Chapter 1: Meet the New Guy
Winter tried not to grimace as the makeup artist brushed another layer of powder onto her face. She'd never been much for the stuff, and having someone else put it on her made her uncomfortable. More uncomfortable, rather, than wearing tight clothing picked out by someone else, being completely unarmed, and at the mercy of a team of stylists already had her. You're doing this for Weiss, she reminded herself. Giving her the chance at her dreams like you had your chance in the military.
As if on cue, her now bum knee throbbed with a dull ache. One stray bullet during a training was enough to put her entire career off, everything she'd worked so hard for during the past eight years laid to waste. The doctors said she wouldn't be fit for combat, yet ironically she was fit enough to wear 5 inch heels on the runaway, she had even checked with her doctor beforehand.
The makeup artist nearly stabbed her in the eye with the mascara wand. "I'm so sorry," the young girl quickly barked out, and Winter waved it off.
"It's fine, beauty is pain, is it not?" It wasn't pain, it was torture, but since her father refused to pay her sister's tuition to Julliard, she didn't have any other way to pay it before the semester ended. Besides prostitution, probably. She hadn't checked that.
"I guess so, Miss Schnee," the girl said, and continued to apply gobs of cosmetics.
"That's Lieutenant Schnee, Mariella," a male voice suddenly sounded. The girl quivered.
"It's fine, Mariella. Genovian, you know I don't use my rank now that I'm retired," Winter said. "I don't feel it's appropriated, and I don't think the Department of Defense really wants my fashion model status reflecting on it."
"But Winter, darling, it's such a fun thing to work with! You're already perfect for my Diamonds and Ice collection, but think bigger! An entire line of military-inspired jackets, or maybe bring back epaulets? Or a dashing cape, with my help, darling, you could hit the big leagues of modeling!"
"Genovian, you've known me since we were 10 and have been trying to get me to model for you since we were 15. Since when did 'the big leagues' ever appeal to me?"
"I know, darling, but think about how launching a model to stardom could expand my burgeoning career, why, I could start my own fashion house instead of languishing underneath the creative control of my bosses, I could blossom-"
"Coffee's here, boss," said a deeper, rougher male voice.
Winter's stomach dropped. She couldn't see the newcomer, her eyes closed as Mariella brushed on more pigment, but that one gruff strain might just belong to-
"Oh, I didn't know you modelled, Ice Queen."
It was definitely her least favorite person in the entirety of New York City.
"Oh, Winter! You didn't tell me you knew Corbeau Burke! He's my new assistant," Genovian gushed. "He's just fabulous, you should see the cloak he's wearing!"
Mariella took the cue to step back and let Winter open her eyes. Standing before her, next to her old designer friend, was a tall man with intentionally mussed dark hair, dark sunglasses, and a flowing red cloak over a black and grey outfit. He pulled down his sunglasses and gave Winter a wink with his crimson eyes. Winter sneered. It was definitely Qrow Branwen, annoyance and uncle to her sister's roommates, but apparently undercover as a fashion designer assistant. To her fashion designer.
"I didn't realize I knew him, Genovian, please enlighten me, Corbeau, how did we meet?" Winter said.
"I believe it was at the tavern the other night, the Mended Drum?" he said, smirking. Of course he knew what bar she attended- or at least guessed she'd frequent the biggest military bar in town.
"Ah, must have been veteran's night, I met so many people I simply couldn't keep up," she replied.
"I believe it may have been, Lieutenant Winter, anyhow, boss, let's go over your itinerary for the day."
Winter almost let out a sigh of relief. Qrow Branwen was a hard-drinking ex-narcotics officer forced to switch to a white collar crime unit after he'd started getting a little too rough with his marks, or at least that's what his niece Ruby had accidentally spilled when she introduced the two at Julliard's open house a few weeks prior. After glaring at his niece for her oversharing, he had promptly tried to hit on her. Thankfully, not only herself and Weiss, but his nieces and their fourth roommate, immediately told him to keep his thoughts to and on himself.
That didn't mean he didn't pester her throughout the rest of the evening, where she was just trying to see where her hard earned money was going and watch the light in Weiss's eyes when she talked about studying her music. He had been the one thorn in an otherwise perfect evening. She almost snarled thinking about it, but Mariella thankfully asked her to adjust her mouth so she could apply lipstick. She was almost through here, then she could go through wardrobe and start today's rehearsal. To keep herself from her irritation, she listened in on the two men's conversation.
"And after that meeting, we'll go pickup the diamonds for tomorrow's show-" Qrow, or rather Corbeau, said, being cut off by his boss, who took him under an arm and started to whisper. Winter could barely make out the words being said.
"Are you sure the security will be enough? After the heist last week, I am concerned about running this show, won't we be a target with our use of the Hinatan diamond?" Genovian asked. Winter internally cringed. She had thought the heist a rumor, but having a jewel as internationally well known as the Hinatan in his show was a risk that was large even for Genovian, but she did know it was most likely an order to use the diamond.
"I promise you, it will be taken care of," Qrow said, and continued at normal value. "Plus, I think your top model might security enough." Winter could hear him smirk. Asshat.
"She can't have any of her weapons on the runway, we've already had that fight. Don’t encourage her, Corbeau." Genovian stated flatly.
"It isn't as though her body isn't killer enough-"
"Corbeau, that's not a-" Genovian stuttered-
"Do you want know how killer this body is, Mr. Burke? I think we have time for a quick demonstration," Winter said, rising and pushing Mariella out of her way. "Don’t worry, Genovian, I won't work up enough of a sweat to mess up our stylists' work before the rehearsal."
Qrow-Corbeau- whomever, sauntered to meet her halfway in the room. "Bring it, Ice Queen. Show me what you've got."
In the next fifteen seconds, he was facedown with one arm pinned flat on the ground in front of him and the other twisted behind his back. He tapped out with the arm in front of him and Winter let him up, but quickly turned and jabbed an accusatory finger into his chest.
"Keep your comments about my appearance and my supposed abilities to yourself. I am here to do my job and nothing else, I do not have time for your absolutely hilarious comments. I will be going to the wardrobe, now, see you at rehearsal Genovian."
As soon as Winter was safely out the door, Corbeau rubbed the spot where her nail had dug into his chest. "Damn."
Chapter 2: Chapter 2: Stuff Happens
Sorry about the delay in posting, it's been done for a while but I dunno man, finals kicked my ass. Please feel free to comment, especially if you notice any errors!
It could be said Qrow didn't particularly care for the plan. It was absurdly simple and pretty much sitting around waiting instead of doing actual detective work, and they weren't even using a false diamond as a safeguard. But that wasn't his call.
It could also be said that Qrow didn't particularly care for being the undercover agent. The whole damn reason behind his transfer to white collar from narcs was because he had gotten 'too intense', especially when undercover. While that was stupid as shit in the first place, he'd always been gruff and a little on the wrong side of right; he'd just gotten a little intense the last few years. Whatever. But if that's what they thought the problem was, assigning him undercover in a joint like this would wind up with him all nancy-pancy and insufferably vain. He wanted to drink just thinking about it, but he'd been mandated AA as part of the transfer. Maybe he'd just borrow some coke off a model, as if he could resist twisting her arm off to find her dealer- he'd done it a few too many times in the past. He suspected his tendency to target high-profile abusers had led to his current predicament.
In fact, it could be said that Qrow didn't particularly care for any part of this assignment, this department, didn't care for anything about catching crimes that hurt other rich people and didn't help the general populace. And most of all, he definitely did not in any way care for the gorgeous, white-haired ex-military model with anger issues. She was trouble and he wanted no part of it, not at all, not with all of the other beautiful women around. He had a reputation to uphold, as it were.
His little niece Ruby would call him a hater, and the bigger niece Yang would tell Ruby she wasn't cool enough to use that kind of lingo. He'd tell them they were both dorks with a smile. He'd also tell them he'd gotten tickets for their whole little crew from the dumb fancy music school to the fashion show. He needed to tell them, anyhow, because the one benefit of this stupid assignment in this damn department was the freebies.
Qrow had been leaning idly on a wall, halfheartedly watching the rehearsal. Fifteen of the city's prettiest women, the Schnee thorn in his side included, marched down the catwalk in a couple of different dresses apiece, shiny and slinky numbers that honestly didn't cut it for Qrow. He liked his women simple and tough, simply enough. (The girls would have teased him for that one, too). He did manage to pay attention to the last couple of rounds as he marked which women were supposed to wear the Hinatan diamond during the show itself.
That attention made it especially surprising when Winter grabbed him by his cloak, the only other benefit of the gig, and dragged him into an empty dressing room and turned on a radio.
"Alright, Corbeau, spill. What's going on here?" she demanded.
"What makes you think you get to be in the know?" he retorted. Of course she'd think she'd be part of this investigation.
"Because I'll figure it out anyway," Winter said. "If I remember correctly, my old superior officer James Ironwood is now head of the white collar crime department of the NYPD, traded in his lapels for a badge when he finally wedded Goodwitch. "
Qrow nodded. "And?"
"I wasn't done yet. Ironwood's a good man and a great leader, but he's predictable, and with such a high-profile case, he made the plan. So stupidly simple and a touch overconfident. Just tighten security as expected, plant some people undercover, and keep your eyes and ears open, 'always vigilant'," she said, shaking her head. "He's taken no precautions to actually protect the diamond and probably even hasn't planted any potential buyers in the market as a trap."
Qrow quirked his eyebrow. "I'm impressed the Tin Man's that predictable, but you're spot on. It's the dumbest plan I've ever heard. He seems pretty far removed from this whole thing called 'investigating'."
Winter shrugged. "His background's in special ops, that's how they operate, especially when they had me for the grunt work. But even then, his plans were always a shitshow."
"Did you just say shitshow?"
"Did you catch the part about me being in the military?"
"I had no earthly idea, lieutenant, I just figured with you being a Schnee you'd be a lot more prim and proper."
"In certain company, that holds water, but it's a total load of shitballs that you think just because of my name you can assume absolutely anything about me, it'd be like me assuming that you're into shiny things because of your name." She paused. "Though I have heard that crows don't actually collect shiny things, that's almost definitely magpies."
"A cusser and nerd. Next thing you know it'll turn out you're an active player in the BDSM scene."
Winter brushed the hair from her face and crossed her arms. "Wouldn't you like to know," she said.
Qrow bit back a chuckle. There was no way this uptight princess was into that kinda stuff. He questioned how, um, active, she even was. But he knew it was almost time to meet back with Genovian and he had an actual important statement to make.
"Just don't think you get a pass because you know me and Jimmy, Ice Queen. We've got to watch everyone and you're not an exception."
"I'd be disappointed if I was. Anyway, I have other appointments to keep. Have a nice time playing nanny to Genovian," she said, turning towards the door.
"Tell me about, don't forget to let it go and have a nice time building your ice castle on the mountain." She flipped him off as she walked out the door.
Qrow was grinning like a madman as he turned off the radio. He certainly did not at all enjoy having to work with Winter.
Winter's 'other appointments' just so happened to be a bowl of salad and this week's episode of Brooklyn Nine Nine.
She was washing her dishes when she got a text from one of the other models asking her to meet up for quick glass of wine to relax before the big show. Winter sighed and readied herself to go out- she was honestly trying to get along with these women, she just didn't feel like she fit in. She'd been a fighter long before she'd ever been in the military, and she'd honestly avoided most makeup, fashion, and cameras before hard economic fact made it necessary. These girls always at least had an interest in art and photography, if not the desire to be a model from an early age. If she was being honest with herself, they made her incredibly self-conscious about her career choices.
They met at a small, stylish wine bar with modern decoration and way more lighting than Winter typically like in her bars. Her arrival was met with a blissfully small amount of squealing and fussing. She ordered her moscato and started listening to the conversation.
"I'm just saying that everything has a time to end and NCIS should have ended before everyone started leaving. Like Caitlin leaving was one thing but now Ziva and DiNozzo are gone, what's the point? How much longer is this going to on? Until Abby leaves?" said Mina Teton, a dark haired girl from the Midwest.
Winter smiled at the subject. NCIS was big with most of her vet friends.
"And with all the spinoffs, it's going to wind up just like CSI," said Shanna Wiley, an African American girl from Seattle.
The conversation rattled on, discussing other tv shows and such, Winter commenting occasionally but mostly nursing her drink.
"So have y'all seen Genovian's hot new assistant yet?" Katie Smaller, a blonde from Texas asked.
"The guy with the weird French name, Corbeau or whatever?" Mina chimed in. "He is pretty attractive."
"It definitely seems like Winter here knows a thing or two about that," Shanna said with a Cheshire grin.
Fernanda Perez, a Latina model from Ohio, chuckled. "Yeah, I heard from Mariella that she put his ass on the ground during her makeup session today."
"Seems like she might have been a little nicer after our run-through, she dragged him into a room and turned some loud music on," Shanna added, "Wonder what that was to cover up."
Winter was bright red. "It's not what you think!" The other women giggled and smirked. "I just served with his late cousin, and I wanted to talk about that a bit as well as his behavior earlier in the day. The music is because I'm used to trying to avoid bugging equipment."
The models suddenly stopped smiling, and after a little awkward small talk Winter excused herself, citing an early gym session the next day. Maybe next time she could make it through without eating her own foot.
Chapter 3: Action... Where's the lights and camera?
Hey y'all, sorry for the delays and lack of plot movement in this chapter. It may also be a bit short but I'm trying to provide something. Unbeta'd so let me know if you come across any errors.
It may have been 6:30 in the morning, but Qrow wished for a drink or five. If he was going to play fashion boy while listening to good ole Jimmy Ironwood prattering in his ear piece he deserved a stiff drink. But giving up drinking had been part of the deal: transfer departments and sober up or forced retirement. If he didn't trust Commissioner Ozpin's judgement above his own, and hadn't seen the look in Ruby and Yang, hell, even Taiyang's eyes the last time he came back from being undercover, he'd have never agreed. As it was, even if he insisted everything was fine, he probably did need the change.
Which is why Qrow was currently beating the ever-loving shit out of a punching bag in the local gym. Maybe it wasn't exactly approved by the American Psychiatrists Association, but his therapists had said 'calm visualization of his negative emotions leaving his body with every punch' could be helpful, and if it was a little less than calm today, well, he had a high stress job.
In fact, when coupled with his headphones, he'd been so engrossed in the activity he didn't notice the third most stressful part of this assignment enter the gym.
The worst part about fashion shows was how they threw Winter's entire schedule off with how early she had to show up, meaning her usual 7:30 a.m. workout was a full hour early so she would have time to clean up properly. At least she could probably count on the boxing room being fairly empty, she needed to practice her combat moves more if she was going to have to throw undercover cops around regularly in this career.
She had just pushed through the door when she saw, almost directly in front of her, the one undercover cop she had already thrown around. Who was now shirtless and already had a faint shine from his exertions. She gave an awkward wave and he ignored her completely, which was fine. Totally fine. She was just going to have to look directly straight ahead to walk past him to the punching bag on the exact opposite end of the room.
Except, of course, he had to loose an earbud and lookup before she could finish passing him.
"And what you go to my gym now, too? What is the universe trying to do here?" Qrow asked her. Winter was honestly shocked at the lack of insult.
"I've been attending this gym for a full year, I just generally come later."
"And me earlier. This stupid fashion gig is going to do us both in, isn't it?" Qrow ran his fingers threw his glossy black hair in exasperation, stopped halfway through, and smirked. "Or we can always do each other in first."
Winter slapped her forehead. "Most of the models think we already have," she mumbled. "Also your imaginary cousin served in the forces with me."
"That's how you recovered, didn't even speculate on how amazing I'd be? And Schnee, get your mind out of the gutter, I was simply suggesting the formation of a good old fight club!" The models thought they'd done it. Heh. Though in her tank top and tight spandex training shorts, it might not be such a bad… oh no, that was a very bad idea. Ironwood would kill him.
"So you want a rematch?" Winter said. "The ring's right here."
Qrow didn't answer directly, just turned towards it, raised his arms, and yelled "In the right corner, we have Qrow Branwen, the mighty ladies' man adored across New York and winner of many altercations."
"And in the left corner we have Lieutenant Winter Schnee, Ice Queen and uptight potty-mouth! Give it up folks for the fight of the century!"
Winter shook her head but grinned at his commentary. Soon they took their stances and began to circle each other, sizing each other up and down. And up again, and down again, until both parties were just faintly flushed. Qrow waved her on. "Ladies first."
Winter feinted right but came in with a quick jab to the left ribs that grazed Qrow's side.
"If you wanted a feel all you had to do was ask," he smirked, circling her again.
This time he moved first, going for a high kick but Winter caught his foot and used it to launch herself into an overhead blow before he rolled out of the way.
They soon fell into a steady rhythm of attacks and blocks, jabs and counters, each getting a few good hits in but neither taking the offensive. Both were smiling, and to Qrow's surprise Winter laughed a few times. Boistered by the lighthearted move, Qrow went in for a fancy grappling move. Winter countered but missed her mark, the two fighters toppling over and rolling, both laughing this time.
A tangle of limbs, neither realized where they had landed until Winter pushed herself into a sitting position. On top of Qrow. Straddling Qrow. Winter didn't realize she could stand up that fast. Qrow was in the opposite corner of the ring before she could blink, beet red.
Winter checked her watch with a flourish. "Ah, I have to go get ready, I guess I'll see you in fashion hell," Winter said.
Qrow nodded. "We can burn in the heat of the makeup lights together." He practically sprinted out of the room.