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These Fading Colors

Chapter Text

Ruby Rose adjusted the headphones over her ears, bobbing her head to blaring rock music as she folded the thin but soft blanket into thirds. 

Mr. Wallace didn’t even stay a week. 

Ruby sighed, mentally chiding herself for getting attached to these old people. But...Mr. Wallace had been a retired huntsman and Ruby had really enjoyed his stories of adventure, whether or not they were really true. 

Ruby put the folded blanket on top of the stack of clean linens on the cart before her, preparing to wheel the cart away from her station toward the guest rooms. 

As she rolled the cart forward through the gray, narrow hallways, she mentally captured an image of each door she passed, reminded that the names on the dry-erase boards beside the doors shifted from week to week and month to month. Most of the doors were closed at the moment with no message on the dry erase board, signifying that either no one was utilizing the room at the moment or that the room didn’t need cleaning. 

As a volunteer for many years, Ruby had grown accustomed to noticing even the most subtle changes from time to time. Even though she hadn’t received her color vision yet, the tones of gray in her vision always let her know when some change in the environment had occurred. She’d even learned to tell apart the differences between the blue and green blankets, but that was mostly due to the unique embroidered border of the green blankets. So...maybe that was more like cheating. 

Ruby smiled to herself, chuckling at her thoughts. She passed the central nurses’ station and heard a faint voice call out to her. The cart skidded to a stop as Ruby pulled her headphones down and walked to the nearby counter, looking over at an older woman with her hair in a tight bun and spectacles over her eyes. “Hello, Avery!” Ruby greeted the woman.

“Good afternoon, Ruby,” Avery greeted cordially. “How’re you?”

Ruby shrugged, “Doing okay...” she paused and took on a somber tone. “I noticed Mr. Wallace was gone.”

“Yes,” Avery nodded. “He died during the night two days ago.”

“I’ll miss his stories,” Ruby replied as her lips pulled to one side, reflecting over her brief acquaintance with the elderly man. 

Avery nodded silently, pushing her glasses up on her nose. She cleared her throat and said, “If you’re on your way to drop off some linens in the west wing, could you try dropping off a blanket in room two-fifteen? I’ve got a difficult patient in there. Just checked in today.”

Ruby’s eyebrows arched. They hadn’t admitted a truly difficult patient in a few months. Usually, that meant the patient wasn’t ready...and sometimes that meant they were children...

Ruby shook the thoughts out of her brain and nodded at the woman. “Yeah, I can try.”

Ruby had a way with patients that even the doctors and nurses didn’t. She had somehow been able to befriend most patients, no matter how difficult they were. Sometimes in their last hours, patients would call on Ruby specifically to sit with them—for comfort or laughter or what, Ruby didn’t quite know. 

Ruby’s mother had died at this facility a few years earlier, and ever since, Ruby had used this volunteering as a way to cope with her mom’s death. To keep her mind off of her own loss. And to help others in their loss.

Pulling Ruby out of her thoughts again, Avery handed Ruby a key, saying, “If you could also get into the linen closet to take the red bags to the truck outside that would be very helpful.”

“Right,” Ruby’s voice wavered. She did not want to admit her weakness again, as she always hated bringing attention to it. But it couldn’t be helped. She didn’t want to mess up and be even more bothersome toward others. “The red bags....I, uh....Where are they kept?”

Avery slapped her forehead, “Oh! Sorry, I forgot you’re one of them. The red bags should be the ones nearby the waste bins on the far side of the closet near the door to the kitchen.”

“Got it,” Ruby replied, accepting the key from the nurse’s hand and hiding a grimace as she turned away. 

Ruby hated being one of them. It wasn’t fair that, for whatever reason, fate chose for her to be born without color vision until she met her soulmate—or some such nonsense...

It wasn’t until she was a few years old that her family learned she had monochrome vision. Without color vision, she missed out on a lot of childhood fun and had to endure the incessant teasing of others, including some in her own family. As an older teen, her monochrome vision was a nuisance, and she had grown frustrated with it to the point where she wanted to meet her soulmate for the sole purpose of gaining her color vision.

Ruby pushed her thoughts aside, gritting her teeth in a moment of irritation as she stared at the closet key. She pocketed the key and pulled her headphones over her ears once more. Pushing the cart down the hallway, she made her way to five or six empty guest rooms, putting clean sheets and blankets on the mattresses. Finally, after completing her normal chores, taking out the bags, then visiting and chatting with a few of the other guests, she made her way to guest room 215, the one Avery told her held the ‘difficult’ patient.

Ruby stopped the cart just outside the room, gathered a few extra blankets in her hand, and pulled her headphones down to her neck. She noticed the name on the dry-erase board next to the door and repeated the name mentally a few times. 

The door was open, but only slightly. Ruby softly rapped her knuckles on the door, saying, “Hello. Can I come in?”

There was no response. Typical for a difficult patient. 

She knocked again and when no reply came, she pushed on the door to open it. 

Peering in, a woman—or maybe a girl—sat on the bed with her arms hugging her knees and her face turned to the open window beside her bed. She was dressed in a long, lightly shaded nightgown. Her white, silky hair flowed down her back like a waterfall of sparkling snow. Her muscles and core were thin and a hissing oxygen tank sat next to her bed, the colorless tubes winding up her back and reaching across what little Ruby could see of her face. 

“I don’t want anything, so just leave,” the woman hissed at Ruby without moving her head or looking away from the window. 

Ruby stayed calm. She’d dealt with patients like this before. “I know you may not want anything, but I brought you a little something extra to cover up just in case. Sometimes I get cold at night, so I thought you might like these if you do too.”

Ruby walked quietly to the edge of the bed and extended her arms to set down the extra blankets on the mattress. The woman turned abruptly and snatched the blankets off the bed, yelling, “I don’t need your sympathy! Now just...Get out!”

Ruby’s eyes latched onto the fiery eyes of the woman. Suddenly, a burst of colors splashed across Ruby’s vision.


Colors, which Ruby never imagined would look so vibrant, flooded her eyesight and swelled in her brain, giving her an instant headache. She couldn’t place any names on any of the colors, but if the blankets in the patient's hands were called ‘blue’—as everyone else called them—then that meant that the eyes of the white-haired woman were also blue. A mesmerizing, glowing blue. 

Ruby’s breath seized as the realization dawned on her. Her hand flew toward her eyes, wiping at them. 

“You see them, too, don’t you?” The patient whispered in shock. The blue eyes of the woman with white hair stared at Ruby, a mixture of astonishment and horror swirling in her face. 

Despite the woman’s thin frame, sunken eyes, and oxygen tubes, Ruby didn’t think she’d ever seen anyone so hauntingly beautiful ever in her life.

Her soulmate.

Ruby stumbled back a few steps before catching herself. How could it possibly be? 

The white-haired woman, now facing Ruby, dropped her head and gripped the bedsheets with shaking fists as hot tears began dripping from her eyes. “Please leave...” she begged, her voice as thin and frail as her body.

Ruby’s heart jumped into her throat. She panicked, not knowing what to do. Turning around, she walked back out into the hallway, unintentionally slamming the patient’s door closed behind her. She collapsed against the door, her heart racing and her lungs seizing sporadically. She pushed her hand over her stomach to try to calm herself and quell her growing nausea. 

The resounding sobs from within the room did her no good.

Hot, biting tears filled her eyes and began dripping down her cheeks. The colors all around her blurred. The vibrant colors she’d so desperately longed for...

Her world had just been flipped upside down. Turning her head, she gazed at the name scrawled on the whiteboard next to the door, the name of the person the universe had chosen for her. Her dying soulmate: Weiss Schnee. 

Chapter Text

Ruby Rose entered the Xiao Long home as quietly as possible, trying her best not to be noticed by anyone. She shut the front door with a soft click and tip-toed through the living room toward the stairs to the second floor, thankful that no one was still up late into the night to catch her.

“Ruby...?” a groggy yet all-too-familiar voice called for her out of the silence. 

Ruby paused mid-step and cringed, turning on her heel to see Yang Xiao Long, her sister, and Blake Belladonna, Yang’s girlfriend, laying across the sofa, both half-asleep as they stared at her. 

Ruby’s eyes opened wide. Even in the dim light, Yang’s hair blazed a bright color Ruby didn’t recognize. It looked like sunshine, even in the subdued darkness of the living room. Yang's eyes were a lighter shade that resembled some flowers Ruby had seen in a field on her way home. Turning her eyes to Blake, she saw the girl’s hair was still dark as night, but her skin was a fair, pale shade and her eyes mimicked Yang’s unruly mane. 

Ruby quickly shook the look of surprise off her face. “Hey...Yang, Blake...” Ruby spoke quietly, waving at the two girls nervously.

Yang sat up, a stern look on her face. “Why did you get home so late? It’s almost one in the morning!”

Ruby’s smile fell into a frown. She knew her eyes were visibly puffy and red, but she couldn’t bring herself to tell her sister the truth. 

No one needed to know she’d met her soulmate and no one needed to know she could see colors now. She was honestly trying to forget all that herself. 

Ruby scratched the back of her neck. “I just had a long day volunteering again.”

Yang’s frown deepened. “Did someone else die?”

Ruby shook her head vehemently. “No! was just a long day.”

A tense silence settled on them. 

“You spend too much time there, Ruby,” Yang told her younger sister. “You need to get out and do other things in life.”

Ruby rolled her eyes. “I’m fine, Yang. Stop telling me what to do with my life.”

“Ruby,” Yang replied, harshness in her tone, “you have no life. All you do is go to school and then hang around with dying people all day. You don’t have any friends or hobbies. When are you going to get out and start making something of your life?”

Ruby scoffed, turning away. She didn’t need this. Stomping up the stairs—quietly, so as not to wake her father—she left the two older girls behind. She heard their quickly fading whispers of concern even as she reached the landing of the second floor and turned down the hallway toward her room. 

Ruby’s room, her sanctuary from the rest of the world, beckoned her. She quickly opened the door, ducked inside while turning on the overhead lights, and closed the door behind her, feeling a fresh wave of tears flooding her lower eyelids, another emotional wave paining her heart.

Dropping her stuff, she collapsed on her bed, sobbing into her pillow to mask the noise. The last time she had done this was years ago when her mother had died unexpectedly. But the pain—the raw, searing sense of loss—was the same. 

Sure, she had gained the ability to see color. But she’d also gained a “fated” partnership with a sick, dying girl who hated her guts. What use was her color vision if the world was just going to cloud over with something so depressing and dismal? Why did the universe hate her so much? 

After she had left the hospice center earlier that day, she couldn’t find it in herself to go straight home. Rather, she found herself at her mother’s grave on a lone cliff toward the east end of the city. It was generally a peaceful place where Ruby could go and talk about her troubles to her mother and find some semblance of inner peace. Today that peace never came. She had watched the brilliant display of her first sunset in color, yet the beauty was dulled by the shock of it all. 

She had hitched a ride closer to home on the city buses, then walked the remaining few miles from the bus stop to her house. Probably not the safest thing to do as a teenage girl late on a Friday night, but her sense of caring for her own safety had been significantly depleted. She just wanted to be home in her own room and in her bed where, hopefully, she could find rest and comfort.

But now, having collapsed onto her bed and finding it as ruthless and cold as the rest of the world, she let her emotions take her over.

Ruby awoke the next morning to the sound of rapping on her door, completely unaware of just when she had finally fallen into sleep.  

“Ruby! Breakfast is ready. Come get some!” Yang’s voice called to her from the other side of the door. 

Ruby groaned, letting her head fall back onto the pillow, wondering why she’d allowed herself to fall sleep in her street clothes and boots. She knew a much-needed shower was in her immediate future.

As Ruby pushed herself up, she opened her eyes, her vision now cleared, and noticed the golden rays of morning sunshine pouring through the slightly cracked curtains of her window. That light, however slight it was, made the normal colors of her room appear striking. The blue of the rug, the green of the little cactus in the pot on her bedside table, and a color Ruby didn’t know for the tiny flower that bloomed at the top of the cactus. 

Ruby gasped, remembering something important. She leaped off her bed and ran to her nearby desk, pulling open a drawer full of miscellaneous junk. She dug through the junk until her eyes caught sight of a small, white cardboard book. She extracted the children’s book from the drawer and opened it to the center page, finding squares of color with written words beside it. 

A bitter memory filled her head of receiving this book as a prank for her seventh birthday from a ‘friend’. She pushed the memory back down into the pits of her mind where it belonged and refocused on the book, suddenly grateful for its helpful information.

Scanning through it, she reminded herself of the words for all the various blocks of colors, amazed how similar certain colors looked to others. She swiftly moved across the room. Refocusing on the tiny blossom atop the cactus, she compared the colors until she determined that the flower was some sort of color in between pink and red, not quite either. 

Was there a name for the in-between colors? 

Saying the color names aloud over and over again, she flipped through the book, suddenly stopping on a color that made her heart seize. 

The color, called “sky blue”, looked just like the eyes of the white-haired woman, Weiss. 

Weiss’ visage—her pained face, her gaunt body, her gorgeous white hair—filled Ruby’s mind. Her heart squeezed painfully and she wondered how she could have forgotten...her soulmate?

Breaking the silence, another knock at her door startled her. Ruby quickly stood and rushed toward the door, hiding the book behind her back. Opening the door, Ruby peered out, completely dismissive of her disheveled appearance. 

Blake stood in the hallway, studying her with narrowed eyes. “Good morning,” she greeted.

“Oh...uh...hey, Blake,” Ruby greeted in return, embarrassment creeping up her cheeks and ears after remembering what had happened the night before with Yang.

Blake smiled reassuringly, “You...doing okay?”

Ruby felt her lips tighten. “Yang didn’t send you up here, did she?”

“Actually, no,” Blake put her hands on her hips. “As crazy as it sounds, I actually care about you without being forced to. And it didn’t seem that you were doing great last I just wanted to check on you.”

“Oh,” Ruby replied, forcing a laugh and a cheesy smile. “Well, thanks for caring. I’m doing just fine...”

Blake stared, a lone eyebrow rising above the other. “That fake-ass smile tells me otherwise,” Blake replied coldly. She spotted Ruby’s arm behind her back and tried to peek around her. “What’re you hiding?”

Ruby jumped back and deflected Blake’s attention. “My smile is as genuine as my pure heart, Blake. What’re you talking about?”

Blake took Ruby by the shoulders and spun her around, but Ruby attempted to discard the book by throwing it toward her open closet. Instead, it hit the wall beside the closet and ricocheted back toward Ruby, hitting her square in the forehead. 

“Ow!” Ruby yelped, falling to her knees. 

“Ruby! Are you okay?” Blake asked in concern, squatting beside the brunette girl, reaching out to grip her shoulders. 

Ruby winced, holding her palms to her forehead as she felt the world swirl around her for several moments. “I’m...okay,” she moaned. 

Blake supported her and when she was certain that Ruby wouldn’t fall over, she refocused on the object that had hit Ruby in the head: the small, white cardboard book. She picked it up, bewildered, and flipped through its pages for a moment before it dawned on her. She gasped, “Ruby! Did you....”

“Shhhh!” Ruby hushed her with a pained face. 

Blake’s tone significantly lowered, “Ruby, can you see colors now?”

Ruby groaned, her heart having fallen into her stomach. “Blake, don’t tell anyone. Please. I’m trying to keep it a secret from Dad and Yang.”

Blake’s eyes glowed. She questioned the other girl excitedly, “But why? That means you met your soulmate. This is something to be happy about! To celebrate!”

Ruby grimaced, releasing her hand from her head and sitting back on her butt. “No, it’s not.”

Blake frowned. Sitting on her knees beside Ruby, she stared in confusion and dismay at the younger girl. Her frown slowly grew deeper, her eyes darker. “Ruby, where did you meet your soulmate?” 

Without answer, Ruby merely glanced into Blake’s eyes for a moment before dropping them back down to the floor. She wrapped her arms protectively around her knees, feeling the stinging sensation of tears beginning to well up again. Just when she thought she was free of them...

Having understood Ruby’s silence, Blake sat back too, releasing Ruby’s shoulder. They sat together in silence for a few minutes as the tears rolled down Ruby’s cheeks. 

Suddenly, Yang’s voice called up the stairs, “Hey, you two! Get down here or Zwei and I are going to finish off the eggs and bacon!”

Ruby looked over at Blake, sniffling as she said, “I’m not much in the mood to eat. You can go on without me.”

Blake shook her head. “Last time you got like this, you ended up in the hospital because you didn’t eat, remember? I am not letting you do that again.”

Ruby growled at the raven-haired girl, a sudden wave of anger welling up from within. “Blake, I don’t want to do this right now. I just...I’m not doing well. I just thought she was another patient. Another pathetic, dying person. I didn’t expect her to be my soulmate.”

Blake quieted. After a few moments, she said, “'Her’. So it’s a girl. What’s her name?”

Ruby sniffled again, wiping the moisture from her cheeks. “Weiss. Weiss Schnee, I think.”

Recognition dawned on Blake’s face. “Weiss Schnee? I think she might be the heiress of that one company. Her family’s supposed to be rich...”

“Well, see how far wealth has gotten them?” Ruby replied cynically. “She’s in a cruddy, old hospice center on the outskirts of Vale. If her family’s so rich, why would they send her there?”

Blake pondered, her lips pressed together. “I don’t know. But...maybe you should go ask her? Well, don’t ask her that. Just...make friends with her? You are soulmates, after all.”

Ruby stared at Blake in shock. “There’s no way I’m going back there to see her. She doesn’t even like me. She yelled at me to leave. I’m really not sure how we could even be soulmates. The universe must’ve made a mistake. I don’t know...” Ruby gripped her head tightly between her hands.

“Then go find out,” Blake told her. “Besides, why should you treat her differently than any other patient that comes in? You’ve been able to win over a lot of friends there, haven’t you? Doesn’t she deserve that chance, too?”

Ruby’s eyes closed, turning her head away from Blake. 

Blake was right, though. Ruby had promised to herself to do all she could to help ease the passing of those who came into contact with her there. She’d be letting herself—and her soulmate—down if she didn’t even try. 

But the reluctance still brewed in her mind.

The younger girl looked back down at the floor, whispering, “Blake, I don’t know if I can do this. She’s dying, for God’s sake. She won’t be here much longer. I looked at her charts before I left. The doctors say she’s only got a few months, if that. What good is a soulmate if they die as soon as you meet them?”

Blake sighed in return. “Yeah, that’s not easy. But...give it a try? It’s better to try it than to do nothing and regret it.”

Ruby sighed again dejectedly. After a minute of quiet contemplation, she nodded, deciding Blake was right. She had to at least try to get to know her soulmate in the little time they had together.

A sudden peace rested on Ruby unlike any other she’d felt before. Replacing her reluctance with determination, she felt a grumble of hunger within her stomach and stood. “Blake, save me some bacon and pancakes. I’m gonna go shower and be down soon. Got it?”

With a bolt of energy, Ruby disappeared out of the room. Suddenly, her head appeared around the doorpost once more, as she whispered hoarsely at Blake, “And don’t forget. Not a word to Dad or Yang.”

Nodding, Blake watched Ruby disappear again. Blake’s soft smile morphed into a deep frown, as she prepared herself mentally. It was going to a hard couple of months. 

Ruby pulled her moped into one of the open parking spots in the back of the hospice center, holding the delicate bouquet of flowers she’d picked up along the way securely in her trembling hands. She removed her helmet as she dismounted the vehicle and deposited it on her seat. 

She covertly raised her arm, checking her underarm scent for the millionth time. She had showered and even put on perfume that she’d gotten from Yang one year for Christmas, but that didn’t stop her from being nervous about her appearance and general hygiene. It wasn’t every day that one got to meet their dying soulmate for the second time in a hospice home.

Ruby laughed darkly. Someone had to appreciate her mind’s sick humor. 

Smoothing her hair once more and checking the bouquet in her hands, she walked inside the building and made her way to the front check-in counter, trying desperately to ignore the churning in her stomach. 

Spotting Avery, Ruby made her way toward the woman. “Morning, Avery.” At least there was one familiar face to give her some comfort.

The woman looked up and smiled, “Oh, Ruby! I didn’t know you were coming in today.”

“I’m not working today,” Ruby replied with a shrug. “I’m just visiting around. Thought I might try to make some progress with the patient in 215...”

“Hmm, well you should probably know that she has put in a request to be transferred to another facility,” the woman told Ruby, a hint of concern in her voice. “So she probably won’t be here for much longer.” 

Ruby’s smile and heart fell. “Oh.” 

“But it hasn’t happened yet, obviously,” Avery smiled softly at Ruby, trying to cheer up the younger girl. “Why don’t you go visit her this morning? You will need to sign in as a guest first. All I need you to do is sigh here.” The woman pointed to a guest list and handed Ruby a pen. 

Ruby signed the document and accepted the guest ‘pass’ from Avery, which was actually just a name tag with her name on it. Ruby stuck it to her shirt and nodded in thanks at the woman. Before Ruby could leave, Avery’s voice spoke up curiously, “What’re the flowers for?”

Ruby hid the bouquet behind her back, feeling the heat of a blush crawl across her cheeks. “Oh, well, you know how sometimes gifts help people open up and all that...”

Avery nodded slowly. “Sure. Well, good luck with that.”

Ruby smiled sheepishly and disappeared down the hallway toward room 215, the room where she first met her soulmate. 

Ruby arrived at that fateful door and stared at it for several minutes, trying in vain to psych herself up to knock or go in—or do anything at all—while ignoring the various goings-on of nurses, doctors, and individuals around her. Eventually, she was able to move her feet again, pacing back and forth down the hallway and back for around twenty minutes, repeating a basic greeting until she had it memorized. 

Inwardly, Ruby was utterly confused why she was reacting in such a manner. No matter how difficult patients had been in the past, she had never gotten this nervous over simply greeting one. 

Of course, no other patient was her soulmate, so that was also a considerable factor. 

Finally, Ruby decided to put her knuckles to the closed door and knock before she completely chickened out and fled back home. She knocked. 

No answer. 

She knocked again, trying and failing to call out. 

No answer again. 

Ruby knocked once more, and when she received no answer, she put her hand on the knob to turn it. The door swung open just slightly. 

“Hello?” Ruby called out, peering at the bed, which was empty. She opened the door farther and found the figure of the woman sitting in a chair next to a small circular table just beside an opened, screened window. The breeze entered the room, making the curtains sway lazily. 

Weiss’ head turned just slightly toward Ruby, enough for the corner of her radiant blue eyes to peer coldly at her. Her oxygen tank hissed at her feet, the tubes perched just under her nose and running down her back.

“May I come in?” Ruby questioned, cautiously stepped into the room.

“Most people wait to be invited in...” Weiss replied, returning her gaze to the window and continuing to peer outside. 

Ruby’s face twisted in confusion. She honestly wasn’t sure what that meant. Was that an invitation or not? Shaking off the comment, she walked a few more cautious steps toward the woman. Laying the flowers on the table beside Weiss, Ruby said, “I brought you some of these pretty lilies I saw on the way here. The florist told me that they’re light pink.”

Weiss looked down at the small bouquet of delicate, curled pink petals, then lifted her eyes suspiciously to Ruby’s face, avoiding her silver eyes. “Why’re you here?”

Ruby pursed her lips, unsure of her own motivations. She didn’t know how to answer Weiss, so she didn’t. Instead, she responded, “I heard you asked to be transferred to a different facility.”

Weiss’ sky blue eyes again looked out the window, searching the big, blue expanse of the sky above and the distant, darker blue expanse of the ocean in the far horizon. “I...” she began and stopped. 

“Why did you choose this facility in the first place?” Ruby asked, hopeful that she was not overstepping her boundaries. “...If I may ask.” 

Weiss sighed. “I have my reasons. Or had them.”

Ruby watched Weiss patiently, allowing her a moment of silence to draw out more information from the girl. 

Weiss continued, “I wanted to get as far from home as possible. And I wanted a view of the sky and the ocean. It’s not much, but it’s all I ever wanted.  Plus...” Weiss added softly, “my sister is nearby and it’s a convenient location for her to visit me.”

“Then why do you want to leave?” Ruby asked, amazed at herself for her sudden concern for the white-haired girl she’d only met yesterday. “You shouldn’t leave just because of me, you know. And if you’re bothered by me, I can leave you alone...”

Weiss peered curiously at Ruby, her gaunt but still beautiful lips pulled into a thin line. “I was prepared for my life to end when I came here. I came to live a little longer and then die. I certainly did not plan on meeting you here.” Weiss told her. 

Ruby knew, in a way, what Weiss meant. Ruby’s fingers fumbled with the crimson trimming on the edge of her black skirt. Taking a deep breath in, she spoke, not sure what exactly her brain had in store for her response. “Well, I would’ve also definitely chosen to meet my soulmate somewhere else and under different circumstances.” She realized what she had said and muttered, “Oh, shit...” 

Wrong thing to say, Ruby chided herself. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. 

To Ruby’s surprise, Weiss’ voice bubbled up into a laugh. It was the most bittersweet sound Ruby had ever heard. “I’d have to agree with you,” Weiss told her, chuckling. She quieted after a moment, saying to Ruby, “Of course, I never really planned to be here in the first place. Though it’s actually not too bad. My whole life has been colorless and gray, so dying honestly didn’t seem all too bad...” Weiss paused and looked at Ruby, then covered her eyes with her hand. “I don’t even know why I’m telling you all this. I just met you yesterday, and I don’t even know your name.”

Ruby was taken aback in realization. Everything had happened so fast between them that they hadn't even introduced themselves. Yet, here they found each other in some sort of strange intimacy, confiding in one another even as strangers. 

Reaching out, Ruby cheerfully offered her hand to Weiss, saying, “Well, now is as good a time as ever for introductions. I’m Ruby Rose.”

Weiss hesitated before she stretched her hand and gripped Ruby’s hand weakly with long, pale, elegant fingers. “Hello, Ruby Rose. I am Weiss Schnee.”

Ruby smiled, a true sense of joy lightening her heart, even though an underlying dread lingered beneath. “Nice to meet you, Weiss.” Ruby gestured to the chair on the opposite side of the table, asking, “Can I join you?”

“If you want to waste your time here with me,” Weiss replied, gesturing to the seat with a nod.

Ruby turned the seat toward the window, mimicking Weiss’ position, and sat down. Nothing but the circular table and an invisible wall of awkward silence sat between them. 

“So,” Weiss began, frowning, “I wanted to apologize for getting upset and yelling at you yesterday. That was quite...uncouth of me. Honestly, I was in a rotten mood to begin with.  Then you came in and—no offense—I was just shocked and confused when it happened.”

Ruby shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “Um, it’s okay. I felt the same way really. Shocked, I mean. Not by you, but by the colors and all that. And not that it was like a totally bad shock, but it was definitely not what I was expecting, especially with you being here and all that.” Ruby cringed at herself, “I’ll shut up now...”

The corner of Weiss’ lips turned up into a half-smile of amusement at Ruby. “I guess we were supposed to be...soulmates or something like that. Pardon my language, but I must got the shitty end of the deal,” Weiss told Ruby, a mirthless gleam in her eye. “I’m sorry.”

Ruby frowned. “Well, I really feel like you got the shittier end. But I guess in reality, we’re both screwed, huh?”

Weiss chuckled humorlessly in agreement, Ruby joining in after a moment. Weiss gave Ruby a bittersweet side-smile, finally feeling at ease enough to raise her blue eyes to Ruby’s own silver ones. Sure enough, the radiance of Ruby’s eyes caught Weiss off-guard, just like they had yesterday. 

Upon further inspection, Weiss squinted at Ruby’s forehead. In concern, she muttered, “Um, do you have a bruise on your forehead?”

“Oh!” Ruby’s hand flew toward her forehead and touched the developing bruise, wincing at the pain. She chuckled sheepishly and told Weiss, “Right. I sort of had a run-in with a book earlier.” 

Weiss’ eyebrow raised. “A book? Hmm, that must be an interesting story.”

Ruby rubbed her forehead once more. “Actually, it was pretty lame. I threw a book at the wall and it bounced off and hit me in the head.”

“What?” Weiss reacted in surprise, her face morphing through a phase of shock then concern, then relief, and, finally, confusion. “Why did you throw a book at the wall?” 

Ruby pursed her lips, scratching her temple as she lowered her head. “I was trying to keep someone from finding it.”

“By throwing it at the wall?” Weiss questioned, her voice growing higher in pitch.

Ruby snickered, recognizing how ridiculous it sounded. “Well, I meant to throw it in the closet. But I kinda missed by a couple of inches.”

Weiss smirked again, eyeing Ruby’s forehead. “I can see that.”

Ruby gave her a sheepish smile. “It’s kinda lame, but do you want to see the book I was hiding? I promise it’s not porn, despite the fact that I was trying to hide it in my closet from other people.”

Giving Ruby the biggest, most exasperated—and dramatic—eye roll she could muster, Weiss shrugged, “Why not? I’ve nothing else to do.” 

Ruby reached into a shoulder bag hanging at her waist and riffled through her belongings until she found the little cardboard book with the colors in it. She pulled it out, hiding the cover from Weiss until she said, “Now don’t laugh.”

Ruby uncovered the book and handed it to Weiss, a mixture of curiosity and nervousness to receive the white-haired woman’s reaction. 

Weiss took the book, then raised disapproving eyes at Ruby. “A children’s book?”

“Yeah,” Ruby nodded, trying to conceal a mischievous smile. “But look inside. I promise you’ll understand why.”

Weiss shook her head and flipped through some of the pages. She went silent for a long while as she diligently studied the blocks of color on each page. She looked up for a moment, gazing out the window. Weiss’ eyes locked on something in the gardens below her window. She flipped through a few more pages before landing on one page. Pointing to a spot of the garden below, she told Ruby. “There. Those roses in the middle. That is my favorite color.” 

Ruby, overcome with curiosity, followed Weiss’ gaze downward to a patch of colorful flora at the center of the garden. The color was familiar, like the lace trim of her black skirt or the tips of her brunette hair: red. 

Ruby gave an impressed nod, asking, “Why did you choose that one?”

“Because it’s bright and cheerful and warm and passionate,” Weiss mused wistfully. “It reminds me of everything I’ve ever longed for.”

“Oh, wow,” Ruby responded with a sheepish laugh. “I haven’t put that much thought into my favorite color.”

“And what color is that?” Weiss asked.

Ruby bit her lip, turning back toward the screened window and squinting toward her favorite color. “Blue. Like the color of the sky.”

Weiss, in turn, followed her gaze to the sky. “That one’s pretty, too. So why’d you pick that one?”

Ruby hesitated. There was no way she could tell Weiss that sky blue was her favorite color because it reminded her of Weiss’ eyes. Nope. No way. “Oh, cause we see it a lot, I guess,” Ruby shrugged. “That’s a big blue sky out there. It’s kind of hard to miss.”

Another bittersweet half-smile crossed Weiss’ face. “Truly,” she answered. She drew in a deep breath and let out a long sigh. Adding in little more than a whisper, she said, “Too bad I can only see a little portion of it through this window.” 

Ruby lowered her gaze to Weiss’ frail body, suddenly saddened and frowning thoughtfully at her. The white-haired girl reminded her of a caged white dove, imprisoned by the confines of her room and the shackles of her own weak body. With the only color entering the room from the window, it was no wonder that Weiss had stationed herself in front of the screen, looking out at the only picture of the world she could see, feeling the gentle breeze as it flew by, and listening to the birds chirp and the passing motorists. Her whole world was captured on a five- by four-foot frame in front of her eyes.

What a life. 

Inwardly, Ruby couldn’t help but wonder if Weiss was well enough to go outside, or even be out of her bed. Ruby didn’t have permission to read a patient’s full chart, though sometimes she snuck a peek when she could. Weiss’ chart didn’t look good. 

Ruby grit her teeth, trying not to think too hard about it. “Um...” she spoke, trying to take her mind anywhere but where it had strayed. She quickly looked around for something to talk about. With her gaze landing on her scroll, she exclaimed, “Oh! Uh, do you like music? Well, of course, you probably like music,” Ruby babbled. “...But do you like, you know, pop music or anything like that?”

Weiss turned her sullen gaze to Ruby, her lips parted slightly. “Why?” 

“I haven’t heard of that band before,” Ruby answered. “Of course, there’s The Who, but ‘The Why’...”

“No,” Weiss interrupted, her voice suddenly cold. “Why are you asking?” 

“Oh,” Ruby shrunk back in her seat. “Well, I thought I might put some music on my scroll for you since it’s kind of boring here. Uh, not that you’re boring! That’s not what I meant!” Ruby shut her mouth and slapped her forehead with her palm, frustrated at herself. She winced when the bruise on her forehead flared in pain. “Ow...”

“Well, I do like some music, I guess,” Weiss said after a few moments of silence. 

“Can I put something on for you, then?” Ruby asked, trying desperately to recover the brownie points she felt like she was eliminating one by one. 

“Actually, no,” Weiss told her, her voice suddenly cold, stern, and resolute. “I’m not feeling too well now. I think it’s best for you to go.”

Ruby frowned, then stood abruptly. “Oh...” she said and awkwardly stared at Weiss for a few moments, her heart panic-stricken. If Weiss wanted her to leave, and Weiss was transferred to another facility, would this be the last time she would ever see Weiss? Would this be their underwhelming, anti-climactic goodbye?

Her silver eyes once again took in the sight of Weiss’ lovely face and her sky blue eyes, wishing that she didn’t need the sky to see that color again. 

“Weiss, I’m sorry,” Ruby apologized after a moment, desperate for their time together to last even that much longer. 

Weiss lowered her head, pulling her legs into her chest and curling into a ball. “Ruby,” Weiss addressed her without looking up, “you’ve done nothing wrong. You’re sweet and kind. I...really hope you can make someone happy one day.”

“Do you not want to see me anymore?” Ruby asked, a painful lump forming in her throat. 

“It’’s not that,” Weiss’ small voice answered. “I just don’t want you to waste your time here with me.”

Ruby’s head shook even without her controlling it. “But I’m not.”

“Ruby! What don’t you understand about this?” Weiss yelled at her, finally looking up at Ruby with a storm in her cerulean eyes. She continued with a low growl in her voice, “There’s nothing you could gain with me that is worth the time you’re wasting by my side!”

Ruby felt a sudden flare of anger heat her cheeks as words spewed out her mouth. “Well, maybe you’re just too self-absorbed to see that you’re the one wasting your precious time left by rotting away in here!” She turned on her heels, stomping toward the door with her heartbeat racing. 

Ruby left the room and just about slammed the door when she stopped herself. Standing in the doorway for a moment longer, she looked back over her shoulder at Weiss. “I didn’t visit you today trying to gain something from you. But I guess profit is a natural obsession for you, Schnee.” 

Growling and shaking her head, Ruby stomped away, slamming the door behind her. As she walked down the hall, her body stomping forward in autopilot, all she could feel was her heart plummeting into her stomach and the sting of hot tears scorching her cheeks. Her heated temper settled after several minutes as her mind and heart grew colder and colder. She reached her moped and fumbled for the key, but with the tears and sobs she was shedding, she couldn’t do anything but to let her weakened body crumple to the ground. 

That really was it. That was all she was going to see of Weiss. Her soulmate. And things had ended so badly. 

Her swirling whirlwind of emotions broke her. 

It was only the first of many breakdowns to come.

~Several Days Later~

Ruby shuffled along the hallway. Her usual headphones nowhere in sight. 

It was her first time back at the hospice center since that day she’d visited Weiss. She had intentionally called off several days of volunteer work in an attempt to avoid the place and those painful reminders. But it had been almost three weeks since then and she felt it was finally time to return. 

Ruby had entered through the staff entrance in the back, as always. She walked slowly, dragging herself across the familiar tile flooring. Her body felt heavy and weak, probably a side effect of her major depressive episode. 

Nearing the central nurse’s station, she saw Avery. Trying and failing to plaster on a fake smile, Ruby said, “Hey, Avery.”

“Ruby! Good afternoon!” The nurse raised her eyes at the younger girl and smiled brightly. “How’re you? Are you feeling better?”

“Uh...yeah,” Ruby let out a nervous chuckle, scratching her head. She’d always been a terrible liar.

Avery eyed her suspiciously for a second. She quickly shrugged it off, saying, “Well, that’s good because we’ve got lots of little things for you to catch up on. The first being that I need you to do is take this to a patient. The difficult one in 215. Do you remember her? A package from her sister arrived earlier today.”

Ruby’s silver eyes went wide. “You mean, Weiss...?”

Avery smiled knowingly at the young brunette, “Yes. Didn’t you know she’s still here? She decided to stay just after you left.”

Chapter Text

Ruby Rose bit her lip as she paced up and down the hallway outside of room 215, chiding herself for beating around the bush all afternoon before going in to deliver the package in her arms to her soulmate, Weiss Schnee.

After hearing from the head nurse, Avery, that Weiss was still in the hospice facility that Ruby volunteered at, Ruby went into a full-on stupor for several minutes. The rest of her duties she’d performed completely in autopilot—having done them so many times, she could do them in her sleep. And now, a few hours later, the package had yet to be delivered.

The orange of the sunset from a nearby window splayed across the tile floor beneath her feet, and although the light was growing dim from the arrival of twilight, it was still breathtaking nonetheless. 

Ruby paused in front of the window and peered out at the sunset spilling beautiful orange and pink rays of light onto the world. They called this the “golden hour”, though Ruby wondered to herself why it was called that. She’d committed to memory a lot of colors and none of the ones she saw around her matched the name “gold”. 

Still, there was an inexplicable iridescence that the world had taken on that made each and every color quite literally shimmer with radiance and energy right before her eyes. 

Her heart and mind finally calmed, Ruby drew in a deep breath and walked back toward the doorway of 215. In one hand was the package that Avery had asked her to deliver to Weiss, and in the other, Ruby gripped an imaginary stress ball, clenching her fist. She stood confident. Resolute. Ready to knock on the door.

Before Ruby’s knuckles could hit the wood, the door swung open. “I’ll go check with reception,” a mature, female voice spoke out as a tall woman with white hair like Weiss’ appeared and nearly collided with Ruby. “Oh!” she exclaimed in surprise as her blue eyes focused in on Ruby. “Excuse me, dear....oh, the package! You must be delivering it to Weiss. Your timing is impeccable. I can....”

The woman carried on but her words became inaudible to Ruby when she glanced over the woman’s shoulder and caught a glimpse of her soulmate. In the light of “golden hour”, Weiss’ features turned radiant. Her sparkling sky blue eyes. Her thin but gorgeous lips. Her white cascading waterfall of hair. Ruby’s heart skipped a beat when Weiss’ eyes caught ahold of hers, locking into them. 

Feeling the package leave her arms, Ruby instinctively broke eye contact with Weiss and looked down at her now empty arms.

“Thank you very much,” the tall, white-haired woman told her with a courteous, if not slightly too polite, smile. 

Before she knew what was happening, the door slammed shut in Ruby’s face. She stood frozen in shock for a moment, only able to listen when a raised voice called out from within the room. A couple of seconds passed before the door swung open, and a breathless Weiss with pinked cheeks and no oxygen tubes around her face stood before her. 

Standing tall despite her thin frame and short stature, and peering at Ruby with eager eyes, Weiss’ lips turned up into a shy, almost provocative, smile. 

Ruby’s knees went weak, nearly buckling. She opened her mouth dumbly to speak, but no words came out.

“Well, come in!” Weiss addressed her and grabbed her wrist, pulling her into the room. When Ruby was finally inside, Weiss closed the door behind them and turned toward Winter standing at the side of her bed. She stomped her foot. “Winter, seriously? You never listen to me.”

Winter furrowed her brow. “Weiss, what is the meaning of this? Who is this girl?” Winter gestured to Ruby with a look of bewilderment. 

Weiss rolled her eyes, pulling Ruby closer toward the tall woman. “Ruby, this is my older sister, Winter. Winter, this is Ruby Rose. She’s the girl I was telling you about!”

Winter’s eyes widened. “Well...pardon my confusion, Ms. Rose.” Winter extended her hand toward Ruby, her face stoic and unreadable, saying, “It is an honor to have made your acquaintance.”

Ruby nervously extended her hand, mimicking the woman’s firm grasp, “Um, yes, of course! The honor is in my...court!” 

Ruby grit her teeth through an awkward smile. 

“Yes,” Winter raised a brow at her before turning her eyes to Weiss. “So this is the girl you spoke of?”

“That is correct,” Weiss nodded firmly. She released Ruby’s wrist—which she had clung to this entire time—and turned toward Ruby. “You haven’t been by in ages! I almost thought maybe you died before me.”

“Weiss!” Winter snapped at her younger sister. “What an inappropriate thing to say!”

Weiss shrugged off her sister’s remark with a characteristic eye roll. 

Ruby cracked a smile for the first time in a long, long while. The bickering sister relationship was familiar beyond words. Through a slowly sinking side-smile, Ruby told Weiss, “Yeah, I wasn’t really feeling all too great, and my dog had this thing that is really just another whole story, and then there was this essay at school that nearly kicked my butt. So...long story short, I haven’t been able to come by in a while.”

Excuses. Excuses. Excuses. 

“Right,” Weiss responded with more than a hint of doubt peppering her voice. “But, you’re here now, so come by and visit me more often. No excuses!”

“What?” Ruby blurted out, a look of puzzlement on her face. “But I thought you had requested to transfer to a different facility.”

Weiss’ lips dipped into a frown as her eyes moved to peer out the window. “I...decided I liked the view of the garden here. I don’t think I could get that at the other place.”

Ruby glanced at Winter, watching the woman furrow her brow. Ruby refocused on Weiss, watching her in silence while confusion circled in her brain. 

“Well, Ruby Rose,” Winter addressed Ruby, breaking the tense silence in the room. “I have been told of my sister. I’m sure that it came as a great shock to you and that you must have many questions, any of which we shall be happy to answer to the best of our ability.” 

Ruby watched as Winter leaned over toward the ground and picked up the oxygen tube, which had apparently fallen to the floor in Weiss’ haste to reach the door. Winter cleaned off the tube, then quietly led her sister to the chair beside the window, making her sit and gingerly placing the oxygen tube back onto Weiss’ face. 

Weiss swiped in irritation at Winter’s hands and she tried to take over, but Winter insisted on threading the clear tube over Weiss’ ears and down her back. She expertly hid the tube underneath her full locks of hair. 

Fascinated, Ruby watched every move with longing, her heart wishing her hands were doing all that instead of Winter’s. 

Winter’s eyes turned toward Ruby, curiously asking, “You don’t have any questions?” 

Ruby opened her mouth again. And, again, nothing came out. 

Whenever Ruby was around Weiss, for some reason her brain stopped working correctly. Inwardly, she growled in frustration at herself.

“Winter! Stop interrogating her. She’s not one of your recruits,” Weiss hissed at the tall woman. “Haven’t you a meeting you need to get ready for, anyway?”

Winter heaved a sigh. Ruby could swear she almost saw a smirk cross Winter’s lips for a mere moment as she gazed wistfully at Weiss. She turned to Ruby. “My apologies, Ms. Rose. It seems my sister wants to have a more private conversation with you.” 

Ruby watched Winter pick up the unopened package from off the bed and place it on the table beside Weiss, saying to her, “For you, dear. To help pass the time.” She leaned in and placed a tender kiss on Weiss’ forehead. 

Quickly averting her eyes, Ruby scratched her neck and fixed her gaze on a torn stitch of a nearby blanket. She felt that the moment was too intimate for strange eyes to be watching...and she was also cursing at herself for wanting, once again, to be in Winter’s position. 

The woman stretched to her full height once more, towering over both girls, and smiled. “I’ll bid you both a good night.” 

“Goodnight,” Ruby replied, waving awkwardly and watching as the woman exited the room and closed the door behind her. 

The room became eerily still and quiet, a heaviness hanging in the air. The radiance of golden hour had passed, replaced by the shadow of growing twilight.

Ruby drew in a deep breath and faced the inevitable, walking toward the open window and taking the seat beside Weiss. She looked out into the twilight, spotting the first few stars of nighttime and listening to the chatter of crickets in the gardens below. After a moment, she moved her eyes toward the side-profile of Weiss’ face, glimpsing at her sunken but smooth cheeks and her full eyelashes.

“I learned something about you just now,” Weiss’ voice spoke up, interrupting Ruby’s musing. “You’re a terrible liar,” she said and paused to let out a chuckle. “So why did you really not come by for all this time?” Weiss asked, her voice quiet. 

Her hands fidgeting in her lap, Ruby moved her eyes out the window once more, gazing at the stars in the darkening sky as they grew ever brighter. “Well”, she finally answered, “I honestly thought you didn't want to see me anymore. I mean, you requested to go to a new facility, and things ended so awkwardly last time I was here. And, I thought that was going to be the last time I ever saw you. I just...I didn’t want to come here and be reminded of all that.” Ruby’s gaze wandered to Weiss again. “I had no idea you were still here until a few hours ago.”

Weiss nodded wordlessly, her head lifted toward the sky, the stars flickering in her eyes. 

“So why did you decide to stay?” Ruby ventured, aiming her question at her soulmate. She suddenly sneered, asking, “Or am I supposed to believe the garden thing?” 

Smirking, Weiss lowered her head and pondered. “That wasn’t exactly a lie. But, truthfully, I don’t really know why I stayed. It just felt wrong to leave for some reason.”

“Well, I guess it worked out since your sister is still able to visit you,” Ruby replied, trying to add a little positivity to their discussion. “She seems...nice.”

Weiss heaved a sigh and pinched the bridge of her nose. “I’m sorry about Winter. She comes across harshly at first, but she’s actually very caring. She can just be a little...overbearing.”

Trying without success to keep in a chuckle, Ruby replied, “I guess that trait runs in the family?”

Weiss shot her a warning glance.

Ruby raised her hands in surrender. “I’m kidding. I’m kidding. worries, really. She actually reminds me a lot of my older sister, Yang. She can be sweet and loving, and maybe just a little too overprotective.” 

“That sounds like Winter,” Weiss smiled, nodding. “I didn’t know you had a sister.”

“There’s a lot you don’t know about me,” Ruby shrugged. “I mean, we’ve only talked twice, and the first time was mainly you screaming at me, so I’m not really sure that counts.”

Weiss cringed. “I’m sorry about that.”

“No! No!” Ruby said, waving her hands in the air. “It’s okay. That’s water under the bridge, remember?”

“Right,” Weiss said. “Sorry. I keep making things awkward for you. But I meant what I said earlier. I really do want you to come by more often and visit me.”

Ruby shifted uncomfortably in her seat, trying to piece together her thoughts. “Well, okay...but that’s sort of opposite of the impression I got the last time I was here. I thought you didn’t want to see me. I mean, I was basically the entire reason you wanted to leave.”

Weiss' frown deepened. “I get stupid when I’m tired and emotional, okay? I was just reacting, not thinking with my brain or my heart. Winter spoke with me, and after I really thought about it for a while, I realized how cowardly and petty I was being. And, as much as I hate to admit it, I sort of enjoy your company.”

“I guess I was being a bit difficult as well,” Ruby shrugged in response. She tried to hide a smile, glad that she hadn’t been outright rejected by her soulmate and had even been almost complimented. She wasn’t quite sure about that last part, but she decided not to overthink it. “So, if you want me to visit you, then there’s not really a reason not to...”

“Do you not want to?” Weiss asked, lifting her eyes to Ruby’s for the first time since being left to themselves, her eyes and face pained. 

Ruby ate her words. “What? No! That’s not what I meant at all. I was trying to say that there are no more stupid excuses for me to use to avoid you anymore, I guess. So yeah, there’s that.”

Weiss raised a brow at her. “Then it’s settled. You’ll visit me more often.”

“Y-Yes,” Ruby agreed before even giving thought to her answer. Whether or not she felt emotionally prepared, she had instinctively already agreed to Weiss’ request. Plus, if Ruby were honest with herself, there were a million other reasons why she wanted to come back and see Weiss over and over again for as long as possible until she couldn’t anymore. 

Weiss noticed the package on the table between them. Picking it up, she tore at the tape across the sides and the top for a moment. No matter how much she pulled, one of the pieces was utterly stuck. “Ruby, I hate to ask...” she began.

Ruby jumped up, berating herself for not noticing Weiss’ struggle sooner and swooping in to help. “Of course!” she said, hopping up and leaning over the box, pulling the tape with a few hard tugs before it came tearing off. Ruby wadded up the tape and placed the ball of sticky tape onto the table. Her eyes roaming toward Weiss, it dawned on Ruby once again how small and fragile she looked. Like an old-fashioned porcelain doll. An overbearing curiosity popped up in her mind as Ruby sat back in her chair. “Uh...hey, Weiss. Can I ask how old you are?”

Weiss turned to her, saying, “Nineteen.”

“What?” Ruby exclaimed. “You’re nineteen? So you must already be out of high school then?”

Weiss made a face at her. “Yes, of course. Are you still in high school?” 

Ruby nodded as she stretched back and smirked at the white-haired girl. “I’m seventeen.”

Weiss’ eyes went wide. “Wait, you’re a minor?” 

Ruby nodded, chuckling lightheartedly. “Yep, for one more whole month.” 

Weiss' cheeks reddened. “That figures that the universe would do that to me. Well, good to know for reference.”

Ruby sneered. She’d been around her Uncle Qrow too many times to not recognize flirtatiousness when she saw it. “Oh? Is that so? For what reason?”

Weiss crossed her arms and turned away, feigning dismissal. 

Ruby snickered, glad to have gotten a rise out of the woman. “Open your box already, dammit.”

Weiss merely shook her head at Ruby. Refocusing on the box, Weiss lifted its flaps and revealed several rectangular objects inside: books. Pulling each out one by one, Weiss looked over the covers of several fantasy novels. 

“Oh!” Ruby jumped in her seat, picking up one with a familiar cover and flipping through its pages. “I’ve read this one! It is so good, and there is such a great plot twist at the end.” Ruby spotted another recognizable cover. “And this one is so atmospheric. It’s almost as if you can feel exactly what the author is talking about!”

Gingerly picking up the novels from Ruby’s hand, Weiss peered at the front and back covers. “I haven’t read a fantasy novel in quite some time.”

“They’re great!” Ruby said. “It’s like you get to visit another world. And whatever the protagonist does, you can do, too!”

Weiss lifted her eyes toward Ruby and allowed her lips to lift into a thoughtful smile. 

“Oh, that reminds me...” Weiss said, suddenly putting the box of books back on the table beside her and standing. She stood for a moment to gain her balance as Ruby watched vigilantly, ready to catch her if she fell. Weiss walked around to the side of the bed, to where there stood a small bedside table. Weiss reached into a drawer and produced a small, white cardboard book. She quickly returned to her seat in front of the window, offering the book to Ruby. “Here. You forgot this last time you were here.”

“Oh, right,” Ruby took the small book into her own hands, recognizing the cardboard color book she’d brought in during her previous visit. “I really didn’t miss it too much, to be honest.”

Weiss snickered and shrugged. “It still felt weird having it without you knowing. But I did sort of enjoy getting to know all the colors...”

Ruby handed the book back to Weiss, a smile on her lips. “Well, now I know you have it, so don’t worry about keeping it.”

Weiss hesitantly accepted the book back. “And just what do you propose that I do with a children’s book?” 

Ruby pursed her lips, shrugging dramatically. “Read it?”

In a burst of laughter, Weiss reached out and slapped Ruby’s thigh. “How did I not think of that?” she quipped sarcastically.

“Hey, what can I say?” Ruby grinned facetiously. “You can’t stop brilliance.”

Brilliance? Right...” Weiss repeated playfully, drawing out her words.

“Throw out the book for all I care,” Ruby replied through an amused smile. “It’s just a children’s book after all.”

Weiss flipped the little cardboard book over, examining its cover. “For whatever unknown reason, I think I’ll keep it,” she decided, tossing the book back onto her bed. 

Ruby tried to hide a giddy smile, grateful for whatever the ‘unknown’ reason was that Weiss had chosen to keep her book. Maybe it meant nothing, but the thought that it was connected to her made Ruby feel a bit more connected to Weiss.

As the amusement faded, silence once more rested on their shoulders. 

“Sorry if it’s kind of boring,” Weiss told Ruby apologetically. “Besides the community room they have for all the old people, there’s not much to do here, obviously. I’ve watched probably every good movie and TV show that Getflix has to offer. I listen to music, read crap on my scroll here and there, sometimes I write,’s still boring here every day when I’m by myself.” Weiss drew in a long breath and sighed, “So, long story short, I’m glad I didn’t scare you away for too long.” 

A pang of guilt stabbed Ruby’s heart. She should’ve come by sooner or at least checked on Weiss. But fear had eaten away at her confidence for three weeks. Three valuable weeks she could've been spending with Weiss but didn't. “At least you have Winter,” Ruby replied. 

“Sure” Weiss huffed, her voice thick with sarcasm. 

Ruby lifted a curious brow at her.

“I’m not complaining,” Weiss answered. “I guess it sounds that way. I love my sister and I’m not trying to guilt you here either. I just meant that....well, Winter comes by in the evening after she gets off of work. She is a special operative with the Atlas Military stationed here in Vale. She keeps busy all hours of the day. She tries to hide it, but I can tell how exhausted she is when she visits. She feels like she needs to always take care of me and keep me company, but I don’t want to interrupt her life or cause her more trouble. I’ve already done enough of that as it is.”

Ruby pondered for a moment, wondering what might be going through the Schnee sisters’ heads and how Yang might respond if she were in that situation. “I think if I were in your position and Yang were visiting me every day, it’d probably be because she loves me and wants me to be happy with the time I have left, regardless of how much it might drain her.” Ruby raised her lips into a side-smile at Weiss, saying, “I bet that Winter is doing the same for you, just in her own unique way.”

“But how do I let her know that I can look after myself and she doesn’t have to sacrifice herself for me?” Weiss asked with a strain of desperation in her voice. She leaned forward, pulling her white hair around her shoulder and nervously combing her fingers through her hair. Her fingers pulled through a collection of knots. In reaction, Weiss groaned quietly in pain. 

Ruby’s eyes were transfixed on watching Weiss’ long, slender fingers work at the tangles within that cascade of pure, pillowy white. A sudden desire came over Ruby. “Can I brush your hair?” she blurted out. 

Weiss, with surprised eyes, gazed uncomprehendingly at Ruby for a few moments. “Oh, uh, sure,” she eventually replied. “There’s a brush over on the counter by the mirror.”

Ruby nodded and stood, her knees knocking. 

Why did I ask that? Why did I ask that? 

She had never been much into hairstyling or anything super girly like that, so Ruby was shocked at herself when she heard the request leave her lips. Nevertheless, she was on her way for the brush and there was no turning back now. 

Trying to hide the tremble in her bones, Ruby picked up the brush, eyeing its bristles nervously. She had never combed another person’s hair before, not even Yang’s. She had been much too fidgety and energetic as a child, and she showed no interest in such things once she became a teen. Now, here she was, walking toward the back of Weiss’ chair, internally screaming at herself. 

“Uh, if I pull your hair or hurt you at any point, I’ll stop,” Ruby told her. She bit her lip and reached for a small lock of hair—one that looked relatively tangle-free—to test her skills. Her mind was instantly blown at the incredible softness and feathery quality of Weiss’ hair. Ruby lifted the brush and gently combed it through, allowing the strands to gently fall back into her hand. 

It was far more plumy and soft than Ruby had imagined it would be. Like the down of a tiny fledgling. 

“Tell me more about your family,” Weiss said, pulling Ruby from her reverie. “I know you have a sister.”

“Yeah,” Ruby answered dumbly, having to crawl her way out of the trenches of her mind where she was lost in the unbelievable feeling of Weiss’ hair. She combed through another long lock of hair to stall and give her brain time to process. 

Family. That’s right. Yang

Having finally formulated a coherent response, Ruby replied, “That’s Yang like I said. Yang Xiao Long. She’s actually my half-sister, but that’s never really affected our relationship since we’ve basically been together our entire lives. She and her girlfriend, Blake, are college students here in Vale. Then there’s Dad: Taiyang Xiao Long. He was married to my mom, Summer Rose, but she died here a few years ago. Then we have Raven Branwen—who is Yang’s mom—but we don’t see her very often. And lastly, there’s good ol’ Uncle Qrow. He’s Raven’s brother.”

“Sounds like quite a family,” Weiss replied thoughtfully. Without warning, she turned in her seat to peer at Ruby, a concerned, questioning expression on her face. “Did you say your mother died here?”

Ruby nodded wordlessly, swallowing back a slight but sharp sting at the back of her throat.

“I’m very sorry,” Weiss responded, turning around and allowing Ruby to continue brushing her hair. “That must be hard on you.”

“Yeah,” Ruby answered quietly, pulling the brush through another lock and gently combing out a few knots she encountered. “But that’s life. Volunteering here has helped me move forward.”

“Most people wouldn’t want to be anywhere near where their loved one died,” said Weiss. After a moment, she added in a warmer, more consoling voice, “But I’m glad you found solace here.”

Choosing to simply ponder, Ruby focused on combing her fingers through Weiss’ hair. She gently ran her fingers through the locks of hair at the top of Weiss’ head, pulling a few locks into her hand for the brush to comb through. Her confidence was growing steadily. 

“You know,” Ruby began, “You’re the first person to be happy for me that I’m volunteering here. Yang gets onto me about it all the time. She says I have better things to do in life than hang around a bunch of dying people.” Ruby’s speech hitched. She added awkwardly, “ offense.”

“None taken,” Weiss replied just before drawing in a deep breath. “I think I understand what she means, though.”

“You do? Well, fill me in ‘cause I sure don’t,” Ruby rolled her eyes, agitation in her voice. 

There was a long moment of silence before Weiss spoke. Ruby had been getting lost in the touch of Weiss’ hair before being pulled violently back into reality.

“Death is a means of growth,” Weiss told her. “I’m not trying to get totally philosophical here, but when you watch the trees and plants, there’s always a period of dying before new life can grow again, right? Well, I think Yang probably just doesn’t want you to get stuck in the death phase where new life won’t bloom.”

“But being here and volunteering helps me,” Ruby argued. “I mean, yeah, it’s hard to constantly lose the friends and acquaintances that I make here, but knowing that I helped make their last days better makes me feel better. Does that make sense?”

Weiss nodded, throwing off the rhythm of Ruby’s brushing a bit. “Yes, it does. But I think your growth has less to do with the environment you’re in and more to do with your own personal choices. I’m not saying you have to stop volunteering here, I’m just saying that, at some point, hopefully you’ll find a richer, more fulfilling life outside of these walls.”

The words bounced around in Ruby’s mind for a moment. Her heart plunged into her stomach at the realization. A richer, more fulfilling life outside these walls. Without Weiss. 

Ruby tried desperately to ignore her own thoughts for several minutes, blinking away the beginnings of burning tears and swallowing back another sting as she continued to brush Weiss’ hair in silence. She was thankful that Weiss was facing away from her, confident that she was making the ugliest face ever by simply trying not to cry. After she had calmed herself, Ruby said, “Okay, if we’re playing that game, then tell me about your family so I can psychoanalyze you next.”

Weiss chuckled, “Okay, turd.”

Ruby cracked a smile, thankful that, at the very least, they could jest with one another to lighten the mood.

“Of course, there is Winter,” Weiss began, her voice calm and soothing to Ruby. “She is the oldest Schnee sibling and the most tolerable of the entire family, besides me. Then, I am the middle child, and the youngest is Whitley. He is a pain, and that is putting it lightly.”

Ruby snickered. “Hey, Yang calls me a spoiled brat all the time. That’s just what the baby of the family has to deal with.”

“I’d take you over him any day,” Weiss shrugged. “Then there is Father, Jacque Schnee—as you probably know—and my mother, Willow Schnee.”

Ruby bit her lip nervously before saying, “May I ask why your parents aren’t exactly, um...” Ruby paused to search her mental stores for the most diplomatic of words. 

“Present?” Weiss asked. “You can ask, but I don’t really have a good answer for you. Mother always...had a taste for alcohol. She probably doesn’t even realize I’m not in the house anymore. And father was never there. Yes, he was there physically, but not mentally. His mind was always on his work. When I started getting sick in high school, it seems as if he just lost interest in me. Later, when they diagnosed me as terminal, Father asked what I wanted to do and I said ‘leave’. As backward as it sounds, this tiny room has given me more freedom than I ever had at home.”

“Oh,” was all Ruby could muster, unable to formulate an appropriate response. That was definitely a more complicated and volatile answer than she had actually prepared for. In her flustered state, Ruby carelessly ripped the brush through a bed of tangles in Weiss’ hair, pulling her head back. 

Weiss hissed in pain. 

Ruby dropped the brush, startled. “I’m so sorry!” she yelled. She jumped back as the brush clattered to the floor. 

Weiss, surprised more at Ruby’s reaction than anything, turned toward the brunette with wide eyes. “Ruby, it’s okay! It just hurt a little, like tangles usually do.” Weiss stood and circled the chair to gather the fallen brush in her hand, her long hair—now mostly brushed and settled in wavy strands around the shoulders of her blue nightgown—looking to Ruby like a dreamy pillow. 

Weiss’ bare feet padded along the carpet toward Ruby, stopping just in front of her. Ruby looked ever so slightly down at Weiss’ petite body, watching her gather the tangled lock of hair in her hand. At the same time, her other hand reached for Ruby’s left hand, depositing the brush in her hand and holding Ruby’s hand in her own. 

Weiss’ hands were soft and slightly cold.

“Please keep going,” Weiss begged, giving Ruby a somewhat flirtatious, pleading smile. A blush crawled up her neck and cheeks. 

Ruby felt a similar heat tingle across her ears and cheeks as Weiss’ hand cradled her own, guiding their hands together with the brush. Weiss never broke eye contact with Ruby as their hands moved. Together, they slowly combed out the tangles until there were no more and the brush ran smoothly through without hitch. Weiss guided the brush through one last time and allowed the lock to fall onto her shoulder. 

“Thank you,” Weiss spoke softly, lowering her hands from Ruby’s, her radiant blue eyes continuing to gaze into Ruby’s glimmering silver ones. 

Ruby’s heartbeat skyrocketed when she noticed Weiss leaning in toward her, the distance between them growing smaller while the air grew denser and hotter. Ruby couldn’t help but fix her eyes on Weiss’ lips, an electrifying sensation of desire burning across her own to caress those lips with hers. 

Is that a signal? Does she want to....?

A ringtone on Ruby’s scroll shattered the tension and silence between them, startling them and making them back off from one another awkwardly. 

Ruby quickly pulled the scroll from her pocket, checking her messages to find a question from Yang about when she was coming home and what she wanted for dinner. Ruby sighed, a bitter reluctance drawing her down from her temporary high. She scuffed her shoe on the floor, saying, “I think I better head home for tonight before Yang goes apeshit. Uh, but, I’ll visit again tomorrow if you want.”

Weiss scratched her neck sheepishly, obviously still somewhat embarrassed. “Yeah, sure. But I don’t want to inconvenience you. So, only visit me if and when you have the time.”

Ruby smiled and nodded, wondering what other obligations besides school Weiss was imagining that would keep her away. Shaking off her thoughts, Ruby raised her scroll in her hand. “We should share contacts so that I can text you.”

Weiss’ eyes lit up. “Really? Oh, I mean, yes, that sounds like an appropriate course of action.”

Ruby collected Weiss’ contact info and sent her a test message to make sure it went through. Finding the message went through after a moment, Ruby smiled happily, even though she was still disappointed that she needed to leave. 

They bid each other slightly awkward goodnights before Ruby left the room and hurried through the halls, collecting her backpack and keys from her locker before she headed outdoors toward her moped. Her mind was consumed by happiness about having Weiss’ contact info and their plans to meet tomorrow, though every time she thought of what might’ve happened if Yang had not texted made her freak out a little. 

Did Weiss want to—dare she think it?—kiss her? Or maybe she was overthinking things. Maybe they weren’t signals at all. For crying out loud, they’d only meet each other a few weeks ago. Granted, they were supposed to be soulmates destined for one another. But that surely didn’t mean Weiss actually liked her, right? Surely they couldn’t fall for one another. Not in their situation. Not in the situation the universe had thrown them into. 

Ruby pushed those thoughts into the deep recesses of her mind, determined to focus on happier, less confusing things, like the positive strides they’d made in communicating with one another. And the remarkable feeling of Weiss’ hair. And the sight of Weiss’ gentle, yet intense eyes. The image of her petite body. Her soft hands. Her plump lips...

Despite her eyes focusing on the road, the image of Weiss’ smile and flirtatious eyes was all Ruby could see the entire ride home.

That late September night was hot and humid. A storm was brewing on the horizon, but Ruby barely noticed because every sight she saw was bright and beautiful. 

It was late, much later than her normal bedtime, and Ruby hurried into the kitchen to sneak a peek of what was in the fridge. She poured out a glass of milk and grabbed a package of cookies from the counter, scrolling excitedly through her messages from Weiss on her scroll, re-reading them again from the top.  

(W)iess: Be safe. Let me know when you get home. There are supposed to be bad thunderstorms tonight. 

(R)uby: Just got home. Yeah, the storm was chasing me all the way here... 

W: That’s not safe. especially riding around on your little moped.

R: how did you know I had a moped? 

W: ...

W: I really like that head nurse. She’s very friendly and talkative. Lol 

R: oh god. what has Avery been telling you about me?

W: Nothing really. Just little bits and pieces of info here and there. 

R: don’t believe anything she says. You must resist!!!

W: But she said that you used to have super long green hair in a mohawk on top of your head, and for some reason, I just really want to believe that. 

R: yeah, sure. I’ll give you that one. Believe what you want on that because that would actually be super badass. 

W: Haha so what’re you up to? I’m not interrupting homework time, am I?

W: Liar. I’ll let you go then.

R: No! Don’t go yet! I don’t have anything due tomorrow, so I should be fine for tonight. 

W: well okay. But you better keep up with your studies. 

R: Sir, yes, sir

W: That’s what I like to hear. 

R: Uh-huh. Weirdo

W: You calling me a weirdo somehow has less impact than if it were almost any other person on Remnant. 

R: You should meet my uncle then. 

W: no thanks. One of you is enough. 

R: low blow, Schnee. 

W: I have perfect aim, thank you very much

Ruby giggled and looked up from her scroll, pondering what to say. She shook her head in mock defeat as a response came to her. She typed it in quickly. 

R: just let me eat my junk food in peace

W: junk food?!?! What kind? 

R: Oreos. Do you like them?

W: ugh yes. I haven’t had Oreos in forever. Winter won’t let me have anything like that since she thinks that it will do me in faster. 

R: with the way I eat them, they probably really will be the death of me.

W: I’d kill for some right now. 

R: I’ll bring you some if you promise not to kill me.

W: no promises. 

R: and I thought I was a little demented.

Ruby smiled to herself again, stuffing her mouth with another cookie and gulping down some milk. She snickered again, in the midst of typing down her response. 

“Hey, Ruby!” a sudden female voice interrupted the silence around her. 

Ruby jumped, spinning around and nearly dropping her scroll. “Oh! Yang, it’s you.”

“Who else would be up at this time of the night?” Yang asked Ruby with a sneer, playfully rolling her eyes. She gave Ruby’s head a nudge with her hand, ruffling her hair as she opened the fridge behind Ruby. 

Ruby smirked and returned the eye roll, staring at her blonde sister. “Do you even realize who you’re dating?”

“You bet your ass I do,” Yang said, her voice slightly raised. “A wonderful and beautiful young woman with a bigger brain and butt than I will ever have.”

Through the doorway to the kitchen, Ruby’s eyes caught a glimpse of Blake’s cat ear twitching. It turned toward them, lying flat just a bit. Suddenly, all of Blake’s body appeared. She leaned against the doorway and looked into the kitchen. She folded her arms and grinned mischievously at Yang. “You know, I’d almost let that slide, Xiao Long,” Blake told her partner in a teasing tone, “...if it were for the butt comment.”

“Well, it’s true!” Yang bantered through a mouthful of Cheerios and milk. “You can’t blame a girl for speaking the truth.”

“Whatever,” Blake sighed, defeated—but with playfulness still in her voice—and rolled her eyes. She had to join the eye roll club at some point. Before moving on, she sidled up next to Ruby and bumped her with her hip, giving her a wink. “Your sister is the biggest butt here.”

Ruby snickered. “Always.”

“So, what’ve you been up to, Rubes?” Yang asked innocently, changing the subject. “We’ve been sitting in the living room listening to you cackle to yourself for the last ten minutes like a witch ready to boil some children.”

“That was the only analogy you could think of?” Blake asked Yang, wincing empathetically in pain. 

Yang ignored her, continuing to stare at Ruby with brows raised. 

Ruby swallowed back an instinctive response to mention Weiss. She had promised herself she wouldn’t tell Yang or Dad anything until she was fully ready. And that was definitely not now. “I’ve just been messaging a friend,” Ruby answered, hoping to skirt around the question.

“A friend?” Yang probed. “From school?”

“Yeah,” Ruby answered, her voice somewhat shaky. “She transferred in a few weeks ago.”

“Oh, cool,” Yang nodded and said in a nonchalant voice, but her lilac eyes lit up with excitement. “I’m glad to see you’re making friends.”

Ruby stuffed her mouth with another cookie and smiled, hoping to hide her sheepishness. 

Putting her arms around Ruby and pulling her into a tight hug, Yang scooped up her little sister and swung her gently from side to side. “You’re growing up so quickly! You’re going to be eighteen next month, but I remember when I had to help Dad change your dirty diapers.”

Ruby's feet touched the ground as she grunted in response, “Yeah, well, I can take care of myself now. Thanks.” 

Yang grinned and ruffled Ruby’s hair again. “Stop growing up already...”

“I kinda can’t...” Ruby muttered in response while Yang walked out of the room, continuing to go on gushing about her when she was a baby.

Once Yang was completely out of the room, Ruby prepared herself and turned to Blake, whose eyes had been boring into the back of her head the whole time. Blake was mouthing words at her. 

“Yang’s dense, but she’s not stupid, Ruby,” Blake whispered hoarsely. “She’s gonna catch on about your ‘friend’ sooner or later. And so is your dad.”

Ruby sighed. “I know. I know...” she whispered in return, peering back down at her scroll on the counter and the name of her contact across the top of the screen: “Weiss”. 

Ruby knew Blake had noticed Weiss’ name on her scroll. And after not talking about it for a few weeks, Ruby really didn’t want to pick up the conversation with Blake again. 

With a stab of guilt going through her heart, Ruby snatched up her scroll and pocketed it. She turned to the doorway and prepared to make a quick retreat back to her bedroom.

“Ruby,” Blake’s gentle voice cut through Ruby’s plan, making her turn back toward the raven-haired Faunus.

Ruby nervously raised her gaze toward Blake.

Blake’s eyes had softened. Saying in a quiet, disarming voice, she told Ruby, “I know I originally encouraged you to get to know her, and I still think that it’s totally okay to be friends. But be careful, Ruby. Guard your heart.” She paused and drew in a deep breath. “You don’t know when...”

Stop,” Ruby cut her off, her voice cold and sharp. She began to say something else, but the words got jumbled in her brain. Flustered, Ruby stormed out of the room, withdrawing from the world. When she got to her room, she locked herself in and collapsed onto her bed, immediately re-reading Weiss’ texts. She escaped into the world of their messages, finding solace and comfort in their conversation. 

For the next hour, she got lost texting back and forth with Weiss until her eyes could stay open no longer. At least she had one thing to look forward to. Seeing Weiss again.

Chapter Text


The door to room 215 creaked open. Weiss’ head lifted from her book just as footsteps shuffled toward her from across the room. A warm, slightly sweaty pair of hands wrapped around her face from behind and covered her eyes.

“Guess who?” said an excited female voice.

The edges of Wiess’ lips stretched upward into a wide smile, as the fingers of the ‘stranger’ put the slightest amount of pressure on her eyes, blocking her vision. “A complete dolt?” she responded, amusement in her voice.

There was silence for a moment before the other voice replied reluctantly, “You’re getting closer...”

Weiss snickered, “Okay. I know it’s you, Ruby Rose!”

Ruby released her hands and leaned down to Weiss’ level, grinning at her from the side. “Ya got me, smarty-pants!”

Her eyes rolling hard, Weiss couldn’t help but smirk at the younger girl’s antics.

“And...” Ruby added excitedly, her whole body vibrating. She continued in a hoarse whisper, trying her best to be secretive, “I brought you something!” The brunette reached down into her backpack and produced a blue plastic covered tray of chocolate creme-filled cookies.

“Oreos?” Weiss whispered, her eyes glistening with joy which quickly morphed into apprehension. “Ruby! Winter will kill you if she finds out you’re bringing me this junk food.”

Ruby shrugged off the Schnee girl’s comment with a shrug, bending her knees and squatting near Weiss’ lap. “Ah, who cares? Live a little!” She took the package and tore open the seal, picking out two prime cookies and handing one to her soulmate.

Weiss, shaking her head in astonishment at Ruby, took the cookie cautiously before peering around suspiciously. Deciding they were safe, she stuffed the whole cookie in her mouth with all the grace of a blind sea lion. After she gulped down the cookie and took the second offering from Ruby’s hand, she asked, “How did you remember?”

Ruby looked into her eyes, saying unceremoniously through a mouthful of cookie crumbles, “Remember what?”

“That I liked Oreos,” Weiss answered, her soft smile and admiring eyes gazing at Ruby.

“Cause it’s important,” Ruby murmured with all the nonchalance she could muster. In truth, she had been thinking about and planning this out since her first few messages with Weiss almost a week ago. “Oh! Ruby exclaimed. “And I brought you something else, too!”

Ruby suddenly stood and exited the room as Weiss turned in her chair, watching her curiously. “More stuff?” Weiss asked incredulously. “You’ve got to be kidding. I don’t think I can fit any more of your stuff in here.”

Weiss took a moment to look at the plethora of gifts Ruby had brought her over the past several days: stuffed animals, colorful pictures and posters, flowers, video games, books, and more than a few packages of junk food that were strategically hidden from Winter’s view.

Ruby entered the doorway again, holding a purple lava lamp. “I have the perfect spot for this,” she told Weiss and carried the lamp into the room, kicking the door closed behind her. She approached Weiss’ bedside table and placed the lamp on the surface before rummaged with cords on the floor for several moments. Suddenly the lamp turned on and the glowing purple color cast the entire room in a lavender hue. Turning back toward Weiss, Ruby trembled with excitement. “It’s amazing, right?”

Weiss grinned at Ruby, too consumed with her presence to even consider the lamp. “Yeah, it is...” she muttered quietly, her heart, much more than her brain, guiding her words.

Ruby jumped and bounced onto Weiss’ empty bed, rolling onto her belly and facing the end of the bed, only an arm’s length from Weiss. “Just don’t tell Yang about it,” Ruby added with a sheepish chuckle, “since I kind of borrowed it from her closet without her really knowing.”

Weiss could do no more than to raise her brow at the younger girl and give her a chastising look. “I keep telling you, you don’t have to do all this for me,” Weiss told Ruby, taking another Oreo into her hand and biting off a piece.

“Uh-huh,” Ruby narrowed her eyes at Weiss, gazing at her mischievously. “Really looks like you hate this stuff.”

Weiss reached out her hand and flicked Ruby’s forehead. “You know what I mean, you dunce.”

Ruby flinched and rubbed the little stinging spot on her head. “Hey, no fair! I bring you cool crap and you give me bad crap in return? This is not what the universe destined for us!”

Weiss rolled her eyes. “Oh, please. Give me a break with that nonsense. If the universe really destined us for this, then the universe can go suck it.”

Ruby grinned at Weiss, intently studying her captivating blue eyes and elegant features. “You know, you’re pretty all the time, but you’re really pretty when you’re angry.”

Weiss, trying to conceal a massive blush, turned into a stammering mess. “Ruby! I do...That is not how...You can’t say...ugh, just shut up!”

Ruby snickered, entertained at having flustered Weiss and complimented her all in the same go.

That was beginning to be quite fun. And the initial embarrassment of flirting had worn off quite some time ago, just like her uncle had always told her it would.

Ruby’s eyes strayed out of the window toward the gardens below. Her eyes found the little spot in the corner of the garden, hidden away by tall trees whose leaves were just beginning to turn various shades of red, yellow, and orange.

In that corner, amongst those trees, she knew exactly what she had in mind for that evening, having planned her surprise for Weiss down to the last little detail. Ruby smiled, satisfied at herself and confident that Weiss was going to be even happier after tonight.

A few minutes later, Ruby set out on her mission. She walked back and forth through the halls of the hospice center, cheerily humming as she carried her supplies to and from her locker (as well as some extra supplies she stashed away in the storage closet) all the way out to a hidden corner of the garden. She set everything out just as she had imagined it. A soft blanket on the green grass amidst the blooming scarlet roses, the orange dahlias, and lively yellow mums. A makeshift canopy above their heads would keep the evening sun from shining directly in their faces but could be pulled back when the sun began to set.

Her work was almost complete. All she needed now was to put the fake candles out and make sure that the overhead canopy she’d manufactured was still hanging securely in place. That, and wheeling Weiss out in a wheelchair, of course. Keeping it a surprise from her had been a challenge and Ruby was beyond ready for the payoff.

All the while, Avery, the head nurse who had known Ruby for many years, watched curiously while Ruby passed back and forth through the halls. Eventually, she called out at the brunette teen, “Ruby! Could you come here for a second?”

Ruby heard her and drew close to the counter, an involuntary smile stretched across her face. “Oh, hey, Avery. I’m not actually working right now. Just visiting.”

“Sure, I understand,” Avery stood and nodded. “I don’t want to impose on you at all, but I just have one thing to ask of you. It shouldn’t take long if you’re willing.”

Ruby tilted her head curiously at her. “Okay. What’s up?”

Avery sighed, picking up a pad of paper and showing Ruby. “This is a special type of paper that allows the ink from my pen to write on two sets of paper at a time. This particular pad only has two pages left. Do you think you could pick another up from me from the west wing supply closet?”

Ruby replied, “Sure, I can do that.”

“Great,” Avery smiled, sorting through one of her drawers for a closet key and handing it to Ruby. “It’s in the light blue container. Shouldn’t be hard to spot.”

Ruby nodded, replying happily, “Got it, boss lady.” She gave Avery a playful salute and made her way down the hall, her mind consumed by her thoughts of how she was going to impress Weiss later on.

It all really worked out in her favor because she was going to have to go to the west wing anyway to pick up a spare wheelchair. She quickly rummaged through the supply closet to find Avery’s pad of paper before grabbing an extra wheelchair and unfolding it. She wheeled the chair toward the center of the facility to drop off Avery’s supplies.

Spotting Avery, Ruby picked up the pad of paper and plopped it on the counter, “Here ya go!”

Avery stood and immediately took the pad of paper into her hand. “Wonderful! Oh and, Ruby?”

“Yes?” Ruby’s brows raised at the nurse with her tight bun at the top of her head and her glasses sitting high on her nose.

“Are you excited for the trees to change colors this year?”

Ruby shrugged, “Well, they’re already so pretty with their reds and oranges....” Ruby’s face fell as the realization dawned on her.

Avery’s eyes softened at her, as her quiet voice said, “You gained your polychrome vision, I see.”

Ruby hugged the counter, pleading, “Avery, please don’t tell anyone. I’m really trying to keep it a secret.”

“Why? From whom?” Avery questioned, lowering herself to Ruby’s level and echoing her tone.

Ruby sighed. “I’m trying to keep it from my family because if they find out, they’ll flip and cause me so much stress and trouble. And I just really want to avoid that.”

Avery pursed her lips, a growing look of concern on her face. “This doesn’t have anything to do with that girl in two-fifteen, does it?”

Ruby eyes naturally fell to the floor, unsure of how to respond.

“Oh, Lord,” Avery’s voice responded. She rubbed at her left temple as she spoke, “I knew there was something strange going on when you disappeared for a while. And then, all the sudden, you show back up again and start visiting her every day and bringing her gift after gift. Ruby, she’s...”

“Yeah, I know,” Ruby interrupted, her lips thinning into a straight line. “But that doesn’t matter. I’m just trying to make her happy. So...if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to do exactly that.”

Ruby turned on her heel and walked off, shaking her head.

Avery watched on, her brows furrowed and lips in a deep frown. There was only one way this was going to end, and things seemed as if they were going to get a lot messier before it was all over.

“Just tell me what all this is about!” Weiss demanded sternly.

“You’ll find out soon. Just enjoy the anticipation!” Ruby replied, burying an amused laugh.

Ruby could be stubborn too.

Steering the wheelchair out into the garden on one of its many concrete paths, Ruby couldn’t help but grin when Weiss first felt the sun on her skin and breathed in the fresh air, sighing contentedly.

Even with Weiss' eyes blindfolded, the smile on her face told Ruby that she was already enjoying the change of atmosphere.

Not that Weiss had been cooped up in her room the entire time she had been at the hospice center. Winter was adamant about taking Weiss outside every other day, at the very least, to ensure that she got some fresh air and exposure to the sunshine.

Still, Ruby wanted things tonight to be a little different, and things already felt that way. At least, that’s what she hoped.

Once they arrived at their destination in that little hidden corner, Ruby brought the wheelchair to a halt on the edge of the sidewalk, the view of their picnic area she’d created not too far away—only a few yards at most. That was a reasonable distance, Ruby thought.

She turned her eyes to the unsuspecting Weiss, admiring her beautiful, braided white hair and casual clothes—jean shorts and a blue blouse. It clashed perfectly with Ruby’s gray skinny jeans and dark red tank top.

Weiss’ head turned from side to side after a moment. “Ruby? Where are you?”

A half-smile of excitement and anticipation and nervousness lifted Ruby’s lips. “I’m here,” she reassured Weiss and placed a hand gently on her shoulder. “Are you ready?” Ruby asked, kneeling to the ground and unlacing Weiss’ sandals.

“Ruby? What’re you doing?” Weiss asked, surprise in her voice.

Ruby removed the girl’s shoes, then unlaced and kicked off her own shoes, stepping into the cool carpet of grass and feeling the blades tickle her toes. She took ahold of the oxygen tank hissing at Weiss’ feet and lifted it while her other hand gently took a hold of Weiss’ hand. “You know,” she told the white-haired girl, “just being pushed around the garden in a wheelchair is nice, but walking through it? That’s another experience completely.”

Ruby pulled on Weiss’ hand, prodding her to stand from her seat.

Still confused, Weiss followed Ruby’s silent command. She placed her bare feet onto the soft grass below the wheelchair and pushed herself up.

Ruby watched as even through the slight shake of her body, the twitch of her muscles, and the stiffness of her bones, Weiss still managed to stand tall and graceful beside her. Satisfied that Weiss was stable and not about to fall over, Ruby reached behind her and untied the blindfold, butterflies swirling in her stomach.

The blindfold fell away and the sun shone onto Weiss’ pristine face, her cerulean eyes blinking away the brightness of the late afternoon rays of light.

Before them, a path through the garden was set apart by shimmering candles (beautiful even if they were fake) that lead straight to an open knoll of grass surrounded by blooming flowers and tall elms and maples showering down red, orange, and yellow leaves in the breeze. On that grassy knoll, the blanket Ruby had laid out for them beckoned them onward.

They stood in silence for several moments. Ruby silently snuck her free hand back into Weiss’ hand, a thrilling shiver coursing through her when Weiss’ fingers intertwined with her own. Weiss' eyes took in the environment while Ruby’s eyes were focused on Weiss, captivated by her and waiting impatiently for her reaction.

“What is all this?” Weiss questioned, squinting in the sunshine and still not quite comprehending.

“Just a fun little place I set up to hang out,” Ruby answered with a shrug, hoping to play off her apprehension a little.

Peering curiously at the set-up among the natural flora and fauna, Weiss eyebrows furrowed. “Did you do all this...for me?”

Ruby’s cheeks blushed, and for the first time in a while, she couldn’t just blurt out another flirtatious comment. “Um...” she began in a shaky whisper, “Yeah?”

Yeah?” Weiss repeated to her with an inquisitive smile, looking into Ruby’s silver eyes.

“Well, there’s no one else I would do this for,” Ruby responded, then immediately retracted her statement. “Okay, well I would probably do something cool like this for Yang or Blake or even Dad...but only because they’re family basically and I love them a lot and...”

“So I’m like family to you?” Weiss inquired, raising her brows.

Ruby chuckled sheepishly, anxiously swinging their entwined hands back and forth. “I don’t know. It’s, feels different with you.”

Weiss didn’t respond, but she did peer at Ruby with a sort of understanding smile that seemed to pierce right through Ruby’s soul. “Well,” she began, aiming her eyes once more at the path leading to the picnic blanket ahead of them, “...shall we?”

Ruby took a moment to draw in a deep breath and stabilize her emotions. She smiled and raised her head high, giving a resolute nod. Ruby offered Weiss her arm for stability as they began to take steps forward through the thick, lush carpet of grass. “My lady...”

“What are you, a gentlewoman all of a sudden?” Weiss asked, accepting the offered arm and wrapping her own around it.

Ruby gave her a smug grin, quipping, “Well, I’m gentle. You are gorgeous. We’re both women. So, that makes me a gentlewoman and you, an angel.”

Weiss facepalmed, her face deepening to a shade of bright red. “Oh my god...”

As she supported Weiss, Ruby replied light-heartedly, “Hey, nothing’s too cheesy for a pick-up line, according to my uncle.”

“Is he married or dating anyone?”

“Hmm, no?”

“Well, if he uses pick-up lines like that, it’s no wonder,” Weiss snickered.

“Are you saying you didn’t like it?” Ruby responded suspiciously, turning her head and narrowing her eyes at Weiss.

Weiss turned her head away in embarrassment. Still, Ruby caught a glimpse of her cheeks blushing.

Weiss gazed at some colorful flowers as they walked by, answering Ruby’s question after a moment of hesitation, “Not necessarily...”

In triumphant victory, Ruby chuckled. It wasn’t long until her eyes landed once more on the exquisite white-haired ‘angel’.

Right now, Weiss was like a white dove suddenly uncaged. Able to fly. And live. Even though her body didn’t work as it should and her steps took longer than they ought, she kept moving forward with a smile. Unchained. Unbound. More than ever before, Weiss seemed free and happy and incredibly lovely.

Ruby hadn’t remembered seeing such liveliness in Weiss before, and she surely didn’t remember feeling it in herself. Yet, here she was, more content than she’d been in ages by just being near her soulmate. She had noticed a bounce in her step lately, an eagerness to greet the next day and to experience everything life had to offer. It had been so long since feeling hopeful that she had forgotten what it felt like.

Ruby was startled back to reality when a tree branch beneath her feet made her stumble forward. “Woah!” she yelled out just before she was caught by Weiss’ hand, stopping mid-fall. She righted herself and blew out a sigh of relief.

Weiss raised a mischievous brow at her, teasing, “How is it that I’m the one whose supposed to be confined to a wheelchair, but you’re the one tripping all over the place?”

Ruby scratched her neck. “I guess I can’t help falling for you...”

Weiss giggled and rolled her eyes. “Nice save, Rose.”

Ruby grinned, reminded of how much she loved Weiss' laugh. “Thanks. Now, if you’d like to keep going so that we can forget about how clumsy I am, that would be great.”

Snickering, Weiss nodded, agreeing.

After escorting Weiss all the way to the edge of the blanket, Ruby set down the oxygen tank at her feet. When Weiss had found a place on the blanket and seated herself—looking as regal and refined as ever—Ruby squatted near her and reached out her hands. She made sure that the tubes carrying Weiss’ oxygen supply still lay comfortably on her cheeks and over her ears.

Ruby had gotten somewhat adept at hiding the tubes underneath Weiss’ hair, but Ruby felt she was nowhere near as good as Winter. Still, it gave her a reason to caress Weiss’ face and gently stroke her fingers through Weiss’ wonderfully soft hair.

Weiss watched her in fervent contemplation until their gazes locked.

Weiss’ visage was illuminated by the light of the approaching sunset. The sun behind the canopy on the other side of Weiss created a halo around her. Ruby had never seen anything more angelic in her life. It nearly stole her breath away.

Silently screaming at herself on the inside, Ruby sat back on her butt and forced herself to stare away for a few moments to hopefully catch her breath and regain her lost brain cells. It wasn’t long until she remembered the picnic basket behind them—along with the entire reason she’d basically set up this whole affair. Thankful for the distraction, Ruby opened the picnic basket, producing a couple of plates, a few cans of soda, bottles of water, packages of food, and a white mystery box.

“What is this?” Weiss asked, observing Ruby arrange everything before them.

“Dinner, of course,” Ruby replied matter-of-factly. She added proudly, “I made everything myself...except dessert.”

Weiss’ tilted her head to the side, watching with interest. “And what did you make?”

Ruby picked up a brown paper package and dumped out several plastic baggies onto the blanket between them. “Welcome to my culinary expertise...sandwiches!”

Weiss busted out in laughter, making Ruby smile. “Wow, Ruby,” Weiss said, “that is quite impressive.”

Ruby smirked, “What can I say? I’m a natural culinary genius.” She paused and began sorting the plastic baggies into three piles. “Hey,” she continued, “I never claimed to be a cook. My sister already hogged all that talent.”

The piles ended up with around three sandwiches in each pile. Ruby explained, “I didn’t know what you would like, so I made a bunch of ham and cheese, turkey and cheese, and peanut butter and jellies. You can have your pick of what you like. Plus, there’s chips and some fruit snacks. And a surprise for dessert.”

Weiss gave her a teasing smile, bantering, “We shall dine like queens.”

Ruby reached out and pushed lightly on Weiss’ shoulder, feigning contempt. She allowed Weiss to pick out her own meal first. After they picked out their preferred sandwiches and drinks, Ruby put away the rest of the supplies and spread out on the blanket. They ate their food as the peace of evening descended on them and as the sun began to descend beyond the horizon. Ruby moved the canopy just enough to give them a candid view of the sunset, beautiful and serene.

Crickets were just beginning to chirp. Birds sang their goodnight songs. The summer’s last fireflies buzzed around them, flickering green glowing dots through the air. And, though the air was warm, a cool breeze kept the heat from being too stifling.

Weiss’ voice eventually interrupted Ruby’s thoughts. “It’s still quite warm for October,” she commented.

Ruby nodded and laid back onto the blanket, throwing her right hand behind her head for support. “It feels great,” she replied. “They say it’s supposed to get cold soon, so I guess it’s good that we’re enjoying the weather now.”

“True,” Weiss agreed, then drifted off into thoughtfulness again as she ate another bite of her sandwich. “Does my sister know about this?”

“Not quite,” Ruby answered, popping a couple of fruit snacks into her mouth and chewing on them. “I asked her the other day if there were any days she knew she couldn’t make it out here, so I made sure to plan this on that particular day.”

“Long story short, you made sure my sister wasn’t here?” Weiss clarified.

“Well, duh...” Ruby replied, sitting up dramatically and gaping at Weiss. “Can you imagine how awkward that would be?”

Ruby assumed a rigid posture, plastering a frown on her face and lowering her voice to mimic the eldest Schnee sibling, “My. My. This blanket is just too thin. I believe the dew on the grass will soak through and stain my trousers.”

Weiss’ face morphed into one of laughter at the imitation, wheezing almost painfully between a series of laughs coming from her core.

Ruby, amused, decided to continue the charade. “Oh! Weiss, dear, you mustn’t laugh. Joy and laughter are detrimental to your overall health and vitality.”

Weiss nodded, replying between sharp inhales of breath, “That’s...that’s perfect.”

Ruby beamed, satisfied at herself. Noticing that they were both done with their sandwiches, Ruby said excitedly, her butt wiggling in anticipation, “Are you ready for dessert? I think you’ll really like it.”

Ruby opened the picnic basket again and produced the white mystery box. Opening it, she revealed a small, circular cake covered in white frosting and shavings of white chocolate.

“Cake?” Weiss asked with a growing measure of excitement in her voice. “I haven’t had cake in forever!”

Serving up a red and white slice for each of them, Ruby handed Weiss her piece with a smile. “Well, I hope you like red velvet.”

“I love any cake, basically,” Weiss said, accepting her offered slice. She used her fork to eat several bites, savoring each piece.

Ruby ate small bites of her cake, but her focus was on Weiss. She admired the way Weiss found joy in the simple things Ruby did for her. Even if she couldn’t cook a five-star meal, Weiss didn’t complain or look disappointed. Rather, she looked elated.

Ruby wasn't quite sure why she looked that way, but it made Ruby’s heart soar.

After finishing dessert, Ruby cleaned up their plates just as twilight settled over them. She laid back onto the blanket again, watching the sky above her and eyeing the clouds as they moseyed lazily by, carrying on them the last fading remnants of color from the sunset.

Weiss settled onto her side next to Ruby, propping her head on her palm. She peered around, musing, “So, who did you have to convince to let you do all this?”

Ruby shrugged. “I talked to the groundskeeper the other day. He was okay with it except that he made me use fake candles instead of actual torches like I originally wanted.”

“You originally wanted to use torches? As in, real flames?” Weiss asked in shock, her eyes wide at Ruby.

“Of course!” Ruby answered with a hint of incredulity. “Don’t you think that would’ve been badass?

Weiss replied, “Badass or not, that is way too dangerous for the gardens. Especially near buildings.”

Ruby rolled her eyes as she threw her hands up and tucked them behind her head. “Practicality is lame,” she mustered through a pouty frown.

Shaking her head in bemusement, Weiss told her, “Well...practical or not, torches may or may not have been kind of cool.”

“Right?” Ruby exclaimed eagerly, waving her hands dramatically in the air. “Like, I always loved how fire looked even before getting my color vision, and now that I can see its color, fire is just that much cooler, you know?”

Weiss gazed thoughtfully at Ruby, having never actually considered the color of fire. She supposed it was pretty, but it was Ruby’s simplistic passion that made her actually smile. She decided to turn onto her back, scooting close so that her shoulder just barely touched Ruby’s, the lingering heat between them warming her whole body. Looking past the towering branches of the trees surrounding them into the hollow depths of the sky, her eyes took in the view of the barely star-laden twilight. It was a far different—and much superior—view than the one she normally had from her room, looking out her window. It was so immersive, she felt that if she could just lift her hand high enough, the tips of her fingers might brush the arching atmosphere above, sending ripples across its surface.

That was preposterous, of course, Weiss reminded herself. No one could really touch the sky.

But whenever she was with Ruby, all laws and restraints of the universe seemed to go away. Being with Ruby somehow made her feel as if she could really just get up and run and not be tired. Or that she could reach into the sky and grab a handful of stardust.

Ruby made her feel as if she could do the impossible. And just the thought of her empowering and comforting presence made a wave of goosebumps crawl across Weiss’ shoulders and neck. She shivered at the sensation.

“Hey, Weiss,” Ruby began, breaking through the silence, “what’s your favorite part of having your color vision?”

Getting to know you, Weiss thought but immediately decided against verbalizing it. She pondered for a moment, wondering what her second most favorite part was. After humming thoughtfully for several moments, she finally began, “Well, I guess the sky.”

“Is that because we’re literally looking at the sky right now?” Ruby questioned doubtfully, turning her head to look at Weiss with suspicion in her eyes.

Weiss lifted her hand and lightly smacked Ruby’s tummy. “No, dolt! It really is one of my favorite things.”

“Okay, Okay. I believe you,” Ruby reassured her, defeatedly. “But why?”

Weiss pursed her lips, wondering if she could even verbalize her feelings. Some words came to mind, so she decided to at least try to explain it. “The sky doesn’t change. Well, it does but not really. The shape of the sky is constant. You can always expect it to be there. Wherever you are, just look up and you’ll find it eventually. But...depending on when you look at it, it could be blue, orange or pink. It could be cloudy or rainy or sunny. It’s predictable but unpredictable. And...I like that.”

Ruby hummed. “Damn. You put a lot of thought into these things.”

“You have time to think of this type of stupid shit when you’re alone all day,” Weiss shrugged, hoping that Ruby would realize she was kidding. When Ruby didn’t answer and a frown grew on her face, Weiss panicked internally, searching for a way to distract the brunette. She chose the most obvious path. “How about you, Ruby Rose? What is your favorite part of having your color vision?”

“Before, when I still had my monochrome vision,” Ruby began without hesitation, “I thought I would be happy to be like normal people. I didn’t want to stick out anymore. I just wanted to be like them and not feel like a freak. But, after I met you, all of that changed.”

Weiss turned over onto her side once more, propping her head up at Ruby. “And what change was that?”

Ruby turned her head toward Weiss, saying softly, “I think my favorite part now is experiencing the excitement I have whenever I see my favorite color.”

Weiss nodded, remembering that Ruby’s favorite color was blue like the sky. Such a happy and innocent color. Just like Ruby.

Whereas Weiss’ favorite color—red, like the roses around them or the crimson of Ruby’s lower locks—screamed of passion and pain and longing.

They were opposites with opposite tastes, likes, and dislikes.

“And yet,” Weiss thought aloud in a soft whisper, “you’re my perfect antithesis.”

“What?” Ruby asked, furrowing her brows. “Sorry. I missed what you said.”

Weiss laughed it off, “Nevermind. It wasn’t really important.”

“You sure?” Ruby lifted her upper body into a sitting position, concern etched into her expression. “You’re not uncomfortable or cold or anything like that, are you?”

“I’m just fine,” Weiss insisted.

“Well, yes, you're damn fine, but how do you feel?” Ruby retorted flirtatiously. Then she caught herself, a blush growing across her cheeks. “Sorry. That may have been a little too far. I'll shut up now.

Weiss grinned and gazed at Ruby, captivated by the dichotomy of her gentle, carefree, naive attitude mixed with her angsty, sometimes too-mature-for-her-age disposition. In the last couple of weeks, Weiss had grown inexplicably fond of the younger girl, and—dare she say—even craved her presence. Was this the power of soulmates? Was this the irrefutable connection that most people spoke of in regards to soulmates? Was it possibly true they were really destined for each other?

But if so, why had the universe chosen her to accompany Ruby? A frail, sick, shadow of a human?

Weiss swallowed back a sharp sting at the back of her throat, quelling her sudden fears that arose from the depths of her mind. Sitting up, she pulled her braid over her shoulder and began nervously twisting her fingers through the fraying ends.

Never releasing her gaze from the brightening stars above, Ruby drew her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. “Weiss? Can I tell you something?”

Weiss peered at her friend. “Of course. You can tell me anything, Ruby.”

Ruby drew in a deep breath. “I did all this,” she began, “so I could say something to you.”

Weiss heartbeat rose until it almost hammered in her ears. “And that is?”

Ruby’s eyes lowered to the ground. Her mouth opened, but the words didn’t come out. She hesitated. In silence, they sat for several moments. Finally, Ruby forced out words, looking disappointed with herself. “Um, I wanted to ask...what is one thing you want always wanted to do?” she asked Weiss.

Her heart and hopes falling for a reason she didn’t quite understand, Weiss side-glanced at the brunette, bewildered. “What do you mean?”

“Like, if you could do anything,” Ruby explained, her voice soft and sincere, “what would you want to do?”

It was a seemingly random question but one Weiss had pondered for far too long since her diagnosis. There were a million better—and far more truthful—answers she could give, but she settled on one seemingly innocent one, answering Ruby, “I want to see the ocean. Up close and personal. I want to know what the waves feel like and experience the sand between my toes. Like they always talk about in those books.”

Ruby nodded in consideration, determination welling up in her soul. “I’ll take you there somehow.”

A laugh bubbled up from Weiss’ tummy and escaped her, amused at the brunette’s spunk. “Ruby...” Weiss replied. “You’re sweet. But don’t waste so much time and effort on me. Seriously.” She motioned to everything around her, telling the brunette, “This is the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me. I’m completely satisfied with this.”

That was a lie and Weiss knew it, but she also wasn't about to say that. If she were honest, there was so much left she still wanted.

Weiss continued, “Thank you. For this night, for your homemade dinner, for your gifts, your messages, your thoughtfulness. You’ve done so much for me, even though I really don’t deserve it. Even if we weren’t soulmates, I’m glad I met you.”

Ruby frowned deeply.

Weiss deserved so much better than this. She deserved to be better. To be healthy. To have the world at her fingertips rather than at a distance from her prison window. To have the opportunity for a full life and a future free of pain.

It was unfair.

Ruby was not sure how or when she would be able to pull it off, but she decided she would do whatever it took to get Weiss to the ocean and gift her even that one experience. And more than that, to give Weiss the freedom she’d lost, to give her the desires of her heart, to ensure that she was happy for as long as she lived. And to be beside her until the end.

Standing to her feet, Ruby wiped off her pants. The chill had grown a little too bitter and the air just a bit too stale for her liking. It had gotten dark enough that the only light illuminating them was a faint light from the candles all around.

“No matter what...” Ruby told Weiss resolutely, helping Weiss stand to her feet while firmly holding onto her hands. She gazed into Weiss’ eyes as the lights flickered over her icy blue irises, “...I’m going to make sure you see the ocean. Up close and personal. I promise.”

Chapter Text

The echo of Ruby’s boots reverberated down the familiar empty hallway as she approached room 215. 

Her heart pounded in her chest, her mind swelling with thoughts. 

She’d made her plan to take Weiss to the ocean, and today was the day. She had everything packed and ready to go. Blankets, towels, everything they’d need. 

She lifted her gaze out the window of the hallway, frowning. The sky was churning with black clouds. Where had those come from?

She shook her head, trying to clear away the feelings of dissonance in her mind. 

A sudden sharp poke into the pad of her right-hand index finger made her wince. She looked down and noticed the bouquet of thorny flowers in her hand, furrowing her eyebrows at her fingertip, covered in blood. A blood droplet pooled on her finger and dripped onto the roses below. Dark crimson roses. Almost black. 

A haunting noise hit her eardrums. The mournful, bellowing throes of a weeping woman. 


Panicked, Ruby tried to step forward, but her feet felt as heavy as stone. Slowly, she worked her way forward, her heart and mind having grown numb from fear. It was all she could do to try to calm her violently shaking hands. Fighting against the seeming dead weight of her body, she finally arrived at the open door to 215. Unable to keep calm, she peered inside. And she lost it. All contact with her mind and heart. Gone.

Empty. Cold. Alone. 

Winter was splayed over Weiss’ body, the younger girl’s face covered by a sterile, white sheet. 

The universal sign of death. 

Ruby blinked. And blinked again. She stood, frozen, unable to move or think. This wasn’t right. Nothing about this was right. It was too soon. She continued to stare into space, unable to comprehend. 

When were the hot, stinging tears going to hit? It would be anytime, right?

Without warning, the bouquet of roses burst from Ruby’s arms. She was thrown back as black petals rained down all around her. Ruby heard muted but angry murmurs from behind her. As she spun around, frightened, she faced several people in the hallway who had not been there only moments before. 

Closest to her, Winter leaned her head into Qrow Branwen's chest, wrapped in his arms and weeping. When had they ever met? Looking over at Ruby, the white-haired woman scowled at the young brunette. “How could you take her away from me?”

Feeling the weight of guilt press down onto her shoulders, Ruby shook her head and tried to speak. To apologize. To do something . But no words came out. 

Then another voice exclaimed at her. One that was painfully familiar. Ruby snapped her head toward her blonde sister, wincing as Yang’s words stabbed her heart. “How could you lie to us?” 

Ruby looked pleadingly into Yang’s angry red eyes and fuming face. There was no placating her. 

Blake tsked at Ruby from Yang's side, shaking her head. She drew in a breath and spoke up, her voice disappointed and haughty, “I told you, Ruby.” 

Of all people, Ruby thought Blake would be understanding. Sure, she had been a grouch to Blake lately, but that didn’t necessitate this, did it? Ruby gazed at the raven-haired Faunus for only a moment until her scorning golden eyes pierced Ruby’s pride and deflated her. 

“I’m disappointed in you, young lady....” interrupted her father’s voice. Ruby turned once more and peered toward the edge of the doorway where Taiyang stood, leaning against the doorframe with folded arms. He frowned deeply and looked away from his youngest daughter. 

Suddenly, another voice—unearthly as it ebbed in and out of reality—spoke to her next. It continued to fade in and out of clarity until, all at once, everyone else disappeared and Ruby stood alone in room 215. 

Alone except for Weiss. 

Weiss’ hair fell to the floor in a graceful, flowing waterfall. She wore a long, white gown snug against her torso that seemed to shimmer of its own light. No longer was she pale and gaunt, but, instead, her vivid sky-colored eyes, her serene face, her flawless skin...her whole body seemed to glow, luminescent against the bleak, colorless backdrop of room 215. 

Her radiant, yet stoic face peered at Ruby, her blazing cerulean eyes expressionless and eerily unmoved. 

“Weiss, I....” Ruby began. It was the first words Ruby had been able to speak, but she was quickly interrupted. 

“You promised, Ruby,” Weiss’ willowy, effervescent voice echoed all around them, thin as a fraying thread yet roaring in Ruby’s ears at the same time. “...You promised.”

The fabric of reality seemed to tear open behind Ruby, and she felt herself falling backward, falling away from Weiss. She reached out her hand in a panic, wanting, pleading for just one more second with the white-haired angel. One more second to explain herself. One more second to right her wrongs. 

Weiss shook her head at Ruby, tears staining her face. Her image grew farther and farther away as gravity pulled Ruby toward the darkness. She strained against the force to reach Weiss, fighting to touch Weiss’ hand, her face, her hair. Anything. 

“Weiss! No!” Ruby shrieked, the volume of her own voice rattling her skull. “Weiss!” 

The image of her soulmate, the vibrant color of her eyes, faded into oblivion. 

Enclosed by darkness, Ruby whimpered, “Please. Not yet....” 

Ruby’s upper body lurched forward, head pounding in pain and cheeks wet with tears. Her forehead was damp with beads of sweat. Her lungs convulsed, stricken with oxygen deprivation as she fought to keep from going into hyperventilation. 

The dim light of her bedroom barely illuminated her purple comforter bunched up around her waist. 

Her vision swam, furthering her disorientation. She gripped her head in her hands in a futile effort to regain her composure. The heaviness of the surrounding darkness and her own raw emotions strangled her, forcing her to choke out a sharp, painful sob. Nausea hit her stomach like a truckload of bricks. 

It was just a nightmare. It was just a nightmare. It was just a nightmare.  

She repeated that in her head, like a mantra. The way she’d seen Yang count backward from ten when she was angry. 

But was it really just a nightmare?  

Fear gripped Ruby’s heart, hitting her with another powerful wave of nausea and vertigo. Her right hand fumbled across the bedsheets for her scroll, finally finding it almost about to tip over the edge of the bed. She clicked on the screen, temporarily blinded by the light, and speed-dialed Weiss’ number. She didn’t care that it was 4:34 in the fucking morning. 

Ruby just wanted to hear her voice. No, she needed to hear her voice. 

“Hello?” came a groggy yet beautiful voice. Ruby felt the tension in her gut wash away, igniting hot tears of relief that began to spill over onto her cheeks. “Ruby?”

Ruby sniffled. “Weiss....” 

“Ruby, are you okay? You’re not hurt are you?” Weiss’ instantly concerned voice carried across the silence into Ruby’s ears. Even with the edge of distress, it was the most pleasant sound Ruby could imagine. 

“I’m okay,” Ruby muttered, her words slurred and slow.

“You’re not drunk, are you?” Weiss asked, suspiciously. 

Silently harboring her lingering feelings of fear and guilt, Ruby had to let out a snicker. It was just like Weiss to assume that she was drunk. “No,” Ruby answered after a minute, finally leaning back from the fetal position which she’d been in for the last five minutes. “I’m really okay, ” Ruby told her, trying her best—and failing—to be convincing. “How’re you, snowflake?”

“Oh, you know, I was sleeping peacefully until someone called me in the middle of the night,” Weiss’ perturbed voice responded. 

“But you answered,” Ruby quipped cautiously, feeling a bit of her humor slowly returning. 

“Indeed,” Weiss agreed with a huff but without argument. “Okay. Be honest with me, Ruby Rose. Is there some reason you called that you’re not telling me?” 

Ruby pursed her lips, finding herself unable to lie to her soulmate. “Sorry, Weiss,” she said after a moment of hesitation. “I had a nightmare, and...I got really scared.”

Weiss didn’t say anything for a while. Suddenly her soft voice broke through the silence, “I’m sorry, Ruby. Are you okay?”

Ruby smiled and a fresh river of stinging tears streamed down her cheeks. “No,” she returned quietly, fighting to keep herself from descending into a full sob.

“Do you want to talk about it?” 

Ruby, embarrassed, shook her head then realized Weiss couldn’t see her. “Uh, no...but thanks for offering. I really just needed to hear your voice and know you are okay. For now.”

“Well, as far as I know, I’m still alive,” Weiss confirmed. “But you sound like you just resurrected from the dead. You sure you didn’t die and come back? How was it?”

Ruby's lips parted in a little smile at Weiss’ teasing, playful tone. Ruby knew Weiss was doing it for her, to cheer her up. Grinning darkly, Ruby lifted her eyes toward the ceiling, imagining herself having just resurrected from the afterlife. “Not too bad,” Ruby claimed, jokingly. “Could’ve used a few more chocolate chip cookies though.”

“What? They didn’t have chocolate chip cookies?” Weiss questioned, indigence in her voice. “I’ll make sure that is fixed by the time you get there.”

Ruby snickered, “Thanks.”

Weiss spoke with Ruby over the scroll for a few more minutes, until Ruby could hear the sleepiness take over Weiss’ voice. She could almost imagine Weiss sitting up in her bed, scroll to her ear, head bobbing up and down and eyes drooping as she slowly nodded off into sleep. 

Hella cute

“I feel a lot better now,” Ruby told her soulmate. “Thanks for putting up with me.”

“It was surprisingly fun, Ruby Rose,” Weiss answered before letting out an enormous yawn. “I hope you have better dreams.”

“You too, snowflake. Goodnight.”


It was almost five in the morning. A far cry from a “goodnight”. But who really gave a shit about that?

Ruby dropped her scroll back onto the bedsheets. She began to hum a melody she didn’t really know in a weak attempt to distract herself from her utter aloneness in the darkness and silence of her room. Quickly, she reached over and turned on her bedside lamp, thankful for the instant light it provided. 

Grimacing, she wiped the sticky sweat from her brow. She rose from the bed and made her way to her bedroom door. After creeping quietly into the hall, she slipped down the corridor toward the bathroom. Closing the bathroom door, she let out a sigh of relief and went about washing her face, neck, and upper chest, where she had sweat the most. 

After going to the bathroom and washing her hands, she opened the bathroom door again, except this time, her older sister appeared across the hall from her, leaning against the wall with her arms crossed—almost like her father had done in her nightmare. 

The memory made her shiver.

“Sorry, Yang,” Ruby apologized.

Yang peered at her, concerned. “Ruby, I heard you screaming a little while ago. And not the pleasant kind of screaming. Are you okay?” 

Ruby rubbed the back of her neck, shrugging, “Yeah. I just had a bad dream is all.”

“You sure?” Yang asked, taking a few steps toward Ruby and extending a hand toward her shoulder. “You know you can talk to me about anything? Seriously.”

“Yeah, I know,” Ruby nodded. She wasn’t technically lying because she knew that she could talk to her sister, even if she chose not to talk to Yang. 

“Hey,” Yang said cheerily, interrupting Ruby’s thoughts, “you wanna go get some hot chocolate like we used to do as kids when one of us couldn’t sleep?”

A side-smile slowly formed on Ruby’s face. She replied, “Would I ever turn down hot chocolate?” 

Yang snickered, “Yeah, if it were cold.” 

They began walking quietly down the hallway, whispering softly so as not to wake Taiyang. 

“Then is it really ‘hot’ chocolate?” Ruby asked, thankful for the brief distraction. 

“No, it just becomes cold disappointment,” Yang bantered lightheartedly. 

“Hmm. Just like my life,” Ruby hummed.

Yang stopped on the stairs and shot her a disapproving look. 

Ruby pushed past her, eyes rolling. “Kidding.”

They made their way down to the kitchen and turned on the overhead lights. Just like when they were kids, Yang went first to the refrigerator and grabbed the milk, then took out a saucepan and poured a few cups of milk into it. Meanwhile, Ruby searched the cabinets for their favorite Pumpkin Pete mugs, just as she used to do as a kid—except she was tall enough now that she didn’t need to climb onto the countertop to reach the shelves. 

“So, how are your college classes?” Ruby asked Yang, placing the two mugs on the counter and watching as Yang stirred the warming milk in the saucepan on the stove with a wooden spoon. 

Ruby sighed, embracing the nostalgia. She used to have to stand on her tippy-toes just to watch her older sister stir the milk. 

“It’s going fine,” Yang replied. “I didn’t think I’d make it through these last two weeks without Blake. But thank the gods, she just got back yesterday.”

Ruby furrowed her brows. “Without Blake? Where’d she go?”

“To Menagerie,” Yang answered and lifted her eyes to Ruby. “You didn’t know that?”

Ruby distracted herself by digging through the pantry for the hot chocolate powder. “Uh,” she mumbled guiltily, “I must’ve forgotten.” 

Ruby bit her lip. She hadn’t even noticed Blake hadn’t been around for a while. All her extra time had been spent with Weiss or texting Weiss or thinking about Weiss...

“So why’d she go to Menagerie again?” Ruby asked, trying to skirt around the issue. 

“Her family’s there,” Yang replied, continuing to stir the slowly bubbling milk in the pan. “They were celebrating some Faunus holiday. Can’t remember what it’s called. I wanted to go with her—to meet her folks—but she didn’t want me to get behind in my classes. I think maybe she just wanted to be off by herself for a while, too,’s all cool.”

Ruby tore open the packages of hot chocolate powder and dumped them equally into the mugs, thoughtful. “And,” she began after a moment, “you’re okay with her going off by herself?” 

Yang pursed her lips before nodding. “I mean, I want to be with her and I get worried about her, but she’s a strong, capable woman who can take care of herself. I trust her. She can be stubborn and wildly independent sometimes, too.”

“Look who’s talking,” Ruby jested with a sly grin, leaning against the kitchen counter. 

Yang smirked. “True.”

“But,” Ruby sighed, her smile fading, “what if...something bad happened to her and you never saw her again?”

Yang peered up at Ruby after a few moments of silent pondering. “Ruby...I miss mom, too. But you can’t let her death stop you from loving others. Just because Summer’s not here doesn’t mean others won’t be there for you.”

Ruby shook her head. Yang didn’t understand. How could she? Ruby had intentionally left her in the dark. 

“Aren’t you ever afraid you could lose her? Blake, that is,” Ruby questioned, her eyes dropping to the floor, searching the tiles beneath their feet. 

Yang sighed. The milk reached its peak heat without scorching and she turned off the oven burner, angling her body toward Ruby and looking her square in the eyes. “To be honest, yes. I’m afraid something might happen to her or that maybe she might suddenly be disinterested in me. I don’t know. But that doesn’t matter. Because while she’s here, with me, I’ll do everything in my power to love her.”

Ruby nodded silently. 

Carefully pouring out the milk into the mugs, Yang looked up at her younger sister momentarily, narrowing her eyes. “Now what’s all this about? Does this have to do with that nightmare you were having?”

Ruby stirred the liquid in her cup with a spoon, taking a sip to buy time and accidentally scorching her tongue. “No!” she replied sheepishly. “I mean, not really.”

Yang leaned on the counter by Ruby and raised her mug to her lips. She quietly blew on the hot liquid for a moment before taking in a loud slurp. 

Ruby brought the cup to her lips and mimicked her sister, drawing in a gulp.

Yang did it again, slurping her hot chocolate louder. 

Mockingly, Ruby followed her again, taking in an even longer and louder slurp. 

Yang raised her cup once more, slurping up the longest, loudest slurp she could muster, finishing almost half her hot chocolate in one go. 

Ruby laughed heartily at her sister. 

Yang grinned. Even if that was going to give her a tummy ache later, that was worth it to see Ruby’s genuine smile again. A smile she’d seen so rarely since Summer’s death.

But Ruby’s smile quickly faded, again bringing worry to Yang’s mind. 

“I, uh...” Yang began in a much more quiet, serious tone. “I heard you calling out a name during your nightmare. Was is ‘Weiss’?”

Ruby’s blood ran cold. “Oh, that?” she shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. I’m okay.” 

“Is she your friend from school who just transferred?” Yang asked, the pad of her left thumb tracing the outline of Pumpkin Pete on her mug. 

Ruby paused. She couldn’t get the memory of nightmare Yang’s angry voice out of her mind. 

How could you lie to us?  

The image from her nightmare of Yang’s intense, fuming red eyes burned in the back of Ruby’s mind. The sound of her scorning question scraped at the inside of her skull. 

Ruby shook her head, but her effort was futile. The imaginary voice carried on and those burning red eyes continued seething.

“Yeah,” Ruby eventually replied. “Yeah. She’s that transfer student. I guess I just...had a bad dream about her.” 

“Is she really that important to you?” Yang asked, curiously.

Ruby forced an indifferent shrug. “I mean, I guess.” She slurped the remains of her hot chocolate, approaching the kitchen sink and placing the now empty mug into it. 

Turning back, Yang’s lilac eyes landed on her from across the room. 

Rubbing her neck awkwardly, Ruby let out a fake (but somehow real) yawn. “Well, I better get back to bed and catch a few more winks before school starts. You better too. So...goodnight!” Ruby gave Yang a wave as she rushed by in a flash of crimson. 

“Goodnight,” Yang replied in a more subdued tone than normal. She watched Ruby exit the room, concern brewing in her mind. 

Something felt off about all of this. And Yang would be darned if she couldn’t find out what. 

Ruby stared into the emptiness of room 215 and tried desperately to calm her racing heart.

Think logically, Ruby! Think logically! 

There were a number of places Weiss could be: the cafeteria, or the game room, the movie room, visiting with Avery, taking a stroll outside with Winter....

But certainly not the morgue. Not yet. 

All Weiss’ stuff was still in the room, but it was unoccupied. That had happened before, usually when Winter was taking Weiss outside through the gardens, or when Weiss was at the cafeteria or game room. 

Still, the lingering dread of her nightmare that morning had sat on Ruby’s mind all day, making it difficult for her to focus on her classes or homework or driving or anything that did not involve Weiss. She’d breathed a huge sigh of relief when she finally arrived at the hospice center and passed the nurse’s station without incident. However, that creeping fear had returned full-force at the sight of Weiss’ neatly-made, empty bed.

“Ruby!” a young woman’s voice called for her, scattering her thoughts. 

Her heart pounding, Ruby’s head pivoted to the side as quickly as it could without giving her whiplash. She saw the two white-haired sisters approaching her from down the hall. The younger of the two sat in a wheelchair while the other pushed her from behind. 

Ruby's breath hitched for a moment. She simultaneously breathed out another sigh of relief and tensed up in excitement. “Weiss!” Ruby called out, impervious to the tone of desperation in her own voice. Letting a wide grin part her lips, she bolted down the hall toward the two sisters. 

“Weiss, you’re alright!” Ruby exclaimed. 

The younger Schnee sibling put her hand to the wheelchair’s handrim at her left side and brought it to a stop. Chuckling at Ruby, Weiss gave her a curious raised brow and side-smile. “Were you that worried about me?”

Ruby couldn’t conceal her feelings. “Yes!” she answered, taking one of Weiss’ hands in her own. “I didn’t know where you were and...I’ve just been worried all day.”

“Well, somehow I’m still here,” Weiss reassured the brunette, squeezing her hand. 

“Good to see you again, Ms. Rose,” Winter greeted the younger girl. 

“Oh yeah,” Ruby laughed nervously, suddenly remembering Winter was present with them. “Hello, Winter.”

Weiss abruptly forced the footrest on the wheelchair down and put her feet to the ground, standing to her full height, which was a few inches under Ruby’s height. She was shaky at first then caught her balance and smiled widely at Ruby, saying, “I’ll walk the rest of the way with you.”

Winter’s slightly doubtful voice spoke up from behind, “You sure? You’re not too tired after today?”

Weiss nodded and smiled, keeping her gaze on Ruby silver eyes. “I can do it.”

“Alright, sister. I’ll just take this back to the west wing then,” Winter spoke and turned the wheelchair around. 

When Winter was out of earshot, Weiss told Ruby in exasperation, “She makes me go everywhere in that thing.”

"Typical Winter," Ruby joked. Gazing into Weiss’ sky-blue eyes, Ruby smiled gallantly, offering her arm. “Shall we?”

Weiss wrapped her arm around Ruby’s while her other hand grabbed the handle of her portable oxygen tank, rolling it behind them. “So you were that worried about me, huh?”

Ruby turned into a sheepish mess. “I mean, I’ve been feeling kind of weird all day because of that nightmare, so I guess I’m more anxious than usual.”

“Seems logical,” Weiss nodded, using her hip to bump Ruby’s hip in an attempt to comfort her. 

“But enough about me,” Ruby replied, scratching the back of her neck. “What’ve you been up to today?”

Weiss sighed, “It was a long day. My doctor wanted to run some tests, so we had to hang around the hospital all day. It was really boring. Worse than here if you can believe it.”

Nodding, Ruby bit her lip in a mixture of curiosity and anxiousness. “What kind of tests?”

“Oh, you know, the usual,” Weiss replied just as they finally passed through the doorway and stopped just inside her bedroom. “Physical exams, blood tests, scans, the whole enchilada.”

Weiss suddenly released Ruby’s arm, rolling up her blue sweater’s long sleeve and revealing a series of band-aids, gauze packs, and bandages around her wrist and forearm. The skin was mottled brown and purple from the bruising. 

Ruby cringed, “Ow....” She gently took Weiss’ arm into her hands, examining the bruises. “That looks like it hurts.”

“It looks worse than it feels,” Weiss shrugged and rolled her sleeve back over the bandages. “The poor nurses today had a hard time locating my veins.”

Ruby shivered. She hadn’t been in the hospital since the night her mother had been in the accident. There were not many good memories she’d associated with it. “I’m...sorry,” Ruby apologized, though for what she wasn’t quite sure. 

Weiss shook her head. “It’s not your fault, Ruby. And besides...” Weiss said cheerily, taking Ruby's hands in her own, “I think we might have some good...”

“Hello again, girls,” Winter’s voice introduced her presence as she slipped through the open bedroom door. Spotting the girls in the middle of the room standing in front of each other by only inches and watching her with wide eyes, the tall, white-haired woman smiled knowingly. “Sorry, did I interrupted something?” 

Ruby stepped back and laughed sharply. “What? Uh, no! Of course not. We were just talking.”

Winter closed the bedroom door behind her, her taut lips pulled upward into a coy grin. “Of course. How silly of me to assume there had been no talking going on at all.”

Weiss rolled her eyes, grumbling, “Winter, stop teasing us.”

Winter’s lips pulled into an even tighter, straight line. “Teasing? Is that what you thought I was doing? Well, by the gods, I would never tease my own sister and her friend. Heaven forbid!”

Weiss rolled her eyes. Ruby lips cracked into an amused smile, again reminded of her own sister’s constant teasing. 

Walking past the two younger girls, Winter gave Weiss a quick pat on the shoulder and took a seat in the chair opposite of Weiss’ normal spot. She pulled out her scroll and began checking her messages, ignoring the younger girls. 

Weiss followed her sister’s lead and shuffled to her chair, easing down in it. Ruby followed and jumped onto the edge of Weiss’ bed. 

“So what were you saying, Weiss?” Ruby asked curiously. 

Weiss’ hopeful eyes peered at Ruby, a glowing radiance making her shine. “The doctor said there might be some good news.”

“Weiss...” Winter’s reprimanding voice interrupted the younger Schnee sibling. 

Turning to her sister, Weiss replied, “What? I was just telling Ruby what the doctor told us.”

“It is not proper decorum, dear,” Winter claimed, leaning forward and whispering at her sister. “We don’t want to bring her hopes up.”

Ruby leaned forward, whispering at the two women, “I can still hear you.” She leaned back and tilted her head curiously, her heart beating rapidly, “And what do you mean bring my hopes up?”

Winter raised her brows at Weiss, who nodded. Turning her eyes back to Ruby, Winter explained, “Weiss had several tests done today. The doctors are....”

A loud knock from the bedroom door interrupted Winter’s voice. 

Peeved at the inconvenience, Ruby waved dismissively at the white-haired sisters. “Don’t worry. I got it.”

Jumping down from the bed, Ruby stalked quickly across the room, wanting to end the distraction as soon as possible so she could hear whatever it was that Winter had to say and ease her insatiable curiosity. Ruby turned the knob and opened the door, peering out. 

Ruby’s heart fell into her stomach. Her eyes widened at the sight of three figures standing before her. “Oh, shit....” she muttered.

Oh shit is right, little sis,” Yang scowled at Ruby with crossed arms, fiery eyes glowing red.  

“Ruby! Was that my lava lamp?” 

Ruby winced again at the sound of her sister’s angry voice aimed at her.  

Holding her head in her hands, Ruby hunched over in her chair. The wooden chair she’d sat in for the last hour had grown steadily harder and less comfortable as time went on. Still, at least the sitting room—used mainly by grieving families visiting the hospice center—gave her and Blake and Yang some semblance of privacy away from it all. Ruby’s father, Taiyang, and Winter had been visiting separately for the entire time. 

Blake’s hand pat Ruby’s back reassuringly, though Ruby did not feel at all reassured while her irate sister paced in front of her, yelling and berating her.

“How long were you going to keep this a secret?” Yang growled, stomping her boots on the carpeted floor. “You tried to tell me she transferred to your school, but when I called them this morning, no one had ever heard of her. So where was the next logical place?” Yang threw up her hands at the room around her. 

Ruby had heard Yang use this argument over and over again throughout the last hour. She swallowed back a retort, certain that snapping at Yang would only make her angrier. 

“And you,” Yang addressed Blake, her face distraught. “You knew this whole time? Were you both scheming behind my back to keep this from me?”

“That’s not true,” Ruby raised her voice defensively. “I asked Blake to keep it a secret even though she thought it would be better to tell you and Dad. She was just respecting my wishes. It was my fault, not hers. I just...didn’t want you finding out because I knew you guys would freak and it would end up like this. I was afraid you guys wouldn’t let me see her anymore.”

Yang peered at Ruby, her chin beneath her intense frown trembling with a fury that quickly melted away after a few seconds. Her red eyes dipped to the ground and returned to Ruby’s face in their normal lilac hue. 

It was the first time Ruby had seen the color transition of Yang's eyes happen in real life, and the uncanny resemblance to her nightmare was just a little too real. She shivered. 

“Sorry, Blake,” Yang apologized, sitting on a cushioned ottoman in front of them and hanging her head. “I shouldn’t have accused you.” 

Blake nodded. “You’re forgiven, bonehead.”

Lifting her head, Yang sent a mischievous smile at the raven-haired girl. She suddenly frowned again and looked at Ruby. “I’m sorry, Ruby. I’m still really upset. Not about the stupid stuff like the lava lamp or whatever, but...I guess I don’t really know what you’ve been going through this whole time and that upsets me. You’ve been bearing this alone? I wish you would’ve just talked to us. To me...”

Ruby wrapped her arms around herself, wishing she could make herself disappear.

The door to the sitting room opened, shining cold white light into the dim sitting room. Taiyang appeared in the doorway and walked in, closing the door behind himself. His face appeared distraught and sad, but he carried himself with a silent strength. Walking toward the girls, who all peered at him in curiosity, he smiled at them. “Never really thought I’d find myself associated with the Schnees. At first, it was a frosty introduction.” Taiyang chuckled humorously at himself and stared at the blank, unamused faces on the three girls. “Eh? You get it? Since ‘Schnee’ means snow?”

“Hilarious, Dad,” Yang groaned. “And?” 

“Well,” Taiyang began, his smile morphing into a frown once more, “I spoke with Winter for quite some time and she filled me in on Weiss’ condition. At least, as much as could be expected for having just met me. It seems that Winter’s been aware of Ruby and Weiss’ connection for quite some time.”

All three pairs of eyes landed on Ruby. She smiled sheepishly in return before hanging her head. “Yeah...” she replied. 

Ruby tensed when she heard her dad’s shoes shuffle across the floor. His hand, warm and calloused and strong as they’d always been, gripped her shoulder. Suddenly, he squatted in front of Ruby and lifted her head with his fingers, looking into her eyes. He smiled sadly at her for a moment, then said, “You’re so much like your mother.”

“I didn’t want to burden you and Yang,” Ruby replied, her voice growing thin and frail. “You’ve already been through so much.”

Taiyang wrapped his arms around Ruby. “And you haven’t?”

Aching for comfort, Ruby held him tight and pressed her face into his shoulder. She finally allowed her tears to flow freely down her cheeks. “I’m sorry,” she whimpered. 

“Don’t be,” Taiyang told her, holding her close and rocking her gently. “I should be telling you sorry for allowing you to go through this alone.”

Ruby released him and leaned back, wiping hot trails of tears from her cheeks. “Well, I’m a dumbass for not telling you guys, so I kinda deserve it.”

Irked, Yang spoke up, “You don’t deserve this, Ruby. Nobody deserves this shit.”

Ruby turned to gaze at her sister, whose downcast face frowned at her. 

The door to the sitting room opened. Winter’s form appeared as she stepped into the room and closed the door behind her, mimicking Taiyang. “Hello,” she said to the group. Spotting Yang and Blake, she bowed her head, “My name is Winter Schnee. I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you two.”

Yang examined the older woman with scrutinizing eyes. Finally, she stood up and extended her hand, saying, “I’m Yang Xiao Long, Ruby’s older sister.” 

“And I’m Blake Belladonna,” Blake replied softly, standing and shaking the woman’s hand. “I’m Ruby’s friend and Yang’s girlfriend.”

“I wish we could’ve met under better circumstances,” Winter told them with a courteous nod. “Well,” she addressed the group once more, “Weiss and I spent most of the day at the hospital having some tests done. I do hope you take no offense that Weiss is resting in her room. She was exhausted after today, but she would very much like to meet you all as soon as possible. I suppose it is good that the truth is now out in the open.”

Ruby pursed her lips. She wasn’t so sure. But at least she had Weiss by her side. 

Winter approached Taiyang and whispered something to him. He nodded silently in return.

Winter turned back towards the other girls. “I do have something to report to you from today’s findings. I got off the scroll with Weiss’ doctor just moments ago. First, he is amazed at Weiss’ current condition. By all accounts, she should’ve been dead by this time. He says it’s quite literally a miracle that she is still here and doing as well as she is. And, seems he has found a possible treatment for Weiss’ condition.”

Ruby’s breath hitched and her heart stopped. Time seemed to freeze.

“What?” Ruby replied, breathless and perplexed, her eyes widening in shock.

Winter gazed into Ruby silver eyes, addressing her directly, “There is apparently a new procedure that could treat her condition. It’s experimental, so it’s not a guarantee. But at this point, it’s Weiss’ only hope.”

Chapter Text

Gathered in the hospice sitting room, Ruby, Yang, Blake, and Taiyang listened to Winter as she explained in brief terms the doctor’s prognosis for Weiss. 

Ruby was still reeling from Winter’s proclamation. Something about a procedure? More importantly, Weiss might live?

Ruby squinted her eyes in concentration, mentally batting away the impeding thoughts that plagued her mind and hindered her ability to pay attention. She tried to listen, to focus on Winter’s words. After all, what Winter had to say was important, even potentially life-changing. But to no avail. Instead, Ruby heard words being spoken, but their meaning felt jumbled in her brain as she tried to process what she just heard from Winter only a few minutes earlier.

Was it really true? Was there actually hope that Weiss might live? 


It couldn’t be. 



Ruby noticed her body was cold as ice and her heartbeat was pounding in her ears. It had been doing that a lot lately. In defeat, she squeezed her eyes shut and couldn’t help but picture in her mind the things she hadn’t dare even think of before that moment.

Holidays with Weiss. 

Her high school graduation with Weiss.

Attending college with Weiss. 

Graduating college with Weiss. 

Traveling all over Remnant with Weiss. 

Perhaps one day dating Weiss...marrying Weiss...

Being, for the rest of her life, with Weiss ...

An internal shiver of embarrassment at her own feelings ran down her spine. A gentle pat to Ruby’s shoulder brought her attention to her surroundings once more, vanquishing her sudden, small visions of hope. “Huh?” Ruby answered absent-mindedly. 

Blake and the others watched her with concern. Blake’s soft grip on Ruby’s shoulder garnered her attention. “Ruby, are you okay?” the raven-haired Faunus asked. 

“What? Yeah, I’m...fine,” Ruby replied, looking into the golden eyes of the older Faunus girl, knowing Blake could see through her lie. 

Ruby was not at all sure how she was really supposed to feel about this news. She had been avoiding the thought of Weiss dying for so long that confronting the reality of her possible survival seemed just as daunting.

Winter spoke up, her blue eyes locked on Ruby, “Ms. Rose, it’s quite natural to feel shock at news of this nature. Admittedly, it does seem like the best news we’ve gotten recently,” Winter paused and smiled sadly, melancholy in her voice as she continued. “Still, I think it best to approach this news with an attitude of caution. There is still no guarantee she’ll even wake up tomorrow.”

Ruby nodded, still not quite comprehending. 

The room descended into a tense, anticipatory silence, waiting for her response which never came.

Taiyang broke the silence after a few moments. “Well, girls,” he said, standing, “I think this might be about the most my old heart can take for one day. I think I’ll head home. But, Ms. Schnee,” he addressed Winter politely, “I... we’d... like to come back as soon as possible and personally meet Weiss.”

“Of course,” Winter agreed. “Is tomorrow afternoon around four too early?” 

Yang stood abruptly. “I’ll make it work for me.”

“Same here,” Blake added, standing and approaching Yang’s side, instinctively taking her hand. 

“Sounds like a plan, then,” Taiyang concluded, nodding his head. 

Winter smiled. “She’ll be delighted to meet you all.” 

Taiyang placed a comforting hand on Ruby’s shoulder. “Need a ride home, pumpkin?”

Ruby peered up at him uncomprehendingly, her attention having faded in and out of the conversation. When meaning finally registered, she lowered her head. “Thanks, Dad, but I think I just want to be alone for a little while.”

His grip tightened slightly for a moment. Then, as he smiled, he agreed. “Then we’ll be waiting at home for you.”

He leaned down and gave his brunette daughter a kiss on the forehead. Normally, she would’ve been squirming away and complaining about the unwarranted affection, but tonight, it felt cathartic. 

Ruby didn’t notice as Winter left the room, followed by Taiyang. Yang and Blake both insisted on giving Ruby a hug before leaving. She just barely reciprocated, as she felt too physically and emotionally drained to contribute. It was several moments before she finally realized she was alone in the dimly lit room. 

And she didn’t know why, but curling up into a ball in her uncomfortable wooden chair and crying her eyes out seemed to be the right thing to do.  

Nothing really made sense to her at that moment. The good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly. Her reality crashed inwards on itself and exposed her very real, very raw well as her fragile but growing hopes. Those hopes, which she had been so quick to bury and keep out of sight, were now unearthed and vulnerable, shone just the slightest glimmer of light. 

Yet doubt lingered, eclipsing the plains of her mind. It was the harsh reality that her blossoming hopes still bloomed dangerously close to the thistles encompassing her fears.

Weiss could die.

And then Ruby would be totally alone for the rest of her life.

Sickened with anxiety, Ruby curled inward on herself. She already felt totally alone in dealing with this shit. No one else was connected with Weiss the way she was. No one else’s fate was intertwined with Weiss’ the way hers was. No one else’s life and happiness depended on the outcome. No one except for Ruby Rose.

So the tears burst forth. And when it seemed the tears had all but dried up, Ruby wiped away the moisture and rested her head on her knees, her eyelids heavy.  

It was sometime not too much later when Ruby’s eyes flickered open. She was still curled into a ball on that uncomfortable wooden chair in the sitting room of the hospice center. 

She groaned, stretching her stiff muscles and trying to ignore the crack of her joints as she stood, slowly to avoid making herself dizzy. Pulling her scroll out of her pocket, she noticed almost an hour had gone by since the others had left. 

Just how long ago had she fallen asleep? And how long had she sat there crying?

Pocketing her scroll, she padded across the carpeted floor and stepped out of the sitting room into the cold, clammy hallway. She shivered at the stale air that seemed to cling to her skin. The overhead lights were bright, making her squint. Without thinking, she began walking, her body on autopilot. 

It was not really a surprise to Ruby when she ended up back at the door to 215, which was ajar just enough for her to see that the lights were off inside except for the purple glow of Yang’s ex-lava lamp. She opened the door just enough to slip into the room, approaching the bed and standing just beside it, where a familiar figure lay sleeping peacefully. 

In the silence, Ruby listened past the beating of her own heart and the soft hiss of those pesky oxygen tubes. Thankfulness and relief flooded her heart when she heard the shallow, subtle breaths of her soulmate. 

Inhale and exhale. In and out. Rhythmic and steady.

Just the sound of Weiss’ breathing calmed her soul in a way nothing else could. 

Would there ever come a day where Weiss would not have to constantly wear those tubes? Would there be a day when her cheeks were not gaunt and her slightly sunken eyes not encircled by darkness? 

Ruby spotted Weiss’ arm, still mottled with brown and purple bruises. Her empathic cringe of pain reverberated in her soul, feeding her inner plea for Weiss’ deliverance from this illness. 

Would there be a day when Weiss wouldn’t have to deal with the pain and the constant overexertion of that frail body, her mortal prison? 

Ruby closed her eyes and dipped her head, mouthing a prayer to whoever or whatever could hear her. If she were honest, she was almost too afraid to hope. At the same time, she had grown so attached to the younger Schnee daughter, even in the short time they’d known each other, that she could not imagine her life without Weiss. If Weiss didn’t make it, what would she do then? Was she destined to forever wander, searching to find a mediocre replacement for that which the universe deemed perfect?

Realizing she’d been lost in her thoughts and staring awkwardly at Weiss for the past several seconds, Ruby reached her hand out and ever so gently moved a lock of Weiss’ soft white hair out of her face. Her touch was tender and light, so as not to wake Weiss. Her rest was far too precious to interrupt. 

Feeling the lingering heat of Weiss’ face on her fingertips, Ruby drew her fingers to her lips and kissed them. 

“Goodnight, snowflake,” Ruby whispered and slowly backed out of the room. Watching to make sure that Weiss was not disturbed by her movement, Ruby opened the door of 215 once more and slipped out. She eyed Weiss’ figure cautiously as she pulled the door and turned the knob, shutting it slowly so it wouldn’t click. 

Finally, the door was shut and Ruby breathed out a sigh of relief, allowing her head to dip to the floor. 

Once she regained her composure, Ruby turned to the side. She gasped, almost bumping into a figure leaning against the wall next to her. Ruby jumped in place and put her hand over her heart. “Winter!” Ruby said breathlessly. “Sorry, I didn’t see you there.” 

Winter drew a small comb through her bangs, patted down two or three frayed strands, and put away the small object. She kept a meticulous appearance, even if you could see the stress and exhaustion if you looked into her face too long. 

Winter stood to her full height and faced Ruby, her eyes narrow and gaze sharp. “No harm, Ms. Rose.”

Ruby hung her head, guilt drawing her eyes down to the ground. “Um, I’m really sorry about my family and all that. I didn't mean to bring so much stress on you and Weiss on top of what you already have to deal with...”

Winter nodded, silently. Finally, she replied in a cool tone, “Ms. Rose...Ruby, if I may...your family seems to love and care for you very much. I cannot fully comprehend your reason for keeping this from them, but I doubt very highly that it was necessary. You should trust and depend on them more. Not everyone has that luxury.”

Biting her lip, Ruby nodded, uncertain how to respond. All she could do was to consider the woman’s words. 

“Now...” Winter interrupted her thoughts. She checked her scroll and quickly pocketed it again. “It’s nearly nine-thirty at night, and my favorite coffee shop nearby closes in thirty minutes. Would you like to accompany me for a quick beverage?”

Surprised, Ruby tilted her head. “What? You mean, go with you to get coffee? At night?”

“Well, of course, dear,” Winter answered as if Ruby had asked the most frivolous question she’d ever heard. She waved her hand at Ruby and side-stepped around her, pacing swiftly down the hall. “But we must make haste or they will run out of their Atlesian cold brew.” 

Ruby raised a bewildered eyebrow at Winter from over her shoulder but shrugged it off, turning and catching up to the tall woman.  

A husky male waiter with wide sideburns and blonde hair approached Winter and Ruby. “Good evening, Ms. Schnee,” he greeted them cordially and with a degree of familiarity toward Winter as he led them through a lounge to a small wooden table near a glass-top bar. Ruby fought to keep herself from gawking. 

This was a coffee shop

No, this was more like a high-class bar. 

As the waiter pulled their chairs out for them, Ruby wondered if she were even old enough to be allowed in the restaurant. But maybe with a Schnee it didn’t matter? 

While Winter fit into the atmosphere of the classy bar—with her elegant military uniform—Ruby felt out of place in her crimson sweatshirt, torn jeans, and dirty sneakers.

“What can I get for you ladies tonight?” the waiter asked, his deep voice rumbling. 

Winter smiled at him, “The Atlesian Conquest, please. No cream or sugar.” 

“Certainly,” he nodded and turned to Ruby. “And for you, ma’am?”

Blind-sighted, Ruby’s mouth hung open for a moment. “C-can I just get some regular coffee?”

“Absolutely,” the man nodded. “Would you like any cream, sugar, or sweetener?”

Ruby smiled nervously. “ cream and five sugars. Please.”

The man grinned. “Got it,” he said, tapping the table. “It’ll be out before you can say banana five times backward.”

Ruby furrowed her brows. Ananab? 

Shaking her head, Ruby hunched over and put her arms on the table, her fingers fidgeting nervously. Besides a well-dressed man and woman at the bar and a stylish bartender, she and Winter were the only patrons in the restaurant. Ruby intently watched her fingers and listened to the ambient soft jazz until Winter’s voice pulled her attention upward. 

“Ruby,” Winter said, loosening the black gloves on her hands, “Do you know much about the Schnee family?”

Curiously watching the woman systematically pull off each glove one by one and reveal her slim, pale hands, Ruby pulled her lips into an apprehensive line before answering. “Well, Weiss has told me a little about them. And, of course, she talks about you all the time.”

Taken aback at Ruby’s last comment, Winter turned away, her cheeks glowing with a blush. Her lips were drawn upward in what Ruby could only assume was an embarrassed yet flattered smile. Winter cleared her throat, returning her normal somber gaze at Ruby. “Aside from that, there is a lot about the Schnee family of which you are probably unaware,” Winter concluded. “This is just a warning to you now that our family is not as warm and supportive as yours. If indeed Weiss survives this ordeal...and you decide to pursue any type of relationship with her, I thought you ought to know that it will not be easy.” 

Ruby felt her cheeks warm. Was she that emotionally transparent? But more than that, was Winter that confident that Weiss would even survive? 

“So,” Ruby began, her voice small and unsteady—full of pent-up desperation, “you think Weiss might live?”

“Okay, ladies,” the rumble of the male waiter’s bass voice carried over to them from across the room. He carried on a tray two mugs of steaming hot liquid. The first he placed in front of Winter, saying, “An Atlesian Conquest...And a regular with exactly one cream and five sugars.” He placed another mug holding a lighter brown, frothier liquid in front of Ruby. 

The girls thanked the man as he walked off. 

Pleased, Winter cupped the porcelain mug in her bare hands, bringing the steaming cup to her face and breathing in the deep, robust fragrance. 

Ruby watched her curiously. “Didn’t you say your Atlesian thingy was cold?” 

Winter chuckled. “Yes. But here you can get Atlesian cold brew served hot. Ironic, is it not?”

“Hot cold brew?” Ruby repeated, chuckling. “Yeah, that’s weird.” She thought about it and added, “Kinda sounds like Weiss, in a way. Cold yet hot.” Ruby’s cheeks heated as realization dawned on her. “N-not in the bad hot way, I mean,” Ruby stuttered. “More like the friendly but not friendly way. Or reserved yet somehow hospitable way...?” 

Winter smiled knowingly in response. “You know, cold brew coffee is steeped in cold water overnight, but they warm it the next day using boiling water. That process gives it a certain quality of depth with less acidity that you can’t get in your average cup of coffee,” Winter explained. “I suppose you could pull some vague metaphorical symbolism out of that.” She grinned, a thinly veiled chuckle underneath her breath. Her smile was reminiscent of Weiss’ but more mature and wistful. It made Ruby’s heart ache to see Weiss’ smile again.

Ruby sighed and drew her cup of coffee to her lips, taking a tentative first sip. She wasn’t much of a coffee drinker, but she was pleased at the smooth and slightly earthy taste with just a touch of cream (and, of course, tempered with lots of sugar).

“The reason I asked you to come with me,” Winter said, breaking the awkwardness between them, “is that I wanted to talk to you honestly about Weiss. A heart-to-heart, you might call it.” 

Ruby’s innocent silver eyes met the sadder blue ones of the older Schnee sister. Ruby nodded quietly, uncertainty and dread forming a quivering ball of nerves in her stomach. 

The woman took a sip of her coffee and brushed back her fluffy white bangs from her face. “Ruby,” she began, “in answer to your question, I will be honest with you. I do not believe that Weiss will survive. And I also don’t want you to have false hope about Weiss. Perhaps what I said earlier was misleading. It’s not so much that the doctors are amazed that she is getting better. It is more that they’re amazed she’s not much, much worse. They originally anticipated her systems would be in the final stages of shutting down at this point. And while she’s not there yet, she is certainly well on her way. In short, she may still be alive but that does not mean she’s not still dying.” 

Ruby felt as if she’d received another punch to the gut. She knew it. She knew her fragile hope had been in vain. “What about the procedure you talked about?” Her thin voice mustered. 

Winter nodded, “That possibility does changes things a little. However, I would not count on its success. The procedure is considered very high-risk due to its invasive nature.”

“Invasive?” Ruby repeated, nervously biting the inside of her cheek. 

Winter pursed her lips. “In basic terms, the surgeon will need to implant a synthetic patch into the bone marrow of her femur—the bone in her thigh. This requires them to have to make a large incision on her thigh and remove a section of the bone. According to the doctor, not only does her body have a high chance of rejecting the synthetic patch, but because of her lowered immune system, she is at risk for developing severe infections from the operation. If the patch works as it’s supposed to, it will restore the normal functioning of her bone marrow, allowing her body to once again create normal blood cells for the next several years, possibly for life. If it doesn’t work or she gets an infection, however, there is a high likelihood she will die.”

Ruby felt the same cold numbness as before come over her body. This time, however, she fought it as a wave of ire boiled her blood and crawled across her flesh, leaving her in little more than an impatient fury. “But,” Ruby spoke up pointedly, “that means there’s a chance. However big or small, there’s a chance she will make it.”

Raising her brows in surprise, Winter nodded hesitantly. “Well...yes, I suppose that is true.”

Already emotionally exhausted, her mind whirled at a million miles per hour. Ruby took another long, thoughtful sip of her coffee. The taste was gone but mainly because her mind was far from the sensation of her taste buds. She opened her mouth suddenly, surprised at the sound of her own voice, “Thanks for being worried about me, Winter. I don’t think I believe you, though.”

Winter's eyes widened at Ruby, appearing shocked. “What do you mean?” She asked, shaking her head. 

“No offense,” Ruby answered, “but, unlike you, I believe in Weiss. If Weiss knows there’s a chance in hell that she might live, I think—no, I know —that she will do everything in her power to make that happen.” Ruby gulped down the last remains of her coffee and abruptly stood to her feet, peering down at Winter with a pensive frown. “Thanks for bringing me here. I know this means you care about me. I just can’t accept what you’re trying to tell me. You may be ready to dig her grave, but I’m not.”

Tense silence mounted between them. 

Ruby reached her hand in her pocket and pulled out a few dollar bills. Placing them on the table and sliding them toward Winter, she said as she began to walk away toward the restaurant exit, “Sorry. It’s all I have. Goodnight.” 

Ruby heard the feet of Winter’s chair scrape along the floor. “Do you need me to drive you back?” Winter’s mature feminine voice spoke, concern and agitation coloring her tone.

Ruby sighed. Why did all these damn adults always underestimate her? She could get home just fine. Without looking back, Ruby waved her hand through the air, responding coldly, “No thanks.” 

Plus, walking to wherever she was going gave her a chance to decompress. 

As she exited the building where the high-class coffee shop was located, Ruby shoved her hands in her front pocket and blew out a shaky sigh, more angry at herself than anything.

Why did she always lose her self-control and react so emotionally to people who were just trying to help?  

Still, she didn’t like the way Winter just assumed Weiss would die. Without even giving her a chance! That sort of pessimistic bullshit was probably what got Weiss locked up in that hospice center in the first place. 

No, Ruby decided she would be different. As long as there was a chance, she would be a voice of hope and a ray of light. A path out of the darkness for Weiss. She vowed to it. 

It was probably a bit too late when Ruby finally arrived home that night. Somehow, after all she’d already been through that day, the prospect of facing another emotional stand-off with Yang was just a little less daunting than usual. She put her hand on the knob to the front door and turned it, ready for whatever she would encounter inside. 

What she encountered inside was surprising. Shocking, even. 

Everything was normal. 

Ruby stood wide-eyed, wondering just what she had been expecting. 

Yang and Blake were curled up next to each other on the living room couch, watching a late-night show on TV as they always did. Taiyang, Ruby assumed, was asleep in his upstairs bedroom. And, of course, her good boy, Zwei, pranced across the floor to greet Ruby, yapping happily at her feet as she leaned down to greet him back with a pat of affection. “Hey, Zwei...”

Ruby closed the door behind her. Yang’s head turned at the click of the lock. “Oh, hey, Ruby...” she said, carefully extracting herself from a dozing Blake. Yang stood and circled around the couch. 

Ruby braced herself, preparing for Yang’s usual harsh words of reprimand for coming home so late. Instead, a few moments later, she was wrapped in Yang’s arms, pulled close to her chest. She felt Yang’s hand rest on her head protectively. 

“Glad you’re home, sis,” Yang told Ruby reassuringly. 

Stretching her arms around Yang, Ruby returned the warm embrace. After a few quiet, tender moments, Ruby pulled back. She asked apprehensively, “Are you still mad at me for keeping all that from you?”

A sly grin appeared on Yang’s face, a glint of crimson in her lilac eyes. “Yeah, I sure as hell am.”

Ruby chuckled and lifted her hand to her face, scratching her chin. “I figured as much.”

Raising her eyebrows at her younger sister, Yang mused, “So...I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me earlier...I guess you can see colors now?”

Snickering, Ruby teased, “I know you’re a blonde, but are you really that dense?” 

Yang set her fist on her hip, frowning. “Oh ha ha. that means you can see my hair color?” Yang realized excitedly, gathering a lock of her blonde hair in her hands. Combing her fingers through the strands, she asked, “So, besides ‘blonde’, what color is my hair?”

Ruby’s lips pulled to one side in bemused annoyance. “Gold.”

Yang closed one eye and pointed a finger at her, correcting her, “Actually, it’s yellow.”

Ruby Rose rolled her eyes. “Sure...”

“How about this?” Yang pointed at her pajama shirt. 

“Yellow,” Ruby replied mockingly. 

Yang facepalmed. “Orange.” She shifted her gaze once again, pointing excitedly at the couch. 

Ruby stared at the boring maroon couch. “Red,” she answered in a blasé tone.

“And that?” Her older sister motioned to the nearby window curtain, smiling like a goof.

And that’s when Ruby realized Yang was doing all that to try and cheer her up. She smiled in return and looked at the green curtains. “Obviously pink,” Ruby replied with a smug grin.

Yang sneered, “Mmm, I don’t know, sis. It’s obviously lightish red.” She snickered at herself and tip-toed towards the sleeping Blake, taking a lock of her black hair in her hand. “How about Blake’s hair?” She questioned, whispering hoarsely. 

“Okay, I knew what black looked like even before I got my color vision,” Ruby whispered in reply, faking an exasperated sigh. 

“Really? Is that how that works?” Yang returned mockingly. “Okay. Okay. I got it,” she said, her voice serious as she gave Ruby her ultimatum. Pointing her finger dramatically at the ground, Yang asked, “Now is your true test. What color is that ?” 

Eyes following the direction of Yang’s finger, Ruby’s gaze landed on Zwei, who tilted his puzzled head at her and stuck out his tongue innocently.

Ruby pursed her lips. “That,” she declared, “is Zwei-colored.” 

Yang slapped her forehead. “Dad, I’m sorry I raised her to be such a fucking smartass.” 

“That’s alright,” Taiyang’s voice surprised them both, making them gasp and jump. He chuckled as he approached the sisters, reaching out his hand for Yang’s shoulder. “But,” he gave her the disapproving dad glare, “I’m not sure how I raised you to be such a sailor.”

Yang chuckled nervously, shrugging, “Heh.” 

“Wh-What’s going on?” Blake’s drowsy voice murmured from the other side of the couch. Her fluffy black cat ears rose just about the level of the back of the couch, peeking over the edge.

Yang jumped on the opportunity, pouncing onto Blake from behind. “Morning, Kitty-cat.” 

“Ugh, Yang...” Blake moaned. “It’s not even midnight. And what did I tell you about the nicknames?” 

“Aw, just admit you like it when I call you pet names, my little kitten,” Yang crooned, trying her best to coax Blake into acceptance as she stroked the Faunus’ furry cat ears.

Ruby smiled at them. In the past, there had been times that Ruby hated watching them because they were too sickeningly sweet to one another. Now, Ruby couldn’t help but wonder whether or not she would be able to have a relationship like that with Weiss someday. Would fate be so kind as to give her even a chance at that?  

“Hey, kiddo,” her dad’s voice interrupted her wondering. “You doing okay?” He asked out of concern.

As his hand pressed on her shoulder, she returned her gaze to him. After a moment, she nodded. “I’m okay, Dad. I mean, everything’s not really okay. But I’ll be fine.” 

His lips parted as if he were going to say something, but instead, he just nodded. After a minute of staring at the floor, he admitted, “Yeah. I know you will. You’ve got a lot of spirit, just like your mom.” 

“I guess...” Ruby’s frown deepened. She highly doubted that. Her mother, a superhero of sorts to their whole family, had been so much more courageous than her. Ruby decided to shrug it off, feeling the heaviness of her emotional exhaustion weigh powerfully on her shoulders. “I’m gonna go to bed now,” she told her dad, waving as she slipped by him. She dashed upstairs to the sanctuary of her bedroom, glad to close her bedroom door behind her and shut out the noise of the outer world. 

Squeezing her eyes shut, she rubbed her temples, wishing away the developing migraine. The coffee would keep her up for a while, even if she was dead tired. The question was how to utilize her excess energy. 

She ended up drawing in her journal for a while. She’d never been a truly devoted artist, but when she couldn’t bottle up her emotions anymore and they needed a place to spill over, it was typically her journal. It was a secret place where she recorded her thoughts, memories, poems, drawings, and any other shit she needed to get off her chest. No one had ever seen it before and her plan was that no one would. 

It was when her pencil fell out of her hand for the fourth time that Ruby decided she’d finally try sleeping. She’d been dreading falling asleep all day, but she could help it no longer. 

Ruby laid down, and, except for tossing and turning a bit, she fell asleep instantly.  

Ruby blew out a nervous sigh as she pulled her little red moped into her normal parking spot. She was reminded of the day she came out to officially meet Weiss for the first time. Back then, her heart had been racing and her stomach had been in knots over meeting someone who could, and did, change her life. Now, she was nervous in the same way for her family to meet that very same person. 

Shaking off the jitters, Ruby dismounted her moped and headed toward the employee entrance to the building, glad that she’d arrived a bit early to their four o’clock meeting.

The sun was bright and shining overhead in the crystal clear sky, though the air was beginning to take on a cool, crisp edge: the dawn of autumn. The tree leaves had begun to turn so many different shades and hues of yellow and red and orange that Ruby had quickly lost track of the names of all those colors. It took Yang telling her that even she didn’t know all those color names for Ruby to relax and accept that she could appreciate those colors without stressing over their names. 

As she entered inside the hospice center, Ruby was hit with a wave of nostalgia. She had traversed those hallways a million times before, but she was only now realizing the impact each room and each bed had on the lives of those whose loved ones spent their last days there. Were any of them in a situation like hers? How many had dreaded the day their loved one would no longer be with them? 

Ruby shook her head. She needed to stop those thoughts. It was hard enough to keep her own sanity in check. She didn’t need to be taking on more of the burdens of others. 

As she approached the central nurse’s station, she drew the attention of her red-haired manager. “Ruby,” Avery said, adjusting the glasses on her nose. “Good afternoon.”

“Hey,” Ruby greeted awkwardly, knowing that Avery knew most of what had happened the previous day with her family. 

Avery stood and pursed her lips, gazing at Ruby with a hand on her hip. “Okay, I know your family found out about the whole ‘soulmate’ thing yesterday. So, spill the beans. Was it as bad as you thought it would be?” 

Ruby groaned, “Yes. It was horrible.”

Raising a brow, Avery continued, “And how does it feel now that they know?”

Humming defeatedly, Ruby admitted, “Well, they took it better than I thought after a while. And they’re treating me like normal, I guess. So, it’s not that bad.”

Avery leaned on the tall counter between them, resting her chin on her hand as she sent a smug, satisfied smile at Ruby. 

Ruby rolled her eyes. “Don’t rub it in or anything.”

Avery chuckled. “You’ve got a good family. I had a suspicion that you’d be alright.” Avery moved the visitor sign-in paper toward Ruby, handing the brunette a pen. “And, on another note,” Avery continued, watching Ruby sign her name on the paper, “I’m glad that you’re staying true to your commitments to help us around here. We are all very appreciative of it, believe me. But...don’t overexert yourself. You’ve got a lot going on right now and I completely understand if you need a little time away. I can make sure to have others fill in for you.”

“Um...right. Thanks,” Ruby replied, trying to muster a smile. Was Avery trying to tell her she wasn’t needed anymore? Or wanted? 

No. No. She’s just being kind. That’s all.  

Ruby sighed at herself, frustrated that she couldn’t even trust the words of someone she’d known for years. Trying in desperation to change the subject, Ruby stuttered, “Uh, h-have you...seen my family or anyone at all today?”

Avery eyed her for a moment. “You know, actually I don’t think I’ve seen anyone today. No one came in for work, and there has been absolutely no traffic through here at all.”

Ruby narrowed her eyes at the woman.

“Your dad signed in here maybe thirty minutes ago,” the red-haired woman revealed. “And your sister and her girlfriend came in a few minutes before you. I think they were going to wait in the south wing sitting room. You plan on meeting with them?”

Nodding, Ruby added, “Yeah. They are all wanting to meet Weiss. She was too tired yesterday after spending the whole day at the hospital.”

“Right,” Avery tilted her head to the side. “Winter told me about that. It seems like things are moving pretty rapidly at this point. Winter mentioned earlier today that Weiss was either moving out or moving on from here in the next few weeks or so.”

“What?” Ruby questioned, her eyes wide. “A few weeks?”

Avery stood up to her full height once more, clicking her tongue. “And that’s how I know I said too much. Look, just go find out directly from them. Winter said they’d be joining you all in the sitting room shortly.”

Ruby nodded, turning away. She didn’t say anything, knowing her voice would crack. As she ambled down the hallway, she couldn’t help but repeat in her mind what Avery had said. She clenched her fist as her stomach tightened. 

A couple of weeks... 

Moving out or moving on...

What did that mean? 

Well, obviously, she knew what it meant. But still... only a few weeks? She could deal with a few months or maybe even just one month, but a few weeks? That was way sooner than she’d anticipated and enough to make her head spin.

Racking her brain, Ruby squeezed her temples in a frantic attempt to find solace amidst all the insanity. She needed to focus on the here and now. Her family was about to meet her soulmate. That was kind of important. 

The here and now. Here and now. 

Not then. Not there. 

Ruby breathed a sigh of relief when she finally reached the south wing sitting room, her temporary rescue from the torture chamber of her mind. She put her hand on the knob to the door, praying for some semblance of calmness.

It was showdown time. 

The door to 215 suddenly swung open. 

“Oh, thank the gods that is over,” Ruby grumbled, running to Weiss’ bed and jumping onto it with reckless abandon. She buried her face in Weiss’ pillow, tousling her already messy hair and pretending not to appreciate the sweet scent of Weiss’ sheets.

Weiss entered the room and shut the door gingerly behind her. “I don’t know why you were so worried, Ruby,” Weiss told her with nonchalance. “We met. We talked. It was almost boring. And, your family all seemed like very sweet people. Well, at least when Yang was not glaring at me as if she were going to finish me off early. Despite that, they were very friendly.” 

“Wait,” Ruby lifted her head, “Yang did that?”

Weiss snickered. “Um, yes. It was quite obvious to anyone with half a brain.”

Pulling her lips to one side and furrowing her eyebrows, Ruby gazed grimly into the distance for a moment. “Hey!” she said, finally catching on. She sat up and crossed her arms. “Are you trying to imply something?”

“Oh, I’m not trying,” Weiss teased, her lips rising into a mischievous grin. 

Ruby stuck out her tongue at the young Schnee daughter. Against her better judgment, her eyes roamed downward. 

Weiss was dressed in a beautiful light blue sundress and white sweater, with her tiny, frail feet wrapped in the straps of a pair of white heels. Her hair laid on her shoulder in a large, flowing braid. In Ruby’s opinion, Weiss was way too overdressed to meet her humble family. But the fact that Weiss went all-out to make a good impression on them was charming and quite endearing.

And again, Ruby could not help but be floored by just how gorgeous Weiss was. Ruby felt as though she could’ve stood to her feet and brought her hands together in enthusiastic applause, giving Weiss the standing ovation she deserved. 

But, wow. She cringed at the embarrassment of doing that even in her own mind. 

Despite her illness, Weiss had become even more lovely to behold, at least to Ruby. Maybe it was that Weiss seemed much happier these days. Maybe it was because of the blinders of the ‘soulmate’ thing. Maybe it was because of their newfound hope for a happy ending. It didn’t matter. Weiss was alluring and beautiful. Despite the frailty of her body, her still gaunt cheeks and somewhat gray lips and the stiffness of her degenerating muscles. Despite all that, she continued to carry herself with poise and grace. 

“Ruby? Hello?” Weiss’ voice interrupted her thoughts. 

“Huh?” Ruby’s brain resurfaced. She noticed Weiss reaching out to her with one hand, while the other reached down toward the buckle of her high-heeled shoe. Weiss lifted her foot to get a better view of the buckle. Ruby took her hand, supporting her. 

“Damn, my feet are killing me. I hate that I can’t wear these for more than an hour anymore,” Weiss whispered angrily, more to herself than to Ruby. 

Weiss’ fingers worked for a moment to unlatch the buckle while Ruby watched silently.

In an instant, Ruby’s heart went from light and happy to horrified as she watched Weiss’ face morph into one of intense pain before she plummeted to the floor. 

Jumping down to catch Weiss just before she hit the ground, Ruby gasped as a jolt of pain rushed through her. A moment later, when all had settled, she found herself in a crumpled heap on the floor. Not being able to see anything except white hair wrapped around her face, and feeling the weight of Weiss’ small frame laying across her, Ruby called out, her voice oddly steady even though her whole body shook. “Weiss...Weiss? Are you okay?”

The figure on top of her reached out and lifted itself up. Finally able to see again, Ruby saw Weiss grimacing in pain. “What? What’s wrong?” She exclaimed, panicked. 

“Ruby,” Weiss answered, sucking in a harsh breath of air, “I’m fine. I-I think I just turned my ankle.”

Concern remained in Ruby’s mind despite Weiss’ meager reassurance. She gingerly sat up, helping Weiss into a sitting position on the floor adjacent to her bed. The normally well-put-together Weiss was disheveled, with her hair having been partly unbraided at the ends, her sweater hanging halfway off her shoulders, and her sundress laying wrinkled around her thighs. 

Weiss may have been beautiful when she was poised, but like this...she was  hot , and Ruby hated herself for thinking that at that moment. She quickly pushed those thoughts out of her mind—okay, she filed them away for later—then got back to business. She pushed herself onto her knees and helped Weiss lean back against the footboard of the bed. 

Looking into Weiss’ face once more, it pained Ruby’s heart to watch her wince and grimace. “Where does it hurt?” she asked. 

Weiss scoffed, “I just said my ankle, dolt.”

Scooting across the floor down to Weiss’ ankle, Ruby used her hands to carefully unlatch the buckle of the high-heeled shoe, removing the offending footwear. She slowly and gently cradled Weiss’ ankle in her hands. Moving it in various directions and poking softly in a few places, Ruby asked Weiss over and over where it hurt the most. “Well, in my professional medical opinion,” Ruby said after a few minutes of examining the injured ankle, “I don’t think it’s broken or twisted. But you have a pretty nasty bruise forming on the right side.”

Weiss looked down at a mottled brown spot on her lower leg, frowning deeply. “Wonderful,” she replied in a deeply sarcastic tone. 

“I got this,” Ruby said confidently. She climbed onto her feet and leaned over, wrapping her arms underneath Weiss’ legs and lower back. Ruby lifted Weiss’ thin, impossibly light frame into the air with little trouble, cradling her in a bridal carry.

“Wait! No. Ruby, put me down!” 

“As you say, your highness,” Ruby teased lightheartedly. Depositing her soulmate on the bed, Ruby smiled as she watched Weiss’ body come to rest on the soft duvet. Ignoring Weiss’ pleas to leave her alone, Ruby quickly unlatched the buckle of her other heel and removed the shoe. Ruby found herself enjoying pulling Weiss’ sweater back onto her shoulders and using her hands to smooth down the stray, flyaway locks of Weiss’ white hair. Even in her messy state, Weiss was simply gorgeous with her indignant eyes and blushing pink cheeks. 

Ruby grinned smugly at Weiss, lifting herself into a sitting position on the bed beside Weiss. “There, now you’re as pretty as before.”

“And I see you haven’t lost any of your spunk,” Weiss replied, unamused. 

“Not at all,” Ruby grinned. “But,” she paused and stared at the bruise on Weiss’ ankle again, “I’ll go get some ice for that.”

Ruby jumped down. She quickly ran out of the room and through the hallways to the nearest kitchen. The cooks stared curiously at her as she fumbled around unapologetically for a plastic baggy and then filled it with ice from the giant ice machine. Returning immediately to Weiss’ room, she opened the door and entered. “Sorry. It took me a minute to find the plastic baggies.”

Ruby looked up and froze. Weiss’ hair was pulled completely out of its messy braid and was draped over her shoulders, her bangs covering her eyes. Her head was dipped down into her hands and her knees pulled to her chest. 

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Ruby asked, freaking out internally. “Does it hurt that bad? Here, put this on it.” 

Ruby approached the bed, quickly stripping off her own jacket and wrapping it around the bag of ice before laying it over the bruise. She lightly pressed on it, saying, “Okay, now you hold onto it, and I’ll go get you some aspirin or something.”

Turning around in a panic, Ruby stopped when a hand grasped her left wrist. 

“Just...stay here...please,” Weiss’ feeble voice muttered. 

Once again gazing at the white-haired girl, Ruby asked, desperately, “But you’re hurting. Please. Let me do something to help you.”

“It doesn’t hurt!” Weiss snapped angrily. 

Ruby shut up, surprised and wide-eyed.

“Okay, well, it hurts a little,” Weiss conceded, pouting. She tightened her grip on Ruby’s arm, looking away from her and sniffling. “But, it’s not that. I’m just...embarrassed and...frustrated. Why can’t my body just be back to normal?”

Ruby could just see the trails of tears staining Weiss' cheeks. Her heart shattered. At the same time, she felt a wave of anger boil in her veins—at herself, the universe, or what, she didn’t know. Just anger at the unfairness of it all. “Weiss, I...”

“I’m sorry, Ruby,” Weiss told her apologetically. “I can’t always pretend to be strong. I used to be able to wear whatever I want for however long I wanted. Now...I can’t even pretend for an hour. And it’ll only get worse.”

Ruby, her heart beginning to pound in her chest, pulled herself onto the bed beside Weiss. “Hey, don’t tell yourself that. There’s hope, isn’t there?”

Weiss lifted her eyes to Ruby’s, watery,  bloodshot and filled with worry. “Yeah, sure . Winter told me all about that procedure the doctor proposed. What if it doesn’t work?” 

“It will,” Ruby responded, confidently, reaching out to wipe away the trails of tears on Weiss’ cheeks. “It has to.”

Weiss sniffled again and let out a disbelieving chuckle. “You’re a mystery, Ruby Rose. There’s no reason to believe you, but I really want to.” 

“Don’t believe me,” Ruby replied vehemently. “Believe in yourself. I know that dark humor is your coping thing, but you have the will to live. I’ve seen it. You just need to believe that you can pull through.”

Weiss dropped her head again, the slightest, almost imperceptible shake of her head making Ruby frown. “Did Winter tell you that we agreed to try that procedure?”

Ruby sat back. “But that’s good, right? There’s a fighting chance...”

“Sure,” Weiss shrugged, almost uncaring. “Just so you know, it’s scheduled for two weeks from now, the day after your birthday.”

Ruby’s heart fell into her gut. So soon . That must’ve been what Winter had meant by Weiss ‘moving out or moving on’. How could she have forgotten about that? That sickening feeling from before returned full-force. 

Ruby slowly drew in a deep breath, struggling to remain positive. “That’s great .” 

“Please,” Weiss teased her, “curb your enthusiasm.”

Ruby smiled awkwardly then looked away, allowing herself to frown. She couldn’t keep it bottled in much longer. She was scared out of her mind. Scared that she would lose Weiss. Scared that she would never get the chance to be with Weiss the way her small visions of hope had promised. Like herself, even that hope was crashing inward on itself. 

Ruby realized she was stuck in the crossfire of a battle between destinies, pulled between hoping for the best possible outcome and preparing for the worst. Her heart was tugged toward one destiny while her mind was pushed toward the other, without any real indication of which might actually come to fruition.

“Hey, Ruby?”  Weiss interrupted her thoughts, pulling her back into the world of the living. 

Fighting the urge to break down and cry, Ruby turned her eyes toward Weiss, watching her soulmate. “Yeah?”

Weiss lifted her head. “You know you told me you’d take me to the ocean someday? I originally thought you were just being gallant and trying to make me feel better. But, I’ve thought about it. And I’ve decided something,” Weiss announced. “I actually really want to see the ocean before I die. With you. And, I don’t know how much time I have left." Weiss drew in a shaky breath and gazed into Ruby’s eyes, “I want you to take me to the ocean. Before I die.” 

Chapter Text

This was surely never going to work, but by the gods, Ruby Rose would do whatever it took to make sure that it did. 

In less than a week, Weiss Schnee would be undergoing an operation that had the potential to preserve her life...or destroy it. No one, not even Remnant’s finest medical professionals, could be confident about either outcome. 

That outcome—their destiny—weighed heavily on Ruby’s mind day in and day out. Saying she lost sleep each night and spent most of her time in an emotionally exhausted daze was putting it mildly. Her only solace was the time she spent with Weiss, giving her that chemical high she was growing more and more dependent on. Meanwhile, Ruby tried her best not to think of what her life would be like if Weiss didn’t survive. 

On top of all that, Weiss’ wish—her desire to see the ocean—was the single most important request she had given Ruby and the one thing Ruby had been obsessing over for multiple days now (besides Weiss, of course). And that was why Ruby had to make sure her plan worked. 

Weiss had long ago tried to convince Winter to take her to the ocean. Winter, as protective as she was, refused vehemently, noting that Weiss was already struggling too much with retaining oxygen in her blood. The excessive physical activity, Winter argued, could cause her to lapse into a coma from sheer oxygen deprivation...And that was why Ruby and Weiss had purposely chosen a day that they knew Winter wouldn’t be able to come into the hospice facility to carry out their plan.

Weiss had a wish and Ruby had promised to fulfill it, no matter what. She wasn’t keen on failing the promises she made to others, especially her soulmate.

All that lead up to today, to this very moment...

The echo of Ruby’s boots reverberated down the familiar empty hallway as she approached room 215. Her heart pounded in her chest, her mind swirling with thoughts—as it always seemed to do.

She’d made her plan to take Weiss to the beach. She made all the preparations and had everything ready to go on her moped. Blankets, towels, everything they’d need. 

Ruby lifted her eyes out the window of the hallway, squinting. The skies were clear and the dancing afternoon sunshine was blissfully bright. Ruby shivered as a wave of goosebumps crawled up her arms and neck, quickly shaking off her growing feeling of deja vu. 

Approaching 215, Ruby drew in a shaky breath and turned the handle. The door opened, revealing Weiss in her cute little blue sundress that Ruby had grown to love. The white-headed girl leaned over her cherrywood bedside table, gazing intensely at a small piece of paper. She looked up in surprise at the intruding brunette.

“Oh, Ruby!” Weiss exclaimed, a panicky look on her face. She quickly folded the note and dropped it into the topmost drawer of her bedside table. She drew a blue zippered pouch out of the drawer, which she quickly stowed away in her large white purse. After she closed the drawer again, she turned, standing to her full height as she set her gaze on Ruby. “You’re here early.”

Ruby furrowed her brows at her, staring curiously. 

“What?” Weiss replied indignantly. “You’re the dolt who didn’t have the common courtesy to knock.”

Ruby stepped into the room and closed the door behind her. “Um, when have I ever knocked before?”

Weiss’ eyes roamed as she pondered. “Well, there was the one time at the beginning...”

Grinning, Ruby set her fist on her hip. She replied, her tone thick with sass, “Okay, sure. I knocked on your door the first couple times I came to see you, but you didn’t answer either time. Remember? I just learned that I have to force my way in with you, that’s all. No knocking needed.”

Weiss scoffed, rolling her eyes. “Only a dunce would come to that conclusion.”

“And only an Ice Queen would deny it,” Ruby teased playfully. 

Weiss huffed indignantly. Despite their playfulness, Ruby could perceive the anxiousness in her voice. 

“Oh, come on, snowflake, lighten up a little,” Ruby crooned, smiling. Her voice grew very low and mellow, reassuring Weiss, “Look, don’t worry. We’re gonna have a good time. I promise.” 

Ruby ambled leisurely across the room toward Weiss, glad that the sunshine poured in through the window in such a way that it created a halo of sheer, perfect light around her like an angel. Ruby reached for Weiss’ hand, grasping it gently and comfortingly. “Hey,” she whispered, “you, uh, still okay with this?” 

Weiss’ cheeks drained of blood, growing very pale—and Weiss was already so fair-complected that Ruby wasn’t quite sure how she could’ve gotten even more pale. “Y-Yeah, I’m more than ready,” Weiss replied, her voice wavering slightly. “How about you?”

“Almost,” Ruby answered, giving her a half-smile. Ruby lifted Weiss’ hand. She noticed the standard electronic wrist band around Weiss’ arm given by the hospice administration. The wrist bands were meant to monitor the patients’ vitals and track their whereabouts. Ruby took a small tool out of her sweatshirt pocket. “But first, we need to remove this thing. It has a tracker on it.”

Weiss narrowed her eyes on the wrist band suspiciously. “This thing has a tracker on it?” she questioned, raising her voice. 

“Shhh!” Ruby shushed her. “Yes. It alerts the security system when a patient has gone outside the facility grounds without permission. Mainly, it’s to prevent patients with Alzheimer’s from wandering off.”

Weiss’ face softened. “I guess I can’t fault them for that.”

Ruby used the little tool she had “borrowed” from the east wing supply closet to work the latching mechanism of the wrist band loose. Finally, once the latch broke, she removed the wrist band, using the tip of her finger to tap a few buttons on the backing. “There,” she said triumphantly. “It’s offline for the time being.”

Ruby smiled at Weiss, turning to her bedside table and opening the top drawer. She deposited the wristband into the drawer alongside the pristinely folded note Weiss had dropped in earlier. Ruby closed the drawer quickly, but not before noticing that the note had the word ‘Winter’ scrawled neatly across it.  

Something seemed off about it, and Ruby wanted to ask Weiss about it, but she internally shrugged it off, figuring that it wasn’t important enough to worry about for the moment. They had more pressing matters to attend to.

Weiss watched her closely. Ruby smiled again at her, trying to conceal any worry she had from showing on her face. 

“So,” Ruby said, “you got everything you need?”

“Yeah, if you got everything I asked for,” Weiss replied, throwing the shoulder strap of her white purse over her shoulder. 

“Yep,” Ruby said proudly, rising up onto the balls of her feet excitedly. “I already got it all loaded up on my scooter.” 

Weiss nodded hesitantly. She peered around at the room carefully, as if searching for any remaining items she’d forgotten. Not finding any, she nodded, “Okay, then. I guess I’m ready too.” 

Looking down at the Atlesian girl’s feet curiously, Ruby mused, “Weiss, I know they do things a little differently in Atlas, but...I know you’re not about to leave here with bare feet."

“No, you dolt,” she answered, picking up her small, portable oxygen tank and cradling it and her purse in her arms, close to her chest. She approached the door and waved Ruby toward her, “Just trust me.” 

Ruby shrugged and joined Weiss. Ruby opened the door to 215, peering out into the hallway. Usually at this time of the day, the hallways were mostly empty since most of the regular visitors tended to be at work. The occasional patient moseyed by, unhurried, but Ruby figured they didn’t pose much of a threat as long as Weiss stayed, for the most part, out of their sight. When the coast was clear, Ruby signaled for Weiss to follow her out into the open hall. 

Ruby walked quickly, with Weiss padding quietly along close behind. Ruby could just barely hear her feet on the floor, impressed at the white-haired girl’s stealth ability. If Ruby hadn’t been paying attention and were lost in her thoughts like she usually was, then she might not have even known Weiss was behind her. 

As they approached the intersection of the three main wings of the facility, where the central nurses’ station was located, Ruby slowed down their pace, staring around the corner of the wall toward the main desk where her red-headed manager sat alongside a few other receptionists who sat typing on their computers or speaking on the phone. 

Ruby turned to look at Weiss, whispering, “You good?” 

Weiss drew in a few deep breaths. After a moment, she motioned to her ankle—the one she’d hurt a little over a week ago—and signaled a thumbs up at Ruby, giving her approval.

Nodding, Ruby pursed her lips. “I’ll distract Avery. You sneak through to that stairwell, okay? 

Weiss nodded, zeroing in on the open doorway to the stairwell. She tightly held her purse and oxygen tank in her arms, cradling the items close to her chest. 

Ruby stood and blew out a breath, ignoring her pounding heart. She walked around the corner of the hallway and approached the nurse’s desk, spotting Avery’s familiar face. 

“You’re here early, kid,” Avery greeted her affectionately. “They let school out early or something?”

Ruby smirked, unable to hide that truth from Avery, “Yeah, sure.”

Avery pulled her lips to one side, shooting her a disapproving glare. “Don’t neglect your studies, Ruby.”

“Yeah, Yeah. Thanks, mom,” Ruby teased her, waving her hand dismissively in her air. “But,” Ruby scratched her chin, “I was going to ask for your help with something.”

Avery’s usual mischievous smile disappeared. “Yeah? Well, I’d be glad to help in any way I can. So what do you got for me?”

Ruby laughed nervously. “Well, you see, I had this really weird pain in my left eye earlier and it was twitching and it almost felt like it was swollen. Do you know what that might be?”

Avery stood to her feet, showing concern on her face. “That doesn’t sound normal. Let me have a look.”

An idea flooded into Ruby’s mind. “Oh, sure,” she agreed, “but it’s much easier to see in this light over here.” Ruby began walking around the desk to the other side of the room near a window where natural lighting poured in.

Avery followed her, turning her back to the hallway. She warned Ruby, “Now, I’m not an eye specialist, so if the symptoms persist, you’ll want to contact a specialist as soon as possible.” 

Ruby pulled down her eyelid and raised her eyesight to the ceiling as Avery took at look at the “injured” eye. 

In between Avery waving a finger in front of her eyes and covering her “injured” eye with her hand to check the pupil’s dilation, Ruby was able to catch one, then two, glimpses of her white-haired soulmate sneaking around on the other side of the reception desk and making her way toward the stairwell. Ruby waited a few more minutes to be sure Weiss had enough of a chance to make it out of sight.

“I’m not seeing anything out of the ordinary. No swelling or redness that I can tell,” Avery answered. “But, then again, ophthalmology was only a small part of my training.”

“Oh, that’s okay,” Ruby answered. “It doesn’t really hurt too bad now, and it’s never really happened before, so I doubt that it will happen again. But if it does, I’ll make sure to go see an eye person. No worries.”

Avery gazed at her suspiciously. “Yes...good. Well, then, I guess I’d better get back to work.”

“Yeah, of course!” Ruby nodded, walking back toward the other side of the reception desk. “Thanks for checking, anyway,” she answered, waving cheerily toward Avery and bounding toward the stairwell, where she flew down the steps and met Weiss on the landing between floors. 

Ruby lead her through the various corridors of the building, winding through hallway after hallway. Finally, they arrived at the employee entrance/exit. “Okay,” Ruby opened the exterior door slowly, checking for anyone who might spot them. 

“Isn’t your scooter just right outside the door?” Weiss asked.

Ruby nodded at her. Waving towards Weiss, she whispered, “Let’s go.” 

“Hold on,” Weiss said, pulling her pair of white heels out of her large purse. She quickly pulled on the first shoe, leaning down to latch the buckle. 

Panicked, Ruby grabbed both her arms. “Again with these things? Don’t you remember what happened last time?”

“Yeah,” Weiss nodded, “but it’s only, like, two steps and then we ride. And I’m going to just take them off when we get to the beach. Plus, I want to make sure I look good. This is my first time being out in semi-public in a while—besides visiting the hospital—Remember?” 

Ruby sighed. “Fine. Just hurry, though.”

“Got it,” Weiss said when she had finally latched both heels securely around her ankles. 

Ruby held onto her arm tightly, scared she might have another tumble and injure herself again. They made their way outside the facility and allowed the door to close behind them. Ruby carefully walked Weiss toward her red moped. She pulled off her helmet from where it had been hanging on one of the handles, handing it to Weiss. “Here, put this on,” she told her demandingly. 

“What about you?” Weiss asked in concern, taking the helmet from Ruby’s hands.

“I’ll be fine,” Ruby replied. “Now do what I say.”

Weiss huffed and put the helmet over her head, latching the strap while Ruby secured her oxygen tank in the spare area left in the moped’s storage compartment, which was already mostly full.

Climbing onto the moped, Ruby situated herself and offered her hand to Weiss to help her mount the scooter. Weiss accepted, allowing Ruby to help stabilize her as she threw her leg over the seat and wrapped her arms around Ruby, linking them across the brunette’s torso and hugging her chest to Ruby’s back. 

Ruby felt her cheeks warm. Weiss had never been this physically close to her, except for the few times they’d hugged and the one time Weiss had tried to kiss her. Ruby felt her cheeks heat even more at that memory, glad that Weiss was behind her and couldn’t see the inevitable deep blush growing across her face. 

Brushing away all distractions, Ruby started up the moped. She had an objective to accomplish and nothing was going to get in her way. Turning back just slightly, Ruby whispered to her, “Ready?”

Ruby felt Weiss’ helmeted head bob up and down. “Ready,” she replied with determination. 

Ruby pressed the accelerator and they glided forward. 

Mount Montoya National Park.  

Breathing a sigh of relief at the road sign, Ruby turned her moped onto a sandy outcrop that somehow passed as a “road”. Her heart suddenly began to race in her chest when, beyond the sparse trees, tall beach grass, and sandy dunes, the unmistakable deep blue of the ocean splashed across her view. 

Ruby was used to seeing a black and white oceanscape, as her family had vacationed near the beach many times. She’d even seen the color of the ocean on multiple pictures and videos since gaining her color eyesight. But nothing— nothing —was as beautiful as the real thing, up close and personal. 

It took all of Ruby’s self-discipline to turn her eyes off the ocean and steer her moped into an adjacent sandy cove, where “parking spots” were marked by faded, fallen-over traffic cones. The moped slid into a stop near a traffic cone, and the engine gave one last rumble before Ruby shut it off, pocketing her keys.

As Ruby dismounted, she stretched her arms, peering at the empty lot all around them, framed in by trees. Hearing Weiss’ voice speak up, she faced the other girl. 

“I hope this was worth the two-hour drive.” 

Ruby smiled, offering Weiss her hand while she slid off the seat. Ruby supported her as the flimsy white heels hit the ground, making sure Weiss would be able to quickly gain her balance. Ruby replied nonchalantly, “Hey, sue me. It would’ve only been an hour in a regular car, but I don’t have one of those, do I?” 

Weiss shrugged. “Well, weren’t there any closer beaches to Vale?” 

“Yeah, but those are always crowded and trashy. This is the best beach on the western side of Sanus,” Ruby commented confidently, waving her hands at their surroundings. 

Peering at the tipped over traffic cones and occasional plastic bags flailing in the wind, Weiss nodded, “Uh-Huh.” 

Ruby’s smiled fell. “Okay. Well, this is the parking lot. There’s nothing to be impressed about here anyway,” Ruby replied, impatiently grabbing Weiss’ hand. “Come on, let’s go see the ocean!” 

“Hold on,” Weiss told her, releasing the latch on her helmet and pulling off the protective headgear, revealing a frizzed head of puffed white curls, crimped perfectly at her shoulders.

Amusement bubbled up in Ruby. She released a snicker into the air before she had a chance to stop herself. 

Weiss’ eyes grew round. “What?”

Ruby snickered again, covering her mouth in a futile attempt to hide her pleasure. “Weiss,” Ruby answered teasingly, “your hair looks silly right now.”

“It does not!” Weiss argued, puffing her cheeks out. 

Grinning, Ruby reached out her hands and smooshed the hair puff on Weiss’ head. “It’s cute! You really rock the helmet hair look.”

Swatting Ruby’s hands away, Weiss frowned, pulling her own fingers through her hair. “I do not have helmet hair,” she insisted, pouting. 

Ruby rolled her eyes, her teasing smile remaining. “As you say, snowflake.”

Weiss huffed, continuing to brush down her hair for several moments. Ruby simply watched her in delight, caught up in one of her normal reveries about snuggling into Weiss’ hair. When Weiss was finally finished, Ruby focused back on reality. “You ready now, slowpoke?”

“Not quite,” the white-haired girl said, leaning over to unlatch her shoe buckles. Ruby grabbed her arms instinctively, hoping beyond hope she wouldn't experience another fall. Thankfully, Weiss quickly pulled off her heels and placed them neatly on the ground near Ruby’s moped. She reached into her infinitely deep purse and pulled out a pair of flat white sandals, quickly pulling them over her feet. 

Ruby gaped at her. “Okay,” Ruby began, staring at the footwear, “I feel like those would’ve been much more practical from the beginning.”

“Shut up, dolt,” Weiss commanded. “Beauty doesn’t have to be practical.” 

Ruby’s face contorted. “Yeah, I guess we can just potentially sacrifice life and limb for the sake of looking good.”

“Exactly,” Weiss answered, finally stabilized on her own two feet, standing to her full height. “Well, I’m ready,” she announced. “Lead the way.”

Shaking her head in amusement, Ruby pulled her backpack up onto her shoulders. Satisfied that she had everything they needed, she reached for Weiss’ hand with one of her own. Pulling on Weiss’ hand, she led them over the sandy patches of the parking lot toward the path to the beach. 

Heart racing with excitement, Ruby glanced at Weiss, whose blue eyes as clear and brilliant as the crystalline sky above scanned their surroundings. The gentle breeze made Weiss’ hair dance playfully behind her. Ruby watched her, entranced, as per usual.

Forcing her eyes and attention back on their path, Ruby lead them through the winding sand dunes. They climbed up the last sandy hill, finding their feet sliding backward through the sun-warmed sand. Ruby’s left hand gripped Weiss’ right hand tighter in anticipation.

They crested the top of the sand dune and suddenly a vast sea of deep blue ocean water appeared before them, stretching out as far as they could see in any direction and framed from above by glowing golden rays of the sun. 

All was very still for a moment as each girl took in the sight of the softly breaching waves and the seafoam gathering on the shore. They stood silently, listening to the rhythmic drone of each wave as it crested onto the shore and receded back into that vast expanse. 

The shrill cry of a gull or two may have pierced through the silence. A far-off passing motorist maybe went by on the roadway. An airship perhaps passed far, far above them. But they didn’t notice. In that one moment, all their troubles melted away and all the distractions in the world ceased. It was them, connected hand in hand, and that vast blue waterscape. 

She thought she would've been thrilled, bouncing around like an excited puppy, but Ruby’s heart hadn’t been so still, so calm, in ages. Sure, she was thrilled to be there, but in such a different way than she’d expected. 

This whole thing...this experience ...gave Ruby a taste of what a normal life with Weiss would look like: the calmness, the peace, the lack of anxiety and existential dread that she wrestled with daily. Just the calm of the waves and the warmth of Weiss’ hand wrapped around hers. 

“Well,” Weiss whispered, “we’re here.”

Ruby turned to look at her, surprised to find Weiss’ blue eyes gazing at her with the softest, sweetest smile on her lips. 

“Is it as beautiful as you hoped it would be?” Ruby asked, looking out over the ocean and hoping she hadn’t disappointed. 

Weiss’ eyes drifted downward, then turned to look at the ocean once more. Weiss’ thumb caressed Ruby’s knuckles one by one as she peered thoughtfully into the distant horizon. Finally, she looked up at Ruby, saying, “It’s more beautiful than I ever imagined.”

Ruby let out a sigh of relief, which she hadn’t even realized she was holding in. “Good,” she said, “because I don’t think I have enough money to take you anywhere else.” 

Weiss laughed, a good-natured, heartfelt laugh. 

It made Ruby’s heart sing with joy. 

“Come on,” Weiss suddenly tugged on Ruby’s hand, pulling her down the sand dune toward the waves. “Let's go play!”

Shocked, then bursting into laughter at the other girl’s suddenly youthful enthusiasm, Ruby followed Weiss toward the shore. She carelessly shed her backpack, dropping it to the ground, and tumbled across the sand as she hastily pulled off her sneakers and socks one by one, watching Weiss do the same—but in a much more graceful, coordinated and careful manner. 

Weiss pulled off her sandals, just a few feet from the water, and stripped the oxygen tube from her face in reckless abandon, dropping the tank of O2 onto the sand. 

Ruby’s heart jumped with worry for a moment when watching the girl forsake those things that had been keeping her alive this entire time. The anxiety melted away as she saw Weiss step into those waves, laughing. “It’s cold!” Weiss yelled, gleefully. 

Throwing off her cares, Ruby launched herself into the ocean after Weiss, her bare feet and legs splashing through the waves. The water was indeed cold. Ruby yelped at the temperature change, following it up with a burst of laughter. She suddenly felt a splash of cold seawater splay across her side. Turning, Weiss smiled and launched yet another handful of salty water at her. 

“Oh, no you don’t,” Ruby grinned, leaning over and cupping her hands in the receding waves. “I won’t go easy on you, Schnee!”

“Bring it on, Rose!” Weiss sneered, sticking her tongue out at her before she wailed at a retaliated splash of water from Ruby’s hands. She kicked a return splash at Ruby, giggling. 

Blocking the kick attack, Ruby spun herself around, skimming her cupped palm across the undulating surface of the water, thrusting a big splash toward Weiss but being cut off at the last

moment when the white-haired girl sent another palmful of water toward her, splashing right into her face. 

They splashed in the waves, chased each other, and played like children for what seemed like hours, laughing and bantering back and forth. The cold water soaked their clothes. They were both breathless, and Ruby couldn’t help but notice that Weiss had gone as pale as a ghost. 

“Okay,” Ruby panted, stepping through the waves and grabbing Weiss’ hand. “That’s enough of that for a while.” 

Ruby lead them back onto the beach, ignoring Weiss’ grumbles and the sand that clumped around her toes and ankles. She grabbed up Weiss’ hastily discarded oxygen tube and threw it over her head, setting it back in place under her nose, much to the white-haired girl’s chagrin. “Deal with it,” Ruby told her sternly, leading her over to where her backpack had been dropped onto the sand. Ruby unzipped the backpack and produced a large, thin blanket, unfolding it and laying it out across the sand. Ruby pressed downward on Weiss’ shoulders, making her take a seat on the blanket. She pulled a bottle of water out of the side of her backpack, handing it to Weiss and sending her an expectant glare. 

Lastly, Ruby pulled two beach towels from her bag, the smallest she hung over her own shoulders, and the other she draped over Weiss’ head, gingerly wiping away the droplets of ocean water until her arms, neck, hair, and legs were mostly dry. Finally, seeing some color in the girl’s naturally pale face again, Ruby was satisfied and settled down beside her, stretching out on the blanket. 

“You didn’t have to stop,” Weiss told her, twisting the lid onto her half-empty water bottle and leaning toward Ruby, resting her head on Ruby’s shoulder. 

Ruby’s body tensed for a moment before relaxing. She awkwardly rubbed her hand across Weiss’ forearm, not exactly sure what Weiss had meant. 

Weiss’ right hand reached up and suddenly caught ahold of Ruby’s left hand. Intertwining their fingers, Weiss turned her eyes away from Ruby, a deep blush glowing across her cheeks. She mumbled, “You really are a dolt.” 

Ruby snickered under her breath, embracing the fact that she didn’t and wouldn’t understand Weiss. But what she did comprehend was the warmth of Weiss’ palm against hers and the smoothness of her skin. The way the warmth of Weiss’ hand seemed to radiate through her entire body, igniting tingles of pleasure across her skin. And, of course, she understood the way her own palm immediately started sweating at the white-haired girl’s touch. It was an inevitable reaction.

If Ruby were honest with herself, she was as nervous as the first day she officially met Weiss. Not the first-first time when Weiss yelled at her and they both got their color vision. More like the second time when she told off Weiss. Yeah, she was that type of nervous.

Ah. Good times.

Ruby turned her eyes toward the ocean, scanning the distant edges of the earth. The bright golden sun rays had long since vanished, leaving them with a slowly darkening, cloudless horizon of deep oranges and pinks whose reflection danced playfully atop the ocean waves.

“So,” Ruby began, breaking the silence between them, “now that you’ve been here a while, how do you like it?” 

Weiss nuzzled her head against Ruby’s shoulder. “It’s perfect here with you,” she answered. “I would stay here forever if it were possible.”

Ruby smiled, glad she’d been able to fulfill her promise and play a small part in bringing Weiss some happiness—whether or not it truly was her last days. “I’ve been meaning to ask you something,” Ruby replied, tapping her head against Weiss’. “How have you not seen the ocean yet? Isn’t your family crazy rich or something?”

After a brief moment, Weiss sat up, removing her head from Ruby’s shoulder—to the brunette’s lament. Weiss’ lips turned downward into a frown, and she drew her knees to her chin, wrapping her arms around them. “Being wealthy doesn’t mean a whole lot, actually,” the Schnee girl answered pensively. “Winter tells me that Grandfather Schnee used to take us to the southern shores of Solitas every once in a while, but that was when I was a child. I barely remember that at all. And then, once I started school, there was no time for travel or vacation. It was one lesson, recital, cotillion, and gala after another. Of course, when I was in high school, I was diagnosed. We tried some treatments. They didn’t work...Blah. blah. blah. Finally, they determined I was terminal, and once father heard those words, it was like I had already died in his eyes...I, uh, couldn’t even catch a glimpse of the ocean when Winter and I flew to Vale because I was so drugged up on the airship. All I could see of the ocean was that tiny little sliver from my window at the hospice facility...until today.” Weiss turned her head and gave Ruby a bittersweet side-smile, trying in vain to veil the pain in her eyes while conveying her gratitude.

“Oh,” Ruby replied, frowning. “Sorry I brought it up.” 

“It’s okay, Ruby,” Weiss answered, gazing out upon the waters. “It’s okay to be curious, and besides, I’d rather tell you than anyone else.”

Ruby nodded slowly, lifting her hand to move a stray lock of her wild brunette hair behind her ear. The breeze had lost its fragile warmth, taking on a cool edge. Ruby, worried as always for Weiss’ well-being, reached into her backpack and pulled her jacket from within, draping it over Weiss’ shoulders. 

Surprised, Weiss looked at her shoulders. She lifted shy, sheepish eyes to Ruby and gave her a grateful smile, pulling the jacket closer around herself to keep warm. Ruby couldn’t help but notice the pink blush on the girl’s cheek growing deeper. 

Weiss and Ruby sat beside each other for a few quiet minutes, neither speaking as they listened to the ocean waves swell back and forth on the shore. The reflection of the setting sun narrowed upon the calming waters. 

In just a few minutes, the sun would be completely below the horizon, the first dim stars would appear, and Weiss and Ruby would have to leave, as they had planned. It had been an exciting, fun, and bittersweet experience, quickly begun and soon to be quickly over—potentially just like their friendship.

“Hey, um, Ruby?” Weiss’ timid, unsure voice cut through the air.

“Yeah?” Ruby answered without turning her fascinated eyes from the sea. 

Weiss drew in a deep breath. “Do you remember that one day you came to visit me, like maybe the second or third time, and you...offered to brush my hair...?”

Her mind immediately traveling back to that day, Ruby nodded. “Yeah. What about it?”

“Um, I hope you’ll forgive me,” Weiss said slowly in return. 

Ruby’s eyebrows furrowed, finally turning her curious eyes to Weiss. “For what?”

“For...trying to kiss you.”

The blood rushed to Ruby’s cheeks. Her eyes opened wide, her heart started pounding in her chest. Anchoring her eyes on the ground beneath her, she began to scratch her chin. She stuttered, “”

“I was scared and...a fool,” Weiss interrupted. She shook her head, grumbling in frustration at herself. “I was so desperate, and you were an easy target. I didn’t even know you, but I didn’t want to die without knowing what I meant...what it felt like to...”

Weiss’ voice dropped off. She rubbed her eyes with her palm, breathing out a nervous sigh. She drew her eyes toward Ruby, who hesitantly met her gaze with her own silver eyes. Weiss’ eyes no longer had their characteristic fire, that lively glow that pierced right through Ruby’s soul. Instead, they were empty, pained, and almost pleading. “I think I’m starting to understand now why God or the universe or whoever decided to make us soulmates,” Weiss declared, giving Ruby a tired, half-hearted smile. “You are full of life and passion and determination. You are all the things I can’t be, Ruby Rose. You are all the things I never knew I needed. I guess I found out too late, but I honestly couldn’t see myself being in this world without you. Maybe this is a bad time to admit it, but...I think I love you.”

Ruby could barely hear anything else besides the blood pounding in her ears and her heart racing inside her chest. All her thoughts halted as she felt a tingling wave of nerves envelope her. Ruby’s brain blanked, and she could muster no response. 

“That being said...” Weiss added immediately, frowning. She had not even given Ruby a chance to respond. “I hope you’ll forgive me this one last time.” 

Already in a state of slight shock, Ruby blinked at her, uncomprehending. “W-why?” 

“For deceiving you...about today,” Weiss admitted, dropping her head in shame. She reached to her left and dug through her white purse until she produced the blue, zippered pouch that Ruby had watched her pull from her bedside table. 

Ruby couldn’t help but notice Weiss’ trembling hands. That sense that something was off hit Ruby full-force.

“I promise, I did really want to see the ocean with you, but...the real reason I wanted to come here is this,” Weiss announced. She unzipped the pouch and drew out a white, unlabeled box. Opening the box, she allowed two syringes of clear liquid to fall into her hands. Weiss stared at the syringes for a moment, then explained to Ruby, “I’ve been saving these for a while. There’s enough morphine here for two people.”

It finally all made sense. Weiss’ odd behavior all afternoon. Her folded note to Winter. 

Ruby’s heart rate quickened, her breath growing shallow. How had she not figured it out earlier? How had she not noticed the signs? “You...want” Ruby whispered, unable to finish. A chill ran through her veins.

Weiss wrapped her fingers around the syringes, the knuckles on her trembling hand growing white. “Yes. I want to die here. With you....if you want to, that is. If not,” Weiss’ voice cracked and grew quiet, “I beg you to stay with me while I do it.”

Another cold wave struck Ruby in the heart, it’s icy tendrils flowing through her veins. Disbelief, mixed with confusion, mixed with doubt, mixed with dread...all that wrenched at the insides of her heart, numbing her mind. Her stomach opened into a bottomless pit. 

How was she to respond? If she agreed, her life was over. If she didn’t, she would have to watch the love of her life kill herself. 

Neither option seemed optimal. 

Weiss spoke up at the silence. “I didn’t expect you to just straight up agree, so don’t worry if you’d rather stay. It’s...really rather selfish of me to ask you to tag along. I mean, I don’t want to hurt your sweet family. I don’t even want to hurt Winter. I just want all this to be over.”

Still stunned, Ruby took in her words, staring wide-eyed at the syringes of morphine. Finally, she found her voice, shaky and frail. “I don’t understand. How could you want to die when you have a chance to live?”

Weiss shook her head in irritation. “Ruby, don’t you get it? That operation won’t do anything. I have an extremely low chance of surviving, even with the operation. And without it? I’m as good as dead.” She sighed in defeat and continued, “Ever since I met you, you opened my eyes to all the beauty, all the color, in the world. You came into my life and gave everything meaning. You didn’t care about my last name or how much money my father made. You didn’t care that I was terminal. You befriended me, pampered me, loved me as no other has ever done. I’ve made more precious memories with you in the past month than I’ve made in the entire first nineteen years of my life. I almost forgot I was dying. I felt like I was already in heaven. With you, I couldn’t be happier. So,” she concluded, “why not end it here? We are soulmates, after all, and they say you remain soulmates for life. What kind of life would it be like without one another? But we have an opportunity. We could be together, forever.” 

Together forever.  

Ruby bit her lip, struggling to maintain a steady breathing rhythm as she silently considered Weiss’ words. 

Ruby had rarely ever thought about her own mortality, only by proxy through the death of her mother and the prospective death of Weiss. But in those two little syringes, there was enough poison to stop her heart and end her life, and Weiss’ along with it. 

If Weiss died alone, what would there be left for Ruby to live for? Because Weiss was her soulmate, there would be no other person on Remnant she could love as deeply and fully as Weiss—and none who would love her in return as Weiss did. Sure, she could be a loner and try to fill her time attempting to do good things for others, but how much good could an isolated, bereaved heart actually do? 

And then there was her family to think of. She never wanted to hurt them. But on the other hand, Ruby knew that she had always considered herself a burden to them. How much more of a burden would she be if she lived on with an eternally broken heart? 

Maybe Weiss was right. Maybe the universe made them soulmates knowing that they were destined to end their lives together. Maybe that was why the universe had chosen a dying girl as her soulmate, so that neither would be alone in this ultimate, cruel twist of fate.

Shuddering, Ruby reached out and gingerly picked up one of the syringes from Weiss’ hand, staring at the clear liquid within. Another cold chill numbed her to all external sensations. 

Ruby was staring death in the face, holding it in a tiny vial. Who knew a potential so weighty could be so light? 

More than anything else in the entire world, she wanted to be with Weiss. She didn’t want to lose Weiss. Wherever her soulmate was—whether on Remnant or in the afterlife or anywhere else—Ruby wanted to be there with her. 

Her voice trembling, Ruby opened her mouth to speak, seconds away from agreeing with Weiss’ plan. A stab through her heart stopped her. “I-I can’t...” she finally said, setting the syringe back in Weiss’ open palm. “I desperately want to be with you, but...I can’t do this...” 

Weiss nodded slowly before giving Ruby a smile. “It’s okay. You don’t give up easily. That’s just one of the many reasons why I love you so much.” 

Ruby’s frown deepened. “Weiss, I also think you should reconsider what you’re about to do...”

“Why?” Weiss countered in retaliation, suddenly irritated. “I’ve considered it long enough. It’s time to take action. I-I’m tired of sitting around and passively waiting for something to happen. I can’t keep hoping for a miracle that will never come!”

“But we’re so close,” Ruby answered, her voice straining in desperation. “What if you do survive? When you get well again, you could go on vacations and adventures with me. We could...I don’t girlfriends or something.”

Weiss paused before letting out a snicker. “Are you saying you like me too?”

Rolling her eyes, Ruby looked away with a blush, “I thought it was already kind of obvious.”

“It is, actually,” Weiss bantered.  

Ruby eyed the syringes, then shifted her vision to the side-profile of Weiss’ downcast face. “Hey,” she said, suddenly finding confidence in herself. Ruby cupped her hand over Weiss’ palm holding the morphine syringes, looking into Weiss’ sad blue eyes. “Now that it’s out there, I love you. A lot. And, maybe it’s stupid, but I can’t help but be hopeful for a better future for us. You said that you love me. So, please, just hear my one request: Wait . Wait just a few more days. I know it’s a pain, but let’s see how the operation goes. If...if we give up now, there’s a zero percent chance you’ll survive. But, if we wait, there’s something to hope for....”

Weiss let her blue eyes drop. She pulled her hand with the syringes away from Ruby. She sat unmoving with her eyes locked on the syringes for what felt to Ruby like ages. Finally, she raised her head. 

Ruby watched with knit brows as Weiss shrugged off her oxygen tubes and stood to her feet, unshackled by her normal constraints. Staring off into the horizon, littered now with several brilliant stars, Weiss began walking toward the edge of the water. 

Fighting the urge to get up and follow her, to ask what she was doing, Ruby curiously watched her every move, ready to pounce if something were to go wrong.

The thin, fragile silhouette of Weiss walked to the edge of the water, just barely far enough into the ocean for the incoming waves to splash around her ankles. For several moments, she stood unmoving, watching the water. She then lifted her hand with the two syringes, staring intensely at them as they rested in her palm. Suddenly, she drew back her arm and threw the two syringes as far as she could into the ocean. 

Ruby felt an immense weight lift from her soul, allowing relief to flood in.

Turning back with a hanging head, Weiss stumbled toward the brunette, reaching up to wipe her eyes. Falling to her knees in front of Ruby, Weiss had tears pooling at the brim of her red eyes. “I’ll fight, Ruby,” Weiss sobbed. “If you believe there’s a chance, I will too.” 

Ruby could tell Weiss meant it. She really meant it this time...

Ruby couldn’t help it. She leaned forward and threw her arms around Weiss, thankfulness flooding into her soul just hearing those words. Pulling Weiss into her, Ruby leaned back and allowed Weiss to lay across her lap, her arms still wrapped protectively around the small, thin frame of the sick and dying girl. 

Ruby closed her eyes and allowed tears to pour down her own cheeks. They stayed like that for several minutes. Ruby slowly leaned farther and farther back until she had completely laid back onto the blanket-covered sand. Weiss clung to her side, her head resting on Ruby’s stomach. Ruby stared into the stars above while her hand caressed Weiss’ head, tickling her ears and fluffing her hair. 

Finally, Weiss picked herself up, re-aligned the oxygen tube on her face, and crawled up closer to Ruby’s face. Looking down at Ruby, she said, “You really are a dolt.”

Ruby smirked, lifting her hand and poking Weiss’ cute nose. “And you...” Ruby returned, teasingly. “You know that’s not the proper way to dispose of medical supplies.” 

Weiss let out a laugh, leaning over Ruby and allowing her hair to fall around her shoulders, cascading perfectly around Ruby’s blushing face. 

Watching Weiss lean in closer, Ruby’s heart began pounding in her chest again. She eyed the white-haired girl’s lips, fighting the urges she gotten many times before.

Without warning, Weiss pressed her lips against Ruby’s. 

Ruby, shocked, couldn’t move or even think. 

Weiss lifted herself away from Ruby. “Sorry. I don’t know what came over me,” she muttered, her cheeks deep red. 

Ruby lifted her hand and wrapped it around the base of Weiss’ neck, drawing her in and once again meeting her lips with her own, enjoying the intoxicating tingle of pleasure that radiated down her spine, warming her whole body. 

Her lips remained on Weiss’ for a few seconds more before she released her grip on Weiss and allowed her head to fall back onto the blanket, breathlessly panting. “Didn’t think we go from almost dying to making out tonight,” Ruby muttered, smiling mischievously. 

“Hey, I like to live on the edge,” Weiss retorted sarcastically. 

“Yeah, well, maybe let’s take a few steps from that edge, huh?” Ruby answered, partially teasingly but mostly seriously. 

Weiss rolled her eyes guilty. Her hand smacked Ruby’s arm. “You know, dying’s not out of the question for you yet.”

Ruby grinned, “Is that a threat?”

“No. This is,” Weiss replied, leaning over and planting another kiss on Ruby’s lips. Pulling away, she smiled at Ruby, giving her sultry, flirtatious eyes. “Besides, this isn’t making out.”

“Oh?” questioned Ruby, returning the flirtatiousness. “Well, then, do you want to show me what it really is?”

Weiss snickered. “ I’ve got to give you something to look forward to, don’t I?”

Ruby sat up and narrowed her eyes at Weiss, then reached out and poked Weiss in the side—where she knew the white-haired girl was ticklish. “So you’re gonna just tease me and then leave me high and dry? Okay. I see how it is!” 

Weiss giggled. 

Ruby’s smile faded after a few seconds, still shaken internally from the mental/emotional battle she’d just fought. 

“Hey,” Weiss interrupted her thoughts, scooting clumsily across the blanket to take a seat next to Ruby. She guiltily hung her head, saying, “I’m sorry about throwing that on you so suddenly. I thought you would freak if I told you earlier. And, uh, please don’t tell Winter. If I die anyway, it won’t matter. And if I live...maybe I’ll tell her one day, but not now,” Weiss explained before heaving a sigh. “I don’t want to scare you, because I really will fight to survive, but...I still wish this could all just be over.”

Ruby lips rose humorlessly as she drew her knees to her chest. “I’ve been there, too. I kinda know how it can be.”

Weiss jerked her head toward Ruby, surprised. “Wait, what?”

Pausing, Ruby slowly rubbed her hand across her thigh. Even through the fabric of her pants, she could feel the mark of each scar she’d left behind during those dark moments. Those old, familiar feelings of worthlessness, isolation, and emptiness bubbled up through her mind, trying to re-surface. After a moment, Ruby noticed Weiss’ blue eyes, their fire once again burning within. Those warring feelings receded again.

Ruby shrugged, admitting, “I haven’t been the best at dealing with loss.”

Weiss nodded sympathetically, adding curiously, “But you always seem so happy and hopeful, though. I didn’t think...”

“Sure,” Ruby replied. “Happy and hopeful for others. But there was a time when I didn’t think my life was worth it. Life was painful and I was nothing but trouble to those I loved. I just wanted to numb the hurt inside, so I started self-harming. I never really got up the guts to try to kill myself, but I thought about it. That was right after Mom died. But then, I remembered this crazy but sweet old lady I talked to at the hospice center when mom was there. I was curious about her, so I went to visit. She was old and dying but still so full of life. She died soon after I befriended her, but I guess she showed me that you can find hope even in the darkest places. Ever since then, I’ve been working through my depression and my grief by volunteering at the hospice facility. Until you came along and dug up old wounds, that is.”

Ruby sent Weiss a smug grin, then promptly received a Schnee elbow to the ribs. “Okay,” Ruby moaned, “too soon...Message received.” 

Weiss hummed thoughtfully for a moment before replying. “Seriously, thank you for telling me that. I didn’t realize you were going through all that. I guess I’ve been a bit preoccupied with myself lately.”

“That makes two of us,” Ruby bantered, raising her lips in a cautious smile. “Hey, if we get through this, we can do all that sappy apologizing stuff later. Let’s just...enjoy right now.”

Reaching out, Ruby took Weiss’ hand in her own, wrapping her fingers around Weiss’. The touch, warm and comforting, brought her a moments’ relief. She looked up toward the starry sky and felt a little of her stress and tension melt from her shoulders.

Weiss followed her gaze, curiously watching the heavens alongside Ruby. 

They sat quietly together. In the growing darkness of nighttime, they watched the starlit sky and the deep blue ripples of the ocean crash against the seashore. 

Ruby gasped suddenly, making Weiss jump. “Ah! Weiss, I just had the best worst idea!”

“I’m not sure anything could top your sushi bar for cats idea,” Weiss teased. 

“I could top you,” Ruby mumbled before she could stop herself. “No! Wait... shit . Okay, forget I said that,” Ruby begged her, wondering how she had accidentally dropped her filter. “Anyway,” Ruby cleared her throat awkwardly, “No, this is a way better idea.“ Ruby wiggled excitedly, continuing, “’s getting pretty late at night, and my house is only about an hour from here. We could stay at my house tonight. Like a sleepover!” 

Weiss’ eyes grew wide at her. 

Ruby rolled her eyes. “Oh, it’s not that terrible of an idea...”

“It’s awful. Let’s do it,” Weiss nodded firmly, her eyes lighting up with excitement. She turned and allowed her gaze to narrow at the distant horizon, adding, “I’ll have to call Winter so she won’t send out an entire police force looking for me. By the gods, if she finds my note and figures out what I was planning for tonight, she would kill me and possibly you, too.”

“Um, yeah, let’s not let that happen,” Ruby answered. “So, you really want to stay with me tonight? You’ll probably have to sneak in to avoid my dad and sister.”

“You think your family would be naive enough to just ignore me sneaking in?” Weiss questioned, looking doubtful.

“It’s worth a shot...?” Ruby concluded, giving Weiss a shrug and a grin. 

“You are hopeless,” Weiss answered. “But not as much as I am, apparently.”

Ruby snickered, standing to her feet and reaching down to assist Weiss in standing. “Can I give you a hope boost?” Ruby asked, leaning in and pecking Weiss on the cheek with her lips. Ruby pulled back, saying, “Sorry, I couldn’t wait for permission.”

Weiss smiled abashedly. “Permission granted, dolt. And I can already feel its effects. Must be a powerful drug.”

Ruby pursed her lips. “I have been told that I can be a force to be reckoned with.”

“No doubt,” Weiss replied with an involuntary yawn. “Maybe it has a drowsiness side effect though.”

“I’m not personally responsible for any side effects that may occur,” Ruby countered. 

“Then how about getting home so I can go to sleep?” Weiss replied. 

“For you, anything,” Ruby answered. She quickly gathered their belongings and grabbed Weiss’ hand to leave, glad that they were as alive leaving that place as they were entering it. Only the gods knew how it could’ve been had things taken a different turn earlier. 

The crickets chirped in the grass beneath them, hastily hopping away from the footsteps of the intruders. 

Approaching her house with Weiss in tow, Ruby crept up the stairs to her front porch, eyeing the side window next to the door. She paused and looked back at Weiss, whispering, “Yang and Blake are probably right inside watching some weird zombie show. Just follow me and I think we can sneak past them.”

“I still don’t think this whole ‘sneaking’ business is going to work,” Weiss replied in a hushed tone. 

“Oh, come on, Weiss,” Ruby whined, “get into the spirit here.”

The white-haired girl scoffed and rolled her eyes, but gave Ruby the slightest nod of agreement. The brunette smiled back, satisfied.

Ruby tip-toed to the front door and used her house key to unlock the door, signaling for Weiss to wait outside momentarily. She entered as she normally would have on any given night, trying to appear nonchalant and not as if she were sneaking someone into her house.

As always, Yang and Blake were cuddled on the couch in front of the TV, dozing in and out of sleep and watching some crime-solving zombie show. As usual, textbooks and papers were scattered around the living room at random. And, per the norm, Taiyang was nowhere in sight—probably already sleeping. 

“Rubes?” Yang’s sleepy voice called from the center of the room. 

“Hey, Yang,” Ruby answered. 

“You’re home early,” Yang’s voice replied. 

“Yeah, I guess I’m just really tired today or something.” Ruby cringed, hoping she sounded believable.

“Hmm...okay,” the blonde hummed thoughtfully. “There’s some dinner in the kitchen if you’re hungry.”

“Okay, thanks,” Ruby said, motioning to Weiss to enter the house behind her. 

Weiss’ bare feet padded in ever so quietly behind her, replicating her every step. Ruby quickly shut and locked the front door behind them before leading Weiss towards the staircase on the other side of the living room. They made it nearly to the first bannister before a stern female voice stopped them.

“Hold it, you two!” Yang called out, peering angrily at them from the couch. 

A head of black hair rose from the couch, and Blake stared bewildered at them with sleepy, confused eyes. “What’s going on?”

Yang stood and circled around the couch. “Ruby, if you’re gonna sneak people into the house, why the hell would you use the front door?”

“Well, it’s not like she can climb the tree next to your room, get in through your window,  and then sneak into my room,” Ruby answered defensively. 

Yang’s brows furrowed. “That was oddly specific....have you done that before?” 

“Psh, no,” Ruby answered. “Well, not recently.” 

“And you,” Yang turned to Weiss, glaring at her. “What are you doing here? Surely you’re not as dumb as my sister thinking you could sneak in here without being noticed.”

“I’m not,” Weiss answered coolly, shooting an expression at Ruby that dripped with ‘I told you so’ vibes.

“She’s telling the truth. This was my idea,” Ruby piped up in agreement. “But I wanted to try it anyway...besides, it’s just for one night, Yang.”

“One night?” Yang repeated indignantly. “We are not equipped to take in dying people.” Yang quickly turned to Weiss, adding, “No offense.”

“None taken,” Weiss replied, shrugging. “Except that, I’m not dead yet, so maybe I still qualify for being treated like a living individual.”

Yang frowned, “Yeah, but what if something happens? We don’t have anything to take care of you, and we are miles from the nearest hospital.”

“I have what I need,” Weiss answered, lifting the quietly hissing tank of oxygen in her hand.

“And me,” Ruby added proudly. 

Weiss blushed. 

“Let them be,” Blake interjected, her calm, collected voice piercing through the chaos. Although still sitting on the couch, she reached for Yang and wrapped her hand around the blonde’s forearm, pulling her back until their hands folded into one another’s. 

Surprised, Yang looked down at the Faunus searchingly.

Blake’s golden eyes gazed at Yang’s fiery reddish-lilac ones. “Let them have this one night,” Blake told her. “Or have you already forgotten all the times you snuck me into your room?” 

Yang widened her eyes at Blake, then glanced at Ruby, who chuckled in amusement. 

“And you thought I was the rebellious one,” Ruby teased. 

“Clearly, you both are rebellious in your own ways,” Weiss explained haughtily. 

“Oh and you’re not, Miss ‘I-snuck-out-of-the-hospital-to-stay-with-my-girlfriend’?” Yang retorted, setting a fist on her hip.

“It’s not a hospital,” Ruby corrected her sister. “It’s hospice...big difference.”

“Whatever. Does Winter even know about this?” 

Ruby and Weiss shared a hesitant glance. “She will...soon,” Ruby sheepishly  reassured Yang. 

Yang huffed, looking them both over critically. “Well, you’re pretty much adults, even if you’re still childish. what you want...but I’m not responsible for anything that may happen as a result. And you can let your sister know that, Schnee,” she concluded, giving them a disapproving shake of her head but still unable to hide her lips from rising into a slight smile. 

Weiss raised her finger in the air, saying, “I would like to note that I am an adult, but I neither propositioned nor coerced Ruby into doing anything with or for me. These were her suggestions.” Weiss leaned toward Ruby and whispered, “Sorry to throw you under the bus.”

Ruby tilted her head toward Weiss, responding, “Don’t worry about it.” Ruby faced Yang again, adding, “I also solemnly swear that I am the originator of all proposed schemes and/or plots performed by myself and Weiss Schnee. Hereby verbally certified, Ruby Rose.”

Yang stared at them, unamused, while Blake snickered in the background. “Okay, goof,” Yang replied, “You made your point. Now, go do whatever it was you were going to do,” Yang waved them onward, sitting her butt on the arm of the couch and reaching out to stroke Blake’s hair—one of her favorite stress-relieving mechanisms. 

Yang and Blake watched as Ruby and Weiss whispered to each other excitedly and made their way up the stairs, Ruby guiding and supporting Weiss’ every step. 

“Kinda reminds me of us back in high school,” Blake told Yang after they’d disappeared from sight. “Except more dramatic and angsty. Yet still cute. Weird.”

Yang scoffed, folding her arms. “Maybe...but it doesn’t change the fact that Weiss is still dying. Should we even be letting Ruby hang around her? Isn’t it just going to hurt her in the end?”

Blake’s eyes fell to the floor. After gathering her thoughts, Blake blew out an apprehensive sigh. “You can’t control her, Yang. The more you try, the more you’ll just push her away, and she may not come back when she needs you the most.” Blake paused and took Yang’s hand again. “Only time will tell what happens.”

Yang frowned. She never liked waiting on fate, but what could she do? Her hands were tied.

Blake was right. Yang needed to be there for her sister. Even if that meant watching her walk straight into the most painful days of her life.

Turning onto her side, Ruby open her eyes, squinting and blinking at the dim morning sunshine that filtered through her curtains. 

Her bed was soft and... incredibly warm . She felt a large, very warm body next to her, one that was much too small to be Yang and much too large to be Zwei. Ruby turned her head in bewilderment, catching a glimpse of beautifully messy white hair framing a pale, gorgeous face. 

Ruby heartbeat quickened as memories came pouring back in from the previous night—their trip to the beach, their long talks, their emotional battles, and the eventual resolution that brought them both to some type of mutual hope for the future. With all the memories came all the good emotions accompanying them, the stress, the hurt, the pain...alongside the hope and laughter. She knew if she focused on those emotions too long, she would be quickly overwhelmed. 

Ruby turned her gaze back onto Weiss, longing for some type of peace. Her heart slowed and her mind calmed at the sight of Weiss’ peaceful, sleeping face. Ruby couldn’t help but stare, appreciating each smooth line in her face and the natural curvature of her...features. 

A thought struck her, and Ruby lifted the comforter on top of them to check something. To her relief—and momentary disappointment— they both still had clothes on—Ruby in her own jammies and Weiss in one of Yang’s gray oversized t-shirts and a pair of Ruby’s plaid pajama bottoms, both much too big for her tiny body.

Weiss flinched at the movement of the blanket, slowly batting her eyes open. 

Ruby looked away quickly and closed her eyes, too embarrassed to be caught awake and awkwardly watching her soulmate sleep. She felt Weiss shift in the bed for a minute or two before rising into a sitting position. Pretending to be awakened, Ruby stretched her arms above her head and flickered her eyes open. Glancing around and finally back on Weiss and her messy bed-head hair, Ruby smiled flirtatiously. “Good Morning, gorgeous.”

Weiss rubbed her eyes, groaning. She used her hands to smooth her hair, combing her fingers through each lock. After clearing her throat, she asked Ruby, “What time is it?”

Ruby picked up her scroll and squinted at the bright screen. It flashed on, displaying the time across the screen. “Nine oh-seven,” Ruby answered. 

“What?” Weiss exclaimed, tensing up. “Winter is supposed to be here at nine-thirty to pick me up. She’ll be here any minute!” 

“Woah there, horsey!” Ruby replied, trying to emulate a relaxing, calming voice. “Let’s try to cool our tail feathers, shall we?”

Weiss stared at her, dumbfounded. “Okay, first of all,” she began in a sassy voice, “none of those metaphors even make sense. And second, you didn’t have to sit through Winter chewing you out on the scroll yesterday evening for nearly thirty minutes. I do not want to make her more upset than she already is.”

Ruby cuddled up next to Weiss’ body. “Yeah, sure. But what’s the harm in just laying here for a minute and gettin’ some snuggles in?” 

A deep blush crossed Weiss’ cheeks, reddening her face, ears, and neck. She looked away and stuttered, “A-aren’t you supposed to be at school?”

“School on a Saturday?” Ruby cringed teasingly, burying her head into Weiss’ side. “Don’t make me vomit.”

Weiss’ shoulders fell, having run out of excuses. At Ruby’s insistent prodding, Weiss slowly sunk back down into the sheets, uncomfortably stiff as Ruby cuddled close to her, wrapping her arms around her and snuggling her leg between Weiss’. Ruby was practically laying on top of her, and Weiss hated herself for liking it. 

She liked the feeling of Ruby snuggled close, enjoying her body heat and the sensation of her chest rising and falling rhythmically next to hers. She liked the heaviness pressed on her, keeping her pinned down, keeping her safe. She liked the feeling of Ruby’s soft curves pressed up next to her. As much as she would’ve hated to admit it, she immensely enjoyed waking up next to Ruby and maybe this whole snuggling business...just a bit.

Weiss’ eyes flickered. She could have almost fallen back into a deep, peaceful sleep if it weren’t for the dread of Winter’s arrival weighing on her thoughts. Finally, she decided it was time to get ready to leave—one of the harder decisions she had to make recently, comparatively...Rising gently, Weiss carefully removed herself from Ruby’s grasp, slipping her legs out of the bed and sliding onto the floor, ignoring the stiffness and pain that shot through her sore ankle. 

“Don’t go...” Ruby whined playfully.

“I’ve got to,” Weiss answered, finding her clothes laid out across a chair in the corner of Ruby’s room. “But you could always come to visit me later.”

Ruby lips drew upward. “You think they’d let me stay with you tonight?”

“No,” Weiss replied realistically. “Not in the way you’re thinking...” 

“I think two people could fit in one of those beds,” Ruby bantered. “Maybe not comfortably for the one on the bottom.” 

Weiss rolled her eyes. She approached Ruby’s door with her clothing in her arms. “Be that as it may, there’s nothing keeping you from staying there with me,” she added, staring at the doorknob. Quickly, she pulled the door open and disappeared into the hallway, limping along slowly, knowing she’d overused her ankle the day before at the beach.

Just a few minutes later, both girls were dressed and as ready as they could be to face the wrath of the older Schnee sister. They were on their way to the first floor of the Xiao Long house when they heard a knock at the front door. A pair of footsteps crossed the living room, and the front door creaked open. Blake’s voice piped up, “Good morning, Winter.”

“Good morning, Ms. Belladonna,” Winter’s firm voice resounded through the house. “I am here to pick up my fool of a sister.”

Ruby and Weiss glanced at each other and cringed. 

“Uh, right,” Blake’s voice replied. 

Weiss walked down the stairs carefully, announcing her arriving, “I’m here, Winter.” 

The expression on Winter’s face evolved from irritation to relief to anger. Winter stared them down as the girls approached her, looking somewhat like puppies with their tails tucked between their legs. Blake stood awkwardly to the side, watching helplessly as a bystander.

Ruby glanced up and caught Winter’s eye, fighting the urge to look away from the woman’s intense glare and disapproving frown. After a moment, Winter caught Weiss’ gaze as well. 

“So,” Winter began, “did you have fun?”

“What?” Ruby replied, shocked and bewildered why the woman wasn’t immediately chewing them out. 

Weiss’ confused eyes traveled back and forth between them. “Winter, this was my idea. I asked Ruby to take me...”

“I don’t care whose idea this was. I just want to know one thing. Was it worth it ?” Winter interjected. “Was it worth risking injury or even death? Was it worth making me and many others worry? Was it worth the trouble you put the hospice nurses and administration through?”

The girls looked at each other, considering the woman’s words. 

“I didn’t mean to make you worry or to cause anyone trouble or distress. Quite the opposite, in fact.” Weiss faced her sister with a head held high. “In answer to your question: Yes. Every second was worth it.”

Winter’s expression softened, her eyes almost growing misty for a moment as she took in the sight of her sister standing tall with shoulders thrown back in confidence. Winter exhaled, straightened her posture, and, turning, addressed Ruby. Her voice was calm and even, “Thank you for taking care of her, Ms. Rose.”

Ruby was surprised. Winter’s eyes bore the same worried but admiring expression she’d had the other day when Ruby had left her at the coffee shop. Wordlessly, Ruby nodded in return, unsure how to reply.

Winter extended her hand, motioning toward Weiss. 

Weiss took Ruby’s hand and squeezed it affectionately, giving her a soft smile.

Ruby returned the grin as Weiss let go of her hand and exited with Winter, ignoring the breaking of her own heart as the warmth of Weiss’ presence slipped away.

Gently leading Weiss out the door and toward the black SUV parked just outside the house, Winter patted Weiss’ shoulder comfortingly. Once Weiss was situated in the car, Winter climbed the porch steps once more, stopping just short of Ruby. She nodded slowly, her words heavy as they pierced the tense silence between them. “I used to think I always needed to be there to protect her, but...she didn’t need my protection.” Winter paused and glanced off towards the woods surrounding the Xiao Long house. After a moment, she zeroed in on Ruby with her melancholy blue eyes, pursing her lips. She said, gently, “I truly wish she could go on many more adventures with you, Ruby.”

“She will,” Ruby answered candidly, believing every word she spoke. “We will go together.”

In life or death, we’re in this together. Forever.