Chapter 166

              The first Friday of the new semester found an unusual number of students in the Melbrook dorm. From the moment class let out, Hershel, Alex, and Chad had gathered in the living room with large rolls of fabric and sewing machines checked out from the costuming department of the drama club. No one asked Alex how he’d managed to procure them, and he didn’t volunteer the answer, so it was left unaddressed, even if Hershel did throw curious glances at him from time to time.

                The other residents of the dormitory filtered in more slowly, Vince arriving first, then Mary, and finally Alice. Vince only paused to throw down his backpack in his room, then joined the others to start helping out. Though he had minimal skills, he was able to do some basic assisting that made work easier on the others. Mary took one look at the scene before her and headed to her room. She knew she was getting roped into this eventually, that was one of the prices of a relationship, but there was no way she was volunteering to get involved before she had to.

                Alice looked on with dismissive curiosity when she first got home, and it seemed like she’d be following in Mary’s footsteps as she went into her room. After fifteen minutes, though, she emerged, book in hand, and began reading on the living room couch. A keen observer would have noted that her eyes frequently left the page to stare at the four boys working, and that the pages in front of her were rarely flipped. She kept up this façade for a solid half hour before finally giving in and speaking.

                “Okay, explain to me why you have to dress up to go see a movie.”

                “We don’t have to. We’re doing it because it’s fun.” Alex never glanced over at her as he spoke, his attention rapt by the line of seams he was currently sewing into garishly bright red material.

                “Right, but why? What does dressing like a…” Alice looked at the most completed costume, a green and yellow ensemble that Hershel was outfitting with sequins. “…I’m guessing space hooker, what does that bring to the experience? Wouldn’t you rather just go watch the show in normal, comfortable clothing?”

                “When you go to a nice restaurant, you dress up, don’t you?” Hershel said.

                “Sure, but that’s because it’s expected when you go into a place like that.” Alice set her book down on the couch, not even bothering to try and save her place.

                “That’s true for most people, but you’re super rich. You could walk in wearing a potato sack and they’d serve you,” Hershel pointed out. “But even putting your status aside, aren’t there days when you get up a little early and really go the extra mile to look more put-together?”

                “There used to be a lot more, before all my weekdays entailed hours of training and exercise,” Alice sighed. “I still do it on weekends occasionally though, so yes.”

                “Well, there you go.” Hershel finished the sequin pattern he was working on and rotated the fabric around, starting on a new section. “Dressing pretty doesn’t technically add anything to your day, you do it because you enjoy it, and you like how it makes you feel. For us, showing up at an event like this in really good costumes makes us feel good, and maybe a little bit admired. There is no greater point, it’s just fun.”

                “To his credit, after being informed of this tradition I did some independent research, and it does indeed seem to be a widespread, if somewhat niche, practice.” Chad was stitching on a shield-shaped patch as he spoke, his needle moving in precise, unerring motions. He didn’t have Hershel’s flair, but the young Super had already proven himself capable of producing quality product. “As I have not yet participated, I cannot validate his claims of it being fun; however, there do seem to be enough documented cases to make it viable.”

                “If nothing else, I’m enjoying working with everyone on the outfits,” Vince added.

                Alice stared at them for a moment, savoring the ridiculousness of the scene before her. These four boys represented some of the most powerful people in various classes at Lander. Between them was enough raw destructive force to tear apart a city, if left unchecked, and yet here they were sewing together costumes to wear to a movie premiere. It was enough to make her laugh, until she remembered that there was also a fearsome gravity manipulator sitting on the couch watching them. Was this what the Hero world was like? Bouts of danger interspersed with a ridiculously mundane daily life? Somehow, she doubted it. Angela was probably right. Once they left Lander, they entered the real world, and it probably wouldn’t so kind a place as to let them play dress-up for movie showings.

                “When are we going to watch these things, anyway?” Alice rose from the sofa and walked over to where Alex had set down his binder of designs.

                “It almost sounded like you said ‘we’ for a minute,” Hershel replied, making effort to mask the grin on his face.

                “That’s because I did, smartass. If you two love these movies this much, then I want to see what all the fuss is about.”

                “We’re going to have a viewing night in three weeks, so you should try to ask off from work soon.” Vince told her. “It’ll be at Nick’s apartment. Alex and Hershel made all kinds of threats about what they’d do if he tried to turn it into a horror movie marathon instead.”

                “After some convincing, I talked Shane and Angela into joining us as well,” Chad added. “Though only Shane required being talked into joining.”

                Alice snorted under her breath. It would probably take the combined might of everyone keep Nick in line and the movies on track. That thought, the idea of bickering with the real Nick, her Nick, filled her with more joy than she’d expected.

                “Has anyone roped Mary into this yet?” Alice asked.

                “She’s been avoiding us every time it comes up,” Hershel said.

                “Well, leave it to me. If I’m going to spend a weekend night watching old sci-fi movies, Mary is damn sure going to be there to share my pain.”

                “Want us to make you a costume?” Alex asked, finally looking up from his task-at-hand.

                “Let’s not go overboard; I just agreed to watch the movies. That’s all.” Despite her words, Alice kept on flipping through the design book, taking note of a few outfits that didn’t look entirely horrible. She already knew that eventually she would probably cave and join them, but that didn’t mean she was giving in easy.

                Especially not until she’d forced Mary to jump on board.