I. Burning Bright
The tears wouldn't stop coming, wouldn't stop flowing. Chloe sniffled and looked out the window at the sites passing by her. The beauty of Metropolis's skyscrapers had long since faded to the indistinct patches of farmland. She could still make it all out even by the darkness overhead---the brown fields, dead in winter, and the endless cows and horses. Her father wouldn't be able to see what she did. He couldn't do half the things she could.
He couldn't burn down a school gym with his eyes.
Chloe honestly didn't know what happened. One minute she was prepping for a boring day of forced P.E. volley ball and then? Well then Kevin was walking past her in a new gym t-shirt that was a little too small and her head began to ache and everything had grown impossibly hot.
The flames, the smoke, the cries as everyone fled the gym. It scared the shit out of her knowing she'd done it and not even knowing how. It was enough to be fast and strong, to have better night vision than other people. It was definitely weird enough. It was infinitely worse to set things on fire by looking at them .
Jesus Christ, what was she?
Her dad had spent the trip playing old stand up CDs and she figured they were on like Jeff Foxworthy by now. Perfect. Hick comedian to match her new hick home town. Sighing, her father turned down the volume on the ninth iteration of "you might be a redneck" and stroked her hair behind her ear.
"Chlo-bear, you're quiet."
"What is there to say?"
He sighed and spoke again. "You didn't do anything wrong. I promise."
She glared back at him, glad that whatever made her spew fire from her goddamn eyes didn't make her do it when she was mad. "I burned down a gym. I burned down a gym by looking at a wall . Daddy, there's something really wrong with me. It's not just the strength! I...maybe it's time I really did go to a doctor."
Her dad didn't say anything at first, just pulled over to the side of yet another cow pasture. Turning of the engine, he shook his head at her. "Don't ever say that. There's nothing wrong with you and you know we can't. You're just special, Chlo, and it's okay. What happened...no one got hurt and I was getting tired of riding the subway to work anyway."
"So now you took a demotion to Smallville to a crap factory?"
"It's a manure processing plant," he corrected, winking. "Chloe, you're special and you're growing into your abilities and, okay, this is a new hiccup, but it's not the worst thing that could happen. Everything is going to be okay. We'll figure this out together."
"I set a building on fire with my eyes. Nothing's going to be alright again." She was crying so hard then and, even as sad as she was, grateful that her father would hug her, would bring her so tightly to his chest. She was some kind of monster after all, wasn't she?
"Shh, Chlo-bear, shhhh. It's going to be fine. You'll see. We'll go to Smallville and you'll make tons of new friends and you'll like it there. I promise."
She snorted and sat back up. "It's a farm town. There's nothing there that could possibly interest me."
Her dad chuckled. "You never know, honey. The best things always surprise us."
II. Lighter than Air
Chloe moaned and twisted a bit to the side; she wished she hadn't. As soon as she adjusted her position, Clark slipped and fell the five feet to the wood of the loft floor and managed to slam his tailbone hard against it. That brought her back to reality quickly. Crashing to the sofa herself, Chloe sped over to where Clark was hissing in pain and trying---yet failing---to stand.
"Are you okay?"
He scrunched up his eyes and she could barely see them. "Hurts, ugh."
She blushed, grateful he couldn't see that currently. "I didn't mean to. I, uh, didn't realize how high we were by then. Do you need me to get your mom?"
Clark cursed under his breath. "No, I'm fine. I'll just walk it off. No need for us to come up with a creative lie.
"I...seriously, you look pretty bad."
"I think I can manage," he huffed and then tried to stand, only to shout when he fell to his knees.
Chloe cradled him and looked down at his tailbone and activated her X-ray vision. "Oh shit."
"What? I mean it just stings."
She sighed and helped him ease onto his hands as well. "I'll go get your mom. This is so embarrassing but you managed to break your tailbone."
"Chlo, it's not your fault. Just go get mom and don't go into self-flagellation mode."
"No worries," she lied, heading toward the house. That same sting echoing in her ears as always, that driving fear she'd never really fit with human boys anyway.
III. In Silentio Veritas
"Chloe, do you want water?" Lex asked, frowning back at her from the foot of the four poster in his guest room.
She shook her head but gestured to her ears. "Don't shout."
Sighing, she added. "Then whisper quieter. It sounds like you're screaming through a bullhorn."
Lex inched further up the mattress and took her hand in his. When he spoke, at least his voice sounded like he was coaching a football team without the megaphone. Better, not great. "I wish there was something better I could do. Does Dr. Crosby have any recommendations?"
"Dad's calling her. I tried speeding to New York but I got within a hundred miles and the noise stopped me in my tracks. I don't know what she's going to say or Swann."
"Clearly you have better vision or sense of smell than humans do."
She squirmed a little under his gaze. Chloe had not hidden things about her true nature from Lex for a long time, close to nine months, ever since she'd first met her "father" and been scared he'd try controlling her. Still, while they talked shop on how to keep the latest meteor mutant at bay or, more often, Lionel from ruining their lives, she didn't talk about her heritage with him. Once they'd tried hunting for promised crystals they'd been unable to locate but it just wasn't a comfortable topic. He thought she was extraordinary and she knew better, knew what her ancestors had done before in China and what other Kryptonians who reached Earth could do. Well, if there were any other survivor surprises like herself.
Hell, she knew what it might be tempting to try herself.
Still, while she and Lex worked together and the secret was open between them, it didn't mean that Chloe wanted to be open with him. The alien stuff was scary, overwhelming. If using her powers helped keep Smallville safe, helped make amends for the poison her planet dumped on her adopted hamlet, then that was something. She just didn't want to dwell on her differences.
Having her hearing go insane, leaving her with crippling migraines over the last two days just threw how bizarre she really was out there in front of them both.
"Chloe?" he asked again, his voice still loud to her ears but probably barely audible to his own. "You trailed off here."
Snuggling deeper into the pillow, she looked back at him. "Yeah, I have better night vision and I can see through things and it did take a while to get that to be better. It takes practice, but I have no idea how to make it focus. I kept trying to breathe or center myself, but all I feel is pain."
"I used to have headaches after the shower."
She blushed. "I'm sorry."
"You didn't do it. I think we established you had nothing to do with whatever happened to Krypton."
"Yeah but I---"
Shrugging, he rubbed his scalp. "It made me distinguished and incapable of being sick. I think the immune system I got was a fair trade off. My point is that for a time I had migraines and my mom helped me feel better by teaching me to follow her breathing."
Lex said nothing but took her left hand and set her palm against his chest. "I know that was more of a meditation trick but it should help here. I need you to follow the sound of my breath, to concentrate on me and if you learn to focus on one sound, then you can eventually learn to focus on whichever you need."
"Sure, that'll fix it."
"Just try. Now one," he said, taking in a deep breath and the wind it created rippled past her ears, made her feel like a human standing in the gusts gathering before a tornado.
Chloe shuddered but took her own deep breath and concentrated on Lex, on the mass of wind that was just his breathing, on the steady banging that was his heartbeat. Gradually, the other sounds assaulting her began to assuage and she was almost ready to smile at him and tell him how helpful this was when her ears caught something else. It was another loud thump, felt like a gong ringing in her head but she took another breath and let herself drift to it, let herself drift to its rhythm as it started to coalesce into a collection of sounds she could understand.
It was Clark's heartbeat.
Concentrating, she focused her hearing first on the heart's tattoo and then on what he was saying. She winced a little till she could adjust volume on that, until it didn't feel like shouting. Finally everything came out clearly.
"What is with you today? Pete, you have a stick way up some place I won't mention.
She shuddered at the slam of something---a backpack?---against a table. Lex frowned but Chloe held up her hand to silence him. She needed to hear this.
I can't believe anyone's calm about this. Chloe's in Dr. Evil's layer. She's out there, exposed, and just letting him "treat" her. Is anyone else thinking this is bullshit.
Despite herself, Chloe rolled her eyes. Pete had concerned friend confused with blood feud between his family and Lionel Luthor, which really was a fight that had very little to do with Lex, himself. Still, her curiosity was piqued and the reporter in her couldn't help but love honing this new skill, something that could actually be useful on the trail of a lead.
Clark continued. Chloe went to some place on the edge of town and to someone who has a little biology under his belt from college.
When Lex wasn't drunk off his ass from a club. I'm serious!
Pete we've played this game before. Lex knows and he hasn't hurt Chloe at all.
Hurt you. Swept right in on her.
Deep sigh from Clark, his own tornado in her ears and she shivered. That doesn't matter. Chloe's hurting and her trying to hone her hearing where she's not going nuts is what matters.
You ever wonder?
If it ever stops? If she's just going to keep getting a ton more powers. They never seem to stop between the strength and speed and heat vision. What if she just keeps changing?
We'll help her.
I...what if she stops even looking human?
Chloe forced her hearing to focus back to Lex's breath then, not wanting to focus more on Pete. She'd known ever since he'd found her ship that his xenophobia was obvious. It had only seemed to grow since everything with Hamilton and then the issues with Jor-El and the injuries that had befallen Martha and her dad. Sometimes she'd just be typing like normal at the Torch and he'd be staring at her. She felt watched then, under scrutiny as if he had her on a slide under a microscope. She was beginning to realize that, like always, when she told people who she was---who she really was---they only saw her powers.
Lex and Clark cared about her in different ways, thought she was a hero. Yes, even if Lex had seen (and abetted) her darker side, he still saw her as a heroine. Pete saw her as a freak.
That chafed after several years of friendship before the truth came out.
A soft hand was on her cheek. "Chloe?" Lex asked, his voice still a whisper. He was working on bringing her back. "What's wrong?"
She sniffled and hoped he didn't notice it.
"I don't think I'm going to like hearing everything."
"I...what did you hear?"
"Everything I ever expected."
IV. Bless You
"I think I owe you a big thanks," Lex said and it surprised her.
She wasn't expecting him at The Talon after hours. She certainly didn't expect him to be helping himself to a bottle of water (he owned the whole place, surely he had a tab) and sitting at the bar in front of her.
"For what?" she asked, still sipping a mocchiatto that had long since grown cold.
"That little wind storm that stopped the fire in the warehouse. I know you did it. I am assuming running?"
She shook her head and rubbed at her eyes, which were still red from her cold. "Not exactly. I wanted to but my powers futzed again from the Phantom Zone illness and I didn't want to try being mortal in front of that nutcase who abducted you."
He frowned. "Then what?"
"I have a power sneeze. Uh, really it's like an air canon. I was trying to figure out how to limp to the fire extinguisher and instead 'achoo.'"
Sipping his water, Lex nodded. Chloe had to look away to keep from blushing. The things that man could do with just a bottle top, they should definitely be illegal. "That was more than a sniffle."
"Tell me about it. I'm still working on everything. I blew a door off of Clark's barn. It's all been sort of a mess."
Blushing, she broke eye contract with him. She didn't like talking about her powers and hated worse when new ones came. After nothing past her hearing three years ago, she really thought it'd stop. God damn it, why couldn't she just fit?
"You saved me and Lana. I'm not gonna forget that. Thank you."
"You're welcome. Now if we can get to this new arrow-wielding vigilante..."
V. Bundle of Joy
It's funny to hold her child in her arms, to see his smiling face and feel a mix of relief and gratitude. Relief that she's made it, that her supposedly superior immune system didn't kick in and eliminate the foreign tissue that her half-alien (to her body) child presented to her. It's gratitude too, gratitude that she's no longer the last aside from Kara and Connie, her clone whose relationship to Chloe was still too hard to figure out. There's so much coursing through her---love and excitement and fear, too. There's that lingering fear she'll mess it up even after a decade of being a heroine herself, that she'll lead her son astray and he'll be like the Kryptonians back in China so long ago.
Still she has him, safe and whole in her arms, and nothing else can compare to that.
She has Dr. Crosby to look after both of them and Joseph cradled to her chest. Chloe has her son's father close to her after everything, after a decade of twists and turns, after missed connections and fights and fury. She has all she's wanted, and, after everything that came so close to ending with Darkseid, she's never letting it go.
I. Burning Bright