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Early November 2019 

 

The Smith sisters didn't talk much about what had happened to them over Halloween. Judy had shown up for class on Friday looking a little the worse for wear; and Ashley hadn't appeared again until that Monday, sporting a smile, a few bruises, and bright pink bubblegum hair. But now it was November and it was time for some fun - and some important conversations. 

 

As usual, Ashley entered Leroy's room first, looking around to make sure Kam was out before gesturing for Judy to follow her in. "Hi honey!" she said cheerfully, standing on her toes to kiss Leroy on the cheek. "You already for our date in Mia and Danica's room?" Judy had certainly dressed up for the occasion, wearing a maxi-skirt and snug blouse whose dark colors went well with the bright cross around her neck and tan skin. 

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"I have been preparing for this date my entire life, radiant Judy Smith." Leroy returned the kiss tenderly, tilting Judy's face up towards his. He smiled as he looked into her eyes. "The sun draws all towards herself, yet she is unreachable..." He stroked her cheek "...unless she should descend to Earth. I am glad to have met you, Judy. And to see that your sister has found her own special someone." He smiled beatifically over Judy's head at her sister, golden eyes sparkling.

 

Leroy took Judy's arm in his and stepped delicately around a pile of his robes that had unaccountably been thrown to the floor, watching them like a hawk. "Lead on, darling. I am sure this will be but one of many nights to cherish." He was wearing a similar outfit to the one he'd worn the first time the two had danced, a white silk button-up with black slacks and gilded sandals. The steely-white ring on his right hand glimmered, as did the gold rings holding his long hair in a braid thick as his arm.

 

"The plan is unchanged, I hope?"

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Ashley's eye twitched as she looked at Leroy. Don't. Spoil. The. Moment, she thought, and then carefully looked away. 

 

"Ah have something Ah want to show you first, Leroy." Judy took a step back and smiled, folding her hands in front of her. "Ah've been practicing this for the last couple of days, and, well, Ah decided it was your turn to see it..." She closed her eyes - and seemed to catch fire from within. A glowing wash spread across her skin and her hair and over her eyes, until the warm yellow light of a summer morning filled the room. She wasn't quite too bright to look at but she was glowing enough he'd have never recognized her if he hadn't seen her change, eyes and mouth glowing like a photographic negative, hair behind her radiating like Jacob's Ladders. 

 

"Ah wanted you to see me like this tonight.

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"...Beautiful..." 

 

The word dropped off of Leroy's tongue without him seeming to realize or even hear it. His pupils had widened to take in the light, swallowing up the colour of them and reflecting Judy's shining face back at her. In the sudden glare he had seemed to grow even darker, even the glittering metal dulling thanks to its proximity to the void.

 

Leroy's stunned silence lasted a long moment. But he at last shook himself, smiled tenderly and stepped closer to Judy. "I knew you shone inside," he told her, "but I never thought to see your light blaze forth so gloriously. Thank you for showing me this side of yourself, darling Daystar. I love it, as I do all that you are."

 

"The golden fire, xanthosis, coincides on many worlds with the dawning of a new self and independent strength. Pagan nonsense. But seeing you afire like this, Judy, I could believe that anything was possible." Black fire seemed to leap from Leroy as he spoke, a mirror of the solar flare blazing from Judy, the shadows wheeling and prancing joyfully around them.

 

"I have a surprise for you as well...at the end of our date." His earnest smile twitched just to that side of mischievous. He offered his arm, the gold eyes reasserting themselves over the black, "Shall we?"

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Whatever tragedy or bad feelings would later come in their relationship, for now a  goldstar princess and her blackfire prince walked the halls of the Claremont dorms linked arm-in-arm, and even Watchdog had to admit it was romantic in a way. 

 

Maybe she can marry him - when they're both 21, and he's not living in Hellworld, and when her father isn't the President of the United StatesIt was just an idle thought, though, one quickly lost beneath the layers of what a terrible idea it would be.

 

They certainly caught lots of attention as they made their way to Mia and Danica; but luckily Judy emitted enough kinds of light powered-up to make a hash of almost any sort of picture, and Ashley didn't need to bodycheck anybody with interest and a good camera out of the way. 

 

Mia and Danica's door was closed - and with a glowing smile on her radiant face, Judy whispered, "Let's surprise her," before knocking.

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Mia had been making preparations for the event for a while now. She had acquired a few very large bags of pre-popped popcorn, including dill pickle flavour (her favourite), white cheddar and plain. She had the movie on her end cued up, and more than that, she had picked out (read: created) an outfit suitable to watching Rocky Horror. There were drinks ready - colas, a few orange drinks, stuff like that. She was ready.

 

At the knock on the door, she shot up excitedly, and went to open the door. When it opened, her outfit was revealed. A sparkly golden blazer, multi-coloured top underneath, a big red sparkly bow-tie, rainbow-stripped shorts, fish-nets and blue heels, completed by a sparkly golden tophat, and some winged eyeliner. She was dressed as Columbia from the movie. But that outfit was entirely blown out of the water by what she saw standing on the other side of the door.

 

Her jaw dropped.

 

Judy,” she said, stunned. “You look gorgeous! You’re like a living sunset! Oh my God!” She tried to move forward, but nearly tripped, only managing to steady herself on the door-frame. She was not used to wearing heels. “Holy crap! Come here or I’m gonna faceplant.”

She held out her arms for a hug. “And you’re looking great too, Leroy! Here I was thinking I was going to the one surprising you guys.”

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Judy hugged her tight, not quite painfully warm, and stepped aside so Leroy could (carefully) hug her too. Ashley, meanwhile, was already inside the room, having been completely comfortable with not getting a close look. She looked at the snacks and decided to take her cue from Judy. Judy was almost always comfortable with people eating in front of her, but she never liked to start until she knew how her ward was doing. "Nice party," she commented. 


"-so after, uh, Halloween, Ah did some thinking, and Ah want to get the same kind of training y'all are getting. So more workouts, but Ah think it'll be fun. And Ah'm gonna have a good supername too; Daystar." She nodded in satisfaction at that, then added, "but, uh, you don't have to call me that! Ah'm not a crazy person or anything.

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"I am quite surprised, if it should hearten you, Mia Mustafic-Markov." Lightly side-hugging Orange Squad's Soliton, Leroy looked like he was communing with the mortal realm from some Heaven of infinite bliss. "Thank you very much for kindly consenting to be our hostess, squad leader. I am sure this will be a lovely time."

 

Hearing that Judy wanted to start the serious combat and powers training, the simply-dressed boy turned to look at her with much more believable surprise. "Judy! This is...that is so wonderful!" Picking her up into a hug and spinning the pair of them lightly around, he set her back in the air with a heartfelt laugh, clapping his hands with a power utterly at odds with his slim frame. 

 

"A new passion for your powers, new name, and a glorious one! So much more fitting than 'Pulse'! Oh, the fun you shall have, Dee! Astrid can show you how to disable three assailants with one strike. Micah and Pan and Abigail can guide you in channeling and controlling the awesome forces at your call. I can provide boundless love and cheer you on to new heights! Your rise shall be unparalleled!"

 

He turned back to their hostess "So, Mia, what do you have planned? I had never heard of any of the things you mentioned the other day, and investigation merely gave me more questions I could not answer." He smiled hopefully, the scars on his cheeks widening in a way that would have been unsettling without being so familiar.

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Mia nodded at Judy. “Daystar, it suits you! And I’m glad you’re going to be participating more. I’m not the best at gym but I am good at blasting. Admittedly not aiming, but we can be partners. Work on it together,” she said sunnily.

 

Then, her attention turned to Leroy. “Well! We’re gonna be watching a few things. First thing’s first, Rocky Horror Picture Show, my personal favourite movie. I told Ash and Judy this, but I can quote every line from this movie verbatim I have seen it so many times. And maybe one day, you will doing the same. I’m actually dressed up as a character, Columbia. So, yeah, I didn’t just put on tiny shorts for no reason,” she said, giggling awkwardly. “I’ve also got some snacks and drinks.” Her eyes shifted to Ashley. “All perfectly age-appropriate, I promise.”

 

“The movie’s kind of hard to explain. But I think you’ll like it, Leroy. It kind of reminds me of you, a little bit,” she said, smiling. “We also have a movie Judy picked out. I am forgetting the title at the moment, but the case is on the player behind me. Uhhh. What else? I dunno, I think I have everything, actually.”

 

“So! Drinks are over there, food is there, we have anything we need to do before we start?”

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The two lovebirds had to dim their lights for the movie - otherwise they couldn't see the screen. Judy parked herself on the couch right next to Leroy, her thigh against his thigh, and beamed as the movie came on. Things were going very well indeed. They probably wouldn't have time to watch Grace Unplugged tonight, not with curfew sending Leroy back to his room, but that wasn't such a bad thing - it just meant they'd have an opportunity for a second date. She didn't even mind if he ate any of the snacks. 


Behind them, Ashley leaned casually against the wall, munching on white cheddar popcorn occasionally as the movie came on. She was polite, and didn't comment about how Brad and Janet seemed like a couple of dumbasses even in the 1970s as the movie got into its actual plot. 

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"This is very realistic," Leroy commented upon the revelation of the giant muscle-bound creature in the basement, "on Halloween many of us encountered just such horrors. I transfigured into a child. Again."

 

Snuggling closer to Judy, he commented to Mia "Mustafic-Markov, they make no mention of the many known heroes of this time. That is simply unaccountable. This is where the Raven would shine."

 

Watching the havoc play out on screen(though Judy noticed he was looking almost anywhere but at the movie when sexual encounters were happening), Leroy had an almost anthropological air about him. The mixing and matching of clothing and appearance from the villain particularly had him frowning, as if deep in thought. He'd made the mistake of very loudly booing when the evil Dr. Frank showed up, cowing and shrinking into the sofa under the looks of the others, his scars turning pink.

 

He also didn't eat or drink at all, and blinked in surprise when he happened to see Ashley or Mia sampling from the snacks.

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Mia watched with rapt attention, a massive, dopey grin on her face for most of it. However, occasionally, her phone would buzz. Her face would falter and turn into a scowl, and then she would angrily hammer a text off. By the third time, she finally just turned her phone off, sitting with arms crossed and an annoyed look on her face. Her mood quickly lifted with the movie, and she went back to enjoying herself and singing along with a few of the songs.

 

She also spent a fair bit of time watching the others' reactions. She put up with Leroy because he was new to this dimension, though booing Frank-N-Furter got him a withering glare. No one dissed the doc on her watch. The rest of the commentary, though, she was fine with. People normally did way more disruptive things when watching the movie as a group, anyway.

 

Eventually, she ditched the top hat since it was kind of itchy, and the blazer followed soon after. She had no idea how Columbia's actress actually managed to wear it through all the takes. 

 

 

Edited by Shofet

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Judy was still in a good mood from her revelation to Leroy, so she started out the movie in a good mood too. She laughed at some of the early jokes and booed at the villain along with Leroy, figuring that was part of the show from the way Mia was acting. But as the plot went on, she found herself getting more and more confused - and more and more uncomfortable. Just keep smiling, she thought to herself as she watched the movie play, you don't want everybody to think you're a weird Christian girl. She was conscious that Mia was looking at her, and wanted to make sure she didn't see anything amiss. folded her hands on her lap, well-worn smile settling onto her face. This is not really following what the Bible says, she thought with guilt, going to Philippians 4:8 and Romans 13:14 in her head with the ease she'd had since she was a little girl. 

 

She knew her friends wouldn't find that a convincing argument, though Leroy would at least act like he was, so instead she fell on the other thing that seemed true. When Mia looked at her again, she said, her face set in a frown, "...isn't this real homophobic?" 

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Mia's eyebrows flew up in confusion. Homophobic? What? She stared at Judy in horror  for a moment, before mustering up a response. "Homophobic? The guy who wrote it was Richard O'Brien. Like... He's genderfluid and into both. And... Okay, so, so, so the plot it's... Yeah, sure from a surface point of view it indulges in like, stereotypes but look at how it's actually framed. Frank-N-Furter is liberated. Look at how Brad and Janet are all up-tight and basically like... neurotic messes until they meet him. Not to mention, he's openly and proudly breaking gender-norms and he's into guys and he's not ashamed of that. Like this was made in 1975. He's the villain, but he's out and he's proud of it and that was super rare back then. Oh, sure, you had gay and effeminate guys as characters back then, but they were always wimps who were treated as nothing more than a punchline. But look at the doc. He is always, always in charge of the scene, whenever he is in it. He's loud, he's fun, he's... not ashamed that he's kind of a weirdo."

 

"For once, the straight characters are the interlopers. They're the ones forced to be the odd ones out. Everyone else is having a great time but Brad and Janet don't until they let go of the traditional sorta... Like... American stuffiness of the time and give into the gay chaos," she said, and then realized just how animated she was getting.

 

She sighed, her face faltering. "I don't know... I just always really liked this movie. I kinda... I mean... Like I've always been a little weird and I kinda wish I could be as comfortable with it as people like Frank-N-Furter was, you know? He doesn't care how he looks. I wish I could do that instead of wincing every time I look in the mirror because I'm some... big... lanky... beanpole with no boobs who's way too skinny..."

 

She went to reach for the remote. "We can watch something else, sorry."

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"Oh, Mia!" Judy was off the couch, and hugging her friend warmly. "Mia, Ah am so sorry." She had to look up to look Mia in the eye, but that was okay - it was no different than her friendship with Corinne the year before. "You are beautiful, and good, and any boy would give his eyeteeth for you. Or girl!" She added quickly. "Ah know it can feel a little...uncomfortable being around all these girls who look like supermodels and dress to show it to the world, but you are beautiful just the way you are. Here, come sit down with me and Leroy." 

 

She made sure to park Mia on the couch with herself between Leroy and Mia, not wanting to make things awkward, while the movie played on at the lowest volume. "Until Ah met Leroy, Ah never thought anybody would be interested in me, because all I ever did, um, was try and stay out of sight. But there is someone out there who can appreciate you, and you deserve to be appreciated." She shot a look at Leroy that looked unaccountably guilty for a moment, then went on, "Everybody deserves to be with somebody." 

 

Ashley shifted uncomfortably behind the teens, then said, "Don't need to be in a relationship to be worth something. You're the only person you need to impress." 

 

"Well...yes, that's true," Judy allowed. "You certainly don't need to have a boyfriend or a girlfriend." 

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"They speak wisdom, mighty Mustafic-Markov." Leroy was giving the movie a slightly fairer shake, but also turned to Mia when Judy drew all attention to his clearly troubled squadmate. Relaxing against the sofa, he answered the sunlight saint's anxious look with a reassuring smile. "You must live free of lies, to yourself or others. For example, I was convinced I was ugly and unloveable until just last year. You are wondrous, it is for others to understand your glory." 

 

He then looked very serious. "Indeed, this is perhaps an ideal situation. I also am...uncertain about this movie. But you adore it and it is tied very strongly to who you are today. Just so, some things I cherish would seem strange and unpleasant to you. However, as the date of radiant Judy I am bound to support her in all things. Would you rather, battle-sister, talk about yourself?"

 

He grinned suddenly, golden eyes sparkling, "I should love to know who has caught the majestic eye of Soliton!"

Edited by Ari

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Mia was shocked at the sudden outpouring of support from her friends. Shocked enough that she started to feel her eyes get misty. No! Not now, that’s so lame! She thought to herself. But it was too late. The waterworks started. She started blubber inelegantly, taking a minute before getting herself back under control. She looked up at the others.

 

“I mean, I don’t know…” she said quietly. “I’m not really… pursuing anyone. I still don’t really know who or what I’m into and… Besides, no one’s really been interested either and… I don’t know.” She rubbed gently at her eyes, and straightened her back. “I’m sorry for losing it there, I’m just…”

 

She rubbed at her temples. “It’s been difficult. School’s been hard and I’ve already had to talk to a teacher because I’m having trouble with one of my classes and I miss home and… Those texts I got… They were from my half-sister. She just barges into my life and she wants to be friends, all of a sudden. Mom didn’t even know she existed until a few months ago and she’s like… She’s this weird test-tube baby one of her enemies made and she gets to live with mom while I am at school here. And like, I get it. Mom would never turn a kid out onto the street, but… I don’t know. God, she even looks more like mom than I do! She’s prettier than I am! Her life is even more like mom’s than mine.”

 

She groaned. “It’s like meeting the person you were switched at birth with and finding out they’re just… way better at being your mom’s kid than you are. And then she wants to be my friend, I guess, but I am not… ready for that.”

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Judy blinked a few times, staring at Mia. "Your mom - just left you here? After she took in a sister she never knew you had?" She blinked a few more times, and found herself fighting back tears. "Oh, Mia, that's awful! Ah am so sorry!" She pulled her friend into another hot hug. "Your momma should love you for who you are," whispered Judy fiercely, "just like we do." 

 

"Well, uh, that''s certainly quite a story," said Ashley, herself at a loss for words given this set of events. She stepped up close to the two girls and put her hand on Judy's shoulder, an unusual bit of tactility for the Smith sisters. "Weird crap hangs around super people like stink," she said frankly. "I'm sorry that happened to you, Mia. But, uh, we''re still your friends. And there are lots of good counselors at Claremont; they can help you with normal teenager problems,  not just the usual secret identity crap. You really should...you really should talk to somebody." 

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