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Electra

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(Directly subsequent to One of These Is Not Like the Other)

Stesha's apartment was just as she'd left it two days ago, a few wilty plants the only sign of the longest, strangest days of her... life, perhaps? As she and Derrick popped out of the plant and into her living room, she could see the baby catalogs she and Taylor had looked through before going out on their shopping trip, and smell coffee gone stale and sour in the pot. It was entirely too surreal, and being naked didn't help. She squirmed till Derrick let her down, then wavered a little bit on legs that felt strange and new. "I need to get some clothes on," she told him, a little shakily. "I'll be just a minute." She headed into the bedroom, touching the plants along the way to perk them back to health.

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Derrick was really reluctant to let her go. And it had nothing to do with how much he enjoyed looking at her naked body either. At the moment, it didn't even register. All that mattered was she was alive. He was almost afraid that if she left his sight, she'd be gone again just when he'd gotten her back.

So he compromised and let her go. But he stood exactly where he could see her walk down the hall, never moving a muscle, watching her walk. He was having a little trouble adjusting to the roiling emotions apparently. He sighed deeply, trying to achieve his normal calm and focus. At best he was only partially successful.

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It didn't take long for Stesha to pull on a comfy pink sweatsuit and some slipper socks, but the hair was already a problem. There was a reason she rarely left it down, and never without being carefully pinned and tamed. Even after just a few minutes it was becoming a mess of tangles. She took her comb and walked back into the living room with it, already beginning the laborious work of straightening it. Derrick's look brought her up short, though. He looked like a statue, or like he'd been stunned. Despite her own tumultuous emotions, she went to him and lay her fingers against his cheek. "Are you okay?"

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Derrick released the breath he'd been holding without realizing as he walked back down the hall and relief washed over him once more. He blinked at her words and barked out a short laugh devoid of any mirth. "Am I ok? I'm the one who should be asking you that question," he said wrly. He smiled at her touch, relieved beyond words that she was back with him. He slid his arms around her and held tightly. "You are though, right? Ok?" It was a loaded question, no doubt about it, but he was concerned and having a little trouble getting his thoughts together at the moment.

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She leaned into his embrace, holding onto him and resting her cheek against his shoulder. "I'm not sure," she admitted. "I feel fine, really good actually, like I've just woken up from a great nap. But I can't wrap my mind around any of this. If I died, I should remember it, shouldn't I? All I remember is... all I remember is you," she admitted, "or something that looked like you, saying he was going to kill us, and then shooting at us. And it was scary, and it hurt. But it didn't feel like what I thought dying would feel like."

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He gingerly kissed the top of her head, eyes closed tight, doing his very best to push away those unpleasant thoughts and memories of the event. He was not nearly successful as he would have liked. "I'm so sorry," he said softly, rubbing her back and gently stroking her hair. "I...there was nothing I could do but watch and feel what he did. That was easily the worst moment of my life, seeing you...die," he whispered. "I'd have given anything to have stopped it. Anything."

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"I know," she murmured, "and I know it wasn't really you. What was it, though? It said..." She blinked slowly a few times, trying to organize the fragments of memory. "It said it was the real you, and that it had replaced you. I know you wouldn't have let it hurt anyone without trying to stop it. What did it do to you?" It was easier to think about that than about herself, worrying about other people was second nature.

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He swallowed, still breathing in the scent of her, just relieved to have her back. "It...was me. Just a different me. From some other world. Same powers, same capabilities." It was horrifying to know that he could be capable of the atrocities and evil the other Him had caused if things had been a little different. "It trapped me in a prison. Remember that wormhole cannon you and Phantom saved my, and Jack, from? Well, the last heroes of His world managed to trap him in it and launched it into space. Somehow it came to our dimension; Taylor could probably figure it out. But whatever it was, it weakened the prison and he escaped. I...felt him but didn't realize what it was. He trapped me in it. And using my own memories, altered it to make it like the draining one I had been in before so he could absorb my powers. Before I managed to stop him accessing my mind, he learned about you and Phantom." His voice dropped to a guilty whisper, and said softly, "It's my fault he came after you and Taylor."

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Stesha put her hands on his chest and pushed away just enough to look him in the eye. "I know that's not true, no matter what you say," she told him with great conviction. "You can't be responsible for someone else's evil plan, or the fact that he got into your mind. The only blame is on him, and that's all there is to it." Despite meaning the words, Stesha found herself very glad that he was still in his human form, and not just because it meant she could touch him. She trusted Derrick, but that other Dark Star had looked exactly like him. If he hadn't spoken, or had tried a little deception, she might not even have known. That was not a pleasant thought, so she tried not to dwell on it. "I'm sorry he hurt you, and that he hurt you through me."

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He shrugged his shoulders just a little. Apparently, the capacity for such evil was still there, despite his own beliefs and desires. But his issues were minor compared to hers. "It's alright; you've nothing to be sorry for. You were the one who was ...hurt." He rubbed her arms gently, still marvelling that he had her back. Probably not a feeling that was going to be leaving any time soon actually. "I know we talked about mortality and all that before...it was just not something I had expected to happen so soon. But you're...rebirth," he said the word questioningly, "puts that in a new light. You very well may be immortal to one degree or another."

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"That's hard to think about," she admitted, leaning into him so that she could feel his heartbeat against her cheek. "We're not exactly organized about religion or anything like that in my family, but still. I mean... I don't know." Stesha shook her head. "I have no idea what I mean." She walked with him over to the couch and nudged him to sit down with her, then practically crawled into his lap. "I just know I'm glad I didn't die, or stay dead, or whatever. There's so much I still want to do..." Her eyes widened. "My family... did someone tell them? They'll be so upset!"

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He sat on the couch, happily letting her sit on him as he slid his arms around her with a contented feeling. "It takes some getting used to, no question." He'd adjust to the concept of immortality long ago, but then he'd had plenty of time. For Stesha, the information had been delivered in a shockingly brutal way. "It's ok. You've got time to adjust and learn now. Plenty of time to do all those things." He intended to be there for her, for every single event, for every moment. He squeezed her briefly, planting a light kiss on her cheek. "No one told them. There wasn't time. No one, outside of those there had any idea," he said gently.

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"Okay." She took a deep breath at that, relieved. "That's one less thing to worry about, anyway. But I really have to tell them. I chickened out at Christmas, but next time the family gets together, I just have to. If something does ever happen to me and I don't come back, they deserve to know why, and to hear it from me." She tipped her head up, sliding a hand behind his neck and bringing his face down to hers for a better kiss. "I might need some help," she admitted.

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Derrick smiled down at her, heart still soaring from her safe return to his arms. "I'll be there, right by your side if you'll have me, for all eternity," he said, meaning every word. At the moment, he had intention of letting her leave his embrace for quite some time. He moved with the gentle pull, meeting her soft lips in a gentle kiss. "Have you though about how you're going to break this to them," he asked as they paused their sweet embrace. "This isn't the...easiest subject to broach with people. Especially family."

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Stesha tipped her head forward with a sigh, resting her brow against his jaw. "Not yet," she said reluctantly, "I'm still working on it. You're right, I mean, what do you say? Especially now? 'Hey Mom and Dad, I'm a superhero! I wasn't sure I was going to tell you about it, but then I died and realized that was a pretty crappy thing to do to you. But now I'm back, so hey, meet Fleur de Joie!" She smiled mirthlessly. "I don't think that would go over very well. Maybe the words will just come to me when it's time. But I'm not going to chicken out again."

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Derrick blinked, the corner of one lip curving up into a smile. "Um, yes. I don't think that would be the best route. Perhaps breaking the news in slowly? Bringing up the immortality and the fact that you," he paused, uncomfortable still with it, "died, might be a little too much to handle. Especially for all in one sitting." He would never, ever imply that lying was alright. But sparring them some of the truths, at least at first seemed so much kinder. Since she was set in her course, he wold do nothing but support her fully of course.

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"I know," she said with a small, rueful smile. "It's just all mixed up in my head right now. I... I guess in a way it was all make-believe before. I didn't get into this to fight bad guys, I wanted to plant flowers and make the parks beautiful. Then I started meeting other heroes, and things got so out of control. And I'm so happy that I met you, and happy that I made friends, but I don't know if I'm really cut out for any of this. I didn't expect it to be so scary, or hurt so much." There were suddenly tears in her eyes as she remembered the fear and pain of those last moments of her old life. "I don't know what I can say to them when I don't even know if I wanted to be a real superhero in the first place."

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Derrick held her close, hugging her tightly. "Do you remember when we first met? Our 'blind' date. You told me something similar then. That you didn't get into this to fight big villains or anything. You were cleaning up parks, and making things beautiful and healthy for the people of the city." He smiled at the memory. "I think I said something about what you were doing was heroic. That you didn't need to fight big villains to be a hero. I still believe that. You are a wonderful hero, whether your are saving the city and boosting the morale and hope of the people one park at a time, if you're taking on some villain bent on destroying it all. I think, if that's what you want, you'd make a wonderful heroine capable of defeating any villain. Heck, you saved me a couple times. And yes, not everyone is cut out for it. It isn't easy. But nothing says you have to devote yourself to it. You can decide what you want." He squeezed her a little. "I would do anything, suffer anything, to prevent you from being hurt. And I will be by your side no matter what you choose. But you've been given a chance to do whatever you want. There's no rush. It will be alright," he said softly. He kissed the top of her hair lightly, nuzzling her luscious green hair, wishing he could make it all better. This really wasn't something he was good at and he knew it.

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"You're right," she murmured, "there's no point in thinking about it now when I'm rattled anyway. I don't want to make any decisions that I'll regret. I just... I guess I've always been sheltered, even before I started doing hero stuff. Even when I did dangerous stuff, I didn't really feel like I was in danger, it felt like I was in a movie or something like that. But now I know it's real. It's not a movie or a game." She was quiet for a minute, resting in his arms and feeling the warmth of his breath in her hair. At times like this, it was easy to forget he spent a lot of his time as something untouchable and not quite human.

"I'm not making any decisions right now," she finally said, "but I need to know. If I decided to give it up, all of it, hang up my costume, stop using my powers, and just go back to being a florist, would you still love me?"

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Derrick nodded slightly, understanding and agreeing with her words. "It's alright. You've been through quite a lot. I would say that this qualifies as one heck of a shock too. There's not rush though. The world will wait."

He blinked, surprises at the question. How could she ask such a thing? He lightly grabbed he shoulders, pushing her away from him a little so he could clearly look into her face. "Stesha, I will love you no matter what you do. Whether you become the greatest hero this world has ever known or if you hide in your appartment and never want to walk out side, or just want to live a normal life. Nothing, nothing," he said it again, firmly. "will ever change how I feel about you. You are the most important thing in my entire existance, my love, and that will not change today, tomorrow or in the years to come." He shrugged, knowing the whole social thing wasn't his strength. "I'm not sure if there is any other way to say it. I want to be with you from now till the stars go out. No matter where you are or what you're doing, that will not change."

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She studied him for a long, quiet moment, looking into his eyes, then drew in a deep breath. "Good," she murmured finally, "I'm so glad. I don't... I don't know what I would do without you." The dam broke then and she cried for real. venting some of the overwhelming emotions of the last few days and turning her cheeks a blotchy pink and green. It didn't feel good, but it did start to make her feel a little better.

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"I'll never leave you," he said softly, holding her tightly. This was more what he'd been expecting. He held her, holding her and stroking her hair. He whispered to her, saying it would be alright or encouragements or just 'I love you'; anything else he could think of really that would help her get through this and to make her feel better. He just wished he could do more than his poor attempts at consolation.

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Whatever Derrick thought about his own efforts, they did seem to help. It took a little while, but eventually Stesha began to pull herself together, sniffling and blowing her nose a few times before taking a deep breath of release. "All right, I may do that again later, but I think I'm okay for now." She smiled at Derrick and touched his cheek affectionately. "Thanks." There was a moment's pause as she looked at her own hand. "Is it just the light in here, you think, or am I kind of... greener than I was?" she asked hesitantly.

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A wet shirt was easily worth having his love be more at peace, no question. He smiled down at her, never releasing her from the circle of his arms. "Any time, my love. Any time you need." He looked at her, actually checking her skin rather than his usually moonstruck staring at her. He raised on eyebrow and then peered a little closer. "You know...I think it is. You skin has a very faint green tinge. And it didn't before," he said fairly certain of that given how much time he spent happily staring at her.

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"Weird," Stesha murmured, studying her own hand. "I suppose it makes sense, given what happened. I wonder if it will wear off. I'll have to wear a little more foundation till it does, perhaps. If I turn any greener, I'm going to have a hard time passing at all. But it beats the alternative," she reminded herself aloud. Leaning back against his shoulder, she made herself comfortable. There didn't seem to be any good reason to move anytime soon. "Did you destroy that awful prison once you got out?"

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