You are born a kit - vulnerable, like any child, and blind, like the foxes you are named for.
But unlike your brethren, you don't grow out of your blindness, only your vulnerability. You remain in the dark and define your surroundings with your other senses, finding your strength and power through those instead.
Because of your blindness, others expect you to be different - to do things differently. They try to control you and dictate what you should do.
It starts small. Your vocabulary is brought into question from the moment you learn to speak. Why do you ask to "see" something or to "take a look at" another thing? You can't actually see.
You hate the way they treat you - like you're fragile and going to break if they ask you to "look" at something. You refuse to accept the limitations they set - no matter how small they seem - and instead turn their discomfort against them by weaponizing the words.
Look is the first one you learn. You wear the word like a second skin; you make friends with it, and it becomes a long-lost lover. See is its identical twin - gentler somehow, and your relationship with it lacks the intimacy you share with look.
Of course, they learn to do it in turn. Stare becomes your archnemesis. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end before anyone breathes it.
"Don't stare, it's rude!" Parents admonish their children in hushed whispers, though you can feel their stare boring through your skin.
"Don't stare, it's rude!" Other children admonish you, not knowing - or not caring - you have no way of knowing that you're staring at someone.
Eventually you develop an uneasy truce with the word. The terms are drawn up on your tenth birthday, when you're given a pair of sunglasses.
The terms are simple: you hide away parts of yourself and in exchange, people stop staring.
You don't like them - the sunglasses pinch your temples and your hair gets caught in the joints - but they hold up your end of the bargain.
As your aura sharpens and grows, people are even less prone to staring. You move with the ease of someone who can see.
You adopt a bluntness that makes you few friends. "I'm blind," you snarl at people shortly after meeting them.
The stumbling half-apologies of "I couldn't tell!" and "You don't look blind!" you get in response tells you you didn't want them as friends anyway.
Eventually you snap and break the truce; you take the sunglasses off.
You never wanted to hide. There's nothing wrong with you - you just want people to stop staring.
The stares you can't see and the whispers you can start to follow you, speculating on your "condition".
The next day you put the sunglasses back on and don't take them off again.
But the broken treaty comes with a price - and you pay it in blood.
If had been as simple as opening a vein, you would have done so willingly, but it's never that simple.
You pay with long jeans after you fall out of a tree and scrape up your leg, leaving behind thick scars you can map out with your fingers.
You pay with gloves and exercises to keep your fingers nimble after papercuts and cooking burns add up to leave your hands a knotted mess of scars.
You pay with long sleeves after you fall off your horse and into a barbed wire fence, slicing up your arm.
You can't see the looks of pity, but you can feel the stares, hear the whispers, until you cover your body and hide it away. You tell yourself that you're different and that's fine.
It's everyone else that has the problem with you.
But you can't hide the scars perfectly every time, and eventually your parents overrule your objections and drag you to professionals to ensure you're healthy.
The doctors, of course, only confirm what the stares had told you all along - you're different.
They delight in poking and prodding at you - parading medical students and visiting physicians from other kingdoms through the room as you sit there, vulnerable in nothing but a paper dressing gown.
Your elbows are covered in tiny scars from the repeated blood draws on both arms. You sometimes suspect they draw blood only to observe the scarring process - not that they would ever admit to it.
Eventually, they tell you your aura's overextended and overworked because it helps you navigate the world. (They don't say it means you're more prone to injuries that bleed, but that's what they mean.)
Then they tell you that your aura is incredibly powerful and hyperactive because you use it so much. (They don't say it means you'll always scar, but that's what they mean.)
They suggest you use a cane or have someone lead you. They give you pamphlets that aren't written in braille that tell your parents about how to apply for a seeing eye dog. (They don't say to use your aura less and to be less active, but that's what they mean.)
They tell you the same thing you've been told since you first learned to talk - do as you're told and act the way we expect you to.
You stop going to doctors and enroll in combat school instead.
When you're 13 and in your first year at Sanctum, you meet Coco Adel in a hail of bullets.
You're flat on your back with the taste of copper filling your mouth, weapons up against an ursa that's trying to claw your face off.
She overwhelms your senses - her aura is overpowering, choking you worse than the blood filling your mouth. Her gatling gun echoes through your brain, drowning out the ursa's death rattle.
You roll over and spit out the blood in your mouth. The cut isn't deep, and you can already feel the sting of your aura healing it.
Your stomach sinks to your feet as you realize that there will be no hiding this cut on your face. It would scar, just like they all did, and there would be no way to hide it.
"Watch yourself, I'm sure that wasn't the last of them."
You keep your head down as you scramble to your feet, hiding your eyes and newly-acquired scar. You extend your aura as best you can, focused on the area surrounding you both. You do your best to tune out her aura, even as it threatens to overwhelm your senses again.
"I don't hear any more in the area," you say after a moment.
"And I don't see any. Fox, right? Ursa didn't manage to claw off that pretty face of yours, did it?" A leather-clad hand cups your cheek and you pull away. You recognize her voice, vaguely. She'd spoken up in class multiple times, but never directly to you and so you didn't know her name.
"That's me, afraid I don't know your name though. I'm fine, just lost my sunglasses - pretty sure they broke."
"Coco - Coco Adel." You can just make out her soft footsteps through the grass. "Yeah, they're trashed." You hear the click of frames. "Here, take mine."
Your head snaps up at her words, and her hand finds your cheek again. "It did get you, didn't it?" Her leather-clad thumb swipes at your chin, no doubt cleaning up a line of blood.
You lick your lips, feeling the puffy new scar there. It's nothing you want to say, but it's the first scar you've gotten you can't conceal. It's definitely not nothing.
You're not in the right frame of mind to convincingly lie. "Why?" you ask instead as she presses a new pair of glasses into your hand. They're heavier and are a different shape than your old ones.
They'll cover more of your face, though not enough to hide the scar on your lips.
"Hmmm." She audibly drums her fingers across her gun case. "You need them. I just wear them as a fashion accessory."
You snarl and take them off. "It doesn't do anything for me. I'm blind," you hiss.
"Well, maybe not for you, but you do look good in them." Quieter, she adds, "They seem to help your confidence."
She's not wrong - you always feel better when people have less reason to stare.
Her hand covers yours and she gently pushes it back towards your chest. "Take them."
You put them on but keep your head turned down. "Thank you," you manage through the lump in your throat.
Despite your prickly demeanor - or perhaps because of it - Coco settles into your life, staking her claim as your best friend with a slap on the ass.
You know of the Adels, like all of Remnant. They are arguably the most powerful family, with deep political ties in all four kingdoms and pockets as deep as the Schnees. You had assumed Coco had enrolled at Sanctum out of a sense of obligation or as an early start to her own political career, even though typically students went to Atlas for that.
You're wary - colder, more distant than you usually would be with a near-stranger. You have no reason to trust her.
But Coco defies the expectations you have, fitting into your life as if she's always been there. She seems to have no interest in continuing her family's legacy of elected officials, which runs counter to what you've heard.
Her passion for clothing, however, had been understated by the gossip. She drags you out shopping the second weekend after you'd become friends.
"Do you do this with all your friends?" you ask as she shoves you into a changing room with an armload of clothes.
And the sudden silence on the other side of the door makes you question if she's still there.
"Coco?" you ask, already half undressed.
"Maybe I do," she says, voice cracking slightly.
You don't press the issue, just tug a new shirt on over your head and then fumble through the rest of the clothes. The shirt is tight and despite the long sleeves, you figure that Coco meant for it to be layered with something. You're also not sure how you feel about the low neckline.
Somewhere in the middle of the mess of shirts you find a thicker, sleeveless one and you shrug into it, sighing in relief when the zipper comes all the way up to the hollow of your throat.
She hums thoughtfully when you come out of the changing room. "Those look good together," she says, reaching out to tug the collar straight. "You wouldn't wear them on their own, would you?"
And you know it's mostly rhetorical, but you shake your head regardless. "Too revealing." You subconsciously lick the long-healed scar on your lips - the one that Coco says isn't that obvious.
She accepts your statement at face value, pushing past you to rifle through the pile of clothes and handing you one shirt. "Try this on instead."
You're slightly unnerved by the unquestioning acceptance. You don't owe her an explanation - you don't owe anyone one, but they'd always demanded one in the past.
Safe behind the closed door of the room, you offer her an explanation for no reason other than because she didn't ask. "I scar. Every time."
And the half-formed thought shouldn't make sense, but she understands regardless. She had probably already guessed that was the case.
"I don't make friends easily," she whispers in turn. "Not ones who just want to get to know me."
Her confession is as bare-bones as yours was, but you understand regardless.
The spell is broken when you come out wearing the new shirt, but something's changed.
Later, at home, you strip out of your shirt without hesitation when she presses one from your closet into your hands.
She doesn't comment and neither do you.
Despite the ease with which she accepts your scars, you refuse to show her your eyes for another three years. Scars are a normal part of life as a hunter, even if you're more prone to them. Your eyes are different; at least, they are to you.
It was days before graduation. You'd both sent out applications to the four huntsmen academies, and while Coco has already received acceptances to all of them, you have only heard back from Haven and Atlas, who both said no.
You drop the two new letters on the coffee table and flop face down on the couch, unwilling to open them yourself. You doubt you'd be able to read them anyway.
"This one's from Shade," Coco says as she rips open the envelope. She goes quiet as she reads it; the silence stretches between you. "They said no." She sighs and drops it on the coffee table. "It's in braille, if you want to read it."
You shake your head, unable to find your voice. You remember her words from the day before - her heart was set on Shade Academy, so even if Beacon said yes, you wouldn't be going together.
She grabs your wrist and pulls you up, shoving a letter into your hands. "Beacon sent word too."
You oblige and begin reading. She sounds excited, which is new.
Congratulations on your acceptance to Beacon Academy. Enclosed you can find...
You can't focus on the braille beyond that. "Accepted." Your voice is thick with disappointment.
"Accepted!" Coco cheers, throwing her arms around you in an enthusiastic hug. You half-heartedly return it. "Vale's a great city; I've been a couple of times, but never for an extended stay. I'm sure we'll fit right in though."
You frown at the 'we'. "But I thought you wanted to go to Shade?" You weren't sure you wanted to go to Beacon without her - learning to trust two new people would be hard enough. Three would be all but impossible.
She gently taps your nose. "I want to go with you. We're going to be partners, right?"
You take your sunglasses off to rub your eyes. "Coco - " Your voice cracks on her name. You don't want her giving up her dreams of Shade for you.
"Fox." The stress on your name has you tilting your head towards her. She cups your face, voice steady even as she sees your eyes. "Yeah, Shade would be nice because they don't have a uniform, but I really only said that because they were one of our only options." Her hand drops away from your face. "Unless - do you not want to go together?"
"Our." You smile, finally, the tightness in your chest easing. "I like the sound of that."
She punches your shoulder. "Don't tell me you actually thought I was so vain as to care if I had to wear a uniform!"
Relief washes over you, the tension giving way to laughter. "How would I know? I can't see!" you protest, grabbing a pillow and throwing it at her.
The tinny speech from Goodwitch ends and something changes - your fellow huntsmen and huntresses move around you, pushing to look at something visible from the windows of the airship. Even Coco slips away for a moment, wanting to take in the sights you can't see.
One of your classmates comes up to you, asks "Don't want to look at the view?"
She doesn't flinch away from the word; she doesn't know.
You tap the sunglasses that cover your eyes - the same ones that Coco had given you all those years ago. "Never been my thing, really. I'm blind." Blunt, to the point. The words you use are as much your armor as the sunglasses.
You count down from five in your head, waiting for the stumble - the apology.
"And big crowds aren't really mine." You startle slightly when she doesn't trip and just takes the statement in stride. "Hope you don't mind me standing with you - it's the only spot that has any breathing space."
While people rarely realize you're blind, they know you're different and avoid you because of it.
"Not at all," you find yourself saying, awkwardly extending your hand in her direction. "Fox Alistair."
"Velvet Scarlatina." Her grip is firm and voice warm.
There's another hand at the small of your back - possessive, protective, familiar - before you let go of Velvet's.
"Making new friends?" Coco's voice carries the barest hint of steel to go with the protective touch. She had spent your years together at Sanctum watching your back, and she wasn't about to stop now.
You turn slightly to smile at her. "Coco, this is Velvet." But she drops your hand before you can finish introducing them, the quiet patter of feet signaling her retreat across the airship. "I... Velvet?" you pitch your voice to make it carry while trying not to draw too much attention.
She sighs. "She ran off when - well. When she recognized me."
You bristle. The Adels have a reputation and it isn't a good one, but that doesn't mean you like it when people are rude to Coco. "Not your fault," you manage through gritted teeth. "You couldn't have known she would rabbit as soon as you arrived."
There's a heartbeat of a pause and then Coco is laughing until she's barely capable of breathing.
It's something that you do occasionally. You make a joke or a pun about something you can't have known and Coco loses it.
"Rabbit?" you venture, and she hiccups on the next laugh. You have no idea why it was hilarious, but you're glad she's focused on that rather than having accidentally chased your new friend away.
Two sets of footsteps approach, one much larger and heavier than the other.
You tilt your head towards the lilting voice. "Velvet?" You don't recognize the voice, but the accent is vaguely familiar - and there are only a handful of people on the ship that know your name.
"I'm sorry - I just was startled."
You manage to force a smile. "It's fine - I know Coco's something else. She doesn't bite though." You're biting your tongue through it - she's your best friend and you're protective of her, especially when someone doesn't give her a chance first.
Coco collects herself enough to stand up straight. "Hi Velvet, it's nice to meet you."
"This is my friend Yatsuhashi. Yatsu, these are Coco and Fox."
You'd long ago learned to simply extend your hand during introductions to make everything less awkward. When the large hand meets yours, you're tempted to let down your shields and feel their auras, but you know in such a crowded space it would overwhelm you.
"It's a pleasure to meet you both." His voice is big like his hand, filling up the space around you.
"What brings you to Beacon?" Velvet asks.
Coco stiffens beside you and your mouth goes dry as the answer dies on your tongue.
Coco had had her choice of schools.
You had gotten only the one acceptance, despite having nearly identical high scores.
"It seemed like the best fit for the two of us," Coco says, casually avoiding admitting why it was the best fit. "You?"
There's a pause. "Same," Yatsuhashi says, and you can't help but wonder if he was avoiding something as well.
You're 13 years old and at Sanctum and you're on your hands and knees feeling around the leaf litter, desperately searching for your sunglasses you're pretty sure you heard break. The taste of your own blood is making you gag.
You're 17 years old and at Beacon.
You're still on your hands and knees after a battle, searching for your sunglasses in the leaf litter.
The blood isn't a taste, but the quiet dripping of liquid onto the forest floor.
The footsteps aren't the quiet cadence of Coco's heels - they're heavy and flat. The aura isn't the impenetrable wall of that had accompanied her that first time, but it still fills the area around you, choking you.
"Fox? Is everything all right?" You can't quite place the voice, though you're sure you've heard it before.
You keep your head down and nod. "I can't find my sunglasses." You shake your right hand free of your weapon and carefully feel the wound on your left shoulder. It doesn't take long for the blood to soak through your glove; it'll leave a nasty looking scar.
"It's Yatsuhashi - from the airship. I'll help you find them."
Adjusting your weapons, you sigh, hoping your blood isn't getting everywhere. "They got knocked off in battle - I got turned around and I'm not even sure which way is towards the temple and I don't even know if we've made eye contact." The words come out in a jumble and only fuel your anger, no matter how true they might be.
There's a second set of footsteps and another aura comes into your range of senses. This one is wispy - when you try to focus on it, it blends into Yatsuhashi's until you can't tell the difference. "Yatsu and I have already partnered up." The accented lilt is one you've just started to recognize - and when paired with him, it can only belong to Velvet. "Do you want to come with us?"
You keep your head down as you stand. "I can handle myself." It comes out a snarl and stands in direct opposition to your earlier confession.
"I know. We could use the help though."
It's probably a lie.
You can't tell.
You can't even tell which one of them had spoken.
You realize it doesn't really matter to you - they aren't calling you out on your lie. They're letting you choose.
"I want to try to find Coco," you say, falling right back into your old habits and keeping your head down and turned away from them. "Just keep an ear out for a gatling gun and a sailor's mouth."
She finds you first.
It's not in a hail of bullets this time. You recognize her powerful aura coming closer long before you hear the twig snap - a sound she only makes to alert your companions.
The two of them jump at the sound, but you don't move, letting her come to you.
"Fox," she says, cupping your face. You try to focus on your surroundings for anyone else, but it's hard. While Velvet and Yatsuhashi have stepped away for a moment, their unfamiliar auras are still nearly overwhelming when combined with Coco's. "Partners?"
You nod, tension seeping out of your hunched shoulders as she presses her sunglasses into your hand.
"What about those two?" she asks, voice low.
You hesitate and try to offer an explanation. You'd both been worried about being paired with strangers who would judge you and hate you for who you are, and they aren't that. "They're... Not strangers," you offer. It wasn't entirely true - you'd barely known them for a day, but it was as close to the truth as you could easily articulate.
Strangers, yes. Cruel, no. At least not openly.
You don't trust them, but you respect them, and they did you in turn - which is more than you could probably say about the majority of your classmates.
"They might make good teammates. We should offer to travel together to the temple at least and decide later." You nod again and she calls out to the other two, asking if they want to travel together.
The silence stretches out for a long, painful moment before they finally agree.
A pair of cards, the braille telling you they are both a four of hearts, binds you together as team CFVY.
It had been a choice at the temple.
You and Yatsuhashi - "call me Yatsu" - had stepped away to allow Coco and Velvet to talk out what had sent the other woman running when they had met. Their voices were too quiet for even you to make out, but you can feel the tension coming off both of them.
You don't know what caused it, you're just grateful when they come over with matching artifacts and relaxed postures.
But when the day is over and it's just the four of you in your dorm room, you're forced to acknowledge they are strangers.
The hand you'd subconsciously raised to remove your sunglasses falls uselessly to your side for a moment before you busy yourself with unpacking.
You don't want them to be strangers.
It's a startling thought you have about three weeks into the school year. They've grown to be the not-strangers you'd told Coco they were at initiation, but you found yourself craving more.
But years of habit and secrecy are hard to break. You find it hard to take that final step.
In the end, you don't have to.
It's Yatsuhashi who reaches out first, after an outdoor exercise that left you covered in your own blood and grimm goo. The nasty gash across your chest is rapidly scarring over, but the grimm who'd given it to you had shredded your shirt in the process.
You have 20 minutes to shower and get to your next class. It isn't enough time to go back to your dorm, you'd have to brave the communal showers of the locker room.
You are spared some humiliation - you do have a spare change of clothes in your locker, even if you haven't used them before.
Your time is running short and you don't know what you are going to do. It's more tempting than it should be to simply go to class as-is, but it would be distracting not just for you, but your teammates as well.
Skipping or arriving late aren't options - Professor Peach has strict rules about arriving on time for tests.
You jump when Yatsuhashi's hand comes down on your shoulder, startling you out of your thoughts.
"There are two open shower heads down at the end," he says, quietly enough only you can hear. "I can block others' view of you."
The tightness in your chest has nothing to do with the new scar tissue crossing it. You know Yatsuhashi is big - tall and broad enough to block you from those who would stare.
But you still have to strip down completely in front of him and trust him like you do Coco - something that had taken three years to do around her.
Not for the first time you growl at the gendered showers - even if Coco wasn't anywhere near big enough to shield you the way Yatsuhashi could.
"I promise not to look," he promises when your hesitation becomes noticeable.
This is your team - and there should be more than just a name to bind you together - and so you follow him.
The sound of the water pounding against the floor won't be enough to drown out Yatsuhashi's reaction. You're not sure if you should be grateful or disappointed you'll know.
But when you strip out of your shirt, there's no sharp inhalation - no indication he's looking.
He'd promised not to.
And either he hadn't or his poker face was that good.
You choose to believe he kept his promise as you stand there, more vulnerable than you have been in a long time.
The tightness in your chest eases as you towel off and get dressed. "Yatsu?" you ask, just loud enough to be heard over the water.
And he tells you to go on ahead, to not wait for him, but you do, even though it makes you both late.
When you get to Professor Peach's class, Coco has successfully made excuses - backed by Goodwitch - about how you were delayed due to an injury, and you're allowed to take the test even though you're walking in 10 minutes after the bell.
You knock your knee against Yatsu's in silent thanks as you start the test.
It's a Saturday when Velvet seeks you out. Coco and Yatsuhashi have headed into downtown Vale despite the late summer heat to do some shopping - you already advised Yatsu that it was better to just go with it. Velvet had gotten the same treatment the week before.
Since you'd had your turn back in combat school, you decide to monopolize the bathroom for a bit and take a long, indulgent shower and shave a near-perpetual stubble off. You don't normally bother shaving completely. It takes some time and you're not comfortable yet sharing the bathroom when you're only half-dressed.
The quiet knock on the bathroom door makes you jump, the nick to your jaw from the razor causes your aura to flare. A quiet curse has Velvet calling your name.
You didn't draw blood as far as you can tell, for which you're grateful.
"Velvs? Is everything okay?" you call back, drying your face off. The nickname that Yatsu uses for her rolls off your tongue without a second thought.
Her hesitation has you crossing the room in two quick strides, throwing open the bathroom door.
"I'm fine - there's nothing wrong," she manages as the door swings open. "I just... wanted to tell you something?" Her voice creeps up an octave as she speaks.
You want to reach out to her but stop yourself, unsure of how a hug would be received. Instead you grip the doorknob tightly, ignoring the way the scar tissue pulls. "You can tell me anything," you reassure her.
It comes out a single word, said in a rush and slurred together so badly to be nearly indistinguishable.
You run the word - words - through your head, parsing out the sentence.
I'm a faunus.
The words stumble around your head for a moment before they sink in. You're already moving before you finish processing, opening your arms wide to offer her a hug.
"Thank you," you say, but you're not sure she hears you over her sudden rambling apology.
"I'm sorry - it could have waited, I didn't have to - I knew you were showering..." she babbles.
You don't quite understand - until your blood runs cold and you do. You hadn't even thought about your state of dress - you'd just wanted to make sure Velvet was okay.
Almost as shocking as the initial realization is the realization you don't mind. You shake your head to clear it. It's more than that - you're glad you're not hiding yourself away from her. "I answered the door," you gently remind her, just loud enough to be heard over her increasingly frantic speech.
Her next breath is unsteady. "I still could have - "
You press a finger to her lips. "Velvet. It's okay. Do you want a hug?" In response, you get a faceful of fur as she throws her arms around you in a nearly bone-crushing embrace.
"Rabbit ears?" you guess. She nods, muttering her consent for you to touch them into your shoulder. You do, carefully, reaching up well above your head to find the tips. "They're so soft."
Her ears twitch under your touch and she pulls away, pushing you back into the bathroom. "Get dressed," she says. It's not mean - you can hear the amusement in her voice and it makes you smile.
"Coco says she likes the view," you tease as you head back into the bathroom.
"Never said I didn't!" she protests with a laugh through the now-closed door.
You fumble through your clothes, running the shirt you picked out through your hands. It really was too hot for the layers.
The vest on the other hand was much lighter and wouldn't be so oppressive in the heat. It, combined with your gloves, covered the worst of the scars - and what was left wasn't anything they hadn't already seen.
So you walk out in just your pants and vest, returning the shirt to your closet and setting the sunglasses on your desk, settling in to get a head start on homework for the upcoming week.
When Yatsu and Coco come back several hours later, you stretch, turning towards them. "How was it?"
"Coco has decent taste," Yatsu says.
"Not that Fox knows how to appreciate it." Her hand ghosts over the scar you got at initiation. "You do look better in just the vest," she whispers.
You smile and think about telling her the change is because of the heat. You know she won't believe you, so you don't even try.
It's easier once you know your team has your back. You find yourself far more willing to venture out around Beacon and eventually Vale without your sunglasses, skin bared for anyone to stare at.
You don't get rid of them though - you tuck the long sleeved shirts into the back of your closet and the sunglasses into your nightstand just in case.
You like to think you could hear the glasses crack when Coco hit the tree in the arena, but you know it's your mind playing tricks on you - you only know they broke because Velvet told you.
You rush back to your dorm room with Velvet. Coco and Yatsu had already made their way back to recover from the severe aura drain.
"I saw you in the forest, though. I heard you call my name." Coco sounds lost. "Doctors said it was 'stress-induced hallucinations'. I've never had issues with that."
Yatsu sounds as tired and adrift as Coco. "I don't know what you saw, then, but I assure you - "
"- it wasn't you." She lets out a defeated sigh. "I broke my last pair of sunglasses too," she says, half muffled.
You don't even stop to think about it. You hadn't touched the sunglasses in your drawer since you moved back in for second year - it just makes sense to pull them out now and press them into her hand, an echo of what she'd done all those years ago.
"Here, take mine."