The gentle hum of a motor could be heard above the soft swaying of trees in the wind, chirping of carefree birds, and monotonous buzzing of insects in the summer air. The soothing sound of the engine rose to a roar as the rider, dressed in a brown leather combat outfit, shifted their motorcycle into a faster gear. Rounding a bend in the road, the motorcyclist slowed to a stop in front of a junction of crossroads. The wooden roadway signs were worn away with time and marked with graffiti, warning travelers of potential bandits to the north.
With a long sigh, the rider struck out the kickstand and swung off the bright yellow motorcycle with practiced ease. The rider gently removed their aviator sunglasses with their left hand, the sunlight reflecting off the metal gauntlet-turned weapon. To an untrained eye, the appearance of Ember Celica combined with the metal prosthetic arm marked the rider as a battle ready Huntress.
Yang Xiao Long crossed her arms as she examined the signs in front of her and the names of the cities they displayed. Among the various towns listed on the crossroad, one arrow to the right was marked 'Haven' while the one pointed to the left had been crossed out and replaced with the warning 'Bandits' in shaky red spray paint.
Reaching down to untie a purple handkerchief that was strapped to her left leg, Yang used the cloth to wipe a thin layer of dust off her aviator's lens. The Huntress paused in her gentle movements as her gaze locked onto the white and black emblem that adorned the purple handkerchief's center: a stylized nightshade flower.
A bittersweet smile flitted briefly on Yang's lips as she ran a mechanical thumb over the thin material. Her expression seemed to soften, her lilac eyes glazing over as the Huntress' thoughts drifted back several months previously…
The Vytal Festival was in full swing as the doubles rounds of the tournament were in the first round before moving on to the other selected pairings that would fight that evening. Yang sank back into her spectator's seat as she breathed a barely audible sigh of relief as teams from Haven and Shade Academy were chosen to pair off.
Of course this sound was immediately heard by her faunus partner as Blake's sensitive ears, hidden by the black bow tied in her hair twitched at the intrusive sound.
Blake turned to worried partner and laid a gentle hand on the shoulder of the tense brawler.
"Yang? Is everything alright?" Blake leaned forward so that her question could be heard over the roar of the crowd.
"I – It's nothing," Yang shrugged off the Faunus' hand as she stood abruptly and turned to leave the stadium seats. "I just need some air."
"Yang, wait!" Blake reached out for her, but Yang had already made her way from the combatants' section of the stands and was running up the stairs. Her golden mane could be seen disappearing into the tunnels that would lead to the concession stands and transport gates.
Weiss broke off her discussion with Ruby, over the current Haven student's fighting techniques, to watch their teammate disappear into the tunnels. "What's her problem?"
"I don't know, but I've never seen Yang so spooked." Blake frowned as her amber eyes followed the pathway her partner had taken. With a small sigh, the Faunus rose from her own seat and handed Ruby her own bucket of popcorn, of which the fifteen year-old was only too happy to take off the Faunus' hands. Blake turned to face her favorite Schnee. "I know your fight is coming up, but give us a few minutes alone."
Weiss nodded as she set her face into a serious frown. "Okay, but make it quick. Chances are we'll be picked soon for the tournament."
Blake flashed the Heiress a rare, but small smile in thanks. "This will only take a minute."
Taking the stairs two at a time, Blake had managed to climb to the top of the stadium, her bow twitched on her head as she searched for her missing partner. After a few minutes of asking around the other Beacon students for help, she managed to locate the blonde through the crowd as Yang hovered near the entrance to the stadium's arena.
"Yang!" Blake's voice rang out over the shouts of the crowd.
The young woman in question turned to face her partner with surprise on her face.
"Blake? What are you doing here?" Yang asked as her partner made her way through the mass of spectators until she stood by the brawler's side. "Why aren't you watching the match?"
"I came for you…" Blake gestured to the brawler's tense form. "What's wrong, Yang? I've never seen you so worried about a fight before."
"It's silly," Yang chastised herself as she reached across her chest to rub at her left forearm. Blake recognized the gesture right away as Yang's nervous tick.
"Yang…" Blake reached out to grab her partner's hand in reassurance. "Please, you can trust me. Whatever it is, it is obviously important to you."
Yang fidgeted in place before she reached into her jacket pocket and retrieved a burnt scrap of faded purple cloth. Blake reached out and accepted the destroyed handkerchief. Blake's bow twitched as her delicate fingertips brushed over the burning heart symbol that had been printed on the front. Now burnt, frayed, and faded the iconic symbol belonging to the brawler was almost unidentifiable.
"My dad gave it to me when I was accepted into Beacon. We have matching handkerchiefs." A bittersweet smile graced her lips as she reached for the damaged scrap of fabric. Yang took a deep breath as she rubbed the keepsake between her fingers in thought. "He said it was a good luck charm and that it would keep me safe."
Yang sighed, throwing her head back as she looked up at the stadium lights above them. The Huntress blinked back the burning feeling behind her eyes as she stared into the blaring fluorescent lights that flooded the arena below them. She blinked away the stinging sensation pickling at her eyes, before looking down at the concerned face of her partner.
"But it's gone now. During our fight against Team ABRN it was hit in the crossfire. My Aura protected me from being hurt, but my handkerchief was not as lucky." Yang frowned as she tucked the destroyed fabric into her jacket pocket. "I know it's just a silly superstition, but it feels like a piece of me is gone."
Blake reached out to squeeze Yang's arm. "It doesn't seem so silly to me."
"Really?" Yang looked up through her long lashes, a small smirk gracing her lips. Bright lilac eyes met burning amber.
"Really," Blake murmured, her lowered tones barely heard over the roar of the crowd around them.
Yang didn't know how long they stood there, simply basking in the other's presence. To the blonde, seconds or hours could have passed while they shared… whatever moment this was.
Seeming to remember her surroundings, Blake cleared her throat and released her hold on Yang's forearm. With a quick nod to herself, the Faunus blindly reached into her vest until her hand closed around a folded piece of cloth. The raven haired Huntress patted the starched material against her palm in thought before she held it out for the brawler, a rare smile lighting up her face.
"I know it's not the same, coming from me…" Blake trailed off as she gestured to the square of fabric that Yang was busy unfolding, lilac eyes trained on the stylized image the was emblazoned on the cloth. "But I want you to have it."
"... Blake." Yang's eyes widened in shock as she saw the nightshade flower embroidered in white on a field of rich violet with black trim.
"For luck." Blake reached out and gently tapped her family's crest that was etched on the fabric. "Consider it a token of my affection." Her tentative smile grew into a smirk as she watched a light dusting of pink rush to the brawler's cheeks.
"Well in that case, better wear my heart on my sleeve." Yang winked as she tied the violet cloth with the Belladonna insignia onto her right arm. The new handkerchief clashed with Yang's yellow, brown, and orange motif. But somehow the cacophony of colors only made Yang more fond of Blake's gift.
"So, what do you think?" The brawler flexed her right arm, the violet cloth fitting snugly on her muscled bicep. Sure, Yang might not be a knight in shining armor from one of Blake's poorly hidden romance novels, but Yang certainly felt the part as she flashed her dimples at the fair maiden.
Blake smirked as she watched her partner showoff. "Purple looks good on you."
Yang arched an eyebrow at the Faunus' words. "Is that right?"
"Yeah, it really brings out your eyes." Blake's smile widened as she saw a faint blush rush to the blonde's cheeks once more at her poorly concealed attempt at flirtatious banter.
"AWWWW! That was so cute!" Ruby shouted as she and Weiss ran up to the pair at the entrance of the arena.
"Ruby? Weiss?" Yang asked as she awkwardly cleared her throat, Blake bashfully staring at the ground. "What are you two doing here?"
"Didn't you hear the announcement, Yang?" Weiss pointed to the speakers above them. "We're next!"
"Oh right, the tournament… I forgot." Yang confessed as she placed a hand on the back of her neck and awkwardly grinned at the fuming Heiress.
"What do you mean you forgot?!" Weiss screeched, her frustration levels reaching an all time high as her tournament partner was too busy cosying up to the Faunus to remember why they were in the stadium to begin with.
Ruby reached out and squeezed at the ivory haired girl's shoulder in reassurance. "Weiss, calm down. It will be okay."
Weiss pinched the bridge of her nose as she took a deep breath and slowly released the air in a seamless air stream, her heart rate slowing with each repeat of the calming exercise.
"Alright then. Yang, if you and Blake are done with your little rendezvous, we have a match to win." Weiss proclaimed as her left palm rested on the polished pummel of Myrtenaster.
"What's that?" Weiss narrowed in on the vibrant purple handkerchief that was now tied to the brawler's arm.
"Oh you know, just a little something to wish Yang luck in the next round." Blake answered, gesturing to her gift that was nestled on the blonde's muscled arm. The Faunus felt her lips tick upwards into a hint of a smile at the sight. Yang looked good wearing her colors.
Weiss let out a very undignified snort as she tilted her head back in barely concealed envy.
"How cute…" The Heiress responded through clenched teeth, her back becoming ramrod straight as she pointedly ignored her teammates' gaze.
Ruby crossed her arms behind her back as she slipped right up in front of her partner. "Ahhh Weiss! You're not jealous are you?"
Weiss huffed at her leader's accusation, only a faint tint of pink creeping up her neck gave away her true feelings. "Why would I be jealous of a piece of cloth, Ruby?"
"Come here, Weiss…"
Weiss cocked an eyebrow as Ruby reached forward and grabbed her partner by the red-lined lapel of her white bolero.
"We can't leave you with nothing to fight for, now can we?" Ruby smirked, as she delivered the line that Yang had been secretly helping her younger sister smoothly deliver a week prior to the tournament.
"Ruby, what are you imply- ompf!" Weiss was cut short as Ruby interrupted her question with a quick peck on the lips.
"You - You Dolt!" Weiss stammered as her face felt like it had caught on fire, her blush deepening to the point where her reddening cheeks matched her partner's cloak.
"Good luck, Weiss. We'll talk later?" Ruby asked in a burst of sudden confidence, running just out of reach in a sudden burst of rose petals.
Blake failed to hide her snickering as Weiss opened and shut her mouth in rapid succession, unable to reply to Ruby's newfound swagger, as the red-tipped brunette had the audacity to wink at her shocked partner.
Yang walked passed her sister, holding her hand out behind her as Ruby slapped a low high-five out of eyesight of their respective partners.
"Good luck you two!" Blake called out as she slung an arm around the younger scythe wielder and led her grinning teammate back towards the spectator stands.
Yang watched them go with fondness, briefly touching the violet handkerchief tied on her bicep with her spare hand as she waved farewell to her partner.
"Come on, Weiss. Let's win one for Team RWBY!" Yang yelled as she wrapped an arm around the stuttering Heiress and gently led her to the entrance tunnel.
With a smile on her face and her heart on her sleeve, Yang confidently walked into the depths of the arena.
Now over four months later, Yang swung a leg over the seat as she balanced on top of Bumblebee in the crossroads of Mistral, her gaze trained over the white Belladonna crest that brazenly stood out on a field of rich violet. The brawler sighed deeply as she became lost in thought, her motorcycle rumbling idly beneath her seat.
She had a choice to make; one road would lead her to sister, another gravel road would almost guarantee her fated meeting with her mother, and any other path – as far as Yang knew of, at least – could possibly take her one step closer to her elusive partner.
There was a brief pause as the young Huntress considered her options before breaking out into a grin.
"You are in so much trouble when I find you." Her words seem to weigh heavy into the open air as she tied her handkerchief onto her left arm. Yang was lost in thoughts of nostalgia as she stared down at the purple cloth fitting snug on her bicep; her mechanical hand gently rubbed the vibrant fabric between her metal fingers. Blake's soothing voice echoed in her mind as Yang shifted her bike into gear.
The battle for Haven Academy has taken its toll on the small band of Huntsmen and Huntresses from Vale. With comforting murmurs and low whispers of concerns for their future, each person gingerly made their way back to the apartment which the group shared during their stay while at the school.
Qrow had lifted Oscar, who was passed out from the exertion of the fight, back to the boy's room. With a quick announcement that they would have a meeting in the morning to discuss their next move, the grizzled Huntsman returned to his own quarters. Team JNPR limped and hobbled their way back to their own set of rooms while the Belladonnas, with the exception of their daughter, sought adequate room and board for the Menagerie Faunus militia at the school' dorms.
This left only Team RWBY to their devices as, for the first time in months, all four girls were in the same room. Each member of the team stood around the kitchen in silence as Blake made a pot of tea for everyone, Yang watching the Faunus move gracefully around the space with intense eyes.
Ruby was ignoring the latter half of her team as she fiddled around a spare medical kit for gauze and tap, muttering to herself as she handled a bottle of disinfectant with care. The young leader turned her attention back to her partner that was seated at a small table, Weiss' left hand holding up a rose encrusted tank top that she had borrowed from her younger teammate. Her right hand was holding a large wad of gauze in place, putting pressure on the front of her stab wound.
"Okay Weiss, let me see how it looks now." Ruby directed as she held up an antibacterial swab and surgical needle.
Weiss grit her teeth in pain as she gently removed the bloodied gauze to reveal the jagged edges of the stab wound.
"Well, it looks like your Aura, with Jaune's help, was able to heal your internal injuries and the opening in your back, the latter leaving only a scar." Ruby stated as she gently prodded Weiss' side around the injury and began cleaning the opening of the wound. "But the opening of your wound on your abdomen ripped during the last moments of our fight."
"Where did you learn how to do that, sis?" Yang asked, her eyes leaving her elusive partner's for once to stare at her sister as the scythe user rummaged around the first aid kit.
"Back at Beacon. Team leaders have a course on first-aid basics and emergency medical procedures." Ruby answered as she rubbed an Aura dampener and numbing gel along the puckered skin around the bloody opening, Weiss hissing as the cold gel was tenderly applied by steady hands. "I took the course with Jaune the semester before the Vytal tournament started during our study hall hours."
"So that's what you were doing," Blake spoke as she took a sip of her hot tea, the mug cradled delicate in her palm. "I thought you were just raiding the kitchens for spare cookies."
"We did that after the course!" Ruby proudly proclaimed as she pinched Weiss' wound together and started the delicate procedure of sowing the puckered skin together. "Apparently Jaune has a soft spot for pies." Ruby chuckled as her steady fingers made quick work of Weiss' injury.
"Dolt." Weiss scoffed at her partner's wit, her feigned indifference was thwarted by the light blush that seeped up her neck as Ruby's slender fingers ghosted over her taut abs. Ruby, seemingly oblivious to the affect her actions had on the ex-Heiress, the scythe wielder continued with her steady line of sutures.
"Missed you too, Weiss." Ruby answered with a wink as she dabbed the last of the blood and ointment away before pressing a large bandage over the neat row of stitches.
"I think I'll leave you two love birds alone now…" Yang ended in a drawn out drawl as she smirked at her blushing sister and equally red ex-Heiress. With a quick wink to blushing pair, Yang stretched her arms over her head before she walked out the door leading to the apartment's rear garden.
Blake's ears swiveled on the top of her head as she stared down at her mug, her slender finger tapping a nervous tattoo on the flower-printed porcelain. Nodding to herself as if seeking self-reassurance, Blake set down her empty mug and cleared her throat.
"I think I'm going to go for a walk." Blake spoke quietly as jerked her head towards the doorway where Yang had left only seconds previously. "Don't wait up for us, okay?"
Before Ruby could move from her seat, Weiss had grabbed her by the arm effectively trapping her partner, as the rest of Team RWBY left the room.
"Let them go, Ruby. This talk is long overdue." Weiss gestured with her head at the retreating form of their Faunus teammate.
It only took a minute for Blake to find the brawler lying in a patch of mowed grass at the center of the garden. The Faunus lingered at the entrance to the green space, unsure if her presence was wanted or just a hindrance.
Just as Blake decided to turn in for the night and leave her partner for one more night's worth of peace, the blonde woman spoke in a clear, slightly amused tone.
"If you're going to stand there all night staring at me, you might as well join me." Yang shifted to allow space for Blake to lay next to here, patting the grass in an invitation.
Feeling her ears burn from the embarrassment of being caught in the act, so to speak, Blake quickly made her way to Yang's side. Blake was glad to have her long white tailcoat to ward off the chill as the Huntress gingerly lay on the dewy grass so that she was staring up at a crystal clear night sky.
They lay in silence as they watched fireflies dance around them, their small bursts of light blending in with the spread of constellations.
Blake cleared her throat as she shifted awkwardly next to her old partner. "So… Since when have Weiss and Ruby been a thing?"
Yang let out a chuckle as she thought back to her sister's playful banter and the Ice Queen's strange antics she called flirting.
"I guess they have always been like that. But it's become more apparent after they were reunited about a month ago." Yang shifted so that she tilted her head towards the Faunus. "I hear that their more private reunion was quite the tender affair."
"I'm glad they have each other then. With what we are going up against, it's nice to see something as simple as young love in the air." Blake turned so that her burning amber eyes locked with shimmering lilac. "I wish I could fault them for this, but they kind of remind me of us at the end of our second year. That would be rather hypocritical, wouldn't you think?" Blake flashed her partner a tentative smile, momentarily forgetting herself and their tentative relationship.
Yang sat up abruptly. "Don't… Just don't."
Blake mirrored her partner's sudden movement. Her cat-like ears drooped as her voice shook, hands gripping the edge of the coat till her knuckles turned white. "Yang… I - I'm sorry."
"Let's not talk about this right now." Yang twisted so that her long mane of hair blocked her view of the Faunus.
"What? I don't know what you're talking about." Blake hugged her knees in defense, her words coming out sharper then she intended.
Yang sighed deeply, throwing back her head before she looked over at her anxious companion. "You know this? Us?" She waved a hand at the space between them. "At least, not yet. I just need more time to figure things out."
Blake took a shuddering breath as she reigned in her turbulent emotions that threatened to spill over. "Okay… I understand."
Blake tried to catch her partner's eye, but the brawler refused to give in. "So, if you don't want to talk about… er, us, then what should we talk about?"
Yang shrugged her shoulders as she leaned back on her forearms. "Anything, everything…" Letting her voice trail off for a few tense seconds, Yang sighed once more as she glanced over at the withdrawn Faunus. "I'll tell you what. Let's start at the very beginning. I'll tell you about my time in Patch and across Anima, and you tell me about how you ended up here, of all places and on this night to boot!"
"Deal?" Yang leaned over so that her shoulder gently knocked into the Faunus. It was a comforting gesture, one that Blake remembered the blonde woman sharing with her often during their time at Beacon.
Blake nudged the brawler back, being careful not to throw the other woman off balance.
Their conversation was awkward and stilted at first, both women trying to reach the natural flow they used to have during the talks back at Beacon. But as the moon continued to rise in the sky, they settled into a more familiar rhythm as the Huntresses shared their stories of their recovery and travels.
Yang spoke of her months of rehabilitation while in Patch and of her sparring bouts with Taiyang in their backyard. She flexed her prosthetic as she boasted of getting the better of her old man and of her choice to leave the island. Yang smiled widely and laughed freely for the first time in months as she shared her stories of her run in with the Branwen tribe bandits, meeting her estranged mother, and of her unexpected reunion with the Ice Queen herself.
Blake in turn, spoke of her journey to Menagerie, Sun's earnest motives for following her onto the boat across the sea, and of her touching reunion with her parents. Blake's eyes misted over as she recounted Sun being hurt by Ilia, of her chameleon friend's betrayal and subsequent redemption.
"... and it looks like Ilia might have caught the eye of a certain rabbit Faunus in the militia." Blake smirked as she thought about the moment shared between the two women as Ilia tackled a White Fang member in front of the crowd.
"Good for her!" Yang exclaimed. "Although Neptune will be disappointed to hear that another woman is off the market." Yang joked as she chuckled at the antics of the flirtatious aquaphobe.
"I think I'll leave him for Sun to console." Blake chuckled.
"Neptune will figure it out eventually…" Yang said with a straight face before she broke into a roar of laughter. Blake joined her in her mirth at the thought of Neptune ever cluing in to Ilia's lack of interest in him, or any man for that matter.
Their laughter died until they sat in contented peace, just basking in each other's presence. The stars twinkled overhead, watching over the two women as they made up for lost time in the hidden garden within Haven's walls.
Yang sat up a she reached down to her left leg and untied something that was hidden from view. "Now that you're back, I have something of yours."
Blake sat up, her eyes twitching as her amber eyes shone with curiosity and a hint of trepidation as she turned to face the cryptic Huntress.
Unfolding the dusty square of fabric, the bright white image of the nightshade bloom seemed to glow in the moonlight against a field of dark purple. Running a prosthetic thumb over the keepsake Yang held out the wrinkled cloth which Blake accepted with hesitant hands.
"I believe this belongs to you."
Blake took a shuddering breath as she ran her fingertips across the embroidered emblem of her family line. "I would have thought you would have thrown it out after, um, well… everything."
Yang let out a strangled laugh. "You would think so, right? But I could never do it…"
There was a pause as Blake took in her words before Yang flashed her partner a heartfelt smile. "Besides I needed all the luck I can get. Plus a cute girl gave it to me." Yang winked and laughed as Blake shoved her hard in the shoulder, failing to knock the brawler over. This only caused the blonde to laugh harder at the faint blush that creeped up into the Faunus' cheeks.
"Anyway, it's yours now if you want it back." Yang nudged Blake's knee with her own, the other Huntress having remained quiet for the last few moments as she stared down at handkerchief she had given Yang before the doubles round of the tournament. The details of the moment and the days to follow filled her mind with such clarity that the Fall of Beacon might as well have been yesterday.
As for the last time she had been at her partner's side and shared a tender moment of affection in the calm before the storm… It might have only been months ago, but to Blake, it might as well have been a lifetime.
"Keep it, it was a gift." Blake spoke softly as she handed back the square cloth with her family's crest.
"Are you sure?" Yang asked, her eyes flashing with concern.
Blake nodded firmly as she glanced over at her observant companion. "It's only fair, since I have something of yours too."
"You do?" Yang asked, surprise lighting up her face.
Blake smiled as she reached into a pouch on her belt, shying away from the other woman's curious gaze. The object she pulled out into the moonlight was rectangular in shape and small enough to fit into the palm of her hand. With a Cheshire grin, Blake pointed the object at the base of a maple tree and clicked a small button.
A red dot, no bigger than a pinprick, appeared on the tree's rough bark. With a flick of her wrist, the red dot danced across the tree's surface before disappearing among the dark leaved branches overhead.
With a small smile Blake tossed the laser pointer over to the stunned Huntress, who caught the small device only by reflex.
"You kept it?" Yang asked in wonder as she turned the laser pointer in her palm, a brief memory flashed in her mind of her antics with Blake back in Beacon's library the night of the school's dance. Yang hadn't seen the device since, having thought the instrument to be lost during the chaos of the tournament and the tragic events that followed.
A faint smile graced Blake's lips as she watched her partner fiddle with the laser pointer in fascination and affection.
After taking a few moments to play with the device and trace the red dot around the garden's walls, Yang reluctantly gave the device back. Blake replaced the laser pointer back into a zipped compartment of her belt, tapping the pouch twice in reassurance that the keepsake had made its way home once more.
Yang shifted her body so that she was angled towards the elusive Faunus. When she next spoke, her voice was soft, but firm leaving no room for questioning. "I know we have a lot to talk about, but I just wanted to let you know that - well, that we're going to be okay. I just need time..."
Blake nodded in understanding. "Well, I'm not going anywhere."
Her words rang out between them, a promise made within the light of the shattered moon as their only witness. Little by little, Yang moved her hand until she gently held Blake's calloused palm. Yang did not answer her in response, but rather squeezed her hand once, in acknowledgement.
Blake released a breath she did not know that she was holding as the two women sat in silence watching the stars wink at them from the heavens.
Yang asked her for more time, and as far as Blake was concerned, they had all the time in the world.
Together, once more.