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blow out your matches

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Moving into the diplomat's house is an interesting transition for Elektra.

It's somewhere she's supposed to lay low, biding her time and studying how real humans behave with an eye towards learning to emulate it. She is supposed to put on the nice girl dresses and sleep in the prepared, ruffled bedroom and behave herself until she is collected, presumably to resume her destiny. Destiny. That's a funny word.

But it turns out that when all you know how to do is hit, it isn't so easy to do anything else. Little warrior to little debutante. Elektra was never prepared for that.

She adapts, but it's not easy. She gets kicked out of four prep schools for fighting before she even turns fourteen. They try to channel her aggression into more acceptable pursuits – ballet, capoeira, Muay Thai, fencing, even horseback riding – and she excels at all of it but it never manages to make a dent in her destructive habits. She suffers through disciplinary hearings with rolled eyes and smirking smiles. She is sent to schools for troubled children, her adoptive parents get her counseling, but none of it works. Elektra learns to cultivate it instead, becoming a sexy and mysterious and dangerous girl.

She is never a good girl. She is never nice.



Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Was Elektra born a killer or did Stick make her one?

It's like playing a game whenever they sit her in front of some professional adult intent on unpeeling her layers and understanding her. How to give away nothing. Elektra never tells anyone that she has already lived so much more at twelve than any of the little snots who sit beside her in class. She slit a man's throat once. His blood dried on her face. What is she doing here?

They counselors and psychiatrists and therapists tell her parents that she must have some deeply buried trauma, but she won't discuss it. Her parents fret and sympathize, but they don't know a damn thing about the little girl they brought so easily into their home. And now that she's here, there is nothing they can do.

Elektra takes on the diplomat's last name, but it is a long time before she calls him or his wife by anything but their first names. Hugo Kostas and Christina. They're old, already greying with skin turning to crepe paper. They had a son once but he must have been wild too; he died under strange, accidental circumstances that bring tears to Christina's eyes whenever Elektra asks what happened. She does her own private research, but the Natchios are rich enough to have buried incriminating details. The visit their son's grave every year on the anniversary of his death and keep one picture of him in the house, a clean-cut portrait in the living room. Elektra puts white roses on his headstone.

It's odd, but that's why Elektra thinks they like her. "You remind me of your brother," Kostas says once, as though this person was someone she knew or someone whose blood she actually shared. She thinks they like having this second wild child to try to tame, to right those old wrongs.

Maybe their son was a bad boy, but there's no way he had anything on Elektra.



Still, she adapts.

By the end of high school she is attending her classes semi-regularly, or at least passing all her tests when she deigns to show up, bruises on her knees below the hem of her uniform skirt. She calls the Natchios mother and father by then, and she likes them too, in her own way. Sometimes it can be easy to forget that things aren't real, like when Kostas laughs so hard at one of Elektra's caustic jokes that he doubles over in his chair or Christina pets Elektra's hair gently as she passes her.

Elektra even has a coming out for their sake. She wears red instead of white and when her escort puts his hand on her thigh she breaks his wrist. My girl can take care of herself, Kostas says. Are you alright? Christina asks, stroking Elektra's hair, even though Elektra is not the one with shattered bones.

It's not good to love them, or anyone. This is why Matthew becomes a problem.



Kostas pulls some strings to get Elektra into Columbia when she asks him. Her grades are fine, but her attendance has always been something of an issue; it's good sometimes to be a diplomat's daughter. He thinks she's taking charge of her life but Elektra only chooses to attend a few lazy semesters because she got her first call from Stick in almost ten years.

"Trained this kid after you," Stick says. "You gotta do something for me."

The meeting with Matt is planned, but later on Elektra prefers to think of it as fate. If it wasn't, then why would they fit together so perfectly? Why would his sweetness make her stomach twist, his anger make her fire burn brighter? If Matthew is nothing more than a mark then why would Elektra be so disappointed that he could not, ultimately, be like her?

Matt will never know exactly what Elektra's face looks like, but that's a rather shallow way to know a person. He is the closest anyone has come to knowing who she is since Stick. Matthew knows her heart and the way it sounds. He would know if she was lying, and he's the only one who could boast that.

For Matthew to know her the best and turn from her, Roscoe Sweeney's bloody face between them, is the kind of pain Elektra has not felt in a very long time. It's the same as when she heard Stick's friend threaten to kill it and knowing that it was her.

Elektra was a thing. A sky, black and starless. A void. A depth of nothingness. She could try to keep herself from believing it but there it always was, staring her in the face like looking in a mirror. Elektra reflected in Matt's glasses, his eyes. A killer. Nothing.



Elektra burns. She can't always control it.