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Dress Rehearsal

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Summer 2020 

Washington DC 


"Ah love my mother and father very much, Ms. Couric, but you have to understand that Ah am very...angry with them." Judy stared directly ahead, her eyes dark, black hair hung up in a ponytail behind her. "They were so sure they were doing the right thing that they didn't care what they were doing to me. Or to anybody else!" Her eyes flared, bright as stars, as she stared into the mirror in front of her. "If they had just been willing to be brave, to stand up in front of the world and say 'Mah daughter is an alien, and so am Ah', they could have inspired the whole world. They could have shown people what America is supposed to stand for. Instead they...they took the cowards' way out, and they tried to hide me away because they were afraid of what people would say."  Her voice rose to a sob at those last words. "Mah name is Judith Claudia Cahill, and Ah am the lamp that shines in the dark place - AH AM DAYSTAR!" She ignited in glorious rainbow colors at that, a spectre of magnificent light - and then after a long moment, slumped back down into herself, staring at the mirror where Ashley sat next to her. 


"It's...it's really beautiful," said Ashley softly, putting a hand on her ward's shoulder. This was rather beyond the bounds of Secret Service protocol but there was no one else actually in the First Daughter's bedroom this late but the two of them. "I can tell you've worked hard on it." She didn't offer her opinion on the wisdom of the words; even now, she knew that wasn't her place. There would be things to do in the morning - a visit to a Washington DC museum, a supervised interaction with local children, all things carefully scripted out by Judy's parents, but that was later Ashley's problem. Hell, she'd already had four hours of sleep that night - what more did she really need.  


"Thank you," said Judy softly. "That means a lot." She took her 'sister's' hand, as usual her grip fever-hot, and made a small noise in the back of her throat. "But it's all just...all just words, anyway. What would Ah do after saying all that?" She smiled thinly. "Assuming Ah didn't betray everyone's trust at Claremont by getting the media looking into exactly where Ah've been, Ah mean...what would Ah do, if mah family really cut me off? Maybe Ah don't eat or sleep, or..." She rubbed her throat and went on, "a lot of things anymore, but Ah can't just live on sunshine and promises for the rest of forever." 


"It would be indiscreet for the President to do that," said Ashley softly. Well maybe she did have opinions, especially after sweeping the room for listening devices at Judy's request before she'd demonstrated her 'speech'. "People might be suspicious of aliens but they love superheroes. If the President cut off his daughter for having superpowers, a lot of people would stand up for you." 


"Ah think you'd be surprised at how angry my father would be if he thought Ah had cost him the Presidency, Ashley...and even if people helped me, they wouldn't be mah family," said Judy softly. She looked at the picture in her mirror; the Cahill girls and their parents on a clear summer's day, a year before. "Now that Leroy's gone, they're the only people I have left. Mah sisters, mah momma, mah daddy...if Ah lost them for good, Ah just don't know what Ah'd do." 


Ashley put a hand on her shoulder and said, "Hey, look, look at me." She met the girl's eyes, acutely conscious of the suppressed stellar power inside the super-teen. "You know your family isn't the only people you have." Ashley was also of the opinion that blood wasn't the same thing as family, but that wasn't a conversation she was ready to have with Judy and maybe it never would be. Some ideas would have to come from her or they'd never be her ideas at all. 


"What would Ah actually do, though?" asked Judy. "There is no superteam in the world that's gonna want to have the President's daughter working for them when she's barely able to control her powers as it is - and that's even if Ah wanted to be a superhero full-time which Ah do not think Ah do." She smiled again, a brittle look on her pretty face "Ah can't exactly move into your momma's house and try not to get spotted by the paparazzi while Ah go to college." 

"Well...you could move into my place." Oh, sweet f-cking Christ what did I just say? Ashley swallowed before she could continue, and said, "If the election...well, even if your dad is re-elected, AEGIS agents have more autonomy than other federal employees, so he can't just fire me by pushing a button. And even if he does, well hell, I'll..." Do what? Run off into space? See if Fa'Rua wants to date a hobo? Never see _my_ family again? "That's, uh, making a lot of plans, anyway, when we don't know what's going to happen this year." The election was shaping up to be one of the great dead heats in the history of American Presidential politics - all very exciting for the talking head types, a goddamned nightmare if you were hoping a heartbroken teenage girl got to have some sliver of privacy in her life before the middle of the decade. "You know I'm not just with you because it's my job anymore."  


"That's not what you really want, though" said Judy, her voice almost a whisper. "Ashley, Ah love you, and Ah know you love me, but Ah also know you want to go back to your regular life when all this is over, and you are sick of having teenagers around you. Ah can't ask you to do something like that for me, not when you've already done so much. Ah'll be fine just...just being here in the family, until I'm out of college," she lied. 


"You're not asking me to do anything. I am giving it." Ashley put her arms around the younger girl and hugged her. "That's what family does - real family. You give without expecting anything in return, because that's how it works." She heard Judy sob, and hung on, knowing the girl couldn't actually cry even though every human emotion was still there - most of the time. "And trust me, Judy - I am never going back to a normal life when all this is over." She pulled back and looked her in the eye. "I'm with you until the end of the line." 

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