The talk starts out normal.
Well, as normal as it can be, considering who the conversationalists are. Honestly it’s a miracle they didn’t descend into madness on the call, but as it was it came quite close.
“I’m tired.” Weiss sighed into her phone, “Very, very, very tired.”
“Well.” Whitley began, “You are home alone.”
“I’m hardly alone.” Weiss scoffed out, fighting the discomfort that rose in her chest at his words. “That’s the whole issue, see; Winter doesn’t visit out of principle and you're off on some baseless summer camp—”
“You make it sound like I’m out camping like a heathen.” Whitley snapped back. “I’m at a highly curated, very professional—”
“Summer camp for rich business kids, yes I know. You forget who paved the way for you to actually be allowed to go there.” Weiss rolled her eyes, falling back into her bed and sighing. She lifted a hand toward the ceiling, as though she meant to reach out and grasp at some sort of invisible rope; something that would take her up, up, and away from the shackled expanse of her home.
Reaching, reaching, reaching—for something that would set her free.
(Break her chains, release her—)
“What about that girl of yours?” Whitley asked, annoyed enough to startle her from her brooding. “Can’t she distract you for a few hours?”
“I don’t like the way you phrased that.” Weiss said, grimacing. “And she’s not—”
“Go on, darling sister.” Whitley sang out melodramatically. “Call upon your most respected knight, most honorable of all the Roses—”
“Stop.” Weiss groaned out, letting her hand flop uselessly against her face and she rubbed at her cheeks.
“—oh, sir knight, please oh please, save my sister from her ivory tower of sorrow—”
“I’m going to hang up.” She grumbled out.
“Wait, wait, don’t!” Whitley said through his laughter. “Call her.”
“I can’t.” Weiss hissed back. It wasn’t like she didn’t want to, wasn’t as though she wasn’t itching to press the call button—but something inside of her was keeping her from acting. As though some invisible puppet master was pulling on her arms and legs, keeping her stuck right where she was. Making it so no matter how much she struggled to move, no matter how desperately she wriggled and writhed, she remained in her bed; unable to muster up the strength to lift herself.
She counted the snowflakes on the ceiling, remembering the way Winter had helped her paint them, the way that Whitley had decided to cause problems on purpose and stick his paint covered hands wherever he could. Even now, if she turned to look to her side, she’d see it; a small boy’s hand impishly stained onto her walls, the only evidence of genuine childishness in a house where three children were born and raised.
“And why is that?” Whitley asked her, sounding rather fed up.
“This...” She wondered how she could put it, how she could make him understand. He must already get it, must already see what she would become in the face of their parents; he’d gone through the same thing when she was off at her precious private school. “You know how it is here.”
“You are afraid.” He said, sounding far too knowing.
“Always.” Weiss laughed, cheeks hurting from the sudden strain.
She could almost hear Whitley begin to frown. “She would never shun you for something such as this.”
“I know.” She sighed out, all wistful like. Weiss would never be turned away, never be called all those names that she desperately feared were attached to her person. But that didn’t stop terror, unyielding and all encompassing, a horrid mass that poisoned every thought of reaching out she had.
What she wouldn’t do to find an antidote, what she wouldn’t do to push those fears away.
Honestly, she felt like some sort of addict, some days; desperate for a fix of peace, a moment of calm inside the storm that swarmed her life, a moment of genuine ease.
“It doesn’t sound like you do.” Whitley pointed out to her, and if she saw him she was sure he’d be rolling his eyes.
“I...” It was almost as though she was choking on the sudden emotion building up inside her, raw and uncomfortable. “I am so desperately afraid, of him, of this house... It’s a horrid existence."
With no one to turn to, this house was only as good as the people inside of it, and the quality of the Schnee family was no secret. It was a miracle her brother hadn’t gone insane, honestly.
Whitley was quiet, and it said more than she thought he meant it to. “Do you understand me now, at least?” His voice was hesitant, though his words were cutting.
“Oh how cruel of you.” She let out a soft little laugh, closing her eyes, pressing the phone tighter to her face. “But the answer is yes, if you really want to know.”
“If you do not call her she’ll never know, and...” He trailed off, “and I don’t know which one you fear the most, her seeing you or her not seeing you.”
“Insightful.” Weiss quipped.
Whitley released a soft gasp that she would’ve mistaken for a laugh if she hadn’t known otherwise. “I have been known for it, from time to time.”
“I wish I could be free.” She said suddenly, lifting her head enough to glance out the window. If she squinted she could almost see the bars, glowing gold, a taunting reminder of where she was; who kept a hold on her—and then she blinked, and they were gone. “I wish I could be outside.” She whispered. Away from them.
“So do I.” Whitley murmured. “I think... you should call her, isn’t honesty important? Doesn’t she deserve to know why you can’t bear to hold her hand?”
Weiss laughed, and the smile on her face almost hurt; like she was bleeding from her mouth, a constant, throbbing ache that went on until she stopped. Maybe that was why she didn’t like to smile, because of the way it hurt, the way it sat unnaturally on her face if she didn’t mean it. (And she didn’t often mean it.)
“You know,” Weiss began, “We really aren’t like that, Whitley.”
“Does she know that?”
“Yes.” She answered, not skipping a beat.
Whitley made a noise, a mix between confusion and frustration. “...but you don’t know that.”
“What?” Weiss asked, her voice nothing but a rasp, too exhausted to do much to try and understand what he was trying to say. Even now her eyes felt heavy, threatening to drop closed as she grappled with wakefulness.
“You feel something for her.” Whitley explained, and his bluntness was enough to send a shock of energy down her spine. “You think it’s one sided, because of course you do.”
Weiss blinked, bewildered. Carefully pushing herself upward, she fiddled with her comforter. “Could it be anything but?”
“I don’t know.” He said honestly. “I thought that... hmm, this is most confusing.”
“What is it?” She asked him.
“You must’ve come to love her by now.” Whitley explained. “I mean you’ve been wanting for her long enough for it to be—”
“I am terribly fond of her, make no mistake.” Weiss said, voice wobbling. She felt as though she was walking a tightrope, one wrong word sending her sprawling to the floor below, only there was no safety net to break her fall. “But using words like love—”
“Hush, sister.” Whitley chastised. “You aren’t going to like what I say next.”
“What?” She asked suspiciously, even more alert than before.
He made a noise, a sound like he was sucking on his teeth. “Well, I may have insinuated to your lady love how you feel about her.”
Weiss gripped the phone so tight she feared for a moment it might crumble to dust in her hand. “You what?” She hissed out.
“I did think you were dating, the shovel talk was mandatory.” Whitley pointed out defensively. “Besides, it’s not like I’m the only one who did it, Winter took great pleasure in Miss Rose’s—”
“I wish I was as loose with my love as you were with your lips.” She snarled.
He audibly faltered. “Ah.”
She froze for a moment, blinking rapidly as she began to apologize, “I’m sorry—”
“No, don’t fret.” Whitley said, in that knowing voice of his. “Loving loosely has never been in the cards for us, dear sister... surely you know that, by now?”
“I wish...” Weiss sighed, closing her eyes and flopping back on her bed again. “I wish I could be constant.”
“You are.” Whitley said, sounding a bit perplexed. “You’re in the manor, aren’t you? Nothing changes in that place.”
“I’m not constant.” Weiss whispered to him quietly. “My environment may be repetitive, not my person; not my words.”
“What do you mean?”
She thought for a moment, pressing her free hand to her chest as she considered what to say. How could she make him understand? Him, a boy with no experience with the things she was feeling for another person, a boy who’d not yet come to terms with himself?
Weiss didn’t know, but she knew that she ought to at least make a crack at it.
“I wish I was loose with my words of affection, I wish they left my lips frequently and endlessly, I wish I could bear the burden of my emotion with no repercussion except for love.” She explained to him quietly, swallowing the lump in her throat.
“...have you considered a career in poetry?” Whitley asked her, after a loaded moment of silence.
“Whitley, be serious.” But some giggles began to escape her mouth.
“Right, terribly sorry.” He even sounded genuine. “You know you can be.”
“Loose in the terms of love, a million little steps and you’ll be there, a constant just as you desire.” He said, and it sounded so smooth it may as well have come from the devil, edging her to make a deal that would end in the loss of something important to her.
“What’s the catch?” Weiss asked, suspicious.
Whitley laughed. “It all begins with telling her, of course.”
“Seems like too big a consequence.” She murmured back to him, feeling the tides of exhaustion once again begin to lick at her body.
“Eh, it’s your decision, though...” He trailed off.
“What?” She asked.
“Well I mean, think of the others who have to deal with your wallowing, won’t you? Your pining has begun to turn you into a tree—”
“Right.” Weiss snorted, inwardly rolling her eyes. “How could I forget the numerous inconveniences I have caused you?”
“I dunno, to be quite honest, I expect it comes with your deteriorating mental state.” He said, his voice completely serious.
“Oh how kind of you to be so frank.” She snorted.
“You’re quite welcome.” Whitley said, and though it wasn’t a genuine thank you he still sounded quite smug.
“Haha.” Weiss faked a laugh, and then paused. “I will consider your advice.”
“It’s all I ask.” Whitley sighed. “Weiss?”
“Yes?” She asked.
“Remember to rest.”
Weiss smiled, a tired thing. “No promises.”
Weiss doesn’t mean to make things so difficult. She really doesn’t, all she’d done is take a moment to wander outside her room; to drift aimlessly inside the house, haunting it like a ghost. She was unlucky to run into her father, unlucky to find that he was in a bad mood, unlucky to set him off, unlucky to sprint from the manor as her father bellowed angrily behind her; cheek throbbing is discomfort.
She doesn’t mean to go to Ruby’s house, but honestly she isn’t surprised that’s where her panicking mind decided her feet ought to take her. So, in a move right out of some cheesy romcom, she found herself throwing small rocks outside Ruby’s bedroom window.
It took a little while before she finally got the hint.
“Weiss?!” Ruby called through the window, lifting up the glass and then the screen, her hair in a spiky mess—looking bedraggled and startled.
“Um.” Weiss said, feeling guilty. “Bad time?” She asked her, dropping the pebbles and crossing her arms around herself. As the moon rose the temperature fell, and she was beginning to get a bit cold despite the fact that it was the summer. She was lucky the sun hadn’t completely set yet. Weiss looked down at herself, grimacing. It wasn’t like she was in anything horrible, but she was still in ‘father-approved’ clothing; a thin dress shirt and pair of slacks.
Ruby yawned, rubbing at her face. “Sort of, I mean I was going to be early tonight, not that I’m complaining or anything but—wait what happened?”
“My father and I got into an argument.” Weiss said, aware of Ruby’s eyes lingering on her cheek. “I ran.” Not fast enough.
“And you came here?” Ruby asked her, looking down at her with an exasperated expression on her face.
“I mean.” Weiss fiddled with her shirt. “Yes?”
Ruby stared at her, and Weiss felt herself begin to shift uncomfortably.
“I’ll be down in a sec.” She called, shutting the window and racing off.
“Alright.” Weiss murmured, even though Ruby couldn’t hear her anymore. She shifted, walking toward the front door and trying not to give into the temptation to run away. She’d already done that once tonight, she had no interest in doing it again.
Weiss heard the door start to unlock, and when it swung open she was met with Ruby’s startling gaze. Her hands were on her hips as she tried to look chastising, but mostly she only seemed... worried.
“You could have just rang the doorbell.” Ruby pointed out quietly.
Weiss stared for a moment, overwhelmed by the sudden emotion that bubbled up inside of her. “I could have, yes.”
“Oh.” Ruby frowned a little, rubbing her chin with her hand. “It was on purpose.”
“I didn’t want to...” Weiss struggled forward, “You’re the only one I want seeing me like this.”
It was the truth, much as she was wary to admit it. The crashing of the manor still rang in her ears, filling the silence with shouts and breaking furniture; and that meant Weiss was vulnerable. She shivered again, wrapping her arms around herself and averting her gaze. She couldn’t bear for anyone else to see her this... this weak.
And Ruby, bless her, looked like she understood.
“That...” A sigh, “Alright, head up to my room, I’ll make sure everyone steers clear.” Ruby moved the door open further, gesturing for Weiss to come inside.
She twitched, “You don’t have to—”
“Weiss, when you come to someone for help you usually let them help.” Ruby said, and though her voice was soft there was no mistaking the underlying steel in her voice. She reached out a little, as though she wanted to take her hand, but paused. “Let me help.”
“I suppose... you’re right.” Weiss murmured, blinking away the sudden sting in her eyes.
“I know I’m right.” Ruby quipped with a gentle laugh, carefully setting a palm on Weiss’ shoulder.
Weiss desperately fought the urge to flinch, but feared she failed when she saw the look in Ruby’s eyes.
“Up you go, now.” She said, dropping her hand. “I know you know the way.”
“Right.” Weiss sighed, “Thank you.”
“What are friends for?” Ruby asked her, and Weiss found herself smiling as she hesitantly walked inside.
She loves Ruby’s home.
There’s no other word for how she feels about it, how tightly it has a hold on her heart. The walls are packed with pictures of family, no formal portraits, no paintings—just family, surprise pictures and birthdays and anniversaries, the faces of smiling children and adults. Up the walls of the stairs are painted hands, and Ruby had told her that every year they got older her mother would press their paint covered palms to the wall.
They continued even after she died.
Her eyes lingered on the palms that belonged to Ruby, red and slowly growing bigger and bigger and bigger the higher she looked. Weiss smiled, a heartbreakingly sad little thing, and forced herself to continue up the stairs.
How she loved Ruby’s home, the scuff marks on the walls from roughhousing, the chips in mugs from accidental drops, the colors that saturated the walls and worn furniture.
How she loved Ruby’s home.
(How she loved Ruby—)
She stumbles a little when she walks into the room, awkwardly looking around. It wouldn’t feel right to just sit on her bed, so obviously disturbed by sleep. Guilt pulsed inside of her at the sight, she really had come across Ruby when she was sleeping hadn’t she?
Weiss chewed at her lower lip, and walked deeper into the room, positioning herself by the windowsill and looking outside; unable to bear the sight of the area around her.
The sun was nearly done setting, now.
She looked out at the colors, the purple that began to sprinkle the horizon, swirling into the orange and yellow; and felt her breath catch at the sight. Why was it that the sight from here, Ruby’s window, was enough to strip the air from her lungs? Why was it that here she could admire the beauty of something else?
Why couldn’t it be the same in the manor?
“Weiss?” Ruby’s voice interrupted her silent brooding.
She turned, looking back to find Ruby staring back at her with wide eyes. Weiss smiled, a little watery. “Hey.” She greeted softly, and Ruby only stared for a moment, eyes lingering on the spots where the sunlight dripped onto her hair and face.
“Hey.” Ruby said after a moment, her expression going soft. She moved, sitting on her bed and patting a spot on it, “Did you want to talk about it?”
“I don’t...” Weiss faltered. She clenched her jaw, but moved forward, placing herself carefully on top of Ruby’s bed. “I don’t know.” She admitted hoarsely.
And the way Ruby said her name, so softly, so obviously fond; as though she was something to behold, something to care for. It was an overwhelming sentiment, and Weiss couldn’t help but shut her eyes up closed to prevent the building of tears that threatened to fall. It was almost too much, she felt like she was too much; to crack herself open and show Ruby what was inside, to bear the weight of her eyes upon every flaw, every weakness, it felt like too much to ask for.
After all, who would turn their gaze upon her and not see the most wretched things?
Was she giving Ruby too little credit?
She was, she realized. Ruby was kind, and brave, and understanding—she wouldn’t toss Weiss away, she wouldn’t do that. It wasn’t in her nature.
She could only stare, choking on her words, “I’m—”
“C’mere?” Ruby interrupted, opening her arms up wide and looking at Weiss expectantly.
Weiss blinked, caught off guard. “Why?”
Ruby shot her an exasperated look. “I can’t hold you if you’re that far away.”
“Weiss.” She said softly, scooting forward a little, her eyes going serious. “Do you think it’ll make you feel better?”
Only, it felt like indulgence of the worst kind, felt like if she accepted then it was only a testament to her hubris. Weiss was grasping desperately at something someone like her had no right to hold, she was a prisoner, wasn’t she? A hostage, kept tied up and thrown away in a cage.
Hostages don’t get hugs.
(But, oh, how she wanted one; how she yearned for one. Would it be nice? She wondered, would her touch set me aflame in pain, or longing, or love?)
Weiss resolved herself, there was only one way to find out, wasn’t there? “I...” She swallowed, turning away so she didn’t have to look at the way Ruby would react. “Yes.”
“Then it’s no trouble at all.” Ruby insisted without skipping a beat, gesturing to herself again and moving her arms even wider; as though showing Weiss how far she could stretch would make her come closer faster. “C’mere, snowdrop.”
“Snowdrop?” Weiss asked her, laughing a little as she moved forward, a slow and hesitant crawl toward Ruby.
“I can come up with nicknames.” She said defensively, voice a whisper.
“Right, I suppose you can.” Weiss said, carefully setting her arms around Ruby’s neck, not quite hugging her but easing herself into it. “Whether or not they’re any good, well...”
“Do you not like it?” Ruby asked, pouting, not moving to touch her—waiting until Weiss had settled before doing anything.
Weiss sighed, leaning forward and setting her head against her shoulder, almost melting into the embrace. “It is acceptable.” She murmured against Ruby’s collarbone, sighing softly when Ruby carefully wrapped her arms around her, settling them around her back and waist.
“Yay!” Ruby cheered.
“Yay!” Ruby cheered softly, and began to lean back a little, laying on the bed and bringing Weiss along with her.
“Better.” Weiss said quietly, sighing shakily at the feel of the body beneath her, around her. It wasn’t... painful, to hold Ruby like this, to keep her close. The warmth was just on the verge of being too much, and Weiss didn’t know how long she would be able to go without wanting to pull away, but for now she was fine—comfortable even. “Thank you.”
“For shouting in your ear?” Ruby asked, sounding confused.
Weiss snorted, inwardly rolling her eyes. “No you oaf, for... for being here, for being willing to—”
“Weiss.” Ruby interjected quietly.
She sighed, tightening her arms around Ruby. “Yes?”
“You know I love you, right?”
And Weiss went still.
Ruby said it like it was the easiest thing in the world, like the word love was meant to stain her lips, as though she was born with it saturating her every action. It was enough for her eyes to burn, raw emotion bubbling up inside of her and slipping through the cracks in her eyelids, turning liquid sadness into tears. Her shoulders shook a little.
Of course Ruby was loose with that word, of course she would make sure others knew exactly how she felt about them; shower them in love. Weiss wished she could be like that, loving easily and endlessly, professing it like she could actually stomach it.
She wished that she could say it all the time and mean it, wished she could just say it and not fear for herself and the people around her.
She did a lot of wishing in that moment.
“I’m always gonna want you to be happy, or as close to it as you can possibly get.” Ruby continued softly, after it was clear that Weiss was in no state to say anything in return.
“I...” It felt like someone was digging their hand in her chest, lazily digging out chunks of her heart like it was no big deal; the organ oozing out of her ribcage. She moved her head, looking up so that she was looking right at Ruby’s face. “I didn’t—”
“Hush now.” Ruby smiled down at her, using her hand to brush the hair from her face. Her hand lingered on her cheek, pads of her fingers brushing against the edges of her skin; careful not to touch the forming bruise. “I should get you some ice for that.”
Weiss gripped her tighter, a surge of fear overwhelming her senses at the thought of Ruby getting up to do anything but stay with her.
How selfish. Something whispered.
“Please don’t.” Weiss almost begged, flopping her head back on Ruby’s shoulder, a desperate plea to just stay.
“Later, then.” Ruby agreed immediately. “I don’t want to leave you.”
“I didn’t know that you loved me.” Weiss blurted into Ruby’s skin, as though that might make her explain. She almost couldn’t comprehend it, that there might be a place for her in the expanse of Ruby’s heart.
It was Ruby’s turn to go still, and when Weiss made to look at her she learned that it was from disbelief.
“Of course I love you dummy, you’re my best friend.” The incredulous tone of her voice made Weiss smile. “I’m going to have to tell you this everyday now, huh? I mean I’m obviously not complaining because I like telling you that I love you but still—”
“I wish I could say it back.” Weiss whispered into Ruby’s skin, like a secret.
Ruby stopped talking immediately. “You don’t feel the same?”
There was something masked in her tone, a quality that maybe Weiss would’ve been able to pick up if she wasn’t so exhausted.
“Of course I do.” Weiss murmured against her. “I just... I wish I could say it back—I wish I could just... say how I feel, without thinking there might be consequences for daring to love you.”
“Well.” Ruby said, and though there was something unquestionably flustered in her voice, her words were serious. “I’ll be here when you do.”
And Weiss did not doubt her.