Season 6, following my story "Ever the Same"
Rating: Adult. If you're under eighteen, please go elsewhere now.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Read the previous chapter here.
He was trapped in an emerald hell.
Pain danced along his nerves, his blood boiled in his veins, and nausea swirled in his stomach. Somewhere someone was whimpering, soft, high sounds of agony, and he thought it might be him, but he wasn't sure. When he opened his eyes, all he could see was a terrible green glow, so he kept his eyes clenched shut and writhed helplessly, struggling to get away from the pain.
But he couldn't get away from it. It was everywhere.
At first he'd fought to get away so he could save his friends, his family, the world, but his awareness of the world and its peril had slowly faded from his consciousness under the unrelenting agony. His mind was no longer aware of anything but the excruciating sensations of his blood bubbling, his nerves burning, his skin blistering away in the searing heat of emerald flames. All he really wanted now was for the pain to stop.
But it wouldn't stop. It just got worse and worse. Tears ran down his face, but he was powerless to stop them.
Even more terrible than the pain was the voice he heard. The voice belonged to someone he loved more than anything, but the words it uttered were icy, and filled with a dark hatred.
"Suffer, son of Jor-El."
With some practice, Chloe managed to get her phantom-body under her control. She stretched her ghostly wings out and sailed over the bleak terrain, searching the empty wasteland for someone to help her.
Assuming there was anyone here at all.
She knew the Phantom Zone had been created by Clark's father as a prison. Based on what she knew about Kryptonian technology, she guessed it was actually a pocket universe, which meant she might be its only inhabitant. And given Clark's experiences in a similar shard of reality, anything she encountered here might be merely a figment of her imagination.
But she had to try to look for help, even so. Because as far as she knew, there was no way out of a pocket universe if you didn't happen to be carrying a Kryptonian crystal. And yet somehow she had to find a way out of here.
She had to get back to Clark.
She sailed through the air for a few moments. She could feel the too-bright sun beating down on her wings, although she wasn't sure if that was a true physical sensation, or if it was all in her head. Could phantoms be affected by heat, or by anything physical? She knew her body wasn't real, in the earthly sense, but did the normal rules of reality apply in this Zone? Was it possible that in this piece of reality, her phantom self had form and substance? She certainly felt hot.
She banked toward an outcropping of rock, but suddenly something struck into her. Startled, she rolled in the air and found herself plummeting toward the sharp rocks beneath.
Something agonizingly sharp clawed into her shoulder, and she realized that it was a phantom too. It was dark and ghostly and insubstantial, just as she herself was, yet its claws felt very solid, and very painful. She flung her wings out, checking her fall, then lifted her own hands-- no, her claws-- and struck back with all her strength. The other phantom fell back a bit.
And then something else hit her from behind.
Another phantom, she realized. It had clawed her back brutally, and the wounds hurt terribly. At the onslaught of pain, her wings folded, and she plummeted helplessly toward the rocky ground.
She struck the rocks hard, and lay there on her back, stunned. Against the bright sky, she saw the two phantoms bank and dive for her, their scaly claws outstretched.
Her blurred vision saw something else approaching across the rocks, something equally dark, but more substantial. The figure stretched out an arm, holding out something that glowed with a golden light. The light struck into the phantoms, and they veered off, their eerie voices raised in what sounded like pain.
And then the figure turned its arm in Chloe's direction, and she braced herself for another burst of pain.
To her immense relief, there was no new pain as the light washed over her. Instead, her body seemed to ripple, growing less ghostly. She lifted her hands and found they were truly hands, not scaly black claws. Slowly, she struggled to her feet, discovering that her wings were gone. She was still in pain, blood dripping from her arm and oozing sluggishly down her back, but she was herself again, human in all details.
Except she couldn't be. Not if Zod was wearing her body on Earth.
Puzzled, she frowned, squinting at the figure as it approached her. It wasn't a phantom. It was an actual person, clad in dark robes and a headdress.
The figure paused in front of her, reached up, and drew the veil aside, revealing a young woman's face.
"Who are you?" the woman demanded.
Chloe opened her mouth. She was relieved to discover she sounded human again. "My name is Chloe Sullivan."
"I don't understand." The woman stared at her, her eyes wide with shock. "The crystal drives the phantoms away. They fear it. It hurts them."
"It didn't hurt me." Chloe shrugged, and echoed something Clark had said more than once. "But I'm not from around here."
"This cannot be." The young woman looked distressed. "It restored your natural shape. But that is impossible. The crystal only has that effect on members of the House of El."
Chloe blinked, startled by the name. Clark's father's name was Jor-El, and Clark's Kryptonian name was Kal-El. Clark, then, was of the House of El. And since she was his lifemate, bonded to him for all eternity, and since her electromagnetic field had altered to be more like his...
She opened her mouth and spoke a truth she hadn't realized before this moment.
"I am of the House of El," she said.
Read Chapter 3 here.