by Johnny Superfecta
Notes: An alternate ending to season five's Mortal, when Clark was without his powers. Rated R for violence.
The study, Luthor mansion, at the end of a long, bad August day. "Satisfied?" asked Clark quietly after touching his hand to his split lip, referring to the trickle of blood flowing after Lex had struck him with a hard left hand. Lex himself had taken two solid punches to the head from Clark, and his nose was bleeding. He was stunned, and a little guilty. He was not satisfied.
Clark was turning to go, clearly the winner of this exchange. Lex's plan (send Belle Reve inmates to the Kent Farm to force Clark into exposing his secrets) had failed, disastrously. He'd surely alienated Clark and his family for good, now; such was the price for gaining the precious secret intelligence that Clark, just like everyone else in the world, could be burned by a laser and bloodied by a punch in the mouth. Not a particularly good return.
Punching him felt fine, though. Even being hit by him was all right, in that it was a genuine response; Clark was furious, so he hit Lex in the head--no dissembling there. No careful evasions, no too-rapid changes of subject, just a sharp, pure expression of his true feelings. So, if this was to be the end for them, then they were going to have it out properly for once, and since doing so verbally would be a waste of time...
"Clark, hang on a minute." Clark turned back with a retort on his lips but whatever he was going to say was lost as Lex socked him in the eye and he staggered back into the hallway.
He reeled backwards until he hit the wall, then steadied himself and came back in. He shut the door. "Fine; if that's how you want it, Lex." He looked deadly; Lex felt a frisson.
"It is, thanks," he returned. The intercom beeped, then a man's voice asked, "Mr. Luthor? Is everything all right?" His security people were on the ball for once; naturally, it was when they weren't needed. Lex held up a hand to Clark, then went to the intercom. "Yes, Edwards," he spoke into it, "Everything's fine. Now, have the staff and security personnel keep well clear of the study and the surrounding area, no matter what anyone hears or believes to be happening. Understood?" His addressing of the man by the codename 'Edwards' indicated that he was not being forced to speak under duress. He received an affirmative, and nodded to Clark, saying, "We have a clear field."
They stood ten feet apart, eyeing each other. Clark untucked his shirt and rolled up the cuffs; Lex did similarly. He was worried that he possessed a glass jaw; despite his unusually good constitution, he'd been knocked out several times since coming to Smallville. It was always the unexpected impact which did the trick, though, getting knocked backwards into something or having someone hit him from behind. He felt he could stay upright if he saw the blow coming; he'd survived a not-inconsiderable number of fights in his misspent Metropolitan youth--won most of them, in fact. Of course, in those cases he'd had no compunction about fighting dirty. This was different; he had no intention of disabling Clark with a nerve hold, beating him senseless with a pool cue, or smashing a whiskey bottle across his skull--that would just be what was expected: nasty old Lex Luthor defeats virtuous golden boy Clark Kent by fighting foul. No one would learn anything from that.
"Okay," growled Clark, and he advanced, still looking very angry. Lex stood by the desk, hands at his sides. Clark threw a right hook; Lex dodged it and hit him twice in the stomach--it seemed to him that Clark had gotten just a little doughy over the summer, judging from what he'd seen of him at the building site. Clark groaned and doubled over. Lex circled to his left, away from the desk--with room to maneuver, he knew the edge was his. He was the quicker and more skilled fighter, surely. "Now remember; you said if I wanted to know what you were made of, I should test you myself--you invited me to do so, " he said.
"You're going to pay for what you did today," said Clark, who had recovered and, now quite enraged, charged him. Lex hit him a couple of times on the way in but Clark kept going and tackled him, driving him downward. Lex's head banged against the bare wooden floor and things went swimmy in front of his eyes. He squirmed about, trying to get loose--Clark clouted him solidly in the ear, which burned. He lashed out groggily and connected with something soft; the weight holding him down shifted, enabling him to wriggle free. He lurched to his feet and retreated hastily to the wall by the double doors, which he leaned against while trying to recover his balance.
Clark stood and glared at him, blood still trickling from his mouth. He mimicked Lex from earlier in the day, at the barn-raising: "'I hope we can rebuild more than the town.'" He shook his head slightly. "You said that to me, and I believed you--I thought that really was what you wanted. And while you were saying that, those fugitives--that you broke out and sent after us--were on their way to the farm." Some of the anger faded from his face and was replaced with puzzlement. "While you were saying that," he repeated.
'How could I be so awful?' Lex thought. He assumed a chastised expression and moved forward slowly with lowered hands, saying, "I'm sorry, Clark. I'm sorry. The escape at Belle Reve--what you have to understand is--" and then feinted with his left and broke Clark's nose with a overhand right, taking care to strike at a downward angle so as not to drive the cartilage into his brain, which would take the fun out of this.
Clark howled as blood poured down from his ruined nose. He swung wildly--Lex dodged it and hooked him in the ribs. 'Kill the body and the head dies,' he remembered hearing a crusty boxing commentator rasp long ago. More violence delivered to Clark's midsection, then a straight left coming in return that Lex saw late and there was nowhere to go, so he ducked into it and was rocked back a step but suffered no more than a moment's dizziness and a small cut. Clark, on the other hand, screamed in pain. He tucked his damaged hand in close to his body.
"The forehead's the hardest part of the body," Lex said mildly. "And I've got plenty of it." Inwardly he sighed--this would soon be over. Short and brutal, like all fistfights. He could prolong it, but that would be cruel, and disrespectful to his adversary; Clark was now gamely coming at him again, and he decided to end it right there. Sensibly, Clark looked to be ready to abandon pugilism so as to get in close and grapple, thus employing his greater strength--which wouldn't do at all for Lex. Clark lowered his head and lunged forward, and Lex timed his run perfectly and caught him sweetly on the jaw with an uppercut. His own hand was now a little sore, but he'd felt some of Clark's teeth loosen that time. Clark reeled against him; Lex took a step back and he fell at his feet.
"TKO," said Lex. He'd been watching Clark closely, still waiting for a sign of something...unnatural. But there was nothing but utterly ordinary--oafish, even--responses. So was he, in the final analysis, to really believe Clark was just an ordinary farmer's son? Other evidence abounded, his cherished hoard of vague but contradictory evidence--would he have to find alternate explanations for it? He spat blood into a potted plant, looked at his watch--he had a conference call scheduled in forty-five minutes--and then stooped to attend to his stricken friend.
Senseless, save for quite a lot of pain, Clark lay on the floor breathing heavily through his mouth. Mostly unconscious for the moment, his mind wandered back a couple of years to an autumn Sunday when the two of them had watched 'Rocky IV' here at the mansion. Lex's voice drifted back to him: "I can suspend my disbelief better than most, but this is idiotic--he's training for the biggest fight of his life in a barn in the rural USSR--it looks a bit like your barn, come to think of it..."
He opened his eyes (or had they already been open?), blinked, and focused. He saw the pool table, several feet away; a shadowed figure loomed close above him and a voice said, "Come on, I'll take you to the hospital." He turned his head to see Lex, extending a hand. Clark batted the hand away and sat up--he scuttled backward to the desk, which he used to haul himself up, on weakened legs. He was a clumsy fighter, he now realized, too reliant on his former strength and speed to have ever developed any real skill. He was the bigger man here, but couldn't seem to make that edge count--Lex had cleaned his clock, and would likely do so again. The smart thing to do was probably to just go home, but he was still mad; even madder, really, at the unfairness of it all. Here he was, completely in the right to confront Lex (and surely Lex had deserved at least a couple punches to the head, for what he'd done), and yet it was he, Clark, who had gotten beat up and covered in his own blood, the flow from his nose just now beginning to lessen. Lex; always investigating, always insinuating; open any door in Smallville and it seemed like Lex was behind it. Clark could see, now, that this day was entirely foreseeable; that Lex was always going to do something like this, something so far beyond the pale (but the way Lex was, how much responsibility did he, Clark, bear, when you consider...no, no, he pushed that thought back down, down where it would doubtless fester into more resentment toward him). There had been times before when he'd felt like hitting Lex--and now Clark could do it without fear of decapitating him. Except he couldn't fight worth a damn without his powers.
Lex apprehended that Clark didn't seem quite ready to retire from the field and seek medical attention. "Don't, Clark--really, I don't want to do this anymore. It's over."
"Not yet," he spat out. In the arena of hand-to-hand combat, Clark only had one move that he was really comfortable with, but it was one that had put an end to fights time and time again. He lunged at Lex, who ducked with a hint of resignation and threw a right to the abdomen. Clark sidestepped and was suddenly in very close; he trapped Lex's arm against his body and with his good right hand grabbed him by the belt; his left, with a couple fingers not working properly, grabbed a fistful of shirt. Before, what he wanted to do would've taken a mere flick of the wrists; now, it took all the leverage he could muster, all the strength in his now-human muscles that a summer of reconstruction work had hardened, to throw Lex across the room. He strode forward and down, bending his knees as he moved level with Lex, and then put his weight into a mighty heave, using all the leverage that his superior height and reach could generate--the bones in his left hand ground together agonizingly but he held on and executed the throw as well as he could have hoped, if at a lower trajectory than he was accustomed to. Lex gave a startled cry as he briefly shot though the air before crashing into the base of the wall by the door with a terrible thud.
Clark immediately doubled over, clutching his side--Lex had damaged something there earlier, a rib most likely, and the effort expended just then had aggravated the injury. He looked up to see that Lex lay on his side, eyes shut. This was more like it.
Lex had lost some interest in the fight and dropped his guard, and so had been completely surprised by Clark's grabbing him, had barely even tried to interfere. 'Just like a bale of hay,' he thought before blacking out when the back of his head crashed against the wall. His mind was utterly blank for an indeterminate amount of time.
He came to. Clark had taken off his flannel shirt and was holding it to his nose. He was watching him, and said, somewhat muffled, "I was just about to come and see if your neck was broken."
His neck hadn't broken, but there was something wrong with his left arm--he had landed on it badly and it had folded under him. And his vision was blurry--concussion? Best not to fall asleep, then. He stood up shakily and said, "I'm touched by your concern. So, have you had enough?" A rhetorical question, of course; they would now depart for the too-familiar confines of the Smallville Medical Center and call the fight a creditable draw. A little unsatisfying, for both of them, but there would be other days.
"I don't understand you," Clark replied. Oh, really, not even after all this time? Lex was mentally crafting a cutting retort when he realized from Clark's tone and expression that he literally didn't understand what he'd said; he then repeated himself with a successful effort not to slur his speech.
"Have I had enough? I never wanted this." Clark sounded aggrieved.
"It was you that barged into my study and hit me."
"You had it coming. Didn't you?" They stood apart like gunfighters, sniping at each other.
"Perhaps. But what did you have coming?"
"I take it, then, that you see yourself as more sinned-against than sinner. But every lie you've told me over the last four years has led us to this point, Clark."
"You..." He seemed to be choking on blood, and rage. He flung his bloody shirt onto a chair by the fireplace and took a step forward. His voice became calm and deadly as he said, "You blame me, when you put my family in danger, and you put Lana in danger. And not just through recklessness, I could forgive that--I've forgiven it before--but you did it deliberately, just to see what I'd do. If I hadn't gotten back in time with that stupid serum, they were going to kill my mom. My mom, maybe the last person on Earth who still thinks there's some good in you." He took another step forward, and Lex blanched--evidently they weren't going to shake hands and traipse off to the hospital after all; Clark looked murderous.
And then, he didn't anymore; he backed off. "To hell with you," he said with contempt and moved toward the door, not looking at Lex, whose head was clearing. This was all going wrong--just how would he have felt if the strung-out meteor freaks he'd wound up and aimed at the Kents had hurt Martha, hurt or worse? He remembered feeling a qualm about this back in the planning stages, but had easily brushed it aside with a vision of Clark doing...something spectacular...to carry out his appointed task, and him getting it all on video. God, what a mess this had turned into. Someone deserved a brutal beating for it.
"'Ding, ding, ding,'" said Lex. Clark turned, incredulous. Lex continued, "That's the start of the last round--and remember, under Kansas rules, no standing eight-count will be administered and a fighter cannot be saved by the bell."
Lex struggled to breathe, and to stay conscious. He had stupidly blundered into a bear hug and now Clark had him up off the ground and was squeezing him for all he was worth--crushing the life right out of him. Lex thrashed about vainly, beating his fists against Clark's back, and then with the last of his strength began banging his head into Clark's repeatedly. Clark yelled in pain, head busted wide open now, blood trickling into his eyes. His grip loosened, but didn't release; he bullishly charged forward, likely with the intent of driving Lex into a wall, or the desk. He didn't find either of those, and together they crashed through a section of the large stained-glass window.
On the way through, as they hit the sill they twisted around so that it was Clark who broke much of Lex's fall. Lex rolled off of him and gasped at the air. It hurt his sides to breathe. Clark turned over and struggled to his knees. Lex could see dark patches on his T-shirt where he'd landed on broken glass.
They both got up, slowly. Had he really once thought Clark to be indestructible? Looking at him now, that idea was put to rest; his face was a crimson mask. "You look..." he paused to wheeze in some more air, "...terrible. You should...throw in...the towel."
Clark wiped at his eyes. "Is that all you've got? Go on, Lex; lecture me about the ancient Romans or quote 'The Art of War' to me, or something."
Lex thought, then said, "'No general...should fight a battle...simply out of pique.' But I never...liked that one." He lurched forward; Clark held up his hands to deflect a blow, and Lex lowered his head and drove it into Clark's sternum. He groaned terribly and stumbled backward for several steps before toppling over and rolling down a small grassy slope into a flower bed. Lex straightened, feeling his spine crackle nicely; he looked up at the darkened sky, and down at the verdant park and his battered friend again struggling to rise. It was a nice tableau; he was pleased.
Clark was up, and cried out as he pulled a jagged shard of purple glass out of his lower back. He flung it back toward the house, and shouted, "Come on; let's finish this!"
"There, that's the spirit!" returned Lex as he broke into a shambling run and launched himself at Clark, who stood flat-footed in the soft soil. They fell to the ground, brawling viciously, but Clark soon gained the advantage and grabbed Lex by his already-banged-up left arm, forcing it up between his shoulderblades and driving his face into the earth. He pushed it further than he meant to, perhaps, and the shoulder dislocated--the arm went slack in his hands and Lex screamed.
It was the worst pain he could remember; the world seemed to turn red for a moment before he blacked out.
"--from you!" he heard. It had only been a couple seconds, evidently; Clark still had his knee in the small of Lex's back, before he got off of him and took a step away. He wobbled on his feet--his eyes goggled in his head, for a moment, and he stayed upright with great difficulty; he'd gotten up too fast, and had been bleeding profusely for a while. Lex pulled his face out of the dirt and rolled over--oh, the pain was sickening--and sat up. He was supporting the weight of his left arm with the right one. He got to his knees, then vomited suddenly. He took a moment, then rocked back onto his feet and stood.
"You look peaked, Clark. Lana must be wearing you out." He felt light-headed. A strange merriment crept over him uncontrollably.
Clark had been looking up at the mansion, which itself looked wounded with a hole gaping in it--he slowly turned to face Lex, who continued, "I admit, I could use a short break myself. I think I can fashion a crude sling out of my shirt, if you'll help me out of it. Without the use of either arm, I feel like the Black Knight--you remember him, don't you?"
Clark shook his head. "You're insane," he said quietly.
"Now I can't tell you how frustrating that is; once you've got a 'psychotic break' in your past, people will question your sanity at the drop of a hat." He moved onto the grass and slipped out of his shoes; the turf was moist and springy under his stocking feet--recently watered, evidently.
Clark sounded bemused, again. "It wasn't supposed to be like this."
"I know," he said with ersatz sympathy, "you thought you'd knock me around, tell me where to go, and strut on out the door. Believe me, I, of all people, understand how things rarely work out the way you plan them." His shoulder was numbing now, a bit. "I do think you might have asked me about the Belle Reve escape before attacking me, though. Friends give each other the benefit of the doubt, don't they?"
"Doubt?" He looked thoughtful, and said slowly, "No; I wouldn't have believed you if you'd denied it." But then he contradicted himself and asked, seemingly against his will, "Did you do it?"
He fixed Clark with a look of great intensity and said, "No; I was only there to check on my father." Then he dropped his useless left arm and lashed out with his right, a straight, sharp blow to Clark's face. It hit him and he fell down and stayed there, perhaps soothed by the cool wet grass. The jolt of agony to Lex's shoulder brought tears to his eyes and caused his legs to collapse bonelessly under him; he rolled onto his back and folded his injured arm across his chest. He turned his head to see Clark, who lay peacefully on his side, his back facing Lex. The dark patches on his shirt were much larger than before--how deep had that glass gone in? That reminded him of something: someone had been mortally wounded crashing through that window ages ago, hadn't they? Something to do with...the caves? The images were all jumbled, but he felt that this was serious--he had better get up; yes, he would get up in a moment and summon his people--he just needed to gather himself. He looked up at something bright and blurry and far away that must have been the moon, then his eyes closed and he was out.
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