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Electra

Friendly Neighbors (IC)

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Stesha kept herself busy right up till the last moments before their guests arrived, fussing with the food, or the table settings, or the hundreds of flowers that decorated their small Midtown apartment, which were more verdant and near-overgrown than ever these past few months. The air smelled amazing with the lasagna minutes away from ready and garlic bread baking, but she'd worked herself into a bit of a state anyway, making sure things were ready. "Derrick, could you light the candles and open the wine?" she asked, even as she grew and cut a few more chrysanthemums for the arrangement on the table. "It's just about time."

She knew any nerves were silly and out of place tonight. Quentin was her friend, and he certainly didn't stand on ceremony much when they met to talk or do hero work together. But she'd been planning this dinner for such a long time, and it had never worked out, that it had come to assume a greater air of importance than it perhaps deserved. Not to mention that lately she'd become a little obsessed with her home anyway, both this one here and the one on her sanctuary world. It was nice to get a chance to show it off.

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Derrick smiled but said nothing as his love rushed too and fro about the place. Instead he simply went and grabbed the lighter like he was asked. He lit the candles and headed for the wine, saying, "Everything looks perfect. It will be wonderful I'm certain. Just relax and take a moment to enjoy. Everything is great."

Maybe it was the whole 'nesting' thing that had helped spur her current level of obsession on or maybe it was simply they didn't have a lot of company but she had been a bit obsessive over their home(s) lately. He figured the former was more likely; not that he was taking the upcoming change any smoother. If he asked her one more time if she needed anything or if she should lay down, Stesha was likely to kick him out. Still, he couldn't help but keep it in mind. It was a rather pleasant thought, especially considering that a year ago the concept of marriage or children was not even something that would have occurred to him.

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Stesha took the advice, pausing with her hands full of flowers to take a deep breath. "Whew. You're right," she told Derrick with a smile, going over to him and wrapping her arms around him. "I've been so crazy lately, getting the wedding plans rebooted and moving stuff around in here, I forget how great things are already. And the food smells fabulous." Standing on her tiptoes, she gave him a light kiss, then tucked a flower in his top buttonhole. "This is going to be fun. We should have people over more often, really. We have plenty of friends who live close by."

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Derrick put the bottle down on the table and returned her embrace with a contented expression on his face. The hug was a bit more gentle than before. He still hadn't quite accepted the 'she is not a fragile flower' bit just yet. It was still too new. But the embrace was full of love nonetheless.

Nodding, he smiled happily. "It certainly seems like a wonderful idea. Getting our friends together might be somewhat problematic given everyone's respective crazy lives and schedules, but we should definitely try. Maybe give that whole 'normal' thing a try; at least a little bit." They were far from normal of course. But that didn't mean there weren't aspects of a normal life that were not intensely appealing. Those things had been on his mind quite a bit of late.

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"I'm sure everyone will make it to the wedding," Stesha told him, pleased with the thought. "Nobody has plans for the day after New Year's, especially since it's on a Sunday. It's the perfect time. We'll just make sure that everyone who needs one gets a ride out to Chicago, and it'll be wonderful. It's going to be a heck of a party," she assured him with a laugh, spinning in a circle that had the powder-blue skirt she'd put on for the occasion flaring around her legs. "But after that, I mean, we should have more dinner parties, weekend get-togethers... we could get a grill for the Sanctuary, and have people over for a yard party this spring, before we get, ahh, too busy for awhile." Grinning at the idea, she began tucking the new flowers into the already bursting-full bouquet adorning the table.

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He nodded at her words. "Given that much of who we are will be withheld, the travel arrangements might be a bit troublesome at that time of year. I'm certain it will work out though," he said absently. He was more than happy to just stand back and watch her. Just being around her was a heady experience; but when she was happy like this, it was infectious. It made him almost/practically look forward to large social events (not one of his strong suits).

"Sounds lovely to me. I bet we could get more than a few of our friends interested. Make it a regular event perhaps. But you're right of course. Our lives are likely going to be a bit...hectic soon enough. More so than they have been too," he said with a wry smile. "I'm looking forward to every moment of it," he said happily.

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"A summer barbecue will be problematic at best," Stesha agreed with a laugh. Going over to the oven, she drew out the fragrant pan of lasagna, checking with a fork to make sure it had cooked all the way through. "Mm, this is perfect. I'm starving. Quentin should be here anytime. It's so nice that you're both scientists and teachers, I'm sure you'll have so much in common. I've been telling him about you for ages, so it's wonderful that you finally get a chance to meet. And I'm getting a chance to polish up my cooking skills again."

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He chuckled along with her. "Oh, I'm certain we'll manage somehow." He smiled at her recently returned need to eat. While he didn't need to, he couldn't deny the food smelled delicious. "I look forward to meeting him. He sounds like an interesting fellow. I'm not much of a teacher though. I don't think teaching a part-time class once in a while counts for much," he admitted. "I probably should brush up on my science basics," he said half to himself. He'd been a decent scientist long ago, but nothing exceptional. Most of his knowledge came from practical experience and innate knowledge that he'd gained since Derrick 'died' and Dark Star had been born. "Either way, this should be a great evening. The place looks great, the food smells wonderful and you look as lovely as ever."

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"You're going to hit it off beautifully. And with as much as you use physics in your everyday life, I doubt you have anything to worry about," Stesha chuckled, arranging the slabs of garlic bread on a plate. "He should be here any minute now. Could you go and make sure I put the guest towels on the rail in the bathroom?" she asked with sudden hostess paranoia. "And make sure there's toilet paper, and that the little seashell soaps aren't still in their wrappers?" Having guests over was a complicated sort of business!

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Supercape had on his tweed Jacket and bowtie. It was, as was now his habit, actually his customised Supercape, a lattice of unstable molecules held in a 11 dimensional state, that would rearrange itself according to his wish. He never knew when he might have to change into the caped hero.

If nothing else, it saved on cleaning.

He had contemplated bringing some flowers, but, quite frankly, it would be like giving him a kindergarten book on numbers. He had brought some tea bags, instead. Earl grey. And a nice bottle of port. He didn't know if Stesha or Derrick drank, but a little tipple would go down nicely.

He had elected to cycle to their residence. It was his way of keeping reasonably in shape. Since he had worked out how to travel to anywhere in the multiverse via quantum holes, the temptation to use that was great, but he had resisted it. He had been pounded enough as a superhero to realise keeping fairly fit was part of the job, and so he had kept up the cycling around the city.

He strode up to the front door, coughed into his hand, and gave a firm knock on the door.

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Derrick smiled and quickly headed down the hall to the bathroom without saying anything. He knew perfectly well everything was already as perfect as it was going to be. But saying something about it instead of doing like he was asked would have been rude. And pointless since she'd have to go check herself anyway. So he simply smiled and went to double check that all was well in the bathroom.

He was just returning when the knock sounded. "I believe he's here," he called to Stesha as he detoured to the front. He reached the door and opened it wide for their guest. "Good evening. I'm Derek. Please, come in," he said with a kind smile, sticking his hand out to greet the other man.

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"And a good evening to you!" replied a smiling Professor, handing the young man the bottle of port with one hand and shaking the offered palm with the other.

"Quentin Quill" he said by way of introduction "although I am sure you deduced that, smart man like yourself" In truth, Derek looked rather unassuming to Quentin's eye, although he looked pleasant - and smart - enough. And, of course, he chased around galaxies fighting off alien invasions or what not.

Have to ask him about that... he mused. Having recently worked out how to teleport via quantum entanglement, and modified his supercape for space-suit duties, the universe was now, literally, his oyster. Of course, Earth would always be his home. But he wouldn't mind a bit of a peek around the fascinating corners of space and time.

Have cape, will travel.

On that thought, he had to clarify with Stesha if Derek knew of his cape-related activities.

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Stesha wiped her hands on a towel and hurried to the front door, smiling as she greeted the guest. "Hello, Quentin! I'm so glad you could come over tonight!" She took his hands and squeezed them, drawing him into the apartment. As might be expected, it was full of plants, for all it wasn't nearly as planty as her near-Earth headquarters. An open kitchen plan overlooked a dining room and the cozy living room, with pots of flowers and herbs and god-knew-what on every available surface. The air smelled of homemade lasagna and garlic bread.

"Derrick, this is Quentin Quill, my professor this fall at the university, and a professional friend at my second job," Stesha said, making introductions. "Quentin, this is Derrick Lumins, my fiance. I'm sure you'll have so much in common, between hero work and physics. If your coat comes off, Derrick can take it for you, and I'll have supper on the table in just a few minutes."

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"Ah" said Quentin "you told him!"

If he trusted anyone, it was Stesha, and therefore, by extention, her fiance. He was, by nature, however, somewhat nervous about his secret I.D. coming out.

He gave Derek a wink and tapped his nose "mum's the word, eh?... and no, no need to take the coat". With a quick shimmering, the coat promptly disappeared, becoming one with the jacket and tie.

"Smells like lasagne?" he queried, rubbing his hands. "Delicious!" he went over to the kitchen and took in the aroma. "Herbs supplied by yourself no doubt. Oh, and just in case" he reached into his pockets and brought out some Earl Grey tea bags "you probably grow your own, but never pays to be without a tea bag!"

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Derrick took the bottle with a nod and smile. "Pleasure to meet you," he said, closing the door behind the professor. "Yes, she mentioned your other job," he said with a chuckle. "And no, I would never say anything to anyone. I gave been privy to quite a few secrets, identities and otherwise, over time. Your secret is safe with us," he said solemnly. "Nice coat," he said with a little chuckle. "Saves on cleaning as well I'd bet." He looked around their vegetation-laden home with a happy smile. It didn't even seem odd to him anymore; it was just the way it should be. "Stesha is an excellent cook; she certainly knows her spices."

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"Yes, I told him," Stesha told Quentin, even as she headed back to the kitchen, "I didn't want dinner becoming a sitcom affair of everybody knowing some secrets and nobody knowing what everyone does and doesn't know. It would be much too silly, and I thought you probably wouldn't mind. And I'm reciprocating by bringing you home and feeding you and all," she added with a chuckle. I am an excellent cook!" she echoed Derrick, "though it would help if certain members of the household ate a bit more often!"

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"Splendid" replied Quentin "I trust you, and therefore, your fiance, implicitly " he nodded at Derrick.

"And it would be a bit like a bad sitcom. Not that there are, in my opinion, any good ones" he sniffed with disdain, before reverting back to good humour.

He eyed up the lasagne with greedy eyes. He had been having too many takeaways, and eating out. He wasn't much of a cook himself. Sometimes he plain forgot to eat, or just had a last minute bowl of cereal.

He patted his stomach. Cycling still kept him in shape.

"Just a large piece for me" he winked at Stesha.

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He smiled a little sheepishly. "Sorry. I do enjoy the food. It's not my fault I don't really need to eat." In truth, neither of them ate much, which had been worked just fine until recently. So many things were in 'flux' nowadays. "I made sure I have a good appetite for tonight though," he said with a happy smile. Spending more time in human form meant less time as Dark Star, meaning he needed to eat a bit more than usual. Totally worth being human however.

"Sitcoms hmm? Can't say I watch a lot of TV. Stesha and I have watched many a movie on late nights but I think we've managed to avoid sitcoms. I'll have to take your word for it," he said with a nod.

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"I don't blame. Unmitigated rubbish, the lot of them" sniffed Quentin.

"Now, I imagine the reason for your missing the tripe on the TV may have something to do with your space-travelling ways? Stesha told me a bit. Sounds awfully dramatic. Fighting galactic wars on the far side of the milky war or something? I confess to being pretty ignorant about all of this. "

With an effort, he slowed down his speech to sub-blabber levels. "The thing is, I have just discovered how to traverse the multiverse via quantum entanglement. Just a bit of nudging this way and that, and bingo, three dimensional translocation via uncertainty compensated singularity!"

"I haven't gone far yet, but if you could give me any Idea where to avoid, or what's actually out there, I would be most grateful. "

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Stesha returned to the table with a large and bubbling pan of lasagna, which she set down on a colorful trivet in the center of the square table. Another trip brought out a large and equally colorful salad, and a tray of warm garlic bread. The goblets were already filled with ice water, and there were no wine glasses on the table.

"Sit down," she invited the guys, "and dig in. No use bothering with too much formality, right? I know I'm too hungry for much of that." She took a seat and began to serve, giving Quentin a large and cheesy piece, as requested. "Derrick's spent a lot of time out in space recently. He has all sorts of amazing stories."

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The lasagne smelled excellent. Quentin looked around, and for once did not stand on formality. It didn't seem to be the place to be honest. Stesha and Derrick gave off that kind of homely, relaxed vibe.

He stick a fork in, gave a little blow, and helped himself. It tasted as good as it smelled.

He drew up a chair and promptly sat down in it, grabbing a slice of garlic bread as he did. It was a lot better than his rudimentary cooking at his home, or the university canteen, or many of the more pretentious restaurants he dined in, now he came to think about it.

"By the way, Stesha, I've been thinking about your little, um, other home. Not that its so, err, little now I think about it. "

He swallowed. Damn, it was that good I'm talking with his mouth full.

"I think I have worked out the principle of localised quantum entanglement. Meaning, if I can recall the nth dimensional hesienbergian qualities of the location - and I mean the fractal diversion properties as well as geometric location, I can actually connect to there!...err... I mean, travel there! not that I would without invitation, of course. Just thought I would mention, because the trips there came in handy when I was computing the subinfinital diversion entanglement co-efficient..."

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