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October 2018

Boy's Common Room

Kord Dormitorium

First Floor 

 

In the corridor, Ashley ventured again what she'd said a couple of days earlier. "I don't know about this, Judy." 

 

"Ah know it may not work," said Judy with a faint smile, her arms wrapped around a small bundle of books and pamphlets. "This is not the first time Ah've tried to mission to someone. But Leroy is a nice boy and we're gonna have a nice talk, and talking about Jesus is a good way to do that." She grinned. "Do you know how hard it is to get people to ask most of the time? Anyway, maybe he'll take me to the fall dance if things go well!" She locked eyes with Ashley, stunning her bodyguard enough to let her slip into the boy's common room without another word. 

 

Damn! Ashley thought, unable to keep grudging admiration out of her thoughts as she adopted a scowl and stepped into the room after her sister, giving a few hard glares at the boys who were looking their way. Well she knows how to shut me up, anyway.

 

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"Ah! Ms. Smith! A pleasure to see you!"

 

Leroy had dressed down as far as he did, wearing lace-up sandals but a plain grey robe with grey trousers. Embroidered on the robe, fractal hands in colors of white, brown and gold reached for a black sun. Also unusually he wasn't wearing any makeup or jewelry, and despite his loud, cheery voice his face was solemn.

 

Rising as Judy entered, he bowed his head and indicated a pair of chairs flanking a window, sharing an end table. With a careless air he took the one not already fortified with a few cushions that put Judy roughly at his height.

 

"Thank you for agreeing to discuss this, Judy." His golden eyes watched her carefully, intent on every conscious or unconscious sign. "Now, how do you wish to begin?"

 

 

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"Hi, Leroy!" said Judy with a ready smile. She looked cheerful this afternoon, her denim tutu dress oddly fitting her tanned complexion and long, dark hair. As usual she wore just a little tasteful makeup, gold cross gleaming around her neck. "Thanks for talking to me." She took a seat opposite Leroy and looked him over, setting her small packet of books and pamphlets down between them. "Well, um, why don't you tell me how you'd like to start?" she offered. "If Ah'm gonna talk to you about this, Ah want to talk about things that are important to you." 

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"What matters to me..." Leaning back in the chair, Leroy looked up at the ceiling, eyes wandering across it as he visibly mulled over the question. 

 

At last he began tentatively "I...would like to do something great. Something good and lasting in this world that would match my sisters' achievements and make my mother proud of me besides as her child. I suppose in plain language what matters to me is changing this world for the better."

 

"My father lives in the Lincoln district, Ms. Smith, and when I visit him on Sundays it is impossible not to see people suffering needlessly, meaninglessly." The boy frowned deeply, the scars curving across his face twisting with the muscles. This close the illusion of neat and graceful white lines was ruined. They were ragged and irregular in a way that suggested something blunt had scored his temples and cheeks. "It is distressing to come from my world, where I am counted small and weak, to this one and feel even more so in the face of forces beyond control. I am afraid to even begin lest I choose wrongly and do more harm with false hope."

 

Regarding Judy, the Prince asked "Does this matter? Does your faith know any solution?"

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"It does," said Judy reassuringly. "It..." She fell silent for a moment, then said, "When Ah was a little girl, my sister had a pair of budgies, you know, little parakeets? She called them Merry and Christmas, and I loved those things more than anything. They used to climb on my hair and chirp to each other, and they were real sweet. When they died, she was sad, but I cried so hard I couldn't even talk anymore." She sniffed a little at the memory, then said, "When that happened, my mother told me that the Bible says 'Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.' That means God is watching over us, even when we feel small and weak, and is always there when we need him." 

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"That is a very fine-comb sort of seeing, I must say." Leroy smiled, but it was plain to see his heart wasn't in it. "I am sorry I recalled to you such a painful memory, Ms. Smith. Though I do wonder," he frowned, regarding Judy anxiously "what then of all the evil done in this all-sight? I should count myself low and a fraud of a Prince if I turned away from any harm or hurt being done before my very eyes. I have little power, and here, on this planet, far less. My only retainer is the smallest and weakest of a dragon's brood, without even his own flame; I cannot call upon the armies of my mother or the wrath of my sisters, the people I dwelt with are beyond my reach save at great strain to myself. All the family I have here is my father, a music teacher, and an uncle jailed for justice too rough for a judge's savor. And my own strength is...pitiable."

 

Leroy set his marred jaw "But even so, I cannot ignore or forget the suffering beyond or even within these walls. They teach us every day: fight for the weak, overthrow oppression, stand for freedom...yet it festers still. If your God loves so, has such power, where are the signs of this? Even in my world we know something of the Freedom League's work, and they are only mortals."

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"We live in a city of the mighty, where people with great power put themselves on the line every day just because saving others is what has to be done. There's a man who can fix streets just by walking by them, a woman who can make a forest just by waving her hand...Ah could go on, but you've probably heard all about them by now." Judy smiled, then went on, "Freedom City is a sure sign of God's working in the world, Leroy. I know it doesn't feel that way when things don't go perfectly; but just this last summer they took down the forces of a cybernetic Hell on nothing but a wing and a prayer." She reached across the table and tentatively put her hand on Leroy's, more to enjoy how strong he felt if she was really honest with herself than anything else. "And this has nothing to do with having superpowers," she said with great frankness. "Because Ah know Ah thought this even before Ah could hear the radio. If you want to see God's hand in the world, you've got be that hand." 

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Gently taking her hand in his, Leroy regarded the pair. "My mother, the Lioness, believes that righteousness is best known by being true to yourself. It is called 'ashe', Dio tells me, the power of a fulfilled nature. If it is in you to build, it is most good to do so. A flower does no good unless it blooms, rain is not so unless it falls and a mountain that crumbles at a breath is no mountain at all. She would agree with you, that without deeds virtue is hollow."

 

Placing their linked hands on the small table between their chairs, Leroy met Judy's eyes with his own, seething with uncertainty "Yet the flaw is plain to see: what then of someone who is born unable to do that good, or whose strengths lie in monstrousness?"

 

"I have heard it argued that without evil 'good' is merely a word. But in a world of destruction such as this malice is meaningless. Even today animals, plagues and disasters beseige humans and every other form of life. So long as you need the natural world for food, clothing and shelter its vagaries alone are powerful lessons and spurs to virtue. To mean well and choose ill has the same consequence to others of meaning ill and choosing it." 

 

He laid his hand flat on the table. Judy's fingers eclipsed his, starkly light against his dark skin. Leroy asked bluntly "If God so cares for us, has such power and desires their creations to do good, why permit evil to flourish in mortal hearts?"

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Judy sighed softly, pain in her pretty dark eyes. "That's an old problem. You'll hear people say a lot of things - that evil happens to make us better people, that it's an important part of free will, or that it doesn't matter because He'll take us into his arms in Heaven and wash every earthly care away." She blinked a few times, then said, "Ah don't have all the answers about the universe or God's plan for us, Leroy. Ah just know that He loves us, and is there for us when we fall, even if we can't see it or feel it at the time. It's not easy, but easy's not the path we have to follow. There are all sorts of people who run around Freedom City saying they're gods or have the power of gods, like creatures from an old fable; but there's only one god you can meet in your heart and in your soul." She looked down at their hands and said, "You have strong hands, Leroy." 

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Leroy snorted, though he did not pull away. "Untested. I should not call a 'mitter 'strong' unless I saw the light bear its weight. My eldest sister, Olokuye, Jud-Ms. Smith," he corrected himself with a slight 't-t' at the roof of his mouth, "had found worlds beyond and faced terrors unknown two years younger than I am now. She wrestled her dragon Soul Grinder to heel and taught her the worth of compassion. It is said openly, throughout Earth-2, that her growth in power accelerates and surpasses that of Mother, and shall soon eclipse that lioness. Were she to walk this planet, one would be pardoned for believing they encountered some divine being."

 

"I have trained to fight, yet even Dio is mine without struggle. Had Mother her will I should never see outside New Atlantis. Every risk, uncertainty and pain had been expunged from my life until i walked out the door and into this world. My convictions came cheaply."

 

His eyes met hers "To say so of you would be a lie. You, Judy, are the stronger. I know not what pain you bear, but you bear it every day with grace and courage."

 

Raising her hand to his lips, he kissed it gently and replaced it on the table, withdrawing his own. He regarded her gravely.

 

"If I should hear this God, how will I know?" 

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Eeeeeeeee Judy blushed when Leroy kissed her hand, a spontaneous smile appearing across her face. It wasn't like she'd never been kissed by a boy before, but something about this felt so perfect. And it's not like I'm missionary dating, she thought, since we talked about God before he kissed me. She blinked a few times, trying to think of what to say next - and then Ashley was sitting at the table with them. Her arms crossed across her chest, she scowled at Leroy, giving the dragon prince a thoroughly skeptical eye. "Um, well, Ah don't have it so bad," she allowed, "but thank you, Leroy, that means a lot." She took a moment to take a breath. "You'll know that voice when you know it. Not in the fire, not in the earthquake, but that still small voice you hear right here." She pointed to Leroy's chest, not quite touching. Ashley cleared her throat, but not too loudly. 

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"I will be sure to listen, Judy. God knows I am sorely in need of aid." Leroy said softly, smiling at his team-mate. Lifting his eyes to meet Ashley's, the taller boy nodded politely, "Ah, Commander Ashley. I must say, your sister is a very persuasive speaker. Hopefully she can convince you to relax your stance vis a vis her and missions." His smile was an guileless and earnest as any Ashley had seen, and even the somewhat absurd title of 'Commander' was pronounced with total sincerity. 

 

Leroy had been remarkably insistent that a) Blue Squad must have a leader, and b) that it be Ashley with himself as lieutenant. So far he hadn't prevailed on any of the others, and from what Ashley knew about Leroy's family of warrior women it was probably just to make things more homey.

 

Leroy suddenly turned back to Judy, looking slightly more serious "By the way, Judy, I was thinking to ask this a little later, but since Ashley was kind enough to join us: would you like to accompany me to the Harvest Dance? I ask so far in advance," he added with a sheepish grimace "as I cannot dance, at all. But with your help I am sure to learn." The smile was back, causing his golden eyes to sparkle.

 

 

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Christ she can't be falling for that-

 

"That sounds wonderful, Leroy," said Judy, blushing as she squeezed the boy's hand. "And Ah'm an excellent dancer," she told him confidently, which actually was true enough from what Ashley remembered. "We'll have a wonderful time." She was already thinking about the sadly contracted contents of her closet here at Claremont; all right, getting access to her fancy clothes from the White House was not going to work even if they had the time, but surely a run through Goodwill or some other place here could get them access to things she'd be caught dead in at an actual social occasion. 

 

Ashley didn't roll her eyes as Judy smiled at Leroy, she was too busy quietly cursing. Well all this had snuck up on her awfully fast! Leroy hadn't even been on her hazard list, which was probably why she hadn't minded Judy spending time with him. She'd played his desire for titles carefully, not wanting to support his ambitions but not wanting to alienate someone from Judy's peer group either - instead growling that she wasn't here "to make friends with a bunch of noobs" - but not actually turning down his proposals either. After all, if Leroy, Adam, and the rest were her friends, they'd be more likely to help her keep Judy safe. Momentarily at a loss for words, she just looked. 

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