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What Makes the Roses Red

Chapter Text

Ruby hardly speaks the first year.


In fact she doesn't speak at all.

Qrow tries everything to get a word out of her and without any success. She answers only 'yes' or 'no' questions, and even then only with a nod or shake of her head. He thinks she must be depressed - he KNOWS she's depressed, but knowing hardly helps him take care of her. Somehow it feels like getting the six-year-old to talk about the death of her mother, or just talk at ALL, is healthy and proper and she doesn't waste away exactly but.

She breaks the silence the first time in a year for Yang.

Qrow has never seen his sister gaze at something so soft, so adoring as she does upon her tow-headed babe. And he can tell in the way her miniscule, not-quite-a-smile looks very much like it hurts her that she is too attached. It's there, in the way she cradles the child, shoots frosty glares at him or Taiyang whenever they wander too close to touch or coo or do anything remotely affectionate with the little bundle of joy.

It's when little Ruby approaches where his sister lounges in repose in the nursery that he expects Raven will finally snap, sick of being annoyed and all for the sake of allowing her family to meet her child. Harmless silent Ruby whose eyes are dim and gray and lifeless until they fall upon the blanket-swathed little bean that is Yang. And then, Ah, wonder, amazement, exaltation-

Ruby audibly gasps.

Raven considers her. This girl staring with absolute astonishment at her child, as though it were something great and valuable and precious - all of these being very true, of course (It's a Branwen, duh) - but not daring to demean it with faces and senseless baby-babble. She offers,

"If you drop her, I'll be reuniting you with your mother sooner than you'd ever dreamed possible." Which is the nicest way she can ever offer to allow another person the chance to hold her child. Ruby's eyes, wide and gleaming and bright, bright silver flash up to meet her stern, studying gaze. She glances back to the child in Raven's arms. She nods.

If asked later, though she never is, she'd say that she shoved Yang into Ruby's outstretched arms. Because babies are delicate but nothing that's related to her is(because it'd already be dead if it were)... She gives Yang unto Ruby as gently as she can. Almost hesitant to hand her ilk over. Ruby takes the child, absolutely hesitant to handle the tiny human.

And it's got nothing to do with threats of bodily harm or death and everything to do with the way Yang shifts restlessly. She's dozing but. She's. She's so wonderful. She's beautiful and lovely and.

It's then Yang blinks open lilac eyes and, upon catching sight of misty silver, smiles up at Ruby. She squirms in her burrito'd blankets once more, enough to unravel the burrito just a bit. Enough to reach out for Ruby. And it's when her clumsy fingers touch Ruby's cheek that, for the first time since before the death of Summer Rose, Ruby begins to cry.

No-one is surprised when Raven leaves. It's within the week directly following weaning Yang off of her breast milk and she makes it no secret that she'll be leaving. Taiyang is absolutely distraught but in the most quiet way he can be. Qrow had expected it, knowing her as well as any one person can know their twin sister. And Ruby, well he gets back to fretting over her.

The greatest slight paid unto him by his charge is that she talks, but mostly to Yang and Raven. Despite his sister's prickly nature or the fact that her child still can't speak beyond wordless babble, she speaks to them and all he gets are one word replies. Two or three if she's feeling generous or, Oum blessed, if she's curious about something he'll squeeze whole sentences out of her!

So he frets and fears a relapse in that week leading to Raven's departure. And Raven, perhaps sensing this and for the first time in forever proving herself sensitive to it, indulges the children with nearly all of her attention. He catches her, on the last day, he catches her singing lowly to a Yang cradled in her arms.

"Where will you go?" He only approaches her when she's finished her song and lulled Yang into a deep slumber, putting her down for her afternoon nap.

"You know where," if he were anyone else he might not realize the glare she levels on him isn't nearly as angry and accusing as she'd like it to be. This is sad and disappointed. "You won't be coming." It's not a question. He answers anyway,

"No. I. I can't. Ruby-"

"She's not weak," Ruby and Taiyang are outside. He's trying to chase her around but her Semblance makes that difficult on him. Whatever game they're playing, Ruby is going to be the winner. "She doesn't annoy me as much as Summer."

She might as well admit she loves Ruby as much as Yang. Might as well scream it from the nearest mountaintop. Might as well snatch her away in the night and give her a long lifetime as part of the Tribe. The look she spares him tries to be neutral but it's heavy and pained and.

"We can't, Raven," All the emotion drains from her except for that hurt. "If I took her from Yang she-"

"It's alright," she doesn't call him a traitor. She doesn't have to. "I understand. Summer asked you to play daddy for her kid. I get it." She turns away, back to the window and the very one sided game of tag happening beyond. "Don't come back."


"You won't be welcomed."


"... An' take care of my girls, will ya?"

Of all the ways he'd envisioned his life might turn out as a young man, never had he ever even dreamed it possible he might end up in a very platonic family unit with two paternal guardians acting as 'Uncle Qrow'. He'd truly believed it impossible for his sister to find the patience to let anyone in long enough to end up pregnant. And beyond patience, in the realm of mistakes, he'd fully expected she'd never be interested in keeping a child.

After all, nine months of vulnerability and weakness isn't quite lucrative to any lifestyle she's ever kept. But alas, Yang lives and breathes and were it not for her he'd still have a mute child on his hands and no way to help her. In that sense he doesn't mind so much the stab at his pride as a YOUNG MAN(thank you kindly) still VERY MUCH in the prime of his YOUTH when little Yang looks up at him one day and calls him uncle.

It doesn't lessen the agony of hearing Ruby call him that, however. No amount of preparation and willpower could have given him the fortitude to deal with the absolute betrayal. He wants to curl up in a ball and cry. Hadn't he loved her? Hadn't he cared for her for the past three years? To be left in the ranks of Uncle...

"Am I a cool uncle?"

"No," she'd clearly spent the first year of Yang's existence in the worst company. Oum damn her, Raven had ruined his dear, sweet Ruby! "Not until you'll teach me."

"Kid..." They'd had this particular conversation before. A thousand times over. She'd watched her mother die in this profession, clearly it wasn't very safe. Her lips purse, a brow quirks. She looks very much like an unimpressed Raven, so much so that it knocks him off kilter, stalling the regurgitate of conversations past.

"Uncle..." Ah! Agony, true pain! Like poison seeping through the skin, tearing him down from the inside. Even just plain old 'Qrow' would be better than this accursed moniker!

And. Ok, so it wouldn't be completely asinine. She had her Semblance unlocked and her mastery of it was almost as impressive as her massive reserves of Aura. It was positively oppressive when she was particularly upset. She was sharp as a whip and stronger than she should be - and if that had anything at all to do with her heritage, well... Weren't silver eyes things of legend? Would he be doing a disservice to her, her mother, by refusing?

"Yes," he decided. "Ok fine. Just stop with the Uncle business will ya?"

He remembers this agreement on the last mission. Blood spilling over her lips, eyes blazing and flashing like he'd never seen before. He remembers telling her he'd make her strong. He remembers telling her he'd make her invincible. Untouchable.

He remembers lying to a child.

She's still one now, shrieking and roaring as she tears through waves of Grimm like a hot knife through butter. Like a High-Caliber Sniper-Scythe through...

It's after the mission, after getting patched up, on the long, near-silent ride home that Ruby speaks to him without looking in his direction,

"At first I wanted to understand her. I wanted that first-hand experience, that 'Ah Ha!' that-that eureka moment where I finally understood why she'd take up something like Hunting. Something so dangerous you'd give up your life, abandon your family for the call..."

He says nothing, letting her find her words, work through her thoughts.

"I realized a few years back that no matter what I did I'd never understand her reasoning. She's dead and what I think is not what she thought. I'll never know why she chose it... But I do know it's an honorable thing. Selfless. Brave..."

He watches her. The way her face twists, sours as she spits out,

"Foolish!" But it must drain her for she slumps in her seat. Like a lifeless, boneless thing. Very much like what he'd almost been a few hours ago. What he would be without her intervention. Weary, she breathes, "You were right, Uncle. You and Raven both." She chuckles but it's entirely humorless. Then she sighs. Falls silent.


"Thank you, for... Everything. You went above and beyond for a bargain I never even held up my end of. Thank you, and... And I'm done. I can't do this. Won't do it. I'm not her. I'm no Summer."

This feels familiar. This feels like Raven but. But a few thousand times worse. It feels like he's losing her. He isn't he can't be he won't but-

"Where will you go?" His throat is dry and this comes out as a croak. The smile she spares him reminds him of himself, and of Tai, and of his sister, and of Summer. A smile decidedly too old and tired and watery for the scarred fifteen-year-old. More words tumble out, graceless and fretful, "It's not exactly safe out there."

She laughs and it's all Raven. A condescending, surprised sound that's much kinder than it could be. Where Crescent Rose rests in her lap, she runs fond fingers across its surface. Though she has eyes only for her second most cherished thing in existence - the first, naturally, being Yang - she speaks only to him when she mutters around a grin,

"I'm not exactly a heartbroken six-year-old now am I?"

Chapter Text

Glynda was not a fan of these late night debriefing sessions. On her list of 'Glynda's Super Duper Fun Things To Keep You Up At Night' it was hovering very low. In fact that list did not exist. It was, however, number one on 'Glynda's Gonna Poison Ozpin's Coffee And Here's Why'. It was numbers one through five. And one of these days she'd really do it instead of just thinking dirty thoughts about it.

He was tough, after all. World renowned Hunter and Headmaster of Beacon, he'd have to be tough. And if it was just a little poison, well... What did a little poison ever hurt except the old or feeble?

The thought was comforting, at least, as she sipped at her own coffee. This particular establishment was run by Faunus. They had a staff of Nocturnal Faunus for the midnight run that were all particularly pleasant. And as a bonus, Ozpin had just enough of a death wish that the staff were well and used to her and never bothered to bother with bothering her and smartly brought her their largest cup of coffee blacker than her mood.

It was strong and bitter and tasted distinctly like the burnt crusts at the bottom of an unwashed coffee pot. It was her favorite place to stop after the sessions for that exact reason. Ozpin could grind his own beans and brew his own batch but this swill would always be first in her heart.

And so it was, with the greatest reluctance, that Glynda gave up her dear cherished cup of joe with a long sigh born of irritations unbelievable and suffering untold at the sound of gunfire and explosions a few blocks over. Tonight of all nights, mere hours before she was supposed to meet the newest year of students for the upcoming semester, of course she'd run into trouble. Willingly!

She did not get nearly enough appreciation.

And she groans when she's still only just a block out. Half sprinting slows to a sluggish jog, to a crawling jaunt, to a complete stop. She stops and groans, huffs, sighs, really thinks about poison and shitty diner coffee and she could have tried for a few hours of sleep, you know? It might not be too late, she could just...

The blood curdling scream piercing the air should really make her want to continue her journey. It should be the thing that convinces her body into motion. Should be the deciding factor that will save lives and stop trouble and -

But this is Ruby. The petals out to here can't belong to anyone else, and sure Ruby is a little crazy but she's not without reason. Surely if she's maiming a person they rightfully deserve it. She'd never mortally wounded a civilian. Scared half to death, maybe, but physical altercations? She'd always seen them as beneath her. She could crush a Grimm skull with her bare hands(and a touch of supersonic speed), why bother playing around with fragile civies?

Another scream, and a sigh courtesy of herself, precedes her forcing herself to walk past the veil of rose petals and into the fray. Well. Closer to the fray. Ruby had extended her range. Again.

"Yo-you're crazy," she hears, faintly, as she draws closer. "You're fucking crazy!"

"You know what's really crazy," there's a pause and in it she can just picture Ruby, the way that a smile twists at her mouth, the brief blinding flash of her eyes as she lets them gleam. "Someone in your organization didn't warn you about me. THAT'S fucking crazy."

"Ruby Rose!" Manic laughter stops abruptly and panicked babbling starts up. She understands why when she steps into sight at last and- dear fucking Oum.

Crescent Rose is securely stuck in the asphalt beneath Ruby's most unfortunate opponent. The blade of it firmly pinning him there where it's buried through his lower spine and into said asphalt. She's leaning against it casually, expression neutral. Her opponent, half paralyzed and bleeding out quickly, even with his Aura fluctuating wildly around him, is reaching out towards Glynda with one hand.

The other, along with one of his legs, has already been removed.

"Yo-you gotta help me PLEASE th-this chick is fucking psycho she-" She doesn't even see the movement. One second she's eyeing him, pitying him, as he babbles for his life and then his head is rolling on the ground. It takes half a moment for her brain to process that she'd heard the sound of metal against stone, and then itself, milliseconds before.

"Whoops," Ruby chirps, cradling her weapon in its most compact form against her breast like a baby. "Butter fingers."

Ruby Rose has grown.

Ozpin hadn't seen hide nor hair of her for about six years and it's. Well it hadn't treated her unkindly, not exactly. She's not much taller, but she holds herself with a sort of confidence inherent in those that understand their fit in the universe, that are comfortable with themselves and the way they fit in their own skin. It makes her seem larger in that sense.

She is losing more sleep, though. The dark circles under her eyes are darker than ever, and though she wears smokey eye makeup and thick eye liner to make it seem less obvious, he finds it when he looks. That's probably why she wears such a distracting, vibrant shade of lipstick the color of her namesake. Makes one focus less on her half-lidded, too-tired eyes.

"You killed four men tonight," Is the first thing he utters into a silence that had stretched minutes. He pauses to sip at his ever-present coffee, studying her over the rim of his mug. She returns that courtesy, watching him with a cocked brow and a wicked grin.

"Correction," she takes a sip from the glass of milk she'd demanded of Glynda before he'd even entered the room. She doesn't touch the plate of cookies he'd brought with him, not yet. "I killed one man, and throughout the ordeal of killing him, three of his men committed suicide!"

He notes that young girls ten years her junior would be much better suited for the giggle she lets out. He mimics her previous expression but with decidedly less grinning and an extra brow hitching up. There's another slow sip from him. An obnoxious slurp from her. She slowly crunches into a cookie while she waits for him to speak and he finds himself missing that girl from a decade ago.

The one that'd become the youngest Hunter ever at the age of thirteen, who spoke freely and openly and was rearing and ready for fun and missions. The one that was respectful of her elders - except for Qrow, of course, but that was all (according to the man in question) thanks to Raven poisoning her against him as a, ahem, "wee babby" - and could rip through Grimm with vigor but would never imagine a world where she'd have to kill a person.

"Why did you kill him?" This isn't the question she'd wanted to hear, clearly. Her grin twitches, falls. She's. She's.

She's pouting.

Extremely skilled, decidedly one of the most dangerous beings in Remnant, grown ass adult - and she's crossing her arms and pouting like a child.

"Lien for your thoughts? " he drawls, setting the coffee down. It was beginning to leave a different type of bitter taste in his mouth. Well, that or Ruby. And Ruby... Ruby huffs, tosses her head so that the longer locks of her hair that'd fallen into her face - obscuring half of her positively petulant expression - are out of the way enough for her to side-eye him.

"So Gingy's important enough to be asked about but three clearly disturbed young men are relegated to no comment?" She scoffs, tilts her head so her nose is sticking in the air. "That's fucked up."

"You killed four men today!"

"Depends on who ya ask!" They are having two different conversations. They must be. Something was wrong. Did... Was there something in this coffee? Was he going crazy? Glynda had smiled very strangely at him when she'd passed him on her way out...

(Somewhere Glynda feels like a particularly fat cat sleeping in a ray of sunshine; absolutely, blissfully not having to deal with this shit.)


"Ozpin." Dear Oum she was doing it on purpose.

"You're in a lot of trouble for this," she OooOOooOooo's at him and he tries to recall a time he'd dealt with a person this difficult. He tries and he fails and it is spectacular. "Taking a mission to kill Grimm is one thing but murdering people in the street-"

"Ohohooo, oh no, no sir. You do NOT get to lecture me about anything!" She bursts up out of her seat to slam her hands on the table. He snatches up his mug, just in case she's feeling a little smashy-throwy...

"You and I both know that guy was bad news. His goons were collateral damage and I explicitly warned them to activate their Aura. Know who listened? Fucking Gingy. After watching his men explode into bits from the petals you'd think he woulda been smart enough to leave. And then he levels his fuckin' hand cannon - more like cane-on if ya know what I mean - at me! Me!"

She finally stops to take a much needed breath, pushing her hair back from her face with both hands. Leaving them tangled in the hair, staring, glaring, at the wall. At nothing. At everything.

"How much trouble are we talking?" she drops her hands as she drops back into her seat, grabbing a few cookies to begin dipping in her half finished glass.

"Not as much legal trouble as you'd think," he admits, sighs, and continues, "But you could have saved us ages of legwork if you'd kept Roman alive."

She shrugs, chews and swallows the mouthful of chocolate chip, milky bliss. Opens her mouth to say something... Then keeps eating and shrugs again.

"There's a war brewing, Ruby Rose. I do believe Roman was a part of it and would have provided invaluable information-"

"Well it's a good thing he's dead, then."

"Do you hear yourself when you talk or...?" Ruby rolls her eyes but obliges him,

"Roman wouldn't have talked," she insists. "Say I'd let him live, performed a citizen's arrest versus execution, he would have gone into custody BUT I have a thousand doubts They hadn't at least made plans for something like that." She must see the way his brows pinch because she abandons the milk and cookies entirely, leaning forward with a grin that is more grim than anything,

"That kind of haul in your backyard? That's showing off. That's pointing a finger at you and saying, 'We're here, it's too late to stop us cuz we are fucking here and we will do WHATEVER we want.' Face it, Oz. I'm not in trouble. You are." She sits herself back, kicking booted feet up onto the table as she threads her fingers together over her stomach.

"So go on, Ozzie. Tell me the real reason we're here right now. Tell me what you really want. Prostrate yourself, convince me."

Chapter Text

Yang had a bad feeling.

Well, she's had a bad feeling for a few days now, but today is the worst. Today her hair is beginning to frizz up. Not a lot just yet, probably not enough for anyone but her to notice, but. It's a bad sign. Bad things happen when her hair freaks out, it's almost a studied science. Or it fucking should be. She could predict the weather, earthquakes, various other unheralded arrivals of trouble like...

But this was getting worse. And she wondered if maybe it was just her nerves getting the better of her. You know, despite the fact that she didn't feel nervous at all. Nervous and trouble were two very different sensations and one did not nearly ruin her mane as much as the other...

But maybe she was just nervous! This was a big step up from Signal. This was initiation day. They'd find their teammates, form their teams for the foreseeable future. She was about to broaden her family and it was. Well it was strange but exciting and-

She's not nervous, something is wrong!

Her hair was going crazy now, enough to warrant being pulled back into a ponytail. Even if she prefers it down much more, it was getting out of hand. Something had happened, was happening, and it was big, bad, and heading her way. Or. Or she was headed for it? Maybe it was in the forest stretching out towards the horizon? It could be a bigger badder Grimm, something she'd never encountered? Or. Or...

Or maybe if this dork stopped fretting she wouldn't feel like tugging her hair out.

"Hey kid!" Someone finally snapped over the low buzz of murmuring first years at the scraggly blonde dude hedging around the platform that was supposed to be his. He was and had been stuttering questions at a nearly catatonic Professor Ozpin and holding up initiation in the process for nearly five minutes. "Either step up on the sigil like the rest of us, or go puke in the bushes like you did the whole ride here! I don't care what you choose, just stop pussyfooting around and make a decision."

She wants to feel bad for the guy, but truth be told his anxiety was not helping her nerves. And he'd vommed on her boots yesterday before they'd even touched ground in Beacon. He'd pretty much guaranteed she wouldn't be feeling too much sympathy for him with that fantastic maneuver.

Belatedly, under the pressure of being gaped at by literally everyone on the cliff's edge except Professor Ozpin - he was staring vacantly over the Emerald Forest - she realizes that she had been the culprit.

So agitated she'd verbally bitch slapped Vomit Boy. He was looking at her like she'd punched him in the stomach at full force. But he stopped talking and finally stepped up which should cue Ozpin to start talking... It doesn't. A well placed elbow nudge from Professor Goodwitch jolts Ozpin out of his stupor and he proceeds to intone his way through a very brief explanation of their task that Yang pays exactly zero attention to, attempting instead to catch her fellow blonde's eye and mouth an apology.

He won't even look up from his shoes. And her friends are staring at her still like she was the biggest bitch ever. Which she, now, officially, is. She really hadn't meant to say that out loud! Oh, Oum, What if he ended up as one of her teammates?! She'd just fucked herself. All her friends would avoid her, everyone would!

What have I done? she wonders, horror begging to twist her features. She won't let it. She grits her teeth and glares ahead, arms crossing. She digs her nails into her flexing biceps, trying to ground herself as platforms begin throwing other initiates into the air. This was fine. She was fine, they were doing it and she could freak out later, you know, when she wasn't surrounded by watchful, judging eyes.

It takes her almost a full minute to realize that her platform isn't moving. Won't move.

"Uhm," it's not her who speaks this time, though she had been consciously prepared to. "Professor...?" It's her, a pretty dark-haired girl and a shorter petite girl - wearing a combat skirt reminiscent of one Ruby wore years and years ago - left on the edge of this cliff. The short one is looking sour, the dark-haired one is confused and she's.

Well she doesn't quite know what to feel. It's a clash between slightly relieved and kinda nauseous because holy fuck what if snapping at that kid had just ruined her career?!

"Congratulations, " Ozpin practically muttered under his breath, clapping once half-heartedly. He really wasn't much of a people person, was he? Another sharp jab of elbow in his unprotected side, courtesy of a Glynda feeling very content with this turn of events, rouses him such that he doesn't look and sound so much like he's half-asleep or dying slowly. "You three have been hand chosen by myself and an... associate, of mine to take part in a program meant to fast-track Hunters. Yay."

He turns his back on them, watching the last figure fall beneath the canopy, miles and miles out.

Yang glances at her, err, teammates. They glance back. They all glance at Ozpin and a clearly put-out Glynda Goodwitch.

"So... ?" It's the little one this time. Without looking back Ozpin throws up a lazy wave, declaring,

"She's your problem now. Good luck." Ok. Sure. Right.

"Uhh, hi," Yang offers, turning to the two girls with the friendliest smile she could muster, very consciously aware of the fact that she'd just acted an asshole in front of these two. "I'm Yang. And I swear I'm much nicer than I've shown myself to be!"

"Hmph," Tiny scoffs, "If he made it here he's got the skill, obviously, but I really don't see him making it past the first week." Ok so maybe she wasn't the biggest bitch ever... Unless... Was that her way of trying to say it wasn't that big a deal? "And I'm Weiss. Weiss Schnee." Schnee... As in the Dust mega-corporation?

"That's incredibly rude to say," Well, Yang didn't say it but she was thinking it. She's grateful to, err, "You shouldn't just blindly assume such things." A name would be great to put with the disgruntled face staring Weiss down disapprovingly.

"So you think he's going to be the greatest Hunter of our generation, Miss...?" Weiss counters, just shy of sneering.

"Blake, and I didn't say that..."

"I mean, I'm less concerned with what's-his-face and more worried about us, personally," Yang offered, hoping to break this weird whatever was between these two girls. Weiss was just a touch snotty in defending what she'd said, sure, but the way Blake looked at her was... There was something unresolved there. "Like, aren't these usually four man cells? Where's our last-"

There's a sound very similar to that of Ember Celica shifting into gauntlet form behind them. She might be the slowest to turn, that nervous flutter in her stomach quieting at long last giving her a moment's pause. When she does turn it's just in time to watch the most familiar person let go of a handful of her own hair after, presumably, cutting it off using the blade of her weapon. As it blows away it turns into rose petals.

" You-" Blake and Weiss stop short, shooting incredulous stares at each other. They'd spoken at the same time just then. Weiss harrumphed, head jerking aside as her arms cross over her chest. Blake takes this as her cue to continue, but rolls her eyes first.

"What are you doing here?" Ok. How the fuck do these two know Her? How does She know Them!?

"Isn't it obvious?" The woman who is Yang's hero chuckles, smiling all soft and affectionate at Blake. As if old friends. Oddly, she finds herself grinding her teeth to keep an indignant shout at bay.

"You're our last person," Weiss chimes in, looking for all the world like she'd just discovered an untapped Dust mine full of crystals. "Completing the cell... But-"

"That's impossible," Yang spits out, tone too close to the snapping bite it'd been when she'd addressed Vomit Boy. "You're retired!" Her teammates cut glances her way, questioning. She wants to scream at them. Shriek and howl and stamp her feet,

Of course I'd know my own sister!

"It's like Ozzie said," the grin she throws at the man in question is all teeth, only for the purpose of biting. "We're fast-tracking you. Who better to do so than the fastest human alive?"

This is a dream. A good bad dream. A dream wherein the sister who's only sent letters and gifts for holidays and birthdays for the past four years is defying all basic sense and logic. Ruby hated Hunters. She complained about them constantly! The only good thing she'd said since she quit the business was that Yang did her proud by continuing to pursue it!

(Though, to be honest, that could have everything to do with the fact that Ruby coddled Yang incessantly whenever possible - Oh but she didn't bother to tell her about befriending future teammates, so that's a super duper great surprise thanks Sis!)

"So what are you kids up for? Are we crashing Initiation Day for the losers unlucky enough to not get chosen for my team ooor early lunch?"

Chapter Text

When Ruby learns how to talk, she asks for stories. And, being that the request is a simple thing to give unto her, Summer happily obliges.

There's a pretty bird that visits sometimes. Brilliant eyes of an enchanting shade of red Ruby can't name. Red is all she has but it doesn't feel enough. Glossy feathers black as pitch and a gleaming dark curve of beak ending in a most elegant, terribly sharp point.

"Pretty," she breathes, watches as the bird cocks it's little head. It makes no sound, only watches. She'd given it the same courtesy for every other visit, because it was such a pretty thing and birds, especially the pretty ones, did scare so very easily.

"Ruby!" And so this one did scare easily it seemed, for it was such a pretty, pretty thing. Ruby decides she'll ask mama what's better than pretty after dinner.

Beautiful. Gorgeous. Lovely works too, my precious one.

Ruby thinks mama doesn't like birds.

It makes her very sad.

"Mama," she feels bad about interrupting one of her mama's stories, but she'd said it again. That stupid bird. She pauses, squirms, admits hesitantly "I. I like birds very much." And quicksilver eyes blink down at her, confusion mars pretty - lovely, mama is lovely - features she hopes she might grow into some day.

"Is that so?"

Ruby nods.

"And why is that, little one?"

"They have feathers! And they're free!" What she means is, of course, that they have wings, that they can fly. "They're the most free!"

Mama laughs, and it's a beautiful sound but she shouldn't be laughing at this serious matter. Composing herself at Ruby's insistent whine, she asks,

"How so?"

And Ruby's ready to burst with the answer but stops at the last moment with her mouth hanging. She takes a breath instead, plants a hand on her chin and thinks for long minutes. Finally, she decides on

"Because they belong to the sky."

She'd wanted to say that it was because they couldn't be kept. But she'd remembered that they could. They could be captured and wings clipped. Shoved into cages to be kept as pets. She wanted to think that doing so killed them but mama had once told her everything dies. And she'd had to think about that, about freedom and death and,

"They live until they die," she added and her mother smiled but she didn't laugh. Her eyes were elsewhere. Distant. She says, asks, wonders on a low breath,

"Don't we all?"

"No," Ruby declares. "It's different." Her mama laughs again and when Ruby stubbornly reiterates that she loves birds her mama smiles warmer than anything and says she does too.

...I release your soul, and by my shoulder, protect thee.

"You're a bit of a big, blundering coward of a Qrow, aren't ya bro?"

"And you're a self-righteous, spicy cunt, eh Raven?" There's laughter between them and she doesn't know what those words mean but she had always been of a curious sort. She discards the question she'd been going to ask, pushing the nursery door open and poking her head inside,

"What does that mean?" They're both startled but only Qrow starts, jumping just slightly. Between the pair of wide, red eyes, it's Raven that softens first. Beneath a withering glare from her brother she chuckles and beckons Ruby to come closer. She does not hesitate. She's breast feeding Yang now, and they are her favorite people so it is very little to ask that she wander closer.

She likes when Raven cards her fingers through her hair. It reminds her of mama, and that always hurts to be reminded of her, but Raven accomplishes it painlessly. It must be great misfortune that Qrow is almost always the one to do it accidentally, painfully.

"That means, little one," though sometimes it isn't truly painless, the ache is just an echo. Easy to ignore. "That I'm a superior, viciously rude person with a penchant for cruelty." Ruby blinks, slowly. She nods even slower.

"Ok," she says, slowest of all. "I see."

Qrow wants her to call him father but she has absolutely no intention of ever doing such a thing. Having lived a lovely life with only one parental figure to speak of, she does not have any concept of what it means for someone to be her father. She understands, of course, that fathers are, for the most part, the male counterpart to mothers.

And if mothers take care of you, nurture and feed and love you, it would be fair to reason that Qrow might make a fine father. But she does not call him that because that is not what he is to her. There is no father. There has never been a father. She does not yearn for one.

She thinks Uncle is a fine thing, though Qrow pretends to hate it. She is not entirely certain if he's acting, but his terribly put-out demeanor always makes her laugh, and he smiles when she laughs. She likes Qrow smiling, especially because he gazes at her so sadly so often.

And so Uncle is fine, and that is what she calls him.

When teeth close over her forearm she doesn't scream. She grits her teeth and uses what's left of her Aura to keep them from biting right through. Though it's already in the flesh it is stopped by the bones beneath. She has experienced pain, all sorts, but this is something new something other something that is unreal. She can feel it gnawing on her, she can feel her Aura draining just keeping it at bay.

That thing that had always been there, inexhaustible. There's a panic in her but she fights it, forces it down. With a yell she abandons this tug of war between herself and this monstrosity, dropping her weapon and using a surge of that vermilion energy that is hers to shove her free hand through its chest.

Teeth withdraw as it throws its head back to let out an alien, inhuman sound like the shriek of metal rending.

There is no time to breathe, to pick up her weapon, to thank Oum that she still lives and curse him that such torture exists as the awful oozing savaged limb she has for a right arm. There is a blinding whiteness and a ringing in her ears - that some part of her realizes is caused by the scream of pure agony she lets out - as another foul, putrid creature sinks its teeth into her shoulder, shattering the leftmost side of her clavicle.

"I think she loved you," she can't be certain what prompts it. The drink, the melancholy atmosphere. The beautiful woman with eyes so red that keeps her company, reminds her so very much of Summer. And then she laughs and corrects herself, "I know she loved you. I thought it was Qrow for the longest time. She'd asked him to take care of me; why wouldn't I?"

Raven is careful in constructing the expression she wears. Cool, calm, neutral to this revelation. But Ruby knows this woman, sometimes better than she knows herself.

"She said as much?"

"No. She always complained that you were a stupid bird, actually," and she laughs at the half-offended, disgruntled look Raven can't stop from overcoming her.

"Well isn't that sweet," Raven mocks from behind the rim of her mug, taking a swig to wash away the bad taste of dearly departed Summer's truest feelings.

"I didn't think so either. She just didn't understand how she felt beyond absolutely frustrated with you. But she spoke of you most often, most passionately."

Raven says nothing. Ruby lets her. Eventually,

"You are a pretty dumb bird."

Raven scoffs but she's smiling a faint little distant smile. The one that overtakes her when Ruby talks about their favorite blonde. That soft affectionate thing she guards so well.

"Yeah. I am, huh?"

Chapter Text

She can't ever bring herself to visit Yang. She'd allowed herself to love that girl, the girl that's hers. It's hers and it's beautiful and.

And so she can't ever bring herself to visit Yang. Raven Branwen is no coward but she truly fears she might lose herself if she visits her bab- err, blood kin. There is a saving grace she's never deserved, though, in little Ruby Rose. Ruby Rose that might just be an exact replica of Summer. That might just be named after that stupid fucking nickname Summer had for her.

Sometimes she finds herself stewing in hatred for her brother, so certain he must be the father. Ruby is so like Summer it hurts and soothes her, but she's got far too much Branwen in her for it to just be a nurture trait... Right?

Ultimately she can never decide, and if Ruby is a Rose and a Branwen... It can't be all that bad.

Ruby is a wonderful child, and through her Raven can vicariously love her family. Stories, pictures, videos. She watches her child grow from afar and swears she does it because she has to. Because it's necessary. And Ruby, that loveable runt, she understands in a way that even her brother cannot. There is no blame, no disappointment in her eyes.

And it is all Summer.

"You won't believe this!" Ruby Rose is almost seventeen and if she could look more like Summer... Raven acknowledges her with a grunt that could be a sigh or an inquiring hum but is definitely a disinterested grunt. "Yang beat up a classmate!"

Sometimes Raven is surprised by the sound of her own laughter. Ruby looks very pleased with herself but wisely makes no comment and waits for Raven to calm.

"Explain," Oh, well color Raven surprised; Ruby could look more pleased with herself, the brat.

"I was picking her up from class today instead of Tai and, I dunno, apparently she mentioned I was a super famous Hunter," Ruby and Raven scoff and laugh, respectively, before Ruby continues, "And some little punk started making fun of her and calling her a liar."

"So she beat him up for that?" She's not disappointed, just a touch surprised. Branwen's are loyal, yes, but to that extreme...

"Not quite. Actually she put up with him all day. And because it was never like physical or truly abusive, only amounting to him contradicting a statement she made, the teachers didn't bother to intervene," Raven misses exactly none of her youth involving any time spent in a school environment and truly aches for her daughter that she has so many more years to suffer through

"So let me paint this picture for you," Ruby starts, grinning so big it must hurt her. "I'm walking up and I see that glorious, golden mane of hair and she catches sight of me so, naturally, she starts walking over. I can already tell she's on her last reserves of emotional strength, I'm talking tears in eyes." Her grin further bisects her face and it's half terrifying mischief.

"This," she pauses, struggling for words, laughs, and starts again, "This little fucker sees her sniffle and scrub at her eyes and must think to himself, 'Oh I've done it, I finally got her to cry,' because he laughs and she's SUPER ignoring him, she's in Ruby mode a hundred an' ten percent. She's not on Patch, not on Remnant. And he wants, oh he wants to be the reason she's crying, because lets be honest, our beautiful Yang is so very beautiful and he wants that attention."

More laughter, mixed with scoffing, from the both of them. Ruby goes on,

"So this little asshole, this absolute twat, he reaches over, grabs a fistful of Yang's most glorious mane, second only to your own, and yanks," oh. Oh. Oooh. Ohhhkaaay, alright, that makes sense now. She snorts, smiles, starts laughing. "YOU. CANNOT. EVEN. IMAGINE. I have it on video-"

"Oh you sweet beautiful child, you. Show me."

Yang had never looked more like her than the moment her eyes turn a hot, blisteringly furious red. She howls in rage and turns, body glowing yellow and flames fluttering from her hair to deck the little jerk. And while she's above hurting children, there's something very satisfying about watching him leave a crater the shape of his body in the wall.

"Oh that child of mine," she wants to see Yang now. Stroke her face, comb fingers through her hair, hold and love her and- "Was that the only reason you came?"

"Yeah," Ruby shrugs. "And I missed you."

The first time Ruby Rose kills a person she cries for hours. She comes to Raven, eyes puffy and streaming, nose disgustingly red and practically fountaining snot. She's blubbering and can't talk and Raven has never wanted less of this girl than she does in this moment.

She also has an acute understanding that she is the only person Ruby can turn to right now. Qrow and Tai would be unhelpful, Yang wouldn't judge but she wouldn't understand and couldn't offer more than confused comfort and hesitant questions. So many people wonder why, always have to ask, to know. Investigate. Punish. Reward.

Murder was only bad sometimes. Depending on a nation, a species, words on a paper. Depending on nothing. Murder was murder, everything died, sometimes it just got help.

She doesn't say any of this to Ruby, who stands struggling to control herself and hiccuping, gasping for air. She waits for Raven to laugh or condemn. Distraught but patient, broken but knowing. Raven sighs, rolls her eyes in their sockets and her head on her neck. She doesn't look at Ruby as she throws her arms open, just braces herself for impact.

This is a wise decision, though it fails to stop the ground from its waiting, unforgiving embrace as a super sonic teenager crashes into her.

Fucking Oum, she's like a bullet.

It's actually a very short time that Ruby traps her there, shaking and weeping against her shoulder. She pets the child's head, hums a song she doesn't know. Yang had never been much of a fussy babe, but she hadn't gone down for naps very easily. This had always worked.

And so when it does work and Ruby apologizes as she withdraws, scrubs at her face with a sleeve, uses the other sleeve to try and scrub at the, ugh, she got it all over her shirt!

"Ruby," she bites out, stops herself, sighs again. "Please stop." Ruby begins to croak out another apology but Raven makes her stop.

This night she offers Ruby drink and conversation and, until the sun rises, they speak. It's the longest she's spoken to another individual in one sitting in years. Maybe the longest ever.

And she misses Summer. Deeply and terribly. She's ashamed to admit that she's relieved when Ruby agrees with her idea to travel extensively. All it had taken was,

"You can't worry so much about everyone else all the time! You have to spread your wings someday, little bird."

Years later Ruby Rose admits that Summer Rose had loved her.

And she misses Yang.

But when she asks after her, Ruby hesitates. Chokes out halting laughter,

"I, uh, I'm not too sure. I write an', ya know, send gifts. Stuff like that, but. I, uh. I dunno. I guess I've just been, ya know, busy..." And Ruby looks away and smiles but her brows are pinched.

Raven thinks that, perhaps, there might be just a touch too much Branwen in her companion.

Chapter Text

"Hey!" She feels a headache begin to tap at a place directly behind her left eye. "Hey I know you!" She almost doesn't stop. She almost keeps walking and pretends she doesn't hear it. She almost flips this person the bird. But she can hear Jacques' seething voice already, reprimanding her for yet another unladylike stunt pulled in the public eye and-

She does not fit a simpering smile to her face. She refuses. The expression she wears is just shy of absolutely unimpressed. And-

This person. She. She looks really familiar...

"You're Weiss Schnee! I've seen you perform, your voice is positively enchanting!" This. This is not what she had expected. Her eloquent response as a silver-tongued heiress of what was once a proud company, that still could be if she was just patient enough and kept Him pleased, was


This woman, who couldn't be older than her sister - looks younger, even - does not smile with teeth. Only a gentle lift of lips, a parting of them so she might chuckle softly,

"Don't hear that too often, huh?"

"Ah," she struggles, stutters, and finally, she speaks, "Uh, no I, I really don't. Especially considering that event was more for promoting the SDC than anything to truly do with what untapped talents I might hold." Her eyes roll, find silver that is sad but not pitying.

"That's unfortunate, it really was truly lovely, and you are quite talented. Your father is a fool," and that's the harshest this eerily familiar stranger speaks yet. She does not like Jacques Schnee. But - and Weiss smiles without forcing it even a bit - she does not like him either. "And it was lovely to have gotten to meet you, Miss Schnee, I'm afraid I must take my leave. I can only hope I might be lucky enough to run into you again."

"Yeah, you too..." She's numb in returning the pleasantries before she can stop herself and the woman turns away with one last smile and a wave and- "W-wait!" The woman, this stranger with eyes that Weiss knew but could not place, stops.

"Yes?" Her smile is easy and practiced as she turns right back around and so damn familiar it burns Weiss up.

"I know you," Weiss barks. The courtyard is blessedly, strangely empty and she's never been more glad to drop the niceties, to glare a person down, to stalk closer and study her and - being short and a wildly underestimated beauty of a powerful woman, she hates that this woman is taller, smiles down her nose but refuses to oblige Weiss by tilting her chin down. She hates that most are. Most do.

She despises it. It makes her insides twist and hurt so much she wants to.

"Do you now?" Everything about her is casual poise. The way her shoulders roll back, head cocking, teeth peeking just beyond the curve of her lips. It's casual and absolutely a show. This. This woman knows why-

"Why do I know you!" She hates most of all when she hears Him creeping into her voice, into those moments that everyone should be allowed. The way she can hear him chiding her even now, a low murmur looping in her mind. She hates so very much-

"Maybe Winter has mentioned me?" The Stranger strokes her chin, hip cocking and-

"How would you -" There's a sneer on her lips and bitter venom on her tongue and she stops and steps back and breathes. Composes herself, quiets that background noise in her brain. "You're in the military."

The Stranger scoffs, shoves her hands into the pockets of her criminally short shorts. Ok. So not a war dog. Then-

"You're a Hunter." The Stranger smiles and there's more teeth but it's kinder than any of the other smiles she's been offered so far. It's... "You... You were a Hunter?"

"Ah, and the girl gets it!" She looks awfully young to have quit... She looks, she looks so-

Weiss gasps so hard she chokes on her own spit and proceeds to start coughing violently. This stranger this most familiar person this fucking Hero of Man-

"You're," Weiss coughs, swallows, breathes, bursts out, "You're Ruby Rose!"

"Ah, so Winter did mention me," and then she laughs and straightens up and affects the most proper voice, "Yes, tis I, the illustrious Ruby Rose, in the flesh!" She bows at the waist, murmuring thank you, thank you, to no-one.

"No, I -" and Weiss stops herself. Stops the admission that Winter becoming a Huntress isn't what had inspired her, it was Ruby Rose herself. Her... father, had wanted to use her in an ad campaign and Ruby had been years younger than Weiss was now and she'd, she'd looked Jacques in the face and laughed.

Weiss remembers Ruby Rose. She remembers well and,

"Yeah," Weiss breathes, puts a smile on her face that must look as dazed as she feels. "Yeah Winter mentioned you. Is that how you got into the show?" That performance had been very exclusive. Close friends of the family and business partners mostly.

"You know it," she nodded and grinned, the veneer of showy playful acting she'd affected melting away and leaving this slouching woman making herself smaller, more approachable. A woman that put on airs because it was necessary, because it kept the eyes off her, because,

"I-I'm really glad you came over," she admits in a rush, "I've. I've always wanted to meet you!"

"Likewise," Ruby laughs pulling a hand out and, it twitches and she shoves it into her own hair, pushing it back and it just tumbles back into place and if she's even a fraction as nervous as Weiss that surely does make the heiress breathe more easily. "I uh, I also saw your other performance, that's what I really came over about."

"My other-"

"With the Gigas."

There are no words.

"But. How did." There are no words.

"Winter," Ruby laughs and Weiss cannot. She's breathing and thinking and those are suddenly the greatest tasks she's ever had the nerve to undertake at the same time. "I found it impressive, very impressive." She notices that Ruby is close and can't quite remember who closed the distance this time. She would swear she hadn't but-

"What was most impressive to me," Ruby admits in something that isn't quite a whisper so much as a low rumble of sound in her throat, "Whoever edited it did a fantastic job of making this look like a result of that encounter." And she's too close, close enough that as she rumbles this, the pad of one callused thumb brushes over That where it juts out beneath her left eye.

And there is no air. Weiss cannot breathe, cannot function. His voice is back and roaring and her own voice rises in a scream to answer it and so that is the state of her mind and she reels from it. Ruby Rose backs away and her grin is back and her airs are back and her eyes know.

They know.

And everything goes quiet and Weiss suddenly feels hot and cold and terribly, absolutely dreadfully angry. A soft chuckle is all her warning before Ruby Rose is gone and petals remain and Weiss remains and she does not cry so she won't. But she stews and she hates.

Weiss hates so very much.

Chapter Text

Blake Belladonna has had only pleasant interaction with one Ruby Rose. And sure it'd started out with her getting brained by volume four of Ninjas of Love, but ultimately she'd made a friend out of the encounter and, though she certainly hadn't come here seeking any, she was glad to have one. She wondered if she should consider her other teammates - Yang and The Heiress - in that very small group, bump it up to a nice even three.

They just seemed so...

They were both glaring at Ruby and the woman had, as far as Blake knew, done absolutely nothing to either of them to deserve it. She already didn't like the Schnee girl and the girl certainly wasn't doing anything to make herself any more likeable than she already isn't and Yang... Well, the jury was still out on Yang; she'd been looking a bit weary and twitchy right up until Ruby had revealed herself, so...

But now she just seemed so angry and it was significantly less charming than the easy grin Ruby leveled on her. On all of them, of course. Her teammates were glaring, and they probably had their reasons, but Ruby, who was more than likely their team leader, had asked them a question.

"We ate breakfast not that long ago," Blake starts off, quietly. All eyes on her. Well. Professors Ozpin and Goodwitch watch screens and murmur to each other, but as far as her team goes! "And while we might have been hand chosen for whatever reason, and therefore already a fully sanctioned team, I don't think we should be so quick to opt out of this."

Ruby looks at her like she's done something wonderful, something to be proud of. And while Weiss watches Ruby, Yang turns a sour look her way. An absolutely unfounded glare, with a touch of red eyes. Blake will not flinch, does everything in her power to keep her ears from laying flat. She doesn't like half of this team already. She's not certain this was such a good idea anymore...

"Well put Miss Belladonna," Ruby chirps, clapping once and rubbing her hands together. "She's right, of course. I'll be down to drop some lien on a sweet, delicious lunch but we really should participate," she pauses and everything soft about her smile becomes... Decidedly not so soft as she turns it on Ozpin's back. "Isn't that right, Oz?"

His shoulders tic up in something that isn't quite a flinch when she calls to him and he stops murmuring to his companion almost immediately. There's a very long pause that can't be more than eternity before he says,

"The bonds you make today will be the foundation for your every future endeavor as a team. Teamwork isn't about the skills you all hold and how well they mesh together, it's about you as people and how you interact." Which might be the most he's said since his lackluster introduction yesterday. And Ruby's sharp smile full of blunt teeth softens again as she laughs,

"Yeah, what he said," there's a very soft sigh Blake wonders if the others hear, but Ruby continues, "So! I think we should put to vote exactly who we partner with, yeah?" There is no time for any of them to agree or disagree, as Ruby hums quietly and immediately points to Yang and Weiss in turn, "You an' you are partners and I'm with tall, dark and mysterious over here."

Yang spares her another withering glare for no reason, arms crossing and, well, she and The Heiress will surely get along well. Thank Oum Ruby had chosen her.

The woman in question leaves a trail of petals as she seemingly teleports between the blonde and her blue-eyed partner, grabbing both and then they all become a blur as, well she's not really sure what happens but presumably it involves Ruby moving incredibly fast and then she.

Well, she tosses the two ladies off the edge of the cliff with relative ease and sends them flying just about as far as the platforms would have if they'd gone off. She cups a hand over her eyes to watch them go, sighing wistfully,

"Flying is nice, isn't it?" She asks, err. Well she doesn't exactly ask Blake or anyone really. And then she laughs to herself and hops off the edge of the cliff, laughter and raucous whooping echoing back, growing quieter as she falls, "See ya at the bottom!" Blake cranes her neck to watch as Ruby hits the leaves and disappears beneath.

"Um," she turns, slowly, back to the two professors, hesitating only momentarily before asking, "I'm not certain I'll be privy to this sort of information but... Why us, exactly?" Ozpin spares her a stare that could not feel any less than it doesn't. She fumbles for more, "Ah, I just mean that we aren't really... Err, we-we don't..." She finally stops with a sigh, imploring they might understand her with little more than the look in her eyes.

Ozpin is silent, considering her only briefly and turning away again to leave it up to Professor Goodwitch to answer, which she does but only after scowling at the man,

"Actually any answers you're looking for can be found below," she indicates the general area where Ruby disappeared with a nod of her head. "She's the one who chose you all. We gave her all the information we had on, everyone, and you three were her picks. Maybe she saw something in you, but beyond that I have no idea why."

She shrugs and it's not very helpful but it does directly contradict what Ozpin had said. That he and Ruby had picked them. He'd allowed her to do it and. She couldn't fathom any reason why he would. He was the Headmaster, he was the one supposed to be picking the teams and if Yang was to be believed, he had allowed a retired Huntress full access to all the information on every single new recruit for little more than because he felt like it.

Because that whole "fast tracking" thing? That sounded like a half-cocked idea he'd come up with on the spot.

"You should get moving, Miss Belladonna," the man intoned, savoring a quick mouthful of coffee. "I doubt she'll leave you, but it's almost never a good idea to bore Ruby Rose. Trust me."

When Blake finds her way down the cliff she stumbles across Ruby lounging, once again, in the branches of a tree. She's kind-of straddling it, or she had been originally, but she's since lain back, pillowing her head with her arms, legs kicking booted feet through the air. She's smiling and humming and her eyes are closed and no one is here except them so Blake doesn't worry too much and just teases,

"This must be a habit for you, lurking in trees," and Ruby makes a noise like a chuckle but she doesn't stop humming or even open her mouth to let the sound escape. "All that's missing is-"

And one of Ruby's hands flash out, waving about her slightly damaged copy of Ninjas of Love vol. four.

"Well," she laughs, soft and airy. "You certainly come prepared. Just don't throw it at me this time, hmm?" The laugh follows Ruby as she lurches up, rolling off the branch and landing in a crouch in front of Blake. The dirty, tattered remains of what had once been a vibrant red hooded cloak flutter back into place over her shoulder blades but not before she catches sight of what must be Ruby's weapon.

She hadn't noticed that yesterday but. Well she's not so proud that she can't admit she had paid very little attention to the things on Ruby's person at that time. Now she takes stock of the woman. And maybe Ruby doesn't notice, maybe she doesn't care the way Blake scrutinizes her, but she does allow golden eyes to make a slow journey over her person without comment.

From the dark scuffed boots that stop halfway up her calves to the stockings held up by - and the straps coming out from beneath the hem of her shorts must be indicative of the presence of - a garter belt. Her cream blouse is tucked into her shorts, and over top of the top she wears a dark red leather vest with cross stitching. Armor? Convenience? Style? Blake can't be certain. The arms of the blouse stop just above her elbows, exposing her forearms, one of which is vibrant with tattoos decorating the flesh... The, ah, rather wickedly scarred flesh.

And while she won't ask just this day, she does think that perhaps the tattoos are meant to distract from old wounds.

Metal knee and elbow pads, fingerless gloves with metal plating all over them, the tattered cloak that's not a cloak and in fact is a more of a glorified hood with two hand lengths of fabric left on it and two belts of bullets slung low on her hips complete the outfit and Ruby is all smiles and raised brows, arms akimbo by the time gold meets silver.

"What's the verdict, Doc?" She lets her hands fall in a sweeping gesture to herself. "Am I battle ready?" She doesn't blush(she might be blushing) absolutely not, and she doesn't trust herself to speak(she stutters, helplessly trying to explain the perusal) either, so she just nods once.

"Great! Come on Kitten, let's see if we can find the kids, eh?"

Chapter Text

"Hey kiddo," Yang is hard lines and tensed muscle, shirt half off and back turned to the intruder. She doesn't snap around embarrassed like she did when she was younger, or squeal and run over and ram into a body shaking with joyous laughter like she did when she was younger still. She finishes shucking her top and continues pulling off the rest of her gear.

She's bent to pull off her boots when the intruder speaks again,

"Are we gonna talk?"

"Oh are we? Am I allowed? Is that ok now?" She whips around and throws these into a face that is completely, infuriatingly calm and neutral. "Why don't I do some talking first?"

"If that's what-"

"How about, fuck you, first off, " she bites out, prowling closer. "Secondly, go fuck yourself," Ruby hardly blinks and the words taste like ash on her tongue from the fire burning up her insides, "Third, oh hi nice to meet you I'm the little sister you chucked off a cliff a few hours ago, but, hey, thanks for the heads up you'd even be in town FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FOUR YEARS."

Her eyes are hot and she knows they're red, heat warps the air around her but, still, Ruby is calm. Hadn't flinched. Hardly blinked. And her eyes are hot so hot burning they're,

"Oh," and finally Ruby's face crumbles, eyes going wide brows furrowing, mouth twisting up as she tries to reach out for Yang. "Oh please don't cry I-"


Yang slaps her hands away, fire leaping from her hair. She's so mad she's shaking, she's almost hyperventilating, she's, "Fuck YOU, where WERE YOU?" She's shouting and her teammates can probably hear them on the other side of the door Ruby obligingly retreats to lean against. "Where the fuck-" her voice cracks and she scrubs at her eyes and she feels cold.

It's long seconds of scrubbing that doesn't stop her tears and she's losing it like she's-

"I'm sorry little duck," she hates that. She hates that name and she chokes on air. She chokes on a sob. She chokes and she keeps choking on it and it fucking hurts so much. It's not fair. Ruby isn't allowed to touch her, to stand on tiptoes and try to wrap her up in her arms like the old days.

She makes a noise like strangled, hysteric laughter and half-heartedly tries to struggle away from the grip Ruby has on her.

"T-too sho-ort. Stupid." And Ruby laughs all soft and sweet and Yang isn't letting this go just yet, she's still fucking angry she just. She sniffles and the tears rush and she leans down to bury her face in Ruby's neck. So there she is, wrapping her arms around Ruby in the ensuite, crushing the smaller woman and shaking them with heavy, silent sobs. The loudest sound she makes for minutes are heaving breaths, and Ruby just strokes her head and hums and.

And when it's all over she just wants to sleep and kinda keep crying for maybe a day or three but she knows if she keeps going she'll not have the energy to wash her hair. A Herculean feat all its own.

"When did you get so short?" She croaks out, and it'd sounded like a joke in her head, but if falls from her lips flat and weary.

"Around the time I became the awful sort of cunt that doesn't visit her baby sister for four years, I think," She likes to think that Ruby had also meant that as a joke but. Well it's not exactly a joke is it? Still, she laughs once, pulls back. This time when she reaches up to rub away tears they aren't replaced. She sniffles, coughs to clear her throat, and gains a modicum of control over herself.

She sighs then, breathing out the last of the embers in her lungs. And she is calm now and Ruby watches her from her place back against the door, with cautious, concerned eyes. That hurts and helps and she shakes her head, fitting a smile to her face for the sake of-

"Uh-uh, nope you stop that right now. You're not supposed to smile like that, that's reserved for me, Qrow and R-" Yang knows what, who, Ruby's going to say. Her smiles dips, drops, or maybe it just trades faces. Ruby finishes gently, "And Raven. Yangs are not allowed to smile like that, I'm afraid."

"Is. Is she. Have you...?" Ruby knows her so well and that is a wonderful, helpful thing.

"I saw her a few months ago. Right around, in fact just shortly after, the time a bar in Vale mysteriously went up in flames..." Yang blinks, mouth flapping uselessly for seconds before she splutters,

"Th-that wasn't me!" If Yang knew Raven like Ruby knew Raven, she'd know that the way her brows arc up and lips curl is a startlingly accurate replica of a look Raven wears quite well and quite often. "How did you know it was me?" And there's the smile supposedly reserved for Ruby, Qrow and Raven.

"Ah, well. Just because you didn't see me doesn't me I wasn't there!"

"...You were working for-"

"I was working for Junior, yes. Got fired too," Well duh. If she'd been working for that perv when Yang had almost crushed his balls, it was probably as part of the security detail she'd decimated. Ruby would take any work if it paid well enough. "I think the best part was getting to wear one of those sweet, sick-ass suits!"

And Yang can feel the anger still there beneath her skin, bubbling and boiling and ready to scream. She can taste fire on back of her tongue and she can feel the words crowding her mouth. Accusations and demands and. She blows out a breath, and with it all her steam. All the vim, vigor, and vinegar that she needs to tear Ruby a new one. With the loss, she sags, lips lifting in a smile that's much less sad and more just plain old tired.

"You always did look nice in a suit," Yang admits, and, yup, she sounds just about exactly as exhausted as she is.

"Let's face it," Ruby shrugs, grin smug and shining and full of teeth. "I look good in anything."

"Yeah," Yang's jaw cracks on a yawn nearly as indomitable as that Nevermore from the Emerald Forest. But, ah, Ruby can defeat anything can't she?

Except a bad fucking habit of leaving people hanging...

"I really need to bathe Rubes," Yang forces out around another yawn.

"I know, I was, err, well I wanted to know if you needed or-or wanted..." Yang tries to be patient, really she does. But standing here waiting for Ruby to find her words was proving itself quite tiring and she feels her eyelids drooping dangerously low.

"Can I help you wash your hair?"

She must be dreaming already, or just damn loopy. She snorts, laughter shaking and slightly waking her.

"I'm seventeen," she informs Ruby, tries to quirk up a brow but every second longer she's not getting pounded by torrents and sloughs of water from that divine looking shower with its three shiny heads... "I think I'm a bit old for that now. Nevermind how old you are too be offering."

Apparently you're never too old to pout like a petulant preschooler.

"Get out, I'm not forgiving you yet and you aren't doing yourself any favors by making this process take any longer."

Yup. Never too old.

"Finnne-uh!" She snorts with laughter again, yawning and groaning and rubbing at her tired eyes. Crying always has a way of sucking the energy right out of her. When she withdraws her hands, Ruby's right there in front of her, close enough to touch. And she's serious and her eyes look huge and shiny, like Ruby might cry, and she says, "I love you, Yang. More than anything. I may be getting paid for this little hiccup in my plans for the next four years, but if you weren't here I wouldn't be."

And she leans up to press a chaste kiss to Yang's cheek, squeeze her arms tight around the weary blonde's shoulders. Yang leans into the hold for just a second. Loving it. Hating it. Mostly hating that she was allowing it. And when Ruby draws back its with that smile. The one she feels safe in labeling the Branwen Smile. And then Ruby leaves.

Tears burn at her eyes but she tilts her head back to keep them glossing the surface, obscuring her view,

"No. No more of you. Not today."

Chapter Text

Ruby Rose is a task master to the highest degree, and that's the kindest thing she can say.

"You have to do it faster," the woman insists, walking a slow circle around Weiss' prone form. She's battered and bruised, covered, absolutely drenched in sweat and if there's ever been a time in her life that she's felt more chewed up and spit out she surely can't remember it.

"I'm," she sways where she sits, Aura low and body on the verge of collapse. "I'm trying!" Ruby sighs, coming to a stop in front of her. She mops sweat from her brow, pushing hair half-plastered to her forehead back out of her face so that the glare she's still got the energy to throw can be leveled upon the supremely unimpressed ex-Hunter

"And you are failing. Spectacularly I might add!" Weiss had admired this woman for so long. She'd had a poster of Ruby on her wall (well... Maybe more than just a poster)when she was young. She'd trained years and put up with nothing but disbelief and scorn at every moment just to stand on some sort of ground with this woman. To be able to look back and say, 'Yeah, this was hard but it was all worth it!'

It makes her jaw clench and teeth grind and if He were here he'd already be reprimanding her for such a sight and it makes her want to scream. She can feel it inflating her lungs, swelling in her chest with every short breath she sucks in.

"I'm doing my best-"

"I've seen your best, Weiss, and this is surely not it." She wants to hit Ruby. Wants to hit her and hurt her to match the way her insides writhe and twist with something akin to agony. And Ruby sighs again. She draws it out until all the air in her lungs is gone, takes a deep breath, and keeps with exaggerating as she lowers herself to the floor, leaning back on her hands and rocking her feet restlessly.

Only after she empties her lungs a second time does she stop and watch Weiss watching her.

"You don't like me, do you?" It's only because Weiss is so very tired that she lacks any of her usual reserve - she snorts. Ruby smiles, like the one from the first time they'd met. No teasing no teeth. "Hmm, thought as much. Mind telling me why?"

"What? You can't tell?" If she could scoff any harder she would but she's trying and she can only scoff this hard. So far. Ruby keeps smiling, though. Blinks at her.

"I can guess," she says after allowing the silence to stretch uncomfortably long. Her teeth start to flash just beyond the edge of her lips. "But I'm not a mind reader, Weiss. Use your words, hmm?"

"You're kind of a bitch aren't you?" is the first thing that pops out of her mouth and if it weren't for the way all those pretty teeth show themselves off in the biggest grin, Weiss might have regretted that word choice. But alas, Ruby does grin like a pleased child and Weiss feels more word vomit begging to escape.

She also feels very unwilling to stop it.

"The first time we met, you acted in such a manner as to present yourself as something you aren't. And ever since then you've been this other person and I can't stand it. I hate dishonesty more than anything an-"

"Ooh, whoa slow down there princess," and very quietly Weiss corrects her, Heiress, "I may be a lot of things, and in fact nothing you've claimed thus far has been wrong barring one thing - I have never been dishonest with any of you. I was the one that sat you all down to tell you what's really going on with this team. Any questions you've all had I've answered honestly - You know how many people I've killed, for Oum's sake! You really think any other Hunter at this school could say the same?

"So tell it to me straight, Weiss. Not that you hate me, tell me why?"

"You're selfish and crazy! I was awake that night, I saw how you, how you incapacitated Blake just because you wanted to talk," and she doesn't say it but by the widening of Ruby's eyes she only thinks, 'Hah! Gotcha!', "And the way you hit your sister and Blake around in sparring but dare to tell them how much better they're doing but all you ever do, all you ever fucking bother to do to me is remind me how much garbage I am!"

And her eyes aren't wide and surprised now. She's smiling the melancholy smile that will randomly creep upon her features sometimes when she's distracted or thinking or talking to Yang. She's smiling and its so far from happy and it hits something deep inside her below the heart. That Ow complex that lives at the center of her being.

"Do you remember the first session? When I asked all three of you to attack me like your lives depended on it?"

She does, in fact, remember that day very well. She remembers the shockwave that reverberated out from the single strike it took to put Yang out of commission. She remembers watching her give Blake only enough time to create clones but blowing through those without effort until she got bored enough to take Blake down with a much lighter punch than the one that'd almost left Yang with a concussion. She especially remembers how easy it was for Ruby to hand her her own ass at the end of it.

"At the end of it, I congratulated you all on your effort," See! Weiss knew she could scoff harder! It'd taken a little effort but, by Oum, she'd done it. "... And that was the reaction I got from you. Exact reaction. You scoff, every time I say something nice about you, you scoff."

That's. That's not true it's not like she always... Well, maybe sometimes...

"I don't think you're garbage Weiss and I've never thought that. But would you like to know why I don't praise you, why I stopped trying? The only time you ever believed me was that first we met."

That's... That's not exactly...

"And you're right, I'm very selfish. I'm more than just crazy! But you all? You all belong to me and I made that clear day two. I gave you day one as your last day of freedom and I've treated you like mine since then. Of course I'm selfish over something that belongs to me. Who isn't?"

"That isn't what I'm-"

"It is exactly what you're talking about. I don't always treat you guys like the lovely young ladies you are and despite that's because I see you as warriors, you are ladies. So, I'm sorry if I've ever made you feel any less wonderful than I truly think you are but Weiss? Can you honestly look me in the face and tell me you deserve my praise?"

She hates that melancholy smile. What kind of idiot smiles all the time, smiles when they're sad? What-what kind of fucking-

"You're no Gelè, Weiss. You're a Schnee," she makes a sound that might be a gasp and. Her throat has swollen up, making it all but impossible to breathe right, while that smiling dunce continues, "You don't ask for things to be given to you, you earn them through sweat and blood..." And she does that thing that only she is capable of in moving so quickly she might just be teleporting, so that they're shoulder-to-shoulder. "Tears."

She's not crying.

She's NOT.

Just because that's the nicest thing anyone has ever said...

You're no Gelè.

No Gelè.

No Gelè.

His voice is silent, like it so rarely is. Not even a low murmur. Not even background static. And she's not crying, sweat just got in her eye and it stings fiercely.

"You are absolutely exceptional," Ruby doesn't remove herself and if maybe Weiss leans into her neither of them say anything. "And if I had it my way I'd coddle you and the rest like you're a bunch of bumbling children. I don't like training you up for what must be done, but, oh how it must be done."

"We've all got our duties," Weiss murmurs, and there's a very slight rocking from her companion as Ruby chuckles quietly.

"Don't we?" She doesn't like that smile, she really doesn't. But maybe she doesn't hate it. She sighs, grunts with the effort it takes to push her aching body up and she absolutely does not smile when she offers Ruby a hand.

"One more round?"

Chapter Text

Ruby has unresolved anger issues.

Qrow hadn't ever thought too much about it until they shoot her video. It'd been his idea, of course, to film her 'in the now' so greater schooling institutes and future comrades might have a basic understanding of what she was capable of. She was twelve (and a half, she always insisted). It'd seemed like a good idea at the time - shit, it was a good idea; it had set a precedent that only the best and boldest ever dared to follow - but it was in reviewing the footage of his charge that he notices these things he'd been willing to overlook.

She was very serious the whole time, never smiling though her eyes gleam and dance with the want of it. And that's good, that's professional. What isn't so professional is the way she leaves some of her prey in pieces but still breathing. Well, it's not that doing so is unprofessional so much as it is just disturbing. And it's just. It catches him off guard.

Makes him think.

Nobody else, none of his peers or even prospective Hunters, seem to notice the behavior. Or if they do, they don't say anything. And so, despite that he now notices, and thinks, about the way she's sometimes... extra excited, on missions, he doesn't worry about it. If it was an issue, if it was really an issue, she'd talk to him.

It's not a problem though. It's never a problem, not really. They become partners and its wonderful. Feels like family, like a home that's always with him. A home that talks, and does just about everything else, at the speed of light. Missions are easy with her at his back and.

And then it happens. The first time his Misfortune strikes at the heart of him. Well... The first time it matters too much

It's a shit fuck of a mission. Everything was going wrong and he'd be damned but the weight of his Semblance weighs on him heavy and he blames himself for what happens. He doesn't watch her go down but he hears her wail and then, then he watches. He watches her tear Grimm apart with one hand. The other arm is limp. And he knows it's his fault, he knows.

At the end of it he finds her straddling a Beowolf, beating its head in and still screaming but in fury. She jerks her elbow back to break his nose when he tries to pull her away and lurches back to the twitching body. She continues until it's body dissipates.

And there she is just hours later, his young charge, his most capable partner, covered, practically smothered in bandages. Smiling but serious as she demands,

"I need more training." He almost wishes she'd tell him she's calling it quits

This will come nearly a year later, and he will regret the thought immensely.

Velvet Scarlatina is not having the best day. Her team was running late for lunch - again! - and one of those snotty new kids was bothering her. She didn't like to think like that, it was so terribly rude but... He was just so awful. He was absurdly horrible and mean for absolutely no reason and if Coco or Fox or 'Hashi would just hurry up...!

And then the little jerk grabs her ear and yanks so hard she cries out and begs him to stop.

Verbal abuse was easy - she was a Faunus and this wasn't exactly Menagerie - to deal with and she was quick, so even slipping out of situations she'd deem closer to a chance of getting physical still wasn't anything difficult. The problem was that she'd shown up early to grab a table for her team and she'd been trying to make herself seem smaller under all the stares and she just hadn't been paying attention!

And then, blessed, he lets go of her ear. She immediately reaches up to cradle the poor abused thing, turning a watery glare back on the boy and his sycophants. She blinks, ear slipping from her fingers, glare sliding off her face. The jerk - his name escapes her, Korrin maybe? - who must be well over six feet and bulky to boot, is being held up by a young woman who can't top more than five-and-a-half feet.

By the back of his neck.

With just one hand.

She blinks again, a sound like a half-formed thought falling from her lips,


"Well, well," the woman croons, twisting her wrist to bring Kevin to face her. Velvet wonders if she's a professor. She's not wearing a uniform and she doesn't look like a student, balancing cat-like on the weapon she had somehow silently inserted into the floor. "Aren't you just stereotypical? What? Gonna pour milk on her head? Knock her books out of her hands? Ruin her backpack?"

"W-wha-... Ya better let go of me or-" The woman's fingers flex and the pressure must be something immense because Cory stops stuttering and sucks in a shocked breath. In the next second he tries to swing at the woman holding him up like a misbehaving kitten and. He misses. They're literal inches apart and it's like he's throwing graceless fists through air. The woman just smiles the whole time, at least until she grows bored and then she shakes him.

"Hey," her head tilts and her eyes narrow as Krillin wriggles and groans and tries to reach up for her hand. "I know you how do I-?" She drops him and snaps, face brightening. Velvet blinks again and the woman is crouched next to his boneless form on the floor "You're from Patch!"

"H-how do you-" he'd tried to push himself up and then she plants her hand between his shoulder blades and presses down so hard Velvet hears the floor creak quietly beneath the sound of Korvin's own pained groan.

"You fucked with my baby sister once, did you know that? Do you remember?" If it weren't for her ears she wouldn't hear this hiss. The woman keeps smiling but it's all for show. "I do. You made her cry, you stupid little fuck. And here you are now. And, Oh, nothing has changed. Still a whiny little cunt picking on pretty girls!"

"I'll, I'll tell a teacher-"

"And they intervened before? No, no, baby bird. Let me tell you something - you make me want to fucking puke. Scabs like you make my stomach turn, and when I see you lay hands on a woman too polite to tell you to go fuck your own asshole, it surely does burn. Me. Up." He's trembling, just a little. Legs and hands scraping against the floor like an insect on its back. Desperate to scuttle back into the abysmal dark he'd ever dared venture from.

"If I see you touch her, or anyone else, outside of sanctioned battle ever again, I will break all the bones in your arms one at a time. Do you understand me?" Her grin had finally distorted into something decidedly deadlier, eyes turning a thundercloud gray. When he only grunted out scared little animal noises from mostly closed lips the woman slammed his face down into the floor with her free hand, leaning closer until her mouth warmed the shell of his ear, "Do you. Understand me!"

He nodded.

And the grin was back. She was feet away from him and her weapon was nowhere to be seen, practically posing with her hands on her hips like that.

"Great! Enjoy your lunch!" She waved at him, his quivering pack of unhelpful followers, and Velvet herself. And then she was gone. Not gone, really. Across the cafeteria sitting at a table of what looked like first years.

"Velvet!" She doesn't look at Coco. She's still gaping at the boy picking himself up, red-faced and petulant like the child he was. "Sorry it took so long, I, uh... You ok? Did someone mess with you?" And Coco doesn't say again but Velvet hears it. But she's not as bothered by it as usual. She finds herself smiling.

"No. No I think I'm quite alright."

The last thing Glynda expects to see in her cozy little booth by the window, sipping at her decidedly awful coffee, is Ozpin in a leotard dancing and singing, offering her praises and raises and three weeks vacation.

That isn't what she sees and so she's significantly less shocked than she could have been when Ruby steps into the diner with a grin in place. The woman catches sight of her rather quickly and, instead of grabbing her own booth or snagging one of the weathered barstools for herself, she makes a beeline for Glynda.

She's lacking her usual gear, had even abandoned her dirty-looking not-a-cloak for an unzipped bomber jacket over a too-short tanktop with cartoony, anthropomorphic dancing strawberries emblazoned across the bust, a dark pair of jeans with rips Glynda just knows have nothing to do with fashion and some old flipflops. She looks, and Glynda thinks this especially thanks to her messy hair and decidedly sleepy glaze of the eyes, like she'd rolled out of bed and grabbed the first things she'd had at hand. She's even missing her usual makeup and she just.

Looks ready to drop dead.

And so she drops herself like deadweight into the seat across from Glynda, all grinny and too happy to be awake at two in the morning.

"Galinda!" She crows, if quietly. And Glynda sighs. Sighs and thinks about the fact that this is twice in less than one month that Ruby has ruined her late night/early morning coffee. She sips at it, leveling her most unimpressed stare upon the younger woman,


"Glynda, I know, I know," she laughs and it's a light thing. Much softer than Ruby is usually willing to express. It's far from unpleasant, just... odd. "What're you doin up?" She signals a waitress with rather enthusiastic waving, a lovely red-headed Faunus that could be a cat with a particularly fluffy tail or perhaps a fox.

"I could ask you the same thing, Miss Rose," Ruby lurches, exaggeration abounds as she gasps for air while clutching at her heart.

"How cruel, Glynda," Ruby laughs and it's a little closer to the way she usually is - terribly exuberant to the point of pantomime. Sometimes it's honestly hard to tell if it's purposeful. "We're associates at the same institute of knowledge, I think you can use my first name!"

"Mhmm. See, but you don't work there-"

"That's not what my paycheck says," and this grin is looking more familiar. Less soft lifting more gleaming teeth. "Oh come on Glynda, don't look at me like that. Just 'cause I make more than you doesn't mean we have to have this tension between us!"

"You make-"

"Shoulda negotiated your contract better," Ruby chirps and Glynda... There must be something very very wrong with her, she'd really considered throwing her cup at Ruby and then she'd be stuck with the younger woman and out of coffee. Just one was bad enough and she didn't need that other, she truly didn't.

"Ruby, what are you doing here?"

"Yes, well hello you lovely, beautiful vision," Ruby could be so nice to complete strangers, she was especially to the notepad wielding vixen and Glynda doesn't sigh into her steamy cup of heaven when Ruby winks at the, admittedly, attractive young lady that is their waitress. She doesn't, ok? "Would it be too much trouble for a pot of Oolong tea?"

"I think that can be arranged," But she might be rolling her eyes right now. Vixen grins and winks right back and it lights up Ruby's face like... Well honestly, in the mostly professional capacity that Glynda and Ruby have known each other through, she's very rarely got so truly delighted by something like this. Though Qrow had always told her that mentioning Yang could do it. "I'll be back in a jiff!"

"What a cutie," Ruby positively beams as the Faunus walks away.


"I'm meeting someone," Well at least she hadn't had to repeat herself. She's about to inquire further but the door chiming as it opens swivels Ruby's head about and-

Even she's not entirely certain as to the sound she makes. A disappointed cluck is the closest she can think of. Ruby glances at her, grinning away but eyes curious and Glynda pins her with a disapproving glare. Ruby's brows pinch but it doesn't stop her from waving Blake Belladonna over as exuberantly as she'd waved the waitress down. She waits until Ruby allows the young Fau- ahh, err, Huntress in training to cautiously seat herself before she provides her opinion,

"This is hardly appropriate," and Blake's eyes snap to hers. Ruby's. Are a little slower. She'd been smiling at Blake, soft and appreciative. So when she turns herself to face Glynda, the educator notes with some fascination the way Ruby can make a smile look like a mouthful of sour garbage.


"She's your student, Ruby!" Glynda admonishes. The dour grin morphs. Blake is watching the goings on with weary, tired eyes fitting for the time of night.

"She's my partner, Glynda. And I really don't appreciate what you're insinuating."

"Oh yes, I'm certain it was incredibly important, whatever completely innocent matter came up at two in the morning. So important you stole your partner away to a remote diner in the city." There's a tic in Ruby's jaw. The cut of her steel eyes paired with the fierce scowl is an impressive sight but, alas, Glynda is nearly twice as old as Ruby and has faced far worse than a scorned young woman.

And then Ruby smiles. Eyes still razor sharp, her lips split and her pearly whites show off and it might as well be a snarl. She stands up slowly and bids Blake do the same with a wave of her hand and jerk of her head. While the girl scrambles to follow her team leader's example, Ruby reaches into a pocket and pulls out a handful of lien, well too much for her order, slapping them down on the table,

"Have a lovely night, Galinda," Ruby offers as she ushers Blake away with a hand against her lower back. Glynda sets her mouth into a stern line to keep a sigh at bay, watching them until they reach the exit, Ruby holding it open for her partner to step through. At which point Glynda turns back to her abandoned cup of still steaming coffee. She's reaching for it when the mug explodes, hot coffee splattering all over her blouse, searing her hands.

The door chimes as it closes and Ruby and Blake are gone, petals blowing away. Glynda is left with the change - enough to replace the mug and her ruined outfit - and the spoon she'd not noticed had disappeared. It's stuck almost to the handle tip in the upholstery of the booth, just next to her elbow.

And Glynda pinches the bridge of her nose. Trying to keep a headache at bay. Ruby had been right, of course, and Glynda really needs to renegotiate her contract.

Chapter Text

Ruby starts impromptu team dialogue sessions she affectionately dubs "Honesty Hour". It's very self explanatory and with it, she claims, they'll operate better as a team.

"Knowing where you stand with a person, with anyone, but especially with those close to you, makes it easier to exist in the same space with them."

The first dinner Ruby prepares for a session is a dish popular in Menagerie. The lingering smell of onions caramelizing in butter is both familiar and comforting in a way Blake finds distinctly painful. She hadn't eaten the dish since the last time she'd visited home and anytime Ruby makes dishes from Menagerie she's always struck by that sense of melancholy. And so it is, at this first session, that Blake is somber and silent and when Ruby encourages, only Weiss answers the call.

"Have you ever," she begins slowly, finding her words as she drags a spoon through the bowl of what Ruby calls "Spaghetti Breakfast". It's a bit spicy for her, she'd admitted after her first bite, and so only she is still working through the modest meal. "Been in a place, or... Or a situation you're frustrated with, discouraged by, and don't see a way out of?"

Yes! Blake wants to shout, Oum, yes! Like you wouldn't believe!

What she does is offer a single, solemn nod and sip at the tea Ruby had seen fit to prepare. She and Weiss are the only ones not drinking any, Ruby being too busy trying to steal bites of Weiss' food to bother getting herself a cup and Weiss, well, she's putting up with that isn't she? Weiss whacks the back of Ruby's hand with a spoon as it creeps too close, continuing,

"I've been trapped, it feels like. Like, despite all the power and prestige my position afforded me, it was miserable. I was miserable..." She gives up her defense with a sigh, pushing her bowl over towards Ruby. The glare she shoots is not nearly as cutting as she'd like to think. Ruby smiles at her, sweet and toothy, begins digging in. And Weiss rolls her eyes but the scowl she'd donned so long isn't present.

Her eyes go distant and the softest smile Weiss Schnee has possibly ever worn fades away.

"I got desperate," Yang fetches Weiss a cup, silently setting it before her and accepting Weiss' quiet thanks with a nod of her own. She doesn't drink the tea, though she wraps both hands around the porcelain and drags the cup closer. "I was so sick. So worn down and tired. So full of poison and... I wanted out and when I finally got it I jumped at the chance and it was good. It was great. I'd traded prestige and power for happiness and peace. And..."

She's started tracing the tip of one finger slowly around the lip of the cup. Looking past Yang but not at anything.

"And I guess," her voice warbles and she pauses, sipping primly at the steaming tea. She sets it down with perhaps more force than necessary and squeezes her hands back around the hot mug. "I guess I thought that, trading those things that'd never been important for things that really, truly are... I guess I thought I'd feel less depressed. I know happiness now. But I'm just still so-"

The words get caught in her throat, they must, from the way she clears it. A muscle in her jaw jumps as her teeth grit. She takes another quick sip for the sake of giving herself more time to consider her words.

"I don't miss that place," Weiss starts and what remains of Blake's tea has gone cold but she really doesn't want to leave. "The money or anything, anyone, there but. It sucks that things aren't really better, just distinctly more bearable."

And Blake is choked by the words crowding up her mouth, throttling her. And so she lays a hand on Weiss' arm, nodding again in what must be the most serious, most absolutely pathetic display of support when icy blue eyes snap up to hers. But Weiss smiles and it's a little less sad than it could be.

"Ruby isn't my blood sister," Yang is flush and uncomfortable, but they're all practically bloated with warm food digesting in their bellies and a new type of tea in their mismatched mugs. Some combination of Jasmine and something else. The blonde had just finished chugging hers and slamming her cup down before bursting out that little nugget.

As Ruby lent over to grab the pot she'd left on a cozy at the table for convenience and pour more Jasmine-what'sit into Yang's duck embossed mug, Yang fidgets in her seat and twiddles her thumbs. She casts furtive glances at Ruby but can't seem to actually look at her as she says,

"She was raised by my, our, Uncle an', well, technically my dad and m-mom." she struggles to spit out the last word. She can't even throw glances, won't look up from the mug she hooks a hand around. The tea is scalding hot when it hits her tongue but she drinks it down with ease. Heat is something familiar. Something easy.

Not like this.

"She's always been there for me, well mostly anyway," she's quiet and speaking half to herself on the last bit, wry grin twisting one corner of her mouth. It trembles. Falls. More mouthfuls of magma hot herb water. "I've always kind of hated her a little. Not-not hate, really. Just. Resentment, I guess? She got the mother I never had and."

She's not crying but tears gloss the eyes that catch on too-patient, too-understanding silver.

"And I couldn't stand that about her. Especially when I got older and she'd, you'd, tell me to not seek her out. That she's nothing but a heartless bitch and she can't love me "

It's like Blake and Weiss cease to exist and she won't let a tear dampen her cheek but her lips tremble when she admits,

"I hated you for that." The only sign that Ruby is affected by her words is the very slight furrow between her brows, just pinching them inwards. She hides any Branwen smiles or sore scowls with a sip from her Beowolf mug.

"I understood when I got older," she addresses the rest of the team again, conquering the threat of tears and not smiling but not on the verge of choking on her own stuttering breaths. "I nagged my uncle and dad, did some fishing. My mom isn't exactly a cuddly lady. Not the kind of attentive, affectionate woman healthy for raising babies..."

Ruby and Yang laugh and the gentle way they smile at one another is easy and not nearly as sad as they've been. It's short-lived.

"Sometimes I. Sometimes I feel like, if I'm closer to you," she's back to speaking at Ruby while they - the WB of team RWBY - watch. "I'm closer to her. And I know it doesn't work that way but I. I want that so much."

And Blake is silent. Weiss is silent. Ruby is silent as Yang's voice cracks on the last word. And so a mostly silent team RWBY abandon tea and tables to embrace hurt and missed mothers.

"I was part of the White Fang," there's a scream trapped somewhere inside of her, vaguely similar to the wail of a boiling pot of their usual after-dinner tea. Or the pressure of one, pressing against her ribs and swelling her chest with anxious air and the tightest sensation of discomfort. Chamomile and vanilla are an intoxicating mix and so she finds the strength of will to say this, to calmly reach up and unravel her bow.

She sighs and the ball of pressure releases and she breathes for what must be the first time in nearly two months without the weight of the secret. Like a hand that'd long ago reached inside and squeezed around her lungs had finally let go. Like-

"My dad was part of it. I mean, really really part of it. The most part of it you can get- a High Leader," she's less nervous and still finds herself half-rambling. Stops to suck in another full, liberal lungful of air. "And I really believed in what we stood for. Back then we all did..."

"Well," an unwilling, self-deprecating smile eerily reminiscent of the one Ruby wears quirks her mouth. "Not all of us, I suppose."

Her hands almost curl into tight, angry balls as she recalls watching the peaceful organization her father had built fall to ruin. Recalls standing by. Recalls helping expedite the process. Her hands almost curl up but one is filled with another and it's Weiss, of all people, that looks at her with understanding, that squeezes her fingers around Blake's numb digits.

"It's my fault," she doesn't mean for that to rush out so breathlessly, "I helped, I did it too. I could have walked away but he'd built it up and I didn't want to watch it fall but it did and I helped. I wanted so badly to believe in the idea that if I threw myself into it, pursued it with all I had, it'd get better again or maybe I could-"

Could make it better again. Could make it up to him. Could go home and not feel like she'd disappointed the both of them by letting this corruption tear down everything they'd spent so much of her life working for. For her.

And in the eyes of Weiss, still watching her without judgement, there's such a depth of knowing. Because she does. Because she's spoken about it, about the man she refers to as a sperm donor and how he's shamed everything. Twists and takes everything she loves for his own.

She sees a mockery mask of Grimm and dark horns when she blinks and it twists a knife inside.

"I'm afraid, now that I've run, that I'll be punished. By my parents - they might shun me, I don't really know I've been too cowardly to face them for years. By my previous affiliations, if I ever run into them again." She says if but she means when and she only hopes they know that.

And they do.

"I'm afraid. And I have been for a while. And I don't really know what to do with that."

They don't ever dare to pressure Ruby into sharing during Honesty Hour. She shares most everything very willingly, so long as one of them has the temerity to ask. And so they never pressure her and she never pressures them and maybe that's why it's so easy for them to share.

The Hour is a chance to be honest, fully honest, and they're encouraged to do so but it's never a demand. They don't have to talk about things of any great consequence. But if they choose to they'll be met with open minds and very literal open arms, should those be necessary.

And so if the truths that Ruby shares are inconsequential, no one minds. Sometimes a silly anecdote from Ruby's many adventures across Remnant is exactly the sort of thing team RWBY needs to digest dinner and unwind from the day. Sometimes a raunchy admission involving respected individuals in their lives is the sort of thing that breaks a heavy atmosphere.

So it is a surprise, then, that Ruby wanders into the bathroom one night when the rest of them are brushing their teeth in two sinks. Blake is standing at one and Weiss and Yang are joined at the hip in front of the other. Yang bumps a hip into Weiss and Weiss stumbles and Yang leans down to tease her and Weiss gets up in Yang's face and-

Blake is seconds from calling the both of them repressed lesbians when the door slides open for their team leader. She clears her throat and they snap to attention. Ruby is wont to do as she pleases and sometimes she pleases to spring late night training camps in the Emerald Forest. Sinks turn off - one sink, actually, Blake doesn't waste water thank you very much - and they turn to her.

She looks half surprised, like she hadn't expected the attention. She laughs and it's awkward because her brows are pinching like they do sometimes and the laughter is coming out strangled.

"I've been thinking about stuff a lot lately," she says, but only after pausing for half a minute. "Like how my mom wasted her last breath apologizing for making me watch her die. She could have said, 'I love you ' or even, 'goodbye', but she didn't."

This was unprompted, and the majority of team RWBY are unable to say anything before the team leader sucks in a breath,

"I'm not sure if that's why it's so hard, sometimes, to be there. Emotionally. I'm all messed up inside, but ya probably guessed that," Weiss has been sick of Ruby's sad smiles, sad everything. This grips her, all of them, with a bout of nasty nausea "I just. I don't ever want you to think I'm not sharing, ya know, other stuff with you because I don't care. I do, but it's harder to care in that way, in that serious way. It's so. Fucking. Difficult. I don't..."

Her struggle for words is palpable. A physical thing filling the air. Finally she laughs and it's less mangled but far from pretty.

"I've never wasted a breath, I guess. It's all important to me, because you all are important to me. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I trust you nerds, huh? " More laughter closer to believable. Then she clears her throat, hooking a thumb over her shoulder, "I'm just gonna, yeah?"

Chapter Text

Jaune Arc does his best.

That's all he's ever done and he's starting to believe that maybe that's just not enough. Everyone here is so strong and he's just. Here. And sure, Pyrrha is there for him and his team is crazy supportive but it's hard not to notice how he looks next to them. No-one says anything - not since that terrifying woman shoved Cardin Winchester off his high horse - but the looks.

He finds himself, as he sometimes embarrassingly often does, on the roof. No one much wanders up here so he doesn't have to see people seeing him, doesn't have to try and puff up his chest and act confident because that's what dad says right?

And he finds, as he never has before, another person up here. Perched precariously upon the edge of roof. He recognizes who it is immediately, even if he's never really met her. Anyone would. She's smoking and he doesn't know if that's unusual but the way she grins around the cigar seems special and significant.

He hesitates there, shifting slowly from one foot to the other. It isn't exactly too late for him to creep back inside, but...

"Well aren't you a precious boy?" The woman before him dissolves into rose petals and thick smoke billows over his shoulder.

And so Jaune Arc meets Ruby Rose for the first time wth a very girlish scream.

"Why don't you attend any classes?"

She doesn't always smoke those potent cigars when he finds her, nor does she always deign to don the weird bowler hat he never sees her wear outside of random meetings-up, but now she does both. When she's using unusual accessories, it's usually a good sign she'll be willing to do more than just tease him and ask him questions he never has the answers to.

Questions like, What are you even doing here? or, Did you know I almost picked you for my team? Doya know why? or even, Why are you trying so hard to avoid your team?

No, on accessory days he's bold and confident and asks questions that she will answer at her discretion. So he picks and chooses his questions carefully, sticking to things he is genuinely curious about but that she'd also be likely to answer. This is the one he decides is safest, and he's correct in that assumption. Ruby pouts, pulling her cigar from her mouth,

"I've attended classes!" she insists, whines. Smirks suddenly, "I've saved your ass from questions, in case you've forgotten."

He hadn't.

"I meant regularly. You've attended three classes in two weeks," she looks proud, practically preening and he just. He just stares at her until she laughs and shrugs and pretends that it's all very sheepish of her. "Aren't you afraid you'll fail?"

She scoffs.

"Please, me? Afraid of failure?" More scoffing. Like, all the scoffing. She keeps going. And he thinks she might stop but,

"Ruby. Please."

"Alright, here's what's up," she flicks her hat up, head cocking, mouth pulling into that satisfied grin it always did when she was fitting it around a cigar. She pauses to puff and her usually half-lidded eyes droop even more as thick smoke obscures his vision of her. "Being afraid of failure is fucking stupid."

Ruby talks to him. She listens to him and she's honest with him in a way that he appreciates. She doesn't sugarcoat anything to spare his feelings and so maybe she's not afraid of hurting his feelings. She doesn't try but,

"That's a pretty ignorant thing to say." Her face appears through the smoke. Unimpressed. He doesn't back down from what isn't exactly a glare, doesn't tremble doesn't flinch. The smoke clears and she's still leaning way too far forwards to be comfortable. A brow quirks and one side of her lips pulls up.

"It's something that's understandable, fearing failure," she acquiesced, but laughed regardless and it struck at him, grit his teeth. "But it's stupid and it's wrong. Failure isn't the be all, end all that nearly everyone fantasizes it. Failure is a step in the process. It's how you grow, by learning from your failures. Never fear growth." She's grinning again and lifting that stinking, smoking thing to her lips.

"And what if you never grow?" He feels that hot ache. The yawning chasm of disappointment and self-loathing that lives in his chest, opening its great maw again to gnaw on his insides. "What if you fail and fail and FAIL and never ever grow?"

Another smokescreen. A smoky chuckle.

"Well then you aren't learning, are you?"

"So why didn't you?" She's not smoking, not wearing a bowler hat, and not very good company right now. Or maybe he was just angry and embittered after watching the rest of her team try and fail to take her down in Glynda's class today. It was the most impressive display he'd seen in his life and it wasn't even their best and it twisted him up inside.

And that's got to be what has him so bold, snarling back his own question to that one he hates. So she'd almost picked him for her team, big fucking deal. She didn't pick him and he's here and she's here and this is where they are now.

She's laying along the ledge she usually perches on, pillowing her head with her arms and watching the clouds laze through the sky. Wearing a most disinterested expression. It makes him think that maybe she lists these questions off at him to prove a point. It makes him think that she's as much of an awful bitch as her bosomy little sister.

"Hmm?" She hums at the clouds, too Oum damned lazy to give him more than the side profile of that disinterested expression she aims at the sky.

"Why didn't you choose me for your team?" Her head is slow to roll to the side, setting her vacant gaze upon him and sometimes she makes him really mad when she does that. He never used to get mad but-

"Well," she drawls, smirk sliding into place ever so slowly. "It was between you and a pretty girl. I likes me a pretty girl."

"So you chose her because I'm, what, ugly?"

"Nah, I'm pretty sure you'd look hot in a dress she's just prettier," he wonders if maybe this is supposed to make him feel better. "And she was less of a gamble. Only you and she had faked your records to get in here and that was curious, but I knew her family and had some idea of who she was and how powerful she might be."

She sits up throughout this more serious business, everything lax about her demeanor melting away.

"You," she starts again, slower. "You were too much of a gamble. A no name kid with no Aura. I've watched you fumble your way through classes and training since and you're not awful, you've made progress, ya know? I'm impressed by it, even. But I still don't think I would have chosen you, even seeing how you've grown."

He appreciates her honesty, he does. He's to the point of snapping at his teammates when they aren't fully honest with him. Nothing sharp and cutting, just scolding, reprimands. He's a big boy, he can handle constructive criticism, he can handle being told he's wrong. It's a bit harder, however, trying to handle rejection such as Ruby's.

"But," he doesn't recognize his voice, low and even and edged by some fine combination of despair and anger. "You could have made me better. Could have made me as strong as you."

She laughs.

"No no, boy. You'll never be as strong as me," he doesn't have time to snap and snarl at her, she doesn't give him the chance, "I'd kill you before that ever became a possibility."

"I-" he stutters. Caught somewhere between confusion and offense. Betrayal. "I thought we were friends?" She's laying back down, crossing one leg over the bent knee of her other, foot bouncing and kicking in the air. He thinks the smile that pulls up this visible corner of her mouth might be that sort he's seen a few times. It's significant like the grin she fits around those ridiculous cigars.

But it's not content and smug like the cigar smile. Very much the opposite. Disappointed and just plain sad, really.

"You should make better friends."

Chapter Text

Ruby Rose has issues. She's aware of them, though, and she's heard that's the first step in overcoming them. She isn't sure where to start after that though, and if pulling weeds up by their roots ensures they won't grow back then she needs to address the root of the issue except.

Except she thinks the root is dead.

She knows the root is dead.

I miss mama.

The color red makes her heart pound. The prettiest shade of it lives inside of her and other people, and things that are alive.

Grimm don't bleed.

She's never been too sure how to feel about that.

They have desires that drive them, she thinks. They must because they think! It seems like they do, at least. They seemed to the night they ripped into mama and spilled all that pretty red all over her nice white cloak. They seemed to because they let her live when they found her crouching over the body, covered in red red red.

She's never been too sure how to feel about that either

Exterminating Grimm isn't very satisfying. She can't say that she's killing them because she's not certain they're alive. They can think and they exist but alive?

She doesn't like that they disappear. It ruins the whole point of The Hunt.

She tries all sorts of ways to make them stick around - she's very tired of things leaving. Very very tired indeed - like cutting them into pieces but not killing them. They don't bleed so it's not like they'll bleed out. They stick around then and shriek and shriek and shriek until it rattles in her teeth and roars through her brain like the drums of war.

Pained cries of undying beasts, all bleating and screaming for Crescent Rose.

She likes that. Uncle Qrow gives her eyes, though. She understands it's wrong, even if they aren't alive. She tries to remember to sever the heads shortly after dismemberment, for him. So he doesn't watch her with his sad, dull maroons.

She's a monster in every sense of the word and she can't stop crying. She's crying so hard it hurts, literally hurts her. Gasping and choking and getting snot all over her face and maybe if she could stop running so fast to wipe it away or hold a sleeve to her face but she needs she needs-


Raven had the most beautiful red anything Ruby's ever seen and it's supposed to make her feel safe and make her heart soar in her chest but she's so full already. So full of joy and pleasure and-

I liked it oh Oum I liked it I'm a monster I'm a-

She's not a Grimm. There's a difference. She bleeds. She bleeds and she's alive and she fears. All things that Grimm are not, do not. They fear nothing. They are full of tar and darkness and hatred.

And they like killing.

And she's. She just liked his red. That's it.

It's not as pretty - Beautiful. Gorgeous. Lovely works too, my precious one - as Raven's red. Red red eyes, ruby red eyes.

Red red red everything is red when she closes her eyes. And when she opens them it's under her nails, soaked in her skirt and drying against her skin. Red red so much red and her heart can't beat much faster, soar much higher. If it does it might just burst out of her chest and spill her own brand of Ruby red all over the ground, all over Raven.

"You have to spread your wings someday, little bird."

She allows this to convince her. Any reason is a good reason.

She's starting to think that maybe she needs a little less red.

When she closes her eyes she sees body parts and bloody meat. She sees literal pools of life soaking into the earth and justifies the screaming in the silence that she didn't do it because she wanted to.

And even if she enjoyed it she wasn't really ok with it.

She's not a monster.

She's not a Grimm.

She's alive and she didn't want to die and that was the difference.

"I'm human," she murmurs to the fire quietly crackling away in front of her. "I fear death."

When she sleeps she dreams of battlefields and corpses and the shrieking shrieking shrieking of voices human and beast. When she dreams everything lives as it dies. Mama's bloodied lips move but only the blessing comes out. Only apologies.

I'm. I'm sorry it has to end like this. (For it is in passing that we achieve immortality.)

I tried. (Through this, we become a paragon of virtue and glory to rise above all.)

You have to be strong. (Infinite in distance and unbound by death...)

Don't be afraid. (...I release your soul, and by my shoulder, protect thee.)

And so Ruby doesn't sleep and she tells the fire what she does. What she is.

He's an old co-worker, if she's being technical. And he doesn't recognize her. That hurts. She's just a little peeved by it. And the audacity of him, calling her a girl.

She's a grown ass woman thank you very much! A tiny, tinny voice very much like her own chimes in from a quiet part of her brain that she's more than that, so much more. Why, it bets he hasn't slaughtered nearly as many foes as she.

I want to (see)puke(red).

She admires the ink on her arm as she goes about wiping off bits of flesh and blood from the cronies, remembers,

"This used to be fun," she tells Roman. He screams in response, but that might be because he'd tried to level the cane at her again and she'd removed his arm to discourage such maneuvers. She tuts and tsks at him, but she can't be certain he hears her as he wriggles and writhes like a worm unearthed.

And then he flips on his front and reaches for the cane again!

His lackeys can be forgiven for their stupidity. She was a pretty average thing and she hadn't even pulled Crescent Rose out when she'd warned them to put their guard up.

But Roman. Oh Roman.

She wouldn't even lose sleep over him. Wouldn't add his screaming to her symphony.

She lets him pop a shot off and while he worms about and groans and screams and calls out for the singing, swinging blade of her child, she scoops up his hat where he'd left it when she relieved him of his leg. She flips it up onto her head, adjusting it to and fro and he shouts as he catches sight of her.

Tries to shoot again again.

Her scythe sings into the asphalt and she hums as she skips over to his screaming form. His blood is pooling with the lackeys and she doesn't mean to coo it out loud but,

"Blood brothers!"

"Yo-you're crazy!" He's stopping squirming and he can't exactly stretch for the cane now, can he? "You're fucking crazy!"

He isn't exactly wrong, but he doesn't deserve to be right.

She smiles when his head rolls.

Chapter Text

"You'd better stop that," She's one to talk and he almost says as much except for the way she grabs a fist full of his hood and yanks him back off the ledge she usually perches on. The cigarette he'd been sucking at silent and sullen falls from his mouth and he shouts but she ignores him. "That shit'll kill ya."

He snorts and wants to twist away from her, cross his arms and glare. It's impossible, the way she's gripping his hood and holding him up off the ground like she is makes it so. She shakes him,

"What do you think you're doing anyway?"

"Why do you care?" Her brows pinch inwards but it's a smile that splits her lips.

"I'm gonna tell on youuu~" She coos and he moves then, scrambling to get out of her hold. Luckily, she lets him

"You wouldn't."

"I would."

She does.

"I'll get better than you!"

She's stopped taking his smokes from him and so they smoke together sometimes. Now is one of those. She makes fun of him for cigarettes but what kind of girl - "I'm a grown woman ya brat!" - smokes gross cigars?

"Whatever," she scoffs through a cloud. "You'll never be as fast as me. Even if you can get strong, stronger than anyone I know, have ever known, I'll always be faster."

Sometimes she sounds sad when she tells him.

"I'll beat you, Ruby Rose. Just you wait!"

She laughs so loud and sudden and genuine that he drops his cigarette.

"I'd like to see that," she says and flicks that hulking smoking thing after his cigarette, over the edge of the roof. He thinks it's a wonder they haven't been caught, yet, with the trash they leave behind. "And I think I will."

He shoots a puzzled look her way and she grins,

"I'll wait for you. So hurry up and get better will ya?"

"What-" WBY shuffles past himself and Pyrrha where they stand in the corridor swathed in coats and pajamas. She'd caught him sneaking out for a smoke again...

Somehow claiming that it was only due to Ruby's most awful influence that he smoked, just occasionally mind you, didn't make Pyrrha anymore willing to let it slide. She kept taking and trashing his cigarettes. He was getting smarter about hiding them, though. Mostly she only nabbed them when she found him sneaking a night cap.

"What are you guys doing?" He blurts out, distracting Pyrrha from him and what he'd done. Yang is carrying Weiss with her hands under her thighs, the heiress dozing away but still managing to cling to her partner's back, arms wrapped around her neck. Blake leads the procession and she's yawning and-

Are those cat ears?

"Hide and go seek in the dark," Yang answers in a sleepy drawl, jaw cracking on a yawn that forces one out of him and Pyrrha. "Ruby's favorite pastime."

Blake snorts and rubs at her eyes, Weiss hums, arms flexing as she shifts tighter against Yang's back. Maybe she wasn't dozing.

"I love that game," Weiss giggles and her eyes open and her hair is down and she's really beautiful like this, too tired to be full of steel and venom, looking over Yang's shoulder at him.

"You should try our version," and she laughs and settles back against Yang and mumbles into the blonde's spine, "Mush, beautiful steed!"

Yang can't exactly salute but there's a smile that slides on her face that makes her look so soft and approachable sometimes he forgets how rude and cruel this beast of a woman can be, is. She's related to Ruby, after all. His closest confidante and sworn rival, not to mention a pretty big bitch when she wanted to be.

And so none of them wave but they mumble goodbyes and once they disappear down the corridor Pyrrha turns right back with a scowl and continues berating him.

"Stop wearing your hood up you Edgelord loser." She yanks his hood down to ruffle his hair, laughing and easily fending off his swatting hands.

"You wear a hood!"

"Yeah but I don't wear it up everywhere. I don't have to pretend to be edgy." She lets him go to back up and cross her arms and cock her hips. And that's nothing to say for her smirk, satisfied thing that it is.

"Uhm, look at your weapon you needy attention whore," Ruby lurches and clutches at her abdomen, wheezing out "Shots fired!" as she drops to her knees. He rolls his eyes and pulls his hood back up. When she's quite finished with the dramatics he ventures into a short, warm silence,

"So when I was a kid..."

Pyrrha isn't sure how to feel about Ruby Rose.

She's incredible, firstly. In combat and in class, in everything she undertakes, really. Her skills are sharp and she's almost always smiling so maybe that's why so few notice the way her eyes cut through her every expression like separate things. Living entities rolling in her eye sockets and learning, watching, knowing.

And then her influence on Jaune...

He was training and trying and changing. Chasing a goal of betterment he'd yet to make clear to her.

But the smoking...

Well, she informed me, she can't be all bad...

And watching the way she interacted with her team, with anyone that hadn't brought harm unto anything or one she admired, it was. It was strange the way her eyes were so separate from the softness she used like any weapon she'd shown herself proficient with.

Nora could be bright anytime of the day or night. At least so long as she had her partner at her side and, well, he'd been tied to her in almost every official sense the moment Ruby had pointed the girl his way in The Forest. Her partner is significantly less enthused but stands calm and quiet while the redhead dances and sings about, speaking nearly too fast to comprehend.

Pyrrha doesn't look exactly happy about being awake either, and in fact manages to look quite less happy when they're informed by their team leader as to the reason why,

"We're going to play hide and seek in the dark with team RWBY!"

Ruby forces team JNPR upon them in the most gradual way possible. If Yang wasn't so aware of Ruby, so attuned to her ways and whims, she might not notice the way Ruby insinuates them near seamlessly into the routine. She wants them to make friends, tells them as such at one point.

"They're not so bad."

"Some of them," Weiss scoffs and Yang is very inclined to agree with her partner. "The leader's pretty useless as far as I can tell."

"You guys should give Jaune a chance," he had been changing, and Yang had noticed, watching and waiting for a chance to apologize that was looking more and more like it'd never happen. She doesn't say this though. "He's been hanging out with me after all!"

"So he's a sadist," Blake comes out of the bathroom rubbing a towel gently through her hair, steam billowing out after her. She's smiling when she says this and lets the damp towel hang around her shoulders, winking at Yang when Ruby begins to pout and whine. Yang tries to hide her own smile. Blake is the only one to see it anyway.

"I'm not a sadist," Ruby huffs at the end of a pseudo rant about showing proper respect to elders they all snicker through. "I'm a psychopath."

And they snicker again and Ruby insists about JNPR some more and they acquiesce.

Though Yang and Weiss put up a very valiant, very half-hearted effort to dissuade otherwise. After all, Yang doesn't like the way Jaune looks at Weiss and Weiss just doesn't like Jaune.

Chapter Text

"Are you jealous?"

Her ears twitch and twist against her skull a little but beyond that she doesn't move. She almost sighs very quietly but doesn't do that either. (She does huff, though. A tiny frustrated noise that, more than the way her ears are half-flattened and blending into her pitch-dark mane, expresses her chagrin.)

"I don't-"

"You're allowed to be," Ruby can bull through conversations when she doesn't care for them or doesn't care for what's being said. "Not that you need my permission." And her lips split in a crooked little grin she aims at Blake. Her ears twitch, straighten up. The softest hint of heat in her cheeks crawls itself over her skin when she looks back over at their teammates while Ruby watches her watching them.

"I'm not certain," she admits instead of trying, again, to dissuade Ruby from believing what they both know to be true. "Maybe?"

Ruby hums and steps closer to begin running her hands through Blake's hair. She hadn't let anyone touch her ears, not since she was very young. Her mother and father had been the only ones she'd ever been ok with touching them, even then. After she'd shared her past with the team, Ruby had been the first to completely disregard any discomfort Blake might have felt and went ahead playing with them and with her hair until she'd relaxed under the touch.

The rest of the team had been slower but the times Yang or Weiss might scratch blunt nails pleasantly across her scalp or at the base of her ears when they'd walk by her lounging on the couch with a book were increasing in frequency. She didn't tense or flinch anymore. She didn't even always wear her bow! Not that she'd get any lip for it from anyone, not with Ruby always conveniently appearing out of thin air like some Angel of Vengeance to wreak havoc.

"I'm jealous," Ruby purrs in one of her ears and that hint of heat creeps a little more, settles across her cheeks and nose. "I mean, look at them!"

She is.

"They're so... Happy," Blake has never said so but she thinks that maybe Ruby isn't a very emotionally stable individual. She smiles and laughs more than anyone Blake's ever known and only the barest handful of the time had any of it ever been inspired by any sort of joy. The way she speaks now, the pressure of her fingers and nails and the hint of a growl in her tone...

"Doesn't make much sense does it?" And the growl is gone and her fingers and nails are light, so light they could be Blake's imagination but for the heat of them and the way the touches make her skin tingle.

"It doesn't," Blake agrees quietly. Hesitates, breathes out a sigh and tilts her head back so Ruby is cupping her face. She's a very touchy person. "But they deserve it don't they?"

Ruby blinks down at her, mouth unsmiling. Her eyes in these moments are always very intense. They speak more languages than Blake knows how to interpret but a few things make sense to her.

"Yeah," Ruby says absently and sweeps her thumbs over Blake's cheekbones. Her eyes do not smile despite the teeth that present themselves beyond the lift of painted lips. "Yeah they do, huh?"

"Hey Yang!" Ruby crowed at her sister, unnecessarily loud. They'd taken up the couch to play some racing game and had since taken to shouting at each other for the better part of an hour. Blake had claimed the loveseat and Weiss had claimed her lap.

Weiss had become something of a new person and in such a short amount of time. The angry, haunted girl that glared and snapped and snarled more than anyone Blake had ever known in her life had all but disappeared in the two months they'd attended Beacon, unless they were in class or before any peers. This soft, tiny young woman that situated herself between Blake's legs, presenting her back and the impressive length of her hair when left down, demanding attention - she liked this version of Weiss very much.

"Fuck you!"

Weiss huffed and Blake knows she's smiling, even if the curtain of her luscious silken hair hides her face. Quietly she mutters, Idiots! and does shift her head to toss that most lovely soft smile over her shoulder at Blake when she laughs.

"No no Yang! Listen to me Yang! Are you listening?"

"Shut UP, I will not be distracted from victory you fiend!"

"Those are our partners," Blake parts hair to marvel at this in Weiss' ear and if Weiss wasn't so close, so literally sitting in her lap, she might not notice the way Weiss shivers just so. Weiss turns to her and there is the prettiest lightest dusting of pink but she's sneering all playful,

"They are, what did we do to deserve this?"

"Fucking GO YOU BITCH!"

Blake shakes her head and smiles and shrugs and Weiss just snorts and rolls her eyes and turns right back around, shifting until she's pressed her back to Blake's front and it's all but impossible to continue playing with her hair.

As she winds her arms around Weiss' waist, Blake marvels that this cuddly girl had ever been something awful and prickly to her. Marvels that she had returned that favor.

"Yaaaang~ I have to tell you something!"

"I DON'T CARE!" She can feel Weiss chuckling as she settles her chin on top of that silky head.

"It's a secret! A super duper secret that Uncle Qrow showed me once!"

"Shit shit SHIT-" the audible sound of Yang mashing at the buttons on her controller grows louder and Blake knows she hears the controller creaking. Ruby must be gaining on her.

"Listen, doya wanna know a secret?"

"NO! I've EARNED this Ruby! Don't you take this from me!" Ruby giggles and Blake's distracted by Weiss grabbing one of her hands to play with her fingers so she misses the way Ruby grins and leans over real close to Yang's face. She's smiling down at a Weiss that is not smiling at her, watching the sisters with interest so she's alerted by the widening of icy blue eyes and-

crunch "FUCK!"

Ruby cackles and Yang lets loose a slew of curse words that make Weiss flush a pretty pretty pink.

"Maybe next time, hot stuff," Ruby cuddles up to her fuming sister covered in a yellow veil of fury. If Blake didn't know Ruby could punch the consciousness out of Yang's body she might worry about the marginally smaller woman instigating violence by pinching Yang's cheek. "You cute, precious-"

Yang breaks away from her with a wordless angry yell and punches the coffee table into pine dust in a single strike that dissipates her Aura cloak. She spins on her heel and levels an accusatory finger at a very smugly smiling Ruby,

"You cheated!"

"I won, you mean."

"By CHEATING!" And Ruby's answer to that is a shrug. Yang's lips peel back from gritted teeth and her eyes turn red and Blake can see the way heat warps the air around the irate blonde as she grips fistfuls of hair and makes a sound part growl part roar.

And then she groans and everything fails and she slumps back over to fall face first into the couch, half-heartedly swiping at the hands Ruby tries to pet through her mane while continuing to coo at her.

"Gonna be ok?" Weiss had been hiding her absolutely breathtaking smile behind her hands, trying not to laugh until she was certain Yang really wasn't going to go on a legendary rampage. Yang lifts her head only enough to belt out,


And so they all laugh. Except Yang. Yang curses into the couch cushions.

She can't be bothered to knock. The effort it takes to undress is already the most daunting task and she hasn't started yet, so the strength needed to pause and knock and see if anyone else is in the bathroom is some otherworldly thing she does not even consider attempting. She's even too tired to care too much about Yang lounging in the absurdly huge tub that could fit all of team RWBY and then some.

"Yo," the blonde greets with a two fingered salute and Blake grunts and starts pulling off her dirty sweat and Dust covered clothing. She only glances over to the blonde when she hears the water sloshing around. Lilac eyes watch her without shame, a smile and cocked brows greet her from the blonde leaning with crossed arms over the side of the tub.


"Nothin'," Yang shrugs. "Just," she gestures to Blake with a flick of one hand, revealing a devastating view of cleavage, "Enjoying the view."


She doesn't shrug. Blinks and yawns and continues undressing. She almost falls asleep in the shower except for a nasty fresh bruise she leans against on the wall jolts her and she groans and rubs water out of her eyes as she tilts her face out of the spray.

"Need help?"

Yang is the most naked Blake has ever seen. There's no towel, she's not ashamed of her body in any way whatsoever so she's hiding nothing, attempting to hide nothing. Accentuating as much as possible, really. And it's not that she has no interest at all just that she has no interest right now, even then she still considers it. She has so much hair...

"Maybe next time," Yang shrugs and smirks and turns to walk away with an extra sway to her hips that was entirely unnecessary. And of course Blake watched her go.

Wonder if Weiss minds her propositioning me?

She laughs and steps under the water, mindful of her aches and bruises and knowing that Weiss doesn't.


Chapter Text

The only thing Ruby Rose had requested when he'd asked to meet with her was a pot of tea. He went so far as to provide milk, honey, sugar, and slices of lemon with the pot. This is one of the wiser decisions he's ever made and as it turns out it does tend to temper any of Ruby's more fantastic flights of fancy. She's quiet and almost prim in the way she prepares a cup for herself, watching him and more serious than he's known her to be capable of in years.

"I have a mission for you and your team," she's stirring in some honey now, just the barest ribbon of it and a lemon to flavor her tea and she waits until she's tapped her spoon against the side of the teacup and taken a sip before she responds.

"Define 'mission'," Well, it curbed her more wild flights of fancy but it didn't exactly rid her of them.

"This is a school for turning young men and women with the want, will, and skill into Hunters of Grimm."

"My team aren't Hunters. I refuse."


"Ozpin," she cuts him off before she can take another sip and clearly that annoys her, from the way she sets her teacup down with more force than necessary and sloshes tea over the rim it simply must twist her up. "You pulled me out of retirement to turn three young ladies into murderers. I haven't taught them to hunt Grimm and I won't be, that's not why I'm here. Not why they're here. They won't be taking the work of a regular team because they aren't a regular team."

He takes a long draw off his coffee, considering her thoughts and the rare seriousness she undertakes to express them.

"Very well," he says slowly, nodding his head. "I do suppose you're right. In that case, Ruby Rose I have a mission for you and it pays well. It shouldn't take you more than two days to complete and you will be provided with whatever tickles your fancy, are you interested?"

There's a pause as she sips at her tea and a smile as she carefully sets the cup back on its dish.

"I swear he's impossible to find," Weiss likes sitting between Blake and Yang. It is absolutely the best way to discourage other people from trying to get too friendly, even if she does admire the beautiful redhead that seats herself across from WBY. She's followed by N&R from JNPR but their team leader, much like Ruby, is missing from the fold.

Nora giggles and grins and tells Pyrrha,

"That's cuz he's too busy making out with Ruby on the roof!" It's not like the whole cafeteria goes quiet, because it doesn't. In fact it isn't even their section that goes quiet it's just their table. But the quiet is such a thing, such a living breathing thing that exerts such incredible pressure and so this silence feels grander than it is.

Ren sighs very quietly and cradles his face in his hands.

"Excuse me?" Weiss squeezes one of Yang's thighs, not that it distracts the now-furious blonde from glaring down Nora.

"Ren and I have a bet-"

"I have no part in this."

"-that Jaune and Ruby are always missing cuz they're totally into each other I mean, they're always hanging out and look how happy he's been lately it only makes the most sense that they're secretly dating!" Nora tells them all in a single breath, either unaware or simply uncaring for the way Yang starts to shake, sweat beading on the brow of the petite young woman actively trying to console her as the blonde begins to heat up.

And then the air grows cold as Yang takes a deep breath and blows it out, fitting a smile to her face, even laughing lightly.

"It's a cute idea," she acquiesced, shrugging, swiping up her piece of pizza for a healthy bite. Mouth half full, she continues, "But I mean, come on, Ruby has taste."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Pyrrha wears a smile that truly accentuates how pleased she is by Yang's dismissal. The blonde in question shrugs again and the smile turns decidedly patronizing,

"I just mean that Jaune is so..." Her hand circles through the air while she searches for the words. "Hot garbage, I guess? Like in a life or death situation you'd be better off to just kill yourself? No offense, of course! Just that Ruby's way too good for him."

"Ruby," Pyrrha hadn't stopped smiling once throughout Yang's lackluster explanation. Twitched a little, maybe, but she'd smiled and smiled and smiled away. She was still smiling now as she folded her hands together on top of the table. "Is a psychopath that has actively tried to end your lives-"

"That's not-"

"So her little games in The Emerald Forest are for, what, character building? I watched her break your ribs a week ago."

"Yeah and if I'd been Jaune she would have liquefied my organs! What's your problem, jealous my sister doesn't want to fuck your boyfriend or just jealous she doesn't want to fuck you?"

"You little!" Nora was entranced, watching Pyrrha, sweet wonderful supportive Pyrrha snarl and shoot out of her seat to slam her palms against the table. Now the cafeteria was dropping into silence, and all of it. "You're one to talk you, you, you bitch! I was willing to give you a shot, even after that little stunt on initiation. But you. You are such a. UGH!"

Words fail her and she's so angry, so disgusted with the blonde Jaune had warned her about, so absolutely done that she just throws her hands up and leaves, murmuring furiously to herself. Never one to be out done, Yang lets out her own fierce shout, flipping the table with little effort and stalking off in the opposite direction of Pyrrha. WB and NR blink at each other from the seats they'd kept. One pair much more covered in food and filth than the other.

"So wait," Nora pipes up, sucking some chocolate pudding off a hand. "Does she want to fuck-"


"-her sister?"

Ruby worked it out that they had their own training room.

She'd worked out a lot of things for them - days off, that sweet room they had, permission to take them off school grounds at any time for any reason. Being that Ruby was absent ("I'm going on vacation for like, two-ish days? I'd suggest you take this time to get up to all sorts of Ruby approved debauchery!")off galavanting only Oum knew where, and WB checked the room first, the training room is their second destination. It is, as a matter of fact, exactly where they find Yang.

She's a fiery blaze of yellow and indistinct angry shouting as she punches training dummies into pieces. Blake and Weiss settle themselves against the farthest wall, well out of the way of Yang's impressive rage. The loudest yell, a drawn out sound that rises in pitch until her voice cracks at the end, precedes her punching one so hard it combusts. Ash and carbon stains dirty a panting Yang that prowls over baring teeth.

"That bitch," Yang spits out as greeting, arms crossing over her chest to discourage more violence. To squeeze her biceps until she knows they'll bruise. "She doesn't know anything! Not about me, not about us. Stupid fucking bitch!"

"Yang," Weiss leaves Blake's side willingly, knowing better than to fear Yang might hurt her. "Yang you need to calm-"

"I DON'T WANT TO CALM DOWN! She fucking- Ruby would NEVER do that, not to us not- She wouldn't do that!"

"We know that, Yang. Fuck whatever anyone else thinks, we know. What happened back there?" This is Blake, laying placating hands on Yang's shoulders to ground her even despite the way she's so hot to the touch it makes Blake want to flinch. Yang deflated, shoulders slumping. She shakes her head and brushes Blake's hands away, shouldering past Weiss. There's a punching bag looking a little worse for wear in the corner and this is Yang's destination.

Weiss and Blake follow after, patient to wait her out. It doesn't take long,

"Ruby would NEVER be with a person like him. She told me... She told me she'd never consider being with a person weaker than her." Weiss and Blake share a look - Blake shrugs helplessly to the plain confusion shot her way - and then turn back to Yang. Three of the weakest punches she's ever thrown barely rattle the bag and then she's wrapping her arms around it, leaning all her weight on the thing.

"Ok," Weiss breaks the silence, stepping closer but not laying hands on the blonde. "So there's no way she'd ever be interested in him... Then what was that about?"

"She just!" Yang whips around and her jaw works and no words come out until she groans, "I don't like him, ok!? I hate that guy, I hate how he looks at you," she directs this at Weiss, "I hate that Ruby gives him the time of day I hate that, I hate that if she changed her mind it could be with him!"

"So you are jealous?"

"He's done NOTHING to deserve her! Not her attention or affection or-or any of it and I can't fucking STAND it, the way he acts so fucking cool now that Ruby pays attention to him. That should be-" she stops herself and the only part of her face that's red is pretty much all of it. Weiss and Blake share another long look.


"I should apologize, shouldn't I?" she drops to the floor, elbows braced on her crossed knees and face in her hands.

"It would be the appropriate action but we won't make you," Blake offers squatting next to the blonde. Weiss takes up the other side, gingerly threading fingers through Yang's unfortunately dirty hair.

"I used to get so upset, watching the way Ruby treated you guys," Weiss tells her and Blake quirks a brow. She'd never heard this story. "I hated how she was so sweet on you two and only ever offered me demands to be better. I blew up on her and she explained herself and I'm almost entirely certain that was her inspiration for The Hour."

Yang had shifted, fixing her eyes on Weiss.

"I. I was jealous and, and I basically called her a heartless bitch for the way she knocks you guys around in the process, because admitting to myself how much I needed to hear praise from her, I dunno. It was embarrassing. I do think you should apologize but. But maybe think about what you want to apologize for, why you're so angry." Yang keeps staring and Weiss keeps her gaze until Yang sighs.

"You're too small to be the adult," it might as well be a love tap for all the strength behind the punch courtesy of Weiss. She valiantly grinds her knuckles into Yang's cheek, declaring,

"You're too big to be such a child!"

Chapter Text

Cinder Fall doesn't feel right.

She hasn't really felt right ever since the fiasco with Roman. On one hand, she'd always thought him to be incredibly incompetent so the proof in the pudding - or brief news broadcast detailing his, ahh, detainment by one Glynda Goodwitch - should make her feel something. And it does make her feel something just. Just not exactly in the good, content sense she'd thought she might.

But Cinder really doesn't like the way she feels right now. Right exactly now it feels like. Like falling off the edge of a cliff and watching the ground rush up, knowing there was nothing there to catch her to save her to.

"This mission is shit." she mutters.

Though by all accounts this mission is already a huge success. There were no security guards to take care of, the authorities didn't know they were here and the haul was going to be absolutely incredible. But none of that was comforting. If anything, every bit of that helped increase the size of the ball of dread rotting in her stomach, twisting up her insides.

Her only warning is a very sudden arresting of dialogue between two White Fang members in her general vicinity and the splash of something warm against her cheek. She blinks slow and reaches up to wipe it away and pauses at the sight of red on her fingertips. And-

She's never been hit so hard in her life and she doesn't even know what's hit her. It could have been a fist a foot a bat an Oum damned brick - whatever it is fills her mouth with blood and makes spots dance in her vision and her head reel and her stomach lurch. She wants to vomit, she wants to catch her breath. Her lips part for a desperate beg of air-

She's under water. She's being held under water by a hand wrapping itself around her throat, fingers squeezing and nails digging into skin and she wants to scream and panic but she'll drown. Oh Oum she's going to drown! Not like this not like-

Where the fuck is my dress?!

She does scream. Wasting what precious seconds she has, she screams and claws at the arm and blood clouds the water and still still she's being held under. And then that fist - and she decides it is indeed a fist because nothing else could possibly reach her - boxes an ear and her vision swims and water enters her lungs when she gasps and chokes on the pain.

And then blessed darkness.

"Hey!" She lurches, water rising and rushing up and out of her. It burns as it forces itself out through her nostrils and she coughs and hacks and spits and scrabbles for purchase against the dock until something crunches and the next gasp of air abruptly turns into a scream that makes her ears ring and head spin. "I see you're awake!" And the booted foot grinds down onto her broken hand and she clenches her teeth so tightly shut to keep the scream something closer to a muffled groan.

She feels sick. She's been injured before but not like this, never like this. Naked on a dock without dust or dirt and being literally crushed under the boot of someone better than her. Ex-except that, whoever they are, they definitely aren't better than her! They'd gotten the drop on her, certainly. Mangled her hand and stripped her quite literally of anything which she might use to defend herself.

But they weren't better than her.

"Wow," her tormentor intones, finally growing bored of grinding their booted foot into her ruined hand. She doesn't step off, though, so Cinder's snarling mouth doesn't relax, the breath she holds just in never releases. "Color me impressed, I thought for sure that'd make you cry!"

"I'm not some helpless-" the pressure is gone so suddenly and she sucks in a sharp breath at the way it positively sings and sends hot hot agony signals rushing up the limb and screaming into her brain. It's closely followed by a low whisper of something like visceral, animal fear begging her to shut up.

"If I were you," she knows this woman holding her by the jaw, squeezing so hard it makes her bones hurt. She knows her very well and. And she knows what this means. That ball of dread in her stomach digests and rapidly begins filling her with poison and nausea. She really might puke. "I would reconsider what you were about to say."

If Raven weren't the leader of a tribe of ruthless bandits or incredibly powerful and dangerous in her own right, it might be appropriate to let out a squeak or shriek or squeal when surprised by the sudden appearance of one Ruby Rose. But she is those things, she is every inch of those things and so she can only be grateful she'd not been in front of any Tribe when Ruby appears and she does, indeed, issue forth a most inappropriate noise.

"That was cute!" Ruby coos at her and she doesn't feel ashamed knowing that Ruby stands still to let her get in a hearty smack. Only after thoroughly introducing her knuckles to Ruby's skull does she let the bubbly young lady swoop in and squeeze her in a hug.

She's, once again, incredibly glad no-one is here to witness the way she sags against Ruby, squeezing her so tight her arms might shake and Ruby laughs. It's when a hand slips into her hair that she jerks back, pulling away from the embrace and putting space between them. Ruby smiles and it means nothing to her.

"Wow," she breathes(wheezes, because look at Ruby's eyes she didn't have to-), "You look stunning Ruby. New dress?" New heels? New haircut? Ruby even looked healthy. Less pale, the bruises and bags beneath her eyes lighter. Like before. Ruby giggles and it's like ice melting down her spine and she's actually kind of proud of that. That terrifying quality Ruby affects when she titters away as she is wont to do.

"Why yes of course!" The woman that wears Summer's face and Branwen smiles like they belong there chirps at her and maybe steps closer to spin and, really, it is a stunning dress. Red is Ruby's color any evening, and though the length is nothing terribly criminal the cut of the dress is positively sinful.

Ruby does everything to encourage the slow crawl of her eyes, going for another spin but this one much slower, ending with a pause and significant exchange of gazes. She strikes poses that are much lighter, more playful than that spin and the look she'd burnt into Raven's eyes.

"It's got Dust sewn in-"

"Why? You're hot garbage manipulating raw Dust," Ruby pouts and Raven grins and throws herself back onto a threadbare couch.

"It's an experiment," Ruby grumbles, and it's easy to ignore so much bare leg and the view of cleavage, of the horrendous wicked scars in the shape of a Beowolf jaw when seeing that petulant expression. It's easy to look at her and see the child she'd been once. Except that it's impossible.

This woman that saunters over has so much leg and so many scars and looks so very much like Summer. And when she carefully seats herself as closely to Raven as she can and leans her head against Raven's shoulder, it smells like salt and burnt flesh and so so much blood.

"Experiment huh?" She asks and Ruby presses a grin and muffles quiet laughter against her and she allows it. She allows too much and for the worst reasons.

"Oh yes. Smashing success, by the by. Functional and drop dead gorgeously fashionable is possible to achieve at the same time," Ruby lays her cheek against her and smiles and winks. Raven rolls her eyes, only just resists the urge to shrug the woman off. "I'm thinking I won't benefit from this nearly so much as my one teammate, though!"

Her excuse to move away is a drink. It's going to be a drink, anyway, but.

"Teammate?" Ruby giggles again, that disturbing, girlish one that always seems so wrong except that something about it is wrong in a different way. A hitch in the breath maybe. The way her smile stretches too tight.

"Oh yeah, I uh. Guess who sold out?" She does shrug Ruby off then, and the flash of disappointment is such a brief thing it might not even be real. Maybe she just imagines it and the way it slightly sours Ruby's expression.

"Hmmmm, my shitty brother perhaps? Oh wait that happened years ago," very quietly Ruby gripes that Raven is absolutely no fun. Raven shrugs and stares her down, brow quirking, lips pursing. Expectant.

"I, uh, I accepted a job from Oz." She can only be so glad she hadn't gotten that drink but now she might really need one.

"You what?" Ruby has the good grace to wince and flinch and she kinda curls in on herself but the way she holds her head, up high, refusing to back down, is something. And Raven can't quite decide if that's a good something or an annoying something that doesn't always have to fucking fight her on everything especially on matters involving that particular man.

"I work at Beacon now. In an official capacity, I'm the hush-hush Head of Security. Like, earlier I got to flash my credentials to an officer of the law in Vale and then he listened to me! Like, I got to boss him around! Do you know how much fun I had, can you imagine it?"

"And in the most unofficial capacity, you're parading yourself as a student?" it isn't actually a question, though she poses it like one. She's not angry or even disappointed just. Jealous, maybe? Oz ruined things in a way that Raven understood to be for some sort of Greater Good. Raven ruined things too, but it was never good. She wasn't fond of dishonesty, the Ozpin brand. The kind that-

"Yeah, and I'm milking Oz for everything he's got, putting me in this position an' all," Ruby gestures vaguely and her arms cross and it reveals inches of cleavage she doesn't usually see on the girl. Woman.

"And what position is that?" Raven isn't a fan of having her time wasted, she's punched and kicked and fought and asked questions never for having her time wasted. She hasn't exactly killed for it but she's certainly threatened to enough times. And so she does wait impatiently for Ruby to speak.

The lady in red goes through a thousand expressions in a blink, lingering upon a few just long enough to start curling Raven's lips back in a displeased snarl. And then she settles on a soft smile like a corpse and dares to tell Raven,

"Oh, just turning your daughter into a murderer, a whole team in fact!"

Chapter Text

The Schnee Heiress is unmistakable. With her shock of white hair and crystalline blue eyes, she's a dead ringer for the megalomaniac that leads the SDC into wealth and infamy. She's scowling something fierce and every person that steps too close receives the coolest stare down from the icy heiress. Blake can feel the bow crumpling as her ears flatten and she actively avoids that confrontation-waiting-to-happen.

She finds a nice tree in a part of the campus that's, as far as her sharp eyes can tell, completely deserted. She settles down against the base of the grand thing, leaning back against it. It's the most perfect place to read a book, it's the perfect place to not! It's just the perfect place on a beautiful day and she's here. She made it out of Menagerie and the White Fang are none the wiser.

She's allowed to have this, to do this. To sit and close her eyes and just be. Her ears twitch and eyes snap open in time to see a blur rushing for-


-her face. And she's not an idiot, she understands that cupping her hands around her poor abused flesh doesn't make it hurt less. But that hardly stops her.

"Oh goodness! I-I'm sooo sorry are you ok? I wasn't even paying att- I didn't even see you- Ah fuck I'm really sorry I really really didn't mean to do that!" Half glaring through her fingers she finds a stunning woman. Eyes like quicksilver, painted mouth running rapidly through non-stop apology. The way she leans down bracing her hands against her knees exposes cleavage, scar tissue, and the edge of a tattoo on one shoulder.

"Did," she removes her hands and watches the woman watch her. Her eyes never move from Blake's, though. "Did you throw the thing!?"

"I, uh," she coughs and straightens and twiddles her fingers. "I mean. Not at you..." She threw it this woman literally threw the-

"Is," she stutters and hesitates and stares and- "This is Ninjas of Love."

"Volume four, yeah. Thank Oum-"

"It wasn't volume two." they stare with equally wide eyes until the woman begins to laugh. She extends a hand - for the book or for Blake or both, maybe - and offers a grin,

"Glad I didn't ruin your beautiful brain, stranger! Name's Ruby."

"Is there a target on your back?" It takes Blake a full five seconds to process, not the question, but the fact that Ruby posed it to her. She'd been so quiet since they'd left the diner, not even muttering or grumbling or anything. All but a wraith drifting through the dark of night, cloaked in fury and shadow and a drooping leather jacket.

She'd waited until they'd stormed two blocks away from the diner. Waited until they'd scaled the side of a building. Waited until Blake hesitantly leaned against the ledge of the roof next to her silently fuming form. She'd waited so long and Blake had all but convinced herself she'd never find out why Ruby woke her up at two to drag her into the city.

And so Blake is slow in processing the question but Ruby can be a patient beast and in this instance she is. She did, after all, wait so long just to ask it. And she doesn't even get upset when Blake eloquently responds,


Ruby takes a full minute to stare at absolutely nothing. Blake knows. She has stupid kinds o' night vision to work with and there is literally nothing in the direction Ruby stares. Empty rooftop and flickering neon lights. A breeze shifts Ruby's choppy hair and she finally melts.

She shifts to stand a little straighter, tuck a lock of hair behind her ear(it almost immediately falls back to tickling her cheek), and turn to gaze at Blake. It's one of the more serious looks she's ever spared. More serious than when she promises to make them run until they all vomit if they fail to meet her expectations in training. More serious than when Glynda- ok maybe not more serious than what just happened but.

"I won't say that it's not my business to know where you came from. It is my business, you belong to me. But. I do like to think that your belonging to me extends only in the sense of body. Your thoughts and feelings are your own and I have no right to them beyond how they help or hurt your function as a member of team RWBY."

She pauses here and looks past Blake and must be staring through space and time itself. She doesn't even look back to Blake as she starts up again,

"So I don't need to know where you came from. But I need to know if there is a target on your back. I need to know and I need to know right now. I like you Blake. I like you and Weiss and even a few kinda nameless, slightly interesting but significantly less important kids from Beacon. But if you, or anything you've unknowingly brought with you, is in any way a danger to my sister or that academy she's been working herself to the bone to get to, I can only make you promises."

Because she doesn't make threats. Right.

"I don't know," Blake admits and Ruby's eyes glow when they meet hers again. "I. I'd like to think it was a clean break but-"

"But you don't know," Ruby sighs and that seriousness she'd so unusually embodied slips away, back into the night where it'd crawled from. Ruby smiles and reaches over to ruffle her hair - absolutely ruining the quick bow Blake had tied around her ears - and laughs quietly when Blake protests and smacks at her hands.

And Blake doesn't think about the way Ruby's jaw is too tight, too sharp.

"Where are the girls?" Ruby had given her permission to peruse her personal stash of books and so Blake had plucked one from the neat arrangement of them on the bottom shelf of the bookcase. Her eyes scan the page and her brows lift - who the fuck did that guy think he was putting his partner in danger like that? - and she shrugs. Ruby hums, walking by her perch on the couch but pausing to read a paragraph over her shoulder.

"Oooh, that's a good one. A touch more exciting than the first!"

"This is the second in a series?"

"Yup," she draws away, scratching at Blake's ears and it's absolutely distracting. With a sigh she closes the book, putting it aside and staring at it disapprovingly. Surely it's the book's fault she'd grabbed it instead of the first of the series. Ruby laughs as she drifts over to the bookcase, rummaging for seconds before pulling out, presumably, the first book.

"Hey Blake," Ruby calls as she spins slowly back to face her partner, clutching the book to her chest, smiling oddly. Not in the usual sense, when it's out of place and wrong and. This smile, this crooked little half shy thing she aims at Blake, screams secrets she's dying to tell. "Is your birthday soon?"

"Not really?" It's just very random of her. And to be certain Ruby is often taken by any thought that strikes her whimsy but.

"Any Menagerie holidays coming up?" She's strolling back over to the couch at the speed of a fleet of snails, feet literally dragging across the carpet.

"You lived there for a year. With my parents. I think you'd know if there was," she was staring Ruby down now, suspicious. "What are you going on about, Ruby?"

"Oh, nothing, nothing..." Finally she reaches the couch once more, still wearing her smile full of secrets, rocking from her toes to her heels and back again. "Here." She's holding out the book and Blake trusts Ruby. Maybe she shouldn't, knowing exactly how powerful and at least a portion of how crazy she is, maybe it would be smarter to be a bit more wary of the woman. But she does trust Ruby and it still doesn't stop her from giving the book a pair of eyes like it'll snap to life and take a bite at her.

"Well? You don't want it? Don't you want to know about Lessa? Her story is super interesting!" Ruby sing-songs her way through that, slowly shaking the book like it's the most enticing piece of meat and Blake the hungriest beast. She shifts those eyes up to meet Ruby's and they dance and spark. Whatever her game is, she's enjoying it.

Blake snatches it away as quickly as she can, half expecting Ruby to pull it back at the last second and-

"What's-" Ruby had been hiding something under the book and as it loudly crinkles in Blake's grip, she nearly drops it and the book. It's something that limply flops over in its nondescript brown paper wrapping when she holds it up, "What's this, Ruby?"

"I dunnoooo, but it looks like something wrapped up in-"

"Ruby." The team leader laughs and Blake sighs and maybe she's smiling at the woman. Ruby is grinning like an absolute fiend.

"Open it."

"What is it?"

"Open it!" Blake tsks and sighs and stares Ruby down like this is the worst, the most awful thing she's ever asked Blake to do. Ruby just giggles and gestures insistently. And so Blake scowls and doesn't mean it and never shifts her narrowed eyes from Ruby until she has opened the package. It's a-

"A shirt?" Neatly folded and supremely soft, there's no tag and the edge of some sort of graphic on it. She glances at Ruby and her partner is positively preening.

"Yup!" She pops her 'p' and braces her fists on her hips. Truly ridiculous. "I promised you eons ago and today I delivered!"

"Uh huh," Blake intones, brow cocking. She's trying to bite back a smile but Ruby... "What are you talking about exactly?"

"Don't ya 'member? The Screaming Faunus?" Blake's eyes blow wide and she nearly drops the shirt she'd just picked up to get a nice long gander of. It's a band tee, the one Ruby had sworn she could snag for her, signed by every member of their favorite band.

"How!" The word tries to strangle her on the way out.

"Why else would I give you guys the day off?" Ruby laughs and Blake is cradling the shirt to her chest and on the verge of tears and quite suddenly she's the one being ridiculous. Getting so emotional over-over nothing. Over a flippant comment, an errant conversation in The Forest. A promise she hadn't taken seriously.

It was just a shirt. Just-

"And, uhh, don't be mad but. I may have made a pit stop while I was out," she's still smiling as she says this, pulling a crisp envelope from thin air and handing it over. The smile is tame and soft and the furrow of her brow is apprehensive. She's tense and worried and fidgets minutely and if Blake didn't live with this woman, know her and watch her, she might notice none of this.


"Open it." it's a plea.

And so she does.

Chapter Text

She's never moved this quickly outside of some sort of vehicle and she isn't entirely certain she likes it. In fact, she doesn't like it. Her eyes sting and water with the air rushing into them but she dare not close them for the blur of trees she'll have to be landing in sometime soo-

"Are you alright?" She's pulled against a solid wall of body, these words pressed against the shell of her ear. Yang. Right. She hadn't been the only one tossed. An arm secures itself around her waist and there's a quiet plea for her to hold on - she does - and then a cloak of yellow engulfs her would-be saviour. And at her behest, Weiss tucks her face into Yang's neck.

She's hot. Incredibly hot. Where their skin touches it almost burns. She can feel the low grunts, the quiet roars rumbling in the blonde's throat as she punch-crashes through trees and limbs, hurtling towards the ground. The other arm shifts, pulling her impossibly closer, cradling the back of her head.

Weiss has this sudden realization that she cannot honestly remember the last time anyone in her life had ever held her so carefully, so tenderly. As if she might break. She'd like to think Mother had, once upon a time. But. But there's nothing. No hazy memories of Him doing it. Not Winter. Not Whitley.

Klein had been the last person to embrace her. He'd congratulated her on making it into Beacon, out of that gilded prison and away from Jacques. He'd hugged her and told her he was proud and.

And even that did not compare.

"Are you alright?" Yang is repeating herself and it's unbecoming. Weiss means to tell her this. But Yang's still just holding her, her hand shifting cupping the back of her neck, thumb sweeping over skin to sooth and. "You aren't hurt?" Weiss shakes her head. She isn't hurt just mute and so red she feels sun scorched. Yang breathes a sigh of relief and a smile lights up her face.

"Good! That's good," she lowers Weiss slowly, carefully to her feet and dusts herself of splinters. "Not my best landing, but..."

"Uh, thank you," that comes out a little breathy but if Yang notices she says nothing of it. Waving it off,

"My sister chucked us, I figured the least I owed ya was an easy landing. And, uhh, it was kinda fun."


"I've never been thrown that far! Really felt like flying, ya know?"

Oh. Right.

Ruby had greeted them at the door after that first day of classes with a smile and the smell of spice and delectable foods wafting past her and into the hallway. She'd made dinner. And Weiss is quite used to having meals prepared for her but she'd wholly expected to lose that comfort here. At least to some degree. And so Ruby tells them to wash up and it's all very matronly and she's baking cookies for dessert.


She'd watched this woman tear Grimm apart without a grunt, without batting a lash. Oum alive, Ruby had thrown her miles effortlessly! And here she was, humming a tune that only Blake seemed to recognize, making dinner and baking cookies and promising to help them with homework. She turns to ask her partner about their team leader and the girl is half-petrified. Pale and- is she sweating?

"Ruby?" Yang ventures and the team leader stops bustling about immediately, focusing her whole attention on the blonde. "What's going on?" Yang will inform her - her and Blake - in the bathroom that the cookies Ruby bakes this night are some the woman only bakes on the worst occasions. To help break things easy.

Now, though, Weiss just stares with raised brows between the elder and younger sister. Ruby's smiling, though it is somehow a very serious expression.

"Go wash up," she repeats and it's as soft as her smile and incredibly more serious. "I'll tell you, all of you, after dinner."

"Yang, Weiss, take the field." Ruby half-drags Blake out of the immediate area, propping the groaning young woman against the wall. "No weapons, only hand-to-hand combat. I want to see you two give it your all, no pulling punches." Yang shifts, fidgeting. She spares Weiss an uncomfortable look.

"And by no pulling punches, you mean...?" Weiss doesn't blink and she still misses Ruby's movement. Yang is gasping and heaving, and then vomits. The fist Ruby had shoved into her sister's abdomen uncurls.

"If you aren't trying to hit each other this hard, you're pulling punches."

Weiss is a terribly light sleeper. Well perhaps she's being too generous. It's not so much that she's a light sleeper as it is that she's a restless sleeper. She tosses and turns, suffers vivid, if brief, dreams that shake her and wake her and struggles to fall back asleep and.

Honestly, being a part of team RWBY had helped her fall and stay asleep but her body is slowly adjusting, throwing in a few rough nights occasionally. This was one of those nights. This night, in fact, is particularly rough and just the softest sound, a muffled grunt, might as well be a cacophony of gunfire and explosions. Her eyes crack open and a most unpleasant scowl twists her features.

The slightest shift causes her to very nearly give herself away - she bites her tongue to keep a gasp at bay - as she finds Blake and Ruby in. Well, a compromising situation is the nicest way to put it. Ruby straddles Blake, holding her wrists in one hand easily and covering her mouth tightly with the other. She's grinning - what else is new(the freak) - and leaning down to whisper something. Blake nods slowly and so the hand over her mouth is removed.

She's frowning. Not screaming or trying to discreetly speak just loud enough to wake one of them - well, wake Weiss at least; Yang sleeps like an actual dead thing - no, no, none of that. Just frowning up at Ruby. In a disapproving way that is not nearly severe enough for this situation.

Ruby removes herself, but not completely. Letting go of Blake's wrists and sitting back on her hips. Blake props herself up on her elbows and hisses something at Ruby and Weiss cannot hear more than just the way it fills the air. Soft noise from a sharp unsmiling mouth.

The loudest sound is Ruby's giggle and it's so sudden and so much louder than anything they've done yet that Ruby herself seems to realize the hour and how truly inappropriate this all is. She cocks a head their way - Yang and Weiss' beds are next to each other - and Weiss snaps her eyes shut so damn fast.

It's because she's trying so hard to regulate her breathing, because her heart thumps away so hard, because the beat of it is so loud, that she misses them leave. It takes thirty seconds and the creak of the door and they're gone. She checks.

Only Blake comes back before sunrise.

Yang is a jealous brat.

Weiss kind-of loves it. On any given day, Yang is needy and sweet and cuddly and she genuinely makes Weiss laugh. But she was also incredibly strong, extremely reliable, and nigh indestructible. She was the perfect partner and.

And she was an absolutely childish, selfish fucking brat. It was adorable. And that was not a word Weiss used lightly. It was not a word she used often, in fact, until she'd joined team RWBY. And to be certain she doesn't go about spouting it out, usually just thinking it to herself but.

But sometimes.

"You're just. So cute!" She tries to keep it as an amazed murmur but it comes out as a coo and Yang gets all fluffy duckling, puffing up to seem big and angry. Her mouth twists and she breathes out a harsh huff through her flared nostrils and what she says is,

"You're the cute one here!" and it's precious. She sinks her teeth into her lower lip to hold back the most girlish squeal. "That's the problem! If you weren't so cute I wouldn't have to defend your honor and-" she splutters on and Weiss just smiles and watches her with soft eyes.

The first time it happens Weiss tries, valiantly and half-heartedly, to decline.

A session in The Forest leaves them all - except Ruby of course - a little worse for wear. Ruby massages the soreness from their muscles, her hands quick and warm, callused and covered in carmine energy. And once she's finished making them groan, she pulls out a brush and begins the arduous task of settling Blake's mane of pitch.

Yang whines almost immediately and Ruby only laughs, plucking a gnarled twig with a single red leaf attached from Blake's hair. She avoids Blake's bow and the whole time Blake remains as one giant, tensed muscle. But she hums as she works and she smiles, it doesn't seem forced or wrong for once. It's almost nice.

It's when she moves on to Yang that Weiss removes herself, opting out of this group grooming exercise for a nice long blistering hot shower to scrub the sweat Dust and dirt from her skin. She finds Ruby sitting on the edge of her bed, face buried in one of those gross sappy smut books she and Blake enjoy so much, and the brush in her lap. She snaps the book shut when Weiss emerges, patting the spot next to her on the bed.

It's only because BY aren't watching - they're both conked out on the couch, Yang snoring away softly - that Weiss allows this. And yes, it's only happening because she allows it, and Ruby understands. She thinks Ruby understands, from the reverent way she handles brushing, from the way she thanks Weiss and smiles and it's sincere.

And so the next it happens she doesn't even try to skip out.

And the next next time, when Yang approaches with a brush in her hands and a yearning in her eyes, Weiss even smiles.

 She doesn't know what's overcome her but she thinks it's got everything to do with Yang and her sister. If Yang was a touchy person then Ruby was practically a leech. She'd spent half of the first month at Beacon sneaking into Yang's bed at night for a cuddle, and then as many nights as possible sneaking into bed with Weiss or Blake.

Which usually managed to rouse them. Weiss especially. The weirdest thing is that she doesn't mind it as much as she says otherwise. She. Enjoys it?

Her life had not been one filled with coddles and cuddles and overtly warm displays of affection. Or really any displays of affection, barring interactions with Klein, of course. But these instances were quite a bit more intimate. A grown woman, sneaking into her bed! It was ridiculous! It was.

Very confusingly comforting.

But this. This momentous occasion marks a development in her she doesn't quite understand.

She'd snuck into Yang's bed.

Blake always sleepy-complained at Ruby for a short moment every time the woman woke her up but still consistently obliged her request to be big spoon. And, restless as she forever was, the noise had roused her and Weiss had watched it all go down. And Ruby looked so content snuggled up underneath Blake's chin like that. The way Weiss always tucked herself into Ruby and.

And she wanted that too, damnit!

Her eyes find the not-quite-snoring lump that is Yang's messy sleep sprawl in her bed and. And she knows how warm the blonde is. Knows, even, how her body tucks against Yang's. Against her back or her chest, the way it feels to nuzzle her nose against Yang's throat.

She finds herself throwing back covers before she has time to consider any alternative to what must be the idea indicative of her finally losing her mind. And then she's crawling into bed with Yang and she thinks she wakes the blonde for all of three seconds. Yang mutters and shifts and throws an arm around Weiss at the same time that she curls into her, and Weiss is trapped as her partner settles.

Yang's breathing is louder, the loudest sound in the room from here and it should annoy Weiss. Should grate on her tired, sleep deprived nerves. It should drive her right out of this tangle of limbs and this bed so hot she might break out into a fine sweat.

And so she sleeps until morning and she doesn't dream and even Ruby doesn't tease her when she wakes last.

Well. Maybe just a little.

Yang was lonely - and a brat! - so when Weiss creeps into Blake's bed that night, Yang sneaks in after. Blake complains and Yang is awake enough to argue back,

"Mine!" And throw an arm around Weiss to tug her closer. Not quite out of Blake's own hold. The two glare but it's more like zombie-staring because it is so late and after their 'sorry we're socially awkward assholes' slumber party last night with team JNPR, they're all a nipply bit worn out. So in the glare some sort agreement is reached to share and they settle down for sleep.

She can't be certain what wakes her. Noise or dreams or. Hmm, no probably just her bladder. Yang mutters and Blake mewls - that is so cute it physically hurts her to hold back her coo - as Weiss pulls herself from the cage of their bodies and then the two find each other in the bed and settle and sometimes Weiss could just watch her fam-

Ahh, uh, she should stop creeping and go use the restroom. A dreamless night of restful sleep awaited her.

A yawn cracks her jaw and squeezes her eyes shut, tears pricking at the corners. The kind of breath-hitching, body rocking yawn that deserves a stretch, smacking lips and a groan. She's scrubbing a fist into one eye when she shoulders the door open, leaning back against it as another yawn pops her ears and she reaches for light switches that-

Her eyes crack open and every bit of lethargy flees, like ice melting down her spine, like a slap in the face. Like her teammate, her team leader, standing in a pair of panties the shade of Yang's eyes when she's enraged.

Every tattoo - the scars and the ink that decorated them - is on display and that's not what steals her breath. It's not the bruises on her back like she'd been thrown around by Yang on a rampage. Not the lack of smile or eyes so dull and gray it's like wet stone or cool ash. It's not the mess of her makeup streaking down her face, mixing with the blood coating the lower half of her face courtesy of a crooked broken nose.

No, no it's none of those things though they are worthy of the pause, of the gasp that chokes her, of the tears the spring to her eyes. It's the vivid deep, dark purple that rings her throat. The imprint of hands.


Chapter Text

Yang Xiao Long knows that she is loved, because Ruby Rose tells her every single day. Her first memory is of Ruby curled around her, sharing warmth and pressing kisses to her nose, cheeks and forehead - and pretty much every other part of her face - until she squeals with laughter and throws her pudgy arms around her. Her first word is "Ruby" and the utterance earns her precious hugs and kisses.

And all of her memories, those from the earliest years of her childhood, are wrapped up in Ruby. Though as she grows, this becomes something less. That is to say, by the time she is five she sees startlingly less of the center of her universe. Ruby chases away the cold at night, washes her hair and and. And it, she, starts to disappear along with Uncle Qrow. She doesn't tell papa how sad this makes her because her sun, shattered moon and stars tells her it's important. Tells her the disappearing act is something that she must do to become strong.

"To protect you, little duck," Ruby coos against the crown of her head, singing wordless songs to help lull her to sleep. The cold creeps in very quickly, the cold makes it hard to sleep. Complaining to papa always makes Ruby appear and this is the night, the last night, she'll ever complain at the loss. Because Ruby is protecting her. Because Ruby has always protected her. And she needs to be a strong girl for her Ruby.

And so Ruby is there less, but she never truly leaves. Sometimes she'll be gone longer - days or weeks or one awful period that lasted well over a month - but she's there when it counts. And in those times when she's alone, just her and papa, she begins to notice or maybe just realize that they are alone. Alone together, perhaps, but alone. There is no mama where there should be one.

When she asks papa he grows quiet and sad and that makes her sad but when she cries he gets very very upset. She tries not to cry. Angry, though, gets results. Results she does not like. Yang does not enjoy the way papa talks to her, not like Ruby. He's delicate where she needs him to be blunt. She's a strong girl! She deserves to know!

When she's seven, Ruby appears one day and, with a solemn face, sits her down to talk about mama.

"Do you know what a bitch is?" Yang does not. "It's a lady that is not nice."

"Mama is... a bitch?"

"Yes ma'am! She's a bitch, but it's more than just that... She can't love."

"But... How does she sleep?" Ruby always told her sleeping next to something you love makes the body and brain happy. Ruby smiles and Yang likes when Ruby smiles but this one isn't happy and that makes her chest hurt.

"Restlessly, sweet thing." And Yang is silent as she considers this. Ruby just holds her and nuzzles into her hair and squeezes her tight with happy little sighs. And finally she ventures,

"Mama... doesn't love me?" She's lifted and spun around on Ruby's lap and Ruby is very serious, fierce when she tells,

"It's never been a matter that she doesn't. It's not even that she has no desire - she can't love you, Yang." And that is all that Ruby says and. And it's something that she won't understand for a very long time.

When Yang is ten, she unlocks her Semblance. Ruby is there to witness it and it's all very embarrassing. She cries. She's supposed to be a strong girl, Ruby's strong girl. And then she just gets upset and out come the tears. Ruby doesn't mind, though, doesn't say anything to the waterworks. She hugs Yang and laughs and tells her she's proud of her and that makes her cry harder.

Yang does not like being a weak girl. She does not like to cry. Not in front of Ruby.

So as Ruby leads her away from school she scrubs the tears out of her eyes and fits a fierce expression on her face. And Ruby laughs and smiles at her and Ruby has very pretty smiles.

"You look just like your mother," Ruby breathes and Yang stops short and stares at her and Ruby must not realize the mistake she's made. Papa and Uncle - he and Ruby have been spending much more time at home(all the time, in fact) for the past year - are careful to never mention Her in front of Yang. Ruby has never had those reservations.

She jerks to and keeps pace with Ruby and chews on her thoughts before blurting out,

"Oh yeah?" and hoping against hope that Ruby will continue. Uncle and papa always glare and make comments at Ruby to stop her from talking about Her. But Uncle and papa aren't here right now.

Ruby hums, nodding her head, tossing a grin her way,

"Oh yes! Everyone else will tell you that Tai is your twin, but you looked so much like her just then!" Just. Just then? "When you punched that little tw- err, jerk!"

Mama must be a strong girl - lady - Yang thinks. Yang wants to be strong too. Yang is strong!

"Can you train me?" Ruby stops this time. Body rigid, eyes wide, breath freezing in her lungs. It's the longest three seconds of Yang's life. And then Ruby smiles and it's not very pretty at all and she ruffles Yang's hair,

"Maybe when you're older!" And Yang pretends not to notice and complains and thinks about mama and thinks about Ruby and thinks she should have just asked about mama instead.

When Yang is almost twelve, Ruby bakes cookies, packs clothing in a bag and tells them she's going traveling. She'd been uncharacteristically quiet for a few days, distant even to Yang, and so it's very out of nowhere and none of them quite know what to say. Yang will not cry and so she does not cry, wearing the fiercest look she can she demands that Ruby take her too.

She does not like the smile Ruby gives her. Likes less when Ruby shakes her head and tells her no. Not, "I can't." not, "In a few years." not with any explanation or, or anything. Just a flat, No. And Yang will not cry and so she does not.

"I'll send letters," she tells Yang, tells the rest of them over baked goods and glasses of milk. "Every week!" And papa doesn't smile and Qrow doesn't smile and Yang doesn't smile but not for the reasons her parental units don't. Yang will not cry and she doesn't except maybe a little that night. It seems silly to get upset over and she feels very foolish but somehow this feels less like a See ya later, and more like a Goodbye.

That's what Qrow had thought, what papa had thought. She's not stupid, she could tell. But. But it is foolish of her. Ruby sends her letters every week for a whole long time!...

Until she doesn't, about eight months in.

And that hurts. Those letters mean everything. Because Qrow leaves shortly after her and never writes. Because papa becomes sad, even if he tries to be happy for her. Because a home without her family in it is not a home, it's just a house with a bed that she sleeps in.

Ruby visits twice. In the first three months, and then in month seven. And then the letters all but stop and.

And Yang wants to cry so bad. Wants to scream and break things and cut off this hair Ruby loved so much, told her looked like Hers. She just wants to give in to the hurt she's nurtured ever since she was young, realized her own mother didn't - Can't - love her. Wants to push everything and everyone away and just.


Yang becomes an excellent student. She trains hard and studies hard and pursues friendships and interests hard. She thinks little of Ruby and little of her mother and. And she just tries not to think very much when it isn't necessary. Flies by the seat of her pants. It's easy.

Like breathing or punching or turning things into ash.

Qrow visits occasionally and he's always drunk but he smiles for her and dotes on her and teaches her stuff when he feels like it. Papa is so happy to see him and it's almost like a real family when he's there. Papa tries his hardest but. And Yang thinks they're both very alike - absence makes the heart grow weaker.

But they are only ever visits.

Which is more than can be said for Ruby.

The letters she receives these days, few and far between as they be, feel like a mockery.

Chapter Text

She sees it happen over the course of a lifetime.

Emotions flash through eyes like hot blood though the face that holds them, the face she beholds, remains startlingly blank. This lasts eight decades until a twist. A shift of features, lips curling and eyes glaring and - it's all very reminiscent of a Beowolf. The way the teeth bare in a snarl, the way crimson eyes gleam and there is nothing in them remotely human.

It's savage fury and the all consuming need to spill blood to gorge on flesh to maim kill destroy ruin ruin ruin.

The twist happens in short years, her body coils in the same handful and she launches into the air. Like a viper striking if it happened in the slowest of slow motions. Ruby watches this happen. Watches Raven fly at her noise warbling out of her throat eyes burning burning burning burning and she can move. She can duck, shift, run. She can slap Raven out of the air and she wouldn't even know it until Ruby allowed her.

She could kill this woman that she loves too much. She can do anything.

And so Ruby sits and watches Death approach her. Ruby sits and closes her eyes for just a moment and breathes out slow and when she opens them she deactivates her Semblance.

Time is something that is all but meaningless. Speed makes it so.

With her Semblance active, everything changes. If her body were not made of sterner stuff it would tear apart as she runs. If her eyes and brain were unable to perceive and comprehend the way the world smears, slows, stops then the speed would be utterly worthless. And so, when her Semblance is active, even just passively, time ceases to have any greater meaning. Just another human construct.

She stares into the mirror for centuries, just trying to breathe.

Her lungs hit half capacity and then there's a painful hitch that stops the air flow. Like a hiccup with force. The air stops her lungs stall and she waits for the rest of a breath that never comes and then she blows the air out to try again. Decades. Eons. Ages. She gasps, she fails, she tries again.

In the midst of one era something changes. The door opens at a crawl and in walks beauty, slumping back against the door to close it. She wonders if the arrival will make it easier-

No. The hitch, the stall, the failure.

She takes another short breath while Weiss opens her eyes and sees her. She can make time stand still. Not for longer than five minutes, and doing so actively starts to slowly rip her body apart, but she can. Right now she isn't but everything stops. Weiss' eyes fill with tears and she cups hands over her mouth to muffle what must be the love child of a gasp and a sob and time just stops.

She stares at Weiss and Weiss stares at her and.

And she knows how this must look. Draped in ruin, blood, and deserved bruises. Chest fluttering with noiseless begs for air. She knows this must be terrifying. She wants to tell Weiss, wants to talk scream cry howl tell her everything, why she looks like this why she deserves to look like this.

But there is the hitch.

There is the stall.

There is the failure.

She tries again and Weiss stumbles over her name and. And for the first time in millions of years her eyelids shutter over her eyes. She moves and her limbs are not heavy things but it is a struggle regardless. She settles her hands against either side of her nose, fails to take a deep breath,


A gasp, audible, leaves her and fresh blood comes rushing but that hardly matters when she's leaning over a sink. Half a lungful is still enough to force air through her nose hard and splatter blood all into the basin.

Weiss flinches, eyes squeezing shut, tears slipping down her cheeks over her hands. It's when she spins to fumble for the door handle that Ruby abandons her twin in the glass. She does not activate her Semblance to reach the heiress in a blink. She crosses the bathroom and reaches her in the seconds Weiss fumbles and chokes down her cries. The door opens and she slams a palm against it, shutting it and trapping Weiss against the wood. She's shuddering and crying quietly and Ruby stands at her back keeping her hand on the door.

"Weiss." Her voice is hoarse, using it smarts. "Please don't."

She's not certain what she means and that chokes off her struggling breaths quicker than the hitch the stall the failure. Don't leave? Don't cry? Don't don't don't don't don't don't what?

"What happened?" Don't ask that.

She stares at hair like moonlight and does not speak but screams and cries and aches from the confines of her mind. Weiss whirls around and her wet eyes are fierce and she snarls but her lips tremble and twitch and it is a most delicate thing.

"What happened, Ruby?" Her voice is not louder, she does not yell. If anything it's a whisper, a harsh hiss from between gritted teeth. They click together and the sound of it, the dull shriek of bone grinding bone, is jarring. She thinks she must flinch, must cower away and.

She blinks and sways and stares and if Weiss didn't look so pretty - beautiful lovely gorgeous enchanting charming precious fragile breakable tarnished ruined murderer - when she cried Ruby might feel worse about the tears. Might be moved to them herself. But she is not.

She cannot cry, not any longer, not anymore than she has.

"I," hitch stall fail hitch stall fail click grind scream. "I did something wrong." The laugh Weiss lets loose is the loudest sound she's made and that does startle her. It's hysteric. Harsh noise bordering on furious and manic and. And the words tumble from numb lips, "I hurt someone, I lo-"

("You don't know how to love you fucking monster.")

Weiss stares at her and she stares at Weiss and works her jaw but no more words come out. Hitch. Stall. Fail.





"I," her bones jellify and her knees hit the floor. "I really. F-fucked up." Hitch stall fail hitch stall fail hitch stall fail hitch-

("You ruined everything.")

"I really just didn't," the words are spilling from her lips and her already labored breathing is becoming panicked.

("The only good thing I've EVER done!")

"Think. I. I didn't think!" Her blood-stained hands are curling into fists, trembling and shaking and smearing blood her blood over the floor tiles.

("Because of you. Because of YOU my brother, my daughter, SUMMER...")

"I wanted. I wanted to help. I. It's not my fault I was trying to help!"

("You have no place here.")


She she can't breathe she can't fucking breathe she-

"Ruby," Weiss is kneeling in front of her, pressing warm palms - too soft for this world, too clean for this work - against her cheeks, cradling her face and Ruby reels and hyperventilates and might not even be in this realm of existence. "You did your best. You're a warrior, a beautiful powerful woman and a person and you did your best."

Don't. Don't. Don't don't don't don't don't fucking cry don't you dare cry you deserve this you monster you fucking sick freak you-


Chapter Text

Weiss has never been good at this part. In fact, of all of them, it's usually Ruby that does this. She's the hugger, the talker, the mediator, the-

The mostly naked woman shaking with silent, tearless sobs, curling into herself on the blood-smeared tiles of team RWBY's bathroom floor. For all that Weiss had tried to ask, tried to run, tried to comfort, none of it was what Ruby needed and now the woman that gave her this family - that's what they are isn't it? Why she cares for them all so damn much it chases away the furious, black hatred she's nursed for so long? - she cherishes so needs her and.

And she's very bad at this.

Even Blake is better and Blake is all but a hermit half the time! Weiss tries she does she just. She hasn't exactly had the healthiest home life. She wasn't really raised in an overly loving or comforting environment and what experience she's gained over the course of these months and with the implementation of The Hour is all too paltry in the face of this. This babbling, broken, bruised and bloodied woman.

If I was Yang, she thinks. Wishes she'd been quick enough to get her or Blake but. But no, that would have been much worse. If Yang had discovered this? Oum help the sorry son-of-a-bitch who wreaked such havoc on Ruby, Yang would have literally murdered them.

Still, though, Yang would know what to do, Yang would, would.

Yang would...

She shifts forward, draping her arms around Ruby's shoulders and pulling her in. Ruby doesn't hesitate to wrap herself around Weiss, crushing the heiress against her body and shaking the both of them with this awful, heavy, silent weeping. She coos and hums and runs just her fingertips over Ruby's battered, bared flesh. Hours could pass. Days. She knows, of course, that it can't be more than minutes.

Yang would have found them or Blake or both and wouldn't that have been a terrible horrible thing?

Still, the passage of time is such that her legs begin to cramp and her bladder, which was kind enough to leave her be for this urgency, reminds her that it did indeed wake her for a purpose. She's hesitant to end this, though. Misses that soft bed and those warm bodies, but half-terrified of what could happen should she leave.

"Ruby," she murmurs against the team leader's scalp. She's shaking less but still squeezing Weiss so tight it hurts, breaths harsh and hot and stuttering against her throat. "Love, I need you to move."

She doesn't.

"I'm not leaving," Weiss promises and it's a heavy thing. There's a touch more ache as Ruby squeezes just harder, and then she releases and she's sitting back on her heels, hands curled into white-knuckled fists on her thighs. She's staring down at them and her breathing is almost normal.

"Can you do something for me?" Ruby doesn't look up, though her head jerks in a nod. "I need you to get in the shower, wash off the worst, ok? After that I'm drawing a bath and I'll help you with the rest." Another sharp, singular nod. On a whim(Yang would do this, right?), she reaches out for Ruby, hooking a hand around her neck and pulling her forward until their foreheads touch.

"Look at me," this is a demand. Ruby obeys. "Come back, won't you? I missed you. We missed you. Yang almost murdered Pyrrha over you-" this is the wrong thing to say. Something in Ruby's eyes darkens and there is an agony she cannot understand that twists her features. Panic sharpens her tone, "Ruby! You stay here with me, understand? You're not allowed to-to go wherever you please, not without me, not without us!"

And for a second there is change. A flash of light in dull, lifeless eyes. The way her brow furrows when she's got a thousand things to say but usually just smiles instead. Her eyes close, her mouth twists and it's not into a grin but she nods and Weiss breathes,

"Thank you," and presses a kiss to the crown of her head. This, oh sweet Oum, this is the right thing. The hard lines in her face smooth and peace descends and Weiss only moves when Ruby's eyes open and they're not quite shining silver but there's at least a soul inside. Something that wants to live and breathe and be.

The toilet is separate from the bathing area, a room unto itself, like a closet with a tiny mirror, sink and the throne of porcelain and Weiss doesn't quite close the door that keeps it from the rest of the bathroom, listening for the sounds of movement that Ruby is actually doing as Weiss all but begged of her.

The shower runs and the water is displaced by a body and tension pinching her shoulders lets up. She sighs very quietly and moves to cradle her face but stops when she sees her hands. Stained by blood and what she hopes is just makeup. Her throat isn't much better, as it turns out. She flinches to see herself in the mirror. The wicked, brackish mix of blood and whatever staining her neck and the collar of her nightgown looks too much like her throat's been ripped open.

She thinks of the sound of Ruby's blood splattering in the sink and feels her stomach twist.

The shower turns off.

She swallows. Takes a deep breath. Steps back into the bathroom.

She wants to ask why Ruby isn't healing herself. She almost does when she finds the woman standing naked and dripping in the shower stall, staring at her toes and not totally there. With the grime somewhat gone - there's dried blood caked into her hair that the short shower had only wetted, rivulets of it running down her neck and back - it's easier to see the damage.

It is, for the most part, her face and neck. Of course those awful indigo handprints vividly color her throat, her bottom lip is swollen and split and angry looking. The dark, dark bruises beneath her eyes from a lack of sleep and the nose she'd forced back into place. It might not even be that bad but.

But the hands.

They make it hard to breathe, a lump swelling in her throat she struggles to swallow. She wants to pull Ruby into another hug and just never let her go. Instead, she grabs one of Ruby's hands between both of hers to tug her over towards the tub. She sits on the edge and gently coaxes Ruby to do the same while she draws the bath and. And Weiss tells Ruby something she never has.

"I've admired you for years, did you know that?" She hasn't let go of Ruby's hand, threading the fingers of her own through the gaps between Ruby's fingers. "I know you did, you rotten cheat. Blake told me you researched us. Dork." she laughs and it feels strangled but sounds soft in the warming air.

"Did you know I had posters of you, though? Posted all over my walls. They made father so mad! He hated you, you know? I. Kinda wanted that. If he hated me, like he did Winter, he'd leave me be but. I was scared. To lose mother." She's watching her own hands, tracing patterns on the back of Ruby's, so she only sees the way Ruby's head cocks from the corner of her eyes. A smile that feels sad and pathetic and gray like clouds heavy with rain flits across her face.

"Funny thing. I never really had her, though. I. I can't remember the last time she spoke to me. That sucks." She stops and hesitates and swallows the lump and the tears because this is not helping except. Except Ruby squeezes her hand like she's there and listening and.

"You were the first person in years to. Care, I guess? I mean, I had. I have someone back home but. I dunno. You brought Blake and Yang and with you it's like. It feels like. This is what I wanted. Why I was so scared to lose mother, because I. Because I just thought that she, surely, would be the one to. To love me."

Because that's what this is. They love her and. She loves them. She loves her team, with all her heart. More than that, even. So much it feels like her body will burst with it sometimes. It's why the acute ache of seeing Ruby like this, with mother's dull, listless eyes feels like pure torture.

The bath is full and steams and she turns the nobs off. There is no shame to strip in front of Ruby. Ruby and Yang are both rather shameless and Weiss was quick to learn that. So she sheds her stained gown and quietly begs Ruby into the bath but it's hardly needed. She climbs in and offers Weiss a hand and her eyes are soft, soft silver. They don't gleam and glow and she's smiling and it's sad.

But Weiss thinks she's ok with that, returns that smile as she takes the hand and slides into the bath after her.

"She loves you," Weiss starts at the hoarse croak. She'd made Ruby turn so she could begin scrubbing blood out of her hair - using Yang's shampoo, because she could get away with it and Yang favored soaking and scrubbing in the tub and she'd forgotten to grab anything else - and had kept herself focused on that. It seemed the easier thing to do. "She's your mother. How could she not?"

She holds back a bark of laughter that is anything but amused, biting it back, shoving it down along with snaps about how much of that love mother spares for the drink over her. So she doesn't really say anything and Ruby had said all she needs and passes her a washcloth when she asks.

"What do they mean?" Ruby cocks her head, humming and Weiss specifies, "The tattoos." There's script weaving around half of a stylized Grimm mask in a language she doesn't know on Ruby's shoulder. It curves around the wicked scars that a Beowolf left behind years ago. She knows a magnificent rose, petals scattering, decorates the other half of the jaw on her collarbone.

"For. My mom." Weiss winces and sucks in a sharp breath to apologize and Ruby continues, "It means, 'Who put this flesh between our spirits' and uh. The rose... My rose, it was hers."

"They're beautiful," Weiss breathes, sweeping reverent fingers over the elegant scrawl. There are others, of course. The one on her forearm. Ones that hang from claw marks on her side and lower back, wrapping around a hip.

"You should heal," is what she says, instead of asking after more precious ink. Ruby hums again, very noncommittal. She clicks her tongue, disapproving and not willing to even playfully slap at her. "Ruby, if Yang sees you like this..."

"I don't... I don't deserve to just. Pretend it never happened." Weiss does not think that's possible, even were it something Ruby wanted. Weiss would be ok pretending. She's pretty good at it.

"And you don't have to," Weiss tells her, shifting closer and leaning her chin on Ruby's shoulder. Ruby leans her head against Weiss. "But if you think it's even remotely ok to flaunt the fact you were strangled to her?" She doesn't continue. She doesn't need to. Ruby's shoulders droop, her head ticking away from Weiss, she sighs very quietly.

She reaches up with one trembling hand, touching her throat. There's a glow of red and Weiss watches the handprints fade. Purple to green to brown to jaundiced yellow to unmarked skin. Weiss slips arms around Ruby's waist, squeezes. And when Ruby's hands find hers, she squeezes those too.

She thinks it'll be difficult, but she's going to find a way to squeeze Ruby into Blake's bed tonight as well. 

(It is, and she does.)

Chapter Text

It's a balmy night and jackets aren't necessary but he deigns to don one if only for the comfort it's hood provides. The comfort his companion brings is a glass bottle filled with liquor. He watches her from behind the dim glow of his lit cigarette and she watches him beyond the lip of a bottle.

She might be drinking moonlight itself from the way the light catches it, shines as she pulls her lips from the bottle and wipes spittle and excess alcohol from her mouth with the back of one hand. Her eyes trail away from his but he keeps watching and neither is saying anything. It should be more uncomfortable, and maybe it might be without the things that occupy hands and mouths. Sweet sweet distractions.


"It's strange," he speaks first. He's not certain he would have months ago. Well, actually that's not true at all. He wouldn't have been able to handle the silence, he would have been nervous and stuttering. Now it is easy to temper himself, to find his words after pause and consideration. "I usually only share this perch with your sister."

There's a tension that ripples the muscles of her back, tensing her shoulders and straightening her spine in the most subtle shift. He might not even notice were it not for her attire. Gray joggers, an orange beater with her crest close to the hem of it just above a hip. It exposes the intimidating bulk of her arms, the broad expanse of her shoulders, an otherwise tantalizing view of cleavage free from the constraints of a brassiere.

"To be fair," he continues when she only takes a swig from the bottle, grimacing. "I have no choice, I literally cannot do anything to convince her to leave me be. She's kinda annoying, huh?"

Ah, and Yang could be attractive when she smiled, who woulda thunk it? He had always wondered, in his quiet moments, if she could accomplish such a feat.

"Yeah," Yang breathes after a swallow, voice thick and rough. "She's very annoying, actually." He snorts, eyes rolling and she huffs out a soft laugh and the tension dissolves and silence descends.

A cool breeze pulls at his hood, tousling invisible fingers through his hair. The ponytail she's pulled her hair up into hardly shifts. He can't imagine the pain it must be taking care of it all, and she does make certain to take absolute care of it all, Ruby had told him. She might have been just shy of insane but she was the only member of team RWBY with any sensible hairstyle.

"I suppose she's got her uses, though," It's Yang that ventures forth into the second stretch of silence, shaking her bottle just a bit. "This sleepover wouldn't be nearly so fun-" he snorts. "-without her."

And yet she's absent. Really he'd had every reason to decline Yang's invitation earlier. Pyrrha had wanted to strangle her when she'd shown up at their door sheepish and apologetic, had been in the middle of telling Yang a nice friendly Fuck no! when he'd interjected to accept. Pyrrha hadn't liked that very much though Yang had been visibly relieved.

When Yang had gone, Pyrrha had rounded on him demanding answers and he'd shrugged and told her what Ruby had told him.

He needed better friends. Yang might not be the nicest but she'd never threatened to kill him in cold blood. And Ruby adored her. And she had been making attempts at niceties, he'd noticed.

And, AND... And she'd offered food and drink and he'd had to listen to Ruby wax poetic about her amazing room for far too long to pass up the chance to tell her just how much he wasn't impressed.

That is to say, he'd be lying to her face.

"Where is she?" He was hopping up on the ledge, shifting to lay down and pillow his head with his hands and- he was mimicking Ruby's usual slouch, even grinning around his cigarette. Oum, this couldn't be a good sign.

"You don't know?" He doesn't turn his head but he eyes from his position. She's not looking at him, the smile has twisted into another ugly grimace.

"Why would I?" She finally shifts, head cocking his way.

"You two are like. Best friends?" Wow that must have hurt her to say, sounded like she'd choked out the last bit. He snorts, head lolling on his neck to finally face her. She must not like the way he grins.

"Us? Best friends? Are you blind?" She shifts from foot to foot, gulps a mouthful of moonlight, keeps scowling. "She threatened to kill me ya know?"

Yang's head jerks and her face goes slack and the air must whoosh out of her for she does look totally breathless. And then. And then she smiles.

He really does need better friends.

"I," she pauses and laughs and it's a lovely sound. Disbelief. "I'm sorry I just. I hadn't realized..."

"You don't have to look so happy about it," he gripes and grumps and has every reason for it to be genuine.

"I'm not- it's not about-..." she sighs and sets her bottle down on the ledge, turning fully to face him and crossing arms over her chest. It's not like he's trying to stare at the extra cleavage this creates. He's not, he actively wants to avoid it, but the way he lays puts him at eye level and, well...

"...I kinda thought you two were dating-"

Wait what.

"Oh fuck no! You really are crazy if you thought I wanted anything to do with that sack of insanity," he pauses, hums, second-guesses, "Outside of a friendly acquaintance sorta dealy, anyway. I mean, she's pretty. Like, like you're pretty, like Blake's pretty like most of the girls at this school are really pretty, but. I have no interest in her, not in that regard."

There's a pause, Yang's face clears as she thinks and then, with a grin,

"You think I'm pretty?"

"You know you're pretty," Yang laughs and it isn't disbelief and it is a beautiful thing. And so he chuckles too, but cautious, subdued. (Must he approach every friendship so carefully?)

"Well, far be it from me to call you a liar," he scoff-laughs and she grins and shifts a little closer to him, palming her bottle for a swig. She offers it to him.

"I don't think-" she shakes it and makes some sort of imploring grunt noise. "Maybe I shouldn't-" she does it again, more insistent. He sighs, propping himself up on one elbow to reach for the bottle. He takes a sniff and shudders, groaning quietly.

Yang receives a glare for her most unhelpful quiet laughter. She placates with a shrug and gestures for him to drink. He only hesitates to take a gulp of air, brace himself and

Oh Oum alive! Sharp but mostly tasteless, it burns going down and sucks the moisture from his mouth, begging him to sputter and cough. He resists, squeezing eyes shut and gulping once, twice, thrice-

"WOO! You're my boy, Jaunie!" She shouldn't woop so loud so late. He should remind her to quiet.

And yet.

He pulls the bottle from his lips like it'll snap his head from his shoulders, coughs and chokes and. And then he laughs and throws his arms up and out to join in Yang's raucous laughter and shouts.

Chapter Text

They're woken with kisses, each and every one of them.

Blake receives press after press after soft, affectionate press on her chin and every inch of the underside of her jaw until she blinks her eyes open and begins to purr, pulling the woman more securely against her. Ruby nuzzles up into her throat and sighs,

"Morning Kitten." And there's one last kiss left lingering against her neck before some amount of Ruby writhing and magic allows the team leader to untangle and move on to the next body in her bed. Because sometime during the night every member managed to find a place in a bed decidedly too small to house them all.

She should probably mention something to Ruby. She sincerely doubted the little lady would be opposed to the idea of just one big bed they could all share. Ah, but maybe Yang and Weiss wouldn't?

Well they'd certainly had no problems with it last night.

She could just bring it up during The Hour.

Ruby wakes Weiss even before the love letting can begin, the slide of Ruby's palms over her cheeks startles her and her brilliant blues snap open. Before the gasp can even finish leaving her lips Ruby's leaving a trail of utter adoration all over her face, Blake watches. She smiles. It goes all soft and goofy when Weiss finds her eyes and her face tints pink pink absolutely pink!

Weiss gets her last morning greeting on the mouth, followed by a whispered,

"Morning Princess," and her face glows. When Ruby abandons her, crawling over her to begin the process anew on Yang, Weiss retreats to Blake's arms. She waits for a warning, watching over Weiss' head at the whining groaning golden-haired beast fighting valiantly against relentless kisses.

"Don't tell Yang I got it first." is what she eventually receives on the tail end of a sigh. She muffles laughter into Weiss' hair - smells like Yang - tells her,

"Your partner is a child."

"Ruuuuubyyyyy! Staaaahp!"

"I know."

Ruby hadn't woken them until quite late, nearly afternoon, but entirely on purpose. They would be skipping classes today, spending the day in town.

"I've got errands to run," she wasn't really smiling, hadn't really been smiling since waking them. She seemed worried distracted tired. So tired. She really should mention that whole bed idea. "And you're all running them with me." There was no offer, though it wasn't a demand.

And it is strange... Though it goes without being openly acknowledged, Ruby doesn't wear makeup today. Not a lick of it. The bruises under her eyes it's like... They're too dark. It makes something in her cringe and twist and squirm. One might think she hadn't slept at all while she was away...

"While we're out can we go to a mattress store?"

"So what's the verdict, Gramps?" Ruby kicks the door open with the least amount of force. No glass shattering no hinges blown off. It's a nondescript Dust shop being run by one elderly man that laughs when he sees its only Ruby.

Only Ruby and her ragtag team of Warrior Women in training.

"I think the verdict is still out until-" and the canvas bag, a light little something Ruby had slung over one shoulder before they'd left Beacon, is all but thrown haphazardly on the counter he guards with a smile.

"I can provide source material? Oh ye of little faith," she sighs and flips at her hair with the flick of one wrist. He only pauses in his reaching to glance up at her for confirmation and she gestures grandly for him to continue. There's clothing in the bag. A dress, heels, accessories.

"Oh! Oh these are lovely! Here I was just asking for a sample..." he mutters half to himself as he carefully pulls out some of the dress to squint at.

"Oh ye of the littlest faith!" Ruby chortles, leaning a hip and elbow against the counter, her head propped up in one hand. "So can you do it?"

"I can but I'll need-"

"Excellent. I've left what basic scribbles of design I've had time to ponder in the bag, how 'bout I just check back in a few, hmm?"

"Your belief in me is astounding, Miss Rose."

"I like to think it's well placed,"

It's a local noodle shop with a faded sign that Ruby ushers them into. It's almost entirely empty but for one woman boredly flipping through a magazine at the front counter. She spares a glance smile nod for their group, a glance smile nod returned by Ruby, before their team leader plops herself down into a booth, sliding until she's pressed up against the wall.

"C'mon girls," she smiles and, like every rare gem of a smile she's gifted them today, it's something small and raw and utterly exhausted. Like she just didn't have the energy for her usual antics. Like it was too much to pretend like-

"Cold noodles and a pot of rosebud tea, please," Weiss wonders if the woman had any training, she hadn't seen or heard her move towards their table and she had been looking. The woman mock-salutes and leaves them with menus Ruby collects with another smile like cancer.

"...cute place," Yang coughs, trying out a grin that doesn't think it's a grin, desperate to break the serious haze glazing over Ruby's eyes. The same that'd been slowly descending upon her person all day.

She'd lost it in the grocery store - "What? You don't think I prepare our dinners with food provided by Ozpin do you?" - and she'd lost it in the midst of lounging on mattresses but here it was rearing its ugly, unusual head. Ruby's smile, that flash of it, is more disappointment than anything though. A fruitless endeavor then.

"The, uh, the food here isn't spicy, is it?" Ah, a spark of light, how it does shine in silver!

"Most of it is," Ruby admits and, being that Weiss had deigned to take the spot directly next to her, bumps her shoulder into Weiss. "But I'll take care of ya!"

"So wait, is this the place you were raving about? The one that uses the peppercorns dad uses?"

"The very one!" Yang salivates visibly, the uncouth heathen. "Don't worry Duckie, it's not going to grow legs and run from you."

And then silence, the comfortable kind, descends and it's like a breath of fresh air. This Ruby is strange. After last night it's... better than it could be? but still strange. Weiss had thought... She'd actually really thought Ruby would put on her usual face and beat them into the dirt for partying all weekend and then. And then that morning surprise and.

Her actions today weren't overly domestic, she'd quickly come to learn that Ruby was very much a mother hen and that was just week one. But it was odd that she was including them in her process. It was unnecessary and. She couldn't help feeling like there was more going on, something she was missing. Something-

"Thank you so much," Ruby chirps to the waitress, pulling the plate of uh, cold noodles, was it? into the center of the table. It's almost stranger still to see Ruby's "normal" smile as she hands empty cups to them thanking the waitress once more. The unnatural curl of it, the way it doesn't touch her eyes in the slightest.

She wears that smile the whole time she orders, for them it should be noted. Apparently "ya" had been the, ah, royal ya. And when the waitress leaves and Ruby's poured them all a steaming cup of tea and settled back down in her corner slouching against the wall, the comfort is gone.

"So we've been here for a while," err, "At Beacon. Doing that whole..." Her hands wheel through the air and she never really finishes and her face goes grim and her eyes just.

"I'm never going to be satisfied with taking you lot into the field. It's too dangerous and I'd just as happily..." There is something in her eyes that's difficult to understand. Impossible. Something dark and angry and. Blake recognizes it, she thinks. From the way her eyes widen, the way she goes so unnaturally still.

"But that's. Not possible," she sips at her tea, this mockery of calm practiced prim prettiness, and she won't look at them. Watches her hands as they curl into fists. "It's not my decision to make, as much as I've already made it."

And pin drop silence. It creeps and it's cold and Weiss is reminded of vivid stark awful indigo fingerprints by the way the silence chokes and throttles and.

The waitress stops by all smiles carrying a tray stacked with two more dishes and four bowls of rice. She sets them down - one a huge bowl of some sort of decadent soup that smells particularly unspicy, the other a tofu dish smothered in peppers and minced pork(and did she mention peppers? Like, yeah sure it looked tasty but her nose hairs might actually be actively burning right now) - asks if they need anything else and excuses herself.

And then they wait, stomachs growling with grudging appetite, they dig into food and watch Ruby eat a meager portion and sulk. Brood?

"We'll be taking missions soon." She punctuates this statement with the sharp crack of setting her empty cup down too hard. Tea is poured and her eyes, fierce unhappy glaring things, find and pin each one of them in place.




"That was unnecessary." Yang snorts at this and immediately inhales a peppercorn into the deepest reaches of her throat, hacking and coughing and red-faced. Those things were so hot they made the tongue go numb. Yeah, Weiss was fine with this absurd soup. Though the cold noodles were divine as well. Slurping one up, "Was the drama really needed?"

"I take offense to that. You young kids-" Yang scoffs, ahem, coughs hacks wheezes squeezes out a scoff, "Have absolutely no idea how hardcore this shit is going to get! Maybe there's a reason I'm taking it so seriously. Maybe you should too!" Except it's hard to take her seriously when she's pointing at them with noodle-laden chopsticks. So they laugh and eat and talk and so that is how RWBY spends Monday.

Chapter Text

There are few things about Ruby Rose that are actually soft.

The first being the name she carries. Like a badge, like a curse. Softer than whispers under bedsheets, softer than feathers over skin, softer than the chaste press of a passionless kiss. Her name is pretty and soft and vivid. Her petals are fitting.

The second is the way she dotes on those she adores. There's something sharp and pinched about the way she flits around with a plastic smile slicing her face throughout her days. Something present in the flatness of her eyes as she grins and beats them into the floor during training. But something that is decidedly missing when she grooms them feeds them lounges and lives with them behind closed doors.

The third and final thing, as far as spectacularly underwhelming research has provided, is the pale(sometimes lightly freckled, somewhat inked, and startlingly scarred) expanse of skin stretched over her ridiculously defined musculature. She might have only a few inches on Weiss, but she had a few pounds on all of them.

That's saying something coming from her. She's nearly six foot even and built to brawl and bullshit around. But Ruby? Ruby that's half a foot shorter than her? Where she's got padding and fat generously rounding out the flair of her hips, the swell of her bust, Ruby has almost none. It's just muscle pure muscle. Ruby might be a Rose but she's built like like.

Like a ruby. Like a precious gem superheated in the planet's core, ripped from the very bowels of the earth below. Like raw, uncut Dust. Hard lines and edges and power trapped beneath it's surface just waiting to explode.

To be most perfectly technical, today's training is supposed to be for Weiss. Blake has Monday, she's got Wednesday, and Weiss has Friday. And while they're encouraged to train even on days that aren't theirs(or the team as a whole) specifically, it's never been an order and they've never been forced to do anything they're truly uncomfortable with.

Ruby's bold words on day one, the words with which she'd claimed them, seemed to be just that. Bold words.

So she doesn't have to be here right now, even given that her presence is necessary for Weiss to do her thing. That Glyph thing she does so well. But, besides the necessity of her existence during this little show, she did want to be here. Something has been... Off. For days now. She's not so dull, not so blind that she doesn't notice.

Weiss and Ruby have gone impossibly soft. Their looks especially towards each other, linger. Nevermind the touches. Nevermind the way they talk to each other. Nevermind the constant morning kisses(but really, nevermind cuz wow she will never mind waking up to them herself!) It's.

It's something she's just childish enough to be jealous of but something that fascinates her, warms her insides like even fury cannot. It reminds her of different days, a Ruby she hadn't seen since her childhood. Back when they'd share baths and Ruby was (marginally) softer, missing scars... This Ruby is not that Ruby. That Ruby might very well be dead but This Ruby.

She's an old soul. Something almost familiar. Something like her namesake. Some gem, some softness. Something beautiful and indelicate and impossibly fragile. She talks a lot more. Well. Maybe not a lot, but more. And classes, she's been attending an amount of classes! Four days of semi-regularly attending, bored and doodling in the back row, but attending!

So even without the need of her, of her Semblance, she'd still be here watching. She might ask questions, and This Ruby might even answer them, but a lifetime of information denied edited withheld has raised her well and so she watches and waits and listens and tries in all that to understand to know to.

To get her a sweet piece of that action. Either piece is fine. They're her pieces is the thing and suddenly they're piecing each other? Like. What? It's just not right. It's not fair.

As long as she acknowledges her shortcomings, she's allowed to indulge them, right?

It's fascinating anyway, watching them. They sit a breath apart, heads bent close and Ruby looks. Happy. It's a breathtaking thing and it's almost startling because. It's been very long. She's not even old enough for it to have been decades but it feels that long, longer still.

(And so there are four things about Ruby that are soft.)

"Show me!" It's a demand, not an order and Weiss just laughs, rocking back to lean on her hands.

"Which one?"

"Both!" Her insistence breaks a most precious smile over Weiss though the heiress pretends some amount of put upon, even rolling her eyes and sighing very dramatically. It's very well done, of course. As all things Weiss Schnee must be.

Her hands weave through the air and her Aura glows white around her body, something ethereal turning her eyes nearly silver, and hanging in the air just in front of Ruby's nose are two Glyphs. Yang knows they aren't exactly identical, but even so long as they've been partners and the amount of times they've practiced this maneuver she's never been able to detect-

"Ahh! There it is!" Ruby points to some inner complex on the Glyph and Yang watches blue eyes grow wide. "It really is slight. I suppose asking you to hold it is...?"

"Asking a bit much? You don't even have any paper to copy it down."

"Next time," Ruby shrugs and smiles and it shouldn't be as charming as it is. "Is it always the inner matrix?"

"It really depends on what the Glyph is supposed to do. Sometimes the overall structure is too weak for the Dust that's going to power it and that takes-" yeah ok sure. It's pretty bad and Weiss nags her but her knowledge of Dust extends to the understanding that basically it goes fire boom boom pow and she should handle it with care.

And Weiss nags her nags the shit out of her for that. She insists being hardheaded is just a very specific side effect of her Semblance. And, well golly, but Weiss sure is cute when she tries to huff and puff and blow Yang down.

The first test, as they'd started it all with, is an apple. Weiss does her fancy waving, but with Myrtenaster in hand, weaving Aura and Dust into an intricate series of Glyphs that dome around the apple. Seconds pass, Weiss is a drama QUEEN, and with a touch of a smile at her lips and a flick of the wrist the Glyphs glow and the apple.

The apple fucking explodes.

So yeah, Dust. Yang was right about it, Weiss just always made things more complicated than necessary.

The second, well, the final test is on her, of course. She's pumped, she's always pumped for this part, this part is fun. She derobes of things she likes - her boots, Ember Celica, things that can be crushed and/or exploded by some amount of immense force - and stretches, giving Weiss a grin and two big thumbs way up,

"Lets do it, Princess!" Because she hates it. A silvery brow twitches and Weiss is scowling at her but carefully, slowly, she weaves. Glyphs dome white unto black and her grin grows right before everything glows and it's gold everything is just gold.

Chapter Text

"I'm terrible at it, actually," Weiss doesn't can't believe her. Ruby Rose isn't terrible at anything. She's too Ruby to be terrible at something. It just doesn't make sense. Her face may just scream this, Ruby only laughs and shakes her head and smiles an awfully soft smile. "It's true, even I, your most faultless leader, indeed possess flaws of my own!"

If she's a drama queen then Ruby is a drama empress.

"I don't doubt that you're flawed," Ruby pretends offense and she only pauses to roll her eyes and scoff at the adult woman that she has to deal with. Life truly is hard sometimes. "I just find it hard to believe you're not entirely proficient in any, every, art of defense."

"I mean I can fuck with some Dust, I'm just saying I lack any greater skill with it. I don't have your flair, your finesse." The Schnee name can be traced directly back to the woman regarded as the Mother of Modern Dust Manipulation, very few can match the flair and finesse she's capable of but even she had to sweat cry and bleed to get to where she is today.

"Just because you aren't genetically predisposed-"

"I have no doubt I could spend years getting to a level beyond yours," Ruby interrupts and it's sharp and tired and honest. There is no smile until she takes a breath to begin anew, "And I would still find it tedious and difficult and archaic. Genetic predisposition aside, I have no love for manipulation, but I have respect for it and those capable of greater feats using it. The Schnee lineage is legendary, I might have literally squealed when I came across your file."

That catches her off guard, catches an open-mouthed smile on her face. She laughs only because she's shocked and the sheepish little shrug she's rewarded with clicks her teeth back together, twists her lips up into a satisfied grin.

"That's pretty cute," she coos and it's Ruby's turn to laugh.

"I'm pretty cute," she offers alongside another shrug. And then, chewing her bottom lip, biting the words out so so slowly, "Would you say that your Semblance makes it easier to do?"

Ruby had never bothered asking too many questions after her Semblance, respecting the rarity of Inheritance and how often families guard theirs with every breath they take. Likewise she'd never particularly asked after Ruby's eyes, even as much as her "These eyes can do more than see" comments burn her and the team up. If any of them know anything it'd probably be Yang and even she had never spoken of it.

It just wasn't done.

But this is different. Ruby is. Ruby is Ruby. If she's asking questions especially questions like these it's for a damn good reason. And, on the off chance there was no reason at all, this is Ruby and she trusts her absolutely. So her hesitance has little to do with fear and everything to do with habit.

"Yes and no," she admits at length, taking the moment of pause to find her thoughts and the way to express them. "The only Glyph that relies almost solely on my Aura is that which is used for Summoning. Otherwise they all require some amount of Dust to provide power or durability or-" And Ruby looks fascinated. It's a little disturbing. "What?"

"Your Glyphs are different?"

"Of course!" She doesn't mean to sound so aghast. It's just. Ruby had seen this all and she'd never- "The basis of every Glyph design is the Schnee crest made famous as the SDC logo..."

Yang insists that she's dramatic but Yang is a basically a large child so her opinions on the matter are debatable. This little trick they're trying has yet to be perfected and casting it on two inches shy of six feet and a body built like a brick shit house is a tiddly touch more difficult than casting it on an apple. Whether or not an apple can feel pain, an apple can't scream.

If she does not focus absolutely on her task, pay utmost attention to the layers of each individual Glyph, weave the exact amount of volatile Dust into the designs, this could quite literally blow up in her face. In all their faces. And she really really likes Yang. She really really likes Yang about as much as she really really doesn't want to kill Yang.

Brick shit house she may be, Almost Literal Punching Bag her Semblance might make her - Yang is still just a person, still slave to the mortal coil. She's watched Ruby beat her bloody, she's seen Yang hurt, hurt real fucking bad. She can't be the cause of that. She's certain she's survived worse things but it surely does strike her as the most terrible outcome.

So she's slower in casting this array of Glyphs. This will only be the fourth time they've tried this on Yang and besides that Ruby is watching and her eyes dance, sparkle, as if Oum himself had plucked stars from the heavens and-

And her usual Surface Glyphs aren't going to be tough enough she needs to add an extra layer of Stability so they don't shatter under Yang when she starts taking the pressure from all the Propulsion Glyphs like last time. And too much heat had nearly managed to singe all her clothing off last time and while Yang was a beautiful specimen of Shit Kicker she really should weave more Ice to counterbalance the abundance of Fire but that might create steam which, on the other hand-

"Lets do it, Princess!" Heiress, she thinks with no small amount of bitter resignation. Yang is confident in her though, trusts her with her well being and without reservation. And maybe that's all very well placed, maybe the brawler isn't wrong.

Maybe she shouldn't have overpowered that Glyph array with so much Dust. Maybe layering on a few more levels of Stability would have solved the problem and absorbed the pressure. Maybe maybe maybe she should have trusted her twisting gut.

"Ruby!" But maybe this experiment was a success. They'd created it for use against the team leader, after all. She'd just assumed it wouldn't work because, well, Ruby is Ruby and Ruby is incredible.

What isn't so incredible is watching Ruby rocket away from what's got to be Yang's most powerful punch ever delivered, rag dolling and rolling as she hits the floor. She only stops when she hits the wall and in that second there's fear freezing her insides, squeezing the air from her lungs.

And then Ruby lurches into an upright position and grins around some blood, waving, thumbs up. She's dressed for sparring - that is to say she's dressed down for sparring - in only a sports bra her shorts and a pair of fingerless gloves made of sturdy cloth and leather stripped over the knuckles and palms. So when she finds her feet it's easy, it's immediate, that Weiss spots the way her abdomen is already bruising.

But, like handprints ringing a throat, as Weiss watches Ruby's brilliant Aura sparks around her body and the bruise fades back into scarred skin.

"That was amazing," Ruby crows, teeth pink and grin making her eyes just shine. "I didn't even notice you slide in that last minute Propulsion!"

Weiss winces. She hadn't done that. She'd overpowered the array and it had exploded, shattering her Surface Glyphs and sending Yang nearly into mach speed. She'd told Yang trying for a bigger boom was a bad idea. She'd told her and still hadn't listened to her own advice!

"Show me again."

Chapter Text

Blake, though a bright active young lady in the most hormonal years of her life to date, loves sleep.

Blake, though a sometimes lazy young lady that enjoys her own share of rest relaxation and deep deep sleeping, has a tendency to be something of a nocturnal beast.

She blames her mother and father, they were very much the same.

So it's a little late on Friday when Weiss comes dragging feet back into the RWBY room with Ruby following after humming a Screaming Faunus song and carrying a rather worse for wear Yang on her back, that Ruby catches her eye and smiles and she just knows she's going to be indulging her nightcrawler tendencies.

Weiss makes it as far as the couch before she - in a move that clearly tells of too much time spent with Yang - throws herself down with a graceless flop. Ruby marches after and drops all of Yang on top of Mt Weiss Flop and for her efforts earns a pitiful, whiny groan. This absolutely precious noise is ignored in favor of Ruby strutting herself to Blake where she lounges on their brand spanking new, sweet ass, absolutely gigantic bed.

She's curled up on one side, content with a book in hand and tea steaming on the nightstand. Ruby, being an adult, walks around the bed to stand directly in front of her. Or really, directly in front of her light.

She bites back the urge to smile, thinks really hard about sighing, and very calmly does not change her expression and continues to read. She can feel Ruby grinning. And then, because she is an adult and embodies that in every action she undertakes, Ruby clambers up onto the bed crawling all over her to settle against her back.

A chin finds her shoulder and she might be wearing the dumbest, goofiest smile right now.

She turns the page and continues to read.

"Hi Kitten," it's a warm breath and her ear twitches and, well would ya look at that, now this is the dumbest goofiest.

"Hello Ruby," she indulges and there's a sigh, nuzzling against her cheek, a kiss left on her jaw as an arm squeezes around her waist.

"Cha readin?"

Ruby plucks the book from her hands and she snorts out a laugh,

"Nothing, now."

"Oh! So you finished the first book?" The book, second in its series, finds her hands again except it's upside down. She closes it after dog-earing her page though Ruby huffs out something slightly whiny about wanting to read it too.

"Naturally. I hadn't expected such an... Easy ending."

"You'd already read the beginning of the second book and still expected them to die? Kitty your claws are showing!"

"And Roses don't have thorns?"

"Ooh!" More warmth puffing over her skin, her ears flick. "And teeth too! Such a fierce thing you are!" But see, Ruby had kinda growled that out, nipping at her jaw and.

And she's a ridiculous fucking dork that just growled at and bit her. She shakes with her laughter. Ruby indulges herself joining in.

"Are you tired?"

I can almost always sleep, she chews on the words, eventually allowing for a,

"Not really." There's another bit of nuzzling, an apology(?) pressed against her poor nibbled flesh.

"Good. I want you to uhh join me?"

She hadn't even changed into more suitable clothing for the chill of night though maybe that's intentional. The only thing she'd pulled on were those old flip flops she'd worn into the city a few months back. Otherwise it's training gear and Kitty has claws, claws and teeth in fact but she's not using them to tear and tease.

Ruby's too tense.

Ruby's not smiling.

She doesn't know if she likes it more than how she'd been acting before her vacation or.

"Did you know I'm the last Rose?" Ruby is nervous. She can hear it in the slightest waver when the woman speaks.

"I had figured as much," Blake keeps her tone carefully soft and neutral. "You've mentioned your mother's passing, but never any siblings, besides Yang of course. No fathers, no grand parents..." Something like a smile quirks her mouth and maybe she's not saying it to be heard but regardless Blake hears her on a breath,

"Smart girl."

She keeps her thanks locked tight behind a barrier of calcium.

"It's a strange thing to know," she continues eventually. "The true depths of mortality. If you died today, your mother and father will survive you. They might even decide to try for another child. But if I died-"

The silence pushing down upon her is massively heavy, trying it's damndest to press the air from her lungs. There's a startling realization that If she died Blake cannot even imagine what she'd do. Collapse cry scream or.

It's literally unimaginable. The very idea panics her.

"All I've got are. Are you guys and Crescent Rose. The only people I've ever... Done good by." What is she- "Did you know," her voices cracks and squeezes and squeaks out of her, "I've killed people younger than you?"

And what did.



She's talking about.

She's talking about children, isn't she?

"I guess there wouldn't be much of a legacy left of the Rose family name," she laughs and it's probably a terrible thing but Blake is. Struggling. "Not with the way I've. R-ruined it."

Blake knows a little something about ruining family names-

But that isn't fair. Her parents still love and accept her. Ruby's are dead gone and buried. She's got nothing, no-one to-

Oh. Oh I see.


"I uhm, I killed sixteen people on my vacation. Tortured and maimed a woman for information 'cept, uh, I already had the information so it's. It's more like I just. Tortured her. Just because."

"Ruby why are you telling me these things." She doesn't frame it as a question.

Ruby makes some sort of animal noise, like a choked whimper kept throttled in the throat. She stops walking but doesn't turn to look at Blake. She hasn't since they'd stepped out onto the school grounds and started aimlessly strolling.

Instead she bends at the knees and starts picking up some things - ...cigarette butts? What even...? - and placing them in her cupped palm. Nothing about it is smooth. Jerky nervous motions, shifting and moving for the sake of it.

"There's little left to the name of Rose but we're all just. Overrated." She says.

Because you're all I've got and you deserve better, she means.

"I'm not nearly afraid of you, not as much as I should be," it's comes out more heated than she'd intended. "Considering, twice now, you've indirectly!" She sucks in a sharp breath and stops herself and Ruby's looking at the wall. Still squatting, hand poised to pick up more trash but not moving. Barely breathing.

"There's no such thing as a good person. No such thing as a bad person. There are people that do good or bad things. Besides that, people can change."

She's gone back to picking up trash. Blake watches. Waits. And then, after letting out another breath and creeping closer to leave a hand on a tense, bare shoulder,

"Names can change too." You aren't alone. "And overrated things are overrated for a reason. I mean, look at our team!" You're brilliant and so are we.

There's laughing but it's not really laughing? It's a sob that chokes on wet, warbling laughter and comes out as an interesting donkey-like bray. With the back of her picking hand Ruby reaches up and swipes once at her face. Sniffs.

"I like my name."

"Me too."

"It's all I've got left of her."

"And the petals?"

"That too."

"And us?"

"You're not from her."

"Aren't we though?" Another bray, she squats down to drape herself over Ruby, warming her ear,"And...for what it's worth, I've yet to meet a Rose I haven't liked." And I love your weapon too.

Chapter Text

"Jaune, your scroll is, uh, screaming." It is, though. Like actually screaming. He's not entirely certain how Ruby got her hands on it, he's less certain how she even found a way to make it scream but, alas she had and it does.

He's just thankful it's not something worse. Like moaning or manic laughter.

"That it is," he's a very agreeable person, despite the friends he keeps. Also he's got this essay and like, he's sure whatever has his scroll screaming is important but... Well, Oobleck hadn't been very subtle about what he'd do to Jaune's grade if he failed to turn in something less than excellent. He was ok in practical stuff but all the history was just kinda lost on him.

"...Are you gonna take a look?"


"... Like now?"

"In a minute. He was a lousy general but a brilliant, nononono that's too-"

"Jaune!" UGH!

"Fine," he sucks his teeth, pushing back from the desk to the sweet song of Nora snickering at him. "It's a message." He announces and he doesn't even have to glance at Pyrrha to know the look she's giving him. Something like incredulous amazed and I-will-strangle-you-slowly.

Ren even chuckles. He pretends it's a cough but Jaune knows. He's glad Pyrrha can't see him grinning.

"What's up what's up you Edgelord SUPREEEEME!? I gots a favor to ask and you just so happen to owe me. I convinced Glyndie-Baby to let me have the arena for a few hours. Bring your weapons and your strongest warriors... If you dare! MWAAAHAHAHA - be there or be square. PEACE."


"I like her, she's fun!" Pyrrha scoffs and Jaune shakes his head, blowing out a breath-huff-laugh. Ren just sighs softly,

"Fun isn't exactly the word I was thinking..."

Ruby waves and calls out to them, excited and wearing strange clothing. Less clothing, really. No boots, no knee-highs, no vest, no shitty hood and no usual blouse. The shirt she is wearing is a dark red and long sleeved.

And vambraces, she's wearing some wicked vambraces. Black and red- oh but he's the edgelord!

Something about the armor makes him nervous. And how damn big her smile is. Too much teeth, too wicked a curl. The way her eyes slant and gleam...

"Jauney boy!" Yang crows from behind Ruby, offering her own grin and finger waving. After flipping hair out of her face and shifting to do her pushups with just one arm. Weiss is sitting primly on her partner's shoulders, a vision of beauty and elegance.

A vision having a very intense thumb war with Ruby's partner, seated cross-legged on Yang's butt.

At Yang's call and shift - Blake easily adjusts to keep her balance and Weiss squeaks, windmilling her free arm and eventually planting her hand on Yang's raised head - the other two members of team RWBY look up. And then-

"Oh damnit!" Weiss whips her head back and she's not quite scowling but, "You cheater! Ruby look what you've turned her into!" And she's whining. Weiss Schnee, the most beautiful girl he's ever met, cool and spicy and- she's whining.

And then she huffs and breaks away from the grinning brunette, gracefully - she wobbles and basically falls off of Yang's back - removing herself from the two chuckling members of her team to stand by Ruby.

"Hi Pyrrha!" And there's a smile that makes him stumble and miss a step. "How have you been? And Nora, Ren, it's good to see you!"


"Oh. Uh, hey Jaune." ouch.

Blake had stretched out on Yang's back and she only offers a lazy wave.

"You shoulda let me drink with them!"

"Nora no." Jaune snickers but leaves it to Mr Mom and Pyrrha to scold her.

"I call it Hummingbird Step!" She shouts right before she's cloaked in a shade red specific to her, that shade so vibrant it cannot physically exist outside of Ruby activating her Semblance. Hummingbird Step, she calls it, and that's all she calls. A boom reverberates through them, some huge muted sound like bottled thunder blows back hair and shakes the ground walls ceiling.

A flash of light like watching the sun rise - all honey golds and cherry reds and succulent oranges - so damn bright they flinch and cover their eyes, and the sound of ground ripping and tearing up. A heartbeat of silence and-

Fucking. Holy. Oum.

Ruby has her arms crossed before her and her armor is steaming. That would be maybe a little intense except for the grooves carved into the floor from her planted feet. And there Yang stands with arm still extended in the spot Ruby had been previously, in the spot where the grooves start. One hand curled into a fist that besides smoking, is a little bruised across the knuckles.

She finds a way to contain her grin, arm lowering fingers flexing, turning to them with cocked hips and arms akembo.

"Neither myself nor Weiss approved of that name, just so you know," Ruby is making her way over, shaking out her arms, hands curling and uncurling as she, presumably, attempts to get feeling back in her fingers. "I'm personally quite fond of Super Dragon Fist."

"That. Was. Amazing!"

"Amazing is a word, a good word. Not the word I'd use," Nora poo-poos at him, as if that display hadn't been some amount of terrifying. His hood had blown off. Ren's hair was fucked up! Even solid-like-a-rock Pyrrha is looking a little...

(She's having a realization that whatever favors owed, the payment is going to involve Super Hummingfist Dragonstep and it's use against them.)

"Jaune, a word?" Nora starts Oooooo-ing at him as he's grabbed and dragged away.

"That was all from the brain of the ever-so-lovely Weiss Schnee!" Ruby gestures to the girl in question, "So of course it's amazing have you met her?" She pulls Weiss close with an arm slung over her shoulders and the heiress is positively preening.

"How did you do that?" Ren notices the way Weiss tenses at the question but Ruby keeps her easy grin and laughs.

"That's a trade secret sweetheart! What I can offer you is the chance to experience it up close and personal!"

"Nora no-"

"Nora YES!"

Chapter Text

Ozpin looks tired and it's something she understands. She might have little pity for the man - he'd threatened her Duckling and she would never forget - but she understands how the exhaustion weighs on him. She wonders if he feels it like tar in the veins, the slowest thickest poison sending him closer closer to the eventuality, the inevitability of the greatest sleep.

Hers feels something like that.

"Report." This is familiar. Brings back memories. Few of them good.

"Mission success," she does not elaborate and she will not. Clearing out swaths of Grimm requires little effort on her part, especially now that she doesn't have to worry about others at her back less durable than she. "It took less time than you thought but that shouldn't surprise you."

He rolls his eyes at her and she thinks he might even sigh.

"Of course it did, and of course it doesn't," He reaches for a coffee that isn't there and she almost laughs. In the moment he stares at the spot on his desk where the coffee should be, definitely decidedly was just seconds ago, she takes a long, slow slurp of it.

"I made a few pit stops, seeing I had so much time and all," It was alright. He liked his a little lighter than she did. Another loud couple of gulping slurps, "Stopped some crime, left some warnings."

He's never really amused by her but he's very, very especially unhappy now. Poor dear shouldn't make it so easy.

"Do you happen to know someone by the name of Cinder Fall?" She sets the cup down and he goes to scoop it up in the same breath and stops. His fingers tremble against the sides, his eyes find hers.

"She's dead?" It's a fair assumption to make but, alas,

"Not quite." She slides her scroll over to him and allows him to tap through it. He stops and pauses and jabs one finger at the screen. There's the tinny sound of her recorded voice shouting, barking over Cinder wailing screaming agonized-shrieking. Demands and laughter and, Oum, Cinder just cries and begs and.

And she feels nothing. She cradles her chin in the palm of one hand and watches him. His expression does not warp. He watches until it stops and taps around some more and she allows this as well. Let him sate his curiosity.

"... How many?"

"Just the one. I didn't appreciate her dirty dealings but, oh how messages are so much more easily sent with a messenger..."

"I see." he's much calmer than he could be. And, really, he just makes it too easy,

"Oh, and Raven Branwen knows what I'm doing at this institute." There's a beat of silence, she watches a muscle in his jaw tic. A sharp inhale and then,


"She had a right-"

"She had the least amount of right. She gave up any rights to knowing her daughter the moment she walked away."

"Mmm, see that's not actually your decision to make-"

"Oh! So it's yours?"

"It was, and I made it." She's seen Ozpin mildly perturbed, seen him frustrated, but never has she actually seen him truly angry. She honestly thought him incapable. "I don't think you'll have any issues."

"Oh?" Oum bless him, he'd actually managed to make that single word almost terrifying. Maybe if she'd been younger, her hands cleaner, her sleep dreamless, she might've let a shiver up her spine.

"She got her pound of flesh. She won't be coming for yours." He sighs and looks at her, hard. And there's something in his eyes. Something. Something.

Something that kind of really pisses her off. It's then entirely necessary to pluck the coffee cup from his hands, chug it, and smash his cup.

"Feel better?"

"No. I want my payment."

"Alright I can deposit-"

"I want a favor."

"Pardon me Miss Rose," it's like a shock of cold water after stepping out of a warm bath. It's such a strange thing to be called that outside of her co-workers. Too formal. Too much Summer. "Could I steal you away for a few moments?"

Only Yang is upset by this, Weiss looks something like wistful and Blake is looking at Yang like she expects something to explode. But, alas, only She is team leader, only she is Rose except-

"No need for the formalities, Pyrrha! Miss Rose is my weapon," she winks and grins and to her team offers a significant nod and a soft, Go on start dinner I'll be back soon. And then they all hesitate and Yang. Yang hooks a hand around her neck and yanks her forward, leaning down to leave a kiss against her cheek, the corner of her mouth. It's long and lingers and she really doesn't mind except.

Except this little brat is trying to use affection to make Pyrrha jealous.

She reaches discreetly over and pinches the fuck out of Yang's butt.

"You-!" She lurches back and Ruby gives her a look she'll never know was stolen from Ra-... She gives her a significantly unimpressed, raised brow look.

"Me," she chirps back, waiting for Yang to speak but the blonde doesn't, face slowly beginning to tint. "Go on!" She laughs and it's only fondness. "Start dinner, Darlings, I will join as swiftly as I'm able." And she watches and waves as they drag feet away, glancing back until they turn the corner.

Her softness slips and the smile she wears is an old friend. Pretty polite pleasant and absolutely plastic.

"Walk with me?" She doesn't wait for an answer, walking past the redhead and towards the nearest stairwell. It isn't quite yet night and watching the sun set over Beacon is a lovely thing to share over conversation. She crawls up onto her perch when they reach the roof, shifting to sit on the very edge. If she leaned forward too far she'd fall.

And if she fell she wouldn't die.

Sometimes being as sturdy as she is makes itself a nuisance. A bore. At least her team is thrilling.

"And tell me, Pyrrha, how is it I can help you?"

"What did Jaune owe you?" She wishes she had a cigar to puff on.

"There are things precious, aren't there? Secrets and the like." And she owes this girl nothing, but out of the goodness of her heart she still offers a smile over her shoulder and it's sharply sweet. Pyrrha, the dear thing, does not appreciate her smile. She flinches. She scowls.

She's incredibly cute and full of fire and containing it, too.

Just makes her want to tease the piss and vinegar out of her.

"What do you really want to know, hmmm?" She turns on her spot and leans back, fingers curling over the edge and her back to the open air. Pyrrha can't meet her eyes terribly long, glaring off and. And then she catches the sunlight and the wonderment takes over.

"It's a gorgeous view isn't it?"

"It is."

"Jaune likes it too-"

"What is your relationship with him?" Ah, and that's just precious. She's certainly a pretty thing, face turning rosy pink under the blushing light.

"Oh he's very cute," she lets her eyelids droop, voice dropping into a purr that would make Blake proud. "I like him quite a lot." Ooh! And so Pyrrha could slip too. "He's like a tiny dog or some kind of ferret."

"...excuse me?"

"Your team leader is adorable. I don't want to stick my dick in him. And surely this isn't why you've called me away from my team?"

"I don't know how I feel about you, Ruby Rose," Pyrrha starts and stops quite suddenly, mouth twisting eyes narrowing. And in a second she reaches some decision, overcomes some inner turmoil. Her face becomes something serene and very calmly she starts, "Actually that's not quite true. I don't trust you. I don't like you."

Well! And here she'd been getting bored.

"It's like nobody can see-" and it's like Pyrrha doesn't know what she wants to say, even so much as her eyes burn and Ruby can see it see the words she's struggling to find. And she smiles. Something full of poison and sugar. Pyrrha starts, shoulders jumping and there's terror in those eyes like emerald.

"They just don't understand," and despite the smile she wears her tone is genuinely soft. A caress, affection undeserved. Another flinch. "They do see it, they even fear it. But they don't understand. So few do."

She's had a tough week, surely she can be forgiven for playing.

"You're sharp," like the wicked smile splitting her lips. She'd used her Semblance to stand before Pyrrha, reach up and stroke a thumb over the magnificent curve of her cheek. "It's too bad you dislike me, I surely do like you very much."


She blinks, head tilting into the spray of water, and finds a tiny little sunny curl tugging at her lips. She says nothing and she does not turn to face her intruder. Though, she muses, can it really be intruding if I left the door open? If anything she'd invited the intrusion, she all but asked for it. She'd expected it. And-

"What'd you and Pyrrha talk about?" And that hadn't taken very long.

"Who wants to know?" She refuses to turn until she's well and had her fun and scrubbed her head clean.

"Us," is the quiet answer she's eventually given and slowly, slowly she turns. And there stands Us. All one of them.

"Looks like just a Yang to me!" And she's just the fluffiest thing Ruby's ever seen, shoulders hunched up to her ears face the prettiest pink. The sweet thing huffs at her, crosses her arms and jerks her beautiful face away so she's glaring towards the open door.

"Yeah, well," she doesn't continue. And so Ruby doesn't either. She leisurely scrubs suds from her hair, grins and watches. Watches that flush crawl and her teeth sink into her lip and, "So what'd you talk about!?" What a demanding little duck!

"And why does that matter?"

"It just does."

"If I don't think so?" Yang looks half ready to step into the shower with her to shake her and then seems to remember herself. Specifically she remembers that Ruby's terribly fond of frigid showers.

"...She doesn't like you, ok? I don't. I don't want her treating you like shit." And she stuffs her hands into the pockets of her sweats and Yang is so very enchanting when she's that shade of red. Why it positively makes her heart race!

"You sweet thing you; she's allowed to dislike me, you know? I'm hardly a good person and everyone is entitled to their opinions-"

"You are a good-"

"No, Yang. No I'm not. The things I've done, people I've hurt maimed slaughtered... She's the only sane person here, you know?" She can't help some of the smiles, she's trying to but it's difficult. She spent so many years perfecting this façade just to give it up for EVERYTHING.

"And so what if we are?" It's practically a pout and she blinks water out of her eyes, pushing her hands through her hair to slick it back against her head. "Sanity is overrated!"

"I don't think so," she murmurs and moves closer and her lips are still curling without her permission, even as so much pain bleeds into her smile. "I like to think it's something wonderful." She reaches out to cup a cheek and Yang traps her hand there with one, both, of her own and gives eyes like. Like she almost understands and just can't quite...

And so they stand there, Ruby with glacial water pounding into her spine and Yang just out of the spray trying trying and. And both her hands drop and she steps back, hunching into herself again. Her arms don't fold together over her chest but she's hugging herself and looking almost small enough to cherish.

"Did you," she starts and stalls and swallows, wets her lips and raises her lovely lilac eyes, "Did you let me hit you? Wh-when we, Weiss and me, err, Weiss and I, uh... Did you let me?"

"I would never belittle your efforts like that. What you've achieved is by and through every bit of your own strength." She's abusing her lip again and that flush is back with a vengeance and her eyes. Her eyes burn too hot for the demure, pleased curl of her mouth around those biting nibbling teeth.

"Ok." It's the meekest little whisper and. And the water isn't nearly cold enough for the way Yang looks at her from beneath her lashes like that.

"Get out you big brute," Ruby finds herself saying and it all sounds perfectly normal for the way it slips from her numb lips. "Unless you're going to help me scrub my back...?" Yang almost agrees, starts to, and then looks right at the showerhead spitting out water that just refuses to steam and shakes her head.

"Nah I, uh, I think you got it!" She offers a thumbs up and scampers out quick as she can, door slamming shut after her. And so Ruby smiles and it doesn't belong but she's allowed to smile for herself.

Chapter Text

There are things in this life truly difficult, truly impossible, to forget. A favorite smell a favorite sound that, no matter where one is or what they're doing, takes them and shakes them and puts them back in that moment of significance when that magical something became meaningful.

The smell of sweat and blood mixing with worn leather and hot cloth is a very particular scent she'll know forever. A smell she'll always associate with a wicked smile and the words,

"So I don't break your pretty bones!"

More than that, she'll always associate that smell with the sensation of getting her ass kicked, blood filling her mouth and spilling over her lips, ribs cracking and bones creaking. She'll always and forever associate that smell with Ruby. With sparring sessions. With the meaty sounds of fists on flesh.

In this way it's a good smell. In this way it's the best smell. It's a smell that brings to mind all her favorite things. And so, no matter what happens, that smell is good. No matter what.

"Get up Yang."

No matter if the blood-and-sweat part of the smell is overpowering.

"I said Get. Up."

No matter if it's stopped being a meaty sound, those fists against her flesh, and become some agonizing cacophony.


No matter if she's been beaten so damn bloody she can't actually smell any of this anymore, nose swollen and pouring liquid life down her face and chest. On her tongue, though, is the flavor. The salt of sweat and the metallic sharpness of blood. Her own.

She doesn't mind attending other training sessions but she always asks the girls don't attend hers. She plays and pretends like they're special moments to be shared with her sister and she's just that bratty that selfish. And she is to be perfectly fair and honest but that isn't why she's never wanted them attending. She's never wanted them to see this.

This isn't an embarrassment to her, not something of shame that she feels should be hidden away it's just. Brutal. Most training sessions start with a sparring match that will last as long as Ruby isn't bored of kicking them around - occasionally she'll feel quite sporting and refuse to activate her Semblance until they do and once they do, well - but Yang's aren't always so... Friendly sparring.

Sometimes Ruby is like this. She gives Yang only enough time to step into the room before she descends and beats her into a pulp. Over and over and over and over... Sometimes Ruby is unrecognizable behind her fierce scowl and flat eyes and flying fists. Sometimes, when Yang's blood splatters sprays paints itself across Ruby's knuckles her face, she wonders who this person is and why she wears Ruby's skin, what happened that made her.

And sometimes she doesn't think anything. Sometimes fists that strike like lightning, roll over her like thunder, pour out like rain are just so much and too much and they rattle her skull again again again again again until she feels empty and hollow echoing with the thud thwack thump whap. Sometimes Ruby roars demands at her and she doesn't can't comply.

And she doesn't hate it.

She can't hate it.

She should but it just doesn't happen. It's never even been an idea. Because at the end of the day this woman she knows by her eyes and features, by her knuckles and hands, by her knees her heels the way her laugh bursts out of her like gunshots or the way her kisses press like petals, this is a woman she loves most.

She doesn't love the beatings. Ruby despises them so much she shuts down, allows herself to become wild and enraged, something other something that chills the fire living in her very bones.

But she loves the end result.

Waking up with her head in Ruby's lap, the woman running a warm wet cloth over her face and neck, brows pinching in and eyes so angry they should burn. She loves the way Ruby kisses her brow but refuses to apologize because she shouldn't have to, because she doesn't have to. Loves the hot hot rightness of Ruby's Aura tickling across her own, convincing it to jumpstart on healing her bruises abrasions lacerations.

In a way she supposes those are special moments she doesn't want to share with the others.

"Stop smiling!" Spots dance and flash into starbursts of color behind her eyelids and faintly she hears the sound of herself gasping for air and so much bloody spittle hitting the floor. The world is ebbing and flowing and spinning before her eyes as she blinks and tries to lift her heavy head.

A hand finds her chin and squeezes and she might make some sort of noise but she isn't certain. There's a sharp jerk and she's peering blearily into the dullest eyes. There's an eternity of nothing and then that familiar pinch. A familiar grin with an unnatural tilt.

"You're doing so well," nearly as soft as her rose petal lips.

And then the thump thwack thud whap-

"Create as many as you can using as little Dust as possible. Or at the very least don't use Dust that'll explode," Yang scoffs at that, trying not to smirk. All Dust can explode, that's what it does. Duh. She won't be fooled by pretty words, not even from Ruby's pretty mouth!

But Yang is ignored in favor of Blake doing what she's told under Ruby's most watchful stern eyes, except Weiss. Weiss manages to spare her a glare for the derision. All that trying for naught! Yang smirks and winks at her partner and earns a lovely huff for her efforts.

Blake creates her clones - maybe thirty? Fifty? - and turns to Ruby for further instruction. And Ruby, she smiles despite her still-stern eyes, thanking Blake graciously and bidding her to leave.

"I. I don't-"

"You said you can feel when they disperse?"

"They're physical constructs of my Aura, of course I can-"

"Good. So stand outside the door and wait until the last one is gone. When it is I want you to come back in and tell me how they died." Blake's eyes blow wide and her mouth splits in a low gasp. Weiss is much the same and she. She just.

"What?" One of Blake's ears twitches towards her at the choked animal cry that single word had been. Blake's mouth closes and firms into a hard line and she nods, turning on her heel to march out of the training room. The door closing shakes her and she whips to face Ruby with something like righteous fury burning in her lungs, "Ruby-"

"I want you two to help me."

"That's," her Semblance doesn't make her immune to pain. In fact it doesn't change anything about pain, she absorbs kinetic energy through her body and that's it. It's not that she doesn't feel the pain of every hit it's just something she's learned to handle. This is. This is more, so much more it- "No. Ruby, I- No!"


"OK!? You can't be serious, Weiss-"

"I am serious. They're not," Weiss stops and the controlled hard cut of her expression cracks melts shifts until she looks as uncomfortable as Yang feels. "They're not really her... Aura constructs, just like my Glyphs. It's not. It's not Blake."

"But, I, I don't..." Brutal, she thinks, I used the word for a reason. Because her teammates don't have to be her to receive training just as... Effective. "K-kay I'm. Uh, I'll help."

"You didn't have a choice in the matter but your consent is appreciated," Crescent Rose is in full scythe form and Ruby's the grimmest Yang's ever seen even despite her smile. "Now-" there's a wet choking sound and a clone too close trembles around the huge blade driven through her gut. "Lets get to it."

Chapter Text

"This is a recipe my mother showed me."

Apparently Oobleck had assigned a paper the Monday they'd gone shopping. Ruby isn't obligated to write one but had promised to give a lecture if he'd excuse her regardless, and where she'd offered help if they wanted or needed she had absolutely refused to get them excused as well.

Yang is stretched out along the bottom of the bed propped up on her elbows over an open book, writing carefully and slowly - she had a tendency to get very sloppy when she wrote too quickly("Noooo, my writing isn't sloppy it's. Just. Shut it Schnee!") - on a piece of paper she'd slipped over one of the pages.

Blake, already finished with her paper after pulling an all-nighter and cat-napping through lunch, is leaning her head back against the curve of Yang's waist reading a book, feet kicked up towards the headboard.

And Weiss is sitting cross-legged leaning against the headboard, one of Blake's feet touching the outside of her thigh, book opened in her lap paper tucked against the pages. She's had to push Blake's foot off of her leg three times already, the distractions doing little to help her write something Oobleck would approve of. She's always struggled with essays they're just so... tedious.

This soft admittance from the team leader only has her head lifting. Despite the glasses perched upon her nose(Her left eye it... She can see through it Ok it just... She only needs them for reading!) she's quite far from blind. She notices the way Yang's hand jerks slightly. And then she sucks in a soft frustrated breath, keeps writing.

Weiss carefully sets down her book, pushing Blake's foot off her thigh again to stand and approach Ruby at the stove. Whatever it is its decedent and ridiculous, full of vegetables and meat. And from the heavenly smell of it, it's NOT spicy. Sweet Oum, finally!

"What's it called?" She leans a hip against the counter, looking up at the calm and content mother hen preparing dinner for her chicks and.

"Uhhmmm," and it's only because she's looking right up at Ruby that she catches the furrow of the woman's brow the tug of her mouth the the- oh, oh she can't remember the name can she? And then Ruby's eyes squeeze shut and a laugh stutters out of her, "The Secret Rose Super Strength Stew!"

Weiss stares, brows crawling up and. And Blake just laughs.

"That's smashing. Your mother is amazing." And Ruby freezes for a breath, defrosts for the next and she's relaxed again. Calm cool collected team leader concocting dishes from childhood passed.

"Thanks," her smile is warm and tiny and it makes her eyes melt and shine. And Weiss is just. Wow.

"So," and if she sounds a little breathless no-one says anything. "What's in it anyway?"

"Hmm," and the way her smile curls, dimpling her visible cheek, is pure mischief. "Some chicken fish shrimp, pork belly, bacon, tofu, uhh, a fuckshit of some cabbage and roots, seeds, carrots onions, mushrooms uh, and I'm gonna spoon in some noodles in a sec." It's. A lot. But,

"It's looks delicious."

"It is delicious! And it serves way too many, why when mom made it we didn't even finish eating it all before-" there's a hitch in her breath that makes Weiss anxious. "Well anyway I've never really had a chance to make it for more than me for a while so I figured why not, ya know?"

Weiss wants to ask but. Maybe not right now. Not in front of Yang who already worries for her enough. Chancing a quick glance at the blonde and -

Yup, she's staring at the back of Ruby's head like she'll burn through it to the very core of her where her secrets lie. On a whim she leans over bracing her hand against the world's steadiest shoulder to press a kiss on her cheek. She's tense but a beat of the heart and then relaxes again again.

She's got Yang's attention now and that's fine. She ignores her in favor of moving back over to the bed with a skip in her step to curl back up against the headboard. She doesn't even mind when Blake's foot, and then feet, find her lap, shifting her book and working with a smile.

"There's a festival soon," it's. So. Good. It's sinfully good, hot and fulfilling and and- favorite! This is her favorite dish now and forever! "The Vytal Festival."

"Vale this year?" is Yang's graceful cavewoman grunt around a piece of pork belly and a liberal bit of cabbage and mushroom.

"Yea," Ruby lifts her bowl to drink of the broth and Weiss, not wanting to have been the first, quickly does the same. It fills her with warmth and, seriously if it was ok she would probably literally marry this stew. "We'll be part of a guard detail for it."

She'd made chicken and fish meatballs and hadn't even mentioned those but-

"I'm sorry, what?"

"Now," Ruby starts, pausing to ladle more stew into her bowl. "Normally you'd only attend it, maybe fight in the tournament but-"

"But what?"

"But," Ruby's eyes cut up from her task - picking out and eating the solid pieces of vegetables and meats with her chopsticks - to meet Yang's. "You aren't a normal team. It isn't fair to set you lose upon those unsuspecting kids-"

"Oh come on, Rubes! What if I promise to -"

"No!" It's Ruby that slams her palms down upon the table, shaking their bowls. She glaring back down at her bowl. She'd snapped her chopsticks. "You can't. I don't. I don't want to... If you forget for even a moment you could." Her hands had been curling tighter tighter and now.

Her eyes close she breathes out slow and those clenching flexing fingers stretch out.

"We'll be going on a field trip soon." She picks up the largest parts of her chopsticks and goes right back to picking out foods from her broth.

"And by we you mean-"

"Myself and you girls," So not JNPR or any other teams. She might be forgiven for being thankful of that. "Outside of the city."




"Do you think we'll have any stew left? "

Chapter Text

Yang watches Weiss and Blake watches Yang.

She's got little else to do now that Port has been distracted. She and Ruby have a running game to see who can distract him from his lessons the most. Ruby, the cheat, is already ahead by three but Blake's closing the gap and today's distraction had been all her. So she has the time, the luxury, to ignore Port and watch her teammates.

And they are so terribly fun to watch.

Yang especially.

She's petulant and pouting and looking too big for her body and mood. And it's got everything to do with her fellow blonde sitting on the other side of Weiss, quietly charming the shit out of her.

He'd chosen the seat next to her at the beginning of class and Weiss had rolled her eyes and set out to ignore him and then halfway through she'd snapped some snide comment at him and. Well now they were talking and he'd gotten a reluctant laugh out of her and Yang had noticed. Of course she'd handled that like an adult.

It was cute and when they got back to the room she was going to tease Yang so much.

"So do you have a date to the dance yet?" Oh and the drama unfolds!

"What dance?" Jaune gives her a strange look but, well. They've had more important things to worry about than school events. Like training camps in The Forest to prepare for their, ah, field trip.

"The dance? Beacon Dance? It's kind of been coming up for like, a week?"

"Oh. Well no, I-"

"You mean to tell me none of these blind, ungrateful idiots has come up to prostrate themselves for just the chance you might even think of agreeing!?" Weiss is stunned and amused though one might not know it if they didn't live with her, know that tilt of her brow, quirk of her mouth.

"I'm afraid not," is her grave reply, a wonderful dramatic sigh earning her an air of wistful, "I'll just have to find a way to survive without it I guess."

"That's terrible," he sighs and mourns, drooping onto the desk like a poor dying thing. And then, as if he himself hadn't brought up this very topic, he perks and gasps and turns to her,

"But hey! Listen, I'm going stag, probably stealing a dance with Pyrrha, Nora, maybe Ruby if I can nag her into attending. I'll save you a dance if you find yourself there, regardless of those heathens that couldn't work up the nerve to ask."

Oh. Ooh wow. She hadn't thought him capable. And Weiss catches it - Yang looks like she's actively choking - and she just. She smiles.

"Sounds nice." Is her most noncommittal way to not-quite-agree. Still, it's not an outright rejection. And that's just. "Good luck convincing Ruby."

"Luck is for chumps-"

"Exactly," Jaune makes some over-the-top sort of quiet groan like- a scythe tearing through her spine through her intestines through

"Miss Schnee, you're so cold!" He crows and she chuckles and indulges a smile and Blake lets out a breath and. Oh Yang just looks like she's on Death's doorstep.

"Gonna make it?" Yang's head drops into her arms, thunking against the desk.

"I don't know what's happening!" Blake reaches over to pet through her hair.

"Hush, she's allowed to make friends-"

"With Jaune?!"

"YOU'RE friends with Jaune." A groan is her answer.

"Today we're continuing to explore the depths of your Shadow Cats-"

"That's a terrible name, you should feel terrible." She has to make light of this. She isn't sure she'll survive if she doesn't. (She has this startling realization about Ruby and her insides twist)

"I'm sorry, should I say Copy Cats instead?" The team leader tries to make this sincere and serious but the smile tugging at the corners of her mouth ruins that. Blake sticks her tongue out at her. And Ruby laughs and Blake laughs and. And then they sober and Ruby drains of any greater emotion,

"Don't worry about remembering deaths, I'll make them quick and painless. Today I'm telling them a story. I'd like to hear you tell it back."

The first_ Killed_ TOUCH_ his hands

By the time she steps out of the shower dinner is nearly done. Some sort of spiced chicken with pickled carrots, freshly chopped peppers cilantro some other greenery all wrapped in homemade flatbread. It's better than it has any right to be, as most dishes prepared by her are.

And Yang sulks. At this point she does adore her teammates and still she finds herself thankful to be paired with Ruby. Truly life is suffering when joined at the hip with the world's fluffiest, moodiest duckling. Unless you're Weiss Schnee and possess the greater ability of being able to completely ignore a fowl run afoul of a sulking mood, of course.

"Is your cooking getting better or am I just getting spoiled?" And Ruby laughs and eyes that petite little princess with something like love.

"Dear, you are spoiled," and Weiss looks like she wants to argue. Eyes her food. Shrugs and keeps eating. Another laugh, something from the belly and soft on the ears.

"Weiss is going on a date with Jaune!" It's nearly a shout and the very first words Yang has spoken since they've sat down. Weiss rolls her eyes but doesn't protest just yet, finishing a mouthful of food,

"It's not a date. We're just two people going, separately, to the same social event where we might share a dance-"

"It's a date," she insists with a huff.

"It's not a date. The word date implies I'll be showing up on his arm. Why would I do that with him when I've got you?"

"Yeah well, I..." There's a long pause and she glances over at Yang - she's visibly struggling to catch up to what's happening - and the blonde's face pinches inwards. "...I wasn't going to the dance?"

"Yes you are. As my date."



"But you agreed to dance with Jaune?"

"I got this one!" Blake is. Surprised. To say the absolute least. She hadn't known Pyrrha was so close with Ruby. And maybe she actually isn't. Pyrrha looks just as surprised, unsettled as her would-be opponent. But alas Ruby pats Pyrrha on the shoulder after pausing to murmur something absolutely wicked to the giant of a woman, and pushes her out of the way.

Glynda is not a happy lady at this development but with Pyrrha obediently leaving the arena there's little she can do.

"I'll keep it fair and square for ya," she chirps with a rare grin, something gleeful and sickening. "I won't use my Semblance, hmkay?"

"Uhh, I'd like to forf-"


"So are you going to the dance?" Weiss is a quick study, not nearly so fragile and prim as she looks. She's keeping up with Yang easily enough - though it's a harmless spar, no weapons no Semblance allowed - but that might have everything to do with the fact she's just slightly faster than the blonde.

It's why Hummingbird Step was created after all.

Ruby is in one of her rarer moods, calm and content the smile on her face easy, natural. She watches Weiss and Yang trade punches, kicks, glances over for a long moment.

"Why?" Why indeed. While not the most anti-social person alive she was hardly fond of crowded events. Having even just JNPR sharing space with her like they had for that spectacular sleepover was almost too much.

But being entirely alone was...

"I was thinking about going..." she provides and something about that smile becomes ever softer. Fondness, she thinks.

"And your decision rides upon my own?" She shrugs hoping she doesn't look as uncomfortably embarrassed as she feels,

"I mean, yeah?" Ruby laughs and it's a bright thing, like the smile.

"Well as it happens, I'll actually be one of the chaperones for the event. I wouldn't usually give fuck all about it but uh, I owe Ozpin a favor."

Chaperone, Ruby? Yeah ok sure because that was a great idea. Must be some crazy kind of favor she owes. Or she's feeling incredibly generous. But she'll be there.

So there goes any excuse to curl up in bed with a book.

"So," Ruby's hands clasp together behind her back as she rocks from heels to toes, biting her lip and failing to keep her smile milder. "I'll see you at the dance?"

Will she?


At this rate it'll take her years to finish this book series.

"Maybe," she ventures. She could be alone, that was fine. Curling up alone in the middle of a bed well and too large for just one...

The first Man_ Ever Killed_ Put his_ to TOUCH_ His hands_ No_ Took them.

She's never disliked her tendency for timely appearances quite as much as right now. There's very few people here. No Ruby teasing the other students, no teammates flirting in the corner, no-

"My my!" This is her only warning before an arm wraps around her waist, she's spun and dipped and the shoulders she finds to grip for support are familiar. That ball of anxious energy dissipates with the quiet breath she huffs out. "Hello you absolute treat. Why, you look almost like my dear partner!" And that arm like a steel bar slowly pulls her closer, up, until she's standing on her own and-

The quiet breath is sucked right back in. She was going to say something but. It.

"You look lovely, dear, spin for me?" Blake, wide eyed and mute, must be begged a second time for a twirl before she registers. It's just. Ruby is. "Oh, be still my heart! Your dress is devastating darling."

"You look!" Nice hot the opposite of mouth watering cuz like damn I think all the moisture has fled sou- "Professional."

Ruby laughs and it's never been more breathtaking. Yang was going to have a fucking heart attack.

"I don't look too stuffy? It's a little..." She looks down at herself, tugs at the crisp collar. A little mind blowing?

Ruby was dressed sharp enough to slice through diamond in shiny black shoes, dark slacks, a double breasted jacket over a dress shirt and tie. She looked like an officer of some kind, but there was no badge no indication that this special clothing came with a special rank. She's even wearing gloves! She looked clean and and.

And she looked really handsome.

Weiss was going to have an aneurysm.

"Might I have a dance?"

Aren't you a chaperone? "Y-yes!"

"What's your problem?" Oh sweet Oum!

"Weiss, I- oh you look gorgeous in that!" She could be forgiven for skulking in corners, at least she thinks so. After being led around the dance floor twice by a Ruby she did not know she needed to be prepared for, she'd had to take some time to collect her brain cells and cool her flushed face.

And Weiss did look very lovely in a shimmery silver dress. A sweetheart neckline exposing her shoulders and the hollow of her throat, her hair falling in waves down her back. The skirt was asymmetrical, dipping down past her knees in the back and allowing peeks of her thighs in the front.

And it's not that funny but she finds herself wanting to chuckle at the genuine shock on Weiss' face. As if the girl didn't already know she was beautiful, as if it's such a surprise she should be found gorgeous. And then she smiles and flushes and,

"You too," is murmured back at her. Devastating, Ruby (oomf) had called it. The only devastating things are the way it cuts up to nearly her hip on the left, the way the v of its neckline plunges nearly to her navel. Otherwise it's rather tame, long and cinched at the waist with a thick strip of black ribbon, and purple, because it's her color why would she not?

"Took you two long enough. Where is the great beast anyway?"

"Probably in the bathroom acting like she's never worn a gown before."


"She's going to be the classiest lady-" debatable "-here tonight! Have you seen Ruby yet?" Why was this corner warm? Probably Weiss crowding it up with her questions.


"Uh-oh, what's that supposed to mean?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Blake Belladonna you-"

"Blake, Weiss!" Oh. Oh goodness. So maybe it wasn't debatable. Yang was a vision in gold, her dress showing more affection than even Ruby come Saturday mornings in the way it hugged her body, flaring out at her thighs but sweeping the floor. Elegance and extravagance in equal measure, the damn thing was backless and Yang had pulled her hair up to let all that back greet the room...

And maybe Ruby would be the one having meltdowns.

"Yang. You. It's."

"Ahh," she laughed and reached up towards her hair like she could rub a hand through it and only when her fingertips touch the tight pull of it by her ear does she seem to remember she can't. She's flushed and. When she eeks out a response, looking up from beneath mascara'd lashes, Blake almost wheezes, "It looks alright? I was just going to wear an old dress-"

"It was white and short it did nothing for you but show your cleavage. We're better than that Yang Xiao Long!" Weiss hooks her arm with Yang's and tugs at the blonde until they're brushing shoulders hips. Only once she's satisfied does she turn back to Blake with a smug grin, "So- Ruby. Where?"

"Ah, right. So she's, err," She'd actually lost sight of the team leader ever since she'd executed her tactical retreat, the smaller woman disappearing in the crowd that'd only grown since the start of the night. She's not like the other chaperones hanging back watching the dancers, bumping shoulders cradling punch. Not like Glynda, serious and frowning, eyes narrowing as she -

Wait. Glynda mad? Then-

"She's over there."

There's a pregnant pause. And then,

"Who is that tramp?"

They're too close, close enough for Ruby's lips to brush over the shell of an ear she whispers into. Which is weird and kind of irritating to watch. The girl, taller than Ruby and admittedly pretty with her mint green hair and brilliant red eyes, must hate it, whatever Ruby is saying. She looks caught somewhere between furious and nauseated.

Did she just- Holy shit she did!

The girl reels back and slaps Ruby across the cheek, storming off afterwards. The young man Ruby had met in the arena - the young man that'd had his own ass soundly handed to him in the arena - scurries after her. Ruby grins, watching them leave and it's only because Weiss jerks her back that Yang doesn't lurch forward to tear ass after those two.

"I can't believe that-"

"Ruby licked her cheek."


Chapter Text

Something is wrong with Ruby.

Weiss sleeps better than she ever has, curled up with her teammates like it's the most natural thing, like this is how things have always been will always be. But she's far from ever being a restful sleeper. So when, sometime in the night, Ruby gets out of bed to go where she goes, Weiss jolts awake. The air at her back is cool on her skin but the spot behind her is still warm to her groping fingers.

Oum blessed her with a rock of a partner, it's easy enough to untangle herself from Yang's heat, shifting up until she's sitting on the edge of the bed. She's quick to search out Ruby, she really hadn't gone that far only to the couch and so that's where Weiss finds her silhouette in the darkness.

"Ruby?" There's a jerk from the team leader, her head cocks towards the bed but otherwise she doesn't move doesn't speak. Weiss finds her feet and makes her way over, conscious of the hour and Blake's unfairly sensitive ears. And there Ruby is hunched on the edge of the couch, elbows braced on knees hands hanging like broken things, she stares between her knees and Weiss squints but there's nothing there.

She's just. Just staring at the carpet.

"Ruby...?" It's softer than the first inquiry, more hesitant than the way she lowers herself onto the cushions next to the woman.

"You should sleep," there's no inflection to it. It's something she recognizes. Something that straightens her spine and steals whole seconds of air. "You'll need it." This is ground out, though. Like it hurts chokes kills her to say it.

She can't help the way her hands grab at one of Ruby's as much as she can't help the brief flash of hurt when Ruby flinches away as though stung. Her eyes just-

And it's gone. Ruby's face clears and she stands, back to Weiss.

"The Field Trip is tomorrow." she says, as though Weiss does not already know this, as though it's something she's been able to stop thinking about.

"We're ready." They're bold words. She thinks of them as true. But Ruby's shoulders jump. She looks back and her eyes her eyes!

"I hope so."

She leaves, barefoot in a thin tanktop and boxers covered in rose petals.

And Weiss sits for a while and thinks.

There is a silence in this place unlike anything she has ever experienced. It's not a sort of quiet, it's not a hush that'd fallen after they descended from the bulkhead - it's an eerie silence that possess the very air, pressing in with every breath they take. It's heavy. She feels it crawl over her skin like something alive.

Mountain Glenn is definitely creepy.


"Weiss, Blake," Ruby, decidedly the most serious Yang's seen her in a while (even considering how distressingly somber she's been getting over the past week), snaps out in a voice Yang thinks of as Audible Authority, "Scout the buildings down this block, meet Yang and I back here in five minutes." The girls nod and.

There's a look Weiss hesitates on, a look thrown over her shoulder Yang only catches because she's looking back too - it's not necessarily unusual for Ruby to mix up their partnerships but... - and it's. A little unsettling.

"Yang?" She jerks to attention, spinning on her heel to charge after Ruby though the woman patiently waits for her. Even the echoes of her hurried footsteps sound muted here. It's just unnatural.

"I thought this place got overrun?"

"It did," Ruby nods and where she indicates, about a mile down the road, a Beowolf snuffling around the corner. It doesn't see them and Ruby doesn't ready her weapon. Which might have everything to do with the fact that she wants them to handle the Grimm here.

We're going to Mountain Glenn on a hunt, she'd said. Which was fine and Yang had no issues with it she just. Ruby had been so serious. She hadn't smiled in two days. Somehow it felt.

Wrong. Something was just completely wrong and she couldn't, didn't know it was so

More Beowolves, a whole pack, and Crescent Rose sings her song, metal sliding over metal as she unfurls and Ruby whistles sharply. Heads swivel, white red masked faces unable to hide snarls curling at lips. One of them, the largest, tips it's head back to howl for a charge and,

"Activate your Aura." and she does not hesitate to do so. This is a sensation she's growing very used to, Ruby had once confided in her that she was the only person she'd ever be able to run with quickly. It's unreal to move with Ruby. Faster even than Super Dragon Fist. Faster than anything.

They don't have time to growl whimper whine before Ruby's made them respectful of the living silence. A silence she breaks with a sigh,

"Yang, I..." And that conscious quiet presses in for seconds. And then she sucks in a sharp breath and Yang knows in her bones where this is going. Knows it like she knows the wrongness plaguing this place and dogging Ruby's every action. She knows what's coming and something in her rebels.

And so whatever Ruby is going to say, undoubtedly something serious and profound that might better help her-whatever, Yang doesn't allow it. Instead,

"So what's up about that night of the dance?" She hadn't asked since she and Weiss had walked in on what was sure to be an interesting explanation, and she'd requested Weiss not ask either. Because this, this right here, Ruby pursing lips and beginning to look just the lightest shade of too-pink-in-the-cheek, this was something she'd been waiting to savor.

Here in the middle of Mountain Glenn was the perfect place. Sure, Weiss had once told her she had terrible timing. But Weiss had No Fucking Idea how right she was, so that was just fine!

"If this is about Glynda she was just mad-"

"Nope! That's not what I'm talking about and you know it isn't." And oh how the tables had turned how the mighty had fallen. This... Was this how Ruby felt all the time? Well, surely it can get better... "Can't think of it, hmm? When Weiss and me caught you and Blake-"

"Ah," Ruby Ruby Ruby. How had she lived with this woman and not managed a blush like that!? She wasn't as easy to get flustered as Weiss but clearly she just hadn't been trying hard enough. "Well. She was just suggesting-"

"Oh, just suggesting some things?"

"Mhmm, like, perhaps, wearing my uniform more frequently-"

"Oh! Yeah, sure, sounds about right."

"I'm literally telling the truth-"

"With a hand under her dress and both of hers in your hair? It's not that I don't believe you I just think you're leaving out the good parts."

"Weirdly, I had tricked myself into believing you'd somehow forgotten about this," Ruby's suffering sigh sounds a whole lot like victory.

The rumble of the earth below does not.


Chapter Text

She feels, and not for the first time, the weight of her position. She used to be something like fond of this. Playing games and dressing pretty all just for the sake of it. To laugh and know, I did that I pissed off that person I ruined that day did something silly and awful because it felt good!

She is still fond of it, she'll probably always be quite fond of it but she's. It's just starting to get exhausting. Things like this used to be easy like breathing, fun. Now it just feels.


So she pastes on a soft wistful sort of smile and cups her cheek, staring after that little fucking rat she wouldn't warn a third time without involving her dearest love and last Good Rose. She stares and smiles and it's not easy like breathing because her chest is full of hot fury and resentment. Tarts like that girl are why she-

"Miss Rose," ah Glyndie-darling-dearest-dear. "A word?"

She spins on her heel and cocks a brow, let's her lips split in a smile before sweeping a very reluctant Goodwitch into an impromptu dance.

"As many as you'd like until the song ends."

She's not an uncontrollable beast. She's just got a rather mean temper. And a vindictive streak. Andnightterrorsandflashesofawfulhorribleterriblethingsand-

She gets upset with Glynda, but doesn't allow it to show doesn't allow it to burn her up because, unlike last time, she really had conducted herself incredibly inappropriately and against a guest of Beacon no less! So when Glynda requests - demands and it's hard not to laugh in her silly gorgeous face - that she withdraw from the Dance before she causes, "Anymore unnecessary stress with your attention grabbing scenes" which, very nice by the way, she does kinda chuckle then.

And she agrees, quite graciously. Bows out of their dance very literally and strolls out of The Dance feeling.


A yawn pops her jaw and she's grateful she hadn't pulled her hair back into a bun or tail, mussing a hand through it and scratching uselessly at her scalp or trying to through the gloves. She likes the uniform well enough but this is why she wears fingerless gloves. They're just more sensible!

The room that is hers, theirs, is dark even with curtains thrown open to let in the moonlight. She doesn't bother with lights, trudging over to the bed and plopping herself down with a sigh. Rubbing gloved hands over her face frustrates her and with a growl she sets to pull them off, using teeth when the material proves itself a nuisance.

And that's what Blake walks in on. She doesn't bother with the lights either, eyes easily finding Ruby and she might have a belly full of fire for all the smoke in her laugh.

"Struggling?" Ruby hums, head and hand jerking in opposite directions until she's got a glove dangling from her teeth. "Need help?" And she smiles, thinking only that-

"I've got teeth don't I?" She isn't thinking about Blake's either.

"You could always use your hands-"

"I mean sure, but when I've got a perfectly good mouth that'll do it better..." Another laugh from Blake and Ruby indulges her a smile. And yanks on a finger of the other glove with her teeth.

"Have I told you how much I like this suit?" Blake is drawing nearer and as she stops in front of Ruby she reaches out to smooth her hands over the jacket.

"You told me I look professional," and she lets the second glove fall into her lap, only glancing at the hands that slide up and over her shoulders to hook behind her neck, only cocking a brow and spreading her legs to allow Blake a chance to step in closer. "Which, uh, is that a compliment cuz-"

"Oh it's definitely a compliment. What would you say if I suggested you wear it more often?" No probably. It was a nice suit and she looked nice in it and she would ruin it pretty quickly. Better to keep it safe and tucked away for special occasions. Not that Blake needs to know that.

"I suppose I'd say something like, Convince me." When they aren't having a moment she's got to remember to call Blake a lap cat to see what happens.

Super glad she hated not being able to touch things with her fingertips, also. It's not like it's her first time putting her hands on Blake but this isn't massaging out training pains - or doling them out for that matter - and brushing hair or being somewhat of a twat nuisance weirdo just for the fun of it.

This is Touching. The kind where breaths separate but hardly anything else does. The kind where eyes burn and fingers slide high on thighs under dresses pressing looking. The kind where hair is tugged and lips will get bitten and-

"Hah!" And her little sister walks in because she's just so darn cute. "I knew we'd find you in... Here..."

"What was that?" She has no idea but,

"I intend to find out. Let's go ahead and get back to the girls." This place had been overrun, yes, and there were underground tunnels with a history of being unstable enough for cave-ins, sure, but those tunnels didn't usually react as such undisturbed. An earthquake surely would have affected the surrounding buildings, so what did that mean?

"Ruby, Yang!" Weiss is looking more than relieved, she runs and throws her arms around their necks and starts in the softest most hesitant murmurs, "I didn't know if..."

"I would sooner die than allow that." She curls an arm around the petite princess and squeezes until she sighs.

"Ok," and Weiss Schnee is back in Schnee Mode, fierce and brilliant as she draws away from them, planting hands on her hips. "So, what was that?"

"What do you girls know about this place?"

"It was an attempt to expand that failed spectacularly," Weiss says this and it might almost seem flippant but for the tightness around her eyes and mouth. "It got overrun pretty quickly and Hunters couldn't get here in time to save everyone."

"Or anyone for that matter," it's Yang that adds this bit, truly the grimmest she's ever looked. And she's yet to be ruined...

"True. But do you know what initial survivors died from?"

"I thought-"

"You're thinking right Kitten, there were no survivors but not everybody died in the city."

"Then where?" She points at the ground below. "Underground?" A single sharp nod of the head in affirmative.

"There were, are, a series of underground tunnels. When survivors tried to retreat and wait for help, a cave-in trapped them and Grimm slaughtered them."

"So you think a cave-in occurred?" Weiss is close to figuring this out, but Blake is hot on her tail,

"Or something like it. But what could have-" she and Weiss gasp near simultaneously,

"You think somebody is in the tunnels?"

"I think there might be more than just somebody."

"... Is that what we're here to hunt?" Weiss and Blake jerk, eyes cutting towards a Yang looking a bit too pale staring down at the cracked pavement. "Somebodies?"


Chapter Text

Over milk and cookies, literal milk and cookies, are they fed information that will change things. Change everything. Blake had taken one of the larger steps in her life today by deciding to give Weiss Schnee a chance and yet it's here, over milk and fucking cookies, that everything changes.

"I've killed one hundred and nine people. Seventeen accidental."

And hadn't she run from this hadn't she-

But this isn't Him. This is no man in a mask parading himself about. This is Ruby. Ruby Rose, the extraordinary woman she met two days ago that knows her favorite series and is in all actuality most likely the strongest being alive and she's remorseful. This isn't a What about them? moment. It's so much more and so much-

But it makes her sick. Makes her sad and disgusted and disappointed(?) because she'd just met the woman and allowed herself to like her. Had watched the woman fling their teammates into a forest and rip the wings from a Nevermore and she hadn't thought twice but this.

"I see," she says to fill the tense silence and they all look a little ill. "And you want us to do the same?"

"Ahh," she laughs very softly. Her smile is something like disfigurement, twisting at her face too unnaturally, "And here you're making wild assumptions of me. I don't want anything from you three. I don't even want to be here right now."

"Then why are you here?"

"...I was asked a favor and offered money, and make no mistake I'm little more than a mercenary for hire at this point in my life," More laughter and the Schnee, err, Weiss looks particularly disgusted by this. "...and I still refused the job. I'll take a life any day for whatever purpose... But I would NOT teach children how to do the same!"

"That isn't an answer." Yang is still a questionable individual - hearing parts of an argument through the closed bathroom door offers so little - but she's got a spectacular point.

"A threat was made unto me concerning a person quite dear to my heart," her smile slips and she stares Yang down and it's. She feels like she's intruding. "I don't respond well to threats but I was particularly understanding in this instance. Somebody is desperate and if that person is desperate enough to call on me?"

"You can just say what you mean," Weiss bites this out, teeth clicking and grinding. She hadn't even touched her cookies. "Drop the cryptic nonsense." And maybe she's just seeing things that aren't there but she thinks Weiss means bullshit.

"War is looming and has been for quite a while. I could very easily back out and leave either side to their business and step up once a winner has risen from the ashes but there's an amount of people I cannot and will not risk. I was tasked to build a team and I chose you three to turn into Warriors but you didn't choose me."

There's a beat of silence. And then she sighs, smiling as though she's indulging them and grumbling about dropping cryptic nonsense.

"You all have a choice. I made mine and you can make yours. If you don't want to do this if none of you wants to do this I can leave right now. Just pack up my things and go. This team will be disbanded and you'll all flounder for a bit while they attempt to fill my spot or he'll try and add you on other teams, I'm not honestly certain and I don't honestly care but you have a choice. So what is it?"

When she hears rummaging in the fridge That Night she thinks it must be Weiss. She'd never known anyone to enjoy food quite like their princess. She blames Atlas, if the place wasn't such a frigid cesspool lacking in culinary delights the poor darling wouldn't lose her wits so quickly over dinner. Not that she blames her, Ruby is a terror in the kitchen in the best sense.

So she thinks little of it and curls closer to the-

Wait I'm curled up with Weiss and Yang Right Now.

There's a low curse as contents shift, bottles clinking and what is she looking for? Isn't she the one filling that fridge with food on a regular basis? There's a click of Ruby's tongue and a sigh as the fridge is closed and-

"Blake!" Ruby hisses into her one of her ears and it twitches violently. That tickled! "Blake I know you're awake!" At this rate she'll wake Weiss - though the girl had eaten herself into a food coma earlier - and she did not want to be the one on the receiving end of a famous Schnee tantrum.

"This had better be good Ruby Rose I Swear By Oum...!"

Ruby stifles a giggle and beckons her from the bed, and with reluctance and not just a few longing looks at Yang's back, she acquiesced, prowling after a grinning Ruby towards the kitchen.


"Where's my gin at?"

"Uhh," that stuff she'd left for them to- oh she hadn't meant to leave that for them had she? "... We drank it all while you were on vacation?"

"You-" she's caught somewhere between delighted surprised and frustrated. Settling on, "I can't believe you drank all my alcohol with my little sister and her girlfriend."

"... They're not technically girlfriends, so..."

"Oh," she intones, attempting to clear her face and just entirely unable to bite back her smile. "You're right. Excuse me, I can't believe you drank all my alcohol with my little sister and her wife."

"I'd say she's more like the team wife," she'd say she's clearly been spending too much time with Ruby when her sighing and shaking her head - fond exasperation! That's exactly what that look is - feels a whole lot like a hard earned prize, but that's an understatement they literally sleep together.

"I leave you kids for two days..."

"We're not," it's hardly the first time calling them as such. Kids, children, babies. "We're not kids you know?"

"Yes you are," a smile to spite her teeth, she pauses to chuckle and softens to continue, "Well, you're almost nineteen but age isn't... It isn't age that changes the child in us. Not wisdom or experience. We change the child in us knowingly and willingly."

The smile dwindles and an air of melancholy descends and slowly slowly tightens like a noose around the neck.

"Umm, as a Security Officer at Beacon Academy-"

"The Security Officer, thank you very much." Right. Thank you Ruby.

"You'd know of any confiscated, err, substances. Ah. Of the alcoholic variety. So-"

"Blake Belladonna are you suggesting I go taking advantage of my position-"

"Actually, if you'd ever let me finish, I was suggesting we take advantage of your position."

"Kitty," she gasped and gaped and grinned like if she didn't it'd just hurt her soul. "You're so bad." And that could only be a good thing.

"We're sticking together as a group for now. I'm willing to sacrifice the time it'll take moving as a unit for the sake of your well being," and Ruby is stern. The most Team Leader-y they've seen. And still it feels like the time to interject,

"You mean our well being." Ruby blinks and her mouth drops just open the littlest bit. And then it shuts and she smiles and it might be the warmest thing.

"Yes, of course," she agrees and the edge in her tone is softer. "I'd rather we all safe than..."

"A sorry sack of losers like the rest of the chumps not good enough to get chosen by you?" It falls about as flat as it can coming from a still sickly pale Yang. But still Ruby's smile persists, her softness caresses,

"Yeah. That exactly." And in a blink the edge is back, razor sharp. "We're going to keep this as quiet as possible, don't want those rats in the sewer finding out we're here too quickly." She spits out rats like it's the most vile thing. It very well might be.

"So we want them to find out?" And Ruby had turned from them, a wave her only command to follow.

"They'll find out when we want them to." Weiss is still unsatisfied with this response, her scowl says that even if she doesn't. Though her thought does bear repeating,

"But we want them to find out?" Ruby sucks in a sharp breath only to sigh it out, spinning on her heel and coming to a stop.

"They'll know we're coming when we collapse the tunnels. We're going to trap them and we're going to kill them. Any more questions?" And there are none. "Good."

Chapter Text

"What's in the thermos?"

"Ruby said it was for Weiss."

"Oh ok."


"So what's in the thermos?"

"Yang, stop being such a nosy brat," Weiss sighs and shakes her head like she's serious and this is certainly a bother. She isn't and it's not but Yang looks properly put out anyway.

"You could just tell me," the pouting nosy brat grumbles and Weiss is wonderfully successful at containing her silly grin. The thing is, she doesn't actually know what's in the thermos. But Yang doesn't know that, not at all. And it is incredibly fun to ruffle her feathers.

"I could," Weiss agrees. Yang waits.


"Yang!" She whines right back and, oh, Yang is so fluffy. "Just ask Ruby when she comes back from the bathroom." She'd gone to find a quiet corner to relieve herself some time ago. She'd yet to return.

"... You know that's not what she's doing?"

"I'd think we're all aware of that," but they had more important things to worry about. Like finishing setting up camp for the night. And then Blake lets out a low breath, could almost be a sigh,

"She killed some people on her vacation."

("I. I did something wrong.")

She almost panics. Her breaths stutter and her heart throbs out a beat that she doesn't hear so much as feel in her temples.

"I'd figured as much. She seemed too..." Yang doesn't finish and she doesn't have to. And Weiss takes the deepest breath, low and slow as discreetly as she can.

"And you know this for a fact?" She tries she tries to make this casual, even despite feeling the significant weight of every word as it falls from her lips.

"She told me so," Blake admits and she can feel the eyes on her. "... And the bathroom smelled like her blood." She flinches and she can't help that she does she can really only hope Yang's most violent jerk is more noticeable to Blake.

"When?" It's not quite growled and it's not quite ground out. It's as though every muscle in her body had all strained together at once to summon the demand from the very depths of her being, somewhere between her soul and bone marrow.

"The morning she came back-"

"It's been weeks-"

"She's allowed her secrets! If she'd wanted you, any of us, to worry she would have informed us-"

"You're a lot of things but I'd never pegged you for a liar." Yang snarls and in the way she crosses to Blake it's. Probably the most aggressive she's ever seen Yang act towards them. She's trying to get Blake upset. And it's working. Because her hands have been shaking for hours the lines around her mouth etching themselves into her skin because she's been too pale too stressed they weren't ready for this they weren't they weren't they weren't-

"I found her. The night she came back. There were," her voice cracks and her lips tremble and it feels like she's trying to pull the words back but she isn't they're just spilling out and- "Handprints. Ringing her neck."

And she doesn't have to look at her partner to know what twists her features. Doesn't have to glance to know the stricken agonized betrayed face that she'll find.

"I didn't know what to do. I'm not. I'm not you guys. I don't know how to be-" she stops and the breath she sucks in might as well be mud, the way it chokes her clogs in her lungs her throat hot and heavy and. "...I don't know if I've ever been more frightened."

There's a breathing furnace at her back. A hand on her shoulder. Arms wrapping around her waist and a head dropping onto her other shoulder and she can't tell if she's shaking or they all are.

"You should have told me."

"I know."

"Why didn't you?"

"You don't handle things like this well."

"I'm not a child!" She can't tell if the way arms tighten around her is for comfort or punishment, either way it squeezes the breath out of her.

"We all are," and she's sandwiched between two bodies and they're not fine. This isn't ok. They'd been literal seconds from fighting on a mission and that is unacceptable.

Over the contents of a thermos, no less.

She fights against the holds her ladies have on her until she breaks away and-

"Oh wow," she breathes and laughs and finally looks at these girls - her girls, aren't they? - and they're all too shaken up. "That dork...!"

"Is that..." Blake pauses and her eyes narrow and her nostrils flare and then a smile cracks at the hard line of her mouth. "Wow." She intones and her smile stretches and she laughs. "It is isn't it?"

"What are you two on about?" Weiss offers the opened thermos and, ah, there's the last smile she'd been waiting on. That reluctant almost exasperated one and she huffs a laugh as she hands the thermos back, "She left you some stew."

"No no, dear, she left us some stew."

Petals are the only warning. A swirl of them drifting in and then it's just Ruby standing with two incapacitated masked members of the White Fang. Weiss feels no affection for them.

Blake drops the thermos.

Ruby is an immovable stone faced force of nature and she sets eyes on the each of them for some amount of significant time. She settles them on Blake last of all.

"These are scouts," it's her stellar introduction. Truly outstanding. "They did us the personal favor of being easy to find and easier to subdue." She drops them and they hit the cracked pavement with throaty grunts. She imagines from the way they cock their heads around, the way they snarl and sneer out the bottom of their masks, she imagines they must be fixing them all with the most heated glares

"Why bring them here?" Yang's voice is surprisingly steady and. Blake is looking at their captives like this is The End. Her hands are even trembling.

"I'm leaving that up to you girls," it's perfectly straightforward, blunt and somehow she still makes that something soft and slow. And utterly confusing.

"What do you mean-"

"No," Blake stands and lurches over towards her partner and sitting as she is its strange to see the inches Blake has on Ruby, stranger to see them and still feel as though Blake is something small and fragile. It's in the hunch of her shoulders, even as her voice is the strongest, steadiest, "No, Ruby. That isn't fair. You. You should have said it was Them!"

Ruby blinks at her slow and that face she's been wearing too much doesn't twist doesn't twitch. Calm cool neutral absolutely unaffected by the happenings around her.

"And you would have... Stayed behind?" Ruby wonders and Blake grinds her bared teeth.

"That isn't fair, Ruby!" Is all she says, again, and Ruby nods once. It isn't fair. And that doesn't particularly matter.

"I know how to get to their base. I apprehended them shortly after they'd left. Now, I could have easily taken care of them but on the off chance my team had thoughts opinions suggestions about what they'd like to do-

"Ruby I won't kill them-"

"Blake they are terrorists. They actively want to end all human life and beyond that totally acceptable bullshit, they're working with a few fiends that will, if given the chance, end this world. End it, Blake. Human Faunus animal Grimm, everything will be gone EVERYTHING." And she stops and sucks in a sharp breath and calms again and,

"But I won't make you kill them." She doesn't look just at Blake, lending more significance to the look she spares them all. "I won't make any of you kill any of them. What's going to happen is You all, as a team, are going to decide what to do. With these lovely masked friends of ours. And with the rest of their rat friends-"

One of those masked rats spits at Ruby. His head - it's a decidedly male sound he makes at least - whips to the side, blood and spittle and a tooth flying from his mouth. Petals drift into his lap as Ruby continues,

"-still in the sewer. Know that I will provide my own perspective on whatever plan you decide on but the plan will be one that you all decide on."

"I. I. I can't. I can't kill these people I used to be one," and she's made that clear and Weiss won't judge her on it. She doesn't think any of them will. "I think they're fine tied up-"

"And if they should escape?" Ruby melts from that power pose she'd struck, walking away from their captives to retrieve the thermos and hand it back to Blake.

"You said-"

"That I'd be interjecting with my opinions, yes."

"So we'd knock them out? Maybe gag them for good measure?" Weiss provides and if Blake could be more grateful in a glance...

"And say they were gone too long? A party came searching?"

"You won't make us kill them," Blake starts and it's the lowest hiss, ears flat against her skull. "But you'll push and push and push won't you?"

"Yes." And there is nothing else to say and Blake is... Yang has barely moved since the arrival of their guests. She eyes them and sweat beads upon her brow and, from the glaze over lilac, she's light years away from here.

"So say we were to kill them, and say a party still came searching. Finding bodies would raise alarms I'd think." And Blake could be more grateful in a glance, at least she certainly is this time.

"Throw them to the Grimm. Accidents happen in the dark of night. Especially in the overrun ruins of a failed city." Their captives, the one not nursing a broken jaw at least, shift slightly and all eyes are on them. Her. (Unless it's a particularly large chested man.)

They don't say anything though. Whether out of fear of punishment or the understanding that no matter what happens they most likely won't see the sun rise on the morrow...

"I don't want to kill them," Blake croaks. She'd moved away from them, closer to Weiss actually. Right beside her, close enough for their shoulders to brush, "I really don't want to kill them."

"And you really don't have to. I might give you every reason why I would rid of them and you still don't have to listen to me. We're not Grimm, we fear and rely on morals, we sleep we dream we make our decisions consciously. Make yours but do not forget yourself and this place and why I brought you here."

And Ruby sits to lean her shoulders back against a crumbling wall, arms crossing and. And there's the scrape of boots, a flash of brilliant golden light. Ruby had warned them away from starting any fires lest they attract attention and this, this stunning glow is quite blinding it's-


There's a sound like what she imagines a watermelon dropping over the roof of a building to splatter on the pavement, Ember Celica shooting off. And Ruby stands before them as if she'd been there the whole time, arms thrown out and face so carefully carefully cool. She doesn't stop nearly so much of the chunkiest, most crimson rain. Not as much as she'd tried to.

All is quiet.

And then the dry heaving starts.

Chapter Text

She's the prettiest - most beautiful most gorgeous most lovely - thing that's ever been, that'll ever be. Soft lilac eyes like flower petals. Warm buttery yellow curls of downy soft hair framing chubby, ruddy cheeks. Hands reaching out and a delighted gummy smile on her face.

She's too young at the time that they meet to have a true concept of Love at First Sight. The very name of the phenomenon lends itself to be understood easily enough, but knowing really knowing what Love in all its heavy, overused grandeur means and especially what it means to be so taken by just a gaze...

That understanding comes much later. It's only as an adult that, were anyone to ask her the moment she met the love of her life, she might name that very one. That second, that minute, that breath of time that she gazed down upon a swaddled baby and thought, This one right here this one is mine.

"I'm so glad she's got your looks," even she's not certain how she got Raven to play with her. She's a notorious card shark, but maybe this means something. Maybe this is deeper than a game of poker maybe -

Raven scoffs and rolls her eyes,

"You must be blind, girl," she used to say things like Girlie and Rosie. The pet names have decidedly decreased with age. "She looks just like her father."

"His coloring, maybe. But she's got your eyes and your nose and mouth. Your big ears-"

"Don't think I won't kick your ass just cuz you're a kid!"

"Not to mention your temper." Raven kicks her in the shin. "Not so sure that's my ass."

She only laughs when cards - and Raven's hand was garbage - are thrown in her face.



"My answer is no. I have no interest in helping you create an army of child soldiers." She salutes him with her glass, tipping it back afterwards to chug the milk and slam it down like a drained shot glass. "So thanks for the cookies n' milk, I'll be taking my leave."

He doesn't stammer or stutter as she pushes her chair back, standing from it and brushing crumbs from her person. Doesn't initially say a single word as she hums and sets herself right. He takes a sip of his coffee, sets the mug down, shifts it slightly to some degree or angle he prefers. He folds his hands together beneath his chin and only then,

"Your sister has applied for my academy. Did you know that?"

Her lips twitch. They twist until her teeth are bared and it's not a smile.

"You don't say?" She grits this out and Ozpin is calm calm frustratingly absolutely fucking calm as he shifts, reaches for and sips from his mug again.

"In fact I do say. Would be a shame if something untoward were to happen while she was under my watch..."

"I know you're not threatening me right now, Oz. You're too smart for that."

"Quite," there's something decisive in the way he sets his mug back down. Something final, something with force. "I'm threatening Yang Xiao Long."

She snaps, she snarls, she lunges at him grabs him by his collar to hiss in his face,

"You better watch your fucking tongue before I rip it the fuck out!"

"They will die Ruby," she wants to tear that look from his face. That bored tired indifferent knowing defeated- "You're a combat specialist. I need your help."

"And I already told you tough titties! Find someone else and leave her out of this." She nearly throws him back into his seat and turns to leave. Disgusted and furious and (shakenterrifiedhardtobreatheohOumwhatwillshedoifhereallyfollowsthrough),

"Can you really afford to watch another one die? Think you could handle that?" And she stops cold. "I'm not so sure you can."

There's an eternity that passes by. Minutes that are years to her. Years of reeling and feeling and stewing with something like the blackest loathing.

"You're making a mistake, Ozpin."

"I've made more than you'd believe," she scoffs. "I'll pay you."

"You're a bastard."

"So we've got a deal then?" She burns. It's like Dust had been injected directly into her veins, like she might explode with it all.

"I've got conditions." And she can only hope they'll wipe that smile off his face.

Yang is probably one of the select few people in her life she's beat into a pulp as hard as she has without actively trying to kill them. She isn't quite certain she should count her duckling lucky for that.

She snarls and snaps at Yang, things like her name, things like warnings and demands to Get up! when really what she means is Stay Down.

Every bone crushing punch begs her to turn tail and run.

Every ground rattling kick screams at her to leave.

Every blood spilling mind-reeling body breaking strike she lands on Yang demands her to stop this nonsense and Go Home.

And every single time, every single punch kick strike knockdown drag out fight, Yang finds her feet and lifts her fists and asks for more. And she's So proud of her little duck. It burns inside of her not unpleasantly. She loves this girl so much, too much and not enough and with all of her heart that she can spare and then quite a lot that she can't. She committed herself to a life in the pursuit of protecting this girl.

And she's so fucking proud of how she's grown. Even knowing she had little to do with that growth. That beautiful baby with her blossom eyes has bloomed without her knowledge without her permission.

And it's wonderful.

And it's terrifying.

Because she is strong, strong and brash and bold enough to run headlong into danger. To get up again and again and again. No matter how beaten bruised bloody and raw she gets she never stops until her body can't support her weight, until her Semblance is all for naught with no Aura to power it.

And she's proud she's so so so proud and yet her stomach ties into knots, something smarts wickedly sharp like a twisted dagger shoved into her chest her lungs every time Yang stands, swollen discolored painted in her own vivid shades of red. She's so proud and she can't find the words the way to grab Yang and shake her and scream that there is no shame in retreat.

There is no shame in living to fight another day.

"Get up Yang." Stand down, please.

Yang is defiant but weak on the floor. Her fingers twitch, her head rolls a bit and she does not yet rise. But she will, she's trying and- oh! that knife! that sharpest dagger! It finds a home and twists. It takes her seconds to find her voice and when she does it comes out a growl,

"I said Get. Up.Please just stop just STOP.

And slowly, ever so slowly, Yang starts that most arduous task of rising. It begins when she lifts her head. Her eyes are hazy, face swollen and vivid in its coloring all indigos and violets, reds and nearly-blacks. She finds her shaking arms and tries to prop to push to force herself off the ground. She falls. She tries again. Falls. Tries again-

"Yang!" This is her final warning. Furious and desperate and her voice cracks a bit.

And Yang finds her feet. It's agonizing, and she does it. She sways as she stands and those trembling arms rise rise rise up. Fingers curl into loose fists. And she smiles.

She'd learned two things - but not at the same time mind you - early in her youth. The first being that she should watch the world through her Semblance.

The second came just before she managed to become a Huntress, and that second was that she should live in the moments without her Semblance.

Unfortunately she'd never learned a proper way to tell at which time each lesson should be respected. Too many moments, the worst moments, was she slow because she thought she should or needed to be. Too many moments she waisted energy on and for all the most terrible reasons.

Things get clearer with age but damn if half her scars could have been avoided...

When she hears the scrape of boots she lets the world slow. When she sees it's Yang, the world stops. This, perhaps, is her least used, most painful, rarely useful move. She doesn't use it in combat, has never had to. Though she's trained it like she might, she'll continue to train it as though she has to.

She's got five minutes. Then the amount of Aura it takes to keep her this fast and keep her body from pulling apart at the seams at the same time will be too great. She doesn't need to do this.

"Oh," she's parched and there's the faintest taste of blood lingering on the back of her tongue. "Oh Yang. My sweetest thing." She takes slow steps to Yang, her precious brute. That glorious giant glows, of course, and her eyes have long since bled into a burning red so like her mother.

She does not reach out to touch this frozen goddess of war, she dare not. She just watches. Tears find her and she lets them run their course. She does not weep. She cannot weep. This is her doing and she doesn't deserve that sort of self pity. But she cries for Yang because. She can't help it.

She holds herself and cries and aches to stop this, stop her.

There are few things in life people earn quite like their mistakes. Made willingly or unknowingly.

When more than just the taste of blood fills her mouth she calms because she must. Wipes away her tears and collects herself. Time, Yang, begins to slowly creep forward and her body stops pulling apart but she still watches.

"It was too early," she tells that War Beast, walking alongside her as her body runs through time only as quickly as anyone(else) can. "I shouldn't have taken this job. It was never too late to leave."

She receives no answer. But she wouldn't. It's not answers she's after.

"I didn't explain myself to your mother. There is no explaining this away. But I wanted to help I wanted you to run. I forgot, I'm not sure how, that your running almost always happens to be a bull rush into danger." Pride disgust disappointment, it's a war waged from the confines of her skull.

Yang is approaching the captives.



"You know one of them was my informant?" Steps away now. "The girl. Sky was the name she gave me. I was going to kill her anyway but she didn't know that." Yang's reached them and she grabs the male by the base of his skull. "I was going to kill them both regardless of what you all decided but..."

It'll be messy this way. Messier than Yang bothered to think about. Truth be told Ruby would be willing to bet that Yang is doing very little thinking right now.

"If it'd meant so much you could have said something." It's like a bomb went off in his brain. When his face meets the floor his skull begins to crack open, blood and brain and bone just begins to splatter slowly slowly and Yang's smooth as silk in the way she moves to blow Sky to pieces. "You should have said something. It's sad."

Yang's not in a very good place. The girls are in the splash zone and if she'd just found the strength to wait and think first...

"I'm sad."

Blake had half-risen from her spot bumping shoulders with Weiss. The heiress had thrown out a hand and made moves to stand herself. But when the hottest spray of blood and bits paints itself across the back of her neck head body they freeze up.

She hadn't stopped very nearly enough of it. Not enough to keep them clean. And they're radiant in red, beautiful in the blood. Weiss especially, the way it contrasts against the cream of her skin the snowy whiteness of her hair.

And when the dry heaving starts out of all of them it's Blake that stumbles past her. She watches Weiss and Weiss watches her. Weiss watches her remain calm and cool and collected, because she must be these things for them. And she watches Weiss grow angry.

It's slow but it starts with her hands curling up, and then her eyes beginning to blaze and her lips beginning to snarl and then it just explodes in a glorious,

"You MORON!"

Blake had not even begun to murmur comforts. Yang had not even emptied her stomach.

"Wuh-what?" She mutters stutters, wipes at fat tears attempting to cascade down her cheeks. But with her bloody hand. Horror dawns on her face and the heaving-

Weiss hesitates only briefly before barreling on, rising from her spot to stalk towards her prey.

"How dare you. You don't get to do that Yang Xiao Long. You don't get to make decisions like that. I don't care how related you are or aren't to our team leader, you don't get to make choices for all of us!"

Yang is astonished - once she scrubs at her face and mouth with the back of her clean hand - and then angry. Anxious scared still sick hurting freaking the FUCK out. But angry.

"I was just doing my job-"

"Don't act like this is you being professional when you're nothing but a self-conscious child!" And it's such a common name for her. She calls them all brats and kids but she and WB especially delight in teasing Yang for her more youthful tendencies.

This is not like that.

This is full of teeth and fire.

This makes Yang flinch.

Anger anger anger ANGER.

"And what the fuck did you do huh!? You just sat there trying to avoid-"

"NO! Don't you even try to- I did as my team leader asked. You ignored her. You ignored us. YOU KILLED TWO FUCKING PEOPLE Y-"

"ENOUGH!" Calm she must be calm with bits oozing down her head her neck a chunk of something hot stuck to her ear her jaw blood painting her clothing to her flesh and it's hot it's hot and redRedRED and seeping everywhere and She. Must. Be. Calm.

"That is quite enough, girls."

And she is calm. She is calm because she must be. Calm for them like Ra-

Calm because she had already mourned. Calm because they're passionate and young and they deserve to be those things, Oh! they deserve that. But the fear. The fury. Those things they might like to burn themselves with. The fester the rot so easy to take hold.

"Yang did you want to do that?"


"Yes or no. Did you want to do that?"

"It's not like-"

"Did you want to do that?"

"I just-"

"Did you want to do that!? Yes or No, did you want to do that?!"

"NO, alright!?" It bellows out of her. Something raw something animal something like a cry of pain. "Of course I didn't want to! We don't have a choice do we you said it you said that we don't. We. We can't forget." Tears begin to roll down her cheeks again and when she lifts a hand to scrub them away she flinches. Damn thing still covered in gore. She shakes, numb words falling swifter and quieter from her trembling lips, "An and I didn't did I? I did it. Me! And it's done and I didn't. I won't forget."

"I say so many things for you to listen to the worst of them." A smile cracks her face and the pull of it is awful. A tear in her face for the white of her bone to bleed through. "I said I wouldn't make you kill them-"

"And you didn't. She did that all her own." There is no bite to Blake's words, Oum she's still skimming her fingertips over Yang. Down her back, drifting over her arms, petting through her mane. And even still one hand eventually anchors itself with Yang's, their fingers threading together. There is no bite and the words are no less sharp for it.

"She said we would decide. Together." Weiss steps forward, fierce and beautiful and sad. Despite the pinch of her brow the scowl twisting her mouth, her eyes are wet and the look there heavy. "You moron. Don't get to do these things without us. It's not fair, Yang."

("You're not allowed to-to go wherever you please, not without me, not without us!" And in that moment she is stunned by this fierce panicked young woman, making demands of her when she isn't Her. Not herself not her mother. Too many things she isn't.)

Weiss steps closer and Yang is crying in earnest as she begins to blubber out an apology. It's a frantic stuttering thing that falls into hiccuping sobs as Weiss reaches her and grabs her free hand.