May 29, 2022 5:15 AM
Julian rescues Naima from Paris
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"We're going to go shopping! Bye!"

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"Have fun!"

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Julian has never, actually, purchased his own clothing. He expects that Julia will take him to a department store. He knows what a department store is because he was assigned Emile Zola's novel Au Bonheur des Dames for a French literature class, though admittedly he skimmed it since it didn't have any good spells. Department stores involve salespeople and counters and displays and lots of things on racks and all the employees are having complicated romantic drama. 

This place is not a department store. It's a big, sunny room on the fifth floor of an unprepossessing building downtown. There are huge, teetering rolls of fabric, and sewing machines, and a little man with a mustache and an English accent. No finished garments in sight. Julian tries to pay attention to the words coming out of mustache man's mouth, but it's hard, since his furniture has an unconscionable amount of dark concealed places and the whole thing is stressing him out. 

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Julia picked the suits place by tracking down the best dressed man in the enclave and asking him where he got his outfits but as soon as she steps into the place it's evident that 1) the place is extremely classy and was picked correctly but 2) almost everything here is too old for Julian. They don't want him to look like he's forty five. He's a prodigy and that's half of what they're going for, even if he's not a child anymore and that's the other half. The clothes have good fundamentals, though, so she wanders around the room using them as prompts to articulate what she's looking for and what they're going to have to fix. They want a tailored suit and a bespoke suit and formal shoes and casual shoes and some casual jeans and some casual short-sleeved and casual long-sleeved shirts, and at least one nice dress outfit that's not a suit, and a knee-length overcoat, maybe floor-length.

 

Julia loves being around people who are masters of their craft. Especially if their craft is fashion but other forms of art are all right too. Julian looks like he has no idea what he's doing here and the tailor evidently thinks that he's her boyfriend who she's trying to dress up for hanging out in her crowd, which - isn't all that wrong, really, though she doesn't see Julian like that even aside from the name collision and the girlfriend.

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Julian has no idea what the tailor might or might not be thinking because he's too busy paying attention to something behind a pile of tweed that looks like it might possibly have skittered. 

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Skittering things aren't going to go after fully-grown wizards with New York power sharers, in front of a mundie, while they're clothes shopping. 

 

Julia decides to pick up a couple of things for herself, as a treat, and ends up specifying a coat and a suit jacket that neither makes her look elderly nor makes her look like a lesbian, the kind of suit jacket you could wear with a suit but you could also wear over a tight dress and go out to a bar in. 

It comes to about twenty six thousand dollars in total for Julian's things.

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Fuck, what's the polite way to say that this is all very nice but I need about ten thousand dollars less of it.

"...This is all very nice, but I need about ten thousand dollars less of it." 

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Julia wants to explain to him that mundie money is basically Monopoly money, you can't trade it for anything that really matters, but she can't say that right here in the middle of the mundie shop with the helpful mundie tailor right there. "Do you want me to cover eight thousand of it? I'll cover eight thousand of it," she says, which hopefully conveys the same thing.

 

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They should really have had this conversation in Mandarin or Gāndhārī or something. 

"Thank you, I appreciate it." Also he wants very much to go home now and a debate with Julia on the value of a complete wardrobe can take several hours. He has some personal experience. 

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She tells the tailor to hold her own stuff until the first of August. He nods knowingly. And then they can go ahead and pay for things. "Mission accomplished! Do you want to go out for lunch, or order it in?"

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"In."

Starting tomorrow, Julian is going to do exposure therapy for the concept of being outside, and it's going to involve way less standing PERFECTLY STILL being fitted for clothing while things SKITTER at the edge of his field of vision. 

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It's really overwhelming! It feels like being in the graduation hall all the time in terms of how many things might be trying to kill you but you can't kill them back, but that's fine because they aren't, actually, trying to kill you. Julia just doesn't mind it, somehow; it's overwhelming the way she imagines sex, which she has not had, would be overwhelming. 

 

They head back to the enclave.

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Then Julian can be a little bit more sane. He does appreciate seeing a master at work, and Julia is a master. Imagine having graduated last week and knowing what kinds of shirt collars are fashionable but serious for men under thirty! And he's glad that he's going to go into his meeting looking like a serious person, not a supplicant. 

"Sorry I was panicking so much back there. I really do appreciate you taking me." 

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"You shouldn't be ashamed of having trauma! We went through a traumatizing experience!"

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"I'm not ashamed! I just don't want to look like a basket case in front of New York while they're still deciding whether or not I'm worth it. Which now that I'm saying it sound insane, half of us are going to be basket cases – but it's not like I got here by being in the bottom half of the class, you know?" 

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"You can just, like, take a Xanax for the meeting. Though, like, I don't think it's going to be that bad? They're not idiots, they don't expect that if they make really good faces at you you're going to go "oh, I guess I will let my siblings die after all". They're just gonna want to make sure that, if they let you have it, you're going to actually do all that cool magical research and be an asset to the enclave and not burn out and spend all your time high watching Mandelbrot fractal videos and telling people you're a week away from an epiphany."

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"Does that happen often?"

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"Sometimes? I think mostly not to valedictorians but - trauma is bad for people! It can disrupt your motivational system!"

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Well, Julian has wanted the exact same thing since he was ten years old, which is to live to adulthood and get his family sorted and spend the rest of his life being the best in the world at building places for wizard children to be safe in. And step one was the hard part. 

"I think my motivational system is pretty robust. Everyone keeps telling me I should take a gap year, but I'm really not sure I want to. I want to do in-affinity magic! I've been looking forward to it for eight years already!" 

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"See? So you'll be fine." She turns off a large street and trots confidently down an alley. A homeless man shouts 'nice tits'; she beams at him. 

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He's not sure if Julia is okay – like, extremely, preternaturally, okay – or if she's just much better at repressing things. Who knows; maybe her whole family is like that. Dinner is going to be interesting. 

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When they get back to the building Julia shows him her door - it's a couple floors above his and a couple hallways down - and then waves goodbye. "I expect you want to collapse and be worried about things or something."

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Awww, she knows him so well. 

"You got it. See you in a few hours!" 

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And in a few hours, Julian is back at the Sanderson apartment, wearing pants that fit and a sweater made out of some kind of sheep so fancy it probably deigns to be sheared exclusively by crowned heads of Europe. 

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