Fox had three options to get to the cliff on his own, and he wasn’t keen on any of them. Opening up his aura and using his semblance to help him navigate was out of the question with so many people in the room. He could stumble through the locker room without any aid, following the noisy crowd of his classmates and risk injuring himself before he even got outside. Alternatively, he could pull out the cane he had stowed in his locker for emergencies and use that - but then he would have to carry it with him during initiation or somehow stow it out on the cliff and get it later.
As he reviewed his options, Coco placed her hand on his arm, offering him a fourth option - to have her lead him.
He took the arm, telling himself that it wasn't a sign of weakness, and that he didn't want to be partnered with anyone who thought it was one anyway.
"I'll come looking for you," she promised as they made their way out to where Goodwitch was summoning them.
Fox grinned at her. "Yeah, unless I find a better partner first."
Scoffing, she helped him get situated on a launch pad. "Yeah, sure. You find someone better than me and we'll talk."
He reached up to muss her beret, cracking a smile when she grumbled. "Yeah, yeah, fearless leader." They both knew it was an empty threat, having watched each other's back since they were kids. The thought of not being on a team together was nearly unbearable. They'd looked into how teams were determined before enrolling. Beacon didn't give them the most control over partner pairs, but it seemed to give them the most choices after. With a final playful shove he turned back to Goodwitch just in time to hear the last of the instructions.
"Your partner will be the first person you make eye contact with," Goodwitch was saying. "You will be monitored. We will partner you with the first person you make eye contact with, regardless of whether you or they are aware."
Fox suppressed a grimace as she finished her speech and the launchpads started throwing students into the air without warning. At least no one would be able to pretend they hadn't made eye contact with him - but he really didn't want to be paired with someone who would pretend they hadn't been.
He needn't have worried though; he had barely hit the ground when heard the familiar sound of Coco's weapon mowing through grimm. Her easy call of - "Hey partner, good of you to finally join me!" had the tension easing out of his shoulders.
Their four years at Beacon were going to be great.
Velvet's ears drooped as she waited her turn to start initiation. She knew that she'd be dropped into the wilderness soon, left to fend for herself until she managed to find a partner and eventually a team. The grimm didn't scare her, even though they'd be different than the ones she'd fought in Menagerie.
Her classmates on the other hand… she looked around at the thinning group of students. Most of them were ignoring her, but she remembered the jeers from the night before and even earlier that day. She'd made a friend out of one person - even if he'd been a little bit intimidating when she'd first met him, so she held out hope she could at least partner with someone who wasn't going to hate her on sight.
But she didn't have time to dwell on it - her name was being called and moments later she was flying through the air.
She crashed through the foliage, coming to a rolling stop beneath a giant oak. The first thing she did was check her weapon. All she had was a handful of generic, unmodified weapons on it, but it was something if she needed them.
There was already a fight going on nearby, with someone shouting about an ursa, and she thought about going to investigate. However she knew the person who shouted back - a classmate of hers from Sanctum. They certainly weren't on her list of good candidates for a partner, so she turned and went the other way instead.
She couldn't help but be grateful of her ability to choose to walk away. The nearly-complete freedom to choose a partner to her liking was why she'd chosen this school. Turning away from her old classmate, she skirted around the edge of a swamp towards the sound of another fight. An ape-like howl of pain told her it was likely a beringel - and she could only hear a single combatant taking it on. That was more promising - though, as she made her way into the small clearing, an ursa came up behind her, swiping at her with its paw and sending her careening into her classmate and sealing their fate as partners before she even knew who it was.
"Ah fuck." She knew the voice - she didn't even have to look up to realize exactly how screwed she was. "I can't believe I'm stuck with an animal as my partner. I'd be better off with that ursa."
Her four years at Haven were going to be torturous with Melanctha as her partner.
The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end, confirming his suspicion that he was being watched. He didn't mind - they'd approach him if they felt comfortable. He didn't want to push. Yatsuhashi liked to think that he'd be approachable to a shyer classmate, but he knew that his size could be intimidating to some.
He would prefer one of his quieter classmates, given a choice, but he also knew that turning around and looking for them wouldn't start their partnership off the way he wanted.
So he walked towards the temple, letting his shadow stick to the underbrush.
Eventually a man with long, green hair popped out in front of him, brown eyes meeting his. The man wasn't significantly shorter than Yatsuhashi's seven foot build, which was surprising. "Hey!" he grinned as he looked around and saw no one else. "I got to you first?"
"Yes, I believe this makes us partners. I am Yatsuhashi Daichi."
"Sweet!" He threw a fist into the air. "Farris Roke. I'm so glad to have found you first."
Yatsuhashi cocked his head. He didn't recognize the young man from anywhere.
"Apologies, I don't recall having met you before."
He shook his head, hair flying everywhere. "Nope, but you looked like you'd be a strong fighter. Figured I'd at least try to find someone who would be able to contribute to the team."
Yatsuhashi's heart sank at Farris's words. "I'm sure all of our classmates are more than capable fighters," he countered gently.
His partner shrugged. "Still, wouldn't want to be carrying my partner for four years. Plus, you should be grateful - I'm pretty sure the person who's been following you is scared of their own shadow. You'd have spent your entire time protecting them." He leaned in conspiratorially and added, "I don't think they're human either."
Yatsuhashi looked back over his shoulder, catching only the smallest glimpse of blue hair before they disappeared into the trees. "Human or faunus, I wouldn't have minded."
Farris's eyes narrowed and he raised his weapon to Yatsuhashi. "You are human, right?"
He took a step back and raised his empty hands. "I am. I just don't hate faunus."
Lowering his weapon, Farris nodded. "Fine. Let's go get an artifact before it gets dark."
He sighed and followed his partner into the woods, slowly starting to dread the coming four years at Beacon.
"Farris Roke. Yatsuhashi Daichi. Fox Alistair. Coco Adel. The four of you retrieved the four of hearts. From this day forward, you will work together as team CFFY. Led by… Coco Adel."
Leader. She wasn't quite sure what to make of it.
There would be some who said she only got the position because of her family - the Adel name carried a lot of weight.
Fox nudged her shoulder. "I knew you'd be leader."
Yatsuhashi smiled and bowed ever so slightly, easing some of her worries about how her teammates would react, though Farris's face gave away none of his thoughts.
Coco had been raised to believe in the power of the Adel name. But she'd seen what the power of the Adel name could do, and that's why she had gone to Beacon instead of pursuing a career in the family business. Her mother thought it was a short stint to build up her appearance, but, in reality, Coco was in it for the long run.
She warned Fox about the stage's stairs as they got to them, glaring a hole into the back of Farris's head at his derisive snort. "Is there a problem?" she asked.
"Just worried about everyone on the team pulling their own weight."
She bristled at the implication, but Fox put his hand on her shoulder and gave it a small squeeze. Let me handle it, the signal meant.
Leader or not, Fox was her best friend, and it wasn't her place to interfere on his behalf - not for this.
The awkward tension followed them to their dorm room where they each claimed a bed. Farris had barely set down his luggage before turning to the other three.
"So what are your semblances?" he immediately asked, folding his arms across his chest. "I didn't see any of you use them during initiation."
Coco had, of course, as had Fox. She wasn't sure about Yatsuhashi though.
"What can you do, Farris?" she asked, trying to gauge his reaction.
"I can teleport." He demonstrated, popping across the room and back in the blink of an eye. "What can you do? I bet you have something super powerful as an Adel!"
Coco pursed her lips. She hated her semblance. It was a "gift" from her mother - the Adel legacy. "I can read auras, get information from people and grimm by studying them. Some information comes faster than others."
"You can… read auras?" Farris asked, cocking his head in confusion.
Not as well as some of her family members could, but it was enough to rattle people. "It might be easier for me to just demonstrate," Coco said. "Yatsuhashi, may I?" She refused to do it without permission.
He stiffened slightly and forced a smile. "Of course," he said with a glance over at Farris.
She tilted her head at his reaction. "I don't have to," she offered, following his gaze to their teammate.
"No, it's fine."
She didn't draw attention to his obvious discomfort, just promised herself that she would only mention what was absolutely necessary.
With grimm it was different. She could instantly read which one of the pack was the alpha, pick up on any existing injuries. She'd honed her skills to read them, not humans, much to her mother's dismay. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, focusing on her teammate.
Race was easiest. She barely had to concentrate to pick up on the information - and that's where she found the source of Yatsu's anxiety. "You're human," she confirmed, refusing to voice the quarter faunus she could detect.
There was a derisive snort from Farris that nearly drowned out Yatsuhashi's relieved sigh. "Is that it?"
"Your armor is on your left arm because an old injury means you've got a slower reaction time with that arm - not by much, but enough," she continued. That would be info that was needed to fight together effectively. "Your semblance is a healing one - aura sharing?" she guessed, opening her eyes.
Yatsuhashi was smiling - a real one. "That's right. I can't heal, but if your aura is drained I can share some of mine to keep you going - at the expense of my own. What about you, Fox?"
"Honestly, mine isn't all that special. I can sense auras - even through walls and the like - and grimm. I can tell when and where you're injured or when you're using your semblance, but beyond that I can't really use the information for much." Fox let out a small laugh. "It's great for finding people in rubble. I don't have to know they're there, just be within about 50 feet if I focus. I pick up on stuff passively, I don't have to focus like Coco does. Inanimate objects still trip me up though, and in crowds it can be overwhelming."
Farris threw his hands up into the air when Fox finished his explanation. "Seriously? That's all you've got? I can teleport short distances. My semblance can actually be used for battle, or did you forget that we'd be fighting when you signed up for Beacon?" He stalked out of the room, slamming the door behind him.
"Fuck." Coco covered her face with her hands. "That could have gone better."
"Thank you, for lying." She looked up at Yatsuhashi's words. "Or could you not tell?" he amended.
"I could tell." She shrugged, still not willing to reveal his secret. "Wasn't about to tell the whole truth."
"My maternal grandmother was a faunus." He looked down at his clenched fists. "I've never hidden it but…" He looked up briefly at his partner's empty bed.
"We won't tell him," Fox said. "It's… probably best if we didn't."
The four of them built a tentative partnership with one another. Fox and Coco's long-standing friendship couldn't be matched, but for the most part they were living together in harmony - or at least, they pretended to.
The facade cracked in the forest of Forever Fall. It was supposed to be an easy test - go to the forest, fight a handful of easy grimm and collect the sap Professor Peach needed.
In all fairness, a king taijitu the size of a house didn't fit into anyone's definition of easy, but it shouldn't have caused quite so many issues for them.
Coco had taken point when team CFFY had been separated from the main group with the leader of another team. She shouted to Farris to stay with the leader - a faunus - who had been injured by the ursa pack they were fighting.
She didn't expect that he would be angry with the order - nor that the spike of negativity would draw in a larger, more dangerous grimm.
Farris's response was immediate: "What do you mean you want me to stay here and guard an animal? Why not leave Yatsuhashi? At least he likes those freaks!"
Coco took two deep breaths, willing her emotions to stay neutral. "We will be talking about this. Stay put."
Yatsuhashi exchanged a look with his leader as he took the sword off his back once more. "I will stay here as well." It was a wise decision not to leave anyone alone in the woods, but he didn't trust Farris alone with the injured woman.
Coco gave a short nod of agreement. "We'll go get Goodwitch. Be safe," she said and took off with Fox back towards the main group.
Yatsuhashi turned to his partner, who was twitching. "Control yourself, Farris, we can't afford to attract more grimm."
He paced around the small clearing. "Can't you just" he waved his hands around "heal her?"
Yatsuhashi shook his head. "I can share my aura to help the healing process, but her leg needs to be set first. It would be dangerous for me to attempt now."
"What good are you, then?" Farris snapped. They both jumped and turned when an ursa crashed through the clearing. The beast was larger than any that they'd seen that day, but was completely uninterested in the three of them, disappearing back into the forest as quickly as it had appeared.
"Farris, now isn't the time to - "
"I'm not sticking around to guard her when there could be more of them - did you see the size of that ursa? I'm out of here!"
"Farris, don't!" Yatsuhashi called, but his partner had already bolted after Fox and Coco, leaving him alone in the woods.
He closed his eyes and listened, trying to keep an ear out for any additional grimm. Yatsuhashi told himself it wasn't that different from initiation.
The only warning he got was the snap of a low-hanging branch being ripped off a tree. The king taijitu was bigger than he'd ever seen for any grimm.
Every nerve screamed with the instinct to run - this wasn't a fight he could win on his own. But he had to stay here and protect the young woman.
"Coco!" he shouted in the vain hope she might hear before stepping forward to attack.
Coco stared down at her trembling hands. "I can't do it, Ozpin," she finally said, admitting defeat. "I can't lead team CFFY."
She didn't look up at the sound of him putting his mug back down. "Are you withdrawing from Beacon?" She shook her head. "Then what makes you say that?"
"It - Farris. He just causes such tension in the room whenever he's there. We just don't get along - and while none of us are faunus, we certainly don't agree with his views. It's created a huge divide on the team - none of us trust him at our backs, he doesn't listen"
She finally looked up at Ozpin, who was taking a sip from his mug.
"Miss Adel, the point of initiation is to put you with people you might not otherwise interact with. As huntsmen we are sometimes called to help people we might not agree with. You've signed up to protect our kingdoms."
Coco growled. "I understand that, but when I'm seriously considering walking away over this, there's something wrong. He nearly got someone killed last week."
"We don't rearrange teams lightly, Miss Adel."
She clenched her fists. "I understand that," she snapped again, trying to wrangle her temper back under control. "This is not an idle request, Headmaster."
He stood, picking up his cane and mug. "I will take it into consideration if something comes up, but in the meantime, please try to work with him. If I didn't think you could lead team CFFY, I wouldn't have made you leader."
The cracks in the facade only grew as time went on. The problems had always been there, but after the incident with the king taijitu, they were nearly impossible to ignore.
Fox had developed an easy friendship from the start with Yatsuhashi - he was quiet and reserved and always picked up after himself. Fox knew it wouldn't be reasonable to expect his teammates to accommodate him with the same ease that Coco did after years of friendship, but it was quickly becoming apparent that one of his teammates wasn't even trying.
The robotic voice dictated the message from Farris to him. It wasn't that the scroll reader didn't work - he'd just grown to prefer hearing his teammates' voices. "Hey, Farris?" he called when he walked into the dorm room.
There was a grunt from one of the desks.
"It really would be nice if you could just use the voice messaging feature for messages." It was hardly the first time Fox had asked - it was getting to the point that even Yatsuhashi had noticed. "Sorry" was the only response he got. Fox bit back an exasperated sigh. It wasn't the worst thing in the world. He could manage. What he couldn't manage was the fact that Farris had left his boots out in the middle of the path again. "Could you please pick up your shoes?" Fox snapped. Even with the reflexes of a huntsman in training, he very nearly fell into the foot board of the nearby bed.
"Sorry." The chair scraping against the floor accompanied his drawn out and sarcastic response. "I'm not sure why I should have to work at this anyway. It's not like you'll be able to last here. Team CFFY would be better off without you." He sat back down noisily, and added "Coco's too soft on you. I'd never have tolerated you as a partner" under his breath.
Fox recoiled as if he'd been slapped, not entirely sure if he'd been meant to hear the last bit. "I'm going to teach Yatsu some braille in the library, would you like to join us?" he offered, knowing he should try to keep the peace.
"I'm busy," was the muttered retort.
He grabbed a couple of books off the shelf and waved as he left - tripping over Farris's shoes again on his way out.
"Well maybe if you picked up your stuff every once in awhile it'd be easier for me!"
Yatsuhashi raised an eyebrow at the sound of Fox's voice - audible from the other end of the hallway. It was a fight that had been brewing for weeks at this point. Yatsu had gotten a tongue-lashing from Farris when he'd moved his partner's shoes out of the walkway for Fox. He knew it wasn't the only time Farris had done something like that. He contemplated just letting them go, but they might actually need a referee lest they do actual damage to one another.
But, to his surprise and dismay, it wasn't Farris's voice that cut through the hallway a moment later - it was Coco's. "I try to always put my stuff away - this isn't fair for one mistake. For fuck's sake, Fox - I'm sorry that you can't handle me being leader but we agreed to do this together!"
"Well, maybe if becoming leader didn't mean you'd turn your back on me I'd be more willing to work under you! Maidens, Coco, you've been picking up after yourself for years. A little power and you forget about your 'best friend.'"
"If you weren't questioning my every decision, I'd think I still had a best friend!"
Yatsuhashi sighed and pushed the door open. Neither of his teammates reacted when he entered, completely engrossed in their argument. "Fox. Coco." He didn't raise his voice, but the low rumble cut through the fighting regardless. "What happened?" he asked, sitting down on his bed.
"Coco left her purse in the walkway again."
Yatsuhashi didn't let his surprise at the venom in Fox's voice show. He turned to Coco. "Fox said I didn't care about him anymore ever since becoming leader." Her voice was like steel, but when she swiped a finger beneath her sunglasses, it was clear she'd begun to tear up.
"Are you sure you're actually angry with one another?" When neither responded he sighed and spoke to them in turn. "Fox, I've never seen you trip over Coco's stuff before - I'm always seeing you trip over Farris's shoes though."
"Coco - Fox doesn't question you. He'd follow you into a burning forest and trust you to get him out in one piece. It wasn't him who bickered with you in Forever Fall and nearly got someone killed for it." Yatsuhashi clenched his fists at the memory. “That was Farris.”
The tension that was choking the room slowly bled out - but didn't go away completely. While they may have been mildly irritated with one another, their reactions were blown out of proportion by their underlying anger with Farris. They had been friends for years and that wasn't going to change because of one small slip-up.
"He said team CFFY was better off without me," Fox admitted, shoulders slumping.
Coco started to respond then stopped, pulling out her scroll to check something. "Farris never sends voice messages," Coco said, turning to Fox and covering her mouth with one hand. "How did I not notice?"
Fox bent down to pick up her purse, holding it out like an olive branch. "Same reason I didn't notice how he was treating you - too wrapped up in my own issues."
Coco secured it under her bed and then walked over to him. "Don't think I haven't noticed the way you aren't sleeping, big guy." She placed one gloved hand on his chin and turned his face up towards hers, meeting his eyes without her shades in the way. "What's wrong? Is it Farris too?"
He really should have seen this coming. "I just don't trust him. I don't know if he would try to do something if he knew about my grandmother, but it makes it hard to relax and sleep at night. It's nothing, really. Not like what you two have been - "
She held up her hand and cut him off. "It's a legitimate concern. You shouldn't have to hide from your own teammates, you should be able to trust them to have your back." She shook her head and scrubbed at her face. "I had a meeting with Ozpin yesterday. He wants us to try and work with Farris. I'll keep the headmaster in the loop, but I don't think anything's going to change, not unless Farris becomes openly hostile."
Velvet took a steadying breath as she opened the door to her dorm room. Her teammates were already there and had rearranged the furniture, isolating one desk and bed in the far corner of the room. Someone had hung a sign up on the other side of the room that read "No Animals Allowed." She forced a smile and greeted them cheerfully.
"He's dangerous, and it could easily escalate to more, but right now I think Ozpin is right and we're going to have to try and work with him," Yatsuhashi said. "Maybe we can schedule a meeting with the counselor to talk about what's going on and try and fix things."
She could almost convince herself it had been accidental - that her partner hadn't deliberately tripped her down the stairs, but the mocking laughter told her otherwise. Later that day, Velvet was the only one who had bothered to show up for their team meeting with the school counselor.
"That could work. Maybe Farris doesn't realize how difficult he's being?" Fox offered. "But you're right, it's not that bad. We've just got to learn to work together. I'm sure the team dynamics would have to be much worse for them to rearrange them. It's not like he's trying to kill any of us or anything."
Velvet clutched the wound on her stomach to try and stop the bleeding. Her head spun as she stumbled into the infirmary, and she left a smear of blood so dark it was nearly black on the door. A nurse rushed to her side, helping her onto an examination table. "Tell Headmaster Lionheart I tried," Velvet managed before passing out.