Actions

Work Header

By Any Other Name

Work Text:

You are not born with a silver spoon in your mouth. Your family is not that poor.

The spoon in your mouth is made of gold, and the handle is encrusted with diamonds.

You are born into a legacy you can never hope to live up to - even if you want to.

From a young age, you learn you were born into an exceptional family. You are the only child of the CEO of one of the most powerful businesses in the world and a council member who holds a record four seats in Mistral.

But the family legacy comes with a weight that few recognize. Your family, friends - even strangers - expect great things from you, and these expectations are thrust upon you from the moment you are born.

Everyone seems to know your name and has specific ideas of how you're supposed to act and respond. Later, you will learn your parents are famous designers and politicians, leading the world in their own ways, but when you're young you know nothing of politics or fashion.

You learn from a young age it's easier to nod along when the adults expect things from you. You like the attention, as any five-year-old would, and your parents love you more than anything on the planet. They would move heaven and earth for you if you asked - and they are more than able to.

And the strangers - well, they're attracted to your last name, wanting to get close to an Adel. Even then you can see through their schemes, but you smile and nod and pretend you can't.

Wherever you go, you're told the same thing:

You can do anything you want - and no matter what, you're destined to be a leader.


For your eighth birthday, you're given a sketchbook and a sewing machine, as well as books detailing the histories of the four kingdoms and their leaders. You are never asked if you want to follow in the family's footsteps. Everyone simply assumes that, as an Adel, you will continue your family's legacy.

When you turn ten, you're enrolled in additional classes beyond the basic ones offered by your school. There, you learn about how to run a business and how to navigate the complicated politics of all four kingdoms.

You're raised to believe you'll be a leader some day. People think the hardest decision you will face will be between running for council or becoming CEO of Adel Enterprises first.

But along with this, there's something else. You're raised to be tenacious - to throw caution to the wind and to do your own thing while making the rules work for you.

And for all the attention paid to your schooling, no one seems to notice you don't care about the intricacies of politics or business. No one notices that in history class you write reports that focus on the formation of the hunter training academies and the legends that surround them.

No one notices you don't care about your family tree - how your family has held powerful positions in all four kingdoms. You know how to make the rules work for you, and so you do.

You say what they want to hear, and at the same time, you pursue your own interests - far from the prying eyes of others, far from the prestige of the Adel name.

You may have been born into your legacy, but you find the shoes don't fit. Instead of trying to mold yourself into what your family wants, you create your own life, finding comfort in donating generous portions of your wealth. You learn more about everyone else in the kingdom - the people who never had held positions of power - and you learn about the areas outside the four kingdoms' walls.

There, you fall in love with the stories of the powerful, yet anonymous, hunters.

There's something in the stories about saving people - the way that there's never a name beyond the title of 'hunter'(occasionally gendered, occasionally with a kingdom's name, but never otherwise identifiable).

You want that - the power calls to you, yes, but the anonymity promised is far more appealing than anything else.

When you're twelve years old, you ask to apply to Sanctum, half-expecting to be told "No" for the first time in your life.

But you've never been told no in your life, and no one is inclined to start now.

Instead, your parents tell you stories of your ancestors who had started at training academies, weaving daring tales of their years at the prep schools.

There's no mention of them going on to one of the main for training academies, though. They had all used the training to become better politicians or generals or something less dangerous.

They may not be willing to tell you no, but they also don't have reason to assume you aren't going to follow in the family's footsteps.

You smile and nod as if that's your plan, letting them assume.

You don't care a bit for the political portion of it - but you smile and nod and make plans about what to do once you've graduated Sanctum and are ready for one of the main academies.


When you're 13 and in your first year at Sanctum, you meet Fox Alistair in a grassy meadow, surrounded by grimm.

He's on his back, trying to fend of an ursa, arms crossed over his face.

You move in with your gun - despite the spread of the bullets, you've learned to use it with frightening accuracy, able to cut down the ursa without touching a hair on his head.

He rolls over, spitting up blood as you look over the field. There's nothing in the area, but you're cautious all the same. "Watch yourself, I'm sure that wasn't the last of them."

He stands, still not looking at you. "I don't hear any more in the area."

"And I don't see any," you confirm. "Fox, right?"

You know his name. You've memorized the name of every one of your classmates, filing them away as potential allies or friends, or possibly enemies. (You've made more enemies and wary allies than friends - you'd hesitate to call anyone at the school "friend" - simply because you know that people generally want something from you.)

But he doesn't know yours - and you stumble over your introduction, surprised he doesn't recognize you. You're not sure if it's relief or indignation - a mix of both, perhaps. (Though he explains a moment later he's blind.)

Even when you tell him your name, there's no jolt of recognition, no apology. "I'm fine, just lost my sunglasses - pretty sure they broke."

You can see the twisted frames and shattered lenses scattered across half the field. "Yeah, they're trashed." You pull yours off and hold them out. "Here take mine."

That's when he startles - not out of recognition, but outrage. There's blood on his chin and you wipe it up, but there's no wound, just a puffy scar. "It did get you, didn't it?"

He doesn't answer as his hand closes around the sunglasses and puts them on. "Why?"

"Hmmmm." You think, drumming your fingers on your gun case. You knew he was blind, and you were trying to delicately navigate the issue. You'd never seen him without his sunglasses, and you wanted to provide him the comfort they obviously gave him. "You need them. I just wear them as a fashion accessory."

But that wasn't the right answer either - he snarls and all but rips them off his face. "It doesn't do anything for me. I'm blind."

You don't care about the disability - but you're intrigued by the fact he doesn't fawn over you - if anything, he became more cold and distant to you once he knew your name. There's no reason to assume he doesn't know who you are, even if he doesn't react to your name.

You've yet to find someone who doesn't know "Adel" even if they don't know "Coco".

So you work to diffuse the situation, drawing on your background in politics and business negotiation, talking him down gently, hoping to get to know him better.

You wouldn't admit it to anyone, but you love his attitude towards you. It's cathartic to be given the cold shoulder when you try to talk to him about things - it's never overly rude, it's simply him keeping you at arm's length.

You love the fact he doesn't care who you are.


Somehow you don't scare him away - even when you slap him on the ass and proclaim him to be your best friend.

He doesn't refute the claim, and a small smile that crosses his face whenever he hears you call him friend tells you the feeling is mutual.

You're still not quite sure to make of your friendship - and you're scared of losing it.

Friends had always come and go so easily - using you for your name and then dropping you the moment it became inconvenient.

Eventually, you stopped pursuing friendships with your peers, preferring to keep an aloof distance from them. But Fox was different.

He never asks you for a favor. He is stubbornly independent, refusing all help.

Still, you drag him out clothes shopping the way you used to with your 'friends'. It feels like the least you can do - and maybe then you'll find out more bout him.

"Do you do this with all your friends?" he asks at the store after you've herded him into a changing room with a pile of clothes you think will look good on him.

And the question feels like a stab to the heart. Because the moment he asks it you realize the truth: he's your first friend.

Everyone else had just been using you for your name.

"Coco?" he asks when the silence stretches on for too long.

"Maybe I do," you say, wincing when your voice cracks.

It had been something you'd wanted to share for a while - it's what friends did, shared their passions. Even though your love for clothes started with your last name, you still adore the feeling of being well-dressed, the challenge that comes with finding the perfect outfit to suit your day.

And Fox, mercifully, doesn't ask any more questions about it, and so you lean against the wall opposite the door, waiting for him to emerge.

And when he does, you cock your head at his appearance. He'd layered two shirts you'd picked out - a rust-colored vest and a black long-sleeved shirt. You remember them both, and they layer well, even if that hadn't been your original intent.

Adjusting the collar, you hum thoughtfully. "Those look good together. You wouldn't wear them on their own, would you?"

While the colors, cut were completely different, this outfit covered most of his skin, just like the rest of his clothes.

"Too revealing," is all he says, tongue darting out to lick the scar on his lips he'd gotten the day you'd first met.

You nod, forgetting he can't see it, and step into the dressing room, finding a shirt that seemed to fit his modesty requirements. "Try this on instead."

He takes it and steps back into the privacy of the room, and you lean against the wall once again.

"I scar. Every time," he says suddenly, once you're on opposite sides of the flimsy door.

The halting words don't come as a surprise - it's something you'd suspected for some time now - and it cements your friendship in a way you can't quite put a finger on.

"I don't make friends easily. Not ones who just want to get to know me."

The words are as halting and nonsensical as Fox's, but he doesn't question them any more than you had his.

The spell that had settled over the two of you with the raw confessions breaks when Fox emerges, wearing the new shirt.

But something's changed - and when you go to his place that evening and riffle through his closet, he takes off his shirt in front of you without a second thought.

You don't feel the need to comment on the scars criss-crossing his body, but the fact he's so comfortable around you makes you smile.


The final acceptance letter you get from Shade leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.

Fox hasn't heard back from Shade - or Beacon - but both Atlas and Haven have already said no.

You'd had nearly identical scores - well above average for your age - and should have either both been accepted or rejected from the four academies. There shouldn't have been this imbalance, leaving you wondering if you were just getting in because of your last name.

He's sitting next to you now, head cocked as you unfold and refold the letter repeatedly.

"They said yes too," you say, trying not to sound too defeated.

"That's great!" he replies, false cheer in his voice. (Or maybe you're just projecting and he's actually happy for you.) "Where were you thinking?"

And you look down at the acceptance - one of four - and frown. Haven and Atlas weren't options, as far as you were concerned. You wanted to go with Fox. "Shade, actually," you say, managing the same false cheer. It's one of the two schools Fox hasn't heard back from yet. "You know they don't require a uniform?"

It's a deflection - you don't want to reveal how attached you've gotten to him - and he laughs.

Later, you come to regret your words when he finally gets his acceptance - to Beacon. Only Beacon.

You don't have the words to explain that his friendship means more to you than anything else, but somehow, you manage.

Later, you have to explain to your parents that you are going to Beacon Academy - for this you find the words to tell them you don't need their approval and that you'd be going regardless.

They tentatively give their blessing, exchanging a look.

They may not have approved, but no one said no to an Adel - not even your parents.

Their blessing leaves a bad taste in your mouth. You want to go to Beacon to escape your name - your legacy - but you can't do that, even now.


In the end, the final leg of the journey to Beacon feels like freedom. You're finally far enough away from home that few recognize you on sight.

When the bulkhead windows open up to reveal the view of Vale, you murmur an apology to Fox and look out over the city. You can't even feel guilty for stealing a look at the sights - it's too beautiful.

But when you turn around and see him talking to someone, tapping his finger in irritation against his sunglasses, you make your way back over.

You aren't even paying that much attention to his companion as you put your hand on the small of Fox's back, letting him know you're there.

"Making new friends?" you ask, looking at him for signs of distress. You know how shitty people can be sometimes.

He smiles and says, "Coco, this is Velvet."

But movement out of the corner of your eye draws your attention to his companion and your face falls when you see rabbit ears on her retreating form.

Shit.

You want to run and hide, especially at Fox's quiet "I... Velvet?" in confusion.

You sigh. "She ran off when - well." You won't say anything about her being a faunus to Fox; there's no reason to. You're not your family and there's no need to point it out. "When she recognized me."

Not only was your name haunting you, but with your aggressive demeanor, overly protective of your only friend, you had chased away a potential ally.

He scowls, manages to spit out "Not your fault. You couldn't have known she would rabbit as soon as you arrived."

Your jaw hits the floor. Sure the turn of phrase is something he's said before but -

You double over from laughter, forgetting that you'd scared off his new friend. You can't hold back the peals of laughter - nor do you want to. The innocence of the phrase breaks you.

"Rabbit…?" he asks and you nod, hiccuping at the word.

You should probably correct him, tell him not to say that about Velvet, but you're too amused because you know it's not malicious.

You hear her come back, ask a tentative, "Fox?" and you work on composing yourself, not too concerned with the exact conversation.

"- doesn't bite though," he's saying as you straighten up.

"Hi Velvet, it's nice to meet you," you say, extending your hand. You figure it's the least you can do to try and salvage the relationship.

She takes it with a tentative smile. "This is my friend Yatsuhashi. Yatsu, these are Coco and Fox."

Her friend - he towers above even Fox, who's a solid six foot two - shakes Fox's hand first, then yours.

"It's a pleasure to meet you both."

There's a tightness in his smile, his words, that tells you that he knows exactly who you are. You can't blame Velvet for going to get him - and if it made her feel better and safer, so be it.

"What brings you to Beacon?" Velvet asks, trying to keep the friendly conversation going.

But it's not a good question.

You go stiff as you try to figure out how to answer it.

You had had your choice of schools.

Fox had only been accepted to Beacon - despite having higher marks in several subjects.

"It seemed like the best fit for the two of us," you say around the bitter taste of the truth - that the other schools hadn't wanted to take Fox. "You?"

Yatsuhashi's hands ball into fists at the question as he replies.

"Same."


When you're 17 years old and going through initiation at Beacon, you meet Fox Alistair in a grassy meadow.

It's not surrounded by grimm, but by strangers.

You take care to alert the others - you know Fox had honed into your aura by the way his shoulders relaxed - and ignore them as you make a beeline towards him.

Cupping his face, you see he's lost his sunglasses at some point before now and you meet his gaze unflinchingly. "Fox. Partners?"

He nods and relaxes at the confirmation. Tension you didn't know you were carrying seeps out of your shoulders as well - partnering with Fox came as no small relief.

Trying not to glare at the other two, you offer him your sunglasses, feeling the tension seep out of his body next to you as he puts them on.

"What about those two?" you ask, casting a sideways glance at Yatsuhashi and Velvet.

"They're... Not strangers," is what he eventually settles on.

The curious choice of words makes you pause for a moment. Strangers always carried with them a certain amount of uncertainty and even danger for the two of you. Strangers often reacted poorly to Fox's blindness, or to your last name.

Not-strangers was as close as 'friend' as you could get when you'd only known them for twenty four hours.

You file the thought away for later. "They might make good teammates." You could do a lot worse than 'not-strangers,' even though you doubt Velvet would agree. "We should offer to travel together to the temple at least and decide later."

When he nods, you turn to them and ask, "Do you want to travel together?"

The two of them have their own conversation, Velvet seeming understandably apprehensive at the idea.

But their answer surprises you:

"Sounds like a plan. This way."

You can't help but smile - maybe this was a promising turn of events. Maybe you can escape the legacy your last name carries here at Beacon, just the way you wanted.


A pair of cards, symbols and braille alike telling you they're the four of hearts, binds you together as team CFVY.

It was a choice at the temple.

Velvet draws you aside, and you understand why. There's a question lingering in the air about whether or not the four of you make the team a permanent one - Fox is blissfully ignorant to the tension, but Yatsuhashi looks at you with a wary eye.

So when Velvet wants to talk with you, you go, willingly, hoping that this partnership could last.

"You're an Adel."

You're not sure if the tone is accusatory or a simple statement, but you make a point of looking her in the eye and nowhere else.

"I am."

One of Velvet's rabbit ears turns away, then back.

"You're… not running. You've not been rude." She sounds almost confused, and you shrug.

You don't blame her for her apprehension. The Schnees and the Adels were names that had faunus waking up screaming in the middle of the night.

You're more than just your last name, but you know there's no point in trying to convince her of that with your words. "There's a reason I came to Beacon."

Adels go to primary combat school, sure, but almost never to one of the academies - and, if they do, it's to Atlas.

You leave out the full truth - it wasn't the accepting nature of faunus, but their acceptance of Fox that brought you there.

Velvet nods in understanding. "I don't know - you seem nice."

And you want to scream, you want to promise her that you're not like that, but you swallow your words - words that won't help.

"It's your choice," you say instead, offering what little you can. You want her to know it's ultimately up to her whether or not she and Yatsuhashi are on the same team with you and Fox, but you're hoping she says yes. "I'd be honored if you were on the same team."

Velvet startles slightly at your words, studying your face carefully as if looking for a lie or some sort of deception.

You wait her out, let her decide what she wants, until, finally, she nods. "Four of hearts?" she asks, picking up one of the two cards on the pedestal closest to you.

"Seems appropriate," you agree, picking up the other and walking next to her towards your partners.

The illusion that you can escape your last name shatters when the team name is announced.

Led by: Coco Adel.

Fox grabs your hand when you sway, face going pale as the blood drains away.

Leader.

You're the leader.

You can't escape the destiny of your last name.

Even as Ozpin calls out your full name, it's the last part that echos around your head, that echoes about the auditorium.

Velvet goes stiff beside you, and your heart falls to your feet. It had been a terrible idea to agree to be on a team with her - now she had to listen to you.

You keep quiet when the four of you go to your dorm and busy yourself with unpacking.


You don't want to be defined by your last name.

It's a want you've had all your life, but it's thrown into the forefront at Beacon. The problem is you don't know how not to be defined by your last name. For all of your childhood, it was all you had and you embraced it, to some degree, because you didn't know what else to do.

And maybe you don't need the whole world to see you as something beyond the name "Adel" - just your team would be more than you'd ever hoped for.

In the end, you don't have to.

It's Velvet who sees you first - sees you for who you really are - something you're infinitely grateful for.

She'd run to the mail room to get the team's letters, dropping several envelopes on your desk when she returns.

"There's something from a law firm in there that looks important," she tells you.

You stretch and pick up your mail, flipping through the envelopes. The top one is made of heavy paper and has your name in perfect calligraphy. You know exactly who it's from and you dump it into the recycle bin without opening it. You're not even sure how the Schnees got your new address, but it was irritating that they continued to send donation requests and gala invitations for their foundation despite the fact you'd never once expressed an interest in giving money to them.

The larger envelope from the law firm you employed to handle your donations is of more interest. You open it carefully, drawing out a handful of sealed envelopes from the charities you do donate to - thank you letters and invites to fancy dinners.

You want to go to their galas, but you know if you did it would draw the media attention to you rather than their message.

Plus, they have no idea who you are. It's how you want it.

"Coco?" Velvet asks, a hesitation in her tone you hate to hear.

"Yeah, Velvs?" you say, setting down the letter and looking up at her.

"That's from the FCLU," she says, pointing at the letter you just had in your hand.

You flip the card over and see their logo on the back. "Yeah, it is." Of course Velvet would recognize the logo for the Faunus Civil Liberties Union from across the room.

"That's a donor thank you card. My parents get one every year." There's no judgement in her tone, no accusation, just curiosity.

You don't look at her, flipping the card over and over in your hand. There's no use in denying it, so instead, you shrug. "I do too, since I was 15 and could make choices about my money."

You don't need to say your family wouldn't ever donate.

"That should have made headlines - an Adel donating to the FCLU…" she says, voice still light.

And you toss the envelope over to her so she can see it's addressed to the law firm. "They don't know it's me. They'll never know it's me if I can help it."

You don't want the headlines, the fame - the scandal. So you donate through a trust with few the wiser.

Velvet's eyes have gone wide as she stands up to return the letter. As she does, she moves the rest of the envelopes, revealing them to be from more charities across Remnant - progressive organizations that the Adels would normally never dream of donating to.

"You aren't what I expected," she finally says, settling back down at her desk. "I'm really glad we're on the same team."

You look down at your desk and smile. "I am too."


To your surprise, Yatsuhashi takes much longer to warm up to you. You get the impression that maybe he doesn't really want to be here, but he doesn't talk about it much, shadowing Velvet like an over-protective bodyguard.

It's not until your second year that something changes between you two.

It's the tournament - it feels like everything has been revolving around the tournament this year, and the pressure is on.

You've gotten no less than three phone calls from your parents and every professor breathing down your neck about entering.

You know the four of you would do fine - great even - but you don't want to go. There's something about parading your team through the circus that is the tournament that sets your teeth on edge and makes you want to run away.

You can hear it now - Team CFVY, lead by Coco Adel - as if you were the most important person on the team. It makes you sick to your stomach.

It's Yatsuhashi who convinces you to sign the team up.

"Goodwitch asked me something interesting today." He finds you alone in the room - Fox and Velvet getting in some quiet training time in the off hours - staring down at the forms that would sign them up for the tournament.

"Oh?" you ask, only half paying attention to him.

"She wanted me to convince you to sign team CFVY up for the Vytal Festival Tournament." He drums his fingers on the foot of his bed.

"Her and everyone else," you mutter, flinging your beret across the room. It slides neatly across your bed and slumps between it and the wall. You sigh, knowing you'll have to dig it out later.

"I thought - well, assumed you'd signed us up." His dark eyes give nothing away as he looks at you intently.

You shrug and look away. "Velvet's made noises about wanting to do it. Fox doesn't care either way. Haven't heard a peep from you."

"And what about you?"

"I don't matter."

The answer is immediate, dismissing. You don't want to have this conversation, not really.

"Coco - " Yatsuhashi shifts as if he's about to stand.

The words come unbidden, regardless of want. "I don't want to be paraded in front of the entire world, slap my name - the Adel name - onto team CFVY - we're more than just that." You stop yourself before you can keep babbling incoherently, nearly biting through your tongue. "But I'm going to, unless you see another way to handle it, because Velvet could use the photos, the weapons. This is an opportunity unlike any other for her, and so I'm going to suck it up and do it."

Yatsuhashi nods. "It's a reasonable course of action." He takes two steps over to where you sit. "I think it'll be good for all of us - and I don't think it'll be as bad as you're fearing. Velvet needs this."

"And you?"

He looks away. "I would do far more for her." The statement was quiet, but quieter still: "as would you."

And it's true - you would do far more than that for any of your teammates.

You share no more words as he walks out the door, leaving you to your thoughts.


You'd been too antsy and the crowd too noisy to notice what they said in the first round, but the angry texts from your parents said it all. For some reason, Oobleck and Port hadn't used your last name once during the match. You'd just been Coco.

Now, standing in the arena for a second time, you listened to the words.

Coco and Yatsuhashi of Beacon.

No last names, no ranks, no titles. Hearing Professor Port call out your names alongside your opponents' puts you at ease and you smile for what feels like the first time all tournament. Win or lose, you could do this.