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In Context (IC)

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Carrie didn't like coffee, but she did like coffee shops. They were excellant places for loitering, they generally had free wi-fi, and it had a bit of comfortable nostalgia about it. It didn't help her nerves, that's what the hot chocolate was for, and the chocolate chip muffin, and the premade smores they served there. Maybe she should lighten up on the chocolate, but then again that's never been her policy. Sitting in the booth she had three bags of clothing and was dressed in a bright yellow track suite with a teal t-shirt underneath with her hair tied up. She was tapping her shoes quietly as she looked at the time. Her expected guest wasn't late, but it was nearing the time.

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With a telltale whoosh, Mona appeared, in the blink of an eye, in the other side of the booth. Unlike their first chat, this time she was in costume and looked a little weathered. Straightening her hair a bit, she smiled, "Hi. Sorry to startle you. I thought I was running late."

Waving a waitress over, she ordered an espresso so large that the server balked at the size of it. Yes, though, she wanted that many ounces, and once she was gone, Fulrum turned back to Carrie. "So how have things been? Still babysitting a lot?"

Leaning back in the booth, she adjusted her legs to get comfortable, and still didn't look particularly so. In fact, given their first meeting and this one, she had the body language of someone who had simply come to terms with dealing with uncomfortable furniture.

"What's the occasion?"

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She was a bit startled by her appearance because she blinked and there she was, but she let the start be reduced to her just raising her eyebrows as she looked at Fulcrum and fixed a smile to her face.

"No babysitting, I have been picking up groceries all week though. I've actually got a job tomorrow at a store to handle the Thanksgiving bulk."

Glancing at her as she sat against the back, she sort of got out of the booth for a second before grabbing a chair from an empty table and pushing it on the edge.

"Sorry bout that, forgot. Anyway, good news."

She pulled one of the bags and emptied the first bag that contained a pair of leather gloves, a spring green and dark green patterned hat with a little flower on top, and a matching scarf that was three yards long,

"My mom needs shopping money so she agreed to make a scarf. Sorry if I didn't call you to ask about colors, but she already had a ton of this stuff from when she was knitting stuff for the evil Ems, they really like green."

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Fulcrum waved off the apology and waited to see what was in store.

"Oh...these are nice. Thank you...," Fulcrum began, picking up the gloves and feeling the grain. "They're all lovely. I love green anyway." One-by-one each item was examined. She looked very pleased.

"It's no problem. I'm surprised she managed to finish everything so quickly. She is very good." Pulling off one costume glove, she tried on and flexed the new one.

Leaving the new glove on, Fulcrum held up the scarf and smiled, "That's just about the right length. Wonderful!"

So far so good.

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"I just asked her to make it Harry Potter lengh."

She giggled a little at thought of her own red and gold Harry Potter lengh her mother knit her all those years ago.

"Looks like the gloves fit, which brings me to this bag."

Reaching into it, she pulled out a leather coat that stopped just at that was cut from the same leather as the gloves. It had pockets at the front as well as a dark blue lining with an inner pocket.

"This one took a while, especially when I was looking for buttons."

She pointed at the shiny wooden buttons on the coat front since she couldn't get a zipper long enough for it. Reaching into the same bag she pulled out a pair of jeans that was a patchwork of various different colored jeans, the cuts were very stylized and deliberate set in diamonds and triangles throughout.

"This was pretty fun actually, I actually made a trial pair for my sister first and I was able to give it as a birthday present last week."

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By this point Fulcrum was almost gitty. "The gloves fit like a charm. Your measurements were spot on," she said, smiling. "The coat looks about right too, but I will refrain from trying it on at the moment."

"I bet it took a while for the coat. I rarely find zippers or buttons of the right size. These wooden ones are really nice. Where did you find them?" Sitting the coat down, she waited for the next surprise.

And that one brought a huge smile to her face. Those jeans were given a careful once-over and nods of energetic approval. Even flipped them partially inside out to look at the seam work. Looked like a kid in a candy store.

"They look fun! I've always wanted a pair of jeans like these. Not only do they look great, they should wear really well too! Very fashionable too."

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"My brother ordered the buttons for me from his supplier. The jeans are a collective of the finest Freedom's thrift store can offer, you'd be surprised at all the nice things people donate."

Moving away from the jeans she reached for the last bag which all three items were wrapped in white tissue paper. Pulling the first two out she laid them side by side as she said,

"Now that the previews are done it's time for the featured presentation."

Unwrapping the first on she revealed a pale gold and dark orange diamonded patterned salwar kameez with a little sun pattern at the bottom, and a red scarf and pants to match. She unwrapped the second one which was pale blue with thick turquiose stripes and scarf with white piping and pants making it good to wear before labor day.

"Have to admit, it was tougher making these then I thought it would be. Luckily have a ton of friends who work the sewing machines for the musical circuit."

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You know how cartoon characters, particularly anime characters, will make those huge, sparkling puppy dog eyes at something beautiful? Yeah, well, Fulcrum made those eyes for each outfit. The first was a stunner, but the second took her breath away. She just sat there, first staring at the outfits and then slowly running her fingers over them.

After a good minute or two, she cleared her throat and looked to Carrie, "Than...thank you, Caroline. Thank you very much. You really don't know how much these mean to me." She held up the gold and orange top and sized it against her chest.

"My mom, for some reason, never wanted me to dress in anything resembling the style she wore as girl. While these aren't exactly what I've read about, they're close enough that she never, ever allowed it." Her big smile wavered a bit, but returned as she examined the second top. "Now though...they're beautiful."

Her eyes faltered in thought a moment, and she said, "Can I ask you a personal question?"

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"Glad you like them."

Reaching down she grabbed one of her half finished smores off the table and took a bite. She watched Mona's expressions as any trace of the tiredness she showed up had been completely washed from her face. It must of been nice to be able to smile so naturally over something so small. When she asked the question she was about to take another bited so she didn't think much of,

"Sure, go ahead."

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Mona rested her hands on the table and looked around in thought, choosing her words carefully. Finally she took a breath and asked, "What was all that about on Halloween? How did you ever end up wandering into that situation?"

The tone was neutral and nothing accusatory. If anything it revealed a great deal of concern about Carrie's involvement in the Halloween Incident, as it had come to be called. She had been hesitant to ask, in as much as Carrie was uninjured, while Daedalus, poor guy, had endured weeks of psychological torture and conditioning. Nonetheless, Mona liked Carried, and even if she looked fine at first glance, something that trauma could be lasting.

Which is why, now, she tried to broach the subject. Never mind too much subtlety, the questions were simple and to the point, leading to a follower discussion and concern for her new friend.

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She'd nearly dropped her smore when Mona said it her eyebrows raised. Taking a second though, coughed a little bit and took a sip of water before answering. She had near forgotten about that particular subject with everything that had been happening this month. As such, she didn't really have a story prepared.

"Well umm,"

She hesitated,

"Umm, it's sort of complicated."

Well that wasn't a lie.

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Mona shrugged and sipped her newly delivered drink, "If you don't want to talk it, that's fine. I was just curious," she said after a refreshing sigh. Nothing like good coffee (for her).

While she waited for Carrie to decide her reply, she examined the two primary outfits. Both were gorgeous, judging from her still-smiling admiration of the work. If anything the giantess looked undecided on which outfit to wear first, Labor Day be damned.

"They do look more complicated than I thought. Lots of subtle thread work I didn't know before. Sorry if I put you or our friends out too much trouble."

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Carrie let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding as the conversation shifted back to the thread work.

"Don't worry about it, most of them owed me a favor for one reason or another and the person who did the embroidary loves Eastern fashion. Which certianly helped with the last thing on today's menu."

Reaching into the bag she pulled out another package in white tissue paper. She unfolded it quietly not really giving it much more attention then it but revealing a deep mauve colored sari patterned with silver vines and leaves with a more bright red underdress.

"This was a rushed effort I must admit, but I thought it might be nice to have something new to wear for all those big parties that happen around the holidays."

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Cue big puppy dog eyes again. She held it up silently and examined it as she had looked over the others. Finally after a surprisingly long time, easily a couple of minutes, she lowered it, a huge grin on her face.

"Rushed or not, thank you so much, Caroline," she said, examined the sari again, "Not only have been done a great job, you really picked out the right color combinations. You're right. It's perfect for formal occasions. In fact Viktor invited me to his company's Christmas party. This will be perfect."

Still smiling, she sipped her drink and added, "Viktor plans these things months in advance so that every detail is perfect."

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She sipped her water and let a light grin grace her face,

"Company party, sounds like a grand time. How far up is this Viktor so that he's planning it? Probably someone of the upper circles, never really know many of those types."

She thought back for a second,

"Okay, maybe one or two, I've got the numbers of tons of interesting people in my rolodex, a couple of them in masks. Don't know whether that says more about the sheer population density of heroes in this city, or the crumby luck I get for being stuck in situations that require costumed assistance. Given, maybe I just look like an easy target for villiany, I once got my purse stolen by an imp."

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"Oh, uh, sorry, kind of got ahead of myself there," she stammered. Taking a drink and gathering her thoughts, she said, "Viktor, Dr. Archeville, is my boyfriend. He owns ArcheTech, a Research & Development company that has interests all over science and medicine."

She pulled up a picture of Archeville and herself on her phone and showed it to Caroline. "He's a very sweet guy."

After sitting the phone down, she chuckled at the imp incident. "Oh no! Could be both honestly. Along with a lot of heroes we have a lot of villains rolling around this city. It's amazing. I once read about our hero/villain density and it was many times higher than average. Don't feel bad though. My sister and I were attacked by flying monkeys."

She held up three fingers, "Scouts honor! Some small-time mad scientist tried to unleash an army of flying monkeys and we were supposed to be the first victims. Unfortunately for him, he didn't bother to check if one of the targets was eight feet tall."

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She nearly sputtered,

"Dr. Archeville, wow, he's freaking loaded."

She stopped for a second realizing how rude that must of sounded,

"Umm I mean,"

She let out a sigh,

"Well, yeah that's what I meant. He's got more patents out than the Freedom League has honorary members."

She took a good look at the picture,

"Pretty cute, doesn't really look like a company owner though, how old is he anyway?"

She hadn't seen any personal pictures of Dr. Archeville, only group photos from group functions and the like. He looked surprisingly young, and rather smaller then he looked in any of those. Given, the size was probably just because of the comparison of his companion in the photo.

Taking a second to look away she let out a laugh,

"Those poor monkeys. Huh, I wonder what happens to animals after they've been mutated and manipulated by villians. They aren't actually at fault for there existance as monsterous as they may be."

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Mona waved off the whole incident, "It's okay. Don't worry about. Yeah, you're right though. He does have a lot of patents." She looked at the picture.

"Funny thing is, he doesn't use his money to try and impress me. Oh, sure, sometimes it makes things easier, but he does things that have a lot of sentimental value," she said almost wistfully, the tone of someone very much in love. "Sounds kinda naive, I know."

Shaking that thought off, she replied, "Early thirties. Not exactly sure myself. Aging well though isn't he?"

As for the monkeys, "Weird things like that are pretty much par for the course with me. I feel sorry for them too. Last I heard they were rehabilitated and living comfortable lives at a Wizard of Oz museum in Kansas City. And laying eggs."

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"Very well, he doesn't look a day over twenty five, certianly hope it's not some side effect of some weird self-experimentation. Given it might just be natural, after all, I'm twenty four and I still get carded whenever I go to a club or more likely a casino, in fact I usually have to clip my ID to my shirt."

She leaned back a little bit and let out a sigh as she heard about the monkey,

"Guess there are two mammals that lay eggs now. Seriously, mad geneticists make some weird stuff, like that beekeeper guy and the giant bees. I don't know about you, but I don't think I would ever want to see those things even if they were in a museum."

Glancing at the bags, she reached for her pad and started,

"So, not so fun part time, what you owe."

She looked over and pointed a finger at the hat and gloves,

"Those are a hundred fifty together, the glove are another fifty, so the first bag is two hundred altogether."

Pointing to the jacket she said,

"That one is two hundred because of cost of leather, the jeans are seventy five same reason mostly plus time put into it."

Looking to the last bag she pointed at the salwar kameez,

"Those are a hundred and fifty each because of the commission fees for the embroidary. The sali is two twenty five because of the amount of fabric, embroidery, and the fact that it makes it a nice even eight hundred dollars in all."

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Mona's body language was neutral while she mentally braced for the total. She nodded and breathed a sigh of relief. Followed up by a big smile. "That's quite reasonable actually. I'd be looking at double or more otherwise."

"Still these will keep me for years. Thank you again for everything. Especially these formal outfits. I can't believe how well you read my tastes. Even if you don't want to be a fashion designer, you have the heart of one," she said, once again admiring the embroidery.

"Alright, $800 even. How do you prefer payment? I can write you a check now or, if you give me a few minutes, I can probably pay cash."

As an afterthought, she added, "Oh, I hope he doesn't do any self-experimentation. You know how that rarely ends well."

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"As I said, I lack the expenses formal designers have, and as long as it's for a friend, my quality will never falter. Plus, it gives me variety, one of several reasons I don't have a steady job, it means I don't have to do the same thing every day like ever. Monotony is a mind killer, but I doubt you have to deal with that with your community service. Villains love to find new creative ways for whatever justification it gives them to screw the populas."

Well big time villains at least, drug dealers, muggers and pimps are always the same kind of stupid.

Flipping through her notebook,

"So, Spring collection, then. Some sweaters for the slight chill button up and large neck, skirts, a nice suite, semi-formal in light colors, and a blouse or two. Much simpler stuff then what I have here so definitely higher quanity next time. Maybe some lingerie if I have the time, I'm do for some new stuff too so I can pull the practice for that before I go to your scale, oh and some nice stockings to go with the skirts. As for payment, check is fine, I don't like to carry more then fifty dollars at any one time."

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"Villains are inventive like that. Their motives tend to boil down to a handful of classics, but the justifications are really creative," Mona replied, adding with a smile, "I'm glad to have you as a friend, and not just for the lovely outfits. Funny what life can bring."

She leaned back, contemplating the list of appropriate spring items. A nod followed. "Sounds good. I really need a nice suit. I have one but it's had better days. Oh, also, speaking of spring, I'll give you a heads up now. Can you make bathing suits? I need a new one. Not sure if those are any more involved than normal clothing. I wouldn't think so."

Now the truly funny part of the exchange commenced. The running joke of Fulcrum's size became particularly apparent when she produced her checkbook. She managed quite well indeed, but still looked like she was writing into a child's play book. Ever so gently the paper was torn out and handed to Caroline, for a grand total of $875.

"Thank you again, Caroline."

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She started to tap her pen onto the edge of her pad,

"A swimsuit, huh, that depends greatly. These usually aren't custom jobs, plus there's a lot of different styles. Would it be one piece, or two? A bikini, tangtini, halter tied, string tied, clips, fabric to tie around the waist, swim shorts my sister is pretty fond of those. Fabric would be a good question they usually don't sell waterproof fabric at most stores, though I'll be honest I've never really looked before. Plus the elastic, have to be a good fit."

Taking the check, she noted the tip with a smile as she folded it and put it in her purse.

"Now, I can probably manage, but it's new territory so it'll probably be a little later, by april maybe. The other stuff I'll get to you by Feburary at the lastest, I'm sure you'll want to have something nice to wear for Valentines I'm sure."

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"Take your time. I'm not planning on any beach trips for a while," she replied, thinking over the suit's design, "Keep it simple. A bikini would be nice. My other suit is a green one piece. Something swappable with that would be nice."

At the numerous technical issues, she nodded, "Never really thought about it like that. A swim suit was a swim suit was a swim suit. I'll ask around about where to find the fabric. My neighbor seems to keep up with that sort of thing. Plus she'd lived in Freedom City her entire life and knows Riverside like the back of her hand."

"Yes, it's coming up soon isn't it?" she laughed lightly and shook her head, "I'm sure Viktor will plan something and dinner." Then her eyes lit up. "Ever eaten at Timothy's Bistro?"

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"Well that is far longer than I have lived here and there a good few places I could ask about."

Reaching into her purse she took out her rolodex and pulled out a blank index card,

"Write her name and number here and I'll ring her up when I go searching. But yes, the other clothing will come first initially, and if I can start on the lingerie first I'll be able to get some good footing for the swim suits."

Spinning her pen for a second she set it down as she thought of the name,

"Huh, I don't believe I have. Heard of it, nice place supposedly, though it would be impossible to get a table during the holidays. People love to eat out around Christmas and such. Probably a little pricey for someplace I'd go to normally. Not that I'll have any time in the next month, family and all, plus a wedding, those are always time consumers."

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