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Hoxton's All-Expenses-Paid Trip to Kawaii

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It was a leisurely day in the safe house since their next heist was currently in the planning stages. Everyone was in the basement, tending to little tasks to keep busy. Dallas was leaning over a blueprint and discussing plans with Bain over the phone, on speaker so Chains could listen as well and occasionally offer input with regard to crowd control. Wolf sat at another table hunched over a disassembled tablet, a selection of tiny screwdrivers, and soldering iron. He was trying to "optimize" the device, as he'd said, to be less prone to losing connection and grumbling to himself every so often about buying electronics from the same "market" they bought their guns from.

Hoxton was in the armory, and judging by the fumes, he was hard at work.

Soon enough, as was customary when having designed a new mask, he emerged wearing his latest masterpiece.

"Ta-da!" he said.

Dallas and Chains had enough savvy and discipline respectively to reign their immediate reactions in. Wolf had no such compunction and visibly recoiled.

It had been quite funny before. Hoxton and Chains had been out grocery shopping. It was getting close to Halloween and the store had a limited selection of children's costumes. Normally, this would be of no interest to either of them. They molded and assembled their own masks, and they could certainly do better than Iron Man or Captain America. It would have been beneath them.

But the wisp of gradiented resplendence peeking out from the pile of costumes ripped from hangers and discarded on the display caught Hoxton's attention. He let Chains leave him behind as he hung back, debating whether he ought to look. But that fade from light blue into purple was impossible to ignore. Hoxton went over to the display and picked the tail out of the pile of cheap fabrics.

It was a mask. He didn't know what it was supposed to be of, some cartoon character obviously, but he knew that it was magnificent and that the others would think it every bit as hilarious as it was. Doe-eyed girly cartoon characters were not scary or intimidating, as their masks were typically designed to be. He reasoned this to himself, as he tilted the mask to and fro to examine all the facets of its complete incongruity with the way he usually thought of masks. But therein lie its hilarity. And besides, cute little girl mask or no, no one argued with a gun.

He sprung the mask on Chains first. Hoxton found him in the cereal isle, debating whether they wanted to live with Lucky Charms or Captain Crunch for the week.

"Chains, look," he said, his voice muffled.

And Chains did look. And he laughed! It was mostly out of surprise at the absurdity of it, Hoxton could tell that much, but getting Chains to laugh was quite an accomplishment. If he hadn't been sold on buying the damn thing before, he certainly was now.

It had been just as hilarious back at the safe house. Dallas had a good hearty chuckle at it and Wolf nearly passed out from laughing. It was jokingly suggested that they should go back and buy enough of the masks for everyone.

But Hoxton's latest improvement upon the mask took the joke to that over-extended, unfunny area.

The rest of the crew stared, trying to comprehend the punchline.

He had papier-mâchéd the mask in dollar bills. The whole thing, the blue and purple hair, the big doe-eyes, the heart-shaped face. It was terrible.

Dallas, Wolf, and Chains simply stared until Dallas, realizing something needed to be said, spoke up.

"That's, uh... that's really something!" He tried to sound at least a little enthused about it.

"Yeah," Wolf added unconvincingly. "It's really... weird." Yes, weird was good, right? A lot of their masks were weird. And that was really all that could be said for it. The smell of sealant indicated that this modification was permanent. In that moment, though, Wolf rather felt that the old Hoxton would have had more sense.

Chains merely grunted in a vaguely affirmative way.

"They won't know what to think," Hoxton said, undeterred. He mercifully excused himself to hang the mask up to dry. An awkward silence hung in the room with his departure until Bain broke it, the volume on his call lowered so he could only be heard by those near the phone.

"That is a literal waste of money," he said.

"It's his money to waste," Chains said.

There was a murmur of resigned agreement about that fact.

"If I might suggest, though," Wolf said, for the moment sounding like the CEO he'd once been, "we re-prioritize taking down the cameras first so we won't be seen on the news with that thing."

Dallas and Bain snorted in amusement.

"We'll take that into consideration," Bain said.