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Gizmo

Blues Sisters [IC]

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As the afternoon of October 31st gave way to evening, Ellie Espadas shoved one more secondhand textbook into a protesting messenger bag before slinging it over her shoulder and starting down the stairs of the classroom's tiered seating toward the exit. The premed student supposed she appreciated her professor's well meaning attempts to make the lecture festive but there was only so much one could do to make pathology significantly more ghoulish.

"Well, that was especially disgusting," a less generous voice quipped from just behind her as a fellow student with long, chestnut hair bounded down the steps two at a time to catch up. Carly Westmas had come a long way from the nation's breadbasket to attend FCU, ending up in most of the same classes as Ellie in the first and second years of the medical program. Her frank and outspoken had recommended her to the Freedom City native, forming the basis of a friendship. "I want to know who looked at that toe and thought, 'Yes, I need to take a photo of that right now'."

"I think it's more of a hazing thing," Ellie replied as the stepped out into the crowded hallway, full of students getting out of the last classes of the day. Various bat and pumpkin-shaped decorations had been plastered along the walls and a few orange and black streamers dangled from the railings of the second floor walkways. "Better to figure out your gross-out threshold now then when you're in the middle of treating someone?"

Carly stuck out her tongue through a grimace. "I know you always say you've seen worse, but I don't think I'm jealous anymore." The tall, weedy brunette had understandably assumed her friend was referring to patients she'd seen volunteering at local hospitals but in this case it was hard to beat the zombies the young woman sometimes known as Jill O'Cure had fought on a previous Hallowe'en for sheer nausea inducing appearance. Spotting one of the many flyers taped haphazardly about the hallway, Carly snapped her fingers. "Ooh, you're coming to the party in McNider Hall, right? There's gonna be karaoke!" She turned the final word into a singsong crescendo to properly convey her excitement.

"That's the plan," Ellie nodded with a small, bemused smile. She hadn't exactly been big on class parties, sanctioned or not, in high school but a lot of things had changed since then. If nothing else, she actually had a date this time. "Mara's meeting me here with our costumes."

The way her eyebrows disappeared into her bangs communicated Carly's piqued interest. "Really? So... she actually exists? I had even odds that you'd just made her up to get losers to stop hitting on you." The skepticism was met with grumbling and reproachful mutters.

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Mara stepped onto campus grounds only a little bit before she was due to meet Ellie - last-minute costume fretting (sure, the tie was black, but was it black enough?) had cost her more time than expected.

Still, she had at least a couple minutes to look around herself with notable curiosity. While she didn't have much interest in attending the university herself, she had a hard time criticizing anyplace dedicated to knowledge...and her lack of a 'college experience' occasionally made her wonder what she'd missed out on.

Not that she worried about it too much. She had a girlfriend to meet and a party to attend, after all. Under normal circumstances she wasn't one to seek out social events for their own merits, but in the right company....

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In the early October dusk only about half of the lamps out in the open quad between flanking halls had deigned to turn on, leaving the crowds of students getting out of class lit in a dim, autumn glow. Amidst the usual fretting over potentially disastrous tests and looming deadlines were excited last minute plans for the evenings festivities, a handful already in costume. For whatever reason one long haired freshman had taken up a spot on a wide stone surface bordering a staircase, sitting cross-legged with an acoustic guitar and strumming simple four chord progressions while looking about soulfully.

Ellie and her classmate stepped outside and down the same steps, the former scanning crowd and waving when she spotted Mara observing the crowd. The pred-med student quickened her step as she walked over to meet the inventor, a lopsided smile falling into place unbidden. "Aw, lookit you, you're beaming," Carly observed, jogging to keep up and adopting an expression usually reserved for internet videos of Husky puppies.

"Yeah..." Ellie agreed. "Also, shut up."

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"Ellie!" Ellie got the Ellie Smile, that rarest of facial expressions...as far as Mara's emotive habits went, anyway. Most of their costumes she was apparently carrying her own worn-down messenger bag, though on a whim she'd kept a tie around her neck where it hung in stark contrast to the faded t-shirt underneath.

Her girlfriend got a hug, and the young engineer had to stop herself short of following it with a kiss - Mara wasn't sure what sort of attention that'd bring. Instead she somewhat awkwardly let go and glanced around herself again. "Interesting place. Should probably visit you here more often. Could guest-teach physics classes - almost promise the building wouldn't implode." She apparently found the idea rather funny, something like a wry grin tugging at the edge of her mouth. "Almost. Not quite. Can't do the fun physics without some risk. How was class?"

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"Get over here, you," Ellie insisted, taking advantage of the loosely hanging tie to pull Mara back toward her for a chaste but deliberate kiss on the mouth. It said something about either Freedom City, the halls of higher learning or both that the display went largely unnoticed or commented upon, apart from a pointed whoop of approval from the guitarist. Without turning around the young woman flatly called back, "Get a haircut, Fuerth."

"Yes, ma'am!" he replied with a grin and sloppy salute over wholly ridiculous sunglasses as he gathered up his guitar and bag and headed back inside. Ellie suspected the would-be rockstar was off to get into costume for the department party just as they were. She wished he payed as much attention to the tutoring group she ran when time permitted as he did to cultivating his appearance for passing co-eds but Matt Fuerth was a basically good kid.

A polite step to one side, Carly bounced on her heels with apparent delight. "Hi, Carly," she introduced herself, offering Mara her hand. "It is so great to finally confirm your existence! This is the closest I've ever seen Ellie to less than two scoops of cynic in every box. Engineering, right? HIT?" Which program someone was in was the natural go-to first topic of small talk around the campus and Carly had a bit of small town gossip in her yet.

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"Mmh? Ah, no," Mara replied, her attention rapidly shifting from Ellie to 'Fuerth' to Ellie to Carly. She awkwardly shook the offered hand, frowning as she caught up with her own answer. "Sorry - engineer, yes. HIT, no. Not a student - didn't think college had much for me. Was mostly right. Some things here with value." She bumped Ellie's hip with her own, smiling a little. "Still - turned out okay. Guessing...medical student?"

That was at best ambiguously directed at Carly, and she frowned. "Sorry - you, I mean? Should...I should probably slow my thoughts down," the young woman apologized, frowning at herself. "And focus on talking like a normal person. N- I'm not as crazy as I sound, mostly. Promise."

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Without losing her smile, Carly nodded vaguely and looked to Ellie in profound confusion. "Short version, Mara's a prodigy," the West Ender supplied by way of explanation, the look on her face trying to decide between effusive pride and just trying not to laugh at the mixed first impression. "She ended up in the private sector just on the strength of her personal projects." Her words came smoothly; they were, after all, technically true. "She tries not to lord it over we lesser mortals..."

"Oh, wow," Carly blinked as she processed the information. "So... you're a true blue genius, then! That's really impressive stuff!" Lowering her voice, she added to Ellie, "I know it's not a competition, but I think you won." Turning her attention back to Mara, her sunny smile resumed it's full incandescence. "And yes! Pre-med. Aiming for pediatrics in the long haul, but that's a ways off! Oh, costumes!" Remembering what Ellie had said earlier, she pointed towards the on-campus housing. "I was just heading back to rez; you can change in my dorm room!" Without waiting for a response, she deftly linked her elbow with Mara's and began dragging the blonde along. "So, how'd you two meet?"

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"Genius, sort of, yes. Not very good at the medical...things; plenty of respect for people who learn things the hard waAY-" Mara stumbled a bit as she was dragged along, but settled into a pace that'd keep up with Carly's. "Mmh! Met? We, ah-"

She glanced at Ellie, shrugging helplessly. don't mention Santa - don't mention Santa - don't mention- "-San...sort of a winter holiday...thing. Started talking while I was repairing someone's...vehicle. Kept in touch after, kind of went from there?" Mara didn't have half the social prowess that her significant other had, but it was all true enough. "She's the best Christmas present ever."

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Ellie's sienna cheeks tinged a deep crimson that had nothing to do with the October chill in the air. "Yeah, well..." she coughed through the blush, doing a poor job of tempering a self-conscious smile. "Can you believe she insists she's not good with words?" she asked Carly as they neared the residence's entrance.

"I'm still not over how adorable you two are," the midwesterner replied frankly, still dragging Mara along. "This is quite the departure from what we usually get to see from Ms. Espadas here, I don't mind telling you." Showing her student card to the security guard on staff, she released her prisoner to sign the other two young women in before leading them to the elevator. The lobby itself wasn't quite so busy as the courtyard had been but down the hall they could see the attached cafeteria was well attended.

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"Is it?" Mara glanced curiously at Ellie, adjusting her costume-laden bag now that she had her arm back to do it with. That didn't seem like the Ellie she knew, but then.... "Guess I've never seen her when I'm not there?"

There was a beat of silence as she caught up with her own musing. "Mmh! Guess that's...trivial? Kind of." She ducked her head a bit, pulling some hair back behind her ear to cover her embarrassment. "Know what I meant. Could visit here more often, maybe? Not far from HAX. Could give her - you - rides home, at very least, when you want one."

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"Oh sure," Carly confirmed, hitting the button for the eighth floor and stepped back into the elevator. "I mean for one thing she's actually smiling."

"Hey, I smile!" Ellie protested, feeling a little off-balance as different sides of her life collided. It wasn't like she kept her time on campus a secret but there a pretty big difference between talking about her day while sitting on the couch in Mara's apartment or even just having the engineer observe for herself and getting someone else's perspective.

The reedy girl snorted undaintily. "The 'you just said something stupid and I'm about to hand you a verbal beatdown your grandkiddies will feel' look doesn't count, gal. The program can be pretty dang competitive," she explained for Mara's benefit. "Even in the second year you can already pretty much tell who's got the stuff. Ellie's up around the top in every class she's got which brings out the claws with folks who aren't doing so hot. Heh, not usually more than once, though." Carly chuckled easily as the elevator arrived at its destination and the doors slid open. "Your girl isn't exactly one to turn the other cheek."

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"Good." Mara's reply was immediate, without apology, and frankly rather proud. "It's what they get. Never understood 'the other cheek' thing - just gets you hit again. It's an invitation. Shouldn't...antagonize, but have to react appropriately. Just how the world works."

She pondered for a moment, tapping a finger against the strap of her bag. "....kind of want to hear what she said, now," she admitted, the corner of her mouth tugging into the ghost of a grin. "Sounds very entertaining. Anything get recorded?"

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"Actually..." Carly began, leading the girlfriends to the left of the elevator and past the double doors of a couch-filled common area.

"No," Ellie interjected quickly, giving Mara an exaggerated look of reproach as she bit down on a laugh at the blonde's immediate approval. "Don't encourage her. I mean, don't encourage me. You know what I mean!" Their wasn't any heat to be found in the amused rebuke; if anything it was nice to be reminded that Mara was always firmly in her corner.

The resident student brought them through a curving hallway flanked by card-key locked dorm room doors, making it almost all the way to the end before they came to hers. "You two are just a regular Thelma and Louise, you know that? It's adorable and also a little bit terrifying," Carly informed them as she unlocked the door and slipped inside. "Just give me a quick minute to change then it's all yours!"

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"Not actually sure who Thelma and Louise are," Mara admitted, standing back against the wall to take up as little of the hallway as possible. "Pop culture reference? TV or movie, maybe. ....assuming it's complimentary." She gave Ellie a questioning look with that, and shrugged. "She's nice. Your friend, I mean - I like her. Cheerful. Kind of...enthusiastic, but good to have met her."

She tapped her finger on her bag for a couple seconds, and then ducked her head and looked grumpily sheepish. "Trying really hard not to talk to key card readers, test security. Kind of curious."

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"Movie, yeah. It's sort of a classic but, uh..." Ellie's mouth twisted to one side in consideration. "Not sure how flattering the comparison actually is. We should probably just take it as a compliment and roll with it." The coltish girl leaned against the hallway wall with one shoulder so that she was facing Mara and the door to Carly's room. "Anyway. Thanks for coming out tonight. It's probably not going to be that great or anything but it's pretty much the first big department shindig of the school year and I promised myself I'd be more social this semester." It sounded a little bit like an argument she'd prepared more for herself than anyone else and her sheepish smirk suggested she knew it. "But yeah, good to meet new people, so! Ideally those people won't be campus security though, muñequita"

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"Would only run into security if I got caught," Mara protested with mock offense. "Don't know what they have for monitoring, but doubt it's that good. ....but...yes. 'Social'."

The young engineer's tone was more minor nerves and resignation than true trepidation. "Should...probably do more of that too; work doesn't really count. Might not be great, but should be interesting - haven't really done normal parties. Best case, learn something. Meet people. Worst case, both decide it sucks and go do something better."

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"So help me, I'm actually proud that you could run circles around them," Ellie sighed with similarly mock distress, crossing her arms. "Just remember I actually have to go to class with these people after tonight, so the sass should ideally be kept to a family friendly light scalding." Just because she wasn't very good at following that advice herself didn't mean it wasn't good advice. She was a little nervous herself; she hadn't exactly been a pariah in high school but it was fair to say that these sort of events had never really gone well for her. University promised to be a different experience and she was hardly the same person she'd been three or four years ago but her subconscious remained unconvinced. "Yeah. Yeah, we don't have to stay long if it's a bust. Good call."

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"Can...try to scale sass down?" Mara offered, only half-joking as she furrowed her brow at that prospect. "Can at least watch what I say. Mostly. ....not promising anything if idiots try to mess with you. Clearly able to stand up for yourself, I mean, don't need my help - but makes me unhappy."

She shrugged, turning against the wall to face Ellie. "But. For you, will keep my mouth shut. Will 'put a sock in it', if I have to. Literally. Pretty sure I have an extra pair in the bag or pocket storage."

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"You're too good to me," Ellie noted with a grin, leaning forward briefly to tap the tip of her nose against Mara's in a shamelessly infatuated display of affection, emboldened by the relative privacy of the deserted hallway. There was something immensely gratifying about having her girlfriend present for the 'normal', mundane side of her life.

With a click, the door to Carly's room reopened, its occupant stepping out in a flannel top, stetson and tall leather riding boots with a loop of rope slung around one shoulder. "Well, what d'you gals reckon?" she asked, playing up her previously subtle twang. "Too on the nose?"

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"Cowgirl," Mara observed, as if it wasn't already easy enough to recognize. "Looks good. Like the boots, rope's nice. Useful, though probably not a concern in a costume. On the nose...don't know?"

She glanced back at Ellie; the young genius hadn't made any attempt to move away, so she didn't have far to look. That made her rather happy, for some reason. "Might have fun playing up something you'd get teased for, otherwise? Don't know. ...anyone bugs you about it being too appropriate, might find a use for the rope, after all?"

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"Kinky," Carly responded immediately, removing her hat and tucking the brim under one arm so that she could begin pulling her hair into a loose ponytail. The tall brunette gave Ellie a knowing look. "This explains all of those times you complained about being sore after a long night, huh?"

"T-that...! I take a gymnastics class!" Ellie insisted as she recovered from a sputter, repeating her go-to excuse. In truth any stiffness or bruising she carried with her through a day of classes would be the result of moonlighting as a masked sidekick. Usually, at least. "Also, shut up." Turning Mara about by the shoulders, she pushed the shorter girl into the now vacant dorm room. "Your face? It's a thing you should shut. La~la~la~! ¡Cállate!" She closed the door emphatically behind them over the sound of uncontrolled laughter.

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Part of that laughter was Mara's - she was trying very, very hard to keep a straight face, but the effort of it had pressed her mouth into a thin line that curled up at the sides and she couldn't quite keep the little tremors of suppressed laughter from shaking her shoulders.

Still, laughing or no, as soon as the door was closed she turned around and pulled Ellie into a proper kiss. Not one likely to distract them from getting changed (they were in someone else's room, after all), but not one rendered chaste by being in public and making a statement. Then, the important business out of the way, she removed her bag and began pulling their costumes out. "Wonder if she's going to let you live that down."

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Making a sound in the back of her throat that gave up on sounding annoyed halfway through the kiss, Ellie took the opportunity for some childish revenge with a light swat at the inventor's backside when she turned to lay out the costume pieces on the bed. "Probably not, no," she drawled, unslinging her bag slipping off her worn running shoes. "Your concern is the stuff of legend. Any trouble finding the costume stuff?" Easy as it might have been to go overboard, they'd opted to keep their outfits for the evening simple but it wasn't as if Mara had had much opportunity to celebrate Hallowe'en in the past.

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"Not too hard," Mara admitted, quickly shucking her own clothes and pulling on one of the pairs of suit pants - which quickly turned out to be intended for Ellie, so she took them back off and playfully tossed them at the coltish girl's head. "Suits were easy - knew your size. Ties were harder, but not so bad. Hats were-"

She blinked, snapping her fingers. "Hats," she announced, reaching up to where her choker rested at the base of her neck and pulling a pair of black fedoras out of nowhere. "Didn't want to crush them," the engineer explained, handing one Ellie's way. "Hats took some looking, but had plenty of time. Got a little lucky, found them online. Just had to remove feathers from one."

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Ellie dodged the flying legwear smoothly and caught them out of the air with one hand before they could knock over any of the kitschy knickknacks liberally scattered about Carly's room. Tugging them on she found they were indeed in her size; given her penchant for thrift stores and second hand shops the suit pieces Mara had acquired for her actually fit better than she was used to. Perhaps they erred a little on the snug side but she suspected that was more a product of her girlfriend's exacting measurements than in spite of them. "Nice," she commended with a grin, accepting and donning the black hat before sorting out the white dress shirt and the second skinny black necktie. "I think Blues Brothers was a good call. Comfortable to wear around if nothing else."

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