Fleur de Joie
Fleur de Joie, civilian identity Stesha Madison (formerly Lumins), is a plant-controlling heroine based out of Freedom City. She has been actively doing hero work since 2009 and is well-known in the city. She is very recognizable due to her thigh-length bright green hair, which she usually keeps braided in loops and coils close to her head and wreathed with live flowers. While Fleur de Joie maintains a residence in Freedom City, her home is actually on the alternate-Earth called Sanctuary, which she maintains with her powers as a haven for refugees and giant bees.
While Fleur's powers make her an effective combatant in a fight situation, her talents are far more suited to disaster relief and humanitarian aid. She is powerful enough to literally make deserts bloom, given enough time and effort, and has consulted with UNISON on a number of occasions to help alleviate famine conditions and bolster new farming projects. Much of her energy is currently focused on expanding Sanctuary, which exploded from a small settlement to the size of a small town in 2014, almost all of whom were Terminus refugees with no resources. Luckily, one of Fleur's non-powered assets is her vast network of friends and associates, whom she has been able to tap for assistance in getting the money and manpower necessary to make Sanctuary more self-sufficient.
In her personal life Stesha is more discreet, though that's come partially as a result of experience. Her marriage in 2010 to the superhero Dark Star (Derrick Lumins) was big news in the hero-following world, as was the birth of their daughter Amaryllis in 2011. Dark Star contributed to this by his enthusiastic new-father reaction of writing “It's A Girl” across the surface of the moon, where it remained for nearly a month. Her distinctive appearance makes it difficult for Stesha to keep a truly secret identity, but her local popularity and charm have persuaded most of her neighbors to accept the polite fiction that they do not know who she is, allowing her to live her life. That fiction began to dissolve in 2015, when she ended her marriage to Dark Star and the tabloid press began to become interested in her life once more, leading her to move to a more secure living space in the privately held DuTemps Building.
'Expanded History' <BR> From the time she was a little girl, Stesha Madison loved plants. At a very early age, she put away her tea set and equipped her dolls and bears with little rakes and shovels so they could help her in the garden. It helped that she grew up in a family that was very big on gardening. Dad taught botany at the university, and Mom was a complementary medicine practitioner and midwife who grew most of her own remedies. Mom always that they met on the opposite sides of a campus protest in the sixties. It was true that they argued a lot, but in the way of people who liked to argue. Stesha's older brothers and sisters liked to argue as well, and so did she, up to a point. But mostly she liked to garden. There was always something that needed to be done, and every day brought new growth and new beauty to look at. <BR><BR>
It was hardly a surprise, then, that Stesha followed her dad into the university, majoring in botany. She did well, devouring all the information that was presented to her, but it wasn't her cup of tea. Studying flowers and plants too hard took the magic out of it. Once you'd dissected a rose, it wasn't beautiful anymore, it was just broken and sad, no matter how much you learned. She was more interested in the joy that flowers could give. Her parents were very proud when she graduated with honors, even if her father was a little disappointed that, instead of joining her in the lab, she decided to go to work at a florist. <BR><BR>
It wasn't just any florist shop, mind you. Chicago had some very exclusive floral boutiques, and with the contacts both her parents had, she got a job in one of the best. Soon she was doing society weddings, making bouttonires that cost more than her entire prom dress had, and putting together elaborate birthday and anniversary bouquets that would gladden the heart of anyone who saw them. It was a great life, despite the occasional Bridezilla, and she loved it. She'd have been happy to go on that way indefinitely, if everything hadn't changed in a most unexpected way. <BR><BR>
It all started with a very unusual piece of window dressing. Even with her degree in botany, Stesha had never heard of the Fleur de Joie blossom until the day her boss brought it into the shop. A very rare, extremely exotic bloom, it flowered only once every hundred years, and this one was set to go soon. “I had to call in a hundred favors,” Amy, her boss, enthused, “but this sort of opportunity comes once in a lifetime. Front row seats to history!” That was why Stesha liked Amy, they shared the same enthusiasm for plants. The Fleur de Joie was placed in the front window and monitored like an expectant mother. As its pistils swelled with the coming bloom, Amy began stationing employees to watch it at night, just to make sure they took plenty of pictures and didn't miss a thing. No one knew for sure if it was a day or evening bloomer, and they weren't about to miss out. <BR> <BR>
After a few days and nights of anxious watching, Stesha's turn came up in the rotation. She staked herself out just a few feet from the plant to make sure she would catch so much as a twitch, then started reading a catalog. A sudden motion caught her attention, and she saw a leaf begin to curl back. Eagerly, she called Amy and told her something was happening, then got ready with the digital camera. As the petals began to uncurl themselves, revealing a beautiful mother-of-pearl color the likes of which Stesha had never seen, she leaned in with the camera and began to take pictures. Suddenly, when her nose was bare inches from the flower, it released a large puff of pollen into the air, right into her face, right into her open mouth. “Yie!” she yelled, reeling backwards in surprise, trying to wipe her face. The whole room seemed to take a long, lazy twirl, and then she passed out. <BR> <BR>
She woke a few minutes later, sputtering at the glass of water Amy had upended over her head. The flower was still there, huge and immensely beautiful, and Stesha was still covered with pollen. “What happened?” Amy demanded. “Are you all right? Did you see it open?” <BR> <BR>
“Yeah,” Stesha replied, dragging a sleeve across her wet, powdery face. “It was beautiful! And I think I'm allergic,” she added wryly. They took hundreds more photos from every angle, and so did the newspaper, and the local news channel. It was a cute local interest story that brought publicity to the shop, just as intended. After a few days, it closed again, and Amy returned it to its owner, and things seemed to settle into their normal routine. <BR> <BR>
Only it wasn't exactly normal. Stesha started noticing that things were getting a little strange around her. Plants seemed to… respond to her in a way they hadn't before. Her African violets grew to twice their normal size in a week, and the rest of her houseplants quickly followed suit. After that, it was the potted plants in the shop. Soon, rosebuds were blooming at her touch. Something very strange had happened to her, and it all had something to do with that plant. She was afraid at first, but that passed quickly. All of her powers seemed good, seemed helpful, and they let her do what she loved better than she ever had before. She started small, learning to control the growth of plants around her, making sick ones healthier, growing seedlings into mature plants with a thought. It was cool. <BR> <BR>
As Stesha's control grew, so did her boldness in experimenting. She began to try more things, more heroic things, and found she could do a lot more than she'd thought. When she concentrated hard enough, she could sort of become one with the plants, seeing through their flowers and leaves, even traveling along their vines and coming out somewhere entirely different. (The first time she did that, she nearly wet her pants, but the fear soon passed.) She could even make first dirt, then ceramic pots full of dirt, in which to place her plants. One memorable day, she even managed to snake out a vine and trip a purse-snatcher in Grant Park, sending him flying and letting the victim reclaim her belongings. She was like a superhero! She found that she needed to eat and sleep less, and that just laying in the sun made her feel totally refreshed in ways it never had before. <BR> <BR>
It wasn't entirely without its drawbacks. One morning after an especially exciting evening of practice, Stesha woke up to find her hair had gone entirely green. Since that wasn't something she could hide, she decided to flaunt it, curling it up in a bun and sticking a wreath of flowers on it. Amy was a little skeptical, but the customers thought it was adorable, so she didn't give her any trouble. Stesha hadn't figured out a way to tell Amy about any of this. It just seemed so unbelievable. As she mastered her powers, though, the florist business began to seem very small. She still loved it, but she felt like she could do more. She wasn't up to the standards of, say, the Freedom League, but she could be a small superhero, she was certain. <BR> <BR>
Moving out of Chicago was a real leap of faith. Amy was sorry to lose her, but she gave her a great recommendation that landed her a job in downtown Freedom City at another exclusive boutique shop. Stesha took some time to settle in and get the hang of her job and her neighborhood before she tried anything else. After a few months, though, she knew she was ready. Stesha thought about donning a domino mask, but in a city full of costumes, it seemed like it might be asking for trouble. She came up with a name for herself, Fleur de Joie, after the plant that had made her and the idea she had in mind, and set out to make the world a more beautiful place. <BR>
- A Starlit Date: Moira sets Stesha up with a friend, Derrick Lumins (Dark Star), sure that they will get along fabulously. It turns out she's right, and the two enjoy dinner, dancing, and some very unpracticed flirting.