. . . Mannequin . . .

It was a simple thing, really. She needed a model for one of her more complicated costumes, and using Kazuki wasn't really an option, as he was far too tall for it. Same went with Taishi. And the other girls were busy with their own costumes... so she was in a bind.

Until Mizuki came around.

It was practically perfect; she was just about the same size, and had all the proper measurements. She even had a bit of that flare a girl needed for cosplay. Her general attitude wouldn't quite go with this particular costume, but she had another costume that would work better. But she had to work with the one on hand.

"So, do I make a good mannequin?" Mizuki giggled, nearly upsetting the pins that had just been attached to her shoulder. Reiko tried not to giggle back... Mizuki's laugh was infectious.

In fact, everything about her was.

"A very good one," she replied, muffled by a few extra pins that she had sticking out of her mouth, "You put us old timers to shame." Mizuki looked at her full on. Reiko pondered for a moment whether or not Mizuki quite knew how powerful her glance was to anyone. She just had presence.

Did she ever admire presence.

"Old timers?" Mizuki answered, carefully sculpted eyebrows raised, "Reiko, you're only nineteen." She shrugged in response, moving to pin another section of the costume. But Mizuki continued with that knowing stare and she couldn't help but cave.

"You're a natural," she muttered, "The costume comes alive on you." She smiled, turning down the effect of her expression. A moment longer and Reiko felt her knees might give and she would collapse into a puddle on the floor.

"Well, who am I?" Mizuki said, amusement in her tone, "Who just came alive?" Reiko almost didn't hear the words, watching her as she spoke. She wondered if infectious people like her just fell out of the sky, instead of being born like the rest of the world...

But the character. Right. No matter what Mizuki was, the character had to be the essence that overtook the feel of the look. And this one, the name...

"Taki." Ninja. Fighter. One who hides.

Mizuki closed her eyes. "Taki..." she rolled the name around in her mouth, "It's pretty. She must be a really pretty character." Reiko laughed. She'd chosen Taki for this particular con because of her likeness to herself; she hid behind a face covering... much like she hid behind her own costumes.

The characters had to set the overtone... they were outspoken, skilled, and fearless. Not that she was a particularly shy person, Aya beat her in that department, but she was hardly brave.

A Maya Ibuki complex?

It was funny that she thought of it in anime terms. Truly was. It made sense, though, characters in anime were so much easier than real people... they just were simpler. One or two ideas. Clear cut roles.

"You want to cosplay at the con?" I asked before thinking. But the idea had prompted itself, and Mizuki was just a natural...

"But I thought this was your costume. Wouldn't you have to make another?" Mizuki answered, with a cute sort of confusion. Reiko couldn't help but laugh.

"I have others," she replied, and bounded over to her closet, "Many others." With a gusto that Taishi would be proud of, she flung the door open. Mizuki's eyes got comically wide.

"Wow, you're like..." she muttered, dumbfounded, "...the cosplay Goddess!" Reiko laughed, full and loud. Mizuki, mouth still agape, pointed at one in particular. She checked to see which costume it was, and almost laughed again. How appropriate.

Seung Mina. The costume she imagined her in, while her mind wandered. Just a little fanservice, with a certain sort of class that only the Asian fighting history could manage. A look that asserted sexuality and independence. It was ironic how both seemed to go hand in hand at times.

"You could wear that one, if you'd like," Reiko said, already pulling it off the hanger, "I think it suits you." She held it up to her, one eye closed like a gunman setting their sights on a target.

"Really!" Mizuki exclaimed, and bounded over to where Reiko stood. She nearly ripped out some of the pins with so much movement, making the seamstress cringe. The look didn't last long, as Mizuki enveloped her in a big hug.

She stopped breathing.

"Even though it's a little weird..." Mizuki said, breath on Reiko's ear, "You know, but I think I'll like it." Reiko swallowed.

Mizuki stood back a little, so that her hands were on Reiko's shoulders, and she could look her in the eye. She had a fun little smirk on her face... and Reiko was certain that she must have looked terrified or at least comical...

"Wouldn't it just be simpler?" Mizuki asked, and leaned in so that her forehead rested on Reiko's, "If there were no boys involved at all?" Reiko frowned. Kazuki again... it was always about that kid. Sure, she thought he was top notch; talented, kind, and fun to be around. But he was just a little too oblivious. Just a little too... pliant.

"Mizuki?" she managed to force out of her throat. Why was this girl suddenly in contact with her? Did she sense it? Did she just see how much presence she had?

She backed away, smiling that overly large smile of hers. Reiko could breathe now, and let out the exhale almost a little too loudly.

"Well, better finish my job," Mizuki said with naturally good humor, "Mannequins aren't supposed to move."

Reiko went back to check on the pins, fully absorbed in her work. Well, at least she seemed fully absorbed. The blood was pounding in her ears.

Mannequin... anyone that would treat you as a simple mannequin is a fool.

"No, they're not supposed to move," Reiko answered, grinning, "You fail as a mannequin." Mizuki laughed again, while trying to stay as still as possible.

Reiko tried her best to keep her hands from shaking.

AN: Taki and Seung Mina are from the Soul Blade/Soul Edge games. Maya Ibuki is from Evangelion. She's a lesbian character, if you don't catch the drift. I'm still new to shoujo, so I hope this isn't too unrealistic.