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It was supposed to be an easy mission.

In and out. Kill the Grimm. Easy. People were still frantic after the tournament fiasco, and Blake had been looking forward to some mindless extermination work. Between the attacks, and the public panic, and dealing with the fallout of just…everything, she deserved some mindlessness and a bowl of Tuna.

The second of which was waiting for her back at home.

The mission had been going well for the most part. The Grimm were all fairly small, and there had not been nearly as many as the original reports had stated. In fact, it was going so smoothly that the team had split up to take out the last strays in their various corners of the sparsely populated woods.

That’s when he showed up.

“What is your end game, Adam?” Blake hissed, through the agony of her depleted aura. Every inch of her had been pushed to the limits of exhaustion from the fight, but she kept her weapon raised. Not that it did her much good. The difference in strength between them was too great, even with her extra training. Because for every day she trained, so did he. The gap just kept getting wider. But all the same, Blake would not bow. “You think all these threats will really do you any good? Or is all this just set up for when you start promising to spare my loved ones if I go back with you?”

“Of course not, darling,” Adam said, sword still in its sheath. Blake refused to lower her weapon while his was charged. It only took an instant for his semblance to work. Only an instant for his madness to cross from killing everything Blake loved to straight up killing Blake. Adam remained still, just far enough out of reach for Blake’s weapon should she pull out the ribbons. He looked as well rested as he had when arrived; the fight had been play to him. She cursed the unfairness of it. Adam shifted the weight on his hip, almost teasing. “You’d never agree to that.”

“So that’s it then? Your whole plan is to kill everyone I love and I’m next then?” Blake asked. Her grip on the weapon tightened, squeezing so tightly her arms trembled. “Some revolution. Sounds more like genocide.”

Adam put a hand over his heart and tilted his head to the side with a tiny smirk. “You always know where to wound me.”

“What do you want, Adam?” Blake asked. Her Scroll was currently in his pocket, having been taken in their earlier scuffle. She couldn’t call anyone for help, and despite his big plans of murder, he didn’t seem to be running after the others immediately. Maybe she could stall him until the team realized something was wrong. “Why are you here?”

“Giving my mission some attention,” Adam said. He pulled out her Scroll and flicked through a few screens with his free hand. His other regretfully remained on the hilt of his sword. From the backside, Blake sucked in a breath when his finger hovered over the location screen for her teammates. “I always intended to draw it out, of course. After all, running the revolution takes priority, but I’ve been rather neglectful about it, don’t you think?”

“You should forget about it entirely,” Blake said.

“I never abandon a mission, my love,” Adam said, flicking through her teammates until he stopped on a familiar head of blonde hair. “You know that.”

Blake did.

“I really ought to finish what I started,” Adam said. He touched his thumb to Yang’s picture, and asked. “Should I take her other arm, too, before her head? Or just get it all over with at once and go straight through the chest? There really are so many options, and I’ve had quite a bit of practice at all of them. So it’s up to you.”

Blake rushed him.

Adam’s katana raised to meet hers, holding Blake at bay with a single hand. The other held her Scroll up above his head and he laughed. He laughed! Blake snarled and swept a foot under her to try and catch him, but he stepped over the swipe.

He countered by throwing his weight into his sword arm and throwing Blake off balance and tossing her weapon’s blade to the side. He followed with a backhand to the side of her head, and Blake hit the ground. She growled and rolled out of the way as he moved to kick her.

“You’ve become so impatient lately,” Adam hummed. He shoved her Scroll back into his pocket, and strolled toward Blake. She got to her feet and shoved her sword in his path. He paused, holding his own blade out to the side. “Did you learn that from her? She was rather hot-headed from the few moments we shared.”

“Like you’re one to talk.”

“Fair enough,” Adam said. He whipped his sword through the air and sheathed it again. His hand remained on the handle, and he waved his hand toward Blake’s weapon. “Must you do this, Blake? We both know you’re just hurting yourself.”

“Why do you care?” Blake kept her sword raised. She’d been gone for a while without checking in. Someone would have to notice soon. They had to. “Stop pretending like you give a damn!”

“I always care,” Adam said.

“Liar.” Blake took a step back and shook her head. “If you cared, you wouldn’t be threatening the people I love. You would have at least tried to listen to me when I told you what was wrong!”

“If you loved me even a fraction as much as you claim to, you never would have killed all those humans!” Blake was shouting now. Her lungs and throat burned; her eyes wet. “But you did. You did and you’ve become a monster, and if there was even a prayer of me returning to you, you killed it when you cut off Yang’s arm.”

“There was never a hope of you loving me back, Blake,” Adam said, his hand left his sword and he took a step forward. He paused for a moment, before reaching down and grabbing his sword from his belt. He tossed it to the ground, and approached Blake unarmed. “No one is more aware of that than I am, my love.”

Blake’s back hit a tree, and she stopped. Her breath hitched. When had she been moving away from him? She kept her sword raised, though she could see the blade rattle. “Adam?”

“I knew it from the train,” Adam said. Her sword was against his chest, the blade touching the fabric of his coat. All Blake had to do was press forward, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t move and she hated it. Adam touched her hand, twisting so that the flat of her blade rested against his chest and he could lean in. “The second you said goodbye, you were never ever coming back on your own.”

“Then why are you doing this?” Blake asked, her voice a whisper. He was so close. She could feel it; the heat of his body. It was the same as she always knew. How could the same man who’d once held her so close and turned so cold still bear the same heat? “Why Adam?”

“Because I’m desperate, my love,” Adam said. He pressed even closer, so that the blade of Blake’s sword tilted up, the metal of it near cutting toward his throat. He had no fear, no tremble. It was Blake’s hands that shook. Adam touched her cheek. “And I will complete my mission.”

His hand shifted, the thick texture of his glove digging into her cheeks as his fingers cupped the back of her neck. Adam’s thumb near the edge of her lip. “I will take away everything that you love. Your teammates, your friends, your school, your country. All of it. There won’t be a single thing or person left standing when I’m done.”

The promise in his voice was no idle threat. Adam intended to go through with every word. She should move the blade. It’d be so easy to have it slice through the skin and have all of this before. She should. Just end it. Blake whispered, hating that she leaned her cheek into his hand. “You really did turn into a monster, didn’t you?”

“Maybe, but it really doesn’t matter,” Adam said. He exhaled, resting his forehead against Blake’s. The chill of his mask sent a shiver down her spine. His other hand rose to mirror the one on her other cheek. “Not in the end.”

“And why is that?” Blake asked, distracted by the pounding of her heart and the heat of his skin through the gloves. He was burning. Everywhere he touched was fire licking against her skin. All heat. “What could possibly make you think it doesn’t matter to me?”

“Because when my mission is completed and I’ve swept everything away in the fire of destruction and death,” Adam whispered, his lips nearly brushing her own. He shifted, bringing his leg between her thighs, pinning her to the tree with his presence. Only his hands touched her. “You’ll be all alone.”

“And I know you, my love.” Adam kissed the side of her cheek, and whispered in the side of her head, his nose in her hair. “You’d rather be with a monster than be alone. All I’ll have to do is wait.”

Blake dropped her sword.

Adam kissed her before she could push him away. His fingers dug into her hair, and his lips were warm and firm and it felt the same. It was all the same as before. All those warm nights, and desperate touches. Her man was her monster and Blake wanted to cry and kill him and hold him and she couldn’t breathe. Adam was between her legs and their hips met and it was oh so familiar and awful and she had missed it and hated herself for it. Adam kissed her.

Everything was too hot.

“Get away from her!” Yang screamed, coming through the trees in a burst of aura and glowing red eyes.

Adam pulled away with just enough time to dodge her fist, and roll to the ground making a grab for his sword.

Blake covered her mouth with her hands, her back against the tree and her breath and mind still catching up with the change in situation. A hand was shaking her shoulder and she turned her head to meet concerned, icy blue eyes.

“Are you alright?” Weiss asked. She kept her hand on Blake’s arm, a steady and cool touch to fight the too hot blood under her skin. “Blake?”

“I’m fine,” she said. She turned her head to see Ruby had joined Yang, bursting through the trees from another angle. Adam was forced to used his sheath to block Yang’s bullets, while his sword blocked Ruby. Even now, he still made it look so easy to fight two on one and she hated it. “How did you know?”

“You didn’t answer your phone when Yang called,” Weiss said. She had her rapier up, and her eyes were on the other two now. She glanced at Blake every so often, a tiny smile on her face that spoke of the relief. “Glad we were paranoid.”

“Yeah,” Blake said. She crouched to grab her weapon, but when she stood, Blake found she could only lean against the tree. Her legs were still weak, from both her earlier fight and from her moment of weakness. “Me too.”

“Will you be okay if I help them?” Weiss asked.

“I’ll be fine,” Blake said.

Taking that as her cue, Weiss ran toward the fight and summoned a glyph under Adam’s feet, stopping him dead in his tracks as he tried to move away from the two sisters. In a rare moment, Blake saw Adam caught off guard.

Time slowed down.

Blake saw it all. The hatred in Ruby’s arms for what Adam did to her sister. The satisfaction in Yang’s berserker eyes at slamming her fist into the center of his chest, smashing Adam into the ground. The crack of Adam’s rib from the sheer force of it. The glyph still trapping him in place.

Ruby’s swipe of blade heating toward his throat as he struggled against the glyph and broken ribs to sit up.

The swipe of Ruby’s blade.

The end of the scythe dug into the dirt next to Adam’s side, his coat sliced open, revealing the red fabric underneath. Blake’s ribbon wrapped around the staff of Ruby’s weapon, the other end clutched desperately around Blake’s arm where she had yanked the scythe to the side. Her breath heaved in her chest, her arms trembled, but she didn’t let go of her grip.

No one moved.

Yang was the first to break the silence, staring hard at Blake. Hurt and confusion were at the edge of her eyes. “Blake?”

Blake’s ragged breathing filled her ears, and she shook her head. Her voice shook. “That’s too far.”

In the shock, Weiss had dropped her glyph and Adam was free to stand, though he faltered from the broken ribs. Blake let go of Ruby’s weapon, retracting it and prepared for round two of the fight. Yang, Weiss and the others resumed a ready stance, waiting to see what he’d do. Blake cursed herself. What had she been thinking? His semblance was charged and now he had a free moment. She might have doomed them all because she didn’t want to see his stupid head get cut off and—

He reached into his pocket and pulled out Blake’s Scroll.

“A kindness for a kindness,” Adam said. He tossed Blake’s Scroll to the ground at her feet. “I’ll return that in thanks.”

“Don’t be so dramatic” was on the tip of Blake’s tongue, but she bit it down. Instead she managed a stern, “Go home, Adam.”

“But home doesn’t want me,” Adam said, smiling a bit. “Home’s with you, darling.”

“You’re such a creep!” Yang shouted, swinging a fist at Adam’s face. He jumped back, and kept moving as Weiss started again, trying to catch Adam in a Glyph. Prepared this time, it wasn’t so easy. Yang growled, her aura still burning. “Stand still so I can pound your face in!”

“I suppose the mission will continue to be on hold for now,” Adam said, dashing around Ruby’s next swipe toward his legs. He landed at Blake’s side and she barely had time to raise her weapon before he kissed her again. “But don’t worry. I won’t forget.”

Yang’s strangled cry of rage filled Blake’s ears as Adam smiled and made a run for it in the woods. Adam was gone, and Yang and Ruby followed. But they’d never catch him. He was too good, too fast, and far more at home in the woods than either of them. Plus, he probably had a ride nearby waiting.

Adam loved to be prepared.

Blake dropped to her knees, and tilted her head back. Her heart slowed in her chest, finally given a chance to rest after all the chaos. She wasn’t sure how many times she could do this with him.

Twice was already too much.

“He’s going to come back again, isn’t he?” Weiss asked, standing near Blake’s side. She held Blake’s scroll, and dusted off the sides.

“Adam’s pretty good about keeping his word,” Blake said. She took her Scroll back as Weiss handed it down and held it to her chest. “That’s what terrifies me.”

Weiss tactfully remained silent, standing guard over Blake as she rested. The sound of the woods comforted them, all the monsters long gone from the small clearing.

“That bastard got away,” Yang said, stomping back through the trees. She brushed her thumb against her nose and huffed. “The coward joined up with a squadron of White Fang.”

“I felt it best not to engage at that point,” Ruby said, following soon after Yang. She looked over her shoulder and narrowed her eyes. “In fact, I don’t think it’s wise to stay in the area at all with them still this close.”

“Agreed,” Weiss said. She reached down and helped Blake to her feet. “Let’s go.”

Ruby and Weiss took the lead as they headed toward the transport that had dropped them off in the woods. That left Blake and Yang to walk side by side in the back. Whether the moment of privacy was intentional or not, Blake was grateful for it either way. She wanted this conversation over before they got home.

“You still care about him,” Yang whispered, but the hurt and anger in her voice were loud and clear. “Don’t you?”

“It’s complicated,” Blake said. She gripped her fists together and kept her eyes down. She loved Adam as much as she hated him, and that was a subject Blake wasn’t quite ready to put into words. or even try to explain. Blake shook her head and looked Yang in the eyes, determined and fierce. “But no matter what I feel, I know I have to stop him. He can’t have his way. Not this time.”

“Looked like he was having his way when I showed up,” Yang snorted. Blake gaped, but Yang winced immediately after the words left her lips. She frowned and shook her head. “Sorry. That was. I shouldn’t have said that.”

“It’s okay, Yang. I know what it looked like, and I didn’t exactly push him away,” Blake said. Because she wasn’t wrong. Not exactly. Blake held her hands together and breathed. In and out. “For a few seconds, it was all so familiar. It was like I’d gone back in time. I guess, I just didn’t want to lose those few seconds of the old him while I had them.”

“You know the old him isn’t coming back, right Blake? You left way before things got this bad,” Yang said. “It’s only going to get worse and worse.”

“I know,” Blake said.

She pursed her lips together and sucked in a breath. She could still feel him pressed against her. Still taste him. Blake blocked it out. Concentrated on the smell of Yang’s hair and the sounds of Ruby and Weiss bickering. She had to shut him out. No matter how loudly he was still banging against the doors of her heart.

Now who’s being dramatic? Blake asked herself. She brushed out her hair, and shook her head. “Believe me, I know.”

“You going to be okay?” Yang asked.

“I will be,” Blake said. She smiled and looked at her team. “I’m glad you guys were here.”

“Me, too,” Yang said. She grabbed Blake be the shoulder and gave her a side hug. “We’re going to look out for each other, no matter what.”

“Then I guess it’s my mission to make sure Adam never finishes his,” Blake said. She glanced over her shoulder when Yang wasn’t looking. Adam was there, watching. Waiting. But still, for now. This was his own version of goodbye for the moment. Blake turned away from him, her heart still beating in undesired want. “No matter what it takes.”

Blake really should have known better when they left for this trip. Missions were never easy.