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By the time the girls got to the dance, it was in full swing. The decorating committee had done a great job of making the place a proper setting for a winter formal. The walls and ceiling of the school gym were covered in black paper and decorated to look like a night sky with a few projectors displaying images of glittering silver snowflakes drifting down from the sky on top of it. All the tables around the dance floor were covered with white tablecloths so they looked like snow mounds, and here and there were artificial trees covered in flocking so as to look like they were weighed down with drifting snow.

Yang uncorked a mighty belch in appreciation of the beauty.

“Honestly, every time I think it's impossible for you to be more a frightful boor, you find a new way to sink further,” Weiss admonished, though she was sticking extra close to the blonde bruiser tonight.

The elder of the Xiao-Long sister guffawed. “What can I say? I really enjoyed my meal. Such generous portions!”

“That's because you ordered four plates,” Weiss complained, “Four plates of eighty dollar pumpkin gnocchi. Plus three orders of bananas foster.”

Yang slapped her on the back, making her stumble. “And we thank you for your generosity. And if you ever need something from me, maybe someone giving you a hard time and in need of a good beating? I'm your girl, okay?”

Having her own personal thug appealed to Weiss on a certain... Schnee... level, but she wasn't going to admit that in front of the others. Instead,s he waved it off. “Never you mind. What's the point of having money like mine if I can't treat my friends once in a while, right?” That wasn't rhetorical, Weiss was actually asking, specifically to Blake.

For her part, Blake only gave an approving nod. She didn't know how or why she'd ended up as Weiss Schnee's morality leash, but now that she had the responsibility, she felt an obligation to the community to do a good job.

“I don't know who you are or what you did with Weiss,” Yang said, not noticing the exchange, “But you can stick around. Question though: why are you still in your 'stalkin' disguise?”

Indeed, Weiss was still in the blue dress and wig Nora had put her in.

Before Weiss could do something foolish like, say... save her dignity, Ruby leapt in with a more truthful (and mortifying) answer. “Oh, that's 'cause she's still scared of Pyrrha after the restaurant thing. I figured Pyrrha can't stay mad for long, so if Weiss can just avoid her tonight, this'll all blow over instead of the night ending with Weiss hanging from the flagpole by her underpants.”

“The dance has already started and we're already talking underpants? Way better than the parties our school throws already!” Sun Wukong approached the group wearing a cheeky grin. He was wearing a sport coat and slacks along with a button down shirt with the top buttons undone to show off his chest.

Neptune followed along in a slick black suit with ocean blue pinstripes. He'd slicked his hair back and was wearing shades. “Ladies,” He said making double finger gun to go with a grin, “Thanks for the invite.”

“I figured now that the geek cat is out of the dice bag, it might be nice if all my friends got to hang out together, said Blake.

“Sure, and that's the only reason you invited me,” Sun said smugly.

“Yep.” Blake replied, popping the 'p'. Sun's shoulders slumped a bit before Blake strode past him, grabbing his arm as she did. “Hanging out can include a couple of dances, y'know?” She managed to keep her tone even and her expression neutral except for a tiny smirk as she dragged him away.

Neptune watch them go, but once it was just him and the girls along, his smooth veneer rapidly started to break down. He craned his neck to look past them, then glanced around before nervously asking, “So... did Weiss not come? I was kind of hoping she'd be here.”

“Are you kidd—” Yang started, but was cut off by a hand clamping down tightly on her elbow. Ruby opened her mouth only to find a hand over it. Weiss shot them both murderous glares before smiling politely at Neptune. “Sorry, she had a prior engagement. But if you're looking for a dance partner, I'm free. My name is Schwartz Regen.”

“Um... okay. Sure.” Neptune said after some hesitation, then added, “Maybe you'd like to hit the refreshment table first? Or mingle? There's lots of mingling we can do. I don't know a lot of people here, so you could introduce me?” He was looking all over the place now. “Damn it, Sun, you are the worst wingman ever.”

Yang, Ruby and Weiss exchanged confused expressions; the former two being ones asking 'I don't know which of you two is weirder right now'. Weiss, however was already hip deep in making concessions for the night. “I... of course I can! Let's go.”

As the two headed off further into the dance, Nora wandered up between Ruby and Yang. “That was weird, right? I know weird and that was super-weird, right?”

“What that was,” Yang said slowly and with care, “was comedy gold! Can you imagine if Neps there falls for 'Schwartz'? Or what'll happen when he realizes Weiss is pretending to be someone else?”

Ruby was watching more with worry than amusement. “The better question is—did anyone else notice she had that name ready?”

Both she and Yang braced for Nora to say something about how she totally did that, but the voice that replied to Ruby's question was that of a different redhead. “It's likely something she learned from her sister.” The sisters turned to find Penny standing behind them. Ruby's fellow overachiever was wearing a green overall-style dress over a black blouse.

“Say what now?” asked Yang.

“Oh, it's just that when she was in high school, Winter Schnee often went by the alias Autumn Regen. Regen being German for 'Rain' in the same way that Schnee is German for 'Snow', I believe the name is both a play on her own name and a reference to a song by Lake of Tears.”

Yang snorted. “Little Miss Proper's sister was an emo? Oh my god, I'm going to get so much mileage out of that! Where'd you even hear it?”

“Oh, most high school yearbooks are online now,” Penny said, completely omitting why she might be perusing online yearbooks for classes of people she had no connection to. “Anyway, I would suspect that Weiss already had a similar alias ready—especially considering what she did to get kicked out of Atlas Prep.”

Ruby's eyes widened. “She got kicked out of her old school? That's terrible!”

“That's unbelievable is what it is!” said Yang. “We're talking about Weiss here. Weiss who got mad because I burped just now.”

“Unbelievable yes, but I suspect it was on purpose,” said Penny, “Similar to her short stints at Shade Girls' Academy and the Haven Finishing School, both of which saw her expelled within two weeks.”

“What did she do?” Ruby asked with a mix of curiosity and awe.

At this point, Nora butted in, having spend the intervening time scanning the room for Ren. “Oh! I bet she filled the teacher's lounge with weasels! Angry, starving blood-crazy weasels! Or filled then school swimming pool with pancakes! Oh my goodness, can you imaging eating a swimming pool filled with pancakes?” With that, she whipped out her cell phone and opened the calculator app. “How much syrup would you need for that? And butter?”

“Fifty-eight point three seven gallons of maple syrup or Fifty-two gallons of molasses,” Penny said offhand, “And twenty-one pounds of butter or margarine to ensure full coverage. As to what Weiss did, juvenile records are sealed. I could break into them, but that would be both illegal and a breech of privacy.”

“As opposed to literally everything you just said,” Yang muttered ruefully.

“I was only repeating publicly available information,” Penny defended.

“Oh never mind,” Ruby finally said. “Let's go have fun, Penny!” With that, she grabbed her friend's arm and forged onward to the refreshment table.

That left Yang noticing that she'd been left all alone—well except Nora. What an odd turn of events. She glanced over to Nora, who was now looking up the prices of bulk syrup. “So... where's your boy, Copper-top?”

Nora blushed. “Oh, Ren's not my boy. I mean he's great and fun to be with and handsome, but he's not 'mine' ya know? He's just a boy. That I know. And am best friends with.”

“Now if that doesn't sound familiar...”

“Anyway, I don't know. Ren's foster mom was supposed to drive him over. Maybe she's running late? Or maybe he's not feeling well and also he broke his phone, which would be the only reason he wouldn't call me to say he couldn't make it.” Her eyes widened in horror. “Unless he's dead! He got in an accident on the way here, or a meteor hit his house, or some kind of nightmare creature that feed son negative emotion ate him! Oh my gosh, maybe he got written out of the story in a tragic way to give me motivation because the writer is lazy and can't think of better ways to motivate me!”

Just as she reached crescendo, a pair of hand rested on her shoulders, holding her still and slowly calming her. “Or maybe he was in the restroom when you got here,” Ren suggested, slowly turning Nora around.

Now her eyes were wide with joy as she hurled herself into him, throwing her arms around him. “Renny! You're not dead!”

Her best friend of many years hugged her back, then tips back the top hat she was still wearing to look her in the eye. “Still alive, Nora. You're not going to be rid of me that easily. Ready to have some fun? I hear they've left the ice swan foolishly unguarded.” Usually the one thing keeping Nora from going all-out, Ren usually indulged her on special occasions.

Nora beamed and poked him in the nose with her index finger. “Boop.” That was all that needed to be said before the two headed off to do god-knows-what to an unsuspecting ice swan.

“What a revoltin' development,” Yang said as she realized that everyone but her was now having fun. Most of them with boys. She glanced up, suddenly fancying that Nora's fourth wall antics might be on to something. After all, how else would she end up dateless on dance night? You know, aside from the fact that she'd blown off every guy that asked her that week because she was planning her pranks on Jaune and Pyrrha.

“Hey! Whoever's up there? How about setting me up with a guy too?”

“Did I hear you were looking for a guy? Well baby, how about the guy?” Yang looked to find the school's top running back and soccer star, Mercury Black waggling his eyebrows at her while his ostensible date, Emerald glared a hole in the back of his skull.

Yang split her own glare between him and the ceiling before grabbing Mercury by the face and pushing him away. Then she stomped into the party proper muttering, “Cheeky bastard...”

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Jaune had never been 'fashionably late' to anything in his life. He was that nerd that showed up to everything on time or even ten minutes early. Since he was usually her ride, Pyrrha also rarely arrived anything but one time.

Tonight, however, they'd just plain lost track of time as they sat on the fountain just talking, eating and enjoying each other's company. It was hard to explain what had changed after a lifetime of friendship, but a barrier somewhere have been overcome, a limit broken and they suddenly found themselves just more... free with each other.

Which was how they ended up an hour late to the dance.

“Wow, they did a really good job,” Jaune said, looking around. “I can hardly tell this is the place of my suffering.”

Pyrrha nudged him for the crack, but nodded in agreement. “It's lovely isn't it?”

After another short moment of appreciation, Jaune turned to her. “So? Ready for that dance?” He stepped a little away from her, still holding her hand so he was holding it up in preparation to launch into a step.

She giggled at his stab at suave and brought his hand up to place a chaste kiss on the knuckles. “I am, but just a moment. I really should talk to Weiss about what happened... before I get to distracted.” Mention of distraction brought up memories of what happened back at her house and she blushed, which made Jaune blush as he recalled as well.

“O-okay. I'll go and see if I can find Ren and Nora. Meet me over by the punch bowl?”

“That sounds like a wonderful plan.” Pyrrha practically glided away from him. She didn't want to leave, but she really had to regroup with the girls and pick their brains over how she should proceed. Just because she knew how she wanted to didn't mean it was a good idea.

Before long, she spotted her primary quarry in the strangest of situations...

“You know what? We should find the people who were on the decorating committee and tell them what a good job they did. That sounds like a good idea, right?” Pyrrha recognized the speaker as a friend of Blake's named Neptune. He was clearly nervous and trying to hide it as he spoke to Weiss. Only Weiss was inexplicably in a black wig and holding herself in an stiff attempt at looking casual—which was slowly disintegrating under the weight of trademark Weiss irritation.

As Pyrrha approached the two, the dam finally broke.

“You know what?” Weiss asked, “Enough. We've gotten refreshments, made uncomfortable small talk with every person here, read every trophy in the trophy case—at any point at this dance are we going to dance?!”

Neptune cringed. “Um... I...” he sighed, shoulders slumping, “Okay, you have to promise me you won't tell anyone about this—especially not Weiss, okay?”

A single red eyebrow rose as Pyrrha processed this new information. One, Weiss was pretending to be someone else. Two, apparently a simple wig was enough to totally fool Neptune. One of Blake's dry joke ran through her head: 'Darth Sidius can't possibly be Senator Palpatine. Palapatine doesn't even wear a hood!'

Weiss waffled under the question long enough for Neptune to take silence as agreement. “Look... the truth is I try to put on a cool front, but... I'm not. I'm pretty much just a geek. I play tabletop games, I'm scared stupid of going in water and worst of all? I can't dance. Sorry to drag you all around stalling, Noir. Coming to a dance of all places was just a bad idea on my part.”

After a moment of awkward silence in which Weiss seemed to have no idea how to react, Pyrrha decided to interrupt and take mercy. “Hello, Noir. Might I borrow you for a moment?”

“What—ah!” Weiss tensed, looking as if she was about to hide between Neptune.

Now even more confused, Pyrrha frowned. “Um... is everything okay?”

It was Weiss's turn to be confused seeing as she was experiencing very little of the wrath she'd been dreading. “Isn't that my line? I mean I am so sorry I forgot to confirm your reservation this evening. There was just so much going on with getting Nora's van covered in vinyl, ensuring my bribes had been paid, making arrangements to have us bailed out if Yang went too far...”

“What are you talking about?” asked Pyrrha. “You didn't do that on purpose?”

Weiss looked at her cautiously. “You're not angry over it?”

Pyrrha practically glowed, “Of course not! It was exactly what we needed. I mean I was a little worried when Jaune wanted to argue with the maitre'd, but then we went for a walk in the park, ate at one of our favorite places...” she sighed dreamily, “And just watched the stars and talked.”

“Then that was entirely to plan,” Weiss was so clearly lying that Pyrrha couldn't help but roll her eyes. “I'm glad things went well though.” Then her eyes narrowed. “Wait. Where's Jaune now?”

“He's here. I'm going to meet up with him again once I'm done saying thank you.”

A long moment passed as Weiss tried to wait out Pyrrha's own brain figuring out what she'd just said wrong. When it didn't, Weiss face-palmed herself so hard that her wig went askew. “Pyrrha? How long have you been waiting to actually be with Jaune as a couple?”

“More than a year now,” Pyrrha asked, giving her an odd look.

“And we've spent a week making sure this night went exactly the way you wanted for the two of you.”

“Right, and that's why I'm here thanking you.”

Weiss's eyebrow twitched. “You know, I expect this of Yang, or Ruby but you're too smart for this Pyrrha. This? This is not the time to be polite. We did all this for you to have this special night with that dol... with Jaune. Go have that special night instead of wasting time thanking me!”

As she talked, her hand gestures became more exaggerated until finally she threw both hands up... and knocked her wig clean off her head.

She froze, horror etched on her face.

Being no stranger to awkward situations, Pyrrha could feel the palpable awkwardness rolling off Weiss and Neptune. Suddenly not being there seemed like a great idea. “Um... you know you make an excellent point.” She wasn't lying; if not for Weiss's own mortification, she would have been supremely embarrassed of herself. “I'm... I'm going to go find him right now. Have a good night.”

Weiss wanted to call out after her for help, but knew it wouldn't do anything to help. Turning stiffly to Neptune, she tried plastering on her best plastic smile. “So. You made a big confession; I suppose I should make one of my own...”

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It didn't take long for Pyrrha to find Jaune and for the young couple to take the dance floor. They'd danced plenty of time before when they went as friends, but this time things were different in ways neither of them could entirely give voice to.

About an hour in, as a slow song played, their eyes met and they found themselves leaning into one another.

“Jaune,” Pyrrha murmured.

“Hmm?” his eyes were heavily lidded as her breathed in the scent of her perfume.

“Remember what I said about being patient?”

He nodded. “Yeah?”

“You don't have to be anymore.” With that, she closed the last few centimeters of space between them and pressed her lips to his.

It wasn't a kiss for the legends. They were young and thoroughly inexperienced; one who got their idea of what kissing was meant to be like from movies, the other from dog-eared romance novels that populated their home in great numbers thanks to having so many sisters. No spark, no sudden epiphany of passion that turned them into passionate experts in the sacred art of lip-craft.

But in that moment none of that mattered. What mattered was that they were experiencing their first kiss together; a new first shared between two people who had seen each other through so many before. Someone they really and truly cared about. And they were forging a new, more intimate connection.

And that was all they needed.