Ruby just managed to slip through the door behind Weiss, juggling her fencing bag in one hand and an early Christmas present in the other. She tried to free up her hands, gave up, and shoved with her knee until the door clicked shut.
The light from the hallway vanished, leaving the two girls in shadow until Weiss found the switch. Knocking it with her elbow, she led the younger girl into the apartment they shared, before laying their bags down next to the washing machine.
Weiss took a breath as she straightened back up. "You mind if I-"
"No," Ruby said, peeling off the jacket she always wore after practice. "Go right ahead. My turn to do the laundry anyway."
Weiss smiled, pushed a snow-wet strand of hair out of her face, and headed for the bathroom. A minute later, the door opened just enough for their laundry hamper to slip through, Weiss' after-practice clothes lying neatly on top.
I will never get why she always insists on folding them. Rolling her eyes and smiling affectionately, Ruby grabbed the hamper and dragged it into the small nook that served as the apartment's 'laundry room.'
The smell of sweat-stained cotton hit her nose as she unzipped their fencing bags, grabbing the oh-so-fragrant white jackets and dumping them into the machine. Underarm protectors, fencing knickers, knee socks, and gym clothes soon followed, filling the machine with a thick swirl of white cloth. Their gloves went on the top of the pile – neither of them believed in the superstition that washing a glove washed the luck out.
Dropping an air-freshener in each bag, Ruby started sorting the clothes from the basket, dropping the whites in with their gear and sorting the rest for later.
She blushed when she found one of Weiss' more lacy undergarments, and set it aside for a delicate cycle. I'm being silly, she thought, shaking her head to try and get rid of her blush while piling their jeans together. It's not like she hasn't seen my laundry. We've been living together for months – I should be over this by now.
She sighed and leaned back against the wall. If Ruby was being honest, the idea of them 'living together' still felt a little new. They'd settled into an easy rhythm quick enough – it helped that Ruby had already been sleeping at Weiss' place two or three times a week. But there was still the odd moment where the closeness, the intimacy embarrassed her.
Dumping in more detergent that she really needed to, Ruby closed the lid, listening as the machine began a long, slow fizz as it filled with water. Leaving the rest for later, she made her way back into the combo kitchen-living room and picked up the Christmas present she'd left lying on the floor.
Well, technically it wasn't for 'Christmas.' The fencing club had a tradition of doing an explicitly random 'White Elephant' gift swap at the end of every year. There were still plenty of chocolate and holiday-themed sweets, but board games and the odd hand-made gag gift showed up to make the fencers happily fight over them. One of the cleverer members had found small glass vials, filling them with cough drops and labeling them after potions and ethers from popular role-playing games. Those had been the year's favorites, followed closely by a fencing-themed card deck with a different weapon for each suit.
Pulling the massive bag of cookies out from her bag, Ruby grinned, knowing what she would be eating during her cram sessions, and put them on the counter. She was about to undo the twist-tie and eat one (well, one to start) when the door to the bathroom opened.
Weiss stepped out in a puff of steam, tying a knot in the sash of a thick, floofy bathrobe.
"It's all yours," she said, running a towel over her damp hair.
Ruby leaned in and pressed a kiss to her cheek, and had to stop herself from laughing when the taller girl blushed. Chuckling to herself, she closed the door on Weiss' glare – even after being together for over a year, Ruby could still catch the older girl off-guard. And she's always cute when I do.
Peeling out of her own after-practice clothes, she left them in a pile by the door and headed for the shower.
The hot water felt glorious after the cold walk from Weiss' car to the apartment. Ruby closed her eyes and relaxed, rivulets of heat trickling down her back, easing the few muscles still stiff from the last practice of the year.
She lost track of time beneath the water, and by the time she came out of the bathroom in pajama pants and a tank-top, Weiss was already dressed for bed. A half-empty suitcase sat open on top of the bedsheets, slowly filling up as Weiss pulled clothes from her closet.
"A little early, isn't it?" Ruby asked, bouncing down on the foot of the bed. "You've got days before you have to pack."
Weiss looked miffed and laid another sweater inside the white case. "Well, unlike someone, I'd rather do it now than wait until the airport van shows up."
Ruby grinned and collapsed back on the mattress. And anyway, it was four minutes before the van showed up.
"When's your last final?"
"Wednesday," Weiss sighed, trying to decide between a pale blue and a white cardigan. "I'll head out that night."
"Right." Ruby nodded and stared up at the ceiling. That gave her ... four days with Weiss? Four days before she went back to her parent's estate, while Ruby caught a ride with Yang out to their dad's house. Four days ... and most of it would be spent studying and cramming for their finals. Ruby wasn't too worried, but it was time she'd much prefer to spend with Weiss, not hunched over some mechanical engineering textbook.
The bed dipped, and Ruby looked up to see Weiss sitting on the edge.
"I could always call," she said quietly. "Tell them I just couldn't make it this year."
A part of her wanted to say yes. A big part of her. Having Weiss at her house for Christmas last year had been wonderful, and Ruby would happily have invited her back. She knew Weiss would love it too – Zwei would jump up onto the older woman's leg the second she walked through the door, and Ruby would spend half of that first night smiling and laughing while Weiss played with the family corgi. It was nice to see Weiss that happy, and her lifelong love of dogs always brought out the heiress' cute side.
It would make her happy, make Weiss happy, and yet ...
"We thought about that. You said there'd 'be hell to pay.'" Ruby sighed and shook her head. "It's just a week and a half. You'll be out to my dad's place by New Years."
Weiss nodded grimly and grabbed another pair of pants, dumping them into the suitcase a little harder than she needed to. Her shoulders were stiff, her mouth twisted in a rueful grimace. "You know the best part? Winter's still deployed overseas. So it'll just be me bearing the brunt of my father's disapproval." She paused, staring down at the suitcase as the dread slipped into her voice. "This will be the longest week of my life."
"I offered to come."
Weiss scoffed and went into the bathroom for the little bottle of travel shampoo she used on trips. "I'd rather introduce you to family I actually like. I'm not throwing you to the wolves for some emotional support."
"Weiss, you don't have to protect me. I can handle it."
"I know," Weiss said, smiling sadly from the bathroom door. "You just shouldn't have to."
Ruby held her gaze for a second, then flopped back on the best, staring up at the ceiling. Weiss was always reluctant to talk about her family. Ruby sort of understood why; Weiss had told her about the pressure her family put her under, her parents' expectation that she would take over the family's company. From Weiss' description, both of them sounded like completely miserable people. Still ... they were her parents.
"I'll try to convince my sister to swing by Vale next time she goes on leave," Weiss said, zipping the shampoo inside her travel kit. "I've wanted her to meet you for a while."
"I'd like that." Ruby reached over, tugging on Weiss' sleeve until the heiress leaned low enough for Ruby to capture her lips in a kiss. The younger girl melted against Weiss' side, one hand running along the nape of her neck, threading languidly through her long white hair.
"Call me?" she whispered when they came apart.
"So, 'Ms. Rose'-" Pyrrha started, raising her voice so Yang could hear her over the din. The bar had been packed when she arrived, and more people had crammed in as the night went on. The weather, or the cold kept chasing people inside, knocking snow from coats and hats before heading to the bar to try and find something stout, warm, or both.
"It's 'Xiao Long', actually," Yang cut her off. "I use my dad's name, Ruby uses her mom's. Seriously though, just 'Yang' is fine."
"Alright, Yang," Pyrrha nodded, playing absently with her empty glass. "Is there a particular reason you decided to send a drink to your sister's fencing coach?"
"Honestly? Not many people notice the tsikoudia. Even fewer order it. It's usually a good sign that someone will be fun to talk to." The blonde grinned, and Pyrrha swore she felt her heart skip a beat. "Plus, it's not every day I get to chat up a gold medalist."
You're thirty-seven, for God's sake, she thought, clearing her throat. You're too old to get this excited when a pretty blonde smiles at you.
"You know about that?" the redhead managed, brushing her hair back behind her ear as an excuse to look away.
"I kinda googled you when I heard Beacon's fencing coach was an Olympian," Yang shrugged an apology. "Your last bout at the Beijing games was really something by the way. Still got no idea how points work, but the video was fun to watch."
Pyrrha smiled gamely. It had been a rough match – down to the wire with Pyrrha's winning point scored in the last ten seconds. Even so, a part of her wished the younger woman hadn't found out about it. She didn't seem hung up on the idea, but ... well, it would have been simpler, at least. And this would be even simpler if she wasn't the sister of someone in my club.
Please, some rude and unhelpful part of her laughed. Even if she wasn't, we both know you'd never do anything about it.
"So, you know at least something about me," Pyrrha said, shaking her head to clear it. "What about you? What do you do?"
"Nothing as exciting as an Olympic career," the blonde laughed. "It's boring. I own a bar."
"That doesn't sound boring at all."
Yang shrugged. "I guess. It used to be my uncle's, till he had some sort of midlife crisis, bought a boat, and started sailin' around the world."
She nodded over towards the wall, and Pyrrha turned to look. A dark-haired man with a scruffy beard crouched atop the bow of a sailboat, the white canvas flapping in the wind behind him.
"Last we talked, he was in Barbuda."
"Like I said," Pyrrha chuckled, thinking of the summers she'd spent by the sea. The nights spent on the deck of a ship, staring up at the stars. "It does not sound boring."
They lapsed into silence, Pyrrha listening to the half-forgotten sound of waves washing across the rocks, and trying to ignore the feeling of Yang's eyes on her.
"This is weird, isn't it?" Yang asked once the silence became too thick.
"Okay," Yang nodded, smiling widely. "New plan. You're kind of my sister's fencing coach ... or her ... coach's coach?"
She trailed off for a second, brow furrowing before she dragged her train of thought back onto the tracks. "Anyway, how's Ruby doing with the fencing stuff? I get to see her at tournaments, but I'm still figuring out how the judging and the hand signals work."
Pyrrha couldn't help but laugh, and she wasn't quite sure why. "She's doing well, as far as I know. I don't train the regular club members much – I mostly work with the college team to get them ready for competition. But what I've seen from her is rather good. And I do know Weiss is very proud of her."
"Good," Yang beamed, the pride glowing in her eyes. "Honestly, it's hard to get that kind of stuff out of her sometimes. No problem talking about Weiss' victories though."
"It's all I can do to get her to stop," Yang rolled her eyes, but Pyrrha couldn't hear any real bite in her voice. If anything, she seemed happy about the whole thing. "It's obvious how much she likes her. And Schnee seems like a nice enough girl."
"She is. She's also one of the better students I've trained."
"Good. Nice to know I didn't get the wrong read on her." Yang paused for a second, then started chuckling to herself. "Oh, remind me to tell you how she drove all the way across the state, through a snowstorm, to give Ruby a Christmas present."
"Oh she did. It was a good present too. Ruby thought it was adorable ... Dad thought it was a little much."
Pyrrha joined in the laughter and began to slowly relax back into her chair. This was easier, something to talk about that she was more familiar with. Slowly the topic changed from Weiss and Ruby to fencing itself. Yang might not know much about the sport – although she picked up on the rules quickly enough once Pyrrha explained the basics. She seemed to understand the sense of rhythm, of reading the opponent, of trying to nudge them into giving you and opening.
Perceptive too, Pyrrha thought, when Yang mentioned seeing Ruby telegraph some of her moves in the last tournament the older sister had seen. She has to be some sort of fighter. A martial artist, maybe? That would make sense, especially with arms like hers ...
Pyrrha tore her eyes away from the blonde's muscles and brought her glass to her lips. She was surprised to find it empty. That's not right, she thought, glancing down at her phone. She'd only been taking the occasional sip. She couldn't have finished it in ...
Over an hour. It had been almost an hour and a half since she sat down with Yang. She wouldn't have believed it, but ...
Is it really that much of a surprise? Some treacherous part of herself whispered. Admit it, you're enjoying yourself.
Shaking her head, she met Yang's eyes and nodded towards her empty glass. "Since you seem to be a regular, what would you suggest? Other than the tsikoudia."
Yang pursed her lips, her brow creasing as she considered her answer. Then her face relaxed and she knocked back the last of her own drink. With a sigh, she clinked the glass tumbler down on the low table and stood, stretching her arms above her head and accidentally giving Pyrrha a brief flash of what looked like extremely toned abs.
"Well, that bartender makes a mean Strawberry Sunrise, but ..." the blonde leaned in, speaking in a stage whisper loud enough to hear over the other patrons. "They just whipped up a pretty nice microbrew. IPA, little notes of citrus and pine, not too bitter ..."
"Sold," Pyrrha laughed, waving off the hard sell as she followed Yang to the bar. "Remember, I'm buying."
"Fair enough." Still grinning, Yang walked over to the bar and waved at the woman working at the other end. To Pyrrha's horror, Yang grabbed onto the edge of the wooden counter top and vaulted over the bar with effortless ease, landing back behind the taps with a thump.
"What are you doing?" Pyrrha asked, her heart stopped. Apparently the blonde was a lot more soused than she'd thought.
"What? It's fine," Yang said as she moved over to the sink and started washing her hands. "If anyone complains, I'll put them on dishwashing duty for a week."
Pyrrha just stood there, jaw half-open, her mind working overtime, trying to process what had just happened.
"... you own this bar," she said after a moment, biting the inside of her cheek. Finally, her heart started again, beating heavily in her chest. For a second there, she'd been convinced Yang was much more drunk than she looked, that the both of them were about to get thrown out.
The short surge of panic faded, quickly replaced with annoyance as the blonde flashed her an annoyingly smug grin. With the practiced hands of an expert, Yang pulled two glasses from a shelf on her right, and slid them beneath one of the taps, filling them each in turn. Once one was halfway full, she straightened it out, and Pyrrha watched as the liquid settled with a picture-perfect layer of foam at the top. Once both were done, Yang slid one glass across the bar to the fencer, keeping the other for herself.
Pyrrha took it, and gave Yang the darkest look she could muster. "So, is this the one I dump on you for giving me a heart attack?"
"Hope not – that'd be a waste of good beer," Yang laughed and took a sip of her own, taking the bill Pyrrha handed her and moving over to one of the registers. "You want something to toss, I'll find you a Bud Lite."
Pyrrha shook her head ruefully and took a sip. It was good ... and she supposed the whole situation was at least a little funny. In hindsight. And she was definitely going to get Yang back for it.
"I suppose you have the night off, then."
"More or less," Yang shrugged and took the bar stool next to Pyrrha. "We're testing out a new bartender."
She nodded her head at the cat-eared Faunus in a white dress shirt and black vest standing behind the bar, currently setting out a boilermaker for one of the other bar rats. "Technically, I'm supervising."
"Did she pass?"
"Flying colors. Really, it was just an excuse to give myself the night off."
"Well, I'm glad you're using it to freak out your customers." She paused and gave Yang a level stare until the blonde had the grace to look guilty. When she seemed at least a little contrite, Pyrrha took another sip and continued. "If it's your bar, do you mind if I ask about the name?"
"Well, 'Admiral Benbow Inn' was taken, so ..."
Pyrrha rolled her eyes. "About that Bud Lite-"
The blonde laughed and held up a hand. "Alright, alright. I kicked around a couple of ideas. It used to be called 'The Crowbar' when my uncle ran the place. He always had people calling or walking in thinking it was a hardware store, but he refused to change the name."
"Old puns." It was Yang's turn to roll her eyes. "His name's Qrow. So, you know ... the 'Crow' bar. That's a bad one, even by my standards. Hell, he actually kept crossed crowbars over the mantle."
"I can see why you changed it." Pyrrha couldn't help but laugh. "So why call it the 'Golden Gloves?'"
"Well, the actual gloves are mine," Yang shrugged and settled into her chair. "It was the youth division, but I won the championship bout for my weight class in the National Women's Golden Gloves. Since I had the trophy and everything, it just seemed like a fun name."
"Well, that explains the arms," Pyrrha said without thinking, blushing after she realized what she'd said. Ignoring the look Yang was giving her, she school her features in something less embarrassed. "How old were you when you started?"
Great save, Pyrrha. Just great.
"... and how long ago was that?"
"Subtle," Yang drawled, the sarcasm only making Pyrrha's blush worse. "I'm twenty-eight. I was seven when my dad remarried, eight when Ruby was born."
Twenty-eight, she ... it wasn't that bad. Twenty-eight to thirty-seven – nine years wasn't really that big a gap. Pyrrha did the math in her head – going with whatever Nora had said earlier, dating a twenty-eight year old should be considered acceptable.
And why am I even thinking about that? she thought, shocked at how quickly the idea had jumped into her head. She's the sister of a fencer in my club. The age difference wouldn't be the main problem even if I did date her.
Still ... Pyrrha had to admit, she liked her. Yang seemed nice, and funny, and occasionally awkward in a way that made the redhead feel less self-conscious. To top it off, she was an athlete, or at least a former one. That was a plus – Yang would have a better reaction to her being a professional athlete than most of her other recent attempts to date. And from the shape she's in, she clearly still works out. Not that it matters all that much ... alright, it's very attractive. She's very attractive.
Setting her drink down on the bar, Pyrrha swallowed. None of that even mattered unless Yang was ... no, she was. She definitely was. Well ... probably.
Fine. There was a better-than-even chance that Yang was specifically flirting with her.
She was about to ask a question, confirm in her mind exactly what Yang was looking for, when she found the blonde trying to meet her eyes.
"Something wrong?" Yang asked. "You looked upset for a second."
Oh to hell with it. She cleared her throat and met Yang's gaze. "You know, sending someone a drink at a bar usually has a specific meaning."
Yang shrugged. "Maybe. But I'm not some delusional man-child who thinks that every conversation with a woman has to end with her falling into bed with him. Like I said, I'm here because you're interesting. And because almost no one orders the tsikoudia."
Pyrrha let out a little huff of a laugh at that, a smile toying at the corners of her mouth.
Setting aside her drink, Yang turned on the stool to face Pyrrha directly. "Look, the only thing I'm expecting out of this is a fun conversation. It's not every day I get to chat up an Olympian. But if the 'Ruby is your student in a very minor way' thing makes you uncomfortable, then I'll be happy to get out of your hair."
A part of her – the quieter, more cautious part – wanted to say yes. This has the potential to be a problem. In different circumstances, she definitely ... well, probably ... fine. She might have asked Yang out. Especially since Nora would probably have badgered about it till she did. And she still might, Pyrrha thought, groaning to herself.
Then again, it wasn't against any regulations. It wasn't unethical – it might be, if Ruby ever joined the university's team, but even then dating Yang wouldn't be too much of an issue so long as she made it clear to the administration about the connection between the two sisters.
Plus, she was enjoying herself. Nora would be the first to tell her how rare that was. How long it had been since a date, any date, went even this well. And Ren would agree.
"There's nothing wrong with us having a conversation," Pyrrha finally said, then reached for her beer and downed the rest of it in one go.
"Good." Yang nodded towards the empty glass. "So, can I buy you another drink?"
"I really shouldn't."
"Alright," the blonde shrugged and flashed her that insufferable smile. "Then you can buy me one."
It was an excuse to stay a little longer. And Yang was right – it wasn't like there was some kind of obligation for either of them. And it would give her the chance to decide how she really felt about the blonde. And exactly how much trouble she was in.
"Fine," Pyrrha said, faking a scowl, and doing a pretty poor job from the way Yang's smile got bigger. "One more drink. But only if you tell me about your victory match for the gloves."
"Make it two and you've got a deal."
Pyrrha couldn't help but laugh. "Now you're just drumming up business."
"It's a special deal I'm trying out. Two-for-one Fridays. Interesting and attractive redheads only."