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It starts at a party on a Friday night, as things in college ordinarily do.

It’s Weiss’s twentieth birthday. She’d technically be the baby among them if it weren’t for Ruby skipping two years in grade school, but they treat her as it regardless, something she claims to hate but Yang knows she actually enjoys because of the added attention. The two of them have been drinking since seven, even though the party hadn’t started until ten; Yang tequila, and Weiss a variety of champagne cocktails Yang had mixed up for her.

(“I love that you’re a bartender,” Weiss had relished, sucking the champagne out of a strawberry. “Imagine if I’d had to drink hard liquor on my birthday.”

“Don’t get comfortable, princess,” Yang had said, snickering. “By ten, you’ll be wasted enough to drink whatever’s handed to you.”

And, well, she hadn’t been wrong. She makes Weiss a Dark & Stormy when the firsts guests start to arrive and Weiss doesn’t even flinch.)

The party’s loud, but there’s no risk of a noise complaint; Yang’s uncle is the head of campus security and couldn’t care less about kids drinking legally in their dorms. At least seventy people are crammed into their apartment, spilling out the door and onto the lawn, where they’d set up a pong table earlier in the evening along with a cooler full of beer and cider.

“I love the upperclassmen dorms,” Yang says cheerfully, flicking a lighter with a picture of a T-Rex on it and holding the flame to the cigarette between her lips; Weiss reluctantly lifts up a hand to block the wind automatically. She doesn’t support Yang’s occasional habit, but she’ll indulge it. They’re on the balcony, watching the scene below; Nora and Pyrrha are beating their respective boyfriends at pong with a crowd gathered around them, cheering.

“They’re so much better than the freshman ones,” Weiss agrees. “We could barely fit thirty people in those. And the R.A.’s were always around.”

“I also love you and your problem with authority,” Yang says fondly, inhaling, the tip lighting up.

Weiss rolls her eyes. “Try living with my father for eighteen years and walking away without one.”

“Oh, Papa Schnee,” Yang sighs. “One day he’ll die, and you can inherit everything, thus restoring your family to its former glory--”

“I hate it when you call him that,” Weiss says. “Also, you have the weirdest fantasies.”

“I’m thinking of the payout,” Yang says earnestly. “You won’t forget your friends when you’re at the top, will you?”

Weiss actually breaks and smiles. “I’m forgetting you first,” she says, but laughs; she’s too drunk for a straight face, and in Yang’s opinion, alcohol tends to make her funnier.

Yang also laughs, glancing inside for a split second as their front door opens, and--

“Wait. Stop,” she says suddenly, and the stunned expression on her face alarms Weiss enough to take her seriously.

“What?” she asks, trying to follow Yang’s line of sight.

“Who the fuck is that,” Yang breathes out, smoke unfurling from her mouth, enthralled by the girl who’s just walked in; she’s all long and lithe and lean, black hair spiraling down her back and over her shoulders like an ocean pulled to tide by a moon, irises glittering in gold.

“Hm?” Weiss says, squinting into the crowd; her eyes widen in recognition a moment later. “Oh, that’s Blake. She transferred in this year. I mentioned I was inviting her, remember? She’s in my Modern Feminism and Literature class. She’s extremely well-spoken and articulate.”

“And hot,” Yang says dumbly, staring openly.

“Behave,” Weiss hisses, and waves a hand, politely capturing the girl’s attention. “Blake!” she calls over the noise of the party, hoping she’ll be seen even though they’re on the outside balcony.

It’s probably Weiss’s shockingly white hair that does it, in reality. Blake tilts her head and spots them instantly between the throng of people, pushing her way between a few of Yang’s friends. Yang tries desperately to keep her jaw attached to her skull when the girl reaches them: she’s wearing black high-waisted shorts over black tights with a white crop top, a maroon scarf, and a loose washed-out denim jacket. Her boots are heeled and add on at least three inches, making her about Yang’s height, and she’s striking.

“Hey, Weiss,” Blake greets, pulling her jacket a little tighter around herself; it is January, after all. “Happy birthday. Thanks for inviting me.”

“Of course; I’m sure it’s difficult being a transfer,” Weiss says diplomatically, though she slurs a little more than she thinks she does. “This is my roommate Yang, by the way.”

The cigarette still hangs loosely between Yang’s lips. She’s been drunk for four hours now and she’s had a few hits of a blunt Sun was passing around, and so she can’t think to say anything at all, let alone just a hello. Blake meets her eyes and suddenly smiles prettily; she lifts a hand and gently tugs the cigarette away, putting it out on the metal railing behind them. She leans a little too close to Yang as she does so, and Yang swallows audibly, her lips now parted as if waiting for something else to take up space.

Blake shifts her weight back, catching Yang’s gaze again. “Yang,” she says, making her name ring like the best sound she’s ever heard, “you’re too beautiful to have such an ugly habit.”

She drops the line like it’s nothing. Yang might actually have ascended to a higher plane of existence.

“Holy shit,” Yang says dazedly in response, somehow feeling starstruck. She reaches for the pack in her jacket pocket and shoves it into Weiss’s hands. “You can get rid of these. I quit.”

“Wh-what?! That’s it?” Weiss sputters, weirdly annoyed at the immediate turn of events. “She says one sentence to you and gets you to give it up? I’ve been trying for two years!”

“Yep,” Yang says, still refusing to take her eyes off of Blake.

“Jesus, Christ,” Weiss snarks exasperatedly. “You’re so hopelessly gay. I’m going to find Ruby.”

“I only ever smoked socially,” Yang tells Blake as Weiss storms off. “Wanna fix any of my other bad habits?”

Blake’s smile turns into a smirk as she says, “And what would those be?”

“One-night stands,” Yang murmurs, and allows her eyes a flash of red; it’s finally the thing to catch Blake off-guard, though it also intrigues her more - her eyebrows raise and then lower, mouth curling deeper. “Maybe you could help me make them two. Or three. I’m not picky.”

“How bold of you,” Blake answers, and her strange ability in appearing dismissive and untouchable even when she’s interested drives Yang even crazier. “I met you thirty seconds ago and you’re already begging me to fuck you?”

Her wording finally smacks Yang out of her trance. “I am not begging,” she says loudly, and immediately flushes; fortunately Blake finds the disruption of the mood amusing and laughs instead of leaves. “Fuck,” Yang backtracks, raising a hand to her face. “I’m like - really drunk, and you’re - you're so hot. I’m sorry.”

“That’s alright,” Blake says, still giggling. She reaches out, tucks a strand of hair behind Yang’s ear. “If I didn’t think something similar about you, I wouldn’t have played along.”

“Yeah?” Yang asks, regaining her footing; she senses the red seeping into her eyes again. “Because I wasn’t joking.”

“I didn’t think you were,” Blake says, taking a small step towards her. “Although I think it’s cute that you masquerade as a top.”

Yang’s mouth drops open, almost offended. “I - I’m not ‘masquerading’--

Blake laughs again, and only then does Yang comprehend how close she’s become. “I think you like begging,” Blake says lowly, smirk dangerous and resolve-shattering. Yang’s heart beats in the tips of her fingers. “And I bet I could get you to.”

“Jesus, Christ,” Yang breathes out. “Were you, like - put up to this, or something? Did Weiss invite you as my own personal hell, just here to - torture me?”

“No,” Blake says, though seems to find her dramatism charming. “I could actually say the same about you. Did she set us up on purpose?”

“No way,” Yang answers confidently. “Her romantic life is enough of a mess without adding mine to it.” She raises an eyebrow flirtatiously, leans back against the railing on her elbows in an overtly arrogant pose like she knows it’s one of Blake’s weaknesses. “I’m torturing you, huh? How?”

Blake rolls her eyes, and reaches out, curling her fingers around the sides of Yang’s green jacket. “Please,” she says loftily. “You’re the kind of girl who seems like she’d be everyone’s type.”

"Hm." Yang’s lips curl at the edges; there’s a moment of observation. “So you’re into blondes, but you’ve never actually dated one,” she guesses correctly, still holding herself as aloof. Her gaze doesn’t change, but now it’s like Blake’s being beckoned open, having her fortune told. “You’re probably into people who look - a little dangerous, or unpredictable, or something, right?" Blake doesn't reply, but the answers present themselves anyway. "You’re more into girls at the moment; you’ve probably had at least one shitty relationship with a ‘bad’ boy who you thought had a heart of gold, or some other bullshit like that.” Blake’s hyper aware of Yang murmuring all of this mere inches from Blake’s own mouth, and can only stare, listen, tremble against the cold, against the heat. “How am I doing so far?”

“Are you a Psychology major?” Blake only asks, breathless and turned on.

“No,” Yang says. “Engineering. I’m just good at reading people.”

“I’d say, yeah.” Red hair and a scowl crosses her mind, and the sting of lost bruises.

Yang leans in closely, lips against Blake’s ear. “Well, sweetheart,” she starts, “I’m not bad by any means, but if you want to stay the night and find out just how dangerous I am, the offer’s on the table.”

It's a line she'd never say if she were sober, and somehow it works anyway; but it's not right at all, Blake thinks, looking into her eyes as she pulls back, lilac and soft like the transition of sun into space. Dangerously beautiful, alluring and sensuous, with a wildness underneath that probably drives people to ruin. Dangerously smart, exposing details without effort, the way water evaporates from skin. But not dangerous.

“How about you make me a drink first?” Blake asks, keeps her smirk cool and closed off, but captures Yang’s chin in her hand anyway and leans in, kissing her once, briefly. She’s twenty and it’s a party, and Yang’s so attractive she feels like she might die. She’s spent enough time not doing what she wants to do, someone else’s voice ringing in anger against the back of her skull. And maybe, just maybe, Yang’s the kind of danger she should be seeking out instead of gang members with abusive tendencies.

It takes Yang a second to open her eyes again, but a smile stretches back across her face and she says, “Well, I’m a bartender, so you asked the right girl.”

“You seem like the right girl for a lot of things I want,” Blake insinuates casually.

“Jesus Christ,” Yang says without being able to stop herself. She reaches for Blake’s hand, tangles their fingers together as she tugs her inside. “If this is you sober, I can’t wait to see what you’re like when you’re not.”

“I’m more handsy,” Blake says nonchalantly. “I’ll just touch you a lot.”

“So we’ll do some shots first,” Yang says, not at all subtle. “Got it.”

Blake laughs. There’s something to be valued about transparency, she thinks, and with Yang, she already knows exactly where she stands.

--

Weiss spots the ombre wash of Ruby’s red hair and siddles up behind her, resting her chin on her shoulder and humming. Ruby starts, looks over and laughs.

“Hey, birthday girl,” she says, instantly noticing Weiss’s strangely serene mood. “Enjoying your party so far?”

“Absolutely,” Weiss answers, raising her drink around Ruby’s arm and arching her neck to get a sip of it. “Except that Yang abandoned me. My personal bartender. On my birthday.”

“Did she,” Ruby says, holding back a grin; wasted Weiss is always a sight to behold, and she tends to take everything personally, forgetting it just as quickly. “Where’d she go? Is she playing pong with Pyrrha and Nora?”

“Nope,” Weiss says, and waves airily towards the balcony. “She’s seducing my friend Blake. They’re like, already in love or something.”

“I bet,” Ruby says, humoring her. “Well, I’m not as good as Yang is, but she’s taught me a few things. Come on. I’ll make you a drink.”

Weiss whoops loudly in her ear, causing her to wince, but obediently follows her into the kitchen, where--

Weiss pushes past her. “You!” she says dramatically, pointing a finger at Yang on the other side of the counter, measuring out whiskey and standing next a gorgeous girl Ruby assumes must be Blake. “You left me! For her!” She swings her finger to Blake, who only smiles.

“Weiss, we’ve been over this,” Yang says, still concentrating on her pour. “You’re not my type.”

“Oh my God, gross,” Weiss says, slurring. “I did not mean that. Way. Did not mean it that way.”

Yang grins widely, passing Blake a red solo cup. “Tell me how that tastes,” she says, ignoring Weiss.

Blake takes it, lifts it to her mouth and swallows a moment later, nodding appreciatively. “Oh, that’s great,” she says, impressed. “You’ve definitely earned your tip.”

“Oh?” Yang says, cocking an eyebrow flirtatiously. “And what d’you plan on paying me with? I don’t accept cards or cash.”

“What about checks?”

“Sexual favors only.”

Blake smirks into the cup, and frankly, Ruby’s had enough of watching her sister eye-fuck some girl she hasn’t even met yet across the counter. “Um, double-gross,” she interrupts cheerfully, and Yang whips her head around, finally noticing Ruby behind a smoldering Weiss. “Maybe you can like, do your foreplay when I’m not here.”

“Ruby!” Yang says cheerfully. “Hey! Ruby, Blake. Blake, my younger sister Ruby.”

“Nice to meet you,” Blake says.

“Oh, so you can be introduced to people without hitting on them,” Weiss says, and even Blake laughs at her. “It’s my birthday! Hit on me!”

“Aw, Weiss,” Yang says, extending an arm; Weiss slides under it, harrumphing, while Blake and Ruby look on in amusement. “You know you’re my favorite girl.”

“Really?” Weiss says.

“No,” Yang says. “You’re a pain in the ass, but I love you to death.”

“Oh, fuck you,” Weiss says, no heat behind it whatsoever. “Make me a drink.”

Yang smiles, pulls out another cup and a bottle of rum. “Okay.”

--

They don’t expect anyone to leave until at least three, and Yang isn’t enough of an asshole to actually ditch Weiss’s party in favor of fucking a girl, so they’re relegated to more innocent activities: Weiss forces them to play pong against her and Ruby, though she uses cider instead of beer, and proceeds to miss ninety percent of her shots. Blake, on the other end of the spectrum and still the most sober of the four of them, hits nearly every single one of hers, forcing the other two into double-fisting.

“Restack,” Blake calls, motioning a triangle with her finger. She dips the ball in water. Ruby lines the cups back up. Yang wants to clear the entire table off and do her there. Blake glances at her and grins as if Yang had spoken that particular desire aloud.

“What?” Yang asks.

“And you thought was easy to read,” Blake almost scolds, lining up her shot. She sinks it without an issue, and Weiss curses loudly in the background. She passes Yang a ball; their fingers brush deliberately. “You’re up.”

Yang rolls her eyes, not bothering to hide her expression. “Whatever. It’s hot. You’re hot,” she says, and hits her cup on the inside of the rim. It’s not as clean as Blake’s, but she makes it regardless.

“So I’ve heard,” Blake says, taking the ball Weiss rolls her.

“Just end it!” Weiss screams, probably louder than she intends to. “Please! Put us out of our misery--

“She’s so dramatic,” Ruby says. “Just ignore her.”

“I am not--

“Weiss,” Yang says as the ball leaves Blake’s hand and drops neatly into the last cup, “shut up and drink.”

--

(Yang learns very few things throughout the night, though it isn’t as if she’s really trying, either. The promise of what’s to come is enough. They’re not attempting to unearth any skeletons.

Blake’s in the transfer dorms - Rosewood Hall, it’s called, which Blake says is too pretentious of a name for the state of them - but it only takes her about a ten minute drive to get to Yang’s, even though their dorms - Ochre Hall - are the farthest from campus. She’s a lit major with a minor in politics. There’s more to it, she says, but nothing she feels like getting into at a party.

She doesn’t mention her family or her past university. It just wasn’t working for me, she says, averting her eyes. Yang doesn’t push it, but she brushes her fingers over the inside of Blake’s wrist as if to say, Well, you’re here now.)

--

Sun lights up another blunt around two-thirty, passing it around the balcony. Yang and Blake are talking tucked in a corner, Blake now drunk enough to let her carefully-constructed disinterest crack; she keeps looking at Yang with these eyes, her intentions clearly cut across her face - I know irresistibility, she's saying, take me to bed. She holds her mouth in a half-smirk like she’s seconds away from either laughing or leaning in for a kiss, and she often does both, though only the latter when nobody's looking. She hadn’t been lying; she touches Yang constantly, simply because she’s there, because she wants to, “Because you’re beautiful,” she says, giggling. Someone hands the blunt to Yang over Blake’s shoulder, and Yang takes it, raising an eyebrow; Blake only shrugs.

“Just cigarettes,” Yang clarifies before bringing it to her mouth.

Blake nods. “My ex smoked them,” she says, and nothing else. Yang hums like she understands, inhaling deeply, exhaling another cloud against the sky before passing it to her.

There’s something enthralling about Blake smoking - she French-inhales, that’s the first thing Yang notices, and of course she does, it’s probably the sexiest thing Yang’s ever seen - and she crooks her neck back and shuts her eyes as she breathes out, like there’s a sense of relief that comes with the feeling. Like she’s letting something go.

Yang can only stare. Blake says, “What?”

Yang takes the blunt back. “Ever shotgunned?” she asks.

“No.”

Yang raises it to her mouth, inhaling even deeper, her lungs expanding. She lifts a hand under Blake’s chin and finds no hesitation: Blake parts her lips and Yang tilts her head, exhaling into her mouth, their lips barely brushing. There’s something to be said, here, about the intimacy of sharing air, of how it absorbs into her blood, of how they both want more than that.

There’s an intense moment of silence; the music and yelling and chatter dull to a hum in the background behind them, becoming nothing.

“I think I’m done with this party,” Yang finally murmurs, needing to be on her, under her, inside of her.

“Yeah,” Blake says lowly, holding her gaze. “So am I.”

--

Yang locks her door before pushing Blake against it and kissing her deeply; it’s hotter than any real first kiss Blake’s ever had because the pretense is already there, the expectation of Yang’s mouth dipping somewhere lower, her fingers skimming down Blake’s sides. She slips her tongue across Blake’s bottom lip, Blake knotting her hands in Yang’s hair. Well, it’s a party, and they’re both drunk. It just seems like the thing to do, really.

“I’m not a bottom,” Yang insists when she pulls away, glittering red. “I’m all about equality.”

“Great,” Blake says breathlessly, Yang’s fingers unbuttoning her shorts. “Me, too. Shut up and fuck me.”

Yang fucks her the way she looks like she would, the way Blake probably looks like she wants; it’s rough but it isn’t thoughtless, Yang’s fingers in all the right places applying the perfect amount of pressure, sometimes just past it for a gasp, Blake’s spine arching off the mattress and her hands tangled in Yang’s hair without pulling on it. And, well, Blake hadn’t pegged her completely correctly: Yang likes to have power, almost as much as she likes losing it, though it takes a long time for her to give it up; Blake cums five times before Yang lets her go, and by then she needs ten minutes of lying there, panting.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Blake exhales, arm thrown overhead. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.”

Yang smirks in the dim light above her like the devil beckoning her through fire, muscles in her arms flexing dangerously. Her fingers dip low again, but she touches Blake gently, lightly teasing her; Blake grabs her wrist and stills it, unable to handle anything more.

“Don’t,” she warns, still breathing heavily; not because she doesn’t want Yang to continue, but because she thinks she might actually pass out. Yang lifts her fingers to her mouth and sucks them clean one at a time, and Blake feels the throbbing low in her navel, the want, the desire to hear her moaning breathily and clenching her fists around the sheets suddenly overpowering.

Yang settles her fingers low again and murmurs, “Make me.” Her eyes flash in the darkness like a warning sign, a stoplight. A challenge.

Blake takes her wrist again, but steadies it, holding it there; Yang only watches, allows her the control, waiting in anticipation, until--

Blake sits up, steadying herself with her other hand, and shifts onto her knees; they don’t break eye contact as she does so, heightening the sudden intensity of the moment. She slowly sinks down onto Yang’s fingers, and Yang’s lips part audibly, her breath shortening to a gasp; Blake takes the opportunity to capture Yang's bottom lip between her own, skimming it with her teeth. She trails her own hand down over Yang’s toned stomach, circles a hipbone, dips between her legs, and Yang arches her spine automatically, eyelids hooded and voice lost in her throat.

“Okay,” Blake says, smiling cruelly; she shifts her hips deliberately, sinfully. Yang’s lips part even further. “I will.”

--

(Blake actually sleeps in until twelve, her body so delightfully relaxed she can’t bring herself to even care about moving.

She hadn’t stayed the night, though by the time she’d left around six, she might as well have; she’d passed by the unconscious forms of Yang’s friends Sun and Neptune, sprawled across each other on the couch, and Ruby’s red coat had been hung across the back of a chair, signaling she’d never left, either. Blake liked the vibe of it. All the parties she’d been to at her old school had always been with Adam, always carried a certain amount of threat.

She stretches out, and the soreness of her hips distracts her from the thought of him in a good way, forcing a sigh. She thinks of Yang again instead: the way she talked, moaned, touched her; her hair tied up in a messy bun, irises burning red from between Blake’s legs. She revels in it with her eyes fluttering closed, hands shoved under her pillow.

She finally reaches for her phone around one in the afternoon when she can’t take it anymore. Hey, Blake texts her, not even sure what to say beyond that.

The typing bubble pops up instantly in response. you wanna come over sometime after 7?

Blake pulls a face, her instinct to deny her transparency kicking in. All I said was hey

i know what you meant lmao

Okay, now I’m definitely not coming

well you arent yet. ill see you later gorgeous

Blake decides, right then, that she kind of hates her, no matter how good in bed she is.

It’s not true, never will be, but she’s got to retain some sense of control.)

--

Yang knocks on the bathroom door, waiting for the okay; Pyrrha hums affirmatively on the other side and opens it for her, toothbrush in her hand.

“You’re looking unusually - oh my God,” Pyrrha says, interrupting herself as her eyes slide low, scandalized. “Yang. Your fucking neck!

Yang glances down, only catches a vague mark or two on her chest, but hasn’t looked in the mirror yet; she grins satisfactorily anyway. “Is it bad?” she asks, and Pyrrha grabs her arm, yanking her into the bathroom. She gestures helplessly at the mirror, and Yang laughs loudly at her own reflection.

“Oh, wow,” she says appreciatively, leaning in and tilting her head to get all the angles. “She really didn’t hold back.”

“Who?!” Pyrrha asks, staring in what looks like awe. “Jesus, did you get attacked by a vampire?”

“Yep,” Yang answers cheerfully, touching a particularly dark spot over her pulse point that throbs in a way that makes her shiver; she remembers it, too, Blake’s mouth sucking on the skin, her fingers curling inside.

“Seriously.”

“I’m serious. I think she’s probably a vampire.”

“You’re so stupid,” Pyrrha chides, rolling her eyes. “Are you really not going to tell me?”

“Nope,” Yang says, mostly because Pyrrha’s the type of person who won’t push to know, but won’t stop thinking about it, either. Yang finds the combination amusing. “Not yet, at least.”

Pyrrha accepts the answer wordlessly with another hum, slightly exasperated, and continues brushing her teeth as Yang reaches for her own toothbrush. Pyrrha rinses, spits, and says, “So it was good, huh?”

Yang wipes her mouth with a towel and says, “Pyrrha, I probably just had the best sex anyone’s ever had, like, ever.”

“Damn,” Pyrrha says, now verging on admiration. “That’s high praise, coming from you.”

Yang snickers as she walks out. “You make me sound like such a slut.”

“If the shoe fits…” Pyrrha says whimsically, following her into the kitchen. Sun and Neptune are long gone, Nora’s a late sleeper, and Yang expects Weiss to be knocked out until at least two.

“Asshole,” she says, still grinning. Pyrrha squints against the morning light streaming through the windows, and Yang reaches for a glass. “Bloody Maria? It’ll help.”

“Not a Bloody Mary?”

“You know I hate vodka.”

“Right. Sure, then. Thanks,” Pyrrha says, slumping at their dining room table. “And I don’t think you’re a slut.”

Yang laughs at Pyrrha’s habit of taking back her jokes, like she’s afraid one day she’ll be taken too seriously and have to face the consequences. “Thanks, but I knew that. I don’t actually have enough sex for it.”

“So, are you going to see her again?” Pyrrha asks, resting her chin in her palm, gazing on somewhat absently. “I mean, best sex in history…” she taps her fingers against the wood as a lazy prompt.

Yang hums low in her throat. “I think I probably will,” is all she says, smiling at the counter.

--

It’s eight when Blake texts her I’m here, and fortunately Pyrrha and Nora had actually stuck to their plans and gone over to Jaune and Ren’s around six; Weiss, to Yang’s knowledge, is still nursing her brutal hangover, popping aspirin and watching Queer Eye on Netflix.

“Couldn’t stay away, huh?” Yang asks cockily as she opens the front door, smirking. Blake only rolls her eyes, half-smiles, and struts in like the room belongs to her - it’s yours, Yang imagines saying, take it, all of it - and turns around. She somehow looks even better than she did yesterday, wearing a casual, loose black dress with a rose-patterned duster over it, both underneath a tan overcoat, strappy wedges giving her the same added height.

You’re the one who essentially ordered me over here,” Blake points out mildly, following Yang to her room. The whole apartment is miraculously neat, considering the absolute wreck it was when she snuck out this morning; they must’ve worked all day to clean it up.

“Like that wasn’t your intention to begin with.” Yang shuts the door behind them, flicks the lock. Blake drops her purse on the floor, steps close.

“Would you have texted me?” Blake murmurs, arms settling against Yang’s shoulders. It’s so natural to touch her, like it’s something she’s been doing her entire life. “If I hadn’t?”

Yang’s tongue darts out on instinct, licks her bottom lip briefly. “Yeah,” she admits, her hands falling low on Blake’s back, pulling her in. “I would’ve.”

Blake leans in, lets their lips brush, and then kisses her torturously slowly, her tongue moving so sensually against Yang’s that she actually whimpers against Blake’s mouth. Blake half-smiles, pulling back the barest distance, and says, “Nobody’s ever fucked me like you did last night.”

“Oh, fuck,” is what slips out of Yang’s mouth before she can stop it, too caught off-guard and turned on by the statement. She kisses Blake again, more fervently, fingertips digging into her hips. “Good. Let me do it again.”

“That’s why I’m here,” Blake says lowly, and Yang strips her of her coat, hands lifting up the hem of her dress. Yang blinks once, eyelids heavy, hooded, and Blake only sees red.

--

“Oh, no, no,” Yang says, urging Blake’s head down, off her neck. “You’ve done - enough, thanks. My roommate nearly had a heart attack this morning.”

She feels Blake’s laughter vibrating against her body. “Well,” she says, “you were begging me for more, at the time.”

“I still am,” Yang says, tone dropping. “Lower. Not my neck. Anywhere else.”

Blake glances up, one eyebrow cooly raised, and drops her mouth to the swell of Yang’s chest, fingernails scraping lightly over her ribcage. “Is this like, a kink of yours?” Blake murmurs, teeth skimming her skin. “You like people knowing how well you’re being fucked?”

Yang’s hands curl around her shoulders and shove her over onto her back, shifting on top of her in a motion so smooth there’s no way she’s never done it before; she wraps her fingers around Blake’s wrists and pins her to the bed, eyes flashing red and mouth in a cruel smirk. She leans in. Blake’s heart beats in her throat.

“No,” she whispers darkly. “But you like knowing you’re the cause of it, don’t you?”

“No,” Blake says, thinking only of friction. She crooks her knee, trying to put pressure on Yang, who doesn’t react at all. “I don’t--”

“Liar.” Yang runs over the word so deliciously that Blake has to bite her lip to stop herself from whimpering. “I can tell. I could tell last night. You liked looking at me after. You liked what you saw.”

“Fuck you,” Blake says, straining against her, but can’t hold it back any longer. “God, fuck you. Fuck me. Please. Please.

Yang laughs darkly before she kisses her, still resisting Blake’s attempts to free her hands; there’s something frightening about it, being out of control, but something exhilarating, too. And Yang won’t hurt her. Even with her irises smoldering and her careless smile, when she actually touches Blake it’s with a great deal of thought, like every move is planned to give her the space to breathe, the space to stop if she wants to.

She never does.

--

(It’s the first time Yang notices her scars. They’re in strange places on her body, sometimes oddly shaped, and there’s no pattern to them; one is so noticeably deep she would’ve definitely needed stitches. Yang doesn’t make it a point to kiss them, but doesn’t make it a point to avoid them, either. She won’t ask, and Blake never tells her. Nobody mentions warning signs.)

--

“Can we keep this between us?” Blake asks, running a hand through her hair as she sits up. She turns her head, glancing back at Yang still curled up. “Only because - a one-night stand is one thing, but that’s - that’s clearly not this, so…”

The implication hovers. I’m not leaving yet, but when I do, I’m coming back. Even deeper is why it needs to be kept secret at all. Everybody has their reasons, Yang thinks.

“Yeah, of course,” she says, unconcerned with the undertone, or maybe she doesn’t want to hear it yet. She has her own setbacks. “No pressure or anything.”

Blake smiles cutely. “Okay. Thanks.”

“Of course.”

And it’s a good idea, in theory; it does feel like something that should be kept hidden for awhile, too delicate and inexplicable: I’ve touched you before, I recognize your scars. If that’s what it is, neither of them speak it aloud.

Except that sometime around eleven, a weight thumps loudly at Yang’s door, accompanied by a low moan of clear agony; they’re laying in bed talking, still naked - I just need a break, Yang had said, panting with an arm thrown over her eyes; just a break, there’s no way I’m done with you - and so the interruption could’ve come at a worse time, even if the time it comes is still not ideal. Yang rolls her eyes, as if knowing exactly what she’ll find when she opens the door, tugging her underwear on. She grabs a random shirt hanging off the back of her chair and slips it overhead, turning the knob--

Weiss actually comes tumbling into her, having clearly been leaning her full weight against the wood, waiting for permission to enter. Yang catches her unsteadily, unexpecting, and curses loudly as Weiss steps on her foot. Blake pulls the sheet up to her chest, sensing a lost cause.

“Jesus, Weiss,” Yang hisses, rubbing her toes. Weiss straightens up awkwardly. “What’s wrong with you?”

“I’m dying,” she groans dramatically, sinking back against the wall. “I have alcohol poisoning.

“No, you don’t,” Yang says flatly, and Blake casually covers her grin with the back of her hand. “You would’ve gotten that last night, not an entire day later.”

Help me,” Weiss whines, and looking pathetically up at her, and then seems to finally comprehend what Yang is - isn’t - wearing. Her eyes slip over to the bed, Blake’s bare shoulders, collarbone. She probably looks exactly like what Yang’s been doing to her. “Oh.”

“Hey, Weiss,” Blake says, waving a hand. “I had a great time at your party yesterday.”

“Obviously,” Weiss says somewhat slowly, “as you’re still here.” She blinks lazily, kind of like she’s having trouble processing what she’s seeing, mildly curious rather than actually annoyed.

Yang supports her up by the arm, her patience waning. “She went home and came back, actually.”

“Wow.” Weiss clicks her tongue. “The sex was that good? I’ve always thought Yang was all talk--”

Blake laughs in the face of a real answer; Yang only huffs, turning her towards the door. “Okay, get out,” she says. “I don’t care if you’re dying.”

“You’re a bartender,” Weiss says. “What’s the cure for hangovers?”

“Shutting up.”

Yang.

Blake actually steps in between their bantering - mostly because she feels somewhat sorry for Weiss, and she can tell that Yang’s resolve is shattering anyway. “I know a cure,” she says, and Weiss closes her mouth. “Let me put on a shirt or something.”

Yang shoots her an amused glance as Weiss obediently shuts her eyes, apparently willing to try anything. Blake reaches for whatever’s nearest - it happens to be Yang’s tank top, slit down the sides, revealing but not too revealing considering the state of present company - and slips her underwear on, choosing to mirror Yang rather than waste time on appearances.

She stretches when she stands, surprised to find her legs even working at all; Yang seems to think something similar, because she drops her eyes and attempts to hide her smirk. Well; she won’t pretend they both aren’t here for the same reason.

“Okay,” Blake says mysteriously, leading them into the kitchen. “I learned this back in high school, actually.”

Weiss sits at the table, her forehead in her hands. “I’m desperate.”

Blake pops open their fridge, finds what she needs instantly; she reaches for a bottle, and plops it directly in front of Weiss, who cracks open an eye and immediately scowls.

“Fuck you,” she says. “Absolutely not.

“I’m not fucking with you,” Blake says, shrugging. “Drink a beer. It’ll help.”

Weiss looks to Yang pleadingly, as if waiting for Yang to scream stop, but she only nods affirmatively.

Hair of the dog is a phrase for a reason,” she agrees, gesturing Weiss on. “Pyrrha and I had Bloody Marias this morning.”

Weiss grimaces, but acquiesces faster than either of them think she will, scowl deepening with every swallow. Yang chants chug like the party’s still going on, Blake giggling quietly beside her.

Weiss slams the bottle down against the counter, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, trying not to be sick. She’s not normally a beer drinker, anyway - it’s beneath her, she tells them airily - but she doesn’t complain. She glances between the two of them and says, “So? Is this, like, a thing now?”

“Probably,” Yang answers nonchalantly, sticking to nondescript. “But you’re sworn to secrecy.”

“Oh, am I.”

“Yep,” she says, and frowns. “Seriously. You know how Nora is.”

Weiss tilts her head in acknowledgement. “True,” she allows. “Secrets tend to escape her, somehow.”

“Exactly.” Yang tosses the empty bottle in their recycling bin. “We’re just trying to have an adult, sex-only relationship in peace.”

“Yes, everything about this arrangement screams maturity.”

“We’re twenty, Weiss, I’m not on the verge of proposing,” Yang retorts dryly, and gestures in Blake’s general direction. “Besides, look at her face; she's freaked out by the very idea of it.”

The callout makes Blake laugh, though her stomach still rolls uncomfortably. “Commitment issues,” she plays along, though she realizes too late she may not actually be joking. Oh. That’s new, and something to examine at a later time. “This suits me just fine.”

Yang throws her a grin. Weiss only rolls her eyes as she stands, clearly over their company. “Fine,” she says, ambling towards her room. “But I’m telling Ruby, at the very least. I can’t sit on this knowledge alone.”

Yang sighs; she’s always so fucking dramatic. “Okay, fine. I doubt Ruby wants to hear about it, but whatever.”

“Thanks for the help,” Weiss calls over her shoulder. “You two can get back to your lewd activities now.”

It's not really the right word, in Yang's opinion - hot and dirty both sound more apt - but the principle stands, and that's exactly what they do.

--

(Blake ties her hair up into a ponytail, the expression on her face oddly amused. What? Yang says, noticing.

It’s just, Blake starts hesitantly, is Weiss gay?

Yang asks slowly, Why? Does she give off that vibe to you?

Blake relaxes a little, realizing it’s not dangerous territory. She’s repressed, Blake says. That’s what she seems like to me.

Yang actually laughs, seemingly delighted by the idea. Oh my God, she says, I’ve thought that forever. She dated our friend Neptune last year and it was a disaster. Even when I first met her, I thought she was just like, high femme and proper, or something--

They dissolve into quiet giggling, as if worried about being snuck up on again, but all they’re left with is a solitude without weight. Blake listens to her voice and feels safe.)

--

So, they sleep together. Often. Frequently enough that they easily memorize each other’s schedules, when Yang’s roommates are home, when they aren’t - Yang goes to Blake’s occasionally, but they never stay there, as it isn’t as private - and for the most part, everything flows the way it's meant to: smoothly, without interruption, without pressure. Yang finishes her classes and, unless she’s working, Blake comes over between an hour and three hours later, lets Yang fuck her senseless through the mattress, returning the favor when she regains control of her muscles.

Two weeks in, they’re more familiar with what turns the other on, what they like and what they don’t, what they pretend they don’t like but really do - an early incident occurs when Blake threads her fingers through Yang’s hair on an impulse and tugs her head back, and the moan Yang lets out is so loud and pornographic that Blake hurriedly kisses her to shut her up - and it gets to the point where they don’t have to communicate at all, because they know. Like instinct. Like in some other life they’ve done this before.

Yang pins her against the back of the front door on a particularly memorable evening in which everyone else has gone out without saying when they’d be returning; it’s the type of edge that sets Yang up, gets her off. She loves sneaking around, loves the adrenaline of it, the hint of threat.

“Hey,” she says, voice throaty and dangerous. Her fingers are already slipping underneath Blake’s dress, stroking her through her underwear, and Blake’s head falls back against the wood. “I feel like eating out tonight.”

“I hate your fucking pick-up lines,” Blake says breathlessly, but kisses Yang hotly anyway. “You’re so - so…”

Whatever insult she’s about to lob is lost as Yang drops to her knees, slips Blake’s underwear down her legs, off. Blake isn’t about to protest; it’s the normal state of affairs. And, as Yang always says, you know you secretly find them funny.

“Here?” Blake manages, fingertips white against the door.

“Nobody’s home,” Yang murmurs, and presses her tongue against Blake at the exact right angle, sweeping up. Blake doesn’t bother with any other questions.

--

(This is the earliest red flag: Yang stares at her after and whispers plainly, You know, you’re really beautiful.

Blake only rolls her eyes; her blood pools underneath her skin, flushes her cheeks. Oh, enough, she says, pretending to be unaffected. You’ve done enough.

No, I’m not - I’m serious, Yang says softly, struggling within her sincerity. I’ve never told you that. And I always feel like I should, because - you - you’re so beautiful that I feel like I’m going crazy when I look at you. I know that's like, cheesy, but...

She pauses, runs her thumb gently across Blake’s bottom lip, leans in and kisses her. Blake smiles shyly. Yang clears her throat and finishes, So, now...I have.

Now you have, Blake agrees, and pulls her in for another kiss. It's their default, their fallback. That's a danger in itself, but one too early to notice.

Good thing it’s only skin-deep, Yang says, reverting the mood with a grin. Can’t fall in love with that.)

--

Here’s the thing: she and Yang actually become friends, something she sees coming from a mile away. Yang’s light on the surface with a wild streak simmering underneath, but she’s honest and intelligent and fun - not just to fuck around with, but to talk to. And likewise, Yang’s surprised by Blake’s sarcasm, her sharp wit, her dry jabs; she’s not used to giving it as good as she gets it, she says with a laugh.

But they fall below the surface, too. The first time it happens, it’s an accident; Blake asks her a question in the late hours of the night about Ruby, and they spend the next two hours talking about their families. She’s easy that way: she doesn’t ask for details Blake isn’t willing to give up, but offers up her own just as simply. She seems unusually attuned to levels of Blake’s comfort, and can move past any potentially awkward silences before they even get the chance to grow.

There are steps they should skip but don’t; Yang accidentally says, “Ruby’s mom died when I was four,” and pauses for a moment, a strange look spreading across her face.

Blake asks carefully, “Ruby’s mom?” with a hand trailing lightly over her forearm.

“Yeah,” Yang says waveringly. “I’m usually - I don’t slip up like that. Usually I’ll just say our mom, but…”

“We don’t have to talk about it,” Blake says softly, enthralled with Yang’s vulnerable side and craving more of it. She gets the feeling it isn't something most people get to see, even her friends, and Blake's addicted to the idea of something about Yang belonging to her.

Yang only hesitates for a second, but she meets Blake’s eyes and it’s uncontainable. “We only have the same dad,” she replies quietly. “My mom...didn’t want me. She left after I was born.”

“I’m sorry,” Blake whispers, resting her hand flat against Yang’s side. But there’s more to her than sympathy. “I don’t...I don’t really have a great relationship with my parents, either.”

“Life is complicated,” Yang says with a sad smile, “but at least you’re here.”

--

Being friends comes with perks other than just sex, she finds out shortly after the subtle change presents itself; it also comes with Yang’s friends, who quickly induct her as a member of their group without much thought to it. Yang likes her, and Blake gets the sense that what Yang says is generally respected, trusted.

“Why is that?” she asks Ruby on a cold night in February, hanging out on the balcony; Yang’s rolling a blunt inside, laughing at a joke Weiss cracks.

“Because she’s the coolest,” Ruby says, shrugging. “Seriously. Neptune and Sun are like, obsessed with her. I think she scares them a little. Too bad they couldn’t be here tonight,” she adds.

Blake smiles, charmed by the concept, a strike of pride hitting her where it probably shouldn’t; Yang doesn’t belong to her, even if certain parts of her do. She brushes that away without sinking further. “That’s funny.”

“They’d probably flip if they knew you were sleeping with her,” Ruby says, snickering at the concept. “Not like they want to, but like - she’s never really been interested in someone before. At least, not like this.”

Really,” Blake says, raising an eyebrow with a smirk as Yang slides the door open. That’s interesting, and a little terrifying, but her doubts seem powerless against Yang, against her lips, her hands, her smile. There’s something there Blake doesn’t want to run away from, and it's foreign, new.

“Yeah.”

“What are you two dorks talking about?” Yang interrupts teasingly, lighting the joint she places between her lips.

“Uh, I’m currently having sex with you,” Blake says drolly, “so would you like to rephrase the question?”

Yang grins, exhaling steadily. “What are you two absolutely amazing people discussing on this lovely evening?” she asks, passing the joint to Blake and lifting herself up onto the railing.

“Smartass.” Blake parts her lips and inhales through her nose, leaning her head back. “We’re talking about how cool you are.”

“Oh, it’s true,” Yang says, and Weiss tuts under her breath. “I’m outrageously popular.”

“Please,” Weiss says, lighting up her own joint; she prefers it pure, not mixed with tobacco. Yang calls it a waste. “Don’t inflate her ego more than it already is.”

“I’m a lost cause,” Yang says whimsically, uncaring.

“Sadly, I think that’s true,” Weiss replies, leaning against the railing beside her. “Especially now that you’re sleeping with Blake.”

“What’s that mean?” Blake asks, passing it back to Yang.

Weiss waves a hand airily. “Look at you,” she says, sounding like she’s on a critique, a judge on a reality show. “You’re gorgeous, and you’re her fuck buddy or whatever. Of course her ego is through the roof.”

Blake merely rolls her eyes, not willing to take the blame for that one. A breeze rustles through the trees, and she crosses her arms across her body, a poor attempt at masking her shivering; Yang notices instantly anyway, reaching out a hand and rubbing her shoulder.

“Cold?” she asks, and tugs Blake lightly backward, holding her jacket open. “Here. C’mere.”

Blake thinks of denying it - thin blood, Yang always teases her - but the goosebumps on her skin are proof enough, and so she obeys, leaning with her back against Yang’s chest as Yang wraps her arms around her. “Thanks.”

“Anything for you, babe,” Yang says playfully into her ear. Blake elbows her lightly, smiling at her breathless laugh.

“Wow,” Ruby says, watching the interaction with a grin; she’s got a bit of a glazed look in her eye. “Yang, you’re like, whipped.

Yang hums noncommittally. “You would be, too, if you were--” she cuts herself off, deciding not to talk to her little sister about her sex life. “Actually, nevermind that thought. I’m not going there. You, don’t do anything.”

“Let’s keep it classy, please,” Weiss says, joint tucked between her fingers in a comically ironic statement. “Blake, have you read the chapters due for Monday?”

“I’ve read up to fifteen,” she says, and Yang holds up the blunt for her, keeping her other arm crossed over her chest. Blake inhales, feels the dampness of the tip, fights the urge to turn around and kiss her. “I actually like the book.”

“I find it so dull.

Yang's stopped paying attention, and idly drops a kiss to the top of Blake’s head like it’s nothing, like it’s too natural to even think of stopping. Blake tilts her her face on instinct, gazes up at her, and finds Yang doing the same thing, staring at the sky. Not like she’s searching for something, but like she’s content right where she is, just appreciating the beauty of it.

If a meteor shower suddenly sprung to life in the blackness above them, Blake thinks, she’d probably keep her gaze trained exactly where it is now, tracing the line of Yang's jaw.

--

Weiss calls her up on Friday night - Yang’s working, she says, but we’re going down to the bar, if you’d like to join us - and it’s an opportunity she’s delighted to partake in. She’s gone out with them before, but never while Yang’s been bartending; it’d just felt like an unspoken rule to keep each other out of the public eye that way. She wears a short-sleeved black dress, the chest low-cut down her sternum and held together with lace, gold vines creating a minimalist pattern around it. She doesn’t wear tights, either, despite the temperature; only a tan overcoat, and a pair of black heels Yang’s never seen her wear.

She meets Weiss, Ruby, Sun, and Neptune at Weiss’s; Pyrrha, Nora, Ren, and Jaune are apparently meeting them there. Weiss takes a single look at her and dramatically rolls her eyes, knowing exactly what game she’s playing. Sun wraps her in a hug, grinning; he’s quickly grown on her, carefree and laidback. He’s a little like Yang that way, but he lacks the danger, the depth.

They Lyft to the bar - it’s Friday, Neptune reasons, of course they’re gonna get fucked up, especially with Yang bartending - and they all pile through the door, flashing their I.D.’s to the bouncer, though after Sun’s and Neptune’s he waves the rest of them in with a short smile of recognition. They’re regulars, after all.

Blake spots her instantly as Sun slides up to the side of the bar where the servers enter and exit. She’s got her her tied up into a messy bun, and she’s wearing a somewhat sheer black button-up with a gold collar, sleeves rolled up to her elbows, tight black jeans tucked into boots with gold spikes. She’s unfairly hot, Blake thinks idly, stomach already burning.

“Heyyyyy!” Sun exclaims with his hands in the air. “Our favorite bartender! What a coincidence!”

Yang glances up at the sound, grinning widely when she sees him. “Shut up,” she laughs, sliding another man a drink with a wink; Blake watches him raise his eyebrows and slap down a ten-dollar bill for a tip. Makes sense. Blake would probably just empty her entire wallet if Yang winked at her like that.

“What can I get you losers?” Yang asks, wiping down the bar in front of them as Weiss takes a seat; she and Ruby scoot in through the throng of people just enough for Yang to finally catch sight of her, and when she does, her face falls comically open. Her eyes drop from her face to her neck to the dip of her chest, skin visible low, and finally to her legs. It’s dim enough that Sun and Neptune don’t really notice, reading the beer list on the chalkboard on the wall, but Weiss does, and she harrumphs under her breath.

Please,” she says lowly. “You’re in public, Yang, so this secret’s about to be out of the bag if you don’t pick your jaw up off the floor.”

Yang shuts her mouth, still staring Blake up and down, expression almost shell-shocked, war-torn. Blake feels her mouth curling, and she briefly drags her bottom lip into her mouth and releases it, making direct eye-contact with her the entire time. Yang swallows.

“Blake,” she says steadily, reigning herself in with a smile. “Glad you decided to join them.”

“Oh, yeah!” Sun says, overhearing. “I forgot you’ve never done this with us before. It just feels like you’ve, like, always been here.”

“It does, doesn’t it,” Yang agrees, something softer to her than Blake’s used to hearing. “What can I get you?”

“Tequila shots,” Neptune says. “I’ll buy first round.”

“Great choice,” Yang says, whose enthusiasm for tequila is widely known. She lines up the shot glasses as Blake takes the seat next to Weiss, while Ruby and the boys stand around them, chatting idly. Pyrrha’s group isn’t there yet, which is apparently on par for them. Blake leans her elbows on the bar, leans in, watches Yang pour evenly.

“Here’s the salt,” Weiss says, passing it to her; Yang screws the cap back on, and catches Blake’s tongue darting along the path between her thumb and index finger. She goes to put the bottle back on the counter beside her and almost misses. Blake only smirks wider, taking a lime from the container.

She takes the shot farthest on the end, helps pass the rest around. “To Yang,” Neptune cheers jokingly, raising his shot, lime in his other hand; everyone follows suit, but Blake keeps her gaze trained on Yang the entire time, wrapping her lips around the edge and knocking it back in a way so smooth nobody’s able to tell how badly it really burns. She lifts the lime to her mouth slowly, makes sure Yang’s still staring at her, and sucks.

“What d’you want for the next round?” Yang asks, her voice much higher than normal, tearing her eyes away from the blatantly seductive display. “I do have other customers, you know.”

“Whisky sour,” Blake says sweetly. “Sugar rim.”

Yang levels her with a look that says I’m going to fuck you for this later, but mimics her smile as if it’s not a problem. “Anyone else?”

The rest of the group start lobbing their orders at her, but she takes it all in stride; she eventually passes Blake her drink and Blake asks, “How much?”

Yang winks. “On the house, babe,” she says flirtatiously, low enough to not be overheard, and Blake has to actively talk herself out of slipping a fifty dollar bill across the bar and saying please, keep the change.

“Do me,” is all Blake can think to respond, and Yang laughs as she squeezes out a lemon wedge, strangely charmed by the lack of articulation.

“Oh, I will,” she says before stepping over to another customer, her smile open and genuine. 

--

An older man takes the seat beside her about five drinks in, two hours later. His eyes keep darting over to her, down her neckline, and he isn’t very subtle about it. His knee brushes hers. She shifts away uncomfortably. Weiss and Neptune are currently wrapped up in a debate over something in one of their communications classes and aren’t paying enough attention to help her.

Yang walks up to take his order, and she isn’t stupid, she sees the way he leers at her, at them both. He offers up a lewd smile and says, “I’ll have a gin and tonic, and”--he turns to Blake--”you, darling, can I buy you a drink?”

“No,” Blake says without angling for manners. “I’m good.”

“Aw, don’t be like that,” he says. “You’re gorgeous, did you know that?”

“Yes,” she says, irritated and bored. “I’ve been told.”

“Oh, have you?” the man asks creepily. “By who? Is he here?”

Blake only responds with “I’m not interested,” but he doesn’t take that for an answer and pressures her with, “Not here, huh? Let me buy you a drink, then.”

Yang slides him his own glass and says cooly, “She said she isn’t interested.” The man glances at her, annoyed, but starts when her irises instantly flash red; she smirks at his blatant surprise. She leans forward and says darkly, “And she does have someone who tells her how gorgeous she is: me. So I’d consider that before pushing again.”

For the first time, Blake actually understands what Yang had meant when she’d said she was dangerous, understands why Ruby had said that Sun and Neptune were a little frightened of her; she is, she has the force of it inside of her, unruly and wild and fierce. But she isn’t any of those things towards Blake, towards anyone who doesn’t deserve it, and maybe, in the end, that’s what matters most.

The man glances between the two of them, startled and unnerved, before sliding off the stool and slipping away in the crowd with his drink clutched in his hand. He doesn’t look back. Yang’s eyes dull back to lavender and she reaches out, brushing her fingers casually over the back of Blake’s hand under the guise of taking her empty glass.

“Hey,” she says quietly, “you okay?”

Blake smiles cutely, somewhat embarrassed by her concern. “Yeah, I’m fine,” she says. “Not to sound conceited or whatever, but I get hit on...often.”

“Oh, I know,” Yang says, grinning back. “Mostly by me, though, right?”

“Obviously,” Blake responds dryly, thankful nobody else is listening to their conversation, “but when you do it, it’s reciprocated.”

“Only me?” Yang asks cheekily, mixing her another drink.

She means it as a joke, but Blake rests her chin against her palm and says softly, “Yes, Yang. Only you.”

--

It’s the only incident of the night. Pyrrha and the others finally show up around twelve, already half-drunk. Blake spends the rest of the time suggestively sucking on a lime wedge or wrapping her lips sensually around a straw, only when Yang’s looking at her, and makes sure to lean slightly over the bar so that Yang’s eyes fall to her cleavage automatically. Yang glances at her and shakes her head subtly, hanging over the edge, desperate.

Her shift ends at two, and though the bar’s open for another two hours, they decide to kick it back at their apartment and drink there. They can’t all fit into a Lyft, and Yang drove to work, anyway, so - Yang suggests like it’s casual, on the spot - why don’t I just take Blake and the rest of you can Lyft? We’ll meet you.

“Sounds good,” Sun says, slurring slightly as he pulls up the app on his phone. “See you in a - in a minute.” Weiss only waves vaguely, clutching onto Ruby’s arm.

Yang leads her back around to the parking lot, taking her hand to guide her, and there’s something nice about it in between the rush. There’s only a handful of cars, and none of them look particularly like something Yang would drive. “Which one’s yours?” Blake asks, and Yang gives her the biggest shit-eating grin she’s ever seen.

“That one,” she answers cheerfully, pointing at a hued yellow-to-orange motorcycle that is so clearly Yang that Blake actually stops in her tracks, staring. Yang and a motorcycle. She’s never really had a thing for them before - at least, not with men - but this is - this--

“Holy shit,” Blake breathes out. “You can’t be serious.”

“Why not?” Yang asks, amused.

“You can’t be this hot,” Blake says dumbly, but continues to follow her to the vehicle. “It’s not legal.”

“You wanna talk about being illegally hot?” Yang murmurs, spinning her suddenly and backing her up against the bike seat, her eyes scorching red. “That was the most - torturous, hellish night of work I’ve ever had.”

“Good,” Blake says, dropping her voice in a way that conveys exactly what she wants. “That was the goal.”

Fuck you, Blake,” Yang says, leaning in close with a hint of threat. Her fingers find the hem of Blake’s dress and hold there, playing with the fabric. “You pretend like you’re unaffected, but I know…” she lifts her dress higher, hand resting on her leg, “...that if I touch you now, I’ll find you wet.” Blake’s breath hooks against her throat. Yang slips her fingers up, up, and up, slowly, painfully, and stop on the inside of her thigh, just at the edge of her underwear. Blake stifles a whimper, biting down on her bottom lip.

“Someone could see us,” Blake whispers, but feels herself trembling, wanting.

“They could,” Yang agrees, and smiles cruelly, dips her fingers under the band, and sighs quietly; Blake gasps, hands around the edge of the seat.

“Oh my God--” she manages, almost more turned on than she’s ever been. It’s dark and Yang’s bike is mostly out of view, but still, the idea--

“Mmm.” Yang makes a noise of appreciation in her throat, touching her gently, teasingly. “I thought so.”

--

(Where are you? Weiss texts her, Sun and Neptune yelling about something in the background; Ruby’s busily searching the cabinets for a melon liqueur she swears she left here after the last party.

Sorry, Blake responds, we had sex on her bike.

Jesus Christ. In public?!

No one saw us.

Oh my God.

They’re on their way, Weiss calls over her shoulder, because that’s an excuse she’s certainly not going to share. Yang left something at the bar and had to go back.

Sun only whoops, ignoring her as Neptune cracks open a beer by placing the cap on the edge of the counter and slamming down. Weiss rolls her eyes. Sometimes, she really isn’t sure what she saw in him.)

--

On a Saturday a week later, after Blake’s spent the night and is still stretched lazily out in bed, Yang decides to relegate them to activities besides sex and sits up with a plan. It was bound to happen eventually. They can’t spend all of their time making each other cum, regardless of how fantastic an idea it sounds.

“I was thinking about going to the mall,” she says, tying up her hair into a careless bun; loose strands fall to frame her face like she’s placed them there deliberately. She stands in front of her closet in her lingerie, now sorting through sweaters. “D’you wanna come?”

“What for?” Blake asks, stretching with her arms over her head and pausing. “Not like, what would I want to come for, but like, what are you going there for--”

Yang laughs at her, tossing her a cute glance back. “Orgasms broke your brain?” she asks playfully, taking a green and black flannel off a hanger.

“Oh, fuck you,” Blake says languidly, too relaxed to care.

“You’ve done that, baby.”

“I can do it again,” she purrs, and Yang pauses, turning around. Blake crooks a finger, beckons her back to bed.

“Don’t do that,” Yang admonishes, but she tosses the shirt over the back of her chair and acquiesces. She straddles Blake’s hips over the sheets, but she’s more casual than she is seductive. “You know that voice turns me on.”

“So?” Blake murmurs, lifting her hands to Yang’s sides. “That’s why I’m doing it.”

Yang wraps her fingers around Blake’s wrists, pushing her back against the mattress and holding her there, but then she smiles without a threat.

“Come to the mall with me,” she says. “I’ll let you fuck me in a dressing room or something.”

“I don’t think they let people go two to a stall anymore,” Blake points out.

Yang only rolls her eyes. “So, we’ll get creative,” she says. “Please? It’ll be more fun if you’re there.”

Blake can’t resist her for long, never has been able to. “Okay, okay,” she agrees, and Yang kisses her once with a grin before sliding off her hips. “I’ve been wanting a new pair of boots, actually. And maybe a dress or two.”

“Model for me,” Yang says, buttoning up her shirt. Somehow it’s a sexier look than when she was naked. “You’re gorgeous in anything.”

“You’re only flattering me because I fuck you daily.”

“I only fuck you daily because you’re gorgeous,” Yang reasons, bringing it back around. “I’m shallow.”

“Oh, is that it?”

“Absolutely.”

“Got it,” Blake says. Yang tosses her bra over. “Good to know we’re on the same page.”

“Uh, I’m the full package,” Yang says, appalled, slipping on her jeans. “Hot, brilliant, charming personality--”

“I think the ego on you really shot that last horse in the face,” Blake interrupts absentmindedly, searching for her underwear in the sheets. “I’ll give you the first two, though.”

Yang giggles and Blake finds herself smiling at the sound; there’s something warm about Yang’s laugh, how it’s never forced or faked or indulgent, how when it's caused by Blake there's a light and airy note to it pure enough to power a city. Yang says, “This is why I keep you around, actually.”

“The excellent conversation?”

“Definitely,” Yang says, watching Blake slip her sweater over her head, and her voice drops into sincerity as she meets Blake’s eyes with a shy smile. It's a rare expression from her, one Blake's learned to cherish. “You’re funny. You’re always calling me out on my shit. But you aren’t - cruel about it, or anything. You just - you have interesting perspectives on things that I like hearing about.”

First it’s her laughter, now it’s the sight of her lips curving in an awkward grin; Blake’s heart beats against her chest, exactly where it’s always been, but suddenly she can feel it there, thumping and hammering into ribcage. It's uncomfortable, but only because of the distance, only because there's nothing else to hold it. She swallows, stands unsteadily, and she’s always thrown off by the few inches Yang has on her; she’s never as small and as vulnerable than when she’s standing in Yang’s arms, barefoot, with an emotion she can’t - won’t - place spilling out of Yang’s eyes.

Yang’s hands settle on her hips automatically, waiting, and Blake leans up on her toes to kiss her. They’re both fully clothed and there’s no expectation. The ease at which Yang acquiesces to her should be frightening, and it is, but it’s a thought for a later day, when the sky is full of rain and the moon sinks down alone.

Blake kisses her again, again, again. For once, she's perfectly happy being exactly where she is.

--

Yang convinces her into buying a new pair of jeans and a dress; not so much by way of argument, but by what she can’t even bring herself to say. Blake watches Yang want her and she won’t get in her own way, won't subject herself to that self-sabotage. She needs that look on Yang’s face forever - it's unapologetic desire, bordering awe and revere - she's never been looked at like this before. Being the center of Yang's attention is addicting.

In reality, she only buys the dress because Yang is so overcome after seeing her in it that she drags Blake back into the stall and goes down on her, mercilessly patient and quiet; Blake bites her lip hard enough to leave an imprint for several minutes, swollen and red. It just seems right. And besides, Yang buys a leather jacket that has Blake thinking something similar, so the purchase turns out to be extremely well-earned, in Blake’s opinion.

They’re walking to the food court, debating lesbian fashion and how No, Yang, buying a leather jacket doesn’t make you a top--

“Oh, we’re not starting this again,” Yang says. “I’m not a bottom. It’s not like you wear the strap-on--”

Blake smacks her palm over Yang’s mouth so quickly she doesn’t even have time to react, flushing violently; so, there’s a detail she’d overlooked, and for good reason. Yang’s laughter remains muffled beneath her hand, but Blake won’t give her the satisfaction of joining in; she's struggling with a few things at the moment - visions she's ignoring and failing, Yang's hips thrusting and her wicked smirk, sheets grasped in Blake's hands--

“We’re in public,” she hisses instead, face red. “Please, try to control yourself.”

“That’s not what you say when I’m wearing it,” Yang snarks back with a grin, entirely too pleased with herself. She'll never be stopped, not now, not like this.

Blake exhales dramatically, rolling her eyes as she turns around. “Shut up,” she says, walking away. “Jesus, Christ.”

“Make me.”

“You know what? No, I’ve had enough,” Blake says, makes the shift to serene as Yang catches up to her. “I’m done having sex with you. Your ego is way too big.”

“Sure, baby,” Yang answers blithely, uncaring, throwing an arm across her shoulders. “Like you could stay away.”

She’s not wrong, but there’s no way in hell Blake’s ever going to tell her that.

--

It starts to slip around the beginning of March, because it’s been almost two months and of course Yang’s friends are going to notice when she starts acting strangely. They’re all having dinner - Sun jokingly refers to it as family night, because it’s the one night a week when all of them get together and cook and drink - when the interrogation begins.

“Okay, Yang, out with it,” Sun starts accusatorily, pointing his chopsticks at her. “We know you’re seeing someone. You’re like, never around anymore, dude.”

“Uh, I have late classes this semester, dumbass,” she says without missing a beat. “Every time you text me I’m like, in class. Or working.”

“That’s bullshit,” Nora says. “Your latest class ends at ten, and it’s only on Tuesdays. We’re always texting you to go out for drinks or hang out or whatever, and you’re always ‘busy’, even when you aren’t at the bar.” She dramatically air-quotes the word. “Come on. Who is she?”

“You have become rather scarce recently,” Pyrrha adds, Jaune nodding beside her.

Yang meets Blake’s eyes for a split second as she glances around the table, and Blake allows the tiniest smirk to curl at the corner of her mouth, signaling her amusement. Yang rolls her eyes. “What is this, an intervention?”

“Yes,” Neptune says.

“Jesus,” Yang says. “I’m not seeing anyone--”

“Ohhh,” Nora interrupts, inferring enough from the tone. “You’re just fucking her, is that it?”

Nora,” Weiss hisses, faking prudishness in order to try and divert the conversation.

“Whatever,” Nora says, gleefully pointing at Yang’s face; it’s not flush with embarrassment, only defeat. “Look at her! She totally is! And is that a hickey I see underneath your hair--”

“Nora, please,” Ren says, barely paying attention anyway.

“Is this the same girl from after Weiss’s birthday?” Pyrrha chimes in.

“Is that true, Yang?” Blake finally tacks on, pretending to be insulted. “I thought we’d all gotten pretty close, but we're only now finding out you have a fuck buddy?”

Yang meets her gaze dead-on, processing her expression, gauging what kind of game they’re playing; everyone holds still. Finally, Yang leans in and asks flirtatiously, “Why? Are you jealous?

Blake smirks cooly. “No,” she answers, resting her chin lazily on the back of her hand. “I don’t have anything to be jealous of. I think you’re all talk.”

“Oooh,” Nora says, snickering. “Damn.

Yang quirks an eyebrow and her face shifts in a subtle way that Blake knows instantly to mean you’ll pay for this later - she seems to get a lot of those looks from Yang - but it’s exactly what she wants, and so she doesn’t stop. Yang says, “I’ll show you why the talk is true, sweetheart, if that’s what you’re aiming for.”

“I think you have someone else you’re currently showing the truth to,” Blake says. Ruby hurriedly turns a laugh into a cough. “I’ll pass.”

“Oh, good call,” Yang replies airily, unshakable. “The girl I’m fucking is a little possessive, so she probably wouldn’t like that, anyway.”

Weiss kicks Blake under the table, signaling that they’re about to go too far. Blake says, “So you are fucking someone,” as if it'd all been part of some master plan instead of poorly-disguised foreplay. “Possessive, huh? Any guesses?” She glances around the table.

Neptune shakes his head. “No,” he says. “Nora, you’re the only one who shares her major - you can’t think of anyone?

Nora pulls a face, thinking. “No,” she finally answers while Yang smirks. “None of them are - her type.

“And who’s my type?” Yang asks, reaching for the salt.

Nora blinks as if she’d never actually considered it before, and then looks around in surprise and says, “Well, actually...Blake.”

There’s a momentary pause, and Sun and Neptune both let out a collective ohhh.

“Sorry?” Blake says, actually taken aback.

“Oh, yeah, no, totally,” Sun enthuses, entertained by the observation. “Wait, that’s like - that’s so obvious. Blake, you’re totally Yang’s type.” It seems to become funnier the more he stares between them, his snicker growing. “That’s fucking hilarious. I can’t believe she hasn’t hit on you.”

Yang laughs, turns to her and winks. “She wishes.

Weiss says, “You’re all so obnoxious. Can’t we ever have a nice dinner?”

“No,” a chorus of voices reply.

She sighs again. Yang catches Blake’s eye and grins into her cup.

--

Possessive,” Blake scoffs again an hour later, Yang’s mouth working down her neck. “I am not.

“Yes, you are,” Yang says between kisses, amused. “Like I’d even have time to fuck someone else at this point.”

“Oh, well,” Blake says, surprised to find herself slightly irritated at the prospect, “don’t feel like you need to let me down easy, or something--”

Yang laughs against her skin, her fingers already unbuttoning Blake’s shirt, and Blake realizes a second too late she’s just proved Yang’s point entirely. Yang says, “And with all the fucking hickies you give me…”

“Okay, okay,” Blake breathes out, arching her neck back. “I get it. Whatever.”

“I think it’s cute,” Yang says lowly, slowing her ministrations. She undoes the last button and grasps the fabric in her hands, tugging Blake closer, her eyes darting from Blake’s own to her lips. “I like that you want me to be yours.”

“You are,” Blake whispers, something she’ll blame on the alcohol, later, but the idea of Yang with her mouth brushing over anyone else’s skin is enough to drive away old demons and create entirely new ones. “You’re mine.”

Yang only smiles - she doesn’t have trauma in her past that creates an aversion towards belonging to someone, and Blake’s never had that power; maybe she wants to know what it’s like, wants to know why she was so susceptible to it. Or maybe there’s more to her and Yang than she’d like to admit. Maybe she wants the knowledge, the proof that she’s the only one Yang wants, like it’ll heal her somehow.

“Okay,” Yang agrees softly, her tone changing in a way so subtle that Blake barely catches it. “I can be that.”

Her grip loosens. Her eyes are too gentle. She’s letting Blake take control, giving up herself to the moment. Blake lifts her hands and pushes her back lightly, backs of her knees hitting the bed, a heaviness caught against her throat. Something snaps so suddenly she’s left with a pounding sort of ache where her heart used to be, her lungs cracking against her bones with every inhale, her eyes wide and dry.

She wants to fall into Yang’s arms and cry, wants to wrap up in her and tell her everything, wants her to touch each scar one by one and say it’s okay, it’s okay. She’s drowning in too many words and no way to get them out; she thinks of Women, thinks of poetry, wants to say please, don’t do it, don’t love me.

Blake can’t tell her any of it at all. She leans down and kisses her with every breath of emotion she can muster, and hopes it’s the same as that brilliant night sky, blood burning under spring, fingers tangled between shadows. Blake kisses her and hopes it’s enough.

--

They start being together. They make new places for them and them alone, coffee shops, bookstores, movie theaters, hiking trails. They’re things friends do, but they’re things lovers do, too. It’s never mentioned. That’s the other red flag.

They’re out at a sushi bar downtown one night - I love our friends, Blake had said, but it’s nice to be alone with you - when the idea first really flares up as a serious prospect. Blake smiles and looks down at her plate and she’s beautiful, clever, witty, funny, incredible, and a thousand other words jumbling together in the forefront of her mind. It’s supposed to be just sex, Yang knows, but it stopped being just sex long ago.

She looks at Blake and she thinks about really being hers, thinks about holding her hand in public, thinks about kissing her in front of their friends. And then she thinks about Blake doing all of those things with somebody else, with somebody who asked, and acid settles in her throat.

“We’ve never really talked about it, but - are you seeing anyone else?” Yang finally questions casually, pausing as she lifts a spicy tuna roll to her mouth.

Blake shoots her an amused look, one eyebrow raised. “Like I’d even have time,” she says teasingly, mimicking Yang’s sentiment from weeks prior, but the smile fades quickly from her face. “Why, are you?

“No,” Yang assures her hurriedly, stomach clenching. “No. Just you.”

The answer seems to satisfy her, and she relaxes noticeably, reaching for one of Yang’s rolls across the table. “Good,” she says. “I’d hate having to compete for your attention.”

“There’s no competition,” Yang says, mouth dry. She reaches for her glass of water, glances surreptitiously around the room and sees nothing but couples on dates, wonders if that’s what they look like, too. “It’s all you.”

“I’ve consumed you,” Blake says, her tone still light and entertained. She brushes her boot against Yang’s under the table.

There’s a pause almost a second too long, but Yang saves herself in time. “Yeah,” she manages, fiddling with her chopsticks. “That’s one word for it.”

--

They’re walking around afterwards, window shopping and talking candidly about nothing, everything. The streetlamps awash the road in a yellowish glow, and the night is warmer than they’re used to, most of the stores they pass standing idly with their doors open, welcoming. Yang’s hands are shoved in her jacket pockets; Blake keeps hers curled around her purse strap. Yang’s talking about party planning - it’s the boys’ turn to host, she says, but their place is always a mess - when Blake admits, “It’s actually my birthday next Friday.”

Yang shoots her a look, mouth agape. “Friday!” she exclaims. “Why didn’t you tell us?”

“I haven’t...had very good birthdays,” Blake answers, and this, too, sounds like a confession. She keeps her eyes downcast, but one of her hands slips to her opposing forearm, rubbing skin the way you would touch a bruise. “So...I don’t know.”

“I understand,” Yang says, surprising Blake with the tenderness of her voice. “When I was younger...I always felt guilty celebrating it. Because of Raven. Because of how much she hurt my dad.”

“When’s yours?”

“August third.”

“I’m sorry,” Blake says quietly.

“No, don’t be,” Yang responds. “I’m sorry.”

“You don’t have anything to be sorry for, either,” Blake answers, sensing a circle.

Yang apparently reaches the same conclusion, because she says, “So, we won’t be sorry. We’ll just make it better. We have to have a party, Blake. It’s, like, tradition.”

Blake manages a smile at that. “Tradition, huh?”

“Did we not meet at Weiss’s birthday party?” Yang points out. “It’s tradition. All of us get birthday parties. Well, except for Neptune and I, because his birthday’s also in the summer.”

“Okay, okay,” Blake acquiesces, not like she’d actually planned on refusing, anyway. “I’m convinced. I’ll begrudgingly accept your request to throw me a party.”

Yang rolls her eyes, nudging Blake’s shoulder with her own. “Don’t let me twist your arm,” she says dryly, lifting a low-hanging branch out of the way.

“I’m enthused.

“So, twenty-one, huh?” Yang starts, glancing warmly down at her. “What’ve you been doing all these years?”

Maybe it’s the distance from her old life that does it, the distance from herself, who she used to be and likes to think she isn't anymore. Maybe it’s the way the light reflects across Yang’s hair, creates a ripple effect, gives off the illusion that she's shining. Maybe it’s her sweet smile, her tenderness, how she treats Blake like a person and not a victim with open wounds. Maybe it’s that Yang touches her and Blake doesn't feel the urge to flinch. Maybe it’s how when Yang makes a promise, Blake believes her without question and it doesn’t feel like a mistake or a gamble or a threat. Maybe it's all of those things.

“Looking for you, obviously,” she says, but at the last minute uncurls her mouth into a playful smile and avoids the implication. “Twenty, huh? How about you?”

Yang tosses an arm over her shoulders, and says teasingly, “Baby, I’ve been waiting for you all my life.”

“Oh, yeah?” Blake plays along. “That’s all it takes with us, is it? Consistently incredible sex? We’re so easy.”

Yang laughs, stops in the middle of the sidewalk, pulling Blake in; her hands fall to Yang’s shoulders out of surprise. Yang tilts her chin up with an index finger and kisses her once, twice, three times. It’s almost unbearably soft, her grip loose and open, trusting Blake to stay where she is because Yang knows it’s where she wants to be. A few people move around them, uncaring. There’s no hurt that follows after, no sting, no blow.

“That’s part of it,” Yang finally says with a shy smile, and kisses her again. “But I don’t think that’s all of it.”

She walks forward without taking Blake’s hand, brushing by her. Blake turns in time to see her toss a glance back with that same gentle expression on her face as she asks, “You coming?”

--

(In the years to follow, Blake will remember the image of Yang looking over her shoulder with a careless grin, hair falling in wild curls down the back of her letterman jacket, fluorescent light following her like the role-reversal of moths. She’ll remember the song playing from the convenience store to their right, the number and color of cars that pass them by on the street, the taste and sound of the damp night air, the state of the moon and every position of the stars.

Most of all, she’ll remember it as the moment she realizes she’s in love, and how that knowledge makes her want to turn around and run.)

--

The fact that her birthday actually falls on a Friday makes it extra-special, Yang says, because usually theirs don’t, but we can’t celebrate on weekdays. Yang had actually requested the night off, which her boss had graciously allowed her; Blake smiles and says, Well, of course, who’d ever refuse you.

It’s difficult being in love with Yang because it isn’t difficult at all: she’s so easy to be with, and she makes Blake laugh just as often as she makes her cum, and it’s too good to be real, to be lasting. She used to have good things, she thinks, but she ruined them, and she’ll ruin this. She should end it. She should stop.

But she can’t; she’s selfish that way. She keeps telling herself that she’s the only one and it’s fine, something she’d prefer to handle alone, quieting Adam’s voice to a dull hum in her ear rather than a shout. Yang kisses her and for a brief moment, she forgets it all, anyway, imagining a world in which this life has always been hers.

Everyone comes, even a few people Blake’s never met before, probably attracted by the crowd. Yang, Pyrrha, Nora, and Weiss had unanimously decided to host it. We don’t trust the boys with something like this, Weiss tells her, as they’re notoriously poor planners; Neptune objects loudly and Weiss rolls her eyes. All of them but Neptune are notoriously poor planners, she corrects dryly, but smiles.

Much like Weiss’s party, Yang acts as her personal bartender, though she tends to do that at every party now. Someone arranges a pong tournament, mostly because Blake’s pong skills have become something of a campus legend, and she teams up with Yang before either of them get too drunk to aim. It takes an hour and a half, and it’s comprised of eight different teams, working up a bracket. She dominates all of them - Yang isn’t a bad shot, either - and Sun drunkenly accuses her of cheating somehow, slurring all his words and holding three solo cups full of beer. Neptune smacks the back of his head lightly and announces them as the winners like he’s commentating a sports event; everyone cheers. Yang actually bows.

“You’re an idiot,” Blake tells her fondly.

“You know what I am?” she whispers conspiratorially, leaning in. “Drunk.”

“I hadn’t noticed,” Blake answers sarcastically, but takes her by the sleeve and tugs her towards the stairs. “Let’s level you out, darling.”

Yang stops, smiles bashfully at her, and Blake raises an eyebrow, trying to shove away the instinct to kiss her for looking so adorable. “What?” she asks.

“I like it when you call me that,” she admits cutely, and Blake actually sighs, her heart unfolding. She’s too exposed, too simple to read. Love could be anywhere inside of her, fighting against its reigns. She hopes Yang is too drunk to remember finding it, hopes she’s drunk enough that nobody thinks it’s real.

“Come on,” she says softly, taking her hand. “Weiss is smoking on the balcony.”

--

Weiss raises her arms dramatically in a cheer when they walk out, joint held between her fingers, looking far too elated to see them; Ruby grins and just says, “She’s, uh, really wasted.”

“I can see that,” Blake says amusedly. “Hey, Weiss.”

“Champions!” Weiss exclaims, pulling her in for a hug that lasts a long time; she sets her chin on Blake’s shoulder and proceeds to talk to Yang over it. “You were amazing. We watched all your games after you knocked us out the second round.”

“You want an autograph?” Yang asks, plucking the joint from between her fingers. “I’m always happy to meet a fan.”

“Not from you,” Weiss says, patting Blake absentmindedly on the back. “You’re so conceited. It isn’t flattering.” Blake smirks, thankful Weiss can’t see her face; she entirely disagrees.

“Oh, ouch,” Yang says, feigning hurt. “And here I was going to dedicate my victory to you.”

“I only want it from Blake,” Weiss says. “She’s the star.”

“Well, get in line,” Yang says, entertained. “I’m not arguing with you there.”

Weiss finally releases her, though immediately rests a hand on Ruby’s shoulder to steady herself. Yang leans against the railing, crooks a finger, beckons Blake over; Blake gets her intention immediately. She moves in close, and Yang inhales deeply before brushing their lips together, exhaling against her mouth. It’s one of the few displays of intimacy they get away with at parties; nobody questions shotgunning.

“How’s that, baby?” Yang croons teasingly, and Blake’s heart flutters. “Feeling good?”

“That’s hot,” Weiss says, watching them with glazed eyes, and then, suddenly: “Oh, shit, am I gay?”

Ruby laughs loudly. “Maybe we save that conversation for when you’re sober.”

Yang and Blake only exchange knowing looks, pulling back; smoke rises between them. Weiss sighs. She’s always a victim of atmosphere. “Oh, just make it official already,” she says dreamily. “You’re essentially dating anyway.”

“No we aren’t,” Yang says, miraculously unaffected, or maybe she knows that Blake is. “Friends with benefits is a real thing, Weiss. We’re doing it brilliantly.”

“Oh, stop,” Weiss says, rolls her eyes. “You spend nearly all of your time together. You actually talk more than you have sex, now. I mean, you call each other by pet names!

“Well, when she puts it like that,” Ruby says, joining on in what she thinks is harmless teasing.

“Uh, again, friends,” Yang enunciates, holding her ground well. Blake fights the urge to run, knows she could slip into the crowd and out the door, away, away, away, but Yang’s muscles don’t tense; her body language stays exactly the same. Blake should run. She doesn’t, but she isn't sure if she's delaying the inevitable or if she's actually learned her lessons. She's fixed, that's what she wants to believe. She's whole and healed again. She's--

“I’ve seen the movies,” Weiss says dismissively. “I know how this ends.”

“I didn’t realize we were in the presence of a true psychic--”

Weiss laughs, finally disrupting the conversation, and Blake relaxes against her own internal spiral. “You’re so dumb.”

“We’re fine,” Blake says with a small smile, wondering if she’s fooling anyone at all.

--

(We’re fine, Blake says, and it’s only half a lie; Yang’s so casual and carefree, giggling into Blake’s ear and her arms loosely wound around Blake’s stomach. She doesn’t feel Blake’s heart skipping stones inside of her chest, doesn’t feel the way her lungs collapse and crash. It’s all for the best. There’s an entire graveyard she isn’t ready to face, corpses of her own body.

Yang’s fine, is what she really means, but she catches Weiss throwing a worrying glance between the two of them and, for the first time, wonders who Weiss is really trying to protect.)

--

It’s her birthday, so of course Yang drags her into her room an hour later and goes down on her mercilessly until she’s a quivering mess, barely able to breathe. It’s your party, Yang says with smile that reminds her of doom, you can’t be gone too long. People will wonder.

“Then you,” Blake says cruelly, “will have to wait.

“But I’m so wet,” she murmurs in a tone of voice that normally shatters any and all of Blake’s willpower.

“Good,” Blake says, unrelenting, and Yang’s eyebrows raise high, lower again in comprehension. She lifts a finger underneath Blake’s chin and kisses her roughly, making her taste herself.

“You’re such a bitch,” she whispers against Blake’s mouth, but she’s smiling.

--

Here’s where it all unravels:

Weiss’s comment leaves a burn against the back of Yang’s skull, an imprint to revisit, reimagine. She’s thought about before, you know, holding Blake’s hand and taking her out and not giving a fuck who knows, but she hadn’t pushed for anything more because what they have is close enough and it's working. It’s working.

But she looks over at Blake later that night and can’t get rid of the idea, can’t stop the gnawing of her stomach against her skin, can’t move on if this is all they are.

“Blake,” she says, fingers trailing over the ridges of her spine.

“Hm?”

“Why aren’t we?” she asks, pauses, working up the nerve. “Dating, I mean?”

Blake freezes, and it’s jarring enough for Yang to notice, considering she’s doing nothing except lying there, breathing. Blake stammers over, “We’re - we just - we said we weren’t. Weren’t going to.”

“Well, yeah, but…” Yang’s hand grows still. “We kind of - we kind of are. We spend all our time together, you stay over most nights, we…” she feels the confidence starting to slip, pulls it back in. “We like each other. As more than friends. Don’t we?”

Blake’s silent for a moment. “Do we?” she mirrors quietly, and Yang’s throat closes in around her voice. It’s already not the answer she’s expecting, especially when she knows it’s not the truth.

“Yeah,” she says, though she wavers uncertainly anyway. “We do. I - I do.”

Blake sits up slowly, avoiding eye contact. Her muscles look tense, rigid, and she’s breathing a little faster than normal. Yang’s fingers slip down, over her side, back against the sheets.

“I don’t think this is a good idea anymore,” Blake whispers suddenly, reaching for her shirt, and Yang’s so shocked by the turn of events that she can’t think to speak, let alone stop her. “I think - I think we took it too far. I think I should - I should go.”

Yang watches her get dressed in a blank, unaware sort of silence, unable to process the unfolding, how something so seemingly steady can shatter in an instant. Blake grabs her purse from the floor, stops short of the door, and finally - finally - turns and meets Yang’s eyes.

It’s that same haunted look spilling out of them Yang’s seen on rare occasions, firing up when they get too close to her past, to every skeleton piled in her closet, every corpse she wants to keep buried. She bites down on her lip and hesitates, like she doesn’t want to leave but she can’t stop herself from it. Like it’s the embrace of being alone is the only thing holding her together.

A thousand words sit on the tip of her tongue, but she only manages two. “I’m sorry,” she says plainly, and then she’s gone.

The only thing Yang comprehends is a mark she’s seen, felt, touched a thousand times before: the deep line of scar tissue she’d trailed her fingers over moments ago, embedded in Blake’s side, like something had cut her to the bone.

--

(This time, it’s Yang who knocks on Weiss’s door late into night. It’s a miracle she answers it at all, given how difficult it is to wake her when she’s drunkenly passed out, but the look on Yang’s face stops her before annoyance can set in.

What the hell happened to you? she asks, opens the door wider.

I think, Yang says blankly, I think Blake just broke up with me.

Weiss doesn’t speak, only pulls her into the room with a look entirely too pitying and expecting and clear, like she’d always known she’d end up listening to Yang cry over Blake at four in the morning.)

--

Yang doesn’t see Blake for another week, and all of her texts go unanswered. Her first one - she’d sent it the day after, still stuck in a state of denial and confusion - simply reading sorry for ruining your birthday had at least managed a typing bubble in response, though Blake never presses send.

She moves through the days in strange, lulling drags, in a constant state of trying to decompress where she possibly could’ve gone wrong. She’d known Blake hadn’t wanted it public from the beginning, known she’d had an issue or two with commitment, but hadn’t known the depth of it, hadn’t known it was raw enough to elicit this kind of response. She’s always drawn back to scars, the stark-white lines of tissue sketched across random parts of her body. An odd groove in her hip. Indents across her ribs. Underneath her chin.

Yang isn’t stupid, but she’s too close to find a way out. The only thing she holds onto is the truth: Blake loves her. It’s in her voice, in her smile, in her eyes. She drenches herself in it when she thinks Yang isn’t looking. She slips, sometimes.

Or, at least, she used to.

--

The one person Blake can’t avoid is Weiss. They share a class, and Blake won’t skip it just to avoid the interrogation. Not like she has answers anyway. None she can speak aloud.

Her days without Yang taking up her time and attention seem to stagnate, foggy and dull and hopeless, reminds her of nothing but rain. Adam drifts in and out of her consciousness, his parting anger tangible again, like her bruises are still fresh, blood pooling beneath the skin. She remembers copper and salt and the threat of death; not her own, but to whoever came next.

And now love is there where it shouldn’t be. She should’ve known better. She should still know better.

Weiss spends half the lecture throwing her scathing looks and corners her immediately after class, her eyes hard and stare searing.

“Explain,” she says shortly, and her loyalty has always been clear.

“I can’t,” Blake says truthfully, entirely too haunted. She only has ghosts. “I didn’t mean for this to happen.”

“What, making her fall in love with you and then rejecting her?” Weiss says, outraged.

“I was fine being the only one,” Blake snaps, cut to the core; love sets her off. “I was fine. I didn’t want her to love me. If it was just me, at least - at least I could hide it.”

The nonsensical response actually works to confuse Weiss more than it makes her angry, and she slips down, like staring at a puzzle. “I don’t understand,” she says finally. “You were literally already dating.”

“But nobody knew,” Blake answers, her tongue uncomfortably dry. "It was ours." 

“And that makes a difference how?”

“It makes it real,” she answers quietly, growing frustrated; not with Weiss, but with herself, with her own weak excuses that are only weak without context. She can’t unleash it all here. “I don’t expect you to understand. I don’t owe you anything.”

“And what about Yang?” Weiss demands. “You don’t owe her?

Her heart pounds, skips, hurts at the sound of her name. “I have to go,” Blake says, her throat tight. “I didn’t want this.”

“Blake,” Weiss implores as she leaves, but her tone is already heavy and resigned. “Please don’t do this.”

Please don’t do this, she says, like it isn’t the same thing Blake’s spent days at war with, screaming at herself to live. Like there isn’t the echo of another voice telling her exactly the opposite, has her looking constantly over her shoulder for the threat of red.

Please don’t do this. She wishes that were an option.

--

(Weiss doesn’t relay the conversation; there aren’t enough pieces to tally. She finds Yang home, watching old episodes of The O.C. on Hulu and day drinking. Weiss sits next to her on the couch and asks, What are you going to do?

Yang stares emptily at the television, beer clutched in her hand, feet kicked up on the coffee table. Her phone is resting on the cushion next to her, face-up. She gets a twitter notification and Weiss’s eye catches her lock screen; it’s a picture of Blake in what looks like the picnic area of botanical gardens just outside of town, sitting on a blanket with a book, smiling at the camera. Smiling at what’s beyond the camera.

Weiss wonders how something so good could’ve gone so wrong. She knows Yang’s phone is probably filled with a thousand similar pictures, knows she and Blake had started dating long before the topic was ever even brought up, knows they’d gone to restaurants and museums and movies and malls, knows love had settled between them like it’d always been there. Where does it go, she thinks, and why. Why does it go.

Yeah, Yang finally replies. What will I do.)

--

It’s at a party; it always is. They’re at Sun and Neptune’s this time, and she almost expects Blake to pass on it entirely just to avoid her, so it’s a shock when she walks in and immediately zeroes in on her talking to Neptune in a corner of the living room. Weiss falter on a step, seeing the same thing, and glances instantly at her in response. Yang’s jaw tightens.

Blake seems fine. As if reading her mind, Weiss murmurs out of the corner of her mouth, “She’s got quite the poker face.”

“Yep.” Yang forcibly turns her gaze away, searching for someone else, anyone else she knows to make an entrance, help grab Blake’s attention like it’s an accident. She sees Sun out on the balcony and calls out loudly, “Hey! Sun!”

He perks up at the sound of her voice, grinning widely and pushing past a few people to greet her. Blake’s head also whips to her automatically, which is exactly what Yang had wanted; unnerve her, throw her off, make her think she’s as unaffected by their separation as Blake appears to be. Yang doesn’t look back at her again. She can fake casualty, too.

They circle each other all night, never interacting directly; Yang’s had four shots by the time someone even mentions it to her, and oh, right, she and Blake used to be close. Close as in Pyrrha finding the two of them relaxing in the living room to be a normal daily activity. Close as in Yang’s entire group of friends extending invites to her without a second thought. Close as in together.

Pyrrha says, “Where’s Blake?” and Yang’s hand grips her bottle just a little too tight, knuckles white.

“No idea,” she answers cooly, but she’s too drunk for emotionlessness. Pyrrha shoots her an odd look.

“Did something happen?” she asks carefully, lowering her voice; it’s only the two of them, talking out front on the grass. “Do I need to kick her ass?”

Yang smiles at the offer, but it’s on a strange edge, downtrodden. She says, “Yeah,” and pauses, working over the words. “Something happened.”

Pyrrha doesn’t push for more. Sometimes it’s good to have a friend who doesn’t need to know every single detail.

--

By one in the morning, she’s properly drunk, brain blending into a streamline of thought that seems to begin and end with Blake - her beauty, her skin, her scars.

She’s standing on the balcony and talking to Ren with a smile, and all the combination serves to do is make Yang bitter, angry, upset. It’s a party. She used to occupy that space, used to laugh with her, take her home at the end of the night. She wonders if someone else will adopt that role and feels her heart drop like she’s finally let it go.

Blake excuses herself, heads for the bathroom. Weiss catches her make the decision the split second before she acts on it, and says, “Oh, no, Yang, don’t--” but it’s already too late.

Yang follows her, stops the door from closing with a flat hand against the wood. Blake starts, spins around, and looks up at her, speechless.

She steps inside, Blake backing up automatically as if she’s afraid of getting too close, and nothing hurts Yang more than that. That’s all we used to be, she thinks of saying. Close.

She locks the door behind her. Blake rests her palms against the sink, watches her, waiting for a move to be made. She’s not fighting it, like it’s an inevitability, like they’re drawn to each other and it’s always only a matter of time.

“Tell me,” Yang says furiously, though even in her anger and disappointment she makes a point not to corner her. The door’s there. “Tell me you don’t - tell me you don’t feel anything.”

“I,” Blake starts, swallows. “I don’t--”

“Liar.” Yang says the word in a tone so deadly low that Blake fights a shiver. She steps in closer, lifts her fingers just underneath Blake’s chin, tilting her head. Touching her again - all of Yang's veins feel bruised. “Tell me the truth.”

“I don’t - I don’t feel--” she stumbles over it, too wrapped up in Yang’s proximity. “I don’t--”

Yang dips lower, closer, their lips barely brushing; Blake isn’t stopping her, doesn’t want to, and Yang knows it perfectly well.

“You’re lying,” Yang murmurs, and Blake can feel the outline of the words against her mouth, and her resolve has never been much when it comes to Yang, anyway. “I know you. I know when you’re lying.”

She breaks easily, captures Yang’s lips in a kiss that speaks to things as far away from indifference as possible: desperation, desire, and a brutal, blinding sort of ache. She curls her fingers around the material of Yang’s shirt, pulling her closer, realizes right then how badly she’s missed her, missed touching her, talking to her, kissing her. Yang's the opposite of a haunting. Yang sweeps her tongue across Blake’s bottom lip, and Blake opens her mouth in a gasp, wishing they were in her room, in her bed. Wishing Yang was inside of her, making her feel something other than regret, self-loathing, fear.

Yang slips her hand under the hem of Blake’s dress the same way she’s done a thousand times, but she isn’t gentle with her, doesn’t spare the time for tenderness; it doesn’t matter, anyway, because Blake’s already wet and Yang slides three fingers into her immediately, Blake’s head tilting back and her jaw falling in a breathy moan.

Fuck,” she groans when Yang curls her fingers in exactly the right place, and Yang shoves her palm against Blake’s mouth, silencing her, and fucks her harder.

“Tell me you don’t feel anything,” Yang says again, and Blake can’t say anything at all.

--

Sun’s drunk and standing on the balcony, staring below at Neptune and Scarlett playing pong. They don’t have quite the crowd Blake’s tournament had, though it’s still sizeable; it always is. He seems weirdly down, distracted, and maybe that’s why she does it. Maybe she senses whatever he’s feeling is exactly like what she is, and she’s too screwed up to see the problem in taking advantage of it.

“Hey,” she says, and he looks up, startled. “Do you want to go out sometime?”

He blinks once, twice. “Uh,” he says, a little struck by the sudden proposal, “y-yeah. Totally. Yes.” He manages a wide smile by the end of it, though his eyes look a little glazed over. “That’d be cool.”

“Great,” Blake says, feeling like she’s going to be sick. “How about next weekend?”

“Next weekend’s good,” Sun says. He appears genuine, though she probably wouldn’t be able to tell regardless. It’s not like they know each other very well. “Seven on Friday?”

“Sure,” Blake says, offers him a similar smile in return. “If you’ll excuse me.”

He nods, returns to staring dolefully down at the crowd. She can still taste Yang on her tongue. She runs back into the bathroom and vomits whiskey into the sink, thinking about mistakes.

--

(They’re creatures of habit. It didn’t used to be a problem. Love changes things.

They revert to what they were in the beginning, but with less freedom, possibility: there’s still a party every week, or a kickback, or a night where they’re all out drinking. They try and avoid each other until they can’t, until Yang hits her sixth shot and Blake’s just a little too pretty under the light. They can’t stay away when they’re in the same room together.

Pyrrha tells everyone under her breath that she thinks they’ve had a fight, and so nobody comments on the strange tension between them. Weiss stares at the ground and frowns. Ruby doesn’t say anything at all.

I’m going out with her on Friday, Sun reveals, and Weiss’s eyes snap to his. Maybe she’ll tell me.

You’re going out with her? Weiss repeats slowly. Like, on a date?

Yeah, he says. She asked me at the party last week.

Neptune’s expression flashes. You didn’t tell me that, he says.

Sun shrugs, doesn’t meet his gaze. Sorry, he says. You’ve just seemed busy.)

--

Weiss finds her in the kitchen, pouring shots. “Sun and Blake are going on a date next Friday,” she releases in a single breath, wanting that demon dealt with.

Yang stares, stares, stares. She doesn’t seem to know how to process the information, like her mind’s working backwards from points b to a, and she can’t make them connect. She lifts a shot to her lips.

“Okay,” she says, and knocks it down.

--

Sun takes her to their usual bar; it’s a casual, neutral space, or it’s supposed to be. Yang fortunately isn’t working that night. I thought that’d be a little too weird, he tells her. I don’t really like my friends watching me on dates.

Blake manages a giggle. “I don’t know if anyone really prefers that.”

“I’m sure they’re out there,” Sun says with a grin. “Some people are freaks.”

The thing about Sun is that he’s easy, too, just like Yang is; he’s easy to like, easy to talk to, easy to laugh with. But he’s different from Yang in that he’s safe; she knows he’ll never move first, never push her for anything unless receiving the signs, never challenge her.

Her heart’s long gone, anyway. There’s not much for him to be vying for.

She finishes her cider as he’s telling her a story about a time he and Neptune got kicked out of the zoo for accidentally crashing a corporate event, and slams the empty glass a little too hard on the table.

“Oops,” she says, realizing she’s a little tipsy. “Sorry about that.”

“You don’t know your own strength.” He smiles nicely. “I’ll grab another round. Want the same?”

“Yes, please,” Blake says gratefully, watching him walk over to the bar. They’ve been there for two hours and it’s wrong without Yang, like she’s intruding, betraying the space, somehow. But it’s where all of them go, and Sun had no reason to think tonight should be any different.

Her phone vibrates in her jacket pocket; she feels the seat buzzing. She reaches for her coat, digging around, and pulls it out mindlessly; it flashes on, Yang’s silhouette taking up the lock screen, and--

“What the fuck,” Blake breathes out before she can stop herself, lips parting; all sound is lost in her throat. Yang’s sent her five texts, which isn’t really unusual, but the first one starts with i’m so wet and thinking about you, and they only get more graphic from there.

She crosses her legs without thinking about it, fingers tight around the edge of the table by the time Sun sits back down. She imagines she looks a little crazy, and tries to cover it up as best she can, but she’s burning. Yang knows what she wants, knows who she wants, and it isn’t Sun.

She tries to wait. She doesn’t want to play into this game, doesn’t want to leave Sun hanging when he’s done nothing wrong, but by the time she actually gets a picture, she’s had enough.

Not of Yang, but of not being there to do exactly what she’s doing to herself.

“Sun, I’m so sorry, but I keep getting all these annoying texts about a group project I have due Monday,” Blake lies, glancing at her phone apologetically. "Apparently they fucked something up."

He raises his eyebrows, but waves it away dismissively, understanding. “Hey, it’s no problem. It’s already been like, two and a half hours or something. Want a ride home?”

“That’d be great, thanks,” she says.

“Lemme just chug this,” he says, lifting up his beer, and he proceeds to do exactly that in about six seconds flat. Blake tries not to cringe. College boys.

He drops her off at home with a wave and a grin, promising they’ll do it again sometime just as Blake’s phone buzzes, and the picture she receives leaves her unable to even pretend to care about blowing him off.

“Yeah,” she says, barely waiting until he disappears around the corner to unlock her car.

--

She knocks on the door; Yang’s the one who opens it, expecting. She’s smiling in that annoyingly cocky way Blake says she hates but loves, and she looks like what she’d been doing to herself hadn’t just been for show. Blake kisses her immediately, dropping her bag and knotting her fingers in Yang’s hair, pulling her closer.

“We can’t keep doing this,” she murmurs, and Yang captures her bottom lip between her teeth, gently biting down. Blake gasps, her fingers falling to Yang’s cheeks, jaw.

“So stop,” Yang says, like it’s simple. It should be, would be if she were doing it for the right reasons, but those always seem to elude her. “If that’s what you want.”

It’s late and Blake only wants one thing; two things, really, or maybe it’s three, depending on how you break it all up - I want you, Blake murmurs against the insides of her thighs, you, you, you - she says the word like it means something else, like it’s saying mine, mine, mine.

“You want me,” Yang says quietly, “but you don’t love me?”

“I don’t want to talk about love,” Blake says.

Yang looks away, sits up. “Yeah, well,” she starts scathingly, “right about now, I wish I didn’t feel it.”

--

Blake doesn’t see her for a week after that.

She hardly sleeps, her bed empty and foreign and lonely. She hears love as a cocking gun and she forces herself on.

On a Friday, she catches sight of a boy with hair the same shade of red as Adam’s and the panic it sends her into has her running immediately back to her dorm, unable to breathe, speak, move. She wants Yang’s arms around her, wants her lips pressing kisses to the top of her head, wants to feel safe and whole and real again.

She does the next worst thing she can possibly do instead, and texts Sun.

theres a kickback tonight at cocos, he answers. do u wanna go w/me?

No, she doesn’t. She’s tired of parties, tired of drinking to forget, smoking to stay there; tired of Yang talking to girls who aren’t her, flirting with them and finding her eyes under the dim lights as if to say You wanted this. I didn’t, Blake always thinks. I didn’t want this at all.

Yes, she texts back.

--

Pyrrha’s the one to finally snap first, shockingly; she’s on a break with Jaune and something about the lack of communication really sets her off, done with the dark; people should talk to each other, she keeps telling them all, exasperated and upset. She knocks on Yang’s door that afternoon and enters without waiting for permission. She can hear the music blaring.

Yang’s laying on her bed with her laptop off to the side, scrolling on her phone. She glances up when Pyrrha walks in, clearly surprised; “Uh,” she says, “hi?”

“What’s going on with you?” she asks bluntly, and Yang freezes.

“What?” she says, her voice not as steady as it should be. “What are you talking about?”

“Please, Yang,” Pyrrha says with an eyeroll. “You’ve been listening to Say by Valley for days now. I follow you on Spotify. And Blake - you barely speak to each other anymore. You told me something happened.”

Yang doesn’t say anything, only drags her bottom lip against her teeth, leaving an imprint. Pyrrha regards her more pityingly, lowering her voice as she sits carefully on the edge of the bed.

“You can tell me,” she implores soothingly. “I just want to help.”

Yang watches her for a moment, conflict spread out across her face, and then looks away, her eyes trained low. She fiddles with a loose thread on her bedspread, nervous and uncertain.

“I’m in love with her,” Yang finally admits quietly, and somehow, that’s not what Pyrrha expects to hear at all.

She’d known they were close but she hadn’t sensed anything deeper, hadn’t seen it. She thinks back to finding them eating Chinese food on the couch and watching horror movies and laughing, wonders if this is what love looks like. Wonders what her own does.

“Oh,” she breathes out. It makes so much sense, that’s the thing. Like all of them should’ve seen this coming and somehow chose to ignore it, hitting the right angles on their blind spots. “And she…”

“I don’t know how she feels,” Yang says, picking up the pieces. “We...we’ve been sleeping together, for like, months. Since January. And I thought she felt the same way, but--” she breaks off, fingers curling. “I’m starting to think that maybe she doesn’t.”

“What, like she was using you?” Pyrrha asks, appalled, and Yang shakes her head.

“No,” she says. “I - I don’t know. I swear she does, but - how do you just - how do you just abandon someone you love? Like, how can she do that?”

The question hangs heavy in the air. “I’m sorry,” Pyrrha says after a moment of silence passes, tone overwhelmingly sympathetic. “I don’t know the answer to that.”

“Yeah,” Yang says, retreating into herself. She smiles sadly. “Life’s just complicated like that, I guess. And now I’m alone.”

“You’re not alone,” Pyrrha tries to say, but she knows it isn’t the same.

--

She’s on the balcony when she sees them arrive. Together.

It’s not like they’re holding hands or anything, but he briefly presses his fingers against her lower back to guide her and it’s enough. The world seems tilted underneath the setting sun. Her skin feels wrong and her heart beats dully.

But Blake does something she hasn’t done before: she seeks Yang out first, hesitating on the inside of the glass, her hand resting on the sliding door. There’s a war she isn’t winning. She steps out carefully, every move cautious like there’s the omnipresent threat of shattering.

It’s just the two of them. Yang slips the blunt between her lips, inhales. Only half of her mouth turns up at the corner. She lowers her hand, smoke unfurling in the cool air when she speaks. “You really came here with him, huh?”

She sounds vaguely amused. The tone sets Blake on edge, two-fold: you really came here with him, huh? When you only want me?

“So what if I did?” Blake answers, too defensive and closed; she holds back the wince, but knows subtlety is now lost. Yang laughs, pushes off the railing, turning towards her. She lifts her arm, extends the blunt towards Blake, holds it right up to her lips with an eyebrow cocked.

Yang takes a step closer; the instincts to run are there, but more overpowering are the ones telling her to stay still. Yang’s smile slips just past dangerous. Blake knows better than this, or she likes to think she does. Maybe she’s just stupid. Maybe Yang’s right; maybe she’s been right all along.

“I don’t want to do this anymore,” Blake says. Yang lowers the blunt.

“Then end it,” Yang replies, skipping straight to the final steps. This isn’t a new conversation.

“I am,” Blake says. “I will.”

Yang observes her as if from a distance, tired of fighting, fucking, forgetting. But it’s all they have and she won’t give it up until it’s turned back on its head.

“You’re telling me,” Yang murmurs, smoke unfurling slowly from between her lips in a torturously sexy way, “that if I tried to kiss you right now, you’d stop me?” Her eyes are dark and burn red brighter than the sunset.

“Yes,” Blake says lowly, lying, and both of them know it. She does a lot of that when it comes to Yang.

Yang lifts the blunt to her mouth again and inhales deeply; her other hand cups Blake’s cheek and slides down, capturing her chin, and Blake parts her lips on instinct. Yang leans in, tilts her head, and exhales into her mouth just as Blake inhales; she can’t stop drawing poetry, Yang in her lungs, Yang in her blood, Yang in her heart. Her eyelids flutter open, breathing out, and Yang hesitates teasingly for a single second with their lips brushing like wings, before--

“Oh, shit, are you guys shotgunning?” Sun’s voice calls from behind them. “Lemme get in on this.”

Yang smirks, pulling away, but not before kissing Blake so subtly she almost thinks she imagines it. She turns around, passes Sun the blunt as he walks out. “You’ve missed your shot with me, buddy,” she says airily, traipsing by him back into the apartment. “Maybe your girlfriend is game.”

“She’s not my girlfriend,” Sun says, rolling his eyes. “Besides, it’s more fun with more people.”

Yang says drolly, “Maybe you should ask Neptune,” and he whips around to watch her as she leaves, eyes widening and narrowing again.

“What?” Blake asks, noticing the look.

“Nothing,” he says, more to himself than her. “Nothing.”

--

Yang’s hit her limits; she hears Sun laughing across the room and almost learns what it feels like to run.

She approaches Pyrrha instead, standing off to the side on her phone; Jaune hadn’t come. Yang decides she’ll let her in on the fun. She’s earned it.

“What are you doing?” Pyrrha asks amusedly as Yang leans against her side.

“I’m making Blake jealous,” Yang says, grinning, trailing a finger down Pyrrha’s neck. She laughs, but rolls her eyes harmlessly.

“You’re too much,” she scolds lightly, though she doesn’t stop the path of Yang’s hand. “One of these days, you’ll learn to handle a relationship like an actual adult.”

“One of these days,” Yang agrees seriously, her smile growing. She shifts closer into Pyrrha’s space, lifts her lips to her ear. “Is she looking?”

Pyrrha subtly glances up and around, holds back her own smirk; Blake’s staring straight at them with an intensity too sober for a party, too hard and hurt. Pyrrha says, “Yep.”

“Great.” Yang pulls back, beaming. “I’m gonna time it out.”

“Ten seconds,” Pyrrha says.

“Wrong,” Yang says, not even bothering to look to prove her point. “Five...four...three...two…”

Blake hurriedly excuses herself from her conversation with Sun and his friends, steadily heading in their direction. She moves right by them, heading to the bathroom; if Pyrrha weren’t watching for it, she would’ve missed it entirely: Blake’s fingers just barely extending, brushing against Yang’s, and then she’s gone.

“There’s my cue,” Yang says.

“Please don’t fuck her on the bathroom counter,” Pyrrha says tiredly.

“I’d never,” Yang says, pretending to be scandalized. “You know I’d never indulge in something as animalistic and crude as a quick and dirty fuck--”

“That’s not true at all,” Pyrrha says, laughing as Yang throws her a wink before vanishing around the corner, though it quickly tapers off. Yang’s too good at pretending.

--

Yang knocks twice on the door, feigning politeness, when really it’s just a signal; Blake opens it and pulls her in, instantly pressing her back against it as it shuts and kissing her furiously, desperately. She tastes like whiskey and cherries and there are dark circles under her eyes, covered but apparent up-close. Yang can instantly tell something is wrong: she’s shaking slightly in Yang’s arms, her grip a little too tight, like this time she’s the one who’s afraid of letting go.

She slows their kisses, and her hands find Blake’s face instead, thumbs stroking her cheekbones. She feels the scar underneath Blake’s chin like a burn. The urgency fades before disappearing completely, and what they’re left with is the root of what they are. She doesn’t need to say it. It’s in the room with them.

Maybe it’s all finally catching up with her, and there’s still time for realizations. Maybe Yang can start to hope. She only needs a night.

“Baby,” she whispers. Blake almost cracks right then. “Let me take you home.”

Blake doesn’t have it in her to say no.

--

(What do you want from me? Yang asks quietly, staring at her with a look entirely too knowing.

Touch me, Blake begs brokenly. Please. Just...just touch me.

Like you mean it is what goes unsaid. Like you love me.

Yang’s fingers are everywhere, feather-light and careful, her lips following, eyelashes fluttering against her skin. She makes it a point, for the first time, to kiss every scar, caress it like she’s willing it to heal. Her irises stay drenched in lilac. Blake’s never felt anything like it because she’s never had the need to, content with where they’ve been, who they are. But they could be more, Yang’s telling her. They could be this.

If only it were all so skin-deep.

I love you, she thinks of saying, but remembers Adam with his hands wrapped around her throat and the words stay locked away.

You love me, Yang whispers, and Blake covers her eyes with her arm, unable to stop the tears.

Yang waits for an answer, but it never comes.)

--

Blake’s gone before she wakes up. Something about the night unnerves her enough to talk about it, which she’s never really opted to do without pressure. It’s not healthy, Weiss always says. You can’t keep it bottled up like that. We’re your friends.

“I just,” Yang says plainly, “don’t get it. I don’t get her.”

“Why are you doing this to yourself if it’s this hard?” Weiss asks, unable to put up with any more of Yang’s whining. Well, she gets what she asked for. “Just end it with her.”

“I can’t,” Yang groans. She’s only running through it surface-level; anything below that requires things she isn’t ready to face. Like the possibility of love being hers and hers alone. “She’s so fucking hot. God, and the sex is like, otherworldly--”

“Ew,” Ruby says, but she’s grinning at the dramatism.

“--seriously, you wouldn’t give it up, either,” Yang continues, unfazed. “I can be patient. I don’t care what she does with Sun. He’s not who she wants.” She falls back against the floor, staring at the ceiling. She’s too vehement. It isn’t them she’s trying to convince; it’s herself.

Weiss bites the inside of her lip, observing Yang shrewdly, somewhat pitying. “You know,” she says quietly, “we can tell when you’re lying to us.”

“Then maybe,” Yang counters, “that’s your sign to stop asking.”

--

(Yang’s in love with her, Weiss says dolefully after. She’s miserable. She can’t lock herself away with this forever.

Ruby only shrugs, forlorn. Well, she says, it was bound to happen eventually.)

--

It’s Nora’s birthday in mid-April, she wants to go clubbing.

It’s not something they do frequently, because the closest club is a solid half hour away, tucked in the heart of downtown, but it’s her choice, she decides, and she wants to go clubbing. They allow it, even Yang. There’s something appealing about getting away for a night.

Except that when Yang walks inside, Blake’s already standing there. Sun’s behind her at the bar with Neptune. Yang stops in her tracks, Weiss bumping into her back. Nora moves around them with one hand in Ren’s, the other in Ruby’s, already yelling about vodka.

Weiss, who’d pregamed with three shots and apparently tired of playing peacekeeper, says snidely, “Yang, Blake. Blake, remember Yang? You used to live in her bed, and sometimes still do.”

Blake swallows, drink clutched tightly in her hand. She should drop it now, stop herself before she doesn’t have the power to. Instead, she lifts it to her lips, downs whatever’s left and turns away. It’s too early and Yang’s too sober, too beautiful; she has her hair in a loose braid over her shoulder, leather jacket on over a loose white v-neck with a feather on it. Her black jeans are tight and Blake automatically thinks of taking them off of her. She can’t.

Blake stays as far away from her as she can possibly get all night, hanging with Sun and Neptune and Scarlett and Sage, only dancing when the boys take turns spinning her in circles as a joke. Yang watches her laugh and thinks of getting up and going home, except the only time she’d really felt home was with the girl making her want to run there.

Blake feels Yang’s eyes on her and rests a hand on Sun’s arm; she’ll do anything. The bass pounds loudly at the bottom of her skull. Whiskey sinks into her veins. He’s staring at Neptune talking to a girl across the bar, but glances down at her, eyebrows raised. She smiles, and even though she doesn’t mean it, he isn’t aware of that. It’s all about signs.

He looks to Neptune again, back to her, before he leans in and kisses her.

It’s the most wrong she’s ever felt in her life, which is a tall standard coming from someone who’s spent more time than most tasting her own blood. It’s not long enough to be awkward, chaste and insignificant, but the minute he pulls away she’s hit with the desire to wipe her lips over the back of her hand, trying to get rid of any trace of it. She can’t. He’s looking at her.

He offers her an awkward sort of grin and his stare darts briefly back to Neptune. She turns around entirely, can’t stop herself from searching.

Yang is gone.

--

Weiss recognizes instantly that something’s off, the way you would flick a light switch.

Yang finds her near the bar and she’s nothing but mouth, lips red and full and matching the color of her eyes. She’s holding a glass that smells entirely like tequila, nothing fruity to halve the burn. She gets too close to Weiss and touches her suggestively, plays with her fingers, cups her cheek as she bends down to whisper in Weiss’s ear.

The problem is that Weiss knows what she’s doing, but falls for it anyway. She saw Sun kiss Blake, too. She knows.

Yang leans in close, smirking brilliantly, irises seering red; she’s let her hair out if its braid and it spirals in perfect waves over her shoulders. “C’mon, Weiss,” she murmurs, allowing her eyes to dart to Weiss’s mouth and back in an obviously provocative manner. “You’re curious. Admit it.”

Weiss has had six shots in the past hour. The dim string lights blur overhead like a photo effect, and even the loud chatter turns into nothing but broken background noise; the only clarity she comprehends is Yang, so beautiful and so aware of it, trying to distract herself from the pain of Blake with someone else, anyone else. With Weiss, because Blake knows Weiss, and that's what would hurt the most.

Weiss has had six shots in the past hour and she is curious, because everyone is: Yang’s stunning, and seductive, and reckless, and there’s something dangerously attractive about someone who just doesn’t care about the outcome, only the present moment. She won’t lie and say it’s never crossed her mind, but--

She’s had six shots in the past hour and she is curious, but she isn’t stupid. She says, “I was curious when we were freshman. And still, maybe, when we were sophomores. But I’m not curious now.”

“Oh?” Yang says lowly, her hand splaying open on Weiss’s back. She dips closer, her mouth inches away from Weiss’s own. “Not even a little bit?”

Weiss swallows and doesn’t speak. Yang’s smirk grows again. “You’re so fucking uptight,” she continues darkly. “I could fix that for you, you know. I could do a lot of things to you.”

Yang’s planting images in her mind she desperately wants to burn the minute they arrive there, because they’re taking up the room of things she actually does want, but Yang knows how to pitch herself, how to break anybody’s last will--

“Stop,” Weiss says finally, holding up a hand gently against Yang’s chest. She stares Yang directly in the eye. “I’m not interested in being used. And you don’t want me.”

“I’m not using you,” Yang denies, but her voices drops the seduction.

“Yes, you are,” Weiss replies shortly. “You caught Sun kissing Blake and it hurt. And now you want her to hurt like you’ve been hurt.” Yang winces, her face falling open. “Stop involving me in your - your fucked-up game. I’m your best friend!”

“I’m sorry,” Yang whispers miserably, the apology instantaneous. “Weiss, I’m sorry--”

“I don’t care,” Weiss says, realizing she’s angrier than she’d thought she was. Ruby is staring at her from the bar, her expression devastated. “Figure your shit out, Yang, before you really screw this up!”

She brushes by Yang and off, and Yang only stands there, processing, biting her bottom lip so hard it hurts. Just like everything else does.

She finds the front door before the tears start; nobody sees her leave.

--

Well, almost nobody, but Blake never takes her eyes off of Yang for long.

She glances up at Sun, who’s staring at Weiss as she whispers in hushed tones to Neptune, and says, “Hey, I’ll be back in a few.”

“Sure thing,” he answers, not even looking at her. She’s grateful for the disinterest, slipping out without catching any further attention.

There’s a park across the street, and even from the front steps she can see the outline of someone sitting on a swing in the playground in the darkness, slowly kicking the ground. Her heart swells and bursts. She hadn’t thought there’d be anything left to break, but she’s always proven wrong.

Blake approaches her the way she would a bomb, waiting for the tremors to start, the ground to shake and collapse. Yang sees her and doesn’t run again. There’s only so far she can go on her own.

“What d’you want, Blake?” Yang whispers brokenly, not even bothering to hide her tears. “Haven’t you - haven’t you done enough?”

“What are you talking about?” Blake plays dumb, praying Yang hadn’t seen and wishing she could retroactively take it back altogether. It wasn’t worth it.

But her answer only serves to upset Yang further. “I saw you,” she says, and nothing about her is accusatory, just sadly matter-of-fact. “I saw you kissing Sun.”

Blake’s stomach drops horribly, forcing up the uncomfortable urge to vomit; it’s even worse coming out of Yang’s mouth than it’d be to even experience it. It’d been so quick, hadn’t even been her who’d initiated it, and she’s paying for it anyway. But even that’s wrong. She’d given all the right signs, played every card exactly how she’d wanted it. Of course he’d kissed her. Of course she’d let him. Of course Yang saw.

Yang stops her before she gets there, wiping her eyes with the palms of her hands. “Don’t apologize,” she says, her voice cracking. “Just - whatever you’re - you’re thinking of doing, just don’t.” She drops her arms, finally looks up at Blake imploringly. “Not unless you mean it.”

She wants to be proven wrong, against her better judgment, against all odds, against hope. She wants Blake to tell her I’m sorry, it’s you, it’s always been you. But all Blake can do is drop to her knees in front of her and only manages the first part of the sentence. “I’m sorry,” she whispers, desperately trying to communicate the truth without having to say the words. “Yang, I’m so sorry. Please. Please.

She rests her hands on Yang’s thighs, as if comforting her will somehow absolve Blake of being the root cause. It doesn’t, but Yang doesn’t push her away, doesn’t do anything. She just sits there, watching through blurry vision, waiting.

“Why?” she asks, only cracking further, the sound of it tearing at the corners of Blake’s own heart.

Blake reaches up, takes her face in her hands, brushing Yang’s tears away with her thumbs. She straightens up, draws Yang’s mouth down to hers, and kisses her as tenderly as she can, trying to wash away the memory of Sun’s lips doing the same thing only minutes previously. It’s you. It’s always you.

“Baby,” Blake murmurs, tone on the verge of begging, but for what, she isn’t sure. Yang only sinks further into her at the endearment. “Let me take you home.”

Yang doesn’t speak, sucking in a breath. She could say no and it’d be over. Blake could walk back inside to Sun, rejected but managing. Yang could drown herself in self-pity and anger and depression and save herself another rude awakening to pain in the morning. She could say no.

She doesn’t. She nods imperceptibly, and Blake takes her hands, helps her stand. The park is poorly lit and she can’t make out the details, but she’s so familiar with every inch of Yang’s body that she finds her lips again easily in the darkness. Yang tastes like tequila and strawberries and salt, her cheeks still wet, eyes shining.

It’s the wrong decision she can’t stop herself from making. Blake takes her home.

--

Here’s a last chance. It’s being handed to her and she doesn’t deserve it. She’s wrecked too much to be allowed to repair it. Maybe that’s all she is: something too ruined to escape from, Yang’s hands tangled around her edges, fingers cut as if by glass.

“Just say it,” Yang whispers, begging as if three words can shift them to resolution, or absolution, or simply one more day. Blake comprehends the desperation, echoes it in her own mouth, and still, she can’t. “Just say it. Please. Please.”

But she doesn’t, and it’s the first time Blake swears she hears another person’s heart splinter and crack. The silence finally feels irreparable.

--

It’s seven in the morning. Blake’s still asleep in her bed, lying on her side. The scar over her ribs is pulled taut, shiny. Nothing changes. Nothing ever changes. Maybe it never will.

She gets up to smoke, unable to breathe with Blake so close, hoping distance will give her clarity, hoping she’ll find the sunrise with a sign telling her which direction is right. She finds Neptune asleep on the couch, catches a light on in Weiss’s bathroom; so they’d all come back and passed out. She’d never even heard them return.

Someone approaches behind her as she’s lighting up, and she catches the sight of blond hair and nothing but abs over her shoulder. She’s not angry. It’s all stopped bothering her. Maybe this is moving on.

“Hey, Sun,” Yang greets as he steps onto the balcony. She holds out the joint for him to take, which he accepts after he finishes slipping his shirt over his head, yawning. He inhales deeply and exhales into the morning air after a few seconds, a mixture of smoke and steam.

“What are you doing up so early?” he asks, voice rough, passing the joint back.

She shrugs halfheartedly, gives him a once-over, and she doesn’t care anymore. She’s in the process of ruin. She says bluntly, “Well, I fucked Blake until about four in the morning, passed out, woke up with a hangover, and now I’m trying to level it out with a nice high.” He blinks stupidly, trying to process the information; he sees the hickies on her neck and dipping down her chest, and knows she’s telling the truth, not just screwing with him. She takes another hit, making them somehow more prominent, and watches his struggle for a second before continuing, “I figured you wouldn’t really care, considering you’re actually into Neptune.”

He stares, and stares, and stares, and then--

The laughter hits him before he can stop it from bubbling up, before he can exchange it for an appropriate reaction that would’ve saved him. “You fucking asshole,” he says instead, breaking into a grin. “You’re such a dick. I mean, yeah, you’re right, but like, what if you hadn’t been?”

“Oh, I knew I was,” Yang says, also smiling. She leans her cheek against her palm, head turning towards him, joint still tucked between her fingers. “I know everything. I’m like psychic or something.”

He rolls his eyes. “No, you’re just smart. I never get anything past you.”

“Yeah, you’re lucky to have me.”

“Didn’t say that.”

She laughs, faces the sunrise again. “I’m glad she didn’t know you’d passed out here, or she probably wouldn’t have stayed.”

He whistles lowly, glancing back inside the apartment. “You and Blake, huh?” he says, finally taking it into account. “I didn’t really see that coming. I mean - it makes perfect sense, so like, I did, but somehow - I just didn’t.”

“Yeah,” she says, sounding somewhat wistful. “Me neither.”

“I’m glad I’m not really into her,” he says, gazing at Yang dazedly; the high’s starting to hit him a little bit, and the sunlight etching itself through the smoke lazing around her head and dripping out of her mouth creates a somewhat ethereal effect, and Sun’s reminded again that Yang really is gorgeous, with her wild blonde hair and lavender eyes and the danger of muscle lurking underneath her skin. “You’re like, so beautiful, and so cool. And you’re a good friend and shit. That’d suck.”

She laughs again. “Am I?” she asks, her smile now touching genuine. “A good friend?”

“Yeah,” he says. “You wouldn’t have done anything if I’d actually liked her.”

She hums. “Probably not,” she agrees, flicking the ash over the railing. “You wouldn’t have done anything if you’d known, right?”

“Duh.” He leans on his elbows next to her. “So what’s Blake doing with me, anyway?”

“The same thing you’re doing with her, I’m guessing,” Yang says. “I don’t really know. We’ve been fucking around for a few months now.” She grows suddenly distant, cooler. “Maybe she just doesn’t actually want me.”

“Yeah, right,” Sun says instantly, rolling his eyes. He tousles her hair teasingly, and if she weren’t high, she’d probably deck him in the face. She shoots him a warning glare. “Look at you. Nobody’s gonna say no to you, Xiao Long. And besides - Blake’s definitely got issues, but she wouldn’t be fucking you if she didn't want to be. And like, she really doesn’t strike me as the type to use people for sex. So I mean, I think you’re good there.”

“Did you ever…?” she asks, trailing off on the implication, but Sun picks it up.

“Nah,” he says, shaking his head. “We’ve only been out a few times, and - obviously neither one of us were that into it.”

The response clearly relieves her. “Not that she’s like, mine, or something,” she assures him needlessly, as if making up for her own internal war. “She’s not. She’s made that perfectly clear.”

He’s quiet for a moment. “No, I get it,” he says softly. “When Neptune was dating Weiss last year, it kinda - I like, hated being around them. I thought it was just ‘cause Weiss was so annoying, but now, I mean...yeah. So I know.”

“Yeah,” Yang says. The tip keeps burning, whittling down to her fingers.

“Fuck, dude,” he says, sighing. “Shit’s rough, isn’t it.”

“You and Blake,” Yang says, breathing out smoke one last time, stubbing out the end on the railing. She’s no lighter than she’s been. “Birds of a fucking feather.”

--

(Yang walks back in and finds her awake, slowing pulling her dress back over her head.

There’s nothing left to say between them. Their eyes meet. It finally feels like the end.

Yang steps away from the door and lets her leave. Blake stops, hesitates, but the words don’t come. They never do.)

--

“I give up,” Yang finally announces flatly, throwing herself across Weiss’s bed later that afternoon. Last night goes unmentioned. “I’m done with her.”

She looks exhausted, not physically but emotionally, tired of being bruised and beaten down. There are very few places left that don’t hurt to touch.

“This is a sudden shift,” Weiss starts cautiously, knowing Yang isn’t one to abandon anything, especially with love at the heart of it. “What’s changed?”

Yang rests one arm overhead, the other on her stomach, staring at the ceiling. “I don’t know,” she says, voice empty, emotionless. “Maybe I’m just finally ready to accept that she doesn’t love me.”

Out of everything she could’ve said, every reason she could’ve had, she picks the one that even Weiss knows to be a blatant lie. Blake’s got a lot of problems, but love is the catalyst, not the loss. “Why do think she doesn’t?”

“Because she doesn’t,” Yang says sharply, like she’s unwilling to even entertain the idea. “You don’t hurt people you love like this. You don’t...leave them alone, over and over again. You just don’t.”

“Maybe you don’t,” Weiss answers, not sure why she’s trying to play the other side at all. Yang deserves better - it’s not debatable - but there’d been something about the look in Blake’s eyes when she’d said I was fine being the only one that stops Weiss from dismissing her completely. She thinks of Ruby’s fingers linking through hers the night previously, how she’d tugged her hand away, heart eating the inside of her chest. “Maybe other people aren’t as good at it as you are.”

“What are you defending her for?” Yang asks accusatorily. “Weren’t you just telling me to end it?”

“I’m not defending her,” Weiss says quietly. “I think what she’s doing to you is...abhorrent. But you love her. And I suppose I’d always - I’d always felt like the possibility of the two of you was still there. Like she’d realize she was wrong and you could be happy together.”

Yang bites her lip painfully, throat moving around a swallow. Her eyes are suddenly a little shinier than they were before, glinting under the sunlight peeking through Weiss’s curtains. She confesses unevenly, “I was so sure,” and Weiss reaches over, rests her hand on top of Yang’s. “I was so sure, for so long, that she loved me. That she’d get the space she wanted and realize - realize it wasn’t what she wanted at all. But now, I’m just…” her voice breaks, tears pooling in the corners of her eyes; Weiss has only ever seen her cry twice, and they’ve both been because of Blake. “It hurts that I don’t know why. That’s all I - all I want. I just want to know why, you know? What I did wrong. What about me just - just wasn’t enough.”

“Have you told her any of this?” Weiss asks softly, still stroking the back of her hand with her thumb. “I know - I know you and Blake don’t do a lot of talking, these days.”

“No,” Yang whispers dejectedly. “Because it doesn’t matter. Because I say it now but I look at her and I don’t care anymore. I just want to be close to her. Even if it means I end up hurt after.”

“Jesus, Yang,” Weiss breathes out, aching on her behalf. She wonders what it’s like to love someone that much: if these are the lows, she can’t even imagine the highs. “You--”

“I know,” Yang interrupts, wiping the tears before they get a chance to drop. “I know.”

I know, she says. Love can make you crazy.

--

Weiss can’t stop thinking about their conversation. It’s been four months and Yang’s drawing in, throwing herself into work and classes, holing herself up in the gym or the mechanics lab. She blasts the same playlist day in and day out, nothing but songs about the one that got away, love that doesn’t mirror the sun, where to go when you’re out of luck, what to do when you’re done. She barely hangs out with the rest of them at all, absorbing herself in things that don’t make her remember.

Weiss grabs Blake by the arm after their class ends during the last week of April, drags her around the corner of the building and stops her there.

“She’s not a toy,” Weiss snaps immediately, rounding on her. “Jesus, Blake. I’ve fucking had it. She might be willing to put up with you stringing her along, but I certainly don’t have to. You think this little game of yours doesn’t hurt her?”

Blake has a response prepared, but the sincerity of the question forces her into silence. It wasn’t ever supposed to be about Yang’s feelings, but there’s no way to say that without seeing the truth of it: Blake’s selfish and wants everything to herself; her secrets, her love, her confusion, her messes. Compartmentalized, contained.

She says, “It wasn’t supposed to.”

Weiss throws up her hands. “What did you think was going to happen?” she snarls. “You fuck around with her until you get your shit together and everyone lives happily ever after? Nevermind the position you’ve put Sun in--”

“I like Sun--”

“Not as much as you like Yang,” Weiss points out snidely. “Or is it his bed you’ve been consistently sneaking out of for the past month?”

That’s a clean hit, and it stings. “God, Weiss, I get it, okay?!” Blake says furiously, though the only real target is herself. “He - I’m not official with him or anything, we’ve just been out a few times, and Yang…” she trails off, but the implication is louder than the rest of it. “Yang--”

“Why won’t you just be with her?” Weiss asks angrily. “I don’t understand. If you know how you feel, why won’t you just act on it?”

“Because I’m fucked up,” Blake says, thinking of Adam with his hands curled into fists, sees the glint of his ring, feels the fissure of her jaw. “Is that what you want to hear? Are you happy now? You’ve solved it. I’m fucked up and now I’m fucking Yang up, too.”

Weiss offers her no sympathy, no absolvement. She narrows her eyes and says, “You don’t get to hurt her and be aware of it and do nothing. You know what she believes? She genuinely thinks you don’t care about her anymore. She was so sure for so long, Blake, but everybody has their limits. What are you going to do when she finally decides to move on?”

Blake stops, stares at her with eyes too wide to have thought through a point like that at all; like she’d conceptualized Yang as someone who’d always be there, even if Blake couldn’t. She’d never imagined an actual ending. Never entertained “apart” as a physical space she’d one day feel. She’d wanted to believe, that’s the thing. She’d wanted hope, too.

Weiss’s expression only hardens, anger deep and fierce and cruel. “I take it back,” she says, turning away. “This isn’t a game at all. It’s a fucking funeral.”

--

The truth comes out in the end. It always does.

It’s family night, minus two very integral members; Blake says she has work to do, and Yang doesn’t make an appearance at all, despite being feet away in her room. She keeps the lights off. Music blares. Pyrrha hasn’t had the heart to tell her to turn it down.

But Nora pulls a face at the sound. “What the hell is that?”

Weiss rolls her eyes, clearly irritated enough to talk after weeks of deflection. “She’s been listening to this - depressing shit for days now. If you hadn’t been holed up at Ren’s, you’d have noticed. It’s driving me insane.”

“It is a little much,” Pyrrha admits reluctantly, more pitying than the rest of them even at the end of her rope.

“It’s that fuckin’ - that emo-ass Give Me Love song, or whatever,” Sun says, setting his beer back on the table and wiping his chin with the back of his hand. “Blake’s been playing the same crap. I always see her listening to it on Spotify. And like, I went over there the last week because she forgot her coat, and it was blasting--”

He shuts his mouth a second too late. Weiss stops stirring, dawning horror on her face, and Nora’s eyebrows raise high underneath her bangs, her expression shifting from disgust, to confusion, to recognition. Pyrrha averts her eyes.

“Oh. My. God,” Nora says, voice rising in glee with every letter. “Wait. Wait. No fucking way.”

“It makes perfect sense!” Neptune exclaims as Jaune looks on hopelessly. “We’d joked about it that one time, but dude, it makes so much sense--”

“She was always here--”

“Wait,” Jaune says, playing catch-up. “Blake and Yang?”

“No, wait,” Nora says loudly, ignoring him as she zeroes in between Sun, Weiss, and even Pyrrha; their lack of reactions had been a dead giveaway. “You knew about this, didn’t you?” Her eyes narrow, turning to slits as if she’s been betrayed somehow. “You all knew about this--”

Sun holds up his hands, leaning back in his chair. “I only just found out, and only because Yang told me,” he says defensively. “Take it up with her.”

Nora accepts the explanation, albeit suspiciously. “And you two?” she accuses Weiss and Pyrrha. “What do you have to say for yourselves?”

“Well,” Weiss snaps, angry at the glee they’re so obviously feeling in the face of Yang’s apparent misery, “they’re both wallowing in their rooms listening to the same emo Spotify playlist, so I think you’re in on the secret just a little too late for this realization to be any fun at all.”

Everyone sort of sinks back at the comment, the music somehow becoming louder, like its melody suddenly now comes with an added weight. Pyrrha’s the most outwardly uncomfortable, though Nora at least has the decency to look abashed; Jaune just averts his eyes.

“I guess I didn’t really, like...think it through,” Nora says reluctantly, quietly apologetic. “What happened?”

Weiss flicks the burner off, determinedly staring at the food and not at the people behind her. None of this is hers to share. She says, “We don’t know. It was going fine until it wasn’t.”

“Wait,” Nora says again, rounding on Sun. “Why’s she going out with you? Are you, like, a homewrecker?”

Sun rubs the back of his head, stressed and awkward. “I...I dunno,” he admits, can’t look any of them in the eye. “She’s the one who asked me. And I didn’t - I dunno. I didn’t know, okay?”

Yang’s door opens. The music stops. So does every sound of chatter.

She walks out, stops, hesitating at the sight of them all. There’s no way the energy escapes her, no way she misses the undercurrent. Neptune breaks it smoothly, offering her a smile and a wave. “Hey, Yang.”

“Hey guys,” she says, sounding hoarse like she’d been tucked away, crying, though she doesn’t look it. The difference in her personality, though, is as apparent as ever, like her heart is too heavy for her body, and she’s straining under the effort it takes to lug it around. “Sorry I didn’t join you tonight. I’m not really in the mood.”

“It’s cool,” Sun says, more gently than he should. Her gaze flickers to him and away. “Where you off to?”

“Just a walk,” she says, brushing past them to the door. They all watch her go. She doesn’t look back. “I’ll see you later.”

Their chorus of voices echo out a smattering of goodbyes. Nora turns to him when it shuts and says, “Sun, you have to end it. Look at her. She’s fucked up.”

“I know,” Sun replies quietly. His hands aren’t exactly clean, either. He’s had reasons, too. “There’s - there’s nothing to even end, really. But I’ll tell her.”

--

(hey, he texts her. can we talk?

Yes, she answers instantly, and it’s a clear exit. Nobody responds to a text like that unless they’re looking for a way out, he thinks, even if she’s not ready to admit it.

tomorrow afternoon? i can come over

Sure. See you then.

see you)

--

She meets him outside, and they choose to walk aimlessly along the bike path. It’s small talk, at first; she won’t cross the line, like now that it’s finally here and in front of her, it’s still too daunting, too wide a gap to conquer. Sun looks at her and remembers how often she used to smile, and who exactly it’d be aimed at. She doesn’t smile like that anymore.

“Hey,” he says, stopping suddenly, hands tucked into his pockets. She turns, meeting his eyes, and his stare is oddly direct. “You aren’t really into this, are you?”

“N-no!” Blake objects, too unprepared to tell the truth. “It’s not--”

“You don’t have to lie, Blake,” Sun interrupts, not meanly. “It took me a little while to see it, but - I know it’s not actually me you want.”

She opens her mouth, closes it again sharply, and only looks on, unable to speak. Her silence is answer enough. He sighs loudly, dropping his hands by his sides.

“I’m kind of into someone else, too,” he confesses bluntly, shrugging. “And - it’s not that you’re obvious about it or anything, but...Yang is.”

That information strikes Blake more than anything else said so far; to her, Yang always seems somehow untouchable to everyone else, living around the fringes of the earth rather than on it. She asks, finally giving it up, “How?”

“Hm?”

“How’d you know?”

He grins somewhat awkwardly, rubbing the back of his head. “She, uh...she kind of...told me.” Before Blake can spiral into a panic over just what Yang might’ve told him, he continues, “I didn’t leave last Friday. I passed out on the floor of Pyrrha’s room. I woke up early and I found Yang smoking on the balcony - not cigarettes,” he adds hurriedly, “don’t worry, she hasn’t touched one since the day she met you as far as I know - but I asked why she was up, and she was like, ‘I just fucked Blake until four in the morning and now I have a hangover,’ or something, and, yeah.”

“Fuck,” Blake says blankly, trying to quell the shivering that always seems to strike her with the mention of Yang’s name. It’s like she’s been caught cheating, though the only people hurt by it are the two people actively participating. “Fuck, Sun, I’m sorry--”

“You don’t have to apologize,” he says, shrugging; someone passes by them on a bike, kicking up dirt. “I - I shouldn’t have done what I did, either. It was for all the wrong reasons.”

“I do like you,” Blake tells him quietly. He deserves to know that much. “I wasn’t always just - playing along.”

He examines her, finds the sun reflecting too hollowly in her eyes; she barely has the energy for this, he realizes. Barely has the strength for denial. But whatever she’s denying has the prospect of being worse.

“Maybe,” he agrees after a moment. “That’s not love, though, is it. And I don’t really know how you feel, but...we both know who loves you, and it’s not me.”

It doesn’t hurt, or bruise, or sting; instead, she’s left with a guilty type of relief. “Yeah,” she murmurs, arms crossed in front of her body like she’s holding herself together, and says the first honest thing she’s said the entire conversation: “Yeah, that was kind of the point.”

The sentiment dangles between them. Sun doesn’t need to spend time deciphering it, understanding the idea perfectly: someone you don’t care about can’t hurt you. That, he thinks, is the true point.

“Blake,” Sun says quietly, “when someone loves you, it matters. It means something. Or it should.”

He’s looking at her like he feels sorry for her, but it’s more than that. Like he’s a step ahead, or on the other side entirely. Like there’s someone he wishes loved him, and he’d do anything to have the option; and here she is, throwing it away because of a memory of man who threatened to kill her and anyone she ever loved. She wonders what Sun would say if he knew that, wonders if he’d trip over his tongue trying to manage all the apologies. Wonders if he’d still call it wrong.

His gaze is too morose, torn, and she knows he would. In the face of every trauma, every howling demon, he still would.

Oh, Blake thinks distantly, right. That’s what love should do, shouldn’t it? Fix you.

--

Yang can’t let go without one last fight.

She hasn’t done everything she could, that’s the thing. She’s stuck to her guns, to the familiarity of what they’ve always been rather than forcing it over the edge to what’s new and unfamiliar: does Blake run away entirely, or does she finally turn around. Does she finally, finally say it.

Yang replays her own scenes of begging for the truth, but it’s not as if she’d ever offered it up in return. Maybe there’s something to that. God, she thinks, please let there be something to that.

It’s the middle of May; there’s only a few weeks left until the semester ends. She works up the courage before her exams start, reasoning that should it go horribly wrong, she’ll have them as a distraction. If she’s grown good at anything, it’s distracting herself with work instead of alcohol.

Her fingers clench into fists, nails digging into her palms and spreading again. She aims for neutrality, tired of dark spaces and shadows on walls; she remembers Blake’s schedule. She knows when her classes end.

She’s standing outside the lecture hall with her hands in her pockets when the doors open, students piling out. They spot each other instantly, like gravity, magnetism. Well; they’d always been drawn to each other, and distance hadn’t changed that, only made it more apparent.

“Can we talk?” Yang asks, and Blake only nods once, adjusting her bag strap over her shoulder.

They follow the path around the building’s edge. There’s a fountain in the courtyard, stone walkways framed by rose bushes. Nobody’s really around; most people are busy taking up residence in the library or huddled in their dorm rooms, probably popping Adderall while they write twenty-page papers in a night. Blake matches pace with her wordlessly. Their fingers brush between them. Yang slows, stops; Blake turns to face her, waiting.

“I haven’t been fair to you,” Yang says suddenly, watching the water splash against the statue. “I’ve never...asked you for answers, only expected you to give them to me. And when you didn’t, I did the only thing I knew would work to stay close to you.”

Blake blinks at the sudden shift in tone, not expecting an apology; she’s so used to guilt, to blame, that some days it feels like the only emotion she’s ever known, all-consuming and dark. “What?” she says, confounded.

Yang’s eyes slip to her, and the lavender stays where it is, dripping against regret. She raises a hand slowly, skims her fingers over the side of Blake’s face, up her temple and across. Blake allows it; Yang’s the only one able to touch her without the prickle of fear.

“I don’t know what happened to you, exactly,” Yang murmurs, brushing her hair away from her forehead. She bites her bottom lip briefly, releases it. “but I get it was big. Big enough that the idea of being with me scares the shit out of you.”

Blake’s mouth empties itself of all feeling, numb and dry and blank. “Yeah,” is all she whispers, struck with a memory of Adam’s hands around a knife, blood pouring down her side. “I, um - I can’t--”

“I’m not asking you to tell me,” Yang interrupts smoothly, still soft, and Blake falls quiet again in relief. She seems to war with herself for a moment, before she sighs and drops her forehead against Blake’s, tangling their fingers together. “I’m not - I’m not asking you for anything, I guess.”

“Then what?” Blake asks, closing her eyes, leaning into the touch. “What do you want from me?”

Yang’s lips part, and the possibility of what she may say carries its own crushing weight for a split second, and then--

“I love you,” Yang confesses, in a way almost empty and dejected, like she never expects the sentiment to be returned at all, like somehow she’s signing her heart away for good. Blake stops breathing, the world oxygen-less and empty. Yang shrugs in place of continuing for a moment, warring with the tears in her throat. “I’ve been in love with you for - for fucking ever, or something. You’re for me. Okay? I don’t know how else to explain it.” She draws in an unsteady breath. “You’re just...you’re for me. So I can wait.”

“Why?” Blake asks hoarsely, fighting her own tears. “Why? When I’m so - when all I’ve done is hurt you. Why?”

Yang bends down and brushes their lips together in the gentlest kiss Blake’s ever received; she catches Yang on the inhale, lingering. When she pulls away, all Blake can think about is how it feels like spring breathes between them, the roses all in bloom and the sun melting through the sky like wax; how she’ll fall apart if it’s the last.

Yang brushes a thumb over her bottom lip in a familiarly intimate way. “Life is complicated,” she says with a morose smile, “but I’m still here.”

--

(She still expects it to mean something, that’s the thing.

It’s the last bit of hope she has left: that love, spoken into existence, will have the power to produce tangible change. Like it should do what she’d always thought it was intended to and heal.

But Blake never calls, never texts, never shows up. Yang’s heart stays behind with her, too shattered and sharp around the edges to touch; Swim by Valley plays on repeat. She lies awake at night and remembers a time when she wasn’t so alone, when they’d stay up late laughing instead of crying, when the darkness settling over them felt like a lapping wave and not dirt against a coffin. She read somewhere, once, that memories burns themselves away the more they are recalled, the details blurring until they’re hazy and disoriented and nothing true remains.

Yang lies awake and pulls apart every memory of Blake she has, and hopes that in the morning, they’ll all be gone entirely.)

--

She’s wrong, she finally accepts on the last day of the semester. Maybe she’s been wrong all along. Sometimes you can love someone with everything you have and it won’t be enough, because people aren’t vases waiting for love to be poured into them to bloom. Sometimes, Yang thinks as she sluggishly packs her closet into her suitcase, people just can’t love you back.

It hurts; it hurts more than it ever has, because this time, she doesn’t hope at all. It takes her awhile, but in the end, she learns her lessons.

They’re due to move out the next day, on Saturday. She’s home alone - Pyrrha and Weiss are out getting more boxes, as Weiss’s closet somehow grew twice in size, and Nora’s helping Ren pack - when the knock at the door comes.

It’s so faint she’s not quite sure she actually hears it at first and lowers the volume of her music, waiting for another. It comes much louder, steadier, and Yang instantly assumes it to be Weiss and Pyrrha, probably with their hands full and unable to reach their keys. She rolls her eyes preemptively, walking over to let them in.

What she doesn’t expect to see when she opens the door is Blake, standing there with an expression that speaks to nothing but regret and a little bit of fear, like she’s finally meeting the ghost of what she destroyed.

Yang’s sure she slips into shock; she’d been repressing every lingering emotion for days now, and just the sight of her is enough to send it all rushing, pounding, screaming towards the surface. She’s so stunned that all she can do is stare, examining Blake vaguely as if through a dream; she looks tired, like she hasn’t slept since she started doing it alone, and she’s clearly nervous, her bottom lip red from the way she’s been worrying it between her teeth. She’s dressed simply in a black tank top and denim shorts with a short-sleeved, marigold cardigan. And she’s in sandals, black straps and gold buckles, and she’s so small.

Strangely, all Yang thinks of are her scars, and how easy it must’ve been for someone to give them to her. Yang can’t help it; the urge to protect her is still there, no matter how badly she wishes it weren’t, and wishes she had the desire to protect herself just as strongly.

Blake hesitates for a moment, as if waiting for Yang to slam the door in her face, but when she doesn’t, she reaches for Yang’s hand and tugs her carefully outside. Out in the light, where they might be seen, where there’s nothing left for them to hide behind. Out into the light, where the exposure is so bright that it's almost disorienting, something from a dream. Yang allows it, mostly out of sheer curiosity and confusion, her hope already damaged beyond repair.

They take each other in; it’s odd, Blake thinks, to be so unfamiliar with layers. The silence mounts, and she’s left struggling to maintain the courage that brought her to Yang’s doorstep in the first place.

Just when she’s hitting the limit of Yang’s patience, she blurts out, “The reason I stayed with you the night we met was because I - it sounds insane, we’d just met, but I - I just felt safe with you.” She releases the words in a single breath, rushed and desperate.

“What?” Yang asks, frowning in confusion, not following.

“I felt safe with you,” Blake repeats, slowing down. “And after...after my ex, that wasn’t a feeling I had often, if ever. But I met you and I just felt safe.”

Yang furrows her brow, obviously still baffled but willing to play along. “Okay,” she says, waiting for the conclusion.

“I had an ex, Adam,” Blake explains plainly, and keeps her feet firmly where they are, fighting her exit strategy. “He was - he was older than me, and he was a - a gang leader. I’d known him since we were kids, but I - I didn’t know what I was getting into, at the time. I had a...a bad relationship with my parents, and I let him influence me, and manipulate me. I thought he loved me. I thought I loved him.”

Yang’s expression shifts into a subtle sort of understanding, opening, stunned. “Oh,” she breathes out, realizing she’s getting what she’s wanted all along: the truth. Too many things come together at once. “He’s who - did he…”

“Yeah,” Blake whispers, knowing exactly what she’s asking, and she, too, thinks of scars. “He was always so...entrenched in violence. I thought I’d be...excluded from that. But I wasn’t. And I didn’t learn that until too late.” She swallows over the lump in her throat, trying to keep the tears at bay until she can finish; she owes Yang that much, at the very least. She owes her.

“So you met me and you felt safe,” Yang echoes quietly, her posture relaxing, her tone too difficult to read.

“He treated me like he owned me,” Blake says, her voice unsteady, her thoughts jumbled but desperately trying to find their way out of her mouth. “I - I felt like if I was - yours, if I was with you, you’d start to see the same things he saw. I - I know they’re not true. Or I - I thought I did. But then you’d look at me a certain way or - or you’d say something, and I wouldn’t recognize it, but I’d feel so - I don’t know - none of this makes sense.” She halts herself frustratedly, but she’s clearly on the verge of something; Yang takes her face in her hands and strokes her cheeks lightly, calming her. Blake lifts her arms and curls her fingers around Yang’s wrists automatically, inhales, exhales.

“It’s okay,” Yang says, gently prompting her on.

“Exposed,” Blake finishes. There’s a moment where they’ve left looking at each other. “I’d feel so open. And I’d be afraid of what you could see.”

Yang keeps her grip loose, aiming for comfort and stability, not possession. She feels herself trembling, but she isn’t surprised at the ease at which her love quickly finds its way into the the sun again. She says softly, “I can’t see something that isn’t there.” She waits for the concept to sink in. “You’ve never let me tell you what I see. Whatever he was looking at, it wasn’t you. Whatever shit he was telling you - none of it was true, Blake.”

“He told me a lot of things,” Blake says quietly, and it’s a much deeper revelation than it sounds on the surface. “I thought - I thought I loved him, you know? And so - when he’d tell me...I mean, he’d tell me he’d never hurt me, but somehow I’d wind up with a black eye or a split lip or - whatever. He said - that I was just a lot of work, and he was doing the best he could, and - and it’d be my fault. It was always my - my fault.

“Let’s get something straight,” Yang says abruptly, only growing more horrified, disgusted, angry. Angry with him for hurting the girl in front of her, angry at everyone who’d been there and done nothing, angry at herself. “It wasn’t - none of it was your fault, no matter what that - fucking asshole said. He was abusive, Blake. He abused you.” She lowers her voice again, realizing she’d gotten a little heated, and that’s probably not something Blake needs to hear right now. “Is that - is that what you thought would happen? That you’d let your guard down and I’d find - or I’d see something I didn’t want to see, and I wouldn’t want you anymore? Or that I’d…”

“No,” Blake denies, shaking her head. “No, I never thought...I was never afraid of you hurting me. I guess - I don’t know. I guess everything else he said just...stuck with me. The minute I had a single hesitation or reservation or - anything - I’d start thinking he was right. And if he was right about one thing...maybe was right about everything.”

“I’m not blaming you for...for not telling me,” Yang says softly, sweeping her hair away from her forehead. She continues the path without speaking for a moment, trails her fingers down Blake’s cheek again, pauses there. Blake leans into her touch automatically. “It must’ve been hard.”

“It was.” Blake’s barely able to whisper the answer, tears breaking in her eyes without being able to stop them. It’s as tough to talk about as it’s always been. “It was hard.”

“Then I think,” Yang starts gracefully, “I think it’s probably incredible that you’re here at all.”

“I didn’t - I never meant to hurt you,” Blake says, and spreads her fingers helplessly. “I thought that I was protecting you, but I realized that I - I only know how to protect myself. I thought you were so much stronger than me, that you could handle it, and I’d get my shit together without ever having to tell anyone about it and I’d be fine. We’d be fine. That’s what I’d thought.”

It doesn’t fall as smoothly as the rest of her confessions. Yang pauses before responding, eyes darting down and to the left and back, actively working through the statement. “You thought you were protecting me?” she repeats slowly, picking up on the missing pieces.

Blake hesitates, and oh, here’s the bottom line, the turning point, the center of everything: “When I left him,” she says, and the words in her mouth burrow like poison, “he said...he said he’d make it his mission to destroy everything I loved. And he’d start with the next person I loved.” She meets Yang’s gaze openly, nothing left to hide. Yang brushes her thumbs underneath her eyes, wiping away tear tracks. “And I know - I know it’s not possible, not true, but you...you were that person. It’s you.”

“Oh,” Yang breathes out, and finally, finally it all makes sense. “Oh.

“That’s what I’ve been afraid of,” Blake says, her voice breaking. “It sounds stupid. But you’d say love and all I’d do for the next week is look over my shoulder, terrified.”

“It’s not stupid,” Yang says. “It’s not - it’s not anything remotely close.”

“I should’ve told you,” Blake says. “I should’ve let you in.”

“I could’ve kept you safe,” Yang says, and her hands fall to her jaw, gently trailing over the scar beneath her chin. “I can keep you safe now.

Blake confesses, “I love you,” in a way so plain and honest that it claws around whatever remains of Yang’s heart. “I’m sorry it took me so long to catch up. But you’re…” she gestures helplessly. “You’re for me. You’re for me.”

Maybe that shouldn’t be all it takes after two months of hurt, but it is: Yang captures her lips and she’s so unbearably soft, like she’s unlearning all the rules they used to abide by and changing them into fine print, delicate, deep, steady. Yang kisses her again and again and again, and Blake’s arms slip around her waist, holding her close. She’s not better, and maybe she never will be, but she’s a little less afraid.

And Adam - wherever he is - is only just a memory.

“Why do you have,” Yang laughs through the tears in her eyes, “the worst possible timing? I mean, honestly? Move-out day?”

Blake giggles a little too, sniffling. “I’m sorry,” she says, hands falling to Yang’s jaw, neck. “I know. But I - I want to be with you. Even if I have to wait another two months. I’ll wait.”

“Okay,” Yang says, overjoyed and breathless, and kisses her again. “Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Okay,” Yang says again, stumbling over her smile. “Yeah. I - I want to be with you, too. Maybe I - maybe we can see each other over the summer?”

“Definitely,” Blake says, reluctant to stop kissing her long enough to talk. “We’ll - we’ll figure something out.”

The breeze flutters through the trees, the clouds on a slow crawl; the sun is brighter than it’s been. Other students walk lazily across the street, packing up their cars, tossing out unwanted belongings. Spring, Yang thinks, is coming to an end.

Maybe that isn’t such a bad thing, after all.

--

(Pyrrha whoops loudly from down the pathway, Weiss yelling after her, Ruby grinning in the background. They’re walking up with their boxes, cheering and hollering. You dumb fucking idiots, Weiss screams, but she’s laughing.

Finally. The most satisfying word in the English language. Finally.)

--

It ends, as most things in college do, at a party on a Friday night.

They’re having the first party of the semester, and as seniors, they have even more free reign than they had before; they’re in the same dorms, though their living arrangements differ slightly. Nora and Pyrrha finally sucked it up and roomed with Jaune and Ren - boys, Nora had said, wrinkling her nose disgustedly - leaving Weiss and Yang not-quite scrambling for replacements, already having a few in mind. Blake, finally allowed to move out of the transfer dorms, and Ruby, whose old roommates had opted for a double.

They devise a new schedule for hosting, and fortunately, Weiss says, they won’t have any unreliable households any longer; Nora and Pyrrha can manage it fine, even if Jaune accidentally buys three kegs of the wrong beer like he did in a famous mishap last year. But - she eyes him heavily - we’ll host first, just to be safe.

None of them argue; few things give Weiss the amount of joy that organization and planning do.

Sun gets the invite on Facebook, which they really only use for event invitations at this point, and RSVP’s immediately for himself and Neptune, logging into his account to do it for him. He hates Facebook - it’s so uncool, he says - but Sun thinks it’s polite. Nothing more annoying than crashers when you’re trying to provide the alcohol.

They arrive half an hour after it starts - early, by their standards - and Sun spots her at the punch bowl, dressed in a red skirt and a white crop-top, covered by a light denim shirt; her brown boots give her the usual few inches, keeping her at the height he’s accustomed to seeing her at. She’s spiking her solo cup with more whisky, and he grins, approaching from behind.

“Well, hello, beautiful,” he says, and she starts a little before recognizing his voice. “How ‘bout a dance?”

She sets the bottle down and turns to him with a wide grin, a spark in her eye. “Sadly, I’m taken,” she says, letting him down easy. “My girlfriend probably wouldn’t like it if she found you hitting on me, either.”

“I knew I recognized that shirt as Yang’s,” he says, and lowers his voice like he’s about to tell her something confidential. “But it’s cool. My boyfriend probably also wouldn’t be a big fan.”

They stare at each other for a minute, smiles only getting wider, before he finally breaks and pulls her in for a hug, careful not to knock her drink. She laughs, pats him on the back nicely. “Sun,” she says into his ear. “It’s good to see you. I missed you.”

“Same with you,” he says genuinely. “You look good, Blake.”

You look good, he says, but they both know what he means; you look like you again, like the person you were pretending to be when you weren’t, like you know exactly where you stand. You look good, he says; you look better than I’ve ever seen you.

“Thanks,” she says, her smile growing softer. “You’re looking pretty good yourself.”

“I am,” he says, his sincerity overpowering. “It was a good summer.”

“It was,” Blake agrees, and thinks of Yang on the beach in a white bikini, the sun sinking into her bones; thinks of her in a field of fireflies, hands outstretched; thinks of her in Blake’s bed with her hair spread out across the pillow, laughing into her sheets; thinks of the way her dad had murmured You know, I really like her. “Where is Neptune, anyway?”

“Talking to Sage, I think,” he says, craning his neck and looking around the room. “And where’s your girl?”

Blake blushes slightly at the possessive; it’s still novel, exciting. She almost likes hearing it more than she likes saying it. “Oh, she’s where she always is,” Blake says mildly. “The center of attention.”

“Well, go on,” Sun says, grinning. “I know it’s not me you want to be taking up your time.”

She rolls her eyes, but she won’t argue the transparency. He isn’t wrong.

--

She finds Yang on the balcony, having separated herself from the crowd for a moment. It’s a new year in a new apartment with a new dynamic, but some things don’t change. She’s talking to Weiss casually, the two of them passing a joint between them; Ruby’s looking on with a smile, leaning close to Weiss on the railing. They all turn when Blake steps out, pulling her shirt tighter around herself despite the warm night air, still carrying signs of summer.

Yang smiles, extending an arm automatically. “Thin blood,” she teases, and Blake sighs. “C’mere.”

She doesn’t fight it at all, doesn’t want to; she allows Yang to wrap her up in her arms, resting back against her. Yang presses a kiss to her cheek, hands her the joint. Weiss only looks on fondly, high enough for sentimentality, and says, “So, whose room will you be living in this year?”

“Oh, we’re all about equality,” Blake says breezily, Yang’s snicker a rumble in her chest. She inhales deeply, exhales smoke, weightless. “I didn’t buy a new comforter for nothing.”

“We’ll switch off,” Yang promises. “It’s only a few steps to your room. I think we can make it work.”

“You think?” Blake says sarcastically.

“Yeah.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“That’s enough,” Weiss interrupts, not high enough to listen to them stand there incessantly agreeing with each other. “We get it.”

“Get what?” Yang asks, putting the stub out on the railing with one hand, her other still curled around Blake’s waist.

Weiss gestures vaguely at them. “You know,” she says airily, “that you’re in love or whatever. It’s very sweet, and not at all nauseating, so please shut up.”

“Aw,” Ruby chimes in, nudging Weiss’s shoulder. “They’re allowed to be happy.”

Weiss takes one look at her and changes her position immediately. “Yes, alright,” she says with only the slightest hint of exasperation. “Carry on, then. Be in love. You’ve earned it.”

Yang shoots her a suspicious glance but finds her gaze trained solely on Ruby, and, well, that’s something to unpack on a different day. Ruby mentions something about a drink, and Weiss jumps at the chance to escort her, wrapped around her arm.

“Oh, boy,” Yang says under her breath as Weiss and Ruby disappear inside. “I think I’ve had enough relationship drama to last a lifetime, thanks. What are we going to do about them?

Blake hums, intertwining their fingers lazily. “Ignore them?”

“I can’t,” Yang says. “She’s my little sister. I have to be involved.”

“We lock them in a room together until they talk,” Blake offers instead.

“Someone should’ve done that for us.

“Please,” Blake scoffs. “I know exactly what the two of us would’ve done locked alone in a room.”

Yang laughs delightedly. “Good point,” she says, but softens noticeably, regarding Blake with a love that only six months ago would’ve sent her running. “I’m glad we’re not the people we used to be, even though it was painful.”

“Life is complicated,” Blake says lightly, “but at least you’re here.”

“At least you’re here,” Yang echoes, smiling, and Blake draws her in for a kiss, fingers intertwining around the back of her neck. The party dulls to a hum behind them, no grasping ghosts, no shadowed rooms, no fragmented moon. The night is calm and full; the porch light spills over them, illuminating. They’re in plain view of everyone inside and below, but it doesn’t matter anymore.

Maybe it’s not so complicated, after all.