Warnings: Spoilers for S10
Summary: Clark's final battle with Darkseid comes to an unexpected end.
High above Metropolis, Darkseid throws Kara around like a doll.
Kara's eyes stare at Clark, begging him to end her suffering. But it’s Darkseid's voice that speaks through her:
"No one is truly pure of heart, Kal-El. When you tell them they are, they get proud, they get careless and they let you in without knowing it."
"Let her go," says Clark.
"I will now," says Darkseid. "It's you I wanted."
He drops Kara and surges into Clark.
"You let me in. You took me in willingly."
"Yes, I did," says Clark. "And now you're staying."
* * * *
It's been days now, possibly weeks; Clark has lost track of time. They lurch around the Metropolis skyline, sometimes veering out across rural Kansas. They even fly over the farm once, which hurts Clark's heart. He doesn't expect to live to see the farm again.
He may not be able to defeat Darkseid but he can contain him; he can let the battle play out within his own body to save innocent civilians from harm.
Darkseid takes control every now and then; when he does, Clark summons the last of his energy and pushes him back. Darkseid's frustration is building and it's sapping his power, just as Clark's own power is draining. Darkseid's voice never stops, a constant throb in Clark's mind:
"I will conquer you. I will conquer them. You cannot stop me; I cannot be stopped."
Then Clark lets Darkseid surge out, just briefly, before yanking the leash back again.
He is not strong enough to destroy Darkseid; Darkseid is not strong enough to escape him. They are only strong enough to destroy each other.
He's grateful that Lois has been nowhere in sight, despite the crowds of reporters covering the Blur's every tortured movement. Lois out of the way means…Oliver? Or Chloe? Lois would never have left him voluntarily.
Once, he glimpses his mother's face in the crowd below and has to close his eyes. Any Achilles heel, any way Darkseid can get the upper hand; he can't allow it.
Darkseid roars, an angry beast:
"You will die. I will kill you. They will all die. I will kill them."
Yeah, thinks Clark. Anti-life equation. Blah blah blah. Sing a new tune once in a while.
He supposes it won't be long now. He can feel himself ebbing, his body preparing to separate itself from the world.
He wants to see his friends again, to hug his Mom. He wants to drink lemonade, feel the sun on his face, test his speed against Bart's.
Best not to think about any of it, best to build a mental wall that Darkseid can't punch through.
They land, with a thump and a stagger. Familiar place. Clark knows this place….it's the roof of the Planet. His vision is fogging.
This may be the end. He may die here. He can feel Darkseid struggling inside him. No words are left now, just a throb of rage.
"Well, now," says a voice. That voice. For a moment, Clark thinks it must be from his own head, a dying brain playing tricks.
Lex Luthor is there, standing on the roof.
Clark stares at him. And it’s really him, not another clone. The real Lex, wearing a black suit and black gloves.
Clark doesn't know what to think and Darkseid examines Clark's confusion. If this was his mother standing on the roof, Darkseid would know Clark's feelings and instantly exploit them, but his emotions towards Lex are a tangled skein of wool.
Darkseid takes the upper hand and speaks through Clark:
"Why are you here, human?"
Lex gives a graceful shrug.
"To watch. To watch two alien threats destroy each other instead of Earth is very gratifying."
Clark can feel Darkseid reaching out to Lex, considering him. Here is power.
"We'd have defeated you anyway," says Lex. "You have no idea, the forces at my command. With the push of a button, I could destroy you."
It's bait and Clark can feel Darkseid rising to it. Lex has a plan. He's inviting Darkseid to take him over – why?
Small twitch of Lex's right hand. And then, in an instant, Clark understands and just as quickly shoves the thought out of his mind before Darkseid sees it too.
Lex has a plan. But Clark's plan might be a little different.
"In the end," says Lex. "The House always wins. Time to fold your cards."
The surge of Darkseid trying to leave his body nearly buckles Clark but he can't, he won't let go. Darkseid's dark tendrils brush against Lex and Lex drops a purple ball behind him. The portal opens.
Clark feels Darkseid register the change, there's a flicker of panic, but the creature isn’t quick enough….Clark summons the last of his strength, lunges forward, pushes Lex past the portal and Darkseid straight into it. Then he picks up the purple ball and throws it as hard as he can.
There's a back rush of air, Darkseid's final protest as the portal closes. It's strong enough to knock Clark off his feet, off the roof. He's falling, with Lex still locked in his arms.
He's going to die. Again. But Lex doesn't have to. Clark shifts so that Lex is on top of him. Hopefully Clark's body will cushion the impact. For a brief moment, Lex's eyes look into his…and then there is only darkness.
* * * *
"Clark? Are you coming back to us?"
Clark doesn't want to wake up yet. He's comfortable; there's a toasty warmth pressing against him.
Clark opens his eye a crack. Emil's face is hovering over him, with the Watchtower ceiling above.
"J'onn J'onzz and Hawkman netted you," says Emil. "But it was a close thing."
Emil jerks his chin and Clark turns his head slightly. The warmth pressing against him is Lex, sound asleep.
"He wouldn't let you go," says Emil. "Which was a solvable problem. But then you wouldn't let him go, which was more difficult. So I drugged him until we could figure out what to do."
"You drugged him? Against his will?" says Clark.
"Oliver wanted to kill him," says Emil. "Also against his will. And I'm fine with that too, if that's what you decide."
Clark shakes his head, the memories settling like silt.
"Kara. Is she-"
"She's safe. Cyborg broke her fall. She's out of town, with Lois. Neither went voluntarily of course, but we thought you'd want them safe."
"Yes," says Clark. "Thanks."
Lex stirs in his arms, murmurs something. He's waking up. Clark says:
"Emil, can you give us a moment?"
"I can. But are you sure…"
"Yes," says Clark "And I don’t want an audience."
Emil gives him a quizzical look but nods and leaves.
"Watch that one," says Lex, from Clark's shoulder. "Trouble ahead."
"Oh, you should talk," says Clark.
"Mmm," says Lex, sleepily. "You clone yourself a few times and it seems like a good idea. Until the clones take over and start replicating themselves."
"Yeah, I hate when that happens," says Clark. Then he has to choke back a laugh because after the torment of Darkseid, ending up here, in bed with Lex Luthor? That's the happy ending.
"You saved me," says Lex. "That's going to annoy a lot of people."
"You were going to sacrifice yourself for the world," says Clark.
"I've always been willing to do that," says Lex. "I just got it wrong last time."
Clark has a sudden flash of Lex, looking down at him with tenderness as the Fortress crumbles around them.
"I know better now," says Lex. "I know you."
"I'm still an alien," says Clark.
"You internalized a world war," says Lex. "You made your body a battlefield. You offered yourself up for a slow, agonizing end to save humanity. No one else could do what you did, Clark. No one would have had the strength to contain the monster, nor the goodness to resist him."
Clark suddenly feels like all the air has been knocked out of him, again, and he has to close his eyes. He can feel Lex's eyes on him, feel Lex's breath on his cheek.
"I know my future," says Clark, without opening his eyes. "I saw it."
He listens to Lex breathe.
"It was a good future. Clear-cut. Simple. You weren't there."
Silence. Lex slowly draws a finger along Clark's cheek. Clark feels a corresponding ripple along his spine and opens his eyes.
"But it also didn't feel completely real. Because you weren't there."
"I'm here now," says Lex.
Which means the future is, once again, up for grabs.