They browsed through the sorts of things they usually wore: long jackets in rich colors or dark ones, silk scarves, crisp shirts, and the like. None of felt right, and Smoke found themselves drifting towards fancy, frilly clothing.
An evening gown like the sun rising caught their eye, dyed firey red at the ankle-length hem to pale yellow at the high collar. It had a matched short jacket with lace cuffs, lending it an air of professionalism despite the long, draping skirt. It didn't have the beading or jewels of the most formal gowns.
Smoke didn't own anything like it.
They tried it on, and stood before the dressing room mirror, staring at a feminine reflection. Slowly, Smoke exchanged enby earrings and put on a pair of female ones she had in her jacket pocket. She was surprised to find how much she liked the drape and swish of the dress, the hidden girdle that slimmed her waist, the way the jacket sugested more bust than she possessed, the cheerful pastel colors, everything womanly about it. She wanted it at once, and second-guessed that desire almost as quickly. Is this the right kind of dress to wear to a dinner with my new employer? Why did I ask my new employer to dinner anyway? Do I want to be female because Master Corydalis is so very imposingly male? Am I afraid that being enby is too much like competing with him, and I can't? Am I trying to conform to some ancient stereotype of little female paired with larger male? That sterotype doesn't even work for draka, their females are taller. Smoke's train of thought derailed as she tried to imagine a person bigger than Corydalis. ... usually taller. Maybe not taller than him. Would Master Corydalis find a smaller male more appealing? Do I care this much about what he thinks? Is this about him?
Or do I just want to wear a pretty dress and be female for a few hours?
Smoke rolled her eyes. The whole thing felt like a debate that ought to have been settled a century ago, when gender-signal earrings fell into fashion and people stopped policing the gender identities of others. But here she was.
She made sure the expense form fit in one of the gown's pockets, then strode out of the dressing room with the skirt swishing pleasingly about her ankles. "I'll take this, please." She let the clerk talk her into matching slippers, but held the line when he tried to persuade her to add costume jewelry or a flashier pair of female earrings. She didn't want her outfit to be too fanciful.
When she returned to Courthall, she found Corydalis already in the House of Chambers' lobby. "Oh! I hope I've not kept you waiting long, sir."
Corydalis half-turned at the sound of her voice. His motion froze, arrested, wings raised slightly for balance. Then he completed the move and delivered a courteous bow. "Not at all, master enchanter. I came down from my office only a moment ago."
Smoke relaxed, returning a curtsey. "Good timing, then. Did you have any place in particular in mind? Someone recommended I try Curry This and it sounded good."
"I've not been there, madame, but I am game to try." He offered his arm. "Please, lead on." As she took his arm and they glided out of the giant lobby, he asked, "So, how did your first full day at Courthall go?"
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