Ruby woke with the dawn, the light trickling in through the bedroom window to warm her face. Blinking, she reached back and tugged the curtains closed, turning the light to a dull, warm glow. She shrank back beneath the covers, loving the warmth and the knowledge that half of it came from the girl beside her.
She reached up and rubbed sleep from her eyes. Glancing at the clock, she growled. It was almost seven. That meant ... it took a moment for her sleepy mind to do the math. That was, what? Five hours of sleep? It had been nearly two before she and Weiss finally got to bed. Weiss' shower hadn't been too long, but neither of them had been able to sleep easily, not after the night before. Eventually she'd realized that neither would be making any headway that night. With only a little pushing, she managed to coax Weiss into bed, and the two of them had fallen asleep beside each other.
Now she found herself facing the window, trying to ignore the sunlight creeping up the bed. Weiss lay beside her, facing the opposite wall, her hands tucked up beside her on the bed.
Smiling, Ruby settled in and pulled the covers up to her chin. Weiss really was cute when she slept. It wasn't an adjective the older girl would approve of – she hated it when Ruby called her cute – but it definitely applied. There was something adorable about the unconscious Weiss, the way she breathed when she slept, her hair spread out around her at odd intervals and falling across her shoulders.
I want to hold her, Ruby realized, looking over at the girl in the pale blue nightdress. She wanted to feel the warmth of her girlfriend. After everything, I want to ... I want to be there with her. For her.
I'll just be careful not to wake her.
Wriggling beneath the covers, Ruby moved forward until she could wrap one arm over Weiss' side, her chin resting on the other woman's shoulder. Carefully, moving slowly to keep from waking her, Ruby wrapped herself around the taller girl, twining between her arms and legs until they were bound together beneath the covers.
It was nice being the big spoon for a change.
As far as she could tell, Weiss was dead to the world. Snuggling deeper into the mass of blankets, Ruby closed her eyes and breathed. She couldn't sleep, not now, not knowing the alarm would ring in a few minutes, but she wouldn't trade moments like these for anything.
She stayed like that as long as she could, breathing in the scent of Weiss' shampoo. Finally, right before the alarm could sound, she reached over and turned it off. After last night, Weiss shouldn't have to wake to the jarring bell-ring she used. It wasn't as harsh as some alarms, but it was far less pleasant that what Ruby had in mind.
Pushing herself a little ways off the bed, Ruby leaned over and kissed Weiss' cheek. Nothing happened, so Ruby stayed, leaving small, light kisses at the corner of Weiss' mouth, her fingers slowly running through her long waves of ivory hair.
"Morning," she said, keeping her voice soft once Weiss began to stir.
The heiress grunted something, blinked, and buried her face in the pillow. "What time is it?"
"Time to get up." Ruby smiled apologetically and pressed her lips to Weiss' forehead. "Pancakes or eggs?"
"... what?" Weiss asked, rolling over to look up at her. Weiss' eyes were bleary, the poor girl still half asleep as Ruby helped her sit upright.
"Breakfast. Should I make you pancakes or eggs?"
Weiss blinked, her eyes slowly starting to focus. Running her hand over her face, she shook her head. "Ruby, you don't-"
"Weiss," Ruby said, her voice stern. "Don't tell me I don't have to. I like doing stuff for you, and if you haven't figured that out by now, then you damn well better."
The white-haired heiress gave her a level look. "I was going to ask which one you wouldn't burn." Her eyes were serious, but the corner of her mouth kept twitching, trying to hold back a smile.
For a split second, Ruby just gaped at her. She's joking. Actually joking. That was definitely a good sign. If Weiss was comfortable enough to joke ...
With an exaggerated pout, Ruby punched her girlfriend lightly in the shoulder. "Jerk."
Rolling her eyes despite her grin, Ruby let Weiss reach up and pull her back down into the bed. Still a little sleepy, Weiss rolled over until Ruby was beside her, fingers twining together beneath the blankets. Eyes half-lidded, she leaned in and kissed her on the mouth.
"Just oatmeal, please." Weiss said when she let her go. "Something mild."
Ruby grinned, knowing her face was red and not caring one bit. "That I can do."
Pyrrha woke to find the room swimming, her stomach aching, and her head pounding like the victim of a psychotic jackhammer. Groaning, she reached over and grabbed for her alarm. Instead, her fingers met glass.
She opened her eyes to see what it was and immediately regretted it. Everything burned with an unholy light, driving a spotlight-sized nail into her head. Pulling the covers over her, she moaned and clenched her eyes. When her hangover was a little less painful, she reached for the glass, using the blankets to block out the sun from the window.
It was full of water. She had already downed half of it before she noticed the two small pills sitting on the nightstand. Some kind soul had left a pair of aspirin for her as well.
Tossing them down with the rest of the water, she thunked the glass back onto its coaster and groaned.
Okay, she started, her thoughts feeling as fuzzy as her mouth. Someone was here. Someone nice. So who-
Pyrrha wasn't sure what she remembered. Yang had definitely taken her home. That she was sure of. She remembered the blonde entering her code on the door. She remembered being helped onto the sofa, Yang giving her water ... she must have passed out after that.
Still not completely conscious, she reached down. Her fingers met her shirt, belt, and jeans. She sighed with relief. She was still wearing the clothes from the night before. That was a blessing. She hadn't made a mess of them – which hopefully meant she hadn't done anything as humiliating as vomiting over the nice woman trying to help her home. Yang wouldn't have put her in bed with dirtied clothes, which was at least one more bullet she'd apparently managed to dodge.
Struggling out of the bed, she forced herself upright and stopped. Her stomach did a barrel-roll and tried to rebel. Grabbing the trashcan by the bed – Had that always been there? – she leaned over it and waited. She didn't puke, but it was a close thing.
Standing took some effort, but she managed it. Walking was more of a challenge, but after a second bout of sickness, she was able to move. Keeping one hand on the wall, she made her way over to the door, not noticing the note taped to it until she reached for the handle. With a frown, she reached up and plucked it from the wall, bringing it closer so she could make out the somewhat sloppy writing.
Morning, sunshine. Stayed to make sure you wouldn't ralph. You look okay, but you're gonna feel like you got kicked by a horse. Leaving water, aspirin, and a garbage can just in case.
I'll be doing inventory at the bar if you wanna talk.
Pyrrha let her hand fall to her side before thumping her head into the door. Why? Why did Yang have to be working the bar on the one night she shouldn't be?
It was her own fault, she supposed. She could have gone to any other bar in the city. But she'd known Yang took Wednesday nights off, and banked on it to avoid seeing her.
And look how well that turned out.
Sighing, she stumbled out of her bedroom and made her way down the hall. She'd feel better after a shower. A shower, some food, some coffee, and then ...
She wasn't sure what she'd do then.
Ruby blew out a long breath while she watched Weiss spoon honey into her oatmeal. The older girl was wrapped in a blue bathrobe, paging through the newspaper while she ate. She was always quiet in the mornings – and normally Ruby would leave her to it. Most days she'd already be jumping into the shower, breakfast long finished.
But today wasn't quite a normal day.
"Weiss," she said, just loudly enough to be sure Weiss would hear her.
"Um, could you put the paper down for a sec?"
Immediately, Weiss looked up, brow furrowed in a frown.
"I have no idea how to start this," Ruby tried to look apologetic. There had to be some polite way of doing this, something gentler than 'Hey, talk to me,' but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't think of one.
"Look, last night we talked about you freezing me out."
Weiss stiffened a little, her frown growing deeper. For a second, Ruby wondered if she was going to try to make some excuse, but she didn't, her food and the paper lying forgotten by her side.
"I know you don't want me to have to deal with your family. And I get that it's hard to talk about." God, she was nervous. Without meaning to, Ruby reached up and ran a hand through her hair, tugging on the ends to let go of some of the tension. "But sometimes it feels like there's a whole part of your life I don't know about."
"I-I mean, it's not a huge deal, but I still haven't met Winter yet, and I know she's important to you, so I ju-"
"Ruby," Weiss said again, cutting her off. "I talked to Winter after New Year's. She'll be in town in two weeks."
"Oh." Ruby blushed. Of course she did. Weiss always did exactly what she said she would. If she said she'd talk to Winter ... Wait, what?
"New Year's?" she asked, incredulously. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Weiss opened her mouth to respond, then stopped, the words just on the tip of her tongue. Then she looked away, and seemed to sag back into her chair after a moment.
"You don't know what you're getting into."
"Because you won't tell me."
Weiss' mouth pursed into a thin line. "Ruby, my parents are very ... old-fashioned." She paused, the deliberate word choice making it clear she'd been thinking something else.
"Meaning?" Ruby asked, curious.
"I mean Winter is the only one who knows I'm a lesbian." Weiss took a long breath, then let it out. Ruby didn't rush her. Whatever Weiss was trying to say, it looked physically painful for her, like every word hurt just getting the syllables out.
"Ruby, I haven't wanted to talk about this because I know it there is no chance in hell of it going well."
"You don't know that." Ruby frowned. She didn't know what to make of this. Weiss had her cynical moments, but she wasn't normally a pessimist. Does she not trust me around her family? "Maybe-"
"No." Weiss cut her off, her fists clenching on top of the table. "They won't approve of you. Father will be furious at me for keeping this from him. And for what he'll see as me 'throwing away a promising future' on a whim. Mother will say something hurtful or homophobic." Weiss made an expression that could technically be called a smile, but with as much warmth to it as an icicle. "Probably both. Then things will nasty. Father will start by asking what's wrong with me and how I could have turned out like this. Mother will make herself a drink, and one or both of them will start harping on you and blaming you for me not being the daughter they wanted. And the conversation will end with me storming out or when they throw me out."
Ruby tried to open her mouth, but the words didn't come. She didn't know what to say. That Weiss could list that off so, so ...
"You don't even sound angry."
Weiss looked up then and met her eyes. She seemed calm. Perfectly, completely, calm. That shook Ruby more than anything. That Weiss could look almost ... almost fine with this. Resigned to what she knew would be.
She's accepted this, Ruby thought, horror at the mere idea of it slowly gripping her heart. She's convinced that it'll happen. Down to their exact answers ... how many times has she run this in her head? Tried to figure out what would happen?
"I moved past it a long time ago. I avoided bringing it up because I knew how you would take it." Weiss smiled sadly. "I am not trying to keep anything from you. There is just nothing good that will come from them."
Ruby closed her mouth and swallowed. She couldn't imagine what this must be like. What growing up with parents like that must be like. Ruby's home life wasn't perfect, not with her mother's death or the way her dad almost shut down from the grief, but she couldn't remember a time in her life when Taiyang had been anything less than supportive. Of everything she did. Everything she was.
She'd never even worried about coming out to him. Never had to. Yang was older and Ruby couldn't remember a time when she wasn't open about her preferences. Yang had crushes on boys and girls all through Ruby's childhood, and while Taiyang hadn't liked every single person his elder daughter dated, he'd never once said anything, or done anything, like what Weiss described. The worst he'd ever done was magically find ways to be chopping wood or cleaning steak knives when someone he didn't like the look of came to pick her up. Even then, it was mostly for the boys. He'd say it was a little bit sexist and look sheepish, but he never felt right about pulling that stuff on the girls.
Silently, Ruby stood up from her side of the table. Ignoring Weiss' questioning look, she came over, and wrapped her arms around the taller girl's shoulder, squeezing as tight as she could. She didn't say anything, didn't trust herself too. Her voice would have cracked the moment she opened her mouth. And Weiss didn't need the guilt of seeing her torn up over this.
After a second, Weiss reached up and hand her hand down Ruby's hair. She was gentle, working her fingers past the odd stray knot, and stopped right at the back of Ruby's head. She held her close, her cheek pressed down into her hair, Ruby with her face buried in Weiss' shoulder.
"Go shower," she said finally, hand sweeping off Ruby's shoulders as she let her go. "You'll be late for class."
Ruby didn't let go. She didn't want to, didn't want to do anything more than wrap the both of them in a blanket and spend the next few hours alone.
"I love you," she said, meaning it more than ever. Ruby needed her to know that. Especially after everything that had happened. After last night and ... whatever this was. It just wasn't fair. It wasn't fair that Weiss had to deal with this. Any of this.
"I know," Weiss said softly, her lips brushing the top of Ruby's hair. "I love you too."
Yang was just setting up when Pyrrha knocked on the front door. Plunking down the crate she carried on the bar, she looked over, saw who it was, and grinned.
Pyrrha's stomach immediately did somersaults in her chest, and she had a sneaking suspicion it wasn't just from the hangover. She smiled back and stood awkwardly in the doorway, hands jammed into her pockets, woolen cap pulled down over her fiery hair. The collar of her coat was pulled up against her neck to keep away the cold. Her head still ached and she knew she looked the worse for wear after last night, but the worst of it had passed. Now she would just spend the rest of the day dealing with heartburn and the headache until her body finally forgave her for the night before.
Not that any of that slowed Yang down. The blonde had the door open in a flat second, apparently not caring about the blast of cold that raised gooseflesh on her arms the second she opened the door.
"G'morning!" she said in a sing-song voice, full of the cheer that only comes from being both awake and smug about it.
"Less loud and less chipper, please." Pyrrha asked in the husky tone her night of drinking had left her. "I probably deserve it, but please don't rub it in.
Yang just grinned wider. "I'll be nice. So, why'd you come back? Hair of the dog that bit you?" Her grin turned positively evil as Pyrrha shuddered. That was the last thing she needed right now, and from the look on Yang's face, she knew it.
"It's ... can we talk?" she asked quietly. "Sorry, that makes it sound like I have bad news. What I mean is ... would you mind if I-"
Nodding in sympathy, Yang swung the door wide and stepped aside. Pyrrha headed in, breathing a sigh of relief as the door closed behind her and the heat returned. Without a word, Yang headed back to the bar, keeping herself busy while Pyrrha pulled off her coat and scarf.
"Thanks for the note," Pyrrha said as she hung her clothes on the coat-rack. "I'm sorry you had to do that."
"It's fine," the blonde shrugged and waved away her thanks. 'I'd rather know you made it home safe."
Pyrrha wasn't sure what to say to that. Biting the inside of her cheek, she made her way over the bar and sat down on a stool, propping her head up on her hands. Being back here wasn't helping. Maybe it was the feeling of being back at the scene of the crime, returning to the spot where she'd embarrassed herself so thoroughly the night before, but her head was pounding. Every pulse sent another wave of agony through her skull.
She didn't notice what Yang was doing until the blonde nudged a warm mug against the back of the hand.
"Coffee," she said, when Pyrrha looked up. "You look like you need to unload."
"I'm sorry, I don't want to bother you." Reaching down, Pyrrha gripped the mug and took a sip. It wasn't great, but it wasn't terrible either. And it did the trick – either through the warmth or the caffeine, or just the way her mind connected that taste and heat with being awake, her headache started to recede. "If you're busy-"
"Nikos, you're my friend. For you, I've got time." Yang set the washcloth down on the edge of the bar. "What's going on?"
Pyrrha took a long, steadying breath, then another sip, trying to find some way to buy time while the blonde on the other side of the bar waited.
"I need to thank you," she said, when the silence became too great.
"You really don't."
"Yang," Pyrrha's voice went stern for a second. "I might not have made it home without you. So if there's anything I can do to repay you, please, tell me."
Yang was silent for a while, her fingers toying with a glass behind the bar, turning it around and around on its side. "Yeah. Maybe ... don't do it again."
Pyrrha blinked and swallowed. "I-I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bother you-"
Yang shook her head quickly, sending her mass of blonde hair swaying behind her. "Nah, I'd walk you home five nights a week if you wanted. That's not it.
Now it was Yang's turn to be silent for a second, before thunking the glass back into place and letting out a long, guttural growl. "Sorry, I'm not good at this. Blunt version? If you wanna talk, I'm here. You wanna drink, I'm here. And a wild night every once in a while isn't gonna kill you, but ... just maybe don't make a habit of it? One bender in a while's not a big deal, but I don't really want to watch a friend get hurt."
Yang's eyes met Pyrrha's, holding them just long enough for the redhead to see she was serious. There was no blame there, no anger or disappointment, just concern, worry for her friend. Somehow that just made it worse.
"I'm sorry I worried you." Pyrrha looked down at the bar.
"You don't have to apologize. But if you wanna talk, I'm all ears."
The older woman bit her lip, trying to decide what in the world she should say. It wasn't fair that Yang could be this nice, especially after the night before. Maybe she shouldn't be surprised, it did sound exactly like the kind of thing Yang would do, but she couldn't help that it got to her.
Pyrrha opened her mouth to say something noncommittal, some small excuse about what was going on in her life, and stopped as she met Yang's eyes. The blonde was watching her, waiting, all her attention in the redhead as she struggled with how much to tell her. Not everything – dear god, not everything.
It was the way Yang's brows furrowed that broke her, that plaintive look begging for her to open up. Everything came out at once. Her issues with her job, her life. That feeling of being stuck, trapped doing the same thing over and over and not going anywhere. She enjoyed coaching, but she needed something more, something larger than just working with the students at the university. The problem was, she didn't know what she wanted that thing to be. She would be in the veteran's division in two years, and while she had no regrets about her fencing career, she needed something, something different, something she could dedicate herself to after the competitions.
She poured out her frustrations, the annoyance that she was a grown woman in her late thirties and she felt like she didn't know what to do with the rest of her life. Yang stayed almost perfectly still throughout it all, nodding and listening, leaning against the bar as she led Pyrrha unload.
"I want to do more coaching," she said finally, when she started to lose steam. "But not at the university, not for just the team. I want ... I want to know I did something that mattered. That I'll have something more to show for my life than a few medals on my shelf and my name on a list somewhere."
"So do it."
Pyrrha shook her head. "It's not that simple." She wished it could be that simple, that she could just go for what she wanted and damn the consequences.
"You know, 'gold medalist' is a pretty big accomplishment."
"But I don't want that to be the only thing anyone will remember me for," Pyrrha sighed and thumped her arms on the bar. It was more than that, but ... she couldn't tell Yang the other reason. That she saw everyone's lives moving forward while hers stayed in the same exact spot. That she felt isolated and alone, and that the one person she'd wanted to try starting something with, the first person in a long time, was someone she really shouldn't.
"My life is fine. I shouldn't be unhappy with it, I shouldn't be frustrated, but I am."
Pyrrha went stiff as a hand reached out and laid itself over hers. She looked up into violet eyes that held hers, waiting just long enough to make sure Yang had the redhead's attention. Then Yang pulled away, taking her hand off Pyrrha's and reaching for the glass again, fiddling with it while she spoke.
"Look, we haven't talked about it yet, didn't have a reason to, but after high school, I had no idea what the hell I was going to do." "I thought about college, thought about other things. Found myself some trouble and mostly got out of it. I just had no idea where to go next, so I do have some idea where you're coming from."
Pyrrha let out a sigh, part of her wishing Yang had kept holding her hand. "What did you do?"
"I joined the army."
"You were in the military?" Pyrrha gaped at the tall blonde in front of her. The last thing she would have pegged her as was a soldier. "For how long?"
"You've never talked about it." That was one of the things that surprised Pyrrha the most. The people she knew who'd served, most of them carried it with them. That training, that service rode in their bones in a way that little else did. You could see it in how they carried themselves, how they moved ... and Yang just didn't look the type.
Yang shrugged, running her fingers absently over the glass. "It's complicated. And not something I bring up a lot." Setting the glass aside, she flashed Pyrrha a quick grin. "Plus we're talking about you right now."
"My point is, you've already achieved more than most people do in their entire lives. You got time and you're not hurting for cash, so there's no reason for you to keep doing something if you want to do something else. If you're not happy, then maybe it's time to find whatever it is you really want to do. Or just go do something ridiculous for the hell of it."
I can think of few things, some part of her in the back of her mind said. What I really want to do.
Pyrrha shook her head. Now wasn't the time for ... that. "Like what?"
Yang shrugged. "I dunno. Skydive over the Pacific. Copy my uncle and buy a sailboat. Go wandering around the Caribbean. Do something stupid and impulsive just because you want to."
"... now that does sound more like you," the redhead said, a small smile spreading across her face.
Yang rolled her eyes and gave her a wry smile. "Cute. Look, you find something, anything, that makes you happy and go for it. Doesn't have to be the one thing you'll do forever. Like I said, stupid and impulsive or ridiculous."
She paused for a second, then put her hand back atop Pyrrha's. It was warm, so warm, the heat spreading through her fingers as Yang's skin brushed hers. Pyrrha looked down, hoping Yang wouldn't notice the matching heat that creeped up her neck to her face.
"Whatever you decide," Yang said, squeezing her hand. "I'll back you every step of the way."