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April 2019 

Common Room 


"Ah can't believe you did that!" Judy was steaming mad, heat coming off her in waves, as she jammed her hands down at her sides and yelled at her sister. "Ah can't believe you just stuck your nose into mah private life like that!"  


"...maybe I shouldn't have," admitted an unhappy-looking Ashley, who'd forsaken her sunglasses and looked sick to her stomach. "But I saw what he was doing to you, and I knew I had to say something." Maybe she hadn't had to say something, actually, but dammit she'd seen too many people push Judy around in the last year without anybody saying a word in her defense. Well why don't you say that out loud, a voice suggested, so you can get the hell out of this assignment and maybe this town forever! "Let's talk about this in our room," she suggested, a conversation changer that usually worked. 


"Oh, Ah think I know what you're going to say in there," said a red-faced Judy. "But it's not...it's not your place to tell me how to live mah life, anymore than it's my place to tell you how to live yours." She jabbed a finger at her sister and suddenly her voice broke. "And...and Ah want to be crying right now, Ashley, because Ah am so mad, but Ah can't even do that! Ah don't get to do anything Ah want!" 


Under normal circumstances, Ashley supposed she'd probably be at a pretty high risk of being fired right now, but haha, normal circumstances had been shot in the head and buried on the South Lawn for the last year and they weren't getting resurrected anytime soon. "I'm sorry," she apologized, hands in front of her and considerably softer than her usual tones. "But you know this isn't the place to talk about this." she added in a firm whisper. 

"Ah want you to go away," said Judy, raising her head and looking Ashley in the eye. "Ah want you to go outside this room, so Ah don't have to see you for a while. You told me Ah'd have as much privacy as you could give me, right? You are gonna keep your word to me, right?" 


"All right, Judy," said Ashley quietly. "I'll be out in the hall." Because she knew what was about to happen, she didn't tense when she heard Judy's shriek of alarm from inside the common room, just as she was stepping out the door. 




Her face bright red, Judy looked down at the sole other occupant of the common room. "Omigod Danica! You were here the whole time! Ah'm so sorry!" 

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It was easy to miss Danica, curled up in a beanbag chair by the window; with the roundness of her shell and the general not-quite-humanoid outline it gave her, she looked more like a second beanbag stacked on top of the first. "Sorry! Danica told her, sounding a little embarrassed. "I would've left when you started yelling, but you know how long it takes me to get out of a room. It would've been like one of those movie scenes where the climactic battle has to stop while the creaky little old lady crosses the screen with her walker." She pursed her lips and looked at Judy. "Are you okay?" 

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"...no," admitted Judy, something of a first given all the times she'd obviously been holding back upset around Danica. She slumped onto a stool next to Danica, close enough that the tortoise totem could feel a slight elevation in temperature. It didn't seem like Judy was about to set the room on fire, but she was definitely a walking space heater for the moment. "That was maybe the worst fight Ah've ever had with Ashley, " she confessed. "And Ah'm probably gonna have to have a talk with Leroy about it too." She rubbed her dry eyes and tried to take a deep, calming breath. "Ah'm sorry if Ah upset you," she said again, maybe a little too hastily. "That was not how today was supposed to go at all." 

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"You didn't upset me," Danica assured her easily. "I see a lot worse than that in powers training. There's only so much you can do with a hero whose main power is being too sturdy to hurt, so they mostly work on my emotional abilities. Last year they took me to the courthouse and I just had to sit in the gallery for an entire afternoon of divorce court and see if I could keep anybody from screaming or throwing a punch at anybody else. It was messed up." She shook her head, not seeming terribly fazed by that memory either. "But I wouldn't do that to you," she assured Judy, "stop your fights, I mean, not unless you wanted me to. It seems kind of rude, and emotion control's a little ethically tricky." 


She leaned back on her elbows, only a little bit because most of her weight balanced on the shell. "What was today supposed to be like?" 

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Judy blinked, having forgotten about the tortoise girl's emotion-controlling powers entirely. She knew that Ashley had initially been concerned about those, but had eventually decided they weren't a problem - but thinking about that wasn't helping. "Oh, we were supposed to show the new boy around. It was a little scary because he has Grue powers, but he's actually nice. It was going okay, we were out in the greenhouse, and Leroy was being..." She hesitated a moment then said, "Ah know sometimes he can be a little grating, but that's just because he's foreign, and anyway he was being a little thoughtless, and Ashley just...just butted in and called him an idiot, and Ah got upset and Ah left." She frowned. "She's not supposed to do that, just to...to butt into mah life like that." 

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Danica raised her eyebrows. "She's your big sister, right? I don't have a big sister myself, but if television has taught me anything, it's that butting into your life is basically her full-time job, and vice versa. I mean, think about when you were younger, you were always getting into her stuff and following her around, right? You guys are always going to be tangled up in each others' lives." She rocked from side to side a little. "I guess the main point was whether Leroy was actually being an idiot. Was he?" 

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Unbidden thoughts of Judy's siblings flashed through her mind - Jaybee and her rebellious secrets, Jaydee and how loud she could get when there was something she wanted. It was a good thing Lulu wasn't around just then. "I don't know about that..." Judy shifted uncomfortably where she sat, and it may have been Danica's imagination but it got slightly warmer as her cheeks darkened. "...he knows where Ah got my powers," she finally muttered. Judy had talked about her hidden alien heritage a few times, in private moments - it was definitely not a point of pride for the conservative girl. "He was talking about how people on his homeworld loved it when evil aliens got wiped out, and...and he wasn't trying to hurt me," she said, taking the side of someone who wasn't even in the room, "he just wasn't thinking." 

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"Well, maybe Ashley was trying to protect you, then?" Danica suggested. "I mean, she seems to be kind of..." Overprotective seemed at once too blunt and perhaps not quite strong enough. "She seems really invested in keeping you safe. I guess that probably gets to be a drag." She slid out of her shell, a sight that never got entirely less weird, and leaned back against it, now clad in a black and yellow t-shirt and blue jeans. "I mean, being safe is good, especially with you guys coming from where you do, but it gets suffocating, yeah?" She gave Judy a raised-eybrow look. "Did he say he was sorry?" 

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"No, Ah...Ah left, and Ah didn't actually say anything to him about it," admitted Judy. "Ah guess Ah should actually tell him how Ah feel, but Ah don't like...talking about that stuff, not with somebody Ah'm supposed to care about, anyway. Ah want to be helping people, not...fighting with them all the time." She looked downcast, then turned to give Danica a faint smile. "Some days Ah wish Ah could just climb into a shell like yours and hide for a while. Not forever, just till nobody was paying attention to me anymore." Good luck with that, she thought unhappily. 

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"If you can't fight with somebody and then be okay afterwards, then how are you ever going to be able to relax around them?" Danica mused aloud. "I mean, nobody gets along all the time, right?" She brightened. "But you can come into my shell if you want, I just cleaned it and everything! Rocking forward, Danica plunked down chest-first onto the floor and wriggled until she'd disappeared fully inside the black and gold patterned shell. As soon as she was no longer visible, the shell began to grow, spreading up and out till it was the size of a pup tent. The neck opening was big enough to crawl inside, if one didn't mind tight places. "Come on in!" Danica called, her voice a little echoey from inside. 

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Judy had covered her mouth during Danica's display, which somehow managed to sit perfectly on the line between "adorable" and "horrifying." She glanced behind her, saw no sign of Ashley, then with a shrug ducked down and peered inside the shell. "Danica? Are you in here-wait, that was stupid!" she added, laughing nervously as she swallowed her fear and began crawling inside the shell. Oh this is really weird! she thought to herself; but didn't turn away, either, not even when both sneakered feet had disappeared inside the black and gold shell before her. 

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