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Falling Slowly

Chapter Text

It had started snowing in the early morning. Big, fat snowflakes were drifting down from the clouds, settling down in the trees and bushes, making fat piles on the ground. By early morning, the Rose-Xiao Long's yard was just a big patch of white powder, sparkling in the dawn.

Ruby was delighted to find it had snowed. A wide smile bloomed on her face as soon as she caught sight of the weather out her window. She felt something in her spine tingle with excitement. The whole world had changed overnight. Everything was quieter and slower, and it was finally seasonally appropriate for her to wear as puffy a coat as she pleased. Plus, the added bonus of her being able to drink as much hot chocolate as she wanted without raising any questions!

She threw the covers off and stretched, turning the alarm off on her phone. She thumbed through her notifications with a little yawn. It was probably too much to hope for that their school would call it a snow day, right?

Right.

Oh, well. She could find her joy in the little things. She switched over to her music app, playing her morning playlist. Music, soft and slow at first, drifted in through the speakers in her room. Ruby went through her morning routine.

Brush the teeth, wash the face, pick the outfit, pack the bag. Her dancey little ritual before school. The music ramped up in intensity with every song, so by the end, she'd end up miming a sweet electric guitar solo in the mirror. She did it because it was awesome, and there was literally nothing anybody could say to convince her otherwise.

She shredded the last notes with a flourish, sticking her tongue out and whooping.

"Rubes, come on down for breakfast!" Yang called out through her door, giving a quick, hefty knock. Ruby jumped a little in front of her imaginary audience, before regaining her composure and thanking them with a bow.

"I'll be right down!" she called out to her real, less cool audience. Ruby gave the mirror another quick air kiss before hefting her bag on one shoulder and heading down the stairs.

The smell of pancakes wafted through the air as soon as she hit the bottom step. Pancakes! On a snowy day! After her cool rock concert! Ruby sighed, feeling rather content, despite the fact that she had to go to school still. She took a moment to appreciate the quiet murmur of her dad and Yang talking, the pan sizzling and the tv in the living room playing at a muffled volume. It was something like normalcy. It was home, and after a long time, it was starting to feel like a complete home again. She stepped into the kitchen with a dopey little smile on her face.

"There she is," Taiyang called out as he scooped a third pancake onto a plate. "Sit down and have some pancakes before you girls head off," he pushed the syrup on the table with his spatula. Ruby didn't need to be told twice.

"Chuck the butter, sis!" Ruby called out to her sister across the table, who was holding onto the stick of butter with an amused expression. She raised her eyebrows as she cut a bit onto her golden stack of pancakes, melting it beautifully into the fluffy surface. God. It was obscene. Probably wasn't appropriate for Ruby to see, honestly.

"You want me to throw you the stick of butter," Yang replied, less question, more incredulous statement. She waved the aluminium wrapped yellow bar in her hand. "This stick of butter. This thing."

"Uh huh, yup."

"Ruby, when was the last time you've properly managed to catch something out of the air?"

"I don't do it often enough to recall."

"And you want me to throw the butter. The slippery... stick of butter? To you. For you to catch."

"Oh, yeah. Big time."

"I'm just gonna put it, right here. In the middle of the table, okay?"

"Oh, good call."

"And you can grab it."

"Smart."

Taiyang leaned on the kitchen counter, sipping his coffee. He nodded approvingly. "Good work, Yang. That was a really sensible thing to do. I'm proud of you. You've really learned and grown over this past year."

Yang beamed at their father. "Thanks, dad! Oh, hey, can we borrow your car? Blake invited me and fartmuncher here to her place after school. Her parents are out of town and we're going to do hardcore drugs and light the stump in their backyard on fire."

Taiyang locked eyes with her smiling daughter. She didn't falter. He rolled his eyes. "Only because it won't be Ruby driving," he fished the keys out of the pocket of his very practical, very cool cargo shorts, tossing them to Yang, who caught them easily.

Ruby's fork slipped out of her butter coated hands, clattering onto the floor. She sighed a little, but barely missed a beat before she abandoned her untensils entirely to shove pancakes into her face hole with her bare hands.

Ruby was 15, but she was in junior year, same as her sister, having been bumped up a couple grades in middle school. Yes, this was the girl genius who from Beacon High School. The ones that parents always pointed out and classmates respected. That one smart girl, right, Ruby Rose? Yep. That's her.

"We're just gonna have dinner and watch a couple movies, dad," Ruby spoke through the wall of pancakes in her mouth. She chewed and swallowed. "Blake only invited Yang, but she's a scaredy cat, and wants me to come along."

Yang shot her a murderous glare, her usual lilac eyes burning a shade of red. The blood of the branwens ran deep in Yang Xiao Long's veins. "I'm not scared," she stabbed a pancake with a little bit more force than necessary. "She said the both of us should come."

Ruby gave their dad some sly side-eye. Taiyang winked at his youngest daughter.

"I always liked that Belladonna girl. Her family is good people. Gave us a nice welcome when we moved here. She seems sweet," he took a sip from his coffee mug as Yang blushed slightly. She moved to put her plate in the sink, covering up her rosy cheeks with the great blonde mane she'd let down today. She quickly gave her dad a kiss before mumbling something to the effect of 'mgonnastartthecar'.

Ruby giggled as soon as her sister left.

"It's not nice to make fun of your sister, Ruby," Taiyang admonished lightly, though the smile was still present on his face. She snorted at that.

"Oh come on dad, the two of them have been so googly eyed at each other lately. It's just gonna be a matter of time before they actually get together," Ruby said emphatically.

"Yeah, well what about you?" Taiyang gestured his mug towards his daughter. Ruby snorted again. "Oh come on, nobody at Beacon's struck your fancy? You're in the junior year ranks. You know I would have killed to go after some after the junior girls in my school when I was 15?"

"Ew, gross, oh my god dad!" Ruby cringed at her father, who was lost in his own memories. God.

She placed her own plate in the sink after devouring the last of her pancakes, forcing it down her throat to get as far away from this as possible. Taiyang placed a kiss on her forehead, then put his hand on Ruby's shoulder, a sudden serious expression on his face.

"So if your sister's actually going to have a moment...?"

Ruby shrugged. "I actually wasn't planning on staying very long. It's alright. I got some cab money."

"Good girl. You two be safe!" he called into the garage as Ruby exited the room. She dumped her bag in the back seat before getting into the passenger side.

"Let's blow this popsicle stand," Ruby said to her sister, before respectfully putting her seatbelt on and adjusting her chair to a more comfortable position. "Alright, we out this shi- actually wait for the garage door to go up all the way?"

Yang flicked her sister's head and reversed out.


Ruby, for all the credit she got for assimilating into the upperclassmen, still felt a little bit out of place sometimes. She was about two years younger than everyone in her class. Sometimes their concerns were a little bit out of her league.

She wasn't anti-social per se- she got along well enough with everyone. She had friends, even friends that were independent of her sister's social group, so there, she had put on her big girl pants and gone outside and did adult things like talk to strangers and make friends. It was just that, Ruby cared about other stuff a lot more than she cared about her social standing in school.

Ruby would never label herself a genius, although everyone else was happy to, but she would admit that she loved learning. Ruby was always, at any point in time, hungry for knowledge. Not that she was a know-it-all either, she just... liked it. It came easy when she wanted it.

They got to home room quick, eager to get out of the biting chill and frost. Ruby shoved her beanie down further to cover her ears and burrowed her hands deep into her jacket pockets. Yang simply brushed the snow from her hair and adjusted her scarf slightly. Yang wasn't cold very often. For some reason, she was always at a comfortably warm temperature. It was like a superpower, but it also made her a fantastic cuddle partner in the cold.

"Heya, Blake," Yang called out, taking her usual seat next to the raven haired girl as they entered the class room. Blake smiled at her, shifting over slightly to make space. Subtly, the ears atop her head twitched in response to Yang's presence. Though she'd hidden it with the bow she always wore, Yang and Ruby had spent more than enough time with her to be attuned to her subtle movements. Ruby had never fully learned why Blake chose to hide the fact that she was a faunus. While faunus around the world were still being discriminated against and oppressed, there wasn't really anything of the sort happening at Beacon High. There were more than a fair share of faunus students, like Velvet or Sun.

The last time Ruby had asked, Blake had merely replied that it was 'easier' for her to keep her ears hidden away. She supposed her answer made sense, and Ruby tried her best to sympathize. She was just sad that her friend had to go around hiding a part of herself away.

"Hello Yang, Ruby," she nodded at the two sisters, though trained her gaze straight at Yang again as they started their usual routine of goofy little smiles and lovey dovey gazes. Sickening. Well, sweet, but- everyone had had enough at this point, they could just skip to the good bits.

"Did you hear?" Blake rested a cheek on her fist as she looked at the sisters. "Rumour's been going around that we're getting a new student."

"Ooh, la la," Yang wiggled her eyebrows. "Transfer student?"

"Apparently, from Atlas Academy," Blake said, keeping her cool as Yang ooh'd at the hot goss.

"Atlas Academy?" Ruby asked, only having marginally heard of it as being a notably big school out west. The significance of it, though, did not hit home for her as it did the other two.

"Yeah, wealthy boarding school, only accepts rich, snooty elites, children whose parents have connections or are alumnis, or smarty-farty pants types," Yang listed off her fingers.

"Though the overlap there is usually more or less a perfect circle," Blake supplied. Yang nodded.

"Typical high society boarding school, y'know?" Yang booped her sister's nose. "Mom and Dad probably would have pushed for you to go there if we'd known earlier how clever you turned out to be, Rubes."

Ruby scrunched her nose up, shaking her head slightly. "Eugh. Think I'll take a hard pass. I don't even know how to curtsie," she tilted her head, furrowing her brow. "So if the new student came from such a high and fancy place, why're they slumming it down here with us?"

"Who knows," Blake shrugged. "Maybe there's a really dramatic fall from grace story there."

"I'm sure we'll find out soon enough," Yang held her hands up above her head, stretching out. Ruby didn't miss Blake's stare. She was subtle, but at the same time, way, way too predictable. She wanted to roll her eyes a little bit.

The bell rang, and their teacher, Mr. Port, took his usual position leaning against the desk with his arms crossed, his magnificent, thick grey mustache on full display for the world to gaze upon. The Gods themselves looked upon the facial hair with pride, and nobody took more pleasure than Peter Port in maintaining it. In fact, between that and the giant eyebrows resting below his forehead, Mr. Port seemed almost entirely a sentient being controlled by fantastic hair.

He was cool, though. Kind, engaging (though maybe a little too engaged with himself and his old war stories), and he was genuinely passionate about the classes he taught. He was their homeroom teacher, and the shop class teacher.

"Ah, students, by now I'm sure you'll have heard rumours and the like about a new student transferring to our class. I know how you kids love to get on that tweeter, and hashtag about those mentions and whatnot," he stroked his mustache once, then cleared his throat. "In any case, I'll just tell you all right now that it's true. We're going to be getting a new student today. She'll be with us for the remainder of her high school years, or so they tell me. I expect you all to give her a warm welcome, and to make her feel at home."

"Mr. Port, what's her name?" Ruby asked. He smiled at her.

"Well, young Miss Rose, I think I'll let her introduce herself. She should be coming in right about now, anyways," he looked towards the door as he finished his sentence, and as if right on cue, there came a knock. Two figures stood outside.

"A-hah! Right on cue. I've still got it," he chuckled to himself as he opened the door. "Mr. Ozpin, good to see you!"

"Likewise, Peter," Principal Ozpin smiled warmly as he entered the classroom, the cane in hand. His usual green spectacles hung low on his nose, framed by the mess of grey hair he'd kept in a windswept fashion. He had a kind, wise face, one that had no hint of condesencion or apathy Ruby had been led to believe was the norm of school administrators. "Students, I know you all have bonded well over the years. It might be unusual to accept another into your fold this late into your school life, but all the same, unusual things happen all the time. You have a new student joining you all. I hope you'll make her feel welcome," he gestured to the side, and in she walked.

"This is Weiss Schnee."

Chapter Text

She was... pretty.

That was the first thing that popped into Ruby's mind. She had snow white hair, tied off into a ponytail that fell down to her hips. Her eyes were light blue, the kind of light blue that was the colour of a glacier, or a frozen lake. There was a recently healed over scar running down the length of her left eye, and the expression on her face was severe, but strangely innocent and vulnerable. Her clothes were expensive, the kind of expensive that belonged on celebrities, not in a high school in mid-west Remnant.

Faintly, Ruby wondered if she actually was famous.

Weiss Schnee stood in front of the the class, her posture impeccable, her hands clasped in front of her like she was a step away from doing a little curtsie. She screamed 'fancy' in every facet. She was the kind of girl Ruby would be downright afraid to approach, for fear of getting her filthy casual peasant stink on her. Ruby felt a little less adequate in her hoodie and jeans.

"Miss Schnee, would you like to say a few words to introduce yourself to the class?" Mr. Ozpin stepped to the side as gestured for her to present herself. Weiss Schnee nodded respectfully, then scanned the class. Her face was neutral, but it was a kind of artificial neutrality. The blank, normal face you'd put on when you're in front of a crowd of strangers. There was something more to it when she looked at Weiss, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it.

She cleared her throat. "Hello. My name is Weiss, and I'm honoured to be in Beacon High, to learn alongside you all for the next two years," she paused, scanning the room again. Her smile seemed plastered on. After a moment, she just bowed her head again, prompting Mr. Ozpin to take over.

"Well said, now let's get you on with the learning, hm?" now it was his turn to scan the room, though only briefly, as he'd seen his target the moment he'd step foot in the room. "Ah, Miss Rose, would you be so kind as to escort Miss Schnee around today? I'm sure she'd appreciate it, especially from someone with a more... unique perspective. Wouldn't you agree?" he looked at Ruby expectantly, something close to a mischievous glint in his eyes. Ruby paused for a moment, a little bit more than surprised with the request.

"Oh! Um, yes, sir. I can show Weiss around," Ruby gave the principal a tight-lipped smile, and barely made eye-contact with the ivory-haired girl in question. She swept some hair behind her ear and cleared her throat. "You can sit here, uh, I guess," she gestured to the empty seat on her left.

"Actually, sir," Weiss cut in. "I was hoping to be shown around by her," she gestured towards the back of the class, where sat Pyrrha Nikos, who raised her brows in mild surprise. Pyrrha was the nicest person Ruby knew at Beacon, and very possibly the nicest person on the face of the planet. She was a three time Olympic and Youth Olympic medalist for shooting. She was in local cereal commercials. Now Pyrrha was some degree of famous. Ruby quirked her brow.

"Oh!" Pyrrha smiled wide, the perfect picture of polite and accommodating. "I'd be happy to."

Weiss looked at Ozpin with a smile, and he conceded after a brief pause.

"Very well, I do wish to make your transition here into Beacon as comfortable as possible," he placed both hands on his cane and nodded. "Well, if that's settled, then I shall take my leave. Be well, students," he nodded to Mr. Port as he walked out of the classroom, cane clanking with each step.

Weiss walked towards the back of the class, taking the next empty seat next to Pyrrha. The scent of her perfume wafted towards Ruby as she walked past. It reminded her of the biting chill outside.

Okay. Well. That was a little bit embarrassing, huh? Ruby wrinkled her nose, looking to Blake and Yang, who gave her sympathetic smiles. Yang patted Ruby's hand. The younger girl shrugged, blowing a wisp of hair out of her eyes. She craned her neck a little to look back, catching a glimpse of Weiss already in a conversation with Pyrrha, both of them wearing smiles on their faces.

Their eyes met for a brief moment. Ruby didn't break away for some reason. Weiss held her gaze, and something strange pierced in Ruby's chest as they looked at each other. She suddenly felt reprimanded, like she ought to have been sheepish for some reason. Ruby felt her cheeks blush a little as she whipped her head back around.

Alright. So. Cool. The first new outsider for Ruby to potentially bond with and in 5 minutes she was already melding into the social scene here. Cool cool cool.

Ruby didn't stop thinking about Weiss the entire class.


Scratch that, Ruby actually didn't stop thinking about Weiss the whole day. It was strange, to say the least. She reasoned it was because Weiss was about the most interesting thing to happen to Beacon since, like, ever. Not to say that her days in high school were boring. Far from it. Something new tended to happen almost every day. Food fights, or regular boring fights, or some new prank Yang schemed up, or some other scheme of sorts.

But Weiss, she was fancy. She wore expensive clothes and came from a high class family and boarding school all the way in Atlas, and now she was in Vale, in Beacon High. She'd gone from the pent house apartment to the middle of suburbia. There was a reason for it, too. A mysterious one nobody had figured out yet. It was intriguing and Weiss, just the presence of Weiss, the fact that she existed and she was here signalled some larger story. And that was interesting.

So, yeah. An interesting mystery happening at Beacon. That was what Ruby had been thinking about all day. That was all.

Ruby peered out the library window. Snow was starting to drift down again. She stuffed her hands in her jacket pockets as she sat around waiting. Blake and Yang had chemistry for last period, and that meant they had to trek from the entire opposite end of school to their lockers, then they could all ride to Blake's place. So she had some time to kill. And that meant milling around the library, running her hands over familiar book spines, pulling out books that she was particularly fond of or looked interesting, mentally adding it to the list of books she needed to read when she had time.

Ruby wasn't the most dedicated reader. No, she couldn't claim something like that when she lived in such proximity to Blake, who was practically a machine when it came to books. She did love her few genres that she stuck to. The kinds of books that were adventures, that had the kind of happy endings that existed nowhere else. Heroes and journeys and the obstacles they faced, and the necessity for a satisfying conclusion. Those were her books. Mom had had loads of those books. She loved reading them during bed time, or on a slow, quiet day. She and Yang would huddle under a blanket, they would draw the curtains and turn the lights off, leaving only a single lamp facing an armchair for their mother to read.

Ruby pulled out a book, flipping through at random and relishing the smell and feel of it. Happier times.

Her phone buzzed, and it was Yang and Blake heading towards the car. She put the book back with a wistful sigh, stuffing her hands back in her jacket pockets as she began walking out of the library towards the parking lot on auto-pilot. Her gaze was forward, but her mind was elsewhere, though she successfully managed to dodge and weave through the crowd in school.

Until she didn't.

She stumbled backwards with a grunt, barely managing to keep her balance, sticking her arms out and waving as she threatened to fall over. She shook her head, bringing herself out of the shock of colliding with someone. The other party wasn't as fortunate as her, ending up on her rear on the floor.

Also, the other party was Weiss Schnee. Weiss, with her perfect hair and makeup, and her nice clothes, had let out a little yelp as they collided, falling onto the floor. She nursed the point of collision on her head as she looked up at Ruby, the most menacing, unpleasant scowl on her face. Ruby almost immediately shrank in fear and embarrassment.

"Omigosh, I'm so sorry!" Ruby held her hands out and gasped. Her mind was racing with a million variations of the thought 'oh crap'. "I-I'm so sorry, I didn't see you, it was my fault, I'm so sorry!"

She crouched down, placing a hand over the one Weiss had on her head, and the other on her shoulder. "Are you okay? Are you hurt? Do you need help, c'mon," she attempted to hoist Weiss up gently, and was promptly and brusquely shoo'd off, Weiss almost shoving her away.

"You," the annoyance in those blue eyes gathered up and solidified, pointing squarely at Ruby. "Dolt!"

Weiss got up herself, quickly, though no less graceful than she'd ever been thus far. "Would you watch where you're going! What, is walking and being aware of your surroundings too difficult a multi-task?" She patted herself off, wiping snow and dirt off her impeccable outfit.

Ruby shrank further into herself. Weiss' scowl was ever present as she appraised Ruby fully. She thought for a moment, eyes still locked with Ruby. Then, as if she decided it wasn't really worth the effort, she simply stomped off with a huff. Ruby thought she could hear some muttered curses coming from behind her, but she dared not look back, lest she get turned to stone.

Well, more so than she was now.

Ruby blushed a deep red. Her throat and chest constricted tight, mortified beyond all belief.

Had she. Really. Just done that? Just assaulted the new girl? Like it was her first day in prison and she wanted to gain respect from the yard? She palmed her face, groaning deep and long.

"Yeesh, what's up her butt?" Yang's voice came from ahead of her. Ruby looked up to see her and Blake standing there, both looking at Weiss' retreating figure. Blake held a deep scowl, her jaw shifting slightly and her bow twitching with the repressed desire to flatten her ears against her head. Yang just looked on in disapproval, shaking her head.

"You uh- caught that, huh?" Ruby sighed. Of course they did. Probably a bunch of other people did, too. And everyone was going to know by tomorrow that the new-new girl just gave the old-new girl a whole public dressing down. Coolio.

"Just the tail end of it," Yang pouted a little bit in sympathy before wrapping her baby sister up in an embrace. "'sokay Rubes."

Ruby, if asked later, didn't whimper at all. Not even a little bit.

"C'mon," Blake placed a hand on her shoulder. "Bad movies and junk food at home- that'll cheer you up," she smiled in that soft, understated way she did. It sounded like a solid offer. Ruby sniffled only a slight amount and nodded. Yang gave her a smile. It was easy to see sometimes why the blonde was so enamoured with her. They walked off towards the car.

Bad movies, junk food, and a good support system. Foolproof plan to get through high school. Ruby sighed inwardly. Hopefully this wouldn't come back up to bite her in the ass too hard later on. Maybe it was just a one-off. A one time incident. And everything going forward would be totally normal and cool.

Yeah.

Chapter Text

When Weiss woke up that morning, it was snowing. Well, it was a little bit of an overstatement to say she 'woke up'. She'd barely gotten to sleep when the alarm rang. She'd been tossing and turning all night, her mind running all over the place. She couldn't quite place the feeling, but it was something close to a giant, impending sense of dread.

If she were home, the snow would have been a welcome change of seasons. Weiss had always liked the cold. In a physical sense. There was nothing quite like bundling up, or finding warmth and shelter behind closed doors and burning fireplaces. If she were lucky, Winter would join her by the fire, her company a little warmth itself. If she were really lucky, her mother would come, cognizant of her surroundings, with a small, tired smile on her face.

But she was far from home now. She was in Vale. Not Atlas. Not anymore. Not after what had happened with her father. With the White Fang.

Schnee Manor's west wing was a smouldering pile of rubble and ash now. Weiss' room was obliterated. And home wasn't safe anymore. So off to Vale went Weiss, and the Schnees all scattered around. Her heart twisted itself into a little ball as she sat and mulled about it. It was for the best that she had landed herself in Vale. Going to a normal school. Beacon High School.

She'd been assured that it was the best school in Vale, and it was really for her own safety. She'd been assured a lot of things in the weeks after the bomb had gone off. It hadn't made it any less difficult to adjust. She'd gone from being safe at home, going to school and having a routine, to having her room blown up with an entire section of her house and shuttered off to the other side of the world.

Weiss sighed, turning her alarm clock off. She walked over to her closet, and paused. They'd managed to replace a fair amount of her belongings, and what they couldn't, Weiss could get whatever was to her taste. That wasn't her largest concern.

She debated with herself, deciding what kind of impression she had to give to people in a normal, suburban high school. She finally picked out an outfit, double checking to confirm her decision.

Gods, this was far more difficult than she had anticipated it being. Not that she thought it was going to be easy in the first place.

Weiss never had to impress anybody in Atlas Academy. She didn't have to do anything to work towards her social standing in school, actually. She was Weiss Schnee. Emphasis on the 'Schnee'. The Academy was full of aristocrats and blue bloods, but in Atlas, the name Schnee meant more than anybody else's. So everyone gravitated towards her. And respected her. She was never alone, never wrong, never isolated from the rest of the student body.

And now, Weiss going to have to go into Beacon blind. She wasn't exactly looking to get in and start impressing everybody... but she just didn't know what it was going to be like. She lived in a whole different world, far apart from those living here. Weiss was under no impression that people here were looking to bend to her every whim, but...

Weiss sighed, for what felt like the millionth time that morning (night?). She headed into the bathroom, pulling her toothbrush out. She took a good look at herself. There were slight eyebags underneath her eyes, and her mouth was set in a hard line. Weiss breathed in deep, and attempted to unclench the points of tension she held in her body. A little trick she'd taught herself, years and years ago, when she'd caught onto the fact that it was better to not show emotion. A blank slate invited less questions, invited less pain.

The scar over her left eye was healing up nicely. It had dulled significantly from it's angry, puckered red from a few weeks ago. Weiss took another deep breath, quickly and pointedly pulling her thoughts away from the scar, grounding herself back in the present.

She brushed her teeth, put her outfit on, and headed downstairs.

Perhaps the one plus side about this whole thing was that now didn't have to live with her family in Schnee Manor anymore. Not that they 'lived' together much anyways. Winter was off doing secret military stuff, her mother and father were... not anywhere she was, that much was sure, and Whitley was- Whitley. Now she was in this smaller house in Vale, alone except for her helper, Klein.

She smiled a little bit. Klein was always her favourite. He was kind to her, when nobody else was. He was good at making her laugh and knowing how to help, the best that he could, in any case. He was as good a friend as she could ask for, growing up. Maybe that was a little sad, but she wouldn't question the things that made her life a little bit brighter.

The smell of pancakes wafted through the air as she descended the staircase.

"Ahah! Awake and on time, as always, Ms. Schnee!" Klein beamed bright at her through the well groomed mustache he kept on his upper lip. He gracefully flipped a pancake onto a plate, serving it to Weiss as she seated. He took a flourished little bow after pouring her a coffee. "I've made everything as best as I could to your liking. I do hope you find it sufficient," he bristled his mustache with pleasure. Weiss smiled at him as she sipped the coffee. Ah. Nothing quite like Klein's coffee.

"Klein, please," she replied. "It's more than enough, thank you."

He beamed at her once more, then cleared his throat. "If you don't mind my asking, how are you feeling, dear?"

Weiss measured her response. "I'm... okay. Maybe a little anxious to get started with school," she offered with a little tilt of her head, a sheepish look on her face. Klein gave a little 'hmm' and rubbed his mustache.

"Well, I'm certain it's nothing you can't handle, Miss Schnee. You've a bright mind," Klein assured her. She nodded along in absent agreement, forking delicious pancakes into her mouth.

"I hope so, Klein," Weiss said quietly.


He dropped her off in the parking lot, and Weiss waved him farewell as she stood there, watching the people and snow drift all around her. She wrapped her scarf tighter around her neck, heading towards the direction she thought the administrative office must have been. She swallowed the small lump of nerves that had gathered in her throat, walking as confidently as she was taught. She was a Schnee after all. And Schnees didn't show weakness. Not for anything.

Calm, composed, she made her way through the throngs of students, paying no mind to the one or two inquisitive turned heads. She brushed the snow off her sleeves, running a quick hand through her hair, as she entered shelter. The office was easy enough to find. Signs pointed her to a glass double doors with a large logo of the school above it. Weiss bit the inside of her cheek as she stepped in.

"Hello," Weiss started pleasantly at the woman sitting at the front counter, who didn't raise her head to look at her, merely looking up over the half circle spectacles she wore. Weiss continued, unperturbed. "My name is Weiss Schnee, I'm a new transfer student. I was told to report here," she spoke firmly, but politely. Weiss gave a small smile that she hoped was construed as friendly.

The woman typed away at her computer, the clickity-clack of her old keyboard loud against the absolute silence of the office. Weiss shifted her weight onto her other leg as the typing continued for an uncomfortably long time. Was she typing something related to her? Why was it taking so long? Her name was pretty short, it couldn't take that long to type out. And with such ferocity. Weiss almost craned her neck over the front desk to see what exactly the woman was typing.

After what Weiss assumed was the 3rd chapter in her novel, the woman finally clicked on her mouse, and the whirr of an ancient printer began sounding out. She wheeled her chair over to the printer, snagging the piece of paper she had printed out fairly quickly, and then wheeled back to hand the piece of paper to Weiss. She glanced at it briefly: it was her class schedule for the rest of the semester. Okay. There was a start.

"Okay, Ms..." the woman started, then looked back down at her computer.

"Schnee. Weiss Schnee," Weiss offered helpfully. The woman looked at her disdainfully over her spectacles, and Weiss was almost taken aback. Okay, lady.

"Schnee. Head into the office on your left. Principal Ozpin would like to talk to you first," she gestured to her right, hand barely raising off her keyboard.

"R-right. Okay, well, thank you very much," Weiss nodded. The woman snorted softly and returned to her furious typing.

Gods, what had she gotten herself into?

Weiss knocked on the door twice, then opened upon hearing a muffled 'come in'. She stood at the threshold, hands folded respectfully on front of her.

"Ah, Miss Schnee, a pleasure to finally meet you," Principal Ozpin stood up, putting a hand on his chest and bowing slightly. Weiss immediately loosened a little bit of the tension she held in her body. At least the Principal seemed... normal. In her terms, at least. She didn't really know what passed as normal around here. "Please, shut the door and take a seat," he said to her as he took his own seat. She complied, shutting the door softly, depositing her bag on the floor next to her as she took a seat in front of the intricate glass desk he had. There were what seemed like giant gears inside it, completely encased in glass. He looked at her with a smile, with little round green glasses that hung low on his nose. His grey hair was in a mess, sticking out every which way, and there was a cane leaning against the glass desk.

Okay, so maybe a little bit less normal than she thought.

"I'll start first, with my sincere condolences," he said, his mouth set in a grim line. Weiss swallowed thickly. "I hope you've sufficiently recovered from the incident, and I want to express to you that you are safe here. I give you my word. Vale is a peaceful place, and besides food fights and the occasional firecracker going off in the yard, Beacon High is no different."

"Thank you, sir," Weiss smiled, conveying her genuine gratitude towards the man. He seemed sincere, and that was already a step above most of the people in Atlas.

"Now, I suspect you're beginning to feel the first throngs of a... culture shock, shall we call it?" he shared a little chuckle with himself, taking a sip from his Beacon High mug. "I don't mean to be rude, but you've been living in Atlas your whole life, and here in Vale we can be a little... different," he tilted his head slightly. "Perhaps stranger than you're used to. A little eccentric. Why I'd bet to most students here, the people in Atlas seem so... stuffy. Wound up. Different cultures. I hope the time you've spent here so far hasn't been to abrasive for you."

"Vale seems like a perfectly fine place, sir," Weiss replied.

"Oh, it'll grow on you in time, Miss Schnee," Principal Ozpin assured her with a smile. He cleared his throat after a moment, then retrieved a slip of paper from a drawer. He looked at her, a little bit more hesitant that he'd been just moment before. "I've been told about your... living situation. I'm sure you're comfortable at home, I'd expect no less of a man like your father," he said, with a little steel in his eyes, and an emotion Weiss couldn't quite place. He stuck the piece of paper out to her. "Nonetheless. This is a way to contact me. Please, do not hesitate to contact me if you need anything. Vale is a good place, but I'd feel terribly responsible if something happened to you."

Weiss paused. This was an unexpected bit of generosity. She bit her lip, then took the paper. It had a phone number written on it. "Thank you, Principal Ozpin."

He smiled at her again, then got up, with a little bit of a start. He reached over to his cane, favouring one leg. He stood tall once he had it to support him.

"Now then, I'll escort you to your first class. I'm sure you're anxious to start the day," he walked over to the door, hobbling slightly. Weiss had about a million questions about him. A million things to do, before she started school already. An wave of emotion threatened to overtake her.

Okay. Deep breath. Relax. She stood up.

She could do this. Weiss followed him to class.

Chapter Text

They didn't have to wear uniforms. That was the first, most striking thing Weiss noticed when she entered the class, and looked at the flurry of colour and patterns that adorned the clothing everyone wore, all bundled up in the winter chill. Somehow, it caught her off guard, even though she'd been walking through the school, and wasn't wearing a uniform herself.

It was a stark contrast to the white uniforms of Atlas Academy. To say the least. They all looked at her with varying levels of curiosity. Suddenly, Weiss was a little bit more self conscious of how she looked. Her outfit was mostly monochromatic. Light colours suited her best, and she'd worn them her whole life. Was it a little too boring now? Weiss clenched her hands a little in front of her, searching the faces in the class, trying to find, maybe a glimmer of recognition in anybody? It was unlikely she'd know any of them, but perhaps they knew of her. No doubt a fair number of them would know of her last name.

She was Weiss Schnee. She pushed down the pit of fear in her stomach that threatened to overtake her, and ground herself back in the moment. There would be time to think about all this later. Now, she needed to be here and... integrate? Maybe that was the best she could hope for. Gods. Why was everything so difficult?

"Miss Schnee, would you like to say a few words to introduce yourself to the class?" Principal Ozpin looked to her, breaking her out of her reverie. All eyes were on her. Her brain automatically switched to her 'public functions' mode. The headspace she got into whenever Father had insisted she come to the public events, the parties and galas, and she was forced to talk to strange aristocrats who'd bore her at best and harrass her at worst.

She cleared her throat. "Hello. My name is Weiss, and I'm honoured to be in Beacon High, to learn alongside you all for the next two years," she spoke clearly and without hesitation, a perfectly polite, gracious smile plastered on her face. This was just another crowd, another group to impress, because she was told to do so. Same old, same old. Weiss repressed the instinct to bow. They were high school students. Not a high-profile, skeevy politician hanging onto her family's coattails. Instead, she just bowed her head. There. That was polite, right?

"Well said, now let's get you on with the learning, hm?" he folded his free hand behind his back, giving Weiss a brief, inquisitive look, his eyes containing a little glimmer that hadn't been there before. He scanned the class very briefly, before his eyes fell on a student seated around the middle.

She seemed young. Younger than everyone around her, at least. Short, dark hair with red highlights framed her round, youthful face, coming to rest at around the point of her chin. She had silver eyes, the shade of a troubled, growling sky before a storm. She'd dressed herself comfortably, with jeans that looked well-worn and a hoodie that looked like it was excellent at retaining warmth.

She was... different, from the others in the class. In what way, Weiss couldn't quite place. Perhaps it was her youth that set her apart: she had to have done something to be in junior year so young.

"Ah, Miss Rose, would you be so kind as to escort Miss Schnee around today? I'm sure she'd appreciate it, especially from someone with a more... unique perspective. Wouldn't you agree?" he looked at her expectantly, with the kind of smile that hid ulterior motives. She seemed surprised, as if she hadn't expected Principal Ozpin to single her out to easily. Yet it seemed as if he had had his eye on her the whole time.

'Unique perspective'? What could he have possibly meant by that? Weiss' curiosity was all the more piqued by Ozpin's strange, almost cryptic words. A part of her compelled her to follow that thread, to uncover that particular mystery.

The other part of her looked over to the rest of the class, weighing her best odds in picking out someone to show her around on her first day. She could go with the girl, but she couldn't possibly be taking risks on her first day based on some unknown factors.

No, Weiss had to be calculated today.

There, at the very back of the class, she found her in.

Pyrrha Nikos, renown athlete, three time Olympic medalist. Weiss knew she'd recognized her. Now, there was someone whose achievements placed them around her level. Excellent.

"Oh! Um, yes, sir. I can show Weiss around," the girl gave the principal a tight-lipped smile, seeming a little bit reluctant. Weiss almost sighed- she could relate. She barely made eye contact with Weiss as she swept a lock of dark hair behind her ear, clearing her throat awkwardly. Weiss transfixed her gaze on the ear she'd tucked the hair behind. She blinked and pulled herself out of her reverie. "You can sit here, uh, I guess," she gestured to the empty seat on her left.

On her right were two other students. A taller blonde girl and a dark haired girl. They both looked older than her, though neither seemed anything less than friendly towards the girl.

"Actually, sir," Weiss cut in, as politely as she could. "I was hoping to be shown around by her," she pointed to the back of the class where Pyrrha sat. The girl blinked once, then turned to look at Pyrrha as well. She turned back to look at Weiss, her mouth was slightly agape, and she had a strange look on her face. Weiss paid her no mind.

"Oh!" Pyrrha smiled wide, and Weiss took that as a good a sign as any. "I'd be happy to."

Score one for Weiss Schnee. She tried not to look too pleased with herself. Fortunately, she was something of an expert on hiding emotions from people. Call it the Schnee gene. She looked over to Ozpin, who stroked his hairless chin in a moment of thought.

"Very well, I do wish to make your transition here into Beacon as comfortable as possible," he said, conceding to Weiss as he nodded.

Okay, that was at least one worry taken care of. Now Weiss just needed to see what the rest of the day held. She was unusually confident she could manage.

"Well, if that's settled, then I shall take my leave. Be well, students," he nodded to Mr. Port, the teacher in the class with the grand mustache and eyebrows, as he exited the classroom.

Weiss made her way to the back of the class, sitting next to Pyrrha, who greeted her with a friendly smile. They exchanged pleasantries as Weiss settled in.

"I'm Pyrrha Nikos, although I have a feeling you already know that," she blushed a little bit. "Not to be boastful or anything," she smiled sheepishly.

"Oh, not at all. It's a pleasure to meet one of the most renowned athletes in the region. I had no idea you went to school here," Weiss said. Pyrrha blushed deeper, giving a little nervous laugh.

"Well, the pleasure is all mine. I wouldn't have thought I would pop up on the radar of someone as big as a Schnee," Pyrrha spoke with a hint of reverence, and a little bit of disbelief. She supposed that was the tone she was going to get a lot today. It rubbed her the wrong way, but she was mostly relieved to know that people had actually heard of her and knew her.

Still. Weiss' eyes almost threated to glaze over, as it did whenever someone started speaking to her about her family.

Out of the corner of her vision, she spied the girl from in front looking at her.

She turned to meet her gaze.

Miss Rose, Ozpin had called her.

Huh.

After a brief moment, Rose turned back around, and Weiss fell back down to earth, continuing her conversation with Pyrrha as they half listened to Mr. Port.


The rest of the day went off just fine. Another one of life's little blessings. Faintly, Weiss wondered if she could start really counting those. The little blessings in life. They were, after all, all she had sometimes.

The silence of the snow. The serene feeling of watching snowflakes drift down to earth.

The warmth of a fire in a big, cold room.

The small goodbye you could at least share with someone you love.

Weiss stopped short of giving a big fat sigh. She had bid goodbye to Pyrrha as she gave her the last of the tour. The school was surprisingly large, bigger than Weiss had initially expected. It was almost comparable to Atlas, though obviously their facilities were second to the prestigious academy. But Weiss had even been provided with a map, a little foldable thing she had kept in her bag.

Maybe she was a little bit too proud to admit she couldn't find the front entrance, and too stubborn to actually pull the damned thing out.

Weiss continued her wandering, confident as you please. This way people would assume she knew what she was doing, and not bother her and try to help her.

After a little bit more wandering, she ended up at the car park. Okay, that was a little bit closer to the front entrance. Weiss hugged her small frame as she trudged through the sudden howling wind that had picked up. Winter was definitely out in full force. She sighed. She missed her sister.

She allowed herself to be a little lost in her own head. There weren't very many people around, so she could just walk and think a little bit. Maybe a small indulgence after a pretty long day would do her well, right? She deserved that at least. Klein would have agreed with her. Weiss should have treated herself the way Klein treated her. It was a noble thing to aspire towards.

Weiss took a deep breath. It would be okay. Everything would turn out fine, she just had to keep putting one front in front of the other until-

Something smacked her head and pushed her down onto the floor. She barely had time to let out a little gasp before she found herself flat on her ass, vision swimming a little bit. She pressed against the pain on her head.

The shock and pain quickly gave way to flaring hot anger.

"Omigosh, I'm so sorry!" Weiss heard a squeal from above her. She shot the person the dirtiest look she could muster up, while her world was still spinning a little bit. There came more subsonic squeals of apologies as Weiss took a moment or two to breathe and let the world stop tilting on an axis. Okay, things were fine, just fine-

She felt hands on her, and her heart picked up the pace. It went into overdrive. Somebody was just... touching her! She jerked back like she'd been poked by a hot iron. Weiss almost shoved her off, brushing the hands off of her. She took a look at her assailant.

Rose. It was Rose. For a brief moment, the wires in Weiss' head got crossed. Her mind blanked, like it was refreshing itself.

Then the annoyance dominated every part of her head.

This. Fucking. Idiot.

"You," Weiss hissed at her. "Dolt!"

It had been a long day. It had been a really stressful week, month, year. Weiss really, really didn't have any patience for this. At all. And yet, here she was, having to deal with someone who just went around touching her after knocking her flat down, and her head hurt and she just wanted to go home but she was here and she was dealing with this.

Weiss got up quickly, picking her bag up. "Would you watch where you're going! What, is walking and being aware of your surroundings too difficult a multi-task?" She scowled, fury and murder in her veins as she wiped snow and whatever ground gunk off herself. Rose shrank into herself. And Weiss suddenly realized that she was... small. Smaller than Weiss, who was barely 5'3" herself. And she was young, and scared, and she looked like she was about to cry, and suddenly the fight deflated out of her.

Okay, Weiss. Maybe, let's just... okay?

Weiss, in a crazy impulse, had an apology on the tip of her tongue.

Instead, she just walked away.

What? And how? Why?

Weiss bit her tongue. Nothing made sense anymore. That was the quickest Weiss had ever deflated on anything. And to apologize to someone? For something that wasn't her fault? To this girl, Rose, who'd honestly just threw her onto the floor practically.

"Fuck," Weiss muttered as she walked away. This place was turning her around. She just had to get home.

Klein was waiting patiently in the car as Weiss finally, finally made her way to the front entrance, entering the car. He made some small talk as they drove back home, but then respectfully chose to keep the silence when she kept herself tight-lipped.

Weiss, later on at home, lying in bed, thought to herself that she just had to recenter herself. This new environment would not shape her. She would shape it. She was Weiss Schnee, damn it. She just... needed a little bit to find herself again. And she would run this damn place, like Father had always taught her to be.

Yeah.

Chapter Text

Crossing the threshold from the hallway into science lab was like... entering an old timey movie. And not one of those fun, funny Charlie Chaplin ones, where physical comedy was the only language available, and your biggest worries were falling pianos, and crazy rotating construction sites.

No, science lab was like an avante garde black and white french movie. A still frame of a chair for 10 minutes, before a slow-mo shot of a woman smoking a cigarette. Occasionally some pretty views of the Paris skyline. But mostly that still frame of the chair.

Ruby sat on her usual bench. Hey, she loved science, okay? Science was cool, and you did cool shit. Just- science lab wasn't cool. At all. And sometimes you dissected frogs, and that was kind of cool, but also really, really gross. Sometimes you mixed up a bunch of chemicals. Most of the time you sat and listened to Professor Oobleck zip around the room and talk too fast to listen too, and too dry to absorb.

The most fun thing about science lab was just looking at Oobleck's hair every day. Yang used to joke that his hair had been slowly trying to fly away from him. Ruby thought he mostly just went home and tried to achieve hair-powered flight. Blake just wrinkled her nose and wished he would use conditioner.

Oobleck pushed his glasses up, his dress shirt in it's usual disarray- his tie lopsided, his sleeves unbuttoned and wrinkled from his constant pulling it up his forearms. Everybody streamed into class, taking their usual benches with their lab partners.

Ruby, thus far into the year, hadn't had a lab partner. There was an odd number of students in the class, so she'd basically had the luxury of having a whole bench to herself. It was fine by her, anyway- she could deal with biology alone. Oobleck was more than happy to leave her to her own devices, seeing as she performed consistently well.

"Ah, Miss Schnee!" Professor Oobleck called out as the ivory-haired girl entered the lab. "Welcome to your first science lab here at Beacon! I trust you found the room well enough on your own, I know this place gets a little confusing sometimes."

Miss Schnee. As in Weiss Schnee. The new girl Ruby practically assaulted yesterday.

Uh oh.

"Not at all, sir," Weiss said graciously.

"Ah, but where are my manners?" Oobleck chuckled to himself. He did that a lot. Tell a joke only he knew, and only he laughed at. Never got old for that guy. "I'm your teacher, Professor Oobleck. Now, this class requires you to have a lab partner."

Uh. Oh.

"And it just so happens,"

No.

"You're in luck, because,"

No way.

"We have someone who's been without a lab partner the whole year,"

Come. On.

"Miss Ruby Rose," he gestured over to Ruby's gut/teeth/fist clenched form.

Aw, Oobleck, no.

Ruby saw the discontent grow in Weiss' face as she turned to look at her, and she wanted to bury her face in her hands.

"Professor-"

"Ah! Enough talk, Miss Schnee," Professor Oobleck interrupted her, in the way he tended to do, when his lessons mattered more to him than his students. Paradoxical, maybe- but there was Professor Oobleck for you. "No progress in science ever got done by people who sat around talking logistics! And that is what we are here to do: science!" he peered at her, lowering his large, round spectacles to look at her in the eyes. "Take your seat," he said simply, and he zipped off to the front of the class, leaving Weiss with half a protest in her throat.

Ruby saw her sigh, then take a deep breath before looking at her, a cold, annoyed look on her face- like someone decided she had to take a whole class with a constant, terrible running nose. She trudged over to Ruby's bench.

Oh boy.

When she sat beside her on the stool, dropping her shoulder bag on the floor beside her, Weiss didn't give Ruby even a passing glance, angling her body away from the younger girl. Ruby could almost feel a blast of cold air coming from her side, was the window open or what?

Nope, just Weiss, giving Ruby the ultimate silent treatment she'd ever gotten from anyone, let alone from somebody she'd exchanged a grand total of 20 words to in the span of less than 20 minutes.

Yikes.

"Yikes," Ruby heard whispered from her left, and she turned to see Sun and Neptune, both looking at her with grimaces. She shot them a dirty look, gesturing subtly to tell them to look forward or she'd literally karate chop them to actual death. They got the message, because Ruby was actually really good at communicating complex ideas with very simple gestures. It was one of her few talents, the other being she could drink a whole gallon of milk in under 10 minutes. That was why she was going to grow up big and strong, just you watch you bunch of weird puberty boosted tall stalks of 17 year olds.

Oobleck droned on and on, animatedly whizzing around the front of the class as he expressively gestured this way and that, writing on the board with his chicken-scratch handwriting and tapping on it multiple times for emphasis like anybody could decipher what it was he was even talking about.

Ruby caught sight of Weiss' confused look growing by the minute. She felt a little bad. Science lab was a lot to take in, and especially on your second day of school. Hopefully Weiss had gotten history with Professor Goodwitch, and not Oobleck, too.

Yeah, that was bound to be a bit of a shocker, finding out Oobleck was teaching history, too. Whatever that saying it was about idle hands, he had definitely taken it to heart. Ruby was convinced the man had never been idle a moment in his life. She settled into her blank, numb state as she paid attention as best she could.


After 45 minutes of cold silence from Weiss, and the complete opposite from Oobleck, the bell rung and he quickly dismissed them before zipping out the classroom. He might as well have left a comical teacher shaped dust cloud in his wake. Weiss blinked once before gathering herself, getting off her seat and walking out the class.

Oh.

Well, that was that. All things considered, it wasn't terrible. And Weiss was gone, right? Ruby could just leave well enough alone now, and go on with her day. Her next period was with Yang and Blake, so she could rest a little bit easier now.

She spotted Weiss pulling out her class schedule, and that same confused expression on her face, even as she tried to mask it with the students streaming all around her. Ruby could see it clearly: she was lost. Ruby froze in her tracks.

Against her better instincts, knowing she had a tendency to make things worse by not keeping her mouth shut and letting things just happen, Ruby followed her out the class.

"Hey," Ruby called out, hesitant, but still determined to do something right this time. She had to at least try, right? "Hey, um, Weiss."

Weiss stopped dead in her tracks and looked back at her, the icy expression still on her face. She cocked a hip and crossed her arms as she regarded Ruby, who swallowed thickly in response.

Okay, Rubes, just give it a try.

"I- uh. I'm sorry- no I mean, I'm Ruby and I'm sorry. My name. Is Ruby Rose. I'm sorry, about the whole bumping into you thing yesterday, that wasn't intentional, but it was totally my fault-" she held her hands out in front of her as she stopped her rambling. "Can I help you? You look a little lost."

Weiss didn't give any reaction for a second or two. Ruby was more than certain she'd messed it up, and obviously, obviously she should have kept her mouth shut and let Weiss continue on her way, she wasn't lost look at her! Fancy people like that didn't get lost. They just did their things and mere mortals like Ruby just had to look on, that was all.

"No," Weiss said simply.

Okay, but hold on-

"Okay, but hold on-"

"No."

"It's a big school-"

"No."

"And you might get lost- And I just want to help you-"

Weiss shot her a severe look, but this time Ruby stood her ground.

"Please," Ruby ended.

One heartbeat, then two.

Then she uncrossed her arms and huffed a quick breath in annoyance, but it kind of seemed like this time, it was to her instead of about her. Maybe she was projecting, but okay, this was a step in the right direction, so go team Ruby.

"Fine, I could use some... help," she swallowed and stumbled over the word, but quickly caught herself. "Getting to my next class. I don't quite know the layout of this school just yet."

Very good step in the right direction. That was great!

"Oh, um, do you know what your next class is? Mind if I take a look at your class schedule?" Ruby said. Weiss fished in her shoulder bag for a little bit before giving her her class schedule.

"Oh... Uh oh," Ruby frowned.

"Uh oh? Why uh oh? What do you mean by uh oh?" Weiss' eyes grew bigger as she almost demanded an explanation from Ruby. Ruby leaned back a little, raising a quizzical brow at Weiss.

"No, just uh. You've got history class next," Ruby said, giving a sheepish little half-smile. Now it was Weiss' turn to quirk a brow.

A perfectly trimmed, shaped white brow. For a half second, Ruby registered again that Weiss was... pretty. Like pretty, pretty. Dang.

"Why is that an uh oh?" Weiss asked, and she seemed to be almost bracing herself for the answer. Maybe Beacon was a lot to take in for someone. Ruby felt an air of sympathy for the older girl.

"It's Professor Oobleck... again."

"It's- what?"

Ruby pulled up her phone, looking at the time. "Okay, we've got like 5 minutes to get there, so we should probably get going. C'mon, I'll show you the secret shortcuts to get around this place."

"Wait, what?"


Okay, so Weiss wasn't exactly wholly on board with her 'jumping down the stairs' idea. Or the 'let's climb the fence' idea. Actually Weiss wasn't on board with any of her ideas, but they still made it to history class on time.

Like clockwork, Oobleck arrived in the class at the exact start of the period. Ruby brought Weiss in with an apologetic little smile to Professor Oobleck, going to her usual unassigned assigned seat. Yang and Blake were already waiting with very equally confused looks as they saw Weiss trailing behind Ruby.

"Hey, Rubes," Yang began with a little hesitation. She looked back to Blake, who shrugged, before turning back to Ruby. "You, uh, gonna introduce us?"

Ruby gaped, opening and closing her mouth several times as Oobleck sped off into his lecture. Hey, Ruby loved the formation of the League of Nations as much as anybody else, but she still mostly just tuned Oobleck out- which was a very common theme in his lessons, Ruby had long since realized. Weiss sat and listened attentively, or she tried as best she could. Ruby shrugged at Yang.

"I- she's mean, and I think she doesn't really like me, but I was showing her around school, and I think she's okay?" she spoke softly, then drummed her fingers on the table once. She shrugged again. "Don't worry about, sis, just roll with it."

"Okaaayy..." Yang mumbled, sharing a look with Blake. The next few minutes were spent with Oobleck's droning on. Weiss grew a little bit more visibly frustrated as the period went on.

"And that brings us to your next assignment," Professor Oobleck stopped his lecture to address his students directly, adjusting his glasses and pulling his sleeves up again. "Now, pay attention, because this counts for 30% of your final grade in this class."

Everyone suddenly perked up, predictably. Oobleck smiled in quiet satisfaction.

"Each of you will be paired up, and assigned topics to create a full five minute presentation in class," he took a sip from the thermos he pulled out of his bag. "The topics will be randomly assigned. As will the pairings."

Weiss visibly stiffened, and Ruby quirked her head a little. She thought Weiss would have preferred this, at least now she didn't have to anticipate maybe not being picked. Or maybe that was just her. No way someone wouldn't have picked Weiss. New girl or not, Weiss was like, the new, rich, pretty, high class girl. Ruby was just a normal girl with normal knees. Different worlds, she supposed.

She wondered who Weiss was going to be assigned to as her partner.

Oobleck pulled out the roll call sheet, peering at it intently, adjusting his glasses.

Hm, maybe Neptune. She could see Weiss with Neptune, he'd always been a cool guy. Like, a really cool guy. His hair was blue, and he pulled it off perfectly, that's how cool he was. Well, he was kind of dorky when he was with Sun and their group of friends, but still, really cool.

"Yang Xiao Long, Blake Belladonna," Oobleck announced curtly. The two high-fived. Wow, lucky break. Ruby was a little sad she couldn't pair up with them now, but it was fine. She was more than happy for the two lovebirds.

"Pyrrha Nikos, Jaune Arc."

Okay, odd choice, but go off Oobleck. Well, she supposed they were pretty okay friends. Weiss huffed a small breath, a slight frown on her face. Pyrrha was the first person she'd talk to at Beacon. Ruby sympathized.

"Ruby Rose, Weiss Schnee."

Oh.

Chapter Text

Of course.

Of course she managed to get paired up with Ruby Rose.

Weiss drummed her fingers on her desk, resting her chin in her other hand. She blew a strand of hair out of her face. Books laid in a neat row atop her shelf. Her desk was kept immaculate, barely anything on it except a few fountain pens sticking out of their pen holders. Her room was white, like it was back at Schnee manor. Big, white, shining, a little empty. Just like home.

Weiss frowned, sighing again. Somehow, the white, crisp expanse of her room felt tainted now. Just by the mere thought of Ruby Rose in her head. It was slowly ticking her off, the bleeding thought in her head that didn't seem to clot up, but managed to slowly and steadily leak out of her mind.

Ruby Rose, Ruby Rose, Ruby. Rose.

Small and short haired with red highlights and enthusiastic and optimistic; far, far too childish for her. A hidden shadow somewhere on her that she kept hidden very well, but the air of mystery still lingered on her person. Ruby Rose, a child, by all accounts. Ruby Rose, a genius, by all accounts. Ruby Rose, her partner for this history project. Partner for the next couple of weeks.

Weiss pulled a history textbook off her shelf with more force than necessary, slamming it down on her desk. No more of this. She had to study. She was going to do all of this, solo. Ruby was just going to goof off, because, well... look at her! She'd led her around to her history class and said stupid things like 'let's jump this fence' or 'we can slide down this bannister' or 'free taco Tuesday is the best!'. She was ridiculous and deserved none of the space she occupied in Weiss' frustrated, addled mind. Ruby Rose would not taint the pristine white of her room. Schnee was Schnee. Rose was... whatever. Irrelevant. It didn't matter what Rose was. Just a girl that bumped into her that she blew up at (for which she felt a slight pang of guilt at, but annoyance still overruled that part of her brain).

Weiss, with a great strength and force, read and focused on every line of text in the book. That'd show Ruby Rose. Stupid Ruby Rose.

Her scroll buzzed. It was Ruby Rose.

Ugh.

Ugh!

She unlocked her phone, thumbing down the notifications tab, viewing the texts Ruby had sent her.

hey weiss, it's ruby

gosh i hope i have the right number

just lemme know when you wanna get started on the project?

:)

God. Did she have no shame about double texting?

Weiss huffed another great sigh, locking her phone and dropping it on her desk. Tainted. That's what her room was. She needed to be somewhere else. Weiss got up, opening her door.

Right into Klein, holding a tray of cut up fruits and tea.

"Ah, Miss Schnee. Heard your sighs from downstairs and I thought, well either you're inflating a bouncy castle in here, or there's something bothering you," he peered into her room, making a show of examining every corner. "Hmm. No bouncy castles in sight. Disappointing."

Weiss rolled her eyes, despite the smile that graced her features.

"May I?" Klein tilted his head towards the tray he held in his hands.

Weiss let out a big, dramatic sigh, then moved from the doorway, letting Klein enter. He hummed in approval, setting the tray down on the coffee table in her room. He poured the tea into two cups, then took a seat at the sofa.

Weiss was still at the door, decidedly not pouting, thank you very much. Klein patted the seat beside him, looking at her with a raised eyebrow. She trudged over to the sofa with a little 'hmph!'.

"Are you going to tell me what's the matter, Miss Schnee, or will we just continue the pouting and the sighing and such?"

Weiss took a seat, smoothing her skirt and crossing her legs. She took a cup from Klein, then after a moment, uncrossed her legs, leaning into the back rest.

"You won't pout or sigh, Klein. Pouting and sighing is for teenagers. Normal teenagers. And not people in the employ of the Schnee family," Weiss said, a wry smile on her face and about a lifetime's worth of tension in her shoulders.

"You're right, I'm far too old and wise to sigh and pout, but if it is the custom in the household I am in, I feel compelled to adopt the culture," Klein offered with his own wry smile. "Now, what's bothering you, Miss Schnee?"

Weiss took a long sip from her teacup. Klein merely waited.

What was bothering her?

School?

Well, so far, her lessons and days at Beacon had been okay. It'd been almost a week, and she'd acclimatized to the culture there. She sat with Pyrrha during lunch period. She would secretly pull out the map when she was alone and lost, and was committing more and more to memory. Everything was fine.

What happened at Schnee Manor?

She felt her scar tingle.

No. It wasn't that. That was a different beast.

It was Ruby Rose.

No.

Well, yes. A little? Yes. It was Ruby Rose.

No, it wasn't just Ruby Rose, it was everything! Her tall blonde sister and that raven-haired girl, too. They were always together, and they would look at her and she'd be looking at them, and her stomach and chest felt all swirly and tight and she didn't understand any of it.

It was Ruby Rose. It was-

"I'm just having a little... trouble. It's been stressful, being here, trying to fit in and... it's just been stressful, Klein. I'm sorry," she put the cup down on the table and folded her hands in her lap, staring at it intently. "I don't mean to worry you."

"Miss Schnee, you have nothing to apologize for," he put a hand on hers, and Weiss looked and he was looking at her with a kind expression, affirming to her that he really was one of a very short list of people that truly cared about her. "I'm here to help."

He smiled, then patted her hand once. "I expect you'll have school work that needs doing, so I shall leave you be. Keep your head up, Miss Schnee. Sun'll come out."

Weiss smiled at him, and he respectfully bowed and exited the room, closing the door.

The sun will come out. Okay.

Weiss took an hour or two longer than she should have to text back.

Meet me after school tomorrow. We will have a discussion about the project. Bring a list of topics you think are viable for us to use.

She hovered over the emoji button, before deciding that she was far too dignified to use emojis. Language was invented for a reason. If she had an emotion she wanted to express, she would damn well use her words.

Her phone buzzed back almost immediately.

okay!

i'm gonna end a little later than you, i have shop class last period

meet me outside shop class, say around 3?

i know the perfect quiet little spot we can sit at

Not for the first time, and she highly doubted it would be the last time, Weiss wondered what she'd been thrown into. Shop class? Why would that even be something Ruby took? Weiss couldn't ever imagine doing something like that.

She deflated a little bit into her couch. She suddenly felt tired. Something deep in her bones was weary, right in her core.

Change. Maybe that was what she'd been looking for. That was what had been troubling her all this while. Change.

It was tiring, and difficult, and Weiss was just a kid, if she was being honest with herself. Not a Schnee, not a victim. A tired child with far, far too much on her plate. She closed her eyes for a moment. Just a moment's reprieve. Just a little bit. When she opened her eyes, she got back to work.


The next day found Weiss in shop class.

She tugged at the collar of her sweater, as the wave of heat emanating from the room washed over her, a stark contrast from the biting chill outside. An old country song was playing over a cheap radio placed on the teacher's desk. The whirring of machinery and the crashes of hammers almost overrode the music. Weiss wrinkled her nose. She certainly didn't belong here.

Almost instantly, she spotted Ruby a little ways away. The workshop was large, and Weiss carefully made her way over to the younger girl, careful not to touch anything or disturb anyone. Most were paying her no mind, though there were a couple of curious glances, from tired, bleary eyes. She weaved through benches and tables and dangerous looking machines and piles of sawdust. Eugh.

As she got closer, Weiss noticed how deftly Ruby was working on her station. Her hands were a blur, carefully carving and crafting a shape out of a small wooden block. Small pieces fell out as she carved away, nimble hands working with small saws and files. She brushed the sawdust aside as it piled up, she flicked away the bigger pieces of wood that were bothering her. Ruby's sole focus was on her craft.

It was kind of... mesmerising. Weiss was entranced, and faintly, very genuinely impressed. It was a kind of show of passion that she rarely ever saw, especially back in Atlas, where everybody was always effortlessly near perfect at everything they did. Watching Ruby work, it was almost as if the block of wood was coming alive, taking shape on its own, and she was only nurturing it to grow and mould itself.

Gradually, Ruby began to slow, beginning to appraise the beginnings of her work. A fair bit of it carved out already into a rudimentary circular shape, with edges and curves reminding her of some sort of flower.

She then noticed Weiss was standing at her bench, jumping back with a start and a yelp, sending her tools scattering to the floor.

"Gah! Weiss, I-" Ruby puffed out a breath of air before scrambling to pick her tools up. "I didn't see you there," she cleared her throat and gave a nervous laugh, quickly depositing her tools onto her table.

Weiss just stared at her, crashing back into reality a little bit herself.

Charming. Really.

"Clean yourself up and meet me outside in 5 minutes," she told her. Ruby smiled, dusting her hands off on her apron before tucking some hair behind her ear. Errant sawdust coated her hands and hair, and she just stood there messy and smiling at her. Weiss bit the inside of her cheeks, and clenched her fists.

"Sure thing, Weiss!" Ruby said cheerily. Weiss paused, then just nodded once before swallowing hard and turning away. She walked faster out of the class, only breathing once she was out.

Shop class. Really?

Ruby popped out of class shortly after, as Weiss patiently waited, still halfway focused on loosening the tension in her body.

"Hey, c'mon, I'll show you the place I was talking about," Ruby waved her over. They walked side by side, and Weiss still held the files against her chest tighter she should have any reason to. She readjusted her grip, loosening and relaxing herself. Ruby held the straps of her bag with both hands, her gait loose and easy, though a tad more composed and precise than Weiss would have thought. She turned on her toes, and there was a sense of energy in her every step, like at any moment she could have turned into a dead sprint with little effort.

The spot she was talking about was in the corner of the library, hidden by a large shelf of academia. A couple of wooden benches and tables were scattered about, illuminated by an orange lamp that hung above on a chain. It was... kind of cozy. Certainly cooler than the shop class, but warm enough to be comfortable. Ruby selected a seat and plopped herself onto the bench, swinging her legs over to turn herself around, a mess of awkward, gangly teenage limbs. She beckoned Weiss to take a seat with a smile and a quirk of her head.

Weiss took her seat with less fanfare, smoothing out the bottom of her skirt and placing her bag and files on the table.

"So, I've prepared a few topics we could research," she pulled out a piece of paper with a list, sliding it over to Ruby. "I trust you've done-"

"Here's mine!" Ruby fished out a slightly crumpled paper, smoothing it out a little bit first before handing it to Weiss. "Sorry it's kind of crumpled. My dog Zwei was out for blood yesterday," she laughed, but bit her lip and didn't meet Weiss' quizzical stare. "I had to, y'know, save it. I messed it up a bit, but- yeah," she cleared her throat.

"Right," Weiss rolled her eyes before taking a look at her list.

It had almost everything Weiss had put up in her own list. Plus a couple extra ones that caught her eye. Ruby had even put a little bullet point description beside each title.

Huh.

"So... can I have a look at your list?" Ruby smiled an easy smile. If she wasn't a Schnee, Weiss might have felt compelled to mirror her facial expression. Weiss flipped over to the page in her notebook and handed it over to Ruby. She read quickly, the smile blooming on her face.

"Heh, awesome. We both thought up the same things!"

"Yes," Weiss murmured. "We did."

She looked up from Ruby's list and the other girl was beaming. Weiss, in the most inexplicable fashion, felt just a little bit more at ease.

When they finished their discussion, Ruby walked with her to the front entrance of the school. Weiss had texted Klein, and he was already outside waiting for her. They walked in silence until they reached the edge of campus. Weiss turned to Ruby just before she descended the first steps down. An apology was caught in her throat, and Weiss almost just shouted it at her. Instead, Weiss reigned herself in a bit.

"Ruby," she said softly, her eyes darting from her to the ground. The name felt foreign in her mouth, but in a way that felt okay. Weiss swallowed thickly and leveled her gaze at Ruby.

"Do you want to come over tomorrow!?" Ruby blurted out, cutting Weiss off. She started blushing, a light pink dusting over her neck and ascending upwards. Weiss stared at her, mouth agape. Her silence must have gone on a little too long, because Ruby started to flounder a little bit.

"I mean- that is if you want. Want to work on this project a little bit more- the history project. That project."

"Yes. I do," Weiss bit her lip. Ruby immediately smiled wide.

"I'll- I'll text you my address then."

"Okay."

"See you later Weiss," Ruby said, and she turned and walked away. Weiss felt like she'd just been caught up and spit out of a tornado.

Well. This was all very unexpected.

Chapter Text

"Hey, so, Dad," Ruby leaned against the kitchen door frame, her fingers intertwined. She looked the picture perfect image of nervous little kid, but sometimes (and boy doesn't it break his heart just a little bit) she was the spitting image of Summer Rose. There was the stuff she didn't really do on purpose- the black hair, the grey eyes, how her mouth sets itself in the same straight line as Summer did when she got to concentrating. But there was the stuff she did- the hairdo, the red highlights, the boots. Tai, for a long while, hadn't known how to feel about that. Now, he decides that he's happy. He's very happy that Ruby Rose is who she is.

And right then, Ruby Rose was a shuffling, nervous wreck of his kid. Love, oh my love.

"Yeah, what's up kiddo," Tai replied as he scrubbed his plate with a sponge, getting it nice and soapy.

"I've kind of got like, a friend coming over tomorrow, if that's cool?" Ruby shrugged and gestured vaguely outward. Tai paused, then craned his neck to look at his daughter.

"You've got a friend coming over tomorrow," he repeated. Less disbelief and more coaxing, trying to get Ruby to rush over to the point. Ruby nodded.

"Yep, yeah. I invited a... friend. To our house. Tomorrow."

"Okay. That's fine with me. I guess," he rinsed the soapy plate, then dried his hands, wiping it off with a washcloth. "Is there something I should know about?"

"What? No. Nothing you should know about. We're just going to work on the history project that Oobleck assigned us," Ruby rolled her eyes at her dad, who remained wholly unconvinced. She had inherited his inability to lie. That much was obvious from when she was really young- she would break out in tears and confess anything that she and Yang had gotten up to, much to the chagrin of the older sister.

"Who is it?"

"Um," she tugged at the hem of her shirt and didn't meet her father's eyes. "It's the new transfer student. Weiss Schnee."

"Oh?" Taiyang leaned against the counter and eyed his youngest daughter. "Already made friends with the new transfer student huh? Good for you."

"We're not- I haven't made friends with her per se," Ruby shrugged.

"You don't like her?" Taiyang quirked his brow.

"No I like her, she's pretty cool," Ruby hummed in quiet contemplation before sighing. "Just- it's- don't worry about it, dad. She's just coming over tomorrow."

"Okay, well you do you, kiddo," Taiyang walked over to plant a kiss on his daughter's forehead. Ruby nodded to herself, brushing some hair behind her ear. She walked up to her room, mind wandering.

She did like Weiss. In a very abstract fashion. From the very start, the older girl had intrigued her. There was something more to her than the snooty rich girl persona everybody had already ascribed to her. Okay well, fair was fair, she did kind of enforce that idea, what with the public verbal lashing she gave Ruby not even a week ago, and her clothes and makeup and hair and sure it was a little unfair, but Weiss was pretty and that added to it. But she had seemed to calm down considerably. And Ruby was glad to have her as a friend, or acquaintance or project partner or whatever. She felt like, if she got to know Weiss, there would be something more than worthwhile in that relationship. Ruby was a prospective gold miner and Weiss was this one spot she swore up and down was full of the stuff. She didn't exactly know where this idea sprung from, but Ruby tended to trust her gut more often than not.

Ruby supposed that that was her rationale for her amazing blunder of an invitation for Weiss to come over. She could have smacked herself just thinking about it again. She interrupted Weiss, and she never did get back around to asking her what she was going to say. And just the stuttering, and floundering and it was a miracle against all miracles that Weiss said yes to it.

But that was exactly it. Weiss had said yes. Ruby didn't know why, but it was this great big pull, this insane gut feeling that she just had to follow up on. Like she had pricked herself on a flower, and the damned thing wouldn't stop bleeding no matter what Ruby did. Weiss was Ruby's theoretical hemophilia. Ruby frowned. She wasn't the best at analogies. But the sentiment was there nonetheless.

Besides, Weiss was also like, super pretty. Which, Ruby supposed wasn't supposed to matter much. But still.

Ruby stopped at the foot of her bed, then turned around to walk into Yang's room. The door was open, and Ruby stood at the threshold.

Yang's room was neat, it was always neat, and that was a little surprising to people, but Ruby knew Yang, and for how much she loved to make a mess, she hated keeping things a mess. Yang would always clean up her messes.

"Knock knock," she called out. Yang was lying down on her bed, using her phone. She put down her phone and sat up.

"What's up, Rubes?"

"Have you got a minute?"

Yang locked her phone and patted the space beside her. Ruby gladly got into bed, settling into her sister's side. She was as warm as always, a steadfast bulwark against the chill that always managed to seep its way into the house. Taiyang had told her before that Yang Xiao Long meant Sunny Little Dragon, and thinking about it now, Ruby couldn't believe that her dad was such a cheeseball. Though she was glad for it, always.

"What did you want to talk about?" Yang asked. Ruby bit her lip, then moved away to sit at the foot of the bed, cross legged.

"So you know how Weiss and I are like partners now," Ruby started, clearing her throat.

"For the project. Who could forget?" Yang giggled. "Ruby Rose and the Ice Queen, a pairing for the ages."

Ruby gaped at her. "Do people actually call her that?"

Yang smiled and shrugged. "Couple people I guess. Heard it around once or twice. Why? Is she giving you trouble? Is it time for big sister Yang to start laying a beatdown on a fool?"

"What?"

"You know I'm always ready to open up a can of whoop-ass on whichever sucka needs it."

"Yang, no."

"Bonesaw is ready, Ruby. 'sall I'm saying."

Ruby laughed, throwing her head back. "Oh my god, shut up Yang."

Once Ruby had recovered from her laughing fit, she took a moment to take it in. She and Yang had been through everything together, and Ruby wouldn't pass up the opportunity to be grateful for her older sister. Even though their mom was gone, it was the nicest thing to know that their family was still strong together.

"I think she's kind of cool," Ruby said, after a small moment's pause. She started to fidget again with the hem of her skirt.

"Even after she blew up at you?" Yang tilted her head in question.

"Yes, even after she blew up at me," Ruby shrugged and smiled. "There's just something about her, I guess. I think she's cool. I want to get to know her more."

Yang rested her chin in her hands. "Awfully positive take from someone whose interactions with her have been terrible at worst and cordial at best."

Ruby blew at a raspberry at Yang. "We met up just now, after my shop class. To talk about the history project."

"Ooh," Yang waggled her eyebrows. "And?"

Ruby reached over to shove the blonde. "And nothing. She was kind of nice, and it was kind of cool. So I invited her over tomorrow to do more on the history project."

"Ooh la la, someone's got a friend crush," Yang giggled, then gasped. "Or is it a crush-crush!"

"Uh. No," Ruby shook her head with a quizzical look. "Friend crush. I think. That sounds kind of right."

Yang hummed, studying her younger sister. Then she shrugged. "Okay then. If you say so, Rubes."

"I do say so. Anyway, shouldn't you be getting started on the project with Blake too?"

Yang smiled at the mere mention of the other girl's name. Ruby almost rolled her eyes.

"Agh, yeah I guess so," Yang shrugged, then got her phone out. "Guess I should at least ask her about it."

Ruby took that as her cue to exit, closing the door behind her as she stepped into her own room. She paused at the window, looking out at the dusk. The orange-yellow, purple sunset was all encompassing: brilliant vibrant hues even as the gloomy grey skies threatened to overtake it. Ruby brushed some hair from her face, watching the snowflakes drift down onto the street. She reached over into her desk and pulled out a sketchbook, and she started drawing.

She wouldn't notice until later that some of her sketches looked a little bit like Weiss.


Morning came quick, and Ruby felt like she was already stepping into school before she even woke up. It was like she'd been transported from her bed straight into homeroom. Blake greeted her and Yang sleepily, and it actually felt great to share that same dead-eyed, lethargic energy with someone else. Yang meanwhile, flicked both of their foreheads.

"It's Friday. Shake it off," she told them blithely. Ruby weakly swatted her away as she stifled a yawn.

Then Weiss walked into the class, and all the edges of sleep melted away from Ruby almost instantly. She took a small, sharp breath in her nose. She sat up a little straighter. Weiss turned and locked eyes with her. She looked a little more alive as soon as she did. Ruby smiled at her as she walked towards her.

"Don't forget to text me your address," Weiss said as she stopped next to her desk. Ruby turned her body slightly to face Weiss. "I'll come by as soon as my last class is finished."

"I won't forget. Promise," Ruby replied. Weiss nodded once, turned, then nodded to herself again as she walked away. Ruby watched her as she got to her own desk, seated next to Pyrrha.

"Wow, so you're really going through with it, Ruby?" Blake quirked her brow at her. Ruby shrugged.

"Yeah. We need to work on the project, so…" she trailed off. Blake looked at her, then briefly looked towards Weiss.

"Just be careful," she murmured, low under her breath. Ruby caught the slightest twitch under her bow. "You do know who the Schnees are right?"

"Oh," Ruby blanched. "The Schnees are someone?"

She supposed that thought should have occurred to her sooner. After all, she knew Weiss was all big time, and rich and stuff. Stands to reason that maybe she really was famous. Like famous, but not super famous. Ruby hadn't really investigated much into Weiss social media presence, if she had any at all. All she had to go by was Weiss' behaviour and personality. So far, Ruby was more than content to know her just based on that.

But with that serious look in Blake's eyes, Ruby felt a little apprehensive. Was there something she ought to have known about Weiss Schnee? Was her family like some sort of famous family? A reality TV show family? Or some sort of politician family?

"Schnee. As in, Schnee Dust Company. The coal and oil mining company that provides fuel for billions of homes around the world? Whose business is built on the backs of underpaid, overworked faunus employees. Weiss Schnee is the second in line to succeed that throne. The heiress to a fortune of blood money," she hissed that last part with venom. Ruby gaped at her. Yang pursed her lips and crossed her arms in quiet contemplation.

"Oh. I didn't…" Ruby trailed off again. Blake shook her head and sighed.

"I'm not telling you to not give her a shot. After all, the family you have isn't the one you choose. All she's guilty of so far is being born into a rich and powerful one. But just… be careful, okay?" Blake reached over to place a hand over Ruby's. "Anyway, I'm going to be over at your guys' place tonight too, so I promise I'll give her the benefit of the doubt."

Ruby nodded mutely, then withdrew into herself. Yang squeezed her shoulder. Ruby saw her other hand slide into Blake's, though they didn't look at each other.

Ruby thought a lot about what Blake said throughout the day. As she sidled into shop class and settled into her seat, she just thumbed over her newest sculpture, deep in her thoughts.

Schnee Dust Company. Weiss Schnee. Rich and powerful and now in Beacon Academy. Terrible and malevolent and exploitative. A fortune at the expense of those less fortunate.

Ruby put aside the half-formed rose, stuffing it into her drawer. She got her sketchbook out. Snowflakes. That was the majority of what she'd been sketching the night before. She took out her pencil and started marking a new block of wood out.

Weiss wasn't the Schnee Dust Company. Weiss was kind of stuffy and irritated. Weiss was genuine, sometimes. Weiss was a sharp mystery, a dark path in a garden that she was heading into.

You didn't get to choose your family. Ruby knew that much.

She started carving out the first outlines of the snowflake.

Chapter Text

Weiss had a coil in her stomach the whole day.

She tried her best to pay attention in her literature class, but there was always the sharp edges of anticipation tugging at her. A small, slow thing begging for her attention. She was afraid to give into the feeling. She was too preoccupied, too busy to examine these feelings and what they meant. But mostly, she just wanted it to go away.

Ruby had texted her the address during lunch. Weiss looked it up on her phone. It was a small, homely looking place, close enough to the school that it didn't bother her much to walk. She liked the cold anyway.

So when her last class ended, Weiss was a little slower than the rest to pack up her bag and walk out of the school. She ran her hands through her hair, fixing herself up in the bathroom before she left school proper, the last edges of apprehension still tugging on her sleeve. She'd already texted Klein to inform him of her whereabouts. Though his response was no less respectful and professional as his usual texts, Weiss could almost feel the bleeding edge of smug joy in his words. It made her smile a bit, knowing that there was someone around to root for her enough to be smug about her successes.

Though she wouldn't exactly call this whole thing a success. Not yet, at least. At best, it was just progress. Though perhaps that was what her yardstick for success should be by now. Weiss walked out of the bathroom, but didn't get very far before a familiar figure gently stopped her. Principal Ozpin stood in front of her, both hands resting easy on his cane, his grey hair in no less of a mess than usual.

"Hello, Miss Schnee. Not in too much of a rush, are you?" he asked her, a small smile on his face. He looked at her almost expectantly. There was something about his personality. It was almost fatherly. It compelled Weiss to put her trust in him. Weiss held both hands in front of her, fingers interlaced.

"Not in particular, Principal Ozpin. Is there something I can do for you?" she put her airs about her, though it was in a more genuine fashion than the usual people she was forced to genuflect for. She could almost feel the cold chill of her father's gaze on her back. It made her stand up a little straighter.

"Your continued safety and education will do enough for me for now, Miss Schnee. However I was hoping to catch you, to check in on you. How was your first week here?" Principal Ozpin asked, in a manner that made Weiss think that maybe he already had some sort of inkling.

"I'm coping well with my studies, so far. I'm confident I will improve more with this curriculum as the days go by," Weiss bowed her head in deference. Principal Ozpin huffed a short breath out of his nose, and adjusted his glasses.

"I'm glad to hear it, Miss Schnee. But I'm asking how you're feeling," he said, amused in that old, wise way that he was. Weiss chewed on her bottom lip.

"I'm sorry, sir," she said, standing up even straighter still, her body tensing a little. "I'm doing fine. The students here have been treating me fairly, as I should expect."

He made a little 'hmm' sound in the back of his throat.

"I'm… actually going over to Ruby Rose's house now," Weiss offered up, tentatively. Ozpin smiled.

"That's very good to hear, Miss Schnee. Please do not hesitate to talk to me, or any of our teachers here should you feel that something is making you uncomfortable or upset," he nodded his head. "Miss Rose is one of our more… extraordinary students. Yes, she's certainly very gifted in her studies. But I find she has a certain spark about her- something quite unquantifiable. I'm happy to hear you're making friends, Miss Schnee."

Weiss nodded mutely at him, processing his words. A spark. Beyond all reason and logic, Weiss knew almost exactly what Ozpin meant. It was as if she'd always known the meaning, but hadn't learned the word for it yet. Weiss didn't quite yet know what to do with this information. Only that now she felt the little tug grow more insistent and demanding. Ozpin smiled and reached into his jacket pocket.

"Besides your social life, we here at Beacon do believe it is also important to keep up on extracurricular activities. I know you must have had plenty of activities back in Atlas, so I do hope you find something here to your liking. That said, I do have a suggestion. Call it a gut feeling," he handed her a small brochure. It advertised the Beacon Academy fencing club, with pictures of students all over in fencing gear, looking fierce and determined. Weiss took it curiously, then looked back to Ozpin. He smiled, then walked off without another word.

Weiss skimmed the brochure once more, then kept it in her bag. She began walking out of the school.

Curiouser and curiouser. Weiss couldn't exactly complain about Ozpin's mysterious, seemingly benevolent actions. But she sure could be puzzled by them. A glowing recommendation of Ruby Rose, calling her extraordinary- was that why he had meant for her to show Weiss around on the first day of school? Was this all planned? Weiss pursed her lips, then shook her head. Far too much of a stretch. She refocused her mind on the task at hand: going over to Ruby Rose's house.

She had checked and re-checked the route many times, so walking over there, Weiss felt as if she had already traveled this way all the time. There weren't that many people walking on the streets, but those that did pass her by didn't pay her much mind. She preferred it this way- she had enough to worry about at the moment without someone accosting her on the street.

Growing up in Atlas, Weiss wasn't very accustomed to seeing so much land dedicated to such little housing. The places in Mantle (not that she had much experience in Mantle, besides pictures and videos she'd seen for one reason or another) were all high-rise buildings. A dense concrete jungle, misshapen and irregular, all jumbled up together in a perpetual shade under Atlas City. Even Atlas didn't have many big places that were dedicated solely towards residents. Schnee Manor was the exception to the rule, of course. But that was about par for the course for the Schnees.

So she was surprised to see all the rows and rows of houses lined up along the street before her. It gave her a real homely feeling, like there was a real sense of community in the neighbourhood that she would never have experienced anywhere in Atlas. Of course she'd never had to deal with 'neighbours' before anyway. Vale was starting to present its appeal to Weiss. She could see why someone without her family's wealth and power would enjoy living here.

As she rounded the corner, she spotted the house she was looking for. It was painted orange, with a brown wooden fence around the place. There was a doghouse and bowl in the front yard, and the mailbox read 'Rose-Xiao-Long'. Weiss furrowed her brow, briefly wondering what Ruby's home life was like. Certainly good enough to be inviting her over, but... Maybe Weiss should have done some extra research on Ruby. Not like there weren't a million conflicting reports of her all around school. Not to mention her own conflicting feelings. She hummed in quiet contemplation before she opened the fence gate and started walking up the path to the house. The snow was starting to fall down quite heavily at this point, and the cold was getting a little frostier than she was used to. Weiss wrapped her coat tighter over herself as she carefully walked up the porch steps.

She took a deep breath, but as soon as she reached out to ring the doorbell, the door opened. Weiss jumped back, startled. The face of the blonde girl from homeroom, the one that Ruby had always sat next to, greeted her with a cheery smile. She had big lilac eyes and a fierce mane of blonde hair that cascaded all down her back. She was tall and built strong. Her tank top ended just above her midriff, so Weiss could see the definition of her abs. If she had the time to process it, Weiss would have been a little bit intimidated and a lot jealous.

"Hel-lo," she sing-songed. Weiss didn't really know what to do except wrap her arms around herself for warmth and scowl a little bit. What was she doing here?

From upstairs, she heard Ruby's voice call out, "Yang?"

The aforementioned Yang grabbed her by the arm (with restrained force, Weiss noted as she saw the size of her biceps), and pulled her inside, shutting the door behind her. Weiss gasped in surprise and irritation, a full scowl on her face.

"Hey!" she cried out. Yang place a finger on her lips.

"I'm Yang Xiao Long, Ruby's big sister. Pleasure to meet you, Weiss Schnee," Yang held out a hand. Weiss looked at her, then slowly shook it. It seemed to please Yang greatly. Weiss, for her part, took this all in considerable stride. She still felt the edges of irritation creep up at Yang for yanking her so abruptly into the house, but she tempered herself, not really wanting a repeat of her first actual meeting with ruby (there was the inklings of guilt again). Weiss cleared her throat.

"You're her older sister? How are you two in the same grade?" she asked, focusing her attention on her curiosity instead of anything else. Yang smiled all wide with perfect, straight white teeth.

"Because baby sister over there is a genius," she said simply. Almost as if on cue, Weiss heard Ruby call out for Yang again.

"Was someone at the door?" she called from upstairs. Yang grinned.

"I just wanted a chance to meet with Ruby's new little friend first," Yang said, and Weiss quirked her brow. "It's not every day someone cusses my sister out and then is invited into our home."

Weiss started blushing madly. Yang crossed her arms and cocked her hips, the expression on her face as smug as could be.

"Well," Weiss huffed out, her face still red. "She bumped into me!" Her tone was defensive and indignant, but the edges of it fell away as she caught herself being yanked back into those feelings of guilt and regret. "I didn't mean to-"

"I'm not going to give you a hard time about it," Yang said, chuckling. "Ruby seems to like you."

She said in an offhand manner, almost talking to herself rather than Weiss. Yang shrugged. Weiss wasn't entirely sure what to say in response to that. In her mind there was the half-baked thought that she kind of liked Ruby too, but she shut it down in almost a panic.

From behind Yang, another figure appeared. This time it was the black-haired girl also from homeroom. Weiss frowned.

"Is this another sibling?" she asked, even though the girl looked nothing like the other two. Fair was fair- Ruby and Yang didn't bear much resemblance to each other either. The girl quirked a brow at her.

She stood almost as tall as Yang, which meant that they both were about a half a head above her, with striking golden eyes. A black bow sat atop her head, and she stared at Weiss like she was appraising her, and not finding herself very impressed with what she saw. It made Weiss want to shrink into herself a little bit.

"No. I'm Blake Belladonna. Just a friend of Yang and Ruby," she said coolly, and Weiss had a small inkling that almost everything that came out of Blake's mouth was said coolly.

"I'm-"

"Weiss Schnee, yes. Heiress to the Schnee Dust Company," Blake cut her off. Weiss clutched her bag a little tighter and avoided her gaze for a second before looking back at Blake.

"Yes. I am," she said, pride in her voice, though she could almost hear her father's voice in the back of her head scolding her for her hesitation.

Blake made a small noise in the back of her throat, a quiet little contemplation. Yang cut back in.

"Anyways," she said. "It's about time you and Ruby got on to doing- whatever it is you guys are going to do," she said with a wink. Weiss started blushing again.

"Ruby! Your friend Weiss is here!" Yang called upstairs. Immediately there was a thud and the sound of a door being slammed open. Ruby poked her head down the stairs and saw Weiss behind Blake and Yang, her face a shade of pink that Ruby hadn't seen before.

"Weiss!" Ruby exclaimed, bounding down the stairs two at a time. "It's- um. You're here," she said, a small smile on her face.

"I am," Weiss said, pursing her lips and clenching and unclenching her fist. Ruby shot a look at Blake and Yang.

"What'd you guys do?" she leaned forward accusatorially. Yang stuck her tongue out and poked Ruby in the head.

"Nothing, calm down," Yang said, breezy and unbothered. Blake nodded in agreement. Ruby still eyed them with suspicion. Then she turned to Weiss.

"Come on, let's go upstairs to work on our history project," Ruby jabbed a thumb back upstairs, beckoning Weiss away. She nodded.

"Oh is that what the kids are calling it these days?" Blake jabbed lightly at Ruby, who grimaced. Weiss blushed more, if that was even possible. Yang started cackling, leaning a shoulder on Blake.

"Ew, oh my god, Blake!" Ruby cringed at her, then covered her ears and ran up the stairs.

"Have fun you two! Don't do anything I wouldn't do!" Yang called out after them. Weiss just went up the stairs and rounded the corner, following Ruby. She shut the door behind Weiss, locking it with a decisive 'click!' and sighing heavily.

"I am, so sorry about those two. They're terrible- they're like really terrible. I don't even really like them, like really," Ruby buried her face in her hands. Weiss crossed her arms and quirked her brow.

"Yes you do," she stated matter-of-factly. Ruby uncovered her face and rolled her eyes, but ultimately conceded.

"Yeah, I love Yang a lot, and Blake is pretty much like family," she smiled, rubbing her arms sheepishly. A corner of Weiss' mouth turned upwards, it was a bare hint of a ghost of a smile, but she couldn't really help herself for some strange reason. It made Ruby visibly loosen up. She started bouncing on the balls of her feet, an almost unconscious motion, as she considered her next words.

"So… you find the place okay?" Ruby asked, hands behind her back as she slowly paced around her room, legs sticking out with each step in an exaggerated manner. Weiss wrinkled her nose.

"It wasn't very far. I found my way here easily," Weiss replied. Ruby nodded mutely, looking at the ground. Weiss bit her lip, then looked around the room, taking it in properly.

It was… well it was very suited to the younger girl.

It wasn't particularly messy, just a couple clothes strewn over a chair in the corner. There were various posters on the wall- blown up views of fictional machines, with each part labelled individually. A cork-board above the desk with pictures and ticket stubs pinned to it. The desk itself was a mess of odds and ends. There was a whole toolbox on one end, and various papers scattered about. Atop her shelves were stacks of books, but none like the ones she had. They were were worn down and well read, some of them yellowed with age, but obviously used often still. There were a couple photos in frames in some sections of the shelves. One of her parents, presumably, with her and Yang as kids, all crowded around the living room couch, hugging each other. There was another of her, Blake and Yang, a more recent selfie taken of them in a car. Yang was smiling toothily wearing a pair of sunglasses as she rested a hand outside the window of the car, the other on the wheel. Ruby was smiling wide, and Blake had a fond expression on her face as she stared at the camera. Nobody wasn't smiling in all her photos.

It made the coil in Weiss' gut return, only this time it decided to give the performance once more, but with feeling.

"It's… a nice place," Weiss said quietly, hesitant. Ruby paused, whipping her head to look at Weiss, who locked eyes with her. Ruby raised her eyebrows, then scanned her room over once.

"Thanks," she said finally, and Weiss let out a breath she didn't know she was holding.

Nervous. That was the word. Weiss' mind clicked the word into place, sticking it beside the coil in her gut.

"So… shall we get started on the history project?" Weiss offered, flexing her fingers behind her back.

"Oh, right. Yeah, totally," Ruby blew a strand of hair out of her face and went over to her desk, clearing the mess out, placing it in a corner in her room. She dumped the loose clothes in her closet, and pulled her laptop out from under the pillow on her bed. She beckoned Weiss to sit at the desk, and she complied, putting her bag down finally.

They started working on the project, at least at first.

Chapter Text

Weiss stopped typing on her laptop. She hit the save icon, and continued staring at the blinking cursor for several moments before she mustered up enough courage to turn and face Ruby.

"Ruby," she said, and this time it didn't feel as weird saying it. Ruby looked up at her. Weiss opened and closed her mouth several times, the question burning her up from inside out for a while now. "How old are you?"

Ruby lowered her laptop, peering over to Weiss, a curious smile on her face.

"I'm 15, 16 in a couple months," she answered easily. Weiss pursed her lips and didn't respond for a while.

"And how old are you, Weiss?" Ruby asked in turn.

Weiss looked at Ruby, perplexed. "17. I'll be 18 in February."

Ruby typed it out on her laptop, then turned back to Weiss, who still had an intense contemplative look on her face. She giggled slightly, never having seen the older girl with such an intensely concentrated expression on her face. It melted the 'ice queen' persona right off. Ruby just wanted to poke her and make fun of her, and she would have if she wasn't still trying to carefully get her to come around, gently coaxing her like a stray cat.

"How are you in junior year?" Weiss turned her chair fully around now, the laptop completely abandoned, Ruby noted with a small hint of satisfaction.

"I uh- got bumped up a couple of grades in middle school. Didn't go to 7th and 8th grade," she paused, then put a hand on her chin. "You guys have those in Atlas right?"

Weiss narrowed her eyes, almost rolling them. Ruby took that as an answer.

"Right," she said with a sheepish laugh that she awkwardly turned into a cough. "Well ever since 9th, I've been rolling with my fellow upperclassmen, which now I guess includes you."

"It certainly does," Weiss rested her chin in her hand. Now it was Ruby's turn to muster up some courage.

"If you don't mind me asking- and you totally don't have to answer," Ruby held her hands out in a placating manner. Weiss only quirked her brow in response. Ruby blew out a breath, tucking some hair behind her ear. "Why did you move to Vale?"

Weiss looked away from Ruby as soon as she asked, her face a little more sullen than before. Ruby was about to change the subject immediately, when Weiss spoke.

"You know who I am?" she asked, her tone genuine and quiet. She met Ruby's eyes with a bit of sadness, and Ruby was struck. She just nodded mutely, waiting for Weiss to continue on. Weiss folded her hands neatly in her lap, and sat up straight.

"I'm the heiress to the Schnee Dust Company," Weiss answered nevertheless, her gaze wandered into her lap as her mind moved a million miles away. Ruby was spellbound. "We've always had a target painted on our backs, ever since my grandfather founded the company. The White Fang has always tried to find ways to harm my family," she clenched her fists, though her voice didn't waver.

"They blew up my house. The bomb was in my room. My singing practice was running late that day, I remember being furious about it, because it made me late for lunch with my sister- a rare occasion since she's rarely home for long. I was stomping through the hallways after chewing out my instructor, which I-"

Weiss touched the scar running down her left eye. She looked at Ruby intently. Ruby only met her gaze with attention and compassion. She wanted to reach out to Weiss, but she opted to hold back for now. Weiss shook her head.

"I remember hearing the loudest sound I'd ever heard in my life, and like I was being pushed a long, long way. I don't remember much afterwards, just waking up in the hospital a few days later. It's where I got this scar. They said I was lucky to have such superficial injuries, which I suppose is ironic considering what people say about me," she gave a wry, tight-lipped smile. "Flash forward two months later, and my father tells me I'm being moved to Vale for my own safety. And here I am, I guess."

"Weiss..." Ruby said softly, hand halfway outstretched. Never in a million years would Ruby have guessed that that was why she was here. She felt like a dunce, like a superficial jackass for assuming a much more tame, scandalous story than that. Weiss wasn't a stuck up, pretentious ice queen. Weiss wasn't a diva who resented the fact that she had to be with people below her standing. Weiss was-

Young. And scared, and anxious and hurt. Ruby stood up off her bed, shifting her laptop away. She stood in front of Weiss, who just watched her.

"I'm sorry that happened to you Weiss. That's horrible."

Weiss looked away, and nodded. She still looked like she was a million miles away. Like she was still back in Atlas. Ruby set her mouth in a tight line.

"Hey," she called out to Weiss. "You're safe now, in Vale. The most dangerous thing that ever happens around here are some kids that climb the water tower to write secret messages in sharpie," she smiled at her, then slowly extended her hand, putting it on her shoulder. She gave Weiss plenty of time to protest, to shove her away again if she wanted to, but Weiss only looked at her and let it happen. Ruby smiled at her. "Nobody's going to hurt you again."

Weiss looked a little more present, her eyes more focused on Ruby. She swallowed thickly before speaking.

"You wouldn't happen to have anything to do with the kids climbing the water tower, would you?"

Ruby snickered. "When I said 'some kids', I really only meant Blake, Yang and I."

Weiss smiled then, and Ruby thought it was a pretty smile. She kind of wanted Weiss to always be smiling like that, if she could at all help it.

"So," Ruby withdrew herself, going back to sitting on the bed, cross legged and with her chin in both hands. "Now's your turn to ask me a question."

"I guess if we wanted to continue this little back and forth," Weiss looked back at her laptop, then shrugged. "Okay."

She got up out of her chair, then walked over to the bookshelf in the corner, the one Ruby had let her dad build, that she had secretly rebuilt once he had left. Weiss looked at it, up and down, at the rows of books and little figures and photos Ruby kept on it. She wondered what Weiss would ask about. The ivory-haired girl picked out the photo of herself, Yang and Blake when they had gone on that road trip last year to the Belladonna's summer home. Ruby loved that photo, but maybe it was mostly just the memories she had associated with it.

"You and your sister seem very close with Blake," she commented, looking up to Ruby from the photo. Less a question, more a statement, but for Weiss, Ruby would dutifully indulge.

"Yeah, she's awesome. We've been friends for a couple years now, ever since she and her family moved here," Ruby then lowered her voice in a mock whisper. "I'm pretty sure- well we're all pretty sure that Yang and Blake are like, going to be a thing. It's pretty obvious that they keep making googly eyes at each other all day. It's only a matter of time. I approve, of course- they're really cute together," Ruby swooned, only half joking.

"They would look good together," Weiss conceded as she put the photo back. Then she pulled out a photo of her, Yang, Taiyang and Summer. Ruby's breath almost caught in her throat, but she composed herself.

"Are these your parents?" Weiss asked, looking from the picture to her and back again. Ruby knew she could see the remarkable resemblance between her and her mother. It kind of hurt her heart to think about Weiss saying that.

"Hey, isn't it supposed to be my turn to ask you a question?" Ruby deflected breezily, smiling at Weiss in challenge. She liked that she felt okay doing that. Weiss, in response, only quirked a brow.

"We didn't establish any rules, so it's all fair play," she smiled again. Ruby laughed.

"Fine, but-" she looked at the clock on the wall. It was a gift from Blake, a tacky looking clock in the shape of a black cat. It had big cartoon eyes and a chesire grin, and it was gross and dumb and Ruby loved it. She and Blake had named it Cat Clocksworth. Yang had conceded that it was a cute name for a tacky clock, and that it could stay. It was her chrono cat, and it saved her life more times than either she or Cat Clocksworth could count. Now, for example.

"It's about dinner, are you hungry? I'm starving," Ruby patted her stomach. Weiss seemed to let the issue go, checking her phone for the time.

"I may have worked up an appetite," she admitted to the younger girl. Her hands strayed towards her stomach, but she stopped herself short, instead choosing to adjust the hem of her skirt.

"Well, how do you feel about getting takeout?" Ruby asked.

"Take... out?" Weiss looked at Ruby as if she had asked her to describe the inside of a black hole, or the manner in which commoners lived.

"Yeah. Takeout. Like getting food from a place delivered to this place," Ruby scratched her head. Weiss frowned.

"Like fast food?" she asked, getting more and more confused by the second.

"Uh, yeah, I guess we could grab some McDonald's if you want," she began searching up the food delivery apps on her phone, then paused, looking up at Weiss, who had a sheepish expression on her face. "Wait," Ruby gasped. "Have you never had McDonald's?"

Weiss rubbed her arm. "No. I guess not- I was on a strict diet back home."

Ruby gasped louder and longer, her mouth set in an exaggerated 'O' shape. Weiss rolled her eyes.

"What do you mean you were on a strict diet? You already look great!" Ruby threw her arms up in frustration. Weiss, to her mild credit, only blushed a little bit before she shrugged. "So you've never had McDonald's takeout?"

Weiss pursed her lips. "No."

"That settles it!" Ruby marched over to her door, yanking it open. She hollered down the hall, "Yaaaaaaanng!"

"What?!" Yang shouted back. Ruby got down in a half crouch, before yelling at the top of her lungs.

"McDonald's!"

Yang ran upstairs, the stairs thudding loudly and dramatically before she came into view, combat rolling into the hall for flourish. Briefly, Weiss could hear Blake's exasperated sigh from downstairs.

"McDonald's!" she shouted back at her baby sister.

They started chanting 'McDonald's' as Yang picked Ruby up and bounded back down the steps. Weiss was thoroughly confused. Blake appeared at the doorway of Ruby's room, looking thoroughly apologetic.

"Sorry," Blake said, leaning against the doorjamb and hooking a thumb behind her at the two sisters' general direction. "These two get...really excited about McDonald's."

Ruby whooped as Yang pulled up the menu on her phone. "Yes we McFuckin' do!" the blonde yelled at Blake and whooped. Ruby joined in on the cheering. Weiss and Blake went downstairs to join them in the living room.

"So just fuck the history project huh?" Blake crossed her arms and looked at Yang, who pouted at her.

"It's dinner time Blake! C'mon," she gesticulated around wildly with her phone. "McDonald's!"

Blake blew a strand of hair out of her face, and rolled her eyes, but conceded nonetheless. Weiss stood back with her arms clasped in front of her, just watching the whole scene. She felt like she had just unlocked a hurricane by speaking some magic words- except far less impressive because it wasn't an actual spell, just the lame admission that she had never had some fast food. As she watched the whole scene she felt a strange feeling overcoming her. It was all very... endearing. The bond the three shared. The way Yang, Ruby and Blake were so close. It reminded her of Winter. She missed her sister dearly.

"We gotta order for Weiss, because she's never had it before," Ruby told her sister, who gave an almost identical gasp to Ruby before.

"You've never had McDonald's?!" Yang exploded out of her seat. Even Blake looked shocked, though it was in a less exaggerated fashion than the other two. But, once again, Weiss thought that that was true for every case. All three of them looked at her expectantly, and it made Weiss want to fidget and slowly back out of the room. She crossed her arms instead.

"I've just... never had the need to order McDonald's," Weiss shrugged.

"Well you have the need now, Weiss!" Yang pumped her fist.

"McDonald's hype!" Ruby joined in.

"It's really bad, but like, really good too," Blake nodded.

Weiss sighed. "Fine. Alright. Let's have McDonald's."

Chapter Text

"'tis a good thing dad's busy at work tonight," Yang said as she stuffed a fry in her mouth. "We totally forgot to order any for him."

"You're not impressing anyone with your use of 'tis," Ruby replied, sticking her tongue out at her older sister, who stuck her tongue back out in response. Weiss had yet to decide if their childish behaviour was genetic, or those two were just the biggest dorks she had ever seen. And believe her, she had seen her fair share of dorks in Atlas Academy. Not all Atlas families believed in prim and proper etiquette.

"Blake's totally impressed with my use of 'tis," Yang pointed another fry at Blake, who was still munching on her fish burger. She looked between the two, still chewing. She swallowed before speaking.

"I'm mildly impressed?" she offered Yang.

"I'll take mildly impressed," the blonde pointed at Blake and winked. Ruby rolled her eyes, then turned to Weiss.

"How's your food?" she asked.

Weiss looked at the spread of colorfully packaged, greasy either to the point of wonder or nausea (she couldn't decide yet). She picked up another french fry, immediately feeling the slick oil on her fingers. She popped it in her mouth, tasting salt and grease and potato. It was...

"It's okay," Weiss told her. Ruby pouted. Weiss ate another french fry. "It's good," she offered up.

Ruby narrowed her eyes at her in suspicion. "You haven't even touched your burger!"

Weiss furrowed her brows at looked at the yellow wrapping that covered her cheeseburger. She was... suspicious. Very suspicious. Maybe it was actually a really, really good thing that her father had expressly forbidden junk food in the manor. The thought of her father being right put a nauseating feeling in the pit of her stomach. Weiss tentatively picked the burger up, unwrapping it carefully. She could feel three sets of eyes on her, and she huffed out a quick breath of annoyance. When she finally unwrapped her burger, she was greeted with a sight that looked nothing like the picture from the menu.

"Everyone shush, we're about to break class barriers," Ruby waved a hand towards Yang and Blake, who snickered relentlessly. Weiss looked at the younger girl, deadpanned.

"C'mon Weiss, this is the burger chomp that'll be heard around the world," Blake pulled her phone out to start recording, while Yang and Ruby cheered her on. Weiss, though her smile might have conveyed otherwise, was still in a state of mild irritation.

She rolled her eyes, but bit into the cheeseburger.

Salty. Kind of sweet. There wasn't anything in the thing that wasn't processed heavily. Even the bread was kind of stale. It was about the perfect antithesis of everything Weiss had ever consumed back in Atlas.

But... it was good.

"I... like it," Weiss admitted once she had fully chewed and swallowed the piece she'd bitten off (never let anyone tell you that Weiss Schnee would ever lose her sense of decorum). The other three erupted into thunderous cheers and applause.

Okay, maybe she did laugh along with them. Maybe she wasn't so irritated. Maybe it was a little nice. A lot nice. To be around people, to be having actual, genuine fun. Suddenly the coil in her gut didn't feel so tight. She felt a little more free. Atlas was a million, million miles away at that moment, and Weiss was in Vale.

"Bravo Weiss!" Yang golf clapped.

"We're all super proud of you," Ruby gave her a thumbs up.

Blake smiled, ending the recording. "Should we take a picture for posterity?"

"Yeah! The day we made a real societal change- Ruby, Weiss, Blake and Yang: the true vanguards of humanity!" Ruby giggled to herself.

Weiss took another bite of the burger. It was good, really. She was still chewing when Blake took the selfie of the four of them.

"Here Weiss, give me your number. I'll send you the photo," Blake passed Weiss her phone. Her phone pinged a little while later, a new number sending her an absolutely ridiculous photo. Weiss didn't have any social media accounts, but if she did decide to make one, this photo would be a perfect first post.


They spent a long while after they finished their meal just talking.

What had Weiss more than pleasantly surprised was that she didn't ever really know what real conversations were supposed to be. They, apparently, were supposed to be about nothing at all. If you had asked her afterwards what the conversation was about, she wouldn't have been able to name even one topic. All of it was just blended together, a natural ebb and flow, a mish mash of just words and emotions. Weiss found herself lagging, her brain trying to catch up on each beat of the conversation, but in a way that didn't really frustrate her at all. In fact, she found it fun.

What a mind-bending statement. Weiss, Weiss Schnee, found it really fun to just talk to normal people about nothing in particular.

Back in Atlas, every conversation had a purpose, had a set path and balance. She knew what she was supposed to say and when, and she always educated herself on the topics people wanted to talk about. And most of it was purposeful and highbrow, but looking back at it, Weiss didn't think those conversations were ever actually real conversations. It was more like theatre rehearsal. Just two people regurgitating their lines back and forth with different, manufactured emotions until one or both parties were satisfied.

Things were different in Vale. Things were different with Ruby and Blake and Yang. Things were looking different in her. Suddenly change didn't seem so bad.

She stayed a little later than she had anticipated, being so absorbed in the other girls' company that she didn't even notice the time until Klein texted her, asking if she was alright.

"Is it time for you to go home, Weiss?" Ruby asked, noticing her on her phone. Weiss hesitated, a split second gut check that almost alarmed her. It was indeed time for her to head home, in fact it was past time for her to go home, but she didn't want to. Weiss was seized with a moment of panic, her brain overloading itself like someone had electrocuted the back of her skull. Like someone had taken her head and rattled it like an overenthusiastic baby with a toy. She couldn't remember the last time she hadn't wanted to be alone in her room.

Weiss didn't know what to do with that information, so she just kept quiet and still. Then she noticed all three of them were looking at her expectantly, and Weiss cleared her throat, suddenly very aware of all her senses.

"Yes," she said, clearing her throat again. Weiss clenched and unclenched her fist underneath the dining room table. "I-I should get going."

"Well hey, let us call you a cab or something," Yang offered, already whipping out her phone.

"Oh, I- uh," Weiss stuttered out, vaguely aware that she didn't actually account for going home this late. She could call Klein, but, well she didn't want him to have to go through the trouble because she wasn't aware of the time. She didn't want anyone to have to go through the trouble.

A pair of headlights shone through the dining room window as a car pulled into the driveway.

"Dad's home! Perfect, we can just drive her home," Ruby said.

Weiss blanched. Ruby and Yang's father, the one she had seen in the photo? She was more than a little interested in meeting this man- both of their parents actually.

The front door swung open and a tall, blonde man wearing a sensible t-shirt and cargo shorts walked into the house. He had stubble, and blue eyes, and a tattoo on her bicep Weiss couldn't make out just yet. He walked in with a smile, looking around the the four of them.

"Well, this is more children in my home than I'm normally used to," he placed a hand on his hip, his eyes immediately wandering to Weiss.

"Dad! Perfect timing," Ruby ran up and hugged him. He returned the hug fondly, and Weiss felt vaguely jealous.

"Heya kiddo. Is that...?" he ruffled her hair, then eyed the wrappers and packaging of food still on the table "McDonald's?" he stage whispered to his kids, who nodded excitedly.

So, it was genetic then.

"You gonna introduce me to your new friend, there?" he asked Ruby.

"Dad, this is Weiss," Ruby motioned towards her. Weiss bowed her head.

"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Rose," Weiss said. Everyone immediately seized up. Yang cast a look at Blake.

Weiss knew she'd fucked up. The apology was on the tip of her tongue, though she didn't know what for yet.

"Please, call me Tai. Taiyang Xiao Long. Summer Rose was Ruby's mother," he explained calmly, and his smile returned. He extended a hand towards Weiss, and she shook it. Everyone relaxed, and Weiss could feel the tension in the room dissipate.

"Dad, can we use the car to drive Weiss home?" Ruby asked, mercifully saving Weiss from having to open her big dumb mouth again.

"Oh, yeah, sure. It's late, isn't it?" Tai immediately fished the keys out of one of the 72 pockets on his person, tossing it to Yang, who caught it easily.

"Why can't I drive?" Ruby crossed her arms. Everyone looked at her, and she shrank, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear and laughing sheepishly. "Okay, fine. Point taken."

"I still can't believe it was possible to make a 30 point turn," Blake ran her hands over her face.

"Hey, some roads are pretty narrow!" Ruby protested.

"We were on the highway, Ruby," Yang flicked her little sister's forehead.

"Whatever. C'mon, Weiss," Ruby motioned for her to get a move on as everyone except Tai headed out the door.

"Drive safe, kids!" he called out. He looked at Weiss and smiled, all the previous tension he held in him completely gone. Weiss bowed her head again before grabbing her bag and leaving.

Wess hadn't realised that a drive home could be such an event. But there they were, all four of them packed in the car. It seemed like whatever they did, they were wont to do it together. Weiss kind of liked that.

"Gimme your address," Yang handed Weiss her phone with the GPS app open. She keyed in her address and handed it back to Yang.

Blake took a seat on the passenger side, seemingly always by Yang's side. Weiss herself was sat in the back next to Ruby, who was practically vibrating with excitement.

"Aw, yeah, mini road trip!" Ruby fist pumped. Weiss rolled her eyes at the younger girl.

"We're driving like, 10 minutes," Blake looked back at Ruby, who shrugged.

"Sidequests are better done in co-op," she said, with an air of sage wisdom, looking proud of herself for saying something so profound. Weiss didn't have a single clue what she actually said, but figured it was one of those things she'd eventually figure out through osmosis.

"Dork," Blake said.

"Dork," Yang agreed, reversing out of the driveway. Ruby pouted, looking to Weiss for support. She looked at Blake and Yang, and she couldn't help the upturn of her lips, really.

"Dork," Weiss echoed after them. Ruby gasped, and Yang burst out laughing. Blake hid her laughter behind her hand, doubled over in her seat.

"I came out here to have a good time, and I'm feeling so attacked right now," Ruby crossed her arms petulantly. Weiss smiled at her.

They continued with the aimless chatter the whole drive. When they finally arrived in front of Weiss' house, she unclicked her seatbelt and paused.

There were words. She was sure there were. But they just didn't come to her at the moment. She didn't know if they would ever. She felt like the enormity of the situation, the absolute mind-boggling nature of it meant that Weiss Schnee would never ever have to words to describe what was happening. To say what she wanted to. To tell another person how she felt.

So Weiss decided to say something simple.

"Thank you, all. I'll see you on Monday?" she looked around the three in the car.

Somewhere in her mind, Weiss knew she sounded hopeful. If she was more cruel to herself she would have said it sounded desperate. But in the moment, Weiss cared about nothing more than wanting this again. Only her brain just didn't know what to do with that information. It was always playing catch-up with her heart.

Ruby allayed her fears, her anxieties. She punched a hole clean through the rising tide of panic that threatened to overtake Weiss.

"Yeah, of course, Weiss," she said, simple as all that.

Weiss had felt like she was struggling, drowning under the weight of her own mind. But if Ruby showed her that it was just as simple as saying 'yes' or 'hello' or 'do you need help?' then... well maybe it was.

Blake and Yang nodded, both smiling at her too. Weiss smiled.

They didn't drive off until Weiss stepped foot in her front door. She exhaled a long breath, and Klein appeared, a smug grin on his face.

"Welcome back, Miss Schnee. Pleasant trip home?" he asked, and Weiss ducked her head to hide her smile, though she knew she couldn't slip it past him.

"It's fine here in Vale, isn't it, Klein?" she tucked her hair behind her ears. "It's fine."

Chapter Text

The history presentation went pretty good.

Well. It went pretty well.

Weiss and Ruby finished off with a bow, Ruby with a wide grin on her face while Weiss' smile was less reserved, though no less present. Ruby had an electric energy about her, and it shone through in the presentation. Weiss contrasted it well with a more calm, stable presence. All in all they made a pretty good team, and Weiss was more than confident they'd get a good grade.

"Well done, students. Miss Rose, Miss Schnee, you may take your seats," Professor Oobleck nodded in satisfaction, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. Weiss took her seat next to Blake as Ruby plopped herself beside her.

"Good job, you two," Blake nudged Weiss' shoulder. The ivory-haired girl smiled, the relief and pride of hard work and a job well done washing over her. Yang gave her a little thumbs up.

"Nailed it," the blonde said. Ruby eeked out a quiet 'heck yeah'.

The bell rang, and Oobleck crossed his arms as he watched the students pack up.

"We'll continue on with presentations next lesson, students. Now hurry along to your lessons and whatnot," he shooed them off as he exited out the back of the classroom at his usual blistering pace.

"You guys got a break now?" Yang asked as she shouldered her bag deftly. Yang looked like she never did anything in half measures. It was always all in or not at all.

"Yeah, I'm free. Weiss?" Ruby looked to the other girl. Weiss consulted her schedule, still not entirely familiar with it only after two and a half weeks.

"Yes, I do," she said.

"Great! Wanna walk over to the mall and grab some lunch?" Yang looked at the other three, who all nodded in agreement.

That was how the past couple of weeks were for Weiss. Schoolwork and spending time with Ruby, Blake and Yang when she could. Winter would say that she was neglecting her studies, but her stellar presentation clearly disproved that (though Winter could probably find 20 things wrong in that five minute presentation anyway). It was strange, for Weiss at least. In Atlas, she was never really a part of any one group. She was the Weiss Schnee after all. The groups came to her. She rotated around, always spending lunch with whoever wanted to hang around her. It was always neutral at best, and irritating at worst. They didn't want to spend time with Weiss, they wanted to spend time with Weiss Schnee.

Needless to say, this was different. After the day spent at the Rose-Xiao Long's, the four of them would gravitate towards each other whenever they could. Weiss was even invited into their group chat. It was nice. It was really nice. And Weiss enjoyed spending time with them. There was a lot more to them that she hadn't figure out yet, but she was integrated as easy as that. She fell into the chatter, the flow of it all just fine.

The snow was fine, coming down in soft, small flakes. The four of them had all bundled up in thick, heavy coats (except Yang, though even her warm blooded nature couldn't keep her very warm in the harsh weather, so she had conceded by adding an extra layer to her clothes), and walked out to the nearby mall. Weiss had seen it around, it was only a block away from Beacon, but she never had any express interest in eating there. She hadn't been interested in eating fast food until a little bit ago, anyway.

The sidewalks had been cleared, mercifully, and the walk wasn't all too bad. The cold in Vale was still certainly warmer than in Atlas.

"God, I hate the cold," Blake wrapped her arms around herself tight, her face flushed and grumpy.

"I don't mind it, actually," Weiss supplied, because she was now at the point where she was comfortable doing that. Yang laughed.

"Of course you don't, Ice Queen," she said as she withdrew a scarf from Ruby's bag and put it around Blake's neck. The other girl took it gratefully, bundling up more.

"Hey!" Weiss protested. Ruby snickered, and Weiss gave her a stink-eye. She stopped snickering.

"Relax Weiss, we're just joking," Blake said in between shivers, still cold despite all the layers.

Weiss still 'hmph'd, though only half in jest, which was probably more than she could ever say for all her time in Atlas.

The mall was large, and still looked very much like a product of a bygone era. Some places in Vale looked like it settled in the 80's and stayed there while time passed them by. It was still very active though, giving it a feeling of earnest stubbornness. Weiss liked it. It was like, for a moment, she could pretend like time was at a stand-still. Like she could live in a bubble for a while and not have to give it up to the passage of time.

More and more, the secret delights of Vale revealed themselves to her.

"There's this one noodle place that we really like," Ruby explained to her as they crossed the threshold into the warmth of the building. Blake breathed a sigh of relief, the cold seeping out of her.

"Is it more or less healthy than McDonald's?" Weiss asked. Though she was quite partial to the junk food now, she still maintained that it was healthier to eat her way. Sometimes she wondered how Yang got the figure she did while eating the way that they seemed to.

"Debatable, but it is delicious," Yang interlocked her hands behind her head, grinning. Blake nodded in agreement, and even though Weiss was probably going to eat there whether or not she protested, she acquiesced.

The place was a little shop tucked into the corner beside the theater. There was an old man behind a counter with big, bushy severe eyebrows and wrinkled lines across his forehead. His eyes were small, sunken in and hidden behind his seemingly permanent squint. He watched them as they took a seat in a small booth. Yang nodded at him, holding up three fingers on one hand, then pointing to Blake with the other. He nodded back and disappeared into the kitchen.

"Okay..." Weiss stared at Yang, then back at the others to see if this was like a normal thing or if she should be concerned. They seemed to think it was fine, so Weiss withheld her comments.

"Don't worry about it, Weiss," Yang caught her gaze and winked. Weiss fought to suppress the blush that threatened to creep up her neck.

"So," Ruby laid her head in her palm as she turned to look at Yang. "How's your guys' history project coming along?"

Both Blake and Yang groaned.

"Presentations are dumb," Blake muttered, almost to herself. Yang blew a raspberry.

"We're having a little trouble with, like... everything," she said, playing with the chopsticks on the table. "Sorry- we're not all child prodigies and private school geniuses," she pointed a chopstick first at Ruby, then Weiss. "Some of us have to actually do brain-stuff manually, with our small peanut brains."

"Or maybe some of us could goof off a little bit less," Weiss countered with a knowing smirk. A couple days before she had caught Yang challenging Blake to a handstand challenge in the library while they were supposed to be working on their project. Blake blushed, hiding her face in her hands. Yang smiled sheepishly.

"Worth it. I won the handstand competition."

Ruby laughed, and Weiss unconsciously found herself looking at Ruby and laughing too.

When the food came, Weiss found herself looking at a bowl of noodles almost twice as big as her head. The two sisters looked positively delighted while Blake was fawning over her seafood meal, that was almost basically all just tuna.

"This is..."

"Mmph! Really good!" Ruby said, her mouth already full of noodles. Yang dove in with the same enthusiasm. Weiss almost didn't want to look at what Blake was doing, it was borderline obscene. She took a pair of chopsticks, picking up a couple of noodles and tentatively stuffing it in her mouth.

Dammit. This was really good too.

Midway through the meal, Ruby gave some side-eye to both Yang and Blake, who nodded in response to her unasked question. Weiss quirked a brow, looking around, wondering if there was something she was missing. Maybe she was doing something wrong and hadn't realized it yet. Did she spill some food on herself? She checked her clothes, finding herself clean. Maybe she wasn't eating fast enough for their liking?

"So, Weiss..." Ruby started off, fiddling with her chopsticks a little bit.

"Yes, Ruby?" Weiss paused to look at the younger girl opposite her. In the momentary silence that followed, instead of Weiss' brain filling in the void with the usual panic she had begun to anticipate, she found instead she was taking notice of Ruby's appearance.

She was pretty, though in a more understated fashion than Blake or Yang. Weiss had thought so since she first laid eyes on her. Her silver eyes were striking, pale, wide orbs that hid no emotion, instead loosing it all at once with reckless abandon. Her hair was short, ending just below the nape of her neck, and the red highlights complimented the striking black colour. It suited her. Weiss couldn't imagine it suiting anyone else half as well. Weiss faintly realized that she could stare at her for a while, just comfortable looking.

Her mind reset itself. It was a weird thing to have fixated on. She refocused herself as Ruby began speaking again.

"Christmas is around the corner, and Yang and I usually have this little Christmas gathering, at our place. And I- I mean we were wondering if you wanted to come. It's next week," Ruby finished her point with satisfaction, looking mostly grateful that she was able to stumble this invitation with just a little bit more finesse than the last time she had invited Weiss over.

Weiss blanched. That wasn't exactly what she was expecting. Christmas was kind of the last thing on her mind over the past few weeks. But it was a welcome invitation, one she didn't even have to think about the answer to.

"I would like that, thank you," she told her, smiling. Ruby smiled wide in response.

"Cool! Alright, cool," she said, pausing only for a heartbeat before digging back into her bowl of noodles. Blake and Yang shared a small look, one that Weiss couldn't yet scrutinize. So she just took Ruby's cue and continued eating.

When they finished, a bill was placed on their table, and Weiss, without hesitation, took it away from Yang. The blonde looked at her in surprise as she took her wallet out from her bag.

"What's the occasion there, Weiss?" she asked as Weiss took the bills out (with tip, of course- she was from a wealthy family but she wasn't raised a savage). Weiss uncharacteristically shrugged, providing no answer. She didn't really have one, to be fair. At least, not one she could freely just speak out like that.

"Consider it... part of the Christmas spirit," Weiss said, half truthfully. In all honesty, she wasn't very big on Christmas. It wasn't much of an event for her back in Atlas. If she was lucky, she could catch her mother in one of her rare moments of sobriety, and they could share a moment on Christmas. There wasn't much need for presents, and there wasn't much of a family gathering for the Schnees, no matter the holiday.

"Thank you, Weiss," Blake said, the two sisters echoing her sentiment. They trudged their way back to school, Blake still shivering the whole way. The bell rang in time for them to disperse, each going off to their own classes


As she walked to her chemistry class, Weiss passed by the Beacon High School trophy case, proudly displaying various golden trophies earned by the clubs and teams in Beacon. She gave it a quick once over, finding that most of the them were from the basketball team. There were a fair few from the debate team, and various other clubs. She had to really look around to find what she was looking for. But there, underneath the section reserved for the fencing club, was a pitiful single silver trophy. She scowled, before moving on to her class.

She thought about it all during class, having learned almost all of what Professor Peach was teaching back in Atlas Academy (maybe Yang was right about the whole private school thing).

After the last bell rung, Weiss didn't go out of her way to seek Ruby, Blake and Yang. Instead she pulled out her map, finding her way to the gymnasium.

There were several people in gear, masks on and fencing swords in hand, standing around talking. Weiss observed them for a little bit, trying to suss out the leader of the group. She didn't have to look very long.

"Hey, listen up team, get started on warming up, and we'll start practice in a couple minutes, alright?" a Faunus girl, skin specked with spots looking almost like freckles at some places stood up on the steps of the bleachers and spoke to the rest of the team. She had long brown hair, tied off into a ponytail, holding a sabre of her own, resting it under her armpit as she texted on her phone. Weiss took a deep breath and approached her.

She didn't take too long to notice her, spotting one of the only people not in gear walking up to her. She tilted her head and quirked her brow.

"You're Weiss Schnee," she said, before Weiss could even get a chance to speak. Weiss stopped in her tracks, withdrawing into herself a bit. Then she steeled herself.

"I am," Weiss said, standing tall and proud. The other girl narrowed her eyes at her. "What's your name?"

"Ilia Amitola. What do you want?" she asked, her tone a little more confrontational than before. Weiss didn't back down.

"I want to join the fencing team," she said simply. Ilia blanched.

"You want to join my fencing team," she repeated. Weiss nodded. Ilia ran a hand through her hair, pocketing her phone. "Okay. Have you ever fenced before?"

"Yes. In Atlas Academy," Weiss spoke without pretense and arrogance. Ilia, all the same, still didn't seem to like it very much. She picked up a spare sabre lying around, tossing it to Weiss, who caught it without hesitation. She stared at Ilia, irritation flaring behind her eyes.

"Well then, let's see what they taught you up there, Weiss Schnee, from Atlas Academy," she brandished her sabre, twirling it in the air a few time before resting the point in the ground. Weiss swallowed thickly, then put her bag down by the seats, flexing her fingers and twirling her own blade around, carefully stretching her muscles. It was clear that this wasn't a challenge she wasn't going to back down from. They moved to the mats laid out. By then, everyone had stopped what they were doing to watch the scene unfold. People were whispering among each other, nudging each other and snickering. Phones were whipped out, recording the whole thing. Weiss blocked them out, focusing on her breathing. Focusing on everything Winter had taught her.

Shoulders up, front foot forward, grip on her weapon not too tight. Breathe. Focus. Ilia looked at her, an easy smirk on her face. Weiss gave a quick salute with her sabre, one that Ilia didn't return. She scowled, but got into her en-garde position regardless. Ilia did the same.

"Best of three, count us in Fennec," she told another Faunus boy. He counted down from three, and off they went.

Ilia was fast and aggressive, but Weiss was faster. She was in the zone, dodging each of her strikes or parrying if they came too close. After blocking a series of aggressive blows, Weiss went on the offensive, taking back ground. Ilia exerted effort with each dodge and block, Weiss could see the first traces of faint sweat beading down her forehead. She kept her breathing steady, attacking quickly, giving her no inch to attack back. In a blink, Weiss had the tip of her sabre pressed against Ilia's sternum, before she even realized. Ilia grunted in frustration. The rest of the club clapped as they went back to their starting positions.

Weiss hadn't picked the right outfit for this, she thought. Skirts were not meant for fighting, though the idea of it seemed really cool.

Fennec counted down again, and this time Weiss started out on the offensive. She didn't look to do anything fancy, didn't want to show off (however tempting that idea might have been), just to get another point so she could end the whole show quickly. Ilia didn't look none too happy either, her emotions written all over her face. She was parrying with lightning speed, and in a whirlwind flash, Ilia ducked and jabbed Weiss in the forehead with her sabre, the dull tip doing nothing more than irritating her.

She went back to her starting position as the crowd in the gymnasium grew now, from just the fencing club to the other few people who were around. They started clapping and cheering as the pair reset.

Weiss brought the blade up to her face, breathing in deep as she tried to channel everything she'd been taught. In a split second, the room fell away to black, and Winter was behind Weiss.

"Focus, but don't think too hard, Weiss. Your opponents will be strong. They'll be fast, and fierce, and they will all want to see you lose," she had said, circling around her. Weiss had held the sabre pointed out in front of her, eyes closed and breathing in deep, steady breaths. Winter stopped at her side, then placed a hand on her shoulder.

"You are Weiss Schnee. You will have to work harder than anybody else if you're to succeed. And you will, sister. You will."

She opened her eyes as Fennec counted down.

Nobody saw what happened. Nobody knew what it was until they reviewed the footage, but it was over in two seconds. Weiss held the tip of the blade at Ilia's throat, her own blade pressed down under Weiss' foot. Ilia couldn't suppress the surprise on her face. Weiss stared straight into Ilia's eyes. They looked at her in anger.

Weiss lowered her blade, stepping off Ilia's weapon, letting her get her grip back. The crowd erupted into thunderous applause.

Ilia threw her blade down.

"You're in," she growled as she stalked away angrily. Weiss brushed hair out of her face, then turned to face the crowd, surprised at the size of it. Everyone was cheering for her, and this time she genuinely didn't know how to react.

"I'll just... leave now," she muttered, backing away to her bag. She grabbed it and walked quickly out of the gymnasium, blowing out a deep breath. Her wrist was kind of hurting, and her muscles pleasantly ached, and her heart was beating a mile a minute. She cradled her wrist as she breathed. Okay, so maybe that last move wasn't technically legal. But she won, all the same. At the very least, proved something to Ilia.

Weiss dug her hole a little deeper.

Chapter Text

The snowflake was finished. Well the shape of it was finished. Ruby still had to paint it and add more details. She was thinking about blue and white tones. It was pretty good, if she did say so herself. She hoped Weiss liked it. She hoped she didn't have to admit to Weiss how she made it like only a couple days after they met. But mostly she hoped Weiss liked it. She didn't know how or why, but to her, it perfectly represented Weiss. All pointed edges, sharp and deadly and beautiful, but with intricate details and shapes interlaced in it. It was Weiss, plain and simple.

Ruby pulled out the drawer at her bench, taking out the rose she'd been carving a couple weeks ago. It was rudimentary, the outlines of a rose clear and visible, but not yet up to her satisfaction. She turned it over and over in her hands as her mind worked out how best to proceed.

She flipped her notebook over to the pages she'd sketched out the rose designs. The pages were full of variations, the detailing all different in their own ways. She had narrowed it down to a couple ones that really spoke to her.

She based it off an old brooch that her mom had always used to wear. She didn't know where it was anymore, but Ruby remembered the silver gleaming off the sunlight as she played with her mom in the backyard. She couldn't bring up the exact details, try as she might, but with each sketch she drew, more and more came back to her. The slight curves in the petals, the shape of the center of the rose. Her mom's smile, the dip of her chin as she looked down at Ruby. Her soft hands, her gentle voice.

Ruby sighed, wishing she could talk to someone about all of this. She couldn't talk to her dad, couldn't put him through all that pain again. She knew Summer Rose wasn't his first love. Uncle Qrow had told them as much. Raven Branwen was... somewhere. She didn't know where. And if they knew, they weren't telling her.

And Yang... well, even Yang had her limits. Some days Ruby could see the frayed edges, the cracks the appeared here and there. Yang was barely older than Ruby, and she didn't deserve to always be the adult of the household. For a while after their mom's death, Yang had always been the one to keep it all together. Tai had buried himself in his grief, either consuming himself in work, or sequestering himself away from everyone else, locking the door and not answering when Ruby and Yang came knocking. Ruby remembered those days, even as young as she was, where Yang had gotten a stool and was leaning precariously over the stove, cooking breakfast for herself and Ruby. It was why she was glad that Blake came around when she did. Meeting Blake had done a lot to repair the fracture in their household that came with Summer's death. Yang finally had someone to lean on, to support her when she couldn't let anyone else do it.

Ruby continued running her hands over the small sculpture, almost willing the shapes and cuts to come to her, reveal themselves in the smooth wood. A secret for her, only her. Some great divine thing from above, bringing itself to her because she deserved it. Because she wanted it to.

The bell rang, and Ruby started packing her workstation up, keeping all the tools back in their appropriate racks and slots, because she wasn't a damned animal.

She grabbed her bag and started walking out of school, her classes done for the day.

Yang texted her, letting her know that she was staying in school for a while to actually work on their history project 'for realzies this time'. Ruby replied with a winky face emoji.

Then she bumped into tall, lanky and blonde.

Jaune Arc, Beacon High's resident goofball. He turned around to apologize, which was a very Jaune move. To be fair, Ruby would probably have done the same, but Jaune was, as he had described himself once to Ruby, 'the kind of guy you could pour soup into my lap and I'd probably still apologize to you'. Ruby had laughed at that.

She liked him, though. Behind all of it, Jaune was a kind, determined guy. He was the best kind of friend to have, the kind that cared, genuinely cared about you. He was the first real non-Yang-or-Blake friend she had made in Beacon. He also felt himself as a bit of an outsider, had always been the one to float all around but never found anyone to attach himself to. He reached out to Ruby when she was at a real low point, socially speaking, and Ruby had seen the part of him that most people never thought to look for.

"Sor- oh. Hey, Ruby," Jaune rubbed the back of his neck, smiling. Ruby gave him a quick wave.

"Heya, Jaune," she rocked back and forth on her heels, ever a ball of energy.

"Oh, hey, actually what are you doing right now?" Jaune's eyes suddenly widened. Ruby tilted her head, shrugging.

"Just about heading home, why?"

"I- um, I need your help with something. Or I guess I just wanted to ask you about some stuff?" he rubbed his arm sheepishly, a blush appearing on his cheeks as he looked at the ground, avoiding Ruby's stare.

"Uh, okay. What is it?" Ruby tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. Jaune nervous looked left and right down the halls, then motioned for Ruby to follow him. He stepped quickly into an empty classroom. Ruby was, well, either she was about to find out something really scandalous or she was going to have to reject Jaune, and she wasn't very much looking forward to either one of those scenarios. Jaune waited for her to step in before he shut the door.

"Okay so, what I needed to talk to you about was- um," he nervously paced back and forth as Ruby just looked on patiently. "The thing. That I, Jaune Arc, was going to ask you, you being Ruby Rose, is-"

"Just spit it out Jaune!" Ruby was about a hair away from tearing her hair out listening to him babble. God, was this what it was like when she was stumbling on her words? She suddenly felt really sorry for Weiss.

"How do I ask Pyrrha out?!" he half-shouted, then immediately covered his mouth with his hands. Ruby gasped, stars in her eyes. No way!

"You like Pyrrha?" Ruby pointed at him. Jaune nodded mutely.

"Pyrrha?" she asked again.

He nodded again.

"Pyrrha Nikos?" Ruby couldn't believe it.

He furrowed his brows.

"The one that goes to Beacon High School, right, Pyrrha Nikos?"

Jaune groaned, now covering his face.

"Yes, okay! Quit it, Ruby!" Jaune exclaimed. Ruby held her hands out placatingly. She took a deep breath, then two. Then she focused back up on Jaune, though the smile never left her face the entire time.

"I think that's really sweet, Jaune," Ruby started off.

"But she's like... way, way, like crazy out of my league, right?" Jaune interrupted her.

"Oh, no. No, yeah. Hundred percent," Ruby nodded vigorously. Jaune groaned again, sinking into a chair. "Like, she's suuuuuper out of your league, Jaune."

"Alright, you don't have to put so much mustard on that," he shot her a scowl.

"Sorry," Ruby chuckled sheepishly.

"So, what, I really have like no chance in hell with her?" Jaune raised his head to look at Ruby, a grimace on his face.

"Well I didn't say that," Ruby walked over to Jaune, putting a hand on his shoulder. He looked at her expectantly.

"What do you mean?" he asked, voice half full of hope. Ruby rubbed her chin.

"You're a good guy, Jaune. A genuinely good guy, and you're kind and compassionate and funny, and I'm sure Pyrrha hasn't gotten to see that side of you yet, right? So just show her that?" Ruby leaned against a desk, half shrugging.

There was a moment of silence.

"You think I'm funny?" Jaune asked, a smirk on his face, smugness written all over. Ruby blew a raspberry at him.

"Shut up. You're funny in, like, a super dorky way. People dig that," Ruby waved him off.

"Oh, said the king of the actual dorks," Jaune pointed at her, a laugh bubbling up in his throat. Ruby scowled at him this time. She was not a dork, despite literally all evidence to the contrary.

"I am the coolest kid on the block, okay," she poked his shoulder. They both laughed.

"So do you actually think it might work?" Jaune asked once they recovered from their laughing fit.

"It's worth a try, Jaune. Better to shoot your shot than to not have a shot to shooted, right?"

"Uh, yes?"

"That's the spirit. Rise up, king," Ruby slapped him on the back. Jaune chuckled. "Just try to be you. Report back to me in a couple days, we'll see where you're at."

"Okay. Hey, thank you Ruby. I know you're like, 12 but I like talking to you about all these things. You're really easy to talk to," Jaune lightly punched her shoulder.

"I'm 15."

"Definitely somewhere in the 8-10 range."

"Dick," she stuck her tongue out at him. "See you, Jaune," she waved to him as she walked away.

Free from distractions, she retrieved her headphones from her bag, plugging it into her phone. She turned on music, her sweet bliss away from the world. She put her hood up as she walked down the steps of the school, out onto the street.

The vast winter wonderland of suburban Vale stretched out before her. The residents had already begun putting up decorations. Wreaths, fairy lights and baubles lined the houses, on and on and on down the street. She had always loved Christmas, a time for family to come together. Presents and hot chocolate and snowball fights, all that stereotypical cheesy Christmas stuff, Ruby was a sucker for all of it. Call her a sap, she didn't care. Ruby was no grinch, that much was sure.

Vaguely, she wondered when Uncle Qrow was coming back. Wondered if he even would this year. He had missed last year, citing some work business he had to attend to. It had made Yang and Ruby realize that, actually they had no clue what their uncle did for a living. They had asked their father, and all he deigned to say was that he was a private investigator of sorts.

Not that it mattered much. Qrow was still her favourite uncle, even if he was her only uncle. It was always a treat when he came around. It made their family feel fuller, a little more complete. She knew Tai always loved it, the love the two men had for each other was always clear as day. It made sense, they were all friends when they were younger. Qrow, Tai, Summer and Raven. Ruby had seen the photo, same as Yang. All four of them together, smiling at the camera. It was hidden, behind another photo in a worn wooden frame. But it was there.

Sometimes Ruby understood why her dad didn't really talk about all of that stuff. It probably wasn't easy losing two great loves. Ruby wouldn't know how to feel if she had two people she loved leave her either.

She sighed, rounding into her yard. There was that big downside about Christmas. It was a great time for family, but sometimes it reminded her of what big holes there were in her family.

Ruby entered her house, and it was silent. She waited for a moment to see if something would fill that silence. Briefly she wondered if anything could ever fill the silence. Or if the silence was just something that you had to learn to live with, forever and ever. A weight you had to drag around all the time, walking around in school, getting on buses, going to movies, always with that weight on you. It got easier, after a while, to drag that weight along, but it was always still there. Ruby was leaning more and more towards the thinking that it would never disappear.

She shut the door behind her and sighed. Just one of those things. She left her bag on the dining room table before she flopped herself down on the couch in the living room. Yeah, sure, homework and yada yada yada, but that all could wait. Her mind felt too full, too many thoughts swirling and bubbling, each one wanting to burst out of her head.

So she did what she always did when she had too much on her mind: Ruby baked cookies.

It used to be her mom's thing. Cookies were, like, the solution to every problem she ever had. Yeah sure, when Ruby was 4, all her problems were indeed cookie-level problems. But she maintained that there was no situation that she was in that a cookie couldn't help with. So Ruby started pulling out all the ingredients she needed, laying them all out on the kitchen counter as she washed her hands and got out the bowls and stirrers.

Her dad came home as she was just finishing the first batch.

"Do I smell cookies?" he poked his head into the kitchen, a smile on his face. Ruby scooped some cookie dough into her mouth before nodding. Tai walked over, swiping a finger through the bowl of cookie dough and popping it in his mouth. "Ah, delicious."

"Thanks, dad," Ruby tucked her hair behind her ear, a tight-lipped smile on her face as she averted her eyes. Tai paused, his gaze on his daughter. His young daughter, who was a million years older than she deserved to be. His baby daughter that had to grow up too quickly, that had to move too fast, faster than he did, faster than her mother did. She looked to the world like she was all put together, like she had it all figured out. She looked to him like she was lost, and she was wishing for something that couldn't happen anymore.

Tai put a hand on Ruby's shoulder, and steeled himself.

"You know, I wish I knew her recipe too," he said, and Ruby looked at him in surprise. Then her gaze softened, and her smile came out, small and quiet.

"Yeah, I still don't think I got the hang of it," she muttered, a light pink tinge on her cheeks. Tai laughed.

"You'll figure it out," he paused. "I miss her too."

"I know," Ruby said.

"But I think she would've liked this," he motioned towards her bowl. "I think she wouldn't have minded at all."

Ruby sighed, then leaned in to hug her dad.

"Love you," she mumbled into his chest. Tai squeezed her tight, wishing she was still that wide-eyed three year old with those cute buck teeth and infinite energy. He would settle for the strong, smart woman that she was.

"Love you too, kiddo," he planted a kiss on her head. His mind was a million miles away from her baking, then. "She really would've loved this."

Chapter Text

Weiss couldn't decide on an outfit.

Nothing too fancy, of course. She couldn't wear the outfits she'd normally wear to galas and recitals, she didn't want to seem snobbish and outlandishly rich, especially for a small gathering at Ruby's place.

So something more casual.

But not the kind of casual where it seemed like she would wear it to school, because that was too casual. That wasn't fancy enough. She still wanted to impress Ruby, and everyone else. Just not scare them off.

Not too casual, and not too fancy, Weiss. But enough to impress, and something that was Weiss. She sighed in frustration. She briefly considered just going over in her pyjamas. She felt like Yang would get a kick out of that.

"Miss Schnee," Klein knocked on her door. "May I come in?"

Weiss scowled, stalking over to the door to unlock and open it. Klein was there, looking immaculate as ever, and Weiss briefly wished for the simplicity in wearing uniforms again, loathe as she did the Atlas Academy uniform.

"Good morning, Weiss," he said, tray of coffee already in hand. "May I come in?"

"Sure, Klein, but I'm a little busy right now," she went back to her wardrobe, hand on her chin as she looked over all her clothes, deep in contemplation.

"Of course, Miss Schnee. Choosing an outfit for tonight?" he placed the tray on her coffee table, pouring a fresh cup for her, dropping in her ungodly amounts of creamer that of course he already knew she liked.

"Yes," she sighed, feeling as lost as she ever did. "I am. And I don't know what to wear."

"You've never had much trouble picking out what to wear before," he said, in that unassuming way that he did. Weiss felt like Klein was a picture perfect butler. Mostly because she never really ever saw him as her butler. Some days he was a trusting confidant, the only real friend she had. Sometimes he was more a parent to her than her own parents. He was her Alfred, though she would die before she admitted that to anyone, mostly because she had an image to uphold, and that image absolutely did not include letting people know that she was familiar with the Batman lore.

"Well, I've never had to think much about what to wear before," Weiss told him, giving up on looking over her wardrobe and going over to grab her mug of coffee. "Impressing people in Atlas is easy. Just wear the most expensive stuff."

"And you're not looking to impress your friends?" he asked, thoughtfully refolding some clothes that she had strewn all over her bed. Weiss blew into the mug, cooling it.

"No. Yes," she sighed. "I don't know, Klein. This is different. I like them," she said with a bit of a blush. Klein chuckled, and Weiss looked over at him indignantly. "What's so funny about that?"

"Oh, nothing Miss Schnee. I'm just happy for you," he shook his head, smiling. Weiss scowled still.

"I don't want to just impress them. I want them to like me," she said quietly, a moment of rare vulnerability. A little bit less rare nowadays, but all the same.

"You don't think they might already like you?"

"Well, yes. I hope so."

"Then I have an inkling that it might not be your outfits that they like so much, Miss Schnee," he returned to Weiss, the smile still on his face. He looked at her like he was gleaming with something like pride, something like happiness, and Weiss didn't know what to do with all that. She hung her head a little bit, taking a sip of her coffee. Klein collected the tray and coffee pot. "Just go with your gut, Weiss," he told her.

Weiss nodded thoughtfully. "Thank you for the coffee, Klein," she said quietly.

"Always, Miss Schnee," he said before he left, the door clicking softly behind him.

Weiss sighed. He was right. Of course he was right. So Weiss went with her gut.


Weiss unlatched the front gate with a little difficulty, then walked down to the porch. It was already dark by then, the winter causing the sun to set at an unreasonably early time. She took a deep breath before she rang the doorbell.

Ruby answered the door, wearing a headband with antlers on it. She had on an unsightly red knitted Christmas sweater, with a cute little dog on it, a little black and white corgi with its tongue hanging out looking over their shoulder.

"Weiss!" Ruby exclaimed, her smile as wide and bright as ever. She was happy, genuinely happy to see Weiss, and oh Weiss wasn't cold enough to not echo that sentiment, even at least in the privacy of her own mind. Ruby let her in.

"Hello, Ruby," Weiss said as she stepped into the foyer of the house.

"Is that our Ice Queen? Weiss!" Yang called out as she appeared behind her little sister. She had an ugly Christmas sweater on too, with the words 'Single and Ready to Jingle' in bold on them.

Weiss rolled her eyes, but despite her best efforts that good-natured smile on Yang's face got to her too.

"Look at her, not protesting against the nickname," she narrowed her eyes, then looked at Ruby. The two shared a look. "You must like us," Yang drawled in a sing-song voice, the amount of smug in her smile off the charts. Weiss didn't say anything.

"She does!" Yang teased, leaning forward and cooing over the shorter girl. Weiss swatted her away.

"Quit making fun of Weiss," Ruby poked her sister. "She is precious and must be protected!"

Yang quirked her brow.

Weiss rolled her eyes, going into the living room to greet Blake. She was curled up on the couch with a mug of hot cocoa, a book in her other hand. On her lap was-

The cutest fucking dog Weiss had ever seen. She gasped softly, stuck rooted to the spot. It was the corgi on Ruby's sweater. He looked like a dumb idiot, with his little tail all poofy and his stupid tongue hanging out and everything and Weiss would have murdered the entire population of Vale if it meant keeping him safe. He barked at her, and Blake finally tore her attention away from the book to Weiss. She maintained the blank expression on her face.

"That's the cutest dog I've ever seen," Weiss said to Blake softly. Blake scowled.

"His name is Zwei and I hate him," she spoke solemnly. Weiss gasped, louder this time. Ruby and Yang came into the living room behind her. Yang scooped Zwei up into her arms, and Blake seemed to let out a breath.

"There, Blake, I saved you from the big bad wolf," Yang laughed at the other girl, who scowled even harder. The look she gave Yang was verging on pure murder, but the blonde took it in considerable stride, putting the dog down and sitting on the couch beside Blake. Weiss dropped her bag, crouching down to carefully pet Zwei. He happily licked her hand and allowed her to give him pets because he was the goodest boy in the whole world, and that was a fact as far as Weiss Schnee was concerned, thank you very much. She heard Ruby snicker behind her before she came up to start giving Zwei scritches under his chin. It was the best day of Zwei's life.

"I think he likes you, Weiss," Ruby said, and Weiss' heart could melt right then and there she really hoped Zwei liked her.

"Is this your dog?" Weiss asked, instead of saying something super embarrassing like she wanted to kidnap Zwei.

"Nah, this is my dad's. But, you know, he's our dog," Ruby said absentmindedly. How easy, how casual it was to just have things that belonged to someone in your family belong to you. That was just how families were supposed to be. "Speaking of."

Weiss turned around and sprung to her feet as she spotted the patriarch of the household appear. Tai had on a matching ugly christmas sweater with his daughters, his had a grotesque picture of Santa, like someone had tried to drawn him with their arm asleep and also they had never seen Santa in their life before. He smiled as he approached Weiss.

"Hello, Weiss. Ruby told me you were coming- it's good to see you," he said, nice as he ever was.

"Hello, sir. Thank you for having me," Weiss smiled cheerily and interlaced her hands in front of her. Tai waved her off.

"Told you, call me Tai," he mockingly scolded her with a half-smile. Then he turned to Ruby. "Hey, kiddo, guess what."

Ruby quirked her brow. "What?"

"Chickenbutt," a gravelly voice said from behind him, and a tall man with salt-and-pepper hair appeared. Ruby immediately started squealing.

"Uncle Qrow!" she launched herself at him. Despite his wiry frame, he caught her easily, almost as if he was already expecting his niece to launch such an attack on him. He twirled her around before setting her down. "It's so good to see you! Did you miss me?"

He considered it thoughtfully, before deciding on his answer simply. "Nope," he said in that casual, gravelly voice of his, ruffling Ruby's hair. Yang walked over to hug her uncle in turn, considerably calmer, though no less happy to see him.

"Bad news is I won't be staying too long right now," he appraised both his nieces, who frowned at him. "I'll be back tomorrow, wipe those looks off your faces," he rolled his eyes, poking both of them in the foreheads. Then he pulled out two envelopes from his jacket pocket.

Both Yang and Ruby 'ooh'd at him. Qrow smirked then pulled away.

"Christmas presents, make sure not to open 'em till next week," he carefully lowered his hands, handing the envelopes over. Both of them immediately started shaking the envelopes, holding it up to their ears.

"They're not gonna last," Tai crossed his arms, looking over his oh-darling-daughters. Qrow shrugged. The blonde pinched the bridge of his nose, exhaling an amused breath. "Well, Qrow and I gotta head on out for a while, on some work stuff. You kids have fun, alright?"

Suddenly Qrow caught Weiss' eye, holding his gaze with her, an intense and thoughtful look on his face. Weiss shifted uncomfortably. Ruby took notice, and shifted closer to Weiss as she spoke to her uncle.

"Oh, right. Uncle Qrow, this is-"

"Weiss Schnee, right?" he said with a knowing smile. Weiss swallowed thickly, not knowing what to really make of the situation. "Your sister Winter talks about you all the time."

Weiss blanched.

"What?"

Qrow smiled a small, far off smile. How did he know Winter? Was this a military thing? He certainly didn't look like any military personnel she'd ever encountered. If it wasn't a military thing, then how did Winter know him? Oh god, did she even want to know? What if this was super gross?

"Ask you sister about me sometime," was all he said in response, winking as he reached into his jacket pocket again, this time retrieving a silver flask. Weiss furrowed her brow, not entirely sure how to react. It probably was a gross thing, wasn't it? Weiss wanted to gag.

"Qrow," Tai nudged the taller man, noticing the growing discomfort in Weiss' face. Qrow chuckled, then walked off out the front door. Tai rolled his eyes then followed him out the door.

Weiss ran a hand through her face. That was a thing. It was always a thing. It was always something.

"So, Weiss I don't wanna be like, crass or anything but-" Ruby started off as soon as the two men left.

"He definitely fucked my sister," Weiss pinched the bridge of her nose. The other girls all nodded in agreement.

"Man, that's kinda messed up," Yang played with her hair as she looked anywhere but Weiss, who had now retreated into the living room to curl up in a ball in the arm chair.

"Y'know, how did he even come in? Like, I was with Weiss at the front door the whole time," Ruby wondered aloud.

"Huh, yeah you're right," Yang furrowed her brows and rubbed her chin.

"Maybe he came in through the back door," Blake said.

They all paused, then looked at Weiss, the barest edge of a smile on their faces, the twitch on their mouth threatening to betray them as they all fought to keep themselves in check.

Weiss glared at them, then groaned, hiding her face in a pillow.

They all burst into laughter.

Okay, so did Weiss.

God dammit.


They settled Weiss with a mug of hot cocoa, and turned on some bad Christmas movies.

It was good. It was great. Better Christmas than any she'd ever had, even if it wasn't technically Christmas yet. Not even halfway through the first movie, Yang brought out a bottle of a bad idea.

She held the tequila up triumphantly, presenting it to the other girls.

"Dad just texted that he wouldn't be home tonight, so ladies I think it's time to really get into the Christmas spirit!" she proclaimed.

"Oh no," Blake shook her head. Ruby just gaped at her sister. Weiss pursed her lips.

"Is that really a good idea?" she asked. Yang looked at her incredulously.

"Is it a bad idea?" she challenged.

"Yes?"

"Nope."

So, okay, none of them put up much of a challenge, but Weiss would maintain that, at least at first, she had called it out as being a bad idea.

At least at first.

After a couple shots, Ruby was... excited. And loud. Blake and Weiss were huddled on the couch, with Ruby in an armchair and Yang seated on the floor, leaning against the couch on Blake's side.

"We should watch Jupiter Ascending!" she practically shouted at everyone. They'd just reached the end of the Muppet Christmas Movie (Blake's suggestion, surprisingly).

"That's a really bad movie," Blake said. "It's got Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum and they're boring, but Eddie Redmayne is in it! And he plays the villain like he has asthma!" she then started to gasp like she was having an asthma attack and recited lines from the movie. Yang laughed loudly, which only encouraged Blake to keep going. Weiss found it amusing too, even though she'd never seen the movie.

"I've never seen it," she offered up with a shrug.

"It's really bad!" Blake told her. She got chatty when she drank. It was good to know.

"I haven't seen the whole thing either," Yang admitted. Blake gasped.

"It's-"

"I heard it was pretty bad," Ruby said, and Blake scowled at her. Weiss giggled, and Ruby put the movie on.

Weiss had, as of quite recently, heard from a couple sources close to her that the movie was not good, but it was way worse than she had expected it to be. Blake's impression of Eddie Redmayne wasn't far off from the mark. They drank and laughed together until their faces were flush.

"Why's he a dog Faunus in space roller-blades?" Weiss gasped for breath in between laughing fits.

"That's the one accurate part about this movie!" Blake reached over to grab Weiss' arm. "There was this guy who was a dog faunus who used to roller-skate back when I was in the White Fa-"

Blake blinked, her words fading off. Weiss furrowed her brows, retracting herself from Blake's touch quick, like she'd been burnt. The other two looked at them.

"You were with the White Fang?" Weiss' voice sounded far away in her own ears. She felt herself sobering up quick.

"I was." Blake looked at her, her mouth set in a hard line and steel in her eyes, all the laughter and smiling melting off of her in an instant.

Weiss clenched and unclenched her fists. The words rang out in her ears, all she could hear were those words. Spoken by the police, by the reporters. The name a curse in her father's mouth. Her mother's eyes, sad and defeated. She could feel the heat of the blast, the roar of the explosion turning into a tinny ringing sound in her ears, bouncing around her skull.

She remembered waking up in the hospital, her head foggy and her movements slow and muddy. There were bandages covering her left eye and everything felt thick and heavy. She remembered trying to understand it all as Winter held her, speaking words she could barely comprehend at the time. She had never seen her sister cry until then. She remembered that very clearly.

The White Fang. That's all anybody kept saying, kept telling her.

The White Fang planted explosive in your room. They didn't time it right. They blew up the west wing. The White Fang tried to kill you. The White Fang are still at large. The White Fang won't reach you in Vale. The White Fang can't hurt you anymore.

Demons. Beasts. Monsters. Animals, savages, terrorists. The White Fang.

Blake Belladonna staring at her with golden eyes and an unapologetic look and anger. Red, hot anger, like a poker in a fireplace, burning with a touch.

Blake Belladonna laughing with her, making her feel welcome. Blake Belladonna guiding her, telling her how to get around school. Yang and Blake hugging each other, always so easy and casual with their intimate touches. Blake Belladonna, quiet and buried in her book, but looking over with a small, reserved smile, a look of fondness that made Weiss understand what Yang saw. A tug in her heart for Blake Belladonna, one of her first real friends in Vale. Blake, Yang and Ruby, the first real friends she'd ever made. Only a month in and making her feel more at home than anywhere else she'd ever felt in life.

Blake Belladonna, member of the White Fang. Angry and vengeful and out for her, her family. Her house in rubble, on fire still. Blake Belladonna, walking out of the wreckage to finish her off, with a quick, sharp knife. Screams in her throat that Blake would cut out.

Weiss felt dizzy. Weiss felt disorientated.

Weiss felt angry.

"They tried to kill me," she said quietly. Blake faltered. "They planted explosives in my room. I was lucky I was running late because I wasn't there when it blew up. That's why I moved to Vale."

Blake cast her gaze downward, and Weiss could see clearly now that her bow was twitching downwards too. She felt that anger flare up, the fire being stoked inside her.

"I almost died. My family almost died, and you were a part of them?" Weiss spat out with venom. Blake returned her gaze back to Weiss, righteous fury present in her eyes again.

"I'm sorry that happened to you, Weiss. I am. But how many Faunus has the Schnee Dust Company killed? Work to death? Exploited and cast out. How many families has the Schnee family destroyed?"

"So I deserved to die that day?!" Weiss exploded. She got up out of the couch.

"No!" Blake pushed off in return. "But it doesn't absolve you!"

"Hey, guys, let's just-" Yang inched forward to get in between them. They both shot her a sharp look, and she backed off. Weiss clenched her fists tight, feeling something heavy settle deep in her chest.

"You think I need absolution? For being born a Schnee?! Did you think I asked for this? To be an heiress to a bastard of a man, to have my every action scrutinized and criticized and judged? To be part of a corrupt system, to be born losing?" Weiss screamed at the top of her lungs at Blake. She flinched in response, but shook her head.

"Weiss. I'm not a part of them anymore. I didn't want this. But the White Fang, they're not all beasts out for blood. We just wanted to be treated as equals. Something the Schnee Dust Company clearly didn't agree with. The people who did that to you, they're guilty, they're monsters, but you're complacent in this system, Weiss. That bomb was just as much your fault as theirs!" Blake said, her voice wavering as she stepped closer to Weiss.

"You're a fucking monster. Just like them," Weiss spat out, fury making her voice quiver. She picked up her bag and walked out of the house, slamming the door shut as she sped out onto the front yard. She heard the door open and shut again as she walked off but she didn't pay it any mind until a smaller figure appeared beside her with her coat.

"You can't run out like this," Ruby said, and her eyes were too big, there was too much emotion in there. "Don't run."

Chapter Text

So, maybe Ruby was a little too drunk to really react in the moment. Her mind was still trying to play catch up. But she got there, eventually. And her heart broke, cracked just a little bit more than it always was.

Weiss took her stuff and practically ran out of the house. Blake was crying, silent tears that dripped down onto the floor as she held her head in her hands. She'd never seen Blake like this. She looked at Yang, who looked just as heartbroken. The blonde motioned for Ruby to go after Weiss, and she went to sit beside Blake. Ruby picked up Weiss' nice, fancy white coat, and ran out after Weiss.

She was already on the street, walking fast. Ruby sprinted to catch up with her, her breath creating small mists in the air.

When she finally reached Weiss, she could see the tears that had come streaming down her face. Ruby put the coat around Weiss, who startled, only just noticing Ruby. She wiped the tear tracks off her face, grimacing.

"Don't run," Ruby said, and in her ears her voice was barely a whisper.

"Just go away, Ruby!" Weiss exclaimed, sniffling and hiding her face.

Ruby clenched her jaw. "No," she said. It was all she said.

They were standing underneath a streetlamp, and Ruby could make out all the details of Weiss' face, as she went from angry to confused, then to weary. A tiredness Ruby had never seen before overcame Weiss, and she did nothing to stop the tears that came out, pooling at the point of her chin and dripping onto the frozen ground.

Ruby came in close, and hugged Weiss. She hugged her back.

They stood there for a while. For a while, Ruby couldn't think of anything besides rubbing small circles on Weiss' back and letting her let it all out. Her smaller frame shook with sobs, punctuated by choked gasps for air. It felt like a lifetime's worth of emotions that were pouring out of the older girl, and Ruby wouldn't think of doing anything else but be around to help her.

"Let's get you home," Ruby pulled away, taking a good look at Weiss. She was a veritable mess, but she was still Weiss, and Ruby liked Weiss. Since the first time she'd locked eyes with her, Ruby wanted to be in Weiss' orbit, wanted to be more than just passing ships in the night, even if she didn't know it then, didn't have the words to pin down the feelings she felt, the small strange tug, Ruby's heart to hers. Ruby reached out, wiping some tears off Weiss' face. She reacted gently, leaning into Ruby's palm slightly. There was the barest hint of relief on her face.

They called a ride share, and they got to Weiss' place in no time; it really wasn't that far away. Ruby walked with her to the front door. In her haste to grab Weiss' coat, to catch up with her, she'd forgotten her own coat. The sweater was cozy, but it did the bare minimum to protect her from the snow. In the short walk up to Weiss' front door, Ruby's face was already flush from the cold, and she was starting to shiver. Weiss seemed fine, even if she looked like she was somewhere else entirely. Ruby stopped at the front porch, and Weiss turned to face her.

"Weiss, I'm sorry," she said quietly, now almost completely sober. It wasn't how she expected her first time drinking hard liquor to go, but seeing the look on Weiss' face, Ruby didn't have the heart to be anywhere else.

Weiss huffed an annoyed breath, a clear, visible mist from her mouth illustrating her irritation. "You have nothing to be sorry about," Weiss said, and though she had the biting edge of annoyance in her tone, all Ruby could hear was the sadness in her voice.

"I'm sorry all of that happened," Ruby shook her head, her gaze never leaving Weiss.

"What happened in Atlas or what happened back at your house?"

"All of the above," Ruby placed a hand on Weiss' arm. Weiss sighed, then turned her gaze to Ruby proper. Her face quickly morphed to one of annoyance.

"You're freezing," she stated plainly. Ruby couldn't hide the shivers now, even as she waved Weiss away. Weiss didn't bother with the pleasantries, just opened the door and dragged Ruby in. The warmth did wonders for her, relief flooding her body to be out of the cold. Weiss'd face was still tinged pink, and she couldn't really tell if it was from the cold. Around the corner, a man appeared, dressed fancy, in a vest and dress pants. He had a fancy mustache to top it all off, the kind to make even Professor Port jealous.

"Miss Schnee, I wasn't expecting you back so soon," he flickered his gaze between Weiss and Ruby, his expression imperceptible. It was the practiced face of someone who was used to putting on a show.

"It's alright, Klein," Weiss said, shaking her head- a signal he understood, apparently. "This is Ruby Rose," she motioned towards Ruby, who gave a quick, nervous wave hello.

Klein bowed deep. "A pleasure, Miss Rose."

Whaaaaaaat. Was this how all people in Atlas were?

"We'll be in my room, Klein," Weiss said, already walking up the stairs. Ruby smiled at Klein, a quick, shy thing, before she bounded after Weiss.

"Very well, Miss Schnee. Do let me know if you require anything," he called out after her.

Oh. Ohhhh.

Klein was her butler.

Weiss lived with her butler.

Weiss lived with her butler? Just her butler? Ruby blew a quick breath out, taken aback by this display of actual, tangible wealth that she'd thus far rarely ever seen from Weiss. Sure, Weiss wore nice clothes and stuff but there was nothing overt about her to betray that she was, like, butler-rich. Ruby supposed that it made sense. Still.

Weiss closed the door behind Ruby, locking it. Ruby marveled at her room.

It was big.

It was kind of empty.

It was almost all white, with a big canopy bed in the middle of the room, against the wall. There was a large window on the opposite side, and next to it, a desk with a fancy fountain pen sticking out of it. Her bookshelves were filled with, like tomes. Like actual ancient looking academic tomes. Nearer to the door, there was a sofa and coffee table, complete with a reading lamp and everything. Everything was clean. No, everything was sterile. It kind of creeped her out. It didn't feel at all like Weiss.

"So, uh, I've never really been in a girl's room alone before," Ruby started, a small smile on her face. Weiss quirked her brow as she sat on the couch. Ruby rubbed her arm. "Right. Bad joke, sorry."

Weiss crossed her arm, then crossed her legs. Then she shifted uncomfortably and sighed. She finally decided to put her face in her lap, groaning.

"Weiss..." Ruby took a seat beside her. Weiss whipped her head up, her brows in an angry furrow.

"Did you know?" she asked, her voice softer, smaller than Ruby was expecting. Ruby swallowed, digging a nail into the pad of her thumb.

"I knew she was a faunus," she said, looking away from Weiss. There was a long silence.

"Did you know she was in the White Fang?"

Ruby shook her head. She turned to Weiss.

"I didn't know she was in the White Fang Weiss, but-"

Weiss sighed, muffling herself in her hands. "Don't tell me Blake's a good person, Ruby."

Ruby blanched, surprised that Weiss so accurately guessed what she was about to say. She shook her head. "But she is, Weiss."

Despite what Weiss saw, Ruby still believed that Blake wasn't anything else but what she had always shown Ruby she was. White Fang or not, Blake was a good person. A good friend. It was kind of a shock to find out, sure, but Ruby didn't falter in her belief in Blake.

Weiss stood up, crossing her arms again.

"She was a part of them, Ruby!"

"She was," Ruby said. Weiss looked back at her. "She was, and now she isn't anymore. Blake's never been anything but kind and loving and compassionate to me. You've known us for almost a month and she's never been anything but a good friend to you, either."

Weiss wheeled around, anger in her eyes.

"You heard her back there, she didn't sound like a good friend!"

"She's not the one that hurt you," Ruby sighed. "I'm sorry she said that. I'm sorry you were hurt, I wish you hadn't been hurt. You don't deserve that. But that's not Blake. She wouldn't do that. She wouldn't agree with that, or be happy about that, or want that at all."

Weiss opened her mouth like she was about to shout. Then she shut her mouth. She clenched and unclenched her fists, closed her eyes.

"Do you want me to just, what, forgive her? Say it's okay? It's not okay," she spoke, and there was no fight in her. No more fuel for the fire to burn. Weiss looked tired again. "I thought Blake was... I thought we were friends, but she would sooner have seen me dead than here."

"You know that's not true, Weiss," Ruby's voice was harsh.

"No, I don't," Weiss said, and she didn't sound angry about it, just disappointed.

"She wouldn't do that," Ruby repeated.

"No, but she would just walk away while it happened. She'd be..." Weiss shook her head. "Complicit."

Ruby didn't know what to do. She didn't know what to say. All she knew was that her friend was hurting, and the solution was bigger than she could think about. For the briefest of moments, she wished her mom was still around to tell her what to do.

"I don't know what I'm supposed to do, Ruby," Weiss said after a while, and that was that.


Ruby sat with her for a little while longer. Eventually, Weiss fell asleep on the couch, her hand held in Ruby's own. The very least she could do. She looked peaceful while she slept, and Ruby let herself out of the room, sneaking off. She texted Weiss' phone, letting her know that she went home, and to call her in the morning. Ruby swiped a hand over her face as she crept down the stairs.

"Is she alright?" Klein appeared at the foot of the staircase. Ruby stared at him, her mouth set in a tight line. She shook her head. Klein closed his eyes, nodding. "Miss Rose, would you like to have some coffee?" he invited her over to the kitchen, and Ruby sensed it wasn't the sort of invitation she would want to turn down.

He put out two mugs, started brewing the coffee, and stood respectfully at the kitchen island. He motioned for her to sit down.

"You know, Miss Schnee has gotten considerably happier since she moved here. I thought it was going to be a rocky start, at first. But as she tells me, she's made some new good friends," he said, then sighed and let his butler facade down, leaning against the kitchen island.

"Weiss is a good person. We like her," Ruby said, tugging her sleeves down a little. She chewed her bottom lip.

"May I ask, what happened?"

Ruby told him all of it. He took it in with a stony silence. Then he moved over to the coffee machine.

"How do you take your coffee, Miss Rose?"

"Please, call me Ruby. And one cream, five sugars," she told him, then ducked her head at his quizzical look. He smiled as he made their coffee, shaking his head and chuckling. Ruby took in the smell, sometimes that was the best part of drinking coffee, for her. Reminded her of her mom and dad in the morning, tired but happy.

"Can I ask you something, Klein?" Ruby stared into her mug of coffee. Klein made a noise in the affirmative. "Why is she living here with you?"

Klein made a little 'aha' noise, sipping on his own brew.

"Simply put, Weiss needed a legal guardian until she was of age, and nobody else could fit the bill," he smiled sadly, and Ruby tilted her head in question.

"She has her parents, right? And an older sister, too?"

"Her father, Jacques Schnee is... a very single minded man. He wouldn't lift a finger to do anything if it didn't help make him rich, simply put. Her mother, Willow is, well, not in much state to be a guardian. She's a troubled woman, full of sorrow and agony. I knew her when she was younger. She was much like Weiss, a bright spark hidden behind too much isolation. Only she never broke free. Her sister, Winter is the only other person suitable to be Weiss' guardian, but she's dedicated her life to her work, and unfortunately her work takes her all over to world," Klein spoke with melancholy. "So the job fell to me, the Schnee's butler."

Ruby nodded in understanding, sipping her coffee and contemplating Klein's words. Weiss didn't sound like she had much family, nobody to truly rely on. The realization broke her heart, to understand how betrayed she felt by Blake, one of her only actual friends.

"Klein? Was Weiss... happy? In Atlas?" Ruby asked, careful. Klein sighed.

"I'm afraid not, Miss- Ruby," he caught her eye, then smiled in silent apology. "Weiss was a lonely child. She would fill up her time with all these activities, painting, fencing, ice-skating and what have you-"

"She can ice-skate? That's so cool," Ruby smiled. Klein chuckled.

"Indeed. But at the end of the day, she was alone. Always alone. I tried to be there for her where I could, but I'm afraid I was always too limited in my capacity to fill that void. After the... incident, after she was moved to Vale, I was afraid for her. I was afraid that she would fall in too deep, somewhere nobody could find here. But she's found something good here. It would be a great shame to see that all waste away."

"She's never going to be alone again, Klein. I promise. I don't know how things will turn out, but I won't leave her alone," Ruby said, and Klein blanched. It was a big promise, an important one, and Ruby spoke without hesitation. He'd forgotten what that felt like, to see selflessness, to see love, young and infinite and unbound. He smiled.

"Thank you, Ruby."

They finished their coffee, and he drove her home, insisted upon it. Ruby liked him. He was a humble man, a good light in Weiss' life. She thanked him again as he dropped her off. The sky was still dark, it was late. She was tired, but her mind was still active and racing. This wasn't exactly how she wanted her little Christmas party to go.

Nobody was inside when Ruby came in. The living room and kitchen were clean, and Ruby wondered where Yang and Blake had gone. She sent off a text to her sister, asking if she was okay, and went up to her room. It was a long day. She lay on her bed, looking up at the ceiling, wondering.

It was getting colder and colder, and Ruby burrowed under her covers.

Chapter Text

Weiss wasn't ghosting anybody. She was simply not responding as much as she could have. Because she didn't want to. That didn't count. She stayed in her room the whole weekend. Ruby had texted her all weekend, and even Yang had sent off a couple texts. She responded with the bare minimum to let them know that yes, she was still alive, sort of. But the group chat was dead, and for some reason she kept half expecting to see Blake's name pop up on her notifications tab.

It was silly. It was a little bit stupid. She hadn't known them very long. It shouldn't have hurt that much, but there Weiss was, hiding underneath the covers in her bed, looking at the words 'No New Notifications' for hours on end. She kept going back and forth in her mind.

It was Blake's fault. No, it was her own fault. No it wasn't. It was the White Fang's fault. It was her father's fault. It was Weiss' fault. It was nobody's fault, it just wasn't meant to be.

Blake was a Faunus, and her family had hurt so many Faunus. They'd exploited them. Weiss knew it. It wasn't hard to see. Even the way her father talked abut them, with such open contempt for their kind. Weiss didn't feel the same way as him, of course. So she wasn't like her family, like her father, at all.

She was just... complicit.

She was a victim. Wasn't that enough? She hadn't stuck her neck out for the Faunus, hadn't fought her father, and she still got blown up. Wasn't it enough for Blake that she didn't- couldn't fight for her kind the way she wanted her to? Wasn't it enough for Weiss?

When Weiss entered class on Monday, she avoided Yang, Blake and Ruby, going to the back of the class without even looking at them. She felt eyes on her, and she couldn't resist looking away for long. Silver eyes bore down on her, and she felt all the hurt as she held their gaze. Ruby mouthed 'are you okay?', and Weiss looked away.

The day was a haze, like she was putting a movie on fast-forward, she just spent it all feeling blank and absorbing as much as she could. Luckily, she didn't have any classes with the other three that day. Weiss had fencing after classes, and she felt grateful. She needed to burn off some energy anyway, even if she didn't feel like it. The only downside was that she was going to have to deal with-

Ilia looked at her with barely contained irritation, like she was disgusted at having to look at Weiss. For a moment, she was back in Atlas, trying to avoid crossing paths with her father.

"Gear up," she said simply. Weiss nodded mutely, changing into her gym clothes in the locker room and putting on her fencing gear. When she entered the gym proper, there were a whole line of people at the mats.

"Today we begin our preparation for the qualifiers of Vale's inter-state fencing tournament. Form up, three groups, and we'll begin our warm ups," she spoke with a commanding air, looking over everyone. Her eyes landed on Weiss and she looked away.

Weiss wasn't exactly paying attention. She had her mind somewhere else, though if you asked her she wouldn't have been able to tell you where exactly. Winter would have smacked her by then. But since Winter wasn't around, all that happened was that Weiss stumbled and tripped and missed easy points, got hit by attacks that were telegraphed a mile away. None of the other fencers in her group were half as good as her, she knew that, but somehow she just couldn't work worth half a damn anyway. It frustrated her. No matter how many times she breathed, how many times she tried to let go her points of tension, to clear her mind and focus, she just wasn't getting it at all.

She got knocked flat on her ass again, and she growled in irritation. Her opposing partner, a freshman named Oscar, a mess of black hair and freckles immediately rushed over to help her up. She stopped him with a quick hand.

"It's fine!" she almost shouted at him, and she caught a glimpse of him cringing. She breathed, trying to control herself. "I'm fine, Oscar."

"Okay. Sorry," he spoke quickly, mumbling as he slowly backed off. Weiss sat for a moment, taking off her mask to hang her head in between her legs. Oscar paused. He sat beside her, hesitant and scared but not stopping. Weiss eyed him curiously.

"Sorry. It looked like you were having a bad day, I thought you might have wanted some company... on the floor," he mumbled again, not meeting her eyes. Weiss sat cross legged and put her chin in her hand as she looked at him.

"That's... kind of you," Weiss said softly. Oscar smiled.

"There's this show I used to watch. They had a, like saying. When you can't run, you crawl. When you can't crawl, you find someone to carry you," he said, never meeting her eyes while he spoke. Finally he turned to look at her, and Weiss burst out laughing. Oscar blushed a deep scarlet.

"I'm sorry. That was- you're a dork," Weiss said after she recovered from her laughing fit. "But that was nice, thank you."

Oscar smiled, and for a second he wasn't the freshman with a mop of black hair, he was a junior with red highlights and silver eyes. For the first time all day, Weiss felt clarity in her emotions. She missed Ruby. It was stupid to say, stupid to think, stupid stupid stupid. But there it was, there were very few kind people in the world, and Weiss had stumbled upon three of them and she was happy for the briefest of moments and she felt like she had messed it all up. She wanted to tell Blake that it was fine, it was all fine, and she was sorry. But that wasn't how it was going to be resolved. There was something deeper in play, something that was more than just how she felt about Blake. Weiss felt like she inched closer to some big realization.

"I see you're slacking off on the floor now, Schnee," a voice came from behind her. Weiss didn't need to turn around to know it was Ilia. Weiss scowled, standing up.

"She just fell, I was checking to see if she was okay-" Oscar craned his head to look at Ilia.

"I don't think I was talking to you, Oscar," she silenced him with a glare. He almost withered under her gaze. Weiss furrowed her brow.

"What is your problem with me?" Weiss came right out and asked, picking her sabre up from the ground. Ilia scoffed at her, and she felt her blood run hot. "No, tell me. Because you've had it out for me the moment I came in here."

"I've had it out for you longer than that, trust me," she snarled at her, and Weiss clenched her fists.

"Hey Weiss, don't-" Oscar tried to reach out to her.

"What did I do to you?!" Weiss practically shouted at her. The others stopped to look at the two of them. Ilia's skin shifted colours, taking on a red hue. Her eyes turned the colour of fresh blood.

"To me? Try to all of the Faunus, Schnee," Ilia spat out with venom. Weiss trembled, in anger, in anguish, in frustration.

"didn't-"

"Don't come to me with that bullshit. You sit up there in your ivory tower in Atlas-"

Another student Weiss hadn't seen before came up behind Ilia, grabbing her hand. She was another Faunus, with big brown rabbit ears.

"Ilia, stop it," she said in an accent. Ilia shook her off.

"Get the hell off me, Velvet," she hissed at her. Ilia looked back at Weiss, all the hate for her clear in her eyes. "You sit up in your ivory tower in Atlas while the SDC makes millions off the backs of Faunus that they mistreat, that they exploit, that they kill," her voice never wavered, even as she got more impassioned. "My parents died in an Atlas dust mine. The Schnee Dust Company made me pay to retrieve their bodies. They make money, while Faunus everywhere die to make that happen. You benefit from all of that, and you think you're free from blame? You think just because you don't do it yourself, means you're any better than that bastard father of yours? It makes you worse. You see evil and do nothing to stop it and you think you're a good person anyway. You're not."

They stayed silent for a moment. Weiss, in barely contained anger. Ilia, in open contempt. Then Ilia turned her nose up at Weiss, scoffing and turning to walk away.

"Get back to practice," she said, her voice clipped. And Weiss was about a half second away from tackling her to the ground. How? How fucking dare she say all those things about her? Like she knew her? Like any of this was easy for her, that she could do it at all?

A strong hand gripped her shoulder, and Weiss was more than ready to throw it off, but she turned back and met lilac eyes. Yang looked at her intensely, appearing from seemingly nowhere. Weiss breathed heavily, the fight still in her.

"Not here, and not now, Weiss. Keep it together," she hissed in her ear, and Weiss could see in her eyes that this wasn't a matter up for discussion. Yang could easily overpower her anyway, no matter how much Weiss could try to escape from her grip.

She started loosening her grip when she saw Weiss deflate a little. Weiss shrugged her hand off her and walked out of the gymnasium, shoving the doors open.

Her blood still ran hot. She was still angry, maybe angrier than she'd ever been all her life.

Angry at Ilia, for saying all those things, that bitch. Angry at Blake, for doing the same, for being someone Weiss didn't think she was.

She was angry at herself, because it was becoming clearer that-

They were right. They were all right. In varying degrees, in some way or another, in the deep pit of her heart, they were right. It was something so clear, right under her nose.

Yang came up behind her. And Weiss cried. She hated that. She hated crying in front of people, and now she had done so in front of both Ruby and Yang, and she hated that so much, but she couldn't stop it at all. Tears, angry and hot came rushing down her face, even as she tried to clench her throat, tried to hold her breath, tried to stop it. Yang approached her, no hesitation as she hugged Weiss.

Oh god, the Rose-Xiao Longs were huggers, the whole bunch of them, weren't they? Weiss hated that it was exactly what she needed. She almost longed for the comfort of her family's cold disappointment, her father's harsh words, contemptuous looks, her mother's blank, emotionless face, barely registering anything around her anyway. It was familiar, more familiar than this warm, tight, soft hugs. Kind words and gestures and open vulnerability and trust.

Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid, Weiss.

Eventually she stopped sobbing, getting her breath under control.

"C'mon, honey, let's go find a quiet place to talk," Yang said gently, pulling away. Weiss didn't particularly want to, but it sure beat going back into fencing practice. Yang took her by the hand, leading her to an empty classroom. She locked the door behind her. Weiss sat at a desk, arms crossed, moving them to occasionally rub at her nose or wipe away a tear. Yang sighed.

"You doing okay there, Weiss?" Yang took a seat at the teacher's table right in front of Weiss, cross-legged on the desk.

"Not really," Weiss sighed, suddenly aware that she was still in fencing gear. She took off her gloves, throwing them on the table. She rubbed her eyes, groaning. It was all a mess. All of it.

"Yeah, I didn't think so."

"How'd you find me?"

"I was looking for you. Happened to stumble upon the gym, heard the tail end of Ilia's little speech, and I saw you about two seconds away from tackling her to the ground and pummeling her, so. Hey, for what it's worth, I'm sorry," Yang drummed her fingers on the table. Weiss looked at her.

"What for?"

"All of it. I'm sorry you almost died. I'm sorry Blake hurt you like that. I'm sorry Ilia was being such a bitch," Yang half-shrugged. "Take your pick, I guess," she huffed a quick laugh. Weiss looked at Yang sadly.

"I know you and Blake are close. I-"

"Hey, c'mon. I love Blake, but I-" Yang caught herself, withdrew a little bit. Weiss looked at her, both brows raised. Yang cleared her throat. "I like you, Weiss. We all do. So I'm here to help."

Weiss paused for a long while, parsing Yang's words.

"How are you going to help?" Weiss asked. Yang smiled.

"Well, we're going to talk. Talk it out. That always helps me."

"I-I'm not so great with the talking about... feelings," Weiss blushed.

"You ever do it before?" Yang questioned, a knowing smirk on her face. Weiss shook her head. "Yeah, so. Never know if you don't try, right?"

"That makes sense. I don't like it, but it makes sense."

Yang looked at her, and Weiss could see that, much like her sister, Yang wore all her emotions out in the open. She didn't hide behind a facade, she didn't try to mask who she was, what she wanted. Yang was genuine, and right now she looked at Weiss like she genuinely wanted to help. It made it easier, to look at Yang and trust all of it. Weiss closed her eyes, took a deep breath.

"You know, Weiss. I know Blake said some hurtful things, but-"

"But she was right. I've been thinking about it and... Blake was right," Weiss cut her off. Yang blanched.

"That's... I wasn't going to say it like that, but yeah."

Weiss shook her head. Things in Vale moved quick, huh? She had gone from feeling angry just a few minutes ago to feeling regretful and tired. She felt like she was always on a rollercoaster, always moving up and down and up and down.

"She was right. Ilia was right. They're right. And you know who I'm angriest at? Myself."

"Pfft, fuck that," Yang scoffed. "You should be angry at your dad."

Weiss sighed. "Yeah, well. Fuck him, too."

Yang smiled, and Weiss couldn't help the small tug at the corner of her lips.

"It's not a binary, you know," Yang supplied then, twirling a finger in her golden locks as she pursed her lips. She shook her head, then shrugged. "You're saying she was right, Weiss. But that doesn't make what she said right."

"I understand. But for my part, I just have to face it. I... haven't done anything. My whole life, everything's been decided for me. My hair, my clothes, what I look at, what I do, what I eat," Weiss uncrossed her arms and stood up. "And I never fought back. Never really. I never really wanted to. Until now. It's like, that explosion knocked some sense into my head. Or maybe it was Ilia. She was so angry, Yang. I've never had to see that before. Why haven't I thought about any of that before? And now that I am doing things myself, I need to-"

Weiss sighed, running her hands through her hair, undoing her bun.

"I've always known that what my father, what our company was doing was wrong. I'm not ignorant. But I haven't cared. I didn't care about any of it and I didn't even think to do anything about it. So, I have to do something. Maybe not right now, maybe not tomorrow, but I have to work towards it. Towards making things better for the Faunus," Weiss spoke with conviction, a certainty she'd never had before. "I... I want to be better. I want to try."

Yang got off the table, affection and pride clear in her eyes. "Look at you go," she said softly, a hand on her shoulder.

Chapter Text

So. Weiss wasn't very good with all of this.

She couldn't narrow down what 'all of this' actually was.

Talking, being vulnerable, admitting fault, apologizing. Take your pick. All of the above. She was bad at it. Blame it on being raised in an emotionally dysfunctional family. Blame it on growing up in Atlas. Blame it on her own fears and insecurities.

She hovered over Blake's name in her contacts for the millionth time that week. Weiss Schnee, the famous coward that she was, couldn't bring herself to press that button.

It was Thursday.

Weiss lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling.

She called Ruby instead.

"Yello," Ruby answered with a far too casual air.

"Ruby," Weiss said. There was silence on the line.

"Yeah, who dis?"

Weiss groaned. "Stop it."

"No, no I ordered two medium pies with extra large sausage," came Ruby's reply. Weiss laughed in spite of herself.

"Shut up. Listen-"

"Oh, hey Weiss, what's up?" Ruby finally said, and it was like she could hear the smile in her voice, and Weiss decided that she liked that very, very much.

"You're an idiot," Weiss said. "Listen, I... need," she cleared her throat. Christ, even doing this was difficult. Weiss was a whole ass train-wreck. It was like her entire throat decided to close up, her body decided to choke her out from the inside. She pinched the bridge of her nose tight.

"I. Need. Help," Weiss managed to ground out, through constricted throat and grit teeth. She expected Ruby to start bursting out laughing, or to hear the barely muffled giggles through the phone, but all she heard was silence.

"Okay," Ruby said, and Weiss was so quick to forget that that was just how it was. It was, it really was that easy.

"I..." she wondered if that would ever not strike something deep in her heart. She wondered if the emptiness of her childhood would really follow her all her life. At this rate, she was bound to fall in love with anyone with half a sense of decency and a smile that came too easy.

Not that she was in love with Ruby! Weiss blushed deep, even if nobody was around and she knew that Ruby couldn't hear her thoughts. She brushed some hair out of her eyes as she felt the heat rise in her cheeks.

"Weiss, you're gonna have to use some words there," Ruby's amused voice came over the line. Weiss cleared her throat, squeezing her eyes shut tight, willing herself to carry the momentum of her initial moment of half-bravery into something bigger.

"I... missed. You," she said and that was even harder to say, and God, Weiss was such a mess, such a big big mess. Here she was, saying these kinds of dumb things to people she'd known less than the average lifespan of a goldfish and she wasn't- she did this to herself, she wanted to do this and Weiss felt all kinds of stupid.

"I know it's only been like, less than a week, but... I missed you too, Weiss," Ruby's voice was gentle, and genuine, and she held such warmth inside her Weiss thought she was about to burst. She was going to melt under this magnified sunshine that she'd willingly put herself under and she had nobody else to blame but herself, herself and those stupid silver-gray eyes that invited her to her house and made her feel welcome and made her feel surprisingly good about herself.

Jesus. Weiss breathed deep, in and out. It had been a long week, but Weiss felt like she was losing it a little bit too much at this point. She chalked it up to the week, to the crazy week she'd been having. Nothing else.

"Okay," Weiss said, because what the hell else could she say about all of that.

"So, what do you need?"

As if she didn't have a million answers to that question. As if her life hadn't been structured around that question some way or another.

"I don't know how to talk to Blake," she admitted in a half-whisper. She got up out of her bed and started pacing around her room, phone held against her shoulder as she locked the door and closed the blinds, like the world was at all attempting to intrude on her and her moment.

She could hear Ruby shuffling away on the phone too, silent except for the faint thumps of her footsteps, then a clear click as she locked her own door.

"You wanna talk to Blake?" Ruby asked. Weiss ran a hand through her hair. She wished she could just scowl and look at Ruby instead of answering verbally. Hell, why couldn't she?

"Can you... come over? This would be easier, for me," Weiss asked. She clenched her teeth as soon as she did.

"Be there in a bit," Ruby said, and immediately hung up. Weiss sighed. Her heart needed to stop pounding. This was just the new normal.

It didn't take much time. Ruby was ringing the door bell in what felt like a couple minutes.

Weiss bounded down the steps. Klein quirked a brow at her, and though his mustache hid it pretty well, he was giving her another one of those 'I-can-see-you're-up-to-something-good-for-you' smiles. Weiss waved him off with a smile of her own, and he retreated without further teasing into the living room. She opened the door, and Ruby Rose was there in the flesh, all wide smiles that crinkled the edges of her eyes and the chill wind had stuck her hair up a little bit, and she was brushing a little bit of snow off her hoodie before Weiss pulled the door open.

"Heya," she greeted brightly, and Weiss pulled her in and shut the door.

"It's cold outside," she said by way of explanation. Ruby smiled.

"Sure," she said, and Weiss would've gotten vaguely irritated at her if she wasn't actually, like, happy to see her. Weiss clicked her tongue nonetheless, and motioned for Ruby to follow her upstairs. Ruby gave a quick wave to Klein as she followed Weiss up the stairs.

"So," Ruby had a messenger bag on her, that she deposited on Weiss' couch as she plopped herself down. "How can I help?"

"I need to apologize to Blake. I was... wrong. And I know she said some hurtful things to me, but- well, a few things have happened since then that have given me cause to re-evaluate my stance," Weiss stood opposite Ruby, the safety of the coffee table between them so Ruby wouldn't do something insane like come up and hug her because she would probably cry again because talking about this whole thing was already honestly sending her to the brink of crying already and she-

"She was wrong, too," Ruby said plainly. Weiss blinked.

"I… yes, but I understand why she said all of it. I know I have to change," Weiss managed out. Ruby leaned back and let her continue, but Weiss could catch the barest edges of worry in her expression. She couldn't let it deter her though. Weiss was determined.

So. Weiss cleared her throat, stemming the low hum of the crying, hysterical panic that welled up in her chest and threatened to settle itself there if she gave it just enough quarter. Ruby, to her eternal and unending credit, just waited patiently for Weiss to speak.

Weiss remembered a time when she had to be grateful for the few, small things.

"I've been small, I've been alone, I've let everyone around me decide things for me. Not anymore. My father is a bad person, and things have to change," Weiss met Ruby's eyes, and there was a purpose Ruby hadn't seen before. Clear as day, Weiss knew her purpose. "I've got to change things. And, so I will."

"Hey," Ruby said, and there was too much warmth in her voice. "I'm happy you've found this drive. You're doing good."

"Doing well," Weiss corrected.

"Nah. Doing good."

Weiss smiled.

"So how do I go about doing this?"


The plan was simple.

Weiss reminded herself of that as she stuffed two cans on tuna and a laser pointer in her bag in the morning.

She furrowed her brow. Was the plan simple?

Yes. No.

Both Yang and Ruby had given her input and approval, so the plan seemed solid. Foolproof, even.

"You know, Miss Schnee, if you wanted something to eat for lunch I could make some sandwiches, or a salad perhaps?" Klein grabbed his keys off the hook, craning his neck to look at a very resolute, bemused Weiss Schnee.

"It's not for lunch," Weiss faltered, feeling all the more ridiculous. She shook her head. "It's fine, Klein. Don't worry about it."

He gave one of those not quite shrugs, but that translated easy enough for her, and they went off to school.

She didn't make eye contact with Ruby or Yang, knowing that Blake would catch on, and the whole plan would be ruined. After third period, Weiss knew Blake had a break, one that she usually spent in the library. Ruby and Yang had both texted her good luck, and she took a deep breath as she walked out of chemistry with a laser pointer in hand.

The library was empty enough, just a couple students milling around quietly, some studying, some reading, some comfortably seated in an arm chair and named Blake Belladonna and kept her Faunus ears hidden underneath the cute black bow she kept atop her head. Weiss spotted her through the shelves of books, pushing some aside to stick her face through and catch a peek at Blake. Target acquired. She blew a small breath out. Ruby and Yang had better no have played a prank on her or so help her God-

"What are you doing?" a voice came from beside her. Weiss nearly jumped out of her skin. She whipped her head around to find a wild mop of blonde hair and a pair of bright blue eyes looking at her inquisitively, a yellow tail swaying steadily behind him. He didn't look offended, or particularly shocked, just genuinely curious. Weiss put a finger to her lips, motioning for him to get down as she got low, leaning against the shelf. He smiled, crouching down low easily and playing along.

"Why are we spying on Blake?" he asked, his voice now a whisper. Weiss groaned silently into her hands. Why?

"Who are you?" Weiss asked him, aggressive, though no less hushed.

"I'm Sun," then his eyes widened. "Oh, or are we like using code names or something? Dude, you can totally trust me, I'm a junior detective! Oh man, I gotta get Neptune in on this-"

Weiss placed her hand over Sun's mouth, her eyes flaring with irritation.

"Shut up. I'm Weiss and I need to get Blake's attention and draw her out, alright?" Weiss explained with far, far more patience than she actually felt. His yellow tail came up and snatched the laser pointer from Weiss' hands, and she let out a muted 'hey!'.

"And you're going to do it with a laser pointer?"

"I- Well... Ruby and Yang told me do it!" Weiss started blushing, quite suddenly realising the absurdity of her situation. Sun suppressed his laughter. Weiss indignantly snatched the laser pointer back, clutching it in a tight fist as she scowled.

"Why don't you like, go up and talk to her and ask her to follow you or something? Are you going to prank her?" he questioned. "I totally want to be in on it if I can prank Blake, she's so hard to sneak up on what with her-" he clamped a hand over his mouth. Weiss rolled her eyes.

"I already know, dummy," she told him. Sun sighed in relief. Weiss chewed her bottom lip as she craned her neck backwards to make sure Blake was still seated comfortably in her armchair. "It's... complicated."

Sun sat beside her, easily dropping from his crouch. He looked at her, all traces of mischief almost gone from his face.

"Because... I'm Weiss Schnee," she said, looking at him expectantly. Sun just shrugged. God bless his heart and his tall, limber form and immaculate jawline, Weiss thought. She sighed. "Weiss Schnee?" she emphasized.

"I know who you are, Weiss. You introduced yourself, remember?" Sun looked at her like she was the dumb one, and Weiss was caught between wanting to laugh and wanting to sock him straight in the jaw.

"You really don't know who the Schnees are?"

Sun contemplated, and Weiss, with a newfound patience that came from some magical mystery well within her. Maybe Ruby and Yang and Blake did change her for the better. Scratch that. She knew they did.

"Oh! Like Schnee Dust Company?" then he pursed his lips, brows furrowed in thought. "Oh. I see what's happening here."

Weiss nodded in response, resting her head against the shelf behind her. Vale was stupid. She missed the familiarity of being ignorant. Now she was supposed to be a better person, and she wanted to be a better person and it was all sorts of harrowing.

"What's that have to do with Blake? Oh no, did she…?" Sun asked her. Weiss shook her head.

"We said some... hurtful things to each other," she mumbled, not meeting his eyes. Sun visibly sagged in relief, and Weiss finally connected the dots, finishing his sentence. "You know?"

Sun hardened his gaze, and Weiss got to see him in an all new light. Not the goofy kid sidling up to her with a fond demeanour and a willingness to prank, but someone determined to defend their friend.

"She didn't hurt me, if that's what you're asking," Weiss told him coolly. "And even if she did, I… everyone has their reasons for doing what they do. Sometimes it's justified," she peered behind to Blake, who was still seated comfortably in the armchair. "Sometimes it's not."

She ran a hand over her scar, fingers ghosting a trail over it. Sun furrowed his brow, a look of confusion etched on his face. Then he shook his head.

"Blake wouldn't hurt anyone. And she sure as hell wouldn't condone killing anyone, for whatever reason," Sun spoke with confidence. Weiss pursed her lips.

"Not even a Schnee?" she asked in a half-whisper. Sun narrowed his eyes.

"Not Weiss Schnee," he said. Weiss avoided his gaze. The line between stubbornness and righteous conviction was a very thin one. She felt like there wasn't much more to tell Sun on that front before she could apologise to Blake.

"Well. I need to speak to her."

"That's what the laser pointer is about?" Sun almost shot out of his position on the floor, all traces of his serious persona now melted off, replaced by his easy, boyish charm.

"It was Ruby and Yang's idea!" Weiss motioned for him to settle down.

"Oh, man, Weiss. You're a dork. You're a total dork."

"Shut up."

"You're going through all of this just to talk to Blake? Just go up there and talk to her!"

"I-It's not-"

"Oh my god, you know I thought you were all mysterious and aloof when you first came here, and you're like a mega dork, you know that?"

"I'm not mysterious or aloof."

"No, yeah you're the supreme chancellor of dorks."

"You are kind of a dork, Weiss."

Weiss turned to her left, and there she was. Blake Belladonna, in the flesh. She was close, and she smelled like the sweet night air, and her golden eyes didn't leave Weiss' gaze for a good couple second, and there was this small upturn of her lips, just the slightest smile that she held, that she kept like her own personal secret. Dammit, Weiss missed her.

Sun bumped his head on the shelf in surprise. Blake laughed at him, and it was this throaty kind of laugh. He smiled at her in response.

"See," he nudged Weiss with his shoulder. "I told you it was impossible to sneak up on her."

"It's not," Blake shrugged. "You guys were just being too loud," she said, and she held her hand out to Weiss. Weiss took it, and Blake pulled her up off the floor. She held out her other hand.

"Gimme the laser pointer," she told Weiss, a knowing smirk on her face. Weiss blushed again, handing it over to her. "C'mon, let's go find somewhere quiet to talk. I'll see you later, Sun."

Sun took all of it in stride, and Weiss had a feeling that there wasn't much that could really ever throw him off his stride. She endeavoured to be more like that. Because as it was, it was all too easy to throw Weiss off. Just a kind gesture and a smile.

"Don't tell anybody," Blake murmured as they walked beside each other. "But the laser pointer probably would've worked."

Weiss didn't know what to say, so she just said the first thing she wanted to say, the only thing she'd been wanting to say for a week.

"I'm sorry."

Her voice didn't catch, she didn't hesitate. It was the only thing to say.

Blake paused, then looked at her, the expression on her face severe and confused. It flashed for a second, then she shook her head, returning to a more neutral expression. She motioned for Weiss to follow her into a room.

Into a janitor's closet, apparently. Weiss quirked her brow, but Blake didn't relent, only motioning for her to take a seat on one of the boxes stacked in the room, while she took the boxes on the other end ('other end' was generous, their knees were inches apart).

"I'm sorry, Weiss," Blake said finally. Weiss held it together, to her supreme credit. The smile on Blake's face was gone, replaced instead with a grim determination. An expression that Weiss mirrored.

"No, I- I'm sorry," Weiss shook her head.

"I think you're misunderstanding the situation here," Blake huffed out a humourless laugh. "I'm apologising to you."

"It's not binary. We can both be wrong," Weiss said, and Blake shook her head.

"You got blown up. I think I'm more wrong than you," Blake countered. Weiss blinked.

"Yes, well my family's been persecuting your kind for years and years!" Weiss crossed her arms, huffing.

"Alright, let's put aside the misery olympics pissing contest we've got going for a minute," Blake leaned against the shelf behind her, running a hand through her hair. "You aren't going to apologise to me for being a Schnee, Weiss. I refuse to accept that."

Weiss opened and closed her mouth several times. Blake didn't give her a chance to respond.

"I was… From the minute I met you, Weiss, I was already ready to doubt you. I told myself, Ruby and Yang that I was gonna give you a fair shot, but I was always ready to see myself proven right. And you mentioned the words White Fang and it was like, I already convinced myself you were bad. It was like I was back there, like I couldn't shake it off- the years and years of manipulation and conditioning they instilled in me. That's not an excuse, but I'm trying to say that I'm sorry," Blake breathed in deep. Weiss waited, and listened, with the infinite patience that she'd been miraculously blessed with as of late. "I was so ready to see you as a Schnee, I forgot that you were Weiss. And I like Weiss. I really like Weiss. I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I said those things to you. You have every right to be mad at them, Weiss. At me."

Blake leaned forward, elbows on her lap as she hung her head. She looked to Weiss like a prisoner on Death Row, rightfully convicted and without a chance of redemption. She looked like she was a million years old and a million miles away. She looked tired and sad. Weiss had this incredible urge to comfort her. But there were words. There were words that needed saying, and Weiss had to be the one to say them.

"I'm not sorry I'm a Schnee, Blake. I'm sorry that I've never given a thought to who my family has hurt. A had an… incident, with Ilia Amitola," Weiss burned at the thought of her, though it was less a raging fire now, but an ember of what it was. Now Weiss only thought of it with sorrow.

"Oh no," Blake buried her face in her hands. "You're in the fencing club. Of course Ilia had something to say."

"Yes, well, she is…"

"She's angry," Blake sighed. "She's always been angry. She's a good person, but she's just… misguided."

"She said I was a bad person, for having benefitted for so long from living the life I lived, and I know," Weiss held a hand out to stop Blake from speaking. "I know, I'm not to blame for being Jacques Schnee's daughter, but…" Weiss sighed, leaning her head against the wall beside her, gross thought it may have been, she didn't much care.

"I have benefitted from being born a Schnee. It's a life that's been paid for in blood. There's nothing I could have done about it before, and there's nothing I can do to change that. But I need to move forward and make it better. I need to make it right. I was complacent, I had been all my life. I'd always known my father was not a good man. He's hateful, and cold, and superficial, and he doesn't care about other people. That includes me. And that includes the Faunus. For a long time all I tried to do was seek his approval, and I just went along with the life he wanted me to have, to be the perfect little person he wanted me to be, and I ignored the rest of it. Now, things are... different. Everything is different. I'm not his prisoner. I am my own person, and I have people that," she caught Blake's eyes and the words got stuck in her throat. She shook her head. It was now, it had to be. "I care about you, and Ruby and Yang. And I care that people have been hurt by my father. So I've made the decision to do something about it. I'm going to fight my father. I'm going to succeed him. And I'm going to put a stop to his evil actions. I promise."

"Hey," Blake said, and her voice was soft and Weiss heard the barest edges of sorrow in it. "I'm happy you've decided on this whole course of action, but Weiss- you're not Jacques Schnee, alright? I'm sorry to pull out a cliché but, Weiss, it's not your fault. Don't be so ready to fall on that sword. Not for me. Not for Ilia. Not for guilt," Blake exhaled a shaky laugh.

"Blake, I'm-"

"You're Weiss Schnee. You lived through a tragedy. You came out the other side stronger. You're a good person, and a good friend. More importantly, whatever you choose to be, it's enough. It's enough to just hurt, for a while, Weiss. To pick yourself up and put yourself together. I know none of this must have been easy for you at all. You don't have to be a hero to be a good person, Weiss I know you already are one," Blake reached out and touched Weiss' hand. She swallowed thick, and took Blake's hand in her own. A smile grew on her face. "I'm sorry I said it was your fault. I was an asshole. It was wrong of me- I was just. I was so angry at you, Weiss. But it wasn't you. I shouldn't have said it. And I'm sorry the White Fang tried to hurt you like that. You're a good person, Weiss. They're caught up in their hatred, in too deep to see anything else. That's why I left. I didn't want anything to do with those kinds of things. I wouldn't have hurt you. I couldn't hurt anyone. And I'm so, so sorry that I made you think at all that you ever had any blame in that."

Weiss used the heel of her palm to wipe against the tears that threatened to fall. It was a whole big murky quagmire. One moment, Weiss was convinced she was right, the next, Blake showed her a third option, a better way. That was just the way it was in Vale: Blake, Yang and Ruby showing her door number three.

"I…" Weiss couldn't find her words again. All her preparedness, worth exactly one laser pointer and two cans of tuna. She wanted the world to stop spinning, to not have such a case of whiplash when shown the barest hints of kindness, let alone this torrential downpour of validation, of compassion and kindness.

It was the catharsis Weiss didn't know she was looking for. Weiss reached up to wipe the few tears that managed to sneak their way through. God, she hadn't expected this to be so overwhelming, but here she was. It felt like it was taking years off her life. It felt like she was leaping off a building without a parachute, tumbling head over heels over head over heels and not seeing, not hearing, but trusting herself, trusting Blake that she would survive the fall. Mostly it felt good to be there.

The word was love. And Weiss was seeing more and more of it, every day. It was quick, a lightning flash she hadn't seen coming. A boom of thunder she'd been deaf to. A couple of friends that accepted her, made her better for all she was worth. An impossibility, an improbability, her reality.

Blake moved, and hugged her, and Weiss squeezed the raven haired girl tight. There it was, she was three for three with the hugs. Screw it, she saw it coming anyway.

"So, was the laser pointer and tuna really going to work?" Weiss asked as they pulled away. Blake laughed.

"You have tuna? I really don't want to admit it, but yes," she reached up and tugged at the bow atop her head. It unraveled to reveal a pair of black cat ears atop her head. Blake seemed brighter for it, and Weiss was happy to see her like this. "The cat traits run deep, I'm afraid. Yang and Ruby told you to do it?" Blake asked. Weiss nodded.

Blake shook her head. "I'm sure it's Yang and Ruby's way of getting back at me."

"Getting back at you?" Weiss asked. Blake smiled ruefully, her ears now clearly flattening downwards. It gave Weiss a little thrill to see. Not the emotion itself, but just the clear indication of emotion.

"I haven't exactly been the most… receptive about broaching this subject for a couple days. Yang and Ruby have been… helping me through it all. Despite everything, they never stopped believing in me," Blake said, a far off look in her eyes and a wistfulness bleeding into the edges of her voice, almost bordering on the side of disbelief. Weiss reached out to squeezed her hand. She knew the feeling all too well.

"They've been helping me through it too," Weiss said. "They're good like that. Never giving up. They just do that."

Blake blinked. Then she smiled. "Thank God for the Rose-Xiao Longs, huh?"

"Thank God for them," Weiss echoed, her heart feeling all the warmer at the thought of them. For the first time in a while, she was filled with infinite hope. Despite everything she knew was waiting for her back in Atlas, despite the harsh words and violence and apathy and evil, Weiss felt like she could do it. She felt like she could do anything, long as Blake, Yang and Ruby were by her side.

"I lied. They were relentless. I think Ruby, at one point, was ready to tackle me to the ground to get me to talk," Blake laughed, half embarrassed. Weiss could almost picture the scene in her head. She smiled, and Blake's ears perked up in response.

Weiss' attention was once again drawn to them. They twitched and rotated slightly, hearing something Weiss clearly couldn't. She hadn't realised how empty Blake looked without them. Now she couldn't have possibly imagined her without them. Not that she would want to, in any case.

"Why do you hide it?" Weiss asked.

Blake considered for a moment. "I guess if I ever encountered someone like you," she smirked. Weiss scowled at her.

"Don't joke. We're not at the joking portion of it yet."

"Oh, aren't we?" she held up the laser pointer, wiggling it at Weiss. Then she looked at the trail of ribbon in her hand, and back up to Weiss. "It's easier, to hide. So people don't harass me or ask me dumb questions. You might accept me, but there are still lots of people who don't."

"Right. I'm sorry."

"Stop apologising," Blake gave Weiss' shoulder a little poke. "Though I guess, if an actual Schnee won't bring me down, maybe I don't need it so much anymore," she twirled the ribbon around her wrist, tying it off, then looked to Weiss with a little nod of affirmation.

"You look better without it, anyway," Weiss said. Blake smiled. She opened the door and stepped out, inviting Weiss to follow her.

"You know, this suits you too."

"What does?" Weiss rubbed at her cheeks to clear the last of the tear tracks away. Blake shut the door behind Weiss, glancing at her with pride in her eyes. A strange look, always a strange look to Weiss.

"Being in Vale, I suppose. You belong here."

Chapter Text

Weiss did buy them Christmas gifts. Ruby was delighted.

She had gotten Ruby a brand spanking new notebook. A leather-bound one no less, with a cool little ribbon for book-marking and everything. She had gotten a few glimpses at Ruby's old notebook, where she'd idly sketch during the boring lectures, or when inspiration struck her at any given moment. She had to admit that yes, she was actually impressed with how well Ruby drew. Ruby was just glad she hadn't seen her sketches of Weiss.

She'd gotten Yang a set of new punching gloves, they were yellow, Yang loved them. She had immediately tried them on and thrown a vicious right hook, flexing her bicep in satisfaction afterwards. Both Blake and Weiss blushed at that, Blake more than Weiss, of course. Ruby was half-way between throwing up in her own mouth a little bit and cooing at them.

She'd gotten Blake books. Like, a bunch of books. Weiss had to guess at which ones Blake hadn't read, but that she would be interested it (it was in vain, Blake was never not happy to read most things). She'd smiled in quiet satisfaction, and Weiss looked satisfied herself with acing the gifts.

So now Ruby was going to give Weiss her gift. It was after Christmas, but the sentiment still remained. Besides, she didn't think Weiss would mind much anyway. January was lounging about, just around the corner. Ruby didn't want to let the new year past by without giving it to Weiss. She had painted it in class, painstakingly making sure it was as perfect as she could get it, no colouring out of the lines or nothing.

The snowflake was put in a little clear plastic box, held up at just the right angle. Ruby wrapped it, and it was... Yeah, the wrapping probably wasn't up to Weiss' standards, but she didn't have much time left after actually making the damn thing, okay? Ruby held it in her hands as she walked out of class. She'd texted Weiss beforehand, asking her to wait for her in the parking lot after class. She walked there nearly on muscle memory alone as she carefully handled the gift.

God, she really hoped Weiss would like it. It probably would be like the worst thing ever if Weiss was disappointed, like even in a little bit. Ruby would melt into a puddle and cry, or like freeze into a solid ice block and get thrown into the ocean. Or both, in that order exactly. And no, she wasn't exaggerating! She really wanted Weiss to like it. It was important, she wanted to see Weiss smile. Always.

"Oh no you don't, not again," a voice came from in front of her as two solid hands place themselves on her shoulders, stopping her dead in her tracks. It startled her, alerting her to exactly how deep in her thoughts she was. That was a bad habit. Ruby looked up, snapping herself out of her reverie. Oh, speak of the devil.

Weiss had a smirk on her face- like one of those honest to God, 'I-know-you're-kind-of-a-klutz-but-not-this-time-doofus' smiles, in the most good-natured way possible. Ruby felt equal parts embarrassed and endeared. Weiss knew her, huh? Though, to be all sorts of fair, this wasn't exactly that hard to call out. It was how they had met, after all.

And look at them now.

"Weiss," Ruby smiled, quickly hiding her hands behind her back. Weiss quirked a brow, crossing her arms.

"That was very clearly a present, Ru-"

"No! Shut up, don't ruin the surprise!"

Weiss rolled her eyes. "Alright, fine. Oh Ruby, whatever could that possibly be behind your back, wrapped in wrapping paper?"

"Excellent question, Watson," Ruby smiled, tapping a finger against her nose.

"Oh I am so not your Watson," Weiss pointed at her, the scowl on her face unable to fight against the smile that rose and bloomed on her face shortly afterwards.

"Watson, focus!" Ruby exclaimed, swiping the hand that Weiss pointed at her with. Weiss rolled her eyes even harder, and Ruby was, just so excited about all of this. That she could make these kinds of jokey-jokes with Weiss, all easy and without hesitation. She was happy that she could say these kinds of things without thinking, and she would be rewarded with Weiss smiling, smiling like the motion belonged to her, all for her.

"So, you gonna tell me what it is?" Weiss cocked a hip and crossed her arms.

Ruby blew a strand of hair out of her face, and cleared her throat. She presented the gift, suddenly very acutely aware of exactly how bad the wrapping job was.

"This is for you," Ruby said, and she had to admit, she sounded braver than she felt. Maybe that's all it was. Just to keep plowing through all the fear and pretend like you were more put together than what you felt like.

Weiss looked stunned. She looked from the present to Ruby, then back to the present again.

"For me?" she repeated, her tone halfway between incredulous and touched. Ruby nodded once.

"I uh- just. Merry Christmas, you know?" Ruby blushed then, handing over the box to Weiss. "You gave us gifts, and I was- I've been working on this for a while. So."

"Thank you, Ruby," Weiss handled the present like it was fragile, like she couldn't believe it was a physical entity presently in her hands, in reality right at that moment. She ran her thumb over it, her gaze soft.

"Open it," Ruby told her. Weiss quirked a brow. Ruby shrugged, blushing again. God, she had wrapped it so badly. "Sorry the wrapping's so bad."

Weiss smiled, and it was honest and happy. "I don't mind."

She opened it with precision, unsticking the taped parts carefully and unfolding the crumpled paper. She slipped the wrapping paper in her bag, then examined the sculpture contained in the box.

Ruby bit her lip, actively suppressing the need to say something, to open her big dumb mouth and speak big dumb words at Weiss.

She didn't need to.

"Ruby, this is amazing," she peered at it, turning the box around and examining it from different angles. Her eyes were bright, consuming every inch of detail that Ruby had crafted into it. "You made this? How long have you been working on this?"

Ruby rocked on her heels, grabbing the straps of her bag and looking somewhere over Weiss' head.

"Like a month," she mumbled. Weiss' eyes widened. Ruby cringed. Of course she'd said it, the one thing that she was adamant about not wanting her to know about. God, Ruby was such a teenager.

"Since we first met?" Weiss asked. Ruby chewed on her bottom lip, still not meeting her gaze as she nodded. Weiss' mouth was agape.

"I... got mad at you. And I shouted at you," Weiss said. Ruby looked at her then. She looked more surprised, in more disbelief than she'd ever been before. "And you just... help me out. And make me this," she held up the box. "This amazing thing. What- Ruby Rose, you are..."

Weiss stood silent for a moment, searching her mind for the words.

"Hey, Weiss it's-"

Weiss rushed forward in one quick motion and hugged Ruby. A brief thing, she barely could even wrap her arms around Weiss before she pulled herself away, her ears red.

"Thank you, Ruby," Weiss said.

"You're welcome, Weiss," Ruby replied after a short pause. Despite it all, Ruby understood what Weiss couldn't convey. Somehow, with Weiss, Ruby didn't need the words. Didn't have to hear them to understand them. She knew, she just knew. All just to put a smile on her face. Ruby could stand do it more. She wanted to.

Weiss held the box up once again, looking at the sculpture.

"Come on. Do you want to come over?" Weiss carefully put the box in her bag. She motioned out towards the street. Ruby smiled.

"Yeah. I'd like to."


It was the first time Ruby'd been to Weiss' place just to hang out. No crying Weiss, no 'I-need-to-apologise-to-Blake' Weiss. Just Weiss Schnee, Ruby Rose, and the infinite expanse of their friendship that had yet to be explored.

And the infinite expanse of Weiss' room. Yeesh.

"You know Weiss, your room is kind of..." she glanced over to Weiss, who quirked a brow. Ruby deposited her bag on the couch. "Empty."

Weiss pursed her lips, looking around the room. "I suppose it could use a bit more flair?"

"Mm yeah, but I wasn't really talking about that. It just doesn't really feel like, you," Ruby explained, brushing some hair from her eyes.

"This was how my room was in Atlas," Weiss offered up. Ruby narrowed her gaze at the other girl.

"So you definitely need a makeover then."

Weiss thought for a while, then nodded. "I think so."

Ruby threw her arms up. "I can totally help!"

Weiss thought for a little while longer, then shrugged. "I suppose you can't do any worse."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence," Ruby complained. Weiss motioned first at herself, her general aesthetic, then to Ruby.

Right. Chanel vs Gap Kids.

"Just not much aesthetic overlap between the two of us, Ruby," Weiss informed her sadly. Ruby Scoffed, with a capital S, because Atlas aesthetics were dumb and her comparative home-town, girl-next-door, oil-and-grease-and-cookies aesthetic were perfectly fine, thank you very much.

"Yeah, well. Some Christmas decorations or something, at least," Ruby made a frame with her hands, pointing at the corner. "See? That spot is perfect for a Christmas tree."

"Christmas is over," Weiss said, and Ruby whipped her head around to scowl at Weiss.

"Christmas season lasts from November to when the snow clears, and you're a heretic if you claim otherwise!"

"You're too excited for Christmas and that is problematic. Let Thanksgiving and New Years breathe."

Ruby sighed. "I do love me some Christmas," she said, staring out the window at the snow like a wistful wife waiting for her lover to come home.

"Speaking of, how was your Christmas?" Weiss asked.

It was as innocent a question as any. Hell, it was just small talk. Ruby should have expected it. But it still hit like a punch to the gut. Ruby immediately seized up, a palpable action that Weiss took notice of. She quirked her brow, then let the joking demeanour come down once she saw that this wasn't just the usual Ruby quirk.

She cast her eyes down, clenching her fists and digging her nails into her palm. She shook her head, clearing her throat and looking back up at Weiss.

"It was fine. It was good," Ruby said, about as normal as she could muster up the will to be. Unfortunately for her, Weiss had a pretty good bullshit detector when people weren't being genuine. Years of hanging around people that were schmoozing off her family's name and fortune would probably do that to someone.

"That doesn't like a fine, good Christmas. Ruby, did something happen?" Weiss looked at Ruby, and she could see the concern in her eyes.

"No!" Ruby cleared her throat, her cheeks flushed. She bit her bottom lip and shook her head. "No," she said, this time with a more even tone. Weiss stood up, walking closer to Ruby. Half of her wanted to flinch and move backwards instinctively. The other half looked at the older girl and calmed. Weiss was still water. Ruby was a torrential downpour. One had to win out over the other.

"You know, you can tell me, right?" Weiss didn't look away from Ruby. Solid as a rock. Ruby sighed.

She caved. She always caved.

"I'm sorry, Christmas is just... a hard time. I, uh- Yang and I lost our mom around this time," Ruby finally admitted. She didn't know why she had such a hard time with it this year. Maybe it was because she was finally turning 16, and she was upset that her mother wasn't around to see it. She was, by most accounts, a fully grown woman. Or at least on the highway to something like that. And Summer Rose would never get to see that. She would always see the child that Ruby used to be, that needed. Not the woman that gave. Tried to give. "It's a little... I don't know, sensitive?"

"Ruby, I'm sorry. I had no idea," Weiss placed a hand on her arm, and through her sweater, she could feel the warmth. She was warm. Of course she was.

"It's okay, Weiss. You couldn't have known," Ruby smiled at her, tight-lipped. She didn't like to think about all of it for too long. Not really, most of the time. But Christmas in their household tended to bring nothing but long stretches of isolation and silence, and that tended to bring about the space and time to think about it. Briefly, she wondered how Yang and her father were faring, if they were any better than her.

"Her name was Summer Rose," Ruby said, after a stretch of silence. She took Weiss' hand from her arm, holding it in her own. She swiped a thumb across Weiss' knuckles. She really was warm. "And she was the best. And I was nine when she died. Went out one day, got into a car crash- the other guy was drunk. She died on the scene."

Ah, here came the tears. Ruby wished she could just be indignant, be irritated, be snide and cruel and make fun of herself and make it all go away. Treat it like some strange inside joke that she shared with herself. No dice. More often than not, this was what it ended up being like, only she was usually alone. She sniffled, wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and looked up at Weiss.

"I miss her. She used to wear this cool white coat. I have the same colour eyes as her. She didn't take shit from anybody, and she used to bring me and Yang to the movies and sneak a bunch of candy in."

"Hey," Weiss said, and she squeezed her hand tight. "She sounds amazing. I'm willing to bet she would be really proud of you. You're the kindest, most compassionate, most pure person I've ever met. You're a child prodigy, not to mention really talented. She did a good job. And if there is a somewhere after here, I think she'd be really happy to see what you're doing."

Weiss, with shaking hands, wiped a few tears away from Ruby's face. Half of her wanted to just keep the hand there. Ruby smiled.

"Thanks, Weiss."

"Come on," Weiss said after a while, standing up and offering a hand that Ruby took without hesitation. "I know a good distraction, if you're up for it."

A distraction sounded like the perfect thing to Ruby.


"Klein did tell me you used to ice-skate," Ruby said, holding up her pair of ice skates at eye level. Weiss had taken them to the local ice skating rink. Ruby had almost forgotten its existence, but Vale was home to many a dark secrets. Sinister ice skating rinks and malicious bowling alleys and such.

Strange, rich, pretty girls that took you by the hand and led you to them. Vale.

It was empty, and the owner seemed to know Weiss. Or at least knew of her, when she mentioned her name. He had nodded vigorously and produced a pair of white-gold skates, pristine and shiny. Weiss had thanked him and gotten another pair of skates for Ruby. Not as fancy, of course, but hey, what did she know about ice skates? Ruby could barely walk without tripping on her own laces half the time.

Weiss scoffed, lacing up her own skates. "Did he tell you that I was amazing at it?"

Ruby giggled. "Well I hope you're good enough to teach me, I don't know if I have the grace for it."

"You'll be fine," Weiss rolled her eyes. "Put your skates on."

Ruby grumbled, sitting herself on the bench and slipping her sneakers off.

"How do you even know about this place?" Ruby asked. Weiss gave a little half-shrug.

"In my relocation to Vale, my family may have... booked this place for me," Weiss told her. She seemed vaguely embarrassed.

"Wait, like, the whole thing?" Ruby gaped at her. Weiss tucked some hair behind her ear and nodded.

"Well, it wasn't...!" she ducked her head down and spoke in a lower tone. "It wasn't like this place was getting a lot of business, and we paid the owner handsomely. My sister, Winter, thought it would be nice for me to practice here. I haven't much been in the mood to do it until now."

"Wow, so you were like, serious about ice skating back in Atlas?" Ruby tied off one lace.

"Well. There wasn't much that I wasn't serious about back then. But I liked it, at one point in time. It was nice. Relaxing, I suppose," Weiss considered with a far-off look. "Anyway, I told the owner, Mr Greene, to keep this place open to whomever wanted to skate. I would call ahead if I intended to use it."

Ruby tied off the other lace, then with a grim look towards the death-knives strapped to the bottom of her feet, she tried to stand up. God. What kind of kooky invention was this? Here, put these metal blades on your feet. All balanced? Sick. Now go slide on some ice, and do some flips and all that junk. Absolutely insane. Ruby waved her arms all about as she tried to balance on her feet.

Two swift hands steadied themselves on her shoulders, giving her support. Ruby breathed out a sigh of relief while Weiss looked at her in amusement.

"I've got you," she said, taking steady steps backwards as Ruby struggled to put one foot in front of the other and walk. "Just focus and walk forwards. You'll balance it out. One foot in front of the other."

Ruby blew a breath out as she walked, still unsteady. "One front in front of the other, got it."

Slowly, slowly, they made their way to the ice, Weiss's grip solid and steady and Ruby hung on for dear life. She looked like she was perpetually a quick second away from laughing at Ruby, but as much as she wanted to be petulant and annoyed about it, she didn't mind it at all.

Weiss slowly let go of Ruby's hands as they both stood on the ice. Ruby stuck both her hands out to balance. Weiss, meanwhile, was gracefully skating backwards, hands behind her back. Ruby stuck her tongue out, and Weiss did actually laugh at that, and it was light and airy and Ruby liked the sound of it.

"Be back in a minute," Weiss told her, her smile a crooked half-slant. She picked up speed as she skated backwards.

And she glided. She flew across the ice, and Ruby could barely keep track of her, and she couldn't tear her eyes away from her.

Her ivory hair halo'd around her as she leapt off the ice and spun, her hands clutched close to her chest. She landed smoothly, still moving in wide arcs around the ice. She looked serene as she skated, spinning and leaping and gliding all around. It was mesmerizing. She was beautiful. After a quick minute of this, Weiss slowed herself and slid towards Ruby.

"Woah," was all Ruby managed to say. Weiss froze up, blushing. She smiled, an explosive thing crashing on her face. Weiss tucked her hair behind both her ears. She cleared her throat, and offered her hands to Ruby.

She took them, and let Weiss guide her. She couldn't keep her eyes off Weiss the rest of the time they were there. It was like, she always had this perpetual glow, a small smile that always followed her around. Her eyes were wide and when she smiled, they grew smaller and the corners of it crinkled up.

Ruby didn't manage much more than just learning how to move. A great success, if you asked her. A couple of hours after, they sat at the bench, behind the plastic screen that divided the rink from the seats.

"I know you know, but I feel like I have to say it too: you're amazing at this," Ruby gestured at the ice rink. Weiss smiled.

"I think you'll find, Ruby Rose, that I am amazing at a lot of things," Weiss said, and Ruby laughed.

"I hope I'll figure out the whole list of things you're amazing at."

Weiss shrugged, smiling. Then she bit her bottom lip. "I hope I made your Christmas a little bit better. Despite everything with Blake and-"

"Hey," Ruby said, and Weiss turned to look at her. "Meeting you has been the best Christmas I could ever ask for, Weiss."

Weiss didn't speak for a while, and Ruby didn't feel the need to either. Eventually, Ruby's hand found her way into Weiss', and they just sat there for a while.

Chapter Text

The weeks and months go by.

New Year was uneventful. Mostly. Kind of.

Actually, New Year's was very eventful. But it was the kind of thing that happened and you never, ever mentioned it ever again.

Or maybe Weiss just didn't want to mention it ever again.

The sun was bright, that morning. The weather was starting to warm up and Weiss finally felt comfortable going out in less than three layers. She ran a hand through her hair as she walked up towards the school, spotting Ruby and Yang on top of the stairs. Yang waved her over, and Ruby...

Ruby averted her eyes. She was looking everywhere but her. Weiss pursed her lips. Yang caught her little sister's expression, then looked at Weiss. She put a hand on her hip.

"Lovely weather, isn't it?" Yang asked Weiss amicably. Weiss smiled, happy for the change in weather. While the winters weren't as cold as Atlas, the warm seasons were supposed to be far warmer. She was looking forward to it. Ruby nodded at the wall, and Weiss wanted to roll her eyes about thirty ways to Tuesday. What was her deal?

It was a rhetorical question, because Weiss kind of knew what her deal was, but she just wished Ruby would keep it together a little bit.

"I'm gonna head to the bathroom," Ruby mumbled into the air before disappearing. Yang quirked a brow and threw a thumb over her shoulder at Ruby's retreating form.

"What's her deal?" she asked Weiss.

Weiss clenched her jaw. "Nothing," she said, with an air of finality.

Yang crossed her arms. "Not good enough," she challenged. She took Weiss' arm and led her over to a more secluded corner. "I know when this started."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Weiss feigned ignorance like a pro. Yang shook her head.

"New Year's."

Not enough of a pro, apparently. She groaned, and blew a strand of hair away from her eyes, looking up at Yang with a scowl.

"Nothing gets by Yanglock Holmes, Watson," Yang said with an air of smug triumph.

"Why does everyone think I'm their Watson?"

Yang poked her shoulder. "Quit deflecting. New Year's. Spill."

"Surprised you even noticed anything," Weiss sighed.

"Yeah, well."

"It's... complicated."


It wasn't that complicated.

There were ten parts to it.

It was like this: One, Weiss was invited to spend New Year's with Ruby, Yang and Blake. There was a party being thrown by Sun, and to quote Yang- "Only the cool kids are being invited Weiss!"- so Weiss naturally had to tag along. To be honest, it was a refreshing change of pace, as almost everything was in Vale. Most of her New Year's were spent at some pretentious gala, talking to boring people about blah blah blah, why yes blah blah blah Schnee stocks blah blah blah?

So, sure, a party with a bunch of drunk high school kids was maybe a notch above that.

She met them there. The weather was still a little bit too cold to wear too little layers, so Weiss settled for something simple- a white knit sweater and black pants. She did her hair up into her usual off-center ponytail, and she put her usual affair of makeup.

When she arrived, Ruby and Yang were just walking over. Yang waved her over, and Ruby gaped at her.

It was like this: Two, Ruby kept gaping at her. Weiss blushed, and she kept having to hide her face and duck her head to avoid looking at Ruby, because it made her embarrassed and happy and weird and exhilarated.

"Alright, quit it!" Weiss hissed at her, and she tried her best to sound offended, or annoyed or something, but she couldn't stop smiling.

"What?" Ruby cocked a grin in her direction.

"Quit staring at me!" Weiss passed her another cup, some unholy combination of alcohol and soda, that she made palatable as best she could.

"You're super pretty!" Ruby took the cup gratefully, taking a sip and grimacing, but continuing to take more sips. "It's your fault."

"Truly, my blessing, my curse," Weiss rolled her eyes. "Hey, where's Blake?"

Ruby shrugged, motioning her head towards Yang, who was currently in an arm wrestle with an orange-haired girl named Nora, while Blake was watching on in amusement. Yang winked at her, and Weiss could see the blush she hid behind her cup as she sipped.

"They're over there being... gay," Ruby said, and giggled. Weiss huffed an abrupt breath of laughter, unable to stop herself as she doubled over. She tugged at her ponytail as she recovered, leaning coolly against the windowsill.

"And what about you?" Weiss asked, a question that came out from nowhere she could consciously place. But she was enough drinks in that she didn't bother with it. The magic of alcohol, muffling that voice in your head that told you not to do stupid things with a swift, prolonged pillow across the face. It was Ruby's turn to blush, trying to be cool as she took another disgusting gulp of her drink.

"What about me?" Ruby choked out after swallowing thickly, coughing slightly. Weiss blinked, then bit a thumbnail. Ruby's gaze never left her.

"I mean, do you have your eyes on anyone in particular?" Weiss barreled past the point of rational decision-making. She could feel it scowl on the back of her neck, but she'd already left it behind in Atlas. She left it all behind Ruby, Yang and Blake, she left it back in rubble of her perfect little life in Schnee Manor.

"I- uh... I-"

"Come on," Weiss took another sip of her drink. "There hasn't been anybody?"

She sidled up next to Ruby, and if she wasn't just a little bit tipsy she would have sworn she heard Ruby's breath hitch a little bit. She smelled like roses, and it made Weiss want to laugh, and it made Weiss want to breathe in deep. She gestured subtly with her cup towards Sun and Neptune, who were both engaged in a very intense push-up competition. Sun was shirtless, his back muscles gorgeously defined for everyone to swoon at, while Neptune kept his cool in his red leather jacket. People were drunkenly cheering them on, raucous laughter bubbling around them. Ruby merely raised both eyebrows.

"So, not them then," Weiss shrugged. She then motioned towards Pyrrha, on the couch chatting with a couple people, but whose eyes kept flickering over to the corner, where a lanky blonde (Jaune? She thought she remembered Ruby mentioning him a couple times) was in the corner, sipping on a drink, looking awkward.

Ruby bit her lip.

"Okay, so we're getting warmer," Weiss laughed and took another full gulp of her drink. She was enjoying herself, poking and prodding at Ruby.

"That's not fair, everyone is attracted to Pyrrha!" Ruby protested, a little too loudly. Both Pyrrha and Jaune heard her, and they looked at her with blushes on their face. She shrank into herself a little bit.

"That's true. Present company included."

Ruby's eyes widened.

It was like this: Three, Ruby whispered, "Are you... gay?"

Weiss tossed her plastic cup into a black trash bag easily. She smiled. "Yeah."

Ruby crushed her cup between her hands, and Weiss wasn't sure if she noticed.

"I'mgonnagotothebathroom!" Ruby squeaked, and she ran off before Weiss could even react. She blinked.

Yang and Blake came up behind her, and Weiss turned around to face them, half a question in her throat. She stopped just short, seeing their interlocked arms. It wasn't an unusual thing for them, she just was still half-disorientated with Ruby, a thousand half-thoughts running through her mind, fading away as quickly as they formed.

"What was that about?" Yang motioned towards Ruby's quickly retreating form.

"I'm gay," Weiss said dumbly. She could almost smack herself saying it, but in that moment it seemed important for everyone to know. She hadn't ever tried to hide it, but it wasn't something that had come up yet, and she wanted Yang and Blake to know. Blake quirked her brow, and Yang raised her arm in a high-five.

"Sick- me too!"

Weiss high-fived Yang limply, but she took it in stride.

"Are you just realising this now...?" Blake asked, her gaze flickering from Weiss to where Ruby had rounded the corner.

"No! I just... I realised I never told anybody," Weiss snatched Yang's drink, who pouted in response.

"I'm a little surprised you're so open about it," Blake admitted. Weiss shot her a dirty look.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Well. Have you met you?" Blake gestured vaguely at Weiss' whole form. Yang laughed. "You're not the most open person about a lot of things way less important."

Weiss blushed. "I... It just wasn't a very big deal back in Atlas. My family was never very vocally opposed to it. Not that I ever told them, really."

"Go figure," Yang shrugged.

"I was just... maybe I was pushing Ruby a little too far?" Weiss said meekly. Yang furrowed her brows.

"Meaning?" she asked hotly.

"I wasn't doing anything!" Weiss defended herself. "Just asking her about... boys. And stuff."

"Ah," Yang nodded sagely, and offered nothing else. Weiss waited for her to elaborate, and only got a grin and a shrug in response. She looked to Blake for a little more help, and got an equally vague cool look in response. Of course.

"Whatever," Weiss gave Yang her half-drunk drink back, and stalked off into the kitchen to lower her inhibitions a little bit more.

It was like this: Four, Weiss was singing and dancing.

Oh what would Winter say if she could see Weiss. What would her father say?

Weiss didn't much care, because someone was playing Party in the USA, and God help her if she hadn't secretly loved that song for, like, ever. So she was singing wildly, loudly, and everyone was cheering her on. She was dancing, and everyone was dancing, and there wasn't anything but laughing and screaming and jumping and shouting, and Weiss felt warm and free.

Then Ruby appeared in front of her, and she was warm too, and her eyes were these big things that Weiss loved, and her hair was a little tousled and she was smiling wide, so wide at Weiss.

"You're an amazing singer!" Ruby shouted at her, and Weiss took her arms and they started dancing.

"I told you, I'm amazing at a lot of things!" Weiss shouted back.

"You are," Ruby said, pausing for a moment, and looking at Weiss with this indecipherable expression. They kept on dancing.

It was like this: Five, they both ended up in a heap on the couch afterwards, and they couldn't stop laughing. Weiss' head was resting on Ruby's shoulder. Everything felt warm and nice, and Ruby smelled like roses. Weiss wanted to bury herself in that smell.

"Be honest: is this the most fun you've ever had?" Ruby asked her in between giggles. Weiss pondered the question, then shook her head.

"My 5th birthday, my mother and Winter surprised me with the narrator of Planet Earth and a pony ride," Weiss answered. Ruby turned around and furrowed her brow.

"You met David Attenborough?!"

"I still have his number saved in my contacts!"

Ruby doubled over in hysterics, unable to collect herself even a little bit. Weiss giggled along, her head sliding from Ruby's shoulder into her lap. She turned to look up at Ruby's smiling face, so bright and shining and unrestrained.

It was like this: Six, Weiss's head was in Ruby's lap, and all they did was stare at each other. The room started screaming as the clock counted down.

It was like this: Seven, six, five, four-

Weiss got up, and took Ruby's face in her hands, her trembling, excited, barely restrained, hands.

It was like this: Eight, the whole house screamed Happy New Year, and Ruby and Weiss leaned into each other. They were both halfway to panting, their breathing shallow and shuddering and buzzing with the electricity of almost, almost, almost…

It was like this: Nine, Yang screamed. Blake gasped. The blonde held the Faunus in her arms and dipped her low and kissed her. Everyone cheered loud.

It was like this: Ten, despite it all, there was a moment, a half a heartbeat where they could have not stopped, could have let the whole world melt away to a strange, exhilarating space that could have belonged to the both of them. To Ruby and Weiss, to the infinity that lay ahead, to the teetering edge between possibility and reality. Weiss knew, somewhere inside her, that they both could have crashed into a new existence. A new time, a new space, a new turning point that was just Ruby and Weiss.

She couldn't say who stopped. Who backed away first. Maybe that was for the best. But they tore their gaze away from each other to look at Yang and Blake. Weiss' hand slipped back to her side, limp and useless and still trembling, always trembling.

Yang and Blake were locked in a deep embrace as the whole world shouted and screamed around them. Cheers and fireworks and party favours popping- laughter among friends, among people, among a whole bunch of tired, hormonal, relieved high-school kids. We survived another fucking year, everyone seemed to shout in collective disbelief, in collective celebration.

Ruby smiled, a seam that cracked and grew, but the last traces of ruefulness still managed to hang around it. She cocked her head at Weiss, who was far beyond the realm of managing human words and actions. All she could do was flicker her gaze from Blake and Yang, to Ruby.

Ruby, who was still happy, who was still close, who wasn't leaving for anything. All things bright, Ruby Rose. She leaned in and gave Weiss a peck on the cheek, and Weiss couldn't help the sharp inhale that escaped her, the quick intake of Ruby's scent, roses and alcohol and warmth.

"Happy New Year, Weiss," Ruby said, and it was like with those words she had sealed the moment, locked it away in a pretty little glass box. A thing to be looked at, to be pondered upon, to want, but not a thing to experience again. Not yet. Not yet? She felt a deep pang inside her at the sudden surge of want for that moment. For not yet to be now. For Ruby Rose.

Weiss felt feeling return to her like a jolt of electricity, travelling down from her cheeks to her toes, and in one insane, impulsive moment, all she wanted to do was grab the front of Ruby's shirt and crash their lips together. But just as quickly the impulse was gone. They'd come crashing back to the earth, and Ruby was already dusting herself off and helping Weiss up, but she was still looking back up into the sky, wishing they hadn't left.

Ruby left, telling Weiss she was going to grab some water for them, and Weiss ghosted her fingers over the spot where Ruby had kissed her, feeling the last traces of that warmth fade.

When Ruby came back, they acted normal.

Normal, like Ruby and Weiss were friends, normal friends who hadn't just tried to kiss each other on New Year's.

Blake and Yang came around after a while, still giddy, still giggling, all happy and wrapped around each other. Ruby wrinkled her nose.

"Is this what the kids are doing nowadays?" she teased. Weiss couldn't help the smile that cracked on her face.

"Don't do anything I wouldn't do, Yang," she called out. They both blew raspberries at the Ruby and Weiss, and laughed. Things were fine; this was their new normal. Blake and Yang were together, like they always were supposed to be.


"I know half of this story is how Blake and I got together, but that was the gayest shit I have ever heard in my entire life," Yang said, in no uncertain terms. Weiss smacked her arm.

"You're terrible," Weiss crossed her arms and scowled.

"Am I?"

"Yes."

"Am I though?"

"I said, yes."

"But-"

"Yang, I'm this close to killing you," Weiss pinched her thumb and index finger together. Yang furrowed her brow.

"Your fingers are completely together," she said.

"Oh. Look at that," Weiss deadpanned. Yang cackled.

"You know, what's stopping you from just trying again?" Yang asked, twirling a finger in her golden locks. Now it was Weiss' turn to furrow her brows.

"Trying again?" Weiss asked, her hands twitching. She clenched her hands.

"Don't you want to?"

"I..." Weiss bit her bottom lip. She thought for a while, then shook her head. "I don't know. I don't think-"

She sighed, crossing her arms, retreating inward. Yang placed a hand on her shoulder.

"You know you've got a pretty good shot, right? I say this with full authority as a mentor figure to you both," she smiled, a crooked grin that held hope, placed it in the seat of Weiss' heart. Hope that she didn't know what to do with. A hope she didn't exactly welcome. Still, she didn't manage to match Yang's gaze for long, tearing away to look at the ground. Yang sighed softly.

"Just think about it, Weiss. Take it from me: it's better to not hide."

She walked away, and the bell rang, and Weiss began the trudge to her first class of the day.

And the whole day, her heart thumped a steady rhythm.

Chapter Text

Ruby Rose didn't know how to curtsy.

She thought about that a lot. In the odd hours of the night, she'd walk up to her mirror in her nicest, most ruffled skirt, and practiced curtsying. She imagined that it wasn't the orange painted walls adorned with posters behind her, but a large, high ballroom, complete with ornate chandelier in the middle of the ceiling. She imagined she wasn't in a big, slightly torn night shirt and black skirt, but instead a fancy, sleek dress, the colour of deep red wine. She'd bow, and bend her knees and stood on her tip-toes, and pretend her hair wasn't in a slight-too-long bob, but was worn in waves, cascading down beautifully onto her shoulders. She'd smile her best smile, walk her best walk, and curtsy. Or try to.

Sometimes she imagined what it was that Weiss saw, what it was that she knew. She knew how to curtsy.

A whole different life, far away from hers. A life that belonged somewhere else, that had shaped her into who she was. Sometimes Ruby thought Weiss wasn't learning how to act like who she was in Vale, but unlearning how to be who she was in Atlas. Sometimes Ruby wanted to know which was bigger. Which one Weiss truly belonged to. The question was on the tip of her tongue sometimes, in the quiet moments when they were alone. Not often, not in a large, pressing manner. But there. Sometimes insisting itself to be asked, sometimes shameful of its existence.

Ruby Rose didn't know how to curtsy.

She thought about that when she thought about Weiss and her. The mere shadow of that thought threatened to buckle her, to knock the wind out of her and flat on her ass. The ghost of a memory of an almost-kiss. Trembling hands, trembling breath, trembling heart. All of it shook in the wind, wanting nothing more than to carry itself on the next gale, to fly away and fly free and know that wherever it ended up was wherever it was meant to be anyway.

Ruby breathed. Moved backwards, retreated like she did, backing up and wanting to promise more, wanting more and more and more and feeling nothing but fear. Fear that it wasn't actually supposed to be like that. Fear that it was, and being the only one that thought that way. Fear that they both felt that way and it didn't work out in the end.

Ruby pushed those thoughts into the back of her mind.


It was a warm spring day when Weiss said, breathed really, "Winter."

Her eyes were on her phone, and she scanned the text she'd received back and forth, making sure and again sure that she wasn't mistaken. Ruby, Yang and Blake looked at her.

"Uh, what?" Ruby asked.

Weiss tore her gaze away from her phone, and she smiled wide. "Winter!" she exclaimed, thrusting her phone right into Ruby's face. Ruby blanched, pulling Weiss' phone back to get a read on the text.

"Weiss. I will be visiting you in Vale tonight. Ensure your living conditions are up to my standards," Ruby read aloud. Weiss almost squealed in excitement, and wow okay that wasn't a sound that she thought could ever come out from their resident Ice Queen. But there it was- Weiss Schnee in the flesh, squealing with barely concealed excitement, practically bouncing up and down in her seat. God it was cute. "Oh, your sister's in town?" Ruby asked, recovering gracefully in her mind before her mind went somewhere she didn't need it to.

"Oh, she must be on business, and in a good mood too!" Weiss brought her phone back, hugging it close to her chest. Both Blake and Yang gave her matching, puzzled looks.

"You got that from 'I will be visiting you in Vale tonight'?" Blake narrowed her eyes, her ears flattening against her head. It had been a couple months now since she decided to stop wearing the bow, but Ruby almost couldn't get used to how much more expressive she was. Now it all made sense- why she was always so cool in her emotions before. She was always so used to her ears doing the emoting for her.

"Don't be stupid," Weiss scoffed, rolling her eyes like, yeah, duh, obviously not. Ruby had to say, she still didn't fully understand, but she was happy for Weiss. "She wants to inspect my house!" she said then, like that was the most obvious indication of Winter's emotional state. Ruby blew a breath out. Yeah, no, she should have saved her previous statement for now.

"I don't get it, is this like an Atlas thing?" Yang stage whispered to Ruby, who shrugged helplessly.

"I think it's like, a Schnee thing maybe?" Ruby replied. Weiss scowled at the both of them.

"I know my sister, okay? She's happy to come see me," she said with an air of finality. Well, it wasn't like any three of them were about to argue.

"That's great, Weiss," Ruby said, nudging Weiss with her elbow. "You can show her all the hidden mysteries and magics of Vale, convert another Schnee into suburban living."

"Careful now, we don't want to corner the market. Soon Atlas' number one export is going to be rich, white-haired girls with icy exteriors," Yang grinned, leaning back into her chair.

"You've never even met my sister," Weiss protested. "How do you know if she has an icy exterior?"

"I think we've sussed it out somewhere between, and I quote, 'I will be visiting you' and 'ensure your living conditions are up to my standards'," Blake supplied. Yang held a hand out, that Blake high-fived without either of them looking as they stared at Weiss in smug satisfaction. Weiss rolled her eyes.

"You know, you both have gotten, like, twenty percent more annoying since you got together," Weiss crossed her arms.

"Did you hear that, Blakey? Only twenty percent, says the Ice Queen," Yang wrapped an arm around Blake shoulders. Blake shook her head ruefully.

"Those are rookie numbers, honey. We gotta pump those numbers up," Blake said. The pair of them had matching grins, and looked like they were about two seconds from a full make out session in the middle of the lunch room. Much as Ruby was happy for them, she really could do with less Blake and Yang making out. No place was sacred for them, apparently. She had caught them in the middle of unspeakable things in all manner of places, the most heinous of which was in the middle of the kitchen while she was baking. Absolutely disgraceful. She had half a mind to start wearing a bell when Blake was over. She had started taking to stomping around the house instead.

"Eugh," Weiss looked at Ruby, a grimace on her face as she motioned towards the other two with her chin. "We should invest in a spray bottle or something," she said.

"I mean, I think that's technically, like, a little racist," Ruby mused, pointing with her fork over to Blake. Weiss blushed. Blake and Yang still hadn't taken notice of either of them.

"Says Ruby 'two cans of tuna and a laser pointer' Rose!" Weiss said indignantly. Ruby speared some more lettuce in her mouth. She ate her vegetables like a grown up, alright.

"Point taken. I'll add 'spray bottle' to my grocery list," Ruby nodded.

"Oh, shut up you guys," Yang rolled her eyes at the two of them, now broken out of her reverie with Blake. "So, Weiss, are we going to get an introduction to the mysterious and enigmatic Winter Schnee?"

Weiss clammed up, quickly taking a bite of an apple slice and taking her time to really, really chew on it. Ruby flickered her gaze to Blake and Yang, who both shrugged, in a 'hey, guess not', kind of way, and wow actually, Blake picked up that shrug too? Ruby supposed it was only a matter of time. Weiss stuffed more food into her mouth, stopping herself from talking, because she absolutely refused to talk with her mouth full in any situation ever, no exceptions. It was one of the few Atlas habits Vale couldn't knock out of her.

"It's cool, Weiss you don't have to-" Ruby started.

"No! I want to!" Weiss protested. And, like, wow girl. Ruby raised both eyebrows. "I mean it," Weiss said, in a considerably calmer tone.

Yang, Blake and Ruby shared a look. Weiss shot all three of them a look.

"I'll just... let you guys know when, okay?" she said. They all nodded, moving onto other topics. In the corner of her eye, though, Ruby could see the frayed edges of Weiss' worry. She wondered, like she did, what it was going on up there.


Some people were described as 'unflappable'. But Ruby, she considered herself pretty flappable. So that's why she let out an awkward combination of a yelp and a scream when Jaune came out from a corner and dragged her by the arm into an empty classroom. Again.

Ruby shook him off, her heart still pounding. "God, Jaune, don't do that!"

Flappable. See?

"Sorry, Ruby, but we needed the utmost discretion here," he looked over his shoulder out a window, checking for anybody nearby, even though they were on the second floor. Ruby shook her head.

"You know you could, text me or something? What if I had something to do?"

Jaune eyed her. "Do you?"

Ruby crossed her arms and pouted. "No. But I could have!"

"I'm sorry, but let's focus up here, Rubes. Not everything's about you. God," Jaune put on his haughtiest face and rolled his eyes, full of humour though they were. Ruby couldn't help her own smile as she smacked him on the arm, but took a seat anyway on a table like the chaotic teen she was.

"So what's up this time? Everything alright with Pyrrha?"

"Everything is great with Pyrrha!" Jaune exclaimed, raising his hands up in the air.

"So what are we here to talk about?"

"Everything being great with Pyrrha," Jaune said again, tilting his head like it was obvious what he was talking about. Ruby narrowed her eyes.

"Yeah, no I got that but, like, what specifically are the words that you want to vomit out of your mouth and put into my brainpan?" Ruby outstretched both her hands, trying to prompt Jaune along. Somehow by and by, Ruby had turned into some semblance of a responsible adult, and the more she faced that fact, the less real it all seemed. Growing up was happening now, all slow and gradual and then all at once. That was just how life was.

"Right," Jaune said, clasping his hands together and bringing them against his mouth like in deep thought. "So everything's great. I just don't know what to do with that?"

"What?" Ruby blinked.

"What?" Jaune blinked.

"Your problem," she brought both her legs up on the table and crossed them. "Is that everything's going great and you don't know what to do?"

"Uh... yes."

Ruby pursed her lips and squinted even more at Jaune, doing her best impression of 'are-you-kidding-me' Weiss.

"Go ask her out on a date?" she said, like it was obvious, because it was. It was the most obvious thing in the world, and she was a little baffled that Jaune needed her help to figure this out. He wasn't the clueless moron everyone made him out to be sometimes.

"I... yeah! But, like... how do I do that?"

Scratch that. Maybe he was.

"If I were you I'd start with the words 'I'd like to' and end with the words 'go on a date with you, Pyrrha Nikos'," she smirked, easy and light. Jaune rolled his eyes.

"It's not as easy as that!" Jaune protested.

"I bet you it isn't as hard," Ruby countered.

"Point taken," Jaune deflated, leaning against the wall, his head thudding against it as he let out a laboured sigh. "But... it's difficult, you know? I don't know how she feels about me."

Ruby had to admit, there was a point to that. It wasn't easy to feel so strongly for someone, and to not know what was going on in their head. White hair and blue eyes flashed in her mind, and suddenly Jaune wasn't such a dummy. Ruby swallowed, dispelling all thoughts of pretty Atlas girls from her mind, and focusing on the issue at hand.

"Well, you must have some idea, Jaune. Come on, do your best Batman impersonation and tell me what you've figured out what she might think about you," Ruby said. Jaune lifted off the wall, crouching slightly and bringing his forearm up to obscure his face slightly.

"I am vengeance-"

"Without the actual Batman voice, please," Ruby stopped him, just on the edge of laughing. She shook her head as she smiled, and Jaune shrugged. He really was a dork and a half, sometimes. She didn't know all that much about Pyrrha, but it was hard to think that she wouldn't be in for that charm.

"Right, fine. I guess she likes me? As a person, and a friend, sure. But that's as far as I got. I've totally got no clue whether or not she likes me like... likes me, you know?" Jaune pursed his lips and crossed his arms, looking off into the distance. He shook his head and started pacing.

"You don't have any indication?"

"I don't. I don't want to take any small indications, you know?" he paused and whipped around to look at Ruby, gesticulating wildly with his hands. "Like, if she hugs me or something. That doesn't necessarily mean that she likes me, and I don't want to be presumptuous and pick up on some signals that aren't actually there. That's not okay," he pointed downwards for emphasis. Ruby had to admit, he did have another point there. Dammit, now her whole 'Jaune you're so dumb' thing was making her look real foolish.

"That's fair," Ruby said, biting the inside of her cheek.

"Thank you. So what should I do?"

Ruby closed her eyes. What would she do if she were in his situation?

If.

Ruby didn't want to go down this line of questioning. There were so many more things to think about before she got to this point. This here and now wasn't an okay thing, and Weiss wasn't her crush to think all this stuff about. Maybe. No. No. Ruby breathed in deep, willing those thoughts to go away, at least for a little while. She would deal with it later. Later.

In her heart of hearts, Ruby knew two things.

First was that she was wrong. And that would come back to haunt her.

Second was that, if all other obstacles were removed, if there was a straight line from Ruby Rose to Weiss Schnee, Ruby would have gathered up all her courage and dived into that water head first, if only for a fraction of a sliver of a chance.

"I guess... the only thing to do here, Jaune, is... take a leap of faith," Ruby told him. She opened her eyes and looked at him with no hesitation. He faltered.

"A leap of faith?"

"Ask her out, without knowing whether or not she likes you back," Ruby clarified, and her voice was steady, and her gaze was level.

"I..." Jaune stuck his hands deep in his pockets and pursed his lips.

"Yeah."

"Leap of faith, huh?"

"Yep."

"You sure there's not a shortcut, or some convoluted plot or scheme I could rope you into that'd give me an easier answer?" Jaune offered with a weak smile. Ruby threw her head back and laughed. A million schemes thought themselves up in her head. It was a fun thought, and she thought she wouldn't mind pretending to date Jaune to make Pyrrha jealous, or secretly manipulate her into going for Jaune in some other equally complicated plan. But she thought both Jaune and Pyrrha deserved a little better than that, romantic and amazing though that sounded.

"You're looking at the wrong gal if you're looking for an easy answer," Ruby said, shrugging. Jaune sighed, but there was a small, quiet small on his face.

"Sure am," he said, and he looked grateful for it.

"You got this," Ruby said, and she meant it. He did.

Chapter Text

"Weiss," Winter said as she entered the house, and that was all it took for Weiss to drop her bag by the front door, slam it shut, and run towards her sister. She hugged her fiercely, feeling her rock back a little with the force of Weiss practically tackling her.

"Winter," Weiss breathed, and she couldn't express all of it with one word, she didn't think Winter would understand it all, but then her older sister wrapped her own arms around Weiss, kissed the top of her head and rested her cheek against her, and Weiss thought that maybe, yeah, Winter could understand it. "I've missed you so much," Weiss said, muffled against her chest. Winter pulled away, though they were still close.

"I've... missed you too, Weiss," she said, her smile small, but pronounced. The veneer of her professional distance, the disconnect she usually employed, all but melted away. After all, they had both gotten a rude awakening, that life was a little bit too short to not say what you mean, especially to those that truly mattered. The scar on Weiss' eye was a testament to that.

Weiss beamed. She felt like a kid again, excited to see her sister every break she got from Atlas Academy.

"Ah, welcome back, Weiss," Klein said, rounding into the living room with a tray of tea. Weiss beamed at him in turn. For a moment, it all felt right. Home felt like home. Not Atlas, not Vale, but Klein and Winter. Weiss heart felt full, and she didn't remember the last time she was this happy- probably when she was with Ruby, Yang and Blake. The thought staggered her for a moment, but she recovered.

"How are you, sister?" Winter asked, pulling apart fully and putting her hands behind her back. There was still a small smile gracing her features, Weiss was happy to see. In the back of her mind, she was telling Blake and Yang, 'I told you she was in a good mood!'. Weiss adjusted the hem of her skirt before she spoke.

"I'm doing good, Winter. I'm coping well with my studies," she caught herself, shaking her head slightly. "I've made some good friends here," Weiss caught Winter's eye, and she had to fight not to duck her head.

They took a seat on the couch as Klein served them the tea. He ducked out to excuse himself away from the living room.

"Klein," Weiss stopped him. "Would you stay, please?" she asked. Klein smiled, looking to Winter for approval. Her bright face spoke volumes. He put the tray down on the table and took a seat across the sisters. Weiss couldn't help it. There wasn't much point to him pretending to be anything less than the main father figure in her life. Not for Winter, anyway.

"You seem happier, Weiss," Winter said, taking a tea cup and saucer in her hand, delicate and gentle. Atlas habits died hard, it seemed. Weiss took her own tea with a little less measured grace. "That's good."

"I... am. I'm happy," Weiss couldn't help the mental image of Ruby Rose, her face being the only thing that Weiss saw. She dispelled the image from her mind quickly, to replace it with the thought of laughing with Blake, Yang and Ruby. "It has been an eventful couple of months here," Weiss huffed out a laugh.

"I'm excited to hear about it," Winter said. Weiss bit her bottom lip. God, where would she even start? Forget that, what would she omit? "And I trust you haven't been sacrificing your studies for these friends," Winter said, with a quirk of her brow and a small, knowing smile.

"You know I'm doing just fine, Winter," Weiss rolled her eyes. "I even joined the fencing club. We're going to the qualifiers for the inter-state tournament next week."

"Hm," Winter took a sip from her cup. "They won't stand a chance."

Weiss smirked. From across them, Klein laughed.

"It is good to see you both together again," he said.

"It's good to be together again," Winter took another sip from her cup. "And to have your tea again, Klein," she almost sighed wistfully.

"I will be sure to brew you a thermos for the road, Winter."

"Not too soon, Klein."

Weiss blanched. "How long are you staying?"

"A few days, perhaps longer," she crossed her legs. "General Ironwood has... given me leave, away from work for a while. More specifically, he told me to go home, but, well," she shrugged, a smooth, easy motion that said all she needed to say. It was no secret that Winter hated Schnee Manor almost as much as Weiss did. It was the entire driving force behind her joining the Atlas military as a specialist, to bring her away, far, far away from home.

Kindred spirits, the both of them were. In any case, Weiss was ecstatic. She had anticipated Winter staying only a day or two.

"Where you will be staying?"

Before Winter could answer, Klein cut in. "I must insist you stay here, Winter. We already have an extra guest room."

Winter smiled. "I suppose that settles that. Speaking of," she placed her cup down and stood up. "I'd like to inspect your room now, Weiss."

Weiss put her cup down and leapt up. "Yes!" Weiss exclaimed.

Yes, Weiss was aware that it was a strange tradition. She could hear Blake and Yang in the back of her head questioning her (as a quick side note, she was hearing and talking to Blake, Yang and Ruby too much in her head nowadays- Weiss couldn't decide if that was a good or bad thing). But it was her and Winter's thing.

Ever since Winter had decided to go off to Atlas Academy, she was rarely ever home. When she did come back, she would always surprise Weiss by going into her room for an 'inspection'. Weiss had, after the first couple of times, always kept her room extra neat and tidy in anticipation for her sister's visits. It was their own little shared tradition. A sort of welcome back for Winter.

"I see your room is the same as ever, even after moving entire continents," Winter noted dryly, appraising Weiss' room with a critical eye. Weiss entered the room behind Winter. She shrugged as she let her eyes wander around.

"Ruby- my friend- told me I needed to redecorate," Weiss said. Her stomach started twisting itself into a knot, the thought of Winter interacting with her friends. Winter raised both eyebrows. Weiss fidgeted with her hands behind her back, averting her gaze. "She said the room wasn't very reflective of me," Weiss quickly elaborated.

"Hmm," Winter approached the desk, adjusting the position of the fountain pens that stuck out of it. "This 'Ruby' might be right."

Weiss let out a little breath.

"Tell me about your friends," Winter said, slowly walking the perimeter of her room, occasionally swiping a finger across a surface or adjusting the position of little items. Weiss stood still, fidgeting still with her hands and biting her bottom lip.

"Ruby Rose, her half-sister Yang Xiao-Long, and Blake Belladonna," Weiss rattled off. "They're all in the same class as me. They're good people- I like them," she gave her the quick version. There wasn't enough time to go all into it, although she was sure that they would get into it, eventually. Or a little less than eventually.

"I see," Winter adjusted the corner of Weiss' bed sheet half an inch. "Anything special I should know about them?"

Weiss bit the inside of her cheek to fight back a smile. Oh Winter, if only you knew. She wished she didn't have to spring it out on her. Briefly, the thought flashed in her mind of her sister with the much older, much rougher Qrow Branwen. Curiousity and a sort of sickening fascination filled her mind. She could only imagine her sister's face when she told her. Winter looked at her expectantly. Weiss couldn't fight back her smile, then.

Screw it, she was going to relish this, just a tiny bit.

"Well, the Rose-Xiao-Longs have an... interesting family," Weiss said. Winter furrowed her brow, a memory coming back to her, in bits and pieces. She had heard that name before, Weiss could see her sister try to place where exactly she had heard it. "Their uncle in particular, actually."

"Their uncle...?" Winter mouthed, almost to herself.

"Yes. A Qrow Branwen?"

The recognition hit Winter all at once. She looked at Weiss, mortified. Weiss only crossed her arms and cocked her hip, letting every inch of smugness bleed out from her. Oh, Winter. Dear sister, I know.

"Oh, no," Winter breathed, hiding her face in her hands.

"Oh, yes," Weiss smirked.

"Weiss..." Winter almost groaned, her face turning a delightful shade of pink that Weiss had never seen before. Well. Vale was a good place for first times.

"Win-ter-Schnee," Weiss emphasized each syllable as she moved in closer to her sister to poke at her arm. "You are scandalous. What would father say if he knew you were with an older man?"

"Don't," Winter almost snarled at her, though Weiss wasn't cowed, not in the least. "And I am not with him," she said, turning an even deeper shade of pink as she folded her arms and averted Weiss' gaze.

"Oh?"

"A woman has certain... needs," Winter said.

Oh God.

Weiss didn't know whether to laugh or to gag, so she settled for the former. It was absurd. It was absolutely ridiculous. It was fucking hilarious. Weiss doubled over, cackling madly. Winter tried her best to look indignant, but she couldn't help it, she laughed along too.

To hell with it all, maybe it was Vale that felt like home. Maybe it was something in the air that allowed something like this to happen. Maybe it was something in the water that changed everything about anything Weiss knew about life. Things felt different here. Lighter. Better. Winter and Weiss, laughing their asses off in Vale. Nothing that could ever happen in Atlas, that was for damn sure, so yes, maybe it was something about Vale.

"You've changed, little sister," Winter said, once they both recovered from their laughing fit. Weiss wiped a tear away from her eye and stood up off the couch.

"Is that good?" Weiss asked, a small, hopeful smile on her face. Winter placed a hand on her shoulder.

"It's the best anyone could ever ask for, Weiss."

They stayed there for a while. Weiss basked in the novelty of their new dynamic. No more was Weiss the scared little girl still trying to appease her father, gently being swayed away by Winter. No more was she confused about her position, about her feelings in Atlas. Now she had a name for all of it, a context and experiences away from Atlas, to know fully how she felt. Resentment was only properly viewed through the lens of happier days. She and Winter chatted, catching up on their days away. Winter was, unsurprisingly, vague about the details of her days, but she did elaborate a little on her relationship with Qrow.

It was a little more complicated than what she'd told Weiss, but it was a little less difficult than all that, too. At least, that was what Weiss thought. Then again, she couldn't speak properly on the subject of feelings, romantic or otherwise.

After a while, Weiss started to feel her stomach rumbling.

"Hungry?" Winter asked, catching on. Weiss nodded. "Let's get some dinner then."

Weiss was about to lift off the couch when she paused. She turned to Winter, who looked at her with a quizzical expression on her face.

"Have you ever had McDonald's?" Weiss asked.


She had not. Winter liked it. Klein wrinkled her mustache a little bit, but he acquiesced. Soon after, Winter left Weiss to her own devices, telling her to study, to make sure she didn't fall behind on her studies on her account. Weiss waved her off, but she did have some homework to do. She settled into her work as she sat at her desk.

She didn't remember going to sleep, but she awoke to Klein shifting her off her desk and into her bed. She mumbled a thank you, and felt a warm hand on her forehead, and she drifted off into a deep, comfortable slumber. Weiss Schnee was finally home. It had come to her, as unexpected as it could ever be.

She dreamed softly.

Chapter Text

Weiss had invited them all to her place after school for dinner. She had come into homeroom beaming, and with less hesitation than she had shown before, told the three of them to be at her place after classes were over.

Ruby was the least cool about it. But that wasn't saying much, because Ruby wasn't very cool about very many things. In fact, in any given situation, you could count on Ruby Rose to be super not cool about it.

It was, just. Well, she was meeting Weiss' family! They were all meeting Weiss' family, and technically they all had already met Klein and he had already obviously given her his approval, his glorious, mustachioed seal of approval, and that was a great sign already, but still!

"You need to take it down, like, several notches," Yang told her once Weiss left for her chemistry class. Ruby puffed her cheeks up, sweeping some hair off her forehead.

"I'm kind of freaking out, right?" Ruby shook her hands frantically as she blew out a laboured breath. Blake shook her head.

"Little bit," she said. Ruby heaved a sigh and conked her head against a nearby wall, leaning against it with only her forehead. "Why are you so freaked out?"

"I don't know! I don't know, we're just meeting Weiss' sister and that's kind of a big deal, right? And I don't want to to mess that up," Ruby frowned. Yang patted her head.

"You're not going to mess it up, Rubes," Yang said. Ruby only crossed her arms.

"I- I mean, I don't even know how to..." she shook her head. "Forget it. You guys are right."

Yang and Blake shared a look, but didn't press the issue, thankfully.

Ruby practiced her curtsies in the bathroom after she made sure she was alone. She smacked her forehead, aware of how utterly foolish she was being. She breathed deep. Tried to focus. Faintly, she wished she could have a cookie. Her mind centered in on itself, letting the rising tide of panic ebb and fade away. She felt herself slow down, and she went on to unclenching the points of tension in her body. It was a little trick Weiss had taught her, a little bit ago. For being, essentially, an Atlasian ball of repressed emotions, Weiss had surprisingly good stress management techniques.

She went on with classes. Weiss had fencing practice, so was the last to end her day. While Blake and Yang chose to hang out in the library, kissing or making kissy faces at each other, or thinking about kissing each other- whatever it was couples did- Ruby snuck off to the gymnasium to catch a peek at fencing practice. She opened the door without much notice, the whole place being a flurry of focused activity that it was. She decided to head up to the second floor, where they had a set of bleachers for people to watch whatever events were going on. Ruby was just being a little sneaksby.

She quickly found Weiss, sparring with Velvet Scarlatina, instantly recognizable from her taller stature and the large brown rabbit ears that peeked out of her helmet. Weiss expertly dodged her strikes, one hand behind her back. She was showing off a little bit, and Ruby could recognize the laughter in her body language. Man, Weiss wasn't kidding when she said that she was amazing at a lot of things. Velvet almost caught her with a strike that she barely ducked under, and Weiss finally sprang up with a proper fighting stance. She thought she could spy a grin behind Velvet's helmet, but she almost definitely knew that Weiss sported a similar one. Off she went, her blows a flurry of fast paced, vicious attacks, that Velvet was struggling a little to parry and dodge. Finally though, Weiss got the better of her, with the point of her sword tapping Velvet on the wrist. That was enough, apparently, as she gave up, pulling her helmet off.

"I hate you," Velvet scowled, though there was no venom behind it at all. Velvet was one of those people that couldn't ever manage to be angry properly. Weiss pulled her own helmet off.

"Do you?" Weiss asked with a smile and a shrug.

"Not really," Velvet replied, and they both shared a laugh.

Ruby just observed them, happy for Weiss in ways that couldn't be named. At least, not by her. God, she wondered what Weiss must have been like when she was actually in her element. Those poor Atlas saps must have just fallen for her left and right.

"Hey, you know, it's like, a little creepy to just be up here... spying on people," a voice came from her right. She whipped her head around to find a boy, slightly younger than her, with a mess of freckles across his face and a mess of black hair. He had an easy, if a little nervous, smile about him, one that made Ruby instantly relax. He wasn't going to get her into trouble.

"It's a little creepy to sneak up on someone just spying on people," Ruby countered. Then she tilted her head. "Actually, that one is less creepy."

The boy nodded in agreement. "Oscar Pine," he said, offering his hand.

"Ruby Rose," she shook his hand. He pursed his lips, then formed a little 'O' with his mouth.

"You're Weiss' friend," he said. Ruby blinked.

"I- uh. Yes, I am. How do you know that?" she asked, genuinely curious. Did Weiss talk to him about her or something? She almost gasped. Did Weiss Schnee actually talk to other people about her? She desperately needed to know what Weiss was telling other people about her.

"She's, um, told me about you," he said. Oh, man! Ruby needed to know. He caught sight of her expression, then chuckled nervously. "All good things, I promise! Plus, I see you guys together all the time."

Ruby crossed her legs, her attention completely away from Weiss for the moment. "I've never seen you around," she said. He smiled, grabbing one arm and shrugging.

"I'm a freshman. You guys don't generally notice us," he said, a sheepish smile on his face.

"Well I'll be sure to notice you from now on, Oscar Pine," she said. His smile slowly turned joyful.

"That's- that's cool," he said, chuckling nervously again.

"So what are you doing up here anyway, Oscar? Besides busting me for being a creep, I mean," Ruby said, an easy smirk on her face. Oscar bit his bottom lip, then pointed down towards the actual gymnasium. Ruby followed his finger, right to Weiss Schnee staring up at her.

Right. Okay. That was sneaky as all hell.

"Dinner's not 'till later, Ruby Rose!" Weiss called up to her. Ruby got up from her seat to lean over the railing. Her hair fell to curtain her face, almost shielding her bright, beaming face from the rest of the building.

"I got impatient," she said, and Weiss shook her head.

"You're free to stay, just don't bother anybody," Weiss told her. Ruby stuck her tongue out.

"I was being perfectly quiet until you sent your little spy to narc on me," she whipped her head around to blow a raspberry at Oscar, who grinned at her sheepishly again. Weiss smiled wide.

"I had to make sure you weren't spying on other people," Weiss said simply, and Ruby huffed out a laugh.

"So you don't mind if I was just spying on you?" Ruby asked. Weiss didn't respond, just picked up her helmet and sword, still smiling.

"Come on down, Oscar, it's your turn," she said, flourishing her weapon. Oscar nodded, bolting down the stairs. Though he did totally betray her trust, in an irreparable and irrevocable way, Ruby still found him charming. From the sidelines, she noticed Velvet also looking at the both of them with a fond expression on her face. She didn't notice when Velvet had whipped her phone out to quickly take a picture of the two of them. Not until she would send Ruby the photo later, anyway. It was cute, Ruby had to admit.

Ruby spent the rest of the practice sketching. Scenes of Weiss sparring, as graceful as she ice skated. As graceful as anything she ever did. Ruby was never the most talented artist, but she felt like she got a good representation of Weiss in motion, agile and deadly.

The practice ended with a shrill blow of a whistle, as the fencers all scattered around gathered back around the captain, Ilia Amitola. Ruby watched the scene unfold with morbid curiousity. Weiss had told her all about what happened with Ilia, and she had assumed things were all squared away now, but she could still see the tension between her and Weiss as they locked eyes. Ilia swallowed thickly and breathed in deep as she readied herself to talk to the team.

"So, qualifiers are a week away, and you've all been working hard. I see it in each and every one of you, and I'd like to thank you all for the effort you've put in for the team," she put her sword under her arm and removed her gloves. She cleared her throat. "But we have to pick just a few people to represent us. Don't worry, there'll be plenty more opportunities for the rest of you."

Ruby saw Weiss tense up a little, her shoulders hunching a little. She just silently watched from above, with bated breath as she waited for the result both she and Weiss (and honestly, probably a lot of other people) knew was coming. It had to. Weiss easily outclassed almost everyone here.

"So, the people we're sending to represent us for the qualifiers are Velvet, Oscar, me, and..." she quirked her mouth that-a-way for a small moment, almost imperceptible. "Weiss Schnee," she looked at Weiss. But Ruby couldn't see any venom, any resentment there. There was an uproar of applause, as people crowded around those picked for the tournament. Oscar looked the most shocked, while Velvet and Weiss just smiled, pleased. From above, Ruby could spot a few people that were displeased. Two bald Faunus eyed Weiss and Ilia with a dirty look. Weiss herself took no notice, instead whipping her head around to look at Ruby, a gleam in her eye. Ruby smiled wide.

Ruby made her way downstairs to walk with Weiss after she'd gotten a shower and changed out of her fencing outfit.

"Congratulations, Weiss. I've definitely added fencing to the list, just FYI," Ruby told her as they walked side by side. Weiss held a hair clip between her teeth as she did her hair up. She smiled at Ruby, and Ruby thought if she let her guard down a little bit, she would be floored by it. Weiss put the clip in her hair.

"Told you," Weiss said.


They arrived in front of Weiss' place in good spirits. Yang had borrowed the car, and they all piled into it with their usual affair of banter and ribbing. But as they got closer to their destination, Weiss got quieter. She brushed some hair behind her ear and blew out a breath as the car pulled to a stop.

"Okay," she said before they all got out. "I... Thank you all, for coming," Weiss played with the hem of her skirt.

"Hey, of course, Weiss," Blake reached out from the front seat to grab Weiss' hand. Yang and Ruby followed suit. Weiss smiled, like with that one act, all was healed. Maybe this was all it was meant to be, just the four of them, thick and thin. Anything and everything, Ruby, Weiss, Blake and Yang. Maybe it was just as easy as that.

Yang keyed the ignition off and they all got out, following Weiss to the front door. They had all been around a couple times, when there wasn't much work to do and they wanted to hang out. Weiss gave them a reaffirming look, and Ruby adjusted her shirt, smoothing out any wrinkles that had formed. The older girl took a deep breath before unlocking the door, ushering them all in.

"We're home," Weiss called out into the kitchen, where Klein was busy slaving over a pot, a frilly pink apron on. He rocked the look, if Ruby had to be honest.

"Welcome, Madames," Klein called out, putting away a stirring spoon and picking up the usual tray of tea he served. They gathered in the living room, where a scary, severe, supremely attractive woman sat in an arm chair. She had her legs crossed, powerful thighs visible through the loose pants she wore, a book in one hand, and a cup of tea in the other. She wore a sleeveless top that let Ruby see the slight definition of her biceps. She appraised the three new teenagers in front of her. Her hair was done up in a bun, with a silky lock of hair that hung over her forehead, and oh... oh no, Ruby was extremely attracted to her. Oh my.

Winter Schnee was unlocking some stuff in her that Ruby hadn't ever thought about before, and she desperately tried to fight those thoughts and repress the hell out of them as she stood there, slightly fidgety.

Was anyone supposed to blame her? Look at her! Winter Schnee was like, a grown up, assertive version of Weiss, complete with that same severe, vaguely annoyed look. Oh god. She blushed slightly pink, then swallowed thickly and turned to Weiss, who was looking at her with narrowed eyes.

Looking at Weiss granted her a brief reprieve. She breathed in deep, then turned back to Winter.

"You must be Ruby Rose," Winter noted. Ruby almost melted. She turned to Blake and Yang. "And you would be Blake Belladonna, and Yang Xiao Long."

Blake reacted with slight hesitation, her ears flattening against her head slightly. Yang squeezed her hand, and smiled wide at Winter. It seemed to assuage Blake. Finally, Winter got up out of her chair. She was tall.

Ruby had to chill. This was imperative. Yes, okay, Weiss and her sister were both super pretty, and apparently she had a thing for, like, women slightly older than her, but discretion was absolutely key here, Ruby Rose you need to keep it together. Winter held her hands behind her back. Klein wrinkled his mustache slightly as he set the tray down on the table.

"I've heard so much about you all. I'm Winter Schnee. Please, take a seat," Winter motioned towards the two couches set on either side of each other. Ruby quickly plopped herself on the couch, almost not trusting herself to remain standing. Weiss sat beside her, giving her a small nudge and a quizzical look. Ruby shrugged slightly.

Klein poured the tea for each person. He accurately gave each person their preferred amount of creamer and sugar. For Ruby, it was an unholy amount of sugar. She felt Winter's eyes on her, and smiled at her sheepishly. She raised her perfectly sculpted brows, but said nothing more, and Ruby could swear she felt a hot flash come over her.

"Ruby," Winter said, and Ruby wanted to shrink away. No, no, she still couldn't curtsy! Winter couldn't start grilling her now! Her gaze on her was singular, and her eyes, a lighter blue than Weiss', almost narrowed down to two pinpoints, just focused on Ruby. Ruby swallowed thickly, feeling a nervous pit grow in her stomach. "Weiss told me that you're a child prodigy. It must be strange to be studying with people older than you, no?"

"Uh," Ruby stammered out, giving out a nervous chuckle. She cleared her throat once. "It's kind of weird, I guess. But I've got some good friends to tag along with," she flickered her gaze to Weiss beside her. "Besides, everyone's gotten used to me well enough."

Winter pursed her lips. "I see."

"She's being modest," Yang piped up, waving a hand flippantly. "Ruby's probably got the best grades of everyone in the year."

"For now," Weiss crossed her legs and smiled at Ruby, one of those smiles that was meant as a challenge. Ruby couldn't help her own smile, one that rose to the challenge.

"Quite," Winter took a sip of her tea. Yang pouted a little bit, looked at Ruby and Weiss, and shook her head. She and Blake shared a look. Ruby didn't care to decipher it, because she was still smiling and she could still spy Weiss in the corner of her eye, looking sufficiently smug and good-natured.

"Yeah well, Weiss is amazing at a lot of stuff," Ruby looked at Winter briefly. "Like fencing. Weiss?"

Weiss took a sip of her tea, not even looking at Winter. "I was selected for the Vale inter-state qualifiers. But that was already expected."

Winter nodded, taking her own sip of tea again. They drank tea the same way. That was kind of cute, Ruby thought. But Winter's reaction really did make it sink in. Weiss was beholden to a very high expectation. There was the Atlas peeking through. Ruby thought about curtsying again. If she practiced, really practiced, and actually managed to learn to do it, and told Yang about it, there would be a big celebration all about it. Ruby didn't know what she would do if her achievements were treated like expectations. Weiss didn't seem to mind, there were no hints of disappointment in her face.

"Yang, Weiss tells me you have an avid interest in boxing," Winter finally turned her laser focus away from Ruby and Weiss. Weiss finally turned to Ruby fully, and mouthed 'are you okay?'. Ruby only smiled a muddled smile, and took a sip of her tea finally. Weiss pursed her lips and flared her nostrils. Ruby gave her a pointed look, trying to convey that, yes she was fine, she was really fine, quit worrying and focus on the conversation. Weiss understood. Ruby really was that good at conveying complex thoughts with simple looks.

"I... yeah. I do," Yang answered, like she was being tricked.

"Have you ever had an actual boxing match?" Winter continued on, undeterred.

"No...?"

"Would you like to?"

"Would I- Like... with you?" Yang scratched at the side of her temple, cocking her head slightly. Even Weiss was looking a little confused. Winter shook her head.

"No, I simply have a few... contacts who are looking for a few up-and-coming boxers. I could put in a word for you," she said.

"Wait, seriously?" Yang said.

"Wait, what?" Weiss said. Winter looked at her, the grin on her face light and, for Schnee standards at least, a little mischievous. "How do you have contacts looking for boxers?"

Winter took another sip of her tea.

"What do you do, Winter?" Weiss asked, exasperated. Ruby had to laugh at that. There was something new.

Before Weiss could continue on her line of questioning, Klein came into the living room to announce that dinner was ready. Winter was the first to stand up, inviting everyone over to the kitchen. Weiss paused and searched her sister's face. She came up empty-handed, if the slight scowl on her face as she sat down at the dinner table was anything to go by.

The food Klein prepared was fancy, like fancy fancy. Just as they had introduced Weiss to the land of eating junk food like a little gremlin, Weiss was now introducing them to the world of eating food that looked like they cost more money than Ruby had ever seen in her life. But it was really, really good. The ice broke sometime during the meal, as they all started talking freely.

"She started just screaming at Ruby, even though she wasn't watching where she was going either, and Ruby tried to help her up!" Yang spoke animatedly, gesticulating with her fork.

"It was... not my proudest moment," Weiss said, hiding her face as Winter looked at her with a fond expression.

"And look at you now," Blake said. Weiss blushed. "Actually, forget that, look at you like, a week after that. Practically joined at the hip with Ruby."

"That's not- we were assigned lab partners and partners for the history project!" Weiss blushed deeply. "Ruby and I are not joined at the hip."

"Well," Yang said, her voice rising a half octave up.

"Well," Blake echoed the same way. Ruby and Weiss both rolled their eyes at the other pair.

"Talk about joined at the hip, these two haven't been half as annoying since before they got together," Weiss jerked a thumb at Blake and Yang as she shot Winter a look. Winter nodded in sympathy.

"I understand, I have two colleagues, Marrow and Clover; neither can keep their hands off each other, and neither are subtle about it."

Yang and Blake both stuck their tongue out at the others. Yang took Blake's hand in her own and raised it up. "You will never break us apart! Love conquers all!"

"What she said," Blake said, her smile quiet and reserved, but no less genuine than Yang's. Ruby mimed a gagging motion, making Weiss laugh.

They just chatted throughout the rest of dinner. Ruby found Winter, though a little bit more stiff and reserved than Weiss, pleasant to talk to. There were the same rough edges on her found on Weiss, though smoothed out a long while ago. She had the same Atlas habits as Weiss- she never talked without first swallowing her food. But there was an aged layer of experience, of a life that was more than just being a Schnee. Ruby caught it in the quick motions, the way she ate her food, like she was in the military. Uncle Qrow did the same occasionally.

They made to leave shortly after dinner, thanking Klein for his cooking and moving towards the front door. Ruby excused herself to go to the bathroom. When she got out, she found herself face to face with Winter. Her hands were behind her back and her posture was ramrod straight as she towered over Ruby. Faintly, those confusing feelings of attraction came bubbling up to the surface, but Ruby managed to push it down firmly.

"Ruby," she said, and Ruby could sense the hesitation in her voice, the wavering, meandering tone she had on the edge of her words. "I want to thank you."

"Um... you're welcome, uh, ma'am," Ruby bit her lip and scratched her head. Winter quirked her brow.

"Call me Winter," she told her. Ruby nodded once. "And I wanted to thank you for... looking out for Weiss."

"Oh, no I'm not-"

"Ruby, I know it was your choice, but I am simply grateful that Weiss has broken out of her shell. Out of her... Atlas self. I don't know what would've happened without you."

Ruby shook her head. "Winter, the truth is... I don't know what I would've done without her. You and Klein have both said this to me but, really, I'm lucky to have her too. I..." she searched her mind for the right words, but, well. The right words were big words, really, really big words. And she didn't know if she could say them out loud, and she didn't know if she could feel all those big words without bursting into flames in the first place, and she-

"I love her," Ruby said and, okay, maybe it wasn't as earth-shattering as all that, maybe that's all it was, and obviously that's what it was. It was like having a disease and living with it for months before being diagnosed, to have a name for it finally. Nothing changed. It was a little disorienting still, especially since the light-blue eyes she'd said them to didn't even belong to the right Schnee. Faintly, she started to regret saying it. Not because she didn't mean it, but that she hadn't said it to Weiss first.

Winter smiled, pleased all the same, then beckoned her out around the corner towards the others.

"It was a pleasure meeting you all," Winter told them. "Thank you all for coming."

"Our pleasure," Yang spoke for them. Blake and Ruby nodded in agreement. Winter gave Ruby a meaningful look, and she didn't know what else to do but smile. Weiss went with them out the door, walking them to the car.

"I'd say that was a success," Weiss said.

"Better than I thought it would go," Blake shrugged.

"Thanks for the vote of confidence," Weiss scoffed. Blake rolled her eyes.

"You know what I mean."

Weiss tilted her head in agreement, blowing out a relieved breath. Ruby smiled.

"You've got a pretty cool sister, Weiss," Ruby said. Weiss tucked a lock of her behind her ear.

"I do."

"I'll say, you know she told me she's got a motorcycle license?" Yang leaned against the hood of the car and grinned toothily. "Super cool."

Ruby snorted. "And you guys thought she was like, Ice Queen."

Yang laughed. "Yeah, apparently that honour belongs to the one and only," she threw a finger gun up at Weiss, who rolled her eyes and gave Yang the finger. "I'll stop calling you that when you stop enjoying it," Yang declared.

"In any case, it's safe to say you all have Winter's seal of approval," Weiss noted, turning her head slightly to look at the soft lights of the porch. She turned back to them with a content smile. "Wear it with pride, it's not so easily earned."

"I swear I'll wear it honourably 'till my death," Blake laughed. Weiss shook her head, her smile never disappearing.

"Thank you guys, I mean it," Weiss said quietly. She closed her eyes and breathed the cool night air.

"Weiss, you don't have to thank us for a free meal and a good hang," Ruby said. "We'd do that with you anytime."

Ruby took Weiss' hand and squeezed once. Weiss swallowed thickly and nodded. "Always," Ruby said. And with that, they left, piling into the car with a quick 'see-you-later'. Weiss watched them pull out of the driveway and drive off.

Always.

Chapter Text

"I have a question, Weiss," Winter said as soon as Weiss opened her door. It was the day after the dinner, a lovely spring day filled with darling blue skies, that she would spend indoors studying, as was the way for a Schnee. Weiss took a seat at her desk, her notes laid out all around in a mess.

"Ask away," Weiss said, jotting down a last few points in her notebook.

"Ruby Rose," Winter said, a statement made like a neat tick in a checkbox. Weiss felt some gears turn in her head as she tried to anticipate what Winter was going to say. There were a million questions. She put her pen down and shifted in her seat to look at her sister. Winter was stood a little ways away, nearer to her bed, hands behind her back. Weiss considered cracking a joke, like one Ruby would make if she was uncomfortable, but she decided instead to just see this through.

"What about her?" Weiss asked, biting the inside of her cheek. It was only a couple days after the dinner party. Weiss had thought it was a resounding success, and Winter had allayed her fears, telling her that it was a genuinely enjoyable to meet the people Weiss chose to spend so much time with. She had approved- not that Weiss was going to do anything if she had disapproved, anyway.

"How do you feel about her?" Winter asked, like she hadn't just held the key to Pandora's box, unlocked it, and kicked the door open. Weiss had to wonder where this line of questioning was even coming from. Did she know? How did she know? Did Yang or Ruby tell them about New Year's? What was Winter after? Weiss' mind almost threatened to short circuit, all those questions overwhelming her. Faintly, she recognized that she had let the silence reign for a little too long. Looking at Winter, Weiss knew that she took that as kind of an answer unto itself. It kind of was, to be fair. Weiss sighed.

"I..." Weiss faltered, searching for the words. It was difficult. It was a little bit more than just difficult. She didn't know how to quantify how easy or difficult it was because it was just that big. It was the kind of thing Weiss was so afraid to think about because it felt like it would take a thousand years to think a single thought out. Winter looked at her with this... look in her eyes. Something like recognition. Something like sympathy. Something like acceptance. Weiss didn't know what to make of it. She didn't know what to make of anything at this point. It was like being caught in the middle of a hurricane, except at least a hurricane had the warnings of wind and rain before.

"Why do you ask?" Weiss decided to take the easy way out. Winter set her mouth in a hard line.

"Do we really need to have this all spelled out?" she sat down on the edge of Weiss' bed, crossing her legs. Weiss figured her chances of bullshitting her way through this were really, really slim. But for the sake of her pride, she had to put up a fight. Weiss shrugged, and Winter scoffed.

"Weiss, I do have eyes, you know," Winter said, looking at her like Weiss had offended her. "I saw the way you looked at her the other night. And the way you talked to her, and talked about her- that was my first clue, really," Winter crossed her arms.

Weiss let out an explosive sigh, burying her face in her hands. She let out a long, low groan.

"On some level, you do deserve this," Winter said, in a matter-of-fact manner. She was right, of course, but this wasn't just something embarrassing, it was... well it was something more. "But this isn't about that," Winter said, and Weiss snapped her head up.

Winter got up from Weiss' bed, making her way over to the couch. She patted the seat next to her, beckoning Weiss over. With another great sigh, Weiss got up from the desk and padded over. Winter rolled her eyes.

"Don't be so dramatic, Weiss. It's unbecoming," Winter said, mirth seeping through in her tone. Weiss just pouted as she plopped herself on the couch. The picture perfect model of a beleaguered teen.

"That's not true. Being dramatic is a hallmark of an over-privileged Atlas teenager," Weiss countered smartly. Winter had to nod in agreement, besides the point though it was.

"Weiss, if you are... willing to. I'd like for us to talk. About your... relationship, with Ruby," Winter said- almost choked out, really- after a moment of silence. She looked strained, almost a little lost herself. To her credit, Weiss was too. What a pair they were, all repressed emotions and bundled Schnee feelings. Weiss had to admit though, it was very nice of Winter to provide this gesture. She must have been thinking about it for a while. The thought warmed Weiss up.

"We're not the best at talking about our emotions, Winter," Weiss said quietly. Winter smiled, shaking her head.

"No, Weiss, we are not. But I would like to try, for you," Winter said.

Okay. Fine. Even Weiss wasn't as stubborn as all that. Not for Winter, at least.

"Ruby made me this," Weiss walked over to her desk, taking out the gift Ruby had crafted her from a drawer. Weiss tentatively presented it to her sister. She took it, turning the glass box over in her hands to look it over from different angles. "She gave it to me for Christmas. She told me she'd been working on it for a month before that. Almost exactly a month before Christmas, we had just met."

Winter made a sound in the back of her throat, her gaze still transfixed on the sculpture. Weiss bit her bottom lip.

"You know how Ruby and I first met. I wasn't very... nice, to put it lightly," Weiss fidgeted with her hands a little bit, faint traces of guilt ebbing into her. She shook her head. "But Ruby saw more than just- that. She didn't see a prissy, haughty, bitchy Atlas elite that thought she was better than everyone else. She saw... how scared I was."

Winter stared at her, her attention rapt. Weiss lifted her hands to trace the edges of the scar on her eye. It had grown faint in the months and months since the attack, but Weiss wasn't a fool- she knew that it was permanent. No matter what, Weiss would always have that perfect slice, the neat cut of Atlas marring the otherwise smooth and clear expanse of her skin. It represented her fears, her doubts. It represented a different time, a before and after. She felt herself grow weary just thinking of it all.

Her thoughts bounced quickly, from Atlas, to Ruby, to Blake and the Faunus, to Jacques Schnee, to Schnee Manor itself, both in its perfect pristine glow, then with half of it blown to kingdom come. She thought it was the worst thing to have ever happened to her. She thought meeting Ruby was the best thing to have ever happened to her. She thought about how one couldn't exist with the other. She felt herself retreading old ground, thoughts she was thought about until it was worn down in her mind, like grass trampled over so often it created a nice pathway. Weiss sighed.

"I was scared," she shut her eyes, feeling the emotions she had tried to leave behind- the smoothing out of her skirt, the walking unsteady, lost and alone, the uncertainty of her place in the world. "And I've never dealt with fear in the best of ways. Until I met her. Meeting Ruby Rose has made my life better than it has ever been," she opened her eyes and saw herself back in Vale, with Winter beside her, silent and caring. In Vale with Ruby just a couple minutes away, bright and loving. In Vale with Ruby, Blake and Yang, the handlebars that she could use to steady herself whenever she needed it. She had decided, a while ago, that it was love. So that was what Weiss thought about. Love.

"I... love them. Blake, Yang and Ruby. But Ruby..." Weiss clenched her fists in her lap, sucking in a deep breath.

She felt Winter place her own hand on Weiss', coaxing it open to hold it in her own. She ran her thumb over Weiss' knuckles. Weiss blew out her breath.

"She's special," Winter said.

Weiss nodded. Because that was it. That was the long and the short of it. She had more on the tip of her tongue, to tell Winter that Ruby laughed like music, that Ruby smelled like roses and that was funny and endearing, that Ruby's eyes were too big and wide and such a gorgeous colour, and all Weiss wanted to do was look at her sometimes, just to look and look and look, like the next time she would see Ruby, she would have morphed into someone else. All of this was important, and it mattered, and Weiss thought about it a lot, but looking at Winter, Weiss thought that she understood.

God, how old was Winter now, almost in her 30s? She'd lived more than Weiss would ever know. She'd know more than Weiss ever could. She had a sizeable head start. Not that Weiss was looking to be outdone. She had time.

Weiss leaned in and put her head on Winter's shoulder. Winter didn't move a muscle, and Weiss relaxed into her sister's side.

"We almost kissed on New Year's Eve," Weiss said. If she breathed in deep enough she could recall the scent of Ruby, just Ruby Rose, so close in her hands.

"Why didn't you?" Winter asked. Their hands were still grasped firmly together.

"I don't know," Weiss answered honestly.

"Do you want to?" Winter probed further. Weiss furrowed her brows.

"I don't know if we should," Weiss said. Winter let go of her hand to stroke at Weiss' forehead, brushing some hair away.

"That's not an answer," Winter said.

"It's not a good idea," Weiss looked at her hands, saw her scar, thought about her words. Thought about Ruby Rose, who was a million miles away from Atlas, who was anything but Atlas, who was good and beautiful and light, and contained none of her Atlas worries. Her antithesis, her foil, her bright, shining miracle. It wouldn't work, it wouldn't be okay to stick Ruby Rose and Weiss Schnee together. Ruby deserved better, of that Weiss had no doubt. She thought about Blake and Yang, perfectly made for each other. How each of their traits balanced each other out. Yang hated anchovies. Blake loved them. Ruby and Weiss didn't have that give and take. It felt like, sometimes, Weiss was taking far, far too much from Ruby Rose. It just wouldn't work.

"It's not a bad idea," Winter countered.

In her heart of hearts, Weiss desperately wanted it to be an amazing idea. Weiss wanted to fall with the knowledge that she had that parachute securely fastened to her. Weiss wanted to know before any of it started. Weiss wanted to be there, be already all in, be secure in this decision, if it was a decision at all. But she was Weiss Schnee, and there was this voice in the back of her head that told her to stop, that slowed her down, that held her back by the nape of her neck and forced her to look, to see it all from up above. It was easy to see things in black and white when you viewed things from a distance. And from her distance, Weiss could see that it wasn't- she couldn't.

"Yang told me to stop hiding," Weiss admitted. She groaned, wishing, wishing, wishing that this wasn't so hard. That there would be a straight line from Weiss Schnee to Ruby Rose, and nothing else.

"Yang sounds smart," Winter said.

"I just don't know if I can, Winter," Weiss said finally, her voice small and wavering slightly as she felt the lump in her throat threaten to choke her words out. Her face felt hot, and tears threatened to burn her eyes. "I don't know if I deserve it, if I could even if I did, if I should even if I could. All of it."

"I can tell you, deserve's got nothing to do with it," Winter wiped Weiss' tears away. "And there's no greater fear than that of the unknown. But look at where you are, Weiss, and where you started from. You've come far," Winter said, and now her voice sounded like it was wavering, but there was a smile on her face. Weiss catalogued that look. Pride. Again, always so strange, always so welcome and revolting in equal measures. Weiss wanted her heart to burn itself out. This was exhausting.

"You can't be afraid to try, Weiss. That's the thing that kills people like us. We have to face our fears. We have to be better than it. I believe in you, and I hope you find the strength to do it," Winter said, gentle and kind and filled with love. Weiss buried her face into Winter's shoulder, sniffling a little bit. "I'm sorry I interrupted you from your studies," Winter breathed a laugh out, and it made Weiss burst out laughing.

"It's okay, Winter. Some things are worth it."

Chapter Text

Weiss never did end up doing much about Ruby. There was always just something else to do.

The end of the school year came a little faster than she expected. All at once, they were done with finals, Weiss had won a shiny gold first place trophy for Beacon High's fencing team, and the days started turning hotter and hotter.

"Summer vacay, baby!" Yang exclaimed, whipping out her aviators as they all headed out of school, towards the parking lot. Weiss wanted to make fun of her, but to her credit, Yang seemed to be made for summer. She was all wide smiles, tank tops, biceps and sunglasses and cool drinks glinting in the sunlight. She walked like summer, all rough and hot and light. Blue skies and yellow suns. Yang Xiao Long.

Beside her, Blake padded breezily through the hot summer day. If Yang was the summer day, then Blake might have posed herself as the cool summer nights. She was the infinity of the stars in the expanse of the night sky, the cool breeze that blew through the trees, rustling the leaves as it tickled your face. Weiss wanted to groan. They really were made for each other. Two sides of the same coin and all. She was the Yin to her (okay now Weiss wanted to groan) Yang.

"I hope you all are ready," Blake said, walking backwards to face Weiss and Ruby. "Got your stuff all packed and everything?"

The plan had been in the making for weeks. The Belladonnas owned a beach house, about a few hour's drive of Vale proper. Every summer since they met, Blake, Yang and Ruby had taken a weekend or so off to go down there, enjoy the sun and sand. Their treat for surviving another school year. Now they had another addition to their little group, and as the last summer they would spend in Beacon, their little weekend getaway had been extended to a week long beach vacation.

Weiss was- well she was beyond thrilled. Despite her Atlesian affinities, Weiss did enjoy the occasional beach trip as much as anyone else. Her only gripe was the ludicrous amount of sunscreen she always had to apply to prevent herself from getting burnt beet-red. Yang had already made fun of her, and she was sure she would continue to do so, but Weiss was looking forward to it. No, what Weiss was truly anxious about was the spending time with Ruby. At the beach. Relatively alone in a remote beach house. No supervision or anything. Ruby was going to wear a swimsuit, too, and much as Ruby didn't want to imagine that and be anything less than extremely interested. Well.

Yeah, so. She was afraid. The spring had passed them by like a dream. Winter had gone off without much fanfare, as was her wont. Klein had given her a thermos of his tea, making her promise to return it as soon as possible so that she would have an excuse to visit (not that she needed one). Weiss had hugged her sister tight and wished her well. Winter had whispered words of encouragement in her ear. Words that rung in her ears like a bell every time she was alone with Ruby, a dangerous thought on the tip of her tongue.

"I haven't finished packing yet!" Ruby groaned. Blake shook her head.

"It's just for a week, how much do you need to bring?" she asked. Ruby shook her head.

"Nuh-uh. No. I am not making the same mistake I made last year," Ruby slammed her fist into her open palm.

"You mean when you forgot your sunglasses?" Yang asked.

"Or your unicorn floatie you wanted to bring?" Blake asked.

"Or the sunscreen?"

"Or your spare swim suit?"

"You only brought one swim suit last year?" Weiss quirked her brow, quickly suppressing any and every mental image that was brought to the forefront of her mind at the mention of the topic.

Ruby absently scratched her cheek, looking at the ground intently. "Yeeaaahhh..." she mumbled. "I, uh. Had to borrow Yang's..."

Weiss slapped her hand against her mouth. "How?"

"Oh no, she did not fit in it at ALL," Yang grinned.

"Best to leave that be, Weiss," Blake caught her eye. Weiss nodded dumbly, letting the conversation slide as they headed home.


Weiss herself had finished packing. An appropriate amount of swim suits, she was sure. As soon as she got home, she made doubly sure. Weiss showered and changed out of the clothes she wore to school, donning a pair of jean shorts and a frilly tank top.

"Have everything you need, Weiss?" Klein rounded into the living room. Weiss looked up from her book. She nodded, checking the time again. Yang would be around soon.

"Anxious?" Klein asked, brow quirked. Weiss set her mouth in a tight line.

"Excited," she answered evasively. She wanted to smack herself a little. Leave it to her to be anxious about a vacation with her best friends. But it wasn't the trip she was anxious about. Just Ruby. She really had to let it go. Or do something about it. Mentally, she sighed.

It was complicated. It was easy.

It was summer vacation! Ruby and Weiss and all of that be damned. She stuffed it all in the back of her mind. Weiss Schnee was going on a fun week long trip to a beach house with the best friends she'd ever had! That was cause for excitement, for celebration.

A car honked outside as her phone pinged. Yang Xiao Long, master of timing. Weiss leapt up out of her seat, shouldering her purse as she collected herself. Sunglasses, check. Lotion and sunblock, check. Klein-

Weiss smiled wide. She hugged Klein.

It had been a long year (technically it hadn't been a full year since she'd moved to Vale, but, hell who was counting?). She was happy, in some form or measure, and Klein was there through it all. Now she was leaving for a week, and in all the excitement she forgot that she was leaving Klein too. He returned her hug gently.

"See you in a week, Klein," she said, muffled into his shoulder. She thought she heard him sniffle a little. "I love you," she said then, without an ounce of hesitation, pulling away. He smiled, and nodded. Weiss grabbed her luggage, and with one last look, left the house.

Yang was parked outside the curb, not in her father's old car, but a fancy black SUV. Weiss recognised it as Blake's parent's. She was leaning against the door, arms crossed and shades already on. She was wearing a loose tank top with the words 'Sun's out Gun's out' printed in bold.

"Weiss Schnee, are you ready for-"

The windows of the SUV rolled down to reveal Blake and Ruby, both wearing shades of their own, enthusiastically pointing finger guns at Weiss.

"Summer Vacation 2019!" they all exclaimed in unison. Weiss laughed, then lowered the sunglasses that were sat on her head.

"Hell yeah," she said.

They all cheered and hollered as she stored her luggage in the trunk.


"I spy with my little eye-"

"Cactus."

Ruby crossed her arms and pouted. "No."

Weiss quirked her brow. "Yes it is."

Ruby threw her hands up, groaning. "Fine! It was cactus. How did you even know?"

Weiss rewarded herself with a potato chip. "Your last three I spy's have been a cactus."

"You would think after the third one, she would've figured it out," Blake commented from the front seat, her face still buried firmly in her book.

"She probably thought that I wouldn't think she would do it a fourth time," Weiss turned to Ruby in smug satisfaction. "Didn't you?"

Ruby opened her mouth, then decided to close it and sink into her seat and nod. Weiss laughed. Doofus.

"It would've been a solid strategy if it had worked," Ruby offered in her defence.

They were on hour two of their six hour drive. It had officially ticked over to the 'let's play road trip games' hour. Weiss had been surprisingly good at pointing out red cars before anyone else. And now she was thrashing Ruby at I Spy.

"So I'll just add 'weird games we play on road trips' onto the list," Ruby rolled her eyes at Weiss. Weiss shrugged.

"What list now?" Yang peeked into the rear-view to catch Ruby's eye. She smiled sheepishly, rubbing the back of her neck.

"It's a list of things Weiss is amazing at," Ruby said. Blake's ears perked up, and Weiss felt her face grow flush.

"Do tell," Yang said.

"It's- it was just a joke I-" Weiss began.

"Well, no, you guys know how Weiss is like really good at fencing?" Ruby cut her off. Both Blake and Yang nodded. "So she has all these other amazing Atlas skills. Like she sings really, really well," Ruby started listing off her fingers.

"That's true, I have heard her sing in the shower," Blake said. Ruby blinked. Yang smiled, quirking a brow at her wonderful, monogamous, girlfriend. Blake put her book down and rolled her eyes. "I was at her place to drop some books off and she was taking a shower."

Weiss blushed fully now. "You heard that?"

"Sure. You're a very good singer," Blake said casually. It was funny how that one simple compliment meant a lot more to her than any compliment she'd ever gotten from her peers in Atlas.

"Okay, well. She's also a fantastic ice-skater, super smart obviously, she's a great painter," Ruby's eyes wandered away as she started listing off. She flicked her gaze back towards Weiss and stopped, biting her lip. "The list goes on," Ruby shrugged. Even though Yang had her aviators on, Weiss could clearly see the amusement in her eyes.

"Interesting," Yang said, and Weiss didn't know what to make of her tone. She sounded like she was a hunter setting their sights on an easy target- a deer already walking into their trap. Blake made a sound in the back of her throat, and Weiss had half a mind to flick her forehead. They weren't subtle. Sometimes. Weiss turned to Ruby. She gave Weiss a sheepish smile, and Weiss at least had the decency to maintain the facade of being annoyed. She shrugged eventually, turning away to look out the window.

A little while after that, Yang pulled into a rest stop, cricking out her back and arms. Ruby left to go buy some more snacks at the store, while Blake followed her to make sure she didn't go too wild on the cookies. They were only barely halfway to their destination after all, and nobody wanted to have to deal with a sugar-high Ruby Rose in a confined environment.

Yang thrust her chest out as she bent her back, hearing a satisfying 'pop!'. She moaned in satisfaction. Weiss leaned against the car door, arms crossed. Yang took notice of the shorter girl, bringing her shades up onto her head.

"You know," Yang began. Weiss held a finger up, silencing her. Yang furrowed her brows.

"Don't," Weiss said, with an air of finality. Yang Xiao Long, in an uncharacteristic move, shoved her hands in her pockets and backed off, shrugging easily. Weiss eyed her carefully. Yang lowered her sunglasses, rounding the front of the car. There was a hot breeze blowing through the place, and Weiss couldn't help the prickly feeling it raised in the back of her neck, like an omen. Weiss shook her head, sighing.

Then Yang Xiao Long came up behind her and grabbed her by her midsection.

Weiss yelped, smacking Yang's arm. "Yang! Let go of me!"

"Weiss Schnee, let's you and I have a talk," Yang continued carrying her, undeterred. Weiss trashed about before Yang deposited her easily down around the corner of the store, shielding them from view. Weiss groaned heavily. She hated Yang, truly she did.

"First of all, you are too strong, and you need to be stopped!" Weiss pointed a finger at Yang, scowling. Yang patted her bicep once, smiling wide. "Second of all, I hate you."

"Focus up, Weiss," Yang pointed from her eyes to Weiss'.

"Yang, please," Weiss pinched the bridge of her nose. Yang crossed her arms.

"That girl in there talks about you like you hang the moon and the stars up in the night sky," Yang jerked her thumb behind her, towards the store. "And you like her too, I know you do."

"I- no she doesn't!" Weiss' brain was scrambling, working overtime to comprehend and refute Yang's claims. It was this strange tug-of-war between the rational, cynical voice in her head, the one that was sure, always so sure of everything it knew, and the pull on her heart she felt at hearing Yang's words. Possibility was as tempting as probability, but Weiss knew which part of her would win out.

"Weiss, give us a little credit. I'm not dumb, and I know you're not, despite all evidence to the contrary," she vaguely motioned towards Weiss' whole form. She responded with a scoff, but with nothing she could actually rebuke with. "Ruby has never been half as happy as she is now, since she's met you. And in case that point doesn't stick, let me make it very clear: you make her happy."

"I..." Weiss' breath hitched. She looked anywhere but Yang. "I... Yang, I appreciate this gesture, but-"

"Tell me you don't want to," Yang said, crossing her arms. "Just tell me you don't want to and I'll back off, no questions asked, and not one more word about it."

"Of course I want to, just-"

They were cut off by the tinkle of the bell outside the shop's door. Yang took hold of Weiss' arm and made to move further into the corner. They heard Blake and Ruby's voices trail off as they walked towards the car.

"We'll continue this conversation later. Pretend you're still in the bathroom," Yang said to Weiss in a hushed tone. Weiss peered into the bathroom, and grimaced.

"That's so gross; I don't want to go into a gas station bathroom!" Weiss hissed at Yang, grabbing her before she could walk away. Yang rolled her eyes.

"Just go to the bathroom, Weiss!" Yang said, half-exasperated. Weiss stood her ground, shaking her head.

"No way, they'll never believe I would voluntarily go to the gas station bathroom!" Weiss pointed out. Yang groaned, burying her head in her hands.

"Fucking- ugh, fine! I'll be the one in the bathroom, and you go to the car first," Yang rolled her eyes.

"Wait," Weiss said.

"What?"

"Why don't we just walk out and tell them we both went to the bathroom?"

Yang blinked. "Right. Okay. Good call, Schnee."


"I can't believe you went to the gas station bathroom, Weiss," Ruby said, some hours later. Weiss quietly simmered, her (not very well thought out, admittedly) plan backfiring. She carefully flicking her glare to the rear-view, where she could see Yang smiling. She shrugged.

"How much longer?" Weiss asked. Blake put her book down finally, peering out the window. She smiled.

"Right about... now," she said as they crested over a hill. "Haven."

The sea sparkled in the midday sun, highlighting the charming port city that it surrounded. It was a glittering view, the picture perfect definition of 'Summer'. Yang lowered the windows and Weiss felt the cool ocean breeze on her face, the smell of fresh air, the spectacle of nature. It did wonders to set them all in the right mood.

The town itself was relatively small. There were a couple restaurants scattered about the main street, and a rustic, lovely looking lighthouse at the end of one of the piers. It was, in short, a beach city. Weiss felt like wearing anything more than flip-flops would be sacrilege. She took in the quiet town atmosphere, relishing in the pure novelty of it all. She had rarely ever been to such calm places. She thought, in another life, for another version of herself, she would enjoy living in such a place. Weiss could imagine herself reading all day, popping down to the grocery store for a couple ingredients to cook, or to the coffee shop on a snowy winter's day.

In all her daydreaming, in each scenario, Weiss could feel the edges of Ruby's presence. She could imagine buying a cookie for Ruby on the way back home. Bringing her to the coffee shop, to warm themselves sharing a cup of hot cocoa.

Fuck.

They arrived at the house soon enough (thank God- Weiss wasn't sure how long more she could have handled her wandering mind). It was a nice little two story villa, right at the edge of the land, just a stone's throw away from the beach. The Belladonnas held onto some prime real estate, that was for sure. Faintly, she realised that Blake was actually pretty well off. In Vale terms, of course.

"Welcome to La Casa di Belladonna," Yang said in an exaggerated Italian accent. Blake simply kissed Yang's cheek as she unlocked the front door, letting them all enter.

It was a cozy place. There was a nice breakfast nook, and a fully decked out kitchen. Weiss went to look at the photos hung up on the wall. Loads of photos of a baby Blake playing in the sand, her grinning parents in tow. She had met Ghira and Kali Belladonna before. They had been nothing but kind to her, and she couldn't have been more grateful for the fact.

Up on the mantle in the living room, there were more framed photos of the Belladonnas, older in every progressive photo. There was a clear gap in Blake's teenage years in the photos, before the photos started including not only the Belladonnas, but the Rose-Xiao Longs. Yang and Ruby both had their arms around Blake's shoulders as she looked half-embarrassed. Even Tai was there one year.

"Ruby and Weiss, your rooms are upstairs, you guys decide which ones you want," Blake called out from the kitchen. She was checking the water coming from the sink, making sure nothing was wrong with it.

"Blake and I will take the master bedroom downstairs," Yang said, waggling her eyebrows. Weiss and Ruby both made silent gagging motions at each other.

"Just make sure we can't hear anything," Weiss shook her head before she grabbed her luggage to carry it upstairs.

"Well," Blake intoned, just loud enough for Weiss to hear. She cringed, shaking her head.

"Okay, let's just go upstairs now Ruby," Weiss said, hastily beating her retreat into the (relative, god she hoped it was more than just relative) safety of upstairs. Ruby came up shortly afterwards.

"Yang and I shared the room on the left when we came up here last year, it's bigger than the other room. You can have it," Ruby motioned towards the door further down the hall. Weiss pursed her lips.

"No, you can take that room," Weiss said. Ruby paused, quirking her brow. Weiss hurried off to the room on the right, shutting the door behind her with a little more force than necessary. She blew a breath out. Okay, so maybe not her smoothest moment. Weiss sat on the bed. The room was Blake's, or it used to be anyway. There were a couple film photos stickied onto the mirror on the vanity. Her and Yang holding each other close. They looked like they were dancing, framed by the soft glow of the room they were in, and the ethereal orange-green glow of the photo not having developed just quite right. Beside that, polaroids of Blake, Yang and Ruby crowded around a fire at night, smiling wide at the camera. A couple books lined the bookshelf, dusty and yellowed with age.

Besides the odd memento here and there, the room was neat and tidy. Weiss began unpacking, heading into the attached bathroom to freshen up. They had spent a significant amount of time cooped up in a car together, after all.

Okay, so. Beach vacation. Weiss lightly slapped both sides of her face together in the mirror. She knew, deep in her core, that something, something was going to happen over the week. It made the hairs on her neck raise, and she washed her face again to get herself under control.

Weiss made her way downstairs, making extra sure to stomp her foot a little harder on the steps as she went down, just as an advanced warning for Yang and Blake, who she had no doubts were both already swept up in the romance of it all.

"We're down here and both fully clothed, Weiss," Blake called out as she got halfway down the stairs. Weiss peeked her head over the banister, confirming the validity of Blake's claims. She nodded as she assessed them.

"So, what's the plan?" Weiss asked as she took a seat at the kitchen island. Yang was mixing up a couple fruits and ice into the blender. Blake was sitting atop the kitchen counter, legs crossed.

"We're gonna head out and find some food, then hit the beach," Blake said. Yang made a clicking noise, pointing at Blake in approval as she turned on the blender. Blake cringed a little, bowing the ears atop her head. Yang looked at her apologetically as Blake moved over to sit next to Weiss. "How enthused are you about getting into the water?" Blake asked her.

Weiss frowned. "Not very," she said. Blake patted her arm in sympathy.

"I'll pray for you," Blake told her solemnly. "You forget who you came here with."

Ruby Rose stomped down the stairs slowly, each thud of her foot heard clearly as Yang stopped blending.

"We're downstairs and naked, Rubes, don't look!" Blake called out. Ruby's head poked through the banister, her mouth set in an exaggerated 'O'. She immediately frowned as she saw them all. Ruby withdrew her head from between the banister and took a seat atop the kitchen island.

Did, like, nobody know how to sit down properly?

"Are we going out to eat? I'm starving!" Ruby immediately complained. Yang tutted at her as she set down four tall glasses on the island, each complete with their own tiny umbrella and straw. She poured the smoothie she'd made into each glass.

"Not before I drink my annual delightful summer-themed smoothie," Yang said, taking a glass for herself and raising it up before taking a sip. She took a deep breath in satisfaction. "Ah, magnifique!"

Weiss took a glass, then paused. "Is there any alcohol in this?"

Yang winked at her. Weiss frowned, then looked at Ruby properly. She had changed into her one piece swim suit, wearing her jean shorts over it. Weiss clammed herself up, then drinking deeply from her glass, thinking that she could use some alcohol now anyway.

"Delightful," Ruby said as she drained the last of her glass. She took out the small umbrella, cleaning it with a tissue before sticking in behind her ear.

"Ain't it just?" Yang said, raising her glass and smiling wide. "Alright, we can go look for some food now."

They made to move off. Blake hadn't finished her glass yet, and put it in the fridge before wiping off her mouth and heading out the door with Yang. Weiss chose to forgo the straw for the last bit of her drink, tipping it generously into her mouth. Sure, okay, Yang may have been onto something there. It really was delicious.

She felt a burp coming on, and Weiss held it in as she eyed Ruby still standing around, an intense look of concentration on her face. Then she narrowed her eyes at Weiss. Weiss desperately wished she would just walk away.

"You know, you could just... burp?" Ruby said, hands on her hips, and the smile on her face wide. Weiss scowled.

"It's-" she held a hand over her mouth. "Unbecoming."

"Uh huh," Ruby said. She pointed a finger above her. "Not in Atlas anymore, Weiss," she said, before turning around and walking away.

Weiss let out a small burp as soon as she was sure Ruby wasn't in earshot, then sighed, running her hands over her face. Not in Atlas anymore. That could have been the damn title of her book. Maybe this was what Atlas was. Not the iron grip of Jacques Schnee, or the emptiness of her life. Maybe it was the stranglehold of her apprehension, dragging her back, back, back.

And maybe what she needed was to push to keep moving forward. Weiss walked through the door, to where Ruby, Yang and Blake were waiting.

Chapter Text

"So, Ruby," Blake started as they entered the store, two hours into their road trip. Ruby was already eyeing the candy aisle. She looked at Blake, who had a far too casual air about her. She narrowed her eyes. Blake was never purposefully casual. She was silent and mysterious until she wasn't but that was a reactionary thing, never a proactive thing, even around Yang and Ruby. No, this was suspicious.

"Yeah?" Ruby raised both eyebrows. Blake perused the postcards set up on the little rotating stand thing they always postcards in. She shuffled through until she found one a pretty sunset, complete with a 'Wish you were here!' printed in a way too curvy font. Tacky. Blake smiled as she held it.

"You and Weiss," Blake said. She bit her bottom lip as she turned back to look at Ruby.

"Uh huh," Ruby picked up a little basket, putting a couple bottles of water in it.

"You guys are really close," Blake said. Then she sighed, throwing up her hands in frustration.

"Yang told you about New Year's, didn't she," Ruby slapped a palm on her forehead, all her apprehension and regret about telling Yang about it validated. Blake smiled, placing a hand on her hip.

"You would think so, but no, she didn't," Blake said. Oh, no. She didn't give Yang enough credit. Ruby was a bad sister. "What happened on New Year's? I've noticed you guys have been a little weird sometimes since then, but I don't actually know what happened."

Ruby bit the inside of her cheek. Her and her big dumb fat mouth. She turned on her heels and walked away, hurrying over to the candy aisle. She needed a cookie, and she needed it now. Silently, Blake popped up from the other side of the aisle, over the shelf.

"Come on, spill it," Blake said. She slinked over beside Ruby. She poked Ruby in the ribs once. "I wanna know. Everyone else seems to know."

"Fine," Ruby said, aggressively shoving candy into her basket. At an equal rate, Blake put a few items back on the shelf. Ruby gave her the stink eye, but they both knew that this was for the best. Still.

"Weiss and I..." Ruby lowered her voice. "Almost kissed on New Year's," she mumbled, looking anywhere but at Blake.

"I figured it was something like that," Blake said, shrugging as she removed a Reese's Pieces from the basket. She looked at Ruby with concern. "Are you guys... okay? Is everything okay?"

Ruby sighed again, putting the Reese's Pieces back in the basket.

"I'm fine. We're fine. I just... I don't know, it's just kind of weird sometimes, but it's fine, it's totally," she forcefully threw a couple more candy bars into the basket before pausing. She shook her head. "Fine. It's fine."

"You said fine a lot," Blake noted. Ruby looked over at the car, where Weiss was probably sitting. Then she sank down to the floor, leaning against the ice cream cooler.

"I did say fine a lot," Ruby said, exhaling a long breath. For the most part, Ruby was great at repressing stuff. All you had to do was sit around and not think about stuff. She was a pro at sitting around and not thinking about stuff. And school was plenty busy enough for her to bury her head in like a scared ostrich. But for some reason, Weiss, the memory of New Year's, everything about Weiss, just always kept popping up in her head, again and again, like the replay button was broken. Sometimes she'd be studying, and she'd catch herself, heart pounding, breath quickening, just imagining the feel of Weiss' hands on her face. She wanted to lean in. She had wanted to fall.

"Ruby Rose, I think you might be into Weiss," Blake said. "That's just, my opinion of course," Blake sat next to Ruby, nudging her with her elbow.

"I so am," Ruby said, running her hands through her hair.

"How bad is it?" Blake asked.

"Kinda bad, I guess," Ruby answered solemnly. "I can't stop thinking about it. I dream about her."

"Ah," Blake said, nodding in deep understanding. "That's pretty bad. Want a hug?"

Ruby nodded. Blake wrapped her arms around the younger girl, and Ruby felt herself sink into the embrace. This was just her life now. Hugging Blake on the floor of a gas station because she was so stupidly, deeply, indisputably infatuated with Weiss. She thought about Winter, and her kind eyes, staring at Ruby intently, as she opened her big dumb mouth and told her that she loved Weiss. There was no question about that, of course. Ruby just needed to figure out now what that really meant. Ruby let the thought settle in her mind, frustration pounding in her body.

"So, I'm sure this is a pretty big thing and everything, but you mind if we get off the gross gas station floor?" Blake pulled away and smirked. Ruby conceded with a tilt of her head, bouncing up and offering Blake a hand. They continued on with their supply run.

"So, here comes my next question," Blake said, looping a lock of her hair around her finger. "Why aren't you guys together?"

"Because I don't know if she feels the same way," Ruby said. Blake paused then, blinking, looking like she had the wind knocked out of her with that one question. "What?" Ruby asked.

"You're kidding me, right?" Blake said, both eyebrows shooting up as her eyes widened, staring at Ruby like she couldn't believe what she was hearing. Like Ruby was speaking in tongues. Ruby frowned.

"I... no?" Ruby shrugged. Blake huffed out a breath.

"Rubes, I-" she crossed her arms then, pursing her lips. "I just think... you should give it a try. I know you might be feeling scared, but you know, it's always going to be-"

"A leap of faith," Ruby finished for her, her mouth moving faster than her brain, like it tended to do. Blake's gaze turned soft, and she smiled at the younger girl.

"Sure. Yes. A leap of faith," Blake said. "But it's important. It's worth doing, trust me," Blake placed a hand on Ruby's shoulder. She scoffed, looking away.

"That's easy for you to say, you and Yang were made for each other," Ruby pouted. Blake smiled at the thought.

"I love Yang with all my heart, Ruby, but I don't think that's a thing. Made for each other. It's just something people say to make things easier. I didn't have much of a choice when I fell for her, no, but it was a choice to be with her. And it was still scary, and I still had a million doubts, and even if it didn't work out, I still wouldn't have regretted telling her," Blake cast a sideways glance out the window. "Just think about it, okay?"

Without another word, Blake slipped the basket from Ruby's grasp, taking it to the front counter. They headed back to the car shortly, their supply run complete. Yang greeted them cheerily while Weiss stared daggers at the back of the blonde's head.

"What's up with you?" Ruby asked. Weiss swallowed, then frowned, crossing her arms.

"She went to the bathroom. We went to the bathroom," Yang offered as explanation. Ruby gasped.

"Weiss went to a gas station bathroom? No way."

Yang cackled. "Right?"


When they arrived at the house, Ruby felt the first edges of apprehension grip her, sliding around her rib cage and threatening to squeeze the life out of her. She really hoped that Weiss was going to respond positively to all of this. More than anything, she wanted Weiss to enjoy herself. This was the first time she'd ever been on any sort of break with friends after all. Ruby would hate for her to have a bad time.

Blake made a gross joke, and Weiss and Ruby had run off upstairs to be anywhere but around the other two. Ruby grunted as she set her bags down at the top of the stairs. Blake had called out that they could decide among themselves which of the rooms upstairs each of them would get.

Ruby felt herself hit with a wave of nostalgia as soon she got to the top. Funny enough, it hadn't been super long since she'd been back, but all the same. She flickered a glance at Weiss' back. It felt like so much had changed since they last came here.

"Yang and I shared the room on the left when we came up here last year, it's bigger than the other room. You can have it," Ruby motioned to the room. She couldn't see Weiss' face, but she could see the small motions she made in response. Her shoulders tightened up a little bit, and she could see Weiss made herself just a little smaller.

"No, you can take that room," Weiss said, her voice sounding a little more choked than usual. She turned her head a smidge to look at Ruby, before running off like she had just gotten spooked by the look on her face. Weiss brought her bags in with her and slammed the door shut.

Okay.

Ruby pursed her lips, and tried to not think too much about that. It was just Weiss being kind of weird, and that was okay, right? Like, Ruby was a little weird sometimes, and everyone let it slide anyway, so fine, okay, Weiss was alright being a little weird too.

Ruby took her usual room, closing the door behind her, setting her bags down and opening the windows before flopping down onto the bed, letting out a relieved moan. Making the trip up here was always fun, but being cooped up in a car for such a long time always made her a little antsy. She let the cool ocean breeze lilt in through the room, making the curtains raise and flutter. She breathed in deep, smelling that salty ocean air.

Ah. Felt like summer.

Ruby lounged around for a few minutes longer, just enjoying the breeze, the heat coming from outside, and the sounds of the ocean. She loved that the house was right in front of the beach. It was everything a beach house needed to be: by the beach. There were a lot more like, pressing reasons why she was grateful that Yang found Blake Belladonna, but...

Well, who could deny that view?

In an appropriately cheery summer mood, Ruby decided to waste no time. No matter what the plan was, she would be damned if she didn't get to hit the beach today. Ruby grabbed her swim suit and changed, wearing her jean shorts and a loose off-shoulder shirt over it before heading downstairs.

She made extra sure to stomp down each step as she descended the staircase. Faintly, she could hear the sound of a blender before it stopped abruptly.

"We're downstairs and naked, Rubes, don't look!" she could hear Blake call out from the kitchen. Without thinking, Ruby leaned down and poked her head through the beams on the banister of the staircase.

Like, yeah obviously nobody was naked. But man, imagine if they were? And Ruby just looked with reckless abandon. She was playing a very dangerous game.

Instead, she saw Yang making her yearly summer smoothie, while Blake and Weiss sat on the stools at the kitchen island. Ruby made her way towards the kitchen, hopping on top of the island to sit on it. She saw the small quirk of Weiss' mouth as she watched Ruby take her seat, but paid it no mind. Chaotic neutrals adhered to no laws.

"Are we going out to eat?" Ruby asked the others, patting her stomach exaggeratedly. "I'm starving!"

Yang poured her smoothies in four tall glasses, adorned with adorable tiny umbrellas and straws. She took a glass for herself, grinning in satisfaction.

"Not before I have my yearly, delightful summer-themed smoothie," Yang said, taking a drink and breathing deep. "Magnifique!"

Ruby took a glass for herself, greedily drinking from it. Yang had a lot of silly traditions. She wouldn't ever start studying before she knocked on her desk three times. She had a lucky penny she always kept in her bag. When she worked out, she always did her reps in odd numbers. But the annual Yang Xiao Long delightful summer smoothie tradition was a fantastic tradition. Sure, the argument could be made that she could make the summer smoothie literally any time, but that was dumb. Half the appeal was the location and context.

"Is there any alcohol in this?" Weiss asked. Then in response to Yang's wink, she drank it anyway. It was a good question, but Ruby was like, 70% sure Yang didn't spike the smoothie. Like, at least 60%.

"Delightful," Ruby said as she gulped her drink down, retrieving the little umbrella to toy with it.

"Ain't it just?" Yang said, raising her glass to Ruby. "Alright, we can go look for some food now."

Blake left her glass in the fridge, while Weiss finished her glass with gusto. She screwed up her face afterwards, and held a hand over her chest.

She was suppressing a burp. Oh, that was adorable. Ruby bit her lip and let Blake and Yang head to the car first.

"You know, you could just... burp?" Ruby said. Weiss scowled at her, though her mouth was still firmly pursed so as to not let the burp out. The lengths she went to.

"It's... unbecoming," she spoke around the burp that threatened to escape her throat. Ruby wanted to laugh a little bit. She was ridiculous sometimes, and Ruby didn't know if that was a good or bad thing. It was very Weiss, though, and that was what mattered to her most.

"Uh huh," Ruby said. She jabbed a finger pointing upwards, motioning towards their general surroundings. "Not in Atlas anymore, Weiss," she said, and for a moment, Ruby didn't know if that was a statement or a plea. She felt Weiss' eyes on the back of her head as she headed out the door.


"So welcome to the delightful beach-side town of Haven, by the way," Blake said to Weiss, in the driver's seat for a change. Yang was always happy to drive, but Blake knew the area better than the others. "Population, not much. But there are a lot of fun things to do around here."

"It's nice here," Weiss said with full sincerity. She gazed out the windows, watching the inhabitants of the small town move about their day.

Ruby briefly thought about living in such a small town like this. She thought she would enjoy it, actually. Going to the beach anytime she wanted, living a simple life just reading books at home, a gorgeous ocean view whenever she wanted. She turned her gaze beside her, to Weiss watching and wondering, and she thought that whatever it was, she would probably enjoy it a lot more with Weiss with her. With a little hesitation, she probably thought that this was going to be the case for whatever she did. Weiss, her constant.

There was a thought. There was a hope.

Blake parked in front of the restaurant, a charming, retro style diner. The neon purple sign out front read 'Bruce's'. They had been there before, last summer. It was less retro-styled, and more... actually retro. The place had been standing for years and years, ever since the town was founded in the early 40s. They had changed their aesthetic very little in the years, only enough to maintain that weirdly nostalgic feeling. They took a seat at one of the booths.

Weiss took out a menu, examining it.

"What- what's an Elvis Burger?" Weiss asked, flipping over her menu and scrutinizing it. Everything had strange names and no descriptions. Blake took the menu, old and yellowed laminated paper, from Weiss.

"Don't worry about it, just trust me on this one," Blake said. Weiss looked to Ruby for confirmation. Ruby nodded her head. Weiss leaned back in her seat, shrugging slightly.

"So, we're hitting the beach after this, right?" Ruby asked the table, almost vibrating in her seat from excitement. "Sorry, I phrased that as a question, it's not- we're totally going to hit the beach after this," Ruby grinned, toothy and wide. Nobody had the heart to tell her otherwise. After all, they did come all this way to the beach house. Might as well go to the beach.

Blake ordered them the burgers, and they had a decadent, delicious meal, leaving them full and pleased. Ruby was the first to move, hopping in the driver seat of the car before anyone else could. Everyone protested. Ruby really wanted to drive, though! She was geared up, excited beyond just her usual self. It was the atmosphere! It was the beach, and the food, and waves and the breeze and Weiss was there and things were different and cool, so, like, yeah, she totally felt like driving.

"Nuh uh, no way. It's totally my turn to drive!" Ruby argued, looking at everyone's bemused expression. "Come on guys! I'll be totally cool this time, I swear. Besides, we're just heading to the beach. You could drive in any direction and hit the beach in this place, we'll be totally cool. Trust me!"

"Alright, I'm not suffering through the co-pilot seat for this," Yang shook her head, looking for the life of her like she was making a decision to let Ruby drive against her better judgement. "Weiss, you're up."

Weiss looked at Yang, mouth slightly agape.

"Ditto. Get up there, Weiss," Blake said in agreement. Weiss rolled her eyes.

"Fine," she scoffed. Ruby waved her off.

"It'll be fine, Weiss!" she said jovially. Weiss didn't much share her mood. "C'moooonn, Weiss. I'm gonna need some good vibes from you before we set off. Summer vacation 2019, get hyped!"

Weiss scoffed at her, but she couldn't hide the smile that tugged at the corner of her mouth. "Fine. I totally believe in you, go Ruby," she deadpanned, looping a finger in the air to express her joy. Ruby shrugged.

"Your support means the world to me, Weiss," she said, watching Weiss crack a smile as she put the car in reverse and backed out of the parking lot.


Okay, so she took a couple wrong turns, and, okay fine, maybe it took them like fifteen minutes longer than it was supposed to to get to their destination. But Ruby thought they were all missing the larger point, which was that they got there, and sometimes it was about the journey and not the destination. She told them as much, and received a flick to her forehead, courtesy of one Yang Xiao Long. Ruby scowled, but they all headed to the beach anyway. The back of the car held a nice little beach umbrella and several lawn chairs that Yang retrieved as they went around looking for a nice spot to set themselves down.

Ruby dug around her bag as she walked, feeling the severe, delightful heat of the day bear down on them. She gasped as she felt around, looking for the little tube she swore up and down she had-

Weiss held out a tube of sunscreen from her bag.

"You forgot to bring yours didn't you?" Weiss said, and though her words suggested otherwise, there wasn't any condescension in her tone. Ruby pouted.

"I must've left it in my luggage," Ruby said, smiling sheepishly.

"Well, here, take it. I've got extra in my purse," Weiss said. "I'd say that it was an accident, and that I always carry around extra, but, well. I don't. So, here."

Ruby took the sunscreen gratefully. Once again, Weiss had her number. She was almost better at anticipating Ruby than she was herself. Even in the blazing afternoon heat, Ruby could feel the warm glow in her chest as she held onto the sunscreen like her life depended on it. She couldn't help it, she smiled, and she could swear her heart started pounding the instant she saw the slanted smile on Weiss' face.

"Thanks," Ruby managed to rip out of her throat. If her face felt flush, she would blame it on the heat. "You're-" she started, but felt herself trail off, her throat constricting itself as the thought lost itself to the ether.

What was she gonna say anyway?

Hey Weiss, you're good at knowing when I'm about to be an idiot, I love you for that.

Weiss, you're the best, I'm lucky to know you!

You're the best reason I have to wake up and get out and I never want us to be apart.

Hah. Yeah. No way.

"Thanks," Ruby said again instead, shaking her head as they continued walking.

Eventually, Blake settled them in a relatively empty spot, poking the umbrella through the ground in one deft spike, then turning it open. Yang dropped the chairs down, brushing them off before sitting herself down, inviting Blake to sit in the chair with her with a look and a pat. Blake rolled her eyes, but (who would've guessed, right?) she sits herself down right next to Yang, fitting themselves in each other like long-lost lego blocks.

Weiss took the other seat, pulling out her book and pulling her shades down over her eyes.

Ruby pouted at them.

"Nobody else wants to get into the water?" she asked, shucking off her top and shorts and tossing them at the little blanket under the umbrella. She took out the sunscreen, applying it over herself. Luckily this was a one piece, so she didn't have that much surface area to cover with it. Weiss shifted a little in her seat, but remained firmly glued to her book. Blake gave her a death glare. Yang-

Gently got up and left Blake in the seat, careful not to disturb her lovely girlfriend. She took her tank top off, tossing it to Blake with a little laugh. She already had her bikini top underneath.

She stretched her arms up above her head, then bounced on the balls of her foot once. Twice.

"Three," she said, getting into a running position. Ruby jerked herself to attention, frantically tossing the tube of sunscreen at Weiss' general direction (and hearing a little 'Hey!' in return) before turning hot on her heels to run away.

"TWOONERUBY," she heard Yang thunder from behind hear, hearing the dull thumps of Yang's heavy footfalls behind her as she sprinted for her life.

Ruby was an excellent runner, make no mistake, but nothing stopped a determined Yang Xiao Long. She had reach on her side, and easy as she could carry a sack of feather, she scooped up Ruby, tossing her over her shoulder.

"Noooooooo, this doesn't count!" Ruby thumped Yang's back as she brought her into the water.

Without warning, Ruby felt the first splashes of water tickle her legs before Yang tossed her. She fell, fully submerged in the beautiful, clear water.

Ah. It was summer. It was a lovely summer.

When they returned twenty minutes later, Ruby had dunked Yang underwater a pitiful twice, while Yang had (and meticulously kept count) dunked her thirteen times. Needless to say, Ruby was a little bit more wet than Yang was, who returned to the beach umbrella in smug triumph.

"They return," Blake said, lounging on her chair luxuriously. She turned to look at Ruby. "Guess you lost," she said. Yang grinned wide in response, wrapping her arm around Ruby and aggressively hugging her while Ruby struggled to get away.

Weiss finally put her book down, peering at the pair over her sunglasses, cracking a small smile.

"You'll get her next time, Ruby," she offered up, her shoulders already in a pitiful half shrug. Yang immediately stuck her tongue out, but released Ruby anyway with a kiss atop her head. Ruby smiled wide.

"Probably not, but that's kind of half the fun of it. But thanks, Weiss," Ruby said, wringing some water out of her hair. The dye was starting to fade, the red fading to a darker crimson now. Briefly, Ruby thought that she should have dyed it before going on vacation. She sat at the end of Weiss' lawn chair.

"You're soaking wet," Weiss said, withdrawing her legs. Ruby grinned mischievously. Weiss shook her head vehemently. "Nope. No way. I didn't bring my swim suit, you can't dunk me. I will murder you if you try," she turned her glare over to Yang. "That goes double for you!"

Blake laughed as the Rose-Xiao Longs looked on at Weiss ominously. Weiss withdrew more into herself.

"When you least expect it, Ice Queen," Yang promised, waggling her eyebrows. Weiss gave her the finger. Ruby broke at that, cackling with laughter.

"Fine. Not today, then," Ruby said, tucking some wet hair behind her ear. She eyed Weiss carefully, and suddenly she was aware the mischief in her voice dropped out to replace itself with something else. Something she couldn't really name, couldn't place, but came from a genuine, deep place somewhere in the pit of her chest. "Not yet," she said to Weiss, and if Ruby was half-crazy, she could swear she saw Weiss shiver.

Chapter Text

So slowly the sunlight streamed in through the blinds, pulling Weiss out of sleep. She groaned slightly, turning away.

Right. It was summer vacation. She deserved to sleep in a little bit. Weiss yawned.

The thing was, she was Weiss Schnee, and she literally could not physically sleep in. Her mind was always hard-wired to wake up in the morning, like it was ready for all manner of activities all day, no matter where she was or what time of year it was. It wasn't so easy to acclimatise to being anywhere but Schnee Manor.

Hah. That was an evergreen statement.

So, Weiss got up. She washed her face and made her way downstairs, her steps light so as to not wake anyone else up. It was pretty early still. The sun was just rising, a marvellous purple-orange swirl washing over the horizon. Weiss put the coffee on before she padded out to the back deck, gently closing the sliding door. There was an old wooden swing that Blake had assured her was still perfectly safe, though the cracked, peeling white paint suggested not an insignificant amount of wear and tear. Weiss decided that the drama of the moment demanded she get on, so she decided to reserve her worries for if she actually died on the swing, and sat herself down.

It was peaceful. Her, the swing, the sound of the ocean and a light breeze, all watching the majesty of the sun rise over the land. Weiss sat there for a while, letting the sunbeams wash over her, imagining she was drenching herself not in the water, but the rays of sunshine, like she could feel each mote of sunlight brush over her pale skin, sliding and dripping off her in waves. She felt light and airy and content for a little while.

The sliding glass door opened with a small squeak, and Ruby Rose walked out with two mugs of delicious smelling coffee.

If Weiss thought she enjoyed bathing herself in the sunlight, she loved how it looked on Ruby. It almost gave her an ethereal glow, orange and bright like in that photo of Yang and Blake. She was in her pyjamas, and her hair was sticking every which way, and Weiss could still see her dredging off the last edges of sleep, but Weiss thought she looked nothing short of lovely.

A cutie-patootie, if you would. Weiss blanched at herself momentarily. God, she knew she was smitten, but, that was genuinely atrocious.

Still, she thought as Ruby silently handed her a mug of coffee before taking a seat beside her, the sentiment remained.

"Morning," Ruby said as she sat down, stifling a little yawn. God, okay, come on, that was cute. Nobody was going to fault her on that one.

"It is a pretty one," Weiss collected herself, breathing her coffee in deep. Ruby rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, nodding in agreement. They sat there for a while, close, and in silence. Weiss tried her best to get back on track, to keep appreciating the beauty of the natural world, of the miracle of the sun rising every day, but she found her mind wandered, always wandered back to the prettier sight beside her with the crimson highlights in her hair.

"So," Ruby was the first to break the silence, the orange glow of dawn transitioned fully to a bright, burning sunlight now. The clouds overhead drifted along lazily, providing some measure of comfort and protection from the harsher rays of sun. "What's the plan, Weiss?"

"You're asking me," Weiss said with an evasive shrug. She was more than content to just follow everyone else, really. Normally, very off brand for her, but she hadn't exactly come along with the intention to hijack their yearly tradition. She had even done the minimal amount of preparation and study on the area, to make sure she wouldn't accidentally overstep. Ruby sipped on her (sickeningly sweet, Weiss knew) coffee, her brow quirked. She looked at Weiss, a thin smile on her face.

"It's your first actual summer vacation, one that we all want you to enjoy," Ruby motioned vaguely with her free hand behind her, towards where Yang and Blake were probably (hopefully) sleeping soundly. "Come on, what d'you want to do?"

Weiss thought about it, considered Ruby's words carefully. Though she knew Ruby Rose to have always been sincere with her, her Schnee pragmatism still gave her reason to pause. Maybe the word was disbelief. It irritated her, her inherent scepticism. She resolved to change that habit.

"I've never been on a sailboat before," Weiss said. She had been on plenty of yachts, cruise ships and the like, but never on one of those small sailboats, where you had to work to get the boat where you wanted to go. She had always been curious, and she had spotted a couple sailboats docked at the jetty when Ruby had given them an accidental grand tour of Haven, one that she was adamantly not ashamed of.

Ruby grinned. "That's what I like to hear. Alright, Weiss, let's give you some new experiences!"

That grin, and the idea of new experiences, oh the places Weiss could go with that.

"Thank you," Weiss said, muffling herself a little bit into her cup. Ruby tilted her head. "For bringing me along," Weiss clarified.

Ruby scoffed, looking at her like she was the biggest idiot she'd ever met. "Not gonna just go on summer vacation without you Weiss. You're my best friend," Ruby said. As soon as the words tumbled out of her mouth, Weiss felt a confusing, revolting mixture of happiness and disappointment. She couldn't place which feeling was where exactly, all of it mixed around, blending and bleeding into one another, like paint on an easel. Weiss instead centred herself on the crook of Ruby's smile, the dip of her chin, the hollow of her throat, the line of her jaw, the bright, honest, eyes that held no secrets. Right.

Keep it together, Weiss.

"I..." Weiss hated the words that she didn't know, always, always didn't know. There were bursts, moments where she knew exactly what to say, exactly how to say it, and how to get exactly the reaction she wanted from Ruby. They came and went, and more often than not, Weiss found herself instead floored, stalled like a faulty engine at the barest display of genuine, vulnerable emotion. "You're- you're my best friend, too," Weiss said, dredging the truth of the matter out from the pit of her heart and plastering it messily over Ruby Rose: the Weiss Schnee special in displaying emotions. She could smack her head against a wall.

Ruby smiled wide, and she leaned over to bump the sides of their heads together. Affection and respect for the older girl beside her clear as day for anyone, even Weiss, to see. Weiss shut her eyes.

Love.

Love, love, love.

If Weiss wasn't careful, if Weiss was just a little bit more impulsive, it would have been so easy to just turn her head and-

All she needed to do was tilt her head a little bit and kiss-

The scent of Ruby would have been so intoxicating-

The feel of her skin against Weiss' own-

Weiss felt her stomach coil, twisting and turning in her guts, stronger than ever before.

"Ruby, I-" Weiss began.

"Hey, Weiss-" Ruby started to say.

They both stopped and stared at each other. Ruby huffed a bright, easy laugh. "You go ahead," Ruby said.

"No, you should go first," Weiss said, biting her lips.

"I... was just going to ask what you wanted for breakfast," Ruby said, casting a glance over to the kitchen. Weiss swallowed thickly, getting out of the thick, heavy bog of her thoughts. She started by getting off the swing. She began feeling the first edges of heat prick at her scalp, threatening to make her sweat. She headed into the shelter of the house, knowing Ruby was right behind her.

"How do some pancakes sound?" Weiss asked as she rounded the kitchen island, setting her coffee down to check the pantries and fridge.

"I think I was asking you what you wanted to eat," Ruby said, her wide smile threatening to eat Weiss alive.

"Yes, well, now I'm asking you," Weiss said as she retrieved a box of the pancake mix. She looked back at the pantry, and smiled. "We even have some chocolate chips," she reached up on her tip toes to grab at it. It was useless, just right out of her reach, and she cursed the fact that she wasn't wearing her usual heels or wedges right about then.

Ruby came up behind her, grabbing the bag of chocolate chips easily. Weiss turned around to scowl at the younger (taller! Damn her) girl, and found herself in close, too close proximity to her, trapped between her and the kitchen counter. She felt her face heat up. The air in the kitchen became thick, electrified with energy, familiar and insistent and demanding. It wasn't something Weiss thought about in the moment, but afterwards, she would say that there was some sort of shift, like someone had doused the kitchen in gasoline and was standing over them with an unlit match. Anything was possible. Even the idea of a traumatised, barely functioning, neurotic Atlas heiress together with a perfect, brilliant, caring Vale girl.

Gray orbs locked eyes with blue. Weiss felt her breath drop out of her chest, somehow getting caught in her throat at the same time. Ruby put the bag on the counter, and if Weiss was hopeful, if Weiss wasn't mistaken, the look in Ruby's eyes could have been something like hunger. She felt her mouth go dry; she felt her heart begin to pound.

Close. So close. The rational part of her brain had been thrown out the window, all its protests fading away, softer and softer by the second. How and why didn't matter, all that mattered to Weiss was her heart hammering in her ears and Ruby's lips that seemed so, so inviting.

She heard the click of the door unlock. Ruby withdrew immediately, drawing away like she got burned. Around the corner, Blake came out, yawning and dressed in a lavish purple silk robe. Her eyes were still squinting, adjusting to the harsh sunlight. Her hair was in a mess, and her ears were down flat on her head.

On some level, she was furious, absolutely furious with the Faunus girl. Oh god almighty, how many times had she dreamed about that exact scenario happening? How many times had she fantasized, all the times she would be that close to Ruby Rose again?

On the other hand, she could kiss Blake instead. She was just that close to making a huge mistake. She was that close to exploding. She didn't know how to process all of that, so instead what she did was turn around and pour another cup of coffee to give to Blake, who took it gratefully. Weiss didn't know if Blake could sense the lingering tension in the air, the unfinished, unexamined, unsatisfaction of Weiss and Ruby.

This summer was a bad idea. Weiss knew it. Weiss knew it. She took a chance to briefly look at Ruby, who still had hooded desire burning behind her eyes. She swallowed thickly, and then set about getting the pan out to start making breakfast, intending to dispel all illusions, to go back to normal as soon as possible.

"Pancakes?" Weiss asked, her voice rough in her throat. She turned her head to look at Blake, whose eyes were still squinting as they adjusted to the bright morning. She nodded blearily, taking her coffee with her to the bathroom.

Weiss got the stove on and started cutting a stick of butter up, her eyes never daring to stray too far. They made breakfast in silence.

Fuck, could you blame her? The first edges of shame began welling up, wrapping itself around her heart and threatening to tug it down. God, what was she thinking? What was she thinking? She had a million, million reasons, she couldn't do it. She couldn't. But as soon as Ruby even-

What was Ruby thinking? What did Ruby think? What was- Who did she-

Weiss clenched her fist, unclenching it slowly with a soft exhale. Her mind was a mess, a confused tidal wave of emotions and questions. But there were still pancakes to be made.

She put four on a plate, all chocolate chips. She breathed in deep, then finally looked up at Ruby, who was standing off to the side with a far off look in her eyes. Weiss put the plate down on the island with a deliberate 'clink!', catching Ruby's attention.

"Your pancakes," Weiss said, biting her lip. Ruby pursed her lips. She made to move, but stopped herself and sighed.

"Sorry," she mumbled into the air between them. She couldn't meet Weiss' eyes, and it broke her heart a little bit to see her like this, and all she wanted to do was just finish the damn job, to take her in her arms and have all this be done with.

Instead-

Instead, Weiss nodded mutely, finishing up breakfast.


"What are we up to today?" Yang asked when she finally woke up a couple hours after everyone else, her form somehow messy and glorious still. She held a coffee cup in one hand as she ran her other hand through her wild mane. She idly scratched at her exposed, firmly toned stomach. Weiss didn't have any feelings for her, but... she was still kinda gay. So. She could admire. She was allowed.

Ruby had spent a while in her room after breakfast. Weiss briefly considered going up there, but she realised that that perhaps wasn't the best idea. She had instead grabbed a book from her room, reading on the couch. Blake joined her after a spell, the two of them reading in complete silence. Weiss thought that that was maybe Blake's ideal way of spending time with any human being not named Yang Xiao Long.

She tried to shift her mind away from Ruby. It half worked. Weiss would sometimes catch herself glazing over the words on the page as her mind wandered back to untangling the Gordian knot in her head labelled Ruby Rose. It was exhausting, truly. Not for the first time, she wished for some impossible miracle of solution to the problem, in the most abstract of ways.

Like, a meteor hitting her, or a wizard trapping her in eternal solitude atop a tower, or that she could wake up and this was all a strange dream.

It didn't matter. But Ruby had come down shortly after Yang woke up. She sat at the foot of the stairs as the group discussed their plans for the day.

"Didn't you want to do some shopping?" Blake asked Yang, who comfortably plopped herself on the couch beside the Faunus, settling comfortably into her side. Blake planted a quick kiss on Yang's cheek as they seemed to melt into each other. Love was sickening.

"Right yeah, for the thing," Yang said, nodding. Weiss quirked her brow.

"The thing?" Weiss asked. Yang looked at Blake, then turned to look at Ruby, who was staring at the rest, but kept silent.

"You guys didn't tell her about the thing?" Yang asked them. They both shrugged in turn.

"What's the thing?" Weiss asked, irritation lacing into her voice. "You keep saying the thing."

"Y'know..." Yang gestured vaguely around her with her cup, staring at Weiss expectantly. "The thing."

Alright. She was doing it on purpose. Weiss blew a strand of hair out of her face and crossed her arms, not giving Yang the satisfaction of messing with her. Yang smiled and rolled her eyes good-naturedly.

"It's the summer festival celebration, they have it every year here," Yang explained finally. Blake nodded in affirmation.

"You guys never told me about any festival," Weiss said.

"It's at the end of the week," Blake said. "At the lighthouse. Don't worry about it; it's not like, a fancy thing or anything. It's really fun. There's a dance, and food and activities. The people here get really into it, and everyone's welcome to celebrate. We've gone almost every year."

"Sounds... festive," Weiss said. "Do I need to get anything special for it or anything?"

"No," Blake answered easily. Then she flickered a glance, a look at Yang. "Unless you want to follow us to go shopping...?" she tapered off at the end of her sentence. Weiss pursed her lips.

That would be the easy way out. She looked over Yang's shoulder to Ruby, who was still sitting sullenly at the foot of the stairs. Her heart felt a little heavy.

"Ruby and I have plans," Weiss said. Ruby immediately perked up. "We're going to go sailing."

Yang raised both brows, whipping her head over to look at Ruby, who smiled a small smile and nodded.

She met Weiss' eyes, and there must have been something in them, because Weiss could see her visibly relax and soften. Weiss smiled, giving Ruby a little half-shrug, unspoken words enough for now. For now.

Ruby headed upstairs as Yang took a shower, and Weiss decided this time to go after her. (Was that smart? Would it be the smartest decision she could make? To just follow Ruby, and just keep it that way. To just trust, because before this she never had anything she could trust without question like that. Weiss wanted to, God help her.)

She knocked on Ruby's door, soft taps that seemed loud against the quiet din of the upstairs hallway. A silence that seemed to balloon bigger and bigger the longer she waited outside the door. The door handle turned, an action that seemed sure of itself, even if it was slow and deliberate, like it was an eventuality that the door would open. Weiss found herself face to face with Ruby Rose.

"Can I come in?" Weiss asked, as gentle as she could. She found her hands were held behind her, and made to deliberately place them by her sides. Ruby looked at her for a spell, and it felt like smoothing out a wrinkled shirt, like there was some relief to be found in the younger girl's gaze.

"I... yeah," Ruby stepped aside, biting her bottom lip. "Yeah, come on in."

Weiss stepped in, feeling the cool ocean breeze through the window, the ghostly fluttering of the curtains in the quiet morning. It made her feel less present, and maybe that was a good thing, maybe that helped her feel a little braver. Somehow it guided her, tethered her to the here and now, like she had an anchor in reality. Paradoxical, but so was her relationship with Ruby. But so was she.

"I'm sorry," Weiss started off, turning around to face Ruby, who was leaning against her closed door. "I'm-"

"No, hey, Weiss, you don't have to apologise to me," Ruby immediately cut her off, launching off the door with a bound of energy. She held her hands up to stop Weiss, shaking her head violently. A deep crimson shade started off at the exposed portion of her chest and spread upwards, to the tips of her ears. For a brief moment, Weiss wondered what other parts of her body flushed so deeply when she was embarrassed. For a brief moment, Weiss wanted nothing more than to find out. She clenched her fists tight for a second.

"Ruby, listen to me," Weiss said, stepping closer with an authority and confidence that she didn't feel. "We have to make it through this week without..."

Weiss swallowed thickly, the notion of saying 'making out, among other things' out loud making her pause. She barrelled on through.

"We just have to make it back to Vale without incident," Weiss said. "It's summer, we're getting all caught up in ourselves, and- and the beach, and-"

They were too close. Weiss felt like she was really pushing the boundaries here, testing the both of them like she they weren't both razor wires pulled taut. Weiss didn't take another step.

Ruby looked like she was considering Weiss' entire being. She never strayed her focus away from Weiss, and she couldn't pull her eyes away from her either. It was easy. It was the easiest thing to do for Weiss, was just to stand here all day and look at Ruby, and give into all those feeling she'd bottled up and stuffed away. But it wasn't about easy. It was about what was right.

Weiss swallowed again, feeling her throat start to constrict.

It was about what was right, and she and Ruby were not.

She wasn't. And she wouldn't let it affect her. Not Ruby, who was kind and gracious and was the best thing to ever happen to her. Not her.

"Okay," Ruby said, finally. And she made a motion like she was shrugging with her whole body, and she blew out a breath, sharp and quick. She smiled, and finally looked away. Ruby crossed her arms and nodded. "Okay," she repeated.

"Okay," Weiss agreed, then returned her hands behind her back.

They stood there in silence for a while.

"So, you wanna go get on that boat?" Ruby asked, sticking her hands in her pockets. Weiss smiled.

"Absolutely," she said.


Absolutely not.

The boat in question was an old, worn thing, with paint peeling off the side. In fading letters, the name 'The Unsinkable II' was inscribed on the side. The man who had agreed to let them aboard seemed familiar with Ruby. He seemed a kindly old man, with a great bushy beard. He had clapped Ruby on the back with gusto as he welcomed her back to the shipyard.

"Little Miss Rose!" he boomed. "A pleasure to see you again," he said, chuckling heartily.

"Hey, Cap'n," Ruby gave him a little two finger salute. "It's good to be back. This is my friend, Weiss," Ruby wrapped her arm around Weiss' shoulder and brought her forward.

The Captain eyed her up and down, rubbing his beard in thought as he seemed to evaluate her. Then he nodded in satisfaction.

"Good to meet you, Miss," he said, the smile on his face wide and welcoming. He shook her hand vigorously, apparently never doing anything in half-measures.

He had shown her around the dock, pointing out the different types of boats and their uses, before he finally stopped them at their boat.

"If you've no more questions, I'll leave you in the more than capable hands of our Miss Rose," he said, winking at Ruby. He fished out some keys and placed them in Ruby's hand, patting her on the shoulder as he walked off. Ruby spun the key-ring around her index finger.

"No way," Weiss said, arms akimbo.

"Oh, yeah," Ruby said, her grin toothy and eager. "Do yeh believe in ghost stories, Miss Schnee?" Ruby asked in her most pirate-y accent. Weiss sighed, shaking her head.

"This cannot possibly be safe," Weiss pointed at the boat.

"What are you talking about? It's literally named 'Unsinkable'," Ruby slapped a hand over the peeling lettering.

"Two! The Unsinkable Two!" Weiss exclaimed. "What happened to the first Unsinkable, Ruby? Where is Unsinkable One?!"

Ruby appeared to consider the thought for a moment, before she shrugged easily. She stopped twirling the keys around her fingers, stuffing it in the pocket of her shorts. She stepped a little closer to Weiss.

"Listen, I've been on this tub a bunch of times. I know how to drive it and everything," she extended a hand towards Weiss. "Do you trust me?"

As if that was fair. Weiss sighed again, crossing her arms briefly. Ruby didn't falter, her hand still outstretched. Weiss finally relented with an explosive groan.

"Of course I trust you," she grumbled, taking Ruby's hand in her own. Ruby's smile could outshine the sun. She easily climbed aboard, still holding onto Weiss' hand.

Weiss, unsteady, but guided by Ruby's firm grip, slowly clambered aboard. The boat rocked a little with her jerky movements. Ruby giggled a little bit as Weiss fell into a crouched position, gripping the railing by the side tight.

"Easy, see? One foot in front of the other. Nothing to it. Now here," Ruby pulled Weiss up slowly, guiding her towards the comfortable, worn seats behind the steering wheel. "Be back in a minute," she said, as Weiss took a seat. Then she took off, easy, practiced movements, as she unfurled the sails and hoisted it. She seemed totally in her element. The last time Weiss had seen her with such grace and focus was back in shop class. She moved quickly, her actions swift and strong. It almost seemed like the wind picked up with her movements. Her short hair whipped around her face, and she brushed it away with an errant hand before sliding over to the next task. She paused as she tied off the last rigging, looking over to Weiss with a little smile on her face.

Holy hell. Weiss could've melted then and there. The dimples and the squint and the proud look of satisfaction, and the hair blowing all around, and her small frame didn't betray the amount of strength she had, and her legs were longer than Weiss remembered them being, and she was walking around the sails over to Weiss like she was sure.

Ruby paused again as she reached the wheel of the ship. Then, with a hesitated movement, threw her shirt over her head and onto the floor. Her bikini top was red, and all Weiss could look at was her back, exposed but for the bikini strap, and oh god almighty-

Weiss had only barely managed to keep it together when Ruby was wearing that one piece, and now she had an actual bikini on, and she was doing all this boat stuff with confidence, and the wind was still blowing and her hair was still-

Weiss sucked in a shuddering breath. Okay. That it was official. She was kind of turned on. Fuck. Fuck.

Weiss wanted to take a leap off the boat into the bay, to clear her head of sinful, shameful thoughts. Away from Ruby Rose, all things bright and beautiful and gorgeous, and was there like a lower deck in this thing?

The engine started with a little sputter as Ruby keyed the ignition, and off they went.

Somewhere along the way, Weiss had made the executive decision to also lose her shirt, because, well.

It was hot. It was. There were no clouds in the sky and the sun was bearing down on them, and it was hot okay?

Ruby steered them out of the bay easily, speeding along the open waters. Weiss watched the island get tinier in the distance. Then Ruby stepped off the ignition, letting the boat drift as she turned around and joined Weiss in the seats.

"So, whaddaya think?" Ruby asked, stretching out and motioning towards the water, sparking in the sun. All she could hear this far out was the distant cry of seagulls, and the low rumble of the boat's engine. The wind blew magnificently, the sails billowing and buffeting as it carried them along. Weiss admitted, the novelty of it all was pretty nice. She'd never been out at sea with only one other person. It was kind of scary, but in an exciting way. It was trying something new, and with someone new, and it was just open water and Weiss Schnee and Ruby Rose, and it was scary and nice.

Weiss got up out of her seat, trying to appear more composed than she felt. She held a hand up to shield the sun from her eyes as she looked out towards the horizon. She turned and flashed a smile at Ruby, who was leaning easily against the wheel.

"It's nice. Thank you for bringing me out here," Weiss said.

"My pleasure, Weiss," Ruby threw up finger guns at the older girl.

"You really seem to know your way around all of this," Weiss said. "When did you learn to drive one of these things anyway?"

Ruby pushed herself off the wheel, moving around the sails to check the ropes absently. "Well, it was a couple summers ago, when Blake first got us up here. I met the Captain at the diner, and he mentioned about the boats and everything. Blake was not super enthused with the idea, but Yang and I managed to coax her up. I asked him if I could take the wheel for a minute, and I just... kind of took a shining to all of this," Ruby motioned all around her. "Eventually, he taught me everything, and I guess I picked up pretty quick. I make it a point to at least visit him every time we come here."

"Well, it's very impressive," Weiss said, trailing over to the front of the boat. Ruby followed along on the opposite end. She stopped abruptly, then turned to look at Ruby. "You're amazing at it. Maybe I should start thinking about making a list of my own."

Ruby snorted. "It'd be a pretty short list," she waved Weiss off. Weiss frowned. Eventually, they met at the front of the boat.

"No, it wouldn't," Weiss told her in no uncertain terms.

Ruby shrugged, turning away from Weiss to stand at the very edge of the front of the boat. Weiss huffed a breath in annoyance, walking up behind her.

"You ever watch Titanic?" Ruby asked suddenly. Weiss quirked a brow.

"Yes?"

Ruby turned her head slightly to grin at Weiss, then held her arms out.

"I'm the king of the world!" she shouted at the top of her lungs, laughing as she did. Weiss couldn't suppress her own giggles. What a ridiculous human being. An absolute goober.

And Weiss loved her. Every bit of her. All the things she saw, all the things she didn't. All of it.

Her mind began to shift, all the important things she held up like a shield to stop herself moving towards Ruby started lowering all at once. She felt like she could see it clearly now.

With slow footsteps, but every one of them sure, Weiss came in closer to Ruby.

Slowly she wrapped her arms around Ruby's midsection, resting the point of her chin on Ruby's shoulder, though she had to tip-toe a little bit to do it. She felt Ruby's breath hitch, she felt her own arms raise up in goose pimples. She felt the quiet calm of the air, she felt nothing but love. The part of her head that told her what she was doing was dumb and ridiculous shut itself up. The part of her heart that hurt felt itself soothed as she held onto Ruby. It was as easy as all this.

"Titanic, right?" Weiss breathed, huffing a small laugh. She felt Ruby breath out a laugh of her own, though it might have very well been a little gasp.

"Ruby," Weiss murmured.

"Yeah?" Ruby choked back.

"I'm really lucky I met you," Weiss said, then paused. That didn't even begin to encompass everything she wanted to say. "You're kind, and funny, and amazing. I..."

Ruby didn't speak. Weiss couldn't find her words.

"Your list would be miles long," Weiss said, and that wasn't it. That wasn't it at all, but it was the closest she could come right now. It felt like the fog in her head was lifting. It felt like it had always been lifting, since she met Ruby. Like before, she was living in a haze, blindly stumbling her way through life, guided only by the warped ideals she held, and the harsh, cold voice of her father. Now, it was like she was beginning to see clearly. Like she could see the path ahead of her, like she could all the paths before her, and she could finally choose which one to take.

Meeting Ruby really was the best thing to happen to her.

Ruby put her hands on Weiss' own.

"Meeting you has been the best thing that's ever happened to me," Ruby said, her voice rough. "I don't know what I'd do without you."

The air was still. It quietened down, the way it tended to before someone said something important, something that really, really mattered.

"I love you," Ruby said.

Weiss didn't know how to respond. She felt her heart pound in her ears, felt her blood course through her whole body, tingling from the top of the head down to the tips of her toes. The words rang in her head, true and important in a way that nothing else was, nothing else ever could be.

Ruby didn't react badly to her silence, like she knew that Weiss couldn't possibly answer, not at the moment at least. Instead, she took one of Weiss' hands, bringing it up to her face, and kissed her knuckles.

So, Weiss' addled mind formulated a plan. A plan was good. A plan kept her mind away from the immediate moment, from the immediate feeling of Ruby's soft lips against her hand. The immediate intimacy and love of her gesture. A plan was very good. At the very least, it would keep Weiss from melting.

"Would you come to the summer festival with me?" Weiss asked, her voice wavering. She (with a little more pain than she expected) extracted herself from Ruby, slipping her hands back to her sides. Ruby turned around, a soft look in her eyes, and a half smile on her face.

"I-"

"I know we're all going anyway, I just- I'm sorry, I interrupted you," Weiss blabbered on. "Sorry, I'm sorry."

Ruby giggled, and the sound of it made Weiss' heart sing.

"Yes, of course I will," she said.

And there was the plan. There was the plan, coming into motion. She had barely enough to think about any of it, and all of it felt like it was coming in a rush, all based on instinct, and none of based on rational thinking. But to hell with all of it.

Winter had told her that deserve had nothing to do with it. Yang had told her to take her shot.

Maybe it was time to take their advice.

Chapter Text

10:13 AM

"So, what do you think?" Weiss held out two different outfits, looking at Yang expectantly. She was lounging on Weiss' bed, a plate of grapes beside her (that she absolutely assured Weiss she wouldn't get on her bed, so help her god!). She popped one into her mouth easily, chewing slowly. Weiss glared at her, waiting for her response.

Yang chewed.

"Nope," she answered finally, a mischievous grin on her face. Weiss bellowed a great big sigh, throwing the clothes on the floor. She went back to her suitcase.

"You're supposed to be-" Weiss grunted as she tipped the suitcase over, all the clothes spilling onto the floor. "Helping me."

Yang popped another grape into her mouth. "I know."

"Yang!" Weiss cried, exasperated. Yang just smiled.

"Just waiting on the words, Weiss," she said. Weiss sighed, collapsing onto the bed beside Yang. She muffled a long, drawn out groan into the pillow. One that she hoped would properly convey to Yang how pitiful she was, how much she deserved help.

She heard Yang pop another grape into her mouth.

Fine! Fine.

"You were right," Weiss flipped over onto her back, pushing the hair out of her face and taking a grape from Yang's plate. "I have feelings for Ruby, and-"

"The Big Gay," Yang corrected her. Weiss almost broke then, but she bit her laugh back. "Continue."

"I have feelings for Ruby," Weiss insisted. "And I want to do something at the dance, tonight. I want to... tell her, I guess."

"And...?" Yang prompted.

"And," Weiss grumbled. "I need your help. Please."

Yang put the plate between them on the night stand, then propped herself up on her elbow over Weiss. Her long hair curtained the both of them. Weiss pouted at the grinning figure over her. She crossed her arms.

"You are so absolutely welcome, Weiss Schnee," Yang cupped Weiss' cheeks together with on hand, smooshing her face together. She kissed Weiss' forehead and let go. "You're adorable."

Yang launched herself off the bed. Weiss rolled her eyes, pulling herself to sit at the edge of the bed. "Well, we need to convince Ruby of that," Weiss said.

"That's a negative, Ice Queen," Yang held up a top, examined it, then threw it over her shoulder. "We don't gotta convince Ruby of nothing. That girl is already ass over teakettle for you."

She held up three different tank tops in varying shades of white, quirked her brow, and then threw them at Weiss. "Besides, 'adorable' isn't the exactly the vibe we're going for here."

"What is the vibe we should be going for, then?" Weiss asked, respectfully folding her clothes and putting them all in a neat pile as Yang threw it at her.

"My gut check says 'sexy'," Yang said, holding up a bikini top and shooting Weiss a sultry look. Weiss snorted. "But, this isn't me and Blake, no, no."

"You're truly a maestro," Weiss said, standing up to snatch the top from Yang. The blonde put a hand on her chin, looking off into the distance in thought. Without another word, she left the room, slamming the door behind her. Weiss furrowed her brow.

Well, okay then. Weiss sighed, swinging her legs back up to lie down on her bed. She reached over for a couple more grapes.

Yang came back with a thunderous crash. She held a bundle in her hands, closing the door behind her with a kick.

"Got it," Yang announced with satisfaction. She dropped the bundle of clothes as Weiss' feet, pulling them out to give Weiss a good look at each other them proper.

"I had to dig through my closet, and I borrowed some from Blake's closet, but, ta-da!" Yang held a yellow sundress out triumphantly. Weiss examined each of the dresses. Light fabric, airy summer sundresses. Huh.

"Okay," Weiss said. Yang grinned.


10:32 AM

"So I need your help picking out what to wear, because I really want to impress Weiss, and I want to look pretty and-"

Blake held a hand over Ruby's mouth, silencing her. She nodded once, then let go to walk over to Ruby's suitcase.

"Of course I'll help- how many candy bars did you bring?" Blake held three snickers bars in one hand, digging them out from her suitcase, turning back to Ruby in question.

"I'm not me when I'm hungry, alright, quit judging me!" Ruby snatched the chocolate out of Blake's hand, unwrapping one and stuffing it in her mouth.

"Oh, honey," Blake said, shaking her head with her ears flattened.

"Ugh! You're right, this is all a bust, Weiss probably doesn't even like me like that- I'm probably just projecting my feelings onto her and we should just-" Ruby started on a tirade, her words muffled slightly from the chocolate bar in her mouth. She chewed furiously, looking embarrassed at herself as she crossed her arms tight and turned away from Blake.

"Woah, woah. Slow down, Rubes. I didn't say any of that," Blake stood up from Ruby's suitcase and walked over to the younger girl, wrapping her arms around Ruby and resting her chin atop Ruby's head. "Relax, alright? Weiss likes you plenty, I promise."

Ruby paused, swallowing her candy bar. Then she nodded. "Okay."

"Okay," Blake said, then kissed the top of Ruby's head. "So back to outfits."

"Back to outfits," Ruby sighed, lying on the bed. "What can I even wear to impress Weiss? She's from Atlas! Every day is probably, like, the freaking Met Gala."

"I think you're joking, but also I feel compelled to ask you exactly how much you actually know about Atlas, because that might be the source of all your problems here," Blake noted over her shoulder as she dug through Ruby's suitcase, respectfully folding each article of clothing as she put them away.

"You know what I mean," Ruby said, crossing her arms and turning her head to look at Blake. "Weiss is fancy, and I can't do fancy! How am I supposed to impress her?"

"Easy. Just be you," Blake said, holding up a red plaid shirt. She smiled, tossing it over to Ruby. Then a black tank top. "Ruby Rose, certified child genius, baker of cookies, and disaster gay. Own it, Rubes."

Ruby held the shirt, quirking her mouth to the side as she looked at Blake. "You sound more and more like Yang every day, you know that?"

"Only natural, as your future sister-in-law," Blake smiled smugly.

Ruby opened her mouth to gape at her, but then shut her mouth and shrugged instead. Yeah. That tracked.

"You really think this'll work out?" Ruby asked. Blake leaned against the dresser beside the bed.

"Ruby, you could wear your pyjamas and Weiss would still be smitten," she told her. Ruby frowned, then shook her head.

"No, I mean, Weiss and me," she said, her voice quiet and serious. "I really, really like her, Blake. I don't want to mess things up."

"Hey," Blake sat next to Ruby on the bed, taking her hand. "Leap of faith, right?"

"Right," Ruby huffed a dry chuckle.

"I think the two of you will be just fine," Blake spoke with absolute sincerity. "You two were made for each other."

Ruby frowned. "I thought you didn't believe in that kind of thing."

"I make exceptions here and there," Blake winked. "Really. Weiss makes you happy. You make her very happy, too. It'll work out. Promise."

Ruby took a deep breath. "You've got that much faith huh?"

"Only when the outcome is clear," Blake nudged Ruby with her shoulder.

"Okay," Ruby said after a long pause, exhaling explosively. She ran a hand through her hair and nodded. "Okay."


11:30 AM

Weiss stared and stared at the dress hanging off the hook behind the door. It was an elegant white sundress. She wasn't exactly sure whose wardrobe it came out of (she put her money more on Yang than Blake), but she had to admit, it looked gorgeous. She took it off the hook, turning to the full length mirror in the corner of the room and holding it out in front of her.

She exhaled slowly, closing her eyes. She tried to imagine it. Ruby looking at her from across the room, the smile on her face, the lovely, easy step in her gait. In her mind's eye, she saw Ruby like she always did, just wearing her simple clothes, jeans and a red jacket. She imagined Ruby sweeping her off her feet and placing her on the dance floor, right in the middle. She imagined it was dark, and there was nobody looking. No spotlights. No eyes. No attention. Just her and Ruby, swaying softly, ever so softly to the melody of some unheard song. The two of them spinning slowly and holding each other close. She tried to feel Ruby's soft skin, the warmth of her cheek against Weiss' own.

Weiss opened her eyes, finding her expression in the mirror almost unrecognizable. Calm. At ease, like the air inside her lungs was the same air as outside her lungs. She wondered if that was what Winter saw, when she knew. Maybe that was what everyone saw. She understood then, how everyone could tell her that it was so obvious.

She took another deep breath. When she exhaled, her breath shook, and shuddered. The thought of it all was killing her. The anticipation alone was torturous. And all of it based on the assumption that this would work.

When she thought about a plan, earlier, as Ruby said those three words she hadn't been able to get out of her head since, Weiss felt like she should have come up with something a little more concrete than this. But all in all, it wasn't a plan she had come up with so much as a resolve. A determination to get this all right, once and for all. The solidified desire to love, love for its own sake. For her own sake. For the smile on Ruby's face, and the song that her heart sang every time she saw it.

Take that, Atlas. Remember this as the day Weiss Schnee broke free from your clutches.

Her phone pinged with a message on the dresser table. Weiss carefully hung her dress back up on the hook before going over to unlock her phone.

It was from Ruby.

hey!

Weiss had half a mind to kick herself, because she shouldn't have been smiling so hard at just this one message from Ruby, who was also only three feet away in the other room.

Hello, Weiss typed back.

you excited for tonight?

If only she knew. Weiss held the phone to her chest, backing up until the back of her legs hit the bed, then sinking into it.

Yes, Weiss typed. Then she paused. We're only a couple feet away, you do realise?

ye :p

Weiss rolled her eyes.

I'm coming over.

She almost leapt out of bed as she headed out into the hallway. Weiss knocked on Ruby's door.

"What's the password?" came the muffled reply from inside the room. Weiss could hear Ruby's smile, god help her. She crossed her arms, even though she knew Ruby couldn't see it. She felt like Ruby could hear it, too.

"Cactus," Weiss deadpanned. She heard soft laughter, before Ruby opened the door.

"It's as good a password as any," she said, mock indignation lacing her tone. Weiss rolled her eyes, but entered the room. It seemed brighter than her own, though maybe it was just the present company. Weiss sat at the edge of the bed.

"Should I know anything about the event tonight?" she asked, watching Ruby as she shut the door and turned to face her. Ruby stood there for a few moments longer than she probably should have, and Weiss fought to keep the urge to just grab her right then and there and kiss her, to make her feel all the feelings Weiss felt. But no, that was for later. In the back of her mind, she thought that maybe being alone in her room was tempting fate a little bit. But it was fun, almost irresistible, really- this razor's edge they were walking, the middle line of hope and longing. Weiss didn't realise how fun it was to live so dangerously.

"Nothing, really. There are gonna be a couple people we know there. I'll introduce you to them. They're great people," Ruby said. "They're going to like you."

"High praise, considering our first couple interactions," Weiss countered, quirking her brow. Ruby scoffed.

"Who among us hasn't yelled at someone knocking them flat on their butt?" Ruby took to sitting on the dresser, swinging her legs.

"Most people, really," Weiss said.

"Well, most people are, like," Ruby blew a raspberry. "You know?"

Weiss breathed a laugh. "Sure, Ruby."

"Anyways, look how we turned out," Ruby gestured between the two of them.

"Look how we turned out," Weiss repeated. She swallowed thickly, the anticipation of the night caressing itself across her skin, coiling itself around her windpipe and threatening to take her out even before it began.

Maybe it was the way Ruby was looking at her, the bleeding edge of affection that made her believe. Maybe it was the way she felt, finally breaking down the doors she had locked up so securely, then desperately knocked on, wanting to badly to get back in. All the force in the world hadn't managed it, but three little words from Ruby had done the trick marvellously.

Whatever it was, Weiss would find out tonight.


3:23 PM

Ruby sighed blissfully in the summer heat, taking a seat in the back deck, on the lawn chairs Yang had decided to place there. Said older sister was already on one, sprawled out in her bikini and soaking up the delightful rays.

"Hey there, Rubes," Yang called out, dipping her aviators slightly to look at Ruby in acknowledgement.

"Hey Yang," Ruby said as she relaxed fully into the chair, interlocking her hands behind her head. Summer was delightful. Today was... kind of perfect. After the rocky start in the morning. Surprisingly, she wasn't all that nervous about the festival later that night. Even though the thought of holding Weiss close made her heart stutter and her stomach flip, she was more excited than anything. Maybe it was how Weiss looked when she answered the door earlier- happy as anything, all because she was around Ruby. That, and Blake's words lit a cool, confident fire in her. Lookit at her go.

"How are things? Where's Weiss?" Yang asked.

"She went out with Blake to check out the bookstore, you know how those nerds are," Ruby snorted a laugh. Yang hummed in agreement.

"So..." she started, turning slightly to look at Ruby. Ruby cracked open her eyes to look at Yang with a quizzical expression.

"Yeah...?" Ruby shrugged. Yang smiled.

"So, you and Weiss," Yang said. Ruby smiled, looking away. Yang laughed in response. "I assume it's going well then."

"Yeah. I mean, yeah? Yeah," Ruby scratched at her temple, feeling the first edges of doubt and worry creep in. Ah, dang it.

"You got something planned for tonight, I take it?" Yang probed further. Ruby paused before nodding. Yang sighed. "Oh, to be young and gay."

"You're young and gay," Ruby grumbled.

"Hell yeah I am," Yang clicked her tongue and winked at Ruby behind her shades. Ruby only rolled her eyes. "Come on, after the whole boat thing- you're definitely going to seal the deal tonight, right?"

"... Maybe," Ruby replied evasively. It seemed confirmation enough for Yang though, who chuckled heartily.

"Look at you go, Ruby Rose," she reached out to knuckle at Ruby's hair. "My baby sister's all grown up and stuff. Getting it on with the rich, pretty girls. The apple truly does not fall far from the tree."

"Ugh. Maybe it'll be worth it not to do it just so I don't have to endure you and Blake being all smug about it," Ruby jabbed at Yang.

"Oh, please. We both know there's not a force in the universe that could've kept you two apart," Yang said. Then she quieted for a moment, her cheerful demeanour melting away slightly. "Can I ask you something, Ruby? When did you know?"

Ruby paused for a moment, thinking about it. It wasn't a moment, not so much an on-off switch. It was more like... an instinct. A truth she had known bone-deep, even if she hadn't had the thoughts or words to articulate it. It was the red thread of fate that looped itself round and round her heart and tugged, binding her to Weiss permanently. She smiled, thinking that it was a relief to have it all out in the open finally.

"I want to say it was sometime between Christmas and New Year's. I got her a gift, and I told her about mom, and we went ice-skating. She was- is- my favourite person in the world. But if I'm being honest?" Ruby took a deep breath. "The moment I laid eyes on her, that day in class. I couldn't get my mind off her since."

Yang was silent for moment. "Damn," she muttered.

"Yeah," Ruby agreed. "What about you?" she asked.

Yang smiled wide then. "Remember when she got sick a couple summers ago? When her parents were away for a few days, and she was all alone. I was over at her place, taking care of her. She had to puke, and I was holding her hair back and comforting her."

"Wait, really?"

Yang sighed. "I was already half in love with her, but it became real then. She was at her objective worst, and all I could think about how beautiful she was. I wanted to take care of her forever, if that's what she needed. The part that really, really sealed the deal? She apologised afterwards. Said that she knew I was always taking care of everyone, and she wanted to take care of me too."

"Yang, that's the sweetest thing I've ever heard," Ruby reached over to hold Yang's hand. She knew how much that must have meant to Yang.

"It's no Titanic," she scrunched her nose at Ruby. "But I think it's pretty damn good."

"We've got it pretty good, huh?" Ruby said, looking up into the sky. All of a sudden her heart was filled with gratitude. Love, in whatever form it took in Ruby's life, was something she could never take for granted ever again. How lucky she was to find someone with so much of it to give her. How lucky she was to feel it, every single day. All the doubt in her mind dissipated. She loved Weiss. How could that be wrong?

"We've got it great, Ruby."

They sat in the sun, in comfortable, content silence for a while. Everything was going to be fine.

Yang's phone dinged. She cracked one eye open and picked it up.

"'sthat Blake?" Ruby asked, a little bit more than halfway in a nap. Yang smirked.

"Nope, it's Old Maria," Yang swung her legs to the side of the chair. "We've been summoned, oh young one."

Ruby shot up out of her seat. "Maria's here?!"

"Yeah. Let's go meet her at the lighthouse," Yang got up as well, stretching her limbs. "C'mon, get dressed. I'll tell Blake that we're going over early. They can meet us there."


3:50 PM

"Weiss, I'm just saying, have you even considered the logistics of it all?" Blake asked her, shopping bags full of books in both hands, a severe, sarcastic expression on her face.

"Blake, we're not talking about this again," Weiss groaned, though the smile on her face was wide and genuine. She unlocked the front door and stepped in, Blake hot on her heels.

"If you marry Ruby before I marry Yang, our wedding is just going to be all 'Weiss Schnee's sister in law gets married'. None of the headlines will be about me," Blake said emphatically, setting her bags down on the coffee table. "And I'm just not sure my parents will approve of that."

"I'm sure your parents will be fine," Weiss rolled her eyes.

"Sure, they'll love that I'm marrying Yang, but still," Blake pointed at Weiss for emphasis.

"You know, I didn't think that getting together with Yang would have rubbed off on you so much. You two were best friends for years before," Weiss said. Blake shrugged, a dopey little smile on her face.

"It's all about trust, I guess," Blake said absently; the look on her face indicated that she was about a million miles away. She broke out of her reverie suddenly, looking at Weiss with a serious expression on her face.

"I used to be with someone terrible. A man named Adam. He was abusive, manipulative, and angry," Blake told her. Weiss blanched.

"Blake, you don't have to..." Weiss said, stepping closer to the other girl. Blake shook her head, her eyes shut. She breathed in deep once.

"No, I want to. I haven't told you, and you're one of my best friends," Blake said. She moved over to the mantle, grabbing the first group photo that featured Yang and Ruby. "I ran away from my parents for a while, to be with him and join the White Fang. And for a while, it was everything I ever wanted. Then I started seeing all these... ugly things. In him. In the White Fang. For a while I thought the two were linked. That they were one and the same. They weren't. There was just a lot of ugliness in my life at that point. So after a long while, longer than it should have been, I left. Tried putting it all behind me. I went back home, and we moved to Vale shortly after. Then I met Yang, and I want you to know that it didn't take me very long to fall for her."

Blake spoke with clear conviction. She wasn't uncomfortable, or guilty. All Weiss could see was Blake telling a story, almost like all of this had happened to someone else, and not the raven-haired girl standing right in front of her. It was-

Well, it was honestly inspiring. Weiss wondered if she would get to that point some day soon. Thinking and talking about Atlas like it was just another bump in the road, an obstacle in her path that led to Ruby, instead of the insurmountable mountain it felt like sometimes.

"I wanted to be with her, but it felt like I couldn't trust it. Trust her. I'd been burned before, and I didn't want it to happen again," Blake took a seat on the couch, motioning for Weiss to sit beside her. She took her seat, and Blake continued. "Sometimes, I don't know, I think it maybe was a mistake to wait that long. Sometimes I think that's how it had to happen, exactly like that. But it's a happy ending. And I won't ever let the past hold me back again."

"Blake, I-"

Blake held up a hand to stop Weiss. "I'm not done. Weiss, I love you. You're going to be my maid of honour."

"Aw, Blake," Weiss held a hand over her chest, surprised and extremely touched by this frank and abrupt sharing session. Blake leaned over to plant a kiss on Weiss' cheek.

God damn, she really was surrounded by love.

"Still wasn't done. Anyway, I just want you to know that I know this whole thing with Ruby hasn't been easy for you. I've left well enough alone, unlike Yang, because I knew you'd find your way home. But I want you to know that I am very proud of you," Blake held Weiss' hand. "For being brave enough to let the past go."

Weiss turned to hug Blake, and this was one of those things that didn't take much thinking to do. Blake returned the hug easily.

"I love you too, Blake. Thank you," Weiss said.

"Phew. I've been waiting a while to tell you that," Blake said as they broke apart. "Now come on, let's get dressed. Our ladies are waiting for us at the lighthouse."


4:30 PM

"Ruby Rose and Yang Xiao Long, my eyes don't deceive me yet," Maria adjusted her giant, thick framed glasses on her face. She tapped her cane on the ground once, her smile wide on her face. She was old, to put it simply. Wisps of gray hair framed her face, her wrinkles pronounced and prominent. With surprisingly quick, spry movements that didn't seem to betray her age, she walked over to the two sisters.

"Maria!" Ruby exclaimed, gently reaching down to hug her. Yang joined in behind her.

They had known Maria for a long time, or so Ruby was told. She never had any memories of her from when she was young, only seeing her a couple times after her mom's funeral. Apparently, her parents and Qrow had met her in their youth, and she had taken a liking to them all. Since their parents were gone, Maria had kind of taken a de-facto role as Ruby and Yang's grandmother (though reluctantly, as she would tell them, even as she sat with them regaling stories of her youth and cups of tea). She apparently lived up near Haven, visiting the sleepy beach town every once in a while, a fact that was unknown to both of them until they met her there one summer. Tai had neglected to mention this fact to either of his kids.

"How are you doing? We didn't think you'd be down here so soon," Yang asked as they broke apart. Maria walked, slow and steady steps, towards the lighthouse.

"Neither did I, to tell you the truth," she shrugged. She looked at the two girls, a slight smile on her face. "But, well, life has a funny way of getting you places."

"It sure does," Ruby said, hands stuffed in the pockets of her jeans as she walked easily beside her.

"Where's your friend, Blake?" Maria looked at Yang, who smiled sheepishly as she tugged at her hair.

"She was out when you called. And, well-"

"Yang and her are together now," Ruby explained easily. Maria paused, quirking a brow and looking at Yang.

"Well. About damn time," she said after a little pause. Yang blew a sigh of relief, then rolled her eyes. "It was cute watching you two skirt around each other, but it got pretty tired after a while."

"Oh, then you're about to have a field day with this one, lady," Yang nudged at Ruby's arm. Maria made a sound in the back of her throat, looking slightly at Ruby. "We brought another one this time around, Ruby's little beau."

"Hey, so why are you in town, anyway?" Ruby immediately changed the subject with the blistering speed of someone who was trying to avoid embarrassment. Which, like, she was. So.

"I'll explain inside. Back to embarrassing you, though- who's this mystery person?" Maria paused just outside the door, turning to face Ruby, who looked at Yang scornfully.

"She's just- a girl. We're friends. I like her," Ruby explained haltingly, picking at the hem of her shirt as she looked anywhere except Maria's comically large eyes, magnified by the thick lenses she wore.

"Her name is Weiss Schnee," Yang helpfully supplied. Maria paused, trying to place the name. "You know, like Schnee, as in Schnee Dust Company, that kind of Schnee."

"Oh," Maria raised her brows. "Ruby Rose," she said, her tone conveying her amazement and admonishment in equal measures. "Are you going around corrupting nice, rich, Atlas elites?"

"It's not- she's not like that!" Ruby protested. Yang shrugged.

"She's a little like that," Yang crossed her arms, smirking. Ruby turned a shade redder.

"I- I mean she was," Ruby sputtered. Maria laughed, poking at Ruby's shin with her cane.

"Relax, kiddo. If you two like her enough to bring her out here," she gestured grandly at the sleepy beach-side town. "Then she must be alright. Now come on in, I have to introduce you to someone."

They entered, the two sisters both cautiously curious. Maria had seemed a little nervous, if wistful about alluding to this mysterious person, they assumed it was her reason for coming up to Haven.

Inside the lighthouse, the decorations were almost all put up. There were a few people milling about, putting up the last minute streamer, or filling up the punch bowl. There was delicious smelling food laid out on the benches that lined the floor. It looked lovely. The sun was still up, but Ruby knew that the sunset would line up with the perfect, open balcony. There was a little tent set up there, with fairy lights strew up overhead, and speakers at each corner of the tent. It was their dance floor for the night. Ruby swallowed nervously at the sight of it, imagining herself and Weiss entwined, swaying to a soft beat. Her heart almost flipped at the mental image.

Suddenly, she both dreaded and couldn't wait for Weiss to appear. She felt a little more self conscious about what she chose to wear then, picking at the edges of her flannel shirt again. What if this all went wrong? What if she and Weiss weren't meant to be together after all, and Ruby would just ruin this whole summer by doing this? Disaster Gay, right? That was what Blake called her. Accurate. Hurtful, but accurate.

She let her eyes wander back to Maria, who was now accompanied by an old man in a wheel chair. They approached the two girls. Maria visibly shifted as she stood, clearly a little uncomfortable.

"Girls, this is Pietro Polendina," she reached out and held his hand. The both of them were beaming, Maria a little more cautiously than Pietro. He had a kindly air about him. His small round spectacles clung onto the bridge of his nose, and his eyes almost squinted shut as he smiled. He had on an adorable newsie cap, and a fashionable brown vest. "He's my... we're together."

Ruby and Yang exchanged glances, almost utterly dumbfounded at this revelation.

"Maria, that's..." Yang started, but trailed off as she tried to find her words. She looked to Ruby for help.

"Great! We didn't know you were still, y'know," Ruby held her hands out, mumbling and gesturing vaguely. She withdrew her hands and cleared her throat after a moment.

"Pietro, these are... my grandkids, basically," she looked at him and smiled. Ruby's heart melted just a little bit.

"It's very nice to meet you both," he wheeled forward, letting go of Maria's hand to hold each of theirs. "Maria has told me much about you two."

"It's nice to meet you too," Yang said, holding her hand over his. Ruby echoed her statement.

They continued chatting a little more as they sat around inside. Apparently he was Maria's optometrist, with a daughter of his own around Ruby's own age. He was also from Atlas, where he had served in their military under their science division. Ruby wondered if Weiss would know about him. Their story was pretty sweet, Ruby had to admit. She didn't know much about Maria's old history of dating, only that she never married or had kids of her own. The whole thing made Ruby feel... hopeful. Suddenly, she felt like all around, all she could see or feel was love.

It was in the way Yang would always have an extra hair tie for Blake if she ever needed it.

It was in the way Maria stared at Pietro, content.

It was even all the way back in Vale, in how Jaune was always trying for Pyrrha, even after they had gotten together.

It was in the way Weiss would take Ruby's hand, sit beside her, and smile.

So when Weiss and Blake finally did appear, Ruby could feel her heart grow. She was wearing this gorgeous white sundress. The wind billowed in to ruffle the ends of it, to make the beautiful ivory strands of hair that framed her face wave. She was smiling nervously, though no less genuine than normal. Ruby couldn't help the smile of her own. All the cells in her body vibrated the moment she laid eyes on her. The beauty of it all astounded her. Ruby made herself sit still and wait as they walked over, step by agonizing step. She finally stood up as they neared.

"Weiss," Ruby said, the name natural in her mouth, the sound like a harmony in her ears. "You look," she felt her breath hitch a little bit. Pretty Atlas girls tended to have that effect on her. "Amazing. Beautiful."

Ruby reached her hand over slightly, to capture the nail of Weiss' pinky finger in her thumb and forefinger, squeezing slightly. The small contact made her hunger for more. But the party had barely even started. Her heart wobbled and wavered as Weiss' smile widened. She could drink it in all day.

"Thank you," Weiss said, her hands moving to interlace themselves in front of her. "You look... really good, too," Weiss bit her lip, shaking her head. "I'm sorry, I meant to say you look gorgeous, and I-" she caught herself babbling again and clammed up. It made Ruby want to laugh.

"See, Maria, what'd I tell you?" she heard Yang say from behind her. Ruby turned to find all four of them watching the scene unfold. Both Ruby and Weiss started blushing. Ruby cleared her throat, dispelling some of the awkwardness.

"You weren't wrong," Maria tilted her head at Yang, who smiled wolfishly. Ugh.

"Weiss, this is Maria and her boyfriend, Pietro," Ruby sighed before turning to gesture towards the others. Weiss met her eyes, the surprise well hidden but apparent to Ruby. Ruby just nodded. She had told Weiss about Maria before, but it probably was still a surprise to just meet her unannounced, especially with Pietro in tow. Weiss, to her eternal credit, took all of it in stride- way faster than either Yang and Ruby had, at any rate.

"It's good to finally meet you, Maria and Pietro. Ruby and Yang have told me all about you," Weiss shook Maria and Pietro's hand in turn. He smiled politely at her, but Maria had a more mischievous look about her. Ruby scowled at the old woman, telling her to keep it cool. She merely shrugged.

"I'm sure they've left out a lot, but it's a pleasure," Maria said. Pietro acted with a little more deference.

"Miss Schnee," he said, surprise colouring the edges of his voice. "It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm not sure if you remember me, you were so young then, but I worked for a while under your family's employ. I'm happy to see you're doing well."

Weiss swallowed thickly. Ruby noticed she was tensing up a little. She stood by Weiss' side, giving her a small smile.

"I'm sorry, I- I met quite a lot of people when I was younger. I-" Weiss began to stammer out, flustered. Pietro laughed and waved her off.

"Please, Miss Schnee, it's alright. I'm quite aware of your upbringing," he lowered his voice a little, a glint in his eye. "You and your sister did well to get out," he winked. Weiss froze. Then she smiled, a precious thing that bloomed wide on her face.

"Yes," she said, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. "Thank you, Pietro."

"Alright, alright, enough with the introductions, let's get ourselves some drinks," Maria said. Weiss looked at Ruby, and for the length of a heartbeat, Ruby found that she could map out the entire rest of her life out in the depths of those blue eyes.

"C'mon," Ruby said, her body acting faster than her mind as she extended a hand towards Weiss. She took it without hesitation, gripping her tight. "We'll get the drinks."


6:15 PM

The sun was starting to set, dipping lower and lower into the sky. Weiss' whole body felt like vibrating, each and every cell that made up her being feeling the churning, wrenching excitement that the sunset brought. More specifically, the activity that would take place during sunset.

Dancing.

Weiss held her drink in her hands, watching the balcony fill up with people.

She had met a colourful assortment of locals and tourists alike. Ruby had spent her time carting her around from group to group. Weiss watched as they all in turn cheered in delight as they spotted Ruby. Apparently the Rose- Xiao Longs had made themselves quite popular in their short tenure in Haven every year.

Weiss found it fun. It was nice to be a nobody for a while. Barely anybody recognized her, and those who did only had a passing knowledge of her. She had to get through with a few dry comments and genuine smiles and sometimes raucous laughter and always, always with Ruby by her side.

They had been separated as soon as a group of them had carted Ruby away over to a keg, Yang in tow. It hadn't gotten particularly wild yet, especially compared to the usual affair of parties they dragged her to. But it was nice.

So Weiss took the opportunity to lean against a wall, her drink in her hand, watching everyone mill about, music thumping loudly outside. Summer festival, alright. Little more than an excuse for a city sponsored party, but well hey what did she know? Atlesians did far more for far weaker excuses. And this wasn't boring, so there.

And there she was across the room, just like Weiss had imagined. The sun was behind her, and oh how her heart absolutely leapt at the sight of Ruby silhouetted against the setting summer sun. Her red flannel fanned about at her hips, her sleeves pulled up to her forearms, her short hair framing her perfect heart-shaped face. Ruby walked towards Weiss, the corner of her mouth upturned in an easy smile. Weiss felt her heart pound. Her palms felt sweaty against the cup she suddenly realised she was crushing in her hands. Quickly she set it down on the nearest table and set her hands to her side, clenching and unclenching her fists and breathing in short bursts.

"Hey," Ruby said as she reached Weiss. The wind billowed about the open room, and all of it made Weiss feel light. Light, like she could take Ruby's hands and float off into the distance. Light, like she was stretched out beyond eternity, all in the expanse of Ruby's eyes. Light, like there wasn't anything she couldn't do when she was with Ruby. She was strong and brave and infinite.

"Hi," Weiss breathed. It was all she could do to not take Ruby's hands in her own and lean forward and let the universe take care of the rest. Because that's how it felt, in her heart of hearts; this was destiny. This was eventually, and eventually was now, and now was breathtaking.

"You enjoying yourself?" Ruby asked, hands in her pockets as she moved to lean against the wall next to Weiss.

"Yes. Everyone here is..." Weiss tilted her head, searching for the right words.

"Crazy? Fun? Amazing?" Ruby supplied. Weiss smiled.

"I was going to say way more exciting than anybody in Atlas, but yes, that about covers it," Weiss said. Ruby tutted.

"Aw, come on, it couldn't have been all that bad," she said. Weiss clicked her tongue.

"I suppose you're an expert on Atlas high society now?" Weiss said.

Ruby bit her lip. "Not particularly. I can't even curtsy," Ruby kicked up her legs, then launched off the wall to step forward in front of Weiss. "But, you know, you came out of Atlas, and you're amazing, so."

Weiss put her hands on her hips. "Flatterer."

Ruby stuck her tongue out. "Only for the pretty ones."

Dammit, how was Ruby so much better than her at this? Weiss blushed.

Ruby held a hand out. Weiss took it without a moment's pause.

"May I have this dance?" Ruby asked, gentle though her smile was anything but.

"Of course, madame," Weiss said. "This one, and all the ones after."

And so Ruby lead her by the hand, running towards the sunset.


6:40 PM

They danced, their bodies moving and swaying to the beat of the music like they were meant for it. Though they were swept up in the crowd, Ruby never lost sight of Weiss. She always managed to hear Weiss' breathless laughter even through all the noise. Her hand always managed to find Weiss', always when it was meant to.

And god was she beautiful. If Ruby had known that the new girl, all gorgeous and stiff, would have looked so radiant on the dance floor, she wouldn't have hesitated so much before trying. Her hair whipped about her face, an ivory halo around her. Her dress suited her wonderfully as she moved her body in ways Ruby could only dream of.

The song ended, and a moment's silence reigned as everyone caught their breaths. Ruby found Weiss next to her, breathless and giddy. Ruby wanted to capture that moment forever, sear it into her mind so she could just look at it whenever she wanted. Nothing better than seeing Weiss Schnee happy.

A slow song started playing. The beat took its time, and people started laughing and murmuring, pairing up and swaying gently together.

Ruby looked at Weiss. Weiss looked back. She swallowed thickly, her arms and hands feeling twitchy and somehow bound to the places on Weiss she thought was appropriate to touch, to dance with her. Her mind wandered somewhere else. Weiss didn't move for a while either.

"Hey," Weiss said, her voice gentle, though the way she made Ruby's heart hammer wasn't. She took Ruby's hand. "Come with me."

Always.

Weiss led her out of the balcony, back into the lighthouse. They made a beeline straight for the door and found themselves on the pier.

"Where are we going?" Ruby asked. Weiss looked back at her, eyes bright, and the answer wouldn't have mattered anyway, Ruby was fully prepared to follow her anywhere.

She led her down to the beach, both of them leaving their shoes by the pier. The music emanating from the lighthouse was faint, only the deep bass notes reaching their way down to them. The sounds of the ocean waves eventually drowned it out as they started walking down the beach, hand in hand, at this point illuminated only by the fading twilight.

"You weren't enjoying the party?" Ruby asked, pausing to pull her jeans up around her shins.

"Oh no, I was," Weiss said, turning to face Ruby. "But I just wanted to get you alone."

Weiss moved in close, putting her arms around Ruby's neck.

"Well, you've got me," Ruby whispered. Her hands moved instinctively to hold her waist.

"I hope so," Weiss breathed.

And there they were, holding each other close as they started swaying. To the music inside their souls. To the gentle rush of the ocean. To the beating of their hearts. Ruby smelled the salt of the ocean breeze tangled in with the scent of Weiss' coconut shampoo she liked using. They looked deep into each other's eyes. Ruby couldn't do anything else. She was in love, love, love. Truly. Madly. Deeply. All of that sappy stuff, and a million times more. It was all true, and it only got truer by the minute. She thought about the first time she saw Weiss. She thought about telling Winter. She thought about Weiss wrapping her arms around her from behind, and her voice, husky and genuine in her ear.

Weiss moved in closer, hugging Ruby.

"I feel so safe with you," Weiss said. They had stopped swaying. "Like I could do anything, and I'd be okay. I feel like nothing before I met you matters."

Ruby felt her hands tremble. Her breath hitched, and she moved her hands up and down Weiss' back.

"You make me so happy, Weiss," Ruby murmured into her ear. "I meant what I said before."

Weiss pulled away, staring at Ruby. Her eyes were shining.

"I know," Weiss breathed.

Then she leaned in and kissed Ruby.

Trembling, pink lips against her own.

Ruby's hand tangled in her hair, her other hand wrapped around her waist completely.

Weiss made a sound in the back of throat that sounded like rapture.

It was indescribable.

Ruby couldn't even begin to try. It was the biggest feeling of catharsis she had ever felt. It simultaneously felt like destiny, and the biggest stroke of luck. It felt like love. It felt like-

It felt like she was kissing Weiss Schnee.

God.


6:55 PM

Weiss didn't really bother with the 'why' and the 'how', at least not in the moment. She was sure her brain would eventually catch up, though. She'd always thought it was always trailing behind her heart, after all.

But the moment, as Weiss would recall it later (because she was helpless, helpless to do anything else but be in it at the moment), was as perfect as she could ask for. Any moment with Ruby was, after all. Weiss felt like she didn't breathe the entire time her lips were on Ruby's, and how could she, even? How could anyone ever want to do anything so boring as breathing when they could do something exciting like kissing?

They pulled away, and Weiss hadn't felt such disappointment in so long.

They stared at each other for a while, silver on blue. All she could manage in response was a smile. A smile that grew in tandem with Ruby's own. Ruby started laughing, and Weiss could never help it, she always loved that sound. So she kissed Ruby again, and Ruby kissed her back twice as hard, and she was smiling so their teeth clacked together once or twice but it was okay, it was magnificent, it was better than anything Weiss had ever done.

Weiss was still clutching onto the front of Ruby's shirt when she pulled away.

"Ruby," she said, and she could see her shivering in the cool summer air, and she knew it wasn't from the cold. Her eyes went from Weiss' eyes to her mouth, to the exposed column of her neck, back up to her eyes, and Weiss licked her lips in heady anticipation.

"I love you," Weiss said, and for once, for once in her life, it was easy. The words tumbled out of her like it was always meant to, like she couldn't help it at all. And if she thought about it for a half-second, she would realize that no, she couldn't help it really, even if she tried. Not when Ruby was here, and they were close, so close, and about two seconds ago, they had their lips locked and Weiss' heart was beating hard in her ears.

"You said it," Ruby exhaled a shaky laugh, and she closed her eyes and leaned her forehead against Weiss'. "You said it. I love you, Weiss. God."

That was a win. That was the biggest win Weiss would ever get. It deserved celebration, surely. So Weiss kissed her again. She could do it all damned day.

They spent the rest of the night on the beach. When they returned to the house, Weiss followed Ruby back into her room. They slept holding each other close, their hearts beating as one.

Chapter Text

When Weiss woke up the next day, she was holding Ruby in her arms. She had never recalled feeling quite so rested. She spent the morning just staring at the younger girl sleeping, half-convinced that she would wake up from this dream soon. Half-convinced that last night never happened. It was too good to be true, surely.

But sure enough, all that happened was that Ruby woke up too, and for her efforts, Weiss was rewarded with a lovely kiss. One that turned into something a little bit more than just a kiss. Weiss had waited so long, so who was to begrudge her if she wanted to straddle Ruby Rose and furiously make out with her?

"Someone's in a good mood," Ruby said, her eyes half glazed over. Weiss scoffed, kissing the tip of Ruby's nose as she hovered over her.

"I wonder why," Weiss said.

"It's a mystery," Ruby said.

"Total head scratcher," Weiss agreed.

"It's got me stumped, for sure, Watson," Ruby smiled. Weiss started laughing, collapsing on top of Ruby. She squeaked in surprise, before laughter overtook her too.

"I'm not Watson," Weiss managed to recover, rolling off of her girlfriend (girlfriend! The thought made Weiss jump, before she paused). Weiss turned to Ruby, her expression suddenly hesitant.

"What's wrong?" Ruby asked, propping herself up on one elbow.

"This," Weiss gestured between the two of them. "Is real, right? We're together. Girlfriends?"

Ruby took half a beat before snorting at Weiss, burying her head in her pillow to muffle her laughter. Weiss started blushing, and smacked Ruby's arm in annoyance.

"Ruby!" she exclaimed. Ruby turned over and wiped a tear from her eye. She shook her head before cupping Weiss' face in her hands and kissing her.

"We've been dancing around each other for months, re-enacted a gay rendition of Titanic on a yacht, danced on the beach by the moonlight before kissing each other, and you're wondering if we're together?" Ruby leaned her forehead against Weiss'. "Yeah, I think it's safe to say we're girlfriends, Weiss. Sorry for laughing at you, it's just that I thought I was supposed to be the disaster gay in this relationship."

"I was just making sure," Weiss murmured, eyes shut. "It felt a little too good to be true. Like I'm going to wake up any moment."

"Trust me, you're not dreaming," Ruby said softly, tipping Weiss' chin up to stare at her. "But the feeling is mutual."

So there they were for a long while, just lying in bed and touching each other and talking. Weiss felt... peaceful. Like the clouds had finally parted, like the haze had all faded away, like she held the girl she loved in her arms. There was no more urgency, no more doubt and uncertainty. All her life boiled down to for a while was just the breeze through the window, the lightness in her heart, and Ruby Rose beside her. It was easy. She didn't anticipate it being quite so easy. Though, she hadn't much thought about what was going to happen after she managed to get Ruby. She had caught a snowflake in her hand, except it wasn't melting. It was all fine and lovely.

Then Ruby had to pee. And Weiss realised that they would both have to eventually go downstairs and face the terror couple known as Blake and Yang. Weiss groaned.

"Can't we just stay here forever?" Weiss lamented, sinking into the bed like the over-dramatic teen that she was.

"No can do, I'm afraid," Ruby said, giving Weiss a kiss before getting out of bed, stretching out. Weiss took a moment to lament, before getting the covers off of her as well.

"Fine. But let's go down together," Weiss said. She blew a short exhale. Ruby walked over to her and gripped her hand. She didn't have to say anything. Weiss knew, from the look on her face. Always.

After Ruby went to pee, she joined Weiss at the top of the stairs. She gave her a reaffirming nod, and the two went downstairs hand in hand.

Blake and Yang sat on the couch, leaning against each other and scrolling on their phones. Yang lit up like the afternoon sun as soon as she saw the two. Blake perked up, her smile more reserved, though no less genuine.

"You owe me twenty bucks," Blake told Yang. Weiss frowned.

"What can I say, I thought I had them pegged," Yang sighed.

"You were betting on us?" Ruby asked. Blake shook her head, stretching her legs out atop the coffee table.

"We were betting on what time you would come downstairs," she corrected them. "Yang swore there was no way you two were coming down before two."

Weiss dug the heel of her free palm into her forehead. "I swear, the both of you are so annoying," Weiss groaned. Both Yang and Blake scoffed.

"In any case, congratulations both of you," Blake said. "I think I speak for everyone when I say," she paused, looking like she was weighing her words. The anticipation almost gripped Weiss.

"Finally," Yang finished her sentence. Blake nodded.

It was strange. Though she already knew that both of them were obviously going to approve, the idea of facing them still felt a little daunting. It was ridiculous, but she supposed that hearing them actually say it meant all the difference. Weiss squeezed Ruby's hand once, looking over at her and feeling light.

They were going home today. Everyone spent the day packing their items and cleaning around the house. Weiss sighed as she carefully packed all her clothes. She never knew summer vacations were supposed to be like this, and now that she did know, she kind of didn't want to leave. Still, the rarity of times like this meant that it was all the sweeter. Besides, she had a lot to look forward to back in Vale.

The ride back to home was a lovely one. Looking at it from the outside, it would have looked like nothing changed. Everyone still chatted aimlessly, Ruby and Weiss played more road trip games (Weiss completely crushed Ruby, once again), and Blake kept her head buried in her book. But everyone knew, they were all happy. Happier than any of them had been for a long while. Everything had finally fallen into place for every one of them. It was all like it was supposed to be.

Weiss fell asleep on Ruby's shoulder, waking up just as they rounded the corner back into her street. The streetlights were on already, the evening stretched out in the night sky.

"Weiss," she spoke softly. Weiss got up, stretching her spine out a little before she settled back into her seat. She planted a small kiss on Ruby's cheek, then looked back out the window at her house. It was the same as it ever was, but it felt different. A little brighter, maybe. Or maybe that was just everything now.

She didn't move for a while. The car was silent. Weiss sighed.

"I really didn't want this vacation to end," she said. Yang laughed.

"Vacation's always gotta end," she said, smiling.

"At least you brought something nice back," Blake said. Weiss looked back at Ruby, and she didn't care if her smile was all dopey and smitten, she was smitten, and she felt dopier than she ever did every time Ruby kissed her.

"Pretty good souvenir, right?" Ruby asked, motioning up and down towards herself. Weiss laughed, light and airy and loving.

"Best one I've ever gotten," she kissed Ruby again.

Ruby thought for a moment, then opened the door on her side. "I'll help Weiss with her luggage," she told the other two.

With great reluctance, she left her post, all but forcing Weiss to get out, just so she could rejoin her.

Ruby had her luggage out from the trunk by the time Weiss got out. She took Ruby's outstretched hand, and they walked up to the front porch.

"I don't want you to go," Weiss said as they stood on the front porch. Ruby put Weiss' suitcase down, joining both their hands together.

"I don't want to go either, but I'm sure my dad wants me home," Ruby sighed, flickering a glance at the car still running by the curb. Ruby leaned forward and tenderly kissed Weiss. That feeling Weiss had, the one where she felt so full of light, where her heart felt so full she might have burst into a million glittering sparkles of light- she hoped it never faded. She hoped her heart jumped each and every time Ruby decided to kiss her.

"Hey, I'll see you tomorrow, okay? Promise," Ruby squeezed her hands. In her eyes was the same look she had seen every time she had made Weiss a promise. Every time she had given Weiss the whole truth, from nothing but her heart. She wasn't wise to the meaning behind that look before, but something in her assigned it to an 'I love you' now. W

"I will hold you to that, Ruby Rose," Weiss squeezed back. She hoped Ruby found that same look in her eyes. They let go. Weiss watched Ruby walk down to the car. The windows rolled down and Weiss waved goodbye to all of them. She watched them disappear down the street.

Then Weiss was alone.

She didn't feel alone.

She picked up her suitcase and headed into the house, with the promise of every tomorrow seared into her heart.


So there they were, a tomorrow or two later. Ruby and Weiss sat together, on a bench on top of a hill. Ruby had pointed out the spot, and they had borrowed Klein's car to drive up there. It was beautiful. The sun was beginning to set, dipping low into the horizon, casting long shadows and painting the sky a brilliant orange hue that was fading ever so slightly into a light, lovely purple-blue dusk. Weiss felt the warmth on her face, felt the cool winds. Ruby leaned over, curling herself into Weiss, grabbing her arm to throw it over her shoulder. Weiss kissed the top of her head, wrapping her tight against her side. She played with Ruby's hair as they sat there.

"Finally," Ruby breathed, closing her eyes as she felt Weiss fingers thread through her hair.

"That's fair. We have waited too long to cuddle up since we sat here," Weiss said, shrugging her shoulders slightly. Ruby shook her head.

"Not that," she breathed a laugh. "Finally. Finally, we're here. Here. You and me," Ruby turned a little to look at Weiss, who smiled in understanding.

"I... We have waited a little bit too long for it," Weiss said, feeling a slight twinge of embarrassment course through her. It felt like Ruby could sense it, because she turned again and kissed Weiss' collar for her effort.

"It's okay. Just means that it's all the better now," Ruby said. "And we have time now."

"We do have time now," Weiss agreed. It was all she ever wanted. To be with Ruby. Together, the two of them, with nothing but each other and time. No doubts, no fear, no apprehension. No worrying if she deserved Ruby. No Atlas, no Schnee. Just Weiss and Ruby. That's all she could have ever wanted. Weiss squeezed Ruby a little tighter at the thought, releasing a little grateful sigh.

"Why'd we wait so long, anyway?" Ruby asked, her fingers wandering to play with the hem of Weiss' skirt absently. Weiss watched the sunset.

"Because I was new here. Because I had everything in Atlas to drag me back," she used her free hand to trace the scar she had grown to know so well. But this time, it was funny, there wasn't any fear or shame or resentment as she did. It was just another part of her, the way her limbs were a part of her. It was who she was now, like there was a before and this was her after. "But mostly I was afraid that you deserved much better than me."

Ruby disentangled herself to properly look at Weiss. With slow and soft movements, she took the hand Weiss had over her scar, bringing it away with a gentle motion. She leaned in close. Weiss didn't look away. Ruby brought up a hand and traced the scar, her touch feather-light. There was no morbid curiosity, there was no pity or disgust. Weiss breathed her scent in deep. Ruby kissed the scar. Once. Then again.

"I was always scared you wouldn't like me back. That you were way too good for me," Ruby said, cupping Weiss face in her hands.

"Not a chance, Ruby Rose," Weiss told her with absolute sincerity. "You are everything I have ever wanted."

"You're the best thing that's ever happened to me," Ruby replied with as much conviction in her voice.

"So I guess we're in agreement," Weiss said, biting her lip. She reached up to tuck a lock of hair behind Ruby's hair. God, she'd always wanted to do that. "You and me."

"Yep," Ruby smiled, brighter than she sun behind her. "You're stuck with me for a while, Weiss."

"Hm," Weiss smirked. "Only a while?"

Ruby tilted her head, considering her words. "Well, you know me, I'm just around until Jaune messes things up with Pyrrha."

Weiss laughed. "Don't you dare."

"Yeah," Ruby leaned back. "I'll be her rebound for a little while, you know. Then after she gets back together with Jaune, you can come back to me. Probably."

"Oh, shut up, Ruby Rose," Weiss said (she loved it, she loved that the mere act of saying her name now felt like it was more intimate, felt like it held more meaning), then leaned in to capture Ruby's lips in her own. Ruby giggled, up on her knees as she held Weiss with such tenderness. Weiss could never get enough.

"Alright so, more than a while then," Ruby said after they parted. She sat back down, and settled back into Weiss' side.

"Much, much more than a while," Weiss said firmly, wrapping her arm back around Ruby.

"What do you propose then, Weiss?" Ruby asked. Weiss pretended to think about it.

"For as long as you'll have me," Weiss said. The sky was a brilliant deep blue now, the last shade of the sky before the night. "Maybe a little bit more even after that."

"I can work with that. I want to be with you forever," Ruby told her. Weiss bit her lip, smiling. This girl, her heart.

"We'll come up with a better, more official proposal when we're older," Weiss noted casually. She didn't see so much as she felt Ruby's smile. Thunderous and joyful. "For now, I think the ice-skating rink is still open. Would you like to go?"

"Yeah, that sounds good," Ruby stood up, all quick and ready. She extended her hand to Weiss. Weiss got up as graceful as Ruby could expect. They walked back, hand in hand.

Everything was fine.