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Souls' Reprieve

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The Atlas Royal Navy Camps, a stretch of land near the aerodrome that housed upwards of twenty thousand members of the Kingdom's officers and their families, contained some of the securest residential complexes in all of Remnant. Despite its rustic name the grounds today were dotted with condominium towers with all the amenities of modern life. The entire community was gated, multiple layers of security ensuring that the men and women serving at Atlas HQ had homes they could feel completely safe in. Near the center of the grounds was Tower East-21, and if an officer bragged about being assigned a flat at 'e-two-one' it almost certainly meant his career had taken a turn for the better. One of the innermost spires of the Camps, the tower was guarded around-the-clock by Atlesian Special Forces being rotated home for a few months, and state-of-the-art surveillance technology ensured that even the stealthiest of Huntsmen would be hard-pressed to slip in uninvited. The memories of the security failures at Beacon and Haven still loomed large in the public consciousness, even years later, and Atlas was ever so determined not to repeat their mistakes.

Which was part of the reason that Yang Xiao Long was so surprised to be awoken by the tip of a sword being pressed against her throat.

"I don't recall authorizing your entry..." The words were spoken before Yang could so much as blink groggily, the tone icy and imperial. And, fortunately for Yang Xiao Long, intimately familiar. "Roll over. Slowly."

Yang's movements were deliberate and unhurried, but more out of slumber-induced lethargy than any desire to be cooperative. She pried her face off of the couch cushion she had crashed upon, wincing slightly as the leather remained plastered to her cheek. Yang rubbed her skin as she rose, some distant part of her mind hoping the saliva she was wiping off hadn't stained anything too expensive.

Winter Schnee towered over her, crisp and commanding in the stark whites of her Class A uniform. The steel of her sword, polished to a mirrored gleam for inspection, was now pressed none-too-gently into soft white skin. The blade moved as Yang did, coming to a rest at her throat, an inch below her jaw, angled at a harsh diagonal that crossed jugular veins. Golden-blonde hairs were trapped between steel and flesh, pressed flat against her head, the sword's impossibly-sharp edge threatening to sever.

Eyes the colors of lilacs stared back at the blade's owner, unblinking and unafraid. Yang Xiao Long drew herself up to her full five feet and eight inches of height, the sword still positioned perfectly parallel to her raised chin. Even with her throat so bared there was no vulnerability in her stance, nothing but a small grin and a challenge on her face.

"Funny," said Yang, in a tone without a trace of levity, "I didn't recall needing permission to visit my girlfriend."

“My home, my rules,” stated Winter as fact, though Yang was already drifting forward. She closed the distance between them, stepping fearlessly past the raised sword until she could wrap one arm around the small of Winter's back. Winter growled almost imperceptibly in response, as Yang pulled her forward with a sweep of her hand, but the Specialist yielded to the kiss that followed without complaint. Winter's sword arm came to a rest at her side as she lost herself in Yang's hungry kisses, a surrender she indulged in so rarely.

Her saber clattered to a glass-topped coffee table, two hands sinking like talons into the thin fabric of Yang's shirt. Yang put up no resistance as Winter pulled with her fingers and pushed with her lips, guiding her girlfriend about the apartment, their feet shuffling out of sync like uncoordinated dancers. Winter pushed Yang backwards into a door with enough force that it shook in its frame, but when she reached for the doorknob it barely jiggled in her hand.

“Heh, couldn’t get that one open,” Yang murmured a little sheepishly, as Winter began digging into her jacket for the keys. “Short of just breaking it down, obviously.” Yang was still trapped between the door and her incredibly-statuesque girlfriend, and the rustling-induced-lull was only riling her up more.

Winter managed to slot the key into the lock despite Yang’s increasingly-frantic motions, letting the door swing open on its hinges as they continued their exchange of needy kisses. Winter found Yang's sternum with a free hand, fidgeting with her shirt for just the shortest of seconds before she pushed with a strength her frame belied. Without a warning to prepare Yang had no choice but to stumble backwards, her foot catching on something and sending the Huntress toppling on to the low bed beneath.

"You still haven't said how you got in the front door," Winter noted, unable to keep her irritation at that from her voice. She fiddled with her belt for a few seconds, detaching the now-empty sheathe and laying it on an unadorned dresser. Not that she was really any less dangerous in the absence of her sword, Yang had come to appreciate. The clunky scabbard now placed out of the way, Winter strolled to the foot the bed she’d tossed Yang onto, peering down.

Even staring at Winter upside down and flat on her back, Yang felt it a sight to behold. While normally the Specialist was free to dress as she pleased, today had contained some special occasion which warranted Winter’s formal uniform. Yang didn’t remember what the event was, but was wordlessly grateful for its existence. Winter had replaced her flowing long coat with a crisp white jacket, lapels sharp enough to cut, a blood-red tie knotted tight at her collar. Dress pants with ramrod creases fitted perfectly into knee-high boots, the black leather polished to within an inch of perfection.

Much like Winter herself.

“Come on, Ice Queen, a girl’s gotta have some secrets,” Yang finally said in reply, rolling over so she was leaning back on her forearms. A certain devil-may-care smile accompanied the jibe, and Yang slid back on the mattress in a manner that could only be considered inviting.

Winter rolled her eyes at the nickname she considered childish and amused Yang to no end. Instead of accepting Yang's unspoken invitation to bed, however, she let the Huntress simmer for a few moments, removing and folding her jacket with decadent unhurriedness. "One of the maintenance technicians, perhaps? Bat those luscious eyelashes of yours at a man who's gone too long without a warm bed?”

"Aww, you really think my lashes are pretty?" asked Yang, her tone sarcastically saccharine. Her girlfriend folded her arms across her chest, expectantly. "Come on, Winter, nobody who’s ever met you would be stupid enough to do that." When it became clear that Winter didn't intend to let the mystery go unsolved, though, Yang reached into her pockets and pulled out a key fob. “Approval for my transfer just came through. Which means Huntress-level clearance to just about everything in Atlas.” That daring smile again. “And, in case you were wondering, that includes the official quarters of certain Specialists…”

Winter let out a vaguely-defeated sigh and resumed disrobing. A moment later Yang was wiping her brow, and swearing to herself that the perspiration was coincidental. Never mind that Winter kept her quarters only marginally warmer than a walk-in freezer.

Deciding that she was not going to let Winter tease her (if neatly undressing and folding one's clothes into their proper shelves could be considered erotic), Yang swung her feet over the edge of the bed, gazing pointedly out the floor-to-ceiling window that was Winter’s east wall. The glass was thick enough to stop high-caliber bullets, which had the added effect of dimming the sun’s rays as they passed.

"Well, it's a nice night, isn't it?" Yang said, keeping her back turned to her girlfriend. The sun was just setting, already faint and pale at their northern latitude, though Winter’s apartment provided Yang with a truly breathtaking view of the horizon. The billowing clouds above looked almost purple, the sky a somber pink. Scarce few souls ever got to see Remnant the way Yang Xiao Long had, but even to a Huntress the vista was something worthy of a moment’s appreciation.

"...Do you want to maybe grab something from that rooftop restaurant place?” Yang offered, her breath still fogging the window. “It’s probably pretty packed but nothing a Huntress ID card can’t fix. And there really isn't anywhere in the world with a better....uh.... view..."

By the time Yang turned around, Winter had stripped out of her dress shirt, leaving her torso bare but for a bustier the color of sharkskin. It wasn't quite a corset, and Winter certainly didn't need any assistance, but Yang choked on her spit all the same. "I'll shut up now."

Winter's smile had a predatory glint to it. "That would be advisable," the Specialist growled, her voice dropping to a menacing contralto. "Given that I did not give you permission to speak first."

Yang gathered sufficient composure to contort her expression into a scowl. "And I'm not another minion you can just boss about," replied Yang, folding her arms across her chest. That she was wearing a T-shirt she’d borrowed from Winter’s closet with ATLAS ACADEMY emblazoned across the front was a fact rather tactfully not commented upon. "I'm a Huntress."

The sulk was real, but Winter wasn't going to let that get in her way. She dragged Yang back down to the bed with her and within seconds they were kissing again. Yang let out an amorous rumble as her hands swept Winter's sides, the Specialist positioned astride the Huntress, until her hands found Winter's buttocks, still clothed in the tight white fabric of her dress pants.

Squeezing her ass proved to be Yang's downfall, unfortunately, and Winter managed to draw herself back to an acceptably imperious height. "You may be a Huntress," Winter began, in that tone of aloof superiority, "but your transfer to Atlas is conditional upon agreeing to be subject to the Atlas Military Code of Law. Which includes obeying any commanding officer you are assigned to." Winter smirked. “Or did you just skim that bit of paperwork?”

Yang artlessly dodged the question. "And what if I refuse?" she asked, with a grin that made it clear that the threat was (mostly) tease. "What are you going to do, Specialist Schnee? Strip me of my rank?"

The distance between their lips shrunk to a hand's length. Winter’s voice was the purr of a tiger. "I'll strip you of more than that, Huntress."

Their first time began at the bar attached to the hotel attached to the aerodrome. A murder of Nevermores had grounded every airship in a hundred leagues, and for once Winter had been flying commercial. They'd both done a double-take, staring at each other from across the throngs of stranded and weary travelers.

It had been Yang who broke the ice first, as it were, pulling a stool up to Winter's table with two aggressively vibrant drinks in hand. The paperwork, splayed out before Winter like a handheld fan, was forgotten within minutes. They'd reminisced for hours. About Weiss and about Qrow, about RWBY and Beacon and Mistral. About war, about peace, about cheap booze and pricey weapons. By the time Winter offered Yang lodgings in her hotel room they'd already finished a bottle of the closest thing the bar had to fine wine.

What had happened next had been impulsive and electrifying, the product of hormones and ethanol and too much time alone. Yang's spirit shone with a confidence forged in a crucible, with strength and with courage and with fire. And if Winter was warmed by Yang's ebullient passion then Yang lost herself in Winter's crystalline beauty. She was a diamond as beautiful as any craftsman's jewel, hard and sharp and the product of unimaginable pressures.

The warmth and solace had lasted until sunrise, when Winter's face was awash with regret and recriminations, apologies on her tongue and shame on her face. The Ice Queen did not weather well the heat of passion, it had seemed. She struggled to compose herself, self-admonishing and hung-over, and when the door slammed shut Yang had doubted that their stars would ever cross again.

Yang yielded to Winter's 'stripping', fingers curling around the hem of her shirt and pulling upwards until it was gone, Yang's hair spilling out in a wavy mess. Winter's fingers were threading between them a moment later, gripping a mane as alive as its owner. The pressure at Yang's scalp was just enough to be felt, a possessive tug that tilted her mouth upwards, her lips parting at the touch of Winter's tongue.

"Take your pants off," Winter murmured, inches from Yang's ear. The words were a whisper but the command no less absolute for it. Winter had long come to appreciate that not all orders needed to be shouted to convey authority. A silken tone with steel beneath it could be made to work just as well.

The two separated, long enough for Yang to arch her back and began fiddling with the buckle of her belt. The clasp was opened after a pause that straddled the boundary of ‘teasing’ and ‘defiance’. Her pants were baggier than she normally liked, closer to cargo pants and studded with pockets, but she'd been told it made her look more like an engineer and less like a Huntress, which was a good thing when her assignments placed a premium on discretion. The pants bunched at her ankles, Winter making no move to assist with their removal, so Yang kicked them off into a corner a moment later, one leg turned inside-out in the process. Her bra and socks joined the sartorial sprawl shortly after, leaving the Huntress almost completely unveiled before her girlfriend.

Yang knew the mess would annoy the habitually fastidious as Winter. She knew that Winter knew that she knew. The problem, as Yang had discovered over the better part of a decade, was that Schnees looked really cute when they scowled.

"I know, my tan line's a mess," said Yang, catching Winter's roaming eye. Her last assignment had been to Menagerie, that delightful little island of Blake's, and she'd taken her pay in the form of a few days at a very exclusive resort.

"I'm not staring at your tan line," Winter replied, just a moment too slow.

"Then what are you staring at?" The teasing grin was accompanied with a stretch that could only be described as sensuous. Yang extended her arms above her, taking up almost the entire length of the bed, displaying a muscled build that was the hard-earned reward for countless hours in the gym. It was the frame of a fighter, pure and simple, and Yang had the scars to match.

“At where, exactly, I am going to punish you for your tresspasses.”

Their second time was at Matterhorn, the chalet-style estate Weiss had constructed for herself after that last bit of business with their father. It was grand, and it was imposing, and if Weiss used it for anything other than glorified slumber parties with members of her extended social circle then nobody had guessed it yet.

Winter had known it was going to be an awkward affair from the moment Weiss' Scroll called hers. She hadn't told her little sister about her inebriated indiscretions - Maidens, she'd have to have been insane to - and thus she’d been forced to suppress the pit in her stomach that came when Weiss rattled off Yang's name from the guest list.

To her credit, Yang didn't beat around the bush. She'd decided that she needed answers, or at least some measure of resolution, and she wasn't going to ruin their entire vacation by tip-toeing around the issue. Winter could appreciate that much, if not the autopsy of her soul that had followed.

They'd gone easy on the wine that time, for which Winter was grateful. Yang had wanted to confirm her suspicions that it had just been a physical thing, that Winter had wanted a warm bed for a night and that the bar had been well-stocked in serendipity. Yang could have lived with that, had done so on many occasions, sometimes as the giver, sometimes as the taker. Huntresses were used to these kind of things, at least those who took the path of the wandering nomad, and Yang saw no reason why it had to cast a pall over their relationship. She wasn’t exactly savoring the conversion that would occur when Weiss (eventually but inevitably) pieced it all together, but Yang could have lived with the explanation.

Winter, for better or for worse, hadn't been able to offer that. Hadn't been able to pretend that she'd been interested in Yang for her mouth and her hands and her tongue and nothing more. For a Specialist she was a terrible liar, at least when it came to matters of the heart. So the truth had come out, haltingly and circuitously, but with the brutal honesty she was known for. It still hurt to say, Yang could tell, an admission of weakness from someone who still had delusions of achieving perfection.

And when it had finally all come out, a soliloquy in a sequestered bedroom, Yang was still there. There was a small smile on her face, though her eyes were clouded with tears. She felt sorrow, yes, pity and even a little annoyance, but admiration too. Winter could have lived a life of effortless luxury, imprisoned in her father's mansions without ever seeing the bars. There had been no expectation for her to train as a warrior, not for a woman of her birth. And even then there'd been no rationale to forgo the freedom and glory of a Huntress for the thankless thralldom of the military. No justification except for that that was where she felt she could help the most people, do the most good.

There was more to it than that, of course, though cathartic tears had given way to soft touches and reassuring embraces. Yang knew weakness had many forms, many faces, but she'd sworn to Winter that love was not one of them. Whether or not the Specialist believed her was left unresolved, but it had been enough.

They hadn't left the bedroom until breakfast the next morning, a raised eyebrow from one Blake Belladonna their only warning. Yang had shoveled burnt toast into her mouth, Winter focused her attention on her coffee.

And for once in her life, the Specialist dared to dream…

"Lie on your stomach," Winter commanded, with a volume that never rose above 'conversational'. "And put your hands behind your back."

Yang complied, rolling over on the thick blanket, though she made sure her sigh was audible. Winter bent low for one last stroke of blonde hair, which bought her a minute's compliance. Kneeling down, Winter slid open a drawer built into the base of her bed, to the compartment where her truly personal affects were stored. Yang tilted her head, watching a bun of white hair bob about. The shelf, kept under lock and key, was probably the only place in the apartment where everything wasn't perfectly organized and color-coordinated.

"Face forward," instructed Winter, as she climbed atop the mattress. The bed sunk slightly as Winter's weight was added to it, the Specialist positioning a knee on either side of Yang's legs. She was still wearing her boots, thigh-highs held up with straps that Yang had spent hours daydreaming about, the leather feeling cool and smooth against Yang's bare skin.

Winter's hand found her spine, running up and down before kneading the muscles around her neck. Yang's groan was decadent, and she almost let her wrists un-cross from behind her back (despite all the ‘trouble’ that would have earned her). Soft touches were fine, of course, but a firm hand and a confident grip did something else entirely to the Huntress. Yang could feel her breaths against the silken sheets, hot and heavy, growing more so as Winter's hands trailed back down her vertebrae until they were hovering on her hips...

The harsh pull of rope yanked Yang from her reverie, her hands cinched together behind her back. There was no denying that Winter knew her ropes, though for most of her life that knowledge had been gained from mountain-climbing instead of bondage. Winter moved the ropes so fast that the friction threatened to burn Yang's skin, the lines of cord pulled tight until the pressure was on the cusp of pain.

Yang's discomfort was partially addressed when Winter began rubbing her ass, holding there for a few seconds before pulling Yang's panties down around her ankles. The movement was somewhat awkward, but awkwardness meant more excuses to touch, so Yang didn't mind. Winter's hand trailed up her leg, curling inwards as it reached upper thigh. Yang was still flat on her stomach, which wasn't the best position for accessibility, but the promise alone was enough. The huntress’ hips rose and fell, softly and subconsciously, as Winter rubbed her hand in lazy swipes...

"Roll over," instructed the Specialist, "and sit up." Yang stifled a groan at the loss of contact, but obeyed, as the price of rebellion was becoming increasingly unaffordable. Yang sat upright, resting on her knees, having but a second to herself before Winter's hands were on her face. Her grip was soft yet strong, gentle but imperious, a paradox Yang had long learned to love.

Winter pulled her in for a kiss, and their lips met in a needy rendezvous.

Yang wanted her hands, yearned to grab Winter as she'd been grabbed, but the ropes reminded her of her limits. Even with her eyes half-lidded Winter somehow caught the gesture, smiling as her hands moved from Yang’s jaw to her ears. Yang stretched upwards and leaned forward, threatening to topple over, but she succeeded in pushing further into Winter. A knee slipped forward, unconsciously adjusting for balance, but Winter took her cue to break the kiss.

"How are the ropes?" she asked, though with a tone suggesting she already knew the answer.

"Tight," Yang growled. She tried sliding her arms up and down but the knot had little leeway. The cords had been treated with Dust, designed to hold Grimm and Huntress alike, and Yang doubted anything short of unleashing her Semblance was going to get her free.

"As long as your arms aren't losing circulation," said Winter in reply.

Yang smiled smugly to herself at Winter's little slip, but chose not to parade the error. Only one of her arms was in any danger of losing circulation, as only one of her arms was actually 'real'.

She'd gone through more prosthetics than she cared to remember over the years, swapping her arm out every time Atlesian R&D whipped up a new working prototype. The first few weeks were always awkward, as no matter how hard they tried the weight was always a little different, the sensitivity never exactly the same. Her latest model, in addition to being more responsive and durable than anything ever before it, came with a covering of synthetic skin that had been matched to Yang's tone.

It had been strange, seeing pink skin there again, after having gotten used to any number of substitutes over the years. She wasn't even sure if she really liked it, not after she'd come to terms with having an (admittedly rather cool) cybernetic appendage for an arm. She'd had a long talk before she'd agreed to it, with both Blake and Winter, wanting to be reassure both herself and the world that she wasn't doing it because she felt broken.

Quite simply, as Winter and Ironwood had both taken turns pointing out, it was sneaky. The adamantine alloy was damn-near indestructible, and her grip could shatter bones with ease. And as a Huntress, Yang had come to appreciate the advantages of keeping a trick up her sleeve. Rather literally in this case.

She still felt pain, though, the friction of ropes cutting into skin was replicated very accurately. Yang knew in theory she could fiddle with the settings given the right tools tools and enough time, reduce the sensory feedback, but that always left her feeling numb and heavy.

And - not that it mattered - it would be admitting that Winter won. Yang had lost many things over the years, but her pride was most certainly not one of them...

Winter positioned herself in front of Yang, their torsos making and breaking contact with every breath.

"You're beautiful, Yang Xiao Long. You know that, right?"

Winter's hands moved softly across Yang's face, parting her hair so it framed her visage, all while the Huntress struggled for words. Of course Yang had been told she was beautiful many times, but it still sounded weird. Or rather, it sounded weird when it wasn't spoken by a man buying her drinks or shouted from across the street outside a nightclub. Sounded weird when the only intent was to remind her that, yes, she was beautiful, body and soul, and that she should damn well never forget it.

"You're not too bad looking yourself," Yang finally managed to tease back. "Could work on those

legs, though."

"Oh really." Dry ice was wetter than Winter's tone, but the glint in her eyes conveyed a playful mood. Winter leaned back until she was resting on her elbows, one leg of lithe perfection extending with a ballerina's poise in front of her.

Yang was so distracted by the foot resting on her bosom that she completely missed what Winter was doing, scavenging for something under the bed, upside down, her body one long arc. In one fluid motion Winter pulled her torso upright, pushing forward with her leg so that Yang was forced down onto the mattress. The foot kept Yang pinned (not, admittedly, like she was really struggling) until Winter was towering over her once more. This time there was a strip of fabric in her hands, the pattern and material suggesting it could've been a headscarf had that been Winter's fashion, pulled taut between her fingers.

"I had no intention of gagging you," Winter began, her voice an aristocrat’s drawl once more, "but if you are going to insist on making wilfully ignorant observations of my body, well, I simply have no choice."

"Liar," Yang shot back. "You were going to from the start."

Winter growled slightly as her deception was openly noted, but she did not waver in her intent. "Chin up," she instructed. Yang lifted her head, going so far as to steal a peck on the lips, before lowering it again to a height that Winter could easily make a knot behind.

The fabric slipped between her lips and her teeth, not quite thick enough to bite down on, digging slightly into the corners of her mouth as Winter knotted it behind her head. Yang tried working her jaw but the gag went nowhere. She shook her head in playful defiance as Winter tried to stroke her cheek, which caused Winter's hand to grab her jaw in a way maybe Yang had hoped it would.

"You should know the old adage about what to do if you can't say something nice," Winter said, fingers feeling the fabric. Cleave gags were not particularly effective ways of silencing captives - the cloth did little more than distort the words being formed, really - but Winter had always had a weakness for the aesthetic. A cloth pulled tight, forming a ring around the victim's head, lips highlighted, teeth glistening. On Yang the gag seemed to draw out her fire, gave her a reason to growl and snarl and look like the barely-contained force-of-nature she was.

A blindfold followed, a simple scarf pulled across her eyes. Yang had less objection to that as - her more vanilla inclinations notwithstanding - she'd come to appreciate the argument from the other side. Every touch was more surprising, more unexpected, the vague sense of vulnerability only reinforcing the feeling of trust she felt with her partner.

Another rope was looped around Yang's throat, though tied in such a way that it would never tighten around her neck, never threaten circulation or respiration. Instead it served as a hempen collar, a loose end coming to a rest in Winter's hand. Had any other person tried that Yang probably would've torn them limb from limb, but the bedroom was a world of exceptions. There was no intent to humiliate or degrade her, just something to make their bedtime antics more enjoyable deviant. The short rope let Winter tug Yang here or there, but never once did her respect for the Huntress lessen.

And, some small part of the back of Yang's brain had a tendency of reminding her, sometimes it felt good to be guided...

Winter maneuvered Yang against the mattress and positioned her weight atop the Huntress. She leaned forward and gifted Yang a flurry of kisses: on her bared neck, on her cheeks, on her forehead, on her nose. Kissing Yang's lips was made awkward by the gag, but that was part of the fun, and Yang came close to whimpering thanks to how her tongue was trapped.

"You remember your safeword, don't you?" Winter asked, out of an over-abundance of caution. They actually had two - a verbal codeword which the thin gag wouldn't prevent Winter from understanding, and a nonverbal sign Yang could flash with her fingers. Truthfully they had never needed to use it - Winter was nothing if not careful, and Yang's Aura would kick in before anything truly dire happened - but the Specialist was a stickler for safety.

"Nmf," Yang grunted in answer. "Bhth hf thmm."

She could have simply nodded, but half the fun of gags, as Winter had explained to Yang (with an unusual feeling of self-consciousness) was listening to someone try to talk through it.

"If that's the case..."

Winter leaned back, drawing her hands down the length of Yang's body as she did. Down her neck, triggering shivers, over her breasts, across her stomach - Winter's touch firm enough so as not to tickle - before finding Yang's thighs and parting, gently but firmly. Yang gulped, loudly, her heavy breaths distorted slightly by the gag in her mouth.

Winter's lips brushed against her skin, and the world vanished...

That night in Weiss' chalet hadn't been the end of their issues, as much as they all might have enjoyed a fairy tale’s simplicity. Neither woman had much experience with long-term relationships, and their professional demands made a mockery of any attempts at proper scheduling. That there were feelings between them was undeniable. They might not have had the romantic vocabularies to put names to those emotions, but there was no doubting their existence, not when seeing an unread email received from XIAO LONG or SCHNEE sent respective hearts racing.

That anything lasting was going to come of those feelings was far less certain. Yang had chosen to re-base to Atlas. She relocated more regularly than most Huntresses, so nobody thought too much of it. Perhaps even Yang didn't. But with her record it was inevitable that she'd come to the attention of Atlas Special Forces, that excuses for her to tag along on missions or share a drink after work would be cropping up like the weeds on Patch...

It hadn't been easy. Winter had spent the better part of two decades suppressing her own emotional needs, the smallest of exceptions carved out for Weiss and Weiss alone. That she felt lonely was something she confessed to readily enough. Justifying the price of remedying that loneliness was another matter entirely. A woman with her responsibilities didn’t pass up an assignment just so she could go for long walks on the beach with her paramour.

It had helped that Yang already knew that there really was a woman of flesh-and-blood beneath the Ice Queen's mask. It wasn't so much Winter's past slip-ups with Yang as her relationship with Weiss that was the clue. The two sisters had never been all that close, not if Yang used her own relationship with Ruby as a baseline. But that wasn't a fair comparison, of course, because Dad had never tried to make her and Ruby enemies of each other, competing for his attention and affection and a quite frankly offensive amount of lien. Winter had been expected to be perfect since before she could walk, and her understanding of perfection made no allowance for friendship.

And yet she had, at least with Weiss, demonstrating that the Ice Queen still cared about those few she loved.

After a week or two, Yang was wondering why she was trying. Why, out of all the men and women in Remnant, was Yang investing so much of her heart and mind and soul in the iciest of the Schnees? Ruby (rather charitably) suggested that Yang was trying to help Winter come out of her shell, though Yang was unsure if Winter would have appreciated the insinuation that she needed help. Blake (less charitably, if admittedly more plausibly) suggested that Yang was either looking for a challenge or attempting a rather elaborate form of payback on Weiss for stealing away her sister. Weiss remained blissfully ignorant of it all, though she began to openly wonder as to why so many people were suddenly asking about Winter's favorite movies, music, and lingerie.

Jaune had just been unhelpful.

The answer, in the most unlikely of ways, had appeared after a night of sex so bad it should have killed their relationship. It quite literally could have killed Winter.

It came after a night where things had gotten carried away. An open bottle of champagne and the privacy of Yang’s apartment had set the scene. Winter liked things rougher than she was willing to admit, the tender lovemaking of romance films doing little to get her blood pumping. Yang had let loose in turn, losing herself in the intimacy of instinct. What had begun as a few playful spanks had escalated to slaps, sharp and stinging, an erratic and unplanned escalation from loving bites and raking nails.

Yang’s Semblance had flared without thought or warning, eyes burning crimson as Winter crossed a threshold neither had known was there.Yang had lashed out as the pain tripped something in her subconscious, her passion redirected from arousal to anger in a heartbeat. Nothing had been broken, neither furniture nor bones, though it had been far too close a call. Yang hadn’t let herself lose control like that in a long time, and the thought that a little rough and drunken lovemaking could trip her Semblance was terrifying on a very personal level.

Yang had been the one stammering apologies and excuses that time, and she hadn’t even had to wait for sunrise to get started. While the adrenaline was still flushing from Winter’s veins, a bruise already forming where a blind punch had been deflected by her arm, the Specialist had watched Yang struggle to keep herself together, to offer answers in a kind of emergency therapy session.

Winter already knew some of the details, to Yang’s surprise, if only because Adam Taurus had had a file as long as his sword with Atlas Military Intelligence. Yang had lost control, for no more than a few seconds, and it had nearly destroyed her life and the lives of so many others’. Winter had approached their relationship with more caution as a result, had insisted on safewords from Day One, but the thought of using hers hadn’t even crossed Yang’s mind. Not until well after her consciousness was already flooded with pain.

It was then that Yang had found what she’d needed, an answer in unflinching eyes. When Yang lost herself, when that blazing fire threatened to consume her, Winter was the cold she needed. When Yang felt lost, Winter’s sense of purpose rubbed off on her, as if sweated through her pores. Winter kept her grounded without clipping her wings, a reminder that emotions could be strength without being blinding. Proof positive that you could fight the destinies ordained at birth.

They hadn’t resumed their lovemaking that night, despite some half-hearted probes from Winter’s fingers. But it had been enough. Yang hadn’t gotten around to getting a frame for her bed, so their mattress lay on the floor, tucked in a corner beneath the windowsill. Winter had held her that long night, not patronizing, not infantilizing, simply reminding Yang of the reserves of strength that were at her disposal.

The snow fell softly that morning.


The tip of the crop impacted Yang’s thigh, on a long stretched of muscled flesh, causing Yang to let out an involuntary yelp that was partially muffled by her gag. Winter knew it was probably going to be the only such outburst she got of the night, and only because she’d surprised her blindfolded lover with it. Yang was not exactly ‘quiet’ when it came to their lovemaking, but when things got kinky the Huntress was never one to play the mewling submissive. Sheer stubbornness would keep her from giving Winter that particular kind of satisfaction, and Winter loved her all the more for it.

“Was that too much?” Winter asked, in a question that was mostly a tease. Yang let out an angry grunt into her gag, wriggling slightly in her bonds, but her movements became muted as the tip of the crop returned to her skin, gently trailing from thigh to stomach. The leathery tip didn’t tickle or irritate, but it did have a way of focusing Yang’s attention completely on an inch of her skin’s surface area.


Yang’s muscles tensed and her face contorted at the second strike, but as Winter had predicted there was nary a murmur of discomfort. She let the crop’s tip rest on her girlfriend’s mons pubis, strolling around the bed as she did, surveying her handwork. A loop had been cinched tight around each of Yang’s ankles, tethering them to opposite legs of the bed. Yang’s heavy breathing was giveaway enough as to her state of mind, but the flushness of her folds was an added degree of confirmation. Smack.

“I’ve always wondered how much you can endure…” Winter mused, the crop’s tip tapping a patter along Yang’s inner thigh. Slap. “How long you can last…” Crack. Yang’s knees buckled inwards slightly at the string of strikes, her thighs tensed as the crop trailed northwards, but she consciously unclenched a moment later. Smack. Some degree of flinching was inevitably, a reflex of nerves and muscles, but like hell was Yang going to cower.

The next touch was a surprise, if only because it was Winter’s fingers instead of a tip of leather. Long fingers brushed longer legs, clipped nails trailing up Yang’s thigh, the pressure just enough to leave thin white lines in their wake. They found patches of reddened skin easily enough, Winter’s eye taking in the faint of quiver in Yang’s jaw as the sensitized spots were stimulated. One flare of her Aura would obliterate any traces of Winter’s handiwork, but Yang held off, letting the red patches blossom.

Winter’s finger’s drifted over Yang’s vulva, eliciting a groan or three, before continuing upwards. Yang’s body tensed as Winter’s fingers brushed across her abs, making their way to her neck, where they sunk deep into tired muscles. Winter leaned over her captive, letting Yang feel the pressure of her presence. The Specialist stole a kiss, her lips against Yang’s, the Huntress trying to respond in kind but bridled by her cleave gag. Winter smiled as Yang squirmed in her bonds, the older woman drawing back, the tip of her crop resting on Yang’s breastbone in a wordless instruction to remain down.

Winter resumed her strokes at a leisurely pace, the crop striking erratically and unpredictably when it wasn’t trailing along Yang’s body. Yang enjoyed the touch of the leather tip more than she’d admit aloud, cool and smooth to her skin. And the promise of what it’d deliver, well…


Yang breathed out through her mouth, the exhale coming out at a stuttered staccato. She’d never thought of herself as a masochist - still didn’t really - but there was something undeniably exhilarating about being brought to the edge of her Semblance. Pain was her strength, and the calculated stings and controlled slaps had a way of making her feel alive more than a brawl or a chase ever could.


A moan escaped Yang, though this one was decadent rather than pained. Winter kept up a gentle patter with the crop’s tip, Yang’s hips beginning to gyrate unthinkingly to the touch, the Specialist watching the rhythm of her girlfriend’s breaths and coaxing them to go faster.

Slap. Winter was observant and perceptive, which were traits Yang genuinely appreciated. When Winter wasn’t focused on her work she was focused on her, picking up the subtle signs and nuanced gestures that were too often overlooked. Which was pretty much the only reason Yang consented to this kind of kinkiness to begin with. Even without the caution the nature of her Semblance imposed, Yang had never suffered gladly inattentive lovers. Adding any kind of pain into the mix was just asking for trouble. Someone without Winter’s presence of mind would’ve missed when Yang was signalling for more or asking for a breather.

But Winter was, well, Winter. And she could tell that Yang was definitely signalling for more.

Swish, crack, sting. Winter’s crop cut through the air, each stroke landing with unerring deftness right where she’d intended it to. Yang’s wordless wiggling intensified, and Winter discarded the crop altogether, positioning herself between Yang’s thighs and raking them with her nails...

Yang had never thought of herself as having much of a deviant streak (certainly not when compared to certain former roommates who would remain nameless). Kinks only added complexity, in her samplings of the things. Sex was supposed to be about, well, feeling - skin and muscles and saliva, strength and want. Elaborate games only diluted the experience, distracted from the moment. She knew that that was just her own tastes, that she was vanilla in a world of colorful sorbets, but that’d never bothered her...

Winter had been the only of her lovers patient enough to open her world. Observant enough to introduce her to a world of selective submission. To think that - properly controlled - she might actually enjoy the sensory rush of Winter’s ‘instruments’, that restraints on her limbs didn’t need to restrain her own pleasure.

...She shuddered hungrily at Winter’s touch…

The night of their departure had been cold, moonless, cloudy, and windswept. So fairly typical for Atlas. Everything had been fairly typical, it had seemed. Winter drilled her subordinates hard, but the payoff was that they moved with almost mechanical precision, prepping the airship for launch in what would have been record time for any other crew. Everyone was nervous about the mission - they'd have to be complete idiots not to be - but they kept their fears in check, moving with the purpose of men and women with jobs to do. Winter herself surveyed the hangar - a small airship bay built into a mountain whose existence would be completely denied by her government - running through checklists in her head.

She could feel the nervous energy beginning to seep into her muscles, even after all these years, all these missions, the tension never faded entirely. That was how Winter liked it. Here she was in her element, in control, master of her own domain…

"…so I guess packing swimwear was a mistake?"

Winter's hand had found the hilt of her sword before she spun around, a smile bright as the sun ready to greet her.

"…Yang?" Winter managed to get out, suddenly afflicted with a very uncharacteristic loss-for-words. "What on Remnant are you doing here?'

"That's Huntress Xiao Long, at your service," said Yang, taking a sweeping bow. Winter suddenly noticed that Yang had a drink in hand, though where the Huntress had found the ingredients to make a Strawberry Sunrise on an above-top-secret military base was beyond her.

"Well, not really at your service," Yang amended, barreling forward before Winter could get a word in edgewise. "Since, y'know, certified Huntress and everything. Just tagging along for the ride, honestly."

"Really?" demanded Winter, her voice as cold as the mountainside.

Yang looked taken somewhat aback. "Yeah, actually," she replied, a touch defensively. "It was on the mission board for West-Central Atlas." Yang whipped out her Scroll, summoning an official-looking document punctuated with classification markers. "Atlas Specialist Assault Team requesting 1 Huntsman for escort duties on airship into Mantle. Compensation at AH Enhanced Hazard rates, approx. two week assignment, bonus compensation for extenuating situations at discretion of Commanding Officer."

Winter scowled a little at how easily she'd been ambushed out of left field, but Yang obviously wasn't in the mood for dourness. The Huntress picked up an army-green duffel bag that she’d dropped at her feet, slinging it over her back with ease. "So, where do I dump my stuff? I take it there's a VIP cabin somewhere I can crash? Or do I just use yours?"

Despite knowing full well that Yang was just trying to rile her up, Winter felt the annoyance gnawing at the back of her mind. She tried very hard not verbalize a comparison to Yang's uncle. Instead she simply inhaled through her nose, collected her thoughts, and drew herself upright into a pose that could only be called regal.

"Your quarters, Miss Xiao Long, will be on Deck 3-A. You should have no trouble finding a bunk, though please note that they're on a first-come, first-serve basis. You’ll have it for the eight hours of your sleep shift."

Winter paused, watching Yang's expression closely. But that I-dare-you-to smile on the Huntress’ lips never wavered.

"I wouldn’t dream of special treatment," said Yang, glancing at a large clock on the hangar wall that was counting down the minutes to their departure.

"I should hope not, Huntress," Winter replied, and despite herself she felt something tugging her cheeks upwards. "I look forward to keeping our relationship professional."

Winter could offer a dare just as well as Yang could, and the Huntress loved it. "As do I, Specialist," she said, savoring the title.

She made it a whole five steps before pausing, glancing over her shoulder just as Winter had returned her attention to her Scroll. "Hey, Schnee," Yang called out, waiting for Winter's eyes to dart up. "Just for my own personal curiosity: do you normally put out bulletins looking for Huntresses to perform 'escort duties'?"

Somewhere in the distance the sounds of cargo being loaded onto the airship could be heard, but the noise was lost on both women. "No," Winter replied, watching the satisfied smile play across Yang's face. "But I must ask, Xiao Long - are you in the habit of accepting them?"

Winter spun on her heel and strolled off. She might have lost the opportunity to see the look on Yang's face, but the satisfaction of getting the last word made it worth it.

It could have been one minute or twenty, but Winter began slowly, hands and fingers rubbing out gentle patterns along Yang's folds. There was no need to hurry, as much as Yang might have argued otherwise, and Winter had long ago learned the prize for patience. Yang was already flush with arousal, the scent of sweat on her skin, with Winter's brushstrokes elongating every flash of pleasure.

It was no small irony that the 'torment' that Yang was enduring was mostly the result of her own efforts at 'educating' Winter in a way that Atlas Sex Ed never had. Winter was hardly a virgin - the occasional snide remark from a legion of rejected colleagues notwithstanding - but she was far from versed in the ways of Sapphic love. Her approach to masturbation had always been utilitarian, something infrequently indulged in to relieve the tension of a solitary life. Even as an adult she'd felt some lingering shame at that most unladylike of pastimes, the product of an upbringing that had placed such a premium on propriety. It shouldn't have shocked Yang that Winter was not exactly a Casanova in the sheets. So she'd set out to correct that in some of her more enjoyable teaching experiences.

Teaching Winter that she didn't need to focus on obtaining an orgasm, that sometimes the journey was just as important... Yang was beginning to see the seeds of her downfall. Or she would have been seeing them, had her eyes not been closed and her mind almost singularly focused on the glow between her legs.

Winter's fingers moved with careful deliberation, digits positioned so as not to risk nicking tender flesh with a wayward nail. Winter's lips kissed a trail from thigh to crotch, savoring the little quivers each touch elicited. Her fingers kept Yang's folds spread, and after a minute where she did nothing but breathe, Winter's tongue began tracing lazy strokes.

The touch was electrifying, Yang's back arching as if shocked, and Winter wasted no time in pressing her advantage. Yang’s gasps and groans were thwarted by the gag, the sounds all blurring together into inarticulate moans of pleasure and desire. Winter's hands moved to wrap around Yang's thighs, her fingernails now sinking into skin.

There was pain, yes, shooting up Yang's legs at the intensity of Winter's grip, but the ferocity brought a pleasure of its own. Knowing that she was wanted, that she was causing the Ice Queen herself to slip past what was ‘strictly proper’…

Yang groaned, her hands bound, unable to do anything but clutch the sheets beneath her. She pushed, her hips thrust out to meet the pressure of Winter's tongue, and in a moment she felt the ecstasy break over her, reverberating down her body. It was warmth and it was fire, a shot of whiskey on a high of adrenaline.

Winter extricated herself from between Yang's legs, drawing up beside Yang in the bed, one arm reaching around so as to gently hold the Huntress. Her fingers curled around the gag in Yang's mouth, which she removed without ceremony, listening to the shuddering breaths of her partner’s slow return to Remnant.

"Oh.... that was something," Yang murmured, finding her voice for the first time in ages. She swallowed loudly, her mouth sounding dry. "Do you have any water?"

Yang had already set down a bottle of wine and two glasses to go with it, but they were back in the kitchen, so Winter reached for a bottle of water by the nightstand instead, cracking the seal of the cap. She found the end of the rope that encircled Yang's neck and gave it a gentle tug, pulling her captive upright. With one hand she undid the knot keeping Yang's blindfold in place, the cloth falling across her lap.

Yang blinked as her eyes adjusted, though the lights in Winter's bedroom were mercifully low. And then she saw Winter, and the goofiest smile came to her face. She was content, and she somehow managed to keep smiling even as Winter raised the bottle to her lips, from which she inhaled half a liter.

"Bwah," Yang gasped, as she finally pulled her head back. A few droplets of water trickled down the side of her chin, which Winter dutifully wiped with her thumb. "Thank you."

Yang extended her hands behind her back, drawing attention to the neatly-knotted coils of rope. They shuffled about in wordless silence until Winter's fingers could begin digging into the knots, creating enough of a gap to slide the ropes to the point of looseness.

"Are you sure it wasn't too tight?" Winter asked, the edge of an order creeping into her tone. The Specialist’s attention was nominally focused on the knots keeping Yang’s legs spread, but she was watching her lover out of the corner of her eye.

"Sure as I was last time you checked," replied Yang, rubbing her forearms where the coils had sunk in. It was a strange sensation, a part of her brain well aware that her right arm was nothing but metal and advanced materials, while there was another part that simply didn't care, and it was going to make her feel pain so long as that was the sensory data being fed to it...

And then Winter’s lips found Yang’s, and all that problematic sensory data was forgotten in a heartbeat.

They kissed for some time, taking turns on top, the sheets and blankets kicked off to the floor below. Winter was still in a pique of arousal, but Yang knew she'd be slow to ask for her own needs to be sated, and the Huntress had every intention of exploiting that. Yang let Winter roll her onto her back, the Specialist struggling to find purchase on skin sleek with sweat. Yang wiggled low until her hand could reach Winter's legs, moving up the sides of thigh-high boots until she could cup the fabric above Winter's crotch. Winter's mouth opened and her eyelids shut, and while she kept her breathing steady the façade of indifference was faltering.

"You're the exception to that bedroom rule, y'know?" asked Yang, mostly to herself, as she closed her eyes and let her arms come to a rest above her head.

"Oh?" asked Winter, when her mouth wasn't pressed against Yang's naked skin. "What rule?"

"You know… that people are the opposite in bed what they are during the day?" Yang felt slightly sheepish all of a sudden, and Winter pulled back a little to look at her girlfriend's face. "You boss people around all day and still play the dom in bed."

"So what should I be, then?" asked Winter. She remained upright, her lips suddenly as far away from Yang's skin as Anima, though her fingers were still brushing against the Huntress' nipples. That had never done much for Yang, for whatever reason, but the continued contact was nice, if nothing else. "Would you rather I be a submissive little maiden for you, master?"

The last sentence came out with a bit of an edge, and to her credit Yang noticed it immediately, wriggling out from beneath Winter so she could sit up on an almost-even level.

"That's not what I meant," said Yang, trying to keep her voice calm. Her arms encircled Winter's waist, hoping to keep her from pulling back any further.

"You'd be surprised at how common a fantasy it is, Xiao Long," Winter murmured. "There are many people who expect me to flip some switch in my psyche for them once I take them to bed."

There was something ugly to her words, and Yang didn't need Twenty Questions to guess their history. From what Yang had been able to pick up, mostly by way of clues from Weiss, Winter had tended to be drawn to people who were, for the most part, like her. Strong, commanding, forceful. Overwhelmingly male, due in no small part to the demographics of the Atlesian military. Yang didn't need a lot of help imagining how that kind of a relationship could sour, in a culture where traditional gender norms were still prized more than anywhere in Remnant.

"Well, I'm not one of them, okay?" declared Yang. A note of irritation may or may not have slipped in. "I like being with strong and confident Winter Schnee when I'm working. And if that's how Winter Schnee wants to be in the bedroom, then, fuck, I mean… who cares?"

A silence spread between them, an oil spill, black and murky.

"It's just, you know… I've heard that when people have jobs that mean they have to give orders all day, maybe sometimes they find it relaxing to change things up a bit?" The sentence came out as more of a question than Yang had intended, but she was sure the point was conveyed.

"Abnegation is the term you're looking for," said Winter, her tone relievingly relaxed. "A catharsis from releasing responsibility." She paused, tilting her head in a somewhat strigine manner. "Who did you hear that from, out of curiosity?"

Yang's mind and body froze as one. "Uhhhh….." Don't say Weiss don't say Weiss don't say Weiss don't say Weiss don't say Weiss "…Ruby?"

Winter blinked. The Ice Queen didn't really do 'struck speechless', but this was pretty damn close. "Okay then."

"What I was trying to say," said Yang, doing her best to thread her thoughts together, "was… I'm fine with, you know… whatever."

"That silver tongue of yours," Winter teased, though the jibe was balanced with a probing kiss.

"You know what I mean," said Yang, with mock-sullenness. Her Patch Island upbringing hadn't exactly prepared her for witty banter with the crème de la crème of Atlas. "If you like always being in control, then... that's fine." Yang shuffled around. "I just meant that, if you ever did want to, you know…. abnegate…" Winter raised an eyebrow at her choice of words "…then I wouldn’t, like, tell anyone."

Winter's smile was small but unreserved. "I would never have thought otherwise, Yang."

The Huntress blushed scarlet at that, completely unexpectedly. "….thank you."

They broke the awkwardness with a kiss, long and searching, a shared revelry in the sensation of skin against skin. Yang guided Winter gently onto her back, their heads nestled together on a pillow. Two of Yang's legs wrapped around one of Winter's, coiled like a snake, while her right arm slipped across bare skin, fingers splaying into a V as they slipped into Winter's pants.

"So… are you still in the mood?" Yang asked, her voice a sultry purr in Winter's ear. From a biological perspective the answer was clearly yes, Yang's fingers having crossed over the mons pubis to find Winter damningly wet.

Emotionally, however, may have been another matter. Raising her gaze from her wandering hand to Winter's face, Yang had no difficulty making out the uncertainty on Winter's face. In her eyes, on her mouth, a dozen little cracks in the ice.

"I'm sorry I snapped at you earlier," Winter murmured. "You did nothing to deserve that."

"Wait, you're apologizing to me?" replied Yang.

Winter apparently missed the fact that the shock was mostly feigned. "Yes," she answered, a touch self-consciously.

Yang proceeded to make a show of fumbling about for her Scroll, which had fallen off of Winter's side of the bed. That necessitated rolling herself over her girlfriend, half-smothering her in the process, the angle of her contortions forcing her hand to slip out of Winter's pants. Winter sucked her breath in with a short hiss at the sudden loss of pressure. Yang managed to grab her Scroll, grinning as she did. "Okay, can you just say it again so I can make a recording? Y'know, something I can play back in the future."

Winter growled menacingly at that. "Don't push your luck, Huntress."

A peck on the lips confirmed that Yang took no offense to the words. "Wouldn't dream of it," she said back, before stealing another kiss, in a tone of voice that made it clear that her whole life had been one long luck-pushing enterprise. "But…." Yang managed to draw the monosyllabic word out for a whole five seconds "…if you did feel like making it up to me." That devilish smile returned. "You could…let me give you a massage?"

Winter exhaled through her nostrils, loudly. "Has anyone ever told you that you are a very strange woman, Yang Xiao Long?"

Yang grinned at that. "Well, I'm not hearing a no…"

Winter Schnee had gone for a massage at a spa exactly once in her life, actually on a date with a man who would did not remain her boyfriend for much longer. They'd never been a particularly good match, Winter had known that from the start, but some vague sense of guilt had obliged her to accept the man's courtship. He was a mid-ranking marketing executive for an airship firm, reasonably successful, well-dressed, well-traveled, and could hold a five-minute conversation without staring at her breasts. Winter, grounded for a few months at Headquarters due to a security scare, had more or less gone along with him.

While their relationship was doomed for any number of reasons - preeminently that his chivalric attitude veiled a distinctly patriarchal worldview, and that Winter was counting down the days until her next field assignment - the trip to the spa had always stuck in her mind. It was supposed to be the kind of fun, indeterminately-romantic thing well-to-do couples did. And Winter, whatever rebellions she had committed over her life, had been raised to be a lady of polite society. No matter how many Grimm she slew or assassins she stopped, there would always be some part of her mind, a seed planted in childhood, that wanted to do normal things.

...It hadn't worked. They'd been seated on massage beds, the padding adjusted so they could look one another in the eye if they managed not to drift off. Winter was paired with a well-muscled man from Vacuo, chiseled and toned in a manner that someone had probably thought was her masculine ideal. But his touches were impossibly soft, and within minutes Winter was ready to scream. She couldn't relax, couldn't unwind, every gentle moment of contact made her want to twitch or shiver. It had been the most unexpected form of torture she'd ever been subjected to.

Yang didn't have that problem.

The Huntress' hands were veritable weapons, strong and powerful, kneading Winter's muscles like clay. Yang pushed with such force so as to be on the edge of pain, but the cycle of building pressure and releasing it was ecstasy to Winter Schnee. And the fact that Yang's hands ventured beyond the boundaries of professional propriety was something Winter could never bring herself to complain about.

"You never did tell me where you learned these dark arts," mused the Specialist, as Yang re-applied a lotion to her palms. Unlike many a masseuse Yang used it only sparingly, Winter valuing the friction far more than most would.

"Ehh, it's kind of a not-fun story," replied Yang, as her hands moved down to Winter's thigh. Now fully in the nude, Winter's leg was at Yang's mercy, and the Huntress was making the most of her opportunity.

"Oh?" The word was spoken loudly enough to be heard as an invitation, but soft enough to be ignored without recrimination.

Yang shrugged, though Winter's face was half-buried in a pillow, so the gesture was for her own benefit. "After the Fall of Beacon..." she began, speaking deliberately so that her voice did not waver. Even after all those years, it felt strange to refer to that night by the name History had ascribed to it. For Yang, it would always be the night she lost her arm, and the night Blake left her. Which took precedence remained an open question. "Before I got your Boss' toy."

Winter was silent, but the invitation to continue did not need to be spoken. Yang's hands drifted south, finding calf muscles in need of a deep rub. "I had a lot of weird pains those first months. Most of it was just, uh, residual nerve damage," Yang quoted, "but some of it was phantom pains. Tingles and weird shit. On… y'know.. the arm that wasn't there." Yang had long since gotten to the point where she could make jokes about her own amputation, usually just to shock and startle, but talking about the loss was still an intimate experience. "It was… weird. You know what I mean."

"Not personally," Winter conceded. She knew enough to know that she could never fully understand the sensations Yang was describing. "But I've heard similar stories."

Yang snorted at that, finding Winter's sole and somehow managing not to tickle it. "Yeah. You've got a regular army of tin men, don’t you?"

Winter would've said something, but Yang was in the middle of obliterating the lingering discomfort of wearing heeled boots for sixteen hours a day, and she was too smart a woman to interrupt that.

"Anyways, Patch didn't have any of the fancy neural-whatever stuff you guys had. So we tried massage."

Yang raised Winter's foot to her mouth and pressed a series of kisses from ankle to toe. It was a long minute before Winter could collect herself. "So did it work?"

Another unseen shrug. "A little, I guess?" Yang offered in reply, her hands reversing their course and moving back up Winter's opposite leg. "Kind of hard to tell, when so much of it is in your head, you know?"

"Mmmh." Yang's hands had made their way to Winter's buttocks, and the tension the Specialist felt had only been growing.

"But I picked up a lot of little massage tricks along the way. All totally wrong, I'm sure, but-"

"-but it's absolutely perfect, Yang."

Winter rolled onto her side, enough so that her words weren't muffled by the pillow, and Yang completed the maneuver, gyrating her girlfriend onto her back so that that their chests pressed against one another.

"You flirt," teased Yang, wiggling into greater intimacy. The amused glint in Winter's eye was her invitation to proceed, launching a staccato of kisses that blurred into harmless bites. "It helps that you told me how you like being rubbed."

"Oh, so I'm a dominatrix even when getting a massage, is that what you're implying?" Winter asked, barely managing to slip a note of fake offense into her voice.

Yang grinned. In a flash of motion her hands curled around Winter's wrists, pinning them above her head. Yang hunched up slightly so she could maneuver with her feet, hooking Winter's legs with a technique she'd learned wrestling, spreading them outwards. Fiery kisses drowned out any shock or protest, the position causing Winter's body to feel somehow even more sensitized to touch.

"That was a nice try, Schnee," teased Yang, "but I think you enjoyed that just a little too much. Being all naked and exposed beneath me."

There was a quiver of resistance from Winter, a twitch of muscle, but it wasn't serious, and Yang didn't budge. For all the time Yang spent in the gym she had no doubt that Winter could toss her from one end of the room to the other if she really wanted to. She knew firsthand just how powerful Schnee Auras could be. But Winter's wriggling was merely exploratory, taking a quiet pleasure in the feel of a firm grip.

Wait, what-

Yang's lips darted to her neck, pressing with a passion that was sure to leave a mark. The stretch of skin between Winter's jaw and clavicle was more sensitive than it had any right to be.

"You like it when I touch you?" Yang murmured, her voice a predator's.

"Yes," Winter whispered hoarsely in reply. She turned her head to grab a kiss, but a blonde mane was in her way.

Yang slid her leg up, finding the space between Winter's legs. Her thigh wasn't a particularly subtle instrument of stimulus, but the blunt pressure was enough to force Winter's teeth into her lip.

"Do you want to try something a little different?" Yang's voice was coy, which even in her state of growing impatience Winter was able to pick up. Yang had never been a great liar, and she sounded like a friend who was just a little too eager to reveal a surprise to play it cool.

Winter took the bait anyways. "Alright, Huntress, what's your game?"

Yang stole a final kiss, then released Winter's hands from their position above her head. Winter brought them down, at least a little, her fingers playing with tangled strands of gold. "Nothing crazy," said Yang, with that innocent-deviant smile of hers. "You tell me what to do, I get you off." She let out a deep breath. "Except I'm tying you up."


The Huntress already had a bundle of rope in hand, purloined from Winter’s stash. "Just hear me out," Yang said, dropping the cord next to Winter. Unlike the ropes Winter had bound Yang with, these were lacking an infusion of Dust. If she was denied any leverage then Winter knew she wouldn’t be able to break free through Aura-enhanced strength alone, not through ropes that were rated for extreme wilderness conditions. A well-placed Glyph, of course - or even a properly-Summoned beast - would probably free her, though that would be dramatic and risked some damage to her quarters.

She supposed that was probably the point.

"Just for fun," Yang promised. "Whatever you tell me to do, I'll do." She fiddled with the rope that still dangled from the improvised collar around her neck. Maidens that was irresistible. "But see if you like this first."

Winter shot Yang a scowl that made it clear that she doubted that that was a real possibility, but there was something acquiescing in her expression, and Yang ran with it.

Yang had never been all that into bondage, not the elaborate games and fantastical scenarios, certainly not without someone like Winter managing everything for her. Yang had, however, learned she enjoyed rope, thanks to people more deviant than she was. Not in a sexual way, mind you, but there was something strangely satisfying about the process of tying a knot, twisting and looping until the rope was arranged just so. It was tactile, friction and tension, functionally elegant.

So she leaned towards coarser cords, ropes meant to hoist sails or climbers, rather than the professionally-treated stuff you bought at certain stores on quiet nights. The Dust-laced ropes Winter used on her were perfect in that regard, still retaining that indescribable feel, but the climbing ropes Yang had borrowed worked almost as well.

“... Breathe a word of this to another soul and you’ll be Hunting cockroaches on Patch Island for the rest of your life. Do I make myself clear?”

“As a crystal, ma’am.”

The ropes were almost offensively bright, cyan blue cords designed to be clearly visible during outdoor excursions. Winter kept a few bundles of it neatly coiled in the shelves beneath her bed, for those nights when Yang consented to Winter’s more elaborate acts of foreplay. Half the time Yang was convinced it was just an excuse for Winter to show off yet another thing she’d mastered...

“I’m going to tie your hands together, okay?” Yang asked. Winter was already offering her wrists to Yang (albeit with a conspicuous expression of reluctance), but the Huntress didn’t begin tightening the ropes until her girlfriend spoke.

“Do what you have to do, Yang,” Winter consented, still with melodramatic mellowness.

Yang rolled her eyes and began tightening the ropes, binding Winter’s wrists together in a tight coil. Like any adventurer worth her salt, Yang had learned the basics of knots and ropework, though that had left her less prepared than she’d anticipated for when it was time to turn her attention to her lover. Humans were a lot harder to tie rope around than tree branches.

The Huntress gave the knot a final tug, which had the (accidental) effect of yanking Winter a few inches towards her. Yang at least had the good sense to run with it and steal a kiss while Winter was close.

“So… ready to take it a step further?”

“I’m your helpless slave, Yang,” Winter declared, with about as much emotion as a particularly-bored telemarketer. For some reason Yang found that unflappable aloofness strangely irresistable.

“This is going to test your flexibility a bit,” Yang promised, shuffling about on the bed slightly. “Think you can handle it?”

Winter’s glare made it clear that she was aware she was being baited. “You remember my safeword, Huntress,” she stated. “Though I doubt you’ll hear it.”

Yang grinned as her challenge was accepted. “Take a deep breath, then.”

There was one thing about her predicament that was undeniable true - Winter liked being touched by Yang. Most couples did, of course - particularly those with the healthy vitality of the two women’s young love - but finding someone who felt just right after so many years was something special to Winter. Strongs hands with a confident grip, calloused and battle-proven.

Yang looped a length of rope over the coils binding Winter’s wrists together, and pulled that rope up and over her girlfriend’s head. Winter’s hands were thus bound together behind her neck, while her elbows pointed up over her head like feline ears. The position was manageable - as a teenager Winter could’ve been a professional gymnast had she wanted to, and she hadn’t exactly slacked off as an adult - but she could feel the strain in her biceps, a pressure that would soon cause her muscles to quiver.

Her girlfriend’s ropework was impressive, Winter knew there was no denying that. Yang quickly began manipulating the strands of rope around Winter’s body, a bright blue line slipping beneath Winter’s bare breasts and around her back. The Huntress crafted a harness of rope in quick measure, each tug tightening the bindings a little more. Winter could feel what little slack she enjoyed evaporating by the second, while leaving the front of her torso completely unshielded and indefensible.

As was the case with Yang, Winter cared little for being subjected to bondage, at least for its own sake. That had never been an aphrodisiac for her, and the few times she’d indulged others it had consistently been a disappointment. Too many men had wanted to ‘dominate’ the infamous Winter Schnee, as if handcuffing her in the bedroom could somehow be counted as a triumph. Those had been bad apples, Winter knew in the back of her mind, mostly military types who’d felt emasculated by the Ice Queen’s meteoric rise and indomitable demeanor. And Winter simply wasn’t the type of woman who could indulge a small man’s need for supremacy very often.

Yang wrapped an arm around Winter’s chest, one hand grasping the rope behind the Specialist’s back, the other spread roughly equidistant between her breasts. Then she gave the rope one final tug and Winter inhaled sharply, eyes widening at the harsh increase in tension. Winter’s forearms were literally touching behind her head, elbows at most an inch apart, her wrists now resting almost above her shoulder blades.

It wasn’t the ropework itself that was electrifying, but the feeling of Yang’s touch. Of her hands moving with deliberateness and care, of being the object of Yang’s attention and affection and love. Yang didn’t race through the steps, making each change with decadent deliberation, giving Winter many long minutes of contact to savor. The tension in her muscles was seeping into her consciousness, and as Winter was wondering if her body could take the pose much longer, her mind was contemplating just how much longer it could delay gratification.

Yang knotted the last loose end, completing the harness, before sliding around on the bed to look at Winter face-to-face.

She barely had time to blink before Winter was kissing her, throwing her whole body forward to meet Yang’s mouth with her own. Yang let out a laugh and kissed back, her fingers curling around some of the ropes at Winter’s breasts. She’d done her ropework well-enough that there was almost no slack to slip her fingers in, but she managed it, the harness proving to be an excellent way of keeping Winter within kissing range.

“So, you like it?” Yang asked, her voice once again just a little too excited. Eager to show off her latest success.

“It’s very well-done, Yang,” said Winter, mostly because she wanted to see Yang’s smile. Not that it made it any less true. Winter tried shaking her arms, but could do little more than tense her biceps. “And very effective, too.”

“Remind me to thank Blake one of these days,” replied Yang, earning her a raised eyebrow. “Those Ninjas of Love books are really detailed.”

Yang’s smile softened from something excited to something loving, and her fingers once more curled around the ropes beneath Winter’s breasts, pulling her close. Her left hand kept Winter anchored, her head at just the right height for teeth to sink into lips. Yang’s right hand drifted between her lover’s thighs, finding skin flush and moist. Winter bit back a small gasp at Yang’s touch, at the promise of release it teased.

“So what do you want me to do?” Yang asked, leaning back when Winter’s teeth finally let go of her lip. “Do you want me to use my fingers, my mouth? Something from the drawer?”

Winter shook her head, her buttocks resting on her ankles as Yang loosened her hold on the harness. “You can do whatever you like, Yang,” whispered Winter, rolling her neck as much as she could with her arms still pinned in place behind her. “I trust you to make me happy.”

Yang blinked at the words, genuinely taken aback at the earnestness of the sentiment, even as Winter’s breaths came hot and heavy on her skin. In some ways it was self-evident. Most couples trusted each other like that, at least implicitly. That was why people got together in the first place. But to employ a trite cliche, Winter had always been a special snowflake.

Yang guided her girlfriend onto her back, cushioning Winter with literally every pillow in the bedroom. Winter could thus recline without crushing her arms beneath her. With Winter resting on a pillowy throne, Yang moved to position herself before the Ice Queen, whose legs were already parted for her.

The Specialist sucked back a hiss as Yang’s fingers splayed her folds, the Huntress’ breath alone like little needles of excitement. Unlike some of her colleagues, Winter had never been one for yoga, but if being constrained by rope had the same effect as challenging contortions then she was beginning to understand the appeal. Every muscle in her torso felt like it was quivering from the strain of her bondage, and that only seemed to prime the rest of her body for Yang’s touch...

Winter was always quiet during sex. Her breaths became increasingly labored as Yang’s fingers and tongue began pushing against her clitoris, the heels of her feet digging into the sheets and the mattress beneath. A low groan was about as much volume as Yang could expect, but she’d learned to read Winter’s body language almost as well as Winter had hers.

The Huntress pushed forward, sending Winter backwards and deeper into the pillows, until the Specialist’s arms were brushing against the headboard behind her. Winter’s feet struggled for purchase, the silken sheets slipping out from beneath her, her calves eventually rising above Yang’s shoulders. Yang gripped Winter’s hips with her hands, her tongue running over swollen folds in broad and passionate lashes. Winter’s low moans seemed to resonate through her whole body, giving Yang unnecessary but not unwelcome incentive to redouble her efforts.

Yang’s hands moved from Winter’s hips to her clitoris, trading a controlling grip for deliberate touches. If Winter’s conscious mind noticed the change she gave no sign of it, though the backs of her heels kicked Yang’s shoulders, as if spurring her onward. Yang’s face was already soaked - from her own sweat and Winter’s - but she pushed closer, Winter’s hips meeting the motions of her every thrust...

Winter stifled a shout, and then the crescendo was over.

Yang detached herself slowly from her place between Winter’s legs, gently guiding Winter’s feet back down to a comfortable position on the sheets. She wiped her face with a few passes of her palms, brushing aside strands of gold-blonde hair that had become hopelessly entangled in their passions. Winter’s own breathing took longer to slow, the sweat drying on her alabaster skin before it resumed a normal rhythm.

“Here, let me get that for you,” said Yang, and before Winter could speak Yang was cradling her upright, practised fingers finding the knots behind the Specialist’s back and hurriedly undoing them. Slack appeared in the line almost instantaneously, the ropes slithering in a loose reversal of their original path. Winter’s wrists, still knotted together, fell to her lap as if a cable had been cut, the release of tension produced a groan about as orgasmic as the actual orgasm had gotten.

“That was… definitely something else…” Winter murmured, the catharsis of all her release seeping into her words. Yang’s fingers hurriedly picked apart the remaining knot of the coils, the Huntress’ hands rubbing the lines where imprints were carved into Winter’s forearms. With an Aura as strong as Winter’s there was no real risk of lingering damage, but Yang massaged the marked skin all the same.

“Just thought we should try it once,” was all the reply Yang gave, shifting about slightly so she could lay beside Winter on her throne of pillows. It wasn’t fair to say that Winter was cold in the bedroom, but she usually wasn’t one for long, post-coital snuggles. Yang figured she might as well enjoy the opportunity, curling one powerful arm around Winter’s shoulders and leaning the older woman into her. “No pressure if you didn’t like it.”

Winter made an atypically inarticulate grunt in response, barely moving as Yang tugged the blankets up over them. Her own heartbeat had resumed its usual rhythm, which meant it was only a matter of minutes before her brain remember just how inhumanly cold Winter kept her apartment. No energy savings could be worth it, Yang Xiao Long was convinced.

Winter drifted off to sleep in Yang’s arm with nary another sound.

Huntress Xiao Long slipped wordlessly from the bed, maneuvering awkwardly in the cramped confines of Winter’s cabin. The Commanding Officer’s Quarters were small and spartan, the dimensions of a prison cell and about as homey. The room was located a ten second jog from the command deck, less than twenty paces at a soldier's stride, though thankfully for everyone the walls were thoroughly soundproofed. Most of the room was taken up by a small bed and bureau. There was enough open floor space for two people to stand, but probably not move.

Not while standing up, Yang amended, to her own mental description of the domicile. Pleeeenty of room to move on the bed. She smiled softly at her bit of juvenile humor, picking up the articles of clothing she’d scattered about the room while trying not to wake the lady of the house.

Winter Schnee slumbered silently in her bed, rolled over on her side, white hair a tangled mess in a way few souls had ever seen. Her torso was bare, and the blanket had only been pulled up to her hips, but Yang’s gaze was far from lecherous. It was so rare to see Winter this way: at peace, relaxed. The Specialist had earned a few moments of reprieve, Yang admitted to herself, earned more than she ever collected on.

Like tonight. Yang sighed softly to herself, hopping into her pants as she did. One of Winter’s late-night Grimm tactics discussions that had metamorphosed into something else entirely over the course of a few fingers of scotch. Into something that Winter still struggled to admit she wanted. Yang was content to play along, for now, even if she suspected that she was just stringing out the heartache she could herald in their future. At least Winter had had the thoughtfulness to reciprocate (and then some) before dozing off, unlike more of Yang’s partners than she cared to tally.

Her boots were the last items to be re-discovered, half-hidden under the part of the blanket that had spilled over the edge of the bed. Yang gently seated herself on the low-hung bed, careful to keep her weight from disturbing the sleeping Specialist. She laced her boots up completely, some part of her mind brainstorming any other excuses to stall. Coming up empty, Xiao Long exhaled through her nose, the distant rumble of the airship’s engines the only thing preventing total silence.

Yang was halfway upright when a hand caught her wrist, darting out like a snake from the tall grass to catch her. The Huntress spun around in surprise, blinking at she followed the fingers curled around her wrist up an arm carved from marble, back to the body of a certain Specialist who preferred to keep their rendezvous on the down-low.

“Stay for a little while?” Winter asked, her mouth still muffled by the pillow.

“Thought you said I wasn’t going to get any special treatment,” Yang teased, even as she let herself be pulled back to the mattress.

"My ship, my rules," Winter answered, easily, squirming slightly in the bed to give Yang a spot. “Assuming you’re still interested, Huntress.”

Yang was already smiling, using the hand Winter had clasped to brush a few strands of ivory hair out of her lover’s face.

“All you had to do was ask.”