A/N: Here is my contribution to the V-Day fic exchange this year! Hope you like it!

My assignment: S9, PG-13, Sarahbookjunkie, "Lady in Red"

SPOILER ALERT: This has spoilers for the Valentine's Day episode of Smallville!

The Wedding That Almost Was

Lois juggled her bags as she fumbled with the key to the Kent's back door. When the door finally gave way, she strolled inside, kicking it shut behind her. Then, plopping her grocery bags down on the counter, she gave a self-satisfied look around.

"Afternoon, Shelby," she murmured as the dog raced up to her, tail wagging excitedly. Grabbing a jar of dog food out of one of her bags, she cut off the top and poured it into Shelby's bowl. As she stooped to put it on the floor, against the wall where it would be out of her way, she scratched the canine bane of her existence (okay, she loved the dog, but she didn't want people to know or they'd think she'd gone soft).

"Here you go, Shelbs. I got your favorite! Now would you be a sweetheart and stay out of my way tonight? I've got this whole evening planned, and I think the romance will be lost if I – I –" She broke off, bowing her head as she sneezed forcefully. "Damn it," she muttered, rising to her feet. "Nothing sets the tone for a romantic evening like an allergic reaction."

Turning to the sink, she washed her hand and began to sing to herself as she pulled various items out of her bags, spreading them out on the counter. Then she hummed softly to herself as she grabbed a vase from under the counter and filled it with water. Picking up a bouquet of flowers she'd bought at the store, she unwrapped them and dropped them into the vase.

She was about to put the flowers aside when she remembered something Martha had told her once, about aspirin helping to preserve cut flowers. Her nose wrinkling as she pursed her lips thoughtfully, she grabbed a bottle of pills from the cabinet and stared at the label. It said nothing about the proper dosage for the prolonged beauty of dead flowers, so she shook four or five into her hand and tossed them into the flower water with a shrug. When in doubt, it was her general philosophy that more was better.

The flowers cared for, she put them aside and promptly forgot about them as she focused at the next task on her list: dinner. She stared critically at the ingredients spread before her as she pulled a folded slip of paper from her pocket and pulled it open, scanning it critically.

Lucy had once raved about a delicious lamb stew, which Lois had originally intended to make. Until she saw the recipe, which said things like, "Take 47 ingredients and tie them in a sachet. Then add a thinly sliced leek, white part only." And Lois had immediately given up the recipe as being too much of a hassle. Plus, she didn't know where she'd even start to look for a sachet, and she also doubted she'd know a leek if someone flung one at her.

In the end, she'd done some searching online and had decided upon a recipe with the rather ridiculous name, "Filet Mignon with Mushroom-Wine Sauce of Love."

"Seriously?" she huffed with a roll of her eyes. "Sauce of love? Who are these people kidding?"

Only for Clark would she even think about making something with such a sappy name. For anyone else, she wouldn't have bothered. Not even for Valentine's Day, the most absurd of holidays. People hung pictures of little naked cherubic figures with tiny darts and her heart was supposed to flutter?

She'd always given Valentine's Day a pass and she would have been more than happy to do so again this year, except that she was dating someone who actually did care about this ridiculous holiday. He'd gone out of his way to celebrate Valentine's Day with her, and of course something had come up to ruin it.

It could have been worse, she consoled herself. She could have walked out the experience married. Or, worse still, spending the rest of her life trying to be June Cleaver. She physically shuddered at the thought.

After that fiasco, she'd seriously wanted to forget the whole thing – well, more than she already had. Truth be told, her memories of that strange three-day period were pretty fuzzy. She didn't remember very much, but what she did remember was pretty mortifying.

Best not to think about it, actually, she decided as she turned her attention back to the piece of paper on the counter. Though she'd tried to pick a relatively simple recipe, there she still had found it a little over-the-top, so she'd made her own adjustments. Instead of shallots, she grabbed a couple of yellow onions. She had no idea what beef consommé was, so she'd decided not to include it. As for corn starch…well, flour would do just as well, she supposed.

Really, how bad could it be?

With a small self-satisfied smile, she started to chop the onions and mushrooms (not shiitake as the recipe required, but was there really that much of a difference to be found in the various kinds of fungi?), throwing large chunks into a pan and sautéing them with butter. Then, glancing at the recipe, she added some red wine, pouring herself a glass as she did so.

So it was a bit of a hassle, this Valentine's Day thing, but it would make Clark happy that she made the effort. With a small smile as she imagined his reaction, she poured some soy sauce in the pan, adding extra to make up for the consommé that she had chosen not to include.

The recipe said to let the concoction simmer on a low heat for five minutes, but she figured she could cut it down to two if she turned the heat on high. She had just cranked up the dial when the phone rang. For a moment, she thought about ignoring it – this wasn't her house – but then she remembered that Clark knew where she was. So she picked it up instead.

"Oh my god! Lois! I was afraid I wasn't going to get a hold of you! Do you want to tell me what the hell is going on?" Lois jerked in surprise at the frantic emotion in her sister's voice.

"Uh…hey, Luce," she said slowly. "What's up?"

"What's up? What's up?" Lucy repeated, growing more outraged with each rendition. "My older sister calls while I'm on vacation and leaves, like, six messages on my machine about how she's getting married, and you're asking me what's up?"

Lois gave a small, embarrassed laugh. "Oh, yeah. That. Well, you can calm down, sis. It was just a joke. I'm not really getting married."

There was a long silence and then the voice on the other line said suspiciously, "A joke? You left me a dozen messages about how you wanted me to fly to Smallville ASAP to be in your wedding! You talked about the honeymoon you were planning, even! And you want me to believe it was all a joke?"

Trying to keep up the act, Lois kept her voice light as she replied, "Well, of course it was a – wait a minute. I mentioned a honeymoon?" She felt her stomach drop.

"Uh…yeah!" Lucy said sarcastically. "As well as your dress, your flowers, the catering, a wedding cake…"

"I-I-I did?" Lois stammered. Oh, holy crap. She'd known she'd bought a wedding dress, but she'd really hoped that had been as far as it had gone. Had she really ordered all of these things? Who else had she invited to this wedding that wasn't going to happen?

Sucking in a sharp breath, Lois reminded herself to stay calm. Even if she did go so far as to order a cake and all the rest, she could just call and cancel. Clark would never have to know how far her temporary insanity had gone. After the wedding dress incident, things had been awkward enough between them (at least once she'd been returned to her own presence of mind). She didn't even want to contemplate how much worse things could get if Clark found out that her wedding plans had gone well past just picking out a dress.

"Um…so…this wedding. Out of curiosity, did I happen to mention when it was supposed to be?" Then she added hastily, "I may have had a bit too much wine last weekend; I don't really remember everything I said."

Lucy sighed heavily. "Yeah. Tonight. It was supposed to be tonight." Then, as Lois tried not to hyperventilate, she asked, "Are you really sure it was just a joke? Nothing happened between you and Clark and you're just trying to cover for it, right?"

"No, no!" she blurted hastily. "Really, it was just a joke! I'm definitely not getting married! I swear! Um…you wouldn't happen to know if I called the General too, would you?"

Lucy paused. "No," she said finally. "From the absence of really pissed off messages on my machine, I don't think you did."

Letting out a breathy laugh that sounded suspiciously close to the edge of hysteria, Lois said, "Okay, well…that's good. Um…listen, Luce…I'm going to have to let you go. I have…um…there's something I have to take care of."

"Okay," her sister replied. Then she added suspiciously, "You're really not getting married?"

"I'm really not getting married," Lois said reassuringly before hanging up. "At least, I hope I'm not really getting married," she muttered under her breath as she stared accusingly at the phone.

Spinning around, she raced to the kitchen table and started rummaging through the pieces of paper on top, praying that she'd scribbled down some sort of note about who she'd booked for this wedding she was definitely not going to be having tonight.

Just when she was starting to panic that she hadn't left any type of even scribbled note for herself, she found an envelope with her handwriting scrawled over the back. With a cry of triumph, she straightened and scanned the paper.

According to her notes, Lucy had been correct. She'd ordered a cake, something from a caterer, and some flowers. Her sister had mentioned a honeymoon, as well. If she'd ordered plane tickets, she should have a confirmation e-mail.

With the envelope clenched in her fist, Lois raced to the phone and snatched it up, dialing the number for the local florist as she raced upstairs to check her e-mail on Clark's computer. "Please, please, please," she muttered to herself as she booted it up.

A voice on the other line picked up. "With Love Flowers, this is Megan speaking!"

"Hi!" Lois blurted, trying not to gag at the realization that she'd not only ordered flowers but that she'd apparently done so from a florist shop that had such a saccharine name. "Hi, um…this is Lois Lane. I don't suppose I –"

"Oh, yes, Miss Lane! Not to worry; your flowers are in transit and should arrive in plenty of time for your wedding tonight. I took care of your bouquet myself, and it's just lovely!"

"Really?" Lois breathed, feeling a little light-headed. "Well, that sounds…um…great, but…you know, I was calling because I wanted to – to cancel my order, actually."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that, Miss Lane, but I'm afraid it's too late. It's store policy that we require forty-eight hours' notice to cancel an order this size," Megan replied.

Lois sighed. "Right. But, you see…you really have to cancel them. I'm not getting married!"

Megan sounded somewhat sympathetic. "Like I said, I'm sorry to hear that, but there's really nothing I can do."

"No, just…just listen to me!" Lois blurted before the other woman could hang up. "I wasn't in my right mind when I ordered those flowers. So I really can't be held responsible for my actions! It was my boyfriend! He – he hypnotized me! He hypnotized me into thinking that we were going to get married, and I apparently planned this whole wedding but we're really not, and…and you really have to give me a break on this one! I wasn't in my right mind!"

Megan sighed. "Miss Lane, I'm sorry that your relationship didn't work out, but it simply is too late to call off your order. The trucks are on their way to your house right now!"

"But I was under the influence of those stupid meteor rocks you guys have all over this town!" Lois protested desperately. "This is Smalville! You should have some sort of – of clause in your contracts to cover these sorts of things!"

"We do," Megan replied. "We have a clause that covers claims of meteor rock influence and specifically states that our regular policies still apply. Honestly, if we made exceptions for those types of stories, we'd be out of business in a week! Like I said, Miss Lane, I'm really sorry about your situation, but there's nothing I can do."

Lois stared in outrage at the phone when the other line went dead. Her thumb hovered over the redial button, but she changed her mind and checked her spam folder for a confirmation e-mail. With a groan, she found one and pulled it open.

Apparently, she'd booked two tickets to Maui, where it seemed she planned to spend a week on the beach with Clark. Okay, well, she at least had to give the hypnotized version of herself props for not having been completely insane. A week spent with Clark on a beach…well, it certainly did sound like a damn good idea. Still, all things considered, it was not a good time to suggest as much to her boyfriend. Not yet, at least. A week ago, he'd walked into his house to find her modeling a wedding dress, for crying out loud! If she told him now that she'd planned a honeymoon for the two of them, she didn't even want to imagine what he'd do.

Actually, any other guy would probably freak. With the way Clark had been running full-tilt into their relationship, he might like the idea. A little too much, actually. She was still determined to take it slow, for once resolved to check the water level before jumping head-first into the pool.

No, she had to cancel these plane tickets. Dialing the number, she sucked in a sharp breath to sigh and smelled the unmistakable scent of burning food. "Damn it!" she cursed, racing back downstairs to the kitchen. "Aw…shit," she growled when she saw the blackened onions and mushrooms in the pan. Maybe turning the heat up to high had been a bad idea.

The phone was ringing in her ear as she scowled at the burnt food and turned down the heat. Well…maybe it wasn't all that bad. Yes, her onion and mushroom mixture was fairly charred, but it was going into a sauce anyway. The liquid would probably mask the carbon flavor of charred food. In her experience, it usually helped at least.

"Yes, hello!" she said into the phone when the line was picked up. Then she took a deep breath and tried to make her voice waver. "My name is Lois Lane. I've booked two tickets to Maui for tomorrow. Confirmation number ATH85Y. I need to cancel."

"Just a moment," the customer service representative said as she pulled up the record. "I'm sorry, Miss Lane. These tickets are non-refundable."

"Of course they are," she muttered with a sigh. Then, putting the waver back in her voice, she said, "Well…I understand that, but…is there…is there anything we can do? You see, I was planning my honeymoon but my fiancé…" She faked a sob; Meryl Streep couldn't do better, if she did say so herself. "He – he called off the wedding!"

There was a shocked silence. "Oh, I'm sorry, ma'am. But our policy…"

"He ran off with my maid of honor!" she wailed, willing to do whatever it took to get her money back. The agent sounded like an older woman, so she was hoping to play the sympathy card.

It seemed to be working. "Oh, that's terrible," she said on a sigh.

Letting her voice raise in feigned hysteria, Lois put the icing on the cake as she threw the steaks on the grill and turned up the heat. "My maid of honor was my sister!"

"Oh, dear…" the agent sighed. Then she dropped her voice. "Okay, I'm not supposed to do this, but I can give you a credit for the plane tickets. I can't give you an actual refund, and I can't do anything about the taxes and fees. But I can make a note on your account for the credit; the next time you want to book a ticket, give us a call and we can apply it to your purchase. It'll expire in a year, so don't forget!"

"I won't," Lois said, her voice wavering in appreciation. She should have been an actress, she told herself in self-satisfaction as she scooted closer to Shelby until her nose began to run so she could sniffle convincingly into the phone. "Thank you! Really, thank you for everything!"

She was about to hang up the phone when the agent added, "And dear? That fiancé of yours didn't deserve you. Any man who would do a thing like that…well, you deserve better."

Lois almost laughed at the thought of how Clark would react if he ever found out about the image she'd painted of him to the customer service agent at FlyRight Airlines. At the last second, she tried to swallow it and hoped it would come out as a tiny sob. "Thank you," she said and hung up the phone.

She'd called the florist and the airline; next came the caterer. She dialed the number and flipped the steaks over before turning her attention back to the sauce, adding more soy sauce and a dash of flour. Her last story had seemed to work; maybe she'd have even better luck if she added just a touch more drama.

The clerk hadn't even gotten out his greeting before Lois launched into her tale of woe. "My name is Lois Lane and I've ordered catering services for my wedding tonight, but I need to cancel."

"I'm sorry, ma'am. We require a notice of at least forty-eight hours to –" the caterer began.

"But it was for my wedding, and the wedding is off!" she wailed, really getting into the act. She faked a few heaving sobs and frowned when they weren't quite as convincing as she would have liked. She glanced around with a frown; where was Shelby when she needed a convenient allergic attack? "Traitor," she huffed under her breath when she realized the dog had fled into the other room, probably no longer able to stand the smell of Lois's cooking.

"Well, I'm sorry to hear that, but –" he tried again.

Pulling out all the stops, Lois let out a heart-wrenching wail, more satisfied with this performance. "But he's been cheating on me!" she howled. "I walked in on him in bed with my sister! And two of my best friends!"

As she elaborated her story, she realized that this would have been fun if it weren't for the fact that a fake wedding was on the line.

"Really?" he asked, sounding impressed. "At the same ti-" He coughed, catching himself before he finished the question. "I'm really sorry," he said again, though he didn't sound all that sorry. He actually sounded somewhat jealous – undoubtedly of this cad of a fiancé she'd concocted – and Lois wanted to hit him. "I would help you out if I could, really. But the food's already been bought and prepared. We were just about to take it over, and –"

She let out a scream of anguish. Perhaps she tried a little too hard to sell it, but she still thought she was doing a pretty good job of her amateur performance. "But he was wearing –!" she began, and then cursed when she smelled the steaks burning again. Checking on the filets, she saw that one side was practically raw but the other side was completely charred.

With a sigh, she dropped her act. She couldn't very well serve Clark the meal she'd prepared, so she might as well make good use of the food she'd already ordered. "Okay, that sounds fine," she said in her typical no-nonsense fashion. "You'll have everything here by five, right?"

"Er…w-well yeah," he stammered in reply, thrown by her abrupt change in mood.

"And that's for how many people?" she asked, tossing the steak and the sauce – pan and all – in the trash.

"Uh…I think it was twenty. I could check…" he said.

"Nah, forget about it. That'll be fine," she said as she hung up the phone and muttered, "I hope Clark's really hungry."

She was a little concerned about the prospect of twenty or so people descending on the house this evening, interrupting her date with Clark, but she relaxed when it occurred to her that if she apparently hadn't gotten around to inviting the General so it seemed likely that she hadn't gotten to the rest of the people on her list, either. The fact that nobody had mentioned her supposed wedding in the past week was a comfort, as well.

After one more glance at the envelope, she let out a sigh. There was still the cake to deal with. She frowned and considered whether to bother with a phone call. It would undoubtedly be the same story; they'd already bought the ingredients and made the cake, if it was scheduled to be delivered for a wedding that evening. They weren't going to refund her money for a cake they'd already prepared.

At least she was pretty sure the cake would be chocolate, since she'd been the one to order it and it was her favorite kind. After having to explain to Clark what a garden's worth of flowers was doing in his house (she had every intention of passing the caterer's food off as her own; she wasn't stupid), she was pretty sure she'd need a heavy dose of chocolate cake therapy. Besides, she'd planned on making her famous rum cake for desert, but it looked like there might be a better use for that bottle than to use it in a cake.

"Well, this evening is about to get really interesting," she muttered to herself. At least she no longer had to worry about decorating the house. She'd been afraid Clark would be a little disappointed in the evening she had planned because she hadn't hung cherubic arrow-shooting babies and red frilly hearts all over the place. Now she wouldn't have to worry about it.

A little over ten minutes later, the florist pulled up in front of the house and carted in the flowers Lois had ordered for her wedding. She had suspected that in her June Cleaver channeling bout of insanity, she'd gone a bit overboard in the planning for her wedding to Clark, but even she was surprised by just how overboard she'd gone. Dozens and dozens of roses. And Lois hated roses. By the time the florist left, there was barely room to maneuver in the Kent's living room and the kitchen table was so covered that she and Clark would probably have to eat standing up.

She was trying to handle that dilemma when the caterer pulled up the drive and started carting in the food – steak and potatoes, with green beans and some delicious little honey rolls (she discovered when she grabbed one out of the tray). They tried to take everything into the kitchen, but Lois didn't want them to blow her charade that she'd prepared the meal herself, so she told them to put everything in the laundry room instead. After they left, she stared in horrified amazement at the amount of food she'd ordered; at this rate, she and Clark would be eating steak for a month! Plus, she had no idea how she was going to hide all of this from him; she'd hoped to throw some in the freezer, but she'd cursed when she'd found that it was already crammed full of food. Martha Kent had certainly made sure that her son would never go hungry.

Well, at least for tonight she could hope that Clark wouldn't have any sudden impulse to throw a load of laundry in the machine, so Lois should be safe. Everything was ready except for…

The cake. When she heard the third knock on the door, she started to panic. Darting around several baskets full of flowers, she raced to the door and yanked it open, and her stomach dropped when she saw the three-tier heart shaped wedding cake that was being pulled out of the truck.

"Mind whammied or not, how were you even capable of planning a wedding this revolting?" she growled furiously to herself under her breath. It was galling that she was surrounded by more flowers than the entire country of Denmark produced in a year, she had an army's worth of food hidden in the kitchen, and now she had this monstrosity of a wedding cake, and it had all been her doing! Well, Clark had certainly helped, and even though his contribution had been inadvertent and so she hadn't really blamed him for what had happened, she decided right on the spot that she was definitely not going to carry the full weight of responsibility for this farce.

It was one of the perks of being in a relationship, after all. One never had to carry the brunt of one's humiliation alone.

"Where would you like the wedding cake?" the man at the door asked for the third time as she stared in open-mouthed amazement at the chocolate covered behemoth being carted down the path.

Throwing a desperate look over her shoulder at the room, she tried to think of a place where they could even fit the darn thing. The living room looked like some alien species of rose had run amok, the kitchen was still dirty from her attempt at cooking, and the food she planned on passing off as her own later that evening was taking up the laundry room.

She opened her mouth to suggest the cake go in the barn, but she snapped it shut when it occurred to her that a random farm animal might decide to make off with HER chocolate cake. No, better not risk it.

"Um, upstairs," she finally said, swallowing heavily. "You can put it in the…uh…the bedroom."

The men carrying the cake paused and exchanged a look. "I'm sorry," one of them said, seeking clarification. "You want us to put your wedding cake in the bedroom?"

Her head bobbed up and down as if on a marionette's strings. "Absolutely. Best place for it. Just carry it on upstairs and put it on the…er…the dresser. Or the bed. Whichever. Thanks!"

She could swear one of them muttered something about crazy brides as they passed, but she ignored the comment, choosing to follow them upstairs rather than pick a fight over their assessment of her sanity. Besides, she too found the state of her sanity to be dubious at best.

They gently put the cake on the bed, finding it too large to be safely placed on the dresser, and Lois ushered them out of the room. She had to prepare for her evening with Clark.

After a hot shower, she styled her hair, carefully applied her makeup, and then slipped into the slinky red dress and pair of silver heels she'd brought to the house the night before. With one last self-satisfied glance at the mirror, she glanced at the clock and realized with a start that she didn't have much time before Clark was set to arrive. She'd better get moving if she wanted to pull off her dinner charade.

Lois traipsed downstairs and into the kitchen, where she grabbed some clean pans and took them into the laundry room. Filling them with food, she took them back into the kitchen and put them on a low heat – both to keep them warm for Clark's arrival and to fill the house with the scent of food. Clark would grow suspicious if it didn't smell like she'd been cooking all day.

Grinning at her cleverness, she crossed to the stereo and glanced through Clark's CD collection before she put on some Whitesnake to set the mood. (She was willing to go only so far to live up to Clark's vision of a romantic evening, and Music for Yawning Lovers was where she drew the line). Then she grabbed a candelabra from a nearby cabinet and was trying to find space for it on the table. She was pretty sure her romantic evening would come to an abrupt halt if the greenhouse worth of flowers caught fire and burned down the Kent's farm.

She was humming along with the song on the radio when the front door flew open and Clark walked in, stamping the snow off his boots before entering the house. "Hey, Lois, I hope I – uh…what happened here?" he asked in bewilderment as he looked around.

Slapping a wide smile on her face, she spun around and tried to pretend like there was nothing in the least bit wrong with the fact several rose gardens had been denuded for this tribute to romantic love. "Clark!" she cried happily with a surreptitious sniff. The smell of food wasn't quite as strong as she'd like, but that many roses would probably mask the smell of Napalm, so hopefully Clark wouldn't notice.

Skirting around several bouquets, she strode up to her boyfriend and grinned at his shocked expression. "I know you were disappointed that we didn't get that romantic Valentine's Day you'd planned, so I thought I'd make it up to you."

"Really?" he asked, arching his eyebrows. "You did all this?"

"Uh huh," she replied with a nod, not even feeling the slightest twinge of guilt at her shameless lie. Then, with feigned innocence, she asked, "Too much?"

"No!" he replied quickly, craning his neck as he looked for a place to put his coat that wouldn't annihilate several bouquets. "No, not at all! It's just…uh…a surprise, that's all."

Lois choked back her automatic response – which would be to tell him that he had no idea. Instead she lied through gritted teeth, "What can I say? I love roses." Then she stifled a groan. After this, Clark would be giving her roses every holiday until she died. Why couldn't she have ordered lilies for her wedding that wasn't going to happen? Trying not to think about it, she grabbed the coat from his hands. "I'll hang this up for you. Anyway, I hope you're hungry because I made dinner."

There was a flash of fear behind his eyes. "Really?" he squeaked in a voice that was a full octave higher than usual. "Well, that sounds…great! Can't wait!" He looked towards the kitchen with an expression of supreme trepidation. "Er…wow. More flowers. You want me to – uh – clean off the kitchen table?"

"Yeah, that'd be great," she called over her shoulder as she hung his coat in the closet. "Dinner should be just about done."

"Lucky me," she thought she heard him mutter under his breath, but when she shot him a suspicious look, he smiled at her in bland innocence. He grabbed two vases of roses off the table and looked around helplessly for a place to put them. "Well, I have to say I'm impressed, Lois. You certainly went all-out to make tonight romantic. And to think, a few weeks ago, I couldn't even get you to hold my hand in public," he teased.

She snorted. "Yeah, well, I guess it just goes to show you that you don't know me as well as you think you do!" she teased good-naturedly. "It's good to know that after five years, I can still surprise you."

"All the time," he replied warmly, a smile curving the edges of his mouth as he looked at her. As her eyes locked on his face, he blatantly let his gaze travel down her body, taking in the way the red dress hugged her curves and the long expanse of bare leg beneath. "You surprise me every day."

Her breath caught in her throat, and she focused on the hanger in her hands as if it was the most fascinating thing in the world so he wouldn't see her reaction to his words. "You think you're surprised now, wait until you taste what I made for dinner," she said, he voice a little too strained to pull off the light tone she had attempted.

"Oh…yeah…I can't wait for it!" he said with false cheer. "Uh…you know, I don't want these to be in the way." Lois stifled a laugh, since that ship had pretty much sailed. There was barely any room to move as it was. "I think I'll just…put them in the laundry room. I'd hate to accidentally knock them over."

"No!" she yelped, dodging flowers as she raced to intercept him. Flinging herself in front of the door to the laundry room, she raised her hands in a halting gesture. "No, I – I think you should leave them out here! I mean, if they're shut away in another room, how will we be able to – um – enjoy their beauty?"

Clark looked around at the flowers that surrounded them, whose beauty they'd be able to enjoy to their heart's content. "Right," he said after a moment. "I guess it would be a shame to – er – miss them."

"Exactly!" she chirped with a smile. "Why don't you put them on the – uh – the stairs instead?"

"All right," he replied agreeably, moving to do as she'd suggested. As he walked the last two baskets of roses to the stairs, he called, "All clear! I'll be back down in a minute; I'm just going to go change. I got dirtier helping Ben than I realized."

Lois was setting the table, decorating it with the candelabra and the bouquet of flowers she'd bought from the store, and so she responded absently, "Okay, that sounds fine." She was lighting the candles with a match when his words sunk in and she remembered the enormous wedding cake on the bed upstairs. There was simply no way she could let Clark see it.

"Wait! No!" she barked, spinning around. At the foot of the stairs, Clark paused and looked at her in surprise. She knocked over one basket of flowers and nearly toppled four others as she raced towards him. "I was just…ah…I think you look good as you are."

He bowed his head and looked at the dirt smeared on his shirt and hands; more covered his face. "Lois…I'm a mess."

She nodded. "Yeah, but you know, you're actually pretty sexy when your dirty."

"Lois, come on –" he began to protest, but she shook her head.

She'd thought she was lying, just to distract him from going upstairs, but when she looked closer at him, she realized she was telling the truth. "Actually…I think you may be the only man in the world who is actually sexier when he's covered in dirt. How do you do that?" she asked in amazement.

Looping her arms around his neck, she leaned towards him and brushed her lips against his. When his lips parted under hers, she ran her tongue along the curve of his mouth, tilting her head to the side to deepen the kiss. His arms tightened around her as he spun her around, pressing her against the wall. His hands trailed down her back to cup the curve of her rear, pulling her tightly against him, and she moaned into his mouth when she felt the evidence of his arousal.

"Wait!" she gasped, wriggling in his arms until he let out a moan of his own. "What about dinner? I don't want to burn it!" Truth be told, she didn't really care about dinner – heaven knew they had food to spare – but she found she was actually somewhat nervous about taking her relationship with Clark to the next level. God knew she wanted him; she'd had too many erotic dreams starring Clark Kent to count. But she was still nervous about taking this relationship too fast and blowing it with the best man she'd ever known.

"Dinner?" he asked in a pained voice as she backed out of his arms. "But I –"

"Clark, I've been cooking all day!" she lied again. Well, it wasn't a complete lie. She had cooked; they just weren't going to eat the food she'd personally prepared.

He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Right. Of course. I'd hate for your food to go to waste," he said with a smile. "I'm sure I'll love it."

For a moment, Lois was tempted to return to his arms and continue what they'd started. It was moments like this that she remembered why she loved him so much. She knew he dreaded eating her dinner; it wasn't like he was eager to try her newest culinary experience. But he was going to eat it anyway – he wasn't going to pretend like he wanted to taste her dinner more than he wanted to whisk her upstairs – because he didn't want to risk hurting her feelings.

There were times when Clark was really just a genuinely good guy.

Grinning widely at the anticipation of his surprise when he tasted "her" food and realized it was actually pretty good, she backed towards the kitchen. "Well, we shouldn't let dinner get cold. Why don't you pour the wine, and I'll start serving?"

Clark had grabbed silverware and finished setting the table by the time Lois came back into the room, carrying two plates of food. He sat as she laid one in front of his place at the table and looked down in surprise when he noticed that nothing was either charred or still raw. "Wow, Lois, this looks great!" he said with genuine enthusiasm.

"See?" she chirped with a smug smile as she sat across from him. "I can cook when I put my mind to it! Anyway, eat up; there's plenty more!" Bowing her head, she hid her mouth behind her napkin and muttered, "About a month's worth, actually."

"Sorry?" he asked in mild confusion as he popped a potato in his mouth.

She shook her head innocently and said in a bright tone, "Nothing!" She didn't know how she was going to pull off the charade of having cooked all of that food herself, but Clark really seemed to be enjoying his meal. It had to be the first time he'd ever eaten anything she'd "cooked" with such obvious enjoyment (not that she could blame him for his dubiousness regarding her past efforts). There was no way in hell she was going to confess the truth to him now. This was a secret she planned to take to her grave.

Their meal together was every bit as romantic as she'd hoped. Finally, when it was over, she pushed back her chair and stood. Clark was skirting around the table towards her, so she put up her hand and stopped him. "Wait. Before you do anything else, I want to get you your Valentine's Day gift."

His eyebrows shot up in surprise. "You mean this wasn't it?" he asked, gesturing to the table.

She shook her head. "Not all of it," she replied coyly. "Wait here, I'll be right back."

In retrospect, she wished she'd kept those plane tickets to Maui. That would have been a hell of a Valentine's Day gift. But instead, she raced up the stairs to the bedroom, to grab her purse. Clark's gift was hidden inside.

While she was in the bedroom, she absently registered a soft knocking sound but didn't really think much about it until she heard Clark call from below, "Uh…Lois? There's someone here to see you!"

"Really?" she asked, traipsing down the stairs again. "Who is – oh shit. I mean, sorry Padre!" Cursing in front of a collared minister had to be some kind of sin. She was willing to bet on it. Her face flaming, she slowly walked down the last few steps and then gave a nervous laugh. He opened his mouth to speak, but she cut him off, trying desperately to save the situation. "So…uh…you're here for a donation for the church, right?" she babbled in a high pitched voice. "Wow, it's really amazing that you guys come out this far, going door to door like this. Let me see what I've got!" Fumbling with her wallet, she pulled out a fifty and tried to shove it into his hands. "Here you go! You can go now!"

"I'm afraid there's been a misunderstanding –" he tried to protest.

"Oh, sorry! I meant to give you more!" Her desperation growing, Lois grabbed another fifty and shoved it into his hands as well. "Nope! No misunderstanding! Really, you can go now! I insist!" she rambled as she physically turned him around and tried to shove him out the door.

"Lois!" Clark cut in, grabbing the minister's arm to steady him when an unfortunate altercation with a potted rose plant almost led to disaster. To the beleaguered man, he continued in a calmer tone, "You said something a misunderstanding? You told me you were here to see Lois; what can we do for you?"

Brushing himself off, the minister turned. "I'm here to perform the wedding," he said simply.

"Wedding? What wedding?" Lois squeaked. "There's no wedding here!"

Clark turned to her, his eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Lois, is there something you've forgotten to tell me?" Clearly remembering his surprise at seeing her in a wedding dress, he added, "Again?"

She shook her head emphatically. "Of course not! Like I said, there's been a mistake. Nobody's planned a wedding!"

The minister looked around at the ocean of flowers. "Are you sure?" he asked dubiously.

Lois forced a laugh. "Of course I'm sure!" she replied. "I mean, look at me! I'm wearing a red dress! Do many brides wear red on their wedding day? I mean, don't you think I'd be wearing some sort of disgustingly frilly white gown if I were going to be in a wedding? Besides, I think I'd know if I were getting married!"

The minister still looked dubious but eventually decided he couldn't force two people to get married when they denied there had ever been a wedding in the works to begin with. So, after apologizing for his mistake, he turned and left, shaking his head at the thought of what the world was coming to, when brides wore red to weddings they backed out of and pretended not to have planned in the first place.

As the door closed behind the profoundly confused man of the cloth, Lois sighed heavily and turned to Clark. The moment of truth was at hand. Clark wasn't stupid; there was no way he wouldn't have put these pieces together.

He saved her the trouble of having to explain. "So," he remarked casually, "I take it last week you did more than simply order a dress?"

Lois grimaced and nodded. "Apparently. Believe me; it was as much of a surprise to me as it is to you."

Clark look thoughtful and nodded. Then, stepping closer to her, he bent his face close to hers and murmured, "You know, Lois, when we get married someday –"

She let out an astonished chuckle, her laughter catching in her throat. "Don't you mean if?" she interjected.

He seemed to consider that. Wrapping an arm around her waist, he pulled her closer. "When we get married," he stressed with calm certainty, "promise me something."

An uncertain smile on her face, she breathed, "What's that?"

Glancing around, he remarked, "Not so many flowers?" She started to chuckle, but he swallowed her laughter with a soft kiss. Once he had her attention again, he added in a low growl, "And you'll wear red on our wedding night."

Lois caught her breath as she stared up into his eyes. "I tell you what, Smallville," she finally said, a smile twitching at the corners of her mouth. "If I decide to marry you someday –"

"When," he interjected smoothly.

Her smile broadened. "If." She leaned forward and murmured against his mouth. "I'll think about it."