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The day after A Changing World

Daystar and Watchdog's room

 

Well the secret was out and the world hadn't ended. Ashley and Judy were boarding a plane the next day for their flight back to DC, where the First Family would serve meals to carefully-vetted homeless families in the area. Maybe they'd come back and everything would be the same. Ashley closed her eyes and remembered the nightmare - the school in flames, children and soldiers dead, all because of her. She opened them, and saw Judy sitting on her bed, holding the family Bible she'd been reading the night before. She was back to a passage Ashley knew was important to her: "But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day." 

 

"Do you really want to do this?" Ashley asked Judy quietly. Judy glanced her way. "We haven't known Mia that long, and Leroy...Leroy may want you to tell him on his own." He may go tell everyone. Oh well, that would be one way to handle the end of the relationship. 

 

"Ah need to tell them both. Ah know them the best of anybody who is still here...and Ah love Leroy. Ah'm..." She twisted the ring on her finger. "Ah'm gonna marry Leroy, and he deserves to know the truth. Ah have mistreated him." 

 

"It wasn't your fault," Ashley added softly from where she sat on the bed. "He's a very nice boy, and he's been very good to you. But what's going to happen when this place is done?" 

 

When there was a knock at the door, Ashley got up to answer it. 

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"Ashley! Judy! So glad to see you before you depart!  Leroy was on the other side, hands behind his back, dazzling in a black robe shimmering with blue, red and white stars that stood fixed despite how the cloth billowed around them. He was all smiles, and seemed to almost vibrate with energy, surrounded by a gentle and refreshing smell that was like the best parts of lavender and lemon. "May I come in? I have brought gifts!" he said, revealing his hands and their contents with a galactic flourish!

 

"This one was very difficult, but well worth it." In his right hand was a gold-white flower, like a daisy but with narrower petals and a slim brown stem. "I call it the joie du soleil, for it needs but the gentlest of electromagnetic radiations to thrive and bloom. Any earth may be its bed, any time it may be plucked without harm, and wherever it is planted all life flourishes the more! Its scent you already know, calming and sweet, which may become a powerful knockout drug at the pluck of a petal!"

 

"Ashley, I alas could not think of anything you would appreciate and find useful. So I made you a knife that can bypass most forms of detection." He handed the taller girl a slim, guardless blade made from the black crystal that had gone so haywire at Vasquez's meetup weeks back. The hilt was shaped like the snarling, leaping body of a Vietnamese ridgeback dog, the blade jutting from its jaws like a huge, serrated, vicious tongue. Even without testing it, Ashley could feel how sharp it was. That it came with a plain black sheath was rare foresight on Leroy's part.

 

Leroy watched Ashley's face anxiously "I hope they are sufficient?"

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Mia had been told that the Smith Sisters were departing, and that they wanted to hang out before they left. Yet there was something about the way she had been told that which made her nervous. Were they leaving for good? Was that it? Or was there something else going on here?

 

She set those thoughts aside when she arrived at their door, promising herself she wouldn't allow her imagination to run wild and make her panic. She was wearing something she considered tacky, but in a fun way - a red sweater with a turkey stitched on the front, made by her gemma, and a knee length black skirt with Thanksgiving-themed tights underneath. She didn't know why but she thought if she wore something fun and festive, it might make the more take a lighter turn.

 

When she got to the door, Leroy was already there. He had gifts. Oh no. Was she supposed to bring gifts? She didn't bring gifts. "Uhhh..." She said, before the air filled with sparkles, and two giant stuffed turkey teddies appeared under her arms.

 

"Hey," she said casually.

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Judy's face fell - he was such a good boy, and what had she done for him but lie? She wanted to take him to her side and kiss him sweetly, knowing she might never get such a chance again, but in case this was their last day together she couldn't treat him so anymore. Instead she hugged him warmly and said, "Oh, thank you, Leroy, these are so nice...and Ah didn't get anything for you!" By the time Mia arrived with gifts of her own, Judy was almost in tears, wordlessly hugging her friends and murmuring thanks. Ashley stepped in at this opportunity, carefully setting down the knife and patting Judy on the back until she was able to compose herself. When she had, Ashley stepped away to close - and lock the door behind the two new arrivals. 

 

"Ah'm so glad you both are here," said Judy, looking anxious as she looked from Leroy to Mia. "As you know, we're going away for our usual Thanksgiving visit, but before we go, well...Ashley and Ah have been talking, and we decided between us that we needed to be honest with our friends, because that's what good people do, and because that's, well, what God tells us. You both are good people, and we trust you, and Leroy, Ah _love_ you..." She shifted in her seat, giving him a long, meaningful look, and blushed. Ashley watched up against the wall as Judy said, "We need to tell you the truth about where we really come from. And who Ah really am." 

 

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Mia’s eyes were searching the room for answers when the almost-cry-hugs came to her. The locking of the door behind her only confirmed that there was something heavy coming. Which meant she had to deposit these turkey teddies somewhere. She looked over at the beds, and slowly moved over, sidling past others where necessary, and depositing one on each Smith sister’s bed before turning around to look at them.

 

She decided to lean against a wall, trying to keep casual despite the clear gravity of what was going on. Yet she almost tripped and sent herself through the drywall when Judy said something about revealing “who she really was.” She straightened up, and then pointed a finger up at Judy and Ashley.

 

“Ah-ha! I knew something was up when neither of you two had the same accent. And why Ashley spoke Vietnamese! Which you don’t! I don’t think! And also the fact that you’d hang out with me is pretty suspect all things considered! You’re some kind of aliens who just copied some people who looked similar to each other, aren’t you? And now the government’s found out and they’re going to try and cut you up for science!”

 

She wagged her finger. “Well, if you need to go somewhere safe, I can teleport you anywhere on the continent in six seconds. Give me slightly more and I can get you anywhere on Earth. Somewhere safe, like New Zealand. Or Madagascar.”

Edited by Shofet

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"I know you are kind, Judy. That you are generous and act where others would dream." Leroy tenderly slipped the joie du soleil into Judy's hair, "You have shown me love and looked past my innumerable weaknesses. Whatever else you are, wherever you are truly from, it cannot overshadow that. Not to me."

 

Taking the younger Smith's hands in his, the Dragon Prince of Earth-2 held her gaze "If you are, as my squad leader suggests, aliens from another world, then so be it. I cannot hope to match her power, but I will gladly do all I can to help."

 

"Whatever your name, you will always shine in my eyes."

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"I...no, it's not like that at all," said Judy, "and the government doesn't just...just cut up aliens they find," said Judy. Ashley coughed and looked away, and for a moment there was silence before Judy spoke again. "The first thing Ah want you both to know is that Ah'm sorry. Ah do not like lying to people, and it has been very hard to lie to you, and to my other friends here, and to everyone else, for so long. It was for a good reason at the time, because we didn't know if we could be safe here - but Ah know now it was wrong, and Ah'm not gonna be afraid of the truth any longer." 

 

She flushed again, tucked her hair behind her ears, steeled herself, and spoke: 


"There was no other world. Ashley and Ah are both from this dimension. And my name isn't Judy Smith. It's Judith Claudia Cahill. Ah am the daughter of the President of the United States" She looked at Leroy, obviously on tenterhooks for his reaction. "Ah am so sorry Ah lied to you, honey," she said, her hand squeezing tight around his. "It was just because Ah gave mah word, and you know Ah don't go back on mah word..." 

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Leroy stared at Judy for a long time, face utterly blank. Taking a slow, deep breath, he looked out the dorm window, brow furrowing as he considered the world outside, the fading trees, the greying skies, the few remaining bundled-up Claremont students on the paths, hurrying to wherever they were going.

 

"Well, I have a confession as well, Judy." Leroy looked back at her, his golden eyes clouded.

 

"I utterly forgot what a president was for a moment." 

 

Bursting out laughing, the slender boy hugged the newly-revealed First Family daughter tight, planting a kiss on her lips. In her ear he murmured "You needed not tell me. But I am glad that you have. I will never betray your trust, as you have never mine."

 

Over Judy's hair, Leroy's scarred face grinned merrily up at Ashley. "Do you also have a secret name, Commander?" Suddenly his smile dimmed. "Who else knows? I assume the Headmistress Summers must, but who else"

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Mia's eyes nearly bugged out of her head when Judy admitted that she was a member of the First Family. Quickly, she tried to think if she had ever said anything bad about the president in front of Judy. She couldn't think of anything, but the idea that she might have now hung over her like a giant cloud of terror. The idea that she could have insulted Judy's dad to her face and the girl would have remained silent was not a good one. Judy was Mia's friend, and she never wanted to hurt her.

 

"...Well, Judy, your secret is safe with me.  You're easily one of the best friends I've made here and I am so glad that you trusted me enough to tell me that. I won't ever break that trust," she said with a comforting smile. "Besides, sorta came to Claremont with the idea that someone was going to have a huge secret. Part of the whole super thing. Just didn't expect this one."

 

Leroy's question to Ashley was a good one. She looked over at Ashley, considering what the secret would be.

 

"Well, they're probably not bio-sisters given those things I said," Mia said with her arms folded and a thoughtful look on her face. Then, it occurred to her that trying to guess was probably kind of rude. "Uhhh, but you... I'm not gonna try'n'guess."

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Judy burst into light like a star igniting, declaring "God is good!" before embracing Leroy in a tight, bone-warming hug. She took his face in her hands and kissed him, looking up into his eyes with a face like the Sun. "Thank you, Leroy. I love you so much.

 

Ashley tried to remind herself that this was pretty much the best possible reaction she could have expected as far as protecting Judy's secret, and that yelling "WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU KIDS" would be decidedly counterproductive. Well evidently she didn't need to show them the photoseries she'd prepared. She didn't comment at first about her secret, until she realized that Mia and Leroy were both looking at her. For a moment she entertained the brief possibility of saying, "Surprise, I'm not a lesbian!" but dismissed that one as a passing thought. 

 

"I'm not biologically related to Judy."  

 

"Ashley's story is pretty neat!" said Judy, glowing. "Can Ah tell them?

 

"If...you feel so led," said Ashley reluctantly. 

 

"Ashley is my hero," said Judy warmly. "She's the one who was there for me, and helped me with my powers, when there wasn't anybody else in the world. She was one of the Secret Service agents at the White House the day my...my powers blew up. And some people...some people got hurt, but everyone was okay in the end.

 

 

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Mia's mouth dropped open for a moment at the revelation that Ashley was, in fact, a Secret Service agent. Gears began spinning in her head. Ashley had seen her smoke from a bong. Ashley knew who her mom was. Mia thought she was shivering, but it was more like vibrating. She nodded at both of them.

 

"Ah-hah, ah-yuh," she said. Then, a crack filled the room, and suddenly, Mia was gone. Standing in the middle of the Wharton State Forest, Mia took a moment to scream to herself and thrash about a bit, before returning to the room. Her hair was now wild and had a few leaves in it, her face even paler than normal.

 

"Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool," Mia said, nodding aggressively with folded arms. She spread out a hand in a gesture, then reconsidered it and tucked it back into the folded position. Then she brought an index finger to her mouth, before again reverting to folded arms. 

 

"Hm-hm-hm-hm-hm!" she mumbled in approximation of a laugh. She wagged her finger in a panicked smirk at Ashley. "Oh there are so, so many things I wish I hadn't done in front of you now!"

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"The Secret Service doesn't have the same legal responsibilities that other law enforcement agencies do," said Ashley with a patient smile. As long as I don't see you or your mom breaking federal law, I'm not empowered to arrest you. She had a feeling that would be an awkward conversation, so she added, "This is...not my first time at Claremont. Knowing Summers is why she was willing to go along with the whole thing in the first place. But we couldn't put Judy here without someone to keep her safe." 


"Ah'd never been around anybody with superpowers before," admitted Judy. "Not except to shake their hand or something." She wasn't going to mention that she had actually met Micah's cousin back in Oklahoma. "Ah wasn't even around that time those terrorists tried to blow up Air Force One.

 

"That was a real...mess," Ashley opined. "But it's done, and the First Family is safe. Anyway, I'm just here to protect Judy. I'm not very interesting." 

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Leroy looked downright awestruck, even as he quite willingly cuddled up against Judy. "I have never met a sworn shield. I know my sisters have them. Deadly, loyal warriors who channel the One Power in complement to their liege. I never dreamed I would meet one, let alone here on Prime! I know you do not always see eye-to-eye, and being around less mature students again must be torture, but it is good Judy has someone by her side. The children of the powerful are tempting targets." His scars flushed crimson, and he looked abashed, "That was why you reacted so badly when I pledged myself to Dee."

 

"But...you will not be so highly-placed forever, is that right, Judy?" He frowned "I recall there is still some protection for former presidents and their families, but surely there has been none of such radiance and might. We should plan to visit the Skies sooner than later. Even if you have a life on Prime, Dee, I know my family would welcome you there whenever you wish. Perhaps they can even restore your human body, while retaining your powers! The Chimaera could do it, my sister knows life like nobody else in the omniverse!"

 

"Wait...Ashley, Judy darling, you have not told me, do others know?" Even lit up by Judy's shining self, Leroy's face was shadowed with worry, "The secret will not pass my lips without your will, but if there are others here so trusted, it would be wise for Mia and I to be forewarned."

Edited by Ari

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Judy shifted awkwardly in her seat, looking away from Leroy for a moment. "Well, um, it's just you two, Danica, and Lulu." 

 

"And that's everyone who needs to know," added Ashley firmly. 

 

"That's right, I..." Judy seemed to consider for a moment, then pulled back on herself, her outward fires dimming. "Leroy, if...if we're getting married, we have to live together," she told him firmly. "And Ah...ah can't live on your world. You shouldn't live there either!" she said suddenly. "It's not right the way people live there, with the killing, and the torture, and all the horrible things you talk about!" Ashley was looking at her now, eyes wide, but Judy went on. "Ah want to help you, honey, but...we need to get you _away_ from there. That place is _evil_.'

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Mia looked between Leroy and Judy, and suddenly felt as though she was intruding on something important between them. She was glad she had been told, but now the two seemed like they needed time together. And then Judy just threw out just all sorts of stuff that Mia had no idea about until now.

 

“Wait, what?” Mia said, sounding a little dumb-founded.

 

She paused. “His world?” she asked, her voice cracking a bit. She looked over at Leroy, eyeing him up and down and then realizing. “Oh my God, you’re from another dimension, aren’t you? HOLY CRAP. So much makes sense now. Jeez.” Then, she realized instantly just how rude that might have been. “UHHHH, I mean.”

 

“...There’s no good way to walk back from this.”

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"What-" Leroy looked utterly nonplussed, though from the glance between Mia and Judy it was hard to say which had more to do with that. 

 

"Yes, Mustafic-Markov, I am from another dimension. We call it Earth-2. There are dragons and whalesquids and...many other such things. Throughout my formative years I was taught that Prime was a dominion of evil, a cold and harsh planet where greed rules and only a few heroes hold back everlasting darkness. But you have shown me, Judy, that kindness, purpose and joy can be found here. Such as I never knew at home" He frowned "This is very confusing, even troubling, but...I cannot agree that my mother is evil."

 

"Amatuken Ransome-Conte has a higher duty: the unity of all Earths to one dimension and the creation of a truly equal and just paradise. Where she has gone, the oppressed are liberated. Where the shadow of her dragon fell, tyrants have perished in blood and fire. Her daughters have carried on the work, learning to wield and shape the One Power that binds realities. Their children, and others, hasten the embrace of worlds to us. Realms of such number and variety that I cannot describe them, all bent to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, empowering the weak and overthrowing the wicked."

 

Leroy became very quiet for a moment, staring at his hands linked tightly around Judy's. When he spoke again, it was low and mournful.

 

"She has done cruel things. All my family save Oloroo, my little sister, have done so when made wroth at the wrongs done across the omniverse. Evil things, I must call them in light of my faith. But...if her aims are so high, her devotion so wholly for others' betterment...can those make her evil? My second fathers, Nova and Night? My sisters, cousins, nephews and nieces? The many who follow them into battle? The dragons?"

 

For someone always so careless and confident, Leroy was the picture of agonized uncertainty, eyes wide and body trembling.

 

"Even if we do not agree...they are my family, Judy. I love them, and if they met you they would love you, I know it! However, if you think it best to break from them, it shall be done." He shook like a leaf, but his grip and golden eyes were steady. "I love you more."

 

He cracked a smile. "After all, Dee: now I know you."

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Judy put her arms around Leroy and put her head against his - and behind them Ashley did her best to keep her disgust off her face. "Ah love you, too. And what if you don't actually leave your family? What if you just make them...better?" 

 

"I really don't think this is a conversation you want to have in front of...other people," said Ashley with great firmness. Her body was tense like a livewire - but what could she do? She couldn't actually smack some sense into her charge, or Leroy for that matter. 

 

"Ah guess you're right. We'll talk later, love," said Judy, beaming at Leroy before she smiled at Mia. "Ah'm sorry, Mia, Ah didn't mean to leave you out just then." 

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Mia shrugged her shoulders, though she was rather concerned about the fact that Leroy was willing to just give up on his family after a small thing like that, she also felt she didn't know the situation well enough to comment. Not to mention, it seemed like Ashley really, really wanted to change subjects and now that she knew Ashley was a president cop, she didn't want to get... spin-kicked or something.

 

"So..." Mia said quietly.

 

"How is it doing the whole 21 Jump Street thing, Ash?" She asked, clearly feeling awkward. "...Better than the first time?"

 

It was weird to know that Ashley was an adult. She couldn't imagine any adult wanting to hang out with teens, and the idea that anyone could crush on her became intensely skeevy, and more than that, the question of how many people actually knew made her a little concerned. The fact that the US government could just do this made her wonder how many people she had ever met were secretly Feds.  

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Ashley's face went blank - a familiar enough expression, but one that took on a new meaning now that she knew just how often Ashley had been lying to everyone. After a moment, she said, "It's my job - I get paid." She smiled thinly, then spoke the truth. "Judy's the one who had the hard job." She shrugged a little, then decided she couldn't leave it there if she really wanted to avoid Judy continuing to talk about how great it would be if she and Leroy overthrew his Dark Lord mother. "I did the whole cape and mask thing till I went to college. It's not quite as great as the teachers these days make it sound." 

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"The afflictions of this world are well-known, at least in the Hanging Gardens where they teach us good and evil." Leroy's face for a fleeting moment was uncannily like Judy's at her most pensive, his golden eyes staring at something only he could see. "Many who come to Earth-2 were hideously mistreated on account of their skin or sex. I have been afforded power and respect since birth, so your lightest trials would be agonizing to me. I regret that I cannot yet remove your burdens, Ashley."

 

He turned back to Judy, smiling now, "When you return, we must plan when to see your parents, to tell them the happy news about us!"

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"No, Leroy, Ah don't think we can," said Judy, earning a surprised look from Ashley that the latter quickly stifled. "My parents would never approve of me marrying somebody like you," she said with a long, deep sigh. "The way things are, it wouldn't work." She reached down and took Leroy's hands. "That's why what we need to do is get your mother here to Earth-Prime." 

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Mia's eyes narrowed at the 'somebody like you' comment. "Whaddaya mean, someone like him? Like with superpowers, or like... nobility or you know... blackness? 'Cause the last one sounds super hypocritical 'cause isn't your mom like..." she stopped there, frowning. "I don't remember your mom's tribe. GOD. How did I not figure out it was you? Mom hate-watches C-SPAN all the time."

 

She furrowed her brow. How didn't she figure it out? She supposed she didn't actually pay all that much attention in the past, but come on! She should have made like, some connection, right? Ugh, this was deeply embarrassing. Still, no reason to make it more awkward than she had already made it.

 

"And, uh... Yeah. What's up with Leroy's family?"

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"No!" said Judy immediately, her tan skin coloring slightly. "Mah parents are not racist," she said with feeling. "Maybe they're not...'woke' like some people here," she said, making quotes with her fingers for that last word, 'but that doesn't make them racist, just because they, um..." She took a breath. "And my mom is Comanche, technically, but she's funny about it. They wouldn't like Leroy because Leroy's very...not like normal people," she said, giving her boyfriend an apologetic look. "But that's what Ah love about him!" she added, giving him a long hug. 

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Leroy hugged her back. "And you are like no-one else in the omniverse, Judy." he murmured tenderly. "A light-withn-light on this sea of darkness. If we must hide our love for now, then so be it. I trust you."

 

"What do you mean, 'what is up with' my family?" Mia had never seen Leroy more confused, though the bar seemed to rise continually as her squadmate collided bodily with Earth-Prime at every turn. "We are a powerful and wealthy collection of very driven and earnest people, Mustafic-Markov. Beyond that, well..."

 

He shifted uncomfortably, "...my mother, she...she is...unflinching. Accepted wisdom would have it that this world is a bastion of darkness scarce-contained. To remain here indefinitely, in her eyes, would be vile neglect. We must make her understand the beauty and worth of Earth-Prime, or else she may simply take me back home and forbid me from ever leaving again. Out of love, of course."

 

He paled. "Dio knows my mind, and must report to her regularly. We may receive a, a visit from one of my cousins soon, to see what this is about. When that time comes, I would take strength from you being at my side, Judy." 

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Mia didn't entirely know what to do with this information. However, it did make her nervous. Dio had been a spy the whole time? Oh man, had he told Leroy's mom about the whole Black House thing? Oh no, she was probably on this lady's ☠☠☠☠list. She frowned, and held her hands in a moment, making a stressed noise, before looking up at Leroy balefully.

 

"So Dio is also someone who could..." she paused, then her expression became more dire. "Am I going to find out Ben is secretly a robot? Like, I was prepared for secrets. Secrets are normal with super stuff. But this is some surveillance state crap, and I am not into it," she said, her breath becoming more erratic. Her face blanched a bit.

 

Feeling something unpleasant coming on, Mia pulled out her inhaler and took a puff on it, then took a few seconds to just breathe. In and out, like she was taught. "Okay. Is there any other potentially big secret we need to get out into the air here? Because I just found out two people I considered friends, one of them a good one," she said, side-eyeing Ashley "are more like handlers paid or ordered or something to tolerate their, ah, charges friends."

 

She sighed, rubbing her temples. "I don't mean to be mean, but... You know. Would be nice to know."

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