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Moira Morley

A Starlit Date

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Getting reservations at The Starlight Room was easy for Moira. The owner was more than glad to listen to her offer. A night of dinner and dancing for her friends in exchange for a night of dinner and dancing with her was all he needed to hear.

Now for the not so easy part: Getting the two together on one night. Stesha asn't that hard to find. and chatting her up about the nice guy who did nice things was a big confidence booster. Getting Dark Star to turn into Derrick was another story. It took some coercing, but she finally managed for him to be solid for one night.

Having the two custom fitted for their attire cost a fortune. It was almost showtime. She met with Derrick to give him his rose to be presented to Stesha. She met with Stesha to cover up any last minute doubts. Getting out of their way before they met each other, she let nature take it's course.

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Right up until the moment she arrived in the lobby, Stesha really wasn't sure that she wanted to do this. Moira had cajoled and persuaded and bullied her into saying yes, and after that point, things had all kind of gone out of her control. She had no idea how much the deep red evening gown she was wearing had cost, but she couldn't deny that it looked great, sort of pushing everything upwards and into shape. She'd done her own hair, braiding it back and up into a green chignon, then decorating it with tiny white gardenias. She didn't trust a stylist, even Moira's stylist, not to start getting out the chemicals and the curling iron.

After more than an hour of practice, she could walk all right on the matching heels, so at least she wasn't tottering as she stepped into the lobby and looked around. She kept her little red clutch purse tightly in her hand, mainly for something to hold onto. It was so small she could barely fit lipstick, billfold, compact and film canister of seeds in there, but it was awfully cute. She stopped just inside the door, wondering how she was going to recognize Derrick among the crowd.

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Derrick stepped out of the cab a little awkwardly, wondering if this was such a good plan. Moira, someone who he actually only saw a little of, had been after him for weeks. Dark Star was made of stern stuff and had been able to resist even Divine’s convincing at first. There were a few factors that helped of course: she mainly had to use a radio to find him, he was insubstantial, he was never around long enough for her to get to work on him for more than a few minutes at a time thankfully. But she did eventually wear him down.

He paid the cabbie, and straightened up, rolling his shoulders and his neck, trying to get used to the tailored suit. It fit perfectly of course, it would have to considering the work that went into it. He just didn’t wear clothes that often. It often felt weird for a little while. He stood for a long moment, shoring himself up, garnering his courage. He could fight fleets of hostile aliens, being from other dimensions, demons, whatever. But the concept of a blind date was making him nervous? Some hero you are…Come on already. He mentally shook himself and entered the restaurant, head held high, a hero inside at least.

Of course he bumped into the doorjam as he entered. Too much time spent insubstantial did that. It always took him a few hours to get used to that…He blinked at the dazzling red dress worn by the green haired woman. Well, this was it.

“Ms. Madison?â€Â

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Stesha turned and looked at the person addressing her. He had the flower Moira had told her to look for, so she figured this had to be the guy. He was cute enough, in a nerdy sort of way, and he looked about as out of place as she felt, which was oddly reassuring. She smiled at him. "Hello. You must be Derrick?" she said, making it a sort-of question. "I'm Stesha. Ah, sorry about the thing with Moira. When she gets an idea in her head, she's really, really persistent."

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Derrick nodded with a lopsided smile. “I’m Dar…err, yes, I’m Derrick.†Man he sucked at this. He took a moment, collecting and orienting his thoughts. He handed her the flower and took her other hand, and brought it to his lips (somewhat awkwardly; but it’s what gentlemen did right?) to her hand, kissing it lightly, before releasing it and straightening. “Pleasure to meet you. You look simply…uh, was going to say divine, but that might be weird. Fabulous? Amazing? Uh…†He sighed a little, collecting himself. “She didn’t tell me what to look for. Just your hair, lovely by the way.†He sighed again, trying to stop stumbling. Being Dark Star was a thousand times easier than this.

He nodded. “She is indeed. And a rather…strong personality too. Usually gets her way.†He was silent for a moment, trying to think of what to say next. “I hope you weren’t inconvenienced by this? I can understand if you’d rather not follow through with dinner. Blind dates and all that. It just seems a shame to get all dressed up and come all the way here. And you do look magnificent. Think I said that already." Another pause to get his thoughts together.

"I, uh, don’t do this very often,†he said honestly. Yeah, like not once in the last 20 years…Where's a villain or explosion or danger when I need one? 'Least I know what I'm doing there.

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Stesha laughed. "Well, we already spent all this time getting dressed up, right? And I don't know about you, but I don't have a chance to put on evening clothes and go someplace really fancy very often. It could be fun." She took the flower and sniffed it, even as it deepened in color and bloomed a little more at her touch. She tucked it into her purse with the flower sticking out and waited for him to offer his arm. "Even if it wasn't either of our ideas, it seems like a nice way to spend an evening. I haven't made very many friends in Freedom City yet."

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He nodded. "Yeah, I don't get to do the evening thing very often either." He noted the flower's new life and color with a smile and extended his arm. "Really? I'd think you'd have no trouble meet people," he said as they walked up to the man at the table.

It took only a few minutes before they were seated at a lovely little table out of the way, courtesy of Moira most likely. He pulled the chair out for her, being the gentleman, and scooted it in lightly for her as she sat. He moved to his seat and sat as well. "So...," he began, not sure what to do next.

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"I only moved here recently, and I've been keeping pretty busy." Stesha explained, smoothing out her dress as she sat down. There didn't seem to be any menus, and she wondered if Moira had already done the ordering for them as well. Wine had already been poured, so she took a sip of that, grateful that it wasn't the tricky stuff Moira had used on her last time. "Are you from around here? Moira didn't actually tell me very much about you, except that you work together... at her other job. She said we should get to know each other."

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He reached for his glass, savoring the smell for a moment before sipping. "Mm...that's quite good. It's been...a few years since I've had wine from here."

Derrick nodded. "A long time ago yes. I kind of...left for a long time. I only returned about sixth months ago." He frowned. The keeping secrets and not saying things wasn't really his style. He looked around to make sure no one was close enough to eavesdrop. "I met her shortly after getting back to Earth. Was only back a week or so when we met up. Then the day after we got back, we met up with the others and formed the Knights. It was a rather busy week now that I think about it."

He chuckled a little. "Yeah, she's been after me for a couple weeks on and off as well. I don't take a lot of time off from the 'job' I suppose." It wasn't much of a description of himself, but he had to start somewhere he supposed. "Sorry, hard to know exactly what to say I guess."

"So, how about you?"

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"I just moved from Chicago at the beginning of summer," Stesha told him. "When I realized I was, hmm, special, I wanted to come someplace where there are a lot of us, to get some good examples. I met Moira on my very first night out exploring. She's sort of making me a project of hers, which is about equal parts helpful and embarrassing."

She grinned at him. "But I'm only part-timing now. I spend most of my time as a florist, downtown. I really like Freedom City so far. Chicago's great, but after you grow up there, you start feeling like you've been every place worth going to. But here everything's new, and you never know when you're going to see something amazing happen. Do you have a daytime job," she asked curiously, "or are you doing the thing with the Knights full time?"

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Derrick nodded with a warm smile. "I've been here almost seven months and I can honestly say I don't actually know it that well. 'Least not from the perspective of someone living here. A few parks and things like that which I go to with my niece and nephew. It's nice being back though. I've traveled extensively. You know that old saying from the Wizard of Oz? 'No place like home'? It's true. I've seen some absolutely amazing and fascinating things, but nothing is quite like home."

He chuckled wryly. "Oh, I'm full time. I don't really have much of a life outside of it really. But I'm not with the Knights most of the time though honestly. I mean, I'm one of the original members of course. And they call on me whenever I'm needed. It's just I don't work with them too often. Between only really being able to be contact by radio or telepathy and tending to travel a lot, I end up not with them most of the time." He paused a moment. "I suppose I do have a kind of part time job. I do some work for the SCC, delivering satellites and collecting the occasional sample amidst my travels. The pay more than covers my minimal expenses."

He paused. "A florist? Sounds like a natural fit for you. Did you always want to do that or was it just because of your gifts? Uh, can I ask where you're a florist? Normally I would never ask about your personal identify and all that, but I, uh, think we're not really in that same kind of situation."

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"It's okay," she assured him. "I really mostly only keep a secret identity for the sake of my family and my job. They'd freak if they found out I was moonlighting, for different reasons." Smiling, Stesha took another sip of her wine as a waiter brought over plates of little pieces of bruschetta with fancy toppings. When he was gone, she continued. "I got my degree in botany, thought about being a scientist, but it wasn't really want I wanted. I like flowers because they're beautiful, not just because they're interesting, you know? Being a florist lets me use what I know to make people happy or cheer them up. I was a florist before I got any extra powers, and I like it too much to quit. Plus, doing hero work doesn't pay, well, anything."

She picked up a piece of bruschetta and nibbled on it as she turned the conversation. "So you can fly into space? Can you do it without a protective suit or anything?" she asked with great interest. "What's it like?"

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Derrick nodded, listening as he slowly ate some of the appetizer. It was actually quite good. He ate slowly, enjoying the food, as Stesha talked. "Sounds nice. Do you want to open your own store someday? Settle down, retire from the 'hero' bit and run a big greenhouse or flower shop?"

Derrick nodded. "Yeah, I'm not exactly human any more I don't think. Well, I am right now." He paused, looking off into space absently for a moment before returning his gaze to her. "But I've got this energy inside, just wanting to get out. I become all energy. No need to eat, drink, sleep. Any of it. It's...hard to explain. It''s like becoming released. Free. Expanding. Limitless. A part of the universe itself maybe. I could probably let you experience a little of it. Not now of course, but later. I've done it to others in the past, usually emergencies only but still."

"Flying through space is a lot like that. Freedom, being a part of the universe. Seeing how small we really are. Awe. There's such beauty and mystery out there. I've been traveling amongst the start a long while now, and there's still such amazing sights to see. I've take others up on occasion, for one reason or another, usually work related of course. It's quite a feeling. If it wasn't for my beliefs and morals or connections, I'd probably never come back. Just flying and experiencing the wonder of it all. It's easy to loose track out there.."

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Stesha listened intently to his descriptions, then shook her head. "I don't know if I could even comprehend that," she admitted. "It sounds wonderful, the way you say it, but like it would be really easy just to get lost and forget everything that you were. It must take a really strong will for you to keep yourself together out there. But it does sound beautiful."

She finished off her little appetizer before going back to his earlier question. "I would like to own my own shop someday, but that's years down the line. You have to pay your dues in any business, build up contacts, earn a reputation. I figure that by the time I'm ready to settle down, I'll have enough experience to make a go at having my own shop. The place I work at now is really nice, though. We get to do a lot of society weddings, important parties, things like that. The people can occasionally be hard to work with, but the arrangements we get to make are absolutely stunning. And we get good tips, too." Stesha laughed. "I guess it all sounds pretty small, but I do my hero work on a small scale too. It probably takes awhile to work up to the sort of expertise that you and the Knights have. How long have you been doing this?"

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He nodded at her. "Indeed it is. I got 'lost' in it all for a rather long time. It took a momentous meeting and seeing the aftereffects of something to realize it."

He smiled, envious in a way of her job. Envious of her daily connection with people. As Dark Star, the person he really thought of himself as these days, he had so few real connection to people. Even ones that annoyed him not that he could really think of many of those. "It sounds like you really enjoy it, aggravations included. Sounds pretty nice really."

"Small? Maybe in size or scope but not in depth. Being a hero is never a small thing, whether it happens occasionally or everyday. One night, block, week, neighborhood, city, wherever and whenever. Making a choice to help others, making a difference in their lives for the better? Even if you affect only 1 life, making their life easier, better or happier, you've made a difference. That is never small and not something I would ever dismiss or belittle."

He smiled awkwardly with a little chuckle. "I'm not sure how much experience I really have. Some of the others, indeed many of the heroes I seem to encounter, appear to have more experience. Honestly, I've only been doing this for a couple years now, depending on how I'd define when I started. In reality, it's really only since I've been back, so six months or so? I try to do my best to help but I realize I still have lots to learn. Probably always will." He gave a little self-depreciating smile and a shrug.

"How about you?"

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"I just started," she admitted, "after I moved to the city. It hasn't even been a year since I got my powers, and it took a while to figure out how to use them. They don't come with an instruction manual!" Stesha laughed. "I really don't do very much of the traditional hero stuff at all, fighting villains, you know. I'm not very good at it. But I think you're totally right about trying to make peoples' lives better, one at a time. Most of what I do is more civic beautification, going to the public parks and giving them makeovers, so the people who live in Freedom City get to experience the sort of beautiful gardens that are hard to find in public spaces. So far people seem to like it. I think they just think the parks department is doing it, mostly, but that's okay."

She contemplated another piece of bread, then decided to hold off. Who knew what else they'd be eating tonight? "Maybe we just give most heroes too much credit," she said, half-jokingly. "Not for all the good things they do, but for the experience they have. If they have the style to make it look good, or if they have a name you've heard about since you were a kid, you just assume that they're hugely experienced. But who knows what could be behind the masks? Maybe a lot of them are like us, just doing the best they can with no instruction manual."

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He chuckled. "I completely understand. It took me a while too. Experimenting and learning without guidance was time consuming, but amazing. Could even have been a couple years for me, really know way to know."

Derrick nodded. "Not everyone should be fighting villains and all that. I don't think most people could handle it on long term basis. It's...hard, dealing with that kind of thing." He looked across at her and smiled. "But those aren't the only kinds of heroes out there. Just because you don't go punch some villain into unconsciousness regularly doesn't make what you do any less valuable. In some ways, I think what you're doing or maybe the affect your having is harder."

He took another small sip of the wine; it was rather good but he wanted to keep his faculties intact. "Fighting a bad guy is easy, sort of. It's direct. The goal and how you accomplish it are pretty simple really when you break it down. But making people happy? Making them feel better about themselves and their situation? Improving moral? Experiencing beauty and enjoying it without ever really having to worry why? That's not really something I could do, regardless of how much energy I can throw around."

He chuckled along with her words. "Maybe. Some I know deserve it though. They've earned that tittle with the good they've done. But they likely started the same way. Stumbling into what they could do. Making mistakes along the way. Theirs were just minor or unheard of or maybe forgotten as their legends grew? They may not know what they were doing, but it just seems like they do."

Grinning, he nodded at her. "Behind the masks? Some are certainly more of a mess. Just doing the best the can, trying to figure it out as they go along." He shook his head, partly in amusement, partly in wonder. "I honestly don't know how some do it. Having a super and private life? Without going crazy or making a mess of one or the other? Or both? Maybe that's a power in and of itself?"

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"I think it must be a power," Stesha said with a rueful smile, sipping her own wine. The second course was coming out now, some kind of clear soup with vegetables in it. It smelled very good. "I just hope that it's one I can learn. It's hard to keep a secret like this. Sometimes I think it gets harder the more I live with it. When the power becomes instinct, you know, and you start thinking of how to use it in everyday life." She looked around to make sure no one's attention was on them, then waved her hand. The vase of white roses in the center of the table suddenly brightened, straightening on their stems and opening to full bloom. "And these days it feels like I can't bear to see a flower not living up to its potential," she admitted with a laugh.

"Sometimes I think about telling my family, but they would freak out." she told him. "You read about big super battles in the news, you know? And even though that's not what I'm doing, I know that's what they'd think of right away, and they'd worry." She sampled the soup, blowing on the spoon, then sipping. "Worst I've gotten so far was a bunch of bee stings from a crazy guy who could control swarms of them. It was really surreal, more than anything. But fighting alone was scary. How did you get started working with Moira and the Knights?"

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He smiled at her, nodding to the server as their food was deposited. He made sure to check that no one was in range again before resuming the conversation. After a couple bites of the excellent vegetables that is.

He chuckled and smiled as he watched the roses regain vitality. "See? That what I mean. I actually have a different problem. I have little trouble keep my secret. For me, this is the rarity. I always think of using my powers first. I spend so little time like this, as Derrick, that I forget what it's like to be human, to be...solid sometimes. I really don't have an everyday life outside of being Dark Star. I deliberately take a day or two every couple weeks to be Derrick but that's to help my sister-in-law really. It does help keep me grounded though," he chuckled lightly at the pun.

He thought back before continuing, his voice casual considering the events. To him those events weren't even that strange. "Hmm...well, I met most of the Knights within a week of my return. At the site of a robbery, I thought Avenger was a thief and was about a hair away from trying to apprehend him when the reality of the situation came to light. Met Scarab a few minutes later. We had quick and violent encounter with some evil cultists wielding magic." He shook his head at that one. "Moira? Well, she was the first to find this alien ship that crashed and got herself some of the dying alien's thoughts downloaded into her moments before I arrived. I took her to their planet to have it removed. She got to fight some aliens along the way as well as visit other worlds." He chuckled but it faded after a moment. "Then...well, there was some big demon summoning the day after we came back. It's where all of us gathered for the first time. The Knights. We went in together and did battle, eventually defeating the demon and the cultists." His voice got sad for a moment as remembered that not everyone was saved... He mentally shook himself and focused. "After that, we joined together as a group. Mostly it was Avenger and Scarab, still is, directing it. I'm a member even if I tend to miss the meetings while I'm out doing things." He paused for a moment, wondering if there were meetings.

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Stesha listened raptly to the entire recitation, not even eating her soup. "Wow," she said when he was done. "It sounds like an action movie. It's almost hard to believe it's real, even after meeting people like you and Moira..." She hesitated for a moment, then deliberately did not add Jack's name, "who do that sort of work. Cultists and demons and aliens... I guess I can understand how it's hard to come back to just being a regular person after that." She paused for a moment, thinking. "It seems sort of lonely, though. Is there anyone else like you?"

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He shrugged one shoulder. He supposed it did sound impressive when he looked at it from her point of view. He smiled wryly. "It does seem hard to believe, doesn't it? But I've seen good and bad, both here and out there. Someone should be there to do something about the 'bad'. I always wanted to be a hero. but was just a regular person. Now that I can do something about all those bad things, I have a responsibility to do so."

He shrugged again, a little uncomfortably, frowning a little. He studied his soup, swirling the spoon aimlessly. "The violence and everything? I'd love to leave it all. I would in a heartbeat too. I really hate it. It's such as shame, a waste. People being hurt or getting killed. I wish..." He shrugged. "The part that's hard to come back from is the freedom to see all those wonders. Not the battles."

He sighed, apparently finding the soup amazingly fascinating. He wasn't entirely comfortable with this. But she had asked, and honesty demanded he answer. "To my knowledge, no. Whatever made me like I am seems to be unique. I've seen a couple other energy beings but not like me." He shrugged again. It suddenly seemed to be his only physical response. "Lonely? Well... I wasn't exactly a people person before. Something of a nerdy scientist really. And, honestly, when I was traveling along at first after gaining that power and becoming all that, I wasn't lonely at all. I was so distracted and curious and...new, I never even noticed how much time past, let alone missing people or being alone. But once I started encountering and meeting them, especially once I came back? I won't lie; it hasn't been easy."

He shook himself a little, looking back up at his lovely date and gave a little wane smile. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring up depressing topics. It certainly wasn't my intention to put a damper on our dinner conversation."

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Stesha smiled, a little embarrassed. "It was my fault, it was sort of a personal question. I sometimes don't think before I talk. But I won't let it put a damper on things if you won't." She turned the conversation then, heading for safer ground. "So what do you like to do in your free time? I know you mentioned that you don't spend a lot of time, you know, solid, but that must allow for interesting hobbies. Do you ever just cruise around the solar system to see what's going on out there?"

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Derrick smiled at her, glad his answers hadn't killed the mood. He didn't really get to talk with people very often like this. And he hadn't been out on a date in...decades actually. "No no, my fault. I didn't have to answer that completely. As long as we're still fine, no harm done."

"Indeed, though my hobbies tend to be simply exploring and seeing the galaxy. Little breaks here and there between 'working'. I usually take off for a couple days here and there. It doesn't take me long to get there after all. There's always something new to see, some world I haven't traveled to, just waiting out there." He looked at her, studying her for a moment.

"So how about you? I seem to be talking quite a bit. While I have no problem sharing or answering question, I certainly don't wish to dominate our conversation. It's difficult to learn about you that way. So, how about you? Hobbies?"

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"We have plenty of time," she pointed out, taking another sip of her soup. "It's still a long time till dessert, and you've done a lot of interesting things." Setting her spoon down, Stesha thought for a minute. Next to exploring the galaxy, her hobbies seemed a little tame. Godawful boring, in fact. "I like to garden, well, obviously. All indoor right now while I live in an apartment, but it's doing pretty well. And I like to watch movies." She smiled at that. "Especially old movies, black and white. That's one of the perks of not really needing to sleep, when you stay up late, you get to see all the neat old films."

She nibbled her bottom lip thoughtfully. "I go out with my friends sometimes, to parties or to clubs. And doing this heroing stuff, well, it's almost like a hobby at the moment. I'm practicing and getting better, but it's still pretty much something I just do in my off-hours, because it makes me happy. Meeting people like you and Moira is really opening up a whole other world than the one I knew before. Sometimes I feel like I'm on the verge of everything changing, but in a good way."

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Nodding, he tried the soup finally. He normally wasn't a big fan of soup really. Never had been, unless he was sick. Of course that was a long time ago. But this was actually quite good. He smiled. "Movies? Really? I wouldn't have guessed that. Do you have a favorite? Seen some a few dozens times?" He paused in thought for a moment. "I think the last movie I watched was...what was it? Had some rather funny people in it. About ghosts of all things. Ghostbusters, that was it! I didn't see that many movies back then but I remember being dragged to it a few weeks after it opened by a friend of mine. I never even would have known it was playing if not for him." It was a long time ago, but still quite amusing.

He listened to her, smiling. She seemed genuinely happy, though oddly thoughtful. Though the chewing of the lip was actually rather cute and so out of place considering their topics. He looked at her quizzically at that for a moment before responding. "Sounds nice. Seems like you're doing pretty well keeping both going. Even if it's just a hobby for you, you seem to be doing quite well with it from what you said, making things green and nicer for the whole city." He finished the soup and returned his focus to her. "Have you met a lot of others? I seem to stumble onto people every so often. And everything changing, hmm? Well, at least you're enjoying or looking forward to it, even if you don't know what it is."

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