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Say "Cheesecake!"

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If Velvet Scarlatina were a TV show, she’d be nothing but reruns.

When Coco reminded Velvet not to use her weapon in the sparring ring, both of them knew it was totally unnecessary. Velvet’s bag of tricks was limited to what she’d already seen other people do. No one could be surprised or excited when fighting a version of themselves from two weeks ago.

Velvet didn’t blame her classmates for passing her over, not really. When every battle against the Grimm had such high stakes, when a single slip-up could mean losing a limb or worse, the students at Beacon Academy had to practice as hard as they performed. So when they came to the sparring ring (unofficially nicknamed the ‘Mojo Dojo’) that meant finding the leanest, meanest, and craftiest partners they could.

Who could fault Pyrrha for picking the towering Yatsuhashi to practice her takedowns on? Couldn’t Jaune better himself by pitting his shield against Coco’s hail of bullets? And didn’t the whole ring go quiet every time Lie Ren tested his martial arts against Fox’s own aura manipulation? Of course they’d choose any member of team CFVY over a flighty faunus girl that didn’t even have a proper weapon.

So Velvet, the girl no one wanted to fight, sat on the sidelines and took pictures no one wanted to see.

The pictures were terrible. Awful. Dreadful. Worse than that, they were boring. Velvet could tell by the looks on her classmates’ faces that they’d rather drink bleach than look at yet another shot of Sun Wukong that somehow managed to miss his diamond-crushing abs in favor of his gunchucks. Velvet couldn’t help it, not really. She told herself that it was how her light box worked. That she needed to focus on her classmates’ weapons, not their faces or bodies.

Besides, if she started snapping pictures of people too often, they’d think she was some kind of paparazzi pervert. She’d had enough of being called “fuck bunny” for no reason at all; no need to add fuel to that fire.

It didn’t take long for team CFVY to wrap up their sparring. Yatsu, that big lovable bear, had gotten in a few good hits on Pyrrha before being pinned. He was improving! It was all Velvet could do to keep her heels from bouncing as she made her way over to her team.

“Am I imagining things, or did that klutz actually get a bullet stuck in his ear?” Coco asked, peering over her aviators at Jaune, who was frantically slapping the side of his head.

“I am not sure,” Yatsuhashi said. “But I will say that there are many jokes about thick skulls that I would certainly never make about a fellow huntsman.”

Fox smirked.

“That’s about as close as I’ve ever seen you get to insulting someone. Nice,” Coco said. She glanced over her shoulder at the last member of the team. “Hey Velvet,” she said with a wave. “We’re gonna shower up and hit the town for some dim sum. Stilts here needs his dumpling fix.”

“Buns are my one weakness,” Yatsuhashi said. “I cannot lie.”

“I’ll remember that the next time the Grimm throw us a picnic,” Coco said. “You coming with us, Velvet?”

Velvet bit her lip and shuffled her feet. She really, really wanted to go… but just like every time before this, she just couldn’t. “I’m sorry,” she said, eyes glued to the ground. “I’m a little short on cash right now. I hope you have fun without me, though.”

Coco glanced at the boys, who gave her their own versions of the ages-old I-told-you-so look. She sighed. “All right. You two go on and wash up. I’ll catch up with you later.”

“As you wish,” said Yatsuhashi. He followed Fox to the men’s showers, nursing a slight limp courtesy of Pyrrha.

Velvet watched them go with a pang of guilt. She was halfway turned around to leave when Coco gripped her shoulder. Firmly.

“Uh-uh. Not this time,” the taller girl said. “You’ve stayed behind on campus for basically the last three years while the rest of us have gone out and had, you know, lives.” She stepped in front of Velvet and stared her down, her eyes barely visible behind her dark glasses. “Is it because you don’t feel comfy with us as a team? Did someone say or… do something to you in Vale? What is it? I’m here for you, honey bunch. Talk to me.”

“It’s nothing,” Velvet said softly. “I just can’t afford it right now.” She hunched her shoulders and pulled her arms close to her chest. She really was being honest when she said she was short on cash. For years she’d been struggling to support herself after buying her battle outfit. It had set her back much, much further than probably anyone else at Beacon. After all, buying engraved armor made of real gold alloy did cost a pretty penny. Enough to put her in debt for years, even with the stipend Beacon gave its students.

But could she really tell Coco she’d put herself into debt just to try and gain the approval of her team leader and her unparalleled sense of style?

“Hm.” Coco said, dissatisfaction etched into the lines on her flawless brow. “You know any of us would help you out a bit, right? You’re our friend and teammate. We want to see you hoppy. Er, happy.” Coco sighed. And she’d been doing so well about that.

Velvet ignored the slip-up and put on a false smile for her leader. “I’m fine. Really. I’ll be perfectly happy working on my photography while you’re down in the city.”

“Yeah. About that.” Coco held out her hand. “Can I see your camera?”

“Um… okay?” Velvet immediately grew nervous, but she did as she was asked and handed over her light box. Coco fumbled with the controls for a second before figuring out how to display the stored images. She clicked through them one by one, her expression unreadable. Once she reached the end, she handed the camera back with a shake of her head.

“Velvet,” Coco said. “You trust me, right?”

“Of course, Coco.” Where was she going with this?

“Good.” Coco smiled. “Since you won’t take charity, I have the perfect solution for all your problems. Let’s see if I can’t help you make a little money and polish up those shutter skills at the same time, shall we?”

“Um, Coco, I’m not sure what you…”

“Get your gear, sharpshooter,” Coco said. “I’m gonna be your supermodel.”