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.
Read the story from the beginning here.
"The others will be here soon." Nam-Ek caught Chloe by her hair and pulled her to a standing position. She struggled, but couldn't break free. "Open the gateway."
"She doesn't know how." Raya rose to her feet and stalked toward them, as regal and queenly as ever. "But I do. Give me the knife."
Nam-Ek passed her the knife, and she held it to Chloe's throat. "This way," she said, gripping Chloe by the hair, pulling her away from Nam-Ek, and forcing her toward the portal.
Chloe wondered exactly what would happen to her if someone slashed her throat here. Would she revert to her phantom form? Or would it simply kill her dead? Either way, she didn't think she'd like it, so she let herself be dragged toward the portal.
"I trusted you," she spat out angrily.
"Trust is for the weak," Nam-Ek intoned as he strode after them, the other woman in his wake.
"Trust is for the foolish," Raya snarled in her ear. "We have all been trapped here for a long, long time. Trapped in an unending hell. Did you really think I would not use this opportunity to free the people that matter to me?"
"The people that matter--?" Chloe began to struggle, heedless of the knife, as they approached the portal. "You told me you weren't a criminal! That you were Jor-El's assistant!"
"I was." There was deadly hatred in Raya's voice. "But his wife Lara sent me into the Zone, trapping me here. Given a choice, I would have perished with Krypton, by Jor-El's side. I never sought escape. I never wanted an eternity of imprisonment."
Chloe remembered the phantoms attacking Raya, and the way she'd fended them off with the crystal. "But these people hate you."
"Not all of them." She pressed the knife against Chloe's throat a little harder, and Chloe felt a small but sharp pain, felt blood began to trickle from a cut. "Did you really think I could live here all this time without forming any relationships? Any bonds? I have a lifemate, Chloesullivan-El. Just as you do."
Chloe struggled harder. "If he's here, then he's a criminal!"
"He is a man who made mistakes," Raya acknowledged. "A man who was justly imprisoned for those mistakes, but who does not deserve to be incarcerated here forever. A man who has paid his debt to society many times over, but who can never be freed. Unless you and I free him."
"How many dangerous criminals are going to be set free on Earth in the process?"
"I don't care," Raya hissed. The knife slipped a little, and Chloe felt another trickle of blood slide down her throat. "I only want our freedom. I care nothing for your pathetic little world."
"Kal-El lives on that pathetic world. Are you seriously going to stand there and tell me you don't care about what happens to Jor-El's son?"
Raya hesitated a long moment.
"It is true that he is Jor-El's son," she said at last, "but he is Lara's as well. I have been trapped in here for an eternity, thanks to Lara." Her voice dripped with bitterness. "I was trapped here, all because of the House of El. So no, I care nothing for what happens to the last scion of their House."
"I don't believe you." Chloe dug her feet into the sand. "You do care."
Raya glared at her, teeth bared.
"What I care about," she snarled, "is freeing my lifemate."
"You betrayed me, damn it!"
"No. You mean nothing to me. And if I didn't use this opportunity to free my lifemate, that would be a betrayal. His wellbeing is my first priority. It has to be. I think you can understand that impulse, Chloesullivan-El."
Chloe shut her eyes, remembering the words she and Clark had said to each other as they bonded:
I will always come to you
Protect you from danger
Guard you from enemies...
The hell of it was, she did understand. The man Raya had bonded with mattered more than anything to her. It was irrelevant whether he was a kind, gentle person or a mass murderer-- once Raya had bonded with him, he'd become her top priority.
Just as Clark had to be Chloe's top priority.
She had to get back to Clark. She had to. Even if it meant turning a horde of vicious criminals loose on Earth... she honestly had no choice. She had to get back so she could help Clark, so she could protect him from danger, guard him from enemies. She had to go to him, no matter the cost. Every cell in her body demanded it.
She stopped struggling and let Raya lead her toward the portal.
Under the influence of kryptonite, Clark wasn't fast enough to get away from Lex and his ring. He stumbled and fell heavily to his knees. Lex pressed the glowing green stone right up against his face, and the skin on his forehead began to blister. It reminded him unpleasantly of the time Milton Fine had done the same thing.
He hadn't liked it then, and he didn't like it now.
He whimpered, clenching his eyes shut, and tried to scramble away, but Lex grabbed a handful of his hair, holding him in place while the stone scorched his skin.
"See to it," he said coldly, "that you deliver my message to your leader. And don't attempt to hurt or abduct me ever again, Clark. I know your weakness now, and I won't hesitate to defend myself or my people."
He let go of Clark with startling abruptness, shoving him away with clear contempt, and Clark found himself sprawled on the concrete floor in an awkward, undignified heap. He didn't open his eyes, but he heard Lex's boots striding away, heard the women's lighter footsteps flanking him.
And then a door shut, and he was alone in the room.
Slowly, he sat up, humiliation and anguish filling him. His skin healed almost instantly, of course, but the sharper, deeper emotional pain didn't ebb. He hated that Lex knew his secret weakness, and didn't mind using it against him.
He'd always tried to hide his susceptibility to kryptonite. But now everyone, from Zod to Lex, seemed to be aware of it. And that scared the hell out of him.
But even worse was the knowledge that Lois and Lana-- no, Hope and Mercy-- had stood right there and watched Lex do that to him, had watched the skin on his forehead blister, had listened to him whimpering in pain... and had made absolutely no effort to intervene.
No reason they should, he thought dully, struggling to his feet. I'm just an alien monster now, as far as they're concerned.
Tears burned his eyes, but he refused to let them fall, because he knew Zod was listening. He didn't want her to see how badly the whole experience had rattled him. Of all people, he didn't want Zod to know how deeply humiliated and frightened he was.
But the thought of Zod made him even more afraid. Because he'd failed in his mission.
He remembered his assurance to her: I will do my best.
And her cold response: You do that, Kal-El. Or you will suffer the consequences.
At the remembered words, a terrible fear filled him. His heart pounded violently, his legs trembled, and he felt cold sweat bead on his forehead. The instinct to flee pounded in his brain, urging him to run, far, far away.
But he couldn't run, because the minute he went anywhere other than where he'd been told to go, the collar would activate, causing him immense pain that would make the kryptonite ring look like heaven by comparison. He had no choice but to face her. To face his punishment.
He turned and sped from the building, his knees shaking with terror.
Read Chapter 10 here.