sprung up among the crowd but it died as Lois reached him and he turned to her with a welcoming smile. "Hello, Lois," he said. "I haven't congratulated you and Clark yet. I hope you have a long and happy marriage."
"Thank you, Superman," she said. She turned to the microphone. "In the spirit of that, I'm here to announce the donation of virtually all of my so-called inheritance to the Superman Foundation."
The murmur that sprang up following this announcement threatened to deafen Clark. Lois waited until the sound began to die down before she spoke again.
"My lawyers and my Managing Editor, Perry White, have been negotiating for several weeks with representatives of the Superman Foundation. The Foundation has graciously agreed to take control of my inheritance, and use it to pay restitution to the employees and families of the Daily Planet who were injured by Lex Luthor's crime. They have also agreed to attempt to repair as much of the damage that he did with his criminal organization as is feasible and henceforth to use the funds in the Foundation's many charitable projects in this country and others around the world." She paused. "I wish to thank my editor and the other news organizations that did not leap to pass judgment on me during this whole difficult time, for their journalistic integrity. My husband, Clark Kent, and I appreciate it more than you know." She turned to Superman. "Clark and I discussed this move thoroughly and are agreed that the Superman Foundation can do much better with my inheritance than I can. I signed the final papers today, just before this press conference."
Clark shook her hand. "On behalf of the Superman Foundation, I can only say thank you, Lois. I'm sure that your donation will do a great deal of good for the world." He turned to face the crowd and noted happily that Leo Nunk's jaw was hanging half open. The man appeared to be in a state of shock.
"The Superman Foundation wishes to thank Lois Lane for her great generosity," he continued smoothly. "We'll be dedicating a plaque to her as one of our most outstanding donors and humanitarians. I would also like to add my personal gratitude to that of Ms Lane's, to the editor and staff of the Daily Planet and the other publications that refrained from the temptation to jump to conclusions and irresponsible speculation about the situation that led to this very laudable action today. Their example is an excellent one and I would hope that many would learn something from it." Again he turned to Lois, ignoring the reaction of some of the members of the crowd. "You have my personal thanks as well, Lois. And congratulations again to you and Clark."
"Thank you," Lois said. He could see her struggling to keep a straight face and decided that it was time to bring their part in this thing to an end. He turned to the crowd.
"Now, I'm afraid I'm needed elsewhere, and Ms. Lane has a job to get back to, so I'm going to turn this event over to our Chairman, Mr. Murray Brown, for any questions you wish to ask. Thank you for coming." And with that he turned and left the podium, side by side with Lois.
Minutes later, high above Metropolis, Lois turned in his arms, put hers around his neck and kissed him thoroughly. His head was still spinning when she pulled back and he brought them to a stop in the air until he regained his equilibrium. "Wow!" he said. "What was that for?"
"You were great," she told him exultantly. "I'd even say 'super' but I've been saying that several times a day since we got married."
"I'm not sure those count," he remarked. "I don't think your comments had anything to do with my talent for public speaking."
She whacked him on the shoulder. "Don't fish for compliments," she told him. "We've already established why you're called the Man of Steel."
Clark snorted. "I don't think anyone else is ever likely to have your perspective on that," he observed.
She giggled. "They'd better not. Let's go home."
"Not back to the office?"
"I told Perry that you and I were headed out of town for a couple of days to give the media a chance to get over this latest bombshell," she informed him.
"No, but if we pull the shades and don't answer the door, they'll figure it out," she told him, walking her fingers flirtatiously up his chest. "Besides, do you really mind? You can fax in your story to the Planet and then we can get on with our bonding process. I think we could use more practice."
The answer to that was a burst of speed as Clark headed for their apartment.
Married life was good.