Honestly, she can’t recall the date.
Someone should slap her, really, for not being able to remember the exact moment.
So much of Ruby Rose’s life has been about just running and running and moving forward without stopping to think. Her old track coach had called it her “down-blinkers”. She always told herself to keep her eyes on the ground just a few feet in front and focus on sprinting past that. And then the next patch. Then the next.
It helps her to manage.
Makes big things and long distances less scary. Com-part-men-ta-lise (a 20 point word that Yang had played out on the Scrabble board last week and then spent an hour crowing about).
But it also makes it such that there are times when she doesn’t see what’s coming up. Doesn’t know when she’s started something until she’s halfway through or maybe even near the end. Gets too far in and in too deep and only realising when she can’t get out.
Hence, it comes to no surprise that Ruby Rose doesn’t know when she started to fall in love.
“You can do this.”
But she sure as hell can pinpoint the second she realised she was.
“Another one in the bag, Rose, well done!”
“National team, here we come!”
“The scouts would have to be crazy to not to take notice of you by now.”
“You’re doing Mom proud.”
“Hey - stay with me Ruby. Stay awake. We’re almost home.”
It’s late at night, after the Maiden’s Day marathon. The post-run sweat and grime has already been washed off and she’s wrapped in the comfortingly warm maroon hoodie that her mom wore to the Olympics. A podium medal hangs on her chest and she looks forward to hanging it up on the wall next to the others. Beside the pictures of her and her mom, herself at uni, and the Vale recruitment posters that she keeps to remind herself to keep going.
But first, her world shifts.
Groggily following her best friend into their shared apartment, she doesn’t notice it till the tip of her splintered shoe has already caught on the rough doormat and she trips. But, she doesn’t fall. Someone catches her. Because someone who has always caught her, catches her.
She looks up and finally sees the finish line her fate has been racing towards. And-
Weiss, her partner of five years and best friend of four and roommate of one, is there. Tongue clicking but the faintest dimple pressed into her cheek as she holds the red-haired girl up by her upper arms. The dim hall light that they really should get around to changing shining a halo around her white tresses.
“You dolt,” Weiss chides, stepping forward to better support the bone-tired runner’s weight, the sweet smell of her natural perfume seeping into Ruby’s consciousness. “What if I hadn’t caught you?”
And at that second, when Ruby realises that her reflexive and very true response is “I don’t know” – that is when she crosses the line of no return. In first place, the true recipient of the gold – she’s in love with the best possible girl in the world - but somehow love feels nothing like the crowning achievement that her mom and Yang always said it would.
Because Weiss isn’t hers to love.
Somehow, Ruby’s done it anyway.
“I knew you would.”
As with any race, everything begins long before the mounting block.
A crash, the sound of shattering glass. Ruby’s board overturns and she’s flung to the side while the girl whose cart she’d run into falls front-first onto hissing chemicals.
Her and Weiss have always been close, despite whatever the sharp-tongued businesswoman may say otherwise. Their lives were bound together in a literal chemical reaction. It all started on the fateful day a young freshman named Ruby Rose had accidentally skated into the trolley of volatile reagents that Weiss Schnee, esteemed double major in Chemistry and Business, was pushing across the Beacon U quad.
Ambulance sirens. A van striped red and blue swerving onto the block. Crying. Crying. Ruby’s sitting on her heels just out of the disaster zone, and the girl that she’d run into is having jugs of water poured over her arms and hands. Two men in HazMat suits are pinning her down. She keeps struggling. Half-crazed, googles askew and voluminous hair being thrown out of her ponytail and red patches blotching her cheeks as tears run freely down to her chin.
Guiltily accompanying someone to make up for time and progress lost on “a project of import well beyond your feeble understanding” while the burns on her hands healed would do that.
Sure, things were rocky at first. The older girl was put out that “a gauche imbecilic dolt” had delayed her experiments, and Ruby did not take well to being insulted at every other moment. But, somewhere along their compulsory partnership – sometime after Yang had to be restrained from snapping the Schnee’s neck because “nobody talks to my little sis like that I don’t care if she’s the Spring Maiden’s left shoe” – Ruby starts waking up in Weiss’ lab to the aroma of heavily-sweetened coffee.
Skin smells worse than sulphur when it peels. Blisters and pops and leaves blood streaks on the gravel. The ambulance is gone. All that’s left is her and her broken skateboard. She’s trembling. Sprawled out at the base of the two-storey steps, and staring, horrified, at the yellow tapes she’d gleefully ignored. They were cordoning the area off.
[STAIRWAY CLOSED. TRANSPORT OF CORROSIVE CHEMICALS TAKING PLACE.]
She remembers the first time it had happened. An irate heiress jabbing her awake with bandaged fingers. Ruby stammering apologies and almost falling off her stool because it had been a long day of track practice and lectures but then again she wouldn’t be in this predicament if she had just been watching where she was going and Weiss with her third-degree burns has it much worse and she’s sorry and-
“Shush,” the taste of iodinated gauze was sour, but Ruby Rose had stayed still. Half out of fear, because Weiss still looks quite cross with her narrowed blue eyes and tapping foot, but also half out of surprise, because buried in that well-defined pout was a tinge of…regret?
The hand pulls away from her lips, and Ruby falls forward a little, off balance. “How do you take your coffee?”
She isn’t allowed into the hospital room. Couldn’t find a good way to explain who she was to the stiff-backed woman with ice chip eyes standing guard at the door. Anger rolls off her in waves.
“Don’t you dare come near my sister, you pleb. Not with those flowers. Your ignorance has done enough.”
But she keeps coming back. Day after day. Being blocked off by the same severe woman with a sharp sword by her side and a pistol underarm who finally, one day snaps, “Do you have any idea what you did?”
Ruby had blinked. And started. Slowly, cautiously, “Um…I don’t…”
Weiss’s cottoned fingers clench and quickly release, pain flashing across the sophomore’s face before morphing into irritation. “Answer the question!”
Ruby hands are already wrapped around Weiss’ before the sentence is finished.
They both stare at their entangled fingers – bright white silk wrap contrasting starkly with sunburnt brown. Ruby looks up at Weiss, at this porcelain heiress. She’s surprised at her own actions as well but...
“She may never use her hands again.”
At that point she knows nothing about Weiss Schnee except that she’s bossy and uptight. And according to Blake, her sister’s new best friend, incredibly rich and with power to spare. She doesn’t know what Weiss does on the weekends, where she stays, or what she dreams of at night. What she does when she’s not in a hospital bed.
But, she does know that in Weiss, there is kindness. Vividly recalls the day she had inexplicably, gratefully, let the brunette tag along.
Ruby stops trying after that.
The only things she knows about the heiress are the rumours flying around. The side-eyes and whispers in the lecture halls. Unsigned emails, dropped into her inbox. A group of white-wearing young adults, cornering her near the fountain.
It’s almost a month later when the runner is called into the Headmaster’s office. She avoids the gaze of Professor Ozpin, who Ruby had only seen this close just once, when he was smiling and shaking her hand in congratulations for winning the Beacon sports scholarship. This time, he has his hands folded on his cane and his lips turned down.
The white-haired girl had quietly stood up with both hands still wrapped in rigid casts, catching the attention of a white-suited man who was ranting at the Headmaster’s table side and demanding Ruby’s expulsion.
“Father? May I suggest something else?”
Advocated for Ruby to be assigned as her assistant while recovering instead, despite the man sneering and turning to Headmaster Ozpin with the dark threat that he wished for true justice to be served.
“Preposterous, Weiss. A personal assistant? You want to offer a coveted position to this girl as “punishment”?”
Ruby knows that despite having all the resources and clout needed to ruin her life beyond what she, her dad, Yang and their nobody island of Patch can imagine, Weiss gave her an easy out.
“I will see that she is given her just desserts.”
The heiress hadn’t even asked Ruby to do anything, in the first few months after the accident.
The only reason why she’s here now is because the runner had stumbled onto the other girl late one spring evening. Trying to turn the fragile knobs on glass burettes alone and cursing when her fingers slipped. The heiress had listened, when Ruby had practically begged to be allowed to help because she knows what she did. Has heard the reports and read the articles – Weiss Schnee, former candidate for valedictorian, now being held back a year and losing her awards because her hands no longer hold steady.
She’d listened and relented. Obviously stubborn and reluctant to ask for help but…she had.
She listens when Ruby complains about coursework. Listens to her rambling about the pranks she and Yang pulled while growing up. Listens when Ruby says that she’s sorry and snaps back “what’s done is done, dolt” but nothing worse than that. She never asks for Ruby to stay, but never tells her to go either. They both know that Ruby is here mostly to feed her own remorse.
“You’ve done enough.”
There is a kindness in Weiss, Ruby knows. The cuts that the heiress’ sharp tongue lashes out across her shoulders are a lot less than what should be done.
Hence, at 3am in a chemistry lab where she’s surrounded by the reminders of the things she broke, Ruby finds herself weak. Caught in a spell, moving just based on instinct and feel, Ruby gently, reverently caresses the palms in hers. The damaged wounds that had all the power to take her life away, but hadn’t.
Softly, just as Ruby’s probing fingers reach the edge of one wrist, pulse hammering beneath, Weiss exhales. “I resented you, you know.”
Ruby startles, and her grip loosens just enough for the heiress to pull away. She crosses her arms. The tension is palpable, with the red glow from the mounted digital wall clock spilling over the older girls’ face and slashing another bloody scar across her left eye.
She’s looked haunted, and with a deep, gut-wrenching feeling, Ruby wants to know why.
“I wanted you to feel, just a little, of how much I going through.” Weiss turns back to Ruby. “But-“
The taut line across Weiss’ shoulders snaps. Sags, even, as the heiress lets go of her elbows and one hand moves up to brush the twelve-pointed star on her sleeve.
“This isn’t your doing.”
“I would have the girl pay for ruining my heir.”
Ruby blinks again but claws her fingers over her knees, clamping down the urge to reach out.
Weiss bites her lower lip, and shyly raises blue eyes to meet silver, shining softly in the twilight, “You’re a good person, Ms Rose. You didn’t have to do this for me.”
This is the conversation that makes Ruby step onto the track. Realise that there are hidden depths to this white-haired heiress girl. That there’s more than just mercy in her soul. That there are stories and shattered fragments and hairline fractures hidden behind perfect skin and a thin vertical scar.
Weiss straightens, and meets Ruby’s gaze head-on, and to those sapphire eyes Ruby promises to be the friend that she’s asking for.
“Let me get you some coffee.”
It’s the start.
“Cream and five sugars, please. Thank you.”
After that, slowly but surely, their relationship changes. What had once started off as a matter of retribution for ill fate soon changes into a peaceful acquaintance, then friendship, then something much more.
Lab nights spill into mornings. Ruby learns how to make chamomile cream. Weiss turns up at her meets. Yang is introduced to the Schnee and touches the heiress’ gloves with her prosthetic. Ruby holds Weiss, the day after she gets thrown out.
They move into a small apartment together after university. The heiress has managed to build up a stable enough enterprise from which to launch her recovery of her grandfather’s company, and Ruby’s training for a shot at the national team while helping out at her sisters’ music emporium.
It’s hard to tell where one life begins and the other’s ends. Ruby’s red sweatshirts and FBTs are mixed in with Weiss’ business shirts and gowns. Their takeout orders are only together complete. There are inside jokes with layers without end and natural positions that they adopt on a couch. Secrets and tough nights leaning on each other without a word because in the other person’s presence is all they need.
If they were anyone else and Weiss didn’t need to maintain her pristine image and focus for her dreams and Ruby was more than the barely working sports-nut who had almost crippled her – their relationship progressing into a romantic one would have been as simple as placing one foot in front of the next.
But this…is who they are.
She contemplates all of this on the morning after her realisation, calves and quads aching and her syrupy pancakes turning cold.
A noisy clatter breaks Ruby out of her thoughts, and she turns just in time to see Weiss sink back onto her soles, un-gloved hands clutched close to her chest and bottom lip trapped in a silent wince. Ruby jumps up and dashes over to the kitchen counter, hands fluttering around the heiress.
“Weiss! Are you okay?”
A haughty scoff, and Weiss quickly steps around Ruby, bending down to gingerly pick up the plastic mugs that she’d dropped. (Ruby’s pretty sure she’s not supposed to, but she notices that Weiss is using her right hand, the non-dominant and less injured hand, to reach and even that is trembling).
“I’m fine, Ruby,” Weiss sniffs. She brushes past the brunette and turns the coffee maker on, slipping the mugs beneath the spout. Ruby pouts. Weiss ignores her, instead watching the coffee beans mulch and swirl down the fancy glass funnel.
That won’t do.
Jutting out her lower lip, Ruby crouches slightly and places her face next to the coffee jug. Weiss looks up and away, right hand still clutching her left and turned in. Her tone is sharp and petulant.
“Ruby Rose it’s been five years. I’ll have you know that I’ve grown immune to that.”
“Go away Ruby, go sit down.”
“The coffee’s going to be done soon. I will pour it on you and it will burn.”
Ruby waits. (She knows she’s winning)
“Urgh – fine!” Weiss relents and surrenders her fists. The runner quickly catches them and cradles the businesswoman’s palms for inspection.
The silvery swathes that stretch across are a familiar sight. She sees them whenever their hands brush. She especially notices them on the days where Weiss will complain. When she says there’s a heaviness in her limbs and rests her forehead against Ruby’s shoulder, quietly groaning. When things fall from her grasp due to a lack of sensation or a muscle spasm.
Contemplative, Ruby traces one finger along the biggest scar – a spidery thing grows from a thin band at the outer corner of her left wrist to a bloom near her pinky. Notices the way Weiss grumbles, clearly tired of being coddled.
Still, it’s her duty to do what Weiss would never do for herself.
“Is it bad, today?” Ruby asks, looking up once satisfied that there are no new cuts or tears.
Weiss snatches her hands back, spinning around to forcefully grab the steaming mugs and pour the requisite cream and sugar into each.
“I’m fine, Ruby.”
Ruby rolls her eyes, and wraps one arm around Weiss’ shoulders, channelling a little bit of Yang courage into her demeanour.
Weiss turns in the embrace, and aggressively pushes the red and black coffee mug, the one with a cartoon depiction of Deadpool parodying The Scream, into Ruby’s chest. The ceramic is warm and Ruby will swear that that is the only reason why her heart starts beating faster when she realises how close she’s standing to the heiress, enough to see the faint smattering of sun freckles across her nose bridge.
“One coffee, with blaspemous amounts of sugar and cream, just for you.”
That’s all the warning she gets before Weiss starts moving and quickly Ruby is forced to let go of the heiress to catch the given mug. Weiss smirks triumphantly, and Ruby raises the mug to her lips, partly to hide her embarrassment at being caught off guard, mostly to hide her sudden urge to kiss that upturned corner of Weiss’ mouth.
Weiss brings her own coffee to the table and settles down, opening her tablet to flick through the morning news. Then, her left hand seizes; cramps abruptly, and the heiress makes a grimace.
Ruby slides into the chair beside Weiss and puts her coffee down, lips now scalded enough to warn her from doing anything foolish. Carefully, she reaches out.
“I know you’re fine, but…do you want me to wrap them for you?” Ruby asks, quiet and gentle, the way she always does when addressing the part of the heiress she’d wrecked.
Weiss pauses, then sighs, and nods just once, slowly. “Just for today.”
Ruby smiles and quickly fetches the cooling salve and thin cotton bandages that the heiress keeps on reserve. Weiss has already laid out her hands, palms-up, on the kitchen table, left hand twitching slightly to relieve the stiffness.
With practiced movements, Ruby applies the ointment. Weiss exhales, and rests her head against the back of her chair.
“Someday, I’ll pay you back for this.”
Ruby looks up at Weiss, making a face as she tucks in the small tuft excess cloth beside Weiss’ thumb.
“You don’t have to.”
Weiss pulls her hands back and wraps them around her mug. Her bangs fall across her brow. “I should, Ruby.” Blue eyes flick up to meet silver. “I should.”
Ruby frowns and closes her palms over Weiss’. Finds her heart skipping a beat when the heiress laces their fingers together and squeezes. She struggles to keep her feelings in check when the other girl tugs her a little closer, lightly glossed lips just out of reach.
Distracted, Ruby can’t help it when the truth slips out.
“I’d do anything for you.”
The sprinter’s eyes widen and she wishes she could stuff those forbidden words back into her mouth. Hurriedly, she releases Weiss’ hands and starts running her mouth.
“I mean – I can buy anything for you! Yang’s got me working the front counter today so I’ll probably be free in the afternoon, do you want me to fetch dinner on my way back there’s this new Thai place that I’ve been dying to try and-“
Weiss laughs. Ruby’s sentence tapers off. She pushes herself to stand and aggressively grabs both of their mugs to rinse and wash, the warm flush on her neck obviously giving her away.
(Damn, just one day in and she’s already losing control, huh?)
That restraint is tested even further when she feels Weiss briefly curl around her back. Minty breath whispers across Ruby’s ear, and she has to fight a full-body shiver when her partner says, “You’re my best friend, I’d do anything for you too.”
Ruby clenches her jaw.
(Friend. Best friend. They’re just friends.)
Maybe if she repeats it enough her mind will finally remember and she and Weiss can go on their merry way and she can keep on running on this looping track.
But, obviously, all races have an end.
Weiss touches Ruby’s hand, and once again, pristine white is placed against dark brown, except this time it’s different and Ruby knows that there is so much more to this girl that is worth protecting than just kindness.
Ruby looks up, and Weiss grants her a rare, full smile, “Thank you.”
The pounding in her chest returns. The shrill whistle of another lap run.
This was going to be harder than she thought.
Hello! Not going to say much here in case I give any spoilers but this story is mostly complete, for once, so please be assured that there will be an end and hopefully it's a good one.
Welcome along for the ride :)
Chapter 2: Denial
"If at first you don't succeed,
Try, try, try again"
- William Edward Hickson
As expected, Blake is the first to notice.
It happens almost at once.
One moment she’s alone in the emporium and rearranging guitar picks into a puppy shape. The next, she hears the voice of god.
Ruby topples over with a shriek. This is it - she’s finally encountered Mrs Squealer, the murderous escalator-toilet-mall ghost.
She’s gonna die.
Then she realises that the soft voice is…eerily familiar.
As in her sister’s ninja-like girlfriend kind of familiar.
(Her third-favourite person in the world who has been gone for the past two weeks is back.)
She hurdles over the counter and throws her arms around the black-haired woman’s neck.
“Blake! You’re here!”
Letting out a soft “oof”, said woman stumbles a little but manages to keep them both upright. She chuckles and pats the small sprinter’s head, a tone of affection colouring her voice. “It’s nice to see you too, Ruby.”
Ruby grins and hops back onto the floor, already beginning to pester her future sister-in-law with questions. “How was your trip? Was Menangerie nice? How are Ghira and Kali doing? Ooh ooh didja get me anything?”
Blake laughs, high and helplessly, and Ruby keeps babbling on, asking three questions for every one that she answers. Thankfully, a sunny voice interrupts Ruby’s verbal flood before Blake gets drowned.
“Hey, hey, where’s my welcome?” Yang thumps over in her heavy biking boots from the door. She flicks up her aviator glasses and opens her arms with a teasing grin “Shouldn’t I get something too?”
Ruby sticks her tongue out. “I just saw you an hour ago!”
Yang sighs and pretends to fan herself, pressing the back of one hand to her forehead. She closes her eyes, adopting a weary, breathless tone, “Oh, the pains of growing up – my own flesh and blood doesn’t care about me anymore.” Another exhale, with even more drama. “She didn’t even notice I was gone.”
Yang faints and fawns over to the pair, before abruptly falling onto Ruby, crushing her against the Faunus. “Blake, you’re my only hope now. For love, for companionship, for sweet, sweet attention.”
Said woman snorts.
Ruby squirms and jabs at Yang’s side, but her sister is as stubborn as a bear and twice as heavy. The brawler stays put and continues to keep Ruby in place by force of will (and gravity). Eventually, Blake huffs.
Letting go of Ruby, she unceremoniously shoves Yang forward, giving the younger Rose-Xiao Long the space to escape while Yang flails mid-pontification and lands on the floor.
The blonde woman looks down, then up, and shoots Blake a cheeky smirk.
“Dear, looks like I’ve fallen for you again.”
Blake rolls her eyes. Ruby boos. But still, the stoic woman helps her girlfriend up. Brushes imaginary specks of dust off Yang’s jacket and doesn’t pull away from a sloppy cheek kiss. Yang loops an arm around Blake’s waist and Blake leans into the space of Yang’s shoulder, the edges and curves of each other lining up perfectly.
Ruby watches the pair snuggle, feeling a tiny flame of happiness light in her chest. Blake and Yang have been properly together for almost three years now. Despite their outward differences – one being a boisterous music extraordinaire and the other a calm and collected lawyer, they complement each other in every way and were basically two parts of a whole.
Much like she wanted to, but could definitely never be, with Weiss.
(Damn, she’d managed to not think about it for almost five minutes that time.)
“Remnant to Ruby. Remnant to Ruby.” A waving hand in front of her face breaks the runner out of her stupor, just in time for her to catch Yang scrunching her nose and raising her arms, giving Blake a one-shouldered shrug.
“See what I mean? She’s been like this all day. Almost stuffed a bunch of CDs into a soundhole before I stopped her.”
A brief flashback to that embarrassing moment, and Ruby rubs the back of her head sheepishly, “Sorry.” Yang makes a face and a shooing gesture. “Hey, no harm done. You should head on back if you’re tired though, it’s already past closing time.”
Confused, Ruby glances at the outside sky. She realises with a shock that the sky is indeed turning a dark orange.
Has she really been that lost in thought?
Well, that was only be expected. It’s not every day that she realises that she has an entirely hopeless crush (or more than crush) on her best friend and has to deal with the idea of somehow ridding herself of these feelings when she lives with the other girl and spends seventy percent of her free time with her and honestly would want to spend the other thirty with her too if Weiss didn’t need to-
“Ruby? You’re spacing out again.”
Ruby jerks and straightens up “Oh! Sorry Blake.” Her eyes dart around, trying to figure out what she’d missed in her latest mental monologue. “Where’d Yang go?”
Blake tilts her head towards the counter, gesturing at the open office door “She’s in the back picking up some papers – we’d really only stopped by for that. Finding you here was a happy accident.” Pausing briefly, the cat-eared woman purses her lips and places a hand on Ruby’s elbow. “What’s on your mind though? If you don’t mind me asking. You do seem distracted.”
Ruby gulps. This wasn’t good. She was pretty terrible at lying about even small things and this was a big thing. On top of that, this is Blake Belladonna, who was able to figure out how to tell when Yang is bluffing in poker within a few games while Ruby’s been playing that game with her since her early teens and still has no clue.
(Maybe if she’s vague about it, Blake won’t know.)
“Um, well, I’m tired from work?”
Blake quirks one eyebrow, leaning against a rack of recorders in a smooth motion that barely makes them rattle. She flicks her eyes down to the almost-complete rendition of a dog on the floor. The deadpan expression on dragging them up makes it clear that Ruby’s going to have to find a better excuse.
Ruby sighs. Just no names then.
“So, um, there’s this girl. Joan.”
Blake’s ears perk.
Ruby rocks back on her heels and buries her hands in her hoodie pockets. “We’ve kinda been friends for ages, like really really good friends, and I, um, kinda realised just very recently that I maybe want to be more than that?”
(“More than that”? What is she, a teenager with a crush?)
Maidens above she feels like she’s having heat stroke with how hard she’s blushing and for a laconic personality Blake’s smirk is really obvious?
“But, um, the problem kinda is that W- Joan is way out of my league.” Ruby fidgets and Blake tilts her head like she knows. “As in, she’s so out of my league that we’re not even doing the same sport. I mean I’m a city-div sprinter but she’s probably an international ice skater or an Olympic fencer or-“
“Ruby.” Blake cuts her off, the amused tone of her voice giving away that she’s fighting back chuckles. But the word works, and Ruby shuts up. Temporarily. While she tries very hard not to imagine Weiss spinning in the air or gracefully lunging forward with a sword.
The corners of Blake’s mouth turn up and she gives Ruby a gentle smile, an encouraging one.
“It sounds like you really like her.”
Ruby twitches and looks down.
“Yeah, um. I do.” Ruby twists the cloth of her pockets between her fingers and thinks of the heiress’ scars – one on her face and many everywhere else. Fibrosed. Fragile. Healed but always ready to be broken.
“I really do.”
Blake slips away from the display shelf and steps in front of Ruby, placing her left hand over her right, where an obsidian and gold banded bracelet hangs.
“Then why don’t you tell her?”
The simple words, said with no ill thought, strike Ruby like a hammer. They hurt, even though they shouldn’t.
“I…” Ruby pauses, and tugs at the cloth of her jacket, long-held guilt crawling up again. “I hurt her, pretty badly, when we first met. Her life’s a lot tougher now than it would have been if I hadn’t messed up. She deserves more than someone like me.”
Weiss’ face, when she held the results of the first assignment that she’d completed after her accident, a large F obscuring the top because she still couldn’t write fast enough.
“Also, well- I’m kinda nobody right now.” Ruby sniffs, and scuffs her boots against the floor, feeling the blunt impact as something more than real. “I mean, I have a couple of awards, but that’s nothing compared to what she has. I’m just an inter-city runner and she’s well – she’s everything.”
Blake’s expression shifts, almost imperceptibly, and her ears flatten. The Faunus steps closer, but Ruby continues, giving voice to the thoughts that have always been present.
“If she hadn’t met me, I don’t know what I would have done. But I know she would have gone on to be somebody great. She doesn’t need me. She’s never needed me. But I didn’t even realise that I needed her until I had her and now I’m so scared that this is going to mean that I’ll lose her and-“
Quickly, Blake pulls Ruby into a hug, just before the first tears fall.
Ruby buries her face into Blake’s coat, and stands there shaking and taking in blubbery breaths. A deep rumble echoes through the Faunus’ chest. Quiet words, and a comforting warmth envelops Ruby from behind as well. The feeling of cool metal and the whirring of centimetre-wide gears confirms Yang’s presence.
It’s not the same as being wrapped in Weiss, but it helps.
Once the younger woman calms herself to mere hiccups, Blake gingerly lets go. But Yang stays loosely attached, carding her fingers through Ruby’s hair just like she did when they were kids.
“I’m sorry,” Ruby sniffs, scrubbing the fluids off her face with her sleeve. “That’s probably more than what you were asking for.”
Blake frowns. “It’s plenty enough.”
She pauses, a still frame in slow motion, then clasps both hands behind her back.
“Have you thought of talking to Joan about this?”
Ruby inadvertently laughs, a short bark that carries no real mirth, and hunches in on herself. “What am I going to say? Hi, I think I really like you. Even though you deserve way better than me and I’ve hurt you, maybe we could do a fancy dinner Friday at a wine and cheese place with a name I can’t pronounce?”
Yang flicks Ruby’s cheek and the shorter woman hisses at the sting. “Well, cut out that middle part and you’re grate to go.”
Ruby groans at the bad pun and pushes her sister away. Yang sniggers, and Ruby feels just a tiny bit better. But she still narrows her eyes in suspicion. “It can’t be that easy.”
Blake spreads her hands out. “Sometimes, life is just that, Ruby.” The couple look at each other, and Ruby gets the sense that they’re holding a silent conversation about something else. Then, the black-haired woman turns back to Ruby “Besides, it sounds like Joan forgave you for what happened long ago. Otherwise, you two wouldn’t have become such close friends for so long.”
“That’s…” Ruby pauses, letting the words sink in. “I guess that’s true.”
Yang punches her shoulder. “Go get the girl, tiger.”
Ruby giggles, a genuine expression of happiness this time. Hearing their words of affirmation…was nice. And it felt like a huge secret was off her chest. It didn’t help make the situation feel any less overwhelming, but at least she wasn’t alone in her confusion anymore.
“But, pro-tip, Weiss probably wouldn’t appreciate being called “Joan”. It sounds a little too close to Jaune and we all know how she feels about him.”
Ruby freezes. She wouldn’t - wait, no, yup, she would be smothered in her sleep. She begins her futile brainwashing attempt. “Weiss? No! I’m not talking about Weiss!” The brunette gestures madly, trying to erase and/or pluck the idea from her sister’s mind but the brawler only continues to cackle. So she resorts to reiterating her (fake) point “I have plenty of friends who are really smart and pretty and who I’m really close with!”
Blake coughs, drawing the pair’s attention, and the amused Faunus points towards Ruby’s scroll on the floor, the blue notification light blinking merrily. “By the way, you received a message just now. I think “Joan” is wondering why you got caught up at the store.”
Ruby eeps and dives for the device, frantically opening her chat box and looking for the message from Weiss.
What she finds instead, is much more surprising.
“Oh my god.”
Blake’s ears slant, and Yang stops her chortle.
“What is it, Ruby?” “Is everything alright?”
“Oh my God.” A crazed smile is stretching over Ruby’s face and Blake looks at Yang for guidance, but the blonde looks equally confused.
“Oh my GOD.”
“Okay, I know you’re not that religious.” Yang reaches over and plucks the phone out of Ruby’s grasp. Then promptly drops it when she sees the message on top.
“YOU GOT A SPOT ON THE NATIONAL TEAM??”
Somewhere outside, a pigeon is traumatised for life.
A high-pitched squeal of alien frequencies whistles out of Ruby as she’s squished tightly in Yang’s arms. She can’t really breathe, but that’s okay, because she just got told her that she’s been selected for the Mistral National Track Team.
Eventually though, the need for oxygen overcomes her euphoric haze and she taps her sister’s side, their long-used signal for “Yang, air please.”
Stumbling back to the ground and gasping, Ruby hurriedly looks over the message again, held out helpfully by Blake who is now acting as the substitute stress ball for Yang to expend her excitement on.
Her head’s a little dizzy from asphyxiation, but she can read the words well enough. And, she wasn’t wrong.
“I have to clear an interview next week first, but-“ Yang whoops as Ruby makes her next statement, “they’re saying that they really like my record and if there are no admin issues I’ll be training with the new team this month!”
This is her chance to break into the big leagues. From just sprinting around the block as a pre-teen, to her sports scholarship to Beacon U, to the back-to-back races she’s been running for the past year…this is the next step.
Then, Blake points out something just as, or maybe even more important. “This may sound premature, Ruby, but, if you get through this interview…you won’t be just a nobody anymore.”
An image of Weiss, cheering in the stands. Except this time it’s not just a small inter-varsity meet or a local bank’s marathon. Her, on the podium, glancing at Weiss and clutching the medal on her chest and feeling joy swell up because this is the future her mother had talked about. A kiss on the cheek, and seeing Weiss decked out in her colours and feeling proud.
The words fall out before she truly registers them. “You’re right.”
Her hand is already on the door. “I’ve got to tell Weiss.”
And she’s out, sprinting down the block.
Unbeknownst to Ruby, just a minute after she leaves, Yang turns to Blake and states (not asks), “so…I won the bet.”
Blake sighs, and opens her wallet.
All the way home, Ruby feels like she’s on top of the world. The fog and confusion from yesterday is gone. Or at least, she’s run past it and has actively decided to just trust in her feet.
There’s still the lingering doubt that she’s enough for Weiss. That what she can give is enough to make up for what she’ll take away. That her and her sweaty palms and clumsy love will be worthy of being the one to wrap Weiss’ hands every day, whether with bandages or her own.
She doesn’t pay attention to her surroundings when she gets back, quickly tearing off her sneakers and barging into the apartment, seeing the white waterfall of Weiss’ hair in the living room and acting accordingly.
“Weiss! Weiss!” She dives onto the other girl, trusting that she’ll catch her, just like she always does.
Weiss whirls around and gives a start, conveniently opening up her trunk as a wider target for Ruby to latch as an octopus on, “Ruby!”
“Weiss!” the sprinter parrots back happily, before flinging her arms around Weiss’ shoulders and letting the words just flow out “Oh my gosh I’ve got some really great news. Also I need to ask you something really important and maybe kinda strange but maybe it’s not because you’re my best friend and I was thinking maybe we could be something mo-“
“Please stop, Ruby.” Weiss’ rebuke is an Arctic glacier. It’s solid and cold and sinks the remaining words with finality. Ruby shrivels under the full weight of Weiss’ glare. Abruptly, she realises that the heiress is still in her work clothes. That there’s a set of fine glasses on the table in front of the couch her partner is sitting on.
And there’s another person, impeccably decked in a red vest and black dress pants, sitting in her chair.
Numb, Ruby lets go of Weiss, and eases a few inches back towards the other side of the couch.
Weiss doesn’t spare the girl a second glance and quickly turns towards the stranger. She has a pleasant expression on her face, one that’s different from the one that she usually wears with mere work colleagues or the occasional suitor that her sister sends.
Ruby assumes that this suave being belongs to the latter group.
She feels sick.
“My apologies Neptune, shall we continue this conversation tomorrow?”
The chisel-jawed, tan and tall man (everything that scrawny, burnt and built for speed Ruby Rose is not) smiles and shows his gleaming white teeth.
“Most definitely, Miss Weiss. Our conversation has been delightful.”
Weiss- Weiss giggles. And Weiss never giggles. Not with anyone that’s not her. Not with someone whom she has only just met. The hopeful flame that had sparked back at Yang’s shop, the one that Blake had fanned into something large – it sputters out.
The noble heiress stands and reaches a hand out towards the man. “The feeling is mutual. I must say it has been a while since I met someone as intriguing as you.”
He gently holds it, taking care not to disrupt the gloves. “Enchanté,” he purrs, and bows low. For a moment Ruby thinks he’s going to do something ridiculously prince-like like kiss the back of Weiss’ hand, but instead he just gives it a gentle squeeze before letting go.
Dammit, he’s a gentleman too.
“Allow me to show you out.”
Quickly, the pair exit the room. Vaguely, Ruby notices that this man, this Neptune, is a full head taller than Weiss. That his shoulder is at the perfect height for Weiss to lean on, if wished.
She’s not enough.
The sharp click of the door locking shut is followed by silence. Then an aggravated, angry hiss and Weiss is now in front of her, blue-grey blazer unbuttoned and gloves tossed onto the coffee table. There’s a deep crease between Weiss’ white brows and Ruby doesn’t like it. Especially not with her arms crossed and one elbow propped up so that the heiress can pinch her forehead between her fingertips.
“Ruby. Did you see my message.”
No…she hadn’t. To be honest she hadn’t bothered to look at the rest of the notifications after that even on the ride home because she’d been excited and hopeful and though the screen was flashing blue and she saw Weiss’ name just a few inches under – she hadn’t stopped to think it through.
Ruby looks down and wishes that she could slow.
“You dolt! Today was an important meeting!” The heiress flings her hands out and begins pacing the room. “I’ve spent weeks trying to build up a good rapport with Neptune and trying to make him take me seriously and then this happens!”
Ruby wants to be swallowed whole.
“Everything’s ruined now! He’ll never look at me without laughing again! I was actually enjoying his company!”
Ruby draws her legs up to her chest, both her guilt at disrupting her best friend’s evening as well as this new information that…she’s too late. She’s not sure which hurts more.
Weiss groans. “Hopefully he’ll still give me a chance.”
Maybe if she asks Yang really nice, her sister will re-home her in her heartbroken state.
The heiress sighs, and the pacing comes to a stop. Ruby feels the couch dip beside her, but doesn’t break her thousand-yard stare against her knee-caps, afraid that if she takes a look at the future which is now irrevocably out of reach she’ll crack.
Moments of silence, dragged out with a swirling abyss in between, and a hand lands on her shoulder. Ruby flinches away, and Weiss doesn’t push. Instead, out of the corner of her eye, she sees the heiress’ hand clench and unclench in mid-air, before falling and settling on her own lap.
“What did you want to tell me?”
Good news, she was supposed to feel good news.
“I, um, I got short-listed for the nationals team.”
A sharp inhale. Ruby- Ruby finds the courage to uncurl and shifts to look at Weiss.
The other woman’s eyes are wide, and a few strands of hair have escaped her loosened ponytail and caress her cheek. Weiss gapes soundlessly, before confirming “Really?”
Slowly, Ruby nods. Weiss’ mouth stretches up but in the wreckage left behind from their ruined evenings it feels hollow.
“Well that’s- that’s great news. Congratulations, Ruby.”
Her legs feel sore.
“Is there something else you’d wanted to tell me?”
The air feels thick. It’s hard to breathe. Did they forget to turn the humidifier off?
No, it’s just the sobs backed up in her throat.
“I um- nah. That’s it.”
Chapter 3: Anger
an empty space is something to be filled.
The next day, she’s waiting outside the Hocum City Stadium. There’s still a half hour to opening time, early enough that the sun has yet to replace the moon.
But, it’s also early enough for her to have left the apartment without bumping into Weiss.
Fingers shivering in the morning chill, and dearly wishing that she’d put on more than her hoodie and a pair of jeans when she’d escaped, Ruby taps through an archive of articles that she’d found with the keywords “blue-hair rich Neptune business”. And what she finds makes her teeth grind.
His name is Neptune Vasilias.
Firstborn son and heir to the Trident Corporation, a shipping conglomerate ranked amongst the best in the world. The boy is currently acting as the vice-chair of International Relations. Seems like he was parachuted into the position.
Graduate of Vacuo International Academy with a Masters in Business only magna cum laude, with a minor degree in Literature. No notable academic achievements.
Winner of Vacuo Times’ most eligible bachelor award one year ago. They make no mention of his personality.
Featured in multiple tabloid articles for his “rugged, side-swept locks”, “heartbreaker smile” and “dazzling sea blue eyes”.
(Seriously, maybe it’s just because she’s about as gay as it comes but just how many people could actually like his dumb face enough to make ridiculous similes with it?)
Angrily, Ruby shoves her phone back into her pocket and is half-tempted to run a few laps around the block. This boy seems like a player, with the number of photographs that he has with various girls, each headed by a title about him finding a new beau. He also seems a little useless, what with his lack of actual skills aside from being born with a silver spoon in his mouth (unlike Weiss). She doesn’t like him. Not one bit.
Then again, it’s not like her opinion matters. And she knows this because she’d actually tortured herself and asked.
“Neptune seems nice,” she’d choked out last night, because the tense silence and lonely clinking of metal cutlery against ceramic had been too much for Ruby to swallow down with her cold mango sticky rice.
Typically, with any other suitor, this comment would open the floodgates to a whole tirade. If Weiss could find something to nit-pick about with the men that courted her, she would.
But Weiss had merely hummed, and Ruby’s heart sank.
So now she’s jogging around the perimeter of the building and trying to clear her mind of all thoughts about stupid Neptune Vasilias and Weiss. About her dumb, useless feelings and how those, if Weiss ever knew, would ruin her best friend’s chance at happiness.
Stupid. Stupid. Not like you had a shot anyways.
Her phone buzzes, and Ruby slows down from her sprint to check it out. It’s a text from Yang.
yAng, 0835: [what’d ice queen say?]
Ruby debates ignoring the message, but ultimately replies, “nt a gd time. nt important. didn’t say.”
Yang sends back a blobfish. Normally, that would make her smile.
Stamping her feet onto the asphalt, Ruby looks up. The office lights are on now, and Ruby can see staff milling around the front counter of the national sports team HQ. Wiping her palms on her jeans, Ruby exhales. She has to keep moving. The more she moves, the less she’ll keep thinking about this.
She enters the reception area and a chipper young boy wearing the official HQ crew polo beams at her.
“Hi! Can I help you?”
Reflexively, Ruby finds herself smiling back, though she still feels like a scabbed road burn inside.
“Hi, um- I got a message yesterday saying that I’m on the shortlist for the national sprints team? I think I’m supposed to fill out a couple of forms.”
The boy nods and taps a few keys on his computer. “Alright! Congratulations! Full name?”
Ruby shoves her hands into her pockets, “Um. Ruby Rose Yan Li.”
The boy pauses, and Ruby knows what’s coming up. It’s normal, especially when she’s in sports places like this, but with her current mood she’s not in the best place to deal with it.
Still, that doesn’t stop him from asking “Rose? As in, Summer Rose?”
Sheepish, Ruby nods. She scuffs her worn out sneakers against the floor. Her mother’s fame has always preceded her. Sometimes a good thing, sometimes not– Summer Rose had touched a lot of people in her life and people tended to look at her like she would too.
The teenager’s wide eyes are flitting between her hoodie and strange red-black-brown hair rapidly and Ruby realises in hindsight that maybe she should have worn something other than her mom’s old Olympic pullover with the highly recognisable five rings on the shoulder and faded “MISTRAL TRACK” in white on the front.
He gasps. The dots have connected then.
“Oh my gosh, you’re Summer Rose’s daughter. I’m a huge fan – she was such an inspiration, I’ve watched all of her interviews and shows, I even have a signed poster, I tried to get my dad to buy me a Rose-torch but they were sold out really fast. Oh! I’m sure that you get asked this question a lot but where is she now! Is she still in the track circuit?”
The boy is practically vibrating in excitement, and that makes Ruby feel all the worse for what she’s about to tell him.
“Alder?” Ruby broaches, hoping that the name printed onto the boy’s nametag is accurate. The boy nods and straightens, looking eager. The runner mulls over the words in her mouth. She’s had to say them a lot, so the sharp sting is gone, but a faint, dull ache in her heart still thumps, especially when she put in a spot like this with old fans who don’t know. “My mom passed away ten years ago.”
The teen bobs his head and the smile stretches wide – then it freezes, and Ruby can see exactly when her statement actually registers. It’s when his thin shoulders climb up to his ears and his long fingers tangle together tightly. He hiccups, and starts breathing a little faster.
“Oh. Um. I’m sorry.” He splutters out. Like air escaping from a deflating balloon.
Ruby rubs the back of her head and plays with her hood, inhaling a scent that’s long disappeared. “It’s okay, you didn’t know.”
The silence turns awkward. The boy is obviously affected, but Ruby does not remark on his rapid blinks and the deep indents his nails are digging into his skin.
It’s normal, this is normal, this is how people always react.
She clears her throat and does her best to move on. Maybe she sounds a little callous, but…is there a point in doing otherwise?
“About those papers?”
The intern jumps and releases his hands, “Right! Let me get those printed out for you!”
Ruby hums and points over her shoulder, at the bench and a noticeboard on the wall where various event sheets and rosters are pinned. “I’ll just…hang around there then?”
The boy nods again, and Ruby ignores the fact that there’s a glassy sheen to his eyes. Shoving her hands into her pullover pockets, Ruby doesn’t have to wait for long before two folders of papers are held out beside her elbow.
“Um, here are the papers Ma’am. One set is for your own keeping, the other just needs to be faxed to the capital by the end of the week. If you pass it back to me I can do that for you.”
Ruby smiles and gives the boy a weak thumbs-up, trying her best to be the strong capable adult.
He disappears into a back room.
Sighing, Ruby glances up at the clock. 07:41 AM. Weiss is probably at work now. Dragging her eyes down the noticeboard, she catches sight of a familiar poster, showing the bed of an oval track and white petals flying behind a singular runner, the words “Rising like the Moon” printed beneath. She touches the blurry figure, their shared red hair just barely visible in the faded ink.
Gods, how she wished she could talk to her mom about this.
Shaking her head, Ruby scans through the documents, getting a little cross-eyed from the legalese (maybe she should have brought Weiss here) but sensing that the general gist is nothing of ill intent. She fills in her basic information and portfolio, answers health checklists and sponsorship limits, but pauses at the last question on publicity and paparazzi in the forms
Do you have any relatives or partners in your life whom you would also like to include under this protection?
She writes down her dad and sister’s names, and Blake’s for good measure. But, her pen only blots the paper when she tries to scratch out a “W”. She bites her lip. Best friend is the most accurate relationship term right now. But best friend wouldn’t cut it.
They’re not partners. Not in the sense that a dotted line will accept.
Weiss Vasilias is a terrible name.
(Keep moving, keep moving, don’t think.)
She flips to the next page, and quickly signs on the remaining slots and before she knows it she’s handing the sheaf back to the staff and giving a murmured “Thank you.”
The boy jerks his chin up and down, eyes tinged red, and waves with forced cheer. “You’re welcome! See you on the track!”
Poor boy, Ruby thinks. She knows what it’s like to suddenly receive unpleasant news. Unfortunately, as evidenced by her poor manners this morning, she has no sage advice. It’s best that she leave him to grieve in peace.
Ruby turns to go, but-
(No, this isn’t who her mom raised her to be.
This isn’t who she pushes herself to be.
Not who Weiss would want her to be.)
Ruby takes a step back and places a hand on the teen’s shoulder.
The young boy- Alder- Alder, he looks up. His lips are thinned out, trembling, and Ruby remembers being fifteen and watching her world fall apart. She catches his gaze and gives him a warm, genuine smile.
“Hey. Losing someone doesn’t mean the end. Now, there’s a space, for something new.”
Tears well up in Alder’s eyes. But he nods and stands a little taller. Ruby pats his shoulder once again.
Now this, this is enough.
Ruby can feel the intern’s stare on her back as she leaves the building, probably drinking in the black and silver-lined rose emblem between her shoulders.
It’s a reminder of the things that she has yet to be. The distance that she still has to go.
At least this race is one that she’s on track for.
When Ruby gets back, there’s a box of her favourite cookie cupcakes on the dining table, and Weiss is tapping at her tablet, a pair of white earbuds in place and the guttural words of her native tongue spilling out. A conference call, probably. Something important that she wouldn’t understand, probably. The runner does her best to sneak past, but then there’s a quick and firm sequence of commands and the clatter of plastic on glass.
The heiress is already out of her chair when Ruby turns around. Weiss’ long hair is up in a messy bun and she’s wearing one of Ruby’s windbreakers and it hangs down to her thighs and the sheer domesticity of it all makes her want to weep.
She’s placing a hand over Ruby’s raised one. The skin of her palm is rough. She’s frowning. (Ruby doesn’t like that.)
Weiss bites her lip, a nervous habit that she hasn’t seen much of since year one. “Can we talk?”
Ruby gulps, and tugs a little away, making excuses. “I, um, I have to prepare for the interview sorry. Just went to submit the admin forms and they called me in the afternoon and asked me to go down next week and you know I’m kinda lame at talking about myself and-“
Weiss juts her lower lip out and Ruby stops talking. Fixes her eyes on the big blues meeting hers. Feels all her remaining excuses shrivel up because…Weiss looks sad. She’s never wanted to make Weiss sad.
She exhales, and Weiss is twining their fingers together and already pulling her into their tiny kitchen before she can get the words out.
“Okay, for a little while.”
The short businesswoman practically sits Ruby into a chair and shoves the delicious-smelling box into her chest.
“I dropped by Ren’s bakery today – got you those sugar muffins that you like.”
Ruby starts to salivate. She can’t help it, but at least her lust is now directed at a more acceptable candidate.
A hiss, and the aroma of basil and cheese wafts up before her as Weiss places a bowl heaped with spaghetti and tomato sauce on the table top.
“I- I made us pasta too, if you’re hungry.”
Gods she loves this girl.
It slips out.
Weiss laughs, an startled thing, like a sound she didn’t even know she could make, and Ruby blushes, and something- something feels a little more right with the world. But then the heiress falls silent again, and Ruby fidgets in her seat. There’s a muscle in Weiss’ jaw that’s twitching and Ruby wishes that she could reach up to soothe it smooth, wishes she hadn’t done something so stupid as to fall in love and hope too much and made it appear there.
Weiss chews on her lip again and sits down beside Ruby, scarred hands clasped on her lap.
“Ruby, I need to apologise,” she starts. Ruby’s heart sinks. She knows what this is about.
“No, no – I deserved it. I didn’t stop to think, I ruined your evening-“
Weiss shakes her head once, firmly, and half her hair spills out of the tie and Ruby is momentarily distracted by the shimmering waterfall.
“No, you didn’t.” The heiress sighs. “Yesterday was a wonderful day for you and you were excited to share it with me. In my exasperated pique, I did not give you the proper recognition of that.”
Weiss looks up and catches her palms, the fibrous tissue on hers rubbing against Ruby’s callouses. “Forgive me?”
Ruby – Ruby doesn’t know how to respond. Weiss always gets like this. Apologises for things that she didn’t do wrong. Shows kindness and mercy when Ruby knows that it isn’t deserved. Gives her the things that she has no right to receive.
But it makes her feel warm and fuzzy inside and Ruby wants.
And so the runner chuckles, and pillows one cheek on her other hand to hide her growing smile.
“I don’t know, just one box of cupcakes doesn’t seem like much. Maybe you could consider getting me the entire store.”
Weiss flushes, and under the table, Ruby feels a firm kick against her ankle.
“As if I would!”
Ruby laughs, full and loud, and Weiss rolls her eyes. She thinks it’s over, that Weiss can be satisfied now, but then there’s a slight pressure on her hand again and Weiss’ voice warbles.
“Are we okay?”
Ruby blinks; considers her response carefully. There’s- still the problem of her unrequited feelings. Still mountains to build to keep her emotions in check and from ruining her friendship with Weiss. But the other girl’s eyes are twinkling again despite her scowl and that’s all that matters.
Ruby think about her moments with Alder this morning. About who she is, who her mom was, and who she wants to be.
Who she wants to be for Weiss.
“Yeah,” Ruby squeezes Weiss’ hand back, and tell her inner demons to be quiet. “We’re good.”
“Did you actually make this? It tastes good.”
“…I asked Klein for help.”
Neptune doesn’t go away. If anything, the boy starts taking over more and more of Weiss’ life.
Used to just single dates and occasional one-night stands, it’s a hard shift for Ruby when she sees him during both day and night. Sometimes she gets back from Yang’s and there’s a note on the table where Weiss always sits, telling her that she’ll be late back. During casual conversations, her best friend will bring up his name in spontaneous anecdotes and an amused tone. The first time Weiss picks up a call during dinner and says, “Neptune?” Ruby tastes bitter acid in her throat.
But she keeps reminding herself to not be jealous. That she should be happy for Weiss.
They meet often, Ruby knows. She can tell when they’ve gone out for drinks when the businesswoman comes back refusing coffee and an unfamiliar red jacket is draped over her blouse. It’s tough not to keep track of every time Weiss says she’s heading over to his flat to discuss “future arrangements”.
But the kicker comes when Ruby catches sight of an ornate crystal rose on Weiss’ desk. White, with spots of red along the petals. It feels like a sucker punch to the gut when she catches sight of the inscription along the bottom.
Love comes in all shapes and forms.
If it’s any consolation, she gets her spot on the team. Training is a good way to lose herself. To stay out of the house. To drop, bone dead onto her bed after a lonely dinner and not think too much about things that will inevitably lead back to Weiss’ progress on her company coup and Neptune’s apparently prominent role in it. To cancel outings and Friday movie nights. To keep conversations limited to her training and the new speeds she’s reached.
She tells herself to be happy for Weiss.
On the surface, nothing’s changed. Maybe they don’t have as many meals together and the dishes are done separately, and Weiss has developed a thirst for Vacuon brew that Ruby had never introduced, but – she’s still around. In her reach. Just, Ruby isn’t grasping.
She still has Weiss. In some ways. In the same ways. She shouldn’t want more.
Shouldn’t let her gaze linger on the pillow creases on Weiss’ cheek in the morning, sleepy-eyed as she makes their coffees. Shouldn’t cherish the short texts that she gets from Weiss during lulls in the day at Yang’s shop, which she tells herself to not reply with more than “ha”. Shouldn’t desperately wish to close the space between their hips when they stand in line to watch a performance by Yang, her older sister’s eyebrow wiggles bringing a hyper focus to that new gap.
(But she does, she does and she’s so angry at herself).
Her new coach, a stern straight-laced woman by the name of Coach Goodwitch who wields a corded stopwatch like a riding crop, has noticed as well.
“Rose. Would you like to update the terms of your contract?”
Ruby’s cooling down at the edge of the field, her calves burning and sweat dripping off her brow and in her post-3 click daze she can only think to pant out, “What?”
Coach Goodwitch tuts and points at the 200m track, and Ruby reluctantly begins jogging down it, feeling her muscles get a much-needed stretch. Coach is waiting for her when she gets back, jotting down notes on her ever-present clipboard before putting away her purple pen with a click.
“Your first official race is coming soon, and I have noticed that you do not have a romantic partner listed for your desired persons for media exempt.” Goodwitch peers at her newest runner over the rims of her horned glasses. “It is not too late to change that.”
Ruby remembers the way Weiss had been grumbling about Neptune and his habit of giving her flowers over dinner last night. She wonders if she can squeeze in another lap.
Before she knows it, it’s the day of her first relay, and she doesn’t have the time to worry about her still present feelings for Weiss. The stadium is packed to the brim, it’s a regional track meet between countries on Remnant and Ruby has exchanged her mom’s jacket for the new shimmery Puma one that chafes at her neck.
Thankfully, as a fresh member to the team and this being a small event, most of the media attention is on the more established athletes. Bouncing on the balls of her feet to keep limber, Ruby tries her best to look occupied and eagerly awaits the chance the enter the warm-up room. She’s here to run, and sponsorship is definitely nice but with what she’s experienced growing up on the circuit it’s only a matter of time before someone recognises her and asks-
“Hi! You’re Summer Rose’s daughter, right?”
There’s a peppy looking woman with green hair and shimmering scales across her cheeks in front of her, smiling. Ruby blanches and forces herself to still.
The reporter’s grin grows wider, and Ruby puts her guard up.
“Tara Binn, from the Vacuo Daily. What’s your name? When did you join the team?”
Ruby glances around – the other track members appear busy, and Coach Goodwitch is holding fort at their champion javelin thrower, Pyrrha Nikos’ side. Hence she carries on, keeping her answers short so that she’ll better her chances of escape, “Ruby. Ruby Rose. I joined just two or three months ago, this is my first official race.”
Tara nods vigorously, and now there’s a microphone up close “How’s it feel to be standing in your mother’s shoes?”
“Oh – um, nice I guess? Though I don’t think this cup was around when she was still running.”
She’s starting to get a little uncomfortable, with the way Tara steps forward. She’s noticed that her finger is merely resting on the recording button. These aren’t the important questions. Not yet.
“Was she the one who got you into track?” The light blinks on. Something big is coming, but Goodwitch is still far away and she doesn’t know what else she can do except be polite and answer.
Ruby shoves her hands into her too small pockets. “Yup, she was.”
Then the pale woman finally shows her fangs.
“Did your mom help you get your spot?”
Ruby freezes, her fingers clenching and her shoulders bunching up and she’s been asked this so many times before but has never been good at getting the right answer out.
“I mean, I train as much as I can-“
“You’re pretty young to be on the national team. You know?” Another smile, and Ruby feels something coil around her neck. “But I don’t remember you much from the inter-uni circuit. And two or three months is a short time to be training to now be one of the regular national runners.” The reporter tuts, like an old grandmother clock, and Ruby notices that in the bright light her eyes are slits.
“So one’s got to wonder, you know? Did somebody pull some strings?”
The familiar pit of self-doubt and guilt churns in her stomach and Ruby is about to turn away and run from the situation because she really doesn’t want her first official race to be covered with a photograph of her crying but if it happens it happens and-
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
A warm hand catches her elbow and someone presses against her side, a stark contrast to the biting chill that had crept up. Ruby shifts back to now. Focuses on the feeling of softness radiating from her saviour.
“Oh? Who’s this? Tara Binn, from the Vacuo Daily. I was just asking Ms Rose about her fortuitous entrance into the Mistral National Team.”
Weiss arches one eyebrow, her tone clipped and short. “Weiss Schnee, Nikolai Corporative representative. Are you sure about that? It sounded much more like you were questioning her eligibility to be on this team, Ms Binn.”
The reporter smirks again, smug. “Well, it is only to be expected, Madame Schnee. The Mistral National team is a prestigious institution, and one has to wonder about the runners who enter its ranks.”
Weiss hums. From her angle, Ruby can’t actually see, but she imagines that Weiss is tilting her head too, giving her patented patronising look.
“Is that so? Well then, it seems that the Vacuo Daily does not apply such standards to its own staff, seeing as baseless gossip is your primary concern when covering a tournament.”
The reporter twitches, and Ruby has to fight back a laugh.
“Madame, I assure you that the truth I am seeking is of utmost importance and interest to the public.”
The heiress tuts.
“Shame. It seems like the public will have to rely on their own sense then, given that their journalists are too incompetent to report with any.” Ms Binn’s grip on her recorder tightens, just as Weiss’ on Ruby’s elbow does as well, pulling her towards the competitor’s area.
“Now if you’ll excuse us, we have people of actual import to attend to.” Ruby thankfully doesn’t trip over her feet, as she follows Weiss away. She hears the reporter shout from behind.
“Wait! Madame, I’m not done! And I would like to ask a few questions of you as well-“ When Ruby turns back, she sees the reporter now barred behind two burly security officers, seemingly materialising out of thin air. Weiss stops, and turns around to give Ms Binn a poison-tipped snarl, her eyes narrowed into ice chips.
“Then take these words, and publish them if you wish,” Weiss spits out.
“Ruby Rose is here of her own merit, and anyone who judges her otherwise is blind.”
Ruby feels a little flutter in her chest, and her feet are light.
Words, words – with just a different set of words and Weiss by her side, everything seems more alright.
Later, after they’ve entered the safety of the warm-up area, with Weiss’ VIP pass prominently on display and Ruby’s race chit secured to her abdomen and after she’s already completed a couple of sets of tuck jumps, only then does the runner feel secure enough to speak.
“Thanks Weiss,” she breathes.
Weiss stares at her, then reaches forward to tuck a lock of Ruby’s hair behind her ear, knowing full well that it will fly out again at a moment’s notice.
“You shouldn’t let people say such things to you.”
Ruby shrugs, the lock falls, but she appreciates the gesture anyways. “It happens.”
A staticky voice fills the air. “Attention all 400m runners, please report to your starting posts. I repeat, all 400m runners, please report to your starting posts.”
Ruby takes in a deep breath and does a little fist bump – punching her right hand against her left and releasing the air stored in her lungs in a whoosh. Weiss rolls her eyes at the little ritual but makes no comment. Years of seeing her and Yang have prepared her enough. She does this before every race, to ground herself. To remind herself to focus on nothing but the pressure of red dirt against her feet, and the sound of wind against her ears.
But, just for today, she thinks she might need something extra.
Letting her hands drop, Ruby looks at Weiss sheepishly. Appreciates the fact that she’s dressed in an unusual combination of Ruby’s old varsity sweater over her white dress. Tries to remember that instead of the insinuation in Tara Binn’s words, and the lingering doubt in her heart.
“A hug, for luck?”
Weiss harrumphs, but steps forward and obliges, and Ruby breathes in the comforting smell of her best friend’s perfume. Her heart skips a tiny beat when she feels lips brush against her cheek. (It’s probably an accident.)
“All 400m runners, please report to your starting posts.”
Weiss captures Ruby’s gaze and squeezes her once before letting go. “You won’t need luck.”
Ruby swallows, “we’ll see.” She manages a weak grin, before loping away, though her heart is starting to pound a little faster with a combination of adrenaline, nerves, and aftereffects of Weiss’ smile.
Goodwitch claps her on the shoulder as she steps out. Pyrrha shoots her a thumbs up. The runner in the lane to her right, a woman with black hair donned in Vacuoan yellow and black, is already in place and she pays her no mind. All she needs to focus on is the track.
“Alright folks, we’re about to begin with our first event of the day, the 400m sprint – over on the track first up we have Geetha Nhim, from Vale, she’s the returning favourite, current holder of the Remnant record for the 200m sprint…”
Ruby crouches down into position and catches sight of Weiss at the race line, elbowing aside a man at least twice her size and white hair swinging like a war banner. She blinks, and looks down, and tells herself to forget. Focus on the track, just the track.
“Next to her we have Valka Von Jui, from Menangerie. She’s a new face for this tournament, a recent transfer from the back bench. We’re excited to see what will happen with her folks, she was a rising star amongst the A divs when a tragic injury took her out…”
“Hey, you’re Ruby Rose right?”
Ruby turns to the source of the question – it’s the Vacuo runner. Her green eyes are similar to the reporter’s, but the question seems innocent enough.
Ruby nods quickly. The marshal sounds the ready bell, and Ruby places her feet on the mounting blocks.
“Mommy can’t help you now.”
The crack of a gunshot.
Ruby is slow to start.
Her competitor’s words swirl around in her head and Ruby can barely keep her pumping legs forward. The other runners are metres away – a deadly lead and one that she’s forcing herself to slowly close but it’s too far and they’re right, they’re all right, she’s not enough.
“Look at them go! Looks like Rose’s gotten off to a bad start, but she’s quickly catching up – there she goes past Hailey. Now past Von Jui…”
No no she can’t think about that now, she has to just think of the track. Keep moving forward. One foot in front of the other she can’t slow down she has to speed up and keep breathing and pumping-
“Oh now Rose and Nhim are neck and neck – a big surprise, considering this is Rose’s first tournament under the Mistral banner. Just 50 metres to go!”
Tara Binn’s sneer, floating through her brain. Alder’s tears, for an icon long gone. Weiss’ scars. Her scars. Her scars.
“Nhim’s pulling ahead – get ready your cameras folks, looks like Vale is about to start this tourney off with a bang!”
Her lungs are burning and she’s struggling to breathe but she has to keep running she has to keep moving she has to-
Weiss roars over the panic in her mind and Ruby is suddenly calm. Everything slows down. Her opponent, just a few centimetres in front, gets closer, and closer, and then she’s gone.
Ruby feels her feet pound on rubber. She sees Weiss at the finish line. All she can see is the track and the girl waiting for her at the end. Her vision tunnels. The background noises fade. She sees Weiss.
She sees Weiss.
A siren blares.
“AND IN FIRST PLACE, WHAT A TWIST! WITH A TIMING OF 49.05, THE FIRST RACE OF THE SEASON GOES TO RUBY ROSE FROM MISTRAL!”
Ruby skids to a stop. Breathes heavily and extends her spine backwards. Gets fanned by the standby crew and sprayed with water. Slowly, she walks off the track and feels the splinters in her calves. Catches sight of Weiss up in the stands again, being shaken thoroughly by an excited Yang.
She- she’s done it.
A waterboy quickly fetches her a towel, and while Ruby tries to hear herself over the pounding blood in her ears and the realisation that for the first time she’s won a race by not thinking about the track but about Weiss – Goodwitch comes close. Shoos the attendant away and points Ruby towards the shaded area to rest.
Weiss is already there, her jacket rumpled and her hair in a slight mess. Her best friend, her very much not-single best friend, steps forward and holds out a cool drink. She smirks.
“Told you so.”
Ruby laughs, breathless, and doesn’t make a verbal response, because if she does the truth is going to spill out and she can’t admit that Weiss has become her motivating factor, the person she thinks of to calm down.
A clearing throat.
Ruby turns, and Coach Goodwitch is there, arms folded. “We’ll have to work on your starting again, but good work, Rose.” She plucks something off her clipboard and presses a wax sealed envelope into Ruby’s hands. “For the athletics banquet, next month.” Her eyes slip to the side, and the warmest smile Ruby’s ever seen from the Irish woman graces her lips “You’re welcome to bring a plus one.”
Chapter 4: Bargaining
"Do you know how sometimes - when you are riding your bike and you start skidding across sand, or when you miss a step and start tumbling down the stairs - you have those long, long seconds to know that you are going to be hurt, and badly?"
- Jodi Picoult
Warning: this chapter contains NSFW content.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Sweet baby Ozpin… Ruby, stop messing around. Your hair is fine.” Yang groans. She’s slumped over her shop’s front counter and tired from just watching her little sister flit about. Still, the red-haired runner keeps pacing and examining every inch of herself in the available glass surfaces, thoroughly abusing the early closure that Yang had granted her for the shop.
Ruby tugs at her rented grey dinner jacket, and triple checks her black shoelaces. “But what about-“
“Yes, your shirt’s tucked in too – if it was any tighter you’d have a wedgie and I’d be beating up Cardin Winchester again.” The blonde drawls, propping up one arm to press against her cheek. Unfortunately, the joke falls flat, and Ruby continues to pat down her slacks and readjust her belt.
“Black, grey and red go perfectly well together, and. Will. You. Quit. Worrying!” Yang springs up and stomps over to her baby sis, wrangling her into a tight headlock and poking her side at every word (though careful not to mess up the hair that Ruby has already made her re-gel twice.)
“This is Weiss.” Yang emphasizes, pinching Ruby’s cheek. “She’s seen you in your Crescent Rose cosplay before, I’m pretty sure she’ll be fine with this.”
Ruby flushes a deep red. She wriggles, “Ya-ng! You promised me you would never bring that up again!”
Yang snorts and releases the lithe woman, if just for the sake of sparing herself the aftermath of rumpling Ruby’s outfit. “Well, you told me that you would confess to Weiss six months ago and look where we are now.”
The brunette makes a face. Yang plants her hands on her hips. Ruby cuts her losses and retreats behind one of the drum sets with a pout.
Because Yang’s right, and the situation’s only gotten worse.
It’s been a month since the race and her feelings for Weiss, which she had been so sure she’d finally gotten a handle on, have come back with a vengeance. She finds herself stupidly entranced at the smallest things that her roommate does. Being tongue-tied and alternating between spazzing and inappropriate flirts. Bolting away from dinner. Blue-ticking texts. Seeing the heiress in every beautiful thing and second thought. Almost crying when Weiss mentions Neptune, though it’s only happened once or twice.
It doesn’t help that lately it seems like Weiss has something she wants to talk to Ruby about. A question, on the tip of her tongue, whenever they have a spare moment and the slightest twitch of her lips signals Ruby to get out.
(She’s terrified that she’s been caught.)
So far she’s been lucky. Able to escape with a lame excuse or increased training commitments. But Weiss is growing frustrated and it’s painfully easy for Ruby to tell.
And. Well. She misses their hangouts too.
To top things off, Coach Goodwitch had somehow gotten the impression that she and Weiss were together like that and deliberately wrote the extra card for the champion’s banquet in the Schnee’s name. She hadn’t been able to stammer a correction before Weiss had smiled, nodded and taken the gold-edged invite. So now she’s stuck waiting for Weiss to come pick her up after work. Steeling herself for their four hours in close proximity tonight.
Ruby buries her head in her hands and resists the urge to bash it against one of the expensive cymbals. Weiss has Neptune. Weiss has a future. Weiss doesn’t need her in her life.
She needs to remember that.
There’s a solid thunk, and Yang settles herself on another spinny chair beside Ruby, slinging an arm around the smaller woman’s shoulders. She cranes close, speaking softly.
“Ruby, listen, hey – Blake and I really think you still have a shot.”
The runner whines. “You don’t hear the way she talks about him, Yang. It’s always oh Neptune this, Neptune that, Neptune’s great shipping ideas blah blah blah.”
Yang makes a face and gives her a squeeze, “well…maybe not, but I do see the way she treats you.”
Ruby doesn’t bother to look up, she already knows her sister is biased.
“She looks at you like you’d hung up the stars, Rubes. She fights for you and would probably try to die for you if you asked.” Yang lightly punches Ruby’s arm, “not that I’m suggesting you do that. I kinda like having that ice cube around.”
The runner mumbles, resigned defeat already wreathed around her chest. “So do I, and that’s the problem.”
Yang pats Ruby’s knee, in a gesture reminiscent of her fiancée, “just talk to her.”
The bell above the shop door dings, signalling that someone has entered. That someone most likely being Weiss. Yang looks up, Ruby keeps her head down, but she can’t help but notice when her sister lets out a low whistle.
“Damn, Ice Queen – do you have insurance? I’m not going to pay for the fire damages to my shop because you look smokin’.”
High heels clip across wooden floor. “Thank you. It’s nice to see you too, brute.”
Yang stands and yanks Ruby up with her, and the runner stumbles at the sudden movement. She tips forward but thankfully another set of hands settles on her hips, steadying her in place. Ruby’s hands land on Weiss’ shoulders. Bare shoulders.
She looks up.
Weiss looks absolutely stunning tonight.
Long legs wrapped in black stockings. A mid-thigh dark blue cocktail dress with a daring slit up the side. White forearm gloves with silver details along their length. A red scarf, wrapped loosely around her neck, framing the sweetheart neckline held up by just a few straps.
“Um. Hi.” Ruby splutters out. Like a lovesick teen meeting their crush.
Weiss tucks back a lock of perfectly coiffed hair. “Hello to you too.”
(Maidens save her she’s too gay to function like this. Her eyes keep trying to drag down to that hint of bust revealed by the artificial boob window and Ruby can only handle so much at once.)
Yang saves her from combustion.
Clapping the pair of them on the shoulders, the brawler startles Ruby out of her stupor and starts pushing them towards the exit.
“Alright alright, enough yammering – you two have a ball to get to!”
Ruby barely has time to process things before she’s out on the street, Yang pressing her sling into her hands and making finger guns at Weiss.
“Have fun kids! Don’t do anything dumb! Remember Schnee, I know where you live.” Yang quips, sending the shorter woman a wink.
Weiss rolls her eyes and leads Ruby away. “Unfortunately. I’ll see you tomorrow for brunch.”
And suddenly, for the first time in a long while, Ruby finds herself alone with Weiss. No distractions, no convenient excuse, no other people to keep her in check.
Because with the way the heiress looks, and the magnitude to which her feelings have grown and threaten to spill over, she knows that Yang’s warning is more for her than for Weiss. Knows that she’s at great risk of getting swept up in the party atmosphere, the alcohol, and the lack of escape from Weiss’ questions, into saying something that she can’t take back.
So she speeds up, jogging a few steps in front. Clamps down on the urge to loop her elbow through the other woman’s like they always would and just hoping that they can make it to the stadium hall without mishap.
Then, Weiss tugs at her sleeve, and Ruby instinctively turns back. She doesn’t slow- well, not by much. Just enough to hopefully not give Weiss the impression that she’s beating a hasty retreat.
Weiss is frowning, “There’s no need to walk so fast, Ruby. It’s only a ten-minute journey.”
Ruby laughs, shoves her hands into her pockets and makes the first hare-brained excuse she can think of, “I know, but, well – it’s already 10, and things started at 7, you know?”
Weiss furrows her brow. Then releases her grip, withdrawing to tug at her other glove and start walking noticeably faster (and a little further apart). Her tone is flat. “My apologies for delaying you, Ruby. You should have left first, my work has made you late.”
Ruby laughs, a little crazed and very inappropriate because it’s cold and because she’s getting desperate “NO! No, I wanted to wait.” She sees the stadium entrance, “the best things are worth waiting for.”
Weiss jerks, and the metaphorical hamster wheel in Ruby’s mind screeches to a halt.
(Are terrible pick-up lines genetic? She’ll have to ask Blake.)
Weiss stares at her, bewildered but thankfully oblivious, as Ruby desperately tries to backpedal. “- because the food here has gotta be great, you know! I don’t mean you.” (Good, good, this is where she should stop-)
“Not that you aren’t the best. But I wouldn’t eat you. Or I would. But not that way. I mean -”
There’s sweat accumulating at the nape of her neck and she swears that the temperature’s risen by three degrees the same way Weiss’ eyebrows have.
“- I think I’m not making any sense.”
The dining hall is in full view now, and Ruby has never been more glad to see strobe lights and gaudy tinsel in her life. She pushes forward, and dashes up the steps, the thumping music behind the door promising an easy escape.
“Well, looks like we’re here!”
Weiss catches up with a few hurried steps, and Ruby grins crazily. (She ignores the urge to smooth down the rumpled scarf, move her hand up and caress the heiress’ blushing cheeks.) She closes her hand around the door handle.
Weiss places her hand over that.
“Ruby,“ Weiss gasps out, a little breathlessly. And the runner turns, because she’s whipped and this was a mistake and she really should have just pretended to be sick, “Before we go in, there’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about.”
(This is it, this is it, this is where everything comes crashing down)
Then the door swings open, and they spring apart. Someone grabs Ruby’s dropped hand and pumps it enthusiastically. Weiss’ mouth clamps shut.
“Ruby Rose! Woman of the hour!” Neptune crows, while cutting off circulation to Ruby’s digits. “Finally – you’re here! We’ve been waiting to toast you all night!”
The runner is dumbfounded, because the blue-haired pain in her ass is wearing at least two party hats and his jacket is on backwards. He’s the unlikeliest saviour she could have imagined but she can’t decide if delaying the inevitable is worth the crushed expression on Weiss’ face.
“What are you doing here?” Ruby blurts out, after she finally extricates her hand and resists the urge to wipe it on her expensive blazer front. Neptune staggers, and tilts towards Weiss, the flush of alcohol shining through even on his brown cheeks. Weiss wrinkles her nose at the unwelcome smell, but does put out a glove to prevent the Vacuoan from falling over.
Neptune chortles, “Sun, one of the pole vaulters, is an old friend – he invited me as his plus one.” Neptune grins, and turns to Weiss, giving her a salacious wink. “He knows I can’t resist any chance to see you, Snow Angel.”
Weiss rolls her eyes, but the barest hint of amusement colours her tone. “The feeling is not mutual.”
She holds out a hand, and Neptune takes it gently. Ruby’s vision flashes green for a moment before she chastises herself. They step close, and Ruby feels like she’s watching something private.
“What has it been – a few years since we last met?” Neptune murmurs, brown eyes meeting blue. He cradles Weiss’ hand in both of his, a perfect fit of large against small.
“We had lunch together last week, Neptune, surely you remember that.” Weiss replies, her voice low. Lower than Ruby’s ever heard directed at herself.
“Ah, but the seconds pass like days when I’m not with you, your majesty. Months where I am not exposed to your radiance.” Neptune cries, still holding on to Weiss’ palm. It’s been long, too long. Normal handshakes don’t take more than a minute.
Weiss rolls her eyes again. “I don’t know what Sun sees in you.”
Neptune touches his chest with his other hand, heaving a deep sigh. “Someday, you will submit to my charms.” He then squeezes Weiss’ glove and gives Ruby an exaggerated one-eyed blink, before leaning down and brushing his lips across its dorsum.
“Until then, I leave you to dalliance with the fairer sex.”
Weiss’s cheeks darken. She removes her hand and makes a show of brushing imaginary dirt off her glove, muttering.
“Hardly a difficult choice.”
(Ruby- Ruby aches and aches and wishes that that sort of companionable teasing between her and Weiss was back.)
Neptune holds open the door for them, and Ruby rushes in, making a beeline towards anywhere else. The music is loud, and the centre of the hall has been turned into a dancefloor, snack tables and wine coolers pushed to the sides and a disco ball from above spinning red, blue and purple lights.
There are people, lots of people, but for once Ruby doesn’t mind, because that just means it’ll be easier to hide.
Weiss follows her all the way to the punch table, mouthing something too soft, before the heiress decides to instead forcefully grab the runner’s elbow and directly speak into her ear.
“Sorry about that.” Weiss’ breath curls around her neck, and Ruby shivers. “Neptune gets awfully clingy and over-dramatic.”
Ruby steps back and starts pouring the pair of them drinks to keep her hands busy, her voice tight. “No, no – I don’t mind. I mean, it’s normal. After all, you two are together, right?”
Weiss looks puzzled, but before she can respond, Coach Goodwitch appears out of thin air and waves her over. The stiff-backed woman’s hair is still in a tight bun, but she’s in a skirt instead of crisp slacks for once and she gives them a brief head tilt.
“Welcome to the controlled chaos of a Mistral Track party, Miss Schnee.” She turns her gaze to Ruby, “Rose, come find me by the stage, there are some people you should meet.” She walks away, decorative purple jacket flowing around her like a cape.
Weiss clenches her jaw, and Ruby is elated.
“Sorry, um, duty calls,” she shouts, probably too loud, given that they’re only one foot apart. But the space feels like a chasm that she has to dig deep.
The heiress says something under her breath, something that Ruby can’t catch, and leans close to straighten Ruby’s collar and murmur. “Find me later?”
She squirms. But, there isn’t a way for her to not say yes.
“Sure,” the runner exhales.
Her best friend drops back onto her soles, and retreats, heading towards where Neptune and a bunch of jumpers are playing beer pong. Ruby licks her lips, finding her gaze glued to the sway of Weiss’ hips and the way her short skirt shifts.
Work first, cold shower later. After she…avoids having that talk with Weiss.
As luck would have it, she’s kept realistically busy. It seems like most of the ball’s occupants want to, in some way or form, talk to Mistral’s new Rose. From sponsors congratulating her by the stage and asking her to consider their products, to fellow athletes welcoming her into the fold, she gets pulled into one conversation after another and each time she gets side-lined she can feel Weiss’ stare on her growing more furious.
Then again, it’s not as if Ruby’s trying very hard to pull away. She knows what she’s doing. She knows she’s avoiding Weiss. She just…
She doesn’t trust herself to hold back anymore.
It’s past one am with the party dying and people leaving and she’s pretending to listen to Coach Peter Port’s recounting of his old hammer days when she feels a hand on her arm and turns, prepared to see anything/ anyone except white hair and pink cheeks. Ruby catches the smell of wine on Weiss’ breath.
“Are you finally free?” she spits, sparks jumping off her tongue. Ruby glances over to Port, who’s in the middle of miming a fist fight, and almost utters another apology, but the heiress’ fingers curl around her arm a little tighter and she finds churning in blue eyes a stormy sea.
“Please?” Weiss asks, her gaze a little dark and deep.
Ruby desperately tries to switch out of this lane. “Weiss – maybe now’s not a good time? You seem kinda out of it and-“
The heiress hisses, and though she wobbles slightly and her pull isn’t as strong as it used to be, the words are clear enough. “That’s not an excuse, Ruby. And I’m nicht drunk, just tipsy.”
Ruby feels her stomach drop, and her palms grow clammy. She wants to avoid this. She’s been running away from this conversation for months now, but…it looks like this is it.
She takes a step away from Port, and Weiss’ eyes widen. Ruby doesn’t want to think too much into it. “We can head out the back door, no one goes to the alley.”
Weiss smiles, close-lipped. Ruby leads the way, hands shoved into her pockets and buried deep as the heavy metal door slams behind them.
Now all that’s left is cold brick, muffled 80’s dance music, and the distance between their feet. Ruby takes a moment to admire the way the dim street lights suffuse through the alleyway. Touches Weiss’ hair in a gentle, golden hue.
This will probably be the last time she’ll get to do this.
The heiress bites her lip, and removes one glove, rubbing her bare hand against her other wrist. Ruby leans as casually as she can against the adjoining wall, trying to hide the way her knees shake.
“Have you been avoiding me?” is spoken out.
The question hangs in the air. Ruby – Ruby can’t lie. She can run, she can hide, but she- she can’t lie.
Not to Weiss.
She twists fabric between her fingertips and doesn’t meet Weiss’ gaze. The silence is an answer in itself.
Weiss exhales harshly and tears a hand through her hair. Strands of white tangle, and fall out, and Ruby’s fingers itch.
Ruby stares fixed at the ground, afraid to speak. Knowing that the truth would be terrible but not being able to think of anything else.
Weiss peels off her other glove, tucking the set into her sash. Unconsciously, Ruby’s gaze flicks up. Traces over the scaled whorls that curl up her wrists.
“We haven’t had a proper conversation in a month, Ruby, much less a meal or a movie. You’re always busy with training, or work, or tired or sleepy and I-“ Weiss’ voice chokes off. She approaches Ruby, holding her scarred hands with palms up and out. Ruby looks down again and gouges her nails into skin.
Weiss pauses. Waiting. Wanting. But no, Ruby won’t give. Won’t start something that she’s only going to break.
“Was it something I did?” Weiss tries, hand now on the runner’s covered elbow and burning a hole through the fabric. “Did I push you away? I’m sorry if I’ve been standoff-ish or too busy, if that’s the problem then I’ll be sure to ask Velvet to clear up some time and-“
“Weiss. Stop. You didn’t do anything wrong.” She tries to smile, pretend like everything is okay. “I’ve just had a bunch of unimportant stuff on my mind.”
The heiress tightens her grip, and her eyes flash with blue flame. “No, Ruby. I’m not stupid. Whatever it is, it can’t be nothing. You wouldn’t be acting like this just for nothing.”
“It is.” Ruby insists, hating herself for it but pulling her arm out of Weiss’ grasp. “Trust me. It is.”
Weiss reaches out again, a scowl on her face. Ruby dodges and forces out through gritted teeth, “Weiss.”
“NO!” Weiss shouts.
Ruby freezes. Watches as Weiss’ hands drop down to her sides and twitch. Reach up and wrap around her own elbows, shiny skin stretched over the knuckles.
“I…I thought that our relationship was worth more to you than…nothing.” Weiss admits, the words seeping out slow and haltingly. They snipe past the walls Ruby’s thrown up, finding the gaps that she’s never been able to plug shut.
“Weiss - no, no, it’s not like that. It’s nothing like that.” Ruby’s flailing. She’s backtracking too fast but not fast enough.
“Then what is it, Ruby?” Weiss snaps. She stomps forward, and Ruby jerks back. Weiss opens her mouth again, then closes it, and her next words come out in a soft whisper, “What is it?”
Ruby’s legs feel heavy. She tries to ignore the wet shimmer in her best friend’s eyes but she knows what she’s doing and is too far in to back out, “I…I can’t tell you.”
Weiss sighs, and turns away. Almost looks like she’s about to pull on her gloves to walk off but instead she just stays, standing there like an exiled angel, wings clipped.
Hearing Weiss admit defeat is like a bucket of cold water over Ruby. It snaps her out of her panicked Weiss-can’t-know-I-can’t-lose-her haze and alerts her to the picture that this is.
“It’s fine, Ruby,” Weiss cuts her off. Steps past the runner with her head down and makes for the door, Ruby scrambling after her. “It’s late, let’s go back. I’ll call a taxi.”
“Weiss, no, talk to me-“
Weiss ignores her. Wraps her hand on the handle but Ruby grabs her wrist. The heiress spins around, trapped between cold steel and panicked silver and her own blue eyes tinged red.
Her partner reaches one hand up to press against Ruby’s chest, smiling forlornly. “I’ve always been ready to talk, Ruby. You also need to speak.”
The words are trapped in her throat, and Ruby keeps opening and closing her mouth, letting out inaudible sounds. Just talk to her, says the imaginary Yang in her head. But it’s so, so hard, and it’s like she’s running blind, competitors all around her and crowding her out and she can’t do anything except keep moving and hope she’s in the right lane.
So instead of talking, Ruby follows her wants.
She kisses Weiss.
It’s not delicate.
It’s passion, and frustration, and backlit by a green exit light. It’s them next to a dumpster in the alleyway behind the stadium hall. It’s their chests and hips aligned and Weiss clutching at her lapels and kissing her like she’s dying of thirst and Ruby’s the only glass of water in the heat.
It’s the sour aftertaste on her tongue, the sticky residue on Weiss’ fingertips. The way she’s swaying a little, and leaning on Ruby to keep balance.
She’s drunk. This isn’t real.
“Let’s go home, please.”
Ruby falls back onto the bed and Weiss climbs on top, knees on either side of her thighs. Spellbound, Ruby watches as Weiss raises one hand and, with a few deft flicks, allows her snow-white hair to come loose and fall across her shoulders. The heiress leans back and instinctively, Ruby coils one hand around her waist, the other grasping just above the knee – fingers landing on the strip of skin revealed by the slit that had teased her all night.
Weiss bends forward, and cups Ruby’s jaw with both hands. Her eyes are a deep navy now, pupils blown wide and Ruby finds herself drowning. Her mind suddenly flits to Neptune. To that flirty way he’d kissed Weiss’ hand. To his stupid hair, his underwhelming qualifications. The small, familiar smile Weiss had given him.
With a surge of possessiveness, Ruby crashes her mouth to Weiss’ and tells her restraint to fuck off.
Weiss’ mouth is warm and wet and Ruby practically moans when she feels their tongues slide against each other. The heiress tastes like olives and strawberries, but beneath that is a smooth texture that is so distinctly unique and Weiss that Ruby can’t help but try her best to swallow it whole.
Drunk-Weiss clearly approves, and she leans down more fully, their breasts pressing together and her sensually licking the roof of Ruby’s mouth. Ruby raises one hand to tangle in Weiss’ hair but the heiress, between kisses and breaths and stealing Ruby’s breath away, grips Ruby’s hand, pulls it down and commands.
Who is she to defy a queen?
Ruby lets her hands wander. The one on Weiss’ back reaches up and runs down her zipper, feeling the teeth catch under her nails and the press of the heiress’ hips into hers in response. The other gently squeezes and caresses Weiss’ smooth thigh, shifting up and exploring the silky skin beneath her skirt.
She’s so soft, her mind whispers, as Ruby keeps connected to Weiss via their lips. Her fingers inch higher, greedy for more and encouraged by the spreading of the heiress’ legs and the little keens that Weiss makes whenever she traces further in.
She finds a sensitive spot, somewhere three hand spans up from the heiress’ knee. Feels a thrill surge through her groin as Weiss whimpers with wanton need. The ghost of her touch over it makes Weiss break off their kiss with a sharp gasp, lifting herself a few centimetres off. The zip in Ruby’s other hand involuntarily slips down as such, and the soft shrrk freezes them both.
Ruby fumbles, and drops her hands, stammering, “Sorry, that was an accident, I-“
“Shh…” Weiss touches a warm finger to Ruby’s lips, then reaches back and undoes the clasp at her throat, the black ribbons holding up her dress front falling and revealing a tall column of pale skin with the edge of a strapless nude lace bra peaking at the top. She wraps her hands around Ruby’s ribs and leans forward, pushing her chest up and closer to the runner’s face. Ruby licks her lips.
“Go on.” And that’s all the signal Ruby needs to connect their mouths again, ripping open the dress’ seam. She flattens her palm against the unmarked skin on the heiress’ back, edging down and groping her firm ass, making the shorter girl’s breath catch. Ruby feels a lewd sense of satisfaction that inflates her ego just a little bit.
However, Weiss isn’t one to be outdone.
The heiress is doing something sinful to her skin, using long fingers to trace looping glyphs up her sides. Scorches burning runes over and through her shirt and combining that with a rhythmic rock of her pelvis against the taller girl’s, making Ruby’s head spin. Dimly, over the overwhelming sensation of the touch and taste and smell of Weiss, Ruby realises that her shirt has come undone.
Weiss breaks the kiss and slides down, her skirt bunching up and open dress slipping off. She presses her lips to every inch of new skin that she encounters with agonising reverence. Tickles Ruby’s heaving throat. Caresses her shuddering trachea. Both clavicles, which tremble in the midnight light.
She leaves bruises on Ruby’s sternum. Licks the divot of her belly button. Bites the flesh at the top of her breast.
Tugs down the cup of her bra, takes one nipple into her mouth and sucks.
Ruby moans loudly this time, back curving and hands falling from Weiss’ waist. The action causes the flaps of her shirt to fall open and Weiss pushes them and her blazer off all the way, leaving the runner bare except for her bra from the waist up.
That doesn’t last for very long.
To be honest, Ruby had never thought of her chest as an erogenous area before. Previous partners had tried to pleasure her there before, but it had always felt hollow. Just a pitstop before the main event.
Weiss, on the other hand, makes her sees stars.
“Weiss…” she gasps out.
Ruby throws one arm over her eyes when her bra clasps come apart. Feels embarrassed about her small size (arguably not as flat as Weiss but Weiss is perfect so hush) but the heiress obviously doesn’t mind because her first reaction is to trail one finger along a browned peak and whisper.
That statement makes Ruby blush.
Weiss pushes the rest of her bra off and quickly begins to bring actions to support her words. There’s her mouth, biting and marking and claiming the left, while her fingers roll the pebbled nipple on Ruby’s right. Ruby closes her eyes and tries her best to keep afloat. Her breaths come hot and heavy and she feels like she’s about to explode.
Then, suddenly, the sensations stop. Ruby feels the weight on her hips ease off. There’s rustling, then the familiar snck as her belt buckle is undone. Ruby peeks one eye open again just as the white-haired woman settles back on top, one knee now between Ruby’s legs and pressing against the embarrassingly large wet spot.
However, despite their suggestive position, Weiss does nothing but lie down on Ruby’s naked torso and wrap the younger girl in a loose hug, nose nuzzling her cheek “Too much?”
A surge of love blooms behind Ruby’s breastbone, so surely she can’t be for turning her head a little and catching Weiss’ lips in a gentle kiss.
“No, no- you’re wonderful,” she whispers, weaving her fingers through Weiss long locks and fixing the heiress’ sapphire gaze with her own. From this close, Ruby can see the way the other girl’s eyes crinkle at the edges when she smiles. Weiss leans forward and kisses Ruby again, and this kiss is much more chaste, more intimate than those before.
(I’ll bet Neptune never kisses her like this, her mind whispers, but it’s distant, like the waves on another shore.)
Breaking the kiss, Weiss touches her forehead to Ruby’s, and twines their fingers together.
They move together in unison this time, hands tentative and exploring and it feels right. Weiss’ dress rustles and drops to the floor. Ruby’s pants soon follow suit. Sets of undergarments are thrown aside and they rearrange themselves again, Weiss on top and their noses bare inches apart.
Weiss traces one finger down Ruby’s face, from eyebrow to cheek, gaze impossibly soft.
“Do you want this?”
Ruby cradles’ Weiss’ jaw, thumb rubbing over her first scar.
“More than you will ever know.”
Weiss smiles, giving Ruby a quick peck. The heiress resumes her descent again, flicking the tip of her tongue out over her nipple in the way that the runner has just found out that she really likes. Ruby tries to keep her body in check, but the juncture between her legs is growing uncomfortably wet and there’s only Weiss’ knee there, not even close enough to touch.
Soon, however, Weiss slides down one hand and cups her through the damp.
“What’s this?” She has the gall to tease, running one finger lightly from base to tip, spreading Ruby’s fluids around and avoiding her clit.
Ruby whines, too embarrassed to reply, and bucks against the heiress’ hand, twisting her hands into the bedspread. Weiss smirks, and Ruby’s toes curl. It’s been long. Too long. She hasn’t even masturbated in an age because this exact scene keeps playing in her head and real-Weiss is just like dream-Weiss except she’s real and Ruby’s truly soaking and she can smell the accumulating arousal that persuades her to place her hands on Weiss’ waist.
“Please,” she begs, hooking her ankles around the heiress’ back and tilting her hips up towards Weiss, allowing that sweet finger to press in by just fractions of an inch.
Weiss listens, and starts to apply circular pressure to Ruby’s swollen clit, engorging it further as she coaxes more blood down south, all the while smiling and leaving bites on the brunette’s chest, each and every nip seemingly calculated to elicit louder and louder whines from the girl under her. She takes the liberty to suck a purpling bruise into skin, coordinating her tongue’s swipes with the steady motion of her fingers and it makes Ruby’s head spin.
Finally, she does something with her hand and twists it such that one digit is focusing on her clit while others press, gently, into her entrance.
Ruby keens and throws her head back.
“For me?” Weiss actually asks, thumb moving harder, and faster now, and Ruby can feel her thighs trembling and she’s grabbing at the heiress’ back, pulling her closer and scratching red lines as she struggles to contain her need.
Weiss kisses the damp and shaking skin over her neck, and eases two fingers in. Ruby gasps, and her hips lift up and her heels lock down, hopefully pushing those wonderful digits in more deep.
“Yes! Yes! For you.” Ruby almost shouts, her mind rapidly clearing of everything except Weiss’ motions and the warmth rapidly pooling below her waist.
Weiss chuckles and sets up a steady rhythm of thrusts in and out, thumb still keeping up that dizzying pattern of loops. “All for me?”
“YES!” Ruby screams, her hips rocking in time with Weiss’ movements now, allowing the heiress to piston and her fingers slide forward and back easily with how wet she is.
Weiss kisses her nipple and applies even more pressure to her clit, the patterns now morphing into zig-zags with how vigorously Ruby is moving. The runner feels her core tightening, squeezing around Weiss’ fingers and pulling her in. Her mind goes blank of everything except Weiss’ name, which she chants like a mantra, lost in the rapidly approaching white.
Suddenly, she feels the brush of lips against her throat (when did her eyes close?), and Weiss presses her fingers against an inner spot that’s just right. The heiress caresses that sinful button, stares directly into Ruby’s silver eyes and murmurs.
“Then come for me.”
She explodes. Fireworks burst behind her eyes and she finds herself twisting into a spasm, nothing being real but the feeling of Weiss draped over her, continuing to nip at the skin on her throat and chest and claiming her lips. Fingers still pumping steadily, and flicking her clit, prolonging her pleasure and making Ruby have one of the best orgasms of her life.
So of course, she nearly blacks out.
By the time she regains her senses and her heart rate has returned somewhat to normal, Weiss is already curled up half on and half off the other girl, one leg resting between hers, and chin tucked into the red-head’s shoulder.
She’s traces abstract swirls into Ruby’s shoulder, and there’s a small, satisfied smirk on her face.
“Guess the track’s not the only place you finish quick.”
Ruby growls, but with her legs still feeling like jelly she can’t exactly flip Weiss over and demonstrate exactly how wrong the other woman is. Instead she places a hand on the heiress’ (bare!) waist, and pinches the skin there, making the white-haired woman yelp.
“Ruby!” Weiss scolds, rearing back and slapping at the runner’s arm. Ruby laughs, and raises both hands up to fend off her best friend’s blows. For a moment it’s just like any other sleepover again and they’re about to devolve into a tickle fight. Except they’re naked, and Ruby can feel the dried residue of her orgasm sticking against her hips.
Which reminds her…
Quietly, she attempts to move her hand down to Weiss’ hips, but is soon stopped by Weiss placing her own hand on top. The heiress brings her hand up, and kisses Ruby’s palm.
“Rest, Ruby. You’ve given me more than enough tonight.”
The soft lullaby of Weiss’ voice makes her blink, so she can’t be blamed when she cups Weiss’ chin with her other hand and brings the heiress down to capture her lips.
“Okay,” she whispers, too tired to insist. Weiss hums, and scoots away briefly to pull Ruby’s comforter over them both. She twines their fingers together and gives Ruby a soft smile.
Ruby shifts closer and steals another kiss.
“Goodnight,” she mumbles.
Slowly, eventually, Weiss’ breaths even out. Grow deep as she falls into Morpheus’ embrace.
But Ruby is still awake.
As her post-coital euphoria fades, the full weight of what she’s done hits Ruby like a sledgehammer. She- she’s broken just about every rule there could be about staying away and not letting her feelings ruin their friendship. There’s no turning back from this. There’s no way she can make her feelings fade. Now that she’s had a taste of this, this intimacy, this closeness, this forbidden fruit - she’s been ruined for the rest of her life.
Ruby turns a little and watches the first moon rays grace Weiss’ flushed cheeks. Traces the upcurve of her lips and the scars on her hands, which hadn’t given her any problems tonight. Reaching up, she tucks a strand of white hair behind Weiss’ ear and whispers the words she will never have the courage to say when the other girl is awake.
“I love you.”
And maybe Ruby’s imagining it, but the sleeping woman seems to snuggle close at her confession, and Ruby – Ruby gives herself this one night. One night, as the glass slippers disappear. Curls her arm around Weiss’ waist and buries her nose in alabaster locks before drifting off into a dreamless sleep.
Went very far out of my comfort zone for this one but hopefully it’s not too cringey!
Chapter 5: Depression
"If you can't fly, then run, if you can't walk run, then walk, if you can't walk, then crawl, but by all means keep moving."
- Martin Luther King Jr.
They never bring up the incident again. It gets buried under take out boxes and thrown to the kerbside with the accumulated trash at the end of the week.
But, it keeps happening.
Late nights when Weiss spills onto her bed, half-dressed and needy. Moments when they’re just sitting side by side watching an old black and white movie and the next thing she knows her hands are in Weiss’ hair and there’s a mouth under her skirt. Languid walks from the bathroom that end with her pinning Weiss against the wall, the towel covering the heiress’ modesty (shorter than usual, odd) fallen to the floor.
If it was just sex that would be fine – Ruby knows that there’s such a thing as friends with benefits. But no, apparently Weiss has decided to be affectionate too.
A thin, calloused hand, finding hers as they go to the supermarket. Arms wrapped around her from behind when she’s tinkering with Crescent Rose, along with a pointed nose pressed into her neck and grumbling when she tries to move. Gentle kisses that just miss her lips in the morning, afternoon and night.
It’s getting harder and harder to remember the boundaries, when Weiss repeatedly crashes through them.
And the worst part is, the world keeps turning.
Goodwitch claps her on the back after another successful race and forwards her emails from sponsors. Alder comes up one day to ask for an autograph.
Yang whoops and tells her to stop coming to the shop. Grins real wide like she’s in on a big secret when dropping Weiss off after brunch.
Blake smiles, sips her tea and continues to read her book of the week. She leaves for another business trip, except this time, before she goes away, she takes Ruby aside and gives her a copy of a thin black book that has the runner blushing and shoving it under her mattress after flipping open the cover.
Neptune still comes over, and he’s still being flirty, except now Ruby has the added weight of guilt that keeps her laughing at his terrible jokes while the heiress’ fingers are curled over her knee.
People start saying her name in conjunction with Weiss’. Invitations come only in pairs. Yang calls their outings “double dates” and Blake does this smug slow-blink when she stammers while talking to Weiss and every time something like that happens Ruby feels both elated and sick. Happy and guilty. Temporary. Waiting for the other shoe to drop because this can’t be it. This can’t be the end because she doesn’t deserve this.
She doesn’t understand why the universe hates her so and doesn’t have the time to think.
It’s at lunch on a Saturday when Yang points out something and Ruby breaks.
“Wow, Weiss, are you trying out a new look?” The brawler smirks, eyes darting down at the red scarf wrapped around Weiss’ neck (something which her and the heiress’ regular-ahem-activities have required as of late).
The white-haired woman pauses, setting down the fork with which she had been balancing a heap of cake and shifting up the adornment casually. “I have, actually. With winter coming and the new building expansions, the heating in office has been rather inadequate of late.”
Yang grins, like a cat that’s stolen the cream, “Oh, I’m not talking about the shawl, Ice Queen.”
Ruby catches sight of the mottling above Weiss’ collar just before Yang next speaks.
“I’m talking about that nice new vampire bite. It’s a little early for Halloween, you know? Though that is Ruby’s birthday.”
Weiss flushes bright red, and it doesn’t help that Ruby does so too, though the runner’s reaction is more to pull up her hood and be grateful that her sister’s full attention is somewhere else.
“It’s a bruise you barbarian!” Weiss shrieks, throwing a coaster at Yang and slapping a glove over her skin hurriedly.
Yang guffaws and throws her head back, letting the cork circle bounce off her prosthetic painlessly. “Oh, I can definitely see that! What kinky shit do you get up to in bed, Schnee?”
She leans forward and sticks her tongue out. “Not corrupting my little sister now, are you?”
Weiss looks away and finds Ruby’s hand under the table. (It’s clammy) “As if I could do any more than you.”
Yang raises one eyebrow, “You sure? I find it hard to believe that the girl who didn’t even know what a real pizza looked till the age of twenty doesn’t have some weird tastes.” (There’s something sour in her throat, like a sweet sucked for too long. It’s stuck.
Weiss throws a barb back. (Shit, she can’t breathe.) “First of all, Xiao Long, I knew what one looked like, just not the taste.” (Chest tight.)” Secondly, whom out of us is the one is able to make Blake blush?”
(Ruby stares, straight ahead, and she’s starting to hyperventilate a little because it’s too much –) “Low blow, Schnee” (this isn’t right, this is all going to crash down –) “But, I guess that’s the only kind you can make from your height.” (what is she doing here)
“I hope you knock your head against the ceiling.”
(Any second now, Weiss is going to walk out and break up with Ruby and tell her to leave and-
Wait, are they even together?)
“Come on, Rubes, you’re not going to let this midget walk all over your big sis right?”
(They’d never actually talked about it.)
(Has this all been a dream?)
“Ruby, what’s wrong?”
(Gotta leave, gotta run – leave leave leave before -)
The runner crashes back from her arching spiral and finds both her partner and her sister staring at her in alarm. She realises that her hands have been shaking. She’s on her feet. Her heart is going at twice its usual speed.
Her calves really really ache.
She sways, sits back down and wraps her arms around herself, and her feet – her feet keep tapping and wanting to be free. There are cicadas chittering through her veins and lights flashing above her vision. Her head’s floating, but her legs are bolted to the ground. She feels like a piece of heated rubber, stretched out too thin.
“Sorry – I’m,” Ruby has to pause. Allow herself to swallow the bile rising up her throat. She tightens her grip on her elbows, “not feeling too good.”
She turns to Weiss but avoids meeting her eyes. “Is it okay if we head home?” The other woman’s likely concerned gaze burns hot on her scalp. “I think I need to lie down.”
Yang and Weiss exchange a look. Ruby blinks, and before her blurry eyes can even focus on the silent conversation that takes place Weiss is nodding and Yang is coming around the table to hook her arm around the smaller woman’s waist. Weiss leaves, presumably to pay the bill first.
Ruby sags against her sister, and Yang murmurs softly, pressing a kiss into her hair. “Don’t worry. Weiss will take good care of you.”
Ruby exhales shakily, feeling the thud and pound in her chest.
“I know,” she whispers back, as she catches sight of the white-haired woman returning swiftly, gloves tugged on and rummaging through her purse for the car keys. Has flashbacks to Weiss standing up for her. Showing her how to care. Making her feel…worth it.
She closes her eyes.
Sometime after her heartbeat slows down, curled around Weiss’ black corgi plushie, Ruby sits up in bed and…ruminates.
About what, she isn’t sure. Thoughts start and stop before they are fully formed. Her movements feel sticky, like she’s wading through molasses. All she gleans; all she can tell, is the persistent feeling of something…sad.
Weiss, they’re something about Weiss, maybe? About her and Weiss. Ruby tries to sieve through the moments that have happened thus far and…she’s confused. It feels like she’s running the fortieth kilometre of a marathon and it’s the kind of distance where her muscles are burning and cramping but it’s nowhere near the finish line to stop.
She flashes back to the fit of Weiss’ head against her neck. The water bottles after track. Dinner dates and coffee mornings. Kind words and companionable silence. Dim lights and red lines. Glass and burning flesh.
Ruby looks up from the point where she’d been staring at on her palms. The memories of Weiss’ scars overlaid over her own skin. Curled and crawling. Weeping.
Weiss stands in the entrance to her room, one hand wrapped around the door jamb and the other balancing a steaming bowl on a tray. Her neck is bare now, and the dark marks there stand out starkly against pale skin.
Ruby tries to smile, closing her fingers and tucking them into her sleeves. “Should I be asking “who’s there?””
The heiress groans. Leans against the doorway and deadpans in reply, “No one, if you keep that up.”
The corner of Weiss’ mouth tugs up, short and fleeting, and she takes one step into the room, nudging the door closed with her heel. The smell of rice and sesame wafts in on the fan breeze, and Ruby bites her inner lip. Tries to ignore the flutter in her chest and the churning in her stomach that intermingles as the heiress bends down, settling the ceramic on her bedside table before pecking the red-haired girl’s cheek.
Her fingers twitch and her traitorous heart almost successfully goads her into reaching out to tilt Weiss’ chin to the side for a proper kiss.
“Feeling any better?” Weiss asks, settling herself on the edge of Ruby’s bed, one leg crossed over the other in her home slacks and fingers distractingly close.
“Yeah, loads.” Ruby fake-chuckles, using her shoulder to gesture at the veritable mountain of pillows and blankets that the heiress had piled onto her bed, along with the thermos of warm soup, water and tissues already on the bedside table, “I had a good nurse.”
Weiss rolls her eyes, but the pink dusting her cheeks betrays that she does appreciate the compliment.
“Well…” she starts, nodding towards the tray, “I made some congee too, if you’re hungry.”
Ruby shakes her head, feeling her stomach rumble faintly, but unable to suppress the choking feeling in her throat. “Maybe later. Thank you.”
Her partner smiles again, soft and gentle. Both glee and guilt war in her gut. “Anything for you.”
Something weird happens in her chest. Pierces, grips and twists. Ruby’s thrown back to that moment seven months ago, the day after she’d realised that she had fallen hard and fast for the girl before her. That one slip up of a sentence. The warm hug after that. Countless instances where she’d kept pulling away for the next half a year, till she finally couldn’t restrain herself anymore and had snapped and now they’re…
Ruby comes back to the feeling of arms around her shoulders. Dampness, against her eyes. A hand, rubbing soothing circles into her back. Something in her screams to hold close, tighten her grip on Weiss and never let go, but –
She pulls away.
Weiss keeps her palms on Ruby’s forearms, looking into the runner’s eyes with worry.
“Where did you go?”
The words crawl up her throat, Ruby knows that there isn’t anything that should be scaring her, she’s figured out that Weiss isn’t dating Neptune anymore and that there’s nothing technically stopping her from expressing her true feelings but-
It all hurts. She’s pretty sure she knows why.
She- she doesn’t deserve Weiss.
“Away.” Ruby murmurs, leaning against the headboard, trying to increase the unwelcome gap between them by another inch.
Weiss’ thumbs draw circles into Ruby’s skin, and the runner can’t help but dwell on the roughness of them. Hardened nodules of scar.
“Bad place, or a good one?” the heiress asks, shuffling the slightest bit closer. Ruby grimaces.
Her silence is answer enough.
The touches still, then, her hands are off all together. “Ruby…you can talk to me about anything, you know that, right?”
Ruby clenches her fists and feels her fingernails break skin. But, she resists the temptation to spill everything out. It’s hard, when Weiss is looking at her like that and all Ruby wants to do is given in to the selfish part of her and confess her sin.
They stay in silence for a while, the air heavy and saturated with words unsaid. Finally, Weiss sighs, and rises to her feet.
It takes a great deal of effort not to twist and catch Weiss’ wrist as she turns away.
“Rest, Ruby. I’ll come check on you again later.”
Please – stay. The words don’t escape her mouth.
And now all that’s left is her, a cold bowl of porridge, and the numbness in her feet.
“Ruby, I really think you need to talk to Weiss about this. Air things out. Get some clarity.”
The runner drums her toes against the wall adjacent to Yang’s couch, beating a staccato rhythm on the reinforced plaster. Wonders how everything could be going so right and yet feel so wrong.
(She knows the answer)
“She doesn’t need to know.” Ruby mumbles, mouth covered by the collar of her jacket. She’s lying horizontal, knees on the armrest and it helps her to not meet her big sister’s exasperated gaze.
In hindsight, knocking on her big sister’s door late at night, after Weiss had gone to bed, wasn’t the best idea. Yang has views and a certain degree of optimism and trust that…Ruby doesn’t. But, she doesn’t know where else to go. Staying at home just made her feel worse.
“What do you mean she doesn’t need to know? This is literally about her.”
So here she is, pouring her heart out onto the scratched coffee table and trying to ask for advice on a solution to her quandary. How to tell Weiss that things weren’t working, but not because of anything she did, but because of her own deficits.
Then, of course Yang had asked why, and Ruby had laid bare the facts.
But, she isn’t getting it.
“Yeah, and I have such a great track record meddling with her life.” Ruby bites out, kicking particularly hard against the wall and feeling the vibration shudder up her shin.
Yang sighs, and slumps back into her sofa. She runs her human hand (her prosthetic is already off and charging and that’s a sign of how late it is) through her hair in frustration.
“You keep saying that, y’know. To avoid actually talking things out with Weiss.”
The blonde pitches forward, resting her elbow on her knee and waving her other stump about. “What are you scared for? Weiss adores you. You wanna know how I found out that you two finally got a move on?”
Ruby continues to tap the wall, concentrating on the solid feeling of pain and pressure. She’s heard this story before. Heard how Weiss hadn’t actually volunteered anything, but apparently Yang had made “enough horrendous insinuations that (she) was influenced into divulging the truth”.
Yang tells a version of the event, “She turned up at brunch the day after the dance with a creepy ass smile and I almost had a heart attack!”
Gods, she misses when things were easier to navigate. When she just happy being friends and had some sort of control and Weiss had a shot at someone better.
Someone not broken, like her.
“I don’t want to tell her,” she whispers out.
Yang frowns, “Why not?”
Her feet still.
Ruby mulls over her next words. Rolls them across her tongue and comes to terms with their sour taste. Taps them along her teeth until she’s familiar with the cadence and feels stable enough to spit them out. These are new. Words that somewhat encompassed her dilemma. The push and pull. The right thing to do versus what she wants.
Turning away from a podium finish.
“Weiss…Weiss has been through a lot. She’s pulled herself through a lot of shitty situations, found her place and her path.
“She’s on her way to greatness, Yang, I know it.” Ruby tilts her head back, staring up at the blank ceiling, “And then there’s me, who doesn’t even know where to start.”
She exhales, imagining her breath coming out as a puff of smoke and flowers. A form of Hanahaki disease.
“I feel happy and sad and this jumble of feelings and she doesn’t deserve to be burdened with that.”
“I made a mistake that night. I should have just stopped when I had the chance.” She turns into the couch. “Now I’m in too deep and I know that Weiss seems to like what’s happening but I’ve never been the right person to give her what she needs and I-”
Ruby tightly squeezes her eyes shut, trying to stem the flow of tears. But in the darkness images of Weiss on the ground, crying, keep playing. Burning, burning flesh.
Thorns coloured with red slither out of her throat, “I don’t know what’s going on, I’m running blind and it’ll be better for us both if I just get out.”
A pause, then there’s a soft thump, and Yang sits heavily on the floor beside Ruby’s head, just barely visible in the younger woman’s peripheral vision, “Ruby…is this still about the accident?”
Ruby sucks in a heaving breath, twisting the cloth in her hoodie pockets hard but managing a sharp nod.
Yang places a hand on Ruby’s shoulder, gripping tight.
“You know that what those idiots said about you wasn’t true, right? You didn’t ruin Weiss’ life. The Snow Princess herself said that it wasn’t your fault.
“Jacque-ass would have thrown Weiss out sooner or later, and now, living with you, finally free to be herself, I don’t think she’s ever been happier.”
Ruby turns away, shaking Yang off and smothering her face into the leather couch.
“You didn’t see her, Yang. You didn’t see her slowly falling apart. I’ve never been good enough. Not fast enough to save Mom, not strong enough to be there for you, not careful enough to avoid hurting Weiss.”
She curls in on herself, feet tucked close. They throb.
Yang exhales, and cards her fingers through Ruby’s hair.
“The past is gone, Rubes. You’re a different person now. You’re in a good place, at a good start - if you keep being scared of the what-ifs, of the things that happened long ago – you’re never going to find something better.”
Yang’s hand slides down, rests between Ruby’s shoulder blades on the silver rose embroidered there. She shuffles forward a little more, warmth radiating from her palm.
“Change is scary. Confronting change, now that’s even scarier.
“But, this thing, that’s happening between you two? It’s not change – it’s just…” Yang pauses, trying to find the right words.
Ruby fills in the blank with her own.
Eventually, Yang gives up and simply pulls her little sister into a hug, pressing the runner’s head into her shoulder. “Just…think about it, okay? I have a feeling that the talk will go better than you think.”
Ruby sniffs. Forces her tremors to stop. Breathes out and avoids a direct answer.
“Can I stay here, tonight?”
Yang’s fingers twitch. Her older sister isn’t fooled, but thankfully, she decides to let the matter rest for now.
“Sure, Rubes – stay for as long as you need.”
The next morning, she walks back to her building in a daze. She’s no clearer on how exactly she’s going to well, for lack of a better term, “break-up” with Weiss but she’ll think of something. Eventually. After some proper rest in her own bed instead of Yang’s couch.
(A tiny voice inside her head which sounds suspiciously like her big sister hisses “just talk to her goddammit”, but Ruby shooes it away.)
Kicking her shoes off at the door, Ruby slinks into the apartment and opens her mouth, ready to call out to Weiss to announce her presence when muffled conversation carries over.
“I don’t know what to do with her, Neptune.”
Ruby freezes, and her eyes dart towards the too-familiar wind-breaker hung on the wall. Cold sweeps through her lungs, and she fights the urge to dash up the stairs, knowing that the sound would be too loud.
“She’ll come around, Weiss. Give her some time.”
Creeping close to the wall, Ruby moves towards the kitchen, heart hammering and her every instinct yelling at her to run but she’s yet masochistic enough to crane her head to hear her partner’s voice better.
“I don’t know. It feels different this time.”
There’s a clink of ceramic onto glass and a plastic chair creaks.
“Has this happened before?”
A pause, and Ruby digs her nail into her palm, knowing exactly what Weiss is talking about.
“Ruby’s always been…a little hard on herself. But having two panic attacks in one day? There has been no precedent. And she’s not talking to me even though I know there’s something on her mind.”
Weiss sighs. Ruby can picture it clearly. The heiress standing, alone and isolated by the sink, hugging her elbows as if in a chill.
“I’m worried about her. I’m worried…that she’ll do something rash.”
The chair creaks again, and scrapes across the floor. Ruby closes her eyes. He’s probably shifting to hug Weiss. Wrap his stupidly long arms around her and chase away the demons that she brought.
There’s a prolonged pause, then said boy speaks.
“Relax, Snow Angel. You two have been together for what, five years? That kind of thing can’t be thrown away in a heartbeat. You’ll work things out.”
A sniffle, and Ruby can clearly imagine Weiss turning in the tall, dark and handsome man’s arms and burying her princess nose into his broad chest.
“Thanks Neptune. You always know what to say.”
No longer caring about the noise, the runner flees up to her room and starts throwing things into bags. She doesn’t care that things are getting crumpled; barely notices that she rips a bit of her mother’s poster while pulling it off the wall.
She can always get another poster. Weiss – Weiss is never going to get another shot at true happiness unless she runs right now.
She’s found someone that can give her what she wants. She’s found stability, poise and comfort. She’s found someone that can always be there when it counts.
Is it wrong that I want that person to be me?
She’s thundered down the stairs and is grappling with two bags and a knapsack when the source of her vexation comes into the hall. Weiss’ hair is loosely woven into a braid, and she’s wearing one of Ruby’s scarves.
“Ruby? What’s going on?”
The runner doesn’t stop, slipping past the heiress and jamming her feet into her shoes, not caring that she’s probably broken the backs. She doesn’t reply Weiss, choosing instead to fumble at the front door, hating how she only has two hands and they’re both occupied with bulging bags and why oh why did they decide to install a safety latch.
“Ruby, stop, what are you doing-“
Weiss grabs at Ruby’s shoulder, and Ruby startles, dropping one bag onto the floor and something inside it cracks.
“Ruby. Talk to me. Please.”
Wide silver eyes stare back into blue, and through the hazy film of tears Ruby can barely make out the worried frown marring Weiss’ beautiful face and it hurts, it hurts.
The heiress moves to cup Ruby’s cheek but the runner shies away, finally unhooking the latch behind her and avoiding looking at the person whose life she’s already wreaked.
“What’s going through your mind?”
With surprising ease, the answer slides out.
“I’m moving to Yang’s.”
Weiss gapes, and splutters.
“What – why?”
Ruby kicks open the door, and bends slightly to grab the bag handle, her voice growing choked and adrenaline and passion and the knowledge that she’s doing the right thing making her take that hated step out.
“I can’t do this anymore.”
Weiss catches Ruby’s wrist, panic making her voice low and wavering, or maybe that’s all on Ruby.
“Wait – Ruby, what does that mean?
“What did I do?”
Ruby looks up.
Weiss is crying.
The love of her life is crying and it’s all her fault. It’s all for the better good. Behind her, Ruby spies Neptune standing shocked by the banister, and the twisted sense that all will turn out fine churns in her gut is what makes her give in, dart forward and kiss Weiss’ cheek.
And as the door closes, Ruby slumps against the wood and simultaneously hates and applauds herself as she hears Neptune speak, drowning out the deafening sound of Weiss’ silence.
“It’s okay, Snow Angel. I’m here.”
Speed. Something that used to come easily to Ruby Rose.
Lately, it’s as if her feet are encased in lead.
Lungs burning and a massive stich in her side, Ruby drags herself over the finish line. It’s a bad timing. She knows it. Goodwitch doesn’t even need to complete her pen-click.
Panting, the runner blinks the sweat out of her eyes and tries to suck more oxygen into her chest – knows that she’ll need it, for the inevitable re-lap.
Coach taps her clipboard and pushes her glasses up, judgement radiating off her in waves of tepid disappointment, “Fifty-seven and three five. Terrible.”
Hanging her head in shame, Ruby forces herself to take a deep breath and ignore the twitching in her calves. An apology tumbles off her tongue, the words themselves too tired to prop up.
“I’m sorry. Give me one more chance? I’ll get a good timing in before the end of the day, I promise.”
Goodwitch only hums in response. She walks off and resumes her scrutiny of the latest in a series of abysmal numbers. The runner grimaces and squints at the mid-afternoon sun, hanging at a literal 4 o’clock in the sky, heating up the red rubber to an uncomfortable touch. She fidgets, heat seeping through her soles and scorching the air. She wants to run. She needs to run.
It’s all that’s left that she’s good for.
And so she waits with bated breath.
Goodwitch finally returns and fixes her charge with seagrass eyes.
Ruby flinches, feeling the dismissal like a harsh slap across her face. Goodwitch clips the stopwatch back onto her belt. Ruby wishes she could have something to cling to as well.
Coach smiles, or at least makes the best approximation of a smile that Ruby has seen in the past two weeks.
“Is everything alright, Rose?” Goodwitch asks, looking over her silver-rimmed glasses, just enough to toe the line between sarcastic and soft.
Something twists in Ruby’s gut. Is everything alright?
Her toes curl and her fingers clench and the air is thick and arid and cloying.
She’s lost. She’s slowed down. She’s gone off track. The person who’s been there for her since the start has been pushed away and she doesn’t know where to turn to anymore.
(But. This is for the best.)
“Yes,” the red-haired woman answers, forcing out a strained laugh which wavers in the sweltering heat. “I just haven’t been getting much sleep lately. Personal stuff. I’ll do better. I promise.”
Goodwitch blinks, then shakes her head, something akin to…pity, flitting across her face.
“Go home, Rose. We’ll try again tomorrow.”
Ruby feels a stone sink in her chest. Maybe it’s fatigue, from running over twenty failed laps. Or maybe it was at the word “home”.
Her home is gone. And if Weiss was smart, she’d probably no longer has a working key.
Ruby looks up. Clicks her heels together and straightens her back. Goodwitch eyes her trembling lips.
“Your girlfriend, the Schnee heiress. She has not come here in a while.”
The statement strikes Ruby across the knees, and it’s all she can do to stay standing and not choke up.
Her throat is parched. Her head is throbbing. Her fingers itch and her spine curves in and if she closes her eyes she can just barely hear Weiss’ muffled sobs.
“We’re not together like that.”
Things aren’t much better off the track.
“Aren’t you going to eat that?
“It’s strawberry fried rice. Your favourite.”
Ruby makes a non-committal grunt. She stares at the food, her stomach already full of something else. The thought of shovelling in even another reluctant mouthful is…unpleasant.
Yang watches her little sister with concern. Her own dinner has been long finished and put away, but the brawler is still at the table, powerless as Ruby pushes a solitary pea from end to end. Bounces it off the ceramic edges of her plate like a sad ping pong ball.
Abruptly, Yang inhales, jerks and claps the younger woman on the back, plastering on a bright smile.
“So – I was thinking. It’s been a while since we had a night out!” Ruby eases her head up, trying to morph her facial features into something resembling interest. “What do you think of going to Nora’s tomorrow?”
Yang shakes Ruby a little, though her cheerful expression doesn’t break, “I’ve got a mad craving for some shrimp bean pancakes.”
Instantly, images of Nora’s restaurant, its bright lights and explosive pink and white colours flash through her mind. Memories of dozens of meals before, of her and Weiss and Yang and Blake laughing together and her pressed against Weiss’ arm.
Weiss hates those pancakes.
Ruby stills, and Yang immediately realises her mistake. The grin on Yang’s face flickers, then falls. Her lips purse, already forming the first syllable and rolling an R, but Ruby stops whatever her sister was about to try to say with a raised palm. She exhales, wrapping her arms around herself and shaking her head.
“Don’t. I’m fine.”
Yang stares at Ruby, incredulous disbelief practically shining out of her eyes. Ruby doesn’t care. She shrugs off Yang’s arm, glaring back at her sister. Tries to be strong, as though her hands aren’t buried deep in her pockets and twisted tight amongst the threads.
Gently, Yang reaches out and touches Ruby’s shoulder. Ruby allows it, though her breath comes a bit faster. Then Yang breaks the fragile truce; shatters it into oblivion with three simple words.
“Weiss called. Again.”
Ruby tenses up. And Yang watches her.
There’s something searching in her gaze, something that Ruby can’t interpret. Yang is eager. Eager for…what? A reaction?
Ruby can’t tell anymore. She’s tired.
She’s so, so tired.
Her shoulders slump, and what’s in front of her could be sludge for all she cares.
A pause. Nothing but shallow breaths echoes through the house. Then, irritation twists Yang’s face.
“Fuck this,” she spits.
Angrily, Yang pushes herself up and storms off.
Ruby discards her plate.
The next morning, Ruby wakes up on the couch to an empty apartment. Given that Yang works from 7 to 6 almost every day, that’s not the unusual part.
No, what’s weird is the knocking at the door.
Three quick taps, then two slower ones.
Grumbling, Ruby forces herself upright and slouches over to the door. Rubbing at her face, the runner grouses while pulling it open, “Yang, did you forget your keys again? Why didn’t you just drop me a message, I could have just popped by on my way to practice- “
Her eyelids shoot open and Ruby realises that the person in front is most definitely not Yang.
Panicked, Ruby slams the door on Weiss.
The runner barricades herself against the heavy wood-metal and locks the knob twice, breathing harshly. The pounding resumes.
“Ruby Rose! Let me in right this second!”
Quickly, Rubes snatches her phone off the carpet and returns to blocking the door with her body, reading the message at the top.
yAng, 0540: [don’t freak out, rubes. Just talk to her.]
Ruby frantically types an SOS out.
Rubes, 0931: [YANG WHAT DID YOU DO]
The door rattles. “Ruby Rose, open up! Yang gave me her keys and I’m not afraid to use them!”
Her phone buzzes with a reply almost instantaneously.
yAng, 0931: [Something I SHOULD have done at the start of this whole mess.]
Ruby feels a flare of indignation cut through her usual numb. Who was Yang to decide to interfere with her life and her decisions. What did she know about her and Weiss.
But that flame is quickly extinguished by cold fear as the locking mechanism twists open with a click. Her phone sounds.
yAng, 0932: [just TALK to her, grasshopper. FACE THE PAST AND PUNCH IT IN THE nUTs]
Ruby’s brows furrow. What on earth- why would Yang-
yAng, 0932: [that was nora.]
yAng, 0932: [but I agree]
Ruby sinks to the floor, holding her head in her palms and groaning quietly at her predicament. Behind her back, Ruby can feel the solid wood jerk as Weiss pushes with intent. Shouts through the door and lets the runner know exactly how close the heiress is.
“Ruby Rose, let me in. I just want to talk.”
Ruby gulps and looks around, searching furtively for a way to escape.
Her phone vibrates again, and Ruby glances down.
Blake Belladonna, 0933: [Remember what I told you, Ruby. Things don’t have to be hard.]
A hard shove, and Ruby is jolted forward by an inch, the phone clattering out of her hands. Ruby hugs herself, her roots being desperately torn out. But the clincher is what next whispers under the doorjamb.
The desperation in Weiss’ plea makes the last piece of Ruby’s heart splinter off. She grits her jaw and digs her nails into her palms hard.
She shifts forward another inch.
(This is it.)
(She’s tried to run but what she’s run from has come back and now she needs to tear her heart out again for Weiss’ sake.)
Exhaling and keeping one hand on the door to transfer her bodyweight, Ruby pulls herself to a stand. Digs deep into the store of good emotion and happiness stored up in the previous month and prays that this will go well.
She throws open the door and is greeted by the sight of Weiss three steps away, feet apart in a boxer’s stance, ready to throw herself against the entrance.
They stare at each other, the out of breath heiress and the bed-headed runner, both equally flummoxed.
Ruby makes a stab at levity, “Hi Weiss. Um, welcome to Yang’s place.”
Weiss tch-es and launches herself past, crossing the threshold before Ruby gets the chance to lock her out. Catches her wrist and tugs the taller woman into the living space before she can run away either.
Ruby finds herself thrown onto the couch, and this feels a little too much like déjà vu. Her, a captive of fate and emotion, lying horizontal in front of an angel due to force of circumstance. There’s no alcohol this time, and probably no happy ending either. Though a death, not a little one, may be in the cards.
Weiss folds her arms, stands firm and states her question.
“Why are you here.”
Ruby instantly knows what Weiss is asking. But, is she actually going to spill the truth?
“Um…shouldn’t I be asking you that? I’m the one that lives here now,” whooshes out of her mouth. The accompanying nervous chuckle probably doesn’t help.
Shocked, Weiss gapes at Ruby. Then, the heiress clenches her fists and trembles in anger.
“No. No, you don’t get to do this anymore, Ruby.”
Weiss steps forward, and Ruby scoots back, but the back of the couch blocks her and so there’s nothing stopping Weiss from grabbing a handful of the runner’s sleep shirt and pulling close.
They stare at each other, the runner and the heiress. Two persons whose lives were brought together and then one pulled apart yet they still seem to always return to this place. To this moment, where Weiss is furious and Ruby is tracing Weiss’ scars. Watching the one bisected by her eye lengthen, then expand into a seamless cut, as Weiss closes her lids and presses one finger to Ruby’s carotid pulse.
“Eight months ago, my best friend started to act off. Avoiding meals, staying out, barely replying to my messages.” Ruby winces, guilt settling like a damp mould over her ribcage as Weiss narrates. “I thought nothing of it at first, that maybe it was the residual awkwardness from my outburst, but – it never stopped.”
Ruby feels more than hears the other girls’ inhale, breathing in on her out.
“It sucked,” Weiss continues. She touches their foreheads together, “I gathered the courage to ask about it but never actually took the chance.”
“Because, somehow…I got her back,” Weiss opens her eyes, and blue sapphires stare into silver. “Received the one thing which I had never dared to admit that I wanted. Heard her whisper the words that I have been dreaming of hearing for years. Thought that things were going well and whatever had happened was in the past.”
What is she talking about?
“And then, she left.” Weiss bites her lip. “Without explanation, without cause.”
Ruby finds herself reaching up to cup Weiss’ cheek, thumb pressed over the thin white line. Weiss releases Ruby’s shirt but doesn’t move away.
“I never wanted to be someone that pushes you before you’re ready.” Weiss admits, her words drifting down around her like autumn leaves in the wind. She sits back on her heels. “And the Schnee in me refuses to accept help.
“But every step forward with you feels like I’m taking two steps back.”
There's blood in Ruby's mouth, when Weiss folds her hands over her lap.
“I have spent the past two weeks reflecting on what could have gone wrong.” Her fingers contract, cotton gloves pulled taut over knuckles. “And I have concluded that I am not going to accept blame for something which I did not know would happen.
“But I am done, letting you ride the flow of whatever is tearing you apart.” Her tone turns sharp, and heavy; bullets battering against the walls which Ruby has built. “Against every bit of logic and experience tells me to not chase after someone who left me,” Weiss exhales, and looks up, “if the girl I know is still there, and is listening, I am here. I am not giving up on you.
“So please,” Ruby inches forward, pulled forward like a magnet towards her heart’s North, “if you want to, talk to me. Share with me what on earth has been going on for so long. Why you…ran, and keep running.”
Weiss tugs at her gloves, and laces her fingers together to hide their tremble.
“If that is not what you wish, I…I will just go.”
And herein Weiss presents her a crossroads. A way off the looping track. The out that she’s been looking for since the start.
A new life. A life without another path.
A life, without Ruby and Weiss.
(Isn’t this what she wanted?)
(Isn’t this what she had hoped for from the start?)
(Without her, Weiss can be happy.)
(Without her, Weiss has the chance to find someone new.)
(Someone else to make coffee with.)
(Someone else to watch old movies on the couch.)
(Someone else- to massage her scars.)
Ruby blinks at Weiss, imagines continuing this sham of an existence for the rest of her life. She would, for Weiss. She knows she isn’t good enough, for Weiss. And so she opens her mouth, drops her gaze, ready to seal her own miserable fate when-
“Is that my jacket?”
Weiss startles, and the action serves only to sweep her long ponytail away from the hoodie’s front, unveiling the tell-tale Olympic rings and drawing attention to the faded “Mistral Track” on the arm. Weiss flushes, but makes no move to take it off, instead stammering, “you left it in your room and it missed you – shu- shush!”
Ruby’s mouth gapes open. But-
“I ran out. You should hate me. You’re free now, to find someone else. I- I left a space, for someone better. Someone who can actually be enough.”
Weiss stares at Ruby for a while, after that accidental confession. Her lips thin out and her head shakes from side to side without margin for error. Then, gingerly, Weiss extracts a small figurine out of her pocket - it’s the glass rose, that she saw so long ago, gifted from Neptune. Iridescent and white, with ruby-red dew drops along its petals.
Weiss sets it down on the table beside the couch, equidistant from them both, and with a sudden clarity Ruby realises that it’s a Weiss Rose.
Her best friend sits back on her heels, swaddled in Ruby’s most well-worn jacket, and confirms something which Ruby has been denying all along.
“You’ve always been enough for me.”
Yang was right. She was right, she was right and everything in her head was wrong.
For the first time in a long while, Ruby feels – present. She sees the things she’s done over the past few months. Sees what Blake meant by “sometimes, life is just that.” Sees the doubts, the fears that have stirred up in her head and gorged themselves on self-fulfilling prophecies and amplified when she pushed away the person who was there throughout.
And she finally knows what she wants.
Ruby’s hand snaps out and seizes Weiss’ moving wrist almost a second too late.
“Don’t,” she whispers out.
Blue eyes meet silver, and Ruby sees herself reflected. Sees her gaunt cheeks and sallow skin and knows that she’s gone off track too far.
The past two weeks have been miserable. Heck, the past few months have been incredibly shitty, for them both. Why the hell did she lead them to the brink?
(She- she knows why, and it’s time that Weiss knew too.)
Her fingers curl over the edge of the heiress’ glove, and Weiss flinches, reflexively wanting to hide her past. Ruby squeezes her hand, then gently peels off the white layer, revealing the rosettes beneath. She’s finally ready to confront her past.
“Years ago, I gave you these scars.” Weiss furrows her brow, clearly not seeing the link, but it’s alright – Ruby will explain it.
She smiles wryly, tracing the largest one, “I know that you don’t care for them much now – but every time I see them, I keep thinking of the things you’ve lost because.”
Weiss’ fingers twitch, as Ruby reaches the whorl against her thumb, “I’ve spent all this time regretting my actions back then and trying to make it up to you.”
“So, when I realised that I fell in love with you,” Weiss’ breathing stops, “I knew that that wasn’t part of the plan.”
Weiss’ eyes are shining. Cautious hope being telegraphed through the small earthquaking of her fingers. Ruby feels a residue of her demons try to claw her throat out but Ruby forces herself to continue. Tells those voices to back down for once.
“I wasn’t going to tell you. Because, there are these things – these thoughts in my head that keep telling me I’m not good enough.” Ruby tangles their fingers together, and Weiss tugs Ruby close, such that their knees touch.
“They’re still there. And they’re loud. But – if it’s with you,
“I think I can learn to shut them out.” Ruby slides off the couch, and holds Weiss’ scarred fingers to her cheek, balancing on one knee to look Weiss in the eye from bottom up.
“If you’ll have me.”
There’s a pause, and then a red blush starts to creep up Weiss’ neck. For a moment, Ruby is confused, then she suddenly realises her posture and the exact words which had come out of her mouth.
The runner drops Weiss’ palm like a hot potato and windmills her hands about, “not that this is a marriage proposal or anything! I’m just saying that- I mean- you’re making this really difficult by laughing, Weiss!”
Ruby crosses her arms and scowls, but the action does nothing to stop the giggles her best friend tries (badly) to smother with a dainty glove. Yet, despite the embarrassment which makes her want to hide in icy Atlas, Ruby feels…warm.
She gets up on both knees and leans her arms onto the seat, resting her cheek on one palm. Watches the tense worry across Weiss’ shoulders slide off with a small upcurl to her mouth. The ground should be uncomfortable. Hell, this entire situation, according to the anticipation and depression and suspicions in her head, should be uncomfortable.
But somehow, seeing the woman she loves wrestle herself back to a steady calm, and return her gaze with adoration, makes all the aches and pains in her body disappear.
Weiss leans forward, and now it’s her turn to take Ruby’s hand, “You complete and utter dolt. Of course, I will.”
A relieved smile threatens to split Ruby’s face, but that’s before Weiss drops the next bombshell.
“After all, I love you too.”
Ruby’s heart stops.
“You- you love me?”
Weiss aims a deadpan expression at Ruby, then raises her fingers to rub at the crease between her eyebrows. “Was that not painfully obvious?”
Ruby splutters, jumping up onto the couch and making Weiss jerk back in surprise but oh how the tables have turned and now it’s the heiress whom the annoying couch edge is hemming in place.
“No?? I thought you liked me as a really good friend and that’s it!”
Weiss snarls at Ruby. “What kind of friend signs a legally binding 20-year apartment lease with the other?”
“A trusting one!”
Weiss scoffs, “does trust explain knowing all your idiosyncratic preferences?"
"We've been friends for forever, that just happens!" Ruby protests, feeling giddy.
Weiss throws out her unpinned arm, "What about clearing my schedule specially to attend your every meet, and birthday, and your family's anniversary meals?"
Ruby flings out her own, "I invite you months in advance and only if I know you're not busy!"
"Weekly date nights?"
"Stealing your clothes?"
"Cooking dinner almost every night?"
"Yang does that too!"
"Would you sleep with your sister though?"
Ruby actually feels a bit of bile come up her throat at that thought. Vehemently, "ew what - NO!"
Weiss sighs, flicks her finger out at Ruby's nose and leans back, wrapping her arms around the runner’s waist and pulling the taller woman to lie down on her.
“So, do you believe me now?” Weiss murmurs, face pressed into her shoulder.
Quietly, “I’ve been in love with you since that stupid lab six years ago.”
Remember when she said that her heart had stopped? Well, it’s clearly over-compensating now. Ruby’s heart is beating faster than a hummingbird and she feels like she’s twenty metres away from the goal. Tripping on air but the gold is so close and if she just reaches out her hand-
Weiss’ reply comes swift, and with sass. “Why not?”
Ruby whines and would have raised herself up to pout if not for the addictive comfort that came with being embraced by Weiss. “That’s not a proper answer.”
“Great! Now you know how I felt!” Weiss shoots back. Ruby does actually pout. Weiss shoves at her shoulder and the runner gets jostled a bit off, there now being a miniscule amount of space between them, enough for Weiss to properly see Ruby’s puppy dog expression and for Ruby to catch the flustered blush on Weiss.
But then, a breath, and Weiss touches their foreheads together.
“You…just don’t see the good in yourself. The way you care.”
Weiss’ fingers unfurl across her ear and cheek, caressing Ruby with both scars and unbroken skin alike.
“You’ve become so caught up with trying to make everyone else happy that you started blaming yourself for chasing after your own.”
Ruby feels her world narrow down to this moment, these seconds in space. Nothing exists except her and Weiss.
“I’m not saying that everything is better now. Maidens know that you have some things to work out. That we have some things to work out.”
Weiss nudges Ruby’s nose with her own.
“But I’m saying that I want to be here to help you try.”
Ruby finds herself drawn forward, their lips just barely grazing and it takes a supreme effort of will to not close the distance. It’s the final stretch now. She can see the finish line.
And Weiss. Weiss is there.
“I want to spend every ever after with you.”
Weiss smiles, her half-lidded eyes crinkling at the edges.
“Okay. Let’s take things slow.”
Ruby nods, slowly, imperceptibly, but all that matters is that Weiss knows and now she knows too and-
Weiss squeezes her tight and Ruby feels like it’s like the wrapping of a heavy blanket around her. Better than her mother’s jacket. Better than the ribbon at the end of a first-place race.
“I love you.”
“I love you.”
The race ends.
The motivation behind this whole thing was “how oblivious can one lesbian be” and I got the question answered.
Real talk, while writing this I realised that I’m projecting a lot of unsaid things into Ruby and just want to give a shout out to whoever empathises with this Ruby “I don’t deserve good things” Rose that this voice is wrong. You are loved, you deserve a shot at being happy, and you do not have to feel guilty for enjoying it.
Try new things. Talk to people. Test yourself. Reach out and reach in and know that I’m here wishing that you deserve the chance to just be.
Linking to something which is important to read in conclusion to all this, with full credit to the artist: https://terminallytwee.tumblr.com/post/184464387850/dbt-comic-9
Thank you for all of the love (and anger) and from all those that left kudoes/ comments for the past few weeks - the chapter count has gone up by one but relax, i meant it when i said that there's a happy ending. This is it and the next one is just the epilogue.
Weiss Schnee is in love with Ruby Rose. She feels like she’s known this her whole life.
(But it is true, is it not? Was she ever truly alive until she met Ruby Rose?)
Love did not strike her like a thunderbolt, no – love came blowing in on a gentle breeze. Whimsical, flowing, unexpected. The first time she feels something remotely like affection flowing from her heart for Ruby is when she sees the girl reach out. Hold her hand. Touch her like she was made of glass instead of worn stone, look at her like she meant something instead of just being an object for her father’s plans.
In the dim light of chemistry lab 36A, at 4am in the morning when everyone else but them and the night guard is asleep, that is when Weiss starts to feel her heart beat for this too young, too rough, too fast little girl.
And over the next few years, she keeps falling.
She falls for the kind way Ruby smiles. The way she giggles and weaves her arms around Weiss’ shoulders to pout. The babbling chatter that she unconsciously makes during meals, to which the heiress gladly falls asleep. She falls for her hair, her silver eyes, her running feet.
Ruby won’t believe her easily. Won’t think she deserves love.
Nobody ever looks at her and thinks - this girl is depressed.
She doesn't have the scars, the high-profile family drama. Not the skeletal look on her face nor pale features with spidery veins from old bruises and too much caffeine.
She’s always laughing. Has a loving sister. A shot at living her dreams. Friends, family.
But Weiss knows better. It's quiet, in the ways Ruby holds herself together for others. It's in the still moments, when she catches the younger girl fixate on her palms (they don't ache anymore, really) or itching to bolt. It's in growing up in someone else's shadow, to have tragedies and expectations and yet have to smile and smile and smile.
She can’t love Ruby’s pain away, but she can love her through it.
She’s ready to do it for as long as she must.
The day after their talk, Ruby officially moves into Yang’s place.
“Useless lesbians.” Yang mutters under her breath, smacking her palm against her forehead at the burden she has of having not one but two little sisters to bash some sense into.
They take things slow, going on proper dates and establishing boundaries and giving verbal consent and check-backs whenever needed. Blake and Madame Goodwitch find Ruby a qualified therapist, whom after their first appointment, moves Ruby enough for the other woman to call Weiss halfway through work and whisper, “I love you.”
(She’s already known this for a few months now but each time she hears it, it feels like something new and she can scarcely believe that this is what she can look forward to.
Things will take a while. She knows it will and is willing to sit on her vows until Ruby is well and truly ready.
But by the gods is she impatient. She can’t wait to be able to shower Ruby with love and have the runner accept it. For Ruby to be happy with her love and realise that this is the bare minimum of what she deserves.)
It’s almost a year later, when they’re video-calling from across time zones, that Weiss finally takes the plunge and broaches the question that she’s been dying to ask since 12 months ago.
Ruby’s voice is cheerful and rambling because she’s the one who is in the early afternoon and preparing some sugary-sweet concoction, while Weiss is lying face-down on her hotel bed and struggling to stay awake after a long day of conferences. It’s late, past midnight, and the bed is too cold, her lids are half-closing and her lips are loose and she misses her partner and maybe that’s what gives her the uninhibited courage to suggest the next logical step towards that blissful world.
“Would you like to move back in with me?”
Ruby pauses, midway through a re-enactment of something her coach did earlier in the day. Weiss blinks, long and slow, ready to retract her offer if it’s too much, too soon, because she’s learnt her lesson about letting the runner try to push herself to go. But then, a genuine grin begins to spread across Ruby’s beautiful face. And Weiss finds herself smiling back and sinking deeper into her pillow even before Ruby whispers – reverently, as if she just presented her with something precious and irreplaceable, “Of course.”
(It’s not something proper, how ready she is to spend the rest of her life with Ruby Rose. But she’s been waiting for seven years and maybe, just maybe, a few of Ruby’s rushing tendencies have made an influence.)
Being with Ruby is the right choice. Ruby has always been the right choice.
Hence, when she is finally able to curl around her girlfriend’s back at night, nose buried in red hair and their fingers interlocked – Weiss can’t help but be glad for the small tragedies.
Perhaps Ruby is accurate, in thinking that if she had not crashed into Weiss that day, her life would be easier. But at the same time, it would not have her. The person who makes her smile after a long day. The person who shows her how to believe. The one who inspires her to want to be better, for her, for others, for herself.
After everything that they’ve been through together, the surgeries, the creams, the physiotherapy and counselling, Weiss can close her eyes and kiss the nape of Ruby’s neck and drift off into a peaceful sleep knowing that -
It was worth it.
She’s worth it.
And that's all folks! Thank you so much for sticking through with this till the end - hopefully you've enjoyed it and that you'll all find your Weiss/ Ruby in life.
After the last two chapters, I got some questions about Ruby's characterisation and the sequence and portrayal of events post-accident up till now. To which my response is...memories are not infallible. Our minds twist them into what we want to see and everyone is an unreliable narrator. A convenient excuse, I know, but something I wanted to include to show how it's really easy to just fall into a pit of despair and not snap out. But, it is possible.
(Hopefully the next bit of inspiration that strikes me will be for a fluff piece for once.)