A/N - My first ChalkZone fanfic. Obviously Rudy/Penny, because it's my favorite Nickelodeon (actually, my favorite cartoon) pairing. Romance doesn't really become a genre until Chapter 8, unless you count Rudy's little musings about his best friend.
Chapter 1 – Detention for One
2:12 PM. The school day was almost over. Only one more hour to endure. Mr. Wilter stood at the front of the class, blabbing about something or another. Nobody with the exception of Penny was actually paying attention.
"Good news, class. 67 percent of you passed the math exam. That's way more than any of us expected, I'm sure. Personally, I wonder how some of you managed to cough up more than a fifty, especially those constantly wasting their time with cartoons. Yes, Mr. Tabootie, I AM addressing you in particular. Mr. Tabootie?"
"Rudy!" Penny hissed silently, trying to get his attention. Oblivious to the world around him, the boy remained indifferent, doodling on his homework without a care in the world.
Rudy finally snapped out of his subconscious daydream, his pencil falling to his desk with a clatter. "Huh? What?"
"You should've been paying more attention, Tabootie!" Reggie exclaimed indignantly, always looking for more ways to get him into trouble. Rudy ignored him entirely, leaned on his elbow and looked up at the teacher. He had run out of excuses long ago.
"Detention again?" He asked warily.
"You can bet your barely-passing grade on it." Mr. Wilter responded, and shoved a blue slip in Rudy's face. "I'll see YOU after school. Again."
"Great." The boy mumbled, hardly caring anymore. He had been zoning out a lot during class lately. More than usual, anyway. With a sigh, he glanced down at his homework, covered from top to bottom in mindless doodles. Before erasing them (knowing how Mr. Wilter hated cartoons), he studied the drawings and writing more carefully, as he had been off in another world when he had put them down on paper. A few letters in particular caught his eye.
'R + P?' He thought, confused. 'What's that stand for? Why'd I write THAT?'
He searched his brain for the answer, but he turned up nothing except a bunch of random nonsense. Red Poodles? Nah, too weird. Rambunctious Pinecones? No, WAY too weird. Rusty Pencils?
'How exactly does my subconscious work again?'
He gave up on that thought and erased the doodles mercilessly, making several small holes in his crumpled paper. It made him wonder where all the erased pencil drawings went. GraphiteZone? LeadZone? PaperZone? PencilZone?
And you wondered what utterly ridiculous things he thought about.
Penny watched him, almost worriedly. If he kept spacing out during class, they'd keep him in detention for the rest of his life. She'd come to recognize the dazed, otherworldly look in his eyes lately. He'd been getting it a lot.
A loud BRIIIINNNNNNNNNNG interrupted her thoughts.
"Well, class, there's the bell. Be back in five minutes sharp. Gosh, I hate these student breaks… What were they thinking?" Mr. Wilter rambled, and sat down at his desk to grade papers as his pupils all exploded out the doorway. Only two remained.
"Hey, Rudy." Penny greeted as casually as possible. She got a mumble as a response. "What's wrong?"
"Me, apparently." He pointed to the blue detention slip. "Do you know how many of these I've gotten lately? Mr. Wilter's out to get me."
"On the contrary, I think he has perfectly good reason for getting on your case." Penny disagreed, taking a seat next to him. "What've you been thinking about? You keep… drifting off into some other world." She lowered her voice so Mr. Wilter couldn't hear. "And it's not ChalkZone."
"I know that. And as for what I think about, I… can't tell you." His voice trailed off near the end of the phrase.
"You can tell me. I'm your friend."
"You don't understand, Penny."
"Seriously. I won't tell anyone else. I promise."
"But, I can't… You… Just, no." He shrunk back in his seat, burying his head in his arms to conceal the blush that was spreading across his cheeks. He was hoping that she'd leave him alone, but of course, she did nothing of the sort.
"Is there something wrong? At home? In… you know?"
"I'm fine. Really."
"Completely, alright? You know I hardly pay attention anyway. Why is it so surprising this ONE time?"
"You're acting different." She persisted.
"No I'm not!" And he continued to contradict.
"Yes you are, and don't deny it. What's the problem?"
"I told you already! NO problem." He assured her. Not quite believing him, Penny studied his face briefly. Rudy had always been a terrible liar, it showed right through his eyes. Unfortunately, she had trouble even seeing his green orbs, for he had his head lowered to face the desk.
There was definitely something different. "All right, don't even bother trying to convince me otherwise. There's something strange going on here." Penny felt a pang of triumph as Rudy sighed in defeat. He knew she'd caught his bluff. "Whatever it is, can you tell Snap about it?"
Rudy hesitated. "Erm… I think he knows already. Really, though, Penny, I'm perfectly ok."
Penny stared at him, baffled. "If you say so, Rudy."
She reclaimed her seat at the front of the room, still wondering about a problem that was possibly nonexistent. Then again, if she could come up with a formula for perpetual motion, she could figure out a simple issue with her friend… even if it was none of her business. But she had a right to be nosey, after all, she was his best friend and she wanted to be the first to know if he was having an issue.
As soon as her gaze returned to her books, it was Rudy's turn to look up at her, wondering if she had the slightest idea of his increasing infatuation. Snap knew, no doubt about it, and it annoyed the drawing to no end. Snap knew that when Penny was around, Rudy was too easily distracted. And in ChalkZone the last thing you need is a short attention span.
The bell rang and the kids came flooding back in. Rudy sighed, picked up his pencil, and decided to at least get SOMETHING done.
5:00, PM. The school was just about empty. The teachers had left, as had the students – all except one.
Rudy's detention had ended about 10 minutes ago. Once Mr. Wilter had gone, he checked the whole school for anyone else who might've had the lack of brain to stick around. No one else remained, not even the janitor.
The tan-haired boy stood in front of the chalkboard, rummaging around in his pockets for "White Lightning"- in other words, the magic chalk. As soon as the circle was drawn, the inside became a portal, and through it Rudy could see a whole other world. He glanced down through the portal. Five feet to the ground, just low enough to jump.
"Snap?" He called out. The chalk drawing always seemed to be around no matter where Rudy ended up…
…And, as usual, Snap just happened to be standing ten feet away, riding on a chalk horse with a sneaker for a head.
"Hey, bucko. About time. What took you so long?"
Rudy took a deep breath before flopping down on the chalky grass. It wasn't as comforting as real grass, but he welcomed any sort of relaxation after an especially long day at school. "I got another detention. My fifth this week, actually, and it's only Tuesday."
"I'm glad ChalkZone doesn't have school." Snap replied. "You up for a little ridin'? I found this fine Horseshoe down by the Amazin' River… There's a whole herd of 'em, I think."
"No thanks, Snap. Actually, I came to ChalkZone just to talk."
"Just to talk? Why can't you just call Penny?" Snap asked without thinking. "Not that anyone'd actually prefer to talk to that girl over me…"
Rudy sat up, peeved about his creation's sudden display of ego. "Snap! …Anyway, uh… I couldn't talk to her."
"Because… Well, um… Say, how are things going with Queen Rapsheeba?"
"A little off-topic for you to ask, but…" Snap's eyes glazed over (as well as they could being made of chalk) as he thought about her. "I think things are going… well. Yes. Very. I took her to the Fireplug Ballet. She loved it!"
"Fireplug Ballet?" Rudy had never heard Snap mention that before. There were all kinds of ChalkZone events he'd still never heard of.
"Looks like I'll have to show you, too." Snap noted. "Is that all you wanted to talk about, bucko?"
"Err…. Not really. See, uh… Uhhhhh…" All at once, Rudy's mind went blank. He'd come to Snap to talk about his problems many times already (although Snap never really had any reasonable solutions), but this was different. To make things weirder, he knew Snap and Penny never got along very well. "It's… kind of strange actually…"
Snap sighed in annoyance. Did Rudy really take him to be that dense? "This is about Penny, isn't it?" He groaned. "Come on. How stupid do you think I am?"
"You're good at this."
"I've known you longer than she has."
"Come on, Snap!" Rudy begged. "I know you don't like her that much, but… I need you to help me! Please!"
"Help you what?"
"I… I really don't know." Rudy responded, his voice wavering a little bit. "But it's like… I can't talk to Penny anymore. Whenever I try to say something, I either end up sounding like a moron or… It's just… I…"
Snap laughed this time, shaking his head sympathetically. "Time to face the music, Rudy. You came to me for advice."
"I suppose." Rudy consented.
"YOU came to ME for ADVICE."
"We've got that straight now, I think."
"I'm sorry!" Snap exclaimed, starting to chuckle. "I just can't get over the fact that the all-powerful 'Great Creator' came to ME… for LOVE advice of all things! It's… hilarious! And I don't even know why!"
Rudy hadn't been expecting this kind of response from one of his best friends. He knew Penny wouldn't have laughed if it had been her he'd asked for advice… But in the given situation, such a thing was quite out of the question. 'Oh, yeah. That's the smartest thing I've ever done. Ask SNAP for help. Maybe THIS is why he annoys Penny so much.'
"It's not funny! I'm serious!" He growled, one of his eyes starting to twitch.
His drawing thought otherwise. He fell off the Horseshoe, laughing uncontrollably at his friend's expense. Rudy, now very annoyed, turned around and headed for the portal.
"I don't know WHY I chose to ask YOU." He grumbled, already drawing the ladder so he could reach the portal. Snap ran over to him, panting, partly from exhaustion and partly from laughing.
"Rudy, wait! Come on, bucko, lighten up. I've been waiting for you all day."
Rudy put the chalk away. "I'm listening."
"Why don't you just TELL Penny how you feel about her?"
The boy spun around to face Snap. "I never said THAT!" He exclaimed, starting to blush again. Snap held in more laughter as he continued.
"It's true, though, isn't it? What kind of idiot dya take me for, anyway? Anyone with eyes and a halfway-functional brain can see you've got a crush on her."
Rudy sighed in defeat. "Ok, you win. But am I really that obvious?"
"Let me put it this way: It's written all over your face. In fact, I betcha the only one who doesn't seem to realize it is Penny herself. Cliché, huh?"
"You got that right, unfortunately. And… you know, I should be leaving now. I have to get home right away! My mom wanted me home directly after my detention." Rudy sighed, thinking of the long walk ahead. "I could get home so much faster if I knew where my home chalkboard was… It's times like this I wish Penny were here."
"So do I. I've got interesting news for her."
Rudy climbed through the portal, which disappeared seconds afterwards. Snap stood there, alone again. His Horseshoe had run off already, and he was too wiped out to go back to the Amazin' River and ride another one. Instead, he laid down in the grass, staring up at the chalky sky.
"He shoulda told her already. This is getting ridiculous. I mean, I guess he's kind of a shy kid and all, but I bet he'd be a lot happier if he just faced the facts once in a while."
Blocky walked up to Snap, confused. Snap realized he had been talking aloud and sighed.
"Rudy. Don't tell him I said it, but he's pathetic. He can't even tell the girl he likes exactly how he feels."
"Neither can you." Blocky replied without thinking.
"Me?! Who are you kiddin'?" Snap demanded quickly, then tried to change the subject. "Besides, we're talking about Rudy's inability to confess certain things, not mine, remember?"
Blocky had never really been the sharpest tool in the shed, but you'd have to have the IQ of a rock if you weren't yet aware of Snap's crush on Queen Rapsheeba. "I just said it because it's true-" He pointed out.
An irritable Snap shot him a sullen look. "Well, stop it."
A/N: The Shoehorses are named such because of ChalkZone's obsession with doing things like that, you know, like the palm trees in "The Smooch".