Rest Stop

A 'Judith Strikes!' fic, by Brother Grimace

(NOTE: This fic takes place immediately after The Best Halloween Ever. It is a follow-up, of sorts, to my fic Tapped Potentials.)

"So... have you come to kill me?"

Judith lifted her head as she untangled herself from her red cloak, and saw the hated image of one of her doppelgangers raise up from the bed where she lay in shadows, and thin beams of bluish-white moonlight.

"Yeah," Judith breathed out, slow and angry. "Pretty much."

"I suppose that it was bound to happen eventually," Daria continued, no sign of fear in her eyes as Judith rose from the floor as if she were ascending from Hell itself. "How do you plan to do it?"

"After what I just went through in this room," Judith hissed, "I'm thinking long and slow, with lots of screaming – and the use of many implements."

The involuntary shudder of pleasure that visibly went through Daria at her words made Judith actually step back.

"My thoughts exactly," Daria purred, running the fingers of her left hand through her masses of auburn hair as she watched the cloak flow around Judith as it fastened itself around the woman's neck. "If I am to die today, may I be allowed to choose the manner of my execution?"

Judith felt her breath catch in her throat as she saw her counterpart rise from her bed into moonlight; the fact that Daria wore an off-white gown that could charitably be called 'translucent'...

This Daria was physically perfect.

"How about death by 'bunga-bunga?" Daria said pleasantly, almost teasingly, moving towards Judith in a way that would make an outside viewer think that Judith was the one in danger... of a sort. "You can torture me all you want..."

For the first time that she could remember, Judith actually hesitated at the sight of one of her counterparts, drinking in the sight of beauty – of an animal-like feminine quality, gentle, and yet forward and direct, which radiated from Daria like heat from a raging fire with every step she took – until the two women were so close that Judith could breath in the slight hints of clean, that comes from freshly bathing, and the gentle, sweet scent of Daria herself...

"Don't touch me!"

The words leapt from Judith's lips, seeming to fly forth as though they were a shield – a shield erected by her subconscious to block the other woman from moving any further, as if she were an imminent threat. "Don't!"

Daria's lips parted slightly – her lips, so much like my own, Judith thought, but so much more; minuscule changes, she didn't know what they were, but they made it so difficult to look away as they opened slightly more, closed, and opened again as Daria spoke. "What's wrong?"

The uncomfortably beautiful reflection of herself in the moonlight made Judith flinch as Daria raised a hand to touch her – and Judith stepped back immediately. "Oh. That. You don't have to worry about that here."

Daria reached forward; Judith's eyes widened in complete horror as she instinctively grabbed Daria's right wrist with her own left hand before she realized what she had done – horror that swiftly turned to stunned disbelief as she looked from her hand into Daria's eyes, glanced back down and then back to Daria, confused almost beyond words.

The counterpart's gazes connected – one dumbfounded, and one, serene.

"I don't – this – we should be – How-?"

Judith's words came out haltingly, and then, were cut off completely as Daria leaned forward to press her lips to Judith's, sending shock, disbelief and the unceasing torrents of anger that flowed without ending inside her to the edge of consciousness as the soft and the moist and the warm of Daria's kiss acted like a gentle balm, a medicine that took away pain, the pressure of thought, and all the worlds from her mind's eye...

Judith had absolutely no idea how she had crossed the room, how she and Daria had found themselves in the bed of her high school years, of how anything she had ever done before in this bed could be as welcome as the feel of Daria's lips on hers... a peculiar sound penetrated the warming, anesthetic haze shrouding both Judith's body and mind, sounds familiar and yet remote from experience... until she realized that it was the sounds of her own gentle moans of pleasure.

She realized that she had grasped Daria's wrist once more; lifting her head from the pillow where it rested, Judith saw that she had stopped Daria from pulling the zipper of her catsuit open.

The sharpness of Judith's tone caused Daria to glance up. "Don't!"

The woman in the nightgown smiled at her counterpart as she gently caressed the nape of her neck, exposed already by the slightly opened zipper; Daria kissed the tip of Judith's nose, and made a line of gentle kisses down her cheek to Judith's right ear.

"You don't have to be afraid," Daria's whisper was soft in her ear. "I'll take care of you."

Daria's hand reached again for the pull-tab of the zipper; once again, Judith stopped her.

"Don't," she said, her word almost a plea. "Please."

Daria smiled down at her. "I'll take care of you," she spoke once again. "I promise."

Judith looked into Daria's eyes for a long time; she gave a barely noticeable nod, and turned her head away as Daria began to unzip Judith's garb –

For the first time that she could remember in many years, Judith felt a tear slip down her left cheek as she felt the grotesque scar that was her locket – now seared permanently into her flesh, just below the hollow of her neck– exposed to the cool night air.

"It's okay," Daria said, looking from the locket to Judith as she reached out and turned her head back. "It doesn't matter."

Shame – but surprisingly, not anger or hatred – made Judith's skin flush a bold crimson as Daria traced a slow, thin line on the underside of Judith's right breast with an index finger; her back flexed slightly as her breath caught in her throat, and a sudden, strangled sound of disbelief escaped her as Judith felt Daria's finger stroked past the locket, and she tried to turn away.

Daria drew her counterpart back down to the bed; Judith didn't resist as they kissed once more. "It doesn't matter to me," Daria repeated, as she stroked Judith's neck.

Judith moved Daria's hand away from the locket. "Please," she said. "It matters to me."

A tiny smile crossed Daria's face; Judith's eyes widened as Daria put her hand to her chest, and a soft blue light flowed out into the room-

Judith glanced down to see that the spot on her chest where the locket had nestled itself was once again soft and unmarred by the piece of jewelry, or the burn scars that had surrounded it. "Oh," she whispered, wonder on her face. "Oh, my... how?"

She looked up to Daria. "Why?"

Daria smiled. "Because it matters to you."

Judith hesitated momentarily as Daria leaned forward once more, but didn't draw away or resist as their lips met, or as the kiss they shared grew deeper... dark emotions fell away from the young woman as easily as her clothing did, and for an all-too brief time afterward, Judith knew nothing but warmth, and joy, and peace.


You're the first one, Judith thought, looking at a sleeping Daria as she sat in the desk chair across the room from the bed several minutes ago. The first one I haven't tried to kill, or left to die, or in unimaginable torment.

You're the first – Oh, God -

Judith's scream of agony brought Daria instantly out of sleep. Shading her eyes against the explosion of blue-white light, and grimacing as the smell of burning flesh permeated the room, she began to rise from the bed as she saw Judith screaming in the center of the light, her cloak flowing around her as if buffeted by a great wind.

Daria could have sworn that – just before she disappeared into the light without a trace – Judith had reached out to her...

Before she could get both feet on the floor, a pinkish ring of energy spun into existence in front of the closet door, and Daria looked up as three persons – an attractive twenty-something blonde in blue-motif fatigues, and two men in bulky, translucent-blue armor that made them look like soldiers in a sci-fi movie – stepped through into the room. "Daria! Are you okay?"

Daria was about to answer, but the way that the two Ringbearers in life-force armor were staring at her as if their eyes were about to pop out made her reach back for a blanket. "Her locket reactivated itself as if it had a mind of its own, or as if there was a fail-safe-"

"No – that was the Prophecy, asserting itself," Priscilla Henry – Valkyrie, as most of the Corps of Ringbearers knew her – replied. "I guess that our countermeasures to stop the locket didn't work."

"Well, it wasn't a total waste," one of the Warhammers spoke up, still looking back from Daria to her bed and back. "At least you calmed her down for a while-"

Valkyrie didn't even look back as she pointed her right hand at the Warhammer, and he yelped as a purplish ring of energy opened up beneath him and sucked him through.

"I'll go back to the Liberty Island Citadel and report your status here," the other Warhammer said quickly, before he disappeared in a flash of disappearing darkness.

"At least we know that the Focus works," Valkyrie said, ignoring the Warhammer's exits as she went over to the desk and picked up an expensive-looking fountain pen from the desktop. "It temporarily dispelled all of the emotional pain and suppressed the sociopathic qualities that Judith was experiencing, and left her a normal young woman who needed to be comforted."

"I healed her, Priscilla," Daria said, sitting back down on the bed. "With me, here, she wasn't – she wasn't – that – she was just..."

Daria looked up as Priscilla sat down next to her. "I could feel who she was inside, without all of that anger, without being all twisted up inside," she said. "She... I wish that it had worked, Priscilla. With my gifted powers, I could have kept healing her, and kept that thing still until we found some way to separate her without killing her."

The two women were silent for a moment. "Did you actually feel something from her?" Valkyrie asked.

"Yes. She did, too," the auburn-haired woman said. "It was strange; I knew that I would probably have to sleep with her when she came through – but I didn't realize that we'd - connect..."

Daria looked her directly in the eye. "Oh, God. Talk about being narcissistic."

She got up, and began to pace. "A few hours alone with 'myself', and I'm feeling this way... with everything we've all gone through here, leave it to good ol' Daria Morgendorffer to find something new and unusual and start having feelings for an alternate-universe version of myself, even if I'm just following orders to 'distract her by any means necessary, for as long as possible.'"

She stamped one foot on the floor. "Damnit, couldn't it have at least been a male version of me?"

"Stop complaining – at least about the physical part," Valkyrie replied. "Ever since I decided to take a posting here for the foreseeable future – and you guys let me move into the spare room – I've had a chance to hear you 'in action' on occasion. 'Darius', 'Dorian', 'Judith' – you'd still have found a way to scream. and scream until the cows come home."

"That might be just the thing, then," she continued, as Daria gave her a cross look. "I thought this might be a good idea..."

Daria locked an accusing glare on her friend. "What did you do?"

"Nothing," was the response. " I just figured that, if nothing else, we can screw with the Prophecy, if you and she connected."

Daria went dead still. "What?"

"We figure we might be able to throw a monkey-wrench in on two points," the blonde told Daria. "There's a line in the prophecy about how 'the Shadow brings about its multiple destruction', but if Judith actually feels anything for you – especially with the intensity of how you Darias love – then she won't be able to kill you, of act in any way to cause your death, without it emotionally destroying her. Also... going by the way these concepts are structured, having Judith feel deep emotion for you fundamentally changes who she is."

Priscilla smiled. "One of the nice things about Daria Morgendorffer-"

Daria huffed in dismay. "I hate being spoken of in the third person when I'm in the conversation."

"-Is that she's the 'either-or' type of girl," the blonde concluded. "She likes or she doesn't. She loves intensely, or she doesn't love at all. She's either Shadow-"

"Or 'Light'," Daria said, her face brightening – and just as fast, crinkling with uncertainty. "That's really pretty thin. That's 'B-grade horror movie psychology principles' thin."

"Apparently, you don't realize just how potentially completely screwed we all really are," Valkyrie pointed out with unusual bluntness. "I'm a 'Cinematic' - that's a specialist in Gardner Principle-related activities and beings - and with the way this woman is jumping from universe to universe, not only is there the very real possibility that she's going to open up a portal into one of those realities-"

The blonde rose from her seat. "Where those 'B-grade horror movie psychology principles' are the Holy Gospel that those worlds run upon. THAT means those creatures and things actually exist there, and have a chance of breaking through to one of our worlds – but that the principles that one of those realities runs on – and how to use them to our advantage - may be all that saves All There Is," she snapped. "You get me?"

Daria was still as she nodded, and then walked over to the window, where the morning sun was just beginning to rise. "You know, with what happened two years ago, I thought that we'd already lived through the end of the world," she said, looking outside. "Surprise. That was just the thirty-second promo trailer, if what you're saying is true."

Valkyrie walked over to stand next to Daria – and both looked out over a landscape better suited for an apocalyptic film, as the street as far ac she could see was crowded with vehicles that looked as if they were now makeshift homes, hundreds upon hundreds of people milling around as they began their new day... in the distance, the thick energy beam from the shield generator array at the former Halcyon Hills Corporate Park was visible as it flowed upward to create the massive energy dome that covered the landscape for twenty miles out from the City of Lawndale, shielding everything beneath from the catastrophic solar storms of the Daylight Crisis. "So, I should hope that you're right – and that Judith has let a one-night stand develop very quickly into a bond."

"It happens in films," Valkyrie said, managing a small smile. "In one reality, a universal-class being called Michael Korvac was beaten because in one moment, the expression of woman he loved showed that she was afraid for him because she didn't think that he was strong enough to prevail. That momentary lapse – and the self-doubt he held in that moment - was all the other side needed to bring him down."

She looked at Daria. "Who knows? Maybe there'll come a time when Judith seeing you – or realizing that you could die – is all that stands between the possibility of omniversal destruction."

"You're putting a lot of faith into how much one night in bed with me can mean to someone," Daria observed.

"I've seen the women and men other Darias have had in their lives, and the lengths those people went through for those Darias," the other woman returned. "I believe my faith is justified."

Daria looked back out the window. "I hope so," she said, watching as she saw the masses of people start to follow a group of Ringbearers who flew overhead, heading towards the massive Area Relief Center that had been made from a re-furbished Cranberry Commons – for the foreseeable future, the only place for the vast majority to receive food, water, medical care and the basic essentials of life. "As horrible as the world is now – I don't want to think of worse than this... or nothing at all."