Yes, finally I have a new chapter for you! Thanks to all of you for your kind thoughts about my mother. She passed away a few weeks ago, and it's been rough getting back to a good place. I appreciate all your posts, believe me! I should be posting more very soon, (I know this is a short chapter) but I wanted you to at least know I am writing again.

Chapter 80

"And Batman? Is he okay?" Green Arrow looked expectantly at Superman for an answer, only to see him shaking his head as he kept his eyes locked on the barn that was too far away for any of the rest of them to observe.

"I have no idea. He still looks to me like he's not breathing …just bleeding all over my barn." Superman pursed his lips and shot a quick glance over at a very pleased Zatanna. "I do hope you know what you're doing," he paused, "and all of this is worth it to upset Lois like this. She thinks that's me."

"That was the idea, well, for them, I mean. Lois wasn't supposed to be here."

"Yeah, well, Lois doesn't exactly do as she's told."

"Speaking of Legs…?"

Superman looked at his friend and frowned, but Green Arrow only grinned back at him expectantly, before waving toward the barn indicating another peek was in order.

Turning back to the barn, Superman focused his extraordinary vision and hearing on the barn scene once again. "She's fine. She's taking one of the men inside. They're hungry. She's going to…" he took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and still hesitated before continuing, "cook for them." The two men turned to face each other. As Green Arrow laughed heartily, Superman allowed himself a tiny chuckle.

"And whose brilliant idea was that?"


"Poor man. And he's only got a gun. She's going to have a whole kitchen—"

"Oliver, this is not funny. Lois is in a certain amount of dan—"

"One guy? This is Lois we're talking about. We've both seen her handle herself in tight spots. Even if his gun had bullets—" He immediately sobered and stopped mid-sentence, grabbing Superman by the arm. "Hey, maybe you should double check on that. I mean, we thought—"

"Good idea," Superman said grimly as he folded his arms and turned back to watch Lois being pushed roughly along the driveway and up the steps to the back door. Given the stray light and radio waves bouncing around all about them, it took a little more concentration on his part than it would have normally, but he shifted his sight into X-ray mode and looked toward the gun thrust up against Lois' back. Suddenly skeletal outlines, the gun, the new filled clip, and all stray bits of metal came into focus clearly.

He blinked in surprise.

"What?" Oliver's alarm spiked at the look on Clark's face. "What?"

Superman smiled. "She'll be fine, Oliver."

"So you're sure there are no bullets in the gun?"

"Bullets in the gun," he repeated. Then suddenly he patted Oliver on the back as he grinned himself. "No problem."

The odd response caught Oliver by surprise, but he immediately lost the thought as Chloe joined them.

"Clark!" "We thought…You're all right! Oh my—"

"I'm fine. You okay?" He reached down to hug her as he continued, "I'm sorry. That was a bit rough on you."

"But Lois? She's still…aren't you going to—"

"Not yet. Chloe, she's fine. We're waiting for Lex."

"Lex? But…"

"Okay, you guys!" John Jones had suddenly reappeared just behind them. "Heads up…here he comes."

All eyes turned to stare at a very weary, hard-breathing figure that had just stumbled onto the driveway at the gate of the Kent farm.

"Bet that's the longest trek he's had since—" Bart began, but he was immediately shushed by everyone around him.

"Mr. Luthor!"

Jergens looked up in relief as the bald headed man entered the barn with all the bravado of a C.E.O. walking into his boardroom.

As for Lex Luthor, yes, he was tired, frustrated, and more than a little angry, but the never-let-them-see-you-sweat lesson of his father's had been drummed into his subconscious long ago.

"Senator. You're alone? Where are the others?" he asked calmly.

"Out looking for…well, we had a bit of a problem. There's this dog, you see…"

"What dog?"

"Kent's. He's really freakishly strong, and—"

"A dog? On this night, you're talking about a dog." It was time to see if his ride in the car had had the desired effect. He narrowed his eyes and commanded loudly, "I want you to tell me anything I need to know—"

The sound of the words was still echoing in the barn when Jergens interrupted with an uncharacteristic eagerness to spill everything in one great rush.

"We did everything like you said, even if we thought it was really stupid. Breaking into that lab to steal a worthless rock and a few papers? Even those two minor league morons you hired for the job think you're crazy by now. A guy like you, with your resources, should be making for Europe or South America by now, not plotting out some penny-anti revenge against a reporter just because once upon a time he made you mad… I mean, the money, Luthor, the money! They would have cut and run already if you'd just paid them half of what—"

Luthor held up a hand and shouted, "Enough! What I really want you to tell me are the parts you don't want me to know about."

"Ah." Jergens took a few quick, sharp breaths, and his eyes darted this way and that, trying to figure a way out of his dilemma.

Luthor could see he was fighting the impulse to tell him something, and he yelled even louder, "Tell me what you don't want to tell me!"

A note of resignation colored the man's next words. "That would be that Kent's over there."

He pointed to the spot just behind the tractor, and Luthor spun around to look. His face reddened with rage and disbelief at the obviously "dead" Clark Kent sprawled there.

"I couldn't resist shooting him. After all, he ruined my life. And the other half of that idiot reporting team, Lane, just went into the house with one of my guys, against my better judgment. But, damn it, I'm hungry. You should have been here hours ago, and I was beginning to hope you weren't coming, so I could work all this out on my own, except I'm still not sure what the blue rock is all about, so I really need you to tell me about that first … before I kill you too." Jergens finished speaking and it was like watching someone coming out of a trance. He looked all around him in confusion, wondering how in the world he'd just confessed all of that to Lex Luthor, of all people.

But Luthor only went over to Kent and leaned down over him to feel for a pulse. Finding none, he rounded with fury on Jergens. "YOU FOOL!" With two quick strides, he was back in front of Jergens, and his fingers were wrapped around the man's throat.