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"Hey,” Yang says breathlessly upon Blake opening their door, stomping the snow off her boots; the flurry falls thick out the hallway window behind her, ice crystals still clinging to her hair. “Wanna help me piss off Raven during winter break? Thanks, by the way; I forgot my keys.”

“Yes,” Blake answers immediately despite the lack of context, allowing Yang to slip into the apartment. “And I know. They’re sitting on the coffee table.”

“Oh, thanks.”

“So?” Blake says, the door shutting fluidly behind them; Yang’s working her boots off, drops them one at a time in their entryway nook with the rest of their shoes.

“So I talked to Tai,” she starts, fingers moving to her scarf and unraveling it, but her eyes drop to Blake’s silk robe. “You look hot in that, by the way.”

“Focus.”

“Right,” she says, tosses the scarf and her coat over the back of their sofa, proceeds to move into the kitchen with her attention clearly divided and distracted. “Raven’s staying with us for the month - on business is the official excuse, but I got the sense that she and my dad are kind of like, in the middle of reconciling or something,” she says, popping open the fridge and rummaging around for a beer, “which is just fucking disgusting, but I’m an adult. I’ve chosen benevolence. I’ll let it go, as long as I get to annoy the shit out of her in the process.”

“Benevolence indeed,” Blake says dryly, biting back a laugh as she leans on the kitchen counter. Their heat kicks on in the background, warm air pulsing through the vents; one of her ears twitches against the rush.

“Yeah.” Yang straightens up with two Shock Tops they normally keep for Weiss, but she’s already gone to Argus for the holidays. “He sounded...giddy. It was gross.”

“So what’s my place in this plan of yours?”

She twists the caps off, passes one to Blake. “Date me,” she says mischievously, clinking their bottles together.

There’s a long moment of pause while Blake processes the proposition; she’s not dissecting the sincerity, only the angle. “What?”

“From the end of December to the end of January, at least,” Yang continues with a flourish, taking a long sip and sighing after. “You know how much Raven hates you. Ever since you chewed her out that one time for like, abandoning me--”

“I remember.”

“--Yeah, so, you can imagine how much she’ll hate having to support her daughter’s new, budding romance in front of Tai. She’ll have a coronary.”

Blake’s lips quirk up at the vision, amused; she can’t deny the hilarity of it. Raven’s a woman hard to catch off-balance, prideful and arrogant and entirely unwilling to accept criticism; Blake had met her multiple times over the years, listened to her subtly point out Yang’s failures - which were objectively few and far between - without bothering to take a microscope to her own. The two of them in a relationship would absolutely drive her up the wall, over the edge, hammer every nail in the coffin from the fall.

“That’s true,” she muses, takes a drink of her beer; the slight citrus flavor at least makes it tolerable, though she’ll never understand Weiss’s preference. “It definitely wouldn’t be a waste of my time.”

“Plus, come on,” Yang says airily. “I’m hot. You’re hot. Our sexual tension is already through the roof. Nobody would suspect a thing.”

Blake laughs, somehow unexpecting of the remark despite the fact that Yang makes them all the time. “Well, when you put it like that,” she says, “why are we even pretending?”

“You got me there, baby,” Yang says, winking. “I’ve been chasing you for years.”

“Maybe it’s your time, Xiao Long,” Blake teases. “You’ve finally worn me down.”

“So you’ll do it?”

“Why not?” she says rhetorically, now fully warmed to the concept. “It’s a win-win. I spend my break with you instead of on whatever fucking cruise my parents want to go on, and we drive your mom crazy in the process.”

Yang holds out the head of her bottle. “Cheers,” she says delightedly. “I can always count on you to support my bad ideas, Belladonna.”

Someone has to.”

The snow whistles on outside, but Blake swears Yang’s answering smile could burn through a blizzard. There are no bad ideas and nothing hurts, not anymore.

That’s what she thinks, anyway.

--

(Oh, they tried it, once. One of them was young and reckless; the other was young and tortured. It’s the young part that matters.

They had a thing, for lack of a better term, the way kids in college do. They’d go to parties and get drunk and make out. None of it was serious, or even exclusive. Yang thought Blake was mysterious and witty and beautiful and interesting, which was a quality not many other people had; Blake thought Yang looked something like the Big Bang, the explosion that scattered the stars into space. There’d been no escape from that kind of allure on either end.

None of it was serious. They didn’t let it get that far.

A month in, Blake had shown up to a party with a boy named Sun; she’d locked eyes with Yang across the room and grinned, shaking him off her arm and walking towards her.

“Well,” she’d said, “our bad habits had to end sometime.”

Yang had smiled back. “That’s okay,” she’d replied. “I’m pretty popular. I know how to have friends.”

“Friends,” Blake had repeated lightly. “Works for me.”)

--

A week later and Blake’s bedroom looks as if her closet itself developed sentience and started migrating.

“Hi, Kali,” Yang says, pressing the scroll between her ear and her shoulder as she packs half of Blake’s suitcase for her. “I’m kidnapping your daughter for the holidays. I hope that’s okay.”

Kali laughs on the other end; Blake tosses Yang a fond glance. She’d already texted her mother her change of plans, but the two of them notoriously take any excuse available to talk to each other. “Implying it’s against her will? Ghira and I know better,” Kali says teasingly. “Don’t worry; our feelings aren’t hurt. We know she’d pick you over a cruise with her parents any day.

“Well, both of mine will be there this year,” Yang drawls with intent, folding a deep purple maxi dress of Blake’s that’s almost too scandalous to wear to a family dinner, “so I needed the backup.”

Both?” Kali repeats. “Oh, dear.”

“I know.”

Sounds like we should’ve invited you to join us instead.”

Yang grins, shifting to hold the scroll in her hand. “It’s okay,” she says. “I can handle Raven for a month.”

With backup,” Kali provides helpfully.

“With backup,” Yang agrees, and meets Blake’s eyes, quirking her smile. “Speaking of, maybe the backup can grab her white heels from the closet.”

Kali laughs again. Blake obediently slips away from her dresser and into the closet, reaches for the aforementioned heels, knocking a different pair to the floor in the process. Yang’s always delighted in picking out her outfits, not that Blake minds; her sense of style is impeccable, and she always seems to know exactly what Blake looks best in. Probably because she spends so much time staring at her. “Well, you girls have a lovely time. We’ll probably be in Vale in the spring, so we’ll see you then.

“Looking forward to it,” she hears Yang reply. “Love you. Ghira too.”

Love you both,” Kali echoes warmly, and Yang hangs up her scroll; by the time Blake traipses back out of her closet, Yang’s sorting through her underwear drawer. It probably should be weird, invasive, but Blake’s pretty sure Yang’s more familiar with the entirety of her wardrobe than she is herself.

“Lingerie?” she says mildly. “Really?

“Trust me,” Yang says. “With some of the dresses I have in here, you’re gonna need it.”

“I didn’t realize Christmas at the Xiao Long-Rose-Branwen household was such a classy affair.” Blake pauses, pokes her tongue against the inside of her cheek. “Or slutty, depending on what exactly you’re envisioning me wearing.”

Yang grins widely, pulling out sheer, golden-colored set. “Oh, this is a definite yes,” she says, glancing between the underwear and Blake, who merely rolls her eyes. “And it usually isn’t. But the new branch of Raven’s company is throwing a holiday party that we’ve been invited to, and I know it’s gonna be like, a whole affair. Plus, you know she’s gonna insist on only the nicest restaurants.”

“Fair enough,” Blake says, and returns to her dresser, digging around for pajamas; Yang’s already thrown half her nightgowns in a second suitcase, but she’s also in the habit of stealing Yang’s oversized shirts as a replacement for them. They’re comfortably worn by this point, soft and loose. “So, slutty.”

Yang’s laugh rings out appreciatively. “Baby,” she says, “you know me well.”

--

(Friends. Friends never works for anyone, and it doesn’t start now.

Only because Yang isn’t sure that’s the right word for them, if the right word even exists to begin with.

After the first text - a simple hey from Yang - it’s like they never stop talking. Blake’s the kind of person Yang finds easy to lose time in, content to tell her every thought she’s ever had, bouncing between things like their favorite ice-cream flavors, Half-Baked and Phish Food, and their relationships with their parents, my mom abandoned me and they didn’t approve of a boy I was dating, and they were right not to. She starts calling Blake on her scroll between classes, and only then do they realize their schedules somewhat overlap; for the first time since the semester started, Yang’s thankful for the liberal arts and its core curriculum they’re forced into taking.

They meet in the dining hall on Mondays for breakfast, Tuesdays and Thursdays for lunch; Sun joins them once when his class gets cancelled, and there’s no threat, no uncomfortable dynamic. He’s funny, carefree, but Blake doesn’t smile at him the way she smiles at Yang. It’s just the state of affairs.

They’re taking some of the same classes, but not at the same times; fortunately their syllabi line up enough that they’re able to study together, and spend more than a few nights spread out across Yang’s bed with their textbooks open and forgotten, watching horror movies and true-crime documentaries on Netflix. Blake wants to get into social work, so psychological horror is something that fascinates her on principal; Yang’s in engineering, but just loves a good scare. Blake hides her eyes behind her fingers and curls against Yang’s shoulder. Yang pulls her close and hopes she feels safe.)

--

The airship ride to Patch isn’t long and nothing’s ever boring when they’re together, anyway; they’ve been thriving solely off of each other’s attention for years now. The rest of the population may as well not even exist: the airport’s empty, all the ships are passengerless; it’s just the two of them soaking in their own idle conversation.

Tai picks them up. They find him waiting with his car at the curb, other travelers passing him by further down line, grumbling about their rides. He immediately wraps Blake in a hug that nearly lifts her off her feet, squeezing her half to death. One of her suitcases clatters against the ground but fortunately doesn’t spring open. Yang hovers uncertainly; the curb’s pretty icy, the snow billowing, and the chain of events which could lead to Blake sprawled across the freezing pavement are more likely than her dad thinks.

“Blake!” he says, finally lowering her without letting her go. “It’s great to see you! I’m so happy to have you joining us this year!”

She pats him on the back. “Thanks for having me, Tai,” she greets warmly, meeting Yang’s eyes over his shoulder. “It’s great to see you, too.” She gives Yang a very deliberate get-to-it look, one eyebrow quirking.

Yang picks up on it with a slight incline of her head. They’ve mastered the art of facial shorthand. “Dad,” she starts as he releases Blake, aiming for sheepishness, “there’s actually something we need to tell you.”

He pulls her in for a hug next, though it’s more grounded than Blake’s. Yeah, there’s a clear favorite. Whatever. “What, you pregnant?”

Ha-ha.

He winks as he pulls away. “Couldn’t resist.”

“We’re dating,” Yang says, states it like she’s had the right to all along and never utilized it, prideful tone lining the in-betweens; Blake’s ears flick underneath her beanie. He blinks once, humor dying on her mouth, stare falling blank.

The silence that follows is nearly uncomfortable, populated by the groaning of the crowds around them, dragging their bags through the snow managing to stick despite the salt. Someone’s shoveling it behind them, grunting to themselves. Tai’s gaze turns to astonishment, mouth opening in the world’s slowest formation of words.

No,” he gasps.

“Yes,” Blake confirms, holding back a laugh.

A daze overtakes him similar to a chill from the weather, waiting for one of them to crack and says just kidding!, pull the rug out, split the earth. Yang counts in her head, gets to six before he breaks into a wide grin, apparently accepting it as truth.

“Finally!” he exclaims, raising a hand to ruffle through Yang’s hair; she smacks his arm away, smile quickly turning into a grimace. “Oh, this is fantastic!”

Someone honks behind them, and only then do they realize they’re technically parked illegally; he hurriedly rushes to the driver’s side as Yang piles their bags into the trunk. Once he’s behind the wheel, pulling away to the road, he continues, “I was starting to get kinda worried, you know. I thought you’d never figure it out!”

“Figure what out?” Yang asks, distracted by the snow-coated coastline; she forgets how beautiful blizzards over the ocean are until she’s home, experiencing it herself.

“That you were in love with each other, obviously!” he half-laughs, tossing her an amused glance as he flicks his left-turn signal. “It’s been forever.

“Oh, right,” Yang says convincingly, gazing out the window and finding her reflection, grounded and content. The sea plays as a backdrop, leaves her only with mirrors. “I always knew. It was just never the right time.”

“Until now,” he finishes for her.

She pauses strangely, taking in her own expression; the problem with mirrors is that there are no ways to hide from them, showing her only what’s already there, visible and present. She focuses on Blake sitting in the backseat, serenely watching the scenery pass by, and her heart may as well be beating outside of her chest, her hands empty and pointless.

Blizzards over the ocean are rare and fleeting, and yet, and yet. “Yeah,” she says, though the confirmation sticks to her throat, syrupy and thick. Blake smiles without knowing Yang can see her; there’s something else worth looking at. “Until now.”

--

(Sun never really gets their relationship.

“It’s just, like, kind of weird,” he says for the thousandth time after he catches her texting Yang incessantly throughout their comm lecture. “I mean, sometimes I feel like you’ll die if you don’t talk to her.”

Sometimes I feel like I will, is the instinct she bites her tongue against, opting to think over her response a little more carefully. She pockets her scroll, not wanting to prove his point any further. “We just tend to have like, long conversations, I guess,” she says instead, and it’s not quite the truth but it’s not quite a lie, either. “I feel like if I leave in the middle of it, it’s harder to pick back up later.”

He hums thoughtfully, his hands interlaced behind his head as they walk. “I dunno,” he says. “I just feel like you drop whatever you’re doing to answer her. Even if what you’re doing is really important.”

She’s hit with a twinge of irritation at the observation, mostly because the second he says it she realizes it to be true; her scroll vibrates in her back pocket and she purposely waits to pull it out, wary of ammunition, but her heart beats uncomfortably at the delay. “What does it matter?” she asks rhetorically. “She’s my best friend.”

“Your best friend you used to make out with,” Sun says under his breath.

Blake looks at him sharply. “What, is that it? You’re jealous or something?”

He drops his hands, holding them in front of his body with his fingers spread in a clear woah there sign. “No!” he denies. “It’s not that. It’s just, like…” he trails off, and she can actually see the moment he makes the decision not to tell her what he’s thinking. “Nevermind.”

She doesn’t push it, and defiantly reaches for her scroll, texting Yang back. She isn’t even sure she wants to know.)

--

Ruby, bless her soul, hangs mistletoe.

“We’re home,” Yang calls upon entering the house, lugging her suitcase through the door under glittering icicle lights; she’s assaulted by the sight and smell of Christmas, by the tree in the living room to the left drenched in lights and reflective ornaments, the garland wrapping up the banister of the stairs down the hall, the overwhelming scent of pine; Blake nudges her arm, points up. Yang follows her finger, eyes rolling in a cover of exasperation. “Oh, of course.”

“Where’s your holiday spirit?” Blake asks with an air of theatrics. “It’s tradition, darling.”

Yang laughs under her breath, slips an arm around Blake’s waist anyway, leaves their suitcases to the floor. Blake’s more important, but then, she always is. “Tradition, huh?” she says, coy despite transparency; somewhere in the house, Deck the Halls rings out merrily. Blake’s weight settles expectantly against her side, palm flat against her collarbone.

Their lips meet naturally as if something they could do blindfolded, hands tied behind their backs; it’s too familiar and practiced, no trace of hesitancy, nothing amateurish. Yang’s mouth is warmer than the rest of her, still fresh from the snow. There’s a memory here - it’s December and she lingers - is a kiss ever just a kiss; she’s waiting for one more second to pass, she’s waiting for a sign as a stoppage point, she’s waiting, waiting--

“Yang!” Ruby’s voice calls and halts, stuttering; this is the form it takes. Their kiss breaks; they’re able to meet each other’s eyes. “Ugh, gross - can you two knock it off?”

“You hung the mistletoe,” Yang points out, one of Blake’s arms still around her neck. “What’d you expect?”

“Besides,” Blake adds, making no motion to untangle herself, “we’re, like, dating now.”

Ruby stares, stares, stares; one eyebrow lowers carefully, the other rising in tune. Her expression reads like a wave, fluid and deconstructed; it happened one night, Yang thinks of saying, fueling rumors. It’d easily be enough for anyone.

But Ruby lets out a sigh and says, “What is this, like - some ploy to piss off Raven?”

Yang’s jaw drops. “How’d you know?” she asks, disappointed. “What, are we not convincing enough or something?”

“Should we have made out longer?” Blake tacks on earnestly, still amused by the entire situation.

“No,” Ruby says vehemently, nauseated. “Please keep your tongues in your mouths. No, I knew because if the two of you ever figured out you were in love, there’d be way more panicking.”

Yang rolls her eyes, tutting. “We’re totally in love,” she says. “Now come hug your sister and your sister-in-law.”

Ruby cracks into a grin at that, unable to maintain stoicity for long; she wraps her arms around them both, Blake laughing into her shoulder. “I didn’t realize we’d gotten married,” she says.

“It’s been like, what, six years?” Yang says. “We’re on our way to common-law.”

“I’ll be sure to file the motion once we hit ten.”

Ruby pulls back, looks between them dubiously. “Okay, but for real,” she says, and she’s expecting an answer this time. “You’re really gonna fake-date just to get back at your mom?”

“Absolutely,” Yang says cheerfully, bending down to pick their suitcases back up; Tai chooses that moment to come in from the garage, clamoring through the kitchen. “Where is dear old mom, anyway?”

“Upstairs,” Ruby says. “Our heater’s been fucking up recently - she went to get a sweater.”

“A sweater,” Blake repeats, knowing the woman only dresses in high fashion, chic and sleek; Raven’s all about good impressions. Having a daughter at twenty-one hadn’t really lined up with that.

Ruby shrugs. “Honestly?” she divulges, stepping closer and lowering her voice. “She’s been...really nice. Like, to me.”

Blake and Yang both quirk a single eyebrow, their faces settling into eerily similar expressions of skepticism; as predictable as it is, the unconscious mirroring still freaks Ruby out. Yang says, “Nice?”

“Yeah,” Ruby says, attempting to ignore it. “She’s like, turning over a new leaf or something.”

“We’ll see about that,” Blake says in lieu of an answer from Yang, who doesn’t even blink at the response, like their brains are physically wired together. Ruby fights the urge to shiver. They’re a little too in-tune for simplicity, full of history to be unearthed. No matter how much time Ruby spends around them, it's impossible to get used to.

Tai comes around the corner, glances at them under the mistletoe and smiles widely again, leans a hand on the banister of the stairs. "Raven?" he calls. "Yang's home, and she has a surprise for us." There's no response, but he doesn't seem concerned; he gestures them further into the house. "Girls, please, take your coats off, get comfortable! Sorry about the heat - it's working at the moment, but we have plenty of blankets in case, and I can get the fire going before dinner."

"Thanks, Tai," Blake says graciously. "Do you mind if we put our stuff upstairs?"

"Oh, not at all!" he exclaims, and his mood only seems to increase every sentence he speaks to the two of them, like he can't actually believe they're together at last. "Go ahead.”

"Thanks, dad," Yang says, kicking off her boots by the coat rack in the living room; Blake follows suit, pushing them neatly against the wall. Yang passes her one of her suitcases, takes the bigger one for her with a grin. "I've got it, babe."

"How chivalrous," Blake says, only a hint of sarcasm, and Yang's mouth takes on mirth. Ruby only tuts under her breath, turning away.

They head up the stairs, down the hallway; Tai's door is closed, and Yang throws it a dirty look as she walks by, equal parts scandalized and disgusted. Raven in his room. It's enough to kill any mood.

She pushes open her door and her room looks similar to how she left it, the decoration only mildly shifted from teenage to tasteful; the colors are more neutral to suit a guest room, and most of her old clutter has been removed and boxed. A few things from her past remain - her mirror is still decorated with pictures of her and her family, her and Blake, their friends from school, random quotes she'd loved tucked in between on scraps of paper; her string lights still weave in and out of the iron-vined headboard, though she imagines they rarely see use. The only person who likely uses the room when she's away is Qrow, and she knows he isn't one to make a fuss of decor as long as there's a bed.

Which there is. A bed.

"Aw," Blake teases her, setting her suitcase on the floor; Yang dumps her own bags at the foot of the bed, but gently lowers Blake's belongings. "It's just like college."

Yang laughs, throws her an adoring look before unzipping one of her duffles. "What, us sharing a bed?"

"I think I spent, like, the entirety of sophomore year in your bed."

"Sophomore year?" Yang repeats, twinkling; there's an attack coming that Blake can't find it in herself to defend against. "Try every semester beyond the first of freshman year."

“Whatever.” Blake collapses against the pillows, smirking. “You had a foam mattress topper back then. It was comfortable."

"Oh, so you were using me all that time."

"Well, what else are you good for?"

"You wound me, Belladonna," Yang says as she further unravels her layers, and though the words are dramatic, her tone rolls in amusement. "I thought we had something special."

Blake sits up slightly, slips her own scarf off from around her neck and tosses it at Yang, whose reflexes are quick enough to catch it. She glances over shoulder, lips set playfully, her stare soft the way it always seems to be when she looks at Blake. Blake crooks a finger, gestures her over.

Yang obeys, folding Blake's scarf and resting it on the desk before stepping into her outstretched arms. She's so tall - sometimes Blake forgets, too used to the height of her own boots - and towers above her, gazing down with a smile. Blake says, "I'll give you one more."

"Mhm?"

"You're abnormally warm," Blake says. "I also used you for your body heat."

Yang tosses her head back lightly on instinct and laughs, drops her own hands to cup Blake's cheeks. "'Used,'" she quips. "Like you don't still use me for those things. You were in my bed last night, complaining that your toes were gonna fall off."

"It's winter."

"Oh, please," Yang says mildly, humor still running undercurrent like a river. Her fingers trail up to Blake's bangs, push them gently away from her forehead, nails scratching against her scalp. "You don't fool me." She utters the words more tenderly than she intends to, but the tone is spoken so often it's impossible to distinguish. It means nothing, it means everything. Pick a day.

Blake automatically tugs her bottom lip under her teeth and releases, presses her cheek further into Yang's palm; it's a gesture Yang recognizes the meaning of without actively having cataloged it. There are things they've learned, signs and slip-ups. Her roaming hand finds its way back to Blake's jaw and she bends down, allowing a moment for breath, for the clarification of what’s to come; there’s no concept of rejection. They’re always meeting in the middle.

Blake doesn't move at all; her eyelashes flutter, eyes flicking quickly between Yang's mouth and her pupils, expanding, and that's enough: Yang closes the gap between them, kisses her so softly it's the same as that silent snowfall, drifting through the windless day. Blake mimics her, keeps the emotion tucked away where it always is, focuses on the tactile: Yang's the only person who's ever touched her with this much precision - the tips of her fingers ghost against Blake’s skin before becoming pressure, gives her room to run rather than commitment - and only after she feels something steady between them does she acquiesce entirely, lets her lips part, lets their tongues brush, lets them be what they are when nobody else is looking.

Yang ends it, doesn't pull fully away, just hovers above her mouth, smile growing again. Blake's briefly struck by the beauty of it; sometimes she forgets until Yang takes an angle, laughs at a joke, blows her a kiss. Sometimes the sun hits her just right; sometimes it's the quiet that highlights her instead, draws Blake's eyes to places she doesn't normally trace, her jawline, her knuckles, the curve of her shoulders.

"Admit it," Blake says, her lips curling. Her stare's doing that same dance; the lilac ring of her irises, the pink of her mouth. "You only came up with this plan so you could kiss me whenever you wanted to."

Yang's smile reveals her teeth, but there's no shame, no embarrassment; she's been caught and she's delighted by it. "Admit it," she says in response. "You only accepted so you could kiss me whenever you wanted to."

"I do that anyway," Blake says, her own fingers spreading against Yang's waist, the wool of her sweater. It's hard to fake anything against that smile, but she can't let her escape consequences.

"Well," Yang says, and kisses her again like both the punctuation and the point to her sentence, "so do I."

--

(Their first kiss after their fling is an impulse, an accident. Sun breaks up with her - or maybe she breaks up with Sun; it’s kind of complicated, maybe it’s mutual, whatever - and she finds herself knocking on Yang’s dorm room afterwards, lost, angry, upset.

Relieved. That’s the main one she can’t face, and it’s fueling everything else.

Yang opens it after a minute, smile instantly alight. “Blake!” she says, falters, pauses; her eyes drop to Blake’s tight black jeans, her grey band t-shirt tucked in, her high boots, her make-up. Yang isn’t stupid; she’s obviously been on a date. “Oh, no. What happened?”

She steps back to allow Blake inside, shutting the door behind her; Yang’s roommate isn’t home, though she never is, opting to stay at her boyfriend’s more often than not. Blake half-collapses on the bed, legs hanging over the edge, and presses her hands against her eyes.

“Sun and I broke up,” she says. “I don’t even know why.”

Yang’s hands settle on her knees. “Oh, baby,” she sighs; Blake swallows. “You - did you have a fight, or something?"

"No," Blake says, doesn't tell her about the way Sun had said I don't think this is gonna work out, and you don't, either. "Yes. I don't know. It just - it just happened."

What are you talking about? Blake had said, desperately trying to think about the boy in front of her and not the girl she knew she was about to run to.

She can feel the way Yang adjusts her weight, moves delicately closer. "Sometimes things just...aren’t meant to be, I guess," she says. "I mean, we’re only eighteen, and you’d only been together for like, three months.”

Blake, he'd said kindly, come on. You know. You know exactly what I'm talking about.

“I know,” Blake says, drops her arms, stares up at the ceiling. She's not quite sure which one of them she's answering. “I know. I knew we weren’t right. Like, I wasn’t expecting marriage or something, but it still…”

“Hurts?” Yang offers quietly after a pause.

Blake sits up and Yang’s palms slip further up her thighs, just out of comfort. There’s nothing sexual about it; she’s a tactile person, like it’s how she communicates when her words can’t do her justice.

“I’m frustrated,” Blake says instead, shoulders slouching, her hands linked loosely in her lap. “I knew this was going to happen, you know? And I just - let it.” She breathes in unsteadily, trying to shove away the tears. “Sometimes I’m so...tired of myself.”

Yang runs her thumbs lightly back and forth, sympathetic. “You wanted it to work out,” she says. “Even if - if you did know, you’re still allowed to hope. I get why that’s frustrating, but it’s still...like, I understand it.”

“Yeah,” Blake whispers miserably, and the tears start to form anyway; Yang makes a noise of protest, lifting her hands to Blake’s face. They’re so intertwined, even only four months in; Yang can’t let her cry without the ache sitting in her own chest.

“Oh, Blake, no,” she murmurs, wiping away a tear under Blake’s right eye, and without thought, without warning, leans in and kisses her.

It doesn’t catch Blake off-guard, even though it probably should: Yang’s lips are softer than her hands, and Blake yields to her entirely, lets Yang kiss her so gently it’s impossible to place a connotation to - it isn’t romantic, but it isn’t platonic, either. It’s just exactly what she needs, and exactly the kind of thing Yang defaults to giving her. Yang kisses her once, twice, lingering warm against her mouth.

Yang pulls away, brushes her hair from her cheek, and wraps her arms around her in a hug instead. “Sorry,” she breathes out against Blake’s ear. “I just - I hate seeing you so upset. You don’t deserve it, regardless of what you think about yourself. And - I’m here. I’m here for you.”

“Yeah,” Blake says, burying her face in the crook of Yang’s neck. “You’re here.”)

--

By the time they make their way back downstairs, Raven's in the kitchen with Ruby, and to the bewilderment - and slight discomfort - of both Blake and Yang, they seem to be amicably deciding on a cookie recipe.

"Are you gonna think it's childish if I wanna cut them into Christmas shapes?" Ruby asks her seriously. She's not afraid of judgment, but she likes to know where she stands. "We have cookie cutters for the holidays."

Raven actually manages to sound pleasant when responding. "I think that's festive," she says, no bite to her, no dry wit, no sarcasm. "Do you want to make actual gingerbread cookies, or just use the shapes?"

There's a sheepishness. "I'd rather just use the shapes. Like, gingerbread cookies are fine, but I'm not in the mood."

"That's fair."

Blake turns to her with a look of utter astonishment. "Are we in the fucking Twilight Zone?" she whispers, and Yang only shrugs, wildly bemused. Neither of them know what to do with a Raven when she's being nice for seemingly nothing in return.

"It can't last," Yang says under her breath, leaning against her back, angling her chin over Blake's shoulder to hear better. “She can’t keep this up. It’s gotta be an act.”

Heavy footsteps alert them to the fact that they're basically eavesdropping in the hallway and getting caught won't do either of them any favors; Yang straightens up just in time, wraps her arms around Blake's waist, digs in her fingers; it's a gesture that always forces Blake into a giggling fit, ticklish and sensitive. It's cheap camouflage.

"Girls!" Tai says, beaming at them with a joy so pure and sincere that for a split second Yang almost regrets tricking him along with Raven. She hadn't known he'd been this absorbed with her love life. "There you are. All settled in? Room okay? I hope you don't mind the paint job."

"Not at all," Yang says, keeps her hands locked around Blake's body, pulling her back against her chest. They’d been affectionate even before they’d begun ‘dating,’ so she doesn’t start being self-conscious about it now. "It looks nice."

"Great," he says, relieved, and Raven picks that moment to finally make her appearance, dusting her hands off on her apron as she walks around the corner. Her apron. And underneath that, is--

Oh, Ruby hadn't been lying - she is wearing a sweater; it's black and less casual than anything anyone else is wearing, but more casual than anything Yang's ever seen her wear before. She offers both Yang and Blake a smile, hides the tightness well; there's a twinge of triumph in the pit of Yang's stomach at the distaste masked in her eyes. She doesn't seem concerned by their position, doesn't offer them hugs; she steps up to Tai's side and says, "Yang, Blake. It's good to see you."

"Mom," Yang greets in return, voice as sickening as the amount of chocolate chips Ruby's undoubtedly lacing the dough with. "So happy you could join us for the holidays this year."

"I'm thrilled as well," she says, and though she doesn't seem entirely sincere, she doesn't seem regretful, either. Her stare darts to Blake. "Blake. We’re happy to have you, too."

"Well, Christmas is a time for family," Yang says pointedly, unable to stop the bitterness completely. Blake taps Yang's wrist with a single finger, a slight gesture she’d adopted to calm Yang without drawing attention to it.

"It is," Raven agrees without falling for it. "Your sister and I are making cookies, if you'd like to join us--"

"Ahem," Tai interrupts pointedly, and gives them a very obvious nudge with his wide stare alone; right, right. They're big news. "Actually, Blake and Yang have something exciting to share."

Raven raises an eyebrow; she looks unnervingly like Yang when she does so, and Blake finds herself leaning further back against Yang's chest. Raven doesn’t deserve the similarity. "Oh?" she says politely.

Ruby drops something in the kitchen, cursing; none of them even flinch. Yang smiles brilliantly and says, "Blake and I are dating."

She almost wishes she were a photographer just so she'd have had the foresight to capture every single one of the expressions flickering across Raven’s face - there's denial, disbelief, disgust, and something that looks similar to despair. That's the final realization, Yang pinpoints; her smile turns noticeably more strained, like she's frozen it in place for fear of giving herself away. Well, costs and consequences.

“Isn’t that...nice,” Raven says as she works through her words, tone forcibly mild with the slimmest amount of honesty she can manage. “I can’t say I didn’t see this coming.”

Tai nods agreeably beside her. “I’ve been waiting to hear this for nearly six years,” he jokes. “How do you think I feel?”

"It was a shock to me too," Blake says earnestly as Yang rests her chin on Blake's shoulder; she's always had a thing for performance. "She just came home one day and asked if I wanted to go out with her."

"I guess the light finally clicked," Tai says, snickering, and rests a hand on Raven's lower back; Yang nearly vomits on principle. "Clearly she takes after me and not you."

"Clearly," Raven says, allowing it. "You were similarly slow."

Yang's mouth gains a life of its own, pulls her entire face into a grimace. "Please, stop talking," she says, and Blake tilts her head, giggling into her ear.

So, there's a round she doesn't win, but she counts Blake's airy laughter as its own kind of victory.

--

(Blake’s fun, that’s the thing people don’t get about her.

She isn’t moody or antisocial; she’s just somewhat quiet, choosing to speak only when it best benefits the situation, a witty remark thrown in, an insightful comment here and there - unless she’s with Yang, and then the two of them can keep a conversation going for hours, or lapse into a silence so comfortable they might as well be sharing skin.

She likes going out, likes parties, likes the dim atmosphere of bars and the pounding bass and strobe lights of clubs, likes dancing with her hips pressed against Yang’s, likes ending nights with a careless brush of lips. They go to hookah bars on slow weeknights and Blake laughs as she exhales thick smoke that tastes vaguely of peaches, passing Yang the hose without bothering to change the mouthpiece. Yang inhales and her brain feels like a pillow, the world hazy and humming around them. Blake leans against the couch with an elbow resting over the back, one leg crossed over the other, lips curled in a smirk. She’s wearing tight black jeans and heeled ankle boots and a white blouse half-tucked in with the top few buttons left undone.

“God,” Yang says, staring dazedly at her, smoke spilling out of her mouth. “You’re so hot.”

Blake laughs again, light and airy. “Back at you,” she says.

Yang inhales deep into her lungs, her chest full, and leans her head back, exhaling slowly, steadily. She feels Blake’s eyes tracing the line of her throat, her jaw, her lips; there’s a warmth uncurling against her tongue, her fingers itchy and restless. She tilts her head, catches Blake’s gaze with a grin. “I have an idea,” she says.

“Which would be?”

Yang leans in, rests a hand against her thigh, fingers spread. Blake, to her credit, keeps her smile exactly where it’s been, doesn’t move an inch; she doesn’t seem even slightly surprised.

“Oh,” she says, amused. “That is a good idea.”

“I know,” Yang breathes out, leaning in, and finds Blake’s mouth with her own; she kisses her softly, slowly, and when she pulls away it’s only for a moment, a pause for breath, and then she kisses her again, hotter, parting her lips and letting her tongue work where she wants it to.

Maybe her judgment’s slightly impaired from the pseudo-high, but smoking always turns her on a little, and it isn’t like they’ve never kissed; it’s something they now do often, actually, probably more often than most friends do. But Blake’s hers before she’s anyone else’s, and it’s just something that seems to go with the territory; they’re close, they’re so close that it sometimes feels like a crime they can’t inhabit the exact same space, can’t bleed together, can’t become one.

Blake breaks the kiss, her fingers curling around the hose and bringing it to her mouth, still only inches from Yang’s. She breathes in, drops it against the table, and captures Yang’s chin in her hand, catching her lips again and exhaling. That’s how Yang thinks of Blake, anyway. Like oxygen.)

--

They leave the cookies to Ruby; it's a passion point for her, and Blake's never exactly been a baker. They relax in the living room with Tai instead, telling him about the school year, potential job offers, their relationship when asked about it; they're either excellent liars or they just don't know how to lie at all, and Blake's not sure which, not sure she even wants to know. She aims for mindlessness, tells herself to let it be before she digs too deep, unearths everything she thought she'd buried.

She rests with her back against the armrest and her legs thrown over Yang's lap, and Yang's casually telling him about the first time she knew - our second semester, a date in March, she says, we were at a diner and I defended her honor - with a wink and a teasing grin.

"Oh, that's when you knew, huh?" Blake says, finding humor in the anecdote; it'd been so long ago, and out of all the memories she could've picked from, it's one relatively harmless. No warning signs, no car crashes; it's more about the implications.

"Yep," Yang says, her thumb running back and forth across Blake's knee. Tai's watching their exchange with a joy so tangible he could put the entire season to shame. "That was the night I realized I - I never wanted to be away from you. Remember, we were having that whole talk about codependency, and like - I kept thinking about it, and eventually I realized...I didn't need you to survive, but if you were gone, I'd be missing something." She raises her chin slightly, the color of her irises muted, sunset reflecting through a grey sky across a snowbank. Her mouth is quirked at a corner, sincere and reminiscent.

"Missing something?" Blake repeats, her stare too focused on Yang's lips.

"I'd be missing a lot of things," she corrects, voice fluttering, delicate as the glass ornaments hanging precariously on the tree.

She's not lying, Blake comprehends vaguely, as if not entirely present in the moment, as if she's back in that diner and Yang's calling her babe with a playful grin over a milkshake on a Friday night. Yang was so young, is all she thinks, conjuring up the memory; God, they were both so young.

Too much has changed and nothing has. Yang's staring at her with a tenderness that echoes the glow of lights wrapped around the window, the voice crooning through the radio about being home for the holidays, the smell of chocolate and sugar wafting into the room. It's going on six years; that's the real truth. Yang's stared at her with that same tenderness since the moment their eyes first met.

"What about you, Blake?" Tai asks.

"Yeah," Yang tacks on, obviously grateful for the excuse. "What about you, baby?"

They're not really playing that game anymore, but it's the safest option. "Oh," she says, finds herself flushing with the fire, "I don't know."

"You are not getting off that easily," Yang accuses, her hands going threateningly to Blake's sides. "Out with it, Belladonna."

"Don't you dare," Blake warns, flinching, ticklish in advance - Yang wiggles her fingers, raising her eyebrows - and Blake squirms away without having anywhere to go, slapping at her. "Yang, don't - it's just, like, embarrassing."

"Oh, whatever. Everything you do is embarrassing."

Blake backhands her arm, but the laughter's clear; Tai doesn’t even bother scolding her, far too used to the back-and-forth of their dynamic. "You're such an asshole."

"Focus," Yang says, grinning, and leans further over, resting her elbow on the armrest beside Blake's head, her cheek in her hand. Her weight settles comfortably between Blake's side and the cushions, and the world zeroes in.

"Okay," Blake responds, finding it hard to do so with Yang's mouth so close. She reaches in, pulls out what immediately comes to mind. "Our first semester of sophomore year. It was December, and there was a blizzard..."

She doesn't intend to trail off, but it occurs to her that most of the story can’t be told; it isn’t that it’s inappropriate, or humiliating, or intimate - it’s that she doesn’t have the language to describe what happened to her that night, what happened to both of them, how it stayed, how it stuck. Yang’s expression knits together, a brief period of opening. The shift that occurs is molecular; Yang stumbles over the smallest breath, and Blake never finds the words.

“It’s too embarrassing,” she says again, her heart rattling as if in chains. “I’ll tell you later.”

“Tai?” Raven’s voice thankfully interrupts, and he shoots to his feet without question; no point feigning casualness.

“Yes?” he calls, already halfway out of the room. It’s warmer without him, closer and whispering. A weight both lifts and settles simultaneously. They’re alone when they should be, but it has meaning. Yang glances between her and away, gazing at nothing, eyelashes fluttering. Blake knows the movement, the gesture, how pictures are forming around neurons, how her brain fires.

“I remember,” Yang says quietly, and doesn’t push further, just lowers her head into the crook of Blake’s neck and folds against her.

Blake hadn't been lying, either.

--

(They were inseparable before; they're almost codependent by their second semester of freshman year.

Well, that's going a little far, Blake says; codependency is actually pretty unhealthy, so--

"Babe," Yang cuts her off with a grin, "I'm kidding. I'm sure we could still exist without the other for like a day if we tried."

Blake eyes her dubiously, steals a couple french fries off her plate and dips them in ketchup. "Really?" she asks purposefully, chewing; yeah, she’s caught the lie.

"Okay, an hour."

"That's more like it."

Yang laughs. The bell of the diner rings; they're off-campus for a Friday night, eating the greasiest burgers available, a plate of onion rings sitting between them along with a single chocolate milkshake. It's old-fashioned, covered in neon lights and road signs, autographed lien cards covering a strip of the wall from famous people who've passed through. Yang’s in a pair of ripped, acid-washed jeans and a white v-neck, red Converse providing the only splash of color from a fond mid-academy holdover, the soles almost too worn to wear. Her hair falls messily over her shoulders, and despite its wildness Blake knows she could run her fingers through it without coming across a single knot. Her leather jacket rests folded beside her.

She's beautiful, but it's more than that; it's always been more than that. She's everything that's been missing from Blake's life bound together like a chain, tied like a ribbon. Codependency is somehow too strong of a concept and not strong enough. “We could go a day,” Blake allows, “but I wouldn’t like it."

“No,” Yang says, smile spreading quietly to her eyes. “Me neither.”

They're content to sit with the sentiment, let it rest, let it grow; often the depth between them is given space rather than avoided awkwardly. This time, however, it's too public and they're apparently not allowed that, because--

"Ladies," a male voice suddenly interrupts, a hand coming to rest against the top of the booth behind Yang. Blake's gaze slips up to its owner, eyes internally rolling; Yang's mouth is already dropping into a grimace. He's cracking six feet, fit without being overly muscular, and he'd probably be thought of as handsome by anyone looking at a distance. "What are the two of you gorgeous girls doing all alone on a Friday night?"

"There are literally two of us," Yang points out boredly. "You just said it."

"Implying, you know, that we aren't alone," Blake adds, and the man's face compounds momentarily before blowing by the explanation.

"Well, I'm offering even more company," he says arrogantly. His friends are sitting at a booth a row down, watching him and sniggering; they're all the same breed. "C'mon. I'd love to get to know you better. Either of you."

"I'm sure you would," Blake says, dry like a white wine; her boot knocks Yang's under the table, signaling. "Fortunately for us, the feeling isn't mutual."

Yang takes the cue. "I'm a lesbian," she says bluntly, and Blake almost laughs at the suddenly grotesque twisting of his expression. "I go out of my way to avoid the company of men."

The man pushes off her side, starts ambling towards Blake. "What about you?" he says, and now there's something dangerous, there's a leer, there's an expectation. Blake's spine tingles, her ears standing straight. He eyes her purposefully, roaming, lips in a half-smirk; he slips his other hand out of his pocket, a little too close to her, like he’s envisioning how it’d look wrapped in her hair.

“Actually,” Yang interrupts purposefully before Blake has a chance to respond, “she’s my girlfriend. So when we say we aren’t interested in your company, that isn’t an invitation to try harder.”

He glances at her, double-takes; her hatred reveals itself, unmasked, and her eyes dye themselves fiery red, fresh like blood. He scoffs mildly, unwilling to be intimidated, and turns back to Blake. “Your girlfriend can tell me that herself, then,” he says, something cannibalistic about him.

Well, Blake’s experienced at this; she’s dealt with worse. It’s not a good thing, but it makes her brave. “Oh, sorry, was that concept too hard for you to understand?” she says, snarkily helpful. She thinks Yang’s mouth quirks, pride distracted underneath. “I’ll put it into simpler terms for you: go fuck yourself.”

But his anger contorts, fingers balling into fists. “What did you just say to me?” he hisses lowly, menacing. “Fucking animal.

Yang’s on her feet in an instant, her fight response overtaking every other sense. She’s protective; that’s a side Blake’s seen before, bits and pieces cut together day-to-day: I’ll walk you home, she’ll say, I’ll stay the night.

She steps too close to him, challenging, and he’s instantly unnerved at the approach, suddenly reconciling how similar in height they are. “I’m sorry,” she says pointedly, eyeing him distastefully up and down, muscles flexing prominently, “I don’t think I heard you correctly. What did you just say?”

She turns the show of power around on him, her irises vivid, crimson. Blake catches the way he swallows nervously. Yang’s begging him to be baited, and that’s a confidence difficult to pick a fight with: there’s no more crookedness of her mouth, firm and straight-lined. He observes her momentarily, glances between them both, fingers clenching into fists at his sides. Half the diner is watching them, most with expressions of disgust; the hostess hovers, uncertain of whether or not to intervene.

“Nothing,” he spits out, finally noticing the silence, the many pairs of eyes trained on him; his friends have stopped snickering, now all somewhat on edge, shifting uncomfortably in their seats. “I didn’t say anything.”

“That’s what I thought,” Yang replies, but doesn’t move until he stalks back to his table, humiliated and dejected.

--

The night's warmer than Blake expects when they leave twenty minutes later, end-of-March spring descending out of the peppered grey sky and holding to the earth. Yang walks beside her silently for a moment, clenching and relaxing her fists until Blake takes the hand closest to her, lifts it overhead and wraps it around her shoulders; it's a habit Yang normally would’ve done without prompt, developed early on after noticing their heights made it the most comfortable way to hold her close. Blake reaches up, intertwines their fingers, lets Yang's thumb stroke idly across her skin. She can feel the words building in her mouth, the way her thoughts condense to fit.

Finally, Yang says, "I'm sorry," and doesn't wait for Blake to ask. "I'm sorry I made a scene like that. But I couldn't - what he said to you, and I saw his hand, and I just - ugh." She sighs heavily. Their steps stay in tune as they walk down the street, passing bars and restaurants and boutiques, groups of other academy kids lingering on the streets, shouting and laughing. "I just lost it. I couldn't just - watch it happen."

"You don't have to apologize," Blake says, feels her heart doubling over like it's out of breath. "I'm - I'm used to people like him, but it's...it's nice that you aren't."

"It's not like I think you can't take care of yourself, either," she says. Cars pass by, illuminate them even further under streetlights. There’s a lot be seen. "It's just that - I want to, you know? Like, you're - you're my - my..." she trails off at the description, her walk slowing, somewhat troubled. "Best friend doesn't really feel right, but I don't know what else to call you."

"No, I know what you mean," Blake says. There's no storm coming, but the air sits damp and heavy anyway, snow on the mend. "I don't know, either."

"Yeah."

"Thanks," Blake says, sighs contentedly, and Yang drops a kiss to her temple, absolved. "I'm not really...I've never had someone who cares about me the way you do."

"Well, I’m not gonna stop," she answers, removing her edges with the promise. In the face of the evening's events, Blake still feels safe. "Nobody should've ever treated you like - like anything less. And if they do, I’ll be there to kick their asses." She manages her half-grin, cocky and assured.

Blake's feet lightly skid against the concrete, loose gravel crunching underneath her boots. She halts in place under the sign signaling Main Street, angles her body towards Yang, who mirrors her position without question. All the stars in the sky are sitting in her blood; there's love and legends, red strings, two halves of a whole. Yang's staring at her, waiting without pressure, without assumption, and words have never failed her as often as they do when the two of them are alone together. She thinks of Adam, thinks of his smile, his cracking lips like thorns, how he’d cut instead of kiss, how it hurt to be touched, and Yang - Yang is nothing like him.

Yang's jawline fits neatly against her palm, her free arm dropping down and tangling their fingers together, and when she leans in there's no hesitation: Yang actually predicts enough to meet her halfway, lips finding hers solidly and reciprocating. Oh, it's always gentle, always kind, not an afterthought but a before-thought, the automatic spacing of written words, the brief period between when snow falls and when it sticks. Blake kisses her until her stomach unfolds and she stops being able to identify the emotion behind it, and then she pulls away, strangely attuned to the sound of quickening breath.

"Sometimes," Blake says, her eyes averted to the ground, "I don't know how else to tell you."

Tell me what, Yang imagines asking, but the question never comes.)

--

Ruby’s cookies are doughy, delicious, and so rich Yang can only manage two before the exhaustion overtakes her; travel, sugar, and lying - that’s sure a combo. There’s some holiday movie playing on the television she isn’t really watching; Blake’s fingers are scratching mindlessly up and down her back. She’s in that state between dreaming and awake; there’s a blizzard and Blake’s shivering beneath her, or maybe she’s just shifting under Yang’s weight. Christmas lights glitter against her eyelids. Blake’s smiling at her and Yang wonders if her mouth makes house calls.

“Baby,” Blake murmurs against her ear, stirs her from her sleep. “The movie’s over.”

Yang only mumbles in response, knows Blake understands her anyway. Blake’s arms tense briefly, hold her tighter, before unraveling entirely; Yang grimaces at the maneuver, as it’s the one thing that’ll actually force her to move.

“Let’s go to bed,” Blake suggests, still in that same soft voice, running her fingers through Yang’s hair.

Let’s go, Belladonna, she hears herself say, and the storm is in their room, there’s too much skin, everything she’s ever loved is breathing in front of her. She needs to put it somewhere, somewhere away.

Blake’s tone turns distinctly more amused. “Yang,” she says. Yang hears Tai laugh at something Raven mutters under her breath; Ruby’s chewing on what’s probably her tenth cookie, sound on stereo. The credits must be rolling, instrumental music cheery and uplifting.

“Mhm.” It doesn’t fade, only rearranges itself, settles where it’s always been since that day.

“Get up.”

Yang blearily harrumphs and rolls slightly to the side; one of her hands is still tucked against Blake’s bare lower back. Blake’s smiling and her lips are home. There’s a blizzard and too much skin. Everything she’s ever loved is still breathing in front of her.

“Okay,” Yang says, and suddenly can’t look her in the eye.

--

Their room’s cold - actually, the entire rest of the house is cold, considering the heating had picked that moment to fuck up for what Ruby claims is the ‘bajillionth time that day’ - but they have piles of extra blankets, and again, Blake says, Yang’s body heat alone is a force to be reckoned with.

“It’s kind of alarming, actually,” she says, grinning as she brushes her hair, sitting on the edge of the bed. “You should get that checked out.”

“Shut up,” Yang says, spits into the sink. “You’re about to benefit greatly from it, so maybe count your blessings instead of telling me I probably have some disease.”

Blake laughs, fumbles with herself; she’s too loud, but Yang’s too funny. It’s always about the little things. “It really is like college,” she responds, careless and adoring. Yang catches her own reflection, sees the way she tilts, stalls; oh, she’s so tired of mirrors. She’s always stealing glances at her own cracked masks.

“So,” Yang starts, wipes her mouth on the hand towel, and - she shouldn’t be doing this. She will anyway. “The night you knew…”

“What,” Blake says, “you need details? As I recall, you were there.”

“I know,” Yang agrees softly, leaning against the bathroom doorway with her arms crossed. “I was there.”

The brush halts, slips out of Blake’s fingers to the bed. She regards Yang with a look similar to a probe, but without the examination. Blake’s good at following; they both are, have to be. The seriousness drips, pools.

“That night meant a lot to me,” she offers quietly.

“Sometimes I wonder,” Yang says. “I wonder how you felt about things.”

Blake’s teeth trap her bottom lip, hold as she thinks; Yang understands her patterns, how her thoughts fly not like a train but an airplane, like a bird, something that has wings and a course.

“We were so young,” she says finally. Yang steps closer to her, and Blake lifts a hand like a lighthouse. Their fingers intertwine. She sighs. “I knew when I told you,” she continues, desolate and yearning as the sea. “I knew - because I told you, I could never let you go. And sometimes I - I think maybe I wasn’t fair to you.”

Maybe I should have. Yang hears the end to the sentence without it being spoken aloud. “I had a choice,” Yang says, lowers herself beside Blake with one foot tucked under her thigh, the other resting on the floor. It’s not vague, despite the missing pieces. Yang learned to read those long ago. “I wouldn’t - I wouldn’t have wanted you to.” She lifts a hand, strokes Blake’s cheek; her ear twitches, head tilting. If they were a movie there’d be a score here. There’d be a lack of dialogue and a kiss and it would all be over. But they aren’t and it isn’t. “I would’ve stayed. Even before then. I always wanted to be with you.”

Blake has this pause she does - their eyes connect and it’s momentary, but significant; it’s her way of grounding herself in the present, gauging the truth of the fact that no matter what she says, Yang won’t run from her. Those days are long gone.

She says, “I only wanted you. I only wanted you to stay with me, like we were, and just - never leave.”

Yang doesn’t kiss her. She should. There’d be an implication, a point proven, a step. Instead she remembers Blake’s voice shaking, how she’d said I can’t, I can’t lose you, and there is so much more to hurt between them than to gain. That’s what she tells herself, what she’s told herself for years.

Yang pulls her back against the pillows, wraps her in the blankets, holds her the way she’s always done. Blake’s thigh fits comfortably over her hips, her head in the crook of Yang’s neck. She’s shivering but for an entirely different reason. Maybe it’s fear, maybe it’s love. To Yang, they both look the same.

Not for the first time, they fall asleep mistakenly thinking they know exactly what the other meant. Sometimes you know someone so well you forget they can still surprise you.

--

("Our heater's fucking broken," Blake chatters into her scroll, piled under blankets in bed. "Maintenance can't come until the morning."

"Where's Weiss?" Yang's voice inquires on the other side. "You'd think she'd pay them extra for shit like this."

"She's stuck at Pyrrha's," Blake says, shivering despite her layers. Somehow she swears she's just not retaining heat; maybe Yang's right and she needs to bulk up a little more.

"Pyrrha's?" Yang repeats, and there's the sound of shuffling, thumping. "Pyrrha, who just broke up with her boyfriend? Pyrrha, who Weiss has had a crush on since August last year after seeing her across the room at orientation?"

"That's the one," Blake answers dryly, apparently still capable of making jokes despite the fact that she's pretty sure she's in the early stages of hypothermia. "Convenient, huh?"

"It's genius," Yang enunciates dramatically; a door creaks open. "I can't believe I didn't think of it. Of course you should use a blizzard as an excuse to make out with a girl."

“You would agree with that.”

I have priorities.” She pauses, and Blake’s assault by a noise similar something rubbing against the microphone of Yang’s scroll. “Hey, I gotta go.

“Go?” Blake repeats, pulling a face. “Go where?”

I’m gonna go find a girl to make out with.

Blake can’t stop the irritated grunt from surfacing, dragging against her throat. “Ugh. Are you serious?”

Yang’s tone is distinctly amused over her goodbye. “I’ll see you later, baby,” she says, and hangs up, leaving Blake to ruminate once again on the fucking icebox she calls a dorm room; the blizzard’s so thick beyond her window that she can barely see the sky. Their decorative tree throws colored lights across the wall, something Weiss had seen at a boutique store downtown and immediately purchased. It’s Christmas, Blake, she’d said. You can’t put a price on holiday spirit. Blake had let her have that one, only because she’d been too busy trying not to laugh.

So much for holiday spirit now. She’s alone, it’s snowing, and she’s about to die; all those holiday tropes are a lie.

She texts Yang after ten minutes but doesn’t receive a response and she swears it makes her colder; she imagines Yang sliding up to someone else’s room, charming her way in with a line about the weather and an insinuating smirk. She grumbles to herself under her covers, frown furrowing.

Asshole, she texts Yang, just as someone knocks on her door.

She forces herself out of bed, holding one of her many blankets tighter around her body; it’s about time for the R.A.’s rounds, and they won’t take I’m too cold to move as an excuse to leave the door locked. She turns the deadbolt, opens it--

“‘Asshole,’ huh?” Yang quotes, glancing down at her scroll. “That’s pretty rude. Maybe I’ll go. Fuck you.”

Blake’s smile splits wide. “What are you doing here?” she asks, caught between breathless laughter and disbelief.

“I told you I was gonna go find a girl to make out with,” Yang says airily, already unzipping her coat as she walks into the room; she tosses a cheeky grin over her shoulder. Snow is still melting in her hair. “Congratulations, lucky winner.”

“Oh, this is s-supposed to be a prize?” Blake attempts to tease, but a violent shiver interrupts her, and it’s only then she remember what exactly Yang’s just done. She pauses, blinks. “Wait a minute. You walked here?”

“Yep.”

Blake turns on her heel, almost falls as the blanket gets caught underfoot, and shoves her curtains fully to the side. The white landscape stares back at her, flurry falling thick and fast. "You walked," she repeats, aghast, "in that?"

"Well, sure," Yang says, unlooping her scarf. "I wasn't about to let you freeze to death. It’s only like five minutes away."

Blake turns to her, disbelieving and flat. "Yang," she says.

"Blake," she mimics.

"I'm serious."

"So am I," Yang says, gestures her up and down exasperatedly. "Look at you. You're wearing like six layers and you're still turning blue."

Blake stays silent, glowering, equal parts annoyed at the observation and overwhelmed to have Yang in front of her at all. Yang only laughs, steps closer to her, works on peeling Blake's multiple sweaters off. The Christmas lights bathe them in a soft red glow, the small luminescent tree occasionally dotting them in flecks of green.

Blake says, "Fine," and lifts her arms so Yang can pull one over her head, "but how is stripping me going to warm me up?"

“Skin-on-skin contact,” Yang says stoically, working a flannel down her arms. “Body heat. It’s the only way to save you.”

She searches for a comeback, comes up empty, blames it on the distraction of Yang’s fingers rubbing the skin of her lower back; she settles on rolling eyes. Her body shakes against her crossed arms, attempting to retain any warmth she has left. “I thought you came here to make out with me.”

“That comes later, once we’re sure we don’t have to amputate.” Yang keeps her tone serious as she tugs her towards the bed. Someone yells in the hall, a gaggle of voices no doubt bored after hours, trapped by the storm. “Let’s go, Belladonna. You’re shivering again.”

She doesn’t take much convincing; she crawls back underneath her covers, Yang slipping in beside her, and settles against her right side, cheek pressed against her bare shoulder. It’s almost instant relief, a hot bath, a dip in the sun. Yang’s arms wrap around her, stroking up and down, creating friction.

"God, damn," Yang says, pulling her closer after a minute. She's exuding heat as if burning wood in her blood. "You're still so cold. Weiss is really rubbing off on you, huh?" She laughs at her own joke.

"Sh-shut up," Blake manages, shifting until she’s half-on top of Yang rather than curled into her side, face buried in the crook of her neck. "I don't get how you aren't."

"I have you," Yang says coyly, breath warm against Blake’s ears. There are too many insinuations to pick just one. "Wanna make out?"

Giggling fills Blake’s throat. “There it is,” she says, genuinely amused. "I knew that was the only reason you came over."

"What else are we supposed to do during a blizzard?" Yang asks rhetorically, adjusting the blanket so it’s tucked under Blake’s chin. "And no, it's not the only reason - you're my favorite person on the planet, and it's almost the holidays; we're gonna be apart all break. I want every moment with you I can possibly get."

She swears she’s heard warnings like this before; oh, never let someone else become your life. Well, they’re way past that. "Oh, and kissing's just an added bonus.”

“Exactly.” Yang’s pulse flutters against Blake’s cheek; Blake thinks of making wind chimes. “It’s fun.”

Blake’s smile unfolds lazily. Yang’s so predictable; maybe they both are. "You’re ridiculous.”

“You love me.” She states it airily, nonchalant and factual.

Blake’s answer should mirror her and it doesn’t, like recognizing what piece is missing without being able to recall what should fit there. “Yeah,” she murmurs, pools against Yang’s skin, “yeah, I do.”

Tone, tone - only after does she pinpoint herself, but by then, it’s too late - she’s soft, sincere, accidental admissions slipped under the guise of jokes, under the comfort of thinner cracks. Yang gives it to her, doesn’t pause, doesn’t blink; maybe love is there with a name. Maybe it isn’t nearly enough and goes ignored. Moving on sometimes just seems like the thing to do, really.

Until it doesn’t.

Yang holds too still. There’s a war but it’s an immovable one, all pieces and players frozen like the ice their world is coated in. Her arms tighten suddenly, cheek pressing against Blake’s hair; there’s a sigh to her voice, a giving up. “I love you,” she whispers with an ache. “You’re not my best friend. That’s so - I have tons of friends, you know? But you’re - you’re something else entirely. I swear, like - you’re in my soul. I know that sounds so cheesy, but I just - I swear we’re soulmates or something. I swear.” It’s impassioned without volume, depth making the climb on sentiment alone.

Blake pushes herself up, leans on an elbow; Yang’s hand slips to her lower back, rests there, and their eyes meet. It’s like sex, that’s the first thing Blake thinks; Yang’s irises are such a soft lilac there might as well be an entire garden in them, and her pupils dart between Blake’s, searching.

She touches a finger to Yang’s bottom lip, watches the way Yang automatically presses a kiss to it. She says, “Can I tell you something?”

“Anything,” Yang says, and Blake knows she means it.

“I had a boyfriend,” Blake says, rebelling against herself, her violent instincts to keep throat shut, keep her veins clamped down tight. “Before I came here. The one my parents didn’t approve of. I met him when I was twelve. He was seventeen.”

Yang’s eyes widen, breath coming out short. “Oh, no,” she whispers, inferring plenty from that bit of information alone.

The tears come hot and sudden, inevitable and always. She manages, “We didn’t start dating until I was fourteen. He didn’t - didn’t hit me until I was fifteen. Everything was - was my fault, and I was so weak, and I just - I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t do anything.

The hug Yang crushes her in is so overwhelming and protective that it only spurs Blake into crying harder. One of her hands buries itself in Blake’s hair, the other tight around her waist. She has so much more to say, so much to express, and no words for it, no idea how to convey it; she wraps her mouth around “I can’t lose you,” over and over again, and Yang murmurs to her in soothing tones, rubs her hand all over Blake’s back, tries to distract her with a softer touch than she now knows Blake’s ever felt.

“Baby,” Yang says, her own voice breaking. “Oh, never, never--”

“Sun,” Blake says, because something about it feels important to differentiate, “Sun was safe. He was so safe. But you.” It’s all nonsense; it isn’t, really, but they haven’t learned those lines yet, haven’t learned to read them. “I can’t lose you.”

“You won’t,” Yang says with finality. “Blake, you won’t. I promise.”

Blake lifts her head and Yang’s hands are instantly at her face, cupping her cheeks, thumbs collecting tears underneath her eyes. She can’t seem to do enough, can’t consume her, can’t be everywhere at once, until finally, finally, she brings Blake’s mouth down to hers and lets their lips meet - and that brings with it a dreamless sensation, like a slant of light turning the air into its own glittering universe.

Yang kisses her and Adam is nothing but a thing, an object, a broken vase, a wilted rose; Yang kisses her and Adam is nothing.

That’s when she knows.)

--

Snowball fights aren’t really Blake’s thing. Neither is getting wet, or being cold.

“It was a great idea for Yang to invite you back to this frozen hellhole for Christmas, then,” Ruby says earnestly, dumping snow on Blake’s head. In response, Yang grapples her around the waist and knocks her over, shoving snow down the back of her jacket and making her scream.

Blake grins against her will, dusting the ice off her hood with her gloves. “The benefits outweighed the downsides,” she says agreeably.

“Yeah, ‘cause you’re like, in love and don’t wanna admit it--”

Yang cuts her off by furiously rubbing snow into her hair. If Ruby keeps her running commentary up, Yang’s gonna bury her. “You’re such a brat,” she says, working Ruby into a headlock. “Santa’s coming in a few days. You better watch out…”

“Santa will reward me for speaking the truth,” Ruby complains from under Yang’s arm. “I’m gonna get extra presents this year.”

“I’m actually taking mine back,” Blake says, making no motion to intervene. They’re sisters. It happens. “So you’re actually down a few. Sorry.”

Ruby’s jaw drops. “Blake,” she says, scandalized while Yang laughs, not letting up as Ruby fights against her grip. “You wouldn’t.

“I’m gonna go do it now,” Blake says cheerfully, catching Yang’s eye and finding her smile there. She starts traipsing towards the house, Ruby wailing behind her.

“Blake Belladonna!” Ruby calls. “You’ll never silence me! You love each other! Admit it!”

“Oh, of course we do,” she hears Yang say loftily behind her. “We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t.”

--

Raven stops them as they tread into the house. “Girls, please wipe your feet,” she calls, and Yang pulls a face at the strangely mothering tone. “Tai spent all morning cleaning the floor.”

“Sure thing,” Ruby says cheerfully, taking the hit; she’s the only genuine one among the three of them when it comes to Raven, or she’s just better at hiding it. Yang’s always tense, fists like boulders, and Blake’s twirling knives with a cruel smile and reflexes a little too fast to be ignored.

“Thank you,” Raven says politely. “Also, we were thinking about going to dinner tonight - perhaps to that restaurant on the south side of the island that overlooks the water?”

Ruby brightens instantly, and even Yang can’t fault her there - it’s a beautiful place, high on the side of the mountain staring out over the harbor; in winter it’s always coated in fog and snow, lights glimmering through in the darkness. There’s something almost hauntingly stunning about it, something mythical.

“That sounds great,” Yang says, surprising everyone; Ruby’s owed her happiness without Yang constantly treading all over it. Their problems don’t belong to each other. “We’d be...delighted to go.”

Raven’s silent almost a moment too long. “It’s nice,” she warns, recovering. “Not formal, but nice. If you’re going to wear jeans, Yang, at least make them black.”

Her instinct is to snap a reply, but the advice hadn’t been stated condescendingly or maliciously; it’s a simple request, almost resigned. There’s no attempt at control. “Okay,” Yang says, swallowing. “Fine.”

Blake’s fingers find hers and thread. Ruby bounces upstairs, and the two of them follow without sparing Raven a glance back. Yang can’t explain why it hurts and so she doesn’t.

--

“What do you want me to wear?” Blake asks, sorting through her suitcase with only a towel wrapped around her body, ears flicking against the cool air; her hair’s mostly dry, but it always takes her ears a little longer to warm back up. “You certainly packed more than enough dresses. One for every possible event.”

“I’m prepared,” Yang says distractedly, digging into her dresser. “Wear that - the long-sleeved, black floral one. I think I hung it in the closet already. With your tights and light brown boots.”

“Cute,” Blake approves, running her fingers through her hair as she pads into the closet. “Your black jeans are here too, by the way.”

Yang glances over, tries not to let her eyes linger on the way Blake’s muscles shift underneath her skin. “Oh, thanks.”

She shuts her drawer, steps up behind Blake, still sorting through dresses; Blake’s barefoot and small, a few inches shorter than she normally likes to be. Her skin is warm and her moisturizer smells like peaches, and it’s all Yang can do to wrap her hands around Blake’s hips, press a kiss to her hair, and gently nudge her to the side.

Blake’s lips are set in a smile, tranquil and hidden. Yang reaches for her jeans and pulls the dress Blake’s looking for off the rack, passing it to her. Blake’s fingers brush hers, their eyes lock, and something is missing when Yang moves away.

She pretends not to watch Blake in the mirror; Blake slips her underwear up her legs, lets her towel drop, and Yang’s assaulted by skin, there’s so much of it she could be a canvas; her spine’s ridges curve and bend like rivers through mountains, her shoulder blades sharp and weaponized. Blake hooks her bra, turns slightly, catches Yang’s stare in her reflection.

There’s a moment, a weight - the pressure of the room builds, closing in - Blake knows exactly what Yang was doing, but it doesn’t spur her faster, doesn’t dredge up embarrassment; she parts her lips, lets her tongue dart across her bottom one, and Yang thinks of ripping the dress out of her hands, thinks of slick oil paint before it dries, thinks of how oceans come when they are called. She thinks, thinks, thinks, but she does nothing.

Blake finally resumes without speaking, slips the dress over her head and lifts her hair wordlessly. Yang walks slowly to her with the invitation, reaches out and places one hand against her back, the other dragging up the zipper. She’s trembling. If Blake notices, she doesn’t comment on it.

Blake turns around, lets her hair drop. She looks up at Yang from under her eyelashes. “How do I look?” she asks softly, every word an elevation.

“Gorgeous,” Yang says, just as she always does. She wants to kiss her. It’d mean too much, be too true. “You’re gorgeous.”

Blake smiles. “Get dressed, and maybe I can pay you the same compliment,” she teases, and just like that the moment is over.

--

Raven orders a nice bottle of wine for the table; Blake and Yang are both fine with red, but Ruby orders herself champagne instead, grinning apologetically. Tai only laughs at her, and Raven even quirks her mouth slightly, accepting.

“Blake,” Raven starts, surprising everybody, “I don’t think I mentioned it, but that’s a lovely dress. Your overcoat is nice as well.”

“Thanks,” Blake says, obviously taken aback, and her fingers spread of Yang’s knee as if manifesting her loyalty despite compliments. “Yang picked it out.”

Raven’s eyes flick to her. “Well, Yang,” she says, “you have an impeccable sense of style.”

“Despite my preference for jeans?” she asks bluntly, the lack of a filter coming naturally; with Raven, she’s used to saying the first thing that comes to mind, as it’s usually the rudest.

Raven’s pseudo-smile actually grows, almost making it real. “Yes,” she agrees. “You, at least, know how to layer.”

Yang finds herself grin against her will, snapping it away just as quickly. It’s strange to hear her absent mother paying her compliments so late in the game. Repairing their relationship had always seemed unattainable to the point of giving up, but there’s a new softness to her that Yang’s never seen before, and instead of raising hope it’s making her uncomfortable, off-balance. Blake seems to sense the war and searches for her fingers instead, linking them under the table. Yang’s sure it’s obvious to everyone sitting there, but it doesn’t bother her.

“Thanks,” she echoes Blake, slightly more withdrawn; Tai takes that moment to absorb Raven in a conversation about some upcoming business deal of hers, letting the rest of the table breathe. Blake squeezes her hand.

“Hey,” she whispers. “You okay?”

Yang nods imperceptibly. “It’s just,” she says with a pause, “weird.”

“Yeah.” Blake reaches up, brushes her bangs away from her forehead. “She’s right, though. You do have an impeccable sense of style. I wouldn’t let you dress me if you didn’t.”

It’s a comment that draws a smile out of her. “At least I have that going for me,” Yang says. “Is that why you let me?”

Blake shrugs, humor playing around her mouth. “Kind of,” she admits. “You’re never wrong, but more than that, I just - like, I know you like to do it. And I like the way you look at me after.”

Oh, there it is again; one of them is always dropping the ball, saying something too soft or intimate, touching each other delicately and in shadows, pushing past lines they’ve left undrawn. Her gaze drops to Blake’s lipstick-lined mouth and back. She looks entirely too inviting, beckoning. There’s a storm coming. There always is. Somehow it’s harder here, when all of their actions are perceived under the guise of romance anyway. Somehow it’s harder for Yang to pretend.

Their server passes them their wine, allows Raven a taste before she agrees on the bottle; Yang immediately takes a sip before Tai proposes a toast; “To family,” he says, and with a wink to Blake, “and to love.”

Blake meets Yang’s eyes again, clinking their glasses together. “To love,” she says, and Yang considers ordering an entire bottle for herself.

--

(Weiss asks her about it once. They’re in the library sophomore year, studying for an exam in one of their math classes; it’s a filled sort of silence, pencils scratching against paper and the pages of books rustling, turning. Weiss is studious, but the type that can’t go more than twenty minutes without needing some kind of brief distraction.

She lets her pencil drop to the table; it rolls, stops. She rests her chin in her palm. “You and Blake,” she says bluntly; that’s the topic she’s decided to go with. It’s always been there. “Why aren’t you dating?”

She expects a pause, a stutter, a stumble, but Yang’s almost annoyingly composed, merely humming mildly in response as she scratches over another equation. “Because we aren’t.”

“But why?

“Some things are more important,” Yang says, shrugging harmlessly. “We aren’t you and Pyrrha. I love her more than anything, and I know she feels the same way about me, but - we aren’t in love. It’s just...not like that.”

Oh, so Yang’s blind and stupid, got it. Now it’s all making sense. Weiss physically restrains herself from rolling her eyes, settles on a bored tone soaked in disbelief. “You’re not in love,” she repeats. “That’s your excuse.”

“It’s the truth.”

“But you kiss all the time,” Weiss points out in exasperation. “Like, we literally see you do it.”

Yang’s smile finally appears, but Weiss doesn’t like the tilt of it, rounded out in amusement. “Sure,” she agrees. “But it’s still...it’s hard to explain. Sometimes it’s just easier than words, you know?” She pokes her tongue against the inside of her cheek, finally stops writing to think. “I mean, we literally met at a party and made out for like a month before she got a boyfriend, and - I don’t know. We’re different now, but old habits.” She waves a hand airily.

Weiss sighs; she’s not one to lose battles and let them go after. “I think you’re both full of shit,” she says, and Yang actually laughs. “I think you’re just afraid.”

The laughter stops. “Afraid of what?”

That’s a hit; Weiss pauses, zeroes in. “You’re afraid that if you date and something goes wrong, you’ll lose each other entirely,” she says, lets her voice sit steady. “And I think that scares you so badly you don’t want to entertain the idea at all.”

Yang’s only watching her curiously, devoid of accusation or anger. “What makes you think that?”

Weiss picks her pencil back up, drops her gaze back to her textbook. It’s coming to a close, anyway. She’ll have the final word. “I can see how much you love her,” she says quietly. “I can see what it looks like from the outside. And you have that - that desperate, all-consuming, can’t-live-without-you kind of love. And I think anybody would be terrified of losing that.”

Yang doesn’t reply at all, just bites her lip and looks down. She doesn’t write again for another ten minutes, and even then it’s broken and halting, as if her mind’s entirely elsewhere.

Until Blake shows up with a smile and takes the seat directly next to Yang, brushing a hand against her head in a greeting; these are the gestures Weiss picks up on, why she says what says - Yang doesn’t let anyone touch her hair, that’s a familiar one. Blake says, “Hey,” and Yang’s entire world suddenly blooms; Weiss swears she can smell lavender and roses just looking at them. That’s another.

“Hey,” Yang says, and she can’t stop the softness in her eyes spilling out like the ocean. That’s the last. There’s an equation here, somewhere, and all of it adds up perfectly.)

--

Yang pulls her away before dessert to stand on the balcony under the heat lamps and look out over the ocean. It’s gotten dark, but the lights of the ships reflecting over the water and darting through the fog make it look like a graveyard for spirits, somewhere to go when they are lost. She leans against Yang’s side and Yang wraps an arm around her waist.

“It’d be eerie if it wasn’t so...ethereal,” she says, gazing at one of the ships moving cautiously through the fog; all they can see are brief flashes, the water shifting around dark shapes. It reminds her that some things can be both beautiful and dangerous, and even more so when they remain unseen.

“Yeah,” Yang says idly. “There’s something calming about it. I don’t know why.”

Blake hums agreeably, watches the fog roll, watches the waves crash; suddenly she twitches an ear, keeps it facing forward, but laughs under her breath. She hears their names arise, whispered in hushed tones. “Tai’s talking about us again.”

“Of course he is,” Yang says, mouth curling. “What’s he saying this time?”

Blake takes a moment to listen. “He’s never seen you happier,” she says softly. “Either of us. He was worried for a long time that whatever we had was becoming...unhealthy.” What he says next sets her slightly on edge, as if for a brief moment she’d looked down and imagined herself falling. Her voice changes like the tide below them, spread out and thin. “That we were letting life pass us by without taking advantage of...of what we could have together.” She falls quiet, and Yang’s arm tightens around her in response. “That’s all.”

“There are a lot of things he doesn’t understand,” Yang offers just as gently. Some conflicts can’t be tackled at a family dinner, Blake recognizes, but it’s not enough. “We’re used to that, aren’t we?”

The sentiment is wrong the minute it falls out of Yang’s mouth. Blake glances over at her, finds the grey clouds swirling above her head, finds her eyes holding the entire sunset. Oh, she thinks of saying, that’s where that sky has gone. I thought it was away, but it’s standing next to me.

She turns her body to face Yang, and Yang’s arm adjusts around her, keeps her close; she mirrors Blake a second later, shifting her stance. Blake lets their gazes collide, meet in the middle, and she watches the way Yang’s pupils drop to her mouth, her jaw, her neck, how they expand into even deeper space, how her irises so easily give her away, how everything she wants is laid so bare it may as well be cartographed, printed on a map, here’s my heart, here’s where I’ve left it for you. They’re used to it. Maybe that’s a bad thing.

She reaches up, lifts a hand to Yang’s cheek, strokes the backs of her fingers delicately over her skin before pressing her palm flat, guiding Yang’s mouth down to hers. There’s a brief moment of hesitation - Tai’s undoubtedly staring at them, Raven following - before their lips meet, and they have an audience, they’re supposed to be pretending, but what if the performance is what’s real, what if everything else is the act and finally they’ve been granted a doorway - Blake kisses her and Yang sighs against her mouth, Blake kisses her and Yang pours like the sea, Blake kisses her and somewhere the world is ending, beginning again.

Yang’s hands settle comfortably, loosely against her lower back, and Blake parts her lips, captures Yang’s between her own. It’s how she kisses Yang when they’re alone, and she hopes it conveys exactly what she wants it to: maybe none of it’s fake. Maybe it never was.

--

Yang wakes up to an extremely familiar sensation: one of Blake’s ears twitching against her cheek, tickling her; she doesn’t need to check her hands to know exactly where they are, doesn’t need to feel for the position of her body - she’s on her back and Blake’s laying half-across her as she always is, head in the crook of Yang’s neck, leg thrown carelessly over her hips. One of her hands rests over Yang’s heart. She’d found it cute early on when they’d fall asleep together - now she wonders if it’s like gravity. If Blake’s automatically reaching for where Yang’s calling her.

She brings her fingers to Blake’s side, digs them in suddenly, and Blake breathes in a gasp of laughter, eyelids instantly snapping open and a smile already formed. “Yang,” she giggles, “stop - fucking stop, you asshole--”

Yang grins, presses a casual kiss to her mouth despite morning breath. All those days have passed. “Santa’s coming tomorrow. Up and at ‘em. We’ve gotta bake him cookies and shit. I think we’re out of milk.”

“You’re so stupid,” Blake grumbles tiredly, turning over and taking half the blankets with her. “Santa’s not real, and the only person we’d be baking cookies for is your sugar-monster of a sister. I don’t know how she’s still alive.”

“Exercise?” Yang guesses, moving to spoon her instead, wrapping an arm around her waist as she stares out the gap between the curtains at the ongoing snowfall. “Who knows.”

“Certainly not science.”

“Aw,” Yang coos, buries her face in Blake’s hair, “you’re so irritable in the mornings. It’s always so entertaining.”

Blake tries to elbow her in the ribs and fails, but the laughter vies for a place in her voice anyway. “You’re such a morning person. I want you dead.”

“I’m sure you do, baby.”

“Shut up.” Blake bunches herself deeper underneath the covers, eyes peeking out. “Ugh. It’s still snowing?”

“Of course,” Yang says, reaching for her scroll. “Want me to tell you the weather for tomorrow, too?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Cold,” Yang says with a straight face. “More snow.”

“Thanks so much for that reading, Weatherwoman Dumbass,” Blake says sarcastically, and Yang snorts with laughter against the back of her neck. “Where’d you get your meteorology degree?”

“Why?”

“I’m going to leave the academy a bad Yelp review.”

Yang rolls over and away, laughing harder; it’s enough to finally force a giggle out of Blake, who’s always been drawn to the sound. There’s just something so pure about it, she’s always said; like you laugh and I forget I’ve ever been sad.

There’s no use stopping Yang now; she’ll never get back to sleep. She settles for the second best option - she turns suddenly, shifts her body smoothly until she’s stradling Yang instead, and the humor dies there, turns into something softer, but still just as light. Yang palms her hips and Blake yawns, stretching her arms above her head.

“What do you wanna do today?” Yang asks. “It’s just you, me, and Ruby. Raven’s taking Tai to tour her new office, so they’ll probably be gone through dinner.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Blake says. “It’s like, four in the morning--”

“--It’s ten--”

“--so at the moment, I’m thinking about how nice it’d be to curl up with you on the couch and read until I fall asleep on you, and you think I’m too adorable to wake up.” Blake finishes the sentence with a playful grin.

“No,” Yang shoots down instantly, sitting up and steadying Blake on her lap. “You sleep too much.”

“Bitch.”

“You kiss me with that mouth?”

“Should I find someone else to kiss?” Blake challenges, raising an eyebrow. That’s a way to get a reaction; there’s a possessiveness they don’t often talk about, but has a certain presence. She’s fishing. She knows Yang’ll see through it in a second.

Yang tilts her chin slightly, thrust up; that’s her own sign. No, she’s saying. No, I don’t want you to kiss anyone but me. Normally it’s teasing, has no edge, no cracks; but there’s something in the expression on Yang’s face that speaks to a fear she’s never voiced. Like it’s something she’s afraid of.

“No,” she says carefully, her tone trying to hide itself. “But if that’s what you wanted, I - I wouldn’t stop--”

Blake kisses her before she can even get the end of the sentence out of her mouth, and Yang makes a noise of surprise at the intensity of it, Blake’s fingers knotting in her hair; she pulls away for a breath and then she’s sweeping her tongue over Yang’s bottom lip, coaxing her mouth open, kisses her deeper, wider--

The low burn is the first thing Yang’s finally able to catalogue, stirring in the pit of her stomach, and it’s exactly that moment of clarity when Blake finally breaks the kiss, breathing deeply. It’s unlike her to be so forward, bold; she’ll easily follow Yang there, but she isn’t always the one to initiate it, push like she just had.

“No,” she murmurs, swallowing, her hands uncurling and her forehead pressing against Yang’s. “No. I don’t.”

“Okay,” Yang whispers, can’t bring herself to the echo, can’t say I don’t, either. They’ve said it once before and never again. It was too much to process at the time. It still is.

Blake clears her throat, starts untangling herself from Yang. “I, um - I’m going to shower,” she says, still sounding a little too husky. Yang only lets her without help, in a daze she’s entirely unable to work through on her own; she watches Blake walk to the bathroom and pause at the doorway, glance back over her shoulder with her bottom lip between her teeth.

“Maybe,” she starts uncertainly, “um, maybe that’s - that’s something we should talk about. One day.”

Six years. That’s what it’s been. Apparently it only takes three days of pretending for a precarious lie to crumble, like splintered glass finally shattering, like rock weathered away into smooth stone from ages of endless pressure.

“Yeah,” Yang says, and can only hear the sound of breaking. “Maybe one day.”

--

(They have a fight. Once.

It’s near the end of sophomore year. Blake never really dates anyone after Sun. Yang never really dates anyone at all.

Not for lack of other people trying - nobody ever catches her eye for something serious, she says. Nobody else is worth spending time on. And Blake, well - Blake just isn’t interested, for all the obvious reasons. She’s been through enough. She has exactly what she wants.

They go on the occasional date anyway and call each other at the end of them, complaining about the night; he was so boring, she was too pretentious, she had the worst sense of humor. None of them ever stick, or last; it’s almost like keeping up appearances.

Well, except one; one lasts a full twelve hours with Yang. She’s in one of Yang’s math classes, and she’s pretty, pretty enough to stay the night. Yang’s young and she isn’t one to sleep around, but sometimes the mood strikes her, or it used to. It used to. Maybe that’s why she does it.

By all standards, Yang should go home with her, Yang should get her number, call her again in a few days, shoot her a text saying that was fun, we should definitely do it again. The girl’s sweet, charming, beautiful; her sense of humor isn’t quite as sharp as Blake’s, Yang finds herself thinking, and then wonders when she started comparing every girl she meets to Blake. She finds herself staring into green eyes, startled by the fact that they aren’t gold, and she wonders.

Blake’s voice always haunts her, always comes back in those moments it’s the most inconvenient - I can’t lose you, I can’t - her skin soft underneath Yang’s hands, her mouth pliant underneath Yang’s lips, her body stretched out underneath Yang’s sheets. She wonders when it all became Blake, wonders where she dropped her heart along the way, wonders how she never even noticed it was missing.

“Yang?” the girl says. “You okay?”

She thinks of Blake’s fingers threading through hers, how her smile sometimes turns quiet and shy, how her chest expands at the sight of it and blossoms. Blake laughs and there’s a garden sprouting out of her bones.

She’s happy. That’s what she realizes. Blake makes her happy, happier, the happiest she’s ever been, and everything else is just a distraction, worthless and meaningless. The sudden epiphany doesn’t comfort her, doesn’t send her running home; it sends her the opposite direction.

“Yeah,” Yang answers with a smile, reaches for the girl’s hand. “I’m great.”

Blake isn’t alone. Yang can’t lose her, either.

--

Blake waits for a call that never comes, stomach knotting itself together in a tangled mess. Normally it’s early enough when Yang’s dates end that she texts, complains, shows up at Blake’s door with a bag of chips or a carton of ice cream or once, an entire bottle of champagne, and they’ll sit and laugh all night while a movie plays aimlessly in the background.

But Yang never shows up at all, can’t even manage a text. Blake sits with her knees pulled to her chest, chin resting against them, staring at her scroll and pretending she’s doing anything but waiting. She finally gives up after midnight, her stomach so twisted and devouring she fears briefly she’s consuming herself. When she sleeps her nightmares are all coated in red, and for the first time in months she dreams of Adam with his hands around her throat, his smile contorted viciously.

The vibration of her scroll wakes her abruptly in a cold sweat, her body trembling, the sun burning on the other side of her curtains. Weiss is still peacefully asleep across the room, curled on her side. She pulls her scroll out from underneath her pillow.

breakfast? Yang’s texted. jinn’s?

It’s one of their usual cafes; Blake’s so shaken from her nightmares that she can’t even manage to retain uncertainty at Yang, irritation. All she feels is relief. Yeah, she texts back. Meet you outside the dorm?

i’m already out. can we meet there in 20?

Sure.

It’s not unusual for Yang to be out this early - she’s unfortunately a morning person - but the implication gnaws anyway; somewhere she knows and she wishes she didn’t. She stares at herself in their bathroom mirror, runs a brush through her hair, and her eyes seem deadened, her lips cracked. Her throat is sore despite the absence of fingerprints. In the face of it all, the idea of Yang’s arms around her spur her forward; ghosts, demons - they stand no chance against Yang.

Only Yang doesn’t want to touch her when she meets her at the cafe twenty minutes later - she holds herself aloof, away, more tension in her shoulders than in a noose, and Blake fights the urge to cry right then and there. They sit at a table and Blake drops her eyes to her menu, hopes it’s enough to hide.

“Sorry I never called,” Yang says. “I didn’t leave her place until this morning.”

She knew, she knew, she knew, and yet. “You what?” she asks, because knowing and knowing are two entirely different things, and now a fear she never thought she had has been made real.

“Well, I slept with her,” Yang replies, keeping her eyes locked on the menu and her tone neutral. “I don’t know. She was nice, pretty...I guess it just was like, why not, you know?”

“No,” Blake says blankly, staring at her like she’s never seen her before. “No, I don’t know.”

Yang finally meets her eyes at that, sensing the dissention, the unnerving emptiness of Blake’s response. Her eyebrows knit and furrow together. “Did I...do something wrong?” she asks slowly, treading dangerous territory, crossing boundaries so wide there’s no way they’ll make it back across the other side.

Blake stares, and stares, and stares. Her gaze falls to Yang’s neck, where her hair is hiding a hickey, or trying to, and then up to Yang’s mouth, dropping again to her hands. Like she’s cataloguing parts of Yang’s body that have been contaminated, that don’t belong to her anymore.

To Yang’s bewilderment, she abruptly stands up, her chair skidding against the pavement. She walks around the table and inside, exiting the front door a moment later, wrapping around the other side of the block.

Yang hadn’t expected a good reaction, but the dramatism of this one, the angst: something’s wrong. Something more than she’d bargained for. She follows instantly, managing a quick sorry to a confused host before finding her retreating back halfway down the street.

“Blake!” she calls, jogging to catch up with her and falling short a few steps behind. “Blake, what the fuck--”

Blake spins around with hot, unshed tears in her eyes, her lips set in a frown halfway between a pout and pure frustration - at Yang, at herself, at their situation. Yang’s so taken aback by the emotion that she stops in her tracks, suddenly unsteady in the face of consequence.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Blake says forcefully, her voice still shaking. “You can fuck whoever you want.”

“Clearly I can’t,” Yang snipes back, physically unable to stop herself from doing so; they’re far too close to edges. “Blake, come on. You’re acting like I cheated on you or something. What’s - what’s actually the problem here?”

She asks the question only in the hopes of receiving a different answer, but she can’t change the outcome. There’s one common denominator, one stretch of common ground. Blake drops her arms, fingers balled into fists. She imagines someone else’s mouth on Yang’s skin and thinks of shedding her own. No, it’s all wrong, it’s all wrong. “That is the problem,” she says. “Do you like her?”

“What? No - I don’t know--”

“Are you going to ask her out again?” Blake continues, still veering off-course. This is how they wind up with warning stories about ships and icebergs.

“I don’t know,” Yang says, anger growing white-hot, ironing out. She’s lying. Blake can see through her from a mile away, from ten miles. “No. Okay? No. I’m not.”

“Great,” Blake shoots back. The bruise on Yang’s throat reminds her of her own. “Then I’m so glad this was all so worth it for you.”

“What the fuck,” Yang snarls, the guilt flushing through her veins even though logically she knows it has no right to be there. But it does, a voice speaks in the back of her mind, oh, it does. “What’s your problem?

“My problem?” Blake repeats, outraged. “Excuse me?”

“We aren’t together,” Yang snaps, too wound up over feelings, too nearsighted to reconcile them. “What, do you wanna be the one I fuck, too?”

She shuts her mouth the second she says it, regretting it instantly; Blake looks like Yang’s slapped her, eyes wide and lips pressed into a line as if trying to stop herself from tearing up again. She overcomes it, swallows, fingers tight around her arms. They can’t back down now. Either of them. “Do you really want me to answer that?” she challenges, but there’s cracking again, like the walls are caving in, like the roof’s collapsing. When Yang doesn’t answer, she probes again, “Well? Do you?”

“No,” Yang says angrily, ashamed of herself; that’s the bottom of the ocean and a hard place, a thousand tons of water crushing her lungs. Blake can’t answer. Neither could she, if their positions were reversed. “No. I don’t.”

“I know this is fucked up,” Blake says heatedly, and Yang’s even more distressed and regretful as a tear actually falls down Blake’s cheek, drops prettily against the pavement. “I know that rationally - I don’t - I don’t fucking own you. But you should’ve just - just told me!”

Like it would’ve made a difference. Oh, it’s all bullshit, they’re in a corner they’re never getting out of, not now, not soon. “Fine. Fine!” Yang says furiously. “You want the truth? I looked at her and - and all I could think about was you. And then I realized - I realized what you’ve done to me. I look at other girls, and I talk to them, I flirt with them, but none of them - they’re not you, and I’m always so - I’m so fucking aware of that!” She’s breathing somewhat heavily by the end of it, something building in her chest that’s making it difficult for her to take in oxygen. “I didn’t even want - sure, I fucking slept with her, but I didn’t want her.

She enunciates exactly the word she means to and it’s one more thing she can add to the list of lines. There’s too much intensity to continue without collapsing under the strain of it, under the weight of all the things they’ve refused to say until now.

Blake’s still crying, but it’s an absent sort of crying, like she’s been shocked too deeply to continue and the tears fall anyway, running themselves out. “What?” she whispers.

“Nobody else is you,” Yang tells her plainly. The sun warms itself against her cheek like it’s telling her she’s finally doing something right. “I panicked. I’m sorry.”

Blake’s gaze shifts away, somehow split between the sky and the ground. Tear tracks glisten on her cheek, but Yang can’t reach out an arm just yet, can’t wipe them away. It’s not over. She’s nineteen and they’re both so young; when you’re young, nothing ever has an end.

She confesses, “I couldn’t sleep without you. I dreamt about Adam. About what he’d - the things he’d do to me, say to me. And you weren’t there.” She finally runs the back of her hand underneath her eye. “I - I didn’t blame you. You don’t always have to be there for me every time I - I need you to.”

“Yeah, I do,” Yang murmurs. Remorse doesn’t even cut it. Sometimes there are choices and you make the wrong ones. Sometimes it’s easier to be afraid than it is to be brave. She sighs, steps closer, shoulders unwinding, tension showing itself out. “I do because I - I want to. I want to be - someone you can count on. And you’ve - you’d be there for me.” Yang states the final note with an act of closing. “I know you would. No matter what.”

“I don’t want you to feel like I own you, or that you’re - obligated, or something,” Blake says again. Finally, they’re getting somewhere. She bites the insides of her lips, pressing them tightly together, another defense mechanism she’s burning down. “I just - I just wanted to explain. I know it sounds so - so stupid, but I just - I wanted you to hold me. Because every time you do, he gets farther and farther away from me. I can - I can feel it. I can feel him disappearing.”

“Baby,” Yang says achingly, lifts a hand, brushes her knuckles beneath Blake’s eye, settles her fingers against her cheek after. She wants to wrap her up now, hold her and let her cry, leave her hauntings to a different battlefield.

“I don’t want anyone else to touch me,” Blake whispers, crossing her arms again like she’s protecting herself from things Yang can’t see. “But I - I don’t want - I don’t want you to want anyone else to touch you.

“I don’t,” Yang says, eyes averted to the ground. The earth doesn’t split beneath their feet, the stars save themselves from collision; there are revelations, but they’re small, dandelions poking through concrete, daring to grow. “I - that’s what I - I don’t. I don’t.

I don’t, she’s saying, that’s the thing, that’s why I did it in the first place. Like rebelling against myself for only wanting you. I could’ve wanted anything, but it had to be you. It had to be you.

Blake sighs as if there’s a war she’s waving the flag for without disclosing the terms, and steps closer, rests her chin on Yang’s shoulder, face tilted into her hair.

“It had to be you,” she murmurs into Yang’s ear, as if somehow, fleetingly, lightning had struck and melded them together, as if rain had fallen and forced them into sharing breath, as if hearts could be opened and read without damage and placed neatly back onto their shelves. “Fuck. Why did it have to be you.”)

--

Ruby wants to go to a light show downtown, some winter exhibit set up by a traveling artist; Blake only makes a disgruntled face when Ruby isn’t looking at her, acquiescing anyway. Well, she knew what she was agreeing to.

They bundle up, take Tai’s old car slowly down to the park - Yang drives, of course, and Blake rides shotgun; girlfriend trumps sister, Yang says teasingly, and Ruby sticks her tongue out at them in the rearview mirror - and find the entryway surprisingly empty; sure, it’s winter and it’s snowing, but the people who live on the island aren’t unused to that. Maybe it’s because it’s the day before Christmas Eve and everyone’s busy. Maybe the universe is handing her time alone.

The display is beautiful, meant to be viewed in the snowfall they’re braving it for; the colored lights reflect against the snow, leave the path they’re following dizzy and smeared like an oil painting, like the border between their world and a dream. The designs themselves are complex, intuitive: one is a room like the inside of wrapped present, colors changing and shifting depending on where they walk, and in another it’s an iron Christmas tree made entirely of lights that fall on wires, shift up and down, darting like the snow itself. Yang takes out her scroll and snaps pictures of Blake standing beneath them, gazing up with a wide smile and white light burning in her eyes.

“Wow,” Blake says, still staring in awe as the gears roll and the tree turns, the lights themselves moving soundlessly the way winter storms often do. “Yang, are you watching this?”

“No,” Yang says, smiling as Blake glances quizzically over at her. “I’m looking at something prettier.”

--

Tai calls when they’re home; he and Raven have decided to stop for dinner, just the two of them, and Yang works extremely hard to keep her tone void of disgust and judgment when she responds. She succeeds just enough to fool Ruby, but not nearly enough to fool Blake, who merely watches her with an eyebrow raised and a small smirk playing at the corner of her mouth.

“Hot date?” Blake says when Yang hangs up her scroll, and Yang can’t stop the automatic grimace, the strong desire to bleach her brain of the image - maybe something stronger, kerosene, and just light it all up.

“Don’t speak those words to me again unless they’re about us,” Yang says flatly, already opening the pantry doors. “They’re out for dinner. Any ideas?”

“I think there’s pie in the fridge.”

“Seared salmon.”

Yang sighs heavily. “Okay. I asked for that. Pasta it is.”

Blake laughs, pads up behind her, wraps her arms around Yang’s waist. “I’m here to assist,” she says, standing on her toes to reach Yang’s shoulder. “Put me to work.”

“Absolutely not,” Yang says, smiling anyway. It’s a well-known secret that Blake Belladonna, for all her strengths and skills, can’t cook to save her fucking life. “And burn the place down?”

“You cook pasta in water, right?” Blake says. “Instant fire protection.”

“Over an open flame,” Yang points out, clanking a pot down onto one of the burners. “No, I think your talents are best left out of the kitchen.”

“Come on,” she whines, tugging at Yang’s shirt. “I’m sure I can do something. Like, let me open the marinara sauce.”

That’s a request that finally gets Ruby laughing, too, Yang shaking her head above her snicker. “Fine,” she allows. “Ruby, please supervise Blake as she opens the marinara sauce.”

“Aye-aye, captain,” Ruby says, saluting her, and proceeds to watch Blake rummage around the fridge like a predator. It’d be slightly creepy if the intent weren’t so ridiculous.

Yang busies herself with the water, the penne, ballparks the amount the three of them can eat and dumps it in the pot; Blake has apparently succeeded in opening the jar behind her because Ruby suddenly cheers, throws her hands in the air.

“Thanks, babe,” Yang says with a smile, dipping her head and kissing Blake once, “but I’m actually gonna make a pink sauce.”

“I’ll stir it,” Blake says determinedly, and the expression she makes is almost unbearably cute. It’s far too serious for the matter at hand, and far too easy to love her for it.

“We’ll see,” Yang says, turning back to the boiling water, far too preoccupied with things that overflow.

--

Tai’s the one who actually nudges them to do it. It’s Christmas Eve, he says, and you’re in love; go on a date, get out of the house - alone, he clarifies, and Ruby rolls her eyes.

“Like I want to third wheel the two of them anyway,” she says, pulling a face. “They’re so gross.

“Which is why you’re not invited,” Yang snarks from where she’s sprawled across the couch with her head resting in Blake’s lap. She changes tone and direction on a dime, eyes darting up and locking onto Blake’s, instantly warmer, calmer. “How ‘bout it?”

“Yang Xiao Long,” Blake gasps dramatically, holding a hand to her heart. “Are you asking me on a date?

“Yeah.”

“Yeah?”

“Are you saying yes, or asking for further clarification?”

“I’m saying yes.”

“Great.”

“Yeah.”

Ruby actually drops her head loudly against the counter, moaning into the wood. “Shut up,” she groans theatrically, eyes shut tight like she can’t even bear to look at them. “You’re so fucking annoying.

“Ruby Rose,” Tai says, seemingly scandalized at her language despite the fact that Blake and Yang curse in front of him all the time.

“I’m twenty-one,” Ruby reminds him, and he blinks once, unsettled.

“I guess you are,” he says, and laughs sheepishly at himself. “It’s just so strange coming out of your mouth.”

“Unlike mine, his mannerless barbarian of a daughter who was clearly raised by thugs,” Yang tacks on seriously. “I say fuck and it’s like I’ve just said like, spaghetti or something. No reaction whatsoever.”

Raven’s shoulders move, her mouth pressed into a tight line that’s obviously suppressing a smile. Tai doesn’t attempt to cover his at all, snickering over his words. “Oh, like I could ever stop you from doing whatever you wanted,” he defends playfully. “I think the first time you said ‘fuck’ you were about three, and you’d picked it up from Qrow. We found you sitting on the floor of the living room, repeating it over and over in the bubbliest voice you can imagine.”

Blake’s laughter echoes somehow louder than the rest, airy and delighted. “Oh my God,” she says, and when her gaze finds Yang’s again it’s been replaced with open adoration. She pinches Yang’s cheek, fake cooing. “I’ve never heard that one. You’ve always been a monster.”

“Says you,” Yang exclaims, sitting up and turning to face her. “You’re an only child. Only children are the devil’s work. You still don’t understand the concept of sharing.”

Blake quirks a single eyebrow carefully, purposefully, and that’s when Yang understands her own insinuation; she flushes, embarrassingly enough, and the curl of Blake’s mouth reads only of victory.

“What can I say,” she shrugs cooly, drums beating over castle walls. “I don’t like other people touching what’s mine.”

The trail of her stare is deliberate, assertive. Yang’s heart sets fire to her throat, works it way up to her tongue. Blake knows exactly what she’s doing and she’s doing it brilliantly.

--

(Nobody really pries with Blake until junior year. Maybe it’s a compliment, Yang tells her. Maybe you’re more intimidating, and I’m just an easier target. Maybe they don’t think you’ll answer them.

Peculiarly, and entirely by chance, it’s Sun who asks her.

They hadn’t really kept in touch after their breakup, but he’s in one of her classes the first semester of junior year and he seems - well - happy to see her. He’s got a boyfriend now, he says earnestly, and they’ve been together for a year; Blake actually settles more comfortably with him at the information, free and absolved. They walk to the campus coffee shop together, chatting amicably, no awkwardness left between them.

“What about you?” he asks idly, hands interlaced against the back of his head. “You and Yang? Sometimes I see you guys around campus. You’re cute.”

Blake shifts her bag over her shoulder. “We’re not together,” she says.

He drops his arms. “Dude,” he says incredulously. “What? Why not? You’ve been in love with her for like, two and a half years at this point.”

She stops, furrows her brow, observes him, takes him in. He’s always known, maybe even before she did; some part of her feels like she owes him the truth. He was kind to her back then. She can’t say the same about other men in her life.

“It’s complicated,” she reveals tiredly, the first honest comment she’s ever made. “I mean - when you say it like that, no, it’s not. But it is.”

“Okay,” he allows easily. “So what is she, then? To you, I mean.”

Autumn leaves gather around their feet, the wind keeping stride with them, eavesdropping in on their conversation. Even the universe wants a good answer. She hopes she can give it, and if not now, someday.

“She’s just - mine,” Blake says softly. “I don’t know how else to explain it. She’s mine.”

“And you’re hers,” Sun interprets without needing confirmation, sighing romantically. “I mean, you always were. She’s been your life since like, the day you met her.”

“Do you think that’s a bad thing?” Blake asks, startled to discover herself caring about his response. Not because it’ll change her perspective, but because it might make him right.

“Nah,” Sun says, and tosses her a sly grin, tail flicking behind him. “You have what everybody else wants. How can it be?”

She smiles back at him, wordlessly thankful; he’s still a safe bet, and he seems to understand. The wind picks up the opposite direction, leaving her to rumination, leaving Sun to philosophy. She’ll take that as a sign.

“Seems pretty simple to me,” Sun adds after a pause, living up to his name. “You’ll get there.”)

--

“Remember the rules,” Yang says cheerfully as she applies her eyeliner. “If our server sets the check down in front of me, I’m the top.”

Ugh,” Blake harrumphs dramatically, working the small button on the back of her long-sleeved, loose green dress; Yang sets the pencil down, gently smacks her hands away and takes over. Blake gathers her hair instead, moves it out of the way. “It’s because you dress like a fucking dyke half the time--”

Yang snorts into laughter. “Bitter isn’t a good look on you,” she snipes, fixing Blake’s collar and returning to the mirror. “I’m wearing a dress tonight, bitch, and they’ll still give it to me. Watch.”

“Whatever.”

“For the record,” Yang continues, attempting to decide on an eyeshadow, “wearing jeans and sweaters in the winter doesn’t make a dyke.

“Half your shirts are sleeveless. You own three separate leather jackets,” Blake lists comically. “You wear acid-washed jeans with holes in them.

“Whatever,” Yang mimics, and Blake sticks her tongue out at her. Yang thinks of kissing her, catching it with her mouth, how Blake would squeal and dart away.

“What’s the score, anyway?”

“Two-hundred and twelve to one-hundred and sixty-three,“ Yang recites, pulling it up in her notes app. It’s a game they’d started four years ago after Jaune had handed Yang the check at the coffee shop he worked at - she’d asked why, and he’d grown instantly flustered, embarrassed. Well, he’d said, when a couple wants one check, we usually just have to guess who the top is. They’d found it so funny they’d started doing it everywhere and keeping track.

“I’ll catch up one day,” Blake says defiantly, unscrewing the lid of her powder. “I’ll wear fucking acid-washed jeans if I have to.”

“Babe,” Yang says with a smirk, “that’s exactly why you’re the bottom.”

--

Blake isn’t really prepared for Yang’s dress, and she absolutely isn’t prepared to spend an entire night staring at her in it. Yang’s is long-sleeved, too, but it’s red, sheer at the shoulders and chest, draped in patterned lace. She leaves her hair loose, spiraling down her back, and her heels have her nearly at six feet in comparison to Blake’s five-eight. She looks like a supermodel. She looks too good for the town, the island, any neighboring city, any city at all. The host takes a single glance at the two of them and promptly pales.

“D-do you have a reservation?” he asks politely, barely stuttering, trying to reign himself in. Yang’s taken her to a seafood restaurant on the north harbor, directly on the water; the snow’s lightened but the coastline sinks underneath it, stark white against the dark sea.

“No, I’m so sorry,” Yang says apologetically, somehow working the entire room. “It was kind of a last minute decision. Will that be okay?”

He opens his mouth, shuts it again, smiles promptly. “I think we’ll be able to make something work,” he answers, flicking through his scroll; various seating charts and reservations flicker across it. That’s power, Blake thinks distractedly; it’s a popular restaurant on Christmas Eve. There’s no fucking way they aren’t booked to the brim. The woman to his left doesn’t protest, either, just stares with a similarly polite smile, but Blake catches her eyes dropping briefly to Yang’s chest. He interrupts her by handing her a couple of menus. “Table nineteen.”

“Right this way,” the woman says, leading them to a small, semi-private booth near the bar; the low wall hiding them from view is half-brick, sanded off by a dark driftwood, and has high seating, leaves them plenty of room for their legs. There’s a statement being made by that alone.

The woman hands them their menus, smiles again before she leaves, and immediately Yang laughs under her breath. “Nice going,” she says amusedly, glancing over the drinks list.

“Me?” Blake says disbelievingly. “You. That woman looked like she’d rather have you for dinner than serve you.”

“The host literally stared at your ass as we walked away,” Yang says. “I caught him when I turned back. Hopefully he got the message.”

“What message?”

“Nobody stares at your ass but me,” Yang says, winking flirtatiously.

Blake can only roll her eyes at the bravado. That’s just one of their defaults. “If you’re going to stare at my ass,” she says mildly, “at least buy me a drink first.”

Yang immediately glances up, makes eye contact with a server at the table next to them, who approaches after wrapping up with the other patrons, smile wide on his face. “Welcome!” he says, pauses as he looks between them, and entirely forgets his name. “Can I start you off with anything to drink?” he skips.

Yang smiles charmingly back at him. “I’ll have a holiday spiced cider,” she says, and lowers her voice, raising a hand over her mouth; he’s clearly confused for a moment but willing to play along, leaning in slightly. “See that girl?” she stage-whispers, and Blake hides her grin behind her hands. “Get her anything she wants.”

He understand immediately, posture relaxing, any hint of nervousness gone. That’s what happens when people comprehend there’s no competition. He takes her order, his tone genuine and easygoing, and when he returns he hands Blake her drink and says, “From the lady across the table.”

“I love you,” Blake says to her once he leaves, and it takes all the strength she’s ever had to force the words without the weight of their meaning.

“I know, sweetheart,” Yang says, lips still quirked at a corner like she recognizes exactly what Blake’s hiding.

--

At the end of the night, their server sets the check directly in front of Yang.

“Whenever you’re ready,” he says, but looking at her, Blake can’t blame him for thinking so.

“It’s because you’re so fucking tall,” Blake argues anyway; oh, well, creatures of habit. It’s just on principle more than pride.

Yang laughs, counting lien. “No,” she says, slipping it under the hook. “Do you want to know what it really is?”

Blake eyes her cautiously, wary of setups and sugarcoatings. “Do I?”

“It’s because I’m so fucking obvious,” she says, doesn’t even bother toning down her sincerity, doesn’t cover it in something easier to digest. It’s Christmas Eve. They’re way past that. “I’d do anything for you, and everyone in a fifty mile radius can tell. What’s a check? I’d lose an arm.”

--

Ruby barges in on them at eight in the morning. It’s not like she runs the risk of catching them naked, and so Blake can’t fault her for it, though she does anyway. Yang’s far less disturbed, stretching easily with Ruby sandwiched between them in bed.

“Get up,” Ruby says, making herself even more comfortable. “It’s Christmas.”

“You’re twenty-one,” Yang points out. “You’re too old to be waking up before nine on holidays.”

“Oh, bite me.”

“I’ll bite both of you if you don’t shut up,” Blake grumbles tiredly, rolling over, trading them for the endless snowfall.

“Blake Belladonna,” Ruby threatens, shifting weirdly, eliciting a groan from Yang; Blake can’t quite figure out what she’s doing until she feels feet pressing against the small of her back. “I’ll kick you out of bed.”

“I will literally kill you. I don’t care if it’s Christmas.”

“Ruby, there’s only one way to wake her up,” Yang says seriously, and Blake smiles against her will, bracing herself in advance.

“Well, do it,” Ruby encourages. “I wanna open presents.”

“I have to kiss her awake.”

“Come the fuck on,” she sighs dramatically. “Fine. I get it. I’m leaving. But you two better be downstairs in ten minutes or I swear--”

“Yeah? You swear?” Yang says, and there’s commotion behind her, the instant indicator of wrestling. “You swear what? I’ll beat your ass, punk--”

Strained laughter follows, obviously impeded by the effort it’s taking them to fight. “No, stop, stop--”

“Oh my God,” Blake says loudly, forcing herself into a sitting position; she finds Yang twisting Ruby’s arm behind her back, Ruby stalled with a laugh on her mouth, free hand attempting to slap at Yang’s face. “I’m up.”

Yang releases her; somehow Ruby winds up on the floor. “It’s a Christmas miracle,” Yang says, smirking. Blake thinks about slapping her, or alternatively, kissing her until she forgets how to talk. Both options seem agreeable at five in the morning.

“It’s like, five in the morning,” she says.

“It’s eight,” Ruby responds.

“Okay,” Blake says, too exhausted to explain that she clearly exists beyond the constraints of mortal time. “Get out. Seriously. I’m not wearing pants.”

Ruby pulls a face, disgusted. “You guys are like, married,” she says as she scrambles up, taking one of their blankets with her. “You’re like one of those old married couples who don’t--”

Yang shuts the door on the end of her sentence. “I don’t need to know where that was going,” she says cheerfully. It sounds like Ruby trips on the other side and slams into a wall. Well, she’s notoriously clumsy. There are things they’re used to. Ruby’s Blake’s sister, too; or, at least, that’s what it’s always felt like.

“I think I know where that was going,” Blake comments, still sitting cross-legged under the sheets, wearing only one of Yang’s t-shirts and her underwear.

“Me, too.” Yang settles beside her, facing the opposite way, leaning back on her hands. She’s awake like she’s risen with the sun, but since the sun isn’t there, it’s more like she’s taken its place. “Are my services still necessary?”

“Hm?”

“Do I need to kiss you awake?”

Blake’s distracted by her smile, but this is one question she doesn’t need to think about to answer. “Yes,” she says immediately, doesn’t bother splitting it into jokes. Sometimes all she can do is tell the truth. She seems to have more and more of those moments these days. “You do.”

Yang tilts her head back and laughs at the eagerness, but doesn’t tease her for it. She leans over, cups Blake’s cheek with one hand and allows their lips to meet, allows them to part, takes Blake’s bottom lip between her own and slides up, captures her top before pulling away.

“I love kissing you,” Blake utters suddenly, and that’s all her fault, too tired to filter. Yang blinks at the admission, taken aback, but quirks her head and grins.

She kisses Blake again, makes it even softer like it’s a competition she’s having with herself. “Yeah,” she says when it ends, lighthearted and mischievous. She’s got eyes like uncut amethysts. “I kind of figured that out.”

--

Tai makes them tea and coffee, passes it around the living room; Yang pours milk in hers and adds a single sugarcube without even stopping to think about it. Blake takes the mug amusedly, noting how right Ruby might’ve been about them but vowing never to tell her that. They really are married.

Gifts are exchanged and opened at random - that’s all Ruby, Yang says under her breath, she doesn’t see the point in taking turns, but I can’t say I’m against it.

“And you thought only children were bad,” Blake says.

“I’ll give you that one,” Yang says, handing her a present. “Youngest siblings always run the damn show.”

Ruby puts her tongue between her lips and blows. She’s totally an adult. They all are, theoretically.

Blake reads the card first - she’s not mannerless, unlike some barbarians, she snarks, and Yang flips her off - and it’s simple, poignant: Thanks for being here. There’s no Christmas without you. There’s no anything without you.

Yang’s smiling without animosity when she finishes, waiting to steal a kiss. Blake rests her fingers against Yang’s neck and signals her forward, in. Her smile is even more tender after it ends.

“Open it,” she says.

It’s a ring - no, dad, we aren’t getting fucking married, Yang says, and Ruby laughs in the background, It’s ‘cause they already are - and Blake inhales the barest amount, tempering the truth of her reaction; authenticity has always been harder for her to reveal to too many people at once. But Yang will know, and that’s all that matters.

It’s a raw gemstone, an amethyst jagged at the edges as if pried straight from the vein, beautifully set in a gold, asymmetrical band that looks as if it’d been melted around the rock itself. She slips it over her index, her middle, her ring finger - of course it’s the only finger that fits.

“We can get it adjusted,” Yang offers.

“No,” Blake says, her throat tight. “I don’t care about things like that.”

“I didn’t think you would,” Yang says, and takes Blake’s hand, lifting it to her lips.

--

Blake’s gift isn’t exactly tangible - she’d gotten them tickets to Yang’s favorite band, who happen to be playing on Blake’s birthday - and when Yang protests, she says, “It’s my birthday. I want to spend it with you. Shut the fuck up.” Tai laughs and Yang doesn’t exactly have a choice.

“Belladonna,” she sighs exasperatedly, “that’s a dirty trick and you know it.”

Blake’s smirk sits in the same space as rolling eyes. “When you’re happy,” she says simply, “I’m happy.”

Yang tuts disapprovingly. “If that’s how we’re doing things now,” she says, “I can’t wait for my birthday.”

--

(They’re drunk, they’re seniors, and they just don’t care anymore.

Well, they do, but not tonight - it’s Blake’s twenty-second birthday and they’d gone out for dinner to her favorite seafood restaurant with their group of friends, dominating an entire long table on the second floor. They’d ordered at least twenty-six hurricanes between the ten of them, which were meant to be drunk by pairs and completed fabulously. They’d also done exactly what they were advertised to.

They get back to their apartment giggling hysterically at something neither of them will remember later, an inconsequential slurring of words. Yang unsteadily kicks her boots by the door, and Blake nearly falls over as she works her heels off her feet before her fingers tug on the hem of Yang’s jacket. “Off, off,” she says, laughter giving her away. “You look so hot tonight. I want the full view.”

Yang lets it fall to the floor, unbothered by it; she’s wearing black jeans so tight they could’ve been sewn onto her with rips at the knees and a black crop top previously covered by a leather jacket. Her lips are painted red, and she’s so fucking tall, even barefoot.

“You look like I want you to run me over with your motorcycle,” Blake tells her seriously, snorting with laughter the minute she comprehends what she says. Yang laughs, too, but takes her by the hand and drags her to the kitchen.

She rummages through the fridge for a moment. “Here,” she says, smile glittering as she pulls out a nice green bottle with a gold label. “I got you this.”

“Champagne?” Blake asks delightedly as Yang unravels the wrapping from the top.

“Of course,” Yang says defiantly, works on popping it. She’s vaguely uncoordinated at the moment - alcohol does that to anyone - but she manages the next sentence over a snicker. “Only the best for my girl.”

The cork shoots out at a diagonal, smacks the ceiling and bounces somewhere into the living room; Blake actually stumbles back out of shock and hits the counter, and Yang only laughs harder, champagne spilling over her fingers. Her laughter sounds something like if the sun could flow through a fountain, running and airy and bright.

“Don’t waste it,” Blake admonishes, but she’s a little too charmed for that, also giggling despite her best attempts to stop herself. She reaches into the cabinet, grabs two glasses and sets them on the counter. “Here.”

Yang’s sucking on her fingers when Blake looks back at her, and merely raises her eyebrows and shrugs. “It was expensive,” she says. “You said don’t waste it.”

“You’re an idiot.”

Yang takes one of the glasses, pours delicately, tongue held between her teeth as she focuses; Blake immediately mimics her, finding the action as adorable as she always does. Yang grins, moves to the other glass, sliding the first one towards Blake. “Shut up,” she says.

“You’re cute,” Blake tells her, grabbing her champagne. It bubbles spiritedly, makes her think of all their New Year’s Eves, all their stars and fireworks, and all the ones yet to come. Yang’s in everything. She always will be.

“I’m a cute idiot,” Yang says, holding out her own glass. “Cheers.”

Blake clinks them together, takes a sip; she watches the way Yang does the same, watches her mouth against the curve, watches her throat as she swallows, wonders what it’s like to be consumed.

They’re standing too close, that’s the first strange observation; there’s never previously been a ‘too close,’ never been enough distance between them to fill in the first place. But Blake looks up at her, their glasses moments after toasting, Yang’s lips arched into a pretty smile, and somehow, suddenly, they’re too close.

Yang seems to realize it at the same moment, her own eyes darting to Blake’s lips and back. She lowers her arm, steadies the glass on the kitchen counter, watches the way Blake follows suit, slowly, pointedly; their glasses clink again when the bottoms collide lightly, but neither of them notice.

Well, there’s a pattern, there’s an expectation, there’s Blake standing on her toes and catching Yang’s lips with her own - she’s drunk, and it’s so much easier to act on impulse - and Yang sighs against her mouth, acquiescing without debate, without denial. But Blake doesn’t stop. It’s her birthday and there’s one thing she wants and it’s in her arms.

Yang’s fingers fall to the the skin of her lower back, trailing the ridges of her spine, revealed by the criss-crossing lines of her dress. Blake shivers, grip fixating around Yang’s top over her chest, her collarbone. Her stomach uncurls and throbs, burns like she’s been shot through with adrenaline. She presses herself closer, closer, closer; Yang’s fingertips dig in deeper, a hum breaking low in her throat.

Blake’s drunk and bold. She lets her mouth open, slips her tongue between Yang’s lips, captures her noise of surprise and keeps it for herself. God, it feels good to kiss Yang, their tongues brushing sensually and the heat from their bodies burrowing together; Yang’s growing more desperate, her hands starting to move, stroking over Blake’s skin as if attempting to spark a match. She pulls away for a second to breathe and Blake tugs her in again, cupping her jaw.

“Blake,” Yang murmurs, her voice deep and throaty, “Blake--”

“Shut up,” Blake says, and it’s so freeing to be without thought, without consequence; she takes Yang’s bottom lip into her mouth, sucks--

“You’re turning me on,” Yang says, her tone on the edge of a whine, but all the warning does is spear through her blood like a car hitting a guardrail, going over. “Fuck. You’re fucking - I’m so...”

“Good,” Blake says without knowing why she says it, only knowing it’s the truth of what she feels. Yang can’t finish her sentence against Blake’s mouth. “I don’t care.”

I do,” Yang says, but kisses her again anyway, her body wound tight. “I just want - oh, fuck.” She cuts herself off, shuddering.

“What?” Blake asks brazenly, breaking away to meet her eyes, and for the first time sees the lust in them, that precipice of desire. “Tell me the truth.”

Yang bites her bottom lip, drags it into her mouth and releases it. “I just want to touch you,” she confesses quietly, and only then does Blake realize one of her hands has dropped lower, fingers playing with the hem of her dress. Oh, the rush increases, flooding through her; she’s struck with every image she’s ever locked away, Yang on her knees, Yang in her bed, Yang hovering over her.

“Even when we aren’t drunk?” Blake poses dangerously and swallows, prepares to cross lines. “Do you still want me then?”

Yang’s muscles might as well be machines from the way they tense, holding herself still, holding herself steady; there must be clarity left, there must be reason. Her eyes dart between Blake’s, conflicted and at war. Sometimes it’s best that the truth be left alone. It’s all they’ve known.

“Do you really want me to answer that?” she asks plainly.

You’re not one to back down from a challenge, Yang had told Blake once, and so she doesn’t start now. “Yes,” she says, and finds Yang’s hand on her thigh, covering it with her own.

Yang inhales almost sharply at the pressure, blinking like in a dream, like she’s trying to wake herself up. She says waveringly, “You’re my best friend, but even that - that’s not right,” and the undertone of her voice carries the sound of breaking. She leans in, their foreheads bumping together, eyelashes fluttering as her eyelids close. “You’re - I’ve told you before. You’re the most important thing to me.” This is the step past desperation, bargaining, and though Blake still burns there’s something less urgent about it, something creeping up to overtake it. She breathes out, “Do you really want me to answer?”

Blake’s mind sits full of static, all logic struggling to break back through; Yang’s hand falls away from her thigh, returning to her jaw, her cheek. She’s still tied to habits, to the tracks where trains of thought bulldoze down the rails; of course she doesn’t, of course what they have only goes so far for a reason--

But Yang tilts her head and kisses Blake again, and there seems to be more to it, or maybe that’s just the hope; it’s the gentlest one, but it’s too hard to connotate, to mythologize - is it poetry or is it hurt, is it love or is it wine, sometimes Blake finds it impossible to tell the difference - and before she can decide, Yang pulls away, trembling.

Blake doesn’t want that, though she’ll accept it for fear of anything else; she drops her head, tucks it in the crook of Yang’s neck instead, stays close. Yang’s arms wrap around her back, and she rests a cheek against the top of Blake’s head, her mouth in a small smile.

“You know,” she says. “You know exactly how I feel about you.”

“Yeah,” Blake says, and it’s the one truth they can both acknowledge. “Yeah, I do.”

“I hope that’s enough,” Yang sighs out, the equivalent of a handwritten letter traveling countries just for simple endearments. “Happy birthday, baby.”)

--

Raven’s company party is the following night - it was early enough before New Year’s that it wouldn’t compete, she explains mildly, and nothing happens the day after Christmas, anyway - and they’re given explicit instructions this time regarding the dress code. Well, Yang is; Raven apparently trusts that Blake will default to a dress.

By the time Yang steps out of the bathroom after her shower, Blake’s in her heels, her hair loose and spiraling over one shoulder, the line of her collarbone exposed, and Yang’s so struck it’s like the wind’s been stolen from her entirely; it’s not a robbery, it’s the brink of murder. Her dress is gorgeous - it’s deep purple, hangs to her ankles with a slit that goes almost all the way up her thigh, tight at the waist, and it’s long-sleeved with a dip at her chest. It’d almost be too inappropriate to wear if she weren’t carrying herself with such an air of sophistication.

She glances over at Yang, smiles bemusedly. “What?” she asks. “Do I look okay?”

“Do you--” Yang starts to repeat, and trails off, humorless. “Blake, you look - holy shit. You’re - you’re--”

Blake laughs appreciatively, turning towards her; her make-up’s done tastefully, eyeliner darkening her eyes, the gold of her irises popping beneath it. Yang wonders if she’s ever really taken a breath to begin with. “Now you’re just flattering me,” Blake teases. “Compliments will get you far, Xiao Long.”

“How far?” Yang asks without thinking; Blake’s only growing more stunning the longer Yang looks at her, and there are concepts she’s not currently equipped to ignore. The bed sits behind them, unmade and inviting.

“Oh, all the way,” Blake says airily, unscrewing her mascara as she shifts back to the mirror. “Isn’t that the point of this dress you’re making me wear? Slutty?”

“Not even close,” Yang says dazedly. “I could hang you in a museum.”

Blake laughs again. “Well, you’re coming with me,” she says, and flicks her eyes purposefully up and down Yang’s body. “Looking like that? I could make millions.”

Yang steps closer, fingers clenching and opening at her sides; it’s the only way to keep them under control. “Oh, so you’re profiting off of me,” she manages to joke, attempting to pull herself together before she entirely falls apart.

“Hm,” Blake says, tilting her head to catch all her angles, satisfied. “Only to look. Not to touch.”

“Why’s that?”

Blake doesn’t miss a beat, reaching for her lipstick with a smirk. “Because I’m the only one allowed to touch you,” she says nonchalantly, and removes the cap.

Oh, no, there are tectonic plates, there are earthquakes, there are moments that split land; this, Yang thinks, is the truth of islands and isolation. They just crack. “Stop,” she says quietly, and Blake pauses just before getting to her lips, glancing quizzically at her.

“Why?” she asks.

Yang’s careless, but for now, she’ll go with bold; she takes four quick steps over, Blake’s eyebrows furrowing deeper in confusion every footfall, and then her hands are curving against Blake’s jaw, she’s dipping her head, their mouths are meeting in a kiss too electric to be anything other than what it is; there’s no write-off for this one, no second-hand excuse. She kisses Blake purposefully, relentlessly, coaxing Blake’s lips apart with her tongue and brushing across the inside of her mouth, breaking away for a breath and kissing her again. Blake’s hands fall automatically to her waist, and she responds desperately, even when her back hits the mirror. For a moment, for a minute, Yang imagines skipping the party entirely, imagines dragging Blake to bed and following the slit of her dress with her fingers, imagines coming undone like pulling thread. Just me, she thinks, just me.

She finally pulls away, their lips still lingering against each others’ as they inhale, exhale, and Blake can’t seem to stop, catching her mouth again and kissing her once, twice, slowly.

“Because,” Yang murmurs, their eyes meeting in the aftermath, “I can’t kiss you once you put it on.”

“Maybe,” Blake answers breathlessly, “you should start wearing my shade.”

--

Even Raven approves by the time they’re downstairs, her eyebrows raising in surprise. Blake’s not sure if that in itself is an insult or not, but decides to default to the assumption on Yang’s behalf anyway. In Blake’s opinion, she’s the more stunning of the two of them; her dress is gold and beaded, similar in cut to Blake’s but shorter, only extending to mid-thigh. Somehow her hair accents it rather than clashes.

“You’re a blonde with a gift,” she says, something that always makes Yang laugh.

“The only thing making me stand out tonight is you,” Yang says in response as they enter the building, threading their fingers together.

The party is a rather swanky affair - Raven’s the CEO, so of course they’d spare no expense for her - but it’s just short of black-tie, leaving the both of them room to fit in perfectly. Blake grabs a glass of champagne from the server greeting them, grateful for the distraction. At least if she’s drunk she has an excuse for everything she’s suddenly forgetting to hide.

Yang follows suit, lifting the champagne flute to her lips with a smirk. “Wow,” she says, takes a sip.

“You’re telling me,” Blake agrees, eyes darting around the room. It’s almost too white, mimicking the snowy landscape they’d just escaped from, with random holiday-neutral decorative ornaments hanging from the ceilings, ribbons wrapped around the white trees.

“At least it’s open bar,” Yang says. “Let’s find a table. I’m not standing in these heels all night.”

They manage to snag one across the room where it’s slightly emptier - apparently not being ten feet from the bar is considered an undesirable location, but they don’t mind. They’d rather not come across as immediately approachable.

Fortunately they’re old enough that Raven and Tai don’t care what they do, don’t force them to socialize; not that Raven could, anyway, but if they’d reflected badly upon on her, Blake doesn’t doubt she’d try. Ruby’s bouncing around with a few other people their age, childhood friends she hasn’t caught up with for awhile, leaving them entirely to their own devices. Exactly how they prefer it.

“Excuse me,” a man interrupts them about an hour and a half in, grinning apologetically. “I don’t mean to be rude, but are either of you beautiful ladies looking for a dancing partner?”

“Actually, we aren’t,” Yang answers for them both, forcing a smile; he glances to Blake as if hoping she’ll interject. Yeah, right. “She’s my girlfriend, so I think we’re both fine there.”

“Ah, understood,” he says, and backs up without another word, mouth set awkwardly.

Blake says, “What is it about us that makes other people think we’re looking for their company?”

Yang shrugs, drains the last of her champagne. Her lipstick leaves a perfect arch on the glass. “I can’t blame them for trying,” she says casually. “If I saw you across a room, I wouldn’t hesitate.”

The memory’s as white-hot as it’s always been, and just as easy to conjure up. “As I recall,” Blake replies, resting her chin teasingly against the back of her hand, “that’s exactly what you did.”

“I’m gonna grab another drink,” Yang says, avoiding anything further down that path. Blake almost rolls her eyes. Ah, will they, won’t they. They’ve never played that game. “Babe, want anything?”

“More champagne, please,” Blake says with a smile, attempts to ignore the way her pulse takes flight around her veins like a hummingbird, the crook of her neck, her wrists, her stomach.

“You got it.” Yang tosses her a wink over her shoulder as she leaves. Sometimes she doesn’t mind watching Yang walk away from her.

--

It’s been a little too long, Blake thinks once ten minutes have passed. The bar’s across the hall, not in another building, and the line can’t be that long; there are a lot of people, sure, but it’s a company party, and any catering or bar service is bound to wildly efficient. She glances through the throngs of people, but can’t see much; maybe she’s with Ruby, maybe Raven’s giving her an earful. The options are enough to propel Blake forward.

Only it’s neither of those options.

It’s a woman.

She’s cornered Yang near the bar, and she’s probably slightly older, twenty-six, twenty-seven. She’s certainly beautiful, though Yang’s out of her league - Yang’s out of everyone’s league, in Blake’s opinion - and she’s flirting. Blake can hear from the other side of the dance floor, her ears twitching.

“I love your dress,” the woman’s saying, voice like a landslide. “It looks incredible on you. Are you a model?”

“No,” Yang replies politely, but Blake senses the boredom underneath. She keeps walking. “I’m in grad school for engineering, actually.”

“That’s fascinating,” the woman says. “What kind?”

“Prosthetic.”

“Wow,” the woman says, and reaches out a hand, brushing her fingers over Yang’s arm. “You had something caught on your sleeve.”

Blake steps up behind them, her fingers settling on Yang’s hips, and fortunately her heels have her tall enough to reach Yang’s shoulder. “Baby,” she says warmly. “I’ve been waiting for - oh, who’s this?” she acts coy, plays her part well.

Yang immediately passes her a glass of champagne. “Sorry,” she says, relief apparent in her tone, and turns back to the woman. “Apologies, but I’ve forgotten your name.”

The woman smiles tightly. “Clearly it’s not important,” she says. “Excuse me.”

Yang laughs when the woman’s out of earshot. “This girlfriend thing is really working out for us,” she says. “Unwanted advances? We don’t know those.”

“I was jealous for a minute,” Blake admits lightly.

“Jealous?” Yang repeats like the concept confuses her. “You?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Please,” she says, tangles their fingers together carelessly. “Like there’s a single person alive who could compare to you.”

She’s saying so many things, Blake realizes suddenly, piecing together the past week. They’re pouring out of her mouth like she’s composed of waterfalls, they’re piling up like paper cranes. It’s always been natural. That’s what she’d thought. But hearing Yang now - how she speaks and it’s all poetry, love letters, how it’s all raw and unfiltered and honest--

If this is the real truth, Blake thinks, if this is the real truth, she doesn’t know what the rest of it has been. She doesn’t know at all.

--

“Dance with me,” Blake implores after, needing somewhere to process. Yang’s arms seem as good a place as any.

“Of course,” Yang says without question, and leads her to the center of the floor. There’s a wall of mirrors to her right. She watches them move for a moment, sway to the slow beat, and Yang drops her lips to Blake’s forehead, eyelashes fluttering.

If Blake were anyone else in the room, she would’ve pinpointed the look on Yang’s face as love, finally reckoning with itself.

--

It’s not as though realizations come with instantaneous change. Recognition is the simple part. Unraveling it is a different story entirely.

But then again, maybe some realizations do.

It takes another two days. That’s it. Two days of pretending something that isn’t pretend at all. Two days of her fingers running through Yang’s hair, two days of their lips brushing after playful arguments, two days of Yang saying whatever heartbreakingly romantic sentiment she thinks of without even dreaming of stopping herself. It starts to ache, in a way, starts to devour.

They’re allowing themselves too much, making too many excuses. She lets her eyes linger. She rests her hands too close. Her tongue has ideas of its own. Sometimes wars just end.

It has to be her, that’s the one thing she knows. Yang’s too content, too tied to her habits. She slips into them like baths, like robes, like nooses.

They spend the day relaxing without anybody else’s company, keeping to their own spaces; even families need time away from each other. She reads with her head resting on Yang’s stomach; Yang watches a video on her phone of a new breakthrough in prosthetic development. She wraps an arm around Blake’s waist, her fingertips trailing occasionally up and down the stretch of Blake’s wrist.

The sun shines for the first time in days, peeking through the curtains. Years from now, Blake will look back and point to it as a sign. Storms break, she’ll remember thinking, and there’s something to learn from them.

“Yang.” Blake says her name with so much pretense there’s absolutely no way to come back from it. She doesn’t speak again until Yang’s video’s paused, eyes locked down on Blake’s inquisitively. The breath she takes shatters the very concept of silence. It has to be her. “How fake is this?”

Yang’s hand stops moving, but that’s not the only thing: Blake waits, and waits, and waits, catalogues every process to a miniscule detail as if in shock, time slowing and passing her by entirely. Yang’s heart beats so loudly it echoes in her bones, her mouth finally runs out of words, and her eyes - her eyes--

That’s where the truth goes when it runs out of doors, Blake thinks vaguely. It waits at windows.

“What?” Yang whispers blankly, blown wide open.

“How fake is this?” Blake repeats softly. “You can tell me. You can tell me how you feel.”

“No.” It’s Yang’s first instinct; Blake could’ve predicted it herself. “No. I can’t.”

She keeps her tone steady, keeps her words like gardens instead of guns. “If it’s fake,” she says carefully, “you can tell me that, too.”

Yang slips her bottom lip into her mouth, teeth digging down with such a force that Blake’s positive it’s hurting her. She doesn’t relent. She doesn’t bleed, though, either.

“No,” she whispers again. “No, I can’t.”

Blake lifts a hand to Yang’s chin, knuckles running tenderly over her jawline, seeing how far Yang’ll let her go. When she isn’t stopped, she unfolds her fingers, brushing them over the imprints in Yang’s red bottom lip.

“Okay,” she says quietly. “Okay.”

--

Christmas has come and gone. This is not like unwrapping a present.

Something shifts irrevocably between them, something delicate. It’s almost enough, and nowhere near it at all. They still touch, but Yang’s lungs develop a stutter. They still kiss, but Blake can’t stop shaking. It’s two nights before New Year’s and they’re downstairs, trying desperately not to snap. They’ve lost things before. They can’t lose this.

The universe apparently finds itself amusing - oh, all this talk of loss, how childish, how ancient, how unbecoming - because there’s the sound of something else snapping, a sizzling, and every light in the house suddenly shuts off with a dull hum, startling them all into a brief panic. Yang wraps Blake tighter in her arms on instinct; Blake spreads her fingers against Yang’s knee.

As all things do, that ends, too - Tai apparently stubs his toe on the coffee table and curses loudly; Ruby turns on her scroll’s flashlight, runs the beam around the room. Yang steps into action, removing herself from the couch.

“I’ll check the breaker,” she says grimly, “but to be honest, I think we’ve got bigger problems.”

The snow whistles loudly outside, and Tai grimaces with her. “I think you’re probably right,” he agrees. “I’ll come with you.”

It takes them two seconds to diagnose the problem, and it isn’t the breaker. Yang points to a dark, whirling shape out the kitchen window; there’s a broken tree branch colliding directly with a power line, and that’s something they instantly know won’t be fixed that night.

“Well, the power’s entirely out,” Yang says upon returning to the living room, “but I managed to find candles, and we can setup the backup generators when we need them.” She drops a box on the coffee table, opens the cardboard flaps, and begins pulling out everything from tealights to candelabras. Blake helps her set them up around the room while Ruby rummages for a lighter and then follows behind, burning their wicks.

It’s actually kind of nice; Blake’s sitting in the reading nook by the window, covered in a blanket and bathed in the pale glow of the candles, face averted towards the snow falling outside. She looks beautiful, somehow serene and ethereal, as if she might vanish like breath on glass, too fleeting to capture. She looks like six years’ worth of keys that remember every lock. It’s not dangerous and it should be. That’s where Yang goes wrong.

She turns at meets Yang’s gaze at that exact moment, her expression instantly softening to mirror the undoubted tenderness of Yang’s. She reaches out an arm like the beckoning of a black hole, gestures Yang closer, her smile spreading to her eyes. Raven is clamoring around in the kitchen with Tai, whispering in low tones, and Ruby’s now sprawled against the couch, opening a game on her scroll. None of it feels fake anymore; there’s no humor here, no sly glances, no knowing grins. It’s only them in the dark with the flickering flames left to reveal.

Yang bypasses her outstretched hand entirely, slips both of her own around Blake’s body, wedging an arm under her thighs and one behind her back, lifting her gently. She makes a noise of surprise, links her fingers around Yang’s neck, but all Yang does is readjust them, settling with her own back against the opposite wall, Blake’s legs over her lap. Blake relaxes into her immediately, tucks her head in the crook of Yang’s neck as Yang tugs the blanket back over them. She molds there, her spine curving, her palm resting over Yang’s heart.

You know, she remembers saying, despite how she’d slurred the words then. You know how I feel. She’d wanted it to be enough. For her, and then, it had been.

They watch the snow together in silence for awhile, how it flurries and falls and sticks, how it grows and clusters, builds them into a home. Raven comes in from the kitchen holding glasses a few minutes later; “What is it?” Ruby asks, taking one despite the uncertainty.

“Eggnog,” she says. “Power’s out during a blizzard. It’s the holidays. We had to use the eggs. Time to drink.”

Yang actually cracks a smile. “Eggnog?” she repeats. “That’s a little light for you, isn’t it?”

“Not the way I make them,” Raven replies, but there’s no bite to her voice as she passes a glass to each of them, and there’s no veiled dislike in her eyes when glancing at Blake. She seems reasonable, suddenly, almost pleasant.

“Thanks,” Blake says, taking a sip and setting it on the windowsill, adjusting her position back against Yang’s body.

Tai and Raven continue on their conversation but Yang doesn’t hear a word, too focused on the girl in her arms, how her breathing evens out as she falls asleep, how her grip loosens but doesn’t move away from Yang’s heart. The snow sticks to the panes of the window, frost swirling until she all she can see is a reflection of herself, Blake peaceful against her chest. There’s a message for her somewhere, but she isn’t ready to read it.

--

Blake stirs just before midnight, and by then, almost everyone’s fallen asleep exactly where they’d been spread out in the living room. There’s something about power outages that bend rules; when the dark is forced, it doesn’t seem as comforting, less of an embrace and more of a fist. They fight that with company.

Everyone’s asleep. Everyone except Yang.

“Why’s that?” Blake whispers.

“I don’t know,” Yang says numbly, devoid of walls that must have crumbled in those few hours of lonely thought. “I felt like I needed to keep you safe.”

Blake’s silent for a moment. The storm whips against the windows, rattles them; the wood of the house creaks. They can’t stay here, Yang thinks. They need something quieter, something closer.

Blake’s the first one to stand, slowly guiding Yang with her. She follows Blake upstairs in the dark, their fingers linked heavy like chains, and something’s different.

She’s not sure how she suddenly knows, only that it settles undeniably inside of her chest, extracts the ice from her veins and folds them, now empty, into ribbons. Her heart peels itself, removes all its layers, dusts itself for fingerprints. Someone stole me, it says. Someone stole all of me, where I live.

The door creaks open; the candles are already set up and burning. Tai must’ve done it, thinking he was being helpful. Blake drops her hand, and Yang fumbles for the light switch on instinct. Nothing. Blake seemingly doesn’t notice, her gaze trained on the blackness outside, blanketing itself with its opposite.

There’s a single candle that remains unlit, sitting on her desk. She busies herself with it as if it were a lifeboat, taking a lighter out of her drawer and flicking the sparkwheel, and only then does she notice how badly she’s shaking. Her hand’s so unsteady she wouldn’t be allowed to hold something as simple as a pen, as a spoon, as another hand. Blake’s switched to staring at her and Yang can’t bring herself to turn around, can’t meet her eyes. The wick catches, just as it’s meant to. The lighter clatters against her desk.

“Yang,” Blake murmurs, and the entire world comes to an end.

She moves, lifts her fingers from the wood, her hair still swinging low, covering her face. She waits until the last possible second, knowing any delay is only that in itself: a delay. What’s coming has been coming for years, for decades, for centuries. What’s coming has bypassed time entirely.

“Yeah,” Yang answers, finally meeting her eyes, and resignation isn’t even close to what she feels. This is inevitability. This is the cross between unstoppable and immovable. The sea roars in her ears, over her head, under her feet.

“It’s cold,” Blake says softly, standing in the middle of the room, fingers peeking around the sleeves of her oversized sweater.

Oh, no. The power’s out, they’re snowed in; love has nowhere else to go. It’s in the reflections of flames flickering against the glass; it’s in dark corners of the walls, masked as if draped in shadow. At last, they’ve run out of distractions. Somehow, the only thing she can remember is a quote sitting on a card on her mirror: Darling, I would live inside of you if it wouldn’t kill me. Even the universe is tired of their playing games.

“Yeah,” Yang whispers again, the space between them like an ocean, like a drop of rain. “It’s cold.”

She walks forward slowly, pulled by magnetism, opposing forces which attract, though there’s nothing opposite about them; Blake’s fingers flutter weightlessly against her jaw, and Yang’s arms have wound themselves around her waist, foregone sense and went straight to instinct. She keeps her eyes low, locked on the rug, and then her feet, and then the space between their bodies, the lack of it. Blake’s nose brushes hers - she’s so close, suddenly, when did she get so close - with her lips like a treasure map, her irises sunken gold - if they kiss it’s over, if they kiss they’ll never stop, if they kiss, if they kiss, when they kiss--

“Blake,” Yang barely manages to say - her head tilts away the barest amount, pulls back like the tide--“we shouldn’t.”

“Why not?” Blake whispers, breath mingling between them. She doesn’t give an inch, doesn’t take one, either. “Tell me the truth.”

There’s too much pressure building behind her eyes, waves in her chest; she’s never felt formless, incorporeal, but it must be this, must be floating, must be falling. It’s the anatomy of breaking down - it all comes back to skin, and for the first time, there isn’t enough of it - there’s no electricity left for warning bells, there’s no sun to illuminate signs - Blake’s palms press flat against her jaw--

“Blake,” Yang repeats achingly, unable to find a reason. Sometimes that’s what happens. You just run out of them, and the ones you have left no longer make sense.

Blake meets her eyes and lets them linger, searching for uncertainty, for unease, for anything to signify she shouldn’t do exactly what she’s about to. She doesn’t find it. Yang doesn’t expect her to. She can’t find something that isn’t there.

Another second. Their lips hover and brush, but they aren’t flightless the way the winter is. There’s only one force they’re controlled by.

And Blake kisses her.

It’s hesitant and cautious like a first kiss instead of a thousandth; not unfamiliar, but somehow still entirely new. Blake doesn’t let it claim its own moment, her fingers spreading to Yang’s cheeks, her lips dragging down and capturing Yang’s, and then her head tilts, then her tongue slips, then they’re open-mouthed and hot, they’re backed up to the bed. Blake falls against the pillows, pulls Yang on top of her, doesn’t need to search to find her mouth. The power’s out during the holidays and there’s a blizzard. They were always meant for this. It’s all been practice.

“Do you trust me?” Yang asks, meets her eyes. She wants Blake to know she’s aware of exactly who she’s looking at, what she’s asking, what’s she’s intending.

“Yes.” Blake utters it with finality. “You know I do.”

Yang’s fingers skate underneath the hem of Blake’s shirt, slowly starts dragging it up; Blake tugs her bottom lip into her mouth but doesn’t freeze, pupils expanding slightly. It gets stuck around her ribcage, and Yang only darts between her eyes again, searching for hesitation. Blake lifts her back off the mattress after a moment, allows Yang to continue; she’s shivering and it has nothing to do with the temperature.

Finally, Yang slips it overhead, off her arms. She swallows against the warmth of Blake’s bare skin, and Blake’s fingers find the bottom of Yang’s own shirt, work on doing the same thing.

Yang leans in, overcome, overwhelmed, and kisses her, pausing only when Blake moves to strip it off of her entirely. It falls to the floor, and it’s the sound of no turning back. She meets Blake’s eyes again, can barely take a breath. Blake tugs her in, wants the weight of Yang’s body against hers, wants to feel what’s always been there.

“None of this,” Blake whispers, running a thumb across her bottom lip, “is anything I don’t want. Okay?”

Yang barely manages a nod before she’s kissing her again, her veins are wrapping themselves around her ribs and prying them apart, there’s a safe she’s opening, there’s a vault they’re breaking into, there’s a difference between a desperation and an inevitability. They’ve always been the latter.

She dips her hand under the waistband of Blake’s underwear, finds her hot and wet and trembling, and six years finally snaps, comes crashing down on top of her - Blake’s eighteen and Yang finds her pouring whiskey in Jaune Arc’s kitchen during a party, and later, presses her fingertips into her hips and slips her tongue through Blake’s mouth and thinks about taking her home but doesn’t - she was so stupid, then, so foolish to let her go that night, every night, she should’ve taken Blake home and touched her, she should’ve wrapped her in her arms and laughed, she should’ve said It’s crazy but I love you, and I think that you should let me.

She’s spent so long trying to pretend she’s never thought about it, never let the idea flash across her mind, let it fill up her mouth, let it burn low in her stomach - her resolve vanishes in an instant, fingers slipping, finding Blake’s mouth and swallowing all the noise she finds there - breathy moans and whines and don’t, don’t stop - Blake crooks a knee, Yang’s mind is fuzzy like the snow - it’s not enough, not anymore, not now.

She breaks away from her lips, kisses down her neck, kisses over her chest, kisses her the way she should’ve done the night they met, soft without delicacy, skin is like sand and shifts, her ribs are counting themselves, her stomach is taut and flat, her spine arches like a cathedral.

“Yang,” she says, whines, begs. “Yang--”

It’s a context she’s never heard her name in and she inhales sharply, lowers her mouth, strokes her tongue, and Blake’s fingers fall rigid to her hair, shifting it away. Her body shakes like an earthquake, her voice ruining itself in her throat, and the knowledge that Blake would be louder if she could sends Yang somewhere carnal, demonic. She holds Blake’s thighs open and down, doesn’t stop until Blake’s moan breaks soundless, muscles stringing tight and unwinding, blood remembering to absorb its oxygen.

And then Yang doesn’t think at all, kisses Blake again, hand dangerous with its own design; Blake pants and coaxes her onto her back instead, and her mouth takes a similar path, lips anchoring against her neck, teeth scraping against a nipple, fingers dipping inside of her and out, and then she’s wrapping her hair in a tie from around her wrist, settling and stretching low.

“We can’t come back from this,” Yang says, gazing down at her, stunned by the beauty of her bare skin under candlelight, stunned by the beauty of her bare skin, stunned by her beauty.

Blake’s tongue darts out, flicks, and Yang strikes a breath like a match. “Good,” she says darkly, and what she does with her mouth next leaves absolutely no room for argument.

--

Why did it have to be you, Yang whispers after, the entire world working its way up her throat.

Oh, Blake echoes, curled in Yang’s arms, why did it have to be you.

--

(She doesn’t really want to go to the party, if she’s being honest; not because she doesn’t like parties, but because Jaune’s kind of a dork, and she finds it hard to believe anyone of interest will be there.

But Weiss is going, and it’s a little too early in the semester to alienate her new roommate, so she sucks it up. It’s the end of August. She wears a blouse half-tucked into tight, frayed black shorts, and ankle boots. She thinks she’s making a statement.

She beelines for the kitchen when she arrives, vaguely surprised by the crowd; well, not many freshman have their own apartments - there’s probably something appealing about it. She reaches for a solo cup, grabs the whiskey. It’s a nicer brand than she’s used to. Jaune’s probably loaded, she decides, and shots are probably a good idea.

She’s three in, when--

“Hey,” a voice says, distinctly amused.

She lowers her cup, wonders briefly if she’s had more than three, or if this girl’s actually insanely, god-forsakenly beautiful.

She’s blonde, tall, wearing a smirk like a firecracker, posture arrogant and defined. Her shirt’s cropped, sleeveless, black lace bra visible underneath, and she’s wearing a flannel tied around her waist despite the heat. Her shorts are tight, ripped, and her combat boots are black. She’s definitely making a statement.

“Hey,” Blake says.

“I’m Yang,” the girl says. “I didn’t mean to interrupt you, but you’re hogging the whiskey.”

“You drink whiskey?” Blake asks dubiously, remembers the point of introductions. “I’m Blake.”

Yang holds out her cup, grins. “I do now,” she says flirtatiously. “But don’t laugh at me if I choke.”

Blake’s smile startles her with its genuinity; she can’t remember the last time she’d smiled so easily without some kind of pain trailing it like a dog. “I can’t make any promises,” she says, and pours Yang a shot anyway.

“Hm,” Yang says. “That won’t do. I’m trusting you, here. It’s like, our first week. I can’t make an embarrassment of myself at a party.”

“Oh?” Blake says. “So what do you propose? A prenup?”

Yang throws her head back and laughs; it isn’t for show, or attention, and Blake finds herself instantly charmed by it. “Every time you break,” Yang says, “you owe me a kiss.”

Blake’s eyes drop to her mouth, curled prettily. “Well,” she says, “I’ve definitely made worse deals.”)

--

Yang wakes up to a sensation not entirely familiar.

She can feel a pair of lips placing feather-light kisses against her jaw, her neck, her collarbone; somehow the role reversal surprises her, Blake as the one awake and impatient, and when she sees Yang’s eyelids flutter she works her way to Yang’s mouth, kissing her softly, kissing her again, slipping her tongue across Yang’s bottom lip, waiting for her to acquiesce, to allow. It’s lazy with a threat, gentle to a point.

So Yang does. Of course she does.

The way Blake slides her tongue against Yang’s is so sensual that Yang stupidly wonders why she’s never done it before, why they’d delegated to open mouths but never sex; Blake’s fingers are crawling steadily, too, thumb trailing over every crease in her ribs, her muscles below, the indents of her hips. Her intent is entirely clear, any reservation long gone. She’s always been more impulsive, more adaptable to change.

“Blake,” Yang exhales, Blake’s hand now resting torturously against the inside of her thigh.

“Let me,” Blake says quietly in between kisses, like she’s alive just for this. “Please. Let me.”

Yang swallows, drops her knee to the side, flexes her hips; Blake touches her, finds her wet, catches a breathy moan in her throat. Yang bites down on her lip, keeps her voice locked away where nobody else can hear it. She doesn’t know how to quantify this, how to label it, where to put it.

But Blake shifts down, glances at her face, slips two fingers inside of her, and Yang can’t explain why that alone makes her feel like mountains caving in, like hurricanes consuming coast, like lightning striking once, twice, three times. Her lips part soundlessly, and it’s not enough; Blake curls her fingers, presses them roughly up.

“Fuck,” Yang says, breaks at last, spine arching. “Fuck, fuck--

“I didn’t realize,” Blake whispers throatily, and when Yang opens her eyes, she’s struck hard by the erotic vision of Blake watching herself fuck her, “how much I hated knowing I wasn’t the last person to touch you. All of you. All this time.”

“Oh my God,” Yang exhales, her entire body trembling. She’d never realized how much she hated it, either. “Blake.

Blake exhales, moves her fingers steadily until Yang comes, silent and still. Yang needs the return, needs to gift it back. She reaches down, rolls onto her side, slides her hand between Blake’s thighs.

“The only time we ever fought,” Yang murmurs, “I asked you a question I shouldn’t have. You couldn’t answer.”

“Yes,” Blake says breathlessly, exposing her neck to Yang’s mouth, fingers tangling, wrapping around her hair. “I would’ve said yes.”

--

It’s fine until reality knocks. Isn’t it always.

They go downstairs for breakfast, and suddenly they can’t touch without fire, they can’t kiss and find lines. The realization hits and runs, speeding too fast to capture. They’re left staring blankly at each other on opposite sides of the table, no way to communicate. Ruby glances between them oddly, noticing within five minutes how tension hovers, not the cloud of a storm but the cloud of a bomb.

“Everyone sleep well?” Tai asks, and Yang chokes on her orange juice. They must’ve stuck it in the snow for awhile; it’s still cold.

“Yes,” Blake gracefully answers for them. “Is anyone coming to fix the power?”

“Later today, if the weather stays agreeable,” Raven says. “I spoke to someone this morning.”

“Cool,” Ruby says. “Don’t get me wrong, power outages are fun for a night, but after that? No, thanks.”

“Yeah,” Yang says quietly. “Everything looks so different in the dark.”

Blake bites the inside of her lip hard enough to bring tears to her eyes, or maybe she’s biting it hard enough to stop them. Ruby furrows her brow, doesn’t speak. Tai and Raven don’t seem to notice anything amiss at all. They have enough going on.

Blake catches her eye across the table, and Yang knows she can’t read what’s wrong.

That’s what she’s always feared. Suddenly becoming strangers.

--

Blake finds her in front of her mirror, meticulously reading and running her fingers across every quote she’s ever written as if there’s something to be learned from her eighteen year-old self, as if she’d left herself a message and only just now discovered it. The look on her face is a strange mix of awe and anxiety, and the best course of action isn’t immediately clear the way it’s always been previously.

Sex does that, she thinks distantly. That’s why they’d never done it. It makes everything so complicated.

“What are you doing?” she asks.

Yang drops her arm, stares at their photos, looks the entire thing up and down before she replies. “Everything I wrote,” she says plainly, “I wrote about you.”

And without looking back, she turns and leaves the room.

--

(Blake spends an entire hour staring at it the first time she visits Yang’s house. She comes for the week of Yang’s nineteenth birthday, right in the middle of summer, and the moment she sees it she’s somehow floored. It’s a love letter, or it collages as one; there are pictures of Weiss and Pyrrha tucked in, too, Ren and Nora and Jaune, but in the end, it’s still - it’s mostly--

“I know,” Yang says sheepishly from where she’s sitting on her bed, “it’s like, a lot of you. But you’re my - you know. Best friend or whatever. And you’re not bad to look at, either.”

She gets a laugh out of Blake at that one. “Well, I’m honored, then,” she says. “Can I--?”

“Yeah, of course,” Yang says, laying back against her pillows. “Go ahead.”

They’re one or two lines, rarely a paragraph; things Yang must’ve come across in books and poems, the captions of photos, mindless musings from other peoples’ blogs. We’ll fall to pieces together, build ourselves back up as one. It’s situated next to a photo Weiss had taken of the two of them near the end of the year, a candid with Yang’s arms around her waist and her chin on her shoulder, both of them smiling. Kissing you for the first time was like running a red light. I knew I shouldn’t, but I was going too fast to stop. She can only think of Jaune’s party, Yang walking towards her with a cocky smirk that should’ve made her annoying and unattractive and somehow did the opposite. I believed in love until I met you, and now I don’t know what to call it. She wets her lips at that, like a truth she can’t swallow.

She can’t seem to tear herself away - she finds herself drawn again and again to one in particular that aches somewhere she can’t reach, seems so unobtainable and hopeful at the same time: Give me your ghosts. Give me your demons. I’ll fight them all with my bare hands. She wonders if there’s a truth to it, if Yang would, given the option. If she would.

Yang’s apparently content to watch her take it in, let her revel in it; they’re her words, but somehow they still mean just as much to Blake. It’s not about the long and winding road, it’s all about my bed and the imprint of your soul. It sounds like a song, one she vaguely recognizes but can’t name, can’t place.

Someone shook the world like a magic eight ball to get us together, is the last one she reads. Someone shook us like a snow globe.

She has to stop after that, and when she looks at Yang again she swears she can see the particles of the universe settling, can see them laid out and miraculous like a map of fates for gods, can see the stars all spinning at her from underneath a sky that could very well be a dark, murky ocean.

Some things, she hears a voice say in the back of her mind, are just a little beyond explanation.)

--

Yang calms down enough to find her again, curled into herself on Yang’s bed. “I’m sorry,” Yang says, sitting carefully on the edge of it. The way she struggles is the same as the trees against wind. “I just - this morning, it was like - like we’d never fucking met.

“I know,” Blake says dejectedly. “I didn’t - I didn’t think it’d be - so hard. To be something else.”

“I did,” Yang says.

“We should talk about it.”

“We should’ve talked about it in the first place.”

Something about the sentiment digs too sharply, a needle hitting the wrong vein. “We’ve been talking about it for six fucking years,” she snaps, holding a pillow to her chest. “Last night was - it was inevitable, Yang, and you know that.” She draws further into herself, cheeks flushed, eyes shining. “Do you wish it hadn’t happened?”

Yang doesn’t reach for her. She should. It’s what she would’ve done before, but she can’t now. “I don’t know,” she says honestly, looking away, and as inevitable as it was, so were the consequences. So were the consequences.

--

They have parts to play. Those they can’t avoid.

It’s a night to New Year’s. They’re downstairs, having one of the last dinners they’ll have as a family; Raven resumes work on the second, and Blake, Yang, and Ruby have to return before classes start. Blake’s helping set the table - it’s the one task she’s allowed to do - and Yang’s taking out the hard liquor. She sees a bottle of the whiskey they’d drank the night they first met and shoves it to the back of the cupboard.

“Hey,” Ruby says uncertainly, approaching and leaning casually against the wall.

“Hey.”

“Yang,” she says, and Yang’s really getting tired of people giving so much weight to her name. “What happened?”

She straightens up with a bottle of spiced rum, half-empty and perfectly poised to disappear unnoticed. Ruby’s expression isn’t pitying, only regretful; there are some things she can probably guess without clues.

“Ruby,” Yang says, watching Blake laugh across the room, “I want to burn this fucking house down.”

The silence that follows is almost agonizing in its compassion, in its heartbreak. Confessions aren’t as fun as she thought they’d be, now that they’ve finally come around. “Yeah,” Ruby says quietly. “That’s kinda what I thought.”

--

Raven’s the one who finds her in the yard, staring out at the falling snow, breath coming out steam. Her hands are tucked in the pockets of her large overcoat, hair collecting crystals. There’s nowhere else to go where Blake isn’t.

“Yang,” Raven says, sounding strangely surprised. “What are you doing out here?”

Yang tosses her a bored glance, but there’s no anger, irritation. She’s just tired. Maybe she’d been tired for a long time. “Mom,” she says flatly. “I’m thinking.”

“About what?”

Raven’s tone startles her more than anything else - she sounds genuinely curious, concerned; it’s the most motherly she’s ever been, but it’s a bad time to be hit with a reminder that things change, and that people do, too. Yang observes her from a distance, exactly where she’s always been, and what’s the point anymore, really.

“Blake and I aren’t actually dating, you know,” she says.

There’s a momentary pause. Raven politely says, “Oh?”

“We were just - faking it because we knew it’d get under your skin.” Yang keeps her stare straight ahead, imagines the world tilting on its axis, imagines falling off and never landing. “I know how much you hate her. We thought - I don’t know. You’re obviously reconciling with Tai, and we just thought--” She cuts herself off, frustrated; it seems so foolish in retrospect. Date me. Unravel the last six years like a spool of thread. Kiss me and mean it. “I don’t know what we thought.”

The snow fills all the empty space between them, all their awkward lulls. “I can probably guess what you thought,” Raven says quietly. “You thought I was just waltzing right back into your life - like I had any right to after what I did to you and your father - when it was most convenient for me, and it made you angry.” Yang’s fingers clench into fists in her pockets, relax. Raven continues, “After all this time, I’m finally here. And you wanted to make it hurt in some way. Any way.”

Yang chokes over the muscle closing in her throat, the sudden rounded bulge forcing tears up to her eyes instead of allowing her to swallow them. “Yeah,” she whispers miserably, vision going blurry, or maybe that’s the chill of snow. “Maybe I did. And look how that turned out for me.”

Raven rests a hand on her shoulder, the pressure light enough for Yang to knock away if she wants, but heavy enough to signify her intent. “Yang,” she says, uncharacteristically gentle, and drops her arm. “Did something happen?”

“Yeah,” Yang admits bitterly, tears finally spilling over. “Yeah, it did.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“No. I don’t know.” She thinks of Blake inside, pouring over a book with a candle lit beside her, beautiful and serene and entirely too much of Yang’s life, and somehow the tears don’t freeze on her face, just keep falling against the snow, burrowing. “I love her,” she confesses pathetically, and once she starts she doesn’t stop, she’s the same as that frothing ocean, she’s the same as that billowing sky. “I do. It wasn’t - none of it was fake, you know? I love her more than anything. I’ve been in love with her for six years. It’s so fucking cliché, but I swear, the minute I saw her - like, I loved her. I loved her even then, and it’s only gotten worse.”

Raven doesn’t speak for a moment, but then, she’s always been a woman who considered her words. “Yang,” Raven says again, and there’s a resignation to her voice but a tenderness there, too, “anyone who’s spent more than five minutes with the two of you can tell exactly how you feel about each other. You aren’t particularly clever - either of you. It’s tangible. We’ve all known forever. We were just waiting for you to catch up.”

“I don’t know how,” Yang says brokenly. “It’s been so long. It’s been so long and we’ve been so afraid, and it just seems - it’s so intense. Like, how can we possibly sustain that? Especially when it’s real?” She gives herself room, inhales winter, lets it ground her despite its ephemerality. Raven doesn’t push, gives her the same space. Yang continues, “I guess I just feel like - like we’ve always been so contained with college, our grad programs - but we graduate in a few months. For good. And then we have to try and translate this - this - whatever we have to our actual, individual lives, and our jobs, and what if - what if we just break? What if it’s too much and we can’t go back, but we can’t go forward, either?” Her voice rises slightly. “What if Blake meets some beautiful psychologist who understands her just as well as I do and makes her laugh and makes her feel safe and they fall in love and I--”

“Okay, that’s enough,” Raven interrupts, finally hitting her limits. Yang looks over at her, thrown by the tone, the authority of it. She says under her breath, almost to herself, “You certainly are my daughter.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Yang says indignantly, much too wound up for decoding clues.

“It means that you sound exactly like I did when I was young and overwhelmingly in love,” she responds, and she’s dark in her posturing, somewhere else in time. “But I’m hoping you’re not enough like me that you’ll do what I did and run from it.”

The revelation hangs between them, both a question and an answer to years’ worth of curiosity, anger, bitterness; Yang whispers, “What?” and even the snow falls still to listen. “That’s - that’s why you left?”

“More or less,” Raven says curtly. “Do you really think I’d be here twenty years later if love hadn’t been at the core of it?”

“I don’t know,” Yang says numbly. Maybe she’s been outside too long; maybe she’s been where she shouldn’t be. “I never thought you loved me at all.”

There’s no spite, no expectation, no anger. Raven’s voice is undeniably thicker when she speaks. “I couldn’t face it,” she says steadily. “I don’t deserve to be forgiven by you for that, and I’ll never ask for it. But I do love you, Yang. And I love your father. I loved him even when I didn’t want to, and I made all the wrong decisions because of it. Nothing is scarier than when it is outside of your control.”

“I could never do what you did,” Yang says, and somehow the tears have found their way back to her cheeks. “I could never just leave.

“Not anymore,” Raven counters, but there’s an intuitiveness to her, a burial ground. She’s been made wiser, even in her fear. “But I’m sure you had a moment. A single moment where you comprehended the weight of what you felt and it terrified you enough to be selfish. Sometimes that’s all it takes. A split second and one mistake.”

Yang’s hit with nineteen, going home with a girl she didn’t want just to prove to herself she could, the betrayal carved into Blake’s expression without being art, her tears hitting the concrete and nothing growing. She stays silent, wavering.

Raven sighs. She’s not here to say I told you so, not here for pity or misdemeanors. “Tell her the truth,” she says, coming to a close. “You don’t have another option. You tell her and you move forward and you learn how to navigate it without it killing you until you realize it won’t. Because it won’t. It’s love, Yang, and when it’s done right, it never, ever feels like torture chamber.”

“I wasted so much time,” Yang whispers, hands pressed her eyes.

Raven’s palm rests gently against the top of her spine, rubs once. “So go get it back.”

--

Raven leaves her to the cold, letting her make her own way, or maybe she’s up to something else entirely. She holds still upon turning around, but then her footfalls fade steadily, the door finally shutting.

Yang’s started shivering, but there’s still so much to reevaluate, like taking her life out of a box at the back of the closet and laying it in a row, touching her fingertips to it, finding her regrets, pinpointing precipices. Here, she cites, I should’ve kissed you here, I should’ve told you, I shouldn’t have let us get this far.

“Yang,” Blake’s voice comes quietly from behind her.

It’s not even remotely a surprise, like her soul had sensed it. Of course Blake’s there. Of course she heard. She probably would’ve heard anyway.

She turns around slowly, instantly drawn to the amber of Blake’s irises, how gold gleams when it’s melted into bars. There’s nothing else to look at, and there never has been. Strangely, she’s only hung up on one thing. “That’s why she left,” she says blankly, and Blake steps forward. “She loved him too much. And I was just - just a casualty.”

Blake’s silent for a moment, shifting her weight unsteadily between her feet; she’s more susceptible to the weather. “Are you upset?” she asks poignantly.

“No,” Yang says, startling even herself. “No. Not anymore.”

“Why not?”

“Because she’s right.” Yang lets it flutter with the snow. Sometimes fear is stronger. “What she did was wrong, but she’s right. And I - I’m not her. I won’t do what she did. I’d never, ever hurt you.”

“I know.” Blake lifts a hand, rests it gently against Yang’s cheek, thumb stroking underneath her eye. Her tear tracks have dried, cracked. “I know you wouldn’t. I’d never hurt you, either.”

“I know,” Yang echoes her, pressing her face further into Blake’s hand, and all it takes is a look for the truth. There are things that haven’t changed, and maybe they never will. Yang inhales against the rush; she’s so tired of crying. “I’m scared. I’m so - I’m so fucking scared.

“Baby,” Blake breathes out, voice like a bruise, and crushes her in a hug just as Yang collapses in her arms. “Oh, Yang--”

It’s her name that does it. It’s been said too many times the past few days, and yet, and yet - Blake holds it in her mouth and it sounds like I love you. Yang doesn’t realize she’s sobbing until she feels Blake’s lips at her ear, the shape of them as she murmurs comfortingly. “Baby,” she says again, “I know, I know, but it’s - it’s okay. I promise. I promise.

Yang isn’t sure how long they’re out in the snow, how long Blake holds her close and shields her from it. She wonders if Blake’s been doing that all along, and if she ever even realized she was doing it. She’s still whispering in Yang’s ear, and somehow, Yang believes her.

“By the way,” Blake adds when they finally tread inside, hands joined to save their fingers from the cold. “I would never date a psychologist.”

It’s a step.

--

New Year’s is yet another event, this time hosted at a friend of Tai’s who has a rather large house on a nice piece of property overlooking the bay, and thus has an excellent view of the fireworks that go off above it. Blake looks so beautiful Yang can hardly bring herself to comment on it, every compliment sticking against her throat on its way up. She only smiles, catches Blake’s chin between her index and thumb and kisses her once. She hopes it says enough, just the way it used to.

Tai actually ends up dragging Blake away for a moment after apologizing profusely to Yang - Raven hadn’t told him, apparently - to meet a friend of his who works in her field, has his own office in Vale. Yang waves them away; it’s a great opportunity, and things are still - well. They’re unsteady, ungrounded. Knowing someone is your entire life is one thing. Actually acting on it is another. Proving it. Maintaining it.

She spies the balcony of the second floor from the outside, decides the owner probably won’t care if she slips away for some air. Different air, she imagines defending. You know, the altitude. She smiles at herself, her own stupid jokes. Blake would’ve laughed at that.

She finds the stairs easily enough, sneaks up without being noticed; it’s a balcony attached to an upstairs living room, fortunately, and not a bedroom. She leans against the short stone arches on her elbows, sighs; it isn’t snowing where they are, but she can see the storm threatening the sea. Blizzards over the ocean are rare and fleeting, and yet, and yet.

“You know,” Blake starts conversationally from behind her, “they say the way you spend New Year’s Eve is the way you spend the rest of the year.”

Yang turns at the sound of her voice, one hand still resting against the balcony railing. Blake’s taking slow steps towards her, heels clicking against the stone, strikingly gold dress billowing loosely as she walks; she looks like royalty, Yang thinks, like something mythic, fictitious. She can’t really exist, can’t really be Yang’s, can’t really belong to anybody.

“I think I’ve heard that before,” Yang plays along softly. Every part of their past bleeds into their present. Maybe that’s a sign, too. Maybe Yang should stop searching for signs and make her own. “It’s pretty lucky I’m with you, then, isn’t it?”

Blake smiles, watery, or perhaps that’s just the weather with an influence. Of course Yang remembers. She remembers everything.

Five! the voices chant louder from inside and below, delighted between laughter. Four! Three! Two!

“I love you,” Blake says in place of one, and the sound suddenly puts itself on pause, or maybe it’s so loud it’s become deafening; there are stars crashing from the sky, the bubbles in her champagne glass shoot up and become fireworks. There should be a kiss here, but they’ve never been conventional about these things. “I’m in love with you. I’ve been in love with you since the moment I met you. I used to be afraid, too, but I - I’m not anymore. I can’t be. I have so much more to lose and I won’t do it again. I won’t risk you for anything.” She draws herself taller, closer. “I know it’s so - so much. But if it weren’t, what would be the point?” she asks rhetorically. “You - you’re the reason I’m here, the reason my life is so - so good. You’re what makes me happy. If there’s anyone in this world - in this life, in any life - that I’m supposed to be with, it’s you, and I can feel that. I can feel it.”

She takes in a breath at the end as if preparing herself for the response, like she doesn’t know what it will be. Like there’s a small part of her wondering if that was enough; should there have been wine, should there have been poetry. Should she have moved mountains, carried oceans, because she could’ve done that. She could’ve.

“It’s not fair,” Yang says gently, and Blake’s eyebrows twitch in, a miniscule marker of confusion. “The fireworks are beautiful, but you - you’re just showing off.”

The uncertain line of Blake’s mouth breaks, curls into a smile. She steps closer, her hand trailing up the railing to meet Yang’s. “Me?” she says. “Have you looked in a mirror?”

“Yeah, actually,” Yang says, reaching up and tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. Blake leans automatically into her touch. “I’ve done...a lot of that, recently. And I was always seeing things I - I didn’t want to see.”

“Like?” Blake asks quietly.

“Like the fact that I’m in love with you.” She releases it in a delicate, simple breath. “I’m in love with you, and I - I knew, too. The moment we met. I know you heard me tell Raven, but now I’m telling you. I can. I can feel it.”

“It seems ridiculous, doesn’t it,” Blake says, gaze dropping to the scenery below them, the crowds spilling out into the garden to watch the show. “But I - I wasn’t ready for you, then. Not that way.”

“I know,” Yang whispers. “I wasn’t, either. I would’ve - we would’ve crushed each other.”

“But now,” Blake continues, tilts her chin up. “What about now?”

“Now,” Yang says, eyes following a path to her lips she’s marked a hundred, thousand times; Blake waits expectantly for the end of the sentence, patient and unyielding.

But Yang dips her head and kisses Blake instead, lips parting against hers, fireworks roaring like they’re in competition. She slips her arm around Blake’s waist, pulls her in, and Blake’s hands fall to her chest, rest against her collarbone.

“Now,” Yang murmurs again when they part, “now we’ve done enough talking. Six years of it.”

Blake’s smile widens, and now it’s not a trick of the light, now her eyes are shining like she’s where the sun goes when it sets, now the world rights itself and the sea is exactly where it belongs.

“You and me,” Blake says, intertwining their fingers, “I think we’re gonna make it.”

Yang tilts her head back and laughs, feels the next hundred years in the lifeline of her palm. “Yeah,” she says with a smile that could rival a meteor shower, a blizzard over the ocean, snow-covered shores. “Yeah, I think we are.”

--

(The first time they spend New Year’s Eve together is six months after they first meet. Yang convinces Tai to let her go to Menagerie for the holiday, leaving the morning after Christmas; he gives in without much of a fight, mostly putting up for show. She’s eighteen, he says, and besides, the way you spend New Year’s Eve is the way you spend the rest of the year. He says it like a joke, laughs after.

“No wonder the past few years have been so awful,” she jabs back. “I’ve spent those with you.

He makes a face and throws a dish towel at her head. “Watch it,” he says playfully. “I can just as easily revoke my permission.”

He doesn’t, of course, and Blake picks her up at the docks, spends the next few days showing her around the island, explaining its history, the plights of the people who live there; her dad’s the Chieftan, which Yang translates to Blake equalling a princess or something - “I’ll literally kill you if you call me Your Highness again,” Blake threatens with a smirk that could definitely commit homicide - but still makes time for the two of them in his busy schedule, pushes meetings, delays calls. Kali’s there to pick up the slack when he’s not, and she can’t get enough of Yang, asking her details of her life she hadn’t even considered worth remembering.

“They like you,” Blake says.

“It’s like I’m meeting my girlfriend’s parents,” Yang says.

“Well,” Blake says, and doesn’t finish her thought. It’s one of the first times Yang hears it in her head as if she’d spoken it anyway, and raises a hand to her mouth, hiding her grin. Well, it kind of is.

New Year’s is hosted at their house - it’s the biggest on the island, has the best view of the fireworks; most of the guests are relegated to the surrounding deck and yard, but a minute to midnight has Blake and Yang on the balcony off her room, staring out at the water, calm and warm despite the time of year.

“You know,” Yang says, “they say the way you spend New Year’s Eve is the way you spend the rest of the year.”

Blake raises an eyebrow mildly, and Yang finds the curve of the moon brimming from her smile. “Is that so,” she says, sipping her champagne. “It’s pretty lucky I’m with you, then, isn’t it?”

It’s a softer response than Yang predicts, and it halts her subtly in her tracks, the island itself rippling as if on a wave; Blake’s only looking on, entirely unaware of what she’s done, any impact she’s had. Yang raises a hand, runs her fingertips against the line of Blake’s jaw, catches her chin.

Five! the voices cheer from inside, clinking glasses, laughing and shouting. Four! Three! Two!

Yang brings Blake’s mouth to hers at the declaration of one, kissing her so tenderly Blake swears she dims the fireworks, swears the tides reign themselves in, swears the entire city rises another inch out of the water. Her palm lays flat against Blake’s cheek without pressure, doesn’t force commitment but doesn’t give it up, either. When she pulls away, Blake’s breathless like it’s a permanent condition; her eyelids flutter open, Yang’s thumb brushing over her bottom lip.

“You and me,” Yang says, grinning at her. “I think we’re gonna make it.”

“Yeah,” Blake says, finding the next hundred years charted in her smile. “Yeah, I think we are.”)