A/N: Ugh, we have Larue-speak. Luckily this time it's all movie dialogue, so hopefully it won't be too hard to decipher. Mention if it is and I can translate, but it's so difficult to portray that awesome lisp.
Once their friends had been sent home, Sally kissed her children goodnight and went to bed, letting Ned tuck them all in. She knew he cherished this, since it was the only time he was able to be alone with the girls, and sometimes he would spend up to an hour listening to their problems and giving advice and comfort.
Smiling, she rolled onto her back. When her eyes landed on the empty hole in the ceiling, however, the grin slid off her face. She stood up on her bed and peered at the spot where the chandelier had been. "Oh, Ned," she murmured, torn between affection and exasperation as she remembered his earlier panic about it crushing them in their sleep. "What's going on?"
"Mom?" The bedroom door opened and Nicki poked her head in. "We can't find Dad and everyone's freaking out. And some of them want ice cream for breakfast tomorrow."
Oh, lovely. Wrapping a blanket around herself (the day had been surprisingly cold for summer), she followed Nicki into the hallway. "Keep the others calm, honey," she said, kissing the top of her bright orange head. "Play a game with them or something while I look for Dad." Once the daughters were engaged in their bedroom, she padded through the house, calling out for her husband softly. "Ned? Ned!" Suddenly she heard it: his voice, faint but distinct, coming from . . . outside? Sticking her head out the window, she scanned the dark yard and couldn't see anything. Then she heard him again, this time above her.
"A beautiful wife, 96 daughters, and one son. And we all share one bathroom. You know how that is."
Leaning forward until she was nearly hanging out the window, she craned her neck until she could see the lip of the roof. "Ned!"
He stuck his head over the edge, his hair a mess and his eyes wide. "What?"
"Sweetheart, you know you're on the roof, right?" Suddenly she felt a tug on her pants that almost upset her precarious balance. Carefully, she glanced back to see a handful of her daughters staring at her.
"What's that noise?" one asked.
"Please?" another whined, still hoping to get dessert.
She shook her head and waved them away, too impatient to mince words with them. "No, you need to go to bed. Daddy's having a breakdown." Turning back to the roof, she called, "Ned, what are you up to now?"
There was a faint noise from the roof. "I-I was just about to put the kids to bed when I got off the roof. And that's what happened. Right." Though he was trying to keep a cool face, his eyes kept darting back to something behind him and she couldn't help but notice that he looked very nervous.
For a moment Sally considered climbing out the window and finding out what was wrong for herself. But a quick glance behind her showed that her audience hadn't gone away — had, in fact, grown larger as word spread that their father was on the roof. She shot him a warning glare and pulled herself back inside, turning to her daughters with a reassuring smile. "Daddy just wanted to see the stars, girls," she told them, picking Heady and Freddie up and ushering the rest of them into their bedroom. "He'll be in to kiss you goodnight in just a few minutes."
Ned had hoped that Sally would be asleep when he came to bed, but he found her sitting up and staring at the hole in the middle of their ceiling. "How long has that been there?" she asked.
Shrugging sheepishly, he paused at the edge of the bed, wondering if she would banish him to the couch. (It had only happened once before, when he forgot their anniversary and stayed at work until midnight with his phone unplugged, but after so many years together he'd found that he couldn't sleep without her anymore.) Still, he hated lying to her. "Um . . . since Monday night. I waited until you'd fallen asleep before taking it down."
"Huh." She kept her eyes on the ceiling. "You'd think I would've seen it before now."
"It's been a long week," he offered sympathetically. Which is partly my fault, he thought, remembering the strange looks she'd been giving him since the disastrous day of his root canal.
She turned to him, and he knew that she had picked up on his silent message. "For both of us, I think," she agreed, her brow furrowing as she studied him. "Are you still seeing elephants?"
He was relieved that the room was too dark to see his blush. That hadn't been one of his smoothest moments, as a combination of NovWhocain and panic had caused him to attempt to hide every sharp object in sight. He'd been so flustered, he almost told Sally everything about Horton. "Hey, hon, did you ever get the feeling that you were being watched?"
The look on her face had been terrible. Like she thought he had lost his mind. It had scared him almost as much as the thought of living on a speck, and even though her words had nearly caused him to jump out of his skin ("It's not the end of the world." Yeah, he wished.), it wasn't until tonight that he'd had the courage to contact Horton from home.
And look how well that had turned out.
"Elephants? No, no, you don't understand! When I told you that, it was . . . a story I'm working on! In my spare time. About a guy who lives on a speck and no one else believes him. And there's an elephant he talks to. It's a fantasy story. With pirates. And . . . you know, the elephant."
She raised one eyebrow. "Well, not to crush your creative spark, but I'd work harder on the premise of the story. It's kind of hard to believe." Ned flinched and her expression softened marginally. "Honey, you've never lied to me before. Or if you have, you've been a lot better at it. What's going on?"
His first instinct was to keep fibbing: Going on? Pssh, you're the one hallucinating. Nothing's wrong, Sal. His second was to burst into tears, let out all the frustration and fear that had been building up ever since he'd heard that voice from the sky; maybe he could even drag her to his office or the roof and talk to him herself . . . provided she didn't call the police first. Finally he settled for something in between. "The council really wants me to fail," he said with a sigh, his shoulders slumping from exhaustion and misery. "Especially the Chairman. With this WhoCentennial coming up, the pressure's really been building." When she still looked doubtful, he added, "So I've been having trouble sleeping, and I think it's making me a little loopy."
"Loopy," Sally repeated.
He began pacing, hoping that would make him look more convincing as someone losing his marbles — but only temporarily. "Sometimes I get dizzy and these little black things show up in the corners of my vision, and that's when I sometimes see things." Rein it in, Ned. The voice in his head wasn't Horton, but a strange combination of Patrick, Sarah, and his own wife. Don't go overboard with the crazy. "But that's only happened a couple times. And I think maybe I dreamed about the elephant and the speck. Miss Yelp said I've fallen asleep at my desk before." That, at least, was true.
For a moment Sally didn't say anything, her gaze returning once again to the hole in the ceiling. "So it's just stress. You're not going crazy for real?"
He smiled at her, a smile that hopefully illustrated just how sane he was. "I promise I'm not crazy."
"Good." She smiled and reached across the bed, wrapping her arms around his waist and pulling him to her. "Because you're not allowed to lose it and leave me to deal with all these kids by myself."
He shrugged and said, "Come on, Sal, how hard would that be?" softening the joke with a wink.
Rolling her eyes, she scooted back so that he could lay down next to her. "So do I need to get you some help or something?" she asked. "There have to be a few good shrinks around here." As she spoke, however, she remembered Erik's warning about the Chairman. When Ned had first started acting strange, she'd told him not to share his story about the elephant; at the time, she'd just been acting out of instinct, figuring that the story would only get him in trouble. Now, however . . . If the council had any reason to believe that her husband was going crazy, they could force him out of office. And that would just kill him.
Just temporary, she told herself, snuggling against his chest. Just stress. And yet as she drifted off, a memory returned to her.
She could almost swear that when Ned had been talking on the roof, she'd heard a very quiet response: "Don't I know it."
But that was nonsense, wasn't it?
Ned was awoken the next morning by a pounding on his bedroom door. "Dad! DAD!"
Rubbing his eyes, he staggered to his feet, checking to make sure he was clothed. "Yes, sweetheart?" he asked, pulling the door open. "Is everything okay?"
Nora, his second-eldest, shook her mop of brown curls out of her eyes and stared up at him. "Someone's at the door. Some doctor, I think." She yawned, and he glanced at his watch. Who'd come calling before nine in the morning?
"Thanks, Nora," he said, ruffling her hair. "Get back to bed now."
She followed him down the hall instead. "Everything okay?"
Girl was too inquisitive for her own good. "No. I mean yes!" he called over his shoulder. "Everything's fine!" As soon as he was out of her line of sight, he broke into a run, nearly toppling down the stairs in his hurry.
Dr. Larue was still pounding on the front door, which was closed. "No one let her in?" he demanded the empty room, yanking open the door as she drew back her fist to hit it again.
For a moment she just stared at him, her eyes wide. Shaking it off, she waved her arm over her shoulder. "Mr. Mayor! It'sh shnowing! In the shummer!"
He glanced over her shoulder, watching the snowflakes fall, fat and silent, carpeting everything in sight. "Yes," he replied faintly. "Yes, it is."
"It'sh a dramatic change in the weather," she said, taking off her glasses and wiping them furiously on her lab coat (which led Ned to wonder if she wore it all the time), "ash if we were on a shpeck floating in shpashe." Larue looked up at him and shook her head, half in awe and half disbelief. "I don't know how you knew, but shomehow you did. And Whoville ish headed for . . . disashter."
That was a wonderful start to his weekend. "Oh, Horton," he groaned. What have you done now?
Dr. Larue's eyes narrowed slightly. "What?"
Realizing he looked like a crazy person to the only person who believed him, he waved his hand dismissively. "Ah, nothing. I'm on it. It's up to us to save the people of Whoville!" Wincing at the bravado in his voice, he flashed her his most mayoral smile and dropped his tone. "I have some stuff to take care of, but I'm on it. Just find out what you can about this, and don't tell anyone. No need to make people panic just yet." Shrieks of joy drowned out Larue's response; his girls had woken up and noticed the snow.
"Look at it, Daddy!" Mimi, born seconds after Nora and named after Ned's own twin, rushed to his side and stared out at the snow.
"Yeah, it's . . . something." With Larue gone, all his confidence fled as well, and panic began rising in his throat. "Where's Mom?"
Mimi shrugged. "I dunno." But Jojo, who'd been standing behind her, raised his eyebrows and snapped once.
It was rare that his son was helpful, and the shock of it almost distracted him from the oncoming apocalypse. "Where is she, son?" Jojo rolled his eyes, clearly frustrated that Ned didn't ask a yes-or-no question, but he mimed driving a car, staggering, and then rubbed his fingers together in the universal sign for money.
The first thing that popped into his head was "prostitution," but knowing that couldn't be right, he cast his mind around for something that made more sense. If only his son would speak . . . but that staggering could have been carrying a heavy weight, rather than the girly swaying he'd first imagined it as. "Is she . . . shopping?"
Jojo nodded, then snapped to emphasize his point.
"So she won't be home for hours, maybe," Ned murmured to himself. Then his head snapped up as he realized the full implications of the snow and rushed around trying to keep his girls from having fun and ignoring the dangers of the weather. Finally giving up, he turned once again to Jojo, who was still watching him; the expression on his face had turned from annoyed to wary, almost frightened, but Ned was too desperate to reach Horton to register his son's concern. "Tell your mom I had to go into work. I'll be home as soon as I can. It . . . I . . . it's doom. I mean work. Doom-work. WhoCentennial. Yes." Abandoning them with these babblings, he raced toward the garage, where his old skis were buried under who knew how much stuff. I don't even remember how to use these, he thought, snapping his feet into them and arranging the poles under his arms. It's probably just like riding a bike, though.
He'd just remembered that he couldn't ride a bike when there was a roar of children's voices from behind him and he was thrown to the ground.
With a sudden gust of warm, damp air, the snow was gone. Sally brushed her now-dripping hair from her face and surveyed the Whoville Hall's lawn, which was now more swamp than grass. "Ned?" she called, climbing the front steps and slipping on mud. "Are you — aaaah!"
A hand tightened on her elbow and a shoulder pressed up under her armpit, keeping her from skating down the stairs. Righting herself, Sally glanced down at the shaggy mop of her son. "Thanks, Jo," she said, kissing the top of his head. She didn't know exactly why their son had wanted to come with her to visit Ned at work, but his face had been pale and set ever since she'd come home, and she knew Ned had to have done something pretty strange to worry Jojo that much. Which was why, instead of supervising the chaos of giving her 97 children lunch, she had tossed her purse at Nora and Mimi, asked them to order pizzas, and headed to the mayor's office as fast as her legs could carry her, Jojo bobbing silently at her side like a melancholy, very short shadow.
At the door she hesitated, then turned to him. "What's wrong, honey?" she demanded, finally voicing the question that she'd been too afraid to ask until now. "What did your father do?"
He shook his head, then realizing she wasn't going to accept that answer, pulled out his pad and pencil. "He seemed really scared," she read in his messy scrawl. "Dad's never scared."
"I know," she murmured, half to herself. "He worries me too." She pulled the front door open and was in the threshold when the world suddenly jerked to the left, smashing her painfully into the doorframe. When it had righted again she yanked them both into the building, rubbing her side and wincing at the nasty bruise that was forming here. "What —" she began, but was cut off as the floor leapt toward them, then tilted like a sinking ship. Instinctively she grabbed Jojo's arm and pulled him into the nearest room, which happened to be a broom closet, and slammed the door shut.
Huddling among the cleaning supplies, she held her son to her chest and waited for the world to end.
A/N: Okay, I might have played with the timing of the film a bit, but there's nothing technically that says the root canal scene and the rooftop one are in the same day, so for the purposes of narrative, I'm pretending they aren't. Ditto with some of the stuff in the snow scene. I'm playing a bit of a balancing act between staying true to the movie and doing to same for my story, which means adding or eliminating minor details as needed, so please let me know how it works (and where it doesn't)! I watched the movie last week and have an online script next to me, but I'm not perfect and mistakes are sometimes made. If anything seems glaringly OOC or disrupts the plot in a big way, please mention it in a review and I'll see what I can do to fix it!