Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Unraveled

Clark/Chloe friendship, crackfic
Season 6
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Artwork by worias. Used with the permission of the artist. Thanks!

"Damn it. I'm having a crappy day."

As usual, Clark Kent had barely paused next to his friend Chloe Sullivan's desk before she started talking. The girl liked to talk. She glanced up at him and went on. "I got on my editor's shit list because I didn't finish that article I was working on, the one I told you about last night. The one about that little girl who's a meteor freak. Like it's my fault she fell asleep before I finished interviewing her. I mean, the kid is six years old. And then I discovered that there's no freaking Ho-Ho's in the vending machine..."

"Chloe." Ordinarily, Clark was willing to listen, but this morning he didn't have time. "Listen. We have bigger problems."

"Bigger problems than no Ho-Ho's? Bite your tongue."

"I don't know if you've looked outside lately," Clark said carefully. "But it's raining sandals."

Chloe shrugged. "Yeah, so? Kansas always has crazy weather in the spring..."

"No. Chloe. We're not talking a blizzard, or a rainstorm, or even a tornado. There are sandals falling out of the sky."

"No kidding." Chloe sighed. "They beat the hell out of my umbrella when I was walking from my car."

Clark gaped at her. "Chloe. Sandals. Raining. From. The. Sky."

"So what?" She looked away from her computer, her eyebrows drawing down in irritation. "Come on, Clark, we have sandal showers every three days this time of year. Big whoop. Now if you can scare up something newsworthy so I can get back on my editor's good side..."

Apparently he'd gone down a rabbit hole this morning, and hadn't noticed. "Chloe," he said, very slowly. "Are you telling me that you think it's perfectly normal for it to be raining sandals?"

She rolled her eyes. "Look," she said, handing him the day's copy of the Daily Planet. "It's right there on the weather page."

Clark scanned the day's forecast with a growing feeling of incredulity. Mostly cloudy, 65 degrees, 70% chance of sandal showers.

He dropped the newspaper back on her desk and sat down on the corner of it. "What the hell?" he said, more to himself than to her.

"Look," she said, "it's not that I don't like talking to you, but you know, I'm already in trouble with my editor..."

"Um, yeah. Sure." He stood up and gazed out the window. They were in the basement, and he could just barely see sandals falling out of the sky and hitting the pavement. It was the weirdest damn thing he'd ever seen, and Chloe Sullivan, investigative reporter extraordinaire, appeared to be completely oblivious to it.

He had to talk to her about this. Even if she wasn't quite aware that something peculiar was going on, he had to talk to her. Because he always talked to Chloe when he had problems. Always. And this morning...

He glanced out the window again, seeing sandals everywhere.

Yeah, he definitely had problems.

"Can we meet for lunch?" he said.

"Sure," she said absently, typing. "How about that little place across the street that serves broiled lizards?"

He stared at her a moment longer.

"Whatever," he said, then turned and fled the building.

*****

"This is going to sound crazy," he said at lunch. They weren't at DinoDiner, because broiled lizards somehow didn't appeal to his tastebuds. Metropolis seemed to have changed since yesterday, and he couldn't find anything approximating a McDonald's, but he had managed to find a place that served pizza. Sort of. He frowned at the list of toppings: Asparagus, broccoli, mutton, granite...

Granite. What the hell?

All he wanted was plain old pepperoni, but when he'd asked the waitress about it, she'd looked at him strangely, like no one in the history of the world had ever thought of putting pepperoni on a pizza.

"You always sound crazy," Chloe answered, teasing him in an absentminded fashion as she studied her menu. He could tell her mind was still on whatever story she was working on. It freaked him out that sandals raining from the sky weren't even on her mind. Apparently her weirdar was shattered beyond repair.

"No. Chloe. Listen. I think the fabric of reality is unraveling."

She lifted her eyes from the menu and blinked at him. "Huh?"

"Seriously. Listen to me. It's not supposed to rain sandals. I swear."

"Sure," she said, rolling her eyes in a familiar gesture. "Next thing you're going to tell me is it never snows golf balls, either."

He resisted the urge to beat his head against the table. "Chloe. The world... is going... nuts."

She seemed to finally grasp the very real anxiety in his voice, because she frowned at him. "You really believe this, don't you?"

"Chloe. Try to remember. Please. The only things that come out of the sky are rain, snow, sleet, and hail. That's it. No footwear, and no sports equipment."

"Clark." She reached out and patted his hand. "Take it easy, okay? We can work through this. Just calm down."

He realized with dismay that she thought he was crazy. "Things have changed, Chloe. And they keep changing. This morning, Metropolis looked pretty normal, but now, well..."

She looked over her shoulder, frowning out the window. Thank God it had quit raining sandals, but the city landscape was even more distressingly bizarre now. "It looks normal to me."

"The buildings are all upside down."

"Don't be silly. If they were upside down we'd be sitting on the ceiling."

Since their table rested on the kind of industrial tile that usually made up ceilings, and there was a checkerboard tile pattern that looked a lot like a floor over their heads, he refrained from comment. The doors were still in their normal position so people could walk in and out easily, though, so the building hadn't just been flipped-- it had sort of mutated. "The Daily Planet is sitting on its globe, Chlo. The globe is supposed to be on top. It's always been on top."

She frowned at him. "Are you serious?"

"Yeah, I'm serious. And this morning you talked about having Ho-Ho's for breakfast. But when I walked by the vending machine on my way to get you for lunch, I didn't see anything in there besides bricks and marshmallows."

"Ho-Ho's?" She frowned. "I don't know what those are, Clark. But I always like to have a nice brick with my coffee in the mornings."

"Chloe." He tried one more time, hopelessly, to argue. "People don't eat bricks."

"Oh, come on." She flashed her bright smile. "They're great with coffee."

He lowered his head into his hands and sat slumped for a long moment. "Chlo," he said at last, his voice muffled. "Tell me about that article you were working on last night. The little girl who's a meteor freak."

Since the morning newspaper had called for a seventy percent chance of sandal showers, he was worried that anything she might have been working on had been altered somehow. She might have forgotten what she'd been working on yesterday, since she'd forgotten that Ho-Ho's-- one of her major sources of calories-- had ever existed.

Everything seemed to be changing around him, and he was the only one who noticed. Presumably because he was a Kryptonian, and his mind didn't work quite the way humans' did. But she smiled, and he was relieved to realize that this, at least, she remembered.

"She's a cutie, Clark. She's six, and she's the sweetest little thing. They have her in the Institute for the Exploration of the Paranormal, right down the street, while they try to get a handle on her powers."

He frowned, trying to remember what she'd told him yesterday. They chatted all the time, both in person and on the phone, and she'd called him last night and told him about her day. "I remember," he answered. "You said she could make matter shift a little. I think you said she changed the paint on the wall of her room from blue to pink."

"Right. And she managed to change my shoes into sandals, too. It was pretty amazing."

He blinked at her. Sandals. He remembered the bizarre sight of thousands of sandals falling out of the sky, and felt a little stab of hope run through him. Maybe he was on the right track, after all. "So, uh, is that all she can do?"

"Apparently, so far. But they think maybe her power is still developing. Like I told you before, I didn't get to finish the interview, because it was pretty late, and she fell asleep right after she changed my shoes..." She glanced away from him and smiled. "Oh, great. Here comes our pizza. I'm starved."

It appeared to be topped with granite and mutton, and where there ought to be nice melted mozzarella cheese, there was lumpy white stuff. Cottage cheese, apparently. His nose wrinkled in disgust as the waitress put it down on the table, and he caught Chloe's hand before she could grab a slice.

"Don't eat that, Chlo."

"But I'm hungry."

"I don't care. You can't eat granite. Your teeth won't survive it." The nature of reality might have changed, but he wasn't so sure her teeth had. "Come on. We need to go talk to that little girl. It's a long shot, maybe, but it's all I've got."

Chloe sighed, cast a longing look at the pizza, and followed him reluctantly from the restaurant.

*****

The sky had cleared, despite the forecast, but Clark would have preferred clouds, because the sky was a horrible, excruciating shade of pink, a color that couldn't have occurred naturally at sunset, let alone noon. It looked like Pepto-Bismol, but it didn't help settle his stomach. Not in the least. It made his stomach lurch and his skin crawl.

The upside-down buildings bothered him, too, giving him a disoriented feeling. And the world as a whole was rapidly going so weird that he could hardly bear to look at it. He saw people walking horses on the sidewalk, parents pushing carriages filled with crumpled up newspapers, and long-necked egrets where the pigeon population ought to be. The trees growing along the sidewalk had bright purple foliage, and they were upside down, just like the buildings, their leafy tops resting on the sidewalk and their roots stretching out overhead. His head hurt at the strangeness of it all.

When a black and white killer whale passed them, swimming gracefully through the air, he started to feel outright dizzy.

Chloe walked along beside him, kicking sandals aside as she walked, utterly oblivious to any strangeness. It was clear that to her, and to everyone else in Metropolis, things were perfectly normal. But he knew things weren't normal, and he also knew that things were deteriorating rapidly.

If he was right, and the fabric of reality was unraveling around them, he had an unpleasant certainty that he didn't have much longer to fix it.

If their destination had been very far away, he would have left Chloe behind and supersped. But the girl Chloe had interviewed was living in an institute only a couple of blocks away. He'd passed the institute many times, and found it with no trouble even though it looked very different, upside down and painted an awful chartreuse. Yesterday it had been a respectable, staid, Art Deco building. Today it was retina-scorching in its hideousness.

He frowned at the sign, which was, naturally, upside down. It read, Institute for the Exploration of the Paranormal.

Well, the world had definitely taken a turn to the paranormal side, so he was in the right place.

"Come on," he said. "Do you remember where they have her?"

"Sure," she said. "Third floor. Room 305."

He thought it was weird that she remembered all that so clearly, when her memory seemed to be shifting and flowing right along with reality. But she remembered him, too, so apparently she hadn't forgotten everything. Although he was willing to bet she wouldn't be aware of any alteration if he got changed into a giant squid or something.

Damn it. He really needed to talk to that little girl. He didn't waste time talking to the receptionist-- who was wearing a fishbowl on her head, complete with a goldfish. Instead he just took Chloe's arm and steered her toward the elevator. But the elevator had long purple vines growing out of it for some reason, so he decided it would be smarter to go up the stairs. Or down the stairs, actually.

They headed down the stairwell, which seemed relatively normal, although in a few places the concrete risers seemed to have been replaced by chocolate cake. They managed to scramble and jump over those parts and emerged on the ceiling of the third floor.

Chloe led the way to room 305. Just like in the restaurant, the doors in this building had shifted somehow, so it was easy enough to get around, even though they were walking on the ceiling. The door was ajar, and Clark peered in, seeing that the walls were the same horrible, excruciating pink as the sky. He remembered that Chloe had told him the little girl had demonstrated her power last night by changing the walls from blue to pink.

And she'd changed Chloe's shoes into sandals. That couldn't be a coincidence, surely.

He pushed the door open. The room was filled with chaos, like what was outside, only worse. The bed had turned into a giant birdcage, purple grass grew on the walls, and snakes hung from above, hissing.

A little girl sat huddled on the floor, her arms locked around her knees as she rocked slowly back and forth.

She was blonde, and that made him think of Chloe. They'd recently learned that Chloe was apparently a meteor freak too, although her power hadn't manifested yet, as far as they could tell.

But this was just a little girl, and she possessed powers-- possibly powers of a terrifying magnitude. But she was very young, and she looked scared out of her mind, and he felt sympathetic rather than terrified. He headed across the room, avoiding the snakes dangling from the ceiling-- well, the floor-- and dropped down beside her, putting a hand on her shoulder.

"Hey," he said softly. "We're here to help."

*****

The little girl looked up at him. She had big hazel eyes, and that reminded him of Chloe, too. He smiled at her reassuringly. "My name is Clark. I'm Chloe's friend. Remember Chloe? She talked to you yesterday."

Chloe walked across the room and sat down on the other side of the little girl. "Hi, Rachel. How are you today?"

"I'm scared." The little girl glanced at Chloe, then looked back at Clark, her huge eyes pleading. "I think I did something."

"I think maybe you did too. But you didn't mean to. Did you?"

"No." The little girl started rocking again. "I don't even remember what I did. Everything's wrong, but I don't remember how to fix it."

The phenomenon might have originated with her, Clark realized, but if reality had changed for everyone else, it had changed for her too. Because she was human, and her brain couldn't cope with the strangeness of reality shifting, any more than anyone else's could.

He recalled that Chloe had had no difficulty remembering the earliest changes the girl had made. The wall color, and the shoes changing to sandals. Chloe remembered that, so the little girl probably would, too. "Do you remember changing the color of your walls?" he said softly.

She nodded, trembling. "I've done stuff like that before," she answered in a whisper. "It's easy. But then I talked to Chloe, and then I fell asleep, and when I woke up this morning I..."

Clark lifted his head and looked at Chloe sharply. Maybe he'd been suppressing the thought because he didn't like where it led, but until this moment he hadn't taken the obvious logical leap and recognized that Chloe was somehow involved in this directly.

The little girl had already possessed meteor powers of a minor sort. But then she'd encountered Chloe, and...

"Chloe," he said, staring at her. "Do you suppose your meteor power is to enhance other people's powers?"

She blinked at him. "That's crazy, Clark."

"Is it?" He frowned. "I don't think so. There were an awful lot of meteor freaks in Smallville High. What if being near you-- passing you in the halls-- somehow made their powers stronger? Enhanced them? Or maybe you just caused them to reach their full potential, to develop their powers to their strongest possible level."

Her forehead wrinkled, and he went on slowly, "Smallville's not a big place. You might have affected most of the other freaks we encountered, too. You might have encountered them on the street at some point or other."

"So you're saying..."

"I'm saying maybe, just maybe, that when you talked to Rachel, just being near you activated her full potential. And her full potential is a lot more than just changing matter. She can change... everything."

He glanced out the window, seeing ominous green clouds beginning to build against the pink sky. Another whale swam by. He had the uncomfortable feeling that reality was beginning to unravel faster than before.

"Rachel," he said softly, squeezing the little girl's shoulder gently. "You have to put everything back the way it was. You have to."

"I don't remember the way it was." Her eyes were wide with panic. "I don't remember."

"I do." He spoke in a soft, reassuring voice, the way he'd speak to an injured animal. "The sky is supposed to be blue, Rachel. A nice soft shade of blue. Do you think you can change it back to blue?"

She clenched her eyes shut, appearing to concentrate, and a moment later the sky turned electric blue.

"Not quite like that," he said gently. "Try to remember, Rachel. A lighter blue."

She frowned again, and the sky slowly shifted to a normal shade.

Clark let out a breath in relief. "Okay," he said, patting her shoulder. "That's great. Now can you put the buildings back the way they ought to be?"

She hesitated. "I can't quite remember..."

"Try." He spoke with quiet intensity. "Try to remember. The buildings are all upside down. Can you put them back the right way?"

She screwed up her face in concentration. There was a terrible rumble, like the earth was shifting on a massive scale, and suddenly the room melted and ran around them. A second later, it solidified, and suddenly they were sitting on the carpet, rather than on a ceiling. He glanced out the window and saw the Daily Planet globe in the distance, shining in the sunshine.

"Great job," he said, patting her. "That's awesome, Rachel. Can you fix everything else?"

The little girl opened her eyes and stared up at him. "I can almost remember..." she said softly.

"Me too," Chloe said. "Uh, Rachel, I don't think there are supposed to be whales in Metropolis."

Clark sighed in relief. The normal nature of reality appeared to be asserting itself, and the unraveled fabric was somehow being woven back together. And Chloe's memories of normality were coming back. Rachel frowned, and the room started to look like a normal room. The birdcage disappeared, and so did the snakes and the grass.

Clark stood up, walked across the room, and stared out the window. Everything looked normal. The sky was blue, the gathering clouds were gray, and a few light drops of rain spattered against the windows.

Rain. Not sandals. Thank God.

Everything was right side up, and all the foliage he could see was green. And he didn't see a whale anywhere. He breathed a sigh of relief and went back to the little girl.

"Hey," he said gently. "Great job fixing it."

Her lip quivered. "I didn't mean to mess everything up in the first place."

"I know you didn't. I guess you just started with the wall and the sandals, and when you woke up this morning, everything kind of got out of hand."

"Yeah." She nodded, and Chloe reached out and patted her other shoulder. It was obvious that both of them remembered what had happened, and Clark wondered if everyone else in Metropolis remembered, too. He doubted it. He suspected they remembered only because they'd been at the epicenter of the effect as it changed.

And he had a feeling their memories of the whole event would fade away very soon, just as Rachel's memories of how things ought to be had faded. Because the human mind simply wasn't designed to remember more than one reality.

"You did an awesome job fixing it," he told her again. "But we need to make sure it doesn't happen again, somehow."

"I don't know how to stop it from happening." Her voice was very small and very pathetic. "I was just playing around with stuff like I always do, and then... things started changing. I didn't mean to do it. Honest."

"Changing a wall color is no big deal, Rachel. In fact, it's pretty cool. But changing the whole world-- we can't let that happen again."

Chloe had been sitting silently next to the little girl. Now she looked up, her eyes brimming with worry. "Do you really think it's my fault, Clark?"

"Not your fault, exactly," he said. "But it happened right after you met her, Chlo. That can't be a coincidence. I think somehow you enhance other people's abilities."

She cocked her head. "I wonder if that can work in reverse?"

"You mean, if you can make her abilities power back down?" Hope rose in him. "I don't know, Chloe. Why don't you try and find out?"

Chloe put her hand on the little girl's shoulder and closed her own eyes, appearing to concentrate. There was a long silence.

And then Chloe opened her eyes and looked at Clark. "Okay," she said. "Let's test her and see if I managed to do anything."

"Rachel," he said gently. "Can you change the wall color?"

The little girl frowned, and the walls shifted to purple.

"Okay, good. Can you make the city turn upside down again?"

Rachel closed her eyes and concentrated, really hard. Nothing happened. She opened her eyes and smiled up at them happily.

"No," she answered. "I can't."

"Awesome," Clark said.

*****

"So I'm having a hard time remembering what just happened." Chloe walked down the street next to Clark, a light mist of raindrops barely wetting the sidewalks. He was relieved to see that the sandals had melted out of existence. Everything looked very normal. "I mean, I remember helping the little girl well enough. But everything else is fading. It's like it was, I don't know, a dream or something."

"It's probably best if it fades," he said. "I have this theory the human mind can't cope with alternate realities. You can only remember one reality at once."

"Maybe you're right." She was silent for a moment. "Tell me something, Clark. Do you really think my meteor power is to enhance other people's meteor powers?"

"Yeah," he said gently. "I do. Because Rachel met you, and wham, her power suddenly went big time. It's obvious the change was related to you."

"But that means that a lot of what's happened over the years in Smallville has actually been my fault."

"Not your fault, no. Quit using that word, Chlo. You can't help having a meteor power. And you obviously couldn't help using it if you didn't know you had it. You've been using it, I don't know, passively. But now that we know about it... maybe you can use it more actively."

"To weaken people's meteor abilities, you mean? The way I did with Rachel?"

"Maybe. I don't know if it'll work all the time. But you were able to weaken Rachel's power, right back to where it started, and you might be able to do that for other people too, especially if their powers were somehow enhanced by you somewhere along the line. And if you can do that for other people, assuming they want you to do it, you might be able to transform them, make them almost normal again, and help a lot of them rejoin society. You could do a lot of good for people, Chlo."

"It's an interesting thought."

"At this point, that's all it is. A thought. We'll have to see if you can do it again, I guess."

"I just hope what I did to Rachel is permanent."

He thought of sandals falling from the sky, and shuddered. "Yeah. Me too."

She smiled, and he knew she'd noticed his reaction. She reached out and patted his arm in gentle reassurance, then nodded toward a restaurant, one they'd gone to many times in the past. He was relieved to see DinoDiner had disappeared entirely, which was fine with him. He never wanted to hear the phrase "broiled lizards" again as long as he lived.

"Mmmm," she said, looking at the restaurant. "Pizza. I'm starved. Want to get some lunch?"

He inhaled, breathing in the wonderful scent of mozzarella and black olives... and pepperoni. Lots and lots of pepperoni. The world was normal again, and damn, he was glad. Because he never again wanted to find himself in a reality that didn't have pepperoni in it.

He smiled down at her.

"Sure," he answered, his mouth watering. "Let's grab some lunch."

-The End-

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

LOL. Ellie, this was very good. Cute, funny and uplifting. Just what I needed this morning. ;) Thanks hon.

~Angie

Anonymous said...

Wow, Elly, very good. You have to have a hell of an imagination to come up with a story like this. It was very entertaining.

Anonymous said...

Very sweet.. I want muttin on my pizza... ewwwwwwwwwwwww...

c_cfan!

Anonymous said...

That was SOO cool!!! That was defintetly one of my faves!! Thanks Elly!!
-Amber-

Kahae said...

This must have been fun to write. You have way more imagination then me:P

Awesome idea for chloes power. It makes since.

Awesome job with Rachel too. I think everyone would be scared if they suddenly had a power that could alter reality. At first i think we would be scared of ourselfs.

Loved then line where Chloe rolled her eyes and said " i suppose your gonna tell me it doesnt snow golf balls too" very very funny.

I was full fleged laughing all the way through this, and now i think my family thinks im crazy.. sitting at the computer randomly bursting out laughing.

Wow! This is the longest review i have ever wrote. I will stop boring you with my rambling.....

Always a fan,
Kahae

RichardAK said...

This was very clever and exceptionally witty, even by the high standards you have customarily set. I heartily agree with Kahae that you came up with a very clever and sensible idea for Chloƫ's meteor power.

SelfAppointedCritic said...

All hail the creative majesty that is Elly! What a wonderfully imaginative story. I particularly enjoyed the whales swimming by mid air and, of course, the enjoyable brick with coffee. I too agree, with kahae, this would be a great power for Chloe. Thanks for sharing your great stories with us!

Anonymous said...

What a cool story! I enjoyed reading it a lot, but I'm not sure I'd call it crackfic at all.

--LastScorpion--

blackheart_me said...

this was rlly funny and strange :)