Chapter 4 Last Call, Flight 124 to Mars

A bushel of yellow squash propped on her hip and a small bucket of red and green cayenne peppers dangling from her wrist, Martha groped for the door handle.

"Let me help you."

The unexpected offer startled her and she almost dropped everything. "Whoa, you scared me there." The girl standing on her porch reached out and took the squash effortlessly from her hip. She was sweet looking. Martha couldn't help smiling. Maybe she was a friend of Clark's? It was early for the kids to be out of school though. "Have we met?"

"Actually we have," Clark said. "Let me get these inside for you."

Martha frowned and followed the unknown girl into her kitchen. "You look really familiar, but I can't place a name."

"Try Clark. It's me, Mom." Clark didn't turn to face his mom. He just cringed and waited for her to deny it.

"What? I think I'd recognize my own son. Who are you?" Martha said. "Have you done something to Clark?"

Clark spun around and tried not to cry. He might be a girl, but he wasn't going to cry about it. "It's me, your child, the alien. We have my ship in the storm cellar." He waved his hand dramatically. "Last night Dad ate three helpings of meatloaf, and you teased him about getting love handles for twenty minutes. How could I know any of that if I wasn't Clark?"

Martha's mouth dropped open and she shook her head. That was her shirt, and those jeans had a little stain on the pocket right where... There were tears in the girl's, Clark's, eyes about to spill over. "Clark? Baby what happened?"

"I don't even know," Clark said. "I lost time last night, blacked out. I woke up like this. Pete and I have been trying to figure it all out, but we came up dry."

"This morning? You didn't come right to us?" Martha asked. "How could you not come to us? Clark we should have been helping you work on this problem."

Clark looked down at his feet and shrugged helplessly. "I didn't want to face Dad. He'll be disappointed in me. His son switched genders last night, Mom." I'm a total freak.

Before Martha could reassure Clark, the backdoor opened. "Martha, you should see the present we have in the east pasture. The new cow Alice dropped her calf and they both look great," Jonathan said. He came in and walked straight over to the sink for a quick wash and glass of water. Mid scrub, he noticed that Martha wasn't alone. "Hello there, nice to meet you. I'm Jonathan Kent." Jonathan wiped his hands and extended a hand.

Clark stared at his dad's proffered hand and bit back the urge to run or lie. His parents loved him, no matter what. Right? "We've met. It's me dad, Clark."

Jonathan chuckled and turned to Martha. "I don't think so." Martha didn't return his amused look. She looked entirely too serious. "You aren't Clark. She isn't Clark, right?"

"Actually, she is Clark," Martha said. She moved around and wrapped a comforting arm around her son and plastered a smile on her face. "Tell him it's going to be okay, Jon."

Jonathan couldn't find the words to offer the reassurance Martha asked him for. That couldn't be Clark. That was not Clark. "How do we know this is Clark?"

Clark pushed away from his mom and shrugged. This was how he knew it was going to go. His dad couldn't handle this one. Could he really blame him? "I'm sorry, Dad. I don't know what happened."

"It's him, Jonathan. He's our Clark," Martha said. Her tone brooked no argument and she nodded from Jonathan to Clark as though ordering him to do something fatherly.

Jonathan came forward and stared into Clark's eyes. "Jesus, son, I don't believe it." There was no denying it. This was his boy, well girl. How was he supposed to deal with this one? "It'll be okay. I don't know how, but it will be."


The next morning...

Martha expertly flipped an egg in her skillet and completed the third plate of breakfast. She hadn't been sure if Clark would want as much breakfast as before. He was a lot smaller now. In the end she'd decided to err on the side of excess. "Clark, baby, breakfast," Martha called. She set breakfast out and took a seat next to Jonathan. "Well what now?"

"You're asking me? We can't pass Clark off as Clark in that condition. Do you think it's permanent?" Jonathan said. Sometimes it was not easy to be the head of this household.

"Clark keeps parenting adventurous," Martha said. "I was thinking we could tell everyone that we sent Clark to my Aunt in Topeka for a visit."

"And who do we tell everyone the girl upstairs is?"

"We've been calling him Clara." Pete was standing just outside the screen door. He waved a little and let himself in. "Is Clark feeling any better?"

Jonathan stared hard at Pete and shook his head disapprovingly. "I'm very disappointed in you Pete. Clark was freaked out, but you should have been the voice of reason. The next time something like this happens, I expect you to have the sense to come to us."

"Don't be so hard on him, Jonathan," Martha said. "I'm sure they were both pretty freaked out."


Clark yawned and stretched in his bed. The sun was shining on his face and he squinted against it. It was several seconds before the memory of yesterday came crashing back to him. Clark groaned and stared at the ceiling. "Wait, that groan sounded..." He cleared his throat and ran his hands over his throat. That was definitely an Adam's apple. Was it all a dream? Clark ran his hands over his flat chest and bounced to his feet.

The image in his mirror was him, male him. Clark Kent was back! The shorts and shirt he'd borrowed from his mom were stretched taunt, outlining his every muscle and appendage, obscenely verifying his return to manhood. Maybe it wasn't a dream, but it was over. "Thank you God."

Clark was about to shout to his parents, but his shirt ripped when he lifted his arms, and he decided to get dressed first. They were going to be so excited. Clark moved around his room and dressed as fast as he could. Clothes in place and one boot on, Clark froze. "Hello..."

In the tread of his right boot, glowing red... was it red meteor rock? That stuff was supposed to make him crazy, not make him switch genders, right? "Could it have been the meteor rock? Maybe I don't just switch genders randomly. Maybe it was all a hallucination." Could he have been gibbering the day away insanely? The very thought left him queasy.


"Clark! I'm coming on up," Martha said. "We need to figure out how we're going to handle this sweetie."

Jonathan smiled resignedly at Pete. "They'll have a nice Mother-Daughter talk and figure this all out."

Pete shook his head and smiled back. It was simply amazing how easily the Kents adapted to the curve balls Clark threw them. "You're handling this all pretty well. I thought you guys would be panicking."

"First time Clark took off so fast he was a blur, we panicked. First time Clark flipped over the truck trying to get a ball back, we panicked. After the x-ray vision, the heat vision, and the floating, I'm through panicking. We can handle anything, including gender switching. I'm sure Clark will figure out how he changed genders, and then he'll figure out how to change back."

"Good news," Martha said. "We've already figured it out."

"What?" Jonathan said. There they were, Martha a Clark exactly as they should be. Jonathan had never been so happy to see his son. He was standing there behind Martha and smiling self-consciously. That was his boy. "Welcome back," Jonathan said.

Pete started clapping. "All right man, you're back to normal."

Martha frowned at the two men in her kitchen. "You say that like being a woman was a bigger deal than being an alien? Come on."

"You know that whole, women are from Venus and Men are from Mars bit," Pete said. "Well Clark took the express to Venus and that had to be confusing, right man."

Clark shrugged. He'd barely been a girl long enough to get an estrogen rush. Frankly, he was doing his best to forget what it had all felt like. "I may never recover. If anyone's interested, I think I know what happened. There was a red meteor rock in the sole of my boot."

"Red meteor rocks make Clark evil though?" Pete said.

"Apparently they multitask," Martha said. "Now since Clark's been haphazardly exposed to this little rock for the last two days, I think we should keep him home just to make sure it's out of his system."

"Agreed, two days at least," Jonathan said. "Spread the word Pete, Clark has the flu, very contagious, no visitors."

"No problem, captain," Pete said. "Enjoy your vacation man."


Epilogue

Clark stood at the edge of his loft, staring out at the stars. The night was clear and each point of light seemed brighter than usual. Maybe it was because he was in a good mood, getting back to normal, but everything just felt beautiful.

"Clark?"

"Hey Chloe." Clark smiled shyly. Chloe had been able to see through the Clara shell to him. What were they supposed to talk about now? He didn't want to discuss yesterday with anyone.

"You're back. That's really great. Pete let me know but I wanted to see for myself," Chloe said. She looked down at the sheet of paper folded in her hand, her trump card, her ploy at extortion. Was she really going to do this? "I brought a copy of tomorrow's edition of the Torch. I thought you might like to see it."

The Torch? Why would Chloe bring him an early edition of the Torch? Clark accepted the sheet and opened it. "Clark Kent, the Wanton and Fair: Meteor Madness Strikes Smallville Again." There were two pictures of him, a Clark and a Clara. How could she have a picture? Why would Chloe do this to him? Clark didn't even read the text. "Why would you write this?"

He looked so sad and hurt. Chloe swallowed against the lump in her throat and refused to show any weakness. "I want answers Clark, real ones, off the record but true. Otherwise, I'm taking what I know and starting a series of articles about the mystery that is Clark Kent. Pete said you were an alien. Are you?"

"Pete told you I was an alien? Are you serious?" Clark wished Pete were there so he could practice his heat vision on his buddy's sneakers. His parents would kill him if he told Chloe. He just couldn't. Clark looked down at the damning article in front of him with its two damning pictures. "I'm your friend. I can't believe you'd do this to me. I guess I was wrong to trust you Chloe. I wanted to tell you so much until this moment. Now that I have to, it scares me to death because you aren't the person I always thought you were."

It was true. God, it was true. Chloe didn't feel a rush of victory or joy at learning this secret. She'd had to drag their friendship down a level to make it happen. Would Clark believe that she had never had any intention of publishing the version of the Torch she'd given him? Probably not, but Clark would forgive her. He was that kind of guy. "I should be the one who's angry. You've been lying to me as long as you've known me."

"Go be angry then," Clark said. "I don't want to talk right now anyway. Just promise me that you won't write an article about me or tell anyone. I don't want to end up being vivisected."

He had to ask? Clark was more upset with her than she thought he would be. "You know I'd never tell anyone, or write an article about you. It's me."

Clark held up the article she'd written and dropped it at her feet. "It's you... If you aren't going to leave, I'll go. Would you like to see something your alien friend can do? Don't blink." Clark ran away as fast as he could go. If he didn't get away, he was going to start crying.

Chloe plopped down on the nearest bail of hay and picked up her article. Clark was an alien, a really fast alien. And he was so pissed at her. God, Clark was an ALIEN. Chloe smiled and wiped at her eyes. Clark was a very cute alien who was going to forgive her, eventually.


Author's Note

Why is this the end? Because I finished with the silliness, that's why :) To keep going would turn this into a romantic Clark Chloe piece, and that was never the point of the fic. If you laughed, at least once, I achieved my goal with this story.

Now that you all know for certain that it was the little red rock... I must once again give credit to the Superman comics. I have always enjoyed a good Red Kryptonite issue and this whole I-will-gender-bend-you Red Kryptonite thing has been done. Someday I will write a Smallville fic that doesn't involve a comic book tie in. Oh wait, is that possible? ;)

Final note - Becs! Thanks for catching my slip with the Red Kryptonite in chapter 3 lol - I never would have noticed.